Daily Archives: October 22, 2013

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 22nd October 2013

Ireland’s Pensioners protest over cruel Budget cuts


Up to 12,000 mostly older people descended on Leinster House to mount a noisy demonstration against multimillion-euro government cuts targeting the elderly.

Many who had travelled from throughout the country carried placards attacking the Fine Gael/Labour coalition and joined in chants of “shame, shame, shame” directed at the Dail.

At least three older people collapsed during the lunch-time rally in central Dublin, which had to be interrupted at one stage to secure medical help for one sick protestor.

Several speakers from the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament as well as from political and trade union backgrounds took to a makeshift stage to denounce austerity measures hitting medical care, telephone allowances and bereavement grants.

Cheered on by the huge crowd, Paddy Moran, of trade union Siptu, mocked Taoiseach Enda Kenny‘s pre-election promises to make Ireland a great country in which to grow old.

“One of the main boasts of this government is that the core State pension has been left untouched by this Budget,” he said.

“And, of course , they are right. That is, if you don’t suffer from any illnesses that require a visit to the doctor, that would require hospitalisation, or any kind of prescribed medicines.

“It was also a great budget as long as you or and your spouse or partner manage to stay alive forever – so you would not be in need of the bereavement grant.”

The veteran activist said the abolition of the telephone allowance  had condemned older people to a life of isolation.

Former junior health minister and Labour party rebel Roisin Shortall was briefly heckled by a small number of people in the crowd when she took to the podium.

But after a steward called for order, she urged the gathering to step up the fight against the Budget cuts.

“It’s a disgrace that you have to take to the streets again because of what this government is doing to older people,” she said.

Ms Shortall called on people to get on the airwaves, on the streets and on to government TDs to stop the “unfair” Budget.

“Once upon a time we had a country that stood by the older generation, where older people were listened to, looked after, loved and where older people were treated with respect and not treated like some kind of unwanted burden,” she added.

Robin Webster, chief executive of Age Action, said the Budget has hit the sickest, the most vulnerable and the poorest of older people.

A small number of protesters broke away after the demonstration to march on the GPO on O’Connell Street.

Gardai said there were no major incidents and put the turnout at the main rally at around 12,000 people.

Revenue to contact Irish homeowners over 2014 property tax


One million Irish people are to be asked how they intend to pay local property tax next year

Revenue said in a statement that those who paid in one lump sum – whether by credit or debit card, cheque, postal order or cash – as well as those who made regular payments in cash, will receive a letter outlining options for the coming year.

  The Revenue Commissioners are to write to nearly one million individuals seeking details on how they intend to pay their local property tax next  year.

Thousands who paid through various deduction options as well as those who received exemptions will not be contacted.

However, Revenue said in a statement that those who paid in one lump sum – whether by credit or debit card, cheque, postal order or cash – as well as those who made regular payments in cash, will receive a letter outlining options for the coming year.

“All you need to do is decide how you want to pay for 2014,fill in  the payment instruction either online or in paper and send it to Revenue by the deadline. You don’t need to value your property,”it said in a statement.

“Revenue will not be writing to you if you paid your 2013 LPT by phased payment method (direct debit or deduction at source from your salary, occupational pension or certain Government payments). Your phased payment method will continue to apply  in 2014 and you don’t need to contact Revenue.

“Similarly, Revenue  will not be writing to you if you claimed a full deferral or were exempt as the deferral or exemption carries forward to 2014.”

Further details for the forthcoming year and details on how to change payment methods can be found at revenue.ie.

Minimum price for alcohol to be introduced in Ireland


Cabinet decides to proceed with range of measures but proposed sports sponsorship ban kicked to touch

The Irish Government has shelved plans to ban the sponsorship of sporting events by drinks companies but it will proceed with the introduction of a minimum price regime for alcohol.

The cabinet  today decided to proceed with a range of measures to try and control the abuse of alcohol but the proposed sports sponsorship ban which was due to come into force in 2020 has been kicked to touch.

