News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 2nd September 2015

Irish tax revenues €1.4bn ahead of target for first eight months of 2015

Latest exchequer returns benefit from spike in corporation tax payments.


Minister for Finance Michael Noonan is likely to face more calls for tax cuts on foot of the latest exchequer numbers

Tax revenues are now running €1.4 billion ahead of target thanks to a surge in corporation tax payments.

Exchequer returns for the first eight months suggest the Government is on course to end the year with €2 billion more in tax than anticipated.

The better-than-expected performance is likely to increase the clamour for tax cuts ahead of October’s budget.

The figures show total tax revenue stood at €27.3 billion in August, which was €2.4 billion or 10% higher than last year.

The main driver was corporation tax, which came in at €3.3 billion, some 38 per cent or €912 million above profile.

The Department of Finance linked the strong out-turn in company tax receipts to improved trading conditions here and abroad.

Income tax, the biggest tax heading, generated €11.2 billion, which was €146 million or 1.3% ahead of target.

The figures show VAT, which reflects consumer spending, also came in ahead of expectations, taking in €7.96 billion, which was €107 million or 1.4% ahead of forecasts.

Excise duty, which benefitted from car sales linked to the new 152 registration plates, was €3.3 billion, some €24 million or 0.7% up on projections.

The figures pointed to a budget deficit of €1.3 billion between January and August, compared with a €6.3 billion deficit for the corresponding period last year.

Overall, the exchequer deficit stood at €1.3 billion at the end of August, down from €6.3 billion at this stage last year.

On the spending side, the figures show total net voted expenditure of €27.3 billion, which was €297 million or 1.1% below profile.

The cost of servicing the Republic’s national debt was €4.6 billion, which was down €293 million or 6 per cent on last year, reflecting the impact of the early loan repayments to the International Monetary Fund.

The planet’s total tree cover down 46% since the arrival of humans

Ireland has lowest level of forest cover in Europe at 11%, says State forestry firm Coillte


A logging site at Nesset, Mau Forest, Kenya. Humans are clearing a net 10 billion trees a year from the surface of the Earth.

The Earth fairly bristles with trees, with new research showing it has an estimated 3.04 trillion of them.

Although this is almost 10 times more than expected, equating to 422 trees for every man, woman and child on the planet, the total has plummeted from 5.6 trillion trees – a 46% fall – since the dawn of human civilisation.

No other factor has had such a profound impact on the world’s stock of trees.

Human activity, including deforestation for agriculture, land-use change and forest “asset stripping”, carries away away more than 15 billion trees a year.

The planting of about five billion trees helps offset this, but the research study led by Dr Tom Crowther of Yale University puts global forest cover loss at about 190,000 sq km each year.

Youth initiative

Details of the research are published on Wednesday in the journal Nature. Dr Crowther was asked to conduct the study after an approach by Plant for the Planet, a youth initiative that leads the UN Environmental Programme’s Billion Tree Campaign, an effort to ensure the planting of a billion trees.

“This seemed like a reasonable goal,” Dr Crowther said, but people still needed baseline figures.

At the time the planet was estimated to have about 400 billion trees, but the study showed the Earth has a multiple of that amount. “They have remade their goal and will attempt to plant a trillion trees,” Dr Crowther said.

The study combined satellite data with almost 430,000 ground-sourced measurements of tree density to establish its estimates. The data also allowed them to provide a country-by-country guide to the most forested places on Earth.

The largest share of trees, almost 1.4 trillion, are found in tropical and subtropical forests, while 740 billion trees are in boreal regions in the far north. Another 610 billion are in temperate regions around the world.

The research provides total tree numbers per country, along with per square kilometre averages and per head of population.

Sweden has the most trees per square kilometre at 69,161, with Brunei second at 62,333. Ireland has 10,088 trees per square kilometre. If measured as trees per head of population, Sweden has 3,200, Brunei 856 and Ireland 154.

Forest cover

Ireland has the lowest level of forest cover in Europe, at 11 per cent, compared to a European average of 20%, said Pat Neville of Coillte, the State forestry company.

The Department of Agriculture oversees policy on forestation, and the current 2016-2022 forestry programme calls for 5-6,000 hectares of new forest cover and a similar amount in reforestation of cut forest, he said.

Trees carry out a range of important functions, including locking up huge amounts of carbon, supporting water and air quality, and providing food and timber. They also produce vast amounts of oxygen and are hotbeds of genetic diversity. They are an essential part of the planet’s environment.

