Monthly Archives: August 2013

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 30th August 2013

40 % of all babies born in Ireland are outside of marriage

 

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed revealed that 36.5% of all births were registered outside of marriage, official figures have revealed.

Of those 6,406 births, 3,685 were to parents living together but not married.

The CSO Vital Statistics First Quarter 2013 report showed that the number of babies born in the first quarter of the year was down 9% from the same time in 2012.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed a total 17,563 births were registered in January, February and March – down from 19,313 in the first quarter of last year.

The figures indicated an annual birth rate of 15.3 births per 1,000 people – down from 16.9 in the first quarter of 2012.

Geographically, the highest birth rate was recorded in Fingal, at 19.6 births per 1,000 people, while Donegal had the lowest at 11.4 per 1,000.

The CSO Vital Statistics First Quarter 2013 report also revealed that 36.5% of all births were registered outside of marriage.

More than half the babies born in Limerick City were born to unmarried parents, while Leitrim recorded the lowest portion of babies born outside of marriage.

While fewer births were recorded across Ireland in the first quarter of 2013 compared with the same time last year, the number of deaths increased.

Some 8,347 deaths were registered in the first three months of the year – up 4.6% from the same period in 2012.

The new figures represent a death rate of 7.3 per 1,000 people.

Shocking new figures for Ireland have revealed the scandal of our missing children,

11 kids from last year remain untraced.

  

The latest Garda data shows that 18 children are reported missing every day — double the rate a decade ago.

The grim statistics disclose that 207 boys and girls who disappeared since 2003 — many of them foreign-born — officially “remain untraced”.

The force has dealt with a staggering 51,193 reports of missing youngsters aged under 18 during the past ten years.

And while many of them eventually show up, last year’s total of 6,661 was a massive 141 per cent surge compared to 2003.

And a Garda source told how some of the cases under investigation were classed as tugs-of-love involving feuding parents.

He said: “You see more cases in the past few years, especially where men and women from different countries have kids and then separate.

“One might take off to their home country and take the kids without permission and so the other parent reports them missing.”

Cases include the harrowing abduction of Faris Heeney, six, who was smuggled out of the country dressed as a girl.

His distraught mum Norma has urged the Government to intervene after the family was told there was no legal way of forcing the boy’s Egyptian father to return him.

And Michael Doyle, also known as Michael Lyons, was just two when he disappeared from his home in Tullow, Co Carlow in 2004. He is thought to have ended up in the UK.

The trend in recent years reveals more boys than girls are now being reported missing — but female disappearances outnumber males overall by 3,000 between 2003 and 2012.

Campaigners working with immigration and children’s organisations have also raised awareness of kids being trafficked into the underworld sex trade, at home and abroad, with some even suspected of being victims of murder.

And Gardai probing missing foreign kids expressed concern that some who enter the country unaccompanied are taken into care, only to be secretly taken by their parents who are already in the country illegally.

Research found that 12% of all children reported missing were born abroad, and these formed the biggest category of unsolved cases.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter insisted that everything possible was done to solve all the mysterious disappearances.

He stressed: “I am assured by the Garda authorities that all incidents where persons have been reported missing remain under investigation until such time as the person is located.”

He was replying to a parliamentary question from his Fine Gael party colleague, Kildare TD Bernard Durkan.

The garda breakdown was sent to Mr Durkan and showed there was also a major problem with locating missing adults, with the whereabouts of 174 persons unknown. Two in three of the 19,922 cases reported were men — and just over a quarter were foreigners.

Visitors to Ireland numbers up by 7.6%

  

CSO figures show increase of one-fifth in number of tourists from North America in May-July period

Surfers on Rossnowlagh beach in Donegal. Today’s figures from the Central Statistics Office show the number of trips to Ireland from overseas increased by 7.6 per cent in the months from May to July.

The number of overseas trips to Ireland increased by 7.6 % in the three months from May to July of this year, with the number of visitors from North America up by more than 20% compared to the same period last year.

Figures published by the Central Statistics Office show a total number of 2,084,600 trips were made to Ireland, up by 146,800 on the 2013 period.

Minister for Tourism Michael Ring said the figures were “very encouraging” and that they again suggested The Gathering initiative was delivering more overseas visitors.

“I would like to thank the thousands of volunteers throughout the country who have organised and helped out with Gathering events and brought a great sense of community and pride back to parishes and towns,” the Minister said.

“Visitors from overseas are enjoying their holiday experience here in Ireland with many promising to return again in the future.”

Trips by North American residents were up by 20.5 per cent to 418,700.

The number of trips by residents of European countries other than Britain was up by 5.1 per cent to 760,400 and trips from other areas were up 11.9 per cent to 134,700.

British visitors to here were up by 3.3 per cent to 770,800.

In total, the number of overseas trips made by Irish residents during the May-July period was up by 3.2 per cent to 1,999,200.

From January to July, the number of trips to Ireland increased by 6 per cent when compared with the same months last year.

Mr Ring said visitors from overseas were enjoying their holiday experience here with many promising to return again in the future.

He also welcomed CSO figures this week which showed an 8 per cent increase in employment in accommodation and food services over the last 12 months.

He said this showed the special 9 per cent tourism VAT rate and other tourism measures were supporting job creation.

Teen drinking among girls increases the chance of breast cancer by 33%

 

study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that mothers who had drunk around two units of alcohol a day in the decade after their periods began were 34% more likely to develop cancer than those who did not drink during the same period.

The association was strongest among mothers who started their family later in life.

Research has previously found that alcohol is a key factor in breast cancer, with women who drink around two units a day having about a 24 per cent increased risk of the disease.

The new study found that the risk was even more marked if women started drinking younger, with an even stronger association depending on how long they were fertile for before becoming pregnant.

Women who never have children, or delay becoming pregnant, were already known to be more susceptible to breast cancer.

Researchers led by Dr Ying Liu from Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, US, examined the history of 91,000 women aged 15 to 40,

The evidence suggested that alcohol consumed before first pregnancy may play an important role in the development of breast cancer, said the researchers.

“Reducing alcohol consumption during this period may be an effective prevention strategy,” they concluded.

The findings indicated a dose-dependent relationship, which means the more alcohol a woman drinks during that time, the higher her risk of developing breast cancer.

Dr Liu said: “The general consistency in the patterns of association between alcohol and risk of proliferative benign breast cancer disease and of breast cancer lends support to the hypothesis that alcohol intake, particularly before first pregnancy when breast tissue is likely at its most vulnerable stage, may play an important role in the etiology of breast cancer.”

She added: “These findings have potentially important implications for breast cancer prevention.”

Professor Paul Pharaoh, Professor of Cancer Epidemiology, University of Cambridge, said:

“What we already know is that in a rather general sense drinking alcohol is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer and that the more a woman drinks the greater the risk.

“What we did not know: whether drinking alcohol at different ages has greater or lesser effects. Of particular interest is the time between puberty (menarche) and first pregnancy, when the breast tissue might be particularly susceptible.”

The figures were collected using questionnaires as part of the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII).

Alcohol consumption in four age periods were obtained by asking participants about the total number of alcoholic drinks consumed at different ages: 15-17, 18-22, 23-30, and 31-40.

Among these women, 1,609 cases of breast cancer and 970 cases of BBD occurred during the study period.

Previous research has found that women who drink are more likely to develop many sorts of cancers compared with those who are teetotal.

As well as increasing the risk of breast cancer, it also increases the chance of disease of the liver, mouth, throat and oesophagus.

Research has yet to establish why drinking alcohol seems to increase breast cancer risk. Studies have suggested that alcohol can increase oestrogen levels which could trigger hormone-receptor-positive types of the disease.

Scientists discover massive canyon below Greenland ice sheet

  

Using radar data from NASA’s Operation Ice-Bridge, scientists found a huge canyon that runs from near the centre of Greenland northward to the fjord of the Petermann Glacier.

A canyon at least 750km (460 miles) long with depths of up to 800 metres (2,600 feet) has been lurking 1.6km (1 mile) beneath an ice sheet that blankets Greenland, data from an airborne science mission has revealed.

The canyon has the characteristics of a winding river channel and is longer than the Grand Canyon in Arizona, US space agency NASA said, adding that the canyon is thought to predate the ice sheet that has covered Greenland for the last few million years.

“One might assume that the landscape of the Earth has been fully explored and mapped,” said Jonathan Bamber, professor of physical geography at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and lead author of the study. “Our research shows there’s still a lot left to discover.”

The research has been published in the journal Science.

The scientists mapped out the canyon by using thousands of kilometres of airborne radar data that NASA and researchers from the UK and Germany have collected over several decades.

NASA’s Operation IceBridge collected a large portion of this data between 2009 and 2012.

In their analysis of the radar data, the scientists discovered a continuous bedrock canyon that extends from almost the centre of the island and ends beneath the Petermann Glacier fjord in northern Greenland.

At certain frequencies, radio waves can travel through the ice and bounce off the bedrock underneath. The amount of times the radio waves took to bounce back helped researchers determine the depth of the canyon. The longer it took, the deeper the bedrock feature, NASA said.

The researchers believe the canyon plays an important role in transporting sub-glacial meltwater from the interior of Greenland to the edge of the ice sheet into the ocean. NASA said evidence suggests that before the presence of the ice sheet, as much as 4m years ago, water flowed in the canyon from the interior to the coast and was a major river system.

The shark that walks! New discovery is a cool sign for conservationists

     

Conservation International’s Mark Erdmann captures this amazing footage of a new species of “walking” shark, which he and other scientists discovered in Indonesia.

Just watching a shark that uses its fins to walk across the ocean floor is cool enough, but the fact that one more “walking” species has been discovered is even cooler for conservationists.

“This is the third walking shark species to be described from eastern Indonesia in the past six years, which highlights our tremendous shark and ray biodiversity,” Indonesia’s foremost shark expert, known by the single name Fahmi, said in a news release from Conservation International. “We now know that six of the nine known walking shark species occur in Indonesian waters, and these animals are diver favorites with excellent potential to help grow our marine tourism industry.”

The latest species of walking shark was first photographed by divers in 2008, and has now been described as a new species in the journal Aqua. It’s known as the epaulette (long-tailed carpet) shark, or Hemiscyllium halmahera. Two specimens were caught by scientists from the Western Australian Museum and Conservation International in Indonesia’s Maluku Islands (also known as the Moluccas or the Spice Islands). The species name refers to Halmahera, the largest island in the Malukus.

Walking sharks uses their pectoral and pelvic fins to move across the sea bottom while foraging at night for small fishes and invertebrates. H. halmahera is distinguished from other walkers by the distinctive pattern of brown spots on its head.

Indonesia is home to at least 218 species of sharks and rays. In a blog post, Conservation International’s Mark Erdmann marveled at how much progress Indonesia has made in protecting its native sharks. “If you asked me a year ago about the long-term future of shark populations in Indonesia, I probably would have responded: ‘Bleak.'”

Indonesia has been the world leader in the export of dried shark fins and other products from the animal group that includes sharks as well as rays and skates, known as elasmobranches. But over the past year, the Indian Ocean country has come to appreciate that the creatures are worth more alive than dead.

“We now know, for instance, that a living manta ray is worth up to $1.9 million to our economy over the course of its lifetime, compared to a value of only $40 to $200 for its meat and gill rakers,” said Agus Dermawan, director of the Marine Conservation Directorate at the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

A recent study showed that Indonesia ranks second globally as a manta tourism destination, with an estimated direct economic benefit of more than $15 million to the country’s economy annually.

To preserve marine biodiversity — and keep the tourist dollars coming in — new sanctuaries for sharks and rays are being created. The Indonesian government also has pledged new regulations to comply with the CITES treaty on species protection.

Update for 2:15 p.m. ET Aug. 30: On the “Why Evolution Is True”blog, Matthew Cobb says the shark’s walking style looks a lot like the gait of a typical tetrapod. “So this suggests that the neuronal control of the way that you run (your right arm moves with your left leg, and your left arm moves with your right leg – try it) goes waaaayyyy back even beyond our fishy ancestors, to the time before the evolution of bone,” he writes. “Another alternative is that this is convergent evolution — if you are going to ‘walk,’ the alternate gait is the best way of doing it.  Today’s question: How could we test between these two hypotheses?”

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News Ireland daily BLOG Thursday

Thursday 29th August 2013

Retail sales rose in Ireland by 6.1% in July; Ex-cars up 1.3%

    

Irish Economy 2013: The volume of retail sales (i.e. excluding price effects) increased by 6.1% in July 2013 when compared with June 2013 and there was a increase of 4.7% in the annual figure. If Motor Trades are excluded, the volume of retail sales increased by 1.3% in July 2013 when compared with June 2013 and there was an increase of 1.3% in the annual figure.

The number of new cars sold in July jumped by 51% following the introduction of the 132 number plates, figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show.

There were 9,306 new private cars licensed last month, compared with 6,164 in July 2012.

The CSO said the sectors with the largest month on month volume increases were Motor Trades (+37.4%), Books, Newspapers and Stationery (+16.2%), Clothing, Footwear  & Textiles (+5.3%) and Bars (+2.8%).  The sectors with the largest monthly decreases were Electrical Goods (-4.9%) and Fuel (-4.2%). (See Table 3).

There was an increase of 6.1% in the value of retail sales in July 2013 when compared with June 2013 and there was an annual increase of 4.4% when compared with July 2012. If Motor Trades are excluded, there was a monthly increase of 2.3% in the value of retail sales and an annual increase of 1.5%.

New cancer research collaboration announced

  

The centre aims to develop ways of better predicting the best treatment for breast cancer patients

Details of a new cancer research collaboration, said to be the first of its kind in the world, have been announced by the Irish Cancer Society.

The Breast Predict project will see €7.5m invested over five years in a collaborative breast cancer research centre involving Irish scientists and academic institutions.

The aim of the centre will be to develop ways of better predicting the best treatment for breast cancer patients.

Over 50 leading researchers from six academic institutions across the island and abroad will be brought together in the virtual collaboration.

They will share resources, technical expertise and patient samples, while producing a breast cancer database and treatment models.

Their ultimate goal is to develop more accurate, precise and personalised therapies.

The project will be funded by means of a €1.5m investment by the Irish Cancer Society every year over its five-year term.

It will be the only breast cancer collaborative research centre in the world that can track patients over a long period – a process made possible by Ireland’s small population.

Professor John Fitzpatrick, Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society, said he is confident the programme will deliver improved personalised breast cancer treatments.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Prof Fitzpatrick predicted that noticeable progress would be made within a year

British police arrest two men in Horse-meat ‘fraud’ probe

 

Two men have been arrested as part of an investigation by British police into the horsemeat scandal, it was revealed today. 

City of London Police said that since launching an inquiry in May they have held two men on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and interviewed a further two men under caution.

The force said it has only released details now due to “operational reasons”, and would not say when the men were arrested or reveal their nationalities.

Detective Chief Superintendent Oliver Shaw, from the City of London Police, said: “This is an extremely complex investigation covering a number of jurisdictions and a variety of businesses.

“We are working closely with police forces, other law enforcement agencies and regulators to determine whether horse meat being used in a range of meat products was deliberate and coordinated criminal activity.”

City of London Police were asked to work with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as part of its inquiry into the scandal. It reviewed evidence from law enforcement agencies in Europe and the UK, as well as from the FSA.

The force launched an investigation in May and said it made the arrests “during the initial stages” of the inquiry. Officers also carried out searches at businesses and homes in the UK.

Last month MPs condemned the slow pace of the national investigation into the horsemeat scandal, with no prosecutions six months after the problem was first identified.

The Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said authorities in both the UK and Ireland – where horse DNA was first discovered in processed beef products – had yet to acknowledge the scale of the illegal activity involved.

It said: “The evidence we received from retailers and food processors in the UK and Ireland suggests a complex, highly organised network of companies trading in and mislabelling frozen and processed meat or meat products in a way that fails to meet specifications and that is fraudulent and illegal.

”We are concerned at the failure of authorities in both the UK and Ireland to acknowledge the extent of this and to bring prosecutions.

”We are dismayed at the slow pace of investigations and would like assurance that prosecutions will be mounted where there is evidence of fraud or other illegal activity.”

The FSA has already agreed to an independent review of its response to the scandal.

Cruise ships to boost NI economy

 Cruise ships to boost NI economy

(On the right) the new £7m (€8.2m) cruise facility will be completed by 2014.

Northern Ireland’s economy could see a 25% boost in the revenues generated by cruise ship visits over the next three years.

It is after Belfast Harbour received a £7m investment to build the first cruise facility in Ireland.

Belfast Harbour Chairman, Len O’Hagan said the new facility will revamp the Queen’s Island area as a tourism hub.

“Belfast is Ireland’s fastest growing cruise destination – a market which is one of the most important drivers of the local tourism economy.

“The facility will enable Belfast to be promoted as a tourist destination to an even wider range of operators, leading to a projected increase of 25% over the next three years in the revenue generated for the local economy by cruise ship visits.”

He said: “With over one million people visiting Titanic Belfast in just over a year and the popularity of attractions such as the Odyssey, the newly refurbished Nomadic and the marina at Abercorn Basin, combined with the development plans for the Titanic Drawing Offices, HMS Caroline and the Titanic Dock and Pump House, Queen’s Island in the Harbour Estate has become a major tourism destination.”

Sixty ships are expected to stop at Belfast this year generating more than £18m for the local economy.

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said: “I am delighted to be able to welcome this further and substantial investment in infrastructure.

“It demonstrates the significant economic contribution that Belfast Port continues to make to Northern Ireland in terms of connectivity, jobs and the local economy.”

The new facility will also include an area for coaches and a new welcome centre.

Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said: “The berth facility will be located beside Titanic’s Dry Dock and Pump-House and will include a large area to accommodate coaches.

“The improvements to infrastructure will ensure the best possible cruise ship experience and enhance Belfast’s reputation among cruise operators and visitors alike.”

From 2014 cruise ships will move from Stormont Wharf to a berth adjacent to Alexandra Dock in Co Down.

This year, Belfast was ranked on Trip Advisor as one of the UK’s top destinations.

Eating certain fruits lower’s the risk of diabetes

    

Eating more whole fruits, particularly blueberries, grapes and apples, is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.

The new research also suggests that a greater fruit juice consumption has an adverse effect on a person’s risk of developing the condition.

Researchers from the UK, USA and Singapore examined the association of individual fruit consumption to type 2 diabetes risk. Data was used from three studies among US adults.

The study included both men and women and ten individual fruits were used: grapes or raisins; peaches, plums or apricots; prunes; bananas; cantaloupe; apples or pears; oranges; grapefruit; strawberries; blueberries. Fruit juice included apple; orange; and grapefruit.

Food frequency questionnaires were used to assess participants’ diet, asking how often, on average, they consumed each food in a standard portion size.

Information was gathered on the participants’ body height and weight, smoking, physical activity, multivitamin use and family history of diabetes. Information for women was collected on menopausal status, post-menopausal hormone use and oral contraceptive use.

Results showed that 6.5% of the participants developed diabetes. Their total whole fruit consumption correlated positively with age, physical activity, multivitamin use, total energy intake and fruit juice consumption.

Three servings per week of blueberries, grapes and raisins, and apples and pears significantly cut the risk of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, a greater consumption of fruit juice increased the risk.

Replacing three servings per week of fruit juice with individual whole fruits reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 7%, with the exception of strawberries and cantaloupe melon.

Scientists unravel ancestry of Ireland’s rarest fish

 

Killarney shad or goureens are found in just one Kerry lake

Scientists have unravelled the eventful family tree of a remarkable County Kerry resident right back to the Ice Age.

This is the fish episode of the ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ genealogy show and traces the family history of the Killarney shad – that’s the Shads of Killarney – born survivors with an apparent keen instinct to overcome adversity and adapt to dangerous environments.

Known locally as the ‘goureen’, it turns out that the Shads of Killarney have kept themselves to themselves for quite a while and are unique to one lake in the world, Lough Leane in Kerry. The herring-like fish are now “critically-endangered” and in need of protection.

The UCD, University of Salford and Inland Fisheries Ireland study is published in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, and reconstructs the origin of the shad, providing genetic evidence for the timing of colonisation of the lake after the last glaciations ended.

“Fish are programmed to go upstream to spawn and they came to the rivers after the ice retreated,” said Prof Stefano Mariani, the senior scientist involved. “Some of them got trapped and were ‘landlocked’ in freshwater lakes.”

Prof Mariani and Dr Ilaria Coscia used a “molecular clock” based on analysing the rate of DNA change to date the arrival of fish in the lake.

“Two groups of twaite shad arrived,” said Dr Coscia. “The first 16,000 years ago towards the end of the Ice Age and another branch arrived 7,000 years ago.”

Prof Mariani explained that the fish could no longer venture out to sea. “On top of being isolated spatially, these guys were forced to change their lifestyle, eat a differentdiet and live in fresh water. With these strong selective forces, inevitably you become something different.”

Today’s Killarney shad is now genetically isolated from its ancestors. “The two groups are no longer there. The lake became a genetic mixing pot and today they’re all the same,” said Prof Mariani.

The fish has become so adapted to its new habitat that no migration to the sea is needed for the completion of its life cycle.

The major concern for the goureen now is that a “catastrophic environmental event in Lough Leane could eliminate the entire genetic pool”, given that the fish is only present in one location in the world.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 28th August 2013

German business confidence at highest level for 16 months

  

German gross domestic product expands 0.7% in second quarter of 2013

German business confidence rose to the highest level in 16 months in August, beating forecasts and indicating the recovery in Europe’s largest economy is gathering pace.

The Info business climate index, based on a survey of 7,000 executives, climbed to 107.5 from 106.2 in July, the Munich-based institute said yesterday. That’s the highest since April 2012.

Economists had predicted an increase to 107.

German gross domestic product expanded 0.7 per cent in the second quarter, rebounding from a colder-than-usual winter that curbed output and helping the 17-nation euro zone emerge from its longest-ever recession.

Germany’s growth was led by private consumption and included the first increase in plant and machinery investment since 2011.

“The latest business sentiment readings confirm our viewthat the German economy will be able to maintain a somewhat more moderate but still robust momentum in the second half of 2013, following the exceptional rebound in the spring,” said Alexander Koch, an economist at UniCredit Group in Munich. “Domestic demand should remain a major growth pillar, currently adding to an overall broad-based recovery path.”

An assessment of construction activity slid to -4.2 from -1.5 the previous month and a measure of retailing dropped to 2.6 from 3, signalling a potential slowdown.

“The fall in the construction index seems to confirm that the second quarter’s sharp rise in activity was a temporary bounceback from bad weather in the first quarter,” said Jennifer McKeown, an economist at Capital Economics in London.

“The fall in the retail index is a reminder not to put too much faith in German consumers. Nonetheless, it seems that a moderate recovery is finally underway.”

The Bundesbank predicts German GDP will expand 0.3 per cent this year and 1.5 per cent in 2014.

Ryanair not happy with watchdog’s ‘bizarre’ decision

 

RYANAIR is to appeal a decision by the UK competition watchdog, which ordered the company to sell the majority of its Aer Lingus stake.

The Competition Commission found that Ryanair’s 29.8pc stake in Aer Lingus could affect competition on flights between Ireland and the UK.

Following an 11-month investigation, the body called on Ryanair to reduce its stake in Aer lingus to just 5pc.

But responding today, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary slammed the finding.

He said the low-cost airline will now appeal the decision.

“I don’t think we have any alternative. It’s a bizarre decision in a bizarre process.

“Here you have two Irish airlines, one of whom, the target, Aer Lingus operates just four routes to the UK, and we have the UK Competition Commission imposing an even more draconian remedy on Ryanair,” he said.

Faulty

“The decision is faulty because in seven-and-a-half years of all this minority stakes existence, they’ve come up with not one instance where Ryanair has influenced the behaviour of Aer Lingus,” said Mr O’Leary.

“Aer Lingus has managed to order €2.4bn worth of aircraft and then cancel the order; they’ve opened bases in Gatwick and Belfast only to cut them back.

“They’ve happily followed their own strategy without any influence from Ryanair.”

Earlier this year, the European Commission blocked Ryanair from purchasing the remaining stake in Aer Lingus.

The head of the investigation team, Simon Polito, said that Ryanair has an “incentive” to weaken the competitiveness of Aer Lingus.

Aer Lingus welcomed the Commission’s ruling.

Company chairman Colm Barrington said it showed that Ryanair’s stake in Aer Lingus is contrary to the interests of passengers.

Tourists here lift business for 25% of city pubs

 

Despite all the marketing it seems tourists still come here for the simple of things – the pub.

Overseas visitors have boosted the incomes of one in four Dublin pubs in the past year.

Although an AIB report on the drinks sector shows 50pc of publicans have seen their income in the past year, some 30pc have reported a rise in turnover.

A change in drinking patterns has also resulted in 71pc of drinkers coming later to the pub and staying for a shorter time. The age profile, too, is higher, with only 30pc of all pub customers under 30.

Four out of five pub owners also believe their customers have a drink at home before going to the pub.

The survey, which was compiled with the help of the Vintners Federation of Ireland and the Licensed Vintners Association, says 50pc of publicans had a drop in turnover last year, particularly in rural areas.

Publicans are hitting back at the drop in sales however – 35pc increased the amount of food they serve and 79pc of pubs organised events such as comedy or quiz nights to attract more business.

More than half the publicans said they expect business to improve over thenext three years, while 37pc think it will take five years for the industry to fully recover.

Local authority rates, access to cheap alcohol in supermarkets and wage costs are the main worries of the pubs.

DELIGHTED: Chief executive of the VFI, Padraig Cribben, says the research demonstrates “a resilience and determination of behalf of many in the sector to overcome these challenges”.

Chief executive of the LVA Donall O’Keeffe is delighted the Dublin market is performing relatively well. “We are confident in the future of the Dublin pub,” he said.

Meanwhile the drinks industry has welcomed new research showing a “marked reduction” in the amount of alcohol pregnant women drink.

A Royal Academy of Medicine probe found that almost two-thirds of pregnant women abstain from alcohol compared to 28pc eight years ago.

Overload of screen time ‘causes depression in children’

  

Study claims there is a link between too much television and computer game-playing and lower self-esteem in the young

Children who spend most time in front of televisions and computer screens have lower self-esteem and greater emotional problems, according to a study published today by Public Health England.

The report found that excessive “screen time” – more than four hours a day – was linked to anxiety and depression and was responsible for limiting a child’s opportunity for social interaction and physical activity.

“The greater the time spent in front of the screen, the greater the negative impact on both behavioural and emotional issues relating to the child’s development,” said Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at PHE. Professor Fenton said that too much screen time limited a child’s opportunities for physical activity and face-to-face social interaction with friends and family, which are key factors in reducing childhood anxiety.

British children spend disproportionately large amounts of time in front of screens, compared to counterparts in other Western European countries, the report observed.

“In the UK, 62 per cent of 11-year olds, 71 per cent of 13-year olds and 68 per cent of 15-year olds report watching more than two hours of TV a day on weekdays, compared to Switzerland where the figure is less than 35 per cent across all three age groups.”

Professor Fenton said there was a clear “dose-effect” in the impact of screen time on a child’s emotional state, and that “each additional hour of viewing increases children’s likelihood of experiencing socio-emotional problems and lower self-esteem”.

The report, titled ‘How healthy behaviour supports children’s wellbeing’, found that: “Higher levels of TV viewing are having a negative effect on children’s well-being, including lower self-worth, lower self-esteem and lower levels of self-reported happiness.”

The amount of time British children spend in front of televisions, computers and other screens is also increasingly rapidly, driven by the popularity of computer games. Between 2006 and 2010 “the proportion of young people playing computer games for two hours or more a night during the week increased from 42 per cent to 55 per cent among boys and 14 per cent to 20 per cent among girls”, the report said.

The study was based on research conducted by the Children’s Society among 42,000 eight to 15 year olds, and on other data. Lily Caprani, its director of policy, said that the children who were least likely to be happy with their lives tended to be the ones who spent longer in front of screens.

She said that social interaction via a computer or mobile phone did not deliver the same benefits in emotional well-being. “It’s nowhere near,” she said. “You have to be physically present with your friends to get the benefits of social interaction. Texting, Facebooking or even chatting on the phone has a remoteness that means you lose a lot of the positive impact.”

But the television industry last night rejected the idea that it impacts negatively on  children. “We are proud that there is so much carefully created and curated TV content for children – to watch alone or with their families – that excites and inspires them. That might be watching Professor Brian Cox, Dora the Explorer or Hannah Cockcroft,” said Lindsey Clay, Managing Director of industry body Thinkbox.

“Watching professionally made TV content is one of the most beneficial uses of the many screens that children now have access to, and the average level of children’s TV viewing is totally compatible with a physically and emotionally healthy lifestyle.”

A Mini ‘human brain’ grown in lab to help understand neurological disorders

  

The “mini brain” is roughly the size and developmental level of a nine-week foetus

Miniature “human brains” have been grown in a lab in a feat scientists hope will transform the understanding of neurological disorders.

The pea-sized structures reached the same level of development as in a nine-week-old foetus, but are incapable of thought.

The study, published in the journal Nature, has already been used to gain insight into rare diseases.

Neuroscientists have described the findings as astounding and fascinating.

The human brain is one of the most complicated structures in the universe.

Scientists at Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences have now reproduced some of the earliest stages of the organ’s development in the laboratory.

Brain bath: They used either embryonic stem cells or adult skin cells to produce the part of an embryo that develops into the brain and spinal cord – the neuroectoderm.

This was placed in tiny droplets of gel to give a scaffold for the tissue to grow and was placed into a spinning bioreactor, a nutrient bath that supplies nutrients and oxygen.

  A cerebral organoid – the brown pigments are a developing retina

The cells were able to grow and organise themselves into separate regions of the brain, such as the cerebral cortex, the retina, and, rarely, an early hippocampus, which would be heavily involved in memory in a fully developed adult brain.

The researchers are confident that this closely, but far from perfectly, matches brain development in a foetus until the nine week stage.

The tissues reached their maximum size, about 4mm (0.1in), after two months.

The “mini-brains” have survived for nearly a year, but did not grow any larger. There is no blood supply, just brain tissue, so nutrients and oxygen cannot penetrate into the middle of the brain-like structure.

One of the researchers, Dr Juergen Knoblich, said: “What our organoids are good for is to model development of the brain and to study anything that causes a defect in development.

“Ultimately we would like to move towards more common disorders like schizophrenia or autism. They typically manifest themselves only in adults, but it has been shown that the underlying defects occur during the development of the brain.”

The technique could also be used to replace mice and rats in drug research as new treatments could be tested on actual brain tissue.

‘Mindboggling’ Researchers have been able to produce brain cells in the laboratory before, but this is the closest any group has come to building a human brain.

The breakthrough has excited the field.

Prof Paul Matthews, from Imperial College London, told the BBC: “I think it’s just mindboggling. The idea that we can take a cell from a skin and turn it into, even though it’s only the size of a pea, is starting to look like a brain and starting to show some of the behaviours of a tiny brain, I think is just extraordinary.

