News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 25th December Christmas day 2013

Ireland successfully exits €85bn bailout programme after 3 years

  

The IMF’s Peter Breuer, left, Craig Beaumont, centre, and other delegates leave the Finance Department after the Troika’s final visit in October last

On December 15 Ireland exited its €85bn bailout programme. Three years earlier, the IMF, European Commission and ECB had come to town to take control of the nation’s finances.

Austerity would be the way to underpin the country’s shaky finances and the troika set about telling the Government how to go about it. But with Ireland’s borrowing costs having fallen below those seen before the bust, and signs that the economic Armageddon is finally in reverse, there are hopes that the country can now steer a more stable course of economic growth that avoids the boom and bust cycle.

The Government also decided not to exit the bailout with a precautionary credit facility. Eurozone finance ministers backed the decision. Speaking about the bailout exit, Finance Minister Michael Noonansaid: “There’ll be no brass bands, or champagne. Our intention is not to be exuberant; this is just a stop along the way.”

Bring Back Hope as Inspired by Jane Goodall

  

We are reposting this archived article from 2 years ago because we like the message of hope during the holiday season of Christmas.

The past 2 months have been bittersweet. On a high note I got to accompany the legend Dame Dr. Jane Goodall as she inspired countless South Africans in her latest visit; I was amongst the first in the world to see the ground-breaking new Malapa Hominid Fossils with Prof Lee Berger and The Jane Goodall Institute Team.

I raised funds for “The Big Cat Project” with the Lion King 3D Film; I reunited with African Explorer Extraordinaire Kingsley Holgate at “The Getaway Show” and reminisced on our Central Africa Republic Chimpanzee Rescue Mission last year; I had the remarkable opportunity to participate in “Good Pitch Johannesburg 2011” for the Gorilla Documentary “Guardians of Uganda’s Gentle Giants,” and throughout met many more amazing people, young and old fighting for our environment.

However, on a sombre note I have been saddened greatly by the annual Namibian Seal Massacre that started again in addition to the yearly Japanese Taiji Dolphin Hunt.

We also still keep losing Rhinos daily in the terrible on-going Poaching Crisis … and these are but to name a few of the tragic on-going offensives plaguing our planet daily due to greed, corruption, overpopulation, poverty, mindless traditions, dogmatic religions and an ever-expanding apathetic populous choking our planet for every bit of space and resource.

It feels like we are losing ground by the hour in the countless conservation battles to save our wildlife and environment. Furthermore, as an activist my Constitutional Right to Freedom of Speech in South Africa is not something I am prepared to lose if the new legislation is passed in a seemingly-flagrant attempt to choke the media from reporting and exposing perceived atrocities.

Every day is a war and a race against time for the survival of our species! As the casualties of mankind’s failings stack up on these fast-paced battlefields, it is exceedingly easy to become despondent and drained. As Dame Dr Jane Goodall spoke to people and communities it was clear many feel this strain, especially the youth who inherited this earth (and by our failings we keep stealing from our children). No wonder they are so downhearted.

But night is darkest before the dawn and I experienced first-hand the magic she can instil within people with her bright message… clear and unflinching in its delivery. One word can make all the difference and I want to share it with you to likewise inspire and revitalise your own being.

The word is HOPE! There is always hope and the past year I have shared many stories with you where there is hope and where I have been able to make a real difference, however small or big it may be. There is hope all around us if we are willing to see it. We need to share hope with ourselves and especially our children growing up in a world on the verge of collapse.

Without hope the battle is already lost. Hope is the key and with the Jane Goodall Institute global “Roots & Shoots” Programme (expanding rapidly now in South Africa) education and hope for the youth is the way forward.

To quote Dame Dr Jane Goodall “I met so many young people who had lost hope. Some were depressed, some were apathetic and some were angry and violent. And when I talked to them, they all more or less felt this way because we had compromised their future and the world of tomorrow was not going to sustain their great-grandchildren. So this is my effort to bring back the hope that we must have if we are to change direction. I think to be fully human, we need to have meaning in our lives, and that’s what I am trying to help these young people to find.”

I recommend you read the book Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink by Jane Goodall, Thane Maynard, and Gail Hudson for many more examples and proof of hope.

David Devo Oosthuizen is a world-renowned photographer, activist, artist, journalist, designer, writer, public speaker and eco warrior. For more than 15 years he has sought to showcase African wildlife and the threats they face from development. He works with numerous wildlife protection organizations, including Goodall’s Roots & Shoots South Africa, and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society South Africa. David is the photographer with The Jane Goodall Institute South Africa. Visit his website at www.devographic.com.

The Jane Goodall Institute SA was founded by renowned primatologist Jane Goodall. The Institute is a global organisation that empowers people to make a difference for all living things. In South Africa, the JGI SA Chimpanzee Eden Sanctuary is home to chimpanzees that have been misplaced from their natural habitats in Central Africa. This tranquil sanctuary is committed to the rescue, rehabilitation and care of Chimpanzees in need of refuge and brings the world of chimpanzees closer to humanity through education and tourism. In the 50 years since Dr. Jane Goodall first set foot on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in what is now Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, the chimpanzee behavioural research she pioneered there has produced a wealth of scientific discovery. Her vision has expanded into a global mission to empower people to make a difference for all living things.

