Monthly Archives: September 2015

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 29th September 2015

Irish Government shaves over €200m off initial National Broadband Plan spend, cut to €275m

Comreg quarterly report Q2 2015

The government is to spend €275m on an “initial stimulus” for the National Broadband Plan, just over half the sum originally pledged for the rural broadband scheme.

However, Minister for Communications Alex White said today that the sum “does not represent the full cost of the National Broadband Plan” and that a future government would “likely” spend more on the scheme in future years.

Ahead of a public tender on the issue which is expected “towards the end of 2015”, Minister White also said that the cost to the state of funding the National Broadband Scheme “would likely be spread over 20 years”.

The National Broadband Plan is a scheme to connect hundreds of thousands of rural homes and businesses to fibre broadband, based on mapping evidence which shows they are not served by any existing high speed providers.

The government had initially stated a plan to spend up to €510m on the project.

“The €275m will provide the initial stimulus for the early years of the state intervention under the National Broadband Plan,” said Minister White.

He said that the €275m allocated will be used to draw down EU funding of €75m, “which has already been agreed”. The Department of Communications, he said, is also at an advanced stage of exploring the scope for further European funding through the European Investment Bank and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund.

Minister White said the NBP was on course to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high-speed broadband by 2020, promising that 85pc of premises will be covered by 2018. He said that “formal procurement” will begin by the end of 2015.

However, it is not yet clear how many rural homes and businesses will now qualify for coverage by the National Broadband Plan. The government’s original estimate of 700,000 premises may be cut short by subsequent announcements from Eir and Siro, the joint venture between Vodafone and the ESB. Both companies have indicated that they will cover more rural homes and businesses than originally planned, thus reducing the size of the catchment area envisaged by the state-subsidised National Broadband Plan.

Alan Kelly to bring modular housing proposals to Cabinet

Minister ‘agrees’ with President’s comments about homelessness ‘failure’ in Ireland

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly, said he agreed with a lot of the President’s comments about homelessness.Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has confirmed he will bring emergency proposals to fast-track the planning and procurement process for modular homes to Cabinet today.

The selection of sites for factory-built homes for Dublin’s homeless families has already begun in a bid to end the use of B&B and hotel accommodation.

Speaking on his way into Cabinet on Tuesday, Mr Kelly said homelessness was a huge and complex issue.

“Certainly today I will be bringing forward proposals to Government in relation to the whole issue of modular housing and how we can expediate that as quickly as possible through fast-tracking planning and procurement as necessary,” he said.

President Michael D Higgins said homelessness in Ireland was “not acceptable” when he spoke in New York on Monday after the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit.

Mr Higgins told RTÉ it was a “failure” every time a homeless person in Ireland did not have shelter. Homelessness was a “great moral test”, he said, and added that it should be possible to deal with “issues of shelter and issues of housing”.

Asked about the President’s comments, Mr Kelly said he agreed with most of what Mr Higgins said.

“I think the President’s entitled to make his comments and by and large I obviously agree with him. I would be surprised if he didn’t make comments like that,” he said.

“Homelessness is a huge issue, I don’t deny that. It’s a very complex issue. It’s not an issue of just providing a roof over people’s heads alone. We can do that. But there are many different issues facing many of the people who end up rough sleeping.

“In some cases they are helped. In some cases they don’t take help. In some cases the intervention mechanisms are working. In some cases unfortunately they are not.”

He said different types of people became homeless but his priority was homeless families, particularly children.

“We are continuously looking for accommodation and we are finding accommodation to ensure that those people can be helped because really I think they are a massive priority, particularly where children are involved.”

Government to spend €3 billion on hospitals and health projects

Varadkar hopes work will begin on four new national hospitals within a year

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister of State for Primary Care and Social Care Kathleen Lynch at a briefing on health projects in the capital plan at the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin.

The Government is to spend more than €3 billion over the next six years on building new hospitals, developing community nursing units for older people and constructing primary care centres under its new capital programme.

Minster for Health Leo Varadkar said the new funding meant that, subject to planning permission, work would begin within the next year on four new national hospitals.

He said these were the new national children’s hospital at St James’s Hospital, the national rehabilitation hospital in Dún Laoghaire, the new national maternity hospital at St Vincent’s hospital and the new forensic mental health campus in Portrane in north county Dublin.

He said the new capital funding would permit work to progress on other programmes such as the national radiation oncology project with developments in Cork, Galway and Beaumont, up to an additional 80 primary care centres all over the country, and the replacement of community nursing units and disability accommodation.

The Minister said there would also be a major investment in information technology across the health service.

Coombe maternity hospital

He said funding was being provided to carry out planning and design and to begin construction on the transfer of the existing Coombe maternity hospital to St James’s and the Rotunda Hospital to Blanchardstown.

He said the Limerick maternity hospital would also be co-located on the University of LimerickHospital campus.

Mr Varadkar said it was expected work on the new children’s hospital, the rehabilitation hospital, the national maternity hospital and the forensic mental health service campus would get under way next year and for it to be completed before the expiry of the capital plan in 2021. He also said construction of the new maternity centre at the Connolly Hospital site in Blanchardstown – to replace the Rotunda – and the maternity unit in Limerick would get under way in this period.

St James’s campus

However, he said the replacement of the Coombe hospital on the St James’s campus could take slightly longer as work could not begin until construction of the children’s hospital was completed.

Minister of State at the Department of HealthKathleen Lynch said two of the hospital projects, the national rehabilitation hospital and the forensic mental health service campus had planning permission.

Mr Varadkar said he was confident planning permission for the new national maternity hospital at St Vincent’s could be sought by the end of the year. Work had been put on hold earlier this year after a dispute emerged between St Vincent’s and the existing National Maternity Hospital and the HSE over management and governance issues.

Ms Lynch said there were facilities in relation to older people that would need to be replaced while many others would need reconfiguration.

She said the additional money in the plan would allow for much of that work.

She said new forensic mental health units would be established outside Dublin for the first time. She said a lot of parents and friends of patients in the Central Mental Hospital were anxious they could be treated and cared for nearer their own homes.

Mr Varadkar said a lot of the country’s healthcare infrastructure was very old.

He said 200 years of infrastructure could not be replaced in six years but the new capital plan would allow for a very good start to be made.

Increasing numbers plan to rely only on State pension

Around 44% of those without private pension plan to just have State income in retirement

A total of 44% of those without a private pension say they will rely solely on the State.That’s up from 40% last year and equates to around 890,000 people

Irish people are relying increasingly on the State pension as their only income in retirement – just as doubts grow about the sustainability of the weekly retirement payment.

Although a growing number of people report that household finances are improving, 44 per cent of those without a private pension say they will rely solely on the State for their income in retirement.

Up from 40%

That’s up from 40 per cent last year, and equates to around 890,000 people.

A further third say they haven’t thought about what they will live on in retirement, according to the annual Pensions Index survey by Friends First.

Asked what they would do if their disposable income increased, just one in 10 said they would invest in a pension, compared to 15 per cent who would spend the money on a holiday and 25 per cent who plumped for home improvements.

Despite this, just over three-quarters of all respondents said they were not confident that they would have sufficient income in retirement.

Among those who do have pensions, the survey found that the recession era trend of reducing contributions appears to be at an end, with 20 per cent increasing their premiums.

“The postponement of financial planning for the future is still a concern,” said Simon Hoffman, pensions and investments director at Friends First.

‘Huge strain’

“The number of people opting to rely on the State pension will put a huge strain on the State in the coming years as those without a private pension may struggle financially in their retirement and will be depending on a pension that is less than the current minimum wage.”

One age group reported growth in pension provision – the 25-34-year-old cohort, where 39 per cent now have a private pension plan, up from 36 per cent last year.

Scientists have warned women about the higher risk of breast cancer

If they face if they go through menopause later in life.


Following research that found postmenopausal women need to do more exercise to ward off breast cancer, a new study has found women who go through the change later are more likely to be diagnosed with the disease.

Scientists from 177 universities, institutions and hospitals examined the DNA of almost 70,000 European women. Researchers found for each year after a woman turns 50 and is premenopausal, her risk of breast cancer rises by six per cent. They believe the delay increases how long a woman is in contact with oestrogen. This sex hormone has been known to fuel tumours, making it a big health factor.

The study was helmed by Cambridge and Exeter University experts, who warned older females yet to start the menopause need to be extra careful in checking for early warning signs of breast cancer.

During their study, scientists found 44 genes that determined when ladies’ menopauses start. While many of the genes repaired damaged DNA in the eggs, it was found a faulty gene could lead to eggs perishing. This would result in an earlier onset of the menopause.

This means the research also affects younger women, as it could see a new test to indicate when they will go through the menopause. It would allow couples who want children to know when to start trying by.

With more examination of the genes, drugs could be created to help protect the eggs and prevent women going through the early menopause.

“If you have a late menopause, it might help to know about this slightly increased risk of breast cancer and help you keep on top of it,” Dr Anna Murray of the University of Exeter explained of the findings, published in the journal Nature Genetics.

Dr Edward Morris, of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, added that these results are “reassuring”.

Sky/Moongazers across the world catch a glimpse of super Blood Moon


But what was happening in pop culture the last time a “supermoon” made an appearance? Reindeers are seen silhouetted against the “blood moon” during a lunar eclipse near the village of Yavterishki, some 250 kilometers north from Minsk on September 28, 2015.

The eclipse coincided with a ‘supermoon, ‘ which means the moon was about as close to Earth as it gets. There have been just five such events since 1900 (in 1910, 1928, 1946, 1964 and 1982). In Europe, the action unfolded before dawn Monday. In Los Angeles, a large crowd filled the lawn of Griffith Observatory while many others staked tripods with telescopes around the hilltop landmark in anticipation of the rare celestial sight.

The next total lunar eclipse that we will be able to see from Birmingham and the rest of the United Kingdom is on July 27, 2018. Hundreds of millions of people caught a glimpse of the lunar eclipse Sunday night. On its elliptical path around the Earth, moon sometimes comes closest to the earth, the portion being called perigee.

It was the first time that both a supermoon and lunar eclipse have simultaneously appeared since 1982, and they won’t again until 2033. The moon is full and moves into the shadow of the Earth. It’s the fourth one we’ve had within two years and the last one we’ll see around here until 2019. “Lunar eclipses are fun to watch since you really don’t need any special equipment to observe them”, Eakins said in an email.

To add to the show, the supermoon turned orange during the eclipse in what’s known as a blood moon. “There’s no physical difference in the moon”, Petro said. For more than an hour, the Earth came between the sun and the moon and its shadow almost swallowed up the lunar disc. The Unison of these 2 occurrences causes the formation of a “Blood-Moon”.

Renata Arpasova from Swindon, England, stayed up into the early morning hours Monday to photograph the copper-colored moon shining among the glittering stars. The first occurred in 2014 and this is the last to take place in the tetrad, with each eclipse taking place about six months apart. The blood moon occurs when a shadow is cast by the Earth, back-lit by the sun, onto a larger-than-usual moon.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 29th September 2015

The Taoiseach opens New Research Centres to benefit front-line patient care in Galway


NUI Galway have opened the Lambe Institute for Translational Research and HRB Clinical Research Facility at University Hospital Galway.

The co-location of these two facilities in one building on hospital grounds will mean basic laboratory research conducted in the translational research facility can be evaluated in clinical trials in the clinical research facility and ultimately benefit patients faster.

Some examples of the types of studies undertaken in the two facilities will include: Predicting risk of breast cancer due to inherited characteristics. Stem cell trials to help improve blood flow in legs of diabetic patients and prevent amputation. Clinical trials in blood cancer patients to establish whether new treatments can be combined with existing treatment for better outcomes. How implantable medical devices can provide new solutions for patients.

Officially opening the building, An Taoiseach said, “I am delighted to celebrate the opening of this new clinical and translational facility made up of the Lambe Institute for Translational Research and the Health Research Board Clinical Research Facility. This project represents a truly innovative partnership between NUI Galway, Health Research Board, Saolta University Health Care Group, and HSE supported by private philanthropy through Galway University Foundation.

Ireland is recognised as an emerging global hub for the ‘medtech’ sector. Galway is at the very heart of this development and NUI Galway is the powerhouse for much of this progress.”

NUI Galway President, Dr Jim Browne, said,“Today is a milestone in the development of medicine at NUI Galway.

NUI Galway has given strategic priority to the development of biomedical engineering science. Over the past two decades we have invested heavily in this area, with major new research facilities on our campus. Our researchers advance scientific knowledge to address health challenges. Here in this building that scientific knowledge is being developed into novel treatments, which are then carefully applied in the clinical setting and tested in clinical trials led by NUI Galway.”

Commenting, Maurice Power, CEO, Saolta University Health Care Group said, “This exciting new facility brings together leading-edge medical research directly to the bedside of patients at University Hospital Galway and the wider Hospital Group.  For our patients, the facility will provide inpatient and outpatient beds, a minor operations room, endoscopy, endocrine and cardiorespiratory suites, a phlebotomy room and a biometrics unit.  As well as its primary function in benefiting our patients it will also allow our Hospital Group attract and retain the highest calibre of medical professionals.”

Speaking at the launch Dr Ronan Lambe, said, “It is a great privilege for my wife and I to be associated with such a state of the art facility which will enhance the reputation of NUI Galway as a centre of excellence for Bio Medical Research.”

The proximity of the University to UHG will enable direct patient access and collaborative trial input from the hospital Oncology/Haematology Clinical Trials Unit. The CRF will ensure that patients in the West and North West of Ireland have access to a number of new cancer therapies that would otherwise not have been available to them. Clinical trials are active in the treatment of melanoma, multiple myeloma, mantel cell lymphoma, breast, prostate, lung, care

Latest statistics show an increase in Ireland’s gun crime

Sharp drop in murders but 28% increase in car hijackings and related crimes


Possession of a firearm increased by 21%t to 214 cases in the 12-month period to the end of June. Many forms of serious crime have increased, though the murder rate has fallen significantly in the Republic.

Burglaries were up by 9%, to 27,890 cases reported to the Garda, in the latest 12-month period for which crime trends are now available.

The latest data, published by the Central Statistics Office, also revealed further increases in the level of those offences most closely associated with organised crime gangs.

Possession of a firearm increased by 21% to 214 cases in the 12-month period to the end of June, compared to the 12-month period to the end of June last year.

It may suggest resurgence in gun crime after a sharp decline since the 2007-2008 period when the drugs trade collapsed along with the wider economy.

However, the latest data also reveals cases of discharging a firearm were down by 2%.

Controlled drugs offences overall were down by 1.2% to 14,488 crimes.

Cultivation of drugs and possession of drugs for personal use were down, by 19% and 1% respectively.

However, the crime of drug dealing – possession of drugs for sale or supply – increased by 1%, to 3,448 cases.

There was a very sharp decline in murders; down by 37% to 38, from 60 cases in the previous periods

Sexual offences increased by 3% and within that rise was a jump of 7% in the crime of rape of a male or female, to 478 cases. Other sexual assaults were also up, by 7%.

Driving a vehicle under the influence of drugs and drink were both down; by 13 per cent and 4% respectively.

Some 6,450 motorists were detected driving over the legal alcohol limit in the 12-month period while 232 were caught driving under the influence of drugs.

Car hijackings and related crimes increased by 28%, to 110 cases. There were 7,392 cars stolen in the period, three crimes lower than the previous year.

Homicide offences – of which murders are but one category – have decreased to 60 from 93, a fall of 36%.

Attempts of threats to murder, assaults and harassments are up 10%, to 16,054 offences.

Kidnapping and related offences have decreased by 4%, to 131 offences.

