News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 27th April 2015

An Post could dump our letters that don’t have enough stamps on them


An Post could end up dumping away our letters that don’t have enough postage paid on them under new proposed terms it wants to impose on Irish customers.

And consumers could end up insuring letters to carry cash but get nothing back if the mail gets lost.

The regulator ComReg has highlighted a number of serious concerns it has with new terms and conditions proposed by An Post.

It says that some of the new conditions An Post wants to impose are very heavily weighted against customers and would have a “significantly adverse effect on postal service users”.

In a consultation paper on the new postal terms and conditions, ComReg highlights particular issues where consumers want to send cash or vouchers in the post.

ComReg said An Post on the one hand appears to prohibit the sending of cash through the post but then permits it if in a secure insured package.

Another clause then states that cash, bank drafts and vouchers can be sent in postal packets to addresses inside and outside the state, but says they are excluded from compensation.

This implied people could pay insurance but would not then get anything back if the item went astray.

“ComReg considers that it would be difficult for postal service users to know whether they can or cannot send money by post and if so in what circumstances this is permitted and what compensation is payable,” it said.

An Post is also seeking the right to detain or dispose of underpaid letters and packages rather than delivering them with a surcharge to the recipient, as is currently the practice.

ComReg is also calling foul on this new postal condition, arguing that it gives An Post very wide-ranging discretion and that it is “a fundamental change” to how post has always been treated as the property of the addressee.

This new way of doing business would also allow An Post to open private letters, and would mean that neither the sender nor the recipient might be aware what had happened to their mail.

This is the first time that An Post has drawn up terms and conditions that are subject to regulation

ComReg is now looking for interested parties to have their say on the changes by May 20 before new rules are set.

PTSB raises €525m from capital markets with stock priced at €4.50 per share


  • Bank sells €400m in shares and sources €125m via debt instrument

PTSB chief executive Jeremy Masding described the investor interest as “exceptional” with the company making more than 100 presentations to potential investors over the past six months.

Permanent TSB has raised €525 million from capital markets through the sale of €400 million worth of shares and €125 million via a debt instrument.

PTSB today raised €400 million through the sale of 88.9 million ordinary shares with private investors. This priced the stock at €4.50 per share, which was the top of the price range indicated by the bank last week.

It has also raised €125 million through the issuance of AT1 capital with a coupon of 8.625%.

In addition, the Government is selling 21.8 million shares in the group for €98 million. All of this will have the effect of reducing the State’s holding in PTSB to 75% from the 99.2% currently.

The bank will now seek admission to the main stock markets in both Dublin and London in the next two days.

The funds will be used in part to plug a €125 million hole in its capital, which was identified in regulatory stress tests last October. In addition, the bank will pay €410.5 million to the Government through the repurchase of the State’s contingent capital notes.

PTSB chief executive Jeremy Masding described the investor interest as “exceptional” with the company making more than 100 presentations to potential investors over the past six months.

The bank also plans an open offer to existing retail shareholders, who own the residual shares in the bank. This will be on the same terms as offered to the new investors today. The open offer will close in three weeks.

The Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, welcomed the capital raising by PTSB and its return of some of its €2.7 billion bailout to the State following its recapitalisation in 2011.

He said it was an “important milestone” for the company and he expressed his satisfaction at the State retaining a “valuable” 75% holding in PTSB.

“The move to the main markets on both the Irish Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange is a positive for the bank and allows the State additional flexibility and liquidity to manage its sell down of PTSB in the future,” Mr Noonan said.

Markus Feehily abused to chanted vile homophobic abuse in Sligo pub


The singer was forced to leave a pub after a group of men chanted abuse at him

Markus Feehily has revealed he was forced to leave a pub in his Hometown after being subjected to vile homophobic abuse.

The Westlife star was enjoying a drink when a man approached him to take a picture.

A group of the man’s friends then crowded around the singer and began chanting abuse at him.

Shock: Mark was ganged up on in the pub Markus admitted the experience was “intimiating” and “upsetting”.

“A man asked to take a picture of me then four of his friends crowded round yelling, ‘What the f**k are you doing? Why are you taking a photo with him – you gay? You queer!’”

“We left quickly, the fear kicks in. I was shocked,” Markus said.

The Sligo native feels more work needs to be done to crack down on anti-gay sentiment.

“It would be a mistake to think it’s over. Things are far from where they need to be.”

Markus is currently busy promoting his debut solo single Love Is A Drug and recently performed the tune on The Saturday Night Show.

First Irish-American collaboration to target prostate cancer research

  • Irish American collaboration ‘the first of its kind’


The Irish Cancer Society (ICS) is to join forces with two leading US institutions in an attempt to advance research and identify new treatments for prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common male cancers, affecting around one in every six men in their lifetime. Over 2,000 Irish men are newly diagnosed with the disease every year.

The ICS is joining forces with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to form the Boston-Ireland Prostate Cancer Collaboration.

