Daily Archives: May 26, 2015

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 26th May 2015

President Micheal D & his wife Sabina meets UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon

  

Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon and his wife,Yoo Soon-taek pictured this afternoon at Aras an Uachtarain with President Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina where they had lunch together on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the United Nations…

President Micheal D Higgins is this afternoon meeting with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at a private lunch at Aras an Uachtarain.

The UN secretary is visiting Ireland with his wife Yoo Soon-taek and are celebrating the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the United Nations.

President Higgins welcomed the couple to the Phoenix Park where they signed the visitors’ book.

They are now going for lunch which was also attended by officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the President’s office and UN officials including the UN advisor on human rights and the UN advisor on disarmament.

At the lunch the President and Secretary General focused on global events with an emphasis on sustainable development.

On the menu is Clonakilty pudding with crisped bacon on a bed of salad leaves with toasted walnuts and onion marmalade.

This is followed by grilled supreme of salmon glazed with garden honey, fish sauce, asparagus bunch and Parisienne potato in potato baskets.

For dessert, they will enjoy apple pie with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

Yesterday Ban Ki Moon was awarded the Tipperary International Peace prize.

Speaking as he accepted that award, he hailed the passing of the same sex referendum as a victory for human rights.

“This is a truly historic moment: Ireland has become the first country in the world to approve marriage equality in a nationwide referendum,” he said.

“The result sends an important message to the world: All people are entitled to enjoy their human rights no matter who they are or whom they love.”

Expiry dates on gift vouchers & unfair contracts to be scrapped under a new law

   aw in Ireland

 The Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton left pic: said the Republic’s consumer law as it stood had ‘t rules in some areas and too few or none at all in other areas’.

Expiry dates on gift vouchers will be scrapped, consumers who download or stream content will get enhanced protection and unfair contracts are to be outlawed as part of the most sweeping reform of Irish consumer law in decades, to be announced today.

A framework for a new Consumer Rights Bill will be published by Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton this afternoon to address “a basic imbalance” between consumers and retailers and service providers.

Other proposals will seek to introduce information rights for consumers in transactions for healthcare, social services and gambling, including price information for GP and other medical consultations.

Rights for anyone buying services will be strengthened, and for the first time people will have the right to have a substandard service remedied or refunded

A standard 30-day period in which consumers can return faulty goods and get a full refund will be introduced to replace rules on this time period which are unclear, and those who get goods as gifts will have the same rights as those who bought the goods.

The rules on unfair contract terms will apply to negotiated as well as standard form contract terms, and an expanded list of contract terms presumed to be unfair will be rolled out.

Speaking ahead of the publication of details of the proposed Bill, Mr Bruton said the changes were aimed at doing two things.

Firstly purchasing online, to improve consumer rights in purchasing online goods and services, which obviously accounts for an increasing proportion of consumer transactions.

“And, secondly, to clear up the anomalies and gaps in consumer rights that have grown up through years of overlapping legislation at primary, secondary and European level.”

He said the law as it stood had “too many rules in some areas and too few or none at all in other areas”.

The Minister highlighted an example of a consumer whose car breaks down because of a fault with the car. They currently have two separate sets of remedies “that are neither consistent nor certain”. A person whose car breaks down because it was serviced poorly, however, “has no clear, readily accessible remedy”.

Mr Bruton also said that while a consumer who bought a film on DVD was protected by consumer legislation, one who streams or downloads the same film was not.

The consultation, which opens today, will close on August 28th, with a target for enactment of the new legislation set for the middle of next year.

Our fat Irish crisis could become of an elephant of gigantic proportions by 2030

We are a nation of fatties. And that’s now official!

    

According to the World Health Organisation, Ireland has all the signs of becoming a European leader in obesity. And, the experts say that by 2030 the fat crisis will be of elephantine proportions.

Predictions indicate that 89% of men and 85% of women in Ireland will be either overweight or obese. Already the Irish top the list in flabbiness, and according to an expert at St Vincent’s Hospital if we don’t cop ourselves on we’re in for a fate worse than anything Aids or Cholera can throw at us.

Indeed, we need to see fatness as something one can catch and therefore to be avoided. Or, as a chubby man once told us ‘Obesity now is widespread and a fat accompli’ (geddit?).  Okay, okay, we know we shouldn’t laugh at the predicament of others, and we’re certainly aware that the many reports on podginess that thump on our desk are a grim reminder of what’s in store.

But not for Yours Truly! Oh no! This scribe is the proud possessor of broad shoulders, a slender waistline, biceps so defined you can see them through the gansey and, of course, we have the sixpack. With such a lean, fit corpus that matches the Classical Greek ideal, it’s exceedingly difficult not to crack a joke at the fat guy’s expanse. (Careful! Ed).