It is therefore frightening that humans are clearing off a net 10 billion trees a year. If unchecked, that rate would see a whole planet clear-out of trees within 300 years, with human activity the cause.

Three Irish sisters give birth to three babies on the same day


Three Irish sisters have given birth to three babies on the same day at Mayo General Hospital.

The three sisters welcomed the three tots into the family yesterday, and another new arrival is expected in the coming hours as a fourth sister is waiting to give birth.

Speaking to RTE News at One, Mairead Fitzpatrick, one of three sisters – from Cloonfad on the Mayo-Roscommon border said no one was expecting the multiple births on the same day.

“We just never realised it would all happen on the one day,” she said.

“I was the first one to go at 3:25 am and then my sister had her little girl, Sorcha, at 11 am.

“Then Bernie’s boy Phelim was born last night at about half 8.

“The two girls that delivered my little boy delivered Bernie’s boy as well… so two women delivered two cousins in 24 hours,” she added.

“It was my first (Thomas Og), and Jolene’s second, Bernie’s third, and Christina, this will be her fourth,” Ms Fitzpatrick told News At One, saying that the family were keeping their fingers crossed that Christina would give birth today, or early tomorrow morning.

“There’s four girls, there’s five of us altogether in the house, and one brother,” she said.

““It was just so funny the way it happened.

“I was due on Friday the 28th of August, Jolene was actually sectioned, she was booked in for a section yesterday, it was her second baby.

“And Bernie was due today. Christina is still waiting for her little one, she was due on Sunday, the 30th of August.”

She added that she was not sure which counties the new babies will shout for ahead of May’s replay against Dublin on Saturday – as their dads are from Mayo, Galway and Roscommon.




There are technological crimes that we all commit— repeatedly checking our phones, scrolling again through already-read Twitter feeds, and mindlessly swiping through app pages without opening anything. They’re all indicators of one thing: boredom.

If anything, we’re looking to technology to help us with this problem, but not finding the stimulation we require. In an effort to identify and banish smartphone boredom, researchers from Telefonica Research in Spain have developed Borapp, a boredom testing tool, and its sibling Borapp 2, a boredom curing tool.

The researchers found that males were bored more often than females, and when people are bored, they specifically check Instagram and their email, and fiddle with settings. Also, the more the phone was being used, the more bored the participants felt. Researchers now have cold, hard data on how we use phones specifically to kill time.

The authors wrote that this research should be taken as a “quasi-experiment,” and preliminary, because the sample size of 54 is small. Boredom also can’t be randomized, which complicates trial design.

Borapp tracks users’ interactions with their phones through 35 parameters, like battery level, whether the screen was turned on, and if music was playing. Over the two-week study, researchers collected more than 40,000,000 data points and 4,000 self-reports of boredom from 54 users. (From an original set of 61, seven users were filtered out because researchers didn’t think they were taking the study seriously.) The app would send a push notification in intervals greater than 60 minutes, more likely when the participant was using their phone. It would ask how energetic, positive, or bored the participant was on a five-point scale, and continuously log how the phone was used. This data allowed the Borappto predict boredom with 82 percent accuracy, according to the study.

Researchers developed free Android app Borapp to track user boredom.

While Borapp is mainly for data gathering, researchers built Borapp 2 to actually remedy listlessness. If the app thinks a user is bored, it will send a notification suggesting a place on the internet designed to kill time with cat GIFs and digestable news: BuzzFeed.

Researchers write that when bored, people are more likely to click on suggested content. The study sees potential for mobile developers to use this information, so they can design experiences that engage users at their moments of boredom to talk with friends or clear their to-do lists.

The apps were free to download on the Google Play Store (and still are), and researchers recruited initial volunteers via email with the promise of 20 Euro gift cards. The researchers will present their findings at theUbiComp conference in Japan.

The same team has another research app in the Google Play Store namedCall Me Maybe, which connects two phones and displays a widget predicting whether messages will be looked at or ignored.

Why thinking you’re overweight can make you gain weight


Thinking you’re fat can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It makes sense that if you think you’re overweight, you’ll work hard to lose weight. But scientists have discovered that just the opposite is true.

New research published in the International Journal of Obesity found that people who think they’re overweight are more likely to gain more weight than those who don’t think they’re overweight.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from three longitudinal studies of 14,000 adults in the U.S. and the U.K.: the U.S. National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, the U.K. National Child Development Study, and Midlife in the United States.

