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.

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