Chewing the fat

Sorry about that!  To paraphrase another report (that of Trinity College), four out of five of the over-50s in Ireland are ‘morbidly obese’. Within that context, blubber can hardly be a topic for wisecracks.

Even the University of Washington – and the Yanks are no shrinking violets when it comes to the avoirdupois – drew attention to the bodily-property problem in this country.  They say that 26.5pc of Irish girls and 16pc of Irish boys under the age of 20 can be classed as overweight or obese.

Professor Donal O’Shea, co-chair of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Policy Group on Obesity, warned that the HSE was struggling with the problem and with the damage it was doing to children’s lives.

‘Reduce the sugar intake in children and you will lower the impact on the child’s weight,’ he said.  Sugar is addictive in the same way alcohol is addictive.  The same parts of the brain that light up with alcohol light up with sugary drinks.’  (Wow! And this scribe thought that the only way one could improve a glass of Tanora was to put a dollop of Powers in it!).

Professor O’Shea pulled no punches when he condemned the environment of high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar foods that surrounds our kids, especially in the lower socio-economic groups.

Forthright too was senior physiotherapist, Grace O’Malley, who warned that the health implications of obesity among children included hip, knee and back pain, breathlessness, risk of asthma, high cholesterol and high blood pressure; and that the crisis was now affecting children as young as three or four.

Taming of the chew

Nonetheless mini-Minister at the Department of Health, Kathleeeen Lynch, is not convinced.  She doesn’t ‘buy into’ the World Health Organisation prediction that Ireland is on course to be the most beefy country in Europe by 2030.

This is what she told a meeting of concerned GPs last week: ‘We have a whole range of actions now in relation to a Healthy Ireland programme that we are putting in place’ and that the World Health Organisation figures were just ‘an outline warning’ and a ‘good indicator to ensure we don’t get to that point’.

Solace indeed from the Minister responsible for the scandal-hit nursing home, Aras Atracta, in Swinford Co Mayo! In fact she sounded like harassed parents telling their children it was healthier to go out and play in the traffic than fiddle with the iPad.

Her comments were evocative of those emanating from Children’s Minister Dr James Reilly. He sees merit in the idea that weight loss programmes should become compulsory for very obese recipients of sickness benefits – and even extended (theoretically) to dole recipients who were not doing enough to lose weight.

The Doc, no slouch himself at ‘piling on the plumpness’, told a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children that the obesity of an applicant who wished to be a foster parent ‘cannot be ignored’.  The overall physical ability of a person to care for a child had to be considered, and that issues like being overweight ‘could impact on a person’s application,’ he declared.

Which reminded us of the wag in the Cork Arms who described his wife’s diet in this manner: ‘She’s on coconuts and bananas. She hasn’t lost any weight yet but, I tell ya boy, she can certainly climb a tree’.

Our assessment, for what it’s worth, is that although experts are blue in the face warning us of the obesity crisis, the government isn’t too concerned.

FAT IN THE FIRE

Good news is on the horizon. People just aren’t eating hamburgers like they used to.  McDonalds has closed more than 350 stores worldwide since the beginning of 2015. They attribute the losses to an unprecedented level of global competition that’s munching into their hamburger profits. As well, the multinational has been involved in gigantic food safety and labour problems over the past year. These have seriously dented its culinary popularity.

In Japan, for instance, consumer confidence almost collapsed after plastic was found in chicken burgers. American first-quarter sales also fell in 2015, prompting McDonalds to declare it would stop sourcing chickens that had been treated with human antibiotics.

On top of that, medical warnings of the risk of eating too many burgers and chips –and not just in McDonalds – eventually got through to US mammies who discovered that fast food could make their children stupid as well as fat.

In response, the moms seriously took on board the assertion that learning and memory difficulties during adolescence can be attributed to the consumption of take-away gunge and soft drinks, while kids who ate plenty of fruit and veggies had a higher cognitive performance.

Fat chance

Perhaps a similar anti-fat message will have success here in spite of Kathleeeen’s and the government’s inaction. If so, let’s celebrate the happy development with a marvellous poem that conveys the beauty and unique characteristics of the take-away. But, first, a schoolboy joke about the lady who was so fat that small objects orbited her.  (Don’t even dare! Ed)

Olive oil shortage is now a pressing supply issue,

Say the experts

  

Bosses of olive oil supplier Filippo Berio warns shortfall in supplies reaching the market is so bad ‘rationing’ could be introduced

Lovers of olive oil could face the prospect of supplies of their favourite cooking oil being rationed, experts have warned.

For poor harvests in Spain and Italy have fuelled warnings from olive oil industry experts of a massive shortfall in supplies reaching the market, the latest research shows.

Trade magazine The Grocer reported that cooking oil prices are on a slippery slope. Data from Kantar Worldpanel shows that although volumes have risen a healthy 2.5% over the past year, value is down 2.8% due in part to the ongoing price war raging in grocery.