Fraud and other deception related crimes have shown an increase of 6%, to 5,337 crimes. Public order crime has decreased by 5%, to 32,866 offences.

Bullied obese children miss long periods of school year


Aoife Brinkley, a senior clinical psychologist at the child obesity service at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, said seven out of ten children at the clinic reported bullying, with one tenth self-harming as a result, and suffering with depression and anxiety disorders.

With a quarter of Irish children classed as overweight or obese, it is thought more and more will be psychologically affected by bullying as a new international report pinpointed weight as the most common form of playground teasing.

Dr Brinkley said children with obesity can be so affected by bullying they can no longer face going into the classroom. “We see kids refusing to go to school. We would have a little group that have struggled or missed a huge amount of school because of the bullying they have experienced.”

The leading psychologist said she has seen bullying resulting in children becoming so socially anxious they can’t go outside their house.

“We would have a lot of children who have attempted to hurt themselves and harm themselves. We would have children with depression, symptoms of anxiety.

“There is a lot of social anxiety where children or teenagers are struggling to go outside the house because they feel so self-conscious.

“It can become a vicious cycle where a young person teased or bullied doesn’t want to leave the house and is gaining weight because they are not leaving the house.”

She said bullying can begin to have much more serious consequences towards the end of primary school.

“Maybe they have been bullied on and off from third class and fourth class but maybe things continuing into fifth class and sixth class, so it means that transition to secondary school is particularly difficult for those kids.”

She said a survey carried out among children with obesity attending the W82GO Healthy Lifestyles Programme in Temple Street, which sees an average of 150 children a year, showed 57% of children experienced moderate bullying with 11% subjected to severe bullying.

“With girls it tends to be name-calling, left out of games. As they get older it tends to be more of a serious nature. Targeted exclusion over a period of time, repeated comments and we have had some children where there has been quite serious cyber bullying on social media.”

She said there are also a lot of misconceptions around childhood obesity in Ireland. “A lot of the stigma is that people think that it’s simple — that they need to eat less or be more active. That is true to some degree but sometimes there are barriers to stop them doing that which are absolutely insurmountable whether it’s parents’ substance use or mental health within the family.

“I’d like to break down the myth that it is a simple thing or it is the parents’ fault. It is very complex and a really difficult thing to change.”

VHI policies are to rise by average of 2% from November

Health insurer says price rise is required to cover the increasing cost of customer claims


The Insurer says the increase is the first in 20 months.

The State’s largest health insurer VHI is to introduce an average premium price increase of 2% from November.

In a statement the company said the increases would range from between 1% and 5% depending on the cover.

Declan Moran, VHI’s director of marketing, said the increase was the first in 20 months and was necessary to cover the rising cost of claims.

Lovely Letterkenny scoops tidy towns of Ireland top spot


Clonegal, Co Carlow, Listowel Co Kerry and Westport among other category winners

Letterkenny, Co Donegal, has been named Ireland’s Tidiest Town for 2015 in the annual Supervalu National Tidy Towns Awards competition.has been named Ireland’s Tidiest Town for

Letterkenny, Co Donegal, has been named Ireland’s Tidiest Town for 2015 in the annual Supervalu National Tidy Towns Awards competition.

It beat 860 villages and towns across the State to become the eighth town in Donegal to win the award since the competition began in 1958. Letterkenny was also named as Ireland’s tidiest large urban centre.

Other winners included: Clonegal, Co Carlow, which was named tidiest village; Listowel, Co Kerry, which was named tidiest small town and Westport, Co Mayo, received the award of tidiest large town,

Evidence of water makes issue of life on Mars a hot topic

New discovery takes scientists tantalisingly close to uncovering actual life on Red Planet


Portions of the Martian surface shot by Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show many channels on a scarp in the Hellas impact basin, in this photograph taken January 14th, 2011 and released by Nasa on March 9th, 2011. Scientists have found the first evidence that briny water may flow on the surface of Mars during the planet’s summer months, a paper published on Monday showed.

The answer to a question which has troubled scientists, science fiction writers and rock singers for generations has taken a giant leap forward with the discovery of liquid water flowing freely on the Red Planet.

While past Martian probes have revealed hints of rivers, lakes and even oceans which dried up a long time ago on the planet far, far away, this new discovery offering concrete evidence of water still flowing freely there – at least during the planet’s summer months – takes scientists tantalisingly close to uncovering actual life on Mars.

Nasa’s discovery of water running hundreds of metres down the planet’s canyons and craters has been hailed across this world as a scientific breakthrough of huge importance.

“It is the first verification of liquid flow on Mars and it is very significant,” said Kevin Nolan of the School of Applied Science at the IT in Tallaght. “It is so hard for liquid water to form on the Martian surface, so if we are finding it on the surface then it is very likely there are significant quantities underground too.”

He said it was an accepted scientific fact on Earth that “where there is water, there is life, there is no exception – and that is why Nasa has been following the water on other planets for decades”.

The Martian water only flows when the surface of the planet rises above -23C. Despite the freezing conditions, it can still flow because a high salt content drops the point at which it freezes far below zero degrees Celsius.

Scientists have yet to establish the source of the water but are working off theories that it rises up from underground ice or condenses out of the thin Martian atmosphere.

The newly discovered trickles will most likely by used by space explorers to map the best sites to seek out life on Mars and to establish landing spots for future human missions.

“If we find there is life on two of eight planets in our solar system then it suggests that life is widespread throughout the universe,” Mr Nolan said.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 27th September 2015

Anti Austerity Alliance conference focuses on recovery


Paul Murphy told RTÉ News that the main theme of the conference will be the question of a recovery in Ireland’s economy.
About 200 people are attending the Anti-Austerity Alliance’s first national conference this afternoon, at the Red Cow Hotel in Dublin.

The party says the conference is discussing the ongoing struggles within the group and the building of a new movement to transform Irish society and give political representation to working class people.

Speakers include TDs Paul Murphy, Ruth Coppinger and Joe Higgins, a homeless woman who was involved in the occupation of NAMA properties in Dublin earlier this week, and a former deputy mayor of Liverpool City Council, who will look at the rise of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain.

Mr Murphy told RTÉ News that the main theme of the conference will be the question of a recovery in Ireland’s economy.

He said: “The reality [is] that the Government has created a crisis tsunami of homelessness, it has created an economy based on low pay and it has created a situation where almost half of children in the country are suffering from multiple deprivation experiences.”

Ireland must end austerity outright and tax corporations and high earners to provide a “real recovery”, the Dublin TD said.

Mr Murphy continued that Ireland needs “a complete radical change of policy, a political revolution and the building of a mass left movement that can fight for a left government in this country”.

Jeremy Corbyn proposes London memorial for Countess Markievicz 

Election of Countess to House of Commons an ‘important footnote’, Labour leader says

Countess Constance Markievicz as a captain in the Irish Citizen Army.
British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has proposed a memorial to Countess Markievicz to be erected in his London constituency of Islington North.
Mr Corbyn told the Labour Party conference on women that Countess Markievicz created history by becoming the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons.

Markievicz was elected to the Irish Government in Dublin St Patrick constituency in the election of 1918, but like all other Sinn Féin MPs, refused to take her seat.
Jeremy Corbyn: long time supporter of a united Ireland. Photograph: GettyJeremy Corbyn reiterates support for united Ireland
Ruairí Quinn said he saw himself as an “unreconstructed socialist”.

What difference has the Labour party made?
Trading places: British prime minister David Cameron (left), and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (right) during a service to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Corbyn is right, God Save the Queen is awful
Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of Britain’s Labour Party takes part in his first Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons in Westminster,
She spent most of her early years in London though the family-owned Lissadell House in Co Sligo.

She was second-in-command of the Irish Citizen Army during Easter Week 1916 and was sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to life in prison because she was a woman, but later released.
She was arrested again in 1917 and was detained in Holloway Prison for nearly two years.

Holloway Prison is in Mr Corbyn’s constituency. While she was in prison, she was elected to the House of Commons.
In 1919, she became the first female Irish cabinet minister, a record that was to stand for nearly 60 years when Maura Geoghegan Quinn became a cabinet minister in 1979.

Mr Corbyn has been a long time admirer of Countess Markievicz and told the women’s Labour conference that her election to the House of Commons was an “important footnote in history”.

He added: “I have been discussing this with women colleagues on Islington Council and when we rebuild our library next to the prison we are going to have a plaque, a memorial, up so that all the generations can understand the contribution that Connie Markiewicz and so many others made.”

Speculation Pope Francis may visit Ireland in 2018


There is speculation that Pope Francis may visit Ireland in 2018 after Pope Francis announced at mass in Philadelphia that the Catholic World Meeting of Families will take place in Dublin.

The Catholic World Meeting of Families is staged every three years in a different location around the world.

The World Meeting which was set up in 1994 by Pope John Paul II is generally attended by the pope of the day.

The announcement that the meeting will take place here was made during the concluding mass of Pope Francis’s ten day pastoral visit to Cuba and the United States.

If Pope Francis does visit, it will be the first papal visit to Ireland since Saint John Paul II came here in 1979.

It will not be Pope Francis’s first visit however as he spent three months in Dublin in 1980 when, aged 43, he came to study and stay at the Jesuit run Milltown Institute in Ranelagh.

Earlier, Pope Francis held a giant open-air mass, the final religious service of his triumphal tour of the United States, attended by an enormous crowd in downtown Philadelphia.

Up to 1.5 million people from across the world and around America were expected to attend the religious service on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway before the pope boards a flight back to Rome.

The mass, held outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art is open to the general public and brings to a close the World Meeting of Families, a Catholic event that happens once every three years.

The Benjamin Franklin Parkway stretches around 1.6 kms long and television footage showed the crowd spread across much of it, but there was no immediate confirmation of how many people attended.

Draconian security measures have been in place the entire weekend in Philadelphia, with traffic banned from the downtown area and members of the public forced to travel by foot.

Earlier, Pope Francis met victims of church sex abuse, saying “God weeps” for their suffering and promising to hold all those responsible to account.

The pope met three women and two men, with their relatives for 30 minutes at the San Carlo Borromeo seminary on the final day of his visit to the United States.

“God weeps,” the pope told a gathering of bishops afterwards. “The sexual abuse of children cannot be maintained secret.

“I commit to a careful oversight to insure that youth are protected and all responsible will be held accountable.”

“Those who have survived the abuse have become true heralds of mercy, probably we owe each of them our gratitude for their great value as they have had to suffer terrible abuse,” he added.

Philadelphia is one of the cities where the scandal was most serious in the 1980s.

One rare criticism of the pope during his six-day trip to Washington, New York and Philadelphia was that he did not have such a meeting on his public agenda.

Without the audience, victims of the sex abuse scandal would have been extremely disappointed.

The pope’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, met victims of the sex abuse scandal in Boston in 2008.

Calls and emails: 10 things to know how to avoid the scam artists

Gardaí warn ‘vishing’ scams are on the rise with reports of victims losing thousands.

Gardaí have received reports of vishing scams where the targets have lost more than €38,000.

Gardaí are warning people about the rise of telephone and email scams where criminals attempt to deceive people into providing personal financial information.
They said they have received a significant increase in reports of “vishing” from all over the country since the activity was highlighted in July.
The force has received reports of vishing where the targets have lost more than €38,000. In a case reported in the last two weeks an injured party transferred more than €22,000 on the instructions of a person purporting to be a named Garda superintendent.
Gardaí warn about phone ‘vishing’ scam
Austrian students Marie Sramek and Tanja Rosenecker were scammed out of a €550 deposit for accommodation. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill Students seeking to rent in Dublin scammed out of deposit
Illustration: Frazer Hudson/Ikon via Getty Images10 online scams to watch out for.

Here are 10 way to avoid “vishing” scams:

1. If something seems too good to be true, then it is too good to be true. Unless you know and trust any person who is dangling any class of financial reward or once in a life time deal or threat in front of your eyes, your starting position should always be “This is a scam”.

2. Never allow yourself to be hurried into making a decision. One of the most important tools in the scam artists’ armoury is panic and fear. Many of the deals and threats that are out there come with a warning that unless you act immediately you will lose out. So never act immediately and always consult with someone else before making any kind of financial commitment. Sometimes giving voice to an offer that has been made, makes it easier to see how ridiculous it is.

3. Remember that your bank will never, ever contact you by email looking for any financial details. They will never email you an alert warning you to update the financial details on their website. If you ever get an email from your bank – no matter how legit it looks – treat it with the gravest suspicion.

4. Change your passwords often. It is a pain but it keeps you focussed and keeps you one step ahead of the scammers. And do not put the answers to security questions on Facebook. That means leaving out details of where you went to school, your mother’s maiden name, your first pet’s name and all the other questions that may you may uses as answers when getting access to your key accounts.

5. Unsolicited calls offering you any class of unexpected financial reward are almost certainly bogus. Remember what we said about things being too good to be true? Never forget that fact.

6. If you get a call from Microsoft offering to fix a deadly virus they have found on your computer for what seems like a small sum of money just hang up. Can you think of any circumstance in which a company will call you up unsolicited and offer to help you out?

7. The tax man is never going to send you a mail or a text telling you that an unexpected tax rebate is coming your way. That is as likely to happen as you winning the Spanish lottery or inheriting a suitcase full of blood diamonds from Sierra Leone.

8. Scam artists target vulnerable people. Frequently these people are elderly or live alone. They can be unfamiliar with the workings of the internet. Do what you can to spread the word about scams and alert vulnerable people close to you of the dangers. This can be done in a casual way – there’s no point in scaring everyone witless.

9. Pay attention to what his happening around you. Scam artists are constantly working out new ways to part people from their cash. The nastiest – and most believable one doing the rounds right now sees the criminal phone a member of the public – on their land line – claiming to be a “security manager” from a well known store. They tell the target there’s been a security breach and credit or debit card details have been compromised.

They will ask for bank details and if the request is refused, the target is advised to call their bank immediately. The target hands up but the fraudster stays on the line which remains active. The target picks up the phone and calls their bank – without waiting for a dial tone. A voice comes on the other end saying that that to protect the account the funds must be transferred to another account. Once a person “voluntarily” transfer funds or information to a third party, there is no comeback. So pay attention to the news and when you hear of a new scam spread the word.

10. Listen to the words of the gardaí. “These criminals are targeting vulnerable, usually elderly people and I want to warn people to never give anyone details of their bank accounts or credit card numbers. Please remember that no genuine person or organisation will call and ask for your details. Gardaí are asking community organisations, relatives or neighbours of elderly people to help us to get this message across,” said Detective superintendent Gerard Walsh from the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation alerting people to the scam highlighted in number 9. If you think you have been targeted by scam artists call the guards. And remember what we said about something being too good to be true.

This ‘Supermoon’ set to coincide with lunar eclipse


A statue is seen silhouetted against the moon in Brussels, Belgium September 26, 2015. On Saturday, a perigee moon coincided with a full moon creating a “supermoon” when it passed by the earth at its closest point.
Astronomers are gearing up to spot a rare phenomenon, as a lunar eclipse coincides with a so-called “supermoon”.

A supermoon occurs when the Moon is in the closest part of its orbit to Earth, meaning it appears larger in the sky.

The eclipse – expected to make the Moon appear red in colour – will be visible in North America, South America, West Africa and western Europe.

Nasa claims a supermoon last coincided with a lunar eclipse in 1982 and is not expected to again until 2033.

But the definition of a supermoon is debated among astronomers.

Skywatchers in the western half of North America, the rest of Europe and Africa, the Middle East and South Asia will see a partial eclipse.