“Now it’s not thinking, it’s not communicating between the areas in the way our brains do, but it gives us a real start and this is going to be the kind of tool that helps us understand many of the major developmental brain disorders.”

The team has already used the breakthrough to investigate a disease called microcephaly. People with the disease develop much smaller brains.

A much smaller brain develops with microcephaly

By creating a “mini-brain” from skin cells of a patient with this condition, the team were able to study how development changed.

It’s a long way from conscience or awareness or responding to the outside world. There’s always the spectre of what the future might hold, but this is primitive territory”

Dr Zameel Caderohn Radcliffe Hospital

They showed that the cells were too keen to become neurons by specialising too early. It meant the cells in the early brain did not bulk up to a high enough number before specialising, which affected the final size of even the pea-sized “mini-brains”.

The team in Vienna do not believe there are any ethical issues at this stage, but Dr Knoblich said he did not want to see much larger brains being developed as that would be “undesirable”.

Dr Zameel Cader, a consultant neurologist at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, said he did not see ethical issues arising from the research so far.

He told the BBC: “It’s a long way from conscience or awareness or responding to the outside world. There’s always the spectre of what the future might hold, but this is primitive territory.”

Dr Martin Coath, from the cognition institute at Plymouth University, said: “Any technique that gives us ‘something like a brain’ that we can modify, work on, and watch as it develops, just has to be exciting.

“If the authors are right – that their ‘brain in a bottle’ develops in ways that mimic human brain development – then the potential for studying developmental diseases is clear. But the applicability to other types of disease is not so clear – but it has potential.

“Testing drugs is, also, much more problematic. Most drugs that affect the brain act on things like mood, perception, control of your body, pain, and a whole bunch of other things. This brain-like-tissue has no trouble with any of these things yet.”

News Ireland daily BLOG Tuesday

Tuesday 27th August 2013

Ireland does not have any cavemen, Pat Rabbitte re-assures us

 

Having no TV won’t help in escaping the incoming broadcasting charge

So confident is Mr Rabbitte of the technological nous of Irish citizens that anyone who claims not to watch television won’t be believed.

This morning, Mr Rabbitte said exemptions to the new charge would not apply to individuals who don’t -or at least claim not to – watch television.

“I don’t believe that we have cavemen in the country,” he told RTE Radio.

To Mr Rabbitte, cavemen are “people who don’t watch television and don’t access content on their iPad or their iPhone or whatever”.

Pensioners will, however, be off the hook when it comes to the charge, as will the owners of second homes, provided the occupier has paid up for his or her principal residence.

But hotels face higher bills in the future. As it stands, hotels only pay the price of a single licence fee despite often having dozens of television sets. This morning. Mr Rabbitte said the new charge would address this “serious anomaly”.

Separately, Mr Rabbitte told Morning Ireland he didn’t have any concerns over the Government’s extension of an invitation to businessman Denis O’Brien to attend the Global Irish Economic Forum in October.

He said he didn’t know “what kind of tests you would expect the Government to cause invitees to the Global Economic Forum to jump through”.

The Moriarty inquiry found in 2011 that then minister for communications Michael Lowry “secured the winning” of the 1995 mobile phone licence for Mr O’Brien’s company Esat Digifone. The tribunal also found Mr O’Brien made two payments to Mr Lowry in 1996 and 1999 totalling £500,000 and backed a loan of stg£420,000 to Mr Lowry in 1999.

Ireland at risk of losing status as reddest-headed

  

The traditional view of Ireland as the home of red-haired cailíní is out of step with new research.

There is at least the potential that Ireland will be knocked off its perch as the true home of flowing red hair, as a genetics study shows more people in Scotland and Wales carry the genes that could produce future foxy generations.
Over the past year, commercial research company IrelandsDNA worked with more than 2,300 people whose four grandparents were all from England, Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, to check if they carried one of the three most common gene variants that predict red hair. If both parents carry one of the variants, there is a one-in-four chance their children will have red hair, but millions of people could have it without knowing.

“Nobody needs a DNA test to tell if they have red hair; all they need is a mirror,” said IrelandsDNA managing director Alistair Moffat. “What we set out to discover was a hidden story, one never before told, of the secret carriers.”

And the results, revealed at the Redhead Convention in Crosshaven, are shocking to anyone who thinks this country holds eternal sway in the redhead stakes. While almost 35% of Irish people carry one of the three red hair gene variants, the figure is 36.5% in Scotland and as high as 40% in Edinburgh and south-east Scotland.

Even Wales has a higher proportion, with 38% carrying the red-head genes.

Yorkshire’s level of carriers is less than 1% lower than Ireland’s and the researchers were surprised that England was as high as 32% overall.

The actual numbers who have red hair do not directly relate, as around 6% of Scots and 4% of English people are red-heads, but the genetics show the potential.

So, with a greater chance of a red-headed child if both parents have the gene, are some extraordinary tactics in order? The new King of the Redheads, Jack Daly, certainly thinks so.

“There was always that Spanish Armada link up in Connacht that has introduced more dark-haired people. So maybe we could have a Take Me Out, redhead-style, to get more redheads in the population again,” he suggested.

In case we get complacent, remember that Edinburgh hosted Britain’s first Ginger Pride march this month, standing up against ‘gingerism’ prejudice.

How eating raspberries could increase your chances of becoming a father

Wellbeing: Eating fresh raspberries could help boost chances of fatherhood because of their Vitamin C and antioxidants 

  • Raspberries contain very high levels of antioxidants, which protect sperm from oxidative stress
  • It is also thought that antioxidants may decrease risk of miscarriage
  • One portion provides same amount of Vitamin C as 173 grapes
  • The berries also help to maintain a healthy body weigh

Eating raspberries could help increase the chances of becoming a father, it has been claimed.

They contain high levels of Vitamin C, a key nutrient in male fertility, and magnesium, which is involved in the production of testosterone.

They are also thought to protect sperm from ‘oxidative stress’.

Wellbeing: Eating fresh raspberries could help boost chances of fatherhood because of their Vitamin C and antioxidants

A study by the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that men over 44 with the highest intake of Vitamin C had 20 per cent less damage to their sperm DNA than men who did not eat those foods.

It is also thought that after conception antioxidants may decrease the risk of miscarriage.

Juliet Wilson, a fertility nutritionist, said: ‘Raspberries provide essential nutrients that are known to enhance fertility in men and women.’

A recent study in the USA found that men over 44 with the highest intake of Vitamin C – found in foods such as raspberries, broccoli and potatoes – had 20 per cent less damage to their sperm DNA than men who did not eat those foods.

Juliet Wilson, a leading fertility nutritionist said that one portion of raspberries provided the same amount of Vitamin C as eating 173 grapes.

She said: ‘Raspberries have not yet been given the ‘super-food’ recognition of other berries, but they have a comparable bounty of nutrients which shouldn’t be ignored.

‘Alongside their many health benefits, raspberries are a perfect snack for couples trying to conceive.

‘Together with their high vitamin C content – one portion of raspberries provides the same amount as 173 grapes – they are also a good source of folate, which is known to be essential in key stages of female fertility and early embryo development.

‘Raspberries provide essential nutrients that are known to enhance fertility in men and women.’

Beneficial: Antioxidants in the fruit may decrease the risk of miscarriage

With sperm counts in the average British male falling by almost half in the past 60 years, experts have claimed raspberries maybe the saviour to help fathers-to-be.

The popular fruit contain folate, a key nutrient during conception and throughout pregnancy.

Juliet added that it is not just the vitamins and minerals in raspberries which are beneficial in the bedroom.

The berries also help to maintain a healthy body weight, which is the key to balancing sex hormones and increasing the likelihood of conceiving.

They have the lowest GI of any fruit, meaning their sugar is absorbed into the body slowly.

This, combined with their high fibre content means raspberries are an effective way to control hunger and cravings at only a few calories.

Nick Marston of British Summer Fruits, the body that represents 85 per cent of British berry growers, said: ‘Raspberries are often overlooked, but their numerous fertility-boosting properties and antioxidants make them the perfect bedtime snack.

‘This year we’ve had faultless growing conditions with the cool spring and recent warm weather, which have resulted in exceptionally tasty and juicy raspberries – so there’s no excuse not to take advantage of this superfood.’

British raspberries are in season now and available in abundance in all major supermarkets until November.

Spinal fluid test could give early diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease

 

The first signs of having the disease include body tremors, but this new test could give a diagnosis before symptoms present.

TESTING FOR PROTEIN biomarkers in spinal fluid could show up the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, giving an early diagnosis, a study has found.

New research by the Perelman School of Medicine researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has found that people with early Parkinson’s had lower levels of amyloid beta, tau and alpha synuclein in their spinal fluid.

Symptoms

Those with with low levels of amyloid beta and tau were more likely to have the postural instability-gait disturbance- dominant (PIGD) motor type of disease. This form of the disease can cause those who have the disease to fall and walking can be difficult.

The study, which was published in JAMA Neurology, came from the five-year Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI). Spinal taps were carried out on 102 participants.

Of those that took part in the study, 63 people either had early and untreated Parkinson’s disease. The tests were compared to 39 individuals unaffected by the disease.

Parkinson’s progression

Protein bio-markers were found to be low in those suffering from the disease which researchers stating it could be key in further research on how Parkinson’s progresses.

ScienceDaily.com reports that Dr. John Trojanowski, director of the Penn Udall Center for Parkinson’s Research said that “early prediction is critical, for both motor and dementia symptoms.

This spinal fluid testing procedure is only being used in research studies at the moment and will be evaluated in a larger study at a later date.

NASA mission to capture near-Earth asteroid for study

 

NASA has released an animation of an ambitious project that includes capturing a near-Earth asteroid and sending astronauts into space to study it.

While it sounds like science fiction, President Obama has added the asteroid initiative to his fiscal year 2014 budget request. He initially announced plans for the mission in April 2010 and it could be executed as early as 2021.

The near-Earth asteroid would first be robotically captured in a maneuver akin to throwing a bag over something. The mission would seek an asteroid that is 7-10 meters in diameter, weighing about 500 tons.

From Earth a team of astronauts would blast off in an Orion spacecraft atop a heavy liftrocket. Once in space, the crew would set off on a nine-day journey to the asteroid, which would include a slingshot maneuver, or what’s called a lunar gravity assist, around the moon to gain speed toward the target asteroid.

After carefully docking the spacecraft with the robotic capture vehicle, astronauts would don space suits and begin a space walk towards the asteroid. After lifting one of the covers on the material surrounding the asteroid, the team would collect rock and soil samples that would be analyzed later on Earth.

Once the team undocked from the capture vehicle, Orion would complete another lunar gravity assist on the trip home.

The mission is still in the very early planning stages and NASA will host a technical workshop at the end of September to discuss potential approaches. The asteroid mission is one step in the agency’s strategy to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.

The mission is somewhat reminiscent of the 1998 blockbuster action movie “Armageddon” where Bruce Willis has to land on an asteroid to save Earth from the rock’s deadly path. Among the real life goals of the asteroid initiative is, in fact, protecting Earth in addition to advancing technologies for human space flight and learning how to utilize space resources.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 26th August 2013

“Patients you are warned”  Doctors at the ready to go on strike

 

Doctors and the HSE met today to talk about contingency plans if doctors do strike from next month – but the doctors aren’t happy.

Irish Doctors have given notice to the HSE that it needs to prepare for junior doctors withdrawing their services from hospitals as part of a dispute about what they say are illegal working hours.

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) and the HSE met today to discuss the possible industrial action and talk about contingency plans if doctors do – as expected – go on strike next month, but doctors say the HSE had no concrete proposals to avert the action.

The IMO has begun to fight back against the long and chaotic working hours of non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDS) and members were recently balloted on whether to take industrial action over the issue. The result is expected to be known on 2 September.

“We have been prepared to make every effort to resolve this issue but we cannot agree to further stalling tactics,” said Eric Young of the IMO. “After 10 years it is surely now time to address the problem once and for all. This is a problem for patients and doctors alike”.

No agreement was reached on contingency plans at today’s meeting, but the IMO said it will cooperate fully with providing emergency cover during any industrial action that takes place, and that it will give sufficient notice to the HSE to allow for contingency arrangements to be put in place.

The IMO’s 24 No More campaign is looking for an immediate end to shifts of more than 24 hours as well as a promise from the HSE to adhere to the European Working Time Directive – which governs how many hours doctors can safely work – by the end of nextyear.

“IT is clear that this is not a priority issue for the HSE,” said Young. “Doctors are in effect being treated worse than any other workers in the health services with these unacceptable dangerous working hours.”

Doctors deserve more respect and patients deserve a better service.

Both sides will meet again on Tuesday in a bid to deal with the looming industrial action.

Irish CAO Students snap up 44,000 college places already

 

As the CAO Round One deadline passed this evening, 37,448 students who received offers last Monday accepted a course place.

That represents three in four of the 49,837 students who got a Round One offer and comes on top of earlier acceptances by other CAO applicants, including mature students and those who entering via further education, such as a Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) course.

Overall, college acceptance levels are slightly short of last year’s all-time high after Round One, but they remain at record levels.

While Round One acceptances are down from 37,645 last year, the underlying strength in demand is evident when compared with the 36,392 acceptances at the same stage in 2010.

The collapse in school-leaver job opportunities as a result of the economic downturn, combined with a growing requirement for a third-level qualification for so-called “smart economy” jobs has fuelled the race for a college place.

This year has seen a particular surge in interest among students for study in science, technology, engineering and business.

CAO applications showed a shift away from more traditional careers areas such as teaching and healthcare, as public service cuts squeeze jobs and pay

Instead, there was a strong student focus on study linked to growth areas in the economy, which they clearly hope will translate into ready employment when they graduate in a few years time.

A rush to accept college places was evident once the offers were made last week, with 22,131 acceptances on the first day.

The CAO will make a second round of college offers on Thursday, and from then until the middle of October , colleges will continue to fill any remaining vacancies.

As well as the original applicants, the CAO is also processing late applicationsfrom students seeking to fill places for which the colleges did to get sufficient suitably qualified applicants initially.

With the number of school-leavers set to grow dramatically in coming years, the education system is braced for even higher demand for college education in the foreseeable future.

A feature of the CAO process this year is the growth in offers in, and acceptances for Level 8, honours degree courses, against a decline in Level 7/6 ordinary degree/higher certificate courses.

One of the focuses of the overhaul of the higher education system currently underway is to improve the offering of Level 7/6 courses, graduates of which are in demand from industry.

Over 44,000 Irish school girls get vaccine against cervical cancer

 

HPV vaccine used in battle against disease which kills average of 80 women each year

Coloured scanning electron micrograph image of a cervical cancer cell (above right). About 250 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Ireland each year, with 80 patients dying of it.

More than 44,000 schoolgirls have been protected against developing cervical cancer as adults, health chiefs have said.

The HSE revealed the number of girls administered the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine against the disease over the last two years has exceeded targets set when rolled out.

About 250 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer inIreland each year, with 80 patients dying of it.

Dr Kevin Kelleher said vaccination rates have been better than or as good as in many other countries worldwide.

“Staff involved in the programme are to be commended for this achievement,” said Dr Kelleher, the assistant national director of health protection at the HSE.

The HPV vaccine is administered in three doses over six months.

The vaccination programme was introduced to a small number of schools in May 2010 and was rolled out nationally the following September, targeting almost 60,000 schoolgirls in their first and second years.

The free programme will begin again in the coming months for all girls starting secondary school.

