Friday 18th October 2013
Merkel and Schaeuble are friends of Ireland says Michael Noonan
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, left pic. gestures as he speaks to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Not clear yet if Ireland will need a lifeline to exit bailout
GERMAN finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is a friend of Ireland who would do nothing damaging to the country, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said tonight.
The comments come just days after Mr Schaeuble signalled Europe’s bailout pot was unlikely to pay some of the cost of our multi billion euro bank bailout, despite hopes from the Government to the contrary.
“They don’t have a lot of leverage on us now that we’re nearly out of the (bailout) programme. He wouldn’t do anything that would be damaging to Ireland, ” Mr Noonan told the Dublin Economics Workshop being held in Limerick.
“He’s a friend as is Chancellor Merkel.”
The German comments earlier this week appeared to be the latest blow to Ireland after the country’s second biggest party insisted the Government must raise the 12.5pc corporation tax rate.
Reports last week said early coalition talks between the social democratic SPD and Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU were snagged on Irish issues. The SPD is also completely opposed to the direct recapitalisation of troubled European banks through the European Stability Mechanism (ESM)
Mr Noonan reiterated in the Budget that our 12.5pc rate will be maintained. He said tonight that Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has a good relationship with the SPD and that there was a “bit of diplomatic activity going on in the background” to ensure that nothing is said in the negotiations to form a coalition that would damage Ireland’s interests.
On elements of the Budget, Mr Noonan said “taking things away from people is always very difficult.”
“It’s probably the hardest thing in politics,” he said.
He said some people had been calling on the Government not to scale back from the originally planned €3.1bn adjustment, but that there had to bepolitical management, pointing out there were little protests following Tuesday’s Budget announcement.
The minister also said that the announcement in the Budget of measures to tackle aggressive tax avoidance by multinationals had not sparked threats from companies to leave the country.
“Actually there’s been a very good international response and by lookingafter our reputation, I think we have enhanced Ireland as a location for foreign direct investment.”
Mr Noonan said the banking sector in Ireland wasn’t sufficient to carry an economy to which he would aspire.
“Im not sure that any banking sector in Europe is at this stage, because they’ve all deliveraged so much,” he said.
Mr Noonan is travelling to Strasbourg and Frankfurt next week to meet with the European Commission and European Central Bank, and the following week to the IMF in Washington, to discuss exiting the bailout.
He said no decision had been made on seeking a so called precautionary credit line, a form of overdraft, to ease the country’s full return to the money markets.
“There is a strong view that we don’t need alternative arrangements. Im risk averse on all these things so Ill take the best advice I can get, we’ll reflect on it and see what our next move will be.”
Funding of €15 million promised for mental health says Minister Lynch
Mental Health Minister Kathleen Lynch has said she has been assured that €15 million that was due in 2014 for mental health would be restored in 2015 and that she was not disappointed with the €20 million provided in last week’s budget.
She also said she hoped that mental health would secure the full €35 million in 2015 in line with the Programme for Government. Therefore, she hoped that €50 million would be given to mental health in 2015, €35 million as per the Programme for Government and €15 million due from 2014.
Speaking to IMN, Minister Lynch said it was now time to take a step back and review the value that has been provided and service delivered for mental health.
She also said one of her priorities was to ensure that all the promised community mental health posts are in place where they are needed, with a particular emphasis on child and adolescent, old age and intellectual disability mental health teams.
The Programme for Government commits to ringfencing “€35 million annually from within the health budget to develop community mental health teams and services as outlined in A Vision for Change”.
According to the Minister, it is now a good time to consolidate what has been achieved to ensure that resources received to date are utilised to the best possible extent for mental health.
In a statement to IMN, the Department of Health said “mental health has again succeeded in obtaining a substantial ringfenced allocation, within the overall budgetary context. The current economic environment presents a significant challenge for the health system generally in delivering services. However, mental health is being treated as a priority in so far as we can”.
“This €20 million means that, despite serious resource pressures overall, funding of €90 million has been made available since 2012, up to the end of 2014, that has been specifically earmarked for mental health and suicide prevention,” the Department stated.
The actual amount of funding to be provided to run the mental health service will not be available until the HSE publishes its Service Plan for 2014 in the coming weeks.
The national coalition Mental Health Reform has given a guarded welcome to last week’s Budget announcement.