From the UK, observers will see the Moon pass through the Earth’s shadow in the early hours of Monday morning. In North and South America the eclipse will be seen on Sunday evening.

Eclipse facts:-

  1. The supermoon, where Earth’s satellite is near its minimum distance from our planet, means that the Moon will appear 7-8% larger in the sky.
  2. The moon may look rust-coloured during a total lunar eclipse – giving rise to its nickname Blood Moon.
  3. This is because the Earth’s atmosphere scatters blue light more strongly than red light, and it is this red light that reaches the lunar surface.
  4. During the eclipse, the Moon lies in front of the stars of the constellation Pisces.
  5. In a total lunar eclipse, the Earth, Sun and Moon are almost exactly in line and the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun.
  6. As the full Moon moves into our planet’s shadow, it dims dramatically but usually remains visible, lit by sunlight that passes through the Earth’s atmosphere.
  7. As this light travels through our planet’s gaseous envelope, the green to violet portions get filtered out more than the red portion, with the result that light reaching the lunar surface is predominantly red in colour.
  8. Observers on Earth may see a Moon that is brick-coloured, rusty, blood red or sometimes dark grey, depending on terrestrial conditions.
  9. Dr Robert Massey, deputy executive director of the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society, told BBC News that the eclipse is an “incredibly beautiful event”.
  10. A supermoon occurs when a full or new moon coincides with a Moon that is nearing its minimum distance (perigee) to Earth.
  11. The Moon takes an elliptical orbit around Earth, which means that its average distance changes from as far as 405,000km (its apogee) to as close as 363,000km at the perigee.
  12. The coincidence between a supermoon and an eclipse means that Earth’s lone companion is expected to look 7-8% bigger. But Dr Massey added: “The definition of ‘supermoon’ is slightly problematic.
  13. He said a supermoon was to some extent a moveable feast compared with an eclipse, where the timing can be measured precisely.
    As a result, Dr Massey explained, claims of the extreme rarity of a supermoon coinciding with an eclipse were overstated.
  14. The supermoon should also not be confused with the Moon Illusion, which causes the Moon to appear larger near the horizon than it does higher up in the sky.

The eclipse will begin at 00:11 GMT, when the Moon enters the lightest part of the Earth’s shadow, known as the penumbra, and adopts a yellowish colour. At 02:11 GMT the Moon completely enters the umbra – the inner dark corpus of our planet’s shadow.

The point of greatest eclipse occurs at 02:47 GMT, when the Moon is closest to the centre of the umbra. The show will be over by 05:22 GMT on Monday.

The Royal Astronomical Society says that unlike the solar equivalent, a total lunar eclipse event is safe to watch and needs no special equipment.

Deep-diving whales could help trauma patients. Here’s how


Oxygen-binding proteins found in the muscle tissue of deep-diving whales could hold the lifesaving answer for human trauma patients, according to a new study.

While the protein myoglobin is found in humans, whales and other mammals, the study found that marine creatures have ultra-stable versions of the protein.

The study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry by Rice University biochemists, found that stability was the key for cells to make large quantities of myoglobin, which explains why whales hold far more of the protein in their muscle cells than humans. This in turn, allows whales to hold their breath for up to two hours.

“Whales and other deep-diving marine mammals can pack 10 to 20 times more myoglobin into their cells than humans can,” biochemist John Olson said in a Rice University press release. “The reason why whale meat is so dark is that it’s filled with myoglobin that is capable of holding oxygen. But when the myoglobin is newly made, it does not yet contain heme. We found that the stability of heme-free myoglobin is the key factor that allows cells to produce high amounts of myoglobin.”

Olson has spent about 20 years studying the protein, and wants to create a strain of bacteria that can create massive amounts of another protein that is similar to myglobin. The goal is to develop a synthetic blood for use in transfusions.

Donated whole blood is often in short supply and has a short shelf life and Olson’s aim is to maximize the amount of hemoglobin that a bacterium can express, the release reads. A vitro method was developed by researches to test myoglobin expression outside of living cells.

“That allowed us to carefully control all the variables,” said Olson. “We found that the amount of fully active myoglobin expressed was directly and strongly dependent on the stability of the protein before it bound the heme group.”

Image shows the shape of myoglobin (red) which includes a waterproof pocket that is used to store heme (green), a molecule that allows myoglobins and hemoglobins to transport oxygen. Courtesy: Rice University
Researchers studied the protein’s stability and resistance to unfolding by analyzing the overall structures and shape of myoglobin from different species.

Stability in myoglobin was studied in humans, pigs, goosebeak whales, gray seals and sperm whales to name a few of the species.

Stability was measured by using chemicals that forced proteins to unfold. A graduate student in Olson’s lab observed how myoglobin in sperm whales was much more resistant to chemically induced unfolding, unlike human or pig proteins. It was confirmed in 2000 that resistance to unfolding was a trait of deep-diving whales.

News Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Saturday 26th September 2015

Tánaiste Joan Burton says planning process is to blame for delay in social housing


The Tánaiste Joan Burton says the process of building new social housing is taking longer than she would like.

Last year the Government announced that almost €4bn would be invested in the construction of 35,000 social housing units.

There are 130,000 households currently on local authority lists waiting for a home.

It comes as homeless charities call for immediate action to alleviate the housing crisis, as a homeless man was found dead in a lane on Dublin city centre yesterday morning.

The Minister for Social Protection said the planning application process is slowing down construction of much needed houses.

Ms Burton said: “It’s a lot slower, to be honest, to get off the ground than most of us would like.

“If we could also look at a suggestion by Father Peter McVerry that we may need to speed up the planning process, because we have sites available in Dublin for housing, but the planning process can be very slow, followed by the tender process

“So it can take a long time to actually get houses up on sites.”

Pope Francis in the USA offers a broad vision of Religious Freedom


Standing near Independence Hall, where America’s founding documents were signed, Pope Francis on Saturday called religious freedom a “fundamental right” and laid out a broad and tolerant vision of what it should be, but also warned about its perversion “as a pretext for hatred and brutality.”

On the final leg of his first trip to the United States, Francis arrived in Philadelphia and went straight to the city’s Roman Catholic basilica, exhorting ordinary Catholics to bolster their role in sustaining the church. After a Mass before 2,400 people and a long midday rest, he traveled to Independence Mall and broadened his canvas: addressing the place of faith in a nation.

Religious freedom means the right to worship God, “as our consciences dictate,” Francis said. And, he went on, the principle goes beyond temples and the private sphere: Religion also serves society, especially as a bulwark “in the face of every claim to absolute power.”

Francis emerged from Independence Hall to the strains of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.” He stood at the lectern used by Abraham Lincoln to deliver the Gettysburg Address, and in his own address, Francis extolled the principles of the country’s founding fathers embodied by the Declaration of Independence signed in the building behind him.

The brief speech was an elaboration on comments from his very first remarks on American soil, when on arrival Wednesday he told President Obama, that religious liberty “remains one of America’s most precious possessions,” and should be vigilantly protected.

But while some conservatives in politics and the church had expected his comments to bolster their opposition to the Obama administration’s health care mandate for contraception and other such issues on religious grounds, Francis did not press the issue on Saturday.

His comments seemed tilted toward creating an idea of religious liberty with broad applications — freedom to worship, but also to play a role in caring for others. Religious traditions, he said, “call to conversion, reconciliation, concern for the future of society, self-sacrifice in the service of the common good and compassion for those in need.” He continued, “At the heart of their spiritual mission is the proclamation of the truth and dignity of the human person and human rights.”

Francis listed the ways the exercise of religion suffered and how it could be twisted, without any specific references, such as to cruel interpretations of Islam by the Islamic State in Iraq and by the Taliban in Afghanistan or, in a completely different category, defiance in this country on religious grounds of same-sex marriage rulings.

Pope Calls to Embrace the Laity and Women

At the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, Pope Francis offered solutions for the problems facing the church in a rapidly changing society.

“In a world where various forms of modern tyranny seek to suppress religious freedom, or try to reduce it to a subculture without right to a voice in the public square, or to use religion as a pretext for hatred and brutality,” Francis said, “it is imperative that the followers of the various religions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.”The audience on Independence Mall were mainly Latinos and other immigrants. And at one point, after giving a note of appreciation to the Quakersand their “ideal of a community united by brotherly love,” Francis departed from his prepared speech and delivered an impromptu lecture on globalization.

Growing more animated, he said it is a force for good if it works toward equalizing, uniting and bringing respect to people. But if globalization “tries to make everybody even, as if it was a sphere, that globalization destroys the richness and specificity of each person and each people.”Then, the Argentine pope, the first from Latin America, greeted the Hispanic people in the audience with affection. He noted the human cost of immigration and said, “Do not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face.”

In a country where speaking languages other than English can be controversial, he called on them to “never be ashamed of your traditions.”

His call for the United States to embrace immigrants has been a running theme; here, he gave them a direct morale boost.

Pope Francis arrived in Philadelphia on Saturday.CreditGabriella Demczuk for

Francis so far has had stops in Washington and New York, which included addresses to Congress and the United Nations, intimate moments with schoolchildren in Harlem and families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks at ground zero and large public encounters in touchstone locales like Central Park, Fifth Avenue and Madison Square Garden.

He is ending his first trip to the United States with a weekend in Philadelphia, where huge crowds — the kind where he becomes a dot on the altar before a sea of humanity — are expected, first at a concert-celebration Saturday night on Benjamin Franklin Parkway and then a Mass on Sunday.

In the morning, speaking at a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, he cited Pope Leo XIII’s words to the Philadelphia-born Katharine Drexel — later recognized as a saint — during an 1887 audience: “What about you? What are you going to do?”

Francis said the question should be addressed today to young people and by implication to women, noting it was important that Leo asked the question of a laywoman. “We know that the future of the church calls, for a much more active engagement on the part of the laity,” he said.

The issue has particular relevance in a country where one-fifth of parishes have no priest in residence and parishioners are often called on to take up the burden, and where the proportion of people who identify as Catholics has declined to a fifth from about a quarter over the last 20 years.

Though he encouraged help from people in the pews, he gently warned that there were limits. “This does not mean relinquishing the spiritual authority with which we have been entrusted,” he said. “Rather, it means discerning and employing wisely the manifold gifts which the Spirit pours out upon the church.”

One of Francis’ biggest applause lines during his homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on Friday came when he expressed his love and appreciation for nuns. He added to the thought on Saturday, remarking on the “immense contribution which women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make to the life of our communities.”

Francis spoke to bishops, priests and nuns from Pennsylvania at the cathedral, the 151-year-old seat of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, where he arrived by motorcade after flying in from New York. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput gave a formal welcome with a jocular line: “This is a city that would change its name to Francisville today,” he said.

Inside, worshipers included Dr. Tony Coletta, the chief executive of a health care company, who called the pope’s visit “a lifetime opportunity both for the city of Philadelphia and for us.”

“It’s as close to God as we will ever get on the earth,” Dr. Coletta said in the marble-clad nave shortly before the Mass started.

Francis timed his trip to Philadelphia to coincide with the World Meeting of Families, a Vatican-sponsored jamboree that occurs every three years. It was founded in 1994 by Pope John Paul II and takes place every three years. This is the first time it has been held in the United States, and organizers said some 18,000 people attended the week’s events.

Within a week of his return to Rome, the bishops of the church will convene a major meeting, or synod, on the family at the Vatican, and Francis asked his clergy to pray for the deliberations. A major tension lies in how to balance tradition and doctrine with calls for a wider role for women in the church and flexibility on issues such as communion and other sacraments for divorced and remarried Catholics.

Philadelphia has been preparing for Francis for months. Law enforcement agencies set up 19 checkpoints to create a secure zone around the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and seven more at Independence Mall, near the Delaware River.

Still, many residents in this city of 1.6 million showed the same forbearance that New Yorkers displayed during the pope’s time there from Wednesday to Friday.

“We need this,” said Irene Perry, 59 and a Catholic, who was sitting Friday on her stoop watching people pass through security near the parkway. “We need help. We have homeless, and people without jobs, and I think it’s a beautiful thing that  Pope Francis  is coming, and he’s going to bless all of us. We need peace in the world.”

27 year old dying mother says ‘I will miss my children growing up because of sunbeds’


Louise Cook, 27, has been told she has just weeks to live after she was diagnosed with terminal skin cancer.

A mum with terminal cancer has given a heartbreaking warning about using sunbeds.

Aged 27, Louise Cook has been told she has just weeks to live.

It means she will not see her three children, Summer, six, Mason, four, and Chloe, one, grow up.

In an interview with The Sun, Louise said: ‘I thought having a tan would help my self-esteem after a break- up.

‘Because of that I will not be here to watch my beautiful kids grow up. I didn’t really believe sunbeds could be so dangerous because they were so easily accessible.

‘I fear other young men and women will make the same mistake as me and put their image before their health.

‘If you want a tan, get a spray one. Children shouldn’t lose their mummies because of sunbeds.’

In early 2013, she discovered a mole on her back, but she was unaware it was a sign of skin cancer.

Louise was pregnant with Chloe when she was told it was a cancerous melanoma.

A GoFundMe appeal has been launched to help Louise’s children.

Breast cancer relapse is due to different genetic profiles


A new study, which will be presented at the European Cancer Congress (ECC) 2015, suggests that the cases of breast cancer that recur are linked to a different genetic profile and these drivers can be targetable with drugs.

Not all breast cancer is cured after treatment since 20% of the cases recur. The study showed that patients who relapse have differences in genetics.

“We demonstrate that there are clear differences within the driver landscapes of relapsed cancers. This probably reflects a combination of predisposition to relapse and of differences in the mutations acquired during the relapse and metastasis phase,” said the researchers, led by Lucy Yates, MD, a clinical research oncologist from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

After breast cancer is cured, 20% of the cases recur. This new study showed that patients who relapse have indeed differences in their genetics. Credit: AHCC Research

This could possibly shed some light on which breast cancer patients are at higher risk of relapse when they are first diagnosed. There is also a hope that women, identified as having more chance to suffer from breast cancer a second time, could be treated with drugs to prevent recurrence.

To find this out, researchers compared the genetic make-up cancer from 836 tissue samples taken from women on primary diagnosis with 161 samples of tissue taken from recurrences or metastases. In addition, they looked at 365 genes involved in cancer-related pathways and compared driver mutation in the primary and relapse datasets

“We have found that some of the genetic mutations that drive breast cancers that relapse are relatively uncommon amongst cancers that do not relapse at the point of primary diagnosis,” Dr. Yates said in a statement. “We believe that the differences we have seen reflect genetic differences that can predispose cancer to return, combined with mutations acquired throughout the period from the first diagnosis to the subsequent relapse,” she added.

October is breast Cancer Awareness Month?

These findings come ahead of the breast cancer awareness month. Since October has been declared the month to create awareness of breast cancer, several people around the country have been getting ready to show their support.

For instance, the Ventura City Fire Department will join forces with Firefighters across the country, for the fifth year in a row, to help promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The firefighters will wear an Embossed T-shirt from Oct. 1st to Oct. 15th in support of this cause. These shirts will also be for sale to raise money for helping women diagnosed with breast cancer.

The Apopka Police Department has gone pink to also support the cause. The department unveiled a Dodge Nitro with the police shield wrapped from behind by a pink ribbon. The donated design was made by Orlando’s Dana Safety Supply.

Debbi Turner’s Cancer Care and Resource Center has teamed with the Apopka Police Department for events throughout October. The non-profit organization is raising money to provide 220 free mammograms this year to women in Apopka.

