News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 26th May 2015

Some 150 small Irish food firms win listings with 221 SuperValu stores

Ice-cream, nettle syrup and spices among products to hit shelves

  

SuperValu Food Academy suppliers The Happy Pear, Nobo and Cool Beans help launch Food Academy 2015. More than 150 small food companies are to have their products stocked in 221 SuperValu stores as part of the retailer’s Food Academy programme run with Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Office Network.

Over the past 12 months, hundreds of small food producers have had their products in trials in their local SuperValu stores as part of the programme.

  The successful firms are selling diverse food and drink products, including nettle syrup, granola cups, black and white pudding and spices.

SuperValu’s trading director Eamon Howell said the fact SuperValu stores were independently owned and operated meant owners could purchase directly from local suppliers.

He said the supermarket chain was working with an additional 250 small food producers, and there would be trials of their products in local stores.

Walt Disney asked to meet Eamon de Valera – to talk about leprechauns

     

Walt Disney was keen to learn about ‘leprechauns’ and ‘little people’ from Eamon de Valera, a newly uncovered letter reveals.

A letter from the Irish Consulate in San Francisco to the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1946 suggests Disney hoped to discuss plans to produce a film about “Irish life and folklore” with the then-Taoiseach.

The meeting could have formed part of Disney’s research for the 1959 film ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’, starring Sean Connery.

The letter, dated September 18, 1946, says that “Mr Walt Disney and a party of six, including himself, will sail from New York on November 14 on the SS Queen Elizabeth for Southampton, and will go directly from there to Dublin.

“The party intends to tour Ireland on a research mission, with the intention of making cartoon motion pictures dealing with Irish life and folklore.”

The author says Mr Disney wanted to meet “parties such as the president of the Irish Tourist Association. Mr Disney would also like to meet An Taoiseach.”

Before he departed for Ireland, Mr Disney, whose great-grandfather emigrated to the US from Kilkenny in 1834, also wrote to his sister Ruth outlining his plans.

“We are starting a picture on the Leprechauns or ‘little people’ as they are called in Ireland, so we plan to spend most of our time gathering background material and learning all we can about Irish folklore,” he said.

Psychiatric nurses to begin industrial action at UCH Galway

  

Union members concerned over staffing levels, assults and safety issues at hospital

Psychiatric nurses at University College Hospital Galway are due to take industrial action on Tuesday over staffing and safety issues.

Psychiatric nurses at the biggest hospital in the west are due to take industrial action on Tuesday over staffing and safety issues.

The nurses at the acute psychiatric unit of University College Hospital (UCHG) in Galway said they had been forced to take industrial action following “the failure of HSE management” to address the issues at the heart of a long-running dispute.

More than 90% of the nurses voted a fortnight ago to step up their action following 36 assaults on staff so far this year.

On April 22nd, 10 nurses refused to take up duty in the unit on health and safety grounds. They said they were doing so out of concern for both staff and patients. The 10 returned to work later that day after an agreement was reached to enter talks at the Labour Relations Commission.

The Psychiatric Nurses Association’s industrial officer, Peter Hughes, said it was time for Minister of State for Disability and Mental Health Kathleen Lynch to demand that the HSE address the health and safety issues of staff and patients at UCHG and avert industrial action.

“The PNA has been left with no option but to proceed to industrial action,” Mr Hughes said, “in an effort to get serious engagement on these issues from HSE management.”

Cold weather kills more people than hot weather

     

Cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather, according to an international study analysing more than 74 million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries.

The findings, published in The Lancet, also reveal that deaths due to moderately hot or cold weather substantially exceed those resulting from extreme heat waves or cold spells.

“It’s often assumed that extreme weather causes the majority of deaths, with most previous research focusing on the effects of extreme heat waves,” according to lead author Dr Antonio Gasparrini from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK. “Our findings, from an analysis of the largest dataset of temperature-related deaths ever collected, show that the majority of these deaths actually happen on moderately hot and cold days, with most deaths caused by moderately cold temperatures.”

