Monthly Archives: June 2015

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 29th June 2015

Think-tank calls for tax increases in next Irish budget

   

The Government has been urged to increase taxes in the next budget instead of pressing on with much vaunted cuts.

The Social Justice Ireland think-tank called on Finance Minister Michael Noonan to plough money from taxpayers into reversing cuts to caring, housing, and anti-poverty services that have been implemented over the last six years of austerity.

In two of the more controversial proposals, the group said businesses should pay a minimum effective corporate tax rate of 6% to generate at least €1bn for the state.

The better-off in society & those earning salaries of in excess of €100,000 a year — should be hit with a 3% income levy through the Universal Social Charge, which, the group said, would raise €210m.

Fr Sean Healy, director of the organisation, said the next budget would be about recovery and determining what kind of a country our children will inherit.

“This is not the time for tax cuts,” he said.

“All available resources should be used to invest in addressing Ireland’s major deficits — in areas such as caring, housing, and poverty that affect the young, the old and most in between.”

The think-tank, which each year costs its own version of the budget, said spending should increase by €1.5bn as set out in Government plans.

Some of the main spending ideas include an additional €680m to support the social housing strategy, with new options on low-cost finance; €350m spent on health to support primary care teams; and new measures to support older people and those with disability, and to tackle obesity.

Social Justice Ireland said a new universal pension should be introduced and welfare payments be increased by €6.50 a week.

It also called for a €350m investment in education to help adult literacy, afterschool care, and early childhood education; and €710m to be spent on broadband, rural transport, and a rural enterprise scheme.

Social Justice Ireland said the country should have EU average levels of tax in order to pay for an EU average level of services and infrastructure, but it does not.

Michelle Murphy, research and policy analyst, said: “After many years of coping with the financial downturn, we, as a nation, now need to consider what sort of a future we want for our children and our grandchildren.

“Some of the decisions we take now, on issues like social housing, childcare, and broadband, may not bear fruit for some years — yet it is vital that these good decisions are taken now, because these decisions will shape the way Ireland looks and functions in the future.”

Fr Healy added: “Whilst Minister Noonan is required to frame Budget 2016 within the parameters of the EU Stability and Growth Pact, this should not stop him from framing worthwhile, and overdue, investments in society, as well as the economy.”

Shane Ross & Independent Alliance to field up to 20 candidates in general election

  

Journalist Carol Hunt and Lord Mayor of Drogheda unveiled as new members

The Independent Alliance, headed by Independent TD Shane Ross and Michael Fitzmaurice is to field up to 20 candidates in the upcoming general election.

The Independent Alliance is to field up to 20 candidates in the upcoming general election.

The group – headed by Independent TD Shane Ross and Michael Fitzmaurice – introduced a number of its newest members at a press conference today.

Journalist Carol Hunt and former Lord Mayor of Drogheda Kevin Callan will stand for the alliance.

Senator Feargal Quinn will be chairman of the grouping and Senator Gerard Craughwell is also supporting the movement.

Deputy Ross said this was not a political party and will not impose any whip except on confidence motions.

He said: “We are radical but we are responsible.”

The press conference was cut short when DÁil ushers said non-members cannot be interviewed on the grounds of Leinster House.

John Halligan TD accused one of the ushers of being biased against Independents.

AbbVie (Abbotts) announces €40 million investment in Sligo

The biopharmaceutical company is to create 50 new jobs over next four years in Ballytivnan, Sligo.

  

AbbVie chief executive Rick Gonzalez and Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the official opening of the newly expanded AbbVie facility in Sligo last year.

AbbVie is to expand its medical device manufacturing facility in Sligo, creating 50 highly-skilled jobs over the next four years.

The biopharmaceutical company, which was formed in 2013 following separation from Abbott Laboratories, is investing €40 million in its manufacturing facility at Ballytivnan in Sligo.

The company’s manufacturing site in Ballytivnan currently produces drug delivery devices, including a pen-style injector that is used by patients around the world who use AbbVie’s treatment indicated for a range of auto-immune conditions.

Including today’s announcement, AbbVie’s investment in Ballytivnan and broader manufacturing operations in the country has reached more than €134 million since 2013.

AbbVie employs more than 500 people at five different sites around the country, including three manufacturing plants – two in Sligo and one in Cork. The research-based biopharmaceutical company was formed in 2013 following separation from Abbott Laboratories.

A sex survey shows one in four men masturbate every day

  

Almost half of sexually active men do it more than once a week, compared with a quarter of women.

Almost half of the sexually active men who responded to The Irish Times sex survey masturbate more than once a week.

Men masturbate more than women, with one in four male respondents to the sex survey saying they do it every day, compared with 5% of females.

Almost half of sexually active men who responded masturbate more than once a week, compared with a quarter of women.

“My understanding is that it is more acceptable for men to do so,” says sexologist Emily Power Smith. “Women are still very embarrassed to admit that they do and are less likely even to know it’s an option when growing up.”

Psychotherapist Trish Murphy suggests that “masturbation for women could possibly be included in sex education to promote a sense of right to pleasure.”

Both men and women consider masturbation to be the solution to not having enough sex, yet ironically women who masturbate tend to have higher sex drives than women who don’t. So there is a pay-off in a committed relationship of engaging in “regular self-love”, Murphy says.

In addition, nine out of 10 people who responded to the survey say they masturbate alone.

According to Brendan Madden, a psychotherapist, “Sexual stimulation and release are clearly more important for men than women.

This ties in with other results of the survey that indicate men rate sexual encounters as highly enjoyable and important. And it ties in with a wide range of sex surveys around the world.”

The Irish Times sex survey was conducted on irishtimes.com over the course of a week in June 2015. A total of 12,639 participants completed the survey (a 71% completion rate), with 12,134 responses used in the follow-up analysis. Over 500 responses were excluded, the vast majority because the participant was under the age of 17 (below the required age to take part) or where it was obvious that false information had been provided. Click here to view the full results, with interactive graphics.

The survey was carried out among self-selecting individuals. It is not a weighted survey and does not purport to be accurately representative of the wider population, biased as it is towards certain age groups (over two-thirds of those who took the survey were between the age of 24 and 50) and towards those who are more sexually active. Therefore all results should be seen as indicative rather than definitive.

Women should be taught about female orgasm in school

   

The sex survey returned a fairly consistent result concerning an inability to orgasm.

Women should be taught about masturbation and female orgasm in sex education classes, two prominent Irish sex therapists have said.  The Irish Times sex survey of more than 12,000 people has found that up to half of women of all sexual orientations have experienced inability to orgasm during sex and this may be due to a lack of knowledge, said Trish Murphy, psychotherapist and Irish Times columnist.

Teresa Bergin, a psychosexual therapist, said that difficulties were also psychological in many cases and were “a very painful topic for women who were afraid to talk to anyone about it, even their female friends.”

An inability to orgasm was relatively consistent among participants across all female age categories at between 43 per cent among 35- to 49-year-olds to 51 per cent in the 17- to 24-year-old age category.

“Difficulty reaching orgasm is a very common issue,” said Bergin. “ Some women experience this difficulty from time to time and it is related to tiredness, distraction, not being sufficiently aroused, or not giving themselves enough time. It can also be a result of difficulties within the relationship and can indicate communication problems. On the other hand, there are many women who have never experienced orgasm and it is a very distressing and frustrating problem for them, particularly when they don’t feel able to talk to their partner about it.

“This issue can affect men too: for them it is an even more difficult topic to talk about and very stressful given the possible implications for fertility,” she added.

It may come as no surprise that men masturbate more than women, the survey found. Almost half of sexually active men said they masturbated more than once a week, while almost one in four did so at least once a day. This compares to almost one in three sexually active women who said they masturbated more than once week, and just 5 per cent who said they did so at least once daily.

Bergin commented: “The statistics here for men are certainly higher than for women and this figure is probably true of the general population. There has been a myth in the past that women simply don’t masturbate and that it is solely a male pursuit. This is certainly untrue, however; women don’t appear to talk about masturbation, even among themselves. It seems to be quite a private, unspoken activity.”

Younger women are keen users of sex toys, with seven out of ten 25- to 34-year-olds using them. The majority (58 %) of sexually active people have used sex toys. Women were slightly more likely than men to use them, at 61% compared to 55%.

Sex toys were most popular with bisexual women, with 80 per cent saying they had used them, followed by 79% of lesbians.

“From my clinical experience, this seems to be an accurate result. In comparison with 10 years ago, I notice that people are more likely now to be open to experimenting with sex toys. They are more likely to introduce these into sexual activity and to talk with a partner about it. Women in particular are now more likely to buy, and use, a vibrator for their own personal pleasure but do not tend to discuss this with other women,” said Bergin.

Look out Tuesday is here an Asteroid could be coming our way

Scientists and celebrities urge governments to defend the planet from space rocks

  

The passage of asteroid 2012 DA14 through the Earth-moon system,

Tuesday is the first annual Asteroid Day, an attempt by a coalition of scientists and celebrities to raise public awareness of the risks posed by space rocks striking the earth.

People are being encouraged to sign an international petition to governments encouraging them to spend more in defence of the planet.

The goal is to step up efforts to identify impactors such ascomets and asteroids before they reach us and to devise ways to steer these objects away from our orbit.

It all sounds very science fiction but the earth has always been at risk of being struck by such objects and the danger continues today.

Recent strike

The Chelyabinsk meteor exploded in the upper atmosphere over Russia in February 2013, showering the ground below with large fragments. It injured 1,500 people and damaged more than 7,000 buildings but luckily there were no recorded deaths.

The largest impactor in modern history also occurred over Russia, the Tunguska Event of June 30th, 1908. The asteroid flattened about 2,000sq km, an area the size of that within London’s M25 ring road, said Prof Mark Bailey, director of Armagh Observatory.

It landed in Siberia so it was forests that were destroyed, but had it struck a city like London the deaths and losses would have been staggering.

Chelyabinsk was 20m across while Tunguska measured more than 60m. Imagine, then, what the damage would be like with an impacting object 10km across. This is the estimated diameter of the impactor that wiped out thedinosaurs 66 million years ago.

It struck the earth at the northern tip of the YucatánPeninsula in Mexico, leaving an impact crater 180km across and 20km deep. It sent billions of tonnes of material into the atmosphere, blotting out the sun and wiping out life on land and sea.

Global impact

Impactors have therefore had a powerful effect in shaping the biological history of the planet, forcing evolution to come up with organisms capable of living in a new environment post-collision.

Nor has the threat eased with time. Worldwide efforts to track these objects have identified more than 10,000 that cross our orbit. Of these, 867 have diameters of at least 1km, a size capable of having a global impact.

Armagh Observatory doesn’t look for them. It is trying to understand where they come from and why they have strange orbits. “The interesting question we are looking at is: are we currently in a high or low occurrence rate,” said Prof Bailey. “It looks like a lower rate, but this could be followed by a period of heightened activity.”

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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday/Sunday 27th & 28th June 2015

Minister Flanagan confirms three Irish deaths in Tunisia attacks

  

Relatives of Co Westmeath couple Laurence and Martina Hayes contacted by officials

A German tourist recounts the moment a gunman began firing on beachgoers in an attack that killed at least 38 people.

Irish tourists intending to travel to Tunisia over the coming weeks should “exercise extreme caution”, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has said.

Charlie Flanagan issued the warning has he confirmed that three Irish citizens died in Friday’s terror attack. Mr Flanagan said he had been in contact with their families over recent days.

Laurence and Martina Hayes, a couple in their 50s from Athlone, Co Westmeath and Lorna Carty from Robinstown, Co Meath, were killed in the attack on Sousse.

The Minister said he did not believe any further Irish people were injured in the incident and he urged those planning to travel to the region to be “extremely vigilant and extreme caution”.

He told RTE’s This Week programme: “I would urge those there to continue to liaise with tour operators on the ground and with the consular assistance from Foreign Affairs.

“My travel advice for Tunisia is to exercise extreme caution. Anyone wishing to visit the region, anyone with holiday plans over the next few days or weeks I wish to acknowledge the Tunisian authorities have declared the incident to be over but nevertheless I would urge Irish citizens heading there and those in Tunisia to remain extremely vigilant, to follow instructions given to them by the police, the tour operators, the hotels.”

Mr Flanagan said he was not in the “business of imposing travel bans” but his advice for anyone travelling there was to exercise “extreme caution”.

Relatives of Laurence and Martina Hayes have been contacted by Irish officials, a Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said. The department has set up an information line for those affected by the attack: 00353 1 408 2000.

Westmeath Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) has tweeted a message of condolence to the family. “Sincere sympathy to the Hayes family Athlone who suffered their tragic losses in the terror shooting in Tunisia,” it said.

The Irish ambassador accredited to Tunisia, David Cooney, is working with Irish citizens still in the country.

Ms Carty, a nurse and mother of two adult children, had travelled to Tunisia with her husband Declan, a well-known dairy farmer.

The couple received the Tunisian holiday as a gift from a relative as Mr Carty was recovering from heart surgery.

Their daughter Hazel (18) had just completed her Leaving Cert and is believed to have been notified of her mother’s death while on holiday in Turkey.

Their son Simon (21), a science student at UCD, was at home in Robinstown. The authorities are gradually identifying those killed in the attack.

One of the British victims has been named as Adrian Evans, who worked for Sandwell Council in the WestMidlands. Joel Richards, reported to be Mr Evans’s nephew, was also named as a victim.

It is understood Mr Richard’s was a student at the University of Worcester.

Birmingham-based Gaelic football club James Connolly’s GFC also paid tribute to Mr Richards, tweeting that the club was “devastated” to learn of his death.

They said he was an “exceptionally-talented footballer” who represented both club and county “with conviction” on numerous occasions. Mr Richards’s 16-year-old brother Owen is reported to have survived the attack.

The attack has seen thousands of tourists rush to leave Tunisia. An Aer Lingus flight from Monastir arrived in Dublin last night and other Irish holidaymakers in the country are expected to cut short their holiday and return home. It is unclear how many Irish nationals were in Tunisia at the time of the attack.

Sunway managing director Tanya Airey has offered her “sincere condolences” to all Irish nationals affected by the attack. The Irish tour operator provides holidays to Tunisia.

The company flies weekly on Friday’s to Tunisia. She said a number of Irish Sunway holidaymakers had decided over the weekend to remain in Tunisia.

The tour operator is expected to make a call this week on whether to allow those booked to depart on Friday to travel to Tunisia.

In a tweet she noted that the department advises extreme caution but has not issued a “do not travel” notice.

Irish citizens returning on Friday night told RTÉ of the chaos during the attack, describing a large explosion and gunfire. Many praised the staff for the assistance they gave guests.

Six nationalities are among the 39 dead.

They are thought to have been killed by a 23-year-old Tunisian aviation student Seifeddine Rezgui who disguised himself as a tourist and began firing at holidaymakers on a beach using a Kalashnikov hidden in a beach umbrella. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Fifteen of the dead are from Britain.

Confirming the figure, British foreign minister Tobias Ellwood said the Sousse atrocity was “the most significant terrorist attack on British people” since July 7th, 2005, when 52 people were killed.

Speaking at the Foreign Office, Mr Ellwood said: “Sadly, I can confirm that at least 15 British nationals were killed in yesterday’s atrocity but I should stress that the number may well rise as several more have been seriously injured in this horrific attack.”

Tánaiste concerned over universal health insurance cost

  

Joan Burton criticises some of the models put forward for the scheme as very expensive

Joan Burton: The Labour Party is fully committed to UHI, though not at any cost.

Tánaiste Joan Burton has criticised some of the models put forward for universal health insurance (UHI) as potentially very expensive.

Ms Burton was speaking as the drift in Government over the roll-out of UHI continued to increase.

She said the Labour Party is fully committed to the plan, though not at any cost.

“I have said we want a better service, but in the context of health insurance we want an affordable health insurance system,” M/s Burton said.

“Some of the models that have been put forward have suggested very high charges potentially for individuals and families. Some of the figures being spoken about would concern me.

“We need to look for a model that is efficient, effective and good value for money.”

UHI is a major commitment in the Programme for Government, but there has been no progress on bringing forward the scheme.

Both M/s Burton and Minister for Health Leo Varadkar have separately cast doubts over the roll-out.

Mr Varadkar said a “big bang approach” was not the right way forward and small steps needed to be taken.

Reilly cornerstone

Within weeks of entering office, Mr Varadkar began playing down introducing the scheme in its current form. It was one of the cornerstones of his predecessor James Reilly.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted he wants the model introduced in full.

Asked if he was watering down previous proposals, Mr Varadkar said: “No, we are modifying them and making them achievable and setting out realistic timeframes.

