News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 29th August 2014

Five-day Irish trade mission to Australia gets underway

Minister Bruton leading visit by 32 Irish companies to Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney


Richard Bruton said the economic relationship between Ireland and Australia is stronger now than at any time in our history

A five-day trade and investment mission to Australia by more than 30 Irish companies has begun.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Investment Richard Bruton is leading the joint Enterprise Ireland/IDA mission, which will include more than 40 high-level meetings and events.

A total of 32 companies from the financial services, elearning, telecommunications and IT for Healthcare sectors are participating on the mission to Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney.

Australia is the world’s 12th largest economy, with an estimated US$1.5 trillion GDP.

“The economic relationship between Ireland and Australia is stronger now than at any time in our history. It is a relationship based on delivering two-way trade of more than $2.8billion per annum,” said Mr Bruton ahead of the mission.

“There are over 140 Enterprise Ireland client companies actively doing business in Australia as well as 35 Australian companies in Ireland employing over 1,600 people. I am confident that during the intensive programme of activities this week we can build on that strong relationship and support more trade and crucially more jobs in Ireland,” he added.

Irish Distillers Jameson whiskey exports soar but spirits dip at home


An employee passes American oak barrels containing Jameson whiskey, produced by Irish Distillers Ltd., at the Pernod-Ricard SA distillery in Midleton, Co Cork

Irish Distillers’ successful Jameson brand is powering ahead in export markets including the US, but the industry is slowing at home.

Sales of Jameson reached 4.7 million cases in the full year 2013-2014, the company said. That is 9pc higher than the previous year, both globally and in the US, its biggest single market. By price, the gain was 12pc.

However, the company said sales of all spirits are down 11.5pc in the home market.

Pub sales, the so-called “on” trade, is down 6pc and off-trade sales have declined by 13.9pc in terms of volume, Irish Distillers said, citing research from Neilson.

“The sustained progress of Jameson within the Pernod Ricard family of brands has been one of the group’s most eminent success stories, growing from 466,000 cases when Irish Distillers joined Pernod Ricard in 1988, to approaching 5 million cases in 2014,” Irish Distillers chairman and chief executive Anna Malmhake said.

But she warned that Ireland is now one of the most expensive countries in the world in which to buy Irish spirits.

“The penal excise increases on alcohol accumulated in the last two budgets endanger the export success of indigenous products such as Irish whiskey as well as the 92,000 jobs being supported by the drinks industry in every county throughout Ireland,” she said.

Meanwhile Pernod Ricard, which owns Irish Distillers, said it plans to cut 900 jobs globally to cut costs following a slump in demand from China.

But the world’s second-largest distiller said the Chinese market is improving following a 23pc slump in sales in the last fiscal year.

International drinks brands were hit last year by a clampdown in China on corporate gift giving and entertainment of government officials.

“The flavor of the start of this year seems better” in China, CEO Pierre Pringuet said.

Mrs Brown makes a right monkey of critics with hit


Mrs Brown’s Boys has emerged as the biggest hit of the summer in Irish cinemas.

New figures confirm that Brendan O’Carroll’s flick is not only the hit of the summer, but the highest performing box office smash this year to date.

“Its distributor, Universal, expected Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie to do well but I think they were even take aback by the phenomenon it has become,” said Niall Murphy, who is Managing Editor of Scannain, the Irish film blog.

The Irish Film Board has listed the highest grossing films of the year so far, which shows that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was the second most popular film with Irish audiences this summer, bringing in €243,430,803 to date globally.

“It has received much better reviews than Mrs Brown and certainly appears to have benefited from word of mouth, it also brought more in at the box office than its previous instalment, Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” said Mr Murphy.

Other releases that have performed well this summer in a season which is usually the preserve of action-hero flicks, include American comedy 22 Jump Street and British production The Inbetweeners 2.

Unsurprisingly, children’s films were one of the strongest performing genres.

“It has been a huge year for animation in general with two or three animated films appearing in the top 10 every week.”

In terms of flops this year, Mr Murphy highlighted how unreceptive Irish audiences where to superhero offering Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was a smash in the States but only just made it into the Irish top 20 at 18.

The science-fiction film Edge of Tomorrow, which was released at the end May, under-performed, suggesting that outside of the Mission Impossible franchise, Tom Cruise’s name does not have the same draw it once had.

“Seth McFarlane’s A Million Ways To Die In The West also under-performed when you consider how well his directorial project Ted did, and June’s Transformers 4 did not make nearly as much as the first three instalments,” he added.

Eircom to expand E-Fibre rollout across the country


Eircom is to expand the rollout of its eFibre broadband product to 1.6m homes and businesses, the company has said.

The operator’s previously stated target for its eFibre services was 1.4m premises by the end of 2016.