Drinking green tea has many huge benefits


A girl recently (not girl above) turned yellow after drinking a bad ingredient in Chinese green tea — but don’t let that sour you on its tremendous benefits.We recently reported on the alarming case of a 16-year-old girl in the UK who turned yellow after contracting hepatitis after drinking green tea she bought online — but don’t worry, green tea is indeed all it’s cracked up to be.

The girl had apparently purchased a green tea with a little extra in it, and the additional ingredient caused her to get hepatitis, which is severe damage to the liver that resulted in jaundice, stomach pain, and eventually hospitalization. She’s since recovered, and has vowed never to purchase such herbal remedies online again. But despite the bad experience, don’t be worried about green tea, which is extremely good for your health.

In this case, it wasn’t the green tea that caused the hepatitis, but rather an extra ingredient added to it by a suspect online company. In reality, regular green tea is loaded with health benefits.

Some doctors would even call it the healthiest thing you can drink, according to a WebMD article. While no substance by itself can protect you from illness — that has to come with a regular regimen of good diet and solid exercise habits — it goes as far as anything else you can consume can.

Green tea’s greatest benefit may be its catechin content, which are antioxidants that can prevent cell damage. Because green tea isn’t processed, it has quite rich in catechins.

Studies have sung the praises of green tea, showing that it can improve the flow of blood and lower cholesterol in the body. Green tea appears to fight a range of heart-related issues, and could help prevent heart failure and lower blood pressure.

And because it’s good for your blood, it’s good for your brain too, since brains need good blood flow to stay healthy. A Swiss study mentioned int he reported noted that people who drank green tea showed better memory abilities, and it seems to stop the formation of plaques that are tied to Alzheimer’s.

Then there’s how it affects people with diabetes. Green tea has a positive effect on blood sugar, in that it keeps it stable. Catechins lower cholesterol and blood pressure, but they also protect against the damage from a high-fat diet, according to the report.

Although green tea won’t immediately cause you to lose weight, EGCG, which is the active ingredient in the drink, has been shown in some studies to cause some weight loss, although some studies show no difference. Still, if you can start drinking green tea instead of sugary drinks, there’s no question you’ll lose some weight. In fact, you could save 50,000 calories by simply swapping out one or two cups of green tea for one can of soda over the next year. That would amount to a weight loss of 15 pounds, all from one simple change — that is, as long as you’re not filling your tea with honey, cream, or sugar.

But what about cancer? That’s a bit tougher to answer, but green tea does appear to help healthy cells as they grow. There are some indications that it may help stop cancer cells, but the research is inconclusive on that subject. The National Cancer Institute is neutral on the subject of green tea, meaning there is no evidence for or against it helping stop cancer.

Finally, there’s the question of green tea and stress. Sipping a hot cup of green tea can help you relax, and there is a chemical in green tea called theanine that can help calm you. This alone can lower your blood pressure and prolong your life, if you make this a regular practice. In addition, it just makes you feel good, and that’s always good for your health.

Of course, there is a right way and a wrong way to prepare green tea. First, you should add the tea to boiling water, as it is bad for the catechins mentioned earlier, so wait until the water is about 160 to 170 degrees. Then, add lemon, which is loaded with Vitamin C and will make it easier for your body to absorb the catechins. Also, take note of what brand you’re buying: if you buy the bargain brain canned drinks, there’s not going to be as many nutrients, whereas the pricier teas are likely to offer all the health benefits.

Irish Army officer is chosen to retrace Ernest Shackleton steps


A travel- and adventure-hungry Irish Army lieutenant has been selected as one of just three people selected to retrace the steps of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.

Lieutenant Sinéad Hunt, from Dublin, will retrace the steps of Ernest Shackleton’s legendary voyage from Antarctica to South Georgia and subsequent trek across that island with Frank Worsley and Kerryman Tom Crean.

The Antarctic Heritage Trust Inspiring Explorers Expedition 2015 will provide an opportunity of a lifetime in October for three young people to participate in an attempt to repeat Shackleton’s crossing to mark the centenary of the journey.

The trip of a lifetime will involve flying to Port Stanley in the Falkands and then travelling aboard Vavilov to King Haakon Bay, South Georgia.

  Ernest Shackleton the great explorer:

From there, the plan is for the expedition team to disembark and cross South Georgia to Stromness, on skis where possible, before rejoining the ship. After circumnavigating South Georgia, the ship will return to Ushuaia, Argentina.

The crossing will be a multi-day traverse of the island from South to North on skis across glaciated country and the crossing party will be self-sufficient for that time.

The success rate given for the crossing even now is just 60% due to the extreme weather conditions the trio will face.

Sineád departs for New Zealand on September 28 for two weeks training and the expedition will take place between October 17-31.

The eldest of three daughters, Sinéad grew up in North Co Dublin in a family with an appetite for travel and adventure.

Sinéad studied Mechanical Engineering at University College Dublin where she joined the UCD mountaineering club.

[timgcap=Lte Sinead Hunt pictured practising her endurance tests at Aunascaul Lake in County Kerry]zzzLieutenantSineadHunt250915_large.jpg[/timg]

During her university years, she climbed all over Ireland and, from there, the Scottish Highlands, to learn winter climbing skills, and to the Alps, discovering skiing and Alpine mountaineering.

“I think it’s going to be a bit of a whirlwind trip. I will take it as a it goes,” she said.

Sinéad enlisted in the Irish Defence Forces like her father and grandfather before her, through the Officer Cadetship training programme.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 25th September 2015

Taoiseach’s office finds letter from under-bidder to NI portfolio

Email found after three days, but asks about bid, rather than complain about practices


The search was triggered by a report that the underbidder, New York-based Fortress Capital Formations, had written to the Taoiseach in February 2014 complaining about “business practices” during Project Eagle

Three days after it began an extensive search, Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s office has discovered an email sent to it by an unsuccessful bidder for a 800-property loan portfolio in Northern Ireland.

The search was triggered by a report that the underbidder, New York-based Fortress Capital Formations, had written to the Taoiseach in February 2014 complaining about “business practices” during Project Eagle. This was the process used by theNational Asset Management Agency to dispose of the €1.5 billion Northern Irish portfolio.

However, the email uncovered yesterday from February 13th, 2014 makes no complaint nor raised any concern.

Addressed to the Taoiseach’s special adviser Andrew McDowell it is an introductory email, expressing interest in putting a bid in for the portfolio.

Written by Michael George, its managing director, it referred to a €1.25 billion portfolio bought by the company in the Netherlands andGermany, as well as other pools of non-performing and sub-performing debt in Ireland.

Mr George, who is originally from the North of Ireland, said he had a “keen interest in this €4 billion portfolio and would like to throw our hat in the ring.”

He asked Mr McDowell did he have any insight as to how to get involved. Mr McDowell emailed an official in NAMA asking could Fortress be put in contact with those handling the sale on the behalf of the agency.

A spokeswoman said last night the Taoiseach’s office was not looking for any other letter or record, as it had conducted a thorough search of its correspondence files form the period, and uncovered nothing.

Nama has said it received no letter of complaint from Fortress about the process.

The issue was raised in the Dáil this week by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

On Thursday Fianna Fáil was trying to ascertain if the email correspondence published by the Government on its website,, was the only such exchange.

Its contents do not tally with the contents of the purported letter, as reported in The Irish News.

Speaking in New York following his address to the UN General Assembly, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said, as far as he is aware, the letter published on his website is the only one from the Fortress company.

Mr Kenny said that if any others came to light, he would publish them.

Fianna Fail leader Michéal Martin had said the Department of Taoiseach had been contacted with concerns over sale of NAMA’s Northern Irish loans. The letters published yesterday showed Fortress Capital contacted Mr Kenny’s advisors to express an interest in the loans.

Andrew McDowell, Mr Kenny’s economic advisor, referred the queries to NAMA and the Taoiseach said this is the only correspondence he is aware of.

“The email is up on the website for all to see,” Mr Kenny said. “As far as I can understand, that is the only correspondence and if there is any other I will publish that as well but I don’t have any reason to believe that there is and clearly that was passed on to NAMA for direct response to the company involved.

“I don’t have any reason to believe that there is any other correspondence. If there is and it comes to life, I’ll publish it.”

ESB profits, revenues and debts rise well in 2015

The company says wholesale electricity markets are ‘challenging’ due to low prices.


ESB said it made capital investment of €405 million over the six-month period, down by 10 per cent.

ESB grew its revenues and profits in the first six months of the year, although its progress was crimped by factors such as the weakening euro against sterling, according to interim financial statements released yesterday.

The group also confirmed it has fully paid off the €400 million special dividend agreed with the Government during the financial crisis to help plug the State’s parlous finances.

The dividend payout of €214 million in January completes the crisis-era agreement. ESB said it brings the total of its dividend payments to almost €1.5 billion over the last 10 years.

The accounts for the six months to the end of June show ESB’s revenues were marginally ahead by €62 million to €1.7 billion.

Operating profits were up €10 million to €337 million, while the group’s bottom line profitability after tax almost tripled to €201 million, mainly due to the non-recurrence of finance costs.

The relatively calmer weather during the period compared to last year contributed to a spike in profits at its network business, which absorbs the cost of line repairs and damage to its infrastructure.

The weak euro, however, hit its investment in Northern IrelandElectricity, contributing to a more than 50 per cent reduiction in profitabiliy to €13 million.

ESB said it made capital investment of €405 million over the six months, a reduction of 10 per cent that helped boost its profitability.

The company appeared to focus its investment in the island of Ireland, however, boosting such spending in its home markets by €100 million to €320 million.

It cut back on capital expenditure abroad, including at itsCarrington plant in the UK. This new £500 million gas-fired power station, located near Manchester, is due to come onstream next year.

Net debts at the State-owned power group has risen by €300 million since the end of December to €4.9 billion, partly due to the hefty dividend payments it is making to the State.

The figure is also €800 million ahead of the debt position at the end of 2013, as ESB takes advantage of the once-again benign borrowing environment for State-backed entities.

ESB’s total payroll bill was flat at €270 million. The group said it has about 7,200 employees, suggesting an average cost per staff member for the six months of €37,500.

Over a year, a the average ESB employee costs about €75,000 in salaries, overtime and pension costs.

The balance sheet also list various employee pension scheme liabilities totalling about €920 million, with €740 million attributable to employee sin the south and the rest relating to NIE.

The liability in the group pension scheme was the source of a bitter industrial dispute in 2013 that brought ESB to the bring of a Christmas-time strike.

Pat O’Doherty, the chief executive of the ESB, said it was a “solid performance” over the six months but added that wholesale electricity markets were “challenging” due to low prices.

Smartphone health apps may pose a privacy risk


Some clinically-accredited smartphone health apps may be sending unencrypted personal and health information, putting the privacy of users at risk, a new study has found.

Some clinically-accredited smartphone health apps may be sending unencrypted personal and health information, putting the privacy of users at risk, a new study has found.

It is currently estimated that one and a half billion smartphone users have a health app installed and this number is set to treble in the next three years.

One quarter of US adults have reported using one or more health apps and a third of physicians have recommended an app to a patient.

As a way of reassuring users about the quality and safety of health apps, several app accreditation programmes have been launched.

One such programme is the UK’s National Health System (NHS) Health Apps Library, which is a curated list of apps for patient and public use.

Registered apps undergo an appraisal process that examines clinical safety and compliance with data protection law.

The researchers from Imperial College London, UK, and Ecole Polytechnique CNRS, France, reviewed 79 apps that were listed on the UK NHS Health Apps Library in July 2013.

The apps covered health areas such as weight loss, alcohol harm reduction, smoking cessation and long-term condition self-care.

The apps were assessed over a six-month period by inputting simulated information, tracking the handling of this information, and looking at how this agreed with any associated privacy policies.

Of the apps reviewed, it was found that 70 of the apps transmitted information to online services and 23 of those sent identifying information over the internet without encryption.

Of the 38 apps that had a privacy policy and transmitted information, the privacy policy did not state what personal information would be included in the transmissions.

Four apps were found to be sending both identifying and health information without encryption.

“Our study suggests that the privacy of users of accredited apps may have been unnecessarily put at risk, and challenges claims of trustworthiness offered by the current national accreditation scheme being run through the NHS,” said lead researcher Kit Huckvale, from Imperial College London.

“The results of the study provide an opportunity for action to address these concerns, and minimise the risk of a future privacy breach,” said Huckvale.

Meanwhile a phone scam:

Garda warning people of Ireland as phone scam spreads


‘Vishing’ fraudster More than €240,000 has been defrauded from people in a phone scam spreading across the net €242k

In a renewed alert, gardaí said there had been a “significant increase” in reports of the scams since a first warning in early August.

Gardaí said 19 people had lost “substantial sums”. The worst of the frauds, involving €62,000, emerged just yesterday.

Under the so-called ‘vishing’ scam, fraudsters ring people on their landline and, by exploiting a hang-up feature on the phones, trick people into transferring funds out of their accounts to accounts abroad.

The criminals pretend to be from a financial institution, or a retail store or, in many cases, pose as a garda superintendent and elicit bank details and card numbers from people.

As reported in the Irish Examiner last month, when gardaí first issued a vishing alert, banking and payment institutions warned customers there was no redress for people who “voluntarily” transfer funds out of their accounts.

Detective Superintendent Gerard Walsh of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation warned people to ignore anyone calling and looking for bank account details and urged people to spread the word to family, friends and neighbours.

“These criminals are targeting vulnerable, usually elderly, people, and I want to warn people to never give anyone details of their bank accounts or credit card numbers,” said Supt Walsh.

The GBFI is aware of 19 people who had lost “substantial sums of money”.

The total scammed is currently in excess of €242,000. The largest amount, which only emerged yesterday, was €62,000. Another lost €38,000 while a further individual had been defrauded to the tune of €24,500.

Typically, the criminals ring a potential victim and claim to be a security manager from a retail store. They ask the person to provide personal financial details, often under the pretence that someone is using their credit or debit card in the shop.

If the person declines, the ‘security manager’ advises them to ring their financial institution or the gardaí.

Supt Walsh said a “recent twist” has been the provision of a named superintendent to ring. The customer hangs up and assumes that when they dial a number they are being connected to the institution or the garda.

However, because the fraudster has not hung up, the call remains active and the customer is still speaking to the criminal or an accomplice.

This is due to a feature on landlines called “clear down time”, where the call stays active for 60 seconds to allow people hang up on one phone and pick up a phone in another part of the house.

Supt Walsh said gardaí were aware of a lot of people who had also been contacted by the scammers but who did not transfer money.

He said the investigation into who was behind it was “ongoing” and would “take time” to complete.

The first signs of Climate Change appeared in the 1940s,

A study suggests


A group of researchers published a new study on the journal Environmental Research Letters where insights on the effects of climate change were given, and found that clear signs of global warming first appeared much earlier than we thought.

After analyzing geo-atmospheric data for the last century, they found that signs of global warming were observed in the tropics in the 1960s, but Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia have been experiencing these signs as early as the 1940s.

The finding suggests that global warming appeared in the 1940s in some regions of Australia, Asia and Africa.

First, they say, average temperatures changed in the tropics. Always known as the most sensitive point to global warming, changes in climate temperature were recorded later in areas closer to the poles, but by 1980 to 2000, temperature records in most parts of the world were already showing the effects of global warming. This suggests that global warming appeared in the 1940s in some regions of Australia, Asia and Africa.

The results of the study correspond closely to data used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its most recent report where temperature increases are outlined as being caused by global warming.

“We examined average and extreme temperatures because they were always projected to be the measure that is most sensitive to global warming”, said lead author Andrew King from the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science to Dispatch Times.

