News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 21st July 2014

Irish state spent some €128k hiring out helicopters to spy on our bogs


The Irish State has paid out more than €128,000 on surveillance of protected bogs over the past four years, the Irish Independent has learned.

The bill was racked up mostly through the hiring of helicopters to monitor activity on the raised bogs which are considered Special Areas of Conservation.

Figures released to the Irish Independent show the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht paid out €105,417.93 from 2011 to date on hiring helicopters to monitor the bogs.

Surveillance is carried out on areas where there is a requirement that turf cutting cease.

A spokesperson for the department stressed that it only hired in private aircraft when the Air Corps was not in a position to undertake these flights.

Figures from the Department of Defence show surveillance flights had cost the Air Corps €22,703 in the past two years.

The total Air Corps figures were not broken down for bog surveillance prior to 2013.

However, the figures from both departments reveal the cost of monitoring the bogs has dropped dramatically this year.

While the total bill for 2013 was €76,373 for private helicopter and Air Corps surveillance, it has dropped significantly, hitting just €6,448 this year to date.

A breakdown of the cost incurred by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht shows it has paid out €3,516.84 to date this year.

The largest bill for hiring private helicopters occurred in 2013 when €56,602.05 was paid out to private aircraft.

This was a rise from the €9,543.33 total for the final six months of 2011 and €35,755.71 for 2012. “There would be other ground monitoring work carried out by officials of the department in relation to the cessation of turf cutting which would be undertaken as part of their normal course of duties and therefore separate costs are not available for this work,” a department spokesperson said.

Separately a spokesperson for the Department of Defence confirmed the total cost to the Air Corps of bog surveillance had reached €19,771 in 2013.

Up until June 26 of this year the Air Corps had amassed bills of €2,932 on bog surveillance.

A spokesperson for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht added: “Ireland is at risk of action before the European Court of Justice if these Special Areas of Conservation, which are protected under Irish and European law, are not preserved.”

Fish Oil prevents brain shrinkage and cognitive decline In Older Adults


Three more cases of Alzheimer’s disease will have been diagnosed by the time you finish reading this article. More than 5 million people have Alzheimer’s in the United States alone (44 million worldwide), and the rate of new diagnosis is about one patient every minute, with no cure on the horizon.

Now a new study adds evidence to the argument that fish oil supplementation could be one of the best preventives we have against the disease–at least for people not at genetic risk of developing it.

Researchers from Rhode Island Hospital studied three groups of older adults, ages 55-90, using neuropsychological tests and brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) every six months. The group included 229 adults with no signs of the disease; 397 who were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment; and 193 with Alzheimer’s. All participants were part of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), which began in 2003 and ended in 2010.

Results showed that adults taking fish oil, who had not yet developed Alzheimer’s, experienced significantly less cognitive decline and brain shrinkage than adults not taking fish oil. Cognitive decline was measured using the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS-cog) and the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE). (Unfortunately, the study did not specify the amount of fish oil taken, nor the percentage of EPA and DHA in the supplements.)

These are promising results, but they have one notable caveat: benefits of taking fish oil only held true for people lacking the main genetic risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s, known as APOE ε4 . The researchers think that people with APOE ε4  are incapable of metabolizing DHA, the fatty acid in fish oil thought to promote cognitive benefits.

The researchers add, however, that it’s still possible that starting fish oil supplementation during or before middle age could protect against developing Alzheimer’s even for people with the genetic marker. If you think of the gene for Alzheimer’s as a light switch, taking fish oil earlier in life could prevent the switch from being flicked on.

At least that’s the hope, and given the fact that Alzheimer’s—the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.—still evades a cure, fish oil will continue to be a hot target of cognitive research as a possible shield against developing the disease

New Bull elephant calf born at Dublin Zoo


A baby boy elephant which weighs as much as an adult human born in Dublin Zoo and the public are asked to name the new mammal

Dublin Zoo have introduced their newest arrival, a baby Asian elephant to the public. The male calf which is yet to be named was born to mother Yasmin on Thursday after a 22 month gestation.

Dublin Zoo has welcomed the arrival of a new baby elephant, and the public will be invited to help name the bull calf over the coming weeks.

The healthy Asian elephant calf was born last Thursday morning after a 22 month gestation period. The calf is over a metre tall and weighs as much as an adult human. He will join the rest of the herd, including mum Yasmin and dad Upali, in the Kaziranga Forest Trail at the zoo.

“We are absolutely thrilled with the new arrival. The calf was born within three minutes and after eight minutes he was up and taking his first steps, watched closely by his mum Yasmin and the rest of the females in the herd,”the zoo’s assistant director Paul O’Donoghue said.

Mr O’Donoghue said the calf and his mother are bonding well. The birth is significant because it “will play an important role in the conservation of Asian elephants”.