This new collaboration, the first of its kind, aims to make ‘a significant and lasting impact on the diagnosis, treatment and management of the disease’, the ICS said.

“This fellowship programme will address key clinical needs in prostate cancer such as accurate diagnosis, assessment of treatment options to ensure best quality of life and identification of new therapeutic targets for treatment-resistant disease,” the society noted.

A highly competitive selection process to find a young scientist or clinician to undertake this opportunity is due to start later this year. The successful recipient will spend two years in the US, before bringing their expertise back to Ireland.

“This collaboration brings together internationally unique expertise in the field of prostate cancer. This novel partnership will leverage our combined knowledge and resources to make a real and lasting difference to prostate cancer patients and their families on both sides of the Atlantic,” commented the ICS’s head of research, Dr Robert O’Connor.

Meanwhile, according to Dr Philip Kantoff of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, this collaboration ‘will train bright young investigators in Ireland and Boston with a view to creating a pool of talented and internationally networked researchers’.

“It is through exciting collaborations such as this that leading US and Irish researchers can exchange knowledge which will ultimately lead to significant prostate cancer breakthroughs,” he added.

The announcement about the collaboration was made at the inaugural John Fitzpatrick Irish Prostate Cancer Conference, which took place recently in Dublin in memory of Prof Fitzpatrick, the first head of research at the ICS.

Have scientists found a way to ‘switch off hunger panks’?

  • A team of researchers have identified the brain cells which cause hunger pangs


Feeling hungry? It’s all to do with a select set of brain cells, apparently

We all know what it’s like to try and lose weight, only to find ourselves gorging on chocolate once the hunger pangs strike.

There could be hope for dieters however, after scientists identified the brain cells which create the sensation of hunger – findings that they say create “a promising new target for the development of weight-loss drugs”.

Resarchers from Harvard Medical School and Edinburgh University found that a brain circuit known as melanoncortin 4 receptor-regulated (MC4R) is the set of cells which controls the desire to eat.

By switching off the cells in a group of mice, the scientists increased hunger, while switching them on stopped the hunger pangs.

“Our results show that the artificial activation of this particular brain circuit is pleasurable and can reduce feeding in mice, essentially resulting in the same outcome as dieting but without the chronic feeling of hunger,” explained the study’s co-senior author Bradford Low, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an investigator at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for Nutrition and Metabolism.

The scientists managed to activate and switch off the brain cells by exposing the mice to blue laser light, via an optical fibre that was implanted in the animals’ brains.

New dinosaur poses evolutionary puzzle

Paleontologists have unearthed a strange new species of dinosaur that is unlike anything ever seen before.


  • Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, a vegetarian dinosaur despite being a close relative of famous meat-eaters like Tyrannosaurus rex.

It was given the name Chilesaurus because it was found in Chile. The “diegosuarezi” part of its name is a tribute to Diego Suarez, who found the first Chilesaurus fossil in 2005 when he was just 7 years old.Suarez was in the region with his geologist parents who were there to study rock formations. He was hunting for stones when he found his first fossil, which belonged to this strange, never-before-seen dinosaur.

It also mixes a bizarre range of characteristics from unrelated dinosaur species, leading palaeontologists to describe it as a platypus dinosaur.

Most families have one, the odd one out who doesn’t seem to look like the rest of the group. The Chilesaurus diegosuarezi takes this to the extreme, and not just in its preference for leaves and plants over a Stegosaurus steak or a Brontoburger.

All dinosaurs had feathers at one time, researchers say

Most of the dozen Chilesaurus specimens excavated so far are about the size of a modern-day turkey, but larger bones suggest the big ones could have been three-metres long.

It is related to tough guys such as the Velociraptor and Carnotaurus, but has a proportionally smaller head and feet that are more like those of the long-neck dinosaurs, according to the authors of a study of the species published in Nature.

Chilesaurus is probably the descendant of meat-eating theropods and eventually evolved to become an herbivore, the researchers conclude. It had plant-chomping teeth like those of primitive long-necked dinosaurs, Plant-eating theropods have been found before, but this was the first one to be seen in South America.

A previously unknown species?

Experts are excited, not just because it was a previously unknown species that dates back to 145 million years ago.

Its admixture of unique anatomical traits makes it one of the most extreme cases of what is known as “mosaic convergent evolution” recorded in the history of life.

This happens when one organism has characteristics from other unrelated species due to a similar mode of life, explains Dr Martin Ezcurra of the University of Birmingham.

In effect, it borrows useful traits from other species because they suit the animal’s particular lifestyle.

Its discovery is a story in itself. Diego Suarez (7) found the fossilised bones while searching for decorative stones with his sister Macarena. They were with their geologist parents who were studying rocks in Chilean Patagonia.

The species must have been very successful despite its oddities, given it came to be “by far the most abundant dinosaur in southwest Patagonia”, lead researcher Dr Fernando Novas, of Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum in Argentina, said.


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