“One of the things I wanted to do when I took over in health,” he added, “was to start making concrete steps to universal health care, and we see that now with under 6s.”

Private patients

UHI would seek to eliminate Ireland’s two-tier health system by effectively making everyone a private patient. It is officially the Government’s healthcare reform blueprint.

Under a White Paper published by Dr Reilly, the system was to involve a multipayer model of competing private health insurers and a State- owned VHI.

The paper proposed that everyone would be covered for standard services, including GP and hospital treatment.

Mr Varadkar slowed down the introduction of UHI when he took office last summer.

Speaking yesterday, the Minister said making the change in small steps was the best way forward.

“There is a total commitment from both parties that we want to achieve universal health care, a single-tier health service based on need and not on ability to pay. But how we get there needs to be mapped out,” Mr Varadkar said.

“If we learned anything from the last couple of years, even from the difficulties we had getting the over-sixes and the over-70s over the line, it has been quite how difficult making change in health service can be. But we are still committed doing it.”

Tánaiste Burton to enforce lone parent changes despite childcare fears

  

Tánaiste Joan Burton has insisted she will press ahead with changes to the lone parent allowance despite accepting that childcare issues remain a serious problem in Ireland.

From next Thursday parents of children aged seven and older will no longer be entitled to the one-parent family payment.

Ms Burton defended the changes which come into force for over 30,000 families and insisted the move was not a cut.

The changes have been met by opposition from a number of groups including One Family which said that it would not work without childcare and after school services.

Ms Burton said she had set up a “significant number of supports” for families but acknowledged childcare remains a serious issue.

“I also want to stress as well that really I have put into place a seven-year transition period and one of the reasons I did that is I would be very anxious to see childcare in general improved in this country.

“I’m conscious as a society and a country we’ve a long way to go to get the kind of childcare system that I would like to see,” she told the Irish Independent.

The Labour leader said funding had been provided to the Department of Children for the provision of after school care services. She added that the changes would result in more single parents returning to work.

However, One Family said it has seen a surge in calls from worried parents who have worked out that they are set to lose between €30 and €140 under the plans.

Speaking about the claims from One Family, Ms Burton said her department would look at these cases if given the details.

“But the key thing we’re doing is that over the next period we will be calling in and inviting in to their local Intreo office any lone parent who has queries, we’ll work with them, we’ll work with their employers, if they give us the permission to do that, to seek to help them actually get back to work,” she added.

Meanwhile Ms Burton said the country could face “significant risks” if the Labour Party does not have a strong presence in the next government.

While Labour is facing a huge challenge at the next election, she said she remained optimistic about the return of sitting Labour TDs. Ms Burton said it was difficult to envisage how the Government would have operated fairly in terms of the difficult decisions that had to be made without the presence of Labour.

“It is the Labour Party which has held the line in terms of having fairness, in terms of protecting the basic rates of social welfare, in terms of insisting, given our demographics, on investment in new schools, in terms of addressing other deficiencies in our infrastructure,” she said.

She said it would be difficult to look at a post-election government without a strong Labour presence warning there might be “significant risks not just to economic growth but also to fairness in society and to addressing key social problems” without the party.

She refused to accept the party was facing a significant drop in TDs saying: “I’m an optimist and I believe that we have a very good story to tell”.

10 tips to ensure your farm tyres are in tip-top shape before harvest

 

Leaving machinery checks until the last minute before doing a job on the farm can result in unexpected machine downtime, according to Gordon Brookes, Michelin’s Technical Manager.

“Time, weather and crop constraints make it essential that machinery is ready for use,” Brookes says.

“The worst possible time to suffer tyre-related downtime is during the busy harvest period, so it really pays to ensure your machines are set up perfectly and ready to roll in advance.”

  1. Check your combine’s tyres for damage

During previous harvests tyres may have suffered accidental damage, leaving them with bulges, cuts or tears.

Checking the tread area and sidewalls right down to the wheel trim now guarantees that any problems can be detected as soon as possible.

Leaving damage unchecked can result in costly tyre failure and harvest interruptions.

  1. Check for flat spots

Long periods of inactivity can leave tyres with a ‘flat spot’ due to one section of the casing being deflected, creating massive vibrations on the road.

To combat this, mark the affected area of the tyres, move the combine into direct sunlight with other sections of the tyres deflected.

If possible inflate the tyres above your standard operating pressure for a couple of hours, whilst ensuring the manufacturer’s maximum inflation pressure is not exceeded.

Warming the tyres in the sunlight will prompt the casing to return to its normal shape.

  1. Check your tyre pressures

Ensure that tyres are inflated to the correct pressure in readiness for harvest, considering maximum cyclic load in the field and whether the combine will be used on side slopes or intensively on the roads.

  1. Tyre choice

If you need new tyres, or a new machine, take tyre choice seriously.

Tyre choice can make the difference between a good harvest and a great one and for most combines and foragers.

There is now a tyre that contains Ultraflex Technology, which limits soil compaction and disturbance on headlands whilst offering greater operator comfort, manoeuvrability and load capacity.

  1. Transport width

Is your combine too wide for the road or gateways and would a narrower tyre speed up the harvesting process?

If so, there are now tyres for combines that are narrower but have a greater contact with the ground.

For example, a Michelin 900/60 R32 conventional tyre assembly could be replaced by a Michelin IF 800/70 R32 assembly, giving a 15% larger footprint whilst making the combine 200mm narrower.

  1. Rear tyres

Rear tyres can affect the efficiency of the combine but are more commonly neglected. Rear tyres should be operated appropriately in line with manufacturer recommendations.

Farmers often don’t always realise that many of these tyres are designed for industrial machinery and require very high pressures which can cause damage on headlands.

It’s therefore important to allocate the same time specifying rear tyres as you would the front set.

  1. Regular tyre inspections

Daily tyre inspections can often be overlooked but are essential in prolonging tyre life and machine availability.

Spotting cuts and tears as they appear helps ensure they can be repaired in a timely manner and limits machine downtime.

  1. Watch those wheels

To prolong tyre life, wheels need to be kept in tip-top condition too. Kerbing or hitting a pothole can affect a machine’s wheel alignment, leading to rapid and uneven wear on the rubber.

  1. Putting the brakes on

It’s common sense advice that accelerating slowly and braking progressively maximises tyre life.

Easing off the brakes and making a conscious effort to accelerate gently can pay dividends in keeping rubber in service for longer.

  1. Other tyres are just as important

Make sure that all machinery involved in the harvest is in excellent condition and tyres inflated to the correct pressure, not just the harvester itself.

Consider grain carting as an example; is the road work intensive? If so, the tractor and trailer tyres need to be inflated accordingly to reflect this intensive operation.

Marital separation Sometimes ‘Morally Necessary’

Say’s Pope Francis

  

Nuns greet Pope Francis as he arrives to lead the weekly audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Thursday. The pope, speaking at his weekly general audience, said sometimes separation is “morally necessary.”

Pope Francis, speaking on family issues, says that sometimes marriages are so damaged that it is “morally necessary” for a husband and wife to separate.

“There are cases in which separation is inevitable,” the pontiff said at his weekly general audience. “Sometimes it can become even morally necessary, precisely when it comes to subtracting the weaker spouse, or small children, from more serious injuries caused by arrogance and violence, by humiliation and exploitation … and by indifference.”

“Let us ask the Lord for a strong faith to see with his eyes the reality of family life, and for a deep love to approach all families with his merciful heart,” he said.

The Associated Press notes: “Francis has been making a series of statements about family issues ahead of a much-anticipated October synod, or meeting, of bishops to address the topic. The bishops will take up many issues, including how the church can be more welcoming to divorced Catholics who remarry without going through the church process that declares their first marriage null.”

The church has long said that divorced members cannot participate in communion. Time magazine writes: “There’s no precise estimate worldwide, but according to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, some 4.5 million Catholics in the United States (alone) are divorced and remarried without an ‘annulment,’ a declaration from a church court that the first marriage was invalid.”

In December, speaking in an interview with the Argentine newspaper La Nacion, Francis said the church must consider ways to integrate divorced and civilly remarried people.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 26th June 2015

Enda Kenny says a deal on Greece crisis still possible at weekend talks

If deal signed-off by finance ministers bailout could be extended, says Taoiseach

  

British prime minister David Cameron, speaks to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Angela Merkel during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels and right photo Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

Greece will get an extension of its current bailout for another six months if agreement can be reached with the euro zone finance ministers tomorrow, according to Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Speaking to journalists at the end of the EU leaders’ summit in Brussels, he said time was running very short but a solution could still be found if there was proper engagement.

He said the EU Commission, the European Central Bankand the International Monetary Fund had undertaken to consider the latest set of proposals.

Mr Kenny said if there was agreement and it was signed off on by the euro zone finance ministers it meant there could be an extension of the current programme for six months.

“It shows the willingness of the institutions and everybody else to accommodate the proposals that have come in from Greece,” he said

Hr Kenny said at the meeting of EU leaders he had told them of the Irish experience and how “our focus was on ending instability and creating growth and providing opportunities for jobs” as a way out of the crisis.

“It was not a case of me telling him (Alexis Tsipras) what happened in our case and saying you have to do the same but saying what we did and how we were able to exit the bailout.”

The Taoiseach said he had pointed to the damage the current instability was causing and how that was impacting on the ordinary people of Greece.

“So I do hope that measures can emerge to deal with that and I spoke to the prime minister about that,” he added.

Mr Kenny also spoke about the briefing British prime minister David Cameron gave to the summit about his plans for an in/out referendum on EU membership.

“He gave a very brief outline of his proposals for reform before that referendum takes place. He did say that this was the start of a process and the ship was launched. He did talk to individual countries and individual governments and he hopes to have a more complete report by December. He recognises that agreement will take a great deal of work.”

The Taoiseach said Mr Cameron’s contribution had been short and to the point.

Mr Kenny said Ireland would have a problem around any proposals that involved changes in EU treaties.

“I think there would be serious difficulty about this for a number of other countries and not just Ireland.”

He added the solution might just well be what happened in the case of Ireland when it had problems with EU treaties. A legally binding attachment to the next treaty that might come along that might come along.

“He is very conscious of that himself,” said the Taoisaech.

He added that if the question was to open the treaties for further treaty change on an issue like this, there would be 95 per cent opposition.

Mr Kenny added, however, that aside from treaty changes Ireland would be constructive and supportive.

“We will obviously wait and see what comes of the technical work. We will have a better idea of what is involved when the issue comes on the council agenda for the December meeting,” said Mr Kenny.

On the issue of migration which was supposed to be the main focus of the summit Mr Kenny said the entire meeting had been impacted on by the Greek situation.

“So the discussion that took place on migration which might have been difficult in its own right.”

He added it had been agreed to rebalance the EU approach to migration and agreement between member states on a voluntary relocation plan.

It was agreed to help 60,000 people, 40,000 through relocation and 20,000 in resettlement.

Mr Kenny pointed out Ireland had an opt-out along with the UK and Denmark but would consider what we could do to help.

“At our meeting we also resolved to do more to address the factors that drive people to risk their lives to arrive inEurope. People are coming in from west Africa, from the horn of Africa and also through Libya, ” he said.

Mr Kenny also said he had expressed condolences and sympathies to president François Hollande and the French people about the appalling events that had taken place today.

Connemara Mining company identifies possible gold source in Co. Donegal

  

Irish exploration company Connemara Mining has identified a target area for more detailed investigations after finding material with gold values in Donegal.

In a statement published today the firm said that it has finished the first phase of prospecting on its newly acquired Inishowen block in Donegal.

The company said that quartz vein material with gold values in excess of 15 grams per tonne have been traced to a possible nearby source area.

Follow up work will now include a soil sampling programme to further refine the target and will be followed by an initial trenching programme and a later drilling programme, if justified.

Chairman John Teeling said: “This is an exciting time for Connemara, and Irish minerals exploration. The Ulster gold play was unlocked with previous discoveries in Tyrone and Monaghan.

“We believe that this geology extends from Donegal into central Scotland. It is early days but initial results seem to confirm our working model.”

Irish water bill amendments will bring some ‘clarity’, says Minister Coffey

 

The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment Paudie Coffey above left.

Paudie Coffey fails to confirm whether tenants face eviction if they do not pay water bill

Irish Water provisions, which ensure a house cannot be sold until charges are paid, have been introduced to bring “clarity and certainty for landlords and tenants”, according to a Minister of State Paudie Coffey.

The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment described claims that tenants who don’t pay their Irish Water bills could face eviction as “scaremongering” on the part of the opposition.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Coffey said the amendments to the bill had been introduced to create a method of enforcement “to ensure that those who are not compliant and are refusing to pay, that they do pay”.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has introduced 33 pages of amendments to the Environment Miscellaneous Provisions Bill.

It contains a number of changes, including the setting up of a database for the water conservation grant and provisions to ensure a house can’t be sold until the charges are paid. The Bill also obliges local authority tenants to pay their water charges.

Mr Coffey failed to confirm whether tenants would be evicted if they did not pay their bill, saying payment was “a matter for the landlord and tenant as is the case in any contract situation for tenancy”.

Asked if the landlord would have to pay if the tenant failed to do so, he said the owner of the property would be responsible for discharging any unpaid bills before selling the home.

“We want to see people compliant with the law and we don’t want to see people ending up in trouble and that’s why we’re making measures that we feel are fair and bring certainty to the whole area.”

Mr. Coffey said users who applied for the Water Conservation Grant worth €100 before June 30th could expect to receive the money “before the end of this year”.

He also said an independent test due to be carried out by Eurostat, the EU statistics agency, was imminent and would take place in the “next few weeks or possibly months at the latest”.

Mr Coffey said he was unaware of how many people had actually paid their water bill so far, adding that it was a matter for Irish Water to respond to.

“I understand there’s a board meeting due to happen next week… and I would encourage them to publish the payment figures then.

People before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said earlier this week the amendments to the bill were “desperate, devious and discriminatory”and were aimed at undermining the national movement against water charges.

German Shepard dog given award for saving a diabetic owner’s life

Looby Loo came to the rescue!

  

They say dogs are man’s best friend and one devoted German Shepherd proved to be even more than that to her sick owner.

Rescue dog Looby Loo saved the life of Toby Snow when he fell desperately ill and is now being awarded a PDSA Commendation, which recognises outstanding acts of devotion by pets.

When the 57-year-old was slipping into a diabetic coma in his bedroom, Looby Loo barked and whined until she woke his partner, Mary Friend.

The dog’s persistence in waking Mary who went on to dial 999 at their home in Westham, near Eastbourne, East Sussex in England prevented Toby from facing further danger.

Without his nine-year-old pet’s help in raising the alarm, Toby said he dreaded to think what would have happened to him.

Mary, 55, said: “I knew straight away that Toby was slipping into a hypoglycaemic coma as he was barely conscious and unable to move.

“I tried to increase Toby’s sugar levels with fizzy drinks and glucose tablets but I knew that it was vital to call 999 for urgent assistance.”

Paramedics then arrived to put Toby on a glucose drip and waited for his sugar levels to rise. And as he came round he remembered Looby Loo licking him.

Toby said: “I will be forever grateful to our wonderful dog for what she did that night. She was a true friend and her actions definitely helped me out of a very sticky spot.”

Richard Hooker, director of veterinary services at the PDSA, said: “Looby Loo is a very special pet and her total devotion to Toby is plain to see.”

BlackBerry are planning to launch a bacteria-free smartphone

  

Canadian smartphone maker Blackberry announced a cut in the prices of its latest handsets for existing enterprise customers.

BlackBerry may design a bacteria-free smartphone as it bids to become the secure mobile choice for the health-care industry, CEO John Chen said.

“Health-care workers have to be worried about one less thing to wipe down” with a bacteria-free handset, Chen told reporters at a hospital north of Toronto where BlackBerry unveiled a clinical alerts pilot project. Chen said BlackBerry is not developing the clean phone yet.

The Canadian mobile manufacturer is partnering with Thought Wire and Cisco Systems Inc to provide nurses and doctors in a Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital unit with a portable messaging and alert system. BlackBerry will be providing the software and devices. It wouldn’t disclose how much it’s spending on the project.

Transfer of infections and bacteria between patients in hospitals is a “huge issue,” said Dr. Aviv Gladman, chief medical information officer at Mackenzie Health. Medical equipment in patient rooms, including mobile phones, can carry bacteria through the hospital, he said.

Gladman said medical professionals are supposed to wipe their phone with alcohol before entering and exiting a patient’s room. A study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that about 20% to 30% of germs transfer between a phone and a fingertip.