What the Future Holds

Climate change effects have been felt for quite some time, but heavy distortions in rainfall events are yet to come according to Ed Hawkins, one of the study’s authors. Climate models have recorded a general increase in the amount of extreme rainfall around the world, but figures are not dramatically beyond expected variations so the increase in precipitation has not been tagged as a sign of global warming.

The first of the heavy rainfall events associated with global warming is expected to take place in northern Europe, Russia and Canada during winters over the next three decades, according to Hawkins.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 24th September 2015

Tanaiste Burton has a go at ‘excessively greedy’ landlords

Consistently increasing rents


Labour Leader and Tanaiste Joan Burton TD

Tánaiste Joan Burton has hit out at “excessively greedy” landlords who she says are consistently looking to increase rent prices.

Companies Pay You For Your Opinions It’s Easy, Free & Fun. Earn Now!

Ms Burton also claimed that tenants have been asked to leave properties by landlords whose children are returning from abroad.

The Labour Party leader was responding to accusations by Fianna Fáil that the Government to failing to address the housing crisis.

Ms Burton said 65,000 people have been provided with good housing through the rent supplement scheme.

And she rounded on some landlords who she says are consistently looking for more money from tenants.

“They are excessively greedy and they are looking for more and more money every couple of months to a scale that is not justified on economic ground,” Ms Burton said during ‘Leaders’ Questions’.

But the Dáil debate turned angry after a Sinn Féin deputy accused Ms Burton of speaking “waffle”

Ms Burton hit back and said Sinn Féin is guilty of “cynicism”.

Fianna Fail finance spokesperson Michael McGrath said people are being driven into homelessness and deserve to hear solutions.

He said in his own constituency of Cork South Central, the community welfare officer is failing to assist families because of the caps on rent supplement.

Mick Wallace TD alleges €45m ‘fixers’ fees were paid in Nama deal

Claims Cerberus looked to sell loans back to developers before they even bought portfolio


Independent TD Mick Wallace has made further allegations under Dáil privilege about the largest property sale in Irish history.

Independent TD Mick Wallace has made further allegations under Dáil privilege about the largest property sale in Irish history.

He claimed that €45 million in “fixers’ fees” had been paid out during the controversial sale to US company Cerberus Capital Management of an 800 property loan portfolio in Northern Ireland by the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

The Wexford TD also claimed Cerberus went to some of the major players before they even bought the portfolio and offered to sell big developers back their own loans for 50 pence in the pound and “they jumped at it”. But they had to pay a fee, he said.

Mr Wallace had revealed in the Dáil before the summer that £7million was lying in an Isle of Man bank account, linked to the Nama sale and intended for ‘fixers’.

In the Dáil on Thursday he said that was “only for openers. €45 million has been paid to fixers”.

He also said “Cerberus have been able to sell loans for double what they paid for them in a very short period of time. Why couldn’t Nama do that?”

He said that Nama sold the loans in what was called ‘Project Eagle’, for approximately 27 pence in the pound. “The missing 73 pence in the pound has been picked up by the taxpayer in the south.”

He said Cerberus was now under criminal investigation in two countries for Project Eagle. “Why haven’t they been disqualified from Project Arrow. How in God’s name can ye tolerate that?” he asked Tánaiste Joan Burton.

Mr Wallace said the latest sale portfolio had a par value of €7.2 billion that “Nama is threatening to sell for in the region of €1billlion”. He said 50 per cent of it was residential in the south and it looked like Cerberus was going to buy it.

He also described as “nonsense” claims by Nama that Frank Cushnahan, a member of the agency’s Northern advisory committee, and one of the people lined up to receive a ‘fixer’s fee’, was not privy to sensitive information or anything confidential with regard to Project Eagle.

“It is nonsense for Nama to suggest that the problems are all about the purchase. There are serious problems about the sale of Project Eagle by Nama to Cerberus and it stinks to the high heavens.”

But Ms Burton rejected his calls for a commission of investigation. She insisted that the sale of the northern Ireland portfolio was a Northern Ireland issue and that the police in the North and the UK fraud authorities should be allowed to investigate the matter.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams asked Ms Burton if she had raised the issue with the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach.

“Nama is a national body, this is taxpayers’ money,” he said. “There is enough evidence here to justify a number of investigations.”

Global Irish race to raise funds for charities in Ireland

Virtual baton to be passed between 15 cities worldwide for Irish Run the World event this Saturday


The goal of the second annual Irish Run the World event is to raise another $100,000 for Irish charities.

Everyone knows about St Patrick’s Day, or “St Patrick’s month” as it’s known in the US. But what about the other 11 months of the year? Is there room for another global Irish event when the diaspora can come together for a common purpose?

This was the question that I and a group of 150 Ireland FundsYoung Leaders grappled with on a cold January’s afternoon in New York in 2014, when we gathered for our third Global Young Leaders Summit.

I got involved with the Ireland Funds in 2009 in Chicago. I had been living in the US for five years, and was keen to find a way to stay engaged with home while giving something back. I attended Queen’s University in Belfast during the 1990s and saw first-hand the amazing work the Funds did in promoting peace and reconciliation through its philanthropic work, with a wide range of organisations from sports to education, and cross-community initiatives to arts and culture. The Ireland Funds had a Young Leaders programme I was able to get engaged with.

Since 1976, The Worldwide Ireland Funds, founded by Dr Anthony O’Reilly and former US ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney, has raised over $500 million (€443 million) for Irish charities. The Funds are active in 12 countries and donors are from every corner of the world. What unites them is a shared connection to Ireland, whether as new emigrants or 4th and 5th generation Irish. The Young Leaders – supporters aged between 25 and 40 – decided it was time to pass the baton to the new generation of Irish living around the world. The answer was the “Irish Run the World” – a global 5km race.

Last year, 11 cities across the globe participated, starting in Sydney with Olympian Sonia O’Sullivan as the race ambassador. The virtual baton was passed to Melbourne, London, Dublin, Boston, New York, Dallas, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Chicago before concluding in San Francisco.

The goal of the Young Leaders was to raise $100,000 for charities in Ireland, which was achieved with the help of global sponsor KPMG, and numerous other city sponsors who backed friends, families and clients who were running.

In Washington DC, we gathered in Georgetown Waterfront Park for a picturesque run along the banks of the Potomac River. After the race, runners took advantage of a gorgeous autumn day to celebrate their achievement.

This year’s run will take place this Saturday September 26th, starting with newcomer Brisbane and connecting 15 cities, including other new entrants Hong Kong, Toronto and Los Angeles. The goal is to raise another $100,000 for Irish charities, while providing a healthy event for Irish people and friends of Ireland to get together under a fun philanthropic banner.

Regardless of the city you are living in or visiting this weekend, whether it be London, Toronto, Chicago or Sydney, you can participate and play your part in raising much-needed donations for Irish charities.

To get involved, donate or run the Irish Run the World, to take you to your city, and follow #ylglobal5k on Twitter.

Vegetables might be making you fat despite your healthy intentions


A study of eating habits over 24 years has turned up the best and worst fruit and veg for a dieter’s dinner plate

Five a day: But some of the fruits and veg we perceive as healthy aren’t doing us any favours

A shock study has revealed that the vegetables which many of us are packing in to make up our healthy diet may actually be making us fat.

It might be no surprise to carb-shunners that potatoes aren’t great news, but academic research has also put sweetcorn on peas on a hitlist of foods to avoid.

The study was conducted by the prestigious Harvard School of Public Health, who have analysed dietary details from more than 130,000 adults in the US.

It shows that potatoes and celery should be binned in favour of blueberries, prunes and cauliflower if you’re watching your waistline.

The study took place over a stretch of 24 years, at four-year intervals, and asked participants about their habits with 131 different foods, including fruit and vegetables, as well as lifestyle choices like exercise and TV viewing.

The findings included news that every extra portion of fruit eaten daily was roughly equal to a pound and a half of weightloss, according to the Daily Mail.

Spud you like: But stay back if you’re watching your waistline

Those who ate sweetcorn has a 2.04lb weight gain, while peas added 1.13lb and potatoes added 0.74lbs.

Good fruits included prunes, apples, pears, strawberries, raisins and grapes, which were regularly eaten in place of desserts and are rich in polyphenols.

These plant compound are thought to alter metabolism and the way the body processes sugar.

Prunes saw a 1.28lb loss, while apples were 1.24lb, and grapes saw a 0.70lb.

  Green food: Research showed peas added peas added 1.13lb in weight

The top vegetable was cauliflower, which is commonly being used to substitute carbohydrates like rice and even pizza dough made by healthy eaters.

Writing about the findings in journal PLOS, researchers said: “Although the magnitude of weight change associated with each increased daily serving was modest, combining an increase of one-to-two servings of vegetables and one-to-two servings of fruits daily would be associated with substantial weight change, especially if projected to the population level.”

But although there was good news for cauli lovers, those taken with sweetcorn, peas and baked, boiled or mashed spuds.

Brown rice and wholemeal bread are offers as good potato swaps.

A black hole that’s 30 times bigger than it should be has left NASA scientists baffled


Is it just an anomaly, or will we start seeing more of these galaxies?

Scientists have many ways to measure things around us in the universe, and so they can immediately notice when something doesn’t fit a pattern. A black hole in the galaxy SAGE0536AGN (we know, poetic) has defied all preconceptions about the size of a black hole relative to its galaxy.

SAGE0536AGN was initially discovered with Nasa’s Spitzer Space Telescope in infrared light, and is thought to be at least nine billion years old. It contains within it an incredibly bright object – called an active galactic nucleus – caused by gas being accumulated by a central supermassive black hole. Because of the size of the black hole, its immense gravitational field pulls the gas in at incredible speeds, causing the light to be emitted.

By measuring the speed of the gas moving around the black hole, astronomers at Keele University and the University of Central Lancashire have been able to discern its size. And it was a surprise.

The red and blue in this illustration is similar to a prism – it shows whether the light is moving to or away from us

The mass of the galaxy itself has been calculated at 25 billion times the mass of the sun. But the size of the black hole was calculated at 350 million solar masses – 70 times smaller than the galaxy, but still far bigger than it should be. Thirty times bigger, to be precise.

“Galaxies have a vast mass, and so do the black holes in their cores. This one though is really too big for its boots — it simply shouldn’t be possible for it to be so large,” said Dr Jacco van Loon, an astrophysicist at Keele University and the lead author on the new paper.

So scientists are now pondering whether the black hole has been growing quicker than the galaxy, or whether the galaxy stopped growing prematurely. The galaxy was actually found by accident, so there’s a chance we could find many more like it – but until then we won’t know whether this galaxy really is as strange as it seems, or whether it’s just the first we’ve found of an entirely new breed of galaxy.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday/Wednesday 22nd & 23rd September

Lowering the USC rate could cost Irish exchequer some €364m


Lowering the cost of the Universal Social Charge by a percentage point for 1.28m taxpayers earning over €17,575 would cost the exchequer €364m, or over half of all the amount that Finance Minister Michael Noonan has indicated would be available for tax cuts in his pre-election budget next month.

Increasing the €12,012 threshold for paying the USC charge to €14,000 would benefit 80,000 taxpayers and cost the exchequer €22m.

And increasing the same €12,012 entry point for paying the USC by €1,000 and re-aligning the 1.5% band would benefit all 1.74m taxpayers who pay the USC, or 72% of all income earners. That measure alone would cost €49.7m.

The estimates come from the Irish Tax Institute which yesterday published a host of figures on the costs of the fiscal options facing the finance minister in the budget.

Since last April, Minister Noonan has repeatedly said the Coalition plans to unveil an expansionary budget of between €1.2bn and €1.5bn. The measures would be evenly split between tax cuts and spending increases.

But analysts say the Tax Institute figures reveal the dilemma facing the minister.

Alan McQuaid, chief economist at Merrion Capital, said that cutting income tax or announcing other personal tax measures would likely be more beneficial because cutting the USC rates appears very costly.

“There are no easy options,” Mr McQuaid said. “I think they will focus on low income workers this year ahead of the election” because there are likely to be more votes in cutting income tax rates or thresholds.

“It does underline that €750m [in tax cuts] is not a lot of money, but of course they may raise money on petrol because oil prices are low, to compensate,” Mr McQuaid said.

Philip O’Sullivan, chief economist at Investec Ireland, predicted that the minister’s tax changes would cost about the same as the tax measures he introduced in the 2015 budget.

Mr O’Sullivan said there would be probably tax cuts of over €600m benefiting workers. There would however unlikely be any increase in the Vat rate for the hospitality industry because the election is looming, he said.

On possible income tax measures, the Irish Tax Institute says that increasing the 40% income tax band by €1,000 to €34,800 would benefit all single persons earning more than €33,800. That measure would cost the Exchequer €72.4m.

Increasing both 40% income tax bands for married two income earners by €1,000 would cost €74.3m.

On taxes on capital, lowering the 33% tax on gift and inheritance taxes would cost €12m for each percentage point reduction.

The Institute says its research shows that Irish taxpayers on €75,000 pay more personal tax than in Sweden, Spain, the UK and the US.

It says that it is accepted globally that the best way to boost innovation in the economy is to “keep down tax on internationally mobile activities as to attract the key executives who contribute to the economy.”

The country needs “talent to grow our start-ups, our SMEs and to continue attracting international companies to Ireland.”

The Institute argues that other countries, including Scotland, Australia and Belgium, have been eager to tackle the “key issue” of attracting highly-skilled overseas’ staff through the use of personal tax incentives.

Ireland regains it’s top 10 rank at eighth in the list of innovative economies


Switzerland holds onto the top spot as Ireland advances three places in Global Innovation Index 2015

Ireland has moved into the top ten of the world’s most innovative economies. Switzerland, the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and the US are the world’s five most innovative nations, according to the index.

Ireland has moved into eighth position in a list of the world’s most innovative economies, moving past Luxembourg and Denmark in the Global Innovation Index 2015. Last year it fell back three places to 11th in the benchmarking survey.

The annual report, released by Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization, surveys 141 economies around the world, using 79 indicators to determine innovation capacities and measurable outputs.

Simon Harris, Minister of State for International Financial Services, welcomed the result.

“Ireland’s rise three places into the Top 10 is a welcome acknowledgement that our hard won recovery is recognised internationally, and speaks to this Government’s commitment to rebuild our reputation on the global stage. A continued focus on innovation-supporting policies is key to translating our recovery into a sustainable economy and prosperous society into the future”.

Switzerland, the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and the US are the world’s five most innovative nations, according to the index, while China, Malaysia, Viet Nam, India, Jordan, Kenya, and Uganda are among a group of countries outperforming their economic peers.

Spanish Armada dead remembered in Streedagh Grange Sligo ceremony

1,100 died when, in violent storms in September 1588, three ships from the Armada were driven ashore and wrecked

Spanish lives marked + in memory of 1,1000 Spanish Soldiers lost at Streedagh Grange, Co. Sligo.    Laying the wreath in watery grave.

The Spanish Armada shipwrecks in 1588 at Streedagh, Grange Co Sligo, The lives  lost some 427 years ago were marked as above picture and the laying of a wreath show in the watery grave on the golden sands of Streedagh beach last Saturday the 22nd September 2015.

A ceremony to remember the 1,100 soldiers from three Spanish Armada ships who perished at Streedagh, Co Sligo, more than four centuries ago has been held on the beach there. Hundreds of local people stood for a minute’s silence as the Last Post was played and a wreath carried to the sea by members of the Sligo Sub Aqua Club on Saturday afternoon.