But The Grocer says that while many categories are feeling its effect, the price war has come at a particularly difficult time for olive oil players.

Retail prices have been squeezed due to hard promotional tactics and now costs are escalating as a result of poor harvests, leaving some in the industry to speculate about the likelihood of supply rationing in the future.

  • ‘The cost of olive oil is increasing – will stocking up now save me money?’
  • Is there really a prosecco shortage?

Walter Zanre, UK managing director of Filippo Berio, told The Grocer: “If there were to be another bad harvest next year I think we would have the prospect of rationing people in terms of supply.

“In 15 years in this business this is the worst year I have seen. There is not enough oil to meet demand. Sourcing good quality extra virgin in the second half of the year will be very difficult.”

Volume is up year on year with High Street shoppers putting more oil into their basket each trip.

But the report shows that the oils category value decline is driven solely by Britain’s shoppers paying a lower price per litre as the big four supermarkets – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – cut prices in response to competition from discounters Aldi and Lidl.

Mr Zanre said: “The discounters are really having a big impact on olive oil. They are taking a larger share and the big four are reacting, so the natural result is deflation all round.”

While the big four lost ground in the category, there was growth of 16.1% for Lidl and 7.3% for Aldi, who between them accounted for 9.6% of category value sales.

  • Olive oil on salad may save your life
  • What To Eat Now: Olive oil from ‘stressed’ trees

According to the International Olive Oil Council, there will be a shortfall of 783,000 tons this year when measured against the average global production of the past five years.

Poor harvests in Spain and Italy, where a wet summer led to olive fly and fungal attack, are the main reasons for the fall.

The Grocer says the implications for suppliers and their customers are potentially serious, despite the prospect of limited supplies; restoring value will be tough for olive oil and the other two main oils —-sunflower and vegetable.

While volumes of sunflower oil have increased by 6.6% over the past year, those for vegetable and extra-virgin olive oils have fallen – suggesting that some consumers are trading down to cheaper varieties.

The report says that value is being added by the strong growth of rapeseed and specialty oils such as coconut but these oils remain a small part of the category.

For oils to recover overall they will need to be a step change for olive, vegetable and sunflower.

Watch what you are swearing/saying to your beloved pet?

  • As animal abuse allegations including swearing at sheep are caught on camera

  

A farmer, criticized for allowing sheep-shearers to swear at his animals, joked that the animals have never complained about the owner’s bad language.

Ken Turner, of New South Wales in Australia, was reported to animal welfare group RSPCA after workers reported that the behavior distressed the herd,

Reports in a local newspaper called the Newcastle Herald. That a complaint was lodged by PETA, to whom workers had sent undercover footage of abuse that they say was physical as well as verbal, “including stomping and punching of the sheep.”

“If foul language were the worst that sheep in Australian shearing sheds had to endure, and then no complaint would have been filed,” a spokeswoman told the newspaper.

But the case was dropped, leaving Turner to tour the press making light of the allegations: “they didn’t even look offended to me after they were shorn,” he told a radio host last week.

The Australian Associated Press (widely syndicated to outlets such as The Telegraph and The Daily Mail) left the physical abuse details to the very end of its report. London’s Metro tabloid completely removes them, describing the allegations exclusively as “bizarre” complaint about language. Other newspapers wrote that the report had “provoked a debate about whether verbal abuse of animals constitutes an act of violence” but they also managed to avoid detailing the fact that violence was also alleged. The footage was deemed inadmissible in court,

Rare albino sparrow spotted in Australia

   

A rare pure white sparrow has been spotted in Australia, leaving ornithologists all aflutter on Monday.

The albino was photographed at Sanctuary Lakes near Melbourne, but it is not expected to survive long with its snowy white plumage making it stand out to birds of prey.

Bob Winters, a birdwatching expert and environmental educator, photographed the animal after being alerted to its presence by a friend. But it wasn’t an easy task.

“It’s a very nervous animal, understandably, so I had to try for quite a few days to get some photos,” he told AFP, adding that pure white sparrows had been seen globally only “once in a blue moon”.

Australian media said there had been a handful of confirmed sightings of the bird across the world, including one reported in Britain in 2010.

Winters judged that the bird was six or seven months old which in itself was an achievement, due to its lack of camouflage and disabilities that come with being a genetic mutation.

“This bird has got so many disadvantages. They usually get kicked out of the nest because they’re different and it has fragile feathers that make it quite difficult to fly,” he said.

“Probably no-one wants to breed with it, and it’s easy pickings for a bird of prey.”

Albinism is a recessive characteristic which only shows up when a bird inherits the albino gene from both parents.

It affects all the pigments, with albino birds showing no colour whatsoever. They also have pale pink or reddish eyes, legs, feet and a pale bill.

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