News Irish daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 9th January 2015

Major €85m Irish fund to create new job opportunities in life sciences


Major €85m fund to create more job opportunities in life sciences.

The Irish Government has today pledged €15m (of €85m) for a fund designed to increase employment in Ireland’s life-sciences sector.

Fountain Healthcare Partners II, which has received the capital, is now set to invest in 10-15 businesses over the lifetime of the overall fund, which actually totals €158m.

This marks the first funding announcement under the Seed and Venture Capital Scheme 2013-2018.

Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, said revenue streams such as this are key to his Government’s drive towards more job opportunities and a greater enterprise environment.

“Over the past three years, we have established new finance schemes which are making available a total of well over €2bn to Irish businesses,” he said.

“International evidence shows that the presence of a dynamic seed and venture industry is crucial to this. To support more innovative and internationally oriented start-ups that can go fast to market and scale, we must increase the availability of venture capital to facilitate company growth and job creation.”

Meanwhile, Dr Manus Roga, managing partner at Fountain, claimed this fund, the second of its kind, has received impressive backing due to the success of the first fund.

“Fountain’s investment strategy focuses on building a balanced portfolio of companies with complementary risk and return profiles within the life-sciences sector. This strategy has resulted in both strong absolute and relative returns from our first fund.”

Forty five new Garda officers promoted to senior management in Irish force


45 new Garda officers promoted are the largest group promoted in five years.

The biggest round of promotions to the ranks of senior management in the Garda has been revealed.

The biggest round of promotions to the ranks of senior management in the Garda has been revealed.

Forty five officers were informed today by registered post they had secured promotion to the rank of chief superintendent or superintendent.

It is the first time in two years that lists of successful applicants for vacancies at this level have been drawn up and the largest group promoted for more than five years.

Of the 45 officers being promoted, seven are already working at superintendent rank and are being promoted to chief superintendent. And 38 are currently working as inspectors but are now being promoted to superintendent.

Those being promoted to chief superintendent are: Det Supt Dominic Hayes, currently based in Waterford; Supt Sean Ward, currently based at Store St station in Dublin’s north inner city; Supt Pat Diskin, who is currently based in Castlebar, Co Mayo; Supt Lorraine Wheatley, who has been based in Donnybrook, south Dublin; Supt Karl Heller, a child protection expert who has been working in community relations; Supt Pat Lordan who has been based in Mullingar; and Supt Barry McPolin, who has been working in Anglesea St in Cork City.

They have emerged from a competition process run under code of the Commission for Public Service Appointments.

The promotion process has been changed in recent years, with the panel that interviews and selects the successful candidates made up of two civilians, appointed by the Public Appointments Service, and one Garda member. The panel is chaired by one of the civilians.

After list of successful candidates are chosen by the panel, they are presented to the office of the garda commissioner for forwarding to the Cabinet, which must approve the appointments.

Those on the lists for promotions to both ranks will soon learn what vacancies they will fill, with more senior posts than ever vacant because of the Garda recruitment and promotions moratorium, which has been relaxed very infrequently since it began when the economy crashed.

Retirements on age grounds have also seen many senior officers move on in recent years.

For those on the lists for promotion, a queuing system operates.

Some of those promoted who were regarded as the top candidates by the interview and selection panel are first on the list to be promoted. Everyone on the list must realise their promotions within one year by being placed into a vacancy as the lists expire after 12 months.

Enda Kenny says Ireland is not preparing young people to deal with todays failure


Taoiseach tells Pendulum Summit ‘difficulty and failure are inevitable companions’

Deepak Chopra and An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Pendulum Summit in the National Convention centre.

Ireland is failing its youth in preparing to deal with difficulty and failure, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said, in a speech reflecting on the nation and its recent struggles in overcoming economic hardship.

Mr Kenny said that to achieve a balance, or an “emotional and psychological equilibrium”, the country’s newest generation must be equipped to deal with challenges as, “in this, more than in any other generation, I believe we are not preparing our young people to deal with difficulty and to fail”.

As part of a broad reflection on Irish life, Mr Kenny told the Pendulum Summit at the National Convention Centre on Friday that despite an important focus on success and confidence, “difficulty and failure are inevitable companions”.

The Pendulum Summit is a daylong forum inviting various motivational speakers to showcase “wisdom from inspirational lives” and address the ideals of leading better lives.

However, Mr Kenny did not overlook the positives of Ireland’s recent struggle. He pointed out that last week the country borrowed on seven-year bonds at the cheapest ever interest rate; that jobs are being created here, among Europe’s youngest workforce.

“All of you here will be aware of the shift, the acute political shift we are seeing across Ireland and across Europe,” he said.