Hospitals don’t know how effective alcohol wipes are at removing bacteria from phones and medical professionals don’t always wipe, he said. Gladman said hospital-acquired infections are one of the top reasons patients die in hospital.

BlackBerry, based in Waterloo, Ontario, has switched its focus to high-security software as it has struggled to compete with Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd as a device manufacturer.

Here’s what rats can dream about?

   

We’ve probably all had dreams about food… and apparently rats do too.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) studied sleeping rats and found when they were shown food in an unreachable location they displayed activity in their nervous system that indicated they were fantasising about successful foraging missions.

The scientist cannot be 100% sure the rats were dreaming but the evidence points that way and if true, the discovery further narrows the gap between humans and other animals by showing that rodents possess an ability to imagine future events.

The findings also shed light on why people who have suffered damage to the hippocampus, the brain’s memory centre, find it hard to contemplate the future.

Lead scientist Dr Hugo Spiers said: “During exploration, mammals rapidly form a map of the environment in their hippocampus.

“During sleep or rest, the hippocampus replays journeys through this map which may help strengthen the memory.

“It has been speculated that such replay might form the content of dreams.

“Whether or not rats experience this brain activity as dreams is still unclear, as we would need to ask them to be sure.

“Our new results show that during rest, the hippocampus also constructs fragments of a future yet to happen.

“Because the rat and human hippocampus are similar, this may explain why patients with damage to their hippocampus struggle to imagine future events.”

In the experiment, four rats were allowed to run along a T-junction track and see food being placed in an inaccessible arm.

Another arm of the track contained no food.

The animals were then placed in a sleep chamber for an hour.

Electrode implants in the rats’ brains showed that as they slept, mapping nerve cells representing the route to the food were active.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday/Thursday 24 & 25th June 2015

Patrick Honohan says troika deal terms were ‘unsatisfactory

 

Outgoing Central Bank governor makes third appearance before inquiry.

Outgoing Central Bank of Ireland Governor Patrick Honohan.

The Central Bank found the terms of the trioka programme “unsatisfactory”, the Governor Patrick Honohan has said.

Prof Honohan told the banking inquiry the deal had “high interest rates and a lack of an insurance mechanism against tail risks in the banks”.

He said the programme was necessary and said without it the cutbacks would have been more severe.

Prof Honohan said: “Nevertheless, having set out these concerns, I advised the Government in writing that it should proceed on the basis of the programme, given that the alternative of struggling forward without access to market finance would have been more economically damaging.

“If the programme proved unable to deliver a sustainable debt path as seemed possible, even likely then it could be renegotiated. The spending and tax adjustments that would have been needed if programme funding was not available would be much more severe.”

The Central Bank Governor said the question of whether the guarantee was the best decision is the least important and yet the most over analysed.

He said: “What if an alternative path had been tried, following prior consultation with EU partners during an interval covered by ELA [emergency liquidity assistance] involving a more limited guarantee, excluding some or all existing senior bonds and subordinated debt, and in conjunction with an attempt to get agreement that Anglo and INBS [Irish Nationwide] bondholders would be bailed-out only on the basis of cost-sharing with EU partners? How much in net national economic terms might have thereby been saved?

“This is not a question susceptible of any precise quantification: could a cost-sharing deal have been successfully negotiated?”

Prof Honohan said the institutions were “very resistant to the losses” the Central Bank were suggesting.

He said officials wrote letters to the “very top” but the bank held its ground.

The governor said: “Rather than knowing something and not wanting to tell they were living in a state of denial.”

Mr Honohan said banks were still living in denial about the state of the losses in the institutions in 2010.

Mr Honohan told the inquiry he received a call out of the blue from the International Monetary Fund in May 2010 offering a precautionary line of credit.

The Governor said Ashoka Mody phoned him and suggested this method but the Department of Finance rejected it.

He said: “I said ‘try it, it might be a good idea. They [the Government] might not like it but try it’. It did not go anywhere.”

Professor Honohan said the European Central Bank would never have withdrawn funding from Ireland.

Asked if the European Central Bank could have, Prof Honohan said it could but it would not have done that.

Fianna Fáil Senator Marc MacSharry asked if that was a big gamble for the then Government to take. Mr Honohan said: “No.”

In his third appearance before the banking inquiry, Prof Honohan this morning said the focus on the night of the guarantee has been “excessive”.

He said nothing had changed his view that emergency liquidity would have bought the Government some time.

Prof Honohan said Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide should have been dealt by nationalisation.

He added: “It should not have included Subordinated debt nor existing senior term debt.”

The morning session focused on the period of Prof Honohan’s tenure from his appointment in September 2009 to October 2010. The afternoon session is focusing on developments in the period from November 2010 to December 2013.

He will be asked to give evidence on the appropriateness of the regulatory regime and other related matters.

Irish households paying twice as much for broadband as the rest of EU

 

Study shows Ireland failing when it comes to digital skills.

In terms of integration of digital technology by businesses, Ireland came in 3rd place overall, up 1 place compared to 2014

Irish households are paying close to double the EU average for broadband access, according to a new report that shows Ireland is lagging behind its European counterparts when it comes to digital skills.

Ireland ranks 8th out of 28 Member States in the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index, which was published on Friday. This places Ireland in the ’medium-performance’ category, meaning it performs slightly above the EU average. Last year, Ireland was ranked in 11th place in the index.

Irish businesses are ranked 2nd in the EU for use of social media and for e-commerce turnover and also in addition Irish SMEs rank 5th in the EU for selling online, and for use of E-invoices.

In terms of integration of digital technology by businesses, Ireland came in 3rd place overall, up 1 place compared to 2014. This is above the EU average but the report’s authors added that businesses in Ireland could better exploit the possibilities offered by electronic information sharing and RFID.

In other areas, Ireland underperforms when ranked against its neighbours. In terms of broadband value, for example, the country ranks in 23rd place with households paying significantly more than the EU average for access. Ireland also ranked poorly for digital skills, coming in 20th place with only 53% of people having the required skills to operate effectively online.

At 76%, Ireland exhibits a rate of internet use amongst its population similar to that of the EU average.

With regard to internet connectivity, Ireland ranked 16th among EU countries. According to the index, 96% of Irish households are now covered by fixed broadband – a type of high-speed Internet access where connections to service providers use radio signals rather than cables – and take-up of fixed broadband is at 62%, below the EU average of 70%. This places Ireland in 19th place in terms of fixed- broadband use. Mobile broadband take-up increased from 67% to 82% between 2014 and 2015.

Online news, music, video and games, video calls, social networking, banking and shopping consumption all saw increases over the last year. Music, video and games, rose 20 percentage points from 23% to 43%. Video-on-demand (VOD) declined by 2 percentage points from 70% to 68%. However, VOD use is still very high in Ireland compared to the EU average of 41 per cent, placing Ireland 5th out of 28 countries.

1Gbps broadband speeds are coming to Ireland this September

   

Eircom is to go live with 1Gbps fibre next September, it emerged after Pure Telecom became the first operator to sign up for the wholesale service.

A €20m deal agreed between Eircom Wholesale and Pure Telecom will see Pure’s customers access 100Mbps broadband and also become the first to access Eircom’s 1Gbps fibre-to-the-home service when it launches in September.

The partnership means Pure Telecom customers can connect to Eircom Wholesale’s high-speed fibre broadband, which offers speeds of up to 100 Mbps to 1.2 million homes and businesses nationwide, a figure which represents approximately 50% of the total premises in Ireland.

This will rise to 70% by 2016, and 80% by 2020, by which time 35% of all premises will have broadband speeds of 1Gbps.

Pure Telecom’s customers will be amongst the first to access Eircom Wholesale’s 1Gbps ‘Fibre to the Home’ (FTTH) service when it launches later this year.

Fibre up the nation?

Paul Connell, director, Pure Telecom, Peter Clarke, director of sales, marketing, international and customer service, Eircom Wholesale and Alan McGonnell, director, Pure Telecom

“With 1,000Mbps (1Gbps) speeds launching in September, Pure’s customers will have access to the fastest broadband speeds available here, ensuring they remain at the cutting edge of broadband developments in Ireland,” Peter Clarke, director of sales, marketing and customer services at Eircom Wholesale said.

Eircom recently announced plans to extend access to high-speed fibre broadband in rural Ireland by extending its fibre network from 1.6 million homes and businesses to 1.9 million nationwide premises.

The additional 300,000 homes and businesses are spread across 1,070 communities in all 26 counties and include 300 communities not currently served with high-speed broadband.

Speeds of up to 1Gbps will be available to these additional 300,000 premises through the use of end-to-end fibre to the home technology.

“Our industry is changing,” said Paul Connell, director of Pure Telecom. “Our business customers need faster broadband so they can compete competitively both domestically and internationally.

“Furthermore, consumer demands are increasing. Smartphones, Netflix and social media are among the tools that are redefining the way people communicate and resetting needs and expectations, and not just for city dwellers.”

Ireland above EU average for gender equality

   

A new gender equality report out ranks Ireland at eighth in Europe when it comes to gender equality.

The European Institute for Gender Equality places Ireland 17 points behind Scandinavian countries, but 4 points ahead of the EU average.

We come eighth when it comes to gender quality in work; sixth in money; second in health and at 15 in power.

The Gender Equality Index provides a comprehensive measure of gender equality, tailored to fit the EU policy context. Following the importance of cohesion across EU Member States, the Gender Equality Index ensures that higher gender equality scores can only be obtained in societies where there are small gender gaps and high levels of achievement.

The present update includes scores for 2005, 2010 and 2012, for the first time allowing for an assessment of the progress made in the pursuit of gender equality in the European Union and individual Member States over time.

Moreover, the present update makes a first attempt at populating the satellite domain of violence by providing a composite indicator of direct violence against women, based on the data on violence against women collected by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights through the EU-wide Survey on Violence against Women.

The results of the Gender Equality Index show that there have been visible, albeit marginal, improvements between 2005 and 2012 in the domains covered by the Gender Equality Index. With an overall score of 52.9 out of 100 in 2012, the EU remains only halfway towards equality, having risen from 51.3 in 2005. Progress needs to increase its pace if the EU is to fulfil its ambitions and meet the Europe 2020 targets.

Lovebirds can rotate their heads at lightning fast speeds

   

High-speed flight recordings of lovebirds making quick in flight turns reveal how these birds improve sight and shorten blur by rotating their head at speeds of up to 2,700 degrees per second, as fast as insects, enabled by fast neck muscles.

The rosy-faced lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis).

Lovebirds are any of the nine species of the parrot genus Agapornis (family Psittaculidae).

One species, the grey-headed lovebird (Agapornis canus), is native to Madagascar, and eight species are native to the African continent.

These birds were called lovebirds because of their monogamous pair bonding.

They are small, compact parrots around 5 – 6 inches (12.5 – 15 cm) in length 40 – 60 grams in weight.

According to a new study published in the journal PLoS ONE, during flight, turning lovebirds rotate their head at up to 2,700 degrees per second, faster than any other vertebrate recorded to date.

The authors of the study – Dr Daniel Kress and his colleagues from Stanford University discovered this super-fast behavior by filming the maneuver at 2,000 frames per second during a goal-directed task.

For flight recordings, they trained five rosy-faced lovebirds (Agapornis roseicollis) to turn on a dime in a custom-built flight arena.

“The first step was to train the birds to fly between two perches. In the second step, one perch was removed and birds were trained to fly away, turn and return to the remaining perch. During the third step, the width of the perch was decreased to about 21 cm, after which the birds were ready for the experiment,” the scientists wrote in the paper.

Analysis of high-speed recordings revealed that rapidly turning lovebirds execute extremely fast head turns during turning maneuvers.

The birds time these head turns precisely when their wings are covering their eyes, this minimizes the time of obscured sight.

Consequently, they shorten phases of blurry and obscured sight into a fraction of the actual turning time, resulting in stable and clear vision during the rest of the maneuver.

“The lovebird’s rapid head turn probably enables them to make split second decisions during rapid turns,” the scientists said.

They also hope that the accuracy and speed of these visually guided flight-maneuvers may inspire camera rotation design in drone to improve imaging.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 22nd June 2015

Crisis cuts unfairly hurt marginalised Irish, says UN committee

 

Committee panel concerned at increase in numbers at-risk of or living in consistent poverty

Cuts imposed during the financial crisis disproportionately hurt the “disadvantaged and marginalised” and must be phased out, a United Nations committee has said.

Cuts imposed during the financial crisis disproportionately hurt the “disadvantaged and marginalised” and must be phased out, a United Nations committee has said.

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR), which examined Ireland in Geneva earlier this month, published its concluding observations yesterday.

The Government was represented at the hearings in Geneva by a team of 21 senior civil servants led by Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Seán Sherlock. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission led a group of 12 NGOs and members of civil society. It was the first time Ireland had appeared before the committee since 2002.

The committee said that notwithstanding the unprecedented economic crisis that faced Ireland, the response had been “disproportionately focused on instituting cuts to public expenditure in the areas of housing, social security, health care and education, without altering its tax regime”.

“The austerity measures, which continue to be applied, have had significant adverse impact on the entire population, particularly on disadvantaged and marginalised individuals and groups, in enjoying their economic, social and cultural rights.”

Discrimination

The committee said policies applied during the crisis “must be temporary, covering only the period of the crisis, and they must be necessary and proportionate. They must not result in discrimination and increased inequalities”.

It said austerity measures must be “gradually phased out”, while consideration should be given to reviewing the tax regime “with a view to increasing revenues to restore the pre-crisis levels of public services and social benefits”.

The committee said it was “concerned at the increase in the number of people living in consistent poverty or at-risk-of-poverty”, particularly children, single-parent families, older people, people with disabilities, Travellers and migrants.

It called on the State to integrate a human rights-based approach into all poverty reduction strategies.

Zero-hour contracts

It noted “disproportionately high rates of unemployment among Travellers, Roma, young people and persons with disabilities”, and called for legislation to strengthen collective bargaining and end low- and zero-hour contracts.

The committee made six recommendations on the housing crisis, including increasing rent supplement, strengthened rights for households in mortgage arrears and taking “all necessary measures to meet the critical needs” of the homeless.

On the situation of asylum seekers, the committee called for improved living conditions in direct provision centres “including through . . . making the private actors accountable for the actions and omissions and address the mental health issues of asylum seekers”.

It also called for an end to the right of schools to discriminate on the basis of religion in their admissions policies.

Irish nursing homes need better support to cope with growth in our ageing population

 

‘Serious issues surrounding the recruitment and retention of nurses are also threatening bed capacity in nursing homes’

‘The latest data shows a decrease in the number of nursing homes operating in Ireland, from 447 in 2010 to 437 in 2014. Despite this there has been a 9 per cent increase in private and voluntary nursing home bed numbers – 20,590 to 22,342.’

Today marks the beginning of Nursing Homes Week 2015, a campaign by Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) featuring countrywide events and activities celebrating the positivity of nursing home care.

But the rate of increase in Ireland’s ageing population, similar to many countries worldwide, means that as a nation we need to develop a range of policies and services to address the challenges this presents.

An analysis of the demographics in Ireland confirms there is going to be increasing pressure in the area of residential care, but also on the wider health and social care system for older people.

The nursing home sector has a vital part to play. It employs approximately 25,000 people who contribute over €190 million annually to the Exchequer through taxation paid; and we forecast up to 10,000 jobs could be created over the next decade to support potential future growth and development.

However, the latest data shows a decrease in the number of nursing homes operating in Ireland, from 447 in 2010 to 437 in 2014. Despite this there has been a 9 per cent increase in private and voluntary nursing home bed numbers – 20,590 to 22,342.

The figures show that additional capacity is being added by existing providers. And approximately 42 per cent of private and voluntary nursing homes indicate that they are prepared to increase the number of beds in their facilities in the coming year.

However, the current arbitrary system for setting rates through the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) of “local market price” and “county averages” is illogical. If this policy continues, it may stymie current plans and the additional capacity required as well as further development in rural locations based on the current low level of NTPF fees.

The current and future arrangements for the funding and financing of nursing home care must take account of the more acute needs of our ageing population and the actual costs incurred by nursing homes in providing care to people. For example nursing homes that also care for dementia residents require a variable payment plan to match the needs of those residents, as recommended by the Oireachtas Health Committee (July 2014) and the Dementia Services Information and Design Centre (DSIDC – Jan 2015).

The provision of extra beds by existing providers challenges will significantly help future challenges to be met, as the existing operators have the necessary experience and a proven track record in what is a highly regulated market.

But the Department of Health and the Government must address the issue of a “fair price for care” if they wish the private and voluntary nursing home sector to provide those required additional bed numbers . The model of funding must provide a sustainable basis for the delivery of high quality nursing home care and also allow for on-going investment in service development.