Dublin Zoo and The Natural Confectionary Company will run a competition to name the new arrival. Entries should be inspired by the elephant’s Indian origin and will be accepted through the company’s Facebook page. The winning family will be invited to Dublin Zoo for a naming event.

The public can keep an eye on the herd via the elephant webcam at

Beautiful blooms now await the Summer butterflies


The rain and heat have advanced the fragrant lilac blooms of the butterfly bush to a perfumed pinnacle by a couple of weeks so that this growth of waste lots and railway lines now expectantly awaits colouful brides to its altars.

There are no painted ladies, red admirals or small tortoiseshells so far to flutter in the nectar feast of buddlja davidii . Insects, especially bees, have it all to themselves and, too soon, pale and browned by the sun, its perfume almost expunged, it will send its seeds to whatever crevice will provide a protective womb. In the meantime, we may watch and pray for the butterflies.

The buddlja has had an interesting history from its origins in the Himalayas, and Irishmen have played historic roles.

It got its Linnaean classification from a Basque missionary, Pere David, who came upon the plant in the mountains along the China-Tibet borders in 1869.

A couple of Irishmen had found it 20 years earlier but it took until the 1880s before some specimens were grown in a Paris plant nursery.

It is probable that the first buddleja to be grown in Ireland was in the 1840s in a walled garden at Edgewardstown, County Longford , ancestral home of the novelist Maria Edgeworth, author of Castle Rackrent.

Her half-brother, Michael Pakenham, had sent home seeds from the Tibetan hill country where he was a British colonial official.

Pakenham’s friend, a Bengal Lancers’ officer, Major Edward Madden from Kilkenny, also sent buddlja samples to the Botanic Gardens in Dublin from Simla and Almorah. These were named crispa with a fragrant orange or golden eye.

Madden wrote from Snowy Ridge in 1847: “Neither fatigue, danger nor admiration of the stupendous and sublime scenery prevented my gathering a few seeds and specimen parcels.”

Two packets arrived at Glasnevin in January 1848 containing the crispa and a white-flowered rhododendron which is named after him.

The naturalist Christopher Moriarty has drawn attention to another Irishman, Augustine Henry (1857-1930), who found the plant while working for the Chinese customs service and sent home samples.

Madden appears to have been a serious botanist, using the services of three porters – who were “changed every day” – to carry his stuff.

He also wrote lengthy instructions about necessary supplies (including baked biscuits, tin utensils, hermetically sealed soups and “a liberal allowance of beer, wine and brandy in stone bottles”) for those who wished to follow after.

Madden retired from the army in 1850, became president of Edinburgh Botanical Society and left a legacy of a number of plant species bearing his name.

The prolific buddlja bushes seen today along railway embankments and urban waysides did not all blow in as seeds from Longford or Glasnevin but are probably descended from escaped nursery stock marketed from London more than 100 years ago.

And these growths don’t contain any worrying hidden dangers such as those along some rivers in China where travellers were warned that the buddlja thickets provided “famous harbourage” for tigers!

Climate change broke temperature Records In 2013


The effects of climate change are getting more and more apparent as scientists continue to compile present data and compare it to recorded history.

According to Live Science, 2013 tied for the fourth hottest year ever recorded on Earth due to climate change.

Information released by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that the combined land and ocean surface temperatures across the globe were 1.12 degrees Fahrenheit (or 0.62 degrees Celsius) above the average temperature of the 20th century, which was 57 F (13.9 C). Climate data from the past 134 years has been examined to identify a steady trend of rising temperatures, which most climate scientists attribute to the increase in greenhouse gasses (like carbon dioxide) due to emissions from industry, power, and transportation.

“The climate is changing more rapidly in today’s world than at any time in modern civilization,” said Thomas Karl, director at NOAA National Climatic Data Center. “If we look at it like we’re trying to maintain an ideal weight, then we’re continuing to see ourselves put more weight on from year to year.”

According to NASA, as a result of global warming, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than it has been in over 800,000 years and currently stands at 400 parts per million.

“Long-term trends in surface temperatures are unusual and 2013 adds to the evidence for ongoing climate change,” said climatologist Gavin Schmidt from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “While one year or one season can be affected by random weather events, this analysis shows the necessity for continued, long-term monitoring.”

Yahoo! News reported that global warming was responsible for record highs throughout 2013, showing a trend of gradually rising temperature over the past few decades. In fact, most parts of the planet experienced annual temperatures higher than average. Australia experienced the warmest year it has ever had, and Argentina and New Zealand their second and third warmest, respectively. The temperature record at the South Pole was also shattered, with a peak temperature recorded at -53 degrees Fahrenheit (-47 degrees Celsius).



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