“I believe in the years ahead, issues of the ‘self’, the quest for identity, dignity and belonging will come very much to the fore as the political ground shifts beneath us and we write the new blueprint for a public life, a kinder and more equal society.”

How cold temperatures can help you shed the unwanted weight


Get out there and let the cold air help you burn some fat.

Looking for a silver lining in the cold that’s gripping much of the country? The next time an icy blast of wind cuts through your flesh, remind yourself that it is also stimulating the growth and activity of brown fat, the so-called good fat that burns calories and produces heat.

Located in your chest and back, brown fat’s job is to protect your vital organs which, in winter, mean giving you a way to generate additional heat for them. It’s more prevalent in newborns and hibernating animals, whose need for warmth is greater, but researchers discovered about five years ago that adults have some, too.

In contrast to white, or “bad,” fat, which stores energy as those bulges you’re trying to eliminate at the gym, brown fat is full of mitochondria, the glucose-burning power plants of cells, which give brown fat its color. People with more brown fat tend to be leaner and have lower blood sugar levels.

It takes a little time in the cold to crank up the brown fat, but temperatures don’t have to be down at the Polar Plunge level. When researchers exposed people to temperatures of 59 to 60 degrees for two to six hours over 10 consecutive days, they found immediate increases in brown fat activity. In another study, men who slept in rooms for a month at 66 degrees increased their brown fat and its activity by 30 percent to 40 percent. When the night-time temperature was raised to 80 degrees for another month, their brown fat stores declined below baseline levels.

This information has intrigued researchers who wonder whether stimulating brown fat might help in the battles against obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

How does this work? In a study released Thursday, University of California, Berkeley, researchers said they had identified the protein critical to the formation of brown fat. Exposure to increased levels of “transcription factor Zfp516” helped mice gain 30 percent less weight than other mice when both were fed the same high-fat diets. They also found that it helped “brown” that nasty white fat, though other researchers did not report this result.

In an interview, Hei Sook Sul, who led the research, said that in the laboratory, the same process worked on human cells, though the process has not been tested in humans themselves.

She said it’s impossible to determine how long an individual needs to be in the cold to kick-start the process, but recommended giving it a try at safe exposures.

Aer Lingus rejects second takeover offer from BA owner


International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) confirms second offer of €2.40 a share.

Aer Lingus has rejected a second takeover approach from the owner of rival British Airways.

Aer Lingus has rejected a second takeover approach from the owner of rival British Airways.

International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) has confirmed that it submitted a second proposal to offer €2.40 a-share, a total of €1.28 billion, subject to certain conditions, for the Irish flag carrier.

However, it said that the Aer Lingus board rejected the proposal, which was subject to certain pre-conditions.

It also stated that it proposed paying €2.30 a-share for the airline when it made its first approach in mid-December.

IAG issued the statement in response to speculation sparked by a surge in the Aer Lingus share price. The stock closed 10 per cent up at €2.50 following claims that the group had offered as much as between €2.60 and €2.70 a-share.

Investors mopped up almost 3.9 million of its shares over the course of a day that saw the stock add 6 per cent in the morning before losing most of those gaine by lunchtime and then rebounding in later trade.

IAG added that there could be no certainty that any further proposal or offer would be forthcoming.

Friday’s activity followed speculation earlier in the week that IAG would make a fresh approach for Aer Lingus and could bid more than €2.40 a share.

IAG which owns BA and Spanish carriers, Iberia andVueling, made its second approach on December 29th.

Its chief executive, Willie Walsh, who held the same role at Aer Lingus between 2001 and 2005, was in Dublin for a conference, but said that he was unable to comment.

The Irish Takeover Panel, which regulates the merger and acquisition of quoted companies, has deemed Aer Lingus to be in an offer period.

This bars anyone connected with either company from making public statements beyond what is officially released to the markets.

A leading aviation analyst in London has also predicted IAG will return with an improved takeover offer for Aer Lingus.

Andrew Lobbenberg of HSBC said that a deal makes sense and, while complicated, is achievable. “We see the logic of a combination between IAG and Aer Lingus,” he said in a research note.

Mr Lobbenberg said any deal is likely to require an agreement with the Irish Government, which holds a 25 per cent stake in Aer Lingus, over competition issues and commitments over Heathrow slots.

On the attitude of the other key shareholder, Ryanair, Mr Lobbenberg said: “we think Ryanair is ready to monetise its Aer Lingus holding.”

The key issue for the Government is the Aer Lingus slots at Heathrow, and whether IAG would continue to use them for Irish traffic or reallocate some of them to potentially more lucrative long-haul routes.