According to Dr Shari McDaid, Director of Mental Health Reform: “While we welcome the commitment to invest €20 million in 2014 in community mental health services, we had hoped to see the Government fully honour their Programme for Government commitment of €35 million for community mental health services. We are concerned that the €20 million investment will not translate into the needed staff on the ground.”
Sleep cleans the human brain of toxins
The brain uses sleep to wash away the waste toxins built up during a hard day’s thinking, researchers have shown.
The US team believe the “waste removal system” is one of the fundamental reasons for sleep.
Their study, in the journal Science, showed brain cells shrink during sleep to open up the gaps between neurons and allow fluid to wash the brain clean.
They also suggest that failing to clear away some toxic proteins may play a role in brain disorders.
One big question for sleep researchers is why do animals sleep at all when it leaves them vulnerable to predators?
It has been shown to have a big role in the fixing of memories in the brain and learning, but a team at the University of Rochester Medical Centre believe that “housework” may be one of the primary reasons for sleep.
“The brain only has limited energy at its disposal and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states – awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up,” said researcher Dr Maiken Nedergaard.
“You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain the guests or clean up the house, but you can’t really do both at the same time.”
Their findings build on last year’s discovery of the brain’s own network of plumbing pipes – known as the glymphatic system – which carry waste material out of the brain.
Scientists, who imaged the brains of mice, showed that the glymphatic system became 10-times more active when the mice were asleep.
Cells in the brain, probably the glial cells which keep nerve cells alive, shrink during sleep. This increases the size of the interstitial space, the gaps between brain tissue, allowing more fluid to be pumped in and wash the toxins away.
Dr Nedergaard said this was a “vital” function for staying alive, but did not appear to be possible while the mind was awake.
She told the BBC: “This is purely speculation, but it looks like the brain is losing a lot of energy when pumping water across the brain and that is probably incompatible with processing information.”
She added that the true significance of the findings would be known only after human studies, but doing similar experiments in an MRI machine would be relatively easy.
Commenting on the research Dr Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert, said: “This is a very interesting study that shows sleep is essential downtime to do some housekeeping to flush out neurotoxins.
“There is good data on memory and learning, the psychological reason for sleep. But this is the actual physical and chemical reason for sleep, something is happening which is important.”
Dr Raphaelle Winsky-Sommerer, a lecturer in sleep at Surrey University, said: “It’s not surprising, our whole physiology is changing during sleep.
“The novelty is the role of the interstitial space, but I think it’s an added piece of the puzzle not the whole mechanism.
“The significance is that, yet again, it shows sleep may contribute to the restoration of brain cell function and may have protective effects.”
Many conditions which lead to the loss of brain cells such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease are characterised by the build-up of damaged proteins in the brain.
The researchers suggest that problems with the brain’s cleaning mechanism may contribute to such diseases, but caution more research is needed.
The charity Alzheimer’s Research UK said more research would be needed to see whether damage to the brain’s waste clearance system could lead to diseases like dementia, but the findings offered a “potential new avenue for investigation”.
Screening significantly reduces death from prostate cancer
(Right picture) Prostate Cancer Picture
The long-running European Randomised Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC) last week published its 11-year follow-up results, which add weight to their original findings by confirming that screening does significantly reduce deaths from prostate cancer.
Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study finds that a man who undergoes prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing will have his risk of dying from prostate cancer reduced by 29 per cent.
Screening for prostate cancer is controversial. Prostate cancer can develop so slowly that it will never cause problems during a man’s lifetime. A major consideration for any national screening protocol, regardless of disease type, is to weigh up the possibility someone will have needless treatment against saving lives.
“The difficulties around screening for prostate cancer occur because the PSA test is not a specific test for prostate cancer; it can only indicate that a man may have a problem with his prostate gland that needs further investigation. Up to two-thirds of men with a raised PSA do not have prostate cancer, therefore routine PSA testing of all men could lead to much anxiety and alarm,” concluded a 2010 analysis on the subject. The US Preventive Services Task Force continued: “The evidence is insufficient to recommend for or against routine screening for prostate cancer using PSA testing or digital rectal examination (DRE).”
Many doctors also argue against PSA testing for men who are in their 70s or older, because even if prostate cancer were detected, most men could be dead of something else before the cancer progressed. Others argue against PSA testing for men who are too young, because too many men would have to be screened to find one cancer, and too many men would therefore have treatment for cancer that would not progress.
The European Randomised Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer, initiated in the early 1990s, aimed to evaluate the effect of screening with PSA testing on death rates from prostate cancer. The trial involved 182,000 men between the ages of 50 and 74 years in seven European countries randomly assigned to a group that was offered PSA screening at an average of once every four years or to a control group that did not receive such screening.