Routine programme

Dr Kelleher said the routine programme for first-year girls during 2011/2012 was well received, with an uptake rate of 86 per cent for the three vaccine doses, up from 82 per cent for 2010/2011 and well above the target of 80 per cent uptake rate set by the HSE.

“In addition, a catch-up programme was introduced in 2011/2012 for all sixth- year girls and the rate for completed vaccination courses for sixth-year students was also very strong with a 72 per cent uptake, 12 per cent above the target of 60 per cent,” he added.

Cervical cancer is a disease of the cervix at the entrance to the womb and is the second most common cancer in Ireland among women aged 15 to 44.

Most of the vaccinations against it are administered in schools by HSE immunisation teams, with some girls being invited to HSE clinics for their jabs.

Prior to the vaccination, the HSE also sends informationpacks and consent forms via the school for completion by parents, guardians or the girls themselves.

The Government made a dramatic U-turn at the start of 2010 to roll out the life-saving vaccine after initially claiming it could not afford to do so given the tough economic climate.

However, drug companies agreed to lower their prices for the vaccine, which saw the cost of the programme – including the vaccine and administration costs – slashed from €16 million euro to €3 million.

New €250,000 Enterprise Ireland fund launched for female entrepreneurs

 

Pictured left: Sarah Doyle, CEO, Kinesense,  Julie Sinnamon, Executive Director, Enterprise Ireland,  Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Noreen Hynes, Managing Director, Polymer Recovery Limited and Lulu O’Sullivan, CEO, GiftsDirect.com & (Right pic) Julie Sinnamon, executive director, Global Business Development, Enterprise Ireland

A new €250,000 batch of start-up funding has been launched for female entrepreneurs following big demand for previous similar funds.

The money will be provided by Enterprise Ireland in the form of a Competitive Feasibility Fund.

It is designed to allow entrepreneurs investigate the viability of new growth-orientated businesses which are export-orientated.

It is targeted at women in manufacturing start-ups and internationally traded services businesses including internet, games, apps, cloud computing, enterprise software, lifesciences, food, consumer products, medical devices and e-health.

A second batch will also be launched in September.

Two similar female entrepreneurship funds were launched last year and attracted more than 200 applications. Of these, 30 received funding.

No Irish bank names in world’s ‘top 50 safest banks’

German bank KFW tops the table

  

Irish banks don’t make the grade in the Global Finance Top 50 safest banks 2013

Irish banks don’t make the grade in the latest Global Finance survey of the “World’s 50 Safest Banks”, although Dutch bank Rabobank, which has an operation in Ireland, came in 10th position.

German bank KFW tops the list, followed by another Dutch bank, Bank Nederlandse Gemeenten. According to the authors of the report, the “safest banks in Europe have explicit guarantees from AAA-rated governments”.

Canadian banks are once again the best performing in North America, with six banks in the top 50, although US institutions are catching up, with six banks in the top 50.

In Asia, banks from Singapore are again the strongest in Asia, as are those from Chile in Latin America.

The size threshold for banks is higher this year, with some strong local and global banks not qualifying for the list owing to their asset size, not their ratings.

Global Finance publisher Joseph D Giarraputo saidthat thesurvey shows that the number of emerging markets banks in the top 50 is slowly growing, and the number of triple-A banks has not changed and it is pretty limited, “as many countries have lost their top sovereign rating and no new ones have reached that level yet”.

Russia’s Arctic Ocean developments to threaten the protection of wildlife

  

Russia is planning huge oil and gas developments in the Arctic Ocean off its northern coast – drilling that could threaten pristine wildlife habitats.

Large-scale production could begin in the next two decades, if the price of oil rises high enough.

Preliminary exploration has already begun, including in the Laptev Sea.

But scientists say the region is home to important, thriving populations of walrus and polar bears, which could be put at risk.

  The early retreat of ice makes life harder for the polar bear and walrus

Biologists on the 2013 Laptev Expedition this summer have been trying to establish if the walruses and polar bears there are a unique group, in need of special protection. BBC journalists went with them to investigate the issue.

We flew to Khatanga, one of the most northerly towns in Siberia, and there we boarded a small boat, the Taimyr.

From Khatanga it was a two-day, 500km (310-mile) journey almost duenorth.

Polar bears

After the first day it became clear we had entered the domain of the polar bear. First we saw a mother with two five-month-old cubs on Maliy Begichev Island.

Then we saw a big “haul-out” of walrus at Cape Tsvetkov – perhaps 400-600 there, resting on the beach. Towering above them on the last large lump of ice was a large polar bear.

But our destination was Maria Pronchishcheva Bay, half-way up the Taimyr Peninsula. It is the most northerly bit of land in the world still attached to a continent.

“The oil companies are coming here with exploration projects already, and there are ongoing seismic explorations,” said Igor Chestin, chief executive of the environmental group WWF Russia.

“So before the real oil and gas projects develop in the area we need to know that there is sufficient knowledge of the conservation needs here, which would allow us to put in the necessary protection if this development ever happens.”

From satellite photographs taken a week earlier, the scientists on the expedition knew there had also been a large walrus “haul-out” there previously. By the time we sailed into the bay the number had dropped to around 60. But it was still enough for the crucial scientific work of the expedition – collecting DNA from the Laptev walrus.

Collecting samples

Walrus expert Anatoly Kochnev of ChukotTINRO, a marine biology group, was despatched to the pebbly spit where the animals were resting.

We watched as he fired crossbow darts into the sides of the walrus, which he then retrieved with a thin piece of line attached to each dart. At the head of each dart was a biopsy punch, which pulled out a piece of walrus skin and fat as it was retrieved.

The samples will be sent to labs in Moscow and Denmark for DNA analysis. The plan is to end a long scientific dispute over whether the Laptev walrus is a unique sub-species in need of special protection, genetically different from the Pacific walrus and the Atlantic walrus.

Darts are used to collect vital samples from the walrus

Just one hour after Anatoly Kochnev’s third trip out to the spit, a huge male polar bear appeared in the exact spot where he had been kneeling to fire the crossbow. The bear tried to kill one of the walrus, but was unsuccessful – this time.

Polar bear expert Geoff York of WWF’s Global Arctic Programme is collecting samples – faeces and hair – which will also be sent for DNA analysis. Again there is a concern that the polar bears of the Laptev Sea may be unique and in need of special protection.

“If that is true then in most countries you would need to identify the habitat being used by bears,” Geoff York said.

“Are they making dens onshore? How are they using the land in summer? Then you would protect those habitats at least in the relevant seasons. If you do indeed have two unique sub-populations of marine mammals here you might consider that this should be a Marine Protected Area, and you might exclude any industrial development.”

Ice retreating

The concern about the large marine mammals of the Laptev Sea has increased in the last decade for two reasons.

Firstly, climate change has led to a dramatic shrinking of the Arctic ice cap in recent summers. This has meant that in order to stay close to their feeding grounds the walruses have had to come ashore in much larger numbers, instead of staying on the ice where they feel more comfortable.

Polar bears are also being forced ashore, where they find it much harder to feed. Their preferred meal, the ringed seal, is not available onshore and they often are reduced to going after the much more dangerous walrus.

Secondly, there are plans to develop the Laptev Sea for oil and gas production. The water here is shallow, which makes it easier to drill, and there are believed to be large deposits of hydrocarbons. This exploration work may frighten the nervous bear and walruses, and could disrupt their food supply.

Conservationists think the arrival of much greater numbers of humans could also increase hunting, further disrupting the delicate balance of nature here. They say that nobody has yet worked out how to control an oil spill in seas that are close to freezing.

The Laptev Sea is now a target for large-scale energy exploration

The Russian government says the country’s future wealth depends on exploiting the deposits here and in other parts of the Arctic. The deposits will not be easy to extract, but they are almost certainly there.

“Most of the estimates give more than 20% of global undiscovered oil deposits to Russian Arctic seas,” said Alexev Piskarev, author of Energy Potential of the Russian Arctic Seas.

Shipping route

The melting sea ice has also opened up new shipping routes. Russia is now advertising the Northern Sea Route, which cuts the journey time from China to Europe by up to two weeks.

“You save time and you save fuel. It is much more economical,” said Alexander Olshevsky, head of the Northern Sea Route Administration. “Though you will need to pay for a nuclear-powered icebreaker, and of course you will need a boat that can deal with these conditions.”

But again, opening up the Northern Sea Route could disrupt the fragile ecosystem. More than 400 ships will make the journey this year – yet in 2010 it was only four.

On our brief, two-week trip we have seen extraordinary fire-red Arctic skies, gleaming snowy owls and grumpy musk ox, and an almost untouched landscape of thin yellow tundra covering the permafrost. The temperature has barely risen above 10C and has often been closer to freezing.

It is one of the last wildernesses of the world, a place few people even know exists, but modern industry is already starting to encroach on it.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday/Sunday 24 & 25th August 2013

Chinese manufacturing growing as Europe recovery signs strengthening

  

Chinese manufacturing resumed expansion this month after shrinking the most in almost a year in July and output at European factories and services companies improved, a sign the global recovery is strengthening.

A preliminary purchasing managers index for China by HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics rose to 50.1 from 47.7, exceeding all 16 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. A reading above 50 indicates expansion. Manufacturing (PMITMEZ) and services in the euro area also grew more than economists forecast in August, led by Germany.

A factory worker assembles lithium ion batteries at the China BAK Battery Inc. facility in Tianjin. Photographer: Keith Bedford/Bloomberg

Aug. 22 (Bloomberg) — Freya Beamish, Hong Kong-based economist with Lombard Street Research, talks about China’s economy. She speaks with Rishaad Salamat on Bloomberg Television’s “On the Move.” (Source: Bloomberg)

China’s manufacturing, fueled by domestic demand after Premier Li Keqiang rolled out measures to support growth, indicates the world’s second-biggest economy is strengthening after a two-quarter slowdown. Global central bankers meet this week in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to discuss the global economy as the Federal Reserve considers winding down the pace of monthly stimulus, a prospect that’s already roiled financial markets.

“We expect the euro-zone economy to continue its recovery in the remainder of this year, but it will likely be a slow and uneven process,” said Martin van Vliet, an economist at ING Bank NV in Amsterdam. “The recent slowdown in some key emerging economies could be an important headwind to euro-zone export growth. In that regard, it is encouraging to see that the Chinese PMI saw a sharp rebound.”

The 2.4-point jump in the China measure was the biggest gain since August 2010, when the gauge rose 2.5 points to 51.9, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Domestic demand is strong enough to support 7.5 percent growth in 2013,” said Ken Peng, senior economist at BNP Paribas SA in Beijing. “Almost all of China’s economic data since July has shown improvements and suggests a rebound is underway.”

German Support

In the euro area, the services index advanced to 51 in August from 49.8 in July, London-based Markit said. Economists forecast an increase to 50.2, according to the median of 32 estimates. The factory gauge indicated expansion for a second month in August, rising to 51.3 from 50.3. Acomposite index covering both industries increased to 51.7 from 50.5.

The manufacturing index for Germany, Europe’s largest economy, soared to a 25-month high of 52, while the services gauge reached a six-month high of 52.4.

European shares rose, with the Stoxx Europe 600 Index adding adding 0.8 percent as of 10:55 a.m. London time. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost 0.9 percent. The yield on German 10-year bonds climbed six basis points to 1.935 percent, the highest since March 2012.

Gross domestic product in the euro region rose 0.3 percent in the three months through June after six quarterly contractions. The expansion was led by the region’s two biggest economies,Germany and France. Italy and Spain remained in recession.

Fed Tapering

U.S. stock-index futures advanced today, indicating the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index will rebound from a six-week low. The S&P fell 0.6 percent yesterday as minutes from the Fed’s July meeting showed officials support stimulus cuts this year if the economy improves.

“A few members emphasized the importance of being patient and evaluating additional information on the economy before deciding on any changes to the pace of asset purchases,” the minutes show. “Almost all participants confirmed that they were broadly comfortable” with the committee moderating “the pace of its securities purchases later this year.”

The Fed, currently buying $85 billion a month in bonds, will probably reduce its purchases in September, according to 65 percent of 48 economists in an Aug. 9-13 Bloomberg survey.

Releases in the U.S. today include initial jobless claims, house-price numbers and the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index.

Concerns Recede

The main cause of China’s improved performance is increased confidence as Communist Party leaders indicate a commitment to sustaining growth and concerns recede after aninterbank lending squeeze in June, said Lu Ting, head of Greater China economics at Bank of America Corp. in Hong Kong.

China will reach the government’s 7.5 percent growth target this year and maintain that pace in 2014, a Bloomberg News survey of economists indicates.

HSBC’s PMI “confirms that the economy has stabilized in the short term and downside risks for the second half have declined,” said Zhang Zhiwei, chief China economist for Nomura Holdings Inc. in Hong Kong. Zhang sees “upside risks” to his forecast of 7.4 percent growth this quarter.

Deutsche Bank AG today raised its estimate for economic expansion in the July-September period to 7.7 percent from 7.5 percent and its fourth-quarter forecast to 7.8 percent from 7.7 percent.

The preliminary China reading is based on about 85 percent to 90 percent of responses to surveys sent to more than 420 manufacturers. The final report is due Sept. 2. The National Bureau of Statistics and China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing will release their own survey on Sept. 1.

Infrastructure Support

The biggest contribution to the gain in today’s PMI reading was from production and new orders, said Yao Wei, China economist at Societe Generale SA in Hong Kong. “Domestic demand is being driven by recovery in the property sector” while government support for infrastructure will start to show an effect in the next two months, she said.

“The problem is whether such stimulus is sustainable,” she said. “We are still relying on investment for growth and there will be downside risks beyond the third quarter.”

Investors are looking ahead to a meeting later this year where the Communist Party’s new leaders may unveil a blueprint for policy measures to sustain growth in coming years as higher labor costs and a shrinking working-age population weigh on the pace of expansion.

’Broadly Comfortable’

Signs that China is strengthening may help to counter investor pessimism toward emerging economies that has been fueled by the Fed’s indications it may rein in stimulus.

Emerging-market stocks are set for the biggest weekly decline since June 21 on concern capital outflows will accelerate. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index has dropped 4.3 percent this week.

Investors pulled $7.6 billion out of emerging-market funds in the first seven months of this year, while $155.6 billion poured into developed-market equity exchange-traded products, according to BlackRock Investment Institute. The Indian rupee fell to a record low this week, Thailand is in recession and Indonesian stocks have slumped about 20 percent since their peak.Hospitals ‘not yet obliged’ to report number of abortions

Irish Hospitals ‘not yet obliged’ to report number of abortions

 

Irish Hospitals are not yet obliged to report terminations of pregnancy to save the life of a woman because new abortion legislation is still not in operation.

The Department of Health said yesterday that although the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act was signed into law on July 30 it was not yet active.

Operational issues include drawing up a panel of psychiatrists and obstetricians who would be willing to assess if a woman who is suicidal and seeking to end her pregnancy should be granted an abortion.

A panel is also needed to have doctors who are willing to review cases where a woman’s request for an abortion under the terms of the legislation is initially turned down.

The clarification from the department came after it was reported that a pregnant woman whose life was in danger had her pregnancy terminated in the National Maternity Hospital in Holles St in recent weeks.

The woman is believed to have been diagnosed with sepsis, a serious infection, which if left untreated would put her at real and substantial risk of death.

However, the breach of patient confidentiality has led to a major investigation by the hospital’s clinical director and leading obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan, who described it as “outrageous”.

UNACCEPTABLE

He said the leaking of the details was “absolutely unacceptable, unfair and unethical, and was a severe breach of patient confidentiality”.