Serious issues surrounding the recruitment and retention of nurses are also threatening bed capacity in nursing homes. The HSE Clinical Adaptation Programme must be extended beyond August 2015 to tackle the large number of nurses on the waiting list for placement. The Department of Health must also ensure adequate resourcing of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland to ensure the board can address the current delays in registration of nurses. In this respect there is an urgency for engagement with stakeholders to deliver a workforce plan for the entire health service (public, private and voluntary) that will place the increasing demand for gerontological nursing at its centre.

NHI reiterates its long-standing call for the Department of Health to take the lead in bringing stakeholders around the table through a forum that would advise Government on planning and policy to meet the growing demand for nursing home care.

Private and voluntary nursing homes are uniquely positioned to tackle the challenges, having the necessary experience, knowledge and proven track record.

Department of Health strategy must ensure that the increasing numbers of our population that require nursing home care are able to access the care they need in a timely and cost effective manner.

Nursing Homes Week 2015 marks a key moment for the increasing number of older people requiring long-term residential care in Ireland. It provides an opportunity for the Department of Health to address the challenges relating to policy and funding in respect of long-term care. But we need the State to plan with us for the decades ahead now, not when the crisis has deepened.

HIQA concerned for safety and quality of children’s services in Ireland

     

Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has expressed concern about inconsistencies in the safety and quality of children’s services nationally.

The authority today published an overview of its regulatory activity for children’s services during 2014.

HIQA said national and local management systems may not be adequate in providing assurance on consistently safe, good quality services.

As a result, the authority will commence a national review of governance of the Child and Family Agency in 2015.

However, it also found that during 2014 there was some evidence of improving services and good practice in children’s social care.

Commenting on the report, Fred McBride, Tusla Chief Operations Officer said that when Tusla took responsibility for child protection services in January 2014, significant challenges were identified, particularly in relation to inconsistencies in service provision across the country.

“Tusla is committed to ensuring that all children receive the same high standard of service regardless of geography and to building on the many examples of good practice highlighted in HIQA’s Annual Report,” said Mr McBride.

“Tusla has already conducted a detailed review of its governance structures and has consulted staff and stakeholders in relation to this. The process has identified a number of quality issues which will be addressed in a revised Tusla governance structure which is currently being finalised,” he said.

“The Agency anticipates that this will lead to more robust governance and improve Tusla’s capacity to deliver high quality services. Tusla expects that any review conducted by HIQA would be cognisant of these developments.”

No grant for those homeowners who identify their own septic tank issue’s

   

Only if a septic tank fails an inspection are local authorities allowed to provide up to €4,000 in financial aid

Homeowners who identify major issues with their septic tanks are barred from availing of a grants scheme to fix the problem and protect water sources.

Only if the tank fails an inspection are local authorities allowed to provide up to €4,000 in financial aid, the Department of the Environment has confirmed.

This is despite some 500,000 septic tanks being dotted across the country, many of which are in high-risk areas and linked to pollution.

This is because they are not being emptied or properly maintained, but in many cases they also require replacement or structural repairs.

New figures show that just 65 grants have been paid in 2014 and 2015, totalling €206,000.

Most have been paid to homeowners in Meath, where 13 have been awarded; followed by seven each in Roscommon and Sligo and six each in Limerick and Clare.

Households with incomes of up to €50,000 can claim 80pc of the costs of carrying out works, to a maximum of €4,000.

For incomes between €50,001 and €75,000, 50% can be claimed up to €2,500.

However, there has been sharp criticism of excluding households which identify a problem on their own initiative.

Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen said if the Government was serious about protecting water sources, it would be extended to all households. “In Offaly, where our water sources are underground, a bad septic tank is a major contributor to pollution,” he said.

“The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to carry the can, one would assume, but they would not have the manpower or people on the ground to ensure standards are adhered to.”

Some 497,281 septic tanks and other on-site wastewater treatment systems are located across the country. To date, some 454,464 systems have been registered, a 91.3% compliance rate.

Households which failed to register their tanks by February 2013 are not eligible for the grant payment.

The Department of the Environment defended the decision to exclude registered, but not inspected, tanks.

It said the scheme was introduced to assist in repair costs for domestic wastewater treatment systems that were deemed, following inspection, as requiring repairs.

Two men try to surf on a whale shark,

Say anger conservationists

    

A video showing two men attempting to surf on the back of a rare whale shark has sparked the ire of conservationists who say the men should be prosecuted for their actions.

The video shows the men standing on the enormous shark while being towed by a speedboat, SkyNews reports. People on the boat can be heard laughing and egging them on.

Marine activists have called the men out for their “stupidity and arrogance.”

One wildlife group, Marine Connection, posted the clip in the hopes that the men can be identified and “brought to justice,” SkyNews reports.

Classified by the IUCN Red List as vulnerable, whale sharks (Rhyncodon typhus) can be easily stressed. Interaction with humans can affect their natural behavior, especially since they must move constantly in order to maintain their oxygen supply. They also must maintain a protective layer on their skin, so as IFLScience puts it, “standing on a whale shark is a pretty dumb move.”

Sadly, these magnificent and gentle sharks are harassed and hunted by humans even though their populations are in decline, the IUCN reports.

As part of a three-year investigation conducted by WildLifeRisk, a non-governmental organization, evidence showed that one factory in southeastern China is slaughtering about 600 of these 21-ton (19-tonne) fish each year, National Geographic reports.

It’s an illegal practice — whale sharks are protected under Chinese and international law, and for good reason. One single whale shark is worth about $30,000. The meat is sold for food, the fins are sold to restaurants to make shark fin soup, and the beautifully patterned skin is sold to manufacturers for bags. Oil from these sharks is sold to companies that produce fish oil supplements.

Sadly, this factory is also allegedly killing and processing other shark species that are protected under international law, including basking sharks and great whites.

“If they’re in fact processing 600 a year, that’s pretty horrifying,” says Robert Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. National Geographic notes that the worldwide population of whale sharks is estimated to be in the thousands.

Hueter recounted another instance in which whale sharks were being killed. A legal fishery in Taiwan slaughtered approximately 800 whale sharks between 1995 and 2008. Fortunately that fishery closed due to international pressure six years ago.

Whale, basking, and great white sharks are protected under CITES Appendix II, which means they aren’t currently threatened with extinction, but “they may become so unless trade is closely controlled,” the CITES website reports, per National Geographic.

While countries that have signed the treaty, which includes China, have to show that the export of species listed in Appendix II is done sustainably and legally, it’s obvious that some individuals slip under the wire.

“What bothers me about this report is that this is an undercover operation going on in China,” Hueter says. “So if there’s one of these [factories], the chances that there’s more than one are pretty good, I’m guessing.”

Whale sharks are very widely distributed and occur in all tropical and warm temperate seas, with the Mediterranean being the only exception, the Florida Museum of Natural History reports. They are found throughout the Atlantic Ocean, ranging from New York through the Caribbean to Central Brazil and from Senegal to the Gulf of Guinea. They are also found in the Indian Ocean, ranging throughout most of the region, including the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf. In the Pacific Ocean, whale sharks are found from Japan to Australia, off the coast of Hawaii, and from California to Chile.

Despite their size, whale sharks are peaceful, feeding mostly on microscopic plankton and nektonic (larger free-swimming) prey crustaceans, schooling fishes, and tuna and squid every now and then. They are also fond of phytoplankton (microscopic plants) and macroalgae (larger plants).

These impressive sharks are the largest fish living today, and it’s thought they can reach a maximum size of of 20 meters (65 feet). The smallest free-living juveniles are 55cm (21.7 inches) long. These fish may not attain sexual maturity until they are more than 9 meters long. And, while no one is completely certain, it’s thought that these fish may live as long as 60 years, the museum reports.

Scientists had long wondered whether whale sharks were oviparous (in which case the female shark would expel egg cases from her body that would hatch on the sea floor), or if they are ovoviviparous, with the egg cases hatching inside the mother’s uteri, meaning that she would give birth to live young. This question was finally answered in 1995, when an 11-meter female whale shark was harpooned off the eastern coast of Taiwan and 300 fetal sharks were taken from her two uteri. So, this means that whale sharks are live bearers.

Whale sharks are usually considered harmless to humans, but they have on occasion butted sportfishing boats, most likely because they were being harassed. They face risks of being struck accidentally by boats when basking or feeding on the surface, the museum reports.

It’s believed that the video showing the two men standing on the shark’s back was filmed in Venezuela, Marine Connection notes, largely because of the type of Spanish people on the boat are speaking, Sky News reports. Not only that, but the footage was posted on a Facebook account in Venezuela earlier this month, and was deleted later on.

“Wildlife harassment is never a laughing matter,” the group noted.

“What a sad reflection on their attitude to wildlife when, instead of considering themselves fortunate to see this majestic creature in the wild, they choose to participate in a stupid stunt like this.”

It is to be hoped that if enough people watch the video, the would-be shark surfers will be found.

News Ireland daily BLOG by DONIE

Saturday 20th June 2015

Many thousands march in anti-water charges protest in Dublin yesterday

Demonstrators burn Irish Water bills outside the GPO on O’Connell Street

  

Thousands of people took to the streets of Dublin in an anti-water charges demonstration in Dublin city centre on Saturday. There was a strong pro Greek element to the protest showing solidarity with their european neighbours debt negotiations.

Demonstrators burned Irish Water bills outside the GPO on O’Connell Street today as thousands turned out in Dublin city centre to protest against domestic water charges.

Following separate processions from Connolly and Heuston railway stations earlier in the afternoon, about 5,000 people converged on the capital’s main thoroughfare to voice dissatisfaction at the billing process which would see householders pay for their water use.

A minimal security presence was in evidence for what was a peaceful and colourful event on a sunny day in Dublin.

Some of those present elected to don fancy dress outfits, while many others brandished signs criticising Government parties, while dozens of Greek flags were flown in recognition of the ongoing bailout talks involving the debt-ridden Mediterranean nation.

Traffic restrictions were in place along the quays, around College Green and on O’Connell Street itself, where north and south bound traffic was temporarily curtailed as the marches merged in front of a flatbed truck parked on the pavement beside the GPO.

Before any of the speakers began their addresses, bills were already being burned sporadically among the crowd. A number of oil drums were eventually placed at various intervals, and were soon filled with the ashes of hundreds of letters as those intending to actively resist the new charges consigned their own bills to the flames.

In her opening speech, Independent TD Catherine Murphyequated the way the Government’ released payment figures for water bills to the manner used to try and prevent her from obtaining sensitive documents carrying details of the sale of Siteserv to Denis O’Brien’s Millington group in 2012.

“Just as I found it difficult to get answers last year on the Siteserv issue, others have asked questions about how many people have paid to date. And you know what, you can’t get it on Freedom of Information, it has to be appealed. If 80 per cent of people had paid, they’d be rushing out to tell you.

“You’re intelligent people , you make up your own mind about that. I believe in conserving water, I believe we need to fix the pipes, but I also believe that Irish Water’s days are numbered,” she announced.

Afterwards, the Kildare deputy said that although she doesn’t actively condone the burning of bills, she does sympathise with people’s anger on the issue.

“I wouldn’t be burning my bill, I’d like to hold onto the evidence for the future… I think people are expressing it in a different way, I can’t tell you the number of people who have told me that they’re not paying but they’re not necessarily here today,” she added.

As opposed to some previous, larger demonstrations which saw isolated scenes of confrontation and occasional skirmishes between protestors and gardaí, a convivial atmosphere was evident throughout today’s rally.

“There’s a good few thousand here, obviously there were bigger ones where we had 100,000 but the campaigns are still there locally, people are still not paying. There’s still dozens of independent groups around the country fighting and sticking to their guns about it,” said campaign organiser Ciarán Heaphey.

He says he remains unperturbed by the potential repercussions of non-payment which will include further fines on top of monies already owned, according to Irish Water representatives.

“I’m not afraid. I would never pay for water, this is the third time we’ve been asked to pay for water through various means- we’re not paying for water again.”

Irish households paying close to double the EU average for broadband?

 

A study shows Ireland is failing when it comes to digital skills.

In terms of integration of digital technology by businesses, Ireland came in 3rd place overall, up 1 place compared to 2014

Charlie Taylor says

Irish households are paying close to double the EU average for broadband access, according to a new report that shows Ireland is lagging behind its European counterparts when it comes to digital skills.

Ireland ranks 8th out of 28 Member States in the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index, which was published on Friday. This places Ireland in the ’medium-performance’ category, meaning it performs slightly above the EU average. Last year, Ireland was ranked in 11th place in the index.

Irish businesses are ranked 2nd in the EU for use of social media and for e-commerce turnover and also in addition Irish SMEs rank 5th in the EU for selling online, and for use of E-invoices.

In terms of integration of digital technology by businesses, Ireland came in 3rd place overall, up 1 place compared to 2014. This is above the EU average but the report’s authors added that businesses in Ireland could better exploit the possibilities offered by electronic information sharing and RFID.

In other areas, Ireland underperforms when ranked against its neighbours. In terms of broadband value, for example, the country ranks in 23rd place with households paying significantly more than the EU average for access. Ireland also ranked poorly for digital skills, coming in 20th place with only 53% of people having the required skills to operate effectively online.

At 76%, Ireland exhibits a rate of internet use amongst its population similar to that of the EU average.

With regard to internet connectivity, Ireland ranked 16th among EU countries. According to the index, 96% of Irish households are now covered by fixed broadband – a type of high-speed Internet access where connections to service providers use radio signals rather than cables – and take-up of fixed broadband is at 62%, below the EU average of 70%. This places Ireland in 19th place in terms of fixed- broadband use. Mobile broadband take-up increased from 67% to 82% between 2014 and 2015.

Online news, music, video and games, video calls, social networking, banking and shopping consumption all saw increases over the last year. Music, video and games, rose 20 percentage points from 23% to 43%. Video-on-demand (VOD) declined by 2 percentage points from 70% to 68%. However, VOD use is still very high in Ireland compared to the EU average of 41 per cent, placing Ireland 5th out of 28 countries.

The common (BCG) jab could hold key to finding cure for Type 1 diabetes

 

Millions of diabetes sufferers worldwide could have fresh hope after research found a commonly used vaccine could “cure” the condition.

The breakthrough could now get rid of insulin injections?

Scientists are convinced the debilitating effects of Type 1 diabetes can be reversed with a cheap jab used to combat tuberculosis.

Unlike lifestyle-driven Type 2 diabetes, which is often linked to obesity, Type 1 is an auto immune disease that, until now, was thought to be incurable.

But a major breakthrough could see the chronic condition – known as early onset diabetes – wiped out within years.

Researchers think the generic Bacillus Calmette–Guerin (BCG) jab, administered to tens of millions of children each year, can help regenerate insulin-making cells, effectively reversing the condition.

The BCG vaccine is up to 80 per cent effective in preventing TB for 15 years.

Results of initial tests in those who had diabetes for an average of 15 years suggest insulin production can be restored, albeit briefly, by a simple booster injection.

This is a cheap and generic drug that could be very effective and we’ve been saying that message over and over ahead since the start

The astonishing outcome is considered so significant £12million is being ploughed into a second five-year trial.

Experts in Britain described the quantum leap as “very exciting”.

Dr Denise Faustman, who is leading the research, said: “We decided to use a safe 100-year-old vaccine to make this happen and we’ve found that it works.

“We saw early signs that even at low doses of this vaccine the bad white blood cells that were killing the pancreas were killed and the good white blood cells that quiet down Type 1 diabetes were up-regulated.

“This is a cheap and generic drug that could be very effective and we’ve been saying that message over and over ahead since the start.”

Diabetes occurs when the amount of glucose in the blood becomes too high because the body cannot use it properly.

The new research could be a medical breakthrough for diabetes

This happens when the pancreas does not produce any insulin (Type 1), or not enough insulin to help glucose enter the body’s cells – or the insulin that is produced does not work properly, known as insulin resistance (Type 2).

Type 1 can develop at any age, but usually appears before the age of 40, particularly in childhood.

Patients lose their ability to make insulin and have to replace it for the rest of their lives.

Sufferers have a relative deficiency in a hormone known as TNF but scientists believe by administering a natural vaccine boosting TNF, bad white blood cells could be zapped and the pancreas regenerated.

Dr Faustman of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said: “In long-term diabetics we could see the targeted death of bad T-cells.

“We also saw the beginnings of pancreas regeneration. Sure, no one was throwing insulin syringes away yet, because it was just the beginning…but it showed that this could be done. And importantly, this was in long-term Type 1s with 15 to 20 years – that rattled a lot of people.