During a median follow-up of almost nine years, the cumulative detected incidence of prostate cancer was 820 per 10,000 in the screening group and 480 per 10,000 in the control group. Deaths from these cancers in this time was much lower.
There were 214 prostate cancer deaths in the screening group and 326 in the control group, a difference of 7.1 men per 10,000 in the tested group compared to the control. The researchers concluded two years ago that PSA-based screening did reduce the rate of death from prostate cancer by 20 per cent, but that this was associated with a high risk of over-diagnosis: 1,410 men would need to be screened and 48 additional cases of prostate cancer would need to be treated to prevent just one death from prostate cancer.
Now, the 11-year follow-up results have confirmed that a man who undergoes PSA testing will have his risk of dying from prostate cancer reduced by 29 per cent. By extending the patient follow-up to an average of 11 years, the study shows that 31 per cent fewer men than previously indicated would need to be diagnosed with cancer to save one life.
As Professor Fritz Schroeder, the international coordinator of the ERSPC study and Professor of Urology, Erasmus Medical Centre, The Netherlands, explains: “Extending the follow-up period strengthens the argument for screening. But it does not decide it. Even so, the risk reduction trend in our study is promising and it is imperative that we continue the follow-up. So far, only about 30 per cent of all men in the study have died. If a larger reduction of prostate cancer mortality is seen by further extending the study beyond the current median of 11 years, we can determine with greater certainty whether the benefit of screening outweighs the disadvantages.
“Screening programmes for prostate cancer will not be feasible until the medical communities can confidently balance the risk of reducing death from prostate cancer with these unacceptably high levels over diagnosis and overtreatment,” adds Prof Schroeder.
Compared with the US, individual PSA testing started late in most European countries and meant that only a relatively small number of men taking part in the control arm of the ERSPC study had previously taken a PSA test.
“This makes the ERSPC study fundamentally different from the US-based Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer screening trial where there was a high contamination rate in the control arm, with at least 44 per cent of participants already PSA-tested prior to being randomised into the study,” says Prof Schroeder.
The PLCO study has been unable to demonstrate any difference in prostate cancer mortality between the two arms of the study.
The ERSPC study and the PLCO study are the scientific world’s main chances to determine the benefits of screening for prostate cancer.
If a relevant difference of 20 per cent or more is shown in these trials at an acceptable cost in terms of quality of life and money, it can be expected that governments worldwide will introduce screening programmes for prostate cancer, which will then be included into paid healthcare policy packages.
“The great hope of all investigators is that this in fact will happen and that early diagnosis can be offered to all men at risk to decrease the burden of suffering and potential death from prostate cancer,” says Pror Schroeder.
Asteroid could collide with Earth in 2032, says Ukrainian astronomers
Scientists say there is a chance an asteroid could hit our planet in 2032, creating an explosion 50 times greater than the most powerful nuclear bomb.
Astronomers say the 1,345-foot (410m) rock could pass by or hit the Earth on 26 August 2032.
The asteroid was discovered moving through the Camelopardalis – or Giraffe – constellation by scientists at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in southern Ukraine last week.
“I was watching the Giraffe constellation, monitoring it as part of our comet search programme,” astronomer Gennady Borisov said.
“The first observations show that it moves quickly and is relatively close.”
Astronomers in Italy, Spain, the UK and Russia have now confirmed the presence of the rock, and it has been added to the Minor Planet Center’s list of potentially hazardous asteroids.
If it hit the Earth, the asteroid would create an explosion equivalent to 2,500 megatons of TNT, or 50 times greater than the most powerful nuclear bomb ever used.
However, in reality the threat is minor, with astronomers putting the chance of direct impact at one in 63,000 – the likelihood being that its orbit will miss our planet by some 1.7 million kilometres.
But this did not stop Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announcing that the asteroid would pose a “great challenge for our national space industry” on Twitter.
Mr Rogozin has previously pushed for the development of anti-asteroid defence systems, like former MP Lembit Opik in the UK.
Nasa played down the possibility of impact, with Don Yeoman, manager of the administration’s Near-Earth Object Profram Office, saying: “The current probability of no impact in 2032 [is] about 99.998 per cent.
“This is a relatively new discovery. With more observations, I fully expect we will be able to significantly reduce, or rule out entirely, any impact probability for the foreseeable future.”