He added: “Patients will get the care they deserve, and we will not let any woman die in Holles Street, we will give her the appropriate care. But we will not have her details splashed around the newspapers.

“To give the exact clinical details of a patient to a member of the press is absolutely unethical behaviour by any medical personnel, and if it’s a doctor, then this sort of transgression could well end up before the Medical Council.”

When the legislation is active, hospitals will be obliged to report each case where a termination takes place to the Department of Health, which will produce an annual report.

Dr Boylan said countrywide figures on the number of terminations carried out under the new legislation, where the mother’s life was deemed to be at risk, would be published each year by the Department of Health.

A departmental spokeswoman said the doctors on review panels would also need administrative facilities.

The operational issues would be addressed by the HSE, she said. The department was unable to say what would happen if a suicidal pregnant woman sought an abortion now. “In order to respect patient confidentiality”, the department would be making no further comment, she added.

The Medical Council also said it had yet to draw up new guidelines arising out of the legislation. A spokeswoman said that documentation was being compiled and a new Medical Council, which started its term in June, would consider revising the existing guidelines.

The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists also said it was participating in a working group that would draft guidelines on the implementation of the legislation. The group was established by the Department of Health.

A spokeswoman for Galway University Hospital, where Savita Halappanavarsuffered a miscarriage and died of septicaemia last year, said that as the legislation had not come into operation hospitals were therefore not yet required to record the number of terminations performed.

Scientology church insider says they attempted to recruit Bono and Brad Pitt to the fold

  

Celebrities used as a lure to attract non-famous followers author claims

Irish rocker Bono and film star Brad Pitt were courted by Scientology’s top brass in the hope they’d join the controversial church, an author has claimed.

According to the Daily Mail, in her tell all new book “Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape,” Jenna Miscavige Hill, 29, claims that Irish rocker Bono was once audited by the church.

‘There’s a celebrity strategy and they’re targeted for their influence, not their money,’ Hill claimed, ‘They know people are obsessed with celebrities so will get moreinterested in Scientology.’

Miscavige Hill, the niece of the Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, was raised as a Scientologist but left the religion in 2005 and has since become one of its most outspoken critics. Now she says that courting celebrities is an aim of the church.

‘I think that celebrities are more inclined to be egocentric and Scientology caters for that – you’re your own God. They’re probably being told that all the time.

‘That’s why someone like Bono would fit the bill perfectly as so many people know him.

‘I heard he was receiving Scientology auditing and was at one of the Celebrity Centre Galas. Why would he need auditing? Scientology markets itself to everyone, it can deal with everything from marital problems to public speaking. He’s a human, so he still needs those things.’

Hill also claims screen star Brad Pitt was courted by the church in the 90s, going through its drug detoxification program while dating actress and well-known Scientology member Juliette Lewis.

‘I know he was receiving Scientology auditing and was at one of the Celebrity Centre Galas,’ Hill said.

As the daughter of David Miscavige’s brother Ron, Hill grew up in the church and has written an explosive memoir on time on the inside.

Hill made her escape from the church after 21 years, and Bono’s alleged courting by the organization is an eye popping revelation.

But high profile celebrity church members can cause the organization as much trouble as it does opportunity. Last month actress Leah Remini made international headlines by fleeing the church. The actress then shone a dramatic spotlight on the church by filing a missing persons report this year on Miscavige’s wife Shelly, who hasn’t been seen publicly in years.

Meanwhile Remini has reportedly been offered millions of dollars for a tell-all book on her many years with the church.

Redhead people genetically prone to skin Cancer development

   

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center discovered that the same genetic mutation causing the person to have red hair also plays a certain role in cancer development. The genetic mutation has been identified as a mutation on the gene receptor known as melanocortin-1 (MC1R). 

It has been known before that those who had been born with red hair also have a greater risk of the skin cancer known as melanoma. Now, scientists have found a better explanation to this phenomenon. 

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center discovered that the same genetic mutation causing the person to have red hair also plays a certain role in cancer development. The genetic mutation has been identified as a mutation on the gene receptor known as melanocortin-1 (MC1R).

When a red-haired person gets exposed to UV radiation, the gene mutation appears to promote a signaling pathway which is known to contribute to cancer development. Dubbed as PI3K/Akt, the signaling pathway has been connected with other forms of cancer attacking the breast, ovary, and lungs.

The study published in the Molecular Cell journal is based on serious work on mice and cell cultures. By nature, the MC1R gene receptor connects with PTEN, a tumor-suppressing gene, thereby stopping an increased signaling to the cancer-causing PI3K/Akt pathway. However, for those who have red hair combined with the MC1R gene mutation, the gene receptor of the MC1R seems not to possess a protective mechanism to thwart cancer.

Moreover, researchers also found out that an increased activity coming from the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway tend to increase proliferation of the cells and had shown some interaction with a gene mutation which is believed to be the key in most melanoma cases.

Investigator and Professor Wenyi Wei, Ph.D, from the Department of Pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess and the Harvard Medical School told the Huffington Post that their study was able to provide the molecular mechanism that explains why individuals born with red hair while harboring MC1R mutations are much more prone to UV-triggered skin damage than those who have darker skin tones. This result to a 10 to 100 fold higher chances of melanoma.

Donkey Derby Day at Mullaghmore Co Sligo

Gary Noonan returns after his victory in the All Ireland Donkey Derby in Mullaghmore on Lynchs Gang.

A day of high frolics and fun not to mention the odd spill or two in Co Sligo

“ There’s the tight winding roads, “ There’s the tight winding roads, With the scenes, There’s the harbour and sunsets, As you laze on the green, There’s the pier and the sand dunes, Sweeping down to the shore, There’s the walk to the Castle, Mullaghmore, Mullahgmore. ”

Oh and don’t forget the Donkey Derby. The last Classic of the domestic Flat season may be scheduled for the Curraghnext month, but the equine talent on show at Mullaghmore at the weekend was just as important to the colourful young jockeys and their anxious trainers taking part.

The highlight of summer for many of the Co Sligo locals is the “All Ireland Donkey Derby”, which attracted entries and riders from all over the country as they competed for the bragging rights as well as a first prize of €300 . All of the proceeds from the event went directly to charity , with the North West Hospice, Sligo Alzheimer unit and a project in Lusaka, Zambia the main beneficiaries.

It was a day of high frolics and fun not to mention the odd spill or two as, in addition to the racing – which was staged on the scenic green in front of the 185-year-old stone harbour – there was children’s entertainments, craft stalls, a dog show and live music. It seems Donkey Derbies are great fundraisers as well as providing endless enjoyment for the participants and spectators.

The large crowd was entertained by numerous races, each with six donkeys taking part. Competition was fierce with Limerick rider rider Gary Noonan finishing as top jockey with victory on the Robbie Cronin-owned donkey Lynchs Gang. The possibility of riders catching their feet in stirrups and being dragged along should they fall off means saddles are not used, making the achievements of these young riders in the 150-yard dashes even more impressive.

But young Noonan preferred to play down his efforts, saying you’re only as good as the donkey you ride. And the antics of our four-legged friends caused many a chuckle and thanks to some accommodating locals and stewards were spared any serious injuries.

Mercifully none of the riders – jockeys must weigh 8st or under – were hurt either, with the only dent in their prides being a few sore bums. But perhaps just as amusing as the donkeys was the commentary of local man Patsy Smith, who kept the crowds entertained with his humorous take on some hair-raising heats as well as keeping the public informed of the All-Ireland semi-final between Mayo and Tyrone.

Although fun is the main theme of these events, safety is of paramount importance , with each rider wearing a BS-approved and correctly-fitting helmet. Organiser of the event Bridie Watters said jockeys must follow strict rules in order to participate.

“We must stress that each rider must wear an approved helmet as well as getting permission from the donkey owners to take part. Although we have never experienced any serious injuries, these donkeys pack some kick.”

Ms Watters has seen the event grow in popularity since its first staging in 1999. “We are delighted with how popular it’s become, not just with the locals, but the wider community in Sligo. We have a great equine tradition in these parts and it’s a bonus that the event attracts extra business to the area. I think people are surprised when they see the beauty of Mullaghmore.”

It’s hard to know what Shrek might have made of Donkey but the ogre would certainly have been impressed by the unrivalled green scenery of one of Sligo’s gems.

Beetles living in Cows may neutralize Methane gas emissions

  

Cattles are said to be capable of releasing a huge amount of methane into the atmosphere by way of their natural digestive system which largely contributes to anthropogenic greenhouse gases that eventually trigger global warming. Though much of the methane is released through flatulence and burping, a percentage of this methane comes from cow pats which, according to a latest study, may be partially neutralized by beetles that are found thriving in these dung piles.

Cattles are said to be capable of releasing a huge amount of methane into the atmosphere by way of their natural digestive system which largely contributes to anthropogenic greenhouse gases that eventually trigger global warming. Though much of the methane is released through flatulence and burping, a percentage of this methane comes from cow pats which, according to a latest study, may be partially neutralized by beetles that are found thriving in these dung piles. 

Atte Penttila, lead author of the study from the University of Helsinki, wrote that cow pats are the primary source of food for a huge number of organisms. In fact, there could be as many species of dung-dependent beetles as there are species of birds on Earth.

Researchers also explained that understanding how these beetles help in reducing methane emissions connected to cattle production is greatly relevant when determining the total climatic effects of beef farming and dairy.

Much of the impact exerted by beetles occurs when they simply do some dung digging. Generally speaking, methane is born during anaerobic conditions. The tunneling activities of the beetles seem to expose the cow pats. This creates a major impact on how carbon is released from the pats and then goes straight into the atmosphere.

Tomas Roslin, head of the research committee, explains that in addition to the amount of carbon that is released, it is also important to consider the type of form it is released in. If such carbon is initially taken up by plants which use it as carbon dioxide, then emitted in an unchanged form by the cows that eat the plants, the effect of plants going through the cattle will be minimal in terms of global warming. However, there is a good reason to worry if the same carbon is changed from carbon dioxide into methane since it will have a bigger impact on the climate.

Researcher Eleanor Slade added that after examining dung beetles in Oxford and Helsinki, there isn’t a lot of good news to announce so far. As the current worldwide meat consumption surges, there is the reality that the number of dung beetle species had declined dramatically which eventually lead to an increase in the overall emissions that come from cattle herding.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 23rd August 2013

Nearly 100,000 20% of Irish mortgages in arrears by over three months or more

 

Irish Central Bank figures show over 200 homes repossessed by banks in second quarter of year

Mortgage arrears continued to climb in the second quarter of the year, and a more than 200 homes were repossessed by banks, new data from the Central Bank showed today.

The latest figures show more than 97,800 private residential mortgages were in arrears of over 90 days by the end of June, some 12.7 per cent of home loans, compared with 12.3 per cent in the previous quarter, or 95,554 loans.

When it came to longer-term arrears, the number of mortgages that had fallen behind by more than 180 days rose by 3.8 per cent, while quarter on quarter the number of accounts in arrears over 720 days was up by 11.3 per cent.

However, early arrears showed a decline, falling by 3.3 per cent to 45,018 loan accounts.

The Central Bank said a total of 223 properties were repossessed by lenders during the three-month period, with 160 voluntarily surrendered. The banks disposed of 133 properties during the quarter, leaving them in possession of 1,001 properties. Legal proceedings were brought in 270 cases.

More than 79,300 mortgage accounts are now classed as restructured, with 76.5 per cent deemed to be meeting the terms of their current restructure arrangement. The majority of these arrangements are interest only or reduced payments that exceed the interest on the mortgage, with a small number – about 5,400 – paying less than the interest owed.

Some 30,326 buy to let mortgages were in arrears of more than 90 days, rising from 29,369 at the end of the previous quarter.

The Irish Banking Federation said the rise overall arrears was unwelcome, and warned it would likely increase further before hitting a peak, but pointed to the reduction in early arrears as a positive move.

However, financial brokers body PIBA said the current crisis was prolonging the agony for homeowners and was a severe drag on the economy that needs to be tackled urgently.

“The longer that this situation is left to continue the more catastrophic the consequences will be on the wider economy,” chief operations officer Rachel Doyle said.

Potential first Irish abortion carried out under new legislation

 

National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street terminated unviable pregnancy at 18 weeks

The Department of Health has confirmed that the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act, signed into law by the President on July 30th, 2013, has not yet commenced. So therefore, the statements below that a termination was carried out under the provisions of new abortion legislation and that it was performed under section 7 of the Act are not entirely correct.

The first termination of a pregnancy carried out under the provisions of new abortion legislation has taken place at the National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street, Dublin.

The termination of the twin pregnancy was carried out on a patient who was almost 18 weeks’ pregnant in view of the risk to her life and the unviability of her pregnancy, according to sources at the hospital. Foetal heartbeat were present.

The case bears a number of similarities to that of Savita Halappanavar, in that the woman’s membranes had ruptured and she was demonstrating signs of sepsis.

In contrast to Ms Halappanavar, who died in University Hospital Galway last October after she was refused a termination, the National Maternity Hospital patient has made a good recovery after receiving antibiotic treatment and undergoing the termination a number of weeks ago.

The National Maternity Hospital is one of 25 hospitals in the State authorised to carry out terminations under the provisions of the Act.

the Risk of loss of life

It was performed under section 7, which deals with the risk of loss of life of a woman from physical illness. The controversial suicide provision and another provision covering medical emergencies were not invoked.

In accordance with the legislation, the woman’s obstetrician and another medical practitioner certified that there was a real and substantial risk to her life, which could only be averted by carrying out a termination, before the procedure was carried out.

The Act does not provide for the identification of either patients or the doctors involved in the process. In this case, it is understood the master of the hospital Dr Rhona Mahony, former master Dr Peter Boylan, other senior obstetricians at the hospital and a paediatrician were involved in the decision-making process.

“Even before the passage of the legislation, Holles Street would have carried out terminations in cases like this, where the prognosis for the pregnancy was very poor,” a senior hospital source said last night. “What’s changed is that we can do our work in the best interests of patients without fear of a possible Medical Council case.”

Dr Mahony was out of the country yesterday and could not be contacted.

Membranes were ruptured.

In this case, after the woman’s membranes were ruptured for almost 24 hours and the risk of infection increased dramatically, she and her partner agreed to the procedure after discussions with doctors at the hospital.The twin foetuses had no chance of survival after being born at under 18 weeks.

Estimates vary as to the number of terminations carried out in Irish hospitals each year to save the life of the mother. During the debate on the legislation, Dr Mahony estimated that between 10 and 20 terminations are performed, while her counterpart at the Rotunda, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, estimated the number at between 20 and 30.

To comply with the legislation, the hospital is required to provide Minister for Health James Reilly with the Medical Council registration number of the doctor who carried out the procedure and the registration number of the doctor involved in certification. It must also state under which provision of the Act the termination was carried out.

The Minister is required to publish a yearly report on terminations carried out under the terms of the Act.

MEP Marian Harkin hails consumer refund scheme for EU consumers

  

Marian Harkin MEP said the European Consumer Centre in Ireland was contacted by 3,326 consumers in 2012

More than €100,000 was refunded to people who contacted European consumer chiefs last year.

Marian Harkin MEP said the European Consumer Centre in Ireland was contacted by 3,326 consumers in 2012 as on-lines sales and EU cross border shopping rose.

She revealed 60% of inquiries were successfully resolved with €112,058.69 refunded to the complainants, who included a woman whose teenage daughter was refused boarding on a flight in Spain as it was over-booked.

“More and more people are buying online and more and more people are buying cross-border,” said Ms Harkin.

“While there are laws in place to help protect consumer rights, it can often be difficult to vindicate those rights because of language problems, different legal systems and attempted fraudulent trading.”