“We are going to look at how much BCG is needed and how frequently. That’s the key, the secret: knowing how much to dose.

“These aren’t fast trials by any means. We have a five-year follow-up but that’s important because after more than two years the effects become monumentally more significant.

“We know this is worth it, because data now shows from Europe that using BCG compared to the standard of care is most effective.

“Ten years ago no one used the R-word (regeneration) and we weren’t allowed to use that in our science papers.

“That’s changed over time and now it’s a common concept everyone is going after. We have come a long way in thinking how the human pancreas does this very slowly, like in MS where it takes five years.”

The lives of 4million people are now blighted by diabetes and the scale of the epidemic gripping Britain is so great treating the condition costs the NHS £10billion a year, or £1million an hour.

Diabetes can lead to a number of serious long-term health problems like blindness, heart and kidney disease and stroke and the furring and narrowing of blood vessels.

Karen Addington, chief executive of Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, said: “Those diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes must inject insulin every day simply to stay alive. It is a serious and demanding condition and it’s on the rise in the UK, especially in children under the age of five.

“Vaccine research holds real potential for helping to delay or even prevent Type 1 diabetes in those at high genetic risk. Achieving this would be an important step towards discovery of the cure for the condition, taking us towards a world without Type 1 diabetes.

Sitting down too much might could be causing you Anxiety

  

“It’s time to get up and shake a leg you people” because sitting down could be your worst enemy?

Sitting down has been getting a bad rap of late. First we were told that it’s probably killing us (which, you know, is obviously not ideal), and now it’s emerged that sitting down may be affecting our mental health too.

Research by Deakin University’s Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (C-PAN) in Australia has found that there is probably a link between sitting down and anxiety.

Functional brain abnormalities are evidence in some individuals suffering from anxiety and panic disorders as well as post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many brain disorders are accompanied by abnormal patterns of cortical activity (EEG or brain wave patterns).

Psychiatric treatments often rely on the use of medication for the treatment of anxiety; however evidence suggests that meds are not especially effective in treating this condition. Researchers estimate improvement in OCD from treatment with drugs to only be 30% to 35% only, for instance.

Talking about the motivation behind the study, Megan Teychenne, lead researcher and lecturer at C-PAN, explained: ‘Anecdotally – we are seeing an increase in anxiety symptoms in our modern society, which seems to parallel the increase in sedentary behavior. Thus, we were interested to see whether these two factors were in fact linked.’

In fact, according to the NHS, GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) is estimated to affect about 1 in every 25 people in the UK.

Maybe it’s better to not get a seat on the train after all?

Back to the research the team at C-PAN analysed the results of nine studies looking into the relationship between sedentary behaviour and anxiety, and found that there did seem to be a link.

Talking about the results, Megan Teychenne, said: ‘Our research showed that evidence is available to suggest a positive association between sitting time and anxiety symptoms’

But conceded that more research was needed, saying: ‘however, the direction of this relationship still needs to be determined through longitudinal and interventional studies.’

In the meantime however, it might be worth getting off your backside and taking a walk every now and then. You know, just to be on the safe side.

Humpback whales get friendly in Cork with some paddle boarders 

 

Humpback whales were spotted near Inchydoney beach, near Clonakilty in West Cork earlier this week.

A humpback whale was seen Inchydoney beach, near Clonakilty in West Cork earlier this week, and even got friendly with a paddle boarder.

According to the website Ireland’s Wildlife, the whales were possibly drawn into the area by the small fish called sand eels, a crucial food source to the whale. While humpbacks are regular visitors to the Irish coast, what was unusual was how close to shore the whale was feeding.

A whale got extremely close to paddle boarder Jason Coniry.

“I still can’t believe this happened but she swam right toward my board, rolled on her back and submersed just feet in front; she lifted me and the board very gently out of the water with her pectoral fin and then circled a few times passing under again,” the Cork man told BreakingNews.ie.

“After being lifted from the water I ended up on the whale’s side for a moment.

They are such a magnificent creature and such a magical experience. I feel very grateful.”

He warned that whales need to be treated with utmost respect.

“It’s not a good idea for everyone to jump in the water with these animals,” said Coniry, a lifeguard who has surfed and paddleboarded regularly for years.

“Instinct guides us as to when it’s unsafe. The whale’s movements are very intentional and accurate. If it did not want us near it, we would definitely have known.”

“We all should be respectful of our own limitations, and we must be respectful of these animals.”

“Our Irish coastline is largely unexplored and untapped, the West coast is one of the best places in the world to explore by paddleboard and we have amazing lakes and waterways all over the country. It’s great to be able to make the most of that,” he said.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 19th June 2015

Irish regulations helping to reduce road death numbers,

Says Minister Donoghue

  

Paschal Donohoe announces new moves to arrest drivers who are banned by the courts.

Paschal Donohoe said 1,000 people a month were being disqualified from driving by the courts, yet about one in ten of these were subsequently detected by the Gardaí driving vehicles.

The number of people who have been killed on the State’s roads this year is 19 below the similar period last year – a statistic Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe has ascribed to tighter rules of the road safety.

Announcing new measures which would allow gardaí to arrest those caught driving while disqualified, Mr Donohoe said certain types of behaviour were no longer acceptable.

Describing the new measure as “the next wave of efforts to make our roads safer”, Mr Donohoe said that from Monday, a person caught driving while disqualified may be brought immediately before the court if one is sitting, or may be detained until the next day’s court’s sittings.

Gardaí are currently obliged to issue a summons which can lead to difficulties with service of the summons through changes of address or the perpetrator leaving the country.

Mr Donohoe said 1,000 people a month were being disqualified from driving by the courts, yet about one in ten of these were subsequently detected by the gardaí driving vehicles which he described as “absolutely unacceptable”.

The penalty for driving while disqualified is a fine of up to €5,000 and and / or up to six months in prison.

“This year to date we have had about 590 prosecutions by the gardaí of people who were caught getting back into their car and driving the very roads they were banned from,” he said.

Mr Donohoe said he recognised the work of the gardaí in detecting and prosecuting those “who should not be on our roads”.

He said the move was one of a number of measures which had been put in place in recent months which he believed were making a difference to driver behaviour and a subsequent reduction in road deaths.

“We changed the number of penalty points that were applicable to certain kinds of offences and we have also had heightened road safety campaigns that have been run by the Road Safety Authority and other bodies in relation to the need to be safe on the roads.”

According to the Garda, 67 people were killed on the State’s roads up to 9am on Friday morning – some 19 less than the comparison figure for 2014.

However, Mr Donohoe said there were still difficulties with drivers speeding, using a mobile phone, drink-driving and not wearing a seat belt. He said there had been 3,000 arrests so far this year for suspected drink-driving.

Cost of bid to keep ill woman in UK would fund a unit in Ireland

Says a judge

 

Legal costs of HSE bid to keep a woman in a specialised unit estimated at well over €1m

When Mr Justice Seamus Noonan in the High Court observed the costs of the case of a woman with a severe personality disorder would fund a purpose-built unit in the Republic, Gerry Durcan SC, for the woman, said the legal costs of similar cases involving vulnerable young people over the last 20 years would pay for an entire “purpose-built system”.

A High Court judge has said the costs of legal proceedings by the HSE aimed at keeping an 18-year-old woman with a severe personality disorder in a specialised unit in Englandagainst her wishes would fund a “purpose-built” unit for her in Ireland.

The costs to date of various proceedings in Ireland and England concerning the woman are estimated to exceed well over €1 million.

It also costs £400,000 (€560,000) a year to keep her in St Andrew’s unit in Northampton, where other Irish children and adults are regularly detained .

The woman has been detained for 19 months in St Andrew’s. Before that, from age 14, she was treated in various units in Ireland for some two years.

When Mr Justice Seamus Noonan observed the costs of the case would fund a purpose-built unit for the woman here,Gerry Durcan SC, for the woman, said the legal costs of similar cases involving vulnerable young people over the last 20 years would pay for an entire “purpose-built system”.

Eleven barristers, including six senior and five junior counsel, and at least five solicitors are involved in the latest case, brought by the HSE, before Mr Justice Noonan.

It raises important issues, including whether the involuntary detention in St Andrew’s, when the Irish Mental Health Acts prohibit detention of adults with personality disorders, breaches the woman’s rights under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

Most of the doctors agree that, as of now, she has capacity to make decisions about her treatment.

The HSE wants the woman to stay in St Andrew’s and she wants to return to Ireland, as provided for by the High Court in an order last March.

Voluntarily co-operate

It directed a care plan and other arrangements be put in place in time for the woman to return earlier this month. She has told the judge via videolink from Northampton she will voluntarily co-operate with treatment here.

The HSE claims circumstances have changed since the March order and has appealed that order to the Court of Appeal.

Pending that appeal, it has asked Mr Justice Noonan to vary the March order to keep the woman in St Andrew’s in the hope she will co-operate with a form of therapy considered the “gold standard” for her condition.

Doctors involved with her treatment have said they consider her a high suicide risk.

Lawyers for the woman, her estranged parents and her court-appointed guardian, all of whom are separately represented, accept she is a suicide risk but disagree her circumstances have changed materially since last March.

It has also been argued the HSE took no effective steps to put measures in place allowing for her treatment here.

The HSE argues she cannot be effectively treated here and her condition is best managed in St Andrew’s.

In evidence to the court, a psychiatrist who dealt with the woman in Ireland said there is a tension between her liberty, her right to live in the land of her birth and her need for treatment.

He considered it was in her best interests to have her condition managed in St Andrew’s.

That facility was best placed to provide her with treatment and while she had declined it, it could be offered again.

If she continued to refuse it, she should, after a specific time, be permitted to return, he believed.

Kept alive

He agreed she had been detained in hospitals here and England effectively for the past four years, with little improvement in her condition. However, she has been kept alive, he said.

If permitted to return home, the woman should not be subject to imposition of in-patient admission, he said. Should she opt for treatment in Ireland, the services here would be offered to her, he said.

His concern is about staffing, he said. Ireland does not have the resources available to large countries, and does not have the most appropriate facility to treat people with this form of personality disorder.

When Mr Durcan said Ireland does not detain people with personality disorders, the doctor said other jurisdictions do.

The Irish psychiatric services can manage most people apart from a “tiny minority” being treated in England, he added.

Mr Durcan said a medical report of August 2014 set out a view on what was necessary to be put in place for when the woman turned 18 this year, but it seemed there was no contact between the Irish adult mental health services and St Andrew’s concerning the woman’s possible treatment in Ireland for some six months after that report was produced.

The psychiatrist said he disagreed the analytic therapy recommended in that report was appropriate for the woman.

The necessary specialist service is just not available here – he could not “conjure up” such a service and nor did he think such was a good idea.

In her evidence via videolink to the court last week, the woman said the “most important thing” for her was “to be returned back to my country”.

She said she would not take her own life and has many plans for the future.

The price of tobacco and alcohol in Ireland is ‘70% higher than the EU average

   

Alcohol and tobacco prices are higher here than anywhere else in the EU, official Eurostat figures have revealed.

The publication of the consumer price level report across the EUtoday showed that Ireland’s alcoholic beverages and tobacco prices (collectively) are 70% higher than the EU average.

The National Off-Licence Association has stated called on Government to reverse the budgetary hike on alcohol in Budget 2014.

Evelyn Jones, government affairs director of the National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA), stated: “Eurostat’s results highlight the disproportionate and unfair campaign the Irish Government alone is waging against the alcohol sector via excise duty, which places a severe drain on cash flow and jeopardises product quality.

“Eurostat correctly attributes the “large price variation” in price as “mainly due to differences in taxation”.

According to NOffLA, excise on wine is 624% higher than the EU average. Beer and spirits are 298% and 243% above average, respectively.

“Not only has this placed the 92,000 jobs associated with the sector to extreme peril, we can see from Ireland’s ranking in other categories that excise is inflating Ireland’s average prices to that of fifth [highest] in the EU,” she said.

Ireland ranks fifth highest in prices overall: we are fourth most expensive restaurants & hotels, fifth most expensive for personal transport equipment, sixth most expensive for food & non-alcoholic beverages, and tied-13th for most expensive consumer electronics.

“It is simply wrong to suggest high prices benefit anyone other than the Government,” said Ms Jones.

“Not only is it anti-consumer, the level of excise means there is very little left for the actual producer, let alone the wholesaler and retailer.

“65.2% of a bottle of spirits is tax, leaving 34.8% to pay the supplier, staff and overheads before any profit is seen.”

NOffLA released its pre-budget submission earlier this month calling on the Minister for Finance to reverse the 15% increase in excise duty imposed in Budget 2014, to restore parity to wine taxation in relation to domestic alcohol, to ban the below invoice cost selling of alcohol and regulate for out-of-state imports of alcohol to support the 1,850 independent off-licences and 5,800 jobs at serious risk of closure as a result of the past two excise duty increases on alcohol.

Irish state rules out fresh changes to oil firms exploration taxes

  

The Government has said there is no need to readdress last year’s altered fiscal terms for exploration firms active in Irish waters, despite this year’s dramatic drop in oil prices.

Following his address to delegates at Energy Ireland’s annual conference at Croke Park yesterday, Ciaran O’hObain, principal officer at the Department of Natural Resources’ Petroleum Affairs Division (PAD), was specifically asked whether energy consultants Wood Mackenzie, which advised the Government on last year’s tax changes, would advise differently if delivering its findings in the current oil price environment.

World oil prices have fallen from over $100 per barrel to $50-$60 in the last year and are not expected to rise past $70 per barrel in the long term.

Last year, the Government changed the tax framework for Irish offshore operators, with the top rate of tax on profits made from any future oil find in Irish waters increasing from 40% to 55% and a 5% royalty revenue also going to the State for each year of a producing field’s lifespan.

The new terms will only relate to new finds and will not be backdated to cover previous finds that have yet to be drilled.

Mr O’hObain said yesterday that there is no issue to address regarding the new fiscal terms. He said that Wood Mackenzie based its analysis on a $60+ oil price, not specifically on a $100 price tag.

He added that the analysis was based on “a longer term view” and on a number of issues, including competition, outside of the record high oil prices.

“It wasn’t based on a 2014 price footing, but a more longer-term view. There is no proposal to be revisited,” Mr O’hObain said.

The question was posed by Irish Offshore Operators’ Association (IOOA) chairman Pat Shannon.

Earlier this year, the IOOA suggested this year’s Finance Bill should include — as has been mooted by Government — incentives for marginal field operators, such as a lowering of the corporate tax rate (currently at 25% for explorers) and a removal of the 5% royalty fee for small and marginal field operators.

Mr O’hObain also suggested it is still too early to gauge how much interest is being shown in this year’s Atlantic Margin licensing round, which closes in September.

He said firms would be making “critical decisions”, regarding new investments this summer.

“Yes, there is interest. But we won’t know how this will translate into actual applications until September,” said Mr O’hObain.

He added that Ireland has many elements in place for a viable oil industry, including fiscal policy, industry engagement, joined-up thinking, and regulatory structure, but needed to see more drilling activity.

He said that Ireland remained under-explored, even though we are at a time of a record high number of licence and prospect authorisations.

Earlier this week, Deirdre Michie, the head of the UK’s oil sector representative, Oil & Gas UK, warned that the industry needed to get used to a future environment where long-term oil prices will hover around the $60 per barrel mark.

Britain’s once thriving North Sea-based exploration sector reached a 20-year low last year in terms of activity, with just 14 exploration wells drilled compared with 44 drilled in 2008.

Scientists discover that most kangaroos are ‘left-handed’

  

The study involved observing multiple species of marsupial in the wild for extended periods

Researchers have discovered that most kangaroos are left-handed, making them the only other species apart from humans to show a ‘handedness’ on a large scale.

The study, published in biology journal Current Biology, was conducted by a team of Russian scientists, who spent hours observing the behaviour of multiple species in the wild.

The scientists looked at the red kangaroo, red-necked wallaby, eastern grey kangaroo, and found that most animals of these species used their left forelimb far more often than their right.

The study says that two species of kangaroo and the wallaby displayed ‘population lateralisation’, meaning the animals showed a dominant use of one paw across a whole population.

The study also found that this left-handedness is consistent across different types of behaviour, for example when eating, grabbing things, and grooming.

The brush-tailed bettong, a tiny marsupial that resembles a squirrel, also showed a distinct left-handedness equal to that of the kangaroos.

Other marsupials observed in the study, such as Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo, the sugar glider, and the grey short-tailed opossum, did not show a similar level of laterality.

These three creatures, unlike the larger marsupials, move on four feet instead of two – the study says this suggests that these postural characteristics are instrumental in whether the animal shows lateralisation.