Eddie O’Gorman, chairman of the Grange Armada Development Association, said it was important to mark the spot where so many lost their lives 427 years ago. “Those people got neither a wake nor a burial,” he said.

Locals and tourists etched 1,100 crosses into the sand on the beach to mark each life lost when, in violent storms on September 25th, 1588, three ships from the Armada were driven ashore and wrecked there. La Lavia, La Juliana and the Santa Maria de Vision were part of Philip II of Spain’s failed attempt to invade England.

Attention has focused on the wrecks since the discovery in February of timbers from La Juliana. In June and July, divers from the underwater archaeology unit of the Department of Arts,Heritage and the Gaeltacht recovered several cannon.

Declan Bruen from Streedagh discovered the timbers on the beach. He was among those taking part in the weekend ceremony, the highlight of the Celtic Fringe Festival. “I was with the divers when they brought up the cannons and it was remarkable to think that no one had seen them for 427 years,” said Mr Bruen. “But it was very important not to let the 1,100 people who died here be forgotten in all the excitement about the artefacts.”

Local man Seán Gilmartin (86) from Moneygold said the cannons, which were transferred to the National Museum, should find a permanent home near Streedagh. “I grew up near the beach and it was my playground and somewhere I fished,” he said, “but it was also a graveyard for many and we should remember that locally.”

Target to reduce mortality missed


A study from the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) led by UNICEF on progress to reduce child mortality has revealed that although there has been substantial progress globally during the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Target period of 1990-2015, only 62 of 195 countries with available data have met the MDG target of reducing under-five mortality (U5MR) by two thirds over these 25 years.

The research, published in The Lancet, by Dr Danzhen You and co-authors on behalf of the UN IGME, is the first to include U5MR estimates up to the MDG target year (2015) and to construct scenario-based projections from 2016 to 2030 to provide insights into the burden of under-five deaths over the next 15 years based on the newly proposed Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of 25 or fewer under-five deaths per 1,000 live births by 2030.

The global U5MR has fallen from 91 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 43 in 2015. During the same period, absolute under-five deaths worldwide dropped from 12.7 million to 5.9 million. In total, an estimated 236.3 million children under age five died in 1990-2015. The poorest global region of West and Central Africa continues to have the highest U5MR in the world.

Globally, U5MR reduced by 53% in the past 25 years and therefore missed the MDG 4 target (of two-thirds). The data show that two regions — East Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean — achieved the MDG 4 target. At the country level, 62 countries achieved the MDG 4 target. Among them, 24 are low- and lower-middle income countries, from a variety of world regions — including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Bangladesh, Georgia, El Salvador, Bolivia, Egypt, Cambodia, Nepal and Yemen.

Encouragingly, for 102 countries, the data suggest a faster decline in 2000-2015 as compared to 1990-2000. This acceleration since 2000, when the MDGs were established, resulted in about 18 million fewer under-five deaths globally, as compared to a scenario where the pace of decline would have remained the same as in the 1990s.

While there is no doubt that some countries have fared better than others, the data show that there is room for improvement, even in the 116 countries which already, in 2015, have a U5MR lower than 25. Should 2015 rates continue to 2030, a further 6 million children will die in these nations; yet if all of them reached the current lowest U5MR of 2.3 per 1,000 live births recorded among countries with more than 10,000 live births (Finland), then this would be reduced to 2 million.

Should the SDG target be met, this would save the lives of an extra 38 million children under five than if 2015 U5MR are maintained through to 2030. If current mortality rates are maintained, 94 million children will die during 2015-2030; if the rate of progress from 2000-2015 is maintained from 2015-2030 then 69 million will die, while if the SDG target above is met, the death toll in under fives will be 56 million.

In order to achieve the SDG goal on under-5 mortality, a total of 47 countries need to accelerate their U5MR progress, including 34 countries in sub-Saharan Africa along with two countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) in South Asia. The authors highlight that, even with progress in U5MR, the actual numbers of child deaths may remain stagnant or even increase in sub-Saharan Africa, since in the region the under-five child population is likely to increase by around 42 million from 2015-2030.

Thus reduction in under-five mortality rate must outpace increases in under-five child population to continue the decline in total deaths.

300m-year-old volcanoes discovered in Ireland near Mullingar

Geological Survey’s Tellus Programme unearths highly magnetic volcanic rocks


An image generated from the aircraft survey showing results of the airborne survey over counties Offaly, Kildare, Meath, rural Dublin and northern parts of Wicklow and Laois.

Geographically, Ireland is often likened to a saucer: upturned at its mountainous edges and flat in the middle. But that reading doesn’t take account of newly discovered volcanoes south of Mullingar.

The Geological Survey’s Tellus Programme has unearthed aspects of the long buried history of counties Roscommon, Longford and Westmeath.

The maps reveal new detail of 300 million-year-old volcanoes on the Westmeath/Offaly border, which appear in the new airborne geophysical data as a cluster of small magnetic bodies.

The survey, conducted using low flying aircraft, also shows prominent bands of highly magnetic volcanic rocks several kilometres deep near Strokestown, Co Roscommon, which are associated with a major geological fault that can be traced through Ireland to Scotland.

The researchers say these structures are considered important in the development of mineral deposits and their location will be of considerable interest to exploration companies.

The survey aircraft, use technology that effectively sees through Ireland’s often deep glacial deposits and extensive peat cover.

“Tellus continues to reveal extraordinary new detail in Ireland’s geological landscape buried beneath our feet, building upon existing data gaps and developing natural resource opportunities,” said Geological Survey of Ireland principal geologist Ray Scanlon.

The fourth phase of Tellus is underway across the east of the country where the airborne survey over counties Offaly, Kildare, Meath, rural county Dublin and northern parts of Wicklow and Laois is almost 60 per cent complete.

Attention is currently focused on county Dublin.

The aim of the programme is to complete the geological ‘jigsaw’ of Ireland which will support better environmental decision making, radon mapping, smart agriculture and increased investment in mineral exploration.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 21st September 2015.

Government considers a budget move to boost Irish housing supply

Cabinet sub-committee examines bigger role for Nama on construction of homes in Dublin.


The construction industry has been lobbying in recent times for a major reduction in development costs for housing, including development levies.

The Government is considering a range of measures in next month’s budget aimed at boosting much-needed housing supply.

A meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee on social affairs on Monday heard that while there is planning permission for up to 21,000 homes in the Dublin area, there has been little activity on the ground.

One option discussed at the meeting involves giving theNational Asset Management Agency greater scope to facilitate construction of new houses and apartments.

Nama is already planning to assist with the construction of up to 4,500 homes in the Dublin Docklands area and other urban centres.

However, it has identified potential for land and property to yield up to five times that number of homes, according to informed sources.

Other supply-boosting matters discussed at the meeting included lowering local authority levies for developers who plan to build homes in areas of high demand.

The construction industry has been lobbying in recent times for a major reduction in development costs for housing, including development levies.

Any such move would likely involve the Government compensating local authorities for lost revenue.

The committee meeting was chaired by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and included Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly and Minister of State for housing Paudie Coffey.

Another option discussed involved using the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to enter the private residential property market by providing large loans to housing developers.

Zoned lands

Use of the fund – previously known as the National Pensions Reserve Fund –  is seen as a recognition of difficulties facing some developers in accessing finance to residential developments, according to sources.

Greater investment in infrastrucutre to make priority zoned lands usable for housing was also discussed.

A recent report estimated that land zoned in the Dublin area could provide up to 50,000 homes.

However, it found that about €165 million was needed for infrastructure such as water pipes, power lines and roads to allow the lands to be used.

The Dublin Housing Supply Task Force, set up under the Government’s Construction 2020 strategy, found that each of the capital’s four local authorities had identified the zoned land banks which could most quickly be brought into use if funding were available.

The meeting also involved ongoing discussion of ways to limited rent increases by linking rents to the consumer price index and other factors.

This “rent certainty” model is used in many European countries, and typically limits increases within a certain percentage limit of inflation.

Microsoft and Google the top Irish exporters

Kerry Group ranks number one in food and drink sector with exports of €5.2 billion


Mircosoft’s offices in Sandyford, Co Dublin. The technology giant has replaced Google as the top exporter in Ireland.

Microsoft has replaced Google as the top exporter in Ireland, after growing its export turnover by 21 per cent from €15 billion in 2014 to €18.2 billion this year.

The technology giant was named the country’s largest exporting company in the 2015 edition of Top 250 Exporters in Ireland and Northern Ireland, compiled by the Irish Exporters Association in association with Investec.

Microsoft was followed by Google Ireland with export turnover of €17 billion, while Medtronic Ireland was in third place with export turnover of €16.7 billion. Johnson & Johnson Ireland came in fourth place with export turnover of €10.5 billion and Ingersoll Rand was fifth, with export turnover of €9.8 billion.

Data from the report shows strong growth in the manufacturing and services sectors with the value of exports from the top five exporters increasing by 23.5 per cent on the previous year.

James O’Connor, managing director of Microsoft EMEA Operations, said the recognition by the Irish Exporters Association is welcomed during “this important year of celebration for the company in Ireland”.

“Microsoft is celebrating 30 years of investment in Ireland this year. Over the past three decades we have continued to invest in, and grow our operations and now have over 1,200 people working in a range of areas including R&D, engineering, finance, legal services, sales and marketing,” he added.

Tech firms featured heavily on the list, accounting for nine of the top 20 exporters, with seven of the top 20 in the medical and pharma sectors.

In the food and drink sector, Kerry Group topped the table with exports of €5.2 billion, followed by Total Produce with €3 billion in exports.

Investec equity analyst Ian Hunter said food and drink-related exports now total €10.5 billion with strong growth in the dairy and beef categories having driven a 10 per cent yearly increase over the past five years.

“Meat and livestock exports continue to account for roughly a third of all exports, while dairy products and ingredients, including infant formula, make up a further 30 % he said.

Breath test results must be in both English and Irish,

Say’s a judge

Man accused of drink driving claims statement not valid because it was in English only


Mihai Avadenei’s legal team had argued that a statement produced following the Evidenzer breath alcohol test was not valid because it was in English only.

A breath alcohol test statement is not a valid piece of evidence if it is in English only, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said on Monday that a statement produced after a test had been performed by gardaí¬, who had arrested Mihai Avadenei (29) for a drink driving offence, had not been printed in Irish.

The judge said that under the Road Traffic Act 2010, Mr Avadenei, with an address at Lioscianan, Swords, Co Dublin, could face up to six months in jail and/or a €5,000 fine for the offence.

Mr Justice Noonan said that in April last year, a first breath test had been performed on Mr Avadenei after he had been stopped by Garda Francis McMahon for driving at 80km/h in a 50km/h zone.

The judge said in a written judgment that Garda McMahon had felt a strong smell of alcohol from Mr Avadenei’s breath and had performed an Alcotest which result had been “fail.”

Garda McMahon had arrested Mr Avadenei and had brought him to Store Street Garda station, where a further test, Evidenzer Irl, performed by another garda, revealed a concentration of 54 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

In July last year, during District Court proceedings brought by the DPP, Mr Avadenei’s legal team had argued that the statement produced following the Evidenzer test was not valid because it was in English only.

The DPP had stated it was not required to print the form in two languages, but only that it be reproduced in Irish. District Court Judge Colin Gibbons had ruled that the document had not been “duly completed,” and had asked the High Court for a confirmation of his finding.

Affirming Judge Gibbons’ decision, Mr Justice Noonan said there was no ambiguity in the Act that when performing the Evidenzer test, the garda must supply statements in Irish and in English.

“Once the breath specimen has been given which indicates a possible contravention, the person providing the specimen shall be supplied immediately by a member of the Garda Síochánawith two identical statements in the prescribed form,” the judge said.

“In my view, what arises in this case, being a failure to reproduce an entire half of the prescribed form, could not be regarded as ‘mere deviation’ from the form prescribed.

“It is not evidence at all and cannot be admitted,” Mr Justice Noonan said.

Macular Society  Charity group call to ‘eat your greens‘ for eye’s sake

Eye care charity the Macular Society has issued a call to encourage people to look after their sight by eating their greens.

Keen to highlight the relationship between diet and eye health, the initiative aims to support National Eye Health Week (NEHW), which takes place this week (September 21–27).

Many green vegetables contain lutein and zeaxanthin which are antioxidents that can help protect vision. Kale, for example, is a food source with very high levels of these nutrients.

Commenting on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and eye health, chief executive of the Macular Society, Cathy Yelf, said: “By 2020 almost 700,000 Britons will have late-stage AMD. We are fighting for more funding for macular research because our ageing society means many more people are developing the condition. We urgently need to find a solution.

“The exact cause of AMD is unknown. However, the two most important risk factors are age and genetics. Smoking, poor diet and obesity also increase the risk of AMD.”

Irish students win EU Young Scientist awards in Italy

Cork students take prize at EU Young Scientists contest in Italy    

Eimear Murphy and Ian O’Sullivan win with alcohol project in Dublin left and right winners in Italy of the EU prize.

Ian O’Sullivan and Eimear Murphy (both centre) from Coláiste Treasa, Cork, being declared winners of the 51st BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in Dublin in January 2015.

Three Irish students have been awarded prizes at this year’s EU Contest for Young Scientists in Italy.

Eimear Murphy and Ian O’Sullivan from Coláiste Treasa in Kanturk, Co Cork won the Intel ISEF prize for their project “Alcohol Consumption: Does the Apple Fall Far from the Tree?”

It examined the association between adolescent alcohol consumption and their parents’ consumption pattern and attitudes towards alcohol.

They found a liberal attitude to alcohol and increased levels of consumption by parents are linked to hazardous adolescent drinking behaviour.

The pair won top prize at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition at the RDS in January of this year.

As part of their prize, the 17-year-olds will travel to Phoenix, Arizona, in the US, to take part in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair next year.

A second Irish project also took an award. Mark O’Dowd, from Glanmire Community School in Cork, won the Expo Milan 2015 prize.

His project examined whether injuring crop seeds could increase crop yields. He found yields increased for crops such as barley when they were rolled and perforated at seed stage.

The 16-year-old won a laptop and a chance to take part in the closing ceremony of Expo 2015 in Milan in October.

A 15-year-old US student was among three who were awarded overall first prizes at the competition. Sanath Kumar Devalapurkar’s project, entitled On the Stability and Algebraicity of Algebraic K-theory, offered a new perspective on K-theory. He is currently studying mathematics at University College Los Angeles.

The two other first prize winners were from Poland and Germany. Their projects were in the fields of physics and computing.

Scientists want to be part of the ethical debate on human genetics


Human embryos on a petri dish are viewed through a microscope.

“It is up to society to decide what is acceptable: science will merely inform what may be possible.” This statement made by Kathy Niakan, a stem cell researcher at the newly opened Francis Crick Institute in London, seems eminently reasonable, but it raises as many questions as it allays.

Niakan has applied to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for a licence to use a powerful new gene-editing technique on human embryos that would produce the first genetically modified embryos in the UK. Such a step is currently banned for federally funded research in the US.

If Niakan is permitted to proceed, the embryos – donated from IVF treatment and modified using a method called Crispr/Cas9, which makes it relatively straightforward to snip out genes and insert new ones – would legally have to be destroyed within 14 days. The work would explore the genetic roots of repeated miscarriage by examining the layer of cells in the embryo that develop into the placenta.

Niakan refutes suggestions that the work would set us on a slippery slope towards designer babies. She is absolutely right. Regulation is very clear and tight in the UK, even while being permissive by global standards. Indeed, it’s a willingness to confront and think through the issues that has made the HFEA an admired and trusted model for regulating embryo research. There is little such oversight and clarity in China, where earlier this year a team first used Crispr/Cas9 to edit the DNA of (non-viable) human embryos. That work suggested there could be complications in efforts to correct faulty genes this way.

