Donie’s Ireland daily news BLOG

Saturday 25th July 2015

It’s time to jail reckless bankers say’s & urges Lucinda Creighton in new policy

Bankers who recklessly lend money to people should face jail, Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton has said.


Renua Ireland founder & leader Lucinda Creighton

The leader of one of Ireland’s newest political parties was at Leinster House to publish her party’s plan on tackling white-collar crime.

Renua Ireland TD Billy Timmins said the Irish justice system does not take white-collar crime as seriously as so-called ordinary crime.

“If you steal an apple in Moore Street, odds are you will go through the process. But we know that many big criminals involved in company crime and fraud get away with it,” Mr Timmins said.

The plan

The party has published a 10-point plan aimed at increasing action against white-collar criminals, including making reckless lending a criminal offence – as recommended by the Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan.

“There is a really strong sense that notwithstanding the extraordinary collapse of the banking system and the massive destruction caused to the economy which has affected the lives of ordinary citizen, nothing has really changed,” Ms Creighton said.

The former Fine Gael junior minister said the policy would bring real accountability to actions and failures to act in the business world.

“We will introduce legislation which imposes criminal liability on a senior manager of a banking institution, fund or insurance undertaking who knowingly puts the viability of the institution at risk,” Ms Creighton said.

The other seven actions include:

1.       Criminal sanctions for company directors who conduct business recklessly, based on laws already in force in Australia.

2.      Curbing the use of limited company liability to escape punishment for breaking the law.

3.      Tightening provisions to ensure claiming ignorance of the law is not a defence.

4.      Reducing scope for sentence mitigation on grounds of previous good character or “good family”.

5.      Improving training for all company directors.

6.      Facilitating whistleblowers – including giving them a percentage of taxpayers’ money recouped from detecting wrong-doing.

7.      A special white-collar crime court with streamlined procedures and more training for judges and lawyers.

Asked generally about the new party, just launched in March, Ms Creighton said they are organised in all 40 constituencies nationwide in a very short space of time.

She conceded that she had said the party needed something like €1m to run a national election campaign but they had decided from day one not to take company donations.

“So the party in every constituency in the country is engaged in fundraising. It is amounts, big and small but mainly small, from individuals and not companies,” she said.

The Candidates?

Ms. Creighton said by the end of next week 14 candidates will have been selected.

“I think that is excellent for what is a party only launched weeks ago,” she added.

Wicklow TD Mr Timmins said the new party could not match the spending power of the big parties. He said unlike the big ones it got no taxpayer funding as this is decided at the start of each Dail term.

“But we have something special and that is the enthusiasm and commitment of our new members who want to change Irish politics for the better,” Mr Timmins said.

A number of candidates attended the launch, including Cllr Patrick McKee who stood in the recent Carlow-Kilkenny by-election.

Laya Healthcare hike up prices by a mighty 4%


Company blames rise on significant increase in volume and cost of claims

Dónal Clancy, managing director of Laya Healthcare, blamed a rise in the number and cost of claims for price rises that will apply to more an half the firm’s customers from September.

Most Laya Healthcare customers will face price increases averaging 4% from the beginning of September.

The company blamed the price increases on a significant increase in the volume and cost of claims over the past year.

The price increases will apply to around 55% of policies and will apply to policies renewed after September 1st. Laya says it has around 500,000 customers.

Laya managing director Dónal Clancy said the company was “acutely conscious of the impact” the increases would have and said it had “tried to minimise the impact across our schemes”.

“We have protected 49 of our schemes from a price increase, and minimised the impact on families with our free kids cover,” Mr Clancy said.

He said the price rises had been driven “by the significant increase we have experienced in the number and costs of medical claims in the past year”.

Mr Clancy said Laya had seen an 18% increase in the volume of claims while the cost of claims has climbed by 15% over the last 12 months.

“While better practices, high-spec technology and improved treatments are all translating into better patient outcomes, they are driving medical costs higher; which in turn has a negative impact on premiums,” Mr Clancy said.

He also pointed to a medical cost management programme implemented by the company which he suggested would deliver efficiencies of €100 million between 2012 and 2016 and had helped minimise the increases.

The Laya price increase sees it join GloHealth and Aviva in upping prices this year and attention now is likely to focus on what will happen and the State’s largest insurer, the VHI. While VHI has made no announcement on its pricing plans, an increase of some kind before 2016 seems likely.