Animals individually can be observed to show a preference for one side over another, as can be seen when asking a dog for a paw. However, lateralisation has never been proven at a population level before in a species other than humans.

Despite the popular misconception that polar bears are left handed (using their right paw to cover their black nose before killing their prey with their left), these few marsupials are the only non-human animals that mostly use one hand over the other.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 18th June 2015

Ireland were ‘pushed hard into bailout plan’ by the ECB

The Irish government accepted an EU and IMF bail-out package back in 2010 .

  

Former finance ministry head Kevin Cardiff says European officials used anonymous media briefings during bailout talks to undermine market confidence Ireland

Ireland was pushed into an international bailout as EU officials used backdoor media briefings to weaken the country’s standing, the former head of the country’s finance ministry said on Thursday.

Kevin Cardiff, ex-secretary general of Ireland’s Department of Finance, has also disputed former European Central Bank (ECB) president Jean Claude Trichet’s claim that he “simply” advised Dublin against burning senior bondholders at the time.

The ECB did more than “simply give advice and we shouldn’t hide from that,” he told a parliamentary inquiry into the Irish banking crisis.

At the moment we entered it, we were pushed – quite hard very hard said Kevin Cardiff, ex-secretary general of Ireland’s Department of Finance

Mr Cardiff, secretary general from 2010 to 2012, said Ireland came under enormous direct and indirect pressure to enter the €85bn (£61bn) bailout in 2010 set up by the IMF, European Commission and the ECB.

“At the moment we entered it, we were pushed – quite hard,” he told the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry, which is investigating the causes of the crisis.

“The push was in some ways direct and transparent…we knew who was doing it, we knew what they were saying.

“In other cases the pressure came indirectly via some misinformation, anonymous media briefings, reportedly coming from official sources, which acted to accelerate market pressure and create enormous pressure on Ireland to enter an EU/IMF programme – quickly.”

Mr Cardiff said he was grateful for the international expertise and commitment to Ireland’s rescue, but he slammed the undermining of democracy by “backdoor media briefings”.

“Democratic systems should not rely on undermining reputations and distributing misinformation via anonymous briefings,” he said.

A protester who lost their job amid Ireland’s financial crisis holds a placard in Dublin

However, he added the ECB had its reasons amid a wider looming crisis in Europe to push Ireland into a bailout.

At the time, it was “quite unlikely” that Ireland could finance itself the following year.

Mr Cardiff also claimed former IMF chief Dominque Strauss-Kahn was in favour of burning senior bondholders – forcing top-level investors, like institutions, to share the losses of the crash in banking stocks.

Mr Strauss-Kahn was sure he could persuade Europe, the US and other major players to come onboard.

But he was shot down by the ECB in a global conference call set up to push for the arrangement, the inquiry was told.

Europe was teetering on a serious crisis at the time, and there were fears the Irish plan would create a new Lehman Brothers-style plunge, with one ECB figure at the time warning it would wreak havoc, he added.

There were also worries about an international “bond-buying strike” on Europe.

Things could have been different – but they might have been a lot worse

The ECB warned the bailout would be pulled if Ireland insisted on senior bondholders taking their share of the losses, said Mr Cardiff.

There was “a strong negative reaction from the ECB and others and that moreover the EU-IMF programme would not go ahead if senior bondholder burden sharing was contemplated”, he said.

“Of course it was formally Ireland’s decision not to burn bondholders, but it was one of those decisions without much option.”

In the event, Ireland had no choice but to rule out the option, he testified.

Mr Cardiff was also head of the Department of Finance’s banking unit during the controversial 2008 state guarantee of six struggling banks.

The former civil service chief said there were alternatives to the blanket guarantee, and he favoured nationalising rogue lender Anglo Irish Bankand giving a broad political guarantee for the others.

Ireland, like Greece, negotiated a bail-out with the EU and IMF

Although he was overruled, he said he is still not sure which option would have been best.

The government and the banks were trying to find the least worst course of action as two banks were about to run out of money.

Anglo was facing not just a wholesale run but a “good old fashioned queues on the street run” within a day or two of the guarantee, while Irish Life and Permanent was also expected to run out of cash around the same time, he said.

“There were no cost-less options,” he added.

“Things could have been different. But they might have been a lot worse. It would have been a big gamble to wait a few more days.”

Greece, facing a possible IMF default on July 1, is negotiating with the ECB and European Commission on an aid-for-reforms deal. Both institutions have rejected accusations that they are using inappropriate pressure to convince the Greek government to accept the new bailout funds.

Pope Francis challenges the world to clean up its filth?

   

With a poet’s lyricism, a former chemist’s precision and a pontiff’s moral thunder, Pope Francis recast humanity’s relationship with nature in stark ethical terms, hoping to spur a warming, filthy world to clean up its act “before it’s too late.”

In issuing “Laudato Si,” his much-anticipated encyclical on climate change, the pope on Thursday took an extraordinary approach to an environmental issue often framed in the dry language of science. Francis’ teaching document is a melodic yet radical indictment, depicting a materialistic and wasteful society that is hurting the planet and its poorest people.

He challenges the world to stop pollution, to recycle and carpool and to do without air conditioning ” and makes it a moral imperative.

“The exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty,” he writes.

The pope’s “marching orders for advocacy,” as the head of the U.S. conference of bishops calls it, comes as the world nears make-or-break time for international climate change negotiations that start late this year in Paris.

“This is a seminal moment in world history because the pope now is the leading global voice on climate change,” said prominent Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley, who has written both on the church and environmentalism. “The pope brings extraordinary clout connecting Christianity and humanism to the protection of natural resources.”

Francis said he hoped his paper would lead both ordinary people in their daily lives and decision-makers at the Paris U.N. climate meetings to a wholesale change of mind and heart, urging all to listen to “both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has made the issue of climate change his top priority since taking the reins of the world body 8 years ago, thanked the pope “for taking such a strong stand on the need for urgent global action.”

In some ways, the pope’s encyclical and its prayers serve as an invocation to the climate talks.

“As we prepare for global climate negotiations in Paris this December, it is my hope that all world leaders ” and all God’s children ” will reflect on Pope Francis’s call to come together to care for our common home,” President Barack Obama said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Scientific data released Thursday backed up Francis’ concerns. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released figures showing that last month was the hottest May around the globe in 136 years of global records. NOAA calculated that the first five months of 2015 made up by far the hottest year on record, with very real effects: some 2,200 people have died in India’s heat wave.

While the encyclical drew praise from church, science and government leaders, some politically conservative Catholics criticized its economic analysis, and some U.S. Republican politicians said religion had no place in climate policy. Some in the fossil fuel industry took the unusual tack of citing Francis’ focus on the poor, arguing that his thinking would hurt and not help the disenfranchised.

“No, I’m sorry, it’s a political issue,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources. “Most people have their minds made up on this issue, so any more rhetoric about the issue doesn’t really add a heck of a lot more to it.”

Scientists who for more than 50 years have been talking about the dangers of global warming say this could break the inertia that has characterized climate negotiations. With their data and computer models, scientists appealed to logic; the pope sought to engage the soul.

“This is exactly what we need,” said Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who as an evangelical Christian has talked about faith and warming. “We need leaders who speak to values, connecting the dots between values and climate change.”

John Schellnhuber, the German scientist credited with devising the internationally adopted goal of trying to prevent another degree Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) goal from now, said the pope is harnessing two “strong powers in the world.”

“If faith and reason work together hand-in-hand, we can overcome this crisis,” Schellnhuber said.

At the heart of Francis’ theological argument is the concept of “integral ecology,” which gives a more central role for the environment in longstanding Catholic social teaching by linking destruction of nature with injustices such as poverty, hunger, inequality and violations of human dignity.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, said the encyclical wasn’t a directive from Francis to people in politics or business that “you must do this.”

“That doesn’t appear in the document. He is saying, ‘Here is the moral frame of reference. I would like that everyone would work together on this so we individually can get together and say what could we do,'” Wuerl said.

The encyclical covers all sorts of environmental issues, including waste, extinctions, genetically modified organisms and the lack of clean water.

Addressing “every living person on this planet,” Francis calls for a bold cultural revolution to correct what he said was a “structurally perverse” economic system in which the rich exploited the poor.

Closing his document with “a prayer for our Earth,” the pope beseeches God: “Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the Earth.”

His words brought Deke Arndt, a top U.S. federal climate scientist and Catholic, to tears.

“There are certain things that science will never be able to say so beautifully,” he said. “I think it speaks across the spectrum of human experiences … It speaks to the soul and the inner part of us.”

No encyclical has ever drawn this much popular and sustained attention. The hashtag #LaudatoSi was trending Thursday on Twitter.

Citing the deforestation of the Amazon, the melting of Arctic glaciers and the deaths of coral reefs, Francis rebuked “obstructionist” climate doubters who “seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms.” And he blamed politicians for listening more to oil industry interests than Scripture, common sense or the cries of the poor.

“The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” he wrote.

He praised a “less is more” lifestyle, one that shuns air conditioners and gated communities in favor of car pools, recycling and being in close touch with the marginalized. He called for courageous, radical and farsighted policies to transition the world’s energy supply from fossil fuels to renewable sources, saying mitigation schemes like the buying and selling of carbon credits won’t solve the problem.

The leading skeptic in the U.S. Congress, Republican Sen. James Inhofe, said he feared the encyclical will be used by “alarmists” to push policies that will lead to big tax increases. He said the poor will actually “carry the heaviest burden” of policies to phase out fossil fuels with renewable energy sources.

The pope will address Congress in September and is expected to talk about the environment, but House leadership isn’t promising action addressing the pontiff’s concerns.

“There’s a lot of bills out there. I’m not sure where in the process these bills may be,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Boehner, a Catholic, said he respects the pope’s right to speak out on the issue.

On the eve of the encyclical’s release, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, a Catholic convert, said he didn’t believe “we should politicize our faith. I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”

But Francis argues that there really is no distinction between human beings, their faith and the environment: They are all part of a single integral ecology.

“Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth,” he writes.

Physical elderly abuse now at record levels in Ireland

According to HSE report

 

Almost half of all reported cases alleged abuse by adult children of the victims

A total of 2,592 cases of elder abuse were reported to the HSE in 2014, 300 of which involved physical abuse.

Almost 300 cases of physical abuse of older people were reported to the HSE in 2014 – with half of the abuse being carried out by adult children of the victims, according to figures just released.

The physical abuse was however just 12 per cent of referrals which included financial abuse, psychological abuse and neglect. In total there were 2,592 reported cases in 2014 – the highest number since specific services in this area were set up in 2007.

The HSE defines elder abuse as “a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person, or violates their human and civil rights”.

Almost one in three referrals to the HSE elder abuse services complained of psychological abuse, while one in five alleged financial abuse. Neglect was cited in 15 per cent of cases and self-neglect – elderly people expressing concern that they could not look after themselves – represented almost one in four of all referrals.

The HSE report also showed that two-thirds of all referrals related to women, the majority of whom were more than 80 years old. The referral rate was between 3½ and four times greater in the over 80s when compared with the 65-79 age category. The public health nursing service continues to be the main referral source.

Relatives

As has been characteristic of previous years, the alleged perpetrators are adult children in 49 per cent of cases. The next highest category is partner/husband or wife at 19 per cent, while “other relative” accounts for 15 per cent of alleged perpetrators. Some 5 per cent of cases were classified as “other”, which included landlords and lodgers.

Commenting on the figures, Paschal Moynihan, a HSE specialist in older persons services, said anyone who has a concern about abuse of an older person should contact their GP, public health nurse or any healthcare worker.

Since the establishment of the service in 2007, there have been almost 44,000 attendees on elder abuse training/awareness sessions.

The HSE has produced a booklet, Open Your Eyes: Protect Yourself from Elder Abuse which is available online and can be viewed and downloaded from the HSE website.

A DVD is also available from elder-abuse dedicated officers and HSE senior case workers and a helpline is available on 1850 24 1850 Monday to Saturday, 8am-8pm.

Wearing skinny jeans can damage your health,

According to a new report

  

The term ‘fashion victim’ took on a whole new meaning recently when a woman was hospitalised for four days from damage caused by wearing skinny jeans.

Medical experts have warned that the flattering jeans could put wearers at risk, as excessive movement and squatting could cause muscle or nerve damage.

Unnamed medical experts say that excessive movement while wearing the crotch hugging legwear can harm nerves and muscle fibres in the legs and feet.

A report in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry detailed how one unlucky woman had to be hospitalised for four days after she was cut out of her skinny jeans.

She had helped a relative move house the day before and spent many hours squatting while emptying boxes and moving furniture about the place.

What do we learn from this? Never. Help. Anyone.

“Her calves were so swollen that her jeans had to be cut off her,” the report said. The fashion victim had been found on her floor, unable to move, having developed compartment syndrome, which sounds like zero craic.

“She couldn’t move her ankles or toes properly and had lost feeling in her lower legs and feet.

“Investigations revealed she had damaged muscle and nerve fibres in her lower legs as a result of prolonged compression while squatting which her tight jeans had made worse, the doctors suggest.”

Is the food we are eating ageing us?

Some foods age you faster than others, according to a dietician.

    

The food we eat can be beneficial or detrimental to our health, depending on the individual ingredient. But now it’s been claimed that certain foods can actually age you quicker than others. The ingredients have been identified because of elements that either put stress on the body, cause cell damage or contribute to ageing cells in the long term.

“As a general rule of thumb, dietary patterns with a high glycaemic load [high in carbohydrates] increase inflammatory processes in the body over time, while diets high in salt result in fluid retention, swelling and increase pressure on a number of the body’s systems,” dietician Susie Burrell told the Daily Mail Australia.

For example, grabbing a muffin with your morning coffee can contribute to long-term harm. This is because high levels of sugar can actually change the kind of collagen the body produces, leaving it looking and feeling soft.

“The potent mix of saturated fat and sugar mean that processed carbohydrates are a nightmare when it comes to increasing inflammation in the body,” she explained.

Chai lattes also come under the high-sugar banner, especially as many coffee shops don’t make them with actual chai leaves, instead using pre-mixed syrup.

“Pre-mixed chai can contain as much as six teaspoons of sugar in a single serve and when you combine that with the sugars found naturally in milk, you have a sugar bomb hidden in a seemingly healthy drink choice,” Susie continued.

A sugar overload can form harmful molecules that damage protein in the body and once again, collagen gets a bit of a battering, leading to brittle skin, which in turn causes wrinkles.

With this in mind, people might think about switching to fruit juice instead as their morning beverage, but this can put you on the fast track to ageing too. This is because one glass of bottled fruit juice has more sugar than people might expect.

“Not only is fruit juice highly acidic, which destroys tooth enamel, but with more than six teaspoons of sugar per glass, juice will send your insulin levels sky rocketing,” she continued. “The high insulin levels are linked to both inflammation and weight gain.”

While all this information may leave you wondering what on earth you can do to slow down ageing, there are foods that can work in your favour. These include fruit and vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish high in omega-3 and nuts.

Tiny octopus is so cute, local scientist might name it ‘adorabilis’

   

This flapjack octopus in the genus Opisthoteuthis was photographed about 1,080 feet below the surface in Monterey Bay.

Flapjack octopus can swim by moving their fins, pulsing their webbed arms, pushing water through their funnel for jet propulsion, or all three at once. They often swim up off the bottom and hover a bit just above the seafloor, looking for small crustaceans, worms and other food.

MBARI researchers are working with aquarists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium to learn more about flapjack octopuses.

Hideous denizens live in the deep sea. But so does a cute wide-eyed, pink and squishy little octopus.

The newly discovered, cartoon-like creature is so cute that “adorable” might become part of its scientific name. It started with a joke from a Moss Landing scientist who’s faced with identifying the species.

“I thought that since this animal is so adorable, I should name it adorabilis,” laughed Stephanie Bush, postdoctoral fellow at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. “I’m supposed to be this really serious stoic scientist, but I’m still human. It’s just so cute.”

The fist-sized octopus has been making waves online since Science Friday recently released a video celebrating Cephalopod Week, which begins Friday. Many fawning over the rare cephalopod have their fingers crossed in hopes Bush will name it Opisthoteuthis adorabilis.

But identifying a species is a painstaking process that can take years. While researchers first collected this unidentified octopus in the early 1990s, Bush is the first to take on describing the species.

“Giving it a name is one of the easiest parts,” she said. “We have to collect multiple specimens. There’s a lot of counting and measuring essentially. You have to differentiate one species from others.”