The telecoms group also said that its revenue has fallen to €1.28bn – down €85m or 6pc – despite having 1.8 million landline and mobile phone customers.

Annual results for the year to the end of June show its operating profit remained stable, down 1pc or €3m to €479m, before storm costs of €10m.

The operator is currently considering a sale or a public flotation.

Herb Hribar, chief executive, said the past twelve months underline real and sustained progress in the transformation of eircom’s financial performance and product offerings.

“We have now had eight consecutive quarters of EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) stability, slowing decline in our revenues and an improved cost base,” he said.

The results come as 3 Ireland and Eircom sign a new network sharing agreement, fulfilling one of the commitments 3 Ireland entered into as part of receiving EU Commission approval for its €750m acquisition of O2 in Ireland earlier this year. The new agreement will run to 2030 and commits funding to create a shared network of over 2,000 sites within the next three years.

3 Ireland and Eircom will share site equipment, power supply, towers and transmission throughout the country. Existing sites of both operators will be consolidated and new sites will be jointly built.

In a statement, the companies said that the partnership will help facilitate the introduction of new technologies to roll out 4G services and “provide data coverage to every part of the country”.

Elsewhere, eircom said sales in its fixed telephone line sector fell 8pc for the year to €980m, but its expanding broadband market recorded a 7.5pc increase, with 718,000 broadband connections over the year to the end of June.

Operating profits in its mobile phone business more more than doubled to €36m despite sales dropping by 2pc to €347m.

Bondholders recently approved the company’s proposed corporate re-organisation – easing the way for a sale or stock market floation of the company.

Richard Moat, chief financial officer, said there are early signs of commercial momentum, as more and more fixed and mobile customers are directly and indirectly using its network.

“In addition, the strategic review of the group’s capital structure continues,” he added.

Is any amount of Alcohol good for us or not?


To drink or not to drink? That is the question that is not easily answered, at least when it comes to our health.

Although we’ve heard for years that moderate drinking is good for our hearts, several recent studies have questioned that long-held belief. And earlier this year, the World Health Organization issued a dire warning about cancer and alcohol. No amount of alcohol is safe, the report said.

So, if any alcohol raises our cancer risk, and if it might not offer a real benefit to our hearts, should we be drinking at all?

Cardiologist Michael Shapiro, DO, is not convinced that any amount of alcohol is good for us.

“It’s a common perception that alcohol, and red wine in particular, is helpful for the heart, but that perception is not based on any particularly good evidence,” Shapiro says. “If there is any benefit from alcohol — and that’s not entirely clear — it’s probably modest.”

Shapiro, who practices at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, says that much of the research touting alcohol’s heart health benefits doesn’t show cause and effect. Does alcohol itself protect against heart attacks, or does the lower risk stem from some other factor or combination of factors? It’s not known.

“People who drink moderately also may have certain socio-economic factors and behavior patterns that promote health, and we’ve never been able to tease that out,” he says.

A recent BMJ review of more than 50 studies on alcohol and heart health supports Shapiro’s view. Researchers found that people with a form of a gene tied to lower levels of drinking had healthier hearts. That suggests that cutting down on drinking — even for light or moderate drinkers — benefits the heart.

Another recent study found that people who have as little as one or two drinks of wine or liquor may raise their odds of atrial fibrillation, a potentially dangerous form of irregular heartbeat.

Bright Side to ‘Healthy’ Drinking?

Like Shapiro, geriatrician Alison Moore, MD, MPH, is skeptical of studies about light to moderate drinking that tout health benefits but don’t show cause and effect. But she says research has shown that this amount of drinking may play a positive role in numerous conditions, from heart health to diabetes to dementia.

Recent studies continue to support alcohol’s benefits. In June, the authors of a study in the journal Circulation reported that men and women who have four to six alcoholic drinks (i.e. 5-ounce glasses of wine or 1.5-ounce cocktails) per week were, respectively, 20% and 44% less likely to develop a potentially fatal ballooning of the aorta.

And in April, early findings presented at a meeting of the National Kidney Foundation suggested that a little wine a day lowers the risk of chronic kidney disease. People who drank less than one glass of wine per day had a 37% lower risk than those who drank no wine at all.

“The data is convincing that truly moderate alcohol [drinking] does offer many health benefits,” says Moore, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. She researches alcohol’s effects on older groups of people. “For your average healthy person, it is not a bad thing.”

the Cancer Risk

There’s less debate among researchers about the role alcohol plays in cancer risk. The WHO declared alcohol a carcinogen in 1988, and the U.S.government health agencies have reached the same conclusion.

Alcohol is known to cause several types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon-rectum, liver, and femalebreast. According to the National Cancer   Institute, the more you drink,the greater your risk of these types of   cancer. For example, people whohave three and a half or more drinks a   day double or even triple their odds of head and neck cancers.