Claims successfully resolved included an Irish person who found that goods bought from a UK trader were not as described in the purchase order and a Swedish consumer who ordered goods from an Irish trader that were not delivered and who had not received a refund.

Elsewhere a customer whose order was cancelled by a UK web trade without a refund was assisted, along with a holidaymaker who was billed and charged for “special cleaning” of a rental car from a French company. That claim was resolved following the intervention of the French European Consumer Centre and a full refund was made.

Ms Harkin said the data shows not only is there legislation in place that can protect the rights of people buying across EU borders, but that the centre will assist them in vindicating those rights.

“The European Consumer Centre in Ireland will investigate the case and contact the Consumer Centre in the country involved, as well as the company or trader concerned,” she said at the launch of the report in Sligo.

“They will also provide information and advice where needed.

“This is a really good service and should help consumers navigate the sometimes tricky area of cross-border business.”

Most precise clock in the world to watch tiniest ever time dilations

   

Time can now be divided into slivers hundreds of trillions of times smaller than a second, thanks to a pair of atomic clocks made from ytterbium that have just set a new record for precision.

This could allow us to detect how an object just 1 centimetre above another might age differently, as prescribed by Einstein’s theory of general relativity. It could also set a new standard definition for the second.

“We’ve reached a new level, an order of magnitude improvement over what had been done before,” says Andrew Ludlow of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, who led the work.

The “ticks” of atomic clocks are the hyper-regular switching of a group of atoms between two energy levels. The most accurate definition of a second is currently the amount of time it takes for a group of caesium atoms to swing between two states 9,192,631,770 times.

“If you were to run this clock for around 100 million years, it would only gain or lose about a second,” Ludlow says. These clocks are accurate because we’ve identified their sources of error and eliminated most of them, so physicists can be confident that its ticking is true.

Speed limit

But the trouble with caesium is that it can’t switch energy states any faster, limiting the clock’s precision – how finely we can divide time.

In the past few years, physicists have been constructing clocks that use elements like strontium, aluminium and ytterbium, whose transitions are thousands or millions of times more frequent.

“The caesium clocks, compared to most other technology, are wonderful,” Ludlow says. “But compared to these next-generation clocks they are significantly worse in terms of the stability, or the time precision that they can achieve.”

As well as the speed of its tick, a clock’s precision depends on its regularity. If the pendulum in a grandfather clock takes one second to complete one swing, two seconds to complete the next, and a second and a half to complete a third swing, you wouldn’t trust it to time a race. So a clock’s ticking rate must also be consistent. “The same is true for these atomic clocks,” Ludlow says. “You need to make sure that each tick is the same as the one before it.”

Magic frequency

Now, Ludlow and his colleagues have created ytterbium clocks that are stable to one part in a quintillion (1018): it would take a quintillion ticks to find one that is different from its neighbours.

To create each clock, the team cooled 10,000 ytterbium atoms to 10 millikelvin, or 10 thousandths of a degree above absolute zero, and used a series of lasers to trap them in a sort of egg carton of light. Another laser, called the “clock” laser, provoked a transition between two of the atoms’ energy levels.

The magic frequency for ytterbium is about 518 trillion oscillations per second, about 100,000 per second faster than caesium.

The team used an extremely steady laser to reduce jitter in the atoms, and thousands of atoms to average out any disturbances that could have knocked individual atoms off their cycles. To put a figure on the precision, they compared two nearly identical ytterbium clocks against each other.

“It’s an outstanding paper. This is really a breakthrough,” says Christoph Salomon of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, who was not involved in the new work.

Although the clock is more precise than the caesium gold standard, it still not as accurate.

You might think of these properties of equivalent, but there is a distinction. Precision describes how finely you can divide something, and accuracy is the extent to which you can be sure the measurement is correct or erase systematic errors. And the researchers are more certain that the caesium clock does not contain a systematic error than they are for ytterbium.

Einstein test

If they beat down the clock’s uncertainties, it could eventually become more accurate than the caesium clock too, potentially unseating the world standard for timekeeping.

The milestone opens new frontiers in ultra-precise measurements of gravity and fundamental constants.

It could also help find holes in general relativity. The theory predicts that time runs slower in a gravitational field, meaning clocks on the ground are slower than clocks in space, or even clocks on a step-ladder.

Using the ytterbium clock’s precision, you could sense these time differences at the level of a single centimetre. That would allow physicists to test general relativity’s predictions to 10 parts per billion, well beyond what has been done so far.

Relativity, although hugely successful, doesn’t sit well with quantum mechanics, so physicists expect it to break down at some point, revealing a new, more fundamental theory.

“We know that general relativity is not the ultimate theory,” Salomon says. “People are searching for violations of general relativity that would indicate new forces or new particles or new physics, and that would be really exciting. These [atomic clocks] are exquisite tools for doing that work.”

Volunteering could lengthen peoples life & improve your health

  

Volunteering may improve your health, according to a new study which found that those who do it live longer and are more satisfied with their lives.

People who volunteer report having lower levels of depression and higher levels of well-being than average, while some research suggests it promotes a longer and healthier life.

A review of 40 academic papers on the subject by University of Exeter researchers found that volunteers are a fifth less likely to die within thenext four to seven years than average.

Across the studies volunteers had lower self-rated levels of depression and higher levels of well-being and life satisfaction, although this has not been confirmed in trials.

It is thought that volunteering can be good for the physical health of older people in particular, by encouraging them to stay active and spend more time out of the house.

Volunteers often explain their motives in terms of wanting to “give something back” to their community, but without receiving anything in return the reported improvements in quality of life are harder to explain, experts said.

An estimated 22.5 per cent of people in Europe devote part of their spare time to volunteering, compared with 27 per cent in America and 36 per cent in Australia.

Dr Suzanne Richards, who published her systematic review in the BMC Public Health journal, said: “Our systematic review shows that volunteering is associated with improvements in mental health, but more work is needed to establish whether volunteering is actually the cause.

“It is still unclear whether biological and cultural factors and social resources that are often associated with better health and survival are also associated with a willingness to volunteer in the first place.”

News Ireland daily BLOG Thursday

Thursday 22nd August 2013

If we don’t make our sick people a priority we’re not a society

Daniel Day-Lewis says

  

The actor Daniel Day-Lewis has toured the site for a 12-bed hospice in Wicklow which he has worked on since his mother’s death.

Daniel Day-Lewis, who has a house in nearby Annamoe, is a supporter of the proposed facility, which will be located in idyllic rural Magheramore.

His mother, Jill Balcon, had chosen to end her days in a hospice instead of at home because she felt “safe and comfortable there”.

“Newborns, children, the sick, the disabled, the dying … if we do not make them a priority we have not right to respect ourselves as a society,” the actor stressed.

Personal: “As much as it is personal for us to have these facilities in Wicklow, it is also important for us to be doing things of value in this country when we are so often led to believe that the doldrums will finish us all off.”

The actor, who lives in Wicklow with his playwright wife Rebecca Miller and their two children, paid tribute to Columban Sisters for donating the site.

Evanne Cahill said the hope is that the HSE will include it in its 2014 service plan and pre-planning has been submitted to Wicklow County Council.

The “passion and professionalism” of Wicklow people determined to build a hospice inspired the Worldwide Ireland Funds to get involved in the project, president and CEO of the funds, Kieran McLoughlin, told the Herald. The Wicklow Hospice Foundation has just reached a crucial €3m target, with help from the funds.

The amount is the required half of the building cost which will trigger a commitment from the HSE to meet the second half of the cost. Donors to the American-Ireland Funds committed to an ongoing relationship with the project after an impressive address to the Funds annual Gala dinner in New York earlier this year by Daniel Day-Lewis.

Sligo, Yeats County finds it’s working capital in its couch cushions

  

Beautiful Sligo pictures of seaside, lakes and wild life at its best.  

Money has to come from somewhere. During the boom years in Ireland, it came from bond investors, through Irish banks and into mortgages. That money’s gone. It could come from a government running a deficit, but the Republic of Ireland, still operating under the watchful eyes of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission, doesn’t have that luxury. 

Since the crash, the government hasfocused on foreign direct investment as a source of capital, with some success. This month Overstock.com(OSTK), for example, announced 45 new jobs at a software development center in Sligo, far from the tech hub of Dublin.
But this is not enough good news. It’s difficult, as an economist or a policymaker, to determine the exact difference between speculative investment and working capital, the loans that help businesses grow naturally to meet market demand.

In Sligo, as elsewhere in Ireland and all over the euro zone, when the cheap money and the fast mortgages disappeared, so did all the working capital. Several business owners in the center of the city told me to ignore what I heard from Dublin. Banks are cranky and scared, they said, and credit is not to be had. The one new business on Bridge Street, a cell phone repair shop that opened this spring, bought stock and furniture with the owner’s personal savings.
This leaves the Sligo Chamber and the Western Development Commission with a problem. These are the agencies charged with economic development for the area. Economic development, even of good ideas, takes money. But there’s no money from Dublin for any ideas, good or bad. The Western Development Commission has 70 percent less money and 30 percent fewer employees than at its peak during the boom years. So the chamber and the commission have gone looking for capital, anywhere they can find it. And they have found it.

Early in the 2000s, the European Union set up a venture capital fund for the west of Ireland, managed through Dublin. No new investments have been made through Dublin since 2010. In 2012, the Western Development Commission began turning its old equity stakes through the fund into new cash, then reinvested those in a new vehicle, the WDC Investment Fund. It’s targeted toward artists and artisans in the region, to help them with microloans to find markets abroad. (Among its first round of applications, the commission heard from all kinds of businesses—septic tank distributors, for example—desperate for working capital.)

In 2011, a group of volunteers calling itself “Team Sligo” found 60,000 euros in donations from local bars and retailers, paid for focus groups in Dublin, and used volunteer copywriters and PR professionals to create a marketing campaign for the city. This year’s effort, supported by 176,000 euros from the same local businesses and an EU regional development fund, has adopted the slogan “Sligo—Who Knew?” The city does not have working capital. But it does, it turns out, have a rich traditional music scene, truly stunning scenery, and an Atlantic-facing shallow beach with a consistent swell and overhead rollers. (Overhead rollers are good for surfing on.)

The city was also home to William Butler Yeats, one of the greatest poets of the English language.
What Sligo doesn’t have is a highway from Dublin, and the focus groups revealed that even the Irish had no idea what was up there in the northwest of their own country. Monday’s front page of Western People, a local weekly, reported that traffic to Knock airport had wildly exceeded expectations this summer from Frankfurt-Hahn and London Stansted airports. Sligo. Who knew?

“I’d be scared of a big wad of money,” says Paul Keyes, chief executive officer of the Sligo Chamber. “We need to get our structures in place.” Tourism promotion in Ireland used to have a national theme, with Celtic crosses and the generalized nostalgia the Irish call “diddly-aye,” run out of Dublin. But the tourists stayed in Dublin.

The recession, says Keyes, has forced Ireland’s west to find a message for the west. Barren. Lovely. Tuesday morning, I took a run along the ocean road, and an Audi with German tags pulled over to ask me a question. The driver, dressed in adventure gear, asked me whether I knew where he could find a grocery store. The money has to come from somewhere.

 

Four cups of tea is good for our liver function, researchers now find

   

A study found that increased caffeine intake may reduce fatty liver in those with non-alcohol fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Seven out of 10 people diagnosed with diabetes or who suffer from obesity have the condition, and cases are rising.

There are no effective treatments for NAFLD except diet and exercise, reports journal Hepatology.

Professor Paul Yen, of America’sDuke University, carried out a study using cell cultures and mice models.

He found that caffeine stimulates the metabolization of lipids stored in liver cells and decreased the fatty liver of mice that were fed a high-fat diet.

The findings suggest that consuming the equivalent caffeine intake of four cups of coffee or tea a day may be beneficial in preventing and protecting against the progression of NAFLD in humans.

Prof Yen said: “This is the first detailed study of the mechanism for caffeine action on lipids in liver and the results are very interesting.

“Coffee and tea are so commonly consumed and the notion that they may be therapeutic, especially since they have a reputation for being “bad” for health, is especially enlightening.”

The discovery could lead to the development of caffeine-like drugs that do not have the usual side effects related to caffeine, but retain its therapeutic effects on the liver.

Howling wolves gives clue to who is top dog

  

Wolves choose to howl to maintain contact with each other, not because they are stressed

Wolves howl more when a close companion or high-ranking group member leaves the group.

That’s what scientists found when they analysed how captive wolves reacted when one was taken to the forest for a walk.

Known to be social creatures, the work further emphasises the importance of a wolf’s relationships within its pack.

The findings, published in Current Biology, suggest the wolf’s howl is explained by social factors rather than physiological ones such as stress.

Friederike Range from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Austria, who co-authored the work said the wolves were communicating to each other just how important they were.

“We didn’t know there was some flexibility on how much they howl depending on their relationship. The amount of howling is really defined by the quality of the relationship.” Dr Range said.

She told BBC News that the wolves howled differently depending on which one was taken away.

Calling ‘friends’: The creatures call has long fascinated scientists and so unique are their howls that researchers can now recognise individual wolf howls from the wild.

Dr Simon Townsend one of the lead authors from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, said that wolves could be using the howl in a strategic way to regain contact with dominant individuals or with friends.

“Wolves seem to howl more when higher ranking individuals leave because these individuals play quite important roles in the social lives of wolves.

“When they leave it makes sense that the remaining wolves would want to try and re-initiate or regain contact. The same applies for friendship.”

Stress-free wolves: The team listened to the howls of nine wolves from two packs in Austria’s Wolf Science Center and they observed that when a wolf was only taken away to a close surrounding area – rather than the much further away forest – their companions did not howl.

The study was done in a captive setting which enabled the team to measure the wolves’ underlying physiological stress by analysing the cortisol levels in their saliva.

“What we expected was higher cortisol levels if the wolves were more stressed when ‘friends’ leave, but what we found is that cortisol doesn’t seem to explain the variation in the howling behaviour we see,” Dr Townsend told BBC News.

“Instead it’s explained more by social factors – the absence of a highranking individual or the absence of a closer affiliate.”

Holly Root-Gutteridge, a wolf-howl specialist from Nottingham Trent University, UK, who was not involved with the work, said the study was “exciting for wolf scientists”.

“The wolves are choosing to howl because a preferred wolf has been removed and they appear to consciously choose to stay in touch with that wolf. That’s fascinating because it’s really hard to separate social contact calls from the trigger causing them and also the hormone change the trigger causes.

“It means the wolves may be taking complex social interactions into consideration and then changing their own behaviour accordingly, not by instinct but by choice,” Ms Root-Gutteridge told BBC News.

Predictors of suicidal behaviour found in patients’ blood

  

Changes in gene expression can indicate heightened risk for self-harm.

People who are intent on taking their own life may not seek counsel or discuss their thoughts with others. Having some ways of predicting the rise of suicidal thoughts could help save at least some of the 1 million people worldwide who die that way every year.

“It’s a preventable tragedy,” says Alexander Niculescu, a psychiatrist at an Indiana University in Indianapolis who is looking for biological signs of suicide risk.

Because of the brain’s complexity and inaccessibility, the search for predictors of suicide risk has instead focused on molecular signs, or biomarkers. These biomarkers help to indicate which people are at even higher risk. Niculescu and his colleagues have found six such biomarkers in blood that they say can identify people at risk of committing suicide. Their work is published in Molecular Psychiatry1.