But if Niakan’s research is humanely motivated and legally protected against abuses, then why would it be prohibited in the US? In a statement in April in response to the Chinese work, Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health, said: “NIH will not fund any use of gene-editing technologies in human embryos. The concept of altering the human germline in embryos for clinical purposes … has been viewed almost universally as a line that should not be crossed.”

The germline here refers to the fact that any gene modification in an embryo would be inherited by future generations derived from it. One of the reasons cited for the US ban is that alterations made to the germline “affect the next generation without their consent”. If that were to be done, the ethical issues are more complex than they might seem: is it ethical to refuse the chance to eliminate a serious genetic disease in a future individual “without their consent”? The moral philosophy of hypothetical people yet to be conceived (or not) is itself highly contentious.

Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Sunday 20th September 2015.

Irish offered 1 million dollars to eat more potatoes


A new marketing campaign wants young Irish consumers to eat more potatoes. 

A new $1 million marketing campaign has been launched in an effort to boost potato consumption among Irish consumers.

Bord Bia will coordinate and manage the three-year campaign, which will be co-funded by the EU, Ireland’s potato industry and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The initiative will be run in conjunction with the British Potato Council, reports.

Over the 10 years, retail sales of fresh potatoes in Ireland have declined by 25 percent, according to Kantar WorldPanel.

Speaking at the campaign launch on Thursday, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney said: “The potato is part of our culture like no other food, inextricably linked to Ireland’s story and part of who we are.

“This campaign will bring the different varieties and versatility of the Irish potato to a younger generation.”

The Minister welcomed the EU Commission’s decision to approve a total fund of €4.6m “to promote potatoes on the Irish and British markets over the next three years of which 50% will be funded by the EU.

“My department is also availing of the opportunity to grant financial support to the Irish potato industry for this positive promotional activity. Combined with industry funding the total campaign will be worth €1m over the three years in Ireland.

Said Mike Neary, Bord Bia’s Horticulture Manager,  said: “Potatoes are still Ireland’s preferred main meal carbohydrate, however shoppers under-45 account for only 33% of potato sales and these consumers will ultimately make up a major part of the total market in the years to come.

“Younger consumers view potatoes as a traditional, unexciting food and less convenient than modern carbs such as pasta and rice.”

The promotional campaign, entitled “Potatoes – more than a bit on the side,” will focus on younger consumers, in particular 22-44 year old females.

“We really need to challenge consumer perceptions of fresh potatoes – particularly amongst younger age groups – in order to combat declining consumption,” said Neary.

“This integrated campaign will highlight the fact that potatoes offer enormous potential within the world of modern cooking and build awareness of the added health and nutritional benefits of potatoes in comparison to competitor carbohydrates.”

The campaign kicks off with National Potato Day on Friday, October 2

LEO hosting seminar on the new Companies Act


The Local Enterprise Office Wicklow will be holding a free seminar next Tuesday, September 22, from 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m., in the Parkview Hotel, Newtownmountkennedy.

The seminar covers a topic relevant to many small businesses in the county – the new Companies Act and the impact this will have on businesses that must convert to the new ‘DAC’ type of company.

It will also be relevant to anyone thinking of setting up a business now, or in the next few years, as new companies can now be set up with one Director (instead of two under the old system) and reduced filing of documents is now possible – all of which benefits small businesses, due to less compliance and fewer disclosures.

The Companies Act 2014 commenced on June 1 this year. It is the single biggest piece of legislation enacted in the history of the state.

The commencement of the Act brings over 15 years of consultation, preparation and work to a conclusion.

This LEO seminar has been designed to assist the ordinary businessperson orentrepreneur through the transition to The Companies Act 2014, avoiding the pitfalls and availing of the opportunities.

The Local Enterprise Office Wicklow is hosting this free seminar, which will feature guest speaker David O’Connor of Omnipro Corporate Consultants.

The seminar is specifically designed for small and micro businesses – from one-person operations to those with dozens of employees – however it is open to anyone to attend.

Although the seminar is free of charge, those wishing to attend must book in advance, online at

Alternatively, anyone wishing to reserve a place or find out more information can call the Local Enterprise Office Wicklow on (0404) 30800 or email

Pope Francis meets Fidel Castro in Havana


Pope Francis and Cuba’s Fidel Castro shake hands, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday,

What a day for the pontiff! Here’s are the key points from the first day of his tour, spent in Havana:

  • In an “intimate and familial” encounter, Pope Francis and former Cuban president Fidel Castro spoke about the environment and exchanged gifts. Pope Francis gave Castro books on spirituality by priests; Castro gave the pope a book of his own insights on spirituality. Well done, El Jefe.
  • At a papal megamass attended by thousands in Havana’s Revolution Square, the pope encouraged Cubans to serve one another, noting that service is never “servile” or ideological, “for we do not serve ideas, we serve people”. His homily was free of political messages but was nonetheless a strong statement. The liturgical music, a variation on Cuba’s Danzón, also a made a strong statement.
  • Prominent activists told the Guardian at least 31 protesters were arrested in a “repressive and aggressive” move to stop them attending the mass. This included members of a women’s group that campaigns for prisoner releases.
  • On the prospect of peace in Colombia between rebels and the government, Pope Francis said we do not have the right to another failure of reconciliation.
  • Cuban president Raúl Castro appears to have given Pope Francis the gift of a giant crucifix made out of oars.
  • Francis went “Pope Unplugged” for the afternoon, discarding his prepared speeches (to the chagrin of journalists and editors everywhere). He instead spoke from the heart on poverty, disability, and faith to clergy and young people.

Thanks for tuning in! The blog will be running all week as the pope continues his tour through Cuba and the US.

It was not as easy as you might expect to find Catholics among the crowd waiting for the pope this evening. But there was not shortage of excitements and optimism about seeing a pontiff who has played a major role in improving relations between Cuba and the United States.

Many students here want to emigrate to their wealthier neighbour as soon as they graduate. Others hope that closer ties will help their own country become a more desirable place to live.

“I’m not Catholic, but I respect the pope. He’s an important man for the world and he has done a lot of good for Cuba,” said 21-year-old Xavier Alexander Rodríguez, a students of computer science.

“Young people in Cuba want change. The closer ties with the US are a great step towards that. I wish that we can walk like brothers with the US.”

Vivian Rodríguez (no relation), a 23-year-old lecturer in psychology at the University of Havana, said international support and a positive message were important for people like her who want to stay in Cuba.

“Cubans are very excited by the arrival of the pope. We’re grateful for the help he has given us in relations with other countries,” she said. “It’s always good to know that there is backing for unity in Cuba and closer ties with the United States. That helps people make personal decisions (about whether to stay or go).”

Among the world leaders visiting Cuba for the papal visit is Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who attended this morning’s mass in La Plaza de la Revoluciónwrites Angela Bruno.

Some Twitter users have raised their eyebrows at la presidenta’s expensive tastes – she arrived yesterday at Havana’s José Martí Airport sporting a Hermès bag which can cost up to at $22,000.

Such a display of wealth seems somewhat at odds with the Pope’s message: he has repeatedly criticised excessive consumption, warning in his homily this evening that “wealth makes us poor.”

The Pope and Kirchner have had their share of differences. Guardian correspondent Stephanie Kirchgaessner spoke to their once-rocky relationship in her coverage of the Pope’s trip to Latin America during the summer:

There was bad blood between them when Francis was still known as Father Jorge Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires and a fierce critic of corruption in Argentinian politics.

The icy relationship worsened after Fernández passed a law legalising same-sex marriage in Argentina in 2010 when Bergoglio headed a march against the gay marriage bill.

‘Pity there is no ‘popess’; if not, I could compete for the post,’ Fernández said when she heard that Bergoglio had become pope.

Since then, however, the two have managed to improve their relationship: Relations have seemingly warmed and Fernández has become a frequent visitor at the Vatican.


Pope Francis gives an ‘unplugged’ homily on poverty and disability in the world


Pope Francis discarded his prepared homily and spoke off-the-cuff to the gathered priests and religious.

Pope Francis put his prepared homily aside and gave an extraordinary “unplugged” address on poverty, mercy, disability and service to Cuba’s priests, religious brothers and sisters and seminarians, during a Vespers service at Havana Cathedral.

“We always try to curtail poverty, as it were,” the pope said. “That’s a reasonable thing, but I’m talking about the heart.”

“Richness impoverishes you; it takes away from us the best we have. It makes us poor in the only richness which is worthy: trust in God.”

“Our holy mother church is poor. God wishes it to poor, as he wishes our holy mother Mary to be poor. Love poverty as a mother.”

The crowd smiled and some wiped away tears as the pontiff spoke. Cameras also caught some looks of consternation as the congregation grappled with Francis’s words, especially when he (jokingly) drilled in on the struggles of some religious and priests.

Nuns got it first: “May God spare us grey nuns, those who are always lamenting things! Saint Theresa used to say that to her nuns. Woe to that nun!”

Some nuns in the crowd (mainly the young ones) laughed. Others weren’t so amused.

Religious life as a consecrated brother or sister is, the pope said, about “burning” your life for the ones the world despises, the “disposable material” of humanity.

As an example, he mentioned those “who with new analytical methods, if it is discovered they have a degenerative sickness, the world wants to send them back before they are born”.

“Sometimes [a young religious sister] doesn’t know how good it is to see the smile of someone who is paralysed,” the pope said, smiling.

“The tenderness and mercy of God is like someone who is paralysed getting saliva all over your face. Or when a person with a disability gets angry and hits you!”

Priests were next: “Please to the priests,” the holy father said, “do not grow tired of forgiving.”

“Do not hide in fears or rigidities. Be like this nun [Sister Ponce, who spoke earlier in the service about her ministry], and those who are here. They are not angry when they find the sick person filthy; they just clean him. When the penitent comes to you, don’t feel bad. Don’t be neurotic. Jesus embraced them. Jesus loved them.”

“No corporation can be made, no money can be made from the least ones. In that place Jesus shines brightly,” the pope said.

The pope says he will give his printed homily to one of the cardinals to distribute and is going to speak off the cuff. This regular journalist quietly screams. Thanks, Frank.

The chanted psalms are sung beautifully by a choir. The pope is saving his voice, by the look of it.

The choir chants the psalms. Photograph: EWTN/Screenshot

Just a little church fact you might find interesting: the Catholic church’s communal prayer is the same around the world each day. I heard the same readings at mass this morning in New York as the pope heard in Havana, and in every other parish in the world.

In a sense, it’s like the church prays for you. That’s especially true of what’s called the Divine Office, the daily schedule of prayer, because few lay people perform it. Here’s the relevant bit for this particular service.

A Daughter of Charity, Sr Yaileny Ponce, speaks to the pope. She is is pouring her heart out about her ministry with the severely disabled. “I have to discern in a shout or a cry or a scream: Joy? Or pain?”

“[It’s] beautiful because there, in his weakest children, God lives and shows himself.”

“It is worth giving your life to serve these people because in them you find the kingdom of God.”

The congregation applauds her, and the pope begins the formal liturgical element of the service.

China’s new rocket carries a record 20 ‘micro’ satellites


The Long March-6 rocket blasting off yesterday in Taiyuan, Shanxi province.

The smaller rocket may make China more competitive in the market for commercial satellite launches.

China has launched a new, smaller type of rocket from its “Long March” family which will be used primarily for carrying satellites aloft, state media reported, as the country races ahead with an ambitious space programme.

The Long March-6, a newly developed carrier rocket which uses liquid propellant, took off from a launch base in northern Shanxi province yesterday morning carrying 20 “micro” satellites, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The rocket climbed into bluish-grey skies, footage aired by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) showed.

One Chinese official suggested that the smaller rocket will make China more competitive in the lucrative market for commercial satellite launches.

“We believe it will greatly boost the competitiveness of Chinese carrier rockets in the international market,” said Mr Zhang Weidong, chief designer at the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology.

“The new model will also significantly improve our ability to access space,” he told Xinhua.

China launches its own satellites as it continues to build a navigation system, but also carries out launches for other countries and commercial companies.

The rocket is 29.3m high, shorter than others actively used in China’s space programme, reports said. Long March-6 uses fuel composed of liquid oxygen and kerosene, which is said to be free of toxicity and pollution.

State media hailed the achievement, saying the launch marked a record for the number of satellites carried by a Chinese rocket and its first time with the “environmentally friendly” fuel.

The small satellites will be used for “experiments” in technology and new products, CCTV said, but gave no details.

China’s space programme, which has potential military applications, is shrouded in secrecy.

“The separation control for 20 satellites required high accuracy, precision and reliability,” Mr Hao Yao- feng, a technician at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre, told CCTV.

A 2011 policy paper issued by the State Council, or Cabinet, said the Long March-6 would be capable of placing a tonne of payload into orbit at a height of 700km.

State media publicly announced plans for the Long March-6 in 2009, but said at the time that the first launch was scheduled for 2013.

Chinese scientists earlier this month said the country is planning to land a lunar probe on the dark side of the Moon before 2020, according to state media.

In 2013, China landed a rover dubbed Yutu on the Moon, making it only the third nation after the US and the Soviet Union to land on the Earth’s natural satellite.

China completed its first return mission to the Moon last year with an unmanned probe landing successfully back on Earth.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 18th September 2015

Noonan’s core theme is: no return to boom and bust follies of the past

Minister for Finance’s economic vision is for even growth, balanced budgets and rules-based policies


The Minister for Finance Michael Noonan says: “I am laying plans out that extend beyond the election – so the next minister can take them up if I’m not here. It’s continuity of planning rather than continuity of personnel I’m primarily interested in.”

After years in fiscal death/debt valley, Michael Noonan finds himself in something of a sweet spot as he steps up preparations for the budget next month.

With the economy growing speedily, the Minister for Finance is in the unusual position of having his outline plan for the budget endorsed by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council. After all, the council tends to say no. Yet its informal blessing follows tacit support for the budget plan from the OECD.

This pleases Noonan. “It’s always good in the political system to get outside endorsement for what you’re doing.”

At Merrion Street yesterday – in the middle of pre-budget meetings with business lobbies, farmers, trade unionists and social campaigners – he set out his vision for the recovering economy. His is an argument for even growth, balanced budgets and rules-based policy-making.

There’s no avoiding the looming election, of course. Noonan says a 25 per cent stake in AIB would be floated next year on the Dublin and London markets if the Government is returned to office.

Of the property market right now, he says the Central Bank should examine whether to ease mortgage caps for first-time buyers. “What I’m saying is that market conditions are changing rapidly and there are aspects of it now which, according to the construction industry, are inhibiting starter homes.

“All I’m saying is the bank should review. If the bank say we’re not changing anything then, of course, I’ll accept that.”

Noonan’s core theme is familiar enough: no return to the boom and bust follies of the past.

Yet he and Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure, face a cascade of spending demands from their own colleagues in Cabinet to go well beyond the agreed €1.5 billion limit on the 2016 budgetary expansion. Have they not learned?

At issue are fiscal constraints set out in domestic and European law. Are spending Ministers now seized of these rules?

“I think they are. But I think at things like the think-in in Adare it would have been explained, and the parliamentary party is seized of it. But Government departments always bid for additional money, you know.”

Asked whether the magnitude of the bids came as a disappointment, he says that is in line with historic practise.

“It’s the job of line Ministers to ask and it’s the job of central Ministers like Brendan and myself to refuse them.”

A Selection

Noonan smiles as he acknowledges his selection to contest the election in the renamed Limerick City constituency.

Yet he will not say whether he plans to return to the Department of Finance if Fine Gael prevails. That would be a matter for Enda Kenny, he insists.

“I’m laying plans out that extend beyond the election – so the next minister can take them up if I’m not here. It’s continuity of planning rather than continuity of personnel I’m primarily interested in.”

As for the timing of the election, this is a matter for Kenny. “It’s his call. When he asks me for advice I give him advice.”

But is it true that Noonan would not be in favour of going to the country immediately after the budget? “It won’t be my decision, and we’ll see. The economy is driving on all the time, and things are improving all the time. It’ll be the Taoiseach’s decision. It won’t be a collective decision.”

The budget next month will be predicated on the achievement this year of a budget deficit amounting to 2.3 per cent of gross domestic product. Budget planning for 2016 assumes a deficit in the region of 1.5 per cent of GDP. “1.5 will get us well into the space our projection for the debt next year will be, well below 100 per cent [of GDP]\, he says,.

Can he be more specific? Noonan replies that the figure could come in at “95ish” per cent of GDP at the end of 2016.

“We’re not factoring in there any money from the sale of AIB. We’re going to get quite a lot of money this year and next year – without any sale of AIB – from preference shares and from CoCos and so on.

“We’ll sell 25 per cent of AIB if we’re back in government. All that will come off the debt then.”

Would this be by way of an initial public offering (IPO) on the stock market?

Top three

“Yes. It will be jointly Dublin and London. It will actually be the biggest IPO in London. I think it will be kind of in the top three historically, so we’re talking about very big money. It has to be carefully managed.”

How much roughly? “I don’t know. It was valued at over €13 billion or so. A quarter of it? It’s a good lump of money anyway.

“If it doesn’t happen until this time next year we’ll have another half year. We’ll have full-year returns and we’ll have half-year returns for 2016 – and everything is very positive, so values are going up, there’s no doubt about that.

“But you always have external factors, whether it’s China or Europe or America or interest rates rising or whatever, so I don’t want to get into precise figures.”

Using bank sale proceeds to pay down debt reflects concern – expressed most recently by debt rating agency Moody’s, as well as by the Fiscal Council and the OECD – that Ireland’s high debt level makes the State vulnerable to external shock. “Beyond that there isn’t another internal risk. So I am looking forward to making this budget the first budget of what I regard as the new business cycle,” Noonan says.

The recovery is a “work in progress” but plans for the budget assume annual growth rates between 3.25 per cent and 3.5 per cent until 2020.

“The only reason we’re stopping at 2020 is that it’s the forecasting period. I don’t see any reason why this wouldn’t go on for a decade.

“The primary policy plank on which I’m building is that we mustn’t let it happen again. We mustn’t go from boom to bust again, and there are ways to stop that…In future interventions for this Government – and its successor government if we can get back again after that – it will be quite clear that interventions will have to be countercyclical because we’ll have balanced the budget.”

The spring economic statement in April assumed the State would balance the books in 2019. However, Noonan says this will be within grasp a year earlier than that. So Fine Gael will promise in the election to balance the budget within three years? “We have to revisit the figures, but I think we can do better than the spring statement. Everything is moving forward with the very rapid growth.”

Noonan attaches high importance to the budget rules. “You know the theory that if we didn’t have the fiscal rules, Noonan and Howlin would go crazy. We’re not, no,” he says.

“We negotiated the fiscal rules. We brought them home, and we put them to the people by way of referendum. We’re committed to this model. But it goes back to the opening position. We need pieces in place that prevent that boom and bust cycle that bedevilled us for so many years. Three times in my political career the country has gone from boom to bust.”

Lowest income

Of the budget itself, he reveals little of the plan to cut tax but stresses that the benefit will be concentrated on people earning up to €70,000 from the lowest income.

“We think low and middle-income people are the target for reduction because they’re overtaxed. We’ll be operating in that space… But the purpose will be to give relief to people we identified in the tranche we had last year as kind of middle Ireland.”

On the question of whether the universal social charge might be dismantled or overhauled, Noonan insists he will say whatever he has to say on budget day.

“Whether you take it one way or another, the way most people look at it as at the bottom line. Now, the USC is quite unpopular because it’s new. People see it as the added imposition and the sacrifice that was made to take the country out of crisis.

“So now that the crisis is over the public perception is: well, if you’re removing a tax it should be USC. But from an economic point of view in terms of tax as a policy lever to drive the economy…well then it doesn’t really matter where you make the move. It depends on the impact on the individual taxpayer.”

Is he saying the USC is here to stay in one form or another?

“No I’m not. I’m not saying anything either way. I’m saying that under the rules of the game I can’t give you more accurate information in advance of the budget.”

Last election

Then there is the election. Noonan indicates he is unperturbed by the strength of Independents and others. This cohort was at 24 per cent in the most recent poll, down from roughly 30 per cent in previous surveys but up form 17 per cent in the 2011 election. “What I’m saying is that if you look at the changes from the last election, it’s moving back to where it was. That’s the trend.”

What would be the implications of a surge for Independents and others next time out?

“In my view political instability always leads to economic instability. It’s the last thing we need now, just as we’re getting out of the major crisis and growing at the fastest rate in Europe. We don’t want that knocked back by political instability.”

We can expect to hear a lot more of that once the campaign begins in earnest. He recognises, however, that the Government will lose votes over the water debacle. So what went wrong there?

“In the teeth of very strong opposition it’s always difficult to get acceptance for a new tax. I think there’s acceptance now, I find anyway

“ They’d be quite critical of the way the issue was handled, but there’s acceptance of the principle that water is a scarce and it should be paid for. There’d be an argument about how much, but I think it’s moving in the right direction. Of course there were difficulties, and I presume there’ll be electoral cost attached to those difficulties, but it was a difficult time, we had a lot of very difficult decisions to make.”

Water, of course, became the beacon around which anti-establishment political forces of all stripes rallied.

“The surprise I had, and the surprise Europe had, was that the protests didn’t begin earlier with all the tough things we had to do,” Noonan says.

Water is far from the only difficulty the Government has encountered. He has nothing to say of the inquiry into IBRC, which is under the responsibility of the Taoiseach’s department.

Of corruption allegations surrounding the disposal of Nama’s Northern properties, he says there is no case to answer for the bad bank.

“The sale was conducted absolutely properly. If there was any impropriety it was on the purchasing side, not on the sell side, and I don’t know whether there was impropriety or not.”

Asked whether UK or US investigators have approached Dublin for information, he says “not to me”. Nama has published 300 pages of data it made available to the Stormont committee which is investigating the affair, he says. “There mightn’t even be a committee in Northern Ireland the way things are going.”

Asked for his observations on all that, Noonan launches into a forthright attack on Sinn Féin. “Sinn Féin are incapable of running a government.”

So what exactly is the problem? Sinn Féin as a political party or movement? Or the individuals within it? Or is it a policy deficit? “It’s populism. The inability to make a decision which will cause Sinn Féin any potential loss. If they can’t handle a budget with a couple of hundred million around social welfare, how are they going to handle a national budget down here with all the things we have to do and the decisions we have to make every year? ”

None of this takes account of naysaying unionists. But is Noonan saying Sinn Féin is not ready for government? He laughs.

“If I said they’re not ready they I’d be saying they’d be ready some time in the future. I’m not saying that. I’m not analysing Sinn Féin. A legitimate way of continuing political debate is to look at the record of different parties. The record of Fine Gael and Labour for five years is that we have been very good at handling an economy that was in the greatest crisis ever since the State was founded.

“Then we can look at the only Sinn Féin experience in government in the Assembly in Northern Ireland and in their role up there. And in terms of economic management it’s been dire.”

Audit work on Irish banks in 2008 was “satisfactory”,

A report finds

Regulatory body says rules that governed 2008 bank audits were found “wanting”


The auditing of the 2008 accounts of the six banks and buildings societies that were the subject of the Government guarantee of that year was “satisfactory”, the regulatory body that oversees the profession has concluded following a major review.

However the Chartered Accountants Regulatory Board (Carb) report also concluded that the international standards governing the audits were “wanting” and has recommended a shift towards a more “principles based” regime.

The in-depth review, conducted by six Carb staff and headed by a senior Scottish expert, chartered accountant David Spence, took a number of years and involved a detailed examination of the records of the auditing firms involved and a questioning of the relevant personnel.

KMPG audited the 2008 accounts of AIB, Irish Life and Irish Nationwide, while EY audited those of Anglo Irish Bank and EBS, and PwC those of the Bank of Ireland. However the report does not mention particular banks or firms and is more general in content. Carb director Heather Briers said this was because it can only name firms if there is a sanction against them, and has no authority to regulate or name banks.

The report focused on the issue of loan impairments, which was the dominant topic for auditors working on the 2008 accounts. The Carb investigation found that the firms involved all devoted substantial resources to the issue and substantially more time than was the case with the 2007 accounts. The work included input from colleagues in foreign branches of the global firms.

However a new international rule, enshrined in law within the EU, and which had been introduced in 2005, dictated that provisions could not be made for loan losses deemed likely to occur in the future, and that this applied “no matter how likely” the losses were. Rule IAS 39 ensured that impairments could only be recognised in respect of circumstances existing at the balance sheet date.

The effect of the rule, which was designed to stop banks trying to “smooth out” their profitability over an extended period, using the level of impairments held on the books, meant that some auditors began to question whether the rules were “fit for purpose”.

Some banks tried to compensate for the effect of the rule by issuing statements warning that loan losses might increase significantly depending on how the then crisis in the property market developed.

However the report said more emphasis should be put on the “true and fair” stipulation for audited accounts, as against the qualification that was so in relation to the relevant accountanting standards.

“Carb believes that all interested stakeholders should discuss how a principles-based framework for the future could be developed,” the report said.

Carb chairman Don Thornhill said no member of the Carb board who might have had a perceived conflict in relation to the report, was involved with its production.

TCD’s Alzheimer’s breakthrough could have ‘tremendous potential’

The disease is most common form of dementia globally and affects up to 40,000 people in Ireland


Alzheimer’s is the fourth leading cause of death in individuals over 65. 

Scientists at Trinity College Dublin say a discovery they have made on the cause of Alzheimer’s disease could hold “tremendous potential” for new therapies.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia globally and affects up to 40,000 people in Ireland. It is the fourth leading cause of death in individuals over 65 and it is the only cause of death among the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.

Alzheimer’s disease is characterised, in part, by the build-up of a small protein in the brains of patients. Failure to clear this protein “appears to be a major factor” in the build-up of plaques, and then in the disease process itself, according to the research.

Delicate tissue

While the mode by which the protein is cleared “remains unclear”, it is “evident” that it needs to be removed from the brain via the bloodstream.

“Unlike blood vessels anywhere else in the body, those in the brain have properties that strictly regulate what gets in and out of the delicate tissue – this is what is known as the blood-brain barrier,” according to the research.

The scientists believe “periodic clearance” of the protein across the blood brain barrier could lead to new treatments.

“The next steps are to consider how this might be achieved,” they said.

The research, published in international journal Science Advances, was supported by Science Foundation Ireland and the US-based charity, Brightfocus Foundation.

Drinking beetroot juice could be key to getting more out of your workout


The key to getting the most out of your workout and succeeding on the playing field could be down to one unlikely super food, new scientific research claims.

According to scientists at the University of Exeter, drinking high nitrate beetroot juice improves both sprint performance and decision-making during intermittent exercise such as rugby and football.

In their latest study, 16 male team sport players drank 140ml of Beet It Sport – a high nitrate beetroot juice – for seven days.

On the final day, the men – who were all players in rugby, hockey or football teams – completed an intermittent sprint test.

This consisted of two 40-minute sessions of repeated two-minute blocks – a six second all-out sprint, 100 seconds active recovery and 20 seconds of rest, on an exercise bike.

At the same time, they were given cognitive tasks designed to test how accurately and quickly they made decisions.

The players completed the same tests after drinking the nitrate-rich beetroot juice and after consuming a placebo version with the nitrate stripped out.

Those who had taken the nitrate-rich version saw a 3.5% improvement in sprint performance and a 3% increase in their speed of making decisions without hindering accuracy.

Chris Thompson, of the University of Exeter, led the study – which is published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology and available on PubMed.

“This research is a really exciting landmark in the work conducted on nitrate supplementation so far,” he said.

“The improvement we found may seem small, but it’s likely to provide a meaningful advantage to the athlete on the sports field.

“It could mean that team sport players are able to make those important decisions faster and cover more ground than their opponents in the seconds when it matters most.”

The Beet It shots are being used in research by 150 universities across the world who are examining the benefits of natural dietary nitrate supplementation.

The research has identified that their naturally high dietary nitrate content – 400mg per shot – interacts with enzymes in saliva to generate nitric oxide in the blood system.

Nitric oxide is a vasodilator that increases the flow of blood and oxygen in the muscles to boost strength and endurance.

Professor Andrew Jones PhD, associate dean for research at the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the university, said beetroot juice “could make all the difference”.

“These new results suggest that beetroot juice could improve both physical performance and decision-making during team sports such as rugby and football,” he said.

“In events like the Rugby World Cup, every second counts in those crucial moments, so this improvement could make all the difference”.

The first creature to walk on four legs revealed by pre-reptile fossils found,

Researchers say


After closely examining the forelimbs of a pre-reptile fossil species known as Bunostegos akokanensis, Brown University researchers concluded that it is the oldest known creature to walk upright on all four legs.

Bunostegos is a 260-million-year-old pre-reptile that roamed the supercontinent Pangea munching on plants. According to a news release, scientists previously thought that all Permian herbivores had a sprawling body type — where their limbs would extend from the sides of their body and slant downward from their elbows, similar to some modern lizards. However, Bunostegos fossils, which were originally found in Niger, Africa, in 2003 and 2006, paint a different picture.

“A lot of the animals that lived around the time had a similar upright or semi-upright hind limb posture, but what’s interesting and special about Bunostegos is the forelimb, in that it’s anatomy is sprawling-precluding and seemingly directed underneath its body–unlike anything else at the time,” Morgan Turner, lead author and graduate student at Brown University, said in the release. “The elements and features within the forelimb bones won’t allow a sprawling posture. That is unique.”

From their recent analysis, the researchers concluded that the Bunostegos resembled modern cows in both size and posture. However, unlike grass-grazing cows today, this pre-reptile was also suited with boney armor down his back and a knobby skull, according to Linda Tsuji, co-author from the Royal Ontario Museum.

In their study, the researchers explained how Bunostegos was able to stand tall. The answers lie in the pre-reptiles’ shoulder joint, humerus, elbow and ulna. Its shoulder faced down so that the humerus, the bone running from the shoulder to the elbow, was directly underneath its body. This is different than sprawlers, where the humerus sticks out toward the side of the body. The pre-reptile’s elbow also differed from sprawler’s in that it was more like a human knee — with a limited range of motion, capable of only swinging back and forth. In contrast, sprawlers were able to swing their forearms out to the side. Finally, the researchers noted that the Bunostegos’ ulna is longer than the humerus, a common characteristic among non-sprawlers.

According to the release, the Bunostegos’s posture suggests that it was an outlier. This makes sense based on the natural habitat it would have lived in 260 million years ago, where food sources would have been spread out. Being able to walk on all fours was necessary for the Bunostegos to travel long distances for food.

“Posture, from sprawling to upright, is not black or white, but instead is a gradient of forms,” Turner explained in a statement. “There are many complexities about the evolution of posture and locomotion we are working to better understand every day. The anatomy of Bunostegos is unexpected, illuminating, and tells us we still have much to learn.”