Instead, a working group under the Department of the Taoiseach will report back in 12 months on the implications of the ending of sports sponsorship.

An outright ban will only be considered if and when other means of funding sport have been identified and secured.

The cabinet decided to press ahead with a range of other measures designed to curb the abuse of alcohol, particularly by under-age drinkers.

The main element of the plan is the introduction of minimum prices for alcohol. The new pricing  structure will be calculated on the sale price per gram of alcohol.

The system will be introduced after consultation with theNorthern Ireland authorities to ensure that there are no major differences  in the price structure on both sides of the border.

The is a question mark over whether a minimum price arrangement will be legal under EU competition law but the Government has decided to press ahead.

Another element of the plan  will be a ban of drinks advertising on television during the day and early evening and it is expected that a watershed time limit of 9 pm will be introduced.

There will also be a ban on drinks advertising in cinemas during films that are screened for people aged under 18.

New regulations for the display of alcohol in supermarkets and other retail outlets will also be introduced. A strict code for separating alcohol from other products will be policed by environmental inspectors.

A new labeling regime for alcohol products with health warnings and a clear statement of the alcohol strength andcalorie count  also features in the plan.

How you can inherit dangerously high cholesterol

and not know about it until it’s too late


Getting ready for a night out with friends, Kate Kear (above pictured with her son & daughter) was carefully applying her make-up when she spotted a strange yellowish white mark under her right eye. 

  • High levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol can build up in artery walls
  • This triggers inflammation and the formation of plaque, restricting blood flow
  • If a blood clot forms, this can cause a heart attack or stroke
  • Risks factors are smoking and an unhealthy diet, but it can be a genetic fault
  • For these people, cholesterol levels rise sharply as they age
  • But only 15% of those with the defect have been diagnosed

‘It was like a small squashy spot, around 2-3 mm across. I’d never noticed it before,’ says Kate, 34. Rushing to get ready, she covered it up with concealer. But the lump then began to grow. 

‘It was just getting bigger all the time. After two weeks, it was about half a centimetre across.’

Kate went to her GP, who sent her for a series of blood tests. These revealed she had alarmingly high cholesterol: 9.8 millimoles per litre of blood, almost double the normal level of five millimoles per litre.

‘I’d barely heard of cholesterol before,’ says the mother-of-four from Castleford in Yorkshire, ‘but when the GP explained that it can clog the arteries and lead to heart disease, I started to worry. There is a lot of heart disease in my family – in fact, we used to say we’ve all got bad hearts.’

Kate’s mother, Alison, had been diagnosed with high cholesterol in her early 30s, and needed bypass surgery to replace blocked arteries at 54. She died aged 60 in April 2005 after a blood vessel in her brain burst.

And her father, Kate’s grandfather, died of a heart attack aged 44.

Kate’s GP explained that the strange lump beneath her eye was a deposit  of cholesterol, and can often be a warning sign of high cholesterol. These lumps appear around the eyes for reasons doctors don’t fully understand. Lumps can also grow on tendons in the body and form on the knuckles, elbows and the back of ankles, on the Achilles tendon. In some people, they can also appear for no reason.

Kate’s high cholesterol was caused by a genetic fault, passed down through her family. Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced naturally in the liver, though it can also be found in some foods, and is vital for cells to function.

Doctors distinguish between two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or ‘bad’ cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or ‘good’ cholesterol.

High levels of bad cholesterol can build up in the walls of the arteries, triggering inflammation and the formation of plaque. This narrows the blood vessel, restricting blood flow to the heart, brain and body, which can cause symptoms such as chest pain – it can also cause leg pain if the arteries supplying the limbs become blocked. If plaque breaks off, it can create a clot and cause a heart attack or stroke.