The study by Niculescu and his colleagues had four distinct phases. First, they identified nine men with bipolar disorder from a longitudinal cohort study at Indiana University who, between visits to the lab, had switched from having no suicidal thoughts to scoring highly on a suicide-risk scale. They looked for changes in gene expression in men’s blood cells, and identified candidate biomarkers. These biomarkers were then checked against previous work on genes related to mental illness and suicide to identify 41 most likely to be involved. “It works like a Google searchranking,” says Niculescu. “Those that had the most independent lines of evidence got the highest rank.”

Next, the researchers checked their results against blood samples taken by the coroner from nine men who had committed suicide. This enabled them to narrow their list of candidate biomarkers from 41 to 13. After subjecting the biomarkers to more rigorous statistical tests, Niculescu’s team was left with six which they was reasonably confident were indicative of suicide risk.

To check whether these biomarkers could predict hospitalizations related to suicide or suicide attempts, the researchers analysed gene-expression data from 42 men with bipolar disorder and 46 men with schizophrenia, and found correlations with four of their biomarkers, especially in the bipolar group. This indicates that the active genes are not just ‘state markers’ of immediate risk but ‘trait markers’ that can indicate long-term risk. When the biomarkers were combined with clinical measures of mood and mental state, the accuracy with which researchers could predict hospitalizations jumped from 65% to more than 80%.

The strongest predictor was a biomarker encoded by a gene called SAT1. “It was head and shoulders above the rest,” says Niculescu. The work “opens a window into the biology of what’s happening,” he says.

Ghanshyam Pandey, a psychiatrist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says that Niculescu’s work is an important step in the search for psychiatric biomarkers, but the small sample size means the results will have to be validated in much larger groups and tested for specificity and sensitivity before the results could be used clinically. “That’s a big challenge,” Pandey says.

Niculescu says that this type of work is usually done with much larger sample sizes but that he and his colleagues used rigorous, multi-step methods to weed out false positives. The next step, he says, is to look at the levels of these biomarkers in the general population and in other at-risk populations, such as those with depression or suffering from stress or bereavement. “Suicide is not just related to mental illness,” he says. “It’s a very complex behaviour.”

The story of Ryan the chimp: The triumph and depression of a very lovable animal

    

Ryan the chimp contemplates a pinecone treat covered in peanut butter, sunflower seeds, and dried fruit.

Most of Save the Chimps’ residents have heartbreaking stories of suffering—and equally heartwarming stories of recovery. But some chimpanzees just get to you. Maybe you feel an inexplicable connection to them because their stories are a little sadder or because they found it harder to heal. For me, Ryan is one of those chimps. Whenever I see Ryan on his island, I think of the day I met him: the day he fell, and gotback up again.

Ryan was born November 17, 1987 in New Mexico to his parents Olivia and Doug. Before his second birthday, Ryan was shipped off to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, where he would reside indoors for 14 years.

Ryan had it tough at the CDC. He lived alone in a cage that provided just 25 square feet of floor space and five feet of height. Ryan also had to endure invasive experiments that required numerous liver biopsies; he even had part of his liver removed. All these needles and surgeries caused Ryan to develop physical scars that riddled his internal organs, but the damage went even deeper.

When Ryan was seven he began mutilating himself. He pulled out hair, hit his face, bit his ankles, and rubbed his knuckles raw. His laboratory caregiver, who tried desperately to comfort him, noted that he was depressed and withdrawn. Despite this, he was used in additional protocols. One study caused frequent vomiting and he lost 20 pounds. During another he developed an infection in the needle tracks in his forearm.

In 2003, Ryan’s life changed dramatically when he was retired to Save the Chimps. Although Ryan lived at the CDC, he belonged to The Coulston Foundation, a research lab in New Mexico. Save the Chimps took over Coulston and gained custody of Ryan. Ryan moved back from Atlanta to New Mexico, where he would meet other chimpanzees before moving to our sanctuary in Florida.

My first impression of Ryan was of a gangly, awkward, bewildered chimp. When Ryan arrived, the only space available was in the building we called “The Dungeon.” But for Ryan, the Dungeon was paradise. He could go outdoors and feel the sun on his face, a sun he had never seen. The measly 120 square feet of space was nearly five times the amount of space he had known. For the first time, he could climb.

That’s when Ryan fell. When he entered his new home, it was apparent he had never climbed before. But climb he did, shakily venturing up ten feet. Once he was there, he had no idea how to get down. He hung from the top, considering his options. We gasped as he let go and dropped to the floor. He got up and took a few cautious steps. His ankle was sore, but otherwise all was well. Although concerned, we rejoiced. Ryan had climbed. Yes, he fell, but he got back up again. And he bravely kept climbing until he was as agile as any other chimp.

Ryan’s recovery from isolation and trauma took nearly five years. Medications were required to help Ryan stop injuring himself. His long rehabilitation was a partnership between his caregivers at Save the Chimps, who never gave up on him, and Ryan himself, who never gave up.

Meeting other chimps was a challenge for Ryan, who didn’t understand how to navigate chimpanzee society. We kept trying to find companions for Ryan. Ryan kept trying too—over time he learned how to communicate, play, and groom others. Incredibly, Ryan ended up in one of the largest groups at Save the Chimps, Freddy’s Family.

When Ryan moved to his home in Florida, it was like nothing he had ever seen. Outside his new airy building was a hilly, three-acre island, complete with a covered bridge. Ryan had never lived anywhere but in a cage, and had never set foot on grass or sat under a tree. Would he be brave enough to walk out into this big new world?

We were so proud of Ryan, because he was and he did! It was a beautiful, breezy November day, and Ryan courageously went outdoors and into a new chapter of his life. Today, he goes out onto his island without hesitation, roaming with his friends, looking for goodies scattered in the grass. He’s even become a mediator, stepping in to stop any family disputes. He is often found next to Freddy, grooming him intently.

Ryan has gotten his happy ending, and we are grateful that no more chimpanzees live at the CDC. But there are hundreds of chimps in other labs waiting for their chance to retire. Among those behind closed doors are Ryan’s sister Chauncy and brother Martin, who are owned by the U.S. government and may reside at the Alamogordo Primate Facility in New Mexico. Two recent developments may spell a brighter future for Ryan’s siblings and other research chimps.

First, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a rule to declare all chimpanzees endangered. Since 1990, chimpanzees have been “split-listed,” meaning that wild chimpanzees are considered endangered, but captive chimpanzees are not. Chimps are the only species with this designation. (Gorillas, for example, are considered endangered whether in the wild or in a zoo.) This split-listing allowed Ryan to be harmed in biomedical research.

If all chimpanzees had been declared endangered in 1990, it would have been difficult to scientifically justify using Ryan in invasive research. He would have been spared years of agony. You can help spare Chauncy, Martin, and other chimps from future harm by submitting comments to the government by August 12 to support the proposition to make all chimpanzees endangered.

Second, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced that they would retire all but 50 of their 360 chimpanzees. This means that Chauncy and Martin could be retired to a sanctuary, just like Ryan was ten years ago, as long as they are not among the 50 unfortunate chimps picked to stay in research. Save the Chimps and our fellow members of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) are willing to work with the NIH to provide sanctuary for all of their chimpanzees. You can help by letting your Senators and Representatives know that you support the retirement of chimpanzees to sanctuaries.

When we compare the Ryan who first came to us to the Ryan of today—confident, relaxed, and friendly—it’s like they are two different chimps. But the Ryan we know and love today was always there, just waiting to be freed from his desperate situation. He proves that what the late Save the Chimps founder, Dr. Carole Noon, said was true: “All they need from us is a chance. If we meet them halfway, give them space and freedom, then they recover on their own.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 21st August 2013

Rose of Tralee’s crest name on silverware two days before final night

  

Conspiracy theories are mounting after the Rose of Tralee’s name and family crest appeared on the prize of silverware cutlery two days before the winner was announced.

Several eagle-eyed viewers noticed that the family crest of eventual winner, the Texas rose Haley O’Sullivan, had already been emblazoned on to the winner’s Newbridge Silverware cutlery on Monday night.

Haley won the coveted crown last night, beating out 31 other contestants from around the world.

As tradition dictates, the winner receives a Newbridge Silverware cutlery set with her family crest as part of her prize.

Viewers noticed that the O’Sullivan family crest had already been engraved into the set on Monday night, when the cameras flashed to the prize.

After M/s O’Sullivan appeared on The Ray D’Arcy Show on Today FM earlier today, several listeners contacted the station in order to query whether or not the winner had been chosen prior to the live broadcast.

“Last night’s winner Hayley O’Sullivan’s crest was already engraved on the cutlery on Monday night,” one listener said. “It was shown by the camera man before the best escort was announced. Coincidence?!! Not likely!”

Another listener wrote: “I could be wrong but I’m nearly sure on the first night, when showing the silver cutlery during the escort award, O’Sullivan was engraved on the knife…If so this would mean the winner was picked before the live show.”

John Drummey from the festival office told The Ray D’Arcy Show on Today FM: “Yes apparently that was an O’Sullivan family crest on the cutlery on Monday night. That’s just a coincidence. Newbridge just wanted to show that they can provide cutlery with the family crest. The escort will have his own family crest engraved on it.”

The show also contacted Newbridge Silverware, who responded: “That was purely coincidental. RTE filmed promotional stock and the O’Sullivan crest was picked because it’s a good Kerry name. That is not the actual cutlery that the winning Rose or escort receives. They will have their own family crest engraved on it.”

VODAFONE GROUP, Reclaim’s €67m in tax paid to the Irish Government.

      

In 2009, the Vodafone Group made a massive settlement with UK authorities, linked to its Irish unit, it has emerged.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper has reported that accounts filed with the Irish Company Registration Office (CRO) revealed the deal.

The paper revealed how Vodafone used an Irish subsidiary, Vodafone Ireland Marketing, to collect royalty payments from companies and joint ventures operating around the world.

It did this to take advantage of Ireland’s 12.5pc corporation tax rate, compared to the 28pc rate in Britain in the period between 2008 and 2010.

DIVIDENDS: Vodafone set up a company in Leopardstown, Dublin, in 2007 that originally did not employ any staff but was reporting a turnover of €380m a year.

Its use of the company helped to send dividends of more than €1bn to the low tax jurisdiction of Luxembourg.

The payments included a final instalment due this year of €142m and came from profits made after taking advantage of Ireland’s low corporation tax rates. The overall size of the settlement with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) was not revealed.

However it involved Vodafone reclaiming €67m from the Irish Government in tax that should have been paid in the UK.

Dublin property prices rise 8% over last 12 months according to CSO

    

Apartment prices in the capital were 11.6 per cent higher in July

Property prices in Dublin have increased 8 per cent in the last 12 months, according to new figures released by the Central Statistics Office.

Dublin house prices were 7.5 per cent higher last month than July 2012, while apartment prices were 11.6 per cent higher.

The CSO said house prices in Dublin were 52 per cent lower now than at their peak in early 2007, while apartment prices were 59 per cent lower.

The fall in the price of residential properties in the rest of Ireland is somewhat lower at 48 per cent.

The price of residential properties in the rest of Ireland fell by 0.1 per cent in July compared with an increase of 0.3 per cent in July last year.

Goodbody economist Dermot O’Leary said residential prices in Dublin are now rising at their fastest annual pace since May 2007, due to tightening supply conditions in the capital.

“Of some concern is the fact that this acceleration in price inflation has come without any pick-up in mortgage lending,” he said.

Too much Copper in diets linked to Alzheimer’s disease

 

life-time of too much copper in our diets may be contributing to Alzheimer’s disease, US scientists claim.

However, research is divided, with other studies suggesting copper may actually protect the brain.

The latest study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed high levels of copper left the brain struggling to get rid of a protein thought to cause the dementia.

Copper is a vital part of our diet and necessary for a healthy body.

Tap water coming through copper pipes, red meat and shellfish as well as fruit and vegetables are all sources of dietary copper.

Barrier: The study on mice, by a team at the University of Rochester in New York, suggested that copper interfered with the brain’s shielding – the blood brain barrier.

Mice that were fed more copper in their water had a greater build-up of the metal in the blood vessels in the brain.

The team said this interfered with the way the barrier functioned and made it harder for the brain to get rid of a protein called beta amyloid.

One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the formation of plaques of amyloid in the dying brain.

Lead researcher Dr Rashid Deane said: “It is clear that, over time, copper’s cumulative effect is to impair the systems by which amyloid beta is removed from the brain.”

He told the BBC that copper also led to more protein being produced: “It’s a double whammy of increased production and decreased clearance of amyloid protein.

“Copper is a very essential metal ion and you don’t want a deficiency and many nutritious foods also contain copper.”

However, he said taking supplements may be “going overboard a bit”.

Mixed evidence: Commenting on the latest findings, Chris Exley, professor of bioinorganic chemistry at Keele University, said there was “no true consensus” on the role of copper in Alzheimer’s disease.

His research on human brains reached the opposite conclusion: “In our most recent work we found evidence of lower total brain copper with ageing and Alzheimer’s. We also found that lower brain copper correlated with higher deposition of beta amyloid in brain tissue.

“He said at the moment we would expect copper to be protective and beneficial in neurodegeneration, not the instigator, but we don’t know.

“The exposure levels used mean that if copper is acting in the way they think it does in this study then it must be doing so in everyone.”

Dr Eric Karran, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “While the findings present clues to how copper could contribute to features of Alzheimer’s in mice, the results will need replicating in further studies. It is too early to know how normal exposure to copper could be influencing the development or progression of Alzheimer’s in people. ”

Dr Doug Brown, from the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Considering copper is a vital mineral for the body, people should treat these results with caution and not cut it out of their diet. More research is needed to understand the role that copper might play in the brain.”

Dogs used as ‘early warning system’ for low blood sugar levels in people with diabetes

 v 

Dogs could be trained to warn diabetic patients when their blood sugar levels are about to become low, according to a new study.

Specially trained “glycaemia alert dogs” were able to detect when their owners’ blood sugar levels were outside their normal range and warn them of the fact, researchers found.

It is believed that the dogs are able to detect potential danger because their keen sense of smell can detect chemical changes in their owner’s sweat or breath.

Similar studies have suggested that dogs may be able to detect cancer by catching the scent of chemical compounds released by tumours.

In the new project, funded by pet training specialists The Company of Animals, studied seventeen dogs which had been trained to spot when their owner’s blood sugar levels began to drop too low or rise too high.

Some of the dogs had been donated and trained by the Medical Detection Dogs charity, while others belonged to participants and were specially trained for the study.

Results published in the PLOS ONE journal showed that all seventeen patients reported benefits, including fewer ambulance call-outs and fainting episodes, and greater independence.

Data recorded by the patients suggested that the dogs had been able to warn their owners of high or low blood sugar with an accuracy significantly above the level of chance, although the success rate varied from animal to animal.

Dr Nicola Rooney, who led the study, said current electronic systems designed to do the same job have “numerous limitations” and that dogs could offer “significant improvements”.

She added: “Some of the owners also describe their dogs respond[ing] even before their blood sugars are low but as they start to drop, so it is possible that the dogs are even more effective than this study suggests.

“While it is believed that dogs use their acute sense of smell to detect changes in the chemical composition of their owner’s sweat or breath to respond to glycaemic control, further research is now needed to further understand how dogs carry out this amazing task.”

Scientists ‘95 % cent certain’ that climate change is man-made

    

UN panel estimates sea levels could rise by 2ft 8in by the end of the century in latest draft report

Scientists are more certain than they have ever been that humans are causing climate change and believe that sea levels could rise by up to 2ft 8in by the end of the century.

These are among the key findings likely to be published next month in the most authoritative and comprehensive report ever conducted into climate science – the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) fifth assessment, known as AR5.