IAG would be expected to outline its plans in tandem with a bid, though stock market rules could make it complicated for it to offer specific concessions to any one shareholder.

INMO say strikes may be held over hospital overcrowding


Staff gather to protest outside Beaumont Hospital over untenable trolley situation

General secretary of the INMO Liam Doran and organisation president Claire Mahon said they had a mandate from members to withdraw labour.

Union leaders have threatened an escalation in industrial action over the coming days and weeks if overcrowding in hospital emergency departments is not drastically reduced.

Speaking outside Beaumont Hospital, where about 150 members of staff of all grades held an hour-long protest at lunchtime, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) Liam Doran said his group are consulting members over the prospect of further working protests.

“We’re balloting in seven hospitals. And if people vote for it we’ll have a mandate for different phases of action – a withdrawal from administrative, clerical and bureaucratic duties to begin with,” said Mr Doran.

“Ultimately, if the problem isn’t solved we’ll have a mandate to withdraw labour; and we’ll do that,” he added. This was a sentiment echoed by INMO presidentClaire Mahon who was also present at the protest.

Staff at Beaumont have already voted in favour of a work-to-rule protest, due to be observed on January 27th. And despite 200 less people waiting on trolleys nationwide than at the height of the crisis on Tuesday, Mr Doran believes the situation remains untenable.

“Conditions are horrendous, they’re injurious to patient, and they compromise the ability of staff to provide safe care.

“It’s very regrettable that you have, on a day like this, hard-working staff having to come out and display their frustration in public. But that’s what has to be done for this to be ended,” he said.

Simmering resentment: Hospitals across the country have been struggling to accommodate emergency apartment admissions over recent days. And according to the INMO there are more than 400 patients being treated on trolley beds.

Moves by the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health to fit more patients into wards already operating at full capacity have drawn scorn from INMO officials and members who say it shows a level of detachment from the magnitude of the problem facing hospital staff.

“I’m disgusted at the Department of Health, the HSE and Minister Varadkar for what they’ve been saying, asking nurses to put their shoulder to the wheel that little bit more,” said Moira Craig, staff nurse at Beaumont .

“We’ve done it for the last few years, and there’s no more in the tank to give – it’s empty,” continued Ms Craig, adding that 37 patients around the hospital are still waiting for beds at the moment.

Today’s protest involved mainly nursing staff. But the stormy weather did not deter a handful of consultants from showing solidarity with their colleagues.

“It is very challenging when you’re working in an environment that’s 200 per cent over capacity to provide optimal care for patients,” said Abel Wakai, consultant in emergency medicine.

“It is very challenging to get doctors to work in emergency departments; and for those who are attracted to emergency medicine it’s very difficult to keep them interested. So they eventually leave after they become aware of the problems we’re talking about today,” he added.

Members of nursing unions are also due to demonstrate outside Leinster House next Wednesday when the Dáil resumes business following the Christmas break.

Orang-utan lip smacking calls are ‘like human talk’


Orang-utans’ lip-smacking calls show similarities to human languages, say scientists.

Lip-smacking calls made by orang-utans show striking similarities to human spoken languages, scientists have learned.

The discovery may highlight a possible starting point for the evolution of speech, the researchers believe.

Dr Adriano Lameira, from the non-profit Pongo Foundation, which conducts orang-utan studies, said: “These calls were produced by quickly opening-and-closing the lips, much alike humans do when talking.

“One of these calls presented similarities with human consonants, and the other with human vowels, the two basic building blocks of human speech.”

How humans developed the power of speech remains one of science’s great unsolved mysteries.

The new research reported in the journal Public Library of Science ONE shows that orang-utans, and perhaps other great apes, can learn to produce new calls which have much in common with human spoken words.

Dr Lameira added: ” Speech underlines every social and community structure in human society, yet the origin of all the world’s spoken languages remains a puzzle ever since the publication of Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

“The major barrier for our understanding of the evolution of spoken language is the observation that great apes – our closest relatives – exhibit a very rigid use of their calls, and seem to lack the capacity to modify or learn new calls into their repertoire.

“This stands in stark contrast with human spoken languages, which are learned anew every generation, raising therefore critical questions about evolutionary continuity between our vocal repertoire and that of great apes. The new findings change all of this as we can now see fundamental similarities.”

Co-author Professor Serge Wich, from Liverpool John Moores University, said: ” This research highlights that studying orang-utan calls is very relevant to our understanding of the evolution of the production of human speech.

“Orang-utans seem to have more capabilities to learn and produce calls than we assumed several years ago. This indicated how important studies are that examine calls in this relatively silent ape species.”


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