This nameless octopus might look familiar. It’s the same genus as Pearl, the pink flapjack octopus (Opisthoteuthis califoriana) in the film “Finding Nemo.” Scientist thought they were the same animal until Bush noted key distinctions while working with the two species for the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Tentacles” exhibit last year.

Though precious, their pinkish color is common among deep-sea creatures. Since red light doesn’t reach the black waters of the deep sea, animals who are red appear black. The camouflage helps them avoid predators and attack prey, which is worms and tiny crustaceans for this octopus.

They live along the California Coast in abyssal depths up to 2,600 feet. Bush found her specimens in the Monterey Bay. Their gelatinous body measures about 7 inches in diameter and their arms are webbed.

Though the flapjack octopus species mostly sits on the deep sea floor, it swims by flapping its fan of arms to propel through the water, steering with its fins.

One of the live cute creatures Bush is studying laid eggs about a year ago. There’s no telling when they’ll hatch, but she can’t wait.

“I want to see what these baby octopuses look like,” Bush said. Because the only thing cuter than the nameless pink octopus is probably its babies.

Bush said she still hasn’t decided to name it adorabalis, but even if she did, it wouldn’t be that outlandish.

Other species have been crowned adorable enough too, such as the white-crested coquette (Lophornis adorabilis), a hummingbird with elegant neck plumes.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 18th June 2015

The Banking guarantee deal was essential,

says David Doyle

  

Former Department of Finance official says Anglo had to be nationalized.

David Doyle, who was Secretary General of the department from 2006-2010, said Anglo Irish Bank “had to be nationalised to stop it collapsing and triggering a wider banking failure”.

The bank guarantee was essential to avoid a collapse of the banking system and the economy, a former seniorDepartment of Finance official has said.

David Doyle, who was secretary general between 2006 and 2010, said Anglo Irish Bank “had to be nationalised to stop it collapsing and triggering a wider banking failure”.

Mr Doyle criticised the litany of failures by a series of bodies including his own department.

He told the banking inquiry “the Central Bank placed undue reliance on the (Financial) regulator’s assessment of the financial reports of the Irish banks. That was a mistake.

“The Regulator took the reports of the banks at face value and did not subject their loan books to any meaningful scrutiny. That was a mistake.

“The Department of Finance was wrong to rely on consensus forecasts for a soft landing. It was also wrong to take at face value the assessment of both the Central Bank and the Regulator of the state of the financial sector. I regret this.”

Mr Doyle said nationalising Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide was considered on the night of the bank guarantee but was ruled out.

Mr Doyle said there was draft legislation prepared ahead of the meeting to nationalise a bank and to guarantee the banks.

He said there was a strong case but it was overruled because it could lead to an undermining of the banks.

Mr Doyle said “whatever about these contending viewpoints, the simple fact was that if emergency measures were not taken that night to address the problems created by the banks, there was a very real danger of a collapse in the domestic banking industry, not just in Anglo but quickly in the rest of the banks through a widespread loss in confidence.

“The damage to individual depositors, large and small, both personal and business would have been extreme. The potential reputational damage would have undermined consumer business confidence, domestic and international investment – existing and future.”

Speaking about the night in September 2008, Mr Doyle said the view of the European Central Bank was quoted to the meeting by the then Governor of the Irish Central Bank.

“On the night of the guarantee, Anglo was found to be illiquid, the Financial Regulator was still supporting the view of Anglo that it was profitable and solvent. All the banks were suffering from liquidity pressures. But Anglo was facing imminent collapse in the absence of access to liquidity. This was the reality facing the government on the night of September 29th 2008.”

He said the question of emergency liquidity assistance “was considered” for Anglo but that the ability of the system to keep it secret was regarded as “slim to none”.

He said the Financial Regulator had assured the government that all the banks were solvent. “Merrill Lynch in their document of September 29th said ‘it is important to stress that, at present, liquidity concerns aside, all of the Irish banks are profitable and well capitalised.’”

He said that warning came from Jean Cluade-Trichet and it warned no bank failure could be allowed “or words to that effect”.

“The simple fact was that if emergency measures were not taken that night to address the problems created by the banks, there was a very real danger of a collapse in the domestic banking industry, not just in Anglo but quickly in the rest of the banks through a widespread loss in confidence.

“The damage to individual depositors, large and small, at personal and business, i.e. at all levels, would have been extreme. The potential reputational damage would have undermined consumer business confidence, domestic and international existing and future investment.

“A collapse in the banking industry would have led to the sovereign borrowing reputation and capacity being irretrievably damaged. A collapse on this front combined with impacts on revenue would have resulted in government services and investment across the board being summarily cut or suspended. No one was prepared to countenance this.”

Mr Doyle said the then Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan left the room for a private political discussion and returned with a decision of a blanket guarantee.

He said Mr Lenihan did not indicate any disagreement with that decision.

Mr Doyle said it was Mr Lenihan’s view at the start of the meeting on September 29th 2008 that Anglo Irish Bank should have been nationalised.

He said when Mr Lenihan listened to the reservations about what nationalising could have for the credibility of the guarantee, he changed his mind.

Mr Doyle also said the banks caused the economic crash but the Financial Regulator and others should have done more.

The former Secretary General said fiscal policy should have been more conservative but claimed the crisis was caused by dramatic escalation in lending by the banks.

He said the Department was wrong to take the assessments without challenge and Mr Doyle said that was wrong.

For the first time a computer beats a human in IQ test

As machines start to understand words and sentences

 

The deep learning computer built by researchers outperformed humans on IQ test

For the first time ever a computer programmed to understand multiple meaning of words and sentences has beaten humans in the Intelligence Quotient test.

For ages, humans have given a lot of importance to the Intelligence Quotient (IQ); however when it comes to computers, IQ as such has very little value.

According to a recently released study, researchers from Microsoft and the University of Science and Technology of China programmed a computer to understand multiple meaning of words and sentences.

By building this deep learning machine they compared the IQ of Artificial Intelligence with that of humans and surprisingly the results showed that the machinesoutperformed an average human on the types of problems that have always been the toughest for computers to solve.

The test involved three categories of questionnaire:

  1. Logic questions which comprised of patterns in sequences of images
  2. Mathematical questions which consisted of patterns in sequences of numbers
  3. Verbal reasoning questions which dealt with analogies, classifications, synonyms and antonyms.

Huazheng Wang and pals at the University of Science and Technology of China and Bin Gao at Microsoft Research in Beijing, concentrated on this last category of test i.e. Verbal reasoning.

A review from M.I.T Technology states that whenever a natural language processing computer is posed with any questions from the verbal reasoning, then the performance of the computer is seen to be very poor and even worse when compared to the ability of an average human.

On the contrary, when researchers compared the deep learning machine and 200 human subjects at Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowd-sourcing facility to answer the same verbal questions it was seen that the A.I powered system outperformed average human on these questions.

Earlier computer scientists used the data mining techniques to program the computers due to which the machines were able to analyze particular patterns of texts to find the links between words they contain and also determine as to how these words are related to each other. With this technique computers could accomplish the work of translation because it assumed each word has only one meaning.

When it comes to Verbal reasoning, computers are expected to understand words which have more than one meaning so as to be able to differentiate between the synonyms and antonyms which is where computers have shown a poor performance for ages and humans have always had an upper hand.

Researchers thus focused on going beyond the existing technologies and created a framework which comprised of three components as their aim was to make the computers efficient enough to solve the verbal comprehensive questions.

Very first element was the classifier which would help the machines to recognize thetype of verbal question. Basically the computer needs to make out if it is an analogy or classification or synonym or antonym problem.

Next was the most intelligent move wherein the computer recognizes the multiple meanings of a word by matching it with the other related words that are contained in the dictionary.

The final step involves actual solving the problem using the definite meanings of the words based on all the data the machine collected.

Thus in all researchers developed a technique through which the computer was able to recognize the different meanings which a word can probably have.

Based on the overall education levels of the human participants the report stated: “Our RK model can reach the intelligence level between the people with the bachelor degrees and those with the master degrees, which also implies the great potential of the word embedding to comprehend human knowledge and form up certain intelligence.”

This is just a beginning step which promises a better development of the future computers.

Casey filmed himself having a anxiety attack

    

To raise awareness of Mental Health Problems

A man has taken to YouTube to show the devastating aftermath of an anxiety attack.

Casey Throwaway, shared the video a week ago and it’s already been viewed over 420,000 times.

In the two-minute clip, tearful Casey explains that he wanted to make the video to show that anxiety attacks are real.

He says: “I’ve always been the type of person that says you’ve gotta man up. But that’d be like telling a blind person to see. I can’t do anything about this. The reason that it’s so bad right now, is because I recently had to start working full time and I think people are going to judge.

“My brain is on fire right now. I feel like I’m going to pass out. My emotions are crazy. I’m having all sorts of crazy thoughts in my head.”

Thanks to the success of the video, the vlogger has started a Kickstarter project to raise money for recording equipment so he can create a series of videos about mental health issues.

Casey wrote on his Kickstarter page: “I posted the video in hope of connecting with people who suffer with the stigmas of mental illness. People have been overwhelmingly supportive of the video and can relate to it.

“I don’t need much money and I will pour my heart and soul into this project. All I want to do is get a new camera and editing software to keep making the videos people want,” he added.

This week is Men’s Health Week, it focusses on healthy living for men, both physically and mentally.

Spanish Armada cannons retrieved from Sligo seabed

Underwater archaeology unit recovers material at Streedagh Co Sligo which dates back to 1588

  

One of the cannons uncovered at Streedagh, Co Sligo, from the wreck of the Spanish Armada ship La Juliana, which sank in 1588.

Two 16th-century cannons in extraordinarily good condition have been recovered by underwater archaeologists from the Spanish Armada wreck site off Streedagh, Co Sligo.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys watched one of the two cannons from the wreck, La Juliana, being raised from the seabed when she visited the location in Sligo yesterday morning.

The decision to retrieve the cannons and other artefacts was taken by Ms Humphreys’s department after storms exposed material from the Armada wrecks at Streedagh earlier this year.

The recovery by the Underwater Archaeology Unit attached to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was assisted by skipper Anthony Irwin on his boat Dúlra na Mara.

“The divers prepared the seabed area and then we used airbags and chain blocks to winch the cannons on to the deck,” saidMr Irwin.

One of the cannons bears a dedication to and depiction of St Matrona, venerated by the people of Catalonia and Barcelona. The cannon also bears the date 1570, the year La Juliana was constructed, putting the identity of the ship beyond doubt, according to Ms Humphreys.

The ship, built in Barcelona in 1570, was trading betweenSpain and Italy when it was commandeered by Philip II of Spain for his fleet of 130 ships deployed to invade England.

More than 1,000 soldiers and sailors are estimated to have lost their lives when La Juliana, La Lavia and Santa Maria de Vision broke up in storms off the west coast in September 1588.

Display

The retrieved material will be conserved by the National Museum of Ireland, but the Grange and Armada Development Association (GADA) hopes the artefacts can return to Co Sligo for display close to the wreck location.

GADA wants to establish Grange, Co Sligo, as the Armada centre for Ireland.

Its chairman Eddie O’Gorman welcomed Ms Humphreys’s interest and said his group hoped the Government would fund an interpretative centre as a first step. The community group has leased the old Grange court house as a visitors’ centre for its work in highlighting the Armada links.

Are these the stars that shaped the universe?

  

The Very Large Telescope has spotted signs that may indicate the presence of the oldest stars in the universe — formed from matter created by the Big Bang.

In the beginning there was nothing. Then there was something: the Big Bang, forging gas — hydrogen, helium, lithium. At some point in the chaos that followed, stars formed from this primordial soup. Pristine gases spun into stellar bodies. A generation of stars (whose existence is theoretical) created light in the darkness.

These Population III stars, as they are known, are theoretically the turning point for the universe: taking the gases and turning them into the heavier elements: carbon, oxygen, iron, nitrogen and metallic elements.

But though there had to have been a first generation of stars, we’ve never actually seen them. This is because, massive, hundreds of times larger than the sun, they burned huge, hot, bright — and fast. Scientists believe that these stars from the dawn of time burned out after just two million years.

We haven’t seen them — but we may now have seen the very first evidence of their existence.

A team of researchers led by David Sobral from the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences in Portugal has found what it believes to be good evidence for clusters of Population III stars in a galaxy located some 13.02 billion years away — 800 million years after the Big Bang.

Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, with help from the Subaru Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope, the team found a number of very bright, very young galaxies as part of a wide survey of very distant galaxies (as opposed to the more common narrow survey of a smaller patch of sky).

But it was a galaxy they named CR7 that caught their attention — by far the brightest galaxy ever seen at this stage of the universe, three times brighter than the previous holder of that title, Himiko, which had been thought to be one of a kind

As well as being exceptionally bright, CR7 contained strong ionised helium emission — and, crucially, no sign of any heavier elements. Both the ionised helium and the lack of heavier elements are required for Population III stars.

“The discovery challenged our expectations from the start, as we didn’t expect to find such a bright galaxy,” Sobral said.

“Then, by unveiling the nature of CR7 piece by piece, we understood that not only had we found by far the most luminous distant galaxy, but also started to realise that it had every single characteristic expected of Population III stars. Those stars were the ones that formed the first heavy atoms that ultimately allowed us to be here. It doesn’t really get any more exciting than this.”

The survey found blue and red clusters of stars, indicating that Population III stars did not all form at once, but in waves — and the team directly observed what it believes to be the last wave of Population III stars, alongside regular stars. This means that Population III stars may be easier to find than thought — not tucked away in the farthest, dimmest galaxies, but close enough to be observable.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 16th June 2015

Hunger is the world’s ‘greatest ethical challenge’

Says Irish President M.D. Higgins

  

The President of Ireland discusses the ‘moral outrage’ of global hunger at Expo 2015 in Milan.

President Michael D Higgins said Ireland has “innate understanding” of world hunger given its Famine history.

It is not often that you will hear a legendary singer such as Seán O’Sé light up a dull, overcast Milan morning with a live rendition of The Foggy Dew, but it happened on Tuesday when Ireland came to visit the Expo 2015 exhibition in Milan.

Accompanied by the Brú Ború band of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí fame, O’Sé was one of a number of Irish artists who welcomed President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina when they came to visit Expo on Tuesday on Irish National Day, time to coincide with Bloomsday.

In an age when hardly anyone knows what Expo is actually about, this Milan version may have hit on an irresistibly winning note. Entitled “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”, it has set out to investigate, illustrate and analyse just about every aspect of arguably the most urgent problem facing the world today.

The point was not lost on the President who said: “Global hunger in the 21st century represents the grossest of human rights violations, and the greatest ethical challenge facing the global community.

“According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, while the world at the present time produces enough food to potentially feed its entire population, more than 1 billion people are undernourished, over 2 billion suffer from nutritional deficiencies, and almost 6 million children die every year from malnutrition or related diseases.”

‘A powerful infrastructure’

The President also said that the fact that more than 140 countries are participating in this Expo means that the exhibition provides a “powerful infrastructure” which brings together the key issues of food provision, upscaling nutrition and sustainability.

Calling world hunger not only a “great ethical challenge” but also a “great moral outrage”, he added:

“Ireland knows about this, Ireland has an innate understanding of this [world hunger] . . . given that 1 million Irish people died of starvation and over 1 million emigrated during, ‘An Gort Mór’, the Great Hunger in the 1840s and [thus] food security is given the highest priority by our development aid programme . . .”

The President was formally received at Expo by Ivan Scalfarotto, Italian junior minister for constitutional reform. Mr Scalfarotto, Italy’s first openly gay government minister, took the opportunity to congratulate Ireland on its progressive “recent legislation”, in an obvious reference to the success of the same-sex marriage referendum last month in Ireland.

During his six-hour stay, the President also took time to visit the Irish pavilion, created around Bord Bia’s “Origin Green” programme which aims at promoting Ireland as “a world-leading producer of independently verified, sustainably produced food and drink while protecting a landscape rich in natural resources”.

And Bloomsday? Do not worry, it was not forgotten with actor Garvan McGrath at one point offering a spirited rendering of some excerpts from Ulysses, excerpts which he also offered in even more spirited Italian much to the bemusement of some of his audience.

‘Our condolences go to the Irish people’ involved in the Berkeley disaster

 

Kittredge Street apartment materials taken away for more analysis.

Two women embrace while watching sheriff’s deputies on duty at the scene in Berkeley where six Irish students were killed. They said hthey knew the victims.

It was around midnight in California’s best-known college town when Berkeley police got the first call from Kittredge Street tenants and neighbours.

According to their police log, it was just a noise complaint about a student party at the 2110 Berkeley Library Gardens Apartments – not the first or last from the eight-year-old complex, where short-term renters pay up to $3,000 per month for one-bedroom apartments.