According to a draft of the report, the certainty that humans are the main cause of climate change has risen to 95 per cent, from 90 per cent in the previous – fourth – assessment six years ago. This, in turn, was a significant increase on the 66 per cent certainty reached in 2001’s third assessment and just over 50 per cent in 1995.

With every IPCC report there is a key phrase that encapsulates the latest consensus on climate change, which scientists wrangle over for months.

According to a leaked copy of the draft, the key phrase in the forthcoming report will say: “It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”

“There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level and changed some climate extremes,” adds the draft, which could be changed before the final version is published in Stockholm in September.

The draft projects that seas will rise by between 29cm and 82cm (11.4 to 32.3 inches) by the end of the century, while greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar.

The latest in a series that began in 1990 and last reported in 2007, AR5 has 840 main authors recruited from 38 of the IPCC’s 195 member countries, with British and American scientists making the biggest contribution.

At more than 3,000 pages, the report is so big that it will be released in three parts over the next 14 months. The first part covers the physical science of climate change. The second instalment will concentrate on the impacts of climate change and how to adapt to them, while the third will examine ways to curb the warming.

The report will also explain why global temperatures, while still increasing, have risen more slowly since the late 1990s despite accelerating increases in the greenhouse gas emissions widely thought to be responsible for climate change.

The draft report says there is “medium confidence” that the slowing of the temperature rise is “due in roughly equal measure” to natural variations in the weather and to other factors affecting energy reaching the earth’s surface. Other factors include an increase in the amount of heat being absorbed by deep oceans.

As with the other IPCC reports, AR5 will be a synthesis of the findings of thousands of peer-reviewed research papers from the past few years. It comes at a crucial time in global climate change politics since it will be the last IPPC report published before the Paris summit in 2015, when the world’s governments have pledged to reach hugely-ambitious and legally-binding targets to reduce their emissions in a bid to limit global warming to 2C, compared to pre-industrial levels.

The report’s authors are being extra cautious with this report after climate sceptics seized on a number of errors in the previous assessment to bolster their case that climate change is greatly exaggerated. The errors included the suggestion that the Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035.

The key phrase on the likely human influence on climate change in the draft of the latest IPCC assessment strengthens that of 2007’s fourth assessment, which said that “Evidence of the effect of external influences… on the climate system has continued to accumulate since TAR [Third assessment report in 2001]”.

TAR, in turn, concluded in 2001 that “there is new and stronger evidence [than in 1995] that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities”. The second assessment report in 1995 said: “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.”

Giant leatherback turtle washed up on Wexford strand a whopping 1,000kger

 

THE arrival of a giant leatherback turtle made a big splash among locals in Cullenstown Strand, Co Wexford over the weekend but it was dead.

The turtle, as big as an upturned rowing boat, washed up on the beach last Friday.

The Co Wexford coast is a popular feeding ground for these turtles, which arrive en masse every June to feed on jellyfish until early autumn.

A number of dead leatherback turtles washed up off the south coast last year, but this was the first at Cullenstown Strand for some time, Wexford naturalist Jim Hurley said.

“There were people arriving having a look and taking photos over the weekend.

“Often these turtles die after they mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and swallow them.”

Carcass: The cause of the leatherback turtle’s death remains unknown.

John Kinsella of Wexford Naturalists Fieldclub said large leatherbacks could weigh up to 1,000kg – “the best part of a ton” – and be two-and-a-half metres long.

They breed in the Caribbean and are so big not even sharks would bother to attack them.

He said it was likely that the turtle died offshore and the carcass was washed in by the tide: “They don’t beach themselves like whales.”

Mr Kinsella said the biggest recorded leatherback turtle washed up on a beach in Wales about 10 years ago and weighed over one tonne.

The species takes about 50 years to mature and turtles live at least 80 years.

The turtle has since been taken from the beach by council workers and buried.

News Ireland daily news blog

Monday/Tuesday 19th & 20th August 2013

‘Human error’ to blame for leaving cert exam paper mistakes

   

The higher than usual number of mistakes in state exam papers was due to human error, a report has found.

Staff changes in the last 12 months combined with the demands of preparing large quantities of papers contributed to the errors, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) said.

“The SEC deeply regrets all of the errors in the 2013 papers and apologises to the candidates affected. Specific measures have been implemented in the marking process by the SEC so that candidates have not been disadvantaged as a result of these errors,” stated the SEC.

It said the amount of mistakes was “unacceptably high” but claimed the rapid and unplanned departure of so many senior and experienced subject specialists (Examination and Assessment Managers) had resulted in a situation where over 30% of the current EAMs had been recruited in the last year.

The most significant mistake was on the Leaving Cert higher level maths paper two, which gave the wrong value for an angle in a trigonometry question which meant two answers were possible.

Errors also occurred in a number of other examinations, including the Junior Certificate CSPE, Junior Certificate Science and Leaving Certificate Irish translation paper.

Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn said he was confident students were not disadvantaged and that measures had been put in place to prevent any repeat.

A statement from the Department of Education said: “The minister is concerned that errors can and do occur. But he is confident that the SEC has a robust system in place to respond to mistakes and in addition, through its annual reviews of the system, is constantly striving to minimise their occurrence.

“He has acknowledged the measures put in place by the SEC to ensure candidates affected by the mistakes were not disadvantaged in terms of the marks they achieved and is satisfied these have been effective. The key concern at all stages of the marking process was to ensure that candidates were not disadvantaged.”

Mr Quinn has asked the SEC to brief him on the October review and said his department would engage with the SEC in relation to the recommendations in the report.

The statement added: “Having considered the SEC report’s findings the minister notes the recommendations made to reduce the risk of errors occurring in future State examinations.”

More than 80% of Irish drivers opt for comprehensive insurance

 

More than four out of five people opt for comprehensive insurance cover, a survey by AIB has found.

The study also revealed that 13pc prefer to be somewhat more risky and opt only for third party, fire and theft, while 4pc have third party.

Some 420 people were surveyed online by the bank last month, with about two-thirds claiming to have never made a claim on their car insurance.

And a no-claims discount was the most important feature of car insurance for well over half – 56pc – of those quizzed.

Other important features included the protection of a no-claims bonus, free windscreen cover and a discount when purchasing online and paying for the policy in full.

About 38pc of those surveyed said they paid monthly by direct debit.

Earlier this year, a survey revealed that while insurance prices for men and women are now equal after the EU banned price discrimination, premiums still vary enormously with different insurers.

The variation in price between different insurers tends to reduce as drivers age and so are considered less of an insurance risk, but there are still savingsof up to €166, the survey showed.

PREMIUMS: And it has been warned that motor insurance premiums are set to be driven up because of changes in the way courts are run.

Dorothea Dowling, who chairs the lawyer-free Injuries Board, has said legal costs would jump in personal injury and other cases as a result of the Courts Bill 2013.

AIB yesterday announced a new partnership with AXA Insurance as its new car insurance underwriter.

Offaly Teenager in court after woman blinded in one eye incident

    

Marie Gauvin lost the sight in one of her eyes when a glass was thrown at her during an event for the Gathering in Birr

A 19-year old man has appeared in court charged with assaulting a woman who was blinded in one eye during a festival earlier this month.

Gary Ward with an address at Scurragh, Birr, Co Offaly was brought before a vacation sitting of Portlaoise District Court in Co Laois.

He is charged with a Section 3 assault on 58 year-old Marie Wrafter Gauvin at Keels Archway in Birr on August 4 last.

Mrs Gauvin is a Birr native who had returned to Ireland for a holiday from her home in Canada.

However, she was struck by glass and lost the sight in her right eye during the Birr Vintage Week and Arts Festival.

Judge Aeneas McCarthy consented to an application to remand the accused on bail with conditions to a sitting of Birr District Court on September 10.

Irish sport’s horse will become extinct if action not taken, Flannan Frawley warns

 

Group seeking €1 million fund to buy stallions

Dermott Lennon’s Loughview Lou-Lou was the only Irish-bred horse competing in the Aga Khan cup at this year’s Dublin Horse Show. 

Ireland prides itself on being the land of the horse, but a group of breeders has warned that the traditional Irish sport horse is in danger of becoming extinct if action is not taken to protect it.

The sport horse, used for showjumping, eventing and leisure, has traditionally come from thoroughbred stallions crossed with Irish draught mares.

However, Flannan Frawley of the Western Horse Breeders’ Association said owners of Irish draught mares were finding it increasingly difficult to get good thoroughbred stallions because their owners only wanted to breed them with thoroughbred mares.

“We’re left with an inferior breed of stallions and that needs to be upgraded and we need to upgrade our mare selection as well,” he said.

Mare owners were also importing frozen foreign semen but he said this was producing offspring unsuitable for the leisure industry. “A lot of our horses have gone to the factory this year because of the problems caused by the recession,” he said. “But, of the few we have left, if we don’t do something rapidly, we’ll lose them all and then there’ll be no Irish horse. That would be a sad scenario because Ireland is seen as the home of the horse.”

He said his association had come up with a plan to safeguard the future of the sport horse. It would cost €1 million to implement and would include the purchase of four stallions. These would be leased to stud farms and result in production of at least 300 foals a year.

He said the group had applied to the Department of Agriculture for funding to implement the plan but was unsuccessful. The group was hoping to get the conditions for grant aid changed and reapply next year.

“It’s something that needs to be done badly because there’s a lack of quality Irish horses and there’s a huge demand for Irish-bred horses,” Mr Frawley said. The sport horse sector contributes more than €700 million a year to the economy, according to analysis by UCD.

‘Sell the best’: This point was echoed by chairman of Horse Sport Ireland Prof Pat Wall in an article he wrote in this newspaper last week.He wrote that Ireland was losing its position as a world leader in the production of leisure and competition horses because of the tendency to “sell the best and breed from the rest”. Prof Wall noted that of the 32 horses competing on the eight teams in the Aga Khan cup at the recent Dublin Horse Show, only one was Irish-bred – Dermott Lennon’s Loughview Lou-Lou.

Liam Gallagher waves in Strandhill Sligo not surf-able but has a full Irish instead

 

Hellraiser Oasis singer Liam Gallagher planned to go surfing in Sligo but had a breakfast instead

Liam Gallagher has attempted to put his love-child hell behind him – by going surfing in Ireland.

The ex-Oasis frontman was in Sligo today and went for breakfast in the Strand bar along with a Beady Eye band member.

But Liam, 39 – who is attempting to save his marriage after it was revealed journalist Liza Ghorbani had a kid with him – had been hoped to get his head in check by taking to the sea.

Strand manager Neil Byrne said: “He had a full Irish with a Guinness head.

“He said he wanted to go out a do a spot of surfing but the conditions weren’t great so he came in for some breakfast.”

Locals also spotted him enjoying pints in other pubs throughout the afternoon, including Hargadons pub in Sligo City.

Olinguito the newest rare mammal of the raccoon family species discovered in America

     

A small mammal with fluffy red-orange fur, a short bushy tail, and an adorable rounded face has leapt onto the raccoon family tree.

Scientists at the Smithsonian in Washington announced Thursday the discovery of a new species of mammal called the olinguito (pronounced oh-lin-GHEE-toe).

If you’re a fan of long technical names, this one is Bassaricyon neblina.

Such a discovery is rare. The olinguito is the first mammalian carnivore species to be newly identified in the Americas in 35 years, according to Kristofer Helgen, curator of mammals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. His research group’s study on the creature is being published in the journal ZooKeys.

Researchers argue that the olinguito should be considered the smallest living member of the raccoon family, which includes other animals that make us go “awww” such as coatis and kinkajous. The Smithsonian describes the olinguito’s appearance as a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear. Cats, bears, and olinguitos belong to the Carnivora order.

This animal had been seen before by humans, Helgen said, but it had been “a case of mistaken identity.”

“It was in museums, it’s been in zoos, and its DNA had even been sequenced, but no one had connected the pieces and looked close enough to realize, basically, the significance of this remarkable and this beautiful animal,” Helgen said.

Previously, scientists had assumed that olinguitos were members of their sister species, the olingos, Helgen said. Olingos are larger, less furry and have longer faces than the newly discovered species.

Tracking the olinguito: Helgen began his detective work in pursuit of the new species when he set out about a decade ago to comprehensive study of olingos.

Behind the scenes at the Chicago Field Museum in 2003, he remembers pulling out a drawer of skins and skulls that didn’t look like any animal he had ever seen before, or that had been reported by zoologists. The teeth and skull were smaller and shaped differently than olingos, and the coat was denser.

Records indicated to Helgen that such specimens came from the northern Andes about 5,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level, which is much higher than olingo habitats.

Helgen and colleagues worked with Miguel Pinto, a zoologist in Ecuador, who had shot a few seconds of video that appeared to depict the animal.

They teamed up in Ecuador in 2006, using Pinto’s knowledge of cloudforest habitats to pick the best spots to investigate. Cloud forests are “cloaked in fog,” Helgen said.

On their very first night on the pursuit, the team found a real, living olinguito.

Seeing the fluffy tree-dweller for the first time, Helgen felt “sheer elation, just incredible excitement but at the same time almost disbelief. This animal had been missed by everyone.”

Even people who live in the Andes had the same confusion about olinguitos being olingos, because humans don’t hunt them and the creatures stay in the trees, Helgen said.

How it lives: The researchers found out that the olinguito primarily eats fruits, but also insects and nectar, and its activity is mostly at night. The animal lives in the trees and can jump from one to another. Mothers raise asingle baby at a time.

At about 2.5 feet long from nose tip to tail tip, the olinguito weighs about 2 pounds and is a little smaller than a house cat.

DNA analysis confirmed that while olinguitos and olingos both belong to the raccoon family, they are “sister groups,” in the same way that humans are closely related to chimpanzees.

The olinguito’s misty high-elevation habitats in Colombia and Ecuador, and the tendency for the animal to stay in the trees, have helped keep the species relatively obscure to scientists until now, Helgen said.

It turns out, according to Helgen, there are four subspecies of olinguitos, differing in color — shades of reds, orange and browns — and size and living in various sections of the Andes.

New species of mice, bats and shrews are more commonly discovered, but these animals are tiny and hard to tell apart, Helgen said.

Prior to the olinguito, the most recent mammal to be discovered in the Americas was a small weasel from the Andes — the same area and habitat where the olinguitos live, he said.

“It shows us that there’s a long way to go to exploring the whole world, but especially maybe these cloud forests,” Helgen said. More olinguitos may be found in other South American countries with cloud forests in the future, according to the Smithsonian.
The olinguito is not yet considered an endangered species, but there are threats to its home environment, Helgen said. Many have such forests been chopped down.

“We also kind of hope that in telling this story to the world about the olinguito, that this beautiful new animal serves as something of an ambassador for those embattled cloud forest habitats.”

Olinguito in the zoo.

Helgen’s group has “discovered” the olinguito, but it been evolving as an independent species for about 3 to 4 million years, he said.
One olinguito whose history Helgen’s group studied was exhibited in the United States during its lifetime as if it were an olingo. The creature came from the mountains of Colombia to the Louisville Zoo in 1967, courtesy of a German couple with a love of raccoon family members, Helgen said. It was also in the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington and the Bronx Zoo, where it passed away.

DNA from this olinguito shows that it is clearly not an olingo, Helgen said.

The wife of the animal’s keeper told Helgen, “We always thought there was something strange about that olingo,” he said.

She told Helgen this particular animal moved from zoo to zoo because she wouldn’t breed with the olingos around her.

“It wasn’t because she was fussy, it was because she was not at all even the same species,” Helgen said.

With the olinguito research announcement, the oddball animal’s aloofness has been vindicated.