The study analysed more than 74 million deaths between 1985 and 2012 in 13 countries with a wide range of climates, from cold to subtropical.

Data on daily average temperature, death rates, and confounding variables (e.g. humidity and air pollution) were used to calculate the temperature of minimum mortality (the optimal temperature), and to quantify total deaths due to non-optimal ambient temperature in each location. The researchers then estimated the relative contributions of heat and cold, from moderate to extreme temperatures.

Some 7.71% of all deaths were caused by non-optimal temperatures, with substantial differences between countries, ranging from around 3% in Thailand, Brazil, and Sweden to about 11 per cent in China, Italy, and Japan. Cold was responsible for the majority of these deaths (7.29% of all deaths), while just 0.42 per cent of all deaths were attributable to heat.

The study also found that extreme temperatures were responsible for less than 1% of all deaths, while mildly sub-optimal temperatures accounted for around 7% of all deaths — with most (6.66%) related to moderate cold.

According to Dr Gasparrini, current public-health policies focus almost exclusively on minimising the health consequences of heatwaves. “Our findings suggest that these measures need to be refocused and extended to take account of a whole range of effects associated with temperature.”

Your stomach rumbling doesn’t mean you’re very hungry

     

We associate a large growl in our stomachs as a war cry for food – but it actually means your gut is cleaning itself.

Tummy rumbling comes at a time when we feel hungry, but it isn’t a biological mechanism to remind us to eat.

Around an hour after we finish digesting our system undergoes a muscular contraction to sweep any remaining food from the stomach into our intestines, says Guilia Enders, author of Germany’s hit book Gut: The Inside Story Of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ.

In her punchy guide to our body, the 25-year-old explains the gut cleaning takes place some time in between meals. Nutritional scientists recommend we leave a five hour gap from one meal to another.

Snacking will stop the cleaning process immediately (Picture: Getty)

Snacking at any time will stop the process.

Guilia also makes the interesting point that our stomach starts just below our left nipple and ends at the bottom of the ribcage – generally much higher than we think.

So when people complain of a stomach ache the pain is more than likely happening in our intestine.

The poo chart: Types 3 or 4 are considered healthy. Experiencing any other type on a regular basis is good grounds to consult your GP.

Type 1: Separate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass).

Type 2: Sausage-shaped, but lumpy.

Type 3: Like a sausage but with cracks on its surface.

Type 4: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.

Type 5: Soft blobs with clear-cut edges, passed easily.

Type 6: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.

Type 7: Entirely liquid.

Berkeley Robot Learns Through Trial and Error (Like Us Humans)

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have developed a robot capable of learning new skills through trial and error.

     

The robot, named BRETT (or Berkeley Robot for the Elimination of Tedious Tasks), taught itself to complete a series of motor tasks without pre-programmed details about its surroundings. Its assignments included stacking Lego blocks, screwing a cap on a water bottle, and assembling a toy plane.

The robot uses a camera, which allows it to survey its hands and the objects in front of it, and an algorithm coded to provide real-time feedback on its efforts. The algorithm responds to a pre-programmed scoring system, which provides BRETT with hot/cold-style clues about the task at hand.

Without any information about its surroundings, BRETT was able to learn new abilities in about three hours. When given beginning and end coordinates for a task, however, that dropped to just 10 minutes. Ultimately, researchers hope to empower robots to adapt to constantly changing environments without the need for reprogramming.

This breakthrough in artificial intelligence involves applying the same “deep learning” techniques used in technology like Google Street View or Apple’s Siri to problem solving in 3D. Loosely inspired by the human brain’s own neurological structure, deep learning involves the processing of vast amounts of data. As such, the capabilities of robots like BRETT will increase as this processing becomes easier. Though BRETT is far from able to wash dishes or do laundry, researchers expect advances in computing speed to drive progress toward such a goal in the coming decades.

The team will present its findings on May 28 at Seattle’s International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA).

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