Daily Archives: August 22, 2015

Donie’s Ireland daily news BLOG

Saturday 22nd August 2015

Irish Government begins sending out applications for water conservation grant


Government begins sending applications for water conservation grant.

Under the current water conservation grant, anyone registered with Irish Water before the end of June is entitled to receive a €100 fee to help them conserve water.

They added that Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly will not be bringing the reported proposals to Cabinet when it reconvenes.

The department confirmed that people will be asked to provide their PPS numbers when applying for the payment which must be done online as there is no application form.

Data released under Freedom of Information has revealed that Department of the Environment has suggested the Local Government Management Agency could establish a new database of Irish Water customers and non-customers to be used by the Department of Social Protection to administer the grant from next year.

After the EU group’s ruling that Irish Water must remain on the exchequer’s books, and its swipe at the grant in particular, it appears a number of Government TDs have now given up on the argument – this time with one eye on the safety of their own Dáil seats.

“I think it is reasonable to say, given all the focus we have had especially with a utility like Irish water, to look at what measures can we take and what further work can be done to improve its efficiency and ensure it is better able to meet the needs of providing safe and secure water for Ireland”, he added.

The payment of the grant is fixed for 2015 and cannot be changed.

Therefore, any attempt to limit payment of the €100 grant could impact negatively on this cohort, most of whom are rural-based.

The cost of water charges drops to €160 for a family and €60 for an individual when the grant is included.

And when, depending on who you listen to, that policy relates to either wasting taxpayers’ money on a grant given to people refusing to pay water charges or taking money away from struggling would-be voters, it is yet another no-win situation for the Coalition and an open goal for an opposition constantly waiting to pounce.

Mr Cowen said it was time for real, alternative policies in relation to Irish Water.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis said the Coalition was “at sixes and sevens” over the conservation grant.

“There must be a single public utility for the supply of clean, fresh, drinking water for every home in the country, free of domestic water charges”.

Canadian company offers help with Irish BCG vaccine shortage


A Danish company is the only licensed supplier of the BCG vaccine in the EU.

A healthcare company in the Republic of Ireland said a Canadian firm has offered it 40,000 doses of a vaccine that protects against tuberculosis.

It follows concerns that the BCG vaccine would not be available until later this year or early next year.

Health Minister, Leo Varadkar, said problems meant the vaccine, produced in Denmark, was not available.

He blamed production difficulties, delivery delays and sealing problems.

Carysfort Healthcare said it has been offered 40,000 doses of the BCG vaccine from the Canadian medical supply company, Intervax.

The delivery can be made in the next two to three weeks, but the offer will expire on 25 August due to shortages of the vaccine in other countries.

The Danish company is the only licensed supplier of the vaccine in the EU. However, according to Carysfort’s managing director, Fintan Smith, the BCG offered is prequalified and approved by the World Health Organisation.

Mr Smith has been in contact with the Health Products Regulatory Authority in connection with the offer and whether it will allow the medicine to be used as an emergency as it is not licensed in the Republic of Ireland.

‘50,000 babies affected’

Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams had raised the vaccine’s lack of availability after a Louth councillor from his party, Jennifer Green, who is due to give birth in three weeks, had been told her baby would not be given the vaccine as recommended by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Mr Adams said the difficulties had been known by the Irish Department of Health since last year.

He said that, as a result of failing to find an alternative supplier, at least 50,000 babies, and potentially many more, would not receive their BCG when appropriate.

The Department of Health said other countries were experiencing similar delays in acquiring supplies of the vaccine from the Danish company.

The statement added that production was suspended in 2014 pending an extensive investigation regarding a possible problem with the capping of the vials.

It said the investigation had ended and product produced during 2014 was being released.

The statement also said the HSE would arrange appointments for children to attend clinics when the vaccine supply was restored.

The HSE said it had “no control over when BCG vaccine will be delivered by the vaccine manufacturer” and that “these supply issues will continue until at least quarter one, 2016.”

Redheads come together at Cork Convention festival 


Redheads will this weekend have the opportunity to have their portrait taken while supporting a good cause at one of the country’s more unusual festivals.

Professional photographer Jörg Köster will take portrait photos of all eligible redheads at this weekend’s Redhead Convention in Cork. While it is free for redheads to have their picture taken, proceeds from prints at Jörg’s photobooth will go to the Irish Cancer Society.

The German native, who has been based in Cork since 1990, has been developing a portfolio of redhead portraits towards an exhibition and possible book, and expects to have boosted his body of work to some 1,000 portraits by the time his photobooth closes at the end of this weekend’s festival.

A fashion and food photographer by profession, Köster developed an interest in redheaded subjects after shooting Irish clothing products for German catalogues. Having started his redhead portfolio, a friend alerted him to the Crosshaven festival.

“I got in touch with the promoters and it was an added attraction for them, so I’ve been there since 2011,” said Köster.