The good and the bad: LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol (as opposed to HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol) can build up in artery walls, triggering inflammation and the formation of plaque

The usual risk factors for high cholesterol are an unhealthy diet , smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure, but doctors recognise that some people, like Kate, are unlucky enough to be born with a genetic fault that places them at risk of high cholesterol from a very young age.

These people have slightly elevated levels of cholesterol even from birth. As they age, their levels rise sharply, irrespective of diet , smoking and lifestyle. The condition, known as familial hypercholesterolemia, affects as many as 120,000 Britons, but is often undiagnosed, and experts warn that many of those affected are walking around at high risk of a sudden heart attack or stroke without any inkling of the dangers (the condition doubles the risk of a sudden heart attack from the age of 20).

‘Having this genetic defect makes an enormous difference,’ says Mark Signy, consultant cardiologist at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

‘This faulty gene means that people have high cholesterol from a young age and are exposed to the harmful effects of high cholesterol for much longer. This brings forward the onset of heart disease by several decades, and people can have heart attacks in their 20s and 30s.’

And yet, worryingly, only 15 per cent of those with the condition have been diagnosed, explains Alan Rees, consultant physician at University Hospital Wales in Cardiff and a trustee of the charity Heart UK. ‘That means that 85 per cent of those with the condition are oblivious to the fact that they have it, and are not receiving appropriate treatment, which means a healthy lifestyle, taking exercise, not smoking, and taking cholesterol-lowering statins.’

Many people are only diagnosed when they have already developed heart disease, says Mark Signy. ‘Although some people have lumps around the eyes or tendons, many are only diagnosed when they develop heart disease or have a relative who died young from heart disease.

‘I would like to see routine screening for cholesterol perhaps as early as when people are in their 20s and 30s, and even earlier in those with a family history of familial hypercholesterolemia or very early heart disease.’

  ‘This faulty gene means that people have high cholesterol from a young age and are exposed to the harmful effects of high cholesterol for much longer. This brings forward the onset of heart disease by several decades.’

Identifying and treating the 100,000 Britons undiagnosed with the condition could prevent more than 2,500 heart attacks every year, says Heart UK. When Kate was diagnosed in 2004 she was immediately put on statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs, and was recommended to eat a healthy diet and take more exercise.

Two more lumps appeared beside her eyes, and the first lump was by now 1 cm across. They were unsightly, but the GP warned that removing them could leave scarring. Kate’s doctor didn’t explain the seriousness of the condition, or offer to test her children for high cholesterol, so she put it out of her mind.

But three years ago, Kate’s sister, Laura, sent her a story that highlighted the severity of familial hypercholesterolemia, and explained how cholesterol can start to build up in youngsters.

‘I was terrified for my children,’ recalls Kate. ‘I started reading stories of people who’d died young because they had never been diagnosed. It was horrible to think my children could already have high cholesterol, and risk heart attacks in their 20s or 30s.’

Horrified, she changed GPs – her new doctor immediately doubled her dose of statins (from 20mg to 40mg) to get her cholesterol as low as safely possible, and tested her children. These tests, which were performed two years ago, showed that her son Jack, now 15, has normal cholesterol of around 5.5 – but Lewis, 13, and Isabel, nine, had abnormally high levels, with readings above nine.

Isabel takes a daily 10mg dose of statins, and Lewis takes 20mg – a full adult dose (Dr Rees explains studies have shown statins are safe from the age of nine or ten). They now have normal cholesterol levels – three-year-old Caleb will be tested before he turns ten.

Kate and her children were lucky to be diagnosed early, says Dr Rees: ‘Not everyone with high cholesterol has symptoms such as fatty deposits around the eyes. But anyone with these signs, or a family history of heart disease, should have their cholesterol tested by their GP and if necessary be offered family screening.’

Life-changer: Kate is campaigning for genetic screening to be made more easily available on the NHS

Kate is campaigning for genetic screening to be made more easily available on the NHS.