Almost 100,000 new private health insurance policies were sold earlier this year as people rushed to enter the market to avoid age-related penalties introduced at the beginning of May.

Under the new Lifetime Community Rating (LCR) regime which started on May 1st, anyone aged over 34 without private health insurance has to pay higher prices when they take out a policy.

While the price increases will attract most attention, Laya healthcare also announced a range of new and extended benefits.

It has extended its “Free Kids” cover to its Essential Connect Health plan for a second child and every child up to the age of 18.

It will also reduce child rates on 18 schemes by between 3 and 6% and has promised to extend its 24 hour confidential GP Line.

Increases in Irish wine tax is totally against the spirit of the EU trade,

A group claims


The Support Your Local campaign said increases in the cost of a bottle of wine goes against the spirit of the European Project.

The group is calling on the Government to reduce excise duty on the beverage in the next budget.

It says a €1.50 increase since 2012 is having detrimental impact on farmers across the continent, while lowering the quality of wine being consumed here.

“€1.50 has been added in excise to a bottle of wine over three budgets,” said Evelyn Jones of the National Off-Licence Association, adding that the group is campaigning for a 50c reduction – one-third of the recent increase.

“That would go a long way towards improving the basic quality of wine tin he bottle.”

“The fact of the matter is that that Government is choking the quality out of an artisan product that’s produced by farmers across Europe.

“It’s seen as middle-class taxation- easy pickings – [but] would be contrary to the spirit of the EU treaty, as we don’t make wine here ourselves.”

There are a handful of wineries and vineyards in Ireland, but they are small in scale. The Lusca winery in Lusk, Co Dublin, produces only a few hundred bottles a year from vines next to their apple orchard.

Scientists stop aging process in earth worms, humans may be next


Human eternal life is just around the corner?

New research by molecular scientists at Northwestern University has led to the development of a procedure that allows them to switch off the aging process in worms.

As with most organisms, the worms initially showed that their adult cells began deteriorating when they reached reproductive maturity. The aging process — versus growing — begins because biological functions that protect cells within the body are shut down.

Since humans have the same genetic switch, the findings lend credence to the hope that humanity may one day be able to alleviate the aging process and certain degenerative diseases, according to the Daily Mail.

“Wouldn’t it be better for society if people could be healthy and productive for a longer period during their lifetime?” Richard I. Morimoto, senior author of the study, asked “I am very interested in keeping the [biological] quality control systems optimal as long as we can, and now we have a target. Our findings suggest there should be a way to turn this genetic switch back on and protect our aging cells by increasing their ability to resist stress.”

Morimoto is the Bill and Gayle Cook Professor of Molecular Biosciences and director of the Rice Institute for Biomedical Research in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, where he has been building up to his latest findings for a decade. The study was published in the 23 issue of the journal Molecular Cell.

The transparent roundworm C. elegans has a biochemical environment similar to that of humans and are a popular research tool for the study of the biology of ageing and are used to model human diseases.

“C. elegans has told us that aging is not a continuum of various events, which a lot of people thought it was,” Morimoto said.

Harmful drinking is a middle-class phenomenon?


Wealthy over-50s are endangering their health by drinking far too much, experts have warned

Wealthy over-50s are endangering their health by drinking far too much, UK experts have warned.

Harmful drinking is a ‘middle-class phenomenon’ with older, successful people at most risk, AGE UK has warned.

Although affluent middle aged people often appear to look after themselves by eating well and exercising regularly, they are actually far more likely to drink too much than their less successful peers.

UK researchers warned it was a ‘hidden health and social problem’ because on the outside most wealthy middle class people appeared to be living well.

“Our analysis challenges popular perceptions of who is drinking too much,” said Age UK’s Chief Economist , Professor Jose Iparraguirre who carried out the research .

“It suggests public health messaging is not reaching high income groups who are most at risk.

“Because this group is typically healthier than other parts of the older population, they might not realise that what they are doing is putting their health in danger.”

The findings are based on responses from 9,000 over 50s who took part in the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing. They were asked about income, educational attainment, health, physical activity levels, loneliness depression, marital status, and employment.

Current NHS guidelines advise that men drink no more than 21 units a week – roughly 10 pints of beer. Women are advised to stick to 14 units, around seven glasses of wine.