“It works for both of us. We sell prints, and proceeds go to the Irish Cancer Society. It allows me to do sunlit photoshoots with 200 to 300 redheads in two or three days, whereas it would take me decades to get 1,000 pictures like that in natural light otherwise,” he said.

The brainchild of siblings Joleen and Denis Cronin, the Redhead Convention is in its sixth year in Crosshaven and will today feature a Kids Zone, Redhead Cinema, and Foxygen — a dedicated redhead music festival.

Among the redhead performers are Ginger Nutz, a trad band made up entirely of natural redheads from the West of Ireland; ginger-fronted West Cork band The Baby Cheeses, and the Crosshaven Ukuladies.

   The red-headline act for the weekend is Irish jazz and blues singer Mary Coughlan.

Jacky Colliss Harvey, author of Red: A Natural History of the Redhead, will be signing copies of her book and the afternoon will see the coronation of the King and Queen of the Redheads.

Meanwhile, a panel discussion with successful redheads in business will hear contributions from Tristan Rogers, publisher of international redhead art magazine MC1R, and Emma Kelly, a blogger behind the campaign to include ginger emojis in Apple’s iPhone.

The Irish Cancer Society is also set to receive 20% of ticket fees, and other fund-raising activities, such as an outdoor yoga session, will provide donations to the national charity for cancer care, research, and support in Ireland.

Organisers say red hair is the rarest of hair colours and accounts for just 0.6% of the global population. Ireland has the second highest per capita population of redheads at 10%, next only to Scotland at 13%.

Want supermarket tomatoes to taste better? Then dunk them in hot water


Ever felt that the tomatoes you bought in a supermarket were lacking in taste? Like they were good, but not good enough?

Tomatoes sold in supermarkets can apparently be made to taste better by dunking them in hot water before they ripen. We’re listening.

The discovery could result in tomatoes bought from stores being as flavorsome as those straight off the vine.

If these green tomatoes are picked then a hot bath could make them taste

Yep. We’d be pretty happy about that too. Because vine tomatoes are a serious luxury.

Typically tomatoes destined for supermarkets are picked while still green and coaxed to ripen while they are stored and transported at low temperatures.

The problem is that chilling degrades their flavour, making supermarket tomatoes relatively tasteless compared with those sold on farms.

Early tomatoes could taste as good as vine-ripened varieties with this hack

Step on up the scientists from the US Department of Agriculture. They found that a simple treatment process can dramatically boost the flavour of transported tomatoes.

Dr Jinhe Bai said: “Ideally, tomatoes should be picked ripe and then sold immediately, as they are at farm stands.

“To produce a better tasting tomato, we added a hot water pre-treatment step to the usual protocol that growers follow. We found that this pre-treatment step prevents flavour loss due to chilling.”

Pick ripe and sell straight away is best, but the hot water trick could help

In the tests, Florida-grown green tomatoes were dipped in water heated to about 51.6C for five minutes and allowed to cool at room temperature.

Only then were the fruit chilled to the temperatures normally used for shipping.

Samsung to make US stock market debut in 2016


The listing of Samsung Bioepis on the Nasdaq Stock Market is aimed at securing funds for investment in a new breed of drugs

South Korea’s dominant Samsung conglomerate will make its first entry into US stock markets next year with the listing of a biotechnology affiliate, a company official has said.

The listing of Samsung Bioepis on the Nasdaq Stock Market is aimed at securing funds for investment in the field of biosimilars – a new breed of drugs that mimic the effects of far more costly biologic drugs made from living cells.

“With an underwriter already designated, preparations are under way for the public stock listing of Bioepis in the first half of next year,” the Samsung official said.

Bioepis will be the first Samsung affiliate to list in the United States.

Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest mobile phone maker which accounts for the lion’s share of the group’s sales and profits, controls 46% of Samsung BioLogics, which in turn holds 90% of Bioepis.

The Samsung group is already remarkably diverse, with interests ranging from electronics to construction and shipbuilding, and sees biotechnology as a revenue growth engine for the future.

Spiders ‘as big as mice’ trying to invade Irish homes


A number of people last year had strong reactions to the spider’s venom

Experts say that spiders ‘as big as mice’ may be trying to invade Irish homes.

Trevor Hayden of Complete Pest Control told the Star that spiders up to 12cm long are possible in Ireland these days. It comes after reports in the UK of spiders ‘as big as mice’ were reported.

‘Amazingly they can get that big,’ he said. However, this super-sized spider is nothing to worry about.

“While they can bite, they are not dangerous,” he added, though that won’t put those terrified of creepy crawlies at ease.

Thanks to a wet spring and a relatively warm summer the numbers of house spiders in Ireland this year has risen sharply, and when you learn that they can have 60 spiderlings at any one time, it is no surprise that there seems to be a spider epidemic.

An abundance of food for spiders to eat, chiefly other insects, has also led to the larger-than-normal eight-legged creatures.

But the good news is that of the 420 different species of spider in Ireland, only one, the infamous false widow, is a danger to humans.

A number of people last year had strong reactions to the spider’s venom after getting bitten but house spider venom is harmless to humans.