“But cops didn’t arrive till 12.40am, just after the balcony collapsed,” said local witness Bob Brown, who lives opposite the apartment. “The police were late this time.”

The six victims have been named as Niccolai Schuster (21), Eoghan Culligan (21), Eimear Walsh (21), Olivia Burke (21), Ashley Donohoe (22) and Lorcan Miller (21). They and others seriously injured, fell on to pavement concrete, not the asphalt of Kittredge Road.

lrish Consul in San Francisco Philip Grantwent to Berkeley early in the day, talking to the building’s owners and establishing names of victims. His staff was already undergoing the usual summertime melee of lost passports and minor infractions. Now they’re facing the colossal bureaucratic and emotional toll.

Local people were dumbfounded at how so many managed to exit narrow French windows onto the cantilevered balcony. It doesn’t seem possible, they repeated.

From the ground, it looked small, and was immediately above another balcony. The pieces of the fourth floor balcony are now gone, leaving a ragged looking slash of wood and tarpaper being inspected by police detectives earlier yesterday morning.

“Statewide, we’re going to be examining balconies more closely from now on,” said a tenant from the opposite complex waiting outside the yellow police tape.

A second neighbour, David Daniels, said they’d “never known anything like this to happen in Berkeley”.

“Our condolences go out to the Irish people,” said Daniels, a 50-year-old Berkeleyian. Like his neighbour Bob Brown, he had watched at 5am as the ambulances and paramedics were moving the last of the injured and dead to local hospitals.

It’s just horrible, he went on, adding that it would make the city look twice at balconies ever after, and should prompt many inquiries into structural issues of number 2110 Kittredge.

Materials have been taken away for more analysis, and serious doubts have been cast on the integrity of building materials.

Daniels recounted how when he first moved to Kittredge Street a few years ago, a severe windstorm combined with a leak inside the roofing to result in an upper story window frame becoming loose and a casement dangling over the side.

He alerted the fire station and it was treated promptly. But the timbers under the stucco cladding are required by code to be kiln-dried and treated. It remains to be seen if they were. The City of Berkeley, the local authority here, said it had been taking “all necessary steps to safely secure the area” and investigate the incident.

It sent building inspectors to examine the scene early in the morning and have taken precautions.

“The balcony for the affected unit, as well as the three other similar balconies in the building, have each been red-tagged, prohibiting access to those areas,” it said.

“The City has ordered the property owner to immediately remove the failed balcony and to perform a structural assessment of the remaining balconies within 48 hours.”

Greystar, the property management company for the Library Gardens Apartments, said its heart went out to the families and friends of the deceased and those injured in the “tragic accident”.

“The safety of our residents is our highest priority and we will be working with an independent structural engineer and local authorities to determine the cause of the accident. We will share more details as we have them,” it said.

Throughout the day a host of friends and J-1ers came to the sidewalk of 2020 Kittredge to leave wreaths, messages and bouquets for the deceased and injured.

A block with the words City of Berkeley etched in it was draped in the bright blue flag of Dublin.

The Euro falls amid a Greek standoff,

 

The euro fell on Tuesday as it appeared more likely that debt-stricken Greece would default or have to leave the single currency, while the U.S. dollar rose at the start of a two-day meeting by the Federal Reserve.

Stocks mostly rose on the day, with shares in both Europe and the United States rebounding after a two-day decline, though investors continued to closely monitor the situation with Greece. Wall Street stocks were also supported by potential deal activity in the healthcare space.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras lashed out at Greece’s creditors on Tuesday, accusing them of trying to “humiliate” Greeks, and he defied a drum beat of warnings that Europe is preparing for his country to leave the euro. The address was seen as a sign that Tsipras was unlikely to accept austerity cuts needed to unlock frozen aid and avoid a debt default within two weeks.

“The market is still anxious about Greece and would like the situation to be dealt with one way or another. The week-after-week uncertainty isn’t good for the market,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The euro EUR= fell 0.35% to $1.1243 while the U.S. dollar index .DXY, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, rose 0.2 percent. The yen JPY= was flat against the dollar.

The all-country MSCI International ACWI Price Index .MIWD00000PUS rose 0.3 percent, while the pan-European FTS Eurofirst 300 .FTEU3 ended 0.6% higher, rebounding after a decline of 2.4 percent over the previous two sessions. Shares in Hong Kong .HSI fell 1.1%.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 113.31 points, or 0.64%, to 17,904.48, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 11.86 points, or 0.57%, to 2,096.29 and the Nasdaq Composite.IXIC added 25.58 points, or 0.51%, to 5,055.55. The S&P 500 is coming off a two-day decline of 1.2%.

Wall Street was also lifted after the Wall Street Journal reported that UnitedHealth (UNH.N) was considering buying Cigna (CI.N) and Aetna (AET.N). UnitedHealth, a Dow component, rose 2.2% to $121.55.

U.S. investors were also looking for clues regarding the timing of a rate hike after a two-day Federal Reserve meeting.

The central bank is unlikely to raise rates in this meeting but traders will watch for any hints from Fed Chair Janet Yellen at a news conference after the meeting on Wednesday.

The Fed has said it remains data-dependent and will raise rates only when it sees an improvement in the economy. Second-quarter data pointed to a recovery after a halt in growth earlier in the year.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note US10YT=RR rose 12/32 in price, pushing the yield down to 2.3111%.

In the commodity market, U.S. crude futures CLc1 rose 0.8% to $60.01 per barrel, lifted as a tropical storm moved ashore in the oil-producing state of Texas. [O/R] Brent crude for August delivery LCOc1 was down 0.5% at $63.65 per barrel.

Gold prices XAU= fell 0.4% while silver XAU= lost 0.5%. Copper CMCU3 lost 1.1% in its second straight daily decline of more than 1%.

The future of Irish post offices has very little to do with posting a letter?

   

Around 48% of post offices in Ireland account for just 12% of total business.

Irish Post Offices are being told to move into a number areas but it has nothing to do with posting a letter?

Entrepreneur Bobby Kerr has led a group which has authored a report for the Department of Communications which says that post offices can thrive if they move into financial services, social enterprise, public service delivery and white labelling.

The report found that a disproportionate amount of business is conducted in relatively few of the country’s 1,140 post offices. Two thirds of all transactions are conducted in just 300 post offices, while another 48% of post offices account for just 12% of total business.

The report says that An Post should fill the hole left in rural Ireland by the withdrawal of banks and should deliver services like motor tax, the electoral register, HSE payments, local authority payments and CAO and exam fees.

It also suggests post offices are better used for social enterprise and that they cross-sell goods from other suppliers.

Kerr says that An Post’s reach across the country means it is well-placed to deliver customer services.

I believe that An Post is best placed to provide a customer-led solution for a host of financial and government-related services right across the country.

There has been a slowdown in post office closures in the last five years, with a net closure rate of 24 between 2011 and 2014.

Gold that could be worth €150million to Irish economy discovered by miners in Ireland

 

The valuable mineral was discovered this morning in soil three-feet deep near the border

Miners have unearthed gold believed to be worth more than €150 million in the border region.

The valuable mineral was discovered this morning in soil three-feet deep near Rockcorry, Co Monaghan.

Any gold found in the region is owned by the State and extracted under licence.

Irish gold exploration company Conroy Gold and Natural Resources confirmed that 700 metres by 300 metres gold-in-soil patch was tapped by explorers.

The company is proposing to develop a gold mine in Monaghan, around 14km away from the latest discovery and has been carrying out a number of searches in the area.

Professor Richard Conroy told the Irish Mirror: “When we hopefully get to develop it, which will be years down the line, it will be worth several million but there is an awful lot of work to be done.

“You have to do all the technical work first to see how much is actually down there.”

The discovery, which the company said revealed four gold-in-soil samples above 20ppb gold and a further five above 10ppb gold, is situated within the 50 km gold trend that Conroy outlined.

Professor Conroy explained: “This discovery confirms the gold potential of the company’s licenses in the area lying between the company’s existing gold targets to the Northwest at Clay Lake, Clontibret, where a mine is being developed, and Glenish, as well as those to the South at Slieve Glah.”

The gold lies along a major geological structure, known as the Orlock Bridge Fault.

The company has been working on the regions for years drilling, trenching and sampling.

Just last week, a gold nugget worth a staggering £10,000 (€14,000) was found in Scotland.

The precious metal – thought to be the largest found in Scotland in seven decades – was discovered by a Canadian gold panning enthusiast in a river near Wanlockhead, in Dumfries and Galloway.

It is believed the 20-carat nugget, which weighs around 18 grams, will spark a gold rush in the area.

While in April this year the Connemara Mining Company bought prospecting licences on the Inishowen peninsula

Building and moulding a child that can cope with life is a mighty task

   

There’s so much advice around parenting these days that it feels like you need a Phd. Ailin Quinlan cut to the chase and got tips from one of the country’s foremost experts in children and mental health.

Every parent yearns for an emotionally healthy child. Clinical psychologist Paul Gilligan has written a book for parents on how to raise one.

But what is an emotionally healthy child? “An emotionally healthy child is a child who’s generally content and confident, has a positive belief in themselves and can handle adversity in an appropriate manner,” says Gilligan, who is CEO of At Patrick’s Mental Health Services and chair of the Children’s Rights Alliance.

“They experience positive emotions in an appropriate way, at the appropriate time, and behave in a positive manner,” says the former CEO of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Children aged under 13 reflect their emotions in behaviour — for example, a depressed child may not do their homework, may not want to get up in the morning or may be the subject of complaints from the class teacher.

Gilligan says that parents have a built-in ability: “We are born with a deep capacity to love our children and to do the best we can for them,” he says. The goal is for the parent to connect with both of these qualities.

It is normal for parents to make mistakes, he says. Three things factors decide a child’s emotional and mental health — the child’s personality, his/her experiences, and the support he/she receives from parents and other important people in their lives. If these factors are not healthy, they can cause problems.

“Emotionally healthy children are able to navigate the difficulties of life — even if they develop an issue about something, if they are emotionally healthy they are better able to cope with it,” Gilligan says.

His tips on raising an emotionally healthy child:

  1. Connect with your deep love for your child

“We are in an era where parents are reluctant to talk about loving their child. Consciously acknowledge that love, and remind yourself that your actions spring from that,” he says.

  1. Believe in yourself as a parent

Don’t be overly confident, but believe in your ability to parent your child. Recognise that this may involve asking for help or advice. Don’t beat yourself up about what you’re not doing. “Research tells us that parents spend more time with their children nowadays than they did in the 1960s, but are more prone to questioning themselves around their ability to parent and provide for their child,” Gilligan says.

  1. Teach your child self-confidence

Encourage self-respect and self-care, and their development of realistic expectations of themselves.

“Help them map out their day,” he says. Encourage your child to understand that while they must do their homework, they should also relax afterwards, with a game of football, for example.

Develop realistic expectations by encouraging self-awareness and insight, and support them in doing their best in their hobbies and activities.

“Help them reflect on their achievements,” he says.

  1. Teach your child how to deal with difficulties

Protect them from unnecessary difficulties by identifying problems, such as bullying — but recognise that they will have to deal with the death of a beloved relative, for example, or a poor performance in an examination.

  1. Teach your child to be happy

First, recognise that your child cannot be happy all the time, but when there is the opportunity, encourage them to be happy.

“Let them be themselves, and allow them to realise their own individuality,” he says.

Remember, says Gilligan, life is full of things to be sad or happy about — but that also it often depends on how we interpret them. A child can be happy or disappointed with a B-plus grade in a test, depending on how they look at it, for example.

  1. Ensure the child’s environment is healthy and safe

Take a balanced approach, he says, because these days there is a major focus on “risks” and parents can become overly concerned.

“Be reasonable about assessing risk. Don’t swaddle a child in cotton wool and don’t expose a child to serious hazards. It’s all about balance,” he says. “We can overplay the risks to children.”

  1. Listen to, and communicate with, your child

It’s important to listen to what they are saying, and to communicate as clearly as possible. Integrate communication into family life, he says, by, for example, sitting down to an evening meal together.

  1. Look after yourself as a person

Reinforce yourself. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge what you do for your child, so that they see that you do your best. Try to maintain a balance between work, family and social life.

Raising Emotionally Healthy Children, by Paul Gilligan, published by Veritas, €14.95, will be launched by RTÉ broadcaster, Áine Lawlor, today at St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services, James St, Dublin 8.

‘Life outside of Earth is probably going to be really hard to find’

Say Scientists

   

In previewing missions in the search for life and discussing its challenges, the scientists confess they ‘can’t even agree on a definition of what life detection is’

This guy is smiling, but the search for life is not easy, says Nasa.

NASA scientists previewed several missions in the search for life off Earth on Tuesday, including a plan to scoop up minerals from an asteroid and one to drill into the surface of Mars.

The missions described by researchers included satellites, spacecraft, landers and work concentrated on Mars, Jupiter moons, an asteroid and on Earth itself.

“Sciences are being unified by the search for life in the universe,” said Dr John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for science at Nasa, before conceding that “life outside of earth is probably going to be really hard to find”.

“We can’t even agree on a definition of what life detection is.”

Grunsfeld said missions to Mars in the next few years will have greater capabilities than the Curiosity rover, which continues to explore Mars and in April discovered water on below the surface of the red planet. The European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission, for instance, aims to specifically search for signs of life.

The lander will have a “deeper drill than any lander”, Grunsfeld said, able to reach down into the Martian crust “a couple of meters” where the deadly radiation that bombards the planet would not be as able to affect life.

“The surface of Mars is bathed in ultraviolet light, bathed in radiation,” Grunsfeld said. “Mars’s magnetic field is essentially gone, so the surface of Mars is essentially sterilized.”

Places where the frozen water exists, as in the planet’s polar glaciers and below the surface, might be able to harbor life, but “these are challenging places to get to”, he said.

Last year the Curiosity rover detected “spikes” of methane, stoking speculation of life on the planet, but Grunsfeld noted that those signals could be abiotic as well as from a biotic organism.

“On future missions we’re going to look more toward what kind of instruments could detect life,” he said. “A DNA sequencer for instance might fail miserably even if it were surrounded by extant Martian life.”

The ExoMars mission is planned for 2018 and receive assistance from Nasa.

Grunsfeld also described a mission named Osiris Rex, which aims to send a satellite to an asteroid called Bennu in order to study its composition. The satellite will “do a quick touch-and-go and grab samples, up to 2kg (5lb)”, he said, which researchers will then be able to study.

In part, the Osiris Rex team will try to determine whether the organic materials that started life on Earth were “seeded” on the planet by collisions with carbonaceous asteroids like Bennu.

Dr Britney Schmidt, the principal investigator for the Nasa-funded Sub-Ice Marine and Planetary Analog Ecosystems (Simple) mission, spoke about the possibilities for life on Jupiter’s moon Europa.

“There’s a whole host of ice-rich worlds which potentially harbor subsurface oceans,” Schmidt said. “These are important places to think about in the search for life even within our own solar system.”

In February, Nasa won approval from the White House to proceed with a mission to fly by Europa, which is covered in a sheet of ice that has intrigued scientists for the likelihood that it coats a subsurface ocean.

The mission will feature an ice-penetrating radar that has been used to explore similar surfaces on Earth, Schmidt said, and try to determine whether the moon harbors “enough energy to power biology in these very distant and seemingly so alien worlds”.

Dr Alexis Templeton showcased some of her research on alien environments here on earth, where scientists have discovered life in what were until recently considered utterly inhospitable regions.

In particular, Templeton studies how rocks may have helped create life in these extreme environments. “Rocks have within them, depending on their chemistry, the ability to release electrons,” she said, which “can fuel certain systems, essentially a lot like fuel cells do”.

Citing the discovery of life in the high-pH waters of remote deserts and the ways that water can release chemicals and energy when it interacts with certain rocks, Templeton said that the research could help colleagues determine what exactly they should look for on celestial bodies. On a moon of Saturn, for instance, plumes of particles ejected from the south pole could “represent potential for liquid water that’s stored underneath the ice shell”, she said.

Dr Vikki Meadows, a professor of astronomy at the University of Washington’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory, said that she was studying hunting for oceans on planets by looking for the “glint effect”.

Meadows described the phenomenon as “something that should be very familiar to you if you’ve ever sat on a beach after sunrise or sunset” – the reflected light of the sun off the surface of the water at a particular angle.

With the help of a blurry photo of a crescent Earth, from a satellite that later crashed into the moon, researchers were able to calculate the glint effect for other planets – a prediction that could help detect oceans on solar systems outside our own.