The researchers defined harmful drinking as between 22 and 50 units a week for men and 15 to 35 weekly units for women. Higher risk was quantified as 50 units for men and 35 for women. One unit represents

Analysis of the responses showed that the risk of harmful drinking peaked for men in their early 60s and then gradually tailed off.

Women on high salaries and those who had retired were more likely to drink heavily, while smoking, higher educational attainment, and good health were all linked to heightened risk in both sexes.

Although the researchers found that heavy drinking was no linked to feeling lonely or depressed, men who lived on their own were more likely to consume harmful amounts of alcohol.

A report by the think tank 2020Health found that around eight million British adults drink more than is considered safe my experts, many of whom are middle class people who regularly drink wine with their evening meal.

Women are at greater risk if they evenly share a bottle of wine with their partner because their alcohol tolerance is lower than men’s.

The rise of home shopping delivery services has also been blamed for encouraging more older women to drink.

Government figures published last October showed a 65 per cent increase in the number of women over pension age beginning treatment for drink related problems in the last five years in England.

“We can sketch the problem of harmful drinking among people aged 50 or over in England as a middle class phenomenon: people in better health, higher income, with higher educational attainment and socially more active are more likely to drink at harmful levels,” added Professor Jose Iparraguirre

“Our findings suggest that harmful drinking in later life is more prevalent among people who exhibit a lifestyle associated with affluence and with a ‘successful’ ageing process.

“Harmful drinking may then be a hidden health and social problem in otherwise successful older people.”

Charities said that many middle aged older people did not realise how much they were drinking because they often did it at home.,

“Harmful drinking is a real issue for middle-aged and older people, many of whom are regularly drinking above recommended limits, often in their own homes,”

“These are the people who, if they develop alcohol related illnesses, tend to require the most complex and expensive health care due to the mental and physical problems caused by drinking too much.

Drinking too much alcohol is directly linked to over 60 medical conditions including liver disease sevenfold, mouth cancer fivefold and stroke threefold. For women, breast cancer risk doubles.

A four-legged Brazilan snake discovered recently

Fossil discovered of four-legged snake from 113 million years ago


An four-legged snake, Tetrapodophis amplectus a salamander.

Scientists have discovered a 113 million-year-old fossil of a snake which has four legs with fingers and toes.

The Tetrapodophis amplectus – nicknamed ‘huggy snake’ – is the first evidence found of a four-legged snake.

The 20cm-long skeleton, which is thought to be from Brazil, has a tiny head the size of a human fingernail.

It has two very small front legs with wrists, elbows and hands and slightly longer back legs, which would have been used to grasp its prey.

A skeleton of a Tetrapodophis

The fossil, which is of a juvenile, also shows adaptations for burrowing, rather than swimming, strengthening the idea that snakes evolved on land.

Dr Dave Martill, who discovered the unseen fossil in a collection in a German museum, said it is “an incredibly significant specimen”.

The University of Portsmouth professor said: “It is generally accepted that snakes evolved from lizards at some point in the distant past.

“What scientists don’t know yet is when they evolved, why they evolved, and what type of lizard they evolved from.

“This fossil answers some very important questions, for example it now seems clear to us that snakes evolved from burrowing lizards, not from marine lizards.”

• Fossil with hips shows snakes’ lizard past

Dr Martill has been working with expert German palaeontologist Helmut Tischlinger and Dr Nick Longrich, of the University of Bath, who studied the evolutionary relationships of the snake.

Dr Longrich, who had previously worked on the origins of snakes, became intrigued when Dr Martill told him the story at the local pub in Bath.

He said he was initially sceptical, but when Dr Martill showed him photographs, he knew immediately that it was a fossil snake.

He said: “A four-legged snake seemed fantastic and as an evolutionary biologist, just too good to be true.

“It is a perfect little snake, except it has these little arms and legs, and they have these strange long fingers and toes.

• Scientists discover fossilised remains of world’s longest snake

“The hands and feet are very specialised for grasping. So when snakes stopped walking and started slithering, the legs didn’t just become useless little vestiges – they started using them for something else.

“We’re not entirely sure what that would be, but they may have been used for grasping prey, or perhaps mates.”

Interestingly, the fossilised snake also has the remains of its last meal in its intestine, including some fragments of bone.

The prey was probably a salamander, showing that snakes were carnivorous much earlier in evolutionary history than previously believed.


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