‘Peace on Earth’ does means Syria, Sudan, and Nigeria,

Pope says on Christmas day

  

Pope Francis doesn’t want a commonly quoted Bible verse chanted as empty words on Christmas Day — the one about peace on Earth.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors,” heavenly hosts proclaimed when Christ was born, according to the Vatican translation.

The pontiff told tens of thousands of people gathered in front of the Vatican on Wednesday where he wants that peace to happen — in Syria, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Holy Land.

False pretenses won’t do.

“True peace is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely ‘facade’ which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment,” Francis said in his Christmas Urbi et Orbi message.

The Urbi et Orbi address is customarily political and global, as its name indicates. It is Latin and means “to the city (of Rome) and to the world.” Popes give the address and blessing on special occasions such as Easter and Christmas.

Vatican TV estimated that about 150,000 attended the blessing in St. Peter’s Square, which marked Francis’ first Christmas celebration as pope.

He asked Jesus to inspire peace in warring factions around the world.

“Prince of Peace, in every place turn hearts aside from violence and inspire them to lay down arms and undertake the path of dialogue.”

He also continued his criticism of money-driven evils.

“Lord of heaven and earth,” he prayed, “look upon our planet, frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity.”

Pray for peace: Francis asked Christians to pray for an end to the violence and suffering in Syria and for humanitarian aid to get through to its people. He prayed for people dying of hunger, thirst and violence in the Central African Republic to find an end to war and poverty.

He also addressed a new armed conflict.

“Foster social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused numerous victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young state,” he prayed.

He asked God to have mercy on civilians killed in Nigeria and Iraq and prayed that Israelis and Palestinians find peace together in “the land where you chose to come into the world.”

Francis remembered refugees fleeing conflicts and misery in Africa who died off the coast of Italy when their overfilled boats capsized before reaching the town of Lampedusa .

He prayed for those who lost entire families and homes to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Pope adored: The massive turnout on Christmas Day mirrored the popularity Francis has enjoyed since becoming head of the Catholic Church. His reputation for being down to earth and genuinely caring about people has touched a chord with millions.

Christmas Eve was no different.

There was a record number of requests to attend this year’s Christmas Eve Mass, the Vatican said.

“People are listening to him, because he’s speaking in a language that’s not Vaticanese,” said Gerard O’Connell, a Vatican analyst. “He’s speaking the language of ordinary people.”

The Pope preached Tuesday evening on love, forgiveness and facing life with bravery and with God’s help.

“To us the Lord repeats, ‘Do not be afraid.’ … And I, too, repeat, do not be afraid,'” Francis said.

He called on the throngs gathered at St. Peter’s Basilica on Tuesday to cast aside hatred.

“If we love God and our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light. But if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us, and around us.”

Reforms, surprises :Nine months into his papacy, much has been made of the Pope’s reforms, among them more scrutiny at the Vatican bank, changes to the church’s bureaucratic structure, and a commission to deal with the abuse of minors.

And while this year’s Christmas liturgy remains the same, experts say we should expect the unexpected.

“He tends to be a surprise, because he does things that are normal, but are very abnormal in terms of the papacy,” O’Connell said. “He brought three homeless men into where he is living to have breakfast with him on his birthday. … I suspect we will see something else again over the Christmas period.”

The festivities began on Saturday, with the Pope’s Christmas message to the Curia. He urged the church’s governing body to avoid gossip and to focus on service.

And then he practiced what he preached, spending three hours at a local hospital bringing Christmas cheer to sick children.

Fast food is the ‘unhealthy choice’ Says McDonald’s

To their own staff on its website    

  

The McResource Line website, which was “temporarily performing some maintenance” late on Christmas Day, featured a section on diet.

And what it had to say was somewhat unusual given the products the company usually sells.

“Fast foods are quick, reasonably priced, and readily available alternatives to home cooking,” a post on the site said, according to US business news channel CNBC.

“While convenient and economical for a busy lifestyle, fast foods are typically high in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt and may put people at risk for becoming overweight.”

It featured a picture of a cheeseburger with fries and a cola drink, which was captioned “unhealthy choice”, and another of a glass of water, salad and a ham and salad sandwich, which it described as a “healthier choice”.

“Although not impossible it is more of a challenge to eat healthy when going to a fast food place,” it said.

“In general, avoiding items that are deep fried are your best bet … limit the extras such as cheese, bacon, and mayonnaise. Eat at places that offer a variety of salads, soups and vegetables to maintain your best health.”

CNBC said the posts appeared to have been written by an outside contractor.

In a statement, McDonald’s said that “portions of this website continue to be taken entirely out of context”.

“This website provides useful information from respected third-parties about many topics, among them health and wellness,” the company said. “It also includes information from experts about healthy eating and making balanced choices. McDonald’s agrees with this advice.”

The McResource Line is designed for employees, but CNBC said anyone could access the website after filling in a registration form.

Never forget a face?

Scientists unlock genetics that cause autism sufferers’ memory struggles

People with the gene variant are less able to recognise faces

  

One in three people have inherited a genetic variation that impairs their ability to remember faces, according to a study that could explain why some individuals recall everyone they have ever met while others have difficulty recognising their own relatives.

The study was carried out on nearly 200 families with an autistic child as part of research into genetic influences on the childhood disorder, which is linked with an inability to recognise faces as part of normal development.

However, the scientists believe that the findings have a wider significance by explaining – at least to some extent – the wide variation in the ability of the general population to recognise faces, whether of total strangers they have seen just once, or of close friends and relatives.

The scientists studied the gene for the protein receptor responsible for triggering the reaction in the brain to oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone” that helps to form social bonds, especially between close friends and lovers, as well as between mothers and their new-born babies.

When they analysed the genetic variation of the oxytocin receptor gene in 198 families with an autistic child they found a small change in the gene’s DNA sequence had a large and significant impact on the memory skills for faces within the families.

The particular variation in the gene is common in the general population, with about a third of people inheriting both copies of the deficient gene variant from each of their parents. The scientists said that high prevalence of the gene variant could explain why a relatively large proportion of people have difficulty with remembering faces.

“Some people seem to remember the faces of almost everyone they have met, yet others struggle to recognise even close friends and family,” said Professor David Scuse of the Institute of Child Health at University College London, the lead author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy  of Sciences.

“We have found a possible explanation. A gene related to oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’, influences face memory and, surprisingly, about one in three people has a version of the gene that doesn’t work so well,” Professor Scuse said.

Oxytocin is released into the bloodstream during and after childbirth, as well as during lactation, and is believed to stimulate bond-forming between a woman and her baby. It is also released during love making and orgasm, helping to form pair bonds.

However, oxytocin is also released in the brain of both sexes as a “neuromodulator” and it is this aspect of the hormone’s function that is believed to be involved with face recognition, which is the primary way that humans identify individuals.

Autistic children find it difficult to form social bonds and do not learn to recognise faces in the normal way. Their close relatives also tend to have a higher-than-average risk of displaying milder versions of these kinds of autistic traits, Professor Scuse said.

“Our central conclusion is that it seems like a variation in a single gene is associated with strikingly different abilities in the population we studied to remember faces, and it could account for a significant proportion of the variation we see in the general population to recognise faces,” he said.

“It’s very unusual for a single gene to have an influence on such a complex trait as facial recognition. People with the gene variant are less able to recognise faces and it’s a bit like inheriting the kind of genes that make you two inches shorter than the average height,” Professor Scuse explained.

Astronauts complete repairs to space station

 

Spacewalk lasting 7.5 hours judged a success as vital repairs carried out on space station

Nasa astronaut Mike Hopkins during a spacewalk outside of the International Space Station.

Nasa astronauts have completed urgent repairs to the cooling system of the International Space Station that should return it to normal operation within a few days. In a 7-1/2-hour spacewalk, their second in four days, the astronauts, Col Michael S Hopkins of the Air Force and Richard A Mastracchio, yesterday installed a new pump module on the outside of the space station.The module, a 780-pound box about the size of a refrigerator, contains a pump and accompanying apparatus that circulate ammonia coolant through one of two loops on the station.“It’s like Christmas morning opening up a little present here,” said Mastracchio, an engineer, as the spacewalk unfolded on Nasa television. Operations on the space station, including some science experiments, have been curtailed since a valve in the pump module malfunctioned two weeks ago.

Plugging in the last of the electrical connectors yesterday afternoon, Col Hopkins said, “Houston, you’ve got yourself a new pump module.” The pump passed a brief check, and is to be turned on Tuesday evening. “We have a pump that is alive and well,” said Rob Navias, a Nasa spokesman who provided commentary during the spacewalk.

Non-essential equipment that had been turned off should be switched on by the end of the week or early next week, he said.

The first spacewalk, on Saturday, went quickly and almost flawlessly, and the astronauts were able to get far ahead of schedule and remove the old module, a task that had originally been scheduled for the second spacewalk. Yesterday, they ran into trouble when one of the ammonia fluid lines would not detach. With brainstorming help from mission control, they finally succeeded, but then some toxic flakes of frozen ammonia leaked out. The astronauts had to take a few precautions at the end of the spacewalk to ensure their spacesuits were decontaminated.

During a spacewalk in July, the cooling system in an Italian astronaut’s spacesuit malfunctioned and the helmet partly filled up with water. There were no such problems this time. “Fantastic work,” Hopkins said as he re-entered the airlock. “Merry Christmas to everybody.”

The malfunctioning pump module had been installed just three years ago, and the station has only two more spares available. With the space shuttle fleet retired, Nasa has no craft big enough to ferry a replacement up from Earth. The module will be stored on the outside of the space station, and Nasa officials said it might be possible to return it to service in the future, even with the faulty valve.

After a busy few days, the station’s six crew members will have a day off on Christmas. On Friday, two Russian astronauts are to conduct a previously scheduled seven-hour spacewalk to install two cameras and replenish some science experiments outside the station.

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