Scientists studied the participants’ perception of their own weight once they reached adulthood, whether it was correct, and their weight gain over time. The British study had data that followed participants from ages 23 to 45, but the other two studies followed participants for up to 10 years.

Researchers discovered that people who said they were “overweight” were more likely to say they overate due to stress and, as a result, gained weight.

But this happened regardless of whether a person was actually overweight or not, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Adults are classified as “overweight” when they have a body mass index (BMI) within the range of 25 to 29.9, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (A person who is 5′9″ and weighs between 169 and 202 pounds would be considered “overweight.”) According to data from the National Institutes of Health, more than 33 percent of adults in the U.S. meet this classification.

Study co-author Jeffrey Hunger tells Yahoo Health that he was surprised by the findings at first since “there is this assumption that people need to see themselves as overweight in order to engage in weight maintenance behaviors.”

However, he now says it makes sense that thinking you’re overweight can have a poor impact on your health because there are negative health effects that come with the stigma of being overweight — among them exercising less and eating more.

According to Peter LePort, MD, medical director of MemorialCare Center for Obesity at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., it’s all tied in to a person’s stress mechanism.

“People react to stress in different ways, but for some, eating is a stress relief,” he tells Yahoo Health. “Even if they’re a normal weight to begin with, if their method of dealing with stress is to eat, they’re going to gain weight.”

While general life stressors can come into play, LePort says the concept of being overweight is very stressful for some people, which further complicates what can become a vicious cycle: They are stressed out because they think they’re overweight, they eat more to cope with that stress, and consequently become or stay overweight.

“Instead of taking that stress, they ignore it and just use what has worked in the past to make them feel better eating,” says LePort. “But that stressful feeling is back as soon as they’ve finished eating, and they haven’t solved the problem.”

Unfortunately, Hunger says, this phenomenon can apply to anyone who thinks they’re overweight, because they think they need to lose a few pounds.

Luckily, it’s possible to break the cycle, Shenelle Edwards-Hampton, a clinical psychologist who specializes in weight management at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, tells Yahoo Health.

The first step is to essentially give yourself a break. Edwards-Hampton recommends trying to think more positively about your body and to focus more on the things you’ve done well, like having eaten a nutritious meal or exercised recently. That can help make stress eaters less inclined to use food as a coping mechanism, she says.

She also suggests distraction, e.g., going for a walk, reading a book, or doing anything other than eating if you feel stressed out about your weight.

Edwards-Hampton says counseling can also be very effective. However, she points out that changing the way a person deals with food doesn’t happen overnight: “I tell patients all the time, ‘You’ve been eating this way for a long time. It’s going to take time and practice to change these eating habits.’”

Us humans went through four stages of evolution


The evolution of the human body’s size and shape has gone through four main stages, a study of 430,000-year-old fossils collected in northern Spain has found.

A large international research team studied the body size and shape in the human fossil collection from the site of the Sima de los Huesos in the Sierra de Atapuerca in northern Spain.

Dated to around 430,000 years ago, this site preserves the largest collection of human fossils found to date anywhere in the world, researchers said.

The researchers found that the Atapuerca individuals were relatively tall, with wide, muscular bodies and less brain mass relative to body mass compared to Neanderthals.

The Atapuerca humans shared many anatomical features with the later Neanderthals not present in modern humans, and analysis of their postcranial skeletons (the bones of the body other than the skull) indicated that they are closely related evolutionarily to Neanderthals.

“This is really interesting since it suggests that the evolutionary process in our genus is largely characterised by stasis (i.e. little to no evolutionary change) in body form for most of our evolutionary history,” said Rolf Quam, anthropologist at the Binghamton University in New York.

Comparison of Atapuerca fossils with the rest of the human fossil record suggests that the evolution of the human body has gone through four main stages, depending on the degree of arboreality (living in the trees) and bipedalism (walking on two legs).

The Atapuerca fossils represent the third stage, with tall, wide and robust bodies and an exclusively terrestrial bipedalism, with no evidence of arboreal behaviours.

This same body form was likely shared with earlier members of our genus, such as Homo erectus, as well as some later members, including the Neanderthals.

Thus, this body form seems to have been present in the genus Homo for over a million years.

It was not until the appearance of our own species, Homo sapiens, when a new taller, lighter and narrower body form emerged, resaerchers said.

The authors suggest that the Atapuerca humans offer the best look at the general human body shape and size during the last million years before the advent of modern humans.


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