For two cancers, though — renal cell, or kidney, cancer and non- Hodgkinlymphoma.

Some studies have shown that drinking can result in a lower risk. Still an estimated 3.5% of U.S. cancer deaths can be traced to alcohol. Unfortunately, says oncologist Cary Presant, MD, few people get the  message.

“There’s a very low level of awareness of the risk,” says Presant, a  clinical professor of medicine at the University of Southern California’s  Keck School of Medicine.   “We have to counsel our patients on the risks of alcohol.  It’s something I talk about with my patients all the time.”

Alcohol requires a balancing act, he says. It may offer some protection  for the heart, but, because alcohol affects many other organ systems,  Presant says, it also raises the risk of other diseases, including cancer.  For example, he says, two drinks a day raises a woman’s risk of breast  cancer by 15%. The risk is much lower for women who have one or fewerdrinks per day.

Presant advises people who drink to consider potential risk factors,  such as a family history of certain cancers, that may help determine whether  or not to abstain.

“Talk to your doctor about your family health history, your health  habits,  and,  if  necessary,  about  how to correct unhealthy drinking  habits,  ”Presant says. He adds that all forms of alcohol appear to  carry  the  same  risks.

Shapiro says the health benefits are likely to be quite limited, especially  when weighed against the potential for abuse. “If you drink, make sure  you know what healthy drinking looks like,” he says.

One drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men is a mostly  safe and potentially healthy way to unwind. But if you don’t drink now,  don’t reach for the bottle.

“The medical community still does not advise people to start drinking,  ”Moore says.

How your diet can lower the risk of Prostate Cancer


Tomato and bean consumption helps prevent the disease

Consuming more than ten servings a week of tomatoes and beans lowers the risk of prostate cancer, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Bristol.

The findings expand on previous research and suggest that men should consume foods rich in lycopene and selenium, which are found in tomatoes and beans respectively, to help prevent the onset of a disease that kills about 30,000 men in the United States each year.

The study compared the diets of more than 1,800 men between the ages of 50 and 69 who had prostate cancer to the diets of more than 12,000 of their cancer-free peers.

While the study’s conclusions provide some dietary guidance, researchers say more work needs to be done to develop further dietary guidelines.

“Our findings suggest that tomatoes may be important in prostate cancer prevention. However, further studies need to be conducted to confirm our findings, especially through human trials,” said Vanessa Er, a researcher at the University of Bristol who led the study. “Men should still eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, maintain a healthy weight and stay active.”

Our Sun’s power is stable and steadfast, says scientists


Experiment sees energy of the sun being created. Detector deep under an Italian mountain sees neutrinos created deep in the sun in a fusion furnace.
The fusion reaction that powers our sun has been detected in real time for the first time with an instrument buried deep beneath a mountain in Italy detecting the resulting neutrinos.

Before this, measurements of solar energy output relied on photons reaching the earth from the sun from the same kind of fusion reactions, but those reactions happened one hundred thousand years ago — the amount of time the photon energy takes to make its way through the sun’s dense interior to burst from its surface and begin the journey toward Earth.

In the new experiment conducted by an international team of researchers working with the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics, solar energy has been measured almost from the moment of its generation, because the neutrinos detected need just 8 minutes to travel from the very core of the sun to Earth.

The amount of energy produced by the sun today, as measured using the neutrinos, is identical to what was determined by photon measurements which looked a hundred thousand year’s into the sun’s past, proving the energy output has remained the same for all that time, the researchers say.

“This is direct proof of the stability of the sun over the past 100,000 years or so,” says team member Andrea Pocar of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Within the sun’s core, protons of hydrogen atoms, the sun’s major constituent, collide with such force they undergo a fusion reaction, producing a nucleus of heavy hydrogen, an antielectron (a positron) and a neutrino.

Further reactions produce helium and other elements and more kinds of neutrinos, although the majority of neutrinos streaming out of the sun are from that initial proton-proton reaction initiating fusion.

They have proved the hardest of all the various solar neutrinos to detect on Earth, the scientists explain, because they have low energy levels that are similar to that of many radioactive decays that occur on Earth.

This causes detectors to have trouble, confusing a radioactive decay with a solar neutrino event.

That’s why the Italian detector instrument, dubbed Borexino, is buried more than 4,500 feet below the Apennine Mountains.

The overlying rock can shield it from decay energy, while neutrinos pass easily through it and into the detector.

After 18 months of collecting data and a full year of analyzing it “to show it was not background [radiation] or a detector effect,” the team came up with a figure for neutrino flow of 66 billion per square centimeter per second, very close to model predictions of 60 billion,


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