‘Having that diagnosis changed our lives. Knowing that a genetic defect runs in the family means we have to be extra careful – we now have a gym in our basement, including a running machine, and the children do a lot of sports.

‘We eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and pulses, which is fantastic for reducing cholesterol, and have homemade soups, too.’

But Kate still worries. ‘Watching what the children eat when they’re at a friend’s house is not easy, though their school is great and offers salads and baked potatoes.

‘And when they’re older and thinking of a family, their partner will need testing too so their children don’t risk inheriting two copies of a faulty gene, which can make people very ill and shorten their lives.’

Meanwhile, she still has the distinctive lumps under her eyes. Kate, who two years ago married Jonathan, 28, who runs his own property maintenance business, considered having laser treatment to remove them, but decided against it. ‘That little yellowish white lump could have saved my life, and saved my children from a high risk of an early heart attack or stroke. It’s terrifying to know there are often no signs – this really is a silent killer.

‘Now if I see people in the street with those same lumps I want to warn them to get their cholesterol checked. It’s a life saver.’

Jellyfish kill up to 20,000 Clare Island salmon


Jellyfish have more than sting in their tails for Clare Island salmon

Weeks after a Clare Island man ended  up in hospital due to jellyfish stings, it has emerged that up to 20,000 farmed salmon, situated in cages off the north-east coast of Clew bay outpost were lost because of the same marine species.
Marine Harvest, the aquaculture company that runs Clare Island Sea Farms Ltd, has confirmed the massive losses occurred in recent days and were due to warmer sea temperatures, which have led to similar incidents in fish-farms across Europe.
There have already been reports of strandings of jellyfish ‘blooms’ (groups) along the coast with thousands of Pelagia Noctiluca or Mauve Stinger occurring off Ballyferriter, Dingle, in late August and off Donegal early in September.   This species inflicted losses of over €1 million at a fish farm in Glenarm Bay, County Antrim, back in 2007 when a reported 120,000 fish died.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday, Dr Peter Gill, a retired Professor of Education in the University of Gavle in Sweden and a longtime resident of Clare Island, revealed that he ended up in a Swedish hospital after a recent encounter with jellyfish while swimming at The Cove on Clare Island.
“It’s funny  now but it was a shock to dive into The Cove about three weeks ago, thinking that the ‘brown stuff’ I thought I could see in the ripples was seaweed that had been blown in by the easterly wind.  Little did I know, that  from the top of my head  to my big toes,  I was inundated with jellyfish stings.  I was stung and scratching when I got out of the water and got into a warm bath when I got home.  It itched here and there but I thought no more of it,” Peter Gill said.
“A week later, I was in Sweden, and had to go to A&E.  I was beginning to scar and swell. Purple lines kept popping up along my arms, eyelids, earlobe, backside, legs and feet..  An intensive course  of antihistamines and I was okay after 24 hours,” he continued.
Adding: “Now I know how the poor salmon feel.  I am still scratching scabs a month later.”

Saturn from above is a pretty awesome sight


This view of the planet Saturn from above, including its surrounding rings, is pretty unique.

In fact, it’s one that could not possibly have been taken from Earth.

The picture, a composite ‘image mosaic’, is made up of shots earlier this month by the robotic Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn, and shows the right side of the planet and the corresponding shadow cast across Saturn’s rings.

It was made by amateur image processor and Cassini fan Gordan Ugarkovic, and shows a side of the planet never before seen, as no Earth-based camera could possibly view the right side of Saturn.

“Since Earth is much closer to the Sun than Saturn, only the day side of the ringed planet is visible from the Earth,” according to NASA.

“The beautiful rings of Saturn are seen in full expanse, while cloud details are visible including the polar hexagon surrounding the north pole, and an extended light-colored storm system.”

It’s not the first time the Cassini spacecraft has offered us incredible images from its Saturn mission. The below shots taken in July capture not only the rings of Saturn but also the Earth, some 898 million miles (1.44bn kilometres) in the distance.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency