News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 27th May 2014

Ireland’s bad Bank NAMA now on track for one Billion Euro profit

  

The National Asset Management Agency, set up to rid Irish lenders of toxic property loans, is on course to make a profit of 1 billion euros ($1.36 billion) over its lifetime, a person familiar with the matter said.

The estimate is an upgrade from September, when the Dublin-based state agency said it would probably be closer to breaking even than making the 1 billion-euro profit it had outlined as a “central scenario” in 2010. The person asked not to be identified because NAMA hasn’t made the forecast public.

NAMA is benefiting from a surge in demand for Irish real estate property as it sells loans tied to hotels, golf courses and office blocks. Investors from Blackstone Group LP (BX) to Cerberus Capital Management LP are buying billions of euros of debt from the agency as they wager on a recovery in property markets aroundEurope.

“We’re beating our targets,” NAMA Chairman Frank Daly said in a statement today. “It’s becoming increasingly likely that NAMA will achieve its objectives sooner than anyone would have expected when it was set up in late December 2009.”

Daly told reporters in Dublin today that he was more confident than ever that NAMA would make a profit, though it’s too early to say how much.

The government set up NAMA to buy 71.2 billion euros of property loans from Irish banks as part of a bid to save the economy from collapse. The agency predicted it would make a profit of 5.5 billion euros before forecasting a 1 billion-euro profit in July 2010.

Falling Yields

The yield on prime Dublin offices, which measures a property’s rental income as a percentage of its purchase price, has fallen to 5 percent from 6 percent in September, according to data compiled by CBRE Group Inc. (CBG) Declining yields indicate that prices are rising.

NAMA has pulled off some of its biggest ever deals in the meantime. Last month, the agency agreed to sell 4.5 billion pounds ($7.6 billion) of real estate loans to affiliates of Cerberus, the New York-based private equity firm, and chose Blackstone as the preferred bidder for about 1.8 billion euros of loans, people familiar with the matter said.

The sales have also prompted lawmakers to review how long NAMA should continue to operate. While the agency was supposed to be wound down by 2020, the government has asked NAMA whether it would be possible to sell all remaining assets by 2015.

‘Accelerated Sales’

Moody’s Investors Service boosted its rating on Irish sovereign debt to Baa1, the third-lowest investment grade, from Baa3 earlier this month. The ratings firm cited NAMA’s “accelerated asset sales” in its May 16 upgrade.

NAMA today reported 2013 net income of 211 million euros, its third straight annual profit. NAMA generated cash of 4.5 billion euros during the year, which included money from asset disposals and income from properties that the agency has seized.

The agency increased the amount that it set aside to cover losses on soured loans by 76 percent to 914 million euros, according to the statement. The move followed a review of impairments on Irish land banks and smaller debtors, NAMA said.

“It was a bit surprising, given the recovery in asset values and collateral over the period,” said Ciaran Callaghan, an analyst in Dublin with Merrion Stockbrokers. “But there’s no doubt that they’re becoming a lot more confident about their ability to successfully wind down the agency.”

One in 20 (5%) of HSE staff are on sick leave every day

  

One in 20 HSE staff are sick everyday

More than 4,700, or one in 20 health staff were on sick leave every day in the first two months of this year, while the HSE’s deficit drastically worsened.

At the end of March, the HSE deficit rose to €80.4m, which is three times higher than it was this time last year when the financial situation was regarded as particularly critical.

Absenteeism costs the health service tens of millions annually, and leads to hospitals and other services hiring expensive agency staff to maintain services.

The level of absenteeism rose to 4.8pc last January and was only marginally better at 4.77pc in February, despite claims by the HSE that it is attempting to clamp down on its embarrassing level of daily no-shows.

Specialist

Meanwhile, the numbers waiting for more than a year for a specialist appointment were up 230pc at the end of March compared with December 2013.

While 4,937 were facing the long waits in December, this rose to 16,295 by the end of March.

The waiting lists for in-patient and day procedures also rose. There were 4,350 patients waiting more than the HSE’s eight-month target in March.

Overall, 50,337 were on the in-patient waiting lists – up from 44,870 in December.

The number of new attendances at emergency departments has increased by 8,225 in 2014 so far, and more are having to be admitted to a hospital bed compared to this time last year.

At the same time, the number of people on public waiting lists who are getting into hospital are down.

There are 4,532 children currently waiting for an in-patient or day procedure.

Of these 3,711 are waiting less than 20 weeks and 821 are waiting beyond this time target.

Sharing my struggle with mental illness has really helped me

Says Fiona Kennedy

 

Fiona Kennedy is urging fellow sufferers to reach out to family and friends for help, for love and support and most vitally, a listening ear.

Fiona Kennedy’s battle with mental illness has been made easier, thanks to the love of her family and friends, and their willingness to listen.

Mental illness thrives on secrecy and isolation, says Fiona Kennedy. She is urging fellow sufferers to reach out to family and friends for help, for love and support and most vitally, a listening ear.

I HAVE clinical depression, and as of a few days ago, after some two years of ongoing evaluation by a psychiatrist, a formal diagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD). These are heavy, powerful, stigmatising labels, labels no one wants to be landed with. But I was, and although this may seem strange, I was glad to hear it.

So why am I writing about this? Throughout the month of May, See Change, the national movement to change minds about mental health, are running their Green Ribbon campaign, a campaign which aims to break down the stigma around mental illness simply by encouraging conversation. Historically, and sadly all too frequently even now, mental illness is something that’s been kept a secret.

It’s considered by some to be shameful, a sign of weakness, something to hide away and ignore in the hope that eventually it will go away. But here’s the thing – it isn’t, it doesn’t, and it won’t, not without help.

Back when things first got really bad for me, we were utterly clueless as to what was going on. I’m not sure the term post-natal depression had ever crossed our radar, and certainly nothing as complex as EUPD.

Mental health just wasn’t a topic of conversation, full stop. Mental illness was something that happened to other people.

It took a long time to even realise I needed help, never mind ask for it. In the beginning there was only medication. It was another year before I thought about therapy, and it wasn’t until after the birth of my daughter in 2010 that we sought psychiatric help.

In all of that time, through all of that struggling, trying and failing to live a normal life, I kept it quiet.

I didn’t really know what was wrong with me, depression had been talked of a lot but, to be honest, I wasn’t convinced it was a real illness and I certainly wasn’t prepared to accept that that’s what was happening to me.

My husband knew, obviously, but the rest of my family only had inklings of what was going on. I said nothing to friends. What I didn’t realise, and what I see so clearly now, is just how much this compounded an already difficult, almost-impossible situation.

It was when I was in hospital in February of last year that I first decided to let people know what was going on, mostly because I had no idea how to explain my five-week absence, and I hadn’t the energy to be creative with excuses. My first foray into letting people know was a text to a select few. Then, when I was feeling braver, a post on Facebook. The response I got blew me away.

I was overwhelmed by the amount of support and positivity that came my way – calls, messages, visits – I was amply supplied with chocolate and reading material, as well as the occasional shoulder and Kleenex. I’d done it. Everyone knew.

That’s not to say it wasn’t hard the first time I actually spoke to someone once they knew. It was. I was incredibly nervous and I wasn’t sure how they’d be with me. Would they look at me differently, or treat me differently? Would they be wary of me? But, for the most part, I found that people took their lead from me. They asked how I was doing. On a good day, I might feel like expanding on things, and they listened. On a bad day, I’d more than likely change the subject as I found and still do find it hard to admit to feeling low, and they go with that.

Listening is so simple, yet so powerful. There’s no need to offer a solution, more often than not there isn’t one anyway. Platitudes certainly don’t help. But just listening, or even just asking how someone is doing, and genuinely meaning it – don’t ever overestimate the difference that can make.

Humour also helps. It really, really helps. The language used to talk about mental illness is so cloaked with fear that it can be overwhelming, and for me at least, humour (the more irreverent the better) is a means of breaking that fear.

My stay in the hospital is affectionately known in my house as my ‘loola holiday’. We joke about my being ‘proper mental’. Some people may find this incredibly offensive – for me, it’s another way of fighting back.

Mental illness is incredibly difficult to live with, both for the person affected and those living with them, but it’s made so much worse when it’s kept hidden. It thrives on secrecy and isolation.

Something worth considering is the fact that keeping a mental illness hidden from family and friends actually denies them the chance to help, show support, and demonstrate how much they care.

Keeping it hidden lays the foundation for the walls that mental illness builds around people, for the damage it can do to relationships. When it’s out in the open, acknowledged, talked about, it loses some of its power.

It was a difficult decision to take a chance and tell people, but it’s one that I don’t regret for a second. What’s been most interesting about this for me is that the more open I’ve been, the more open others have been in return. People have told me how they themselves have struggled, and still struggle, with depression and other issues. These are people I would always have assumed were absolutely fine and getting on with their lives with no bother at all.

We’re able to support each other now in a way that wasn’t possible before, and that’s wonderful. Something else to come of all this is that a conversation about mental health is now normal for me and those close to me. It’s not a taboo subject, something to be danced around and avoided at all costs. It comes into the conversation, and then we move on.

It doesn’t define me, not by a long shot, but it’s part of me, a part that can’t be ignored, any more than diabetes or asthma could be ignored.

But I want to come back to something I said earlier – that I’m glad I have these labels. Believe me, I’d rather I didn’t, that there was no need for them, but there is. I realise that this won’t make sense to a lot of people, but for me, there’s reassurance in knowing what I’m contending with. These labels mean there is a reason why I think and act as I do, that it’s not all my own fault, and now that I know what that reason is, I can work towards managing it.

I’ve been slowly, slowly getting to grips with depression over the last few years, but kept hitting a roadblock when medication would stop working, or my mood shifted dramatically, again for no apparent reason. Now I know what that’s about too, and I can again start to take back some control.

I know there will be days when I will struggle again. I’ve been warned to expect further episodes of depression and that’s something I really don’t like to think about.

There’s a long road ahead in learning to manage EUPD, but I’m well on my way. I’m hopeful that it won’t be as hard as it has been up to now, because I’m not struggling on my own any more, and I know what I’m up against.

I would urge anyone who is having difficulty with their mental health to find someone they trust to talk to. Professional help is so important. I’m lucky to have a GP who knows me well and a counsellor I trust completely, as well as a very supportive husband, family and friends. For now, I also have to take medication to help control my illness. But, as I’ve been told many, many times, that’s only half the battle.

The rest is up to me. And for me at least, talking about it, allowing people to know what’s really going on, that’s the other half of the battle.

Mental illness is a terrible burden to carry alone, no one should have to do that. Start small. Start with someone close. You might just be pleasantly surprised at their reaction.

Expanded AbbVie facility in Sligo officially opened on Tuesday

  

Expanded AbbVie facility in Sligo was officially opened today tuesday

Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD officially opened the expanded facility of pharmaceutical company AbbVie in Sligo this morning, 27 May.

He is joining chairman and CEO Richard Gonzales at the opening of the site, which is to be involved in the commercialisation and manufacturing of new AbbVie pipeline products and is an important part of the company’s biopharmaceutical manufacturing strategy.

Headquartered in Chicago in the US, AbbVie was launched as a standalone company in 2012 and has located three of its 15 global primary research and manufacturing facilities in Ireland.

Each of the company’s uniquely focused sites in Ireland manufactures portions of AbbVie’s top 20 products and €85m was invested in the Sligo expansion on Manorhamilton Road.

This represents Gonzalez’s first visit to Ireland

Humans evolved weak muscles to feed brain’s growth, A study suggests

Weak muscles evolved even faster than smart brains in people.

 

We humans may be weaklings by nature.

Humans appear to have evolved puny muscles even faster than they grew big brains, according to a new metabolic study that pitted people against chimps and monkeys in contests of strength.

The upshot, says biologist Roland Roberts, is that “weak muscles may be the price we pay for the metabolic demands of our amazing cognitive powers.”

Scientists have long noted that the major difference between modern humans and other apes, like chimps, is our possession of an oversize, energy-hungry brain. (Related: “Human Origins Project.”) It was the development of that brain that drove the evolution of our early human ancestors away from an apelike ancestor, starting roughly six million years ago.

But the question of just why and how we evolved such big brains, which consume 20 percent of our energy, has long bedeviled science.

“A major difference in muscular strength between humans and nonhuman primates provide one possible explanation,” suggests the new study, led by Katarzyna Bozek of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal PLoS Biology, looked at how rapidly the metabolic needs of various organs, ranging from our brains to our kidneys, have evolved. Some scientists have suggested that the rapidly evolving metabolism of the human gut, for example, drove the brain’s evolution.

Instead, the new study suggests that muscles and brains have essentially traded off their energy use.

The researchers found that in the last six million years, people have evolved weaker muscles much more rapidly—eight times faster—than the rest of our body changed.

Our early ancestors likely possessed apelike strength, at least for the skeletal muscles analyzed in the new study. Today our brawn is much reduced, while other body tissues, like kidneys, have remained relatively unchanged over millions of years.

Over the same time period, the brain evolved four times faster than the rest of the body.

Roberts, a scientist with the Public Library of Science who wasn’t involved in the study, called it a “tantalizing preliminary enquiry” in a commentary accompanying the new paper.

He notes that “human muscle has changed more in the last six million years than mouse muscle has since we parted company from mice back in the early Cretaceous.” That was about 130 million years ago.

Geeks Rule

To confirm their findings, which were based on analysis of 10,000 metabolic molecules, the researchers pitted people, chimps, and macaques—another kind of monkey—against each other in a contest of strength. (Related video: “Genius Chimp Outsmarts Tube.”)

All participants had to lift weights by pulling a handle.

“Amazingly, untrained chimps and macaques outperformed university-level basketball players and professional mountain climbers,” Roberts says. People were indeed only about half as strong as the other species.

Looking for an explanation, the team also subjected the macaques to two months of a “couch potato” lifestyle: little exercise, high stress, crummy food.

At the end of the two months, a strength contest with the couch potato macaques found that the animals’ strength hadn’t declined much. In fact, the scientists deduced from those macaques that humanity’s “soft” lifestyle accounts for 3 percent of the strength difference between people and monkeys.

That appears to confirm the idea that weak muscles, along with a weakness for the couch—so conducive to brain—intensive exercises like watching movies and reading-could be our evolutionary inheritance.

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