News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 2nd November 2015

Injection rooms for Ireland’s addicts to open next year

After drug law change,

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin says Misuse of Drugs Bill set to unblock legislative obstacles

     

Minister with Responsibility for National Drug Strategy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. Wants to remove stigma of criminal convictions.

Drug users will be able to use supervised injecting rooms in Dublin next year, followed shortly afterwards by Cork, Galway and Limerick, according to the Minister in charge of the National Drugs Strategy.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who is set to announce the radical move in a speech to the London School of Economics on Monday, told The Irish Times that medically supervised injection rooms “will happen next year”.

In his address he will also outline plans to decriminalise the possession of small amounts of drugs, including heroin, cocaine and cannabis, for personal use, as part of a “radical cultural shift” in the approach to drug addiction.

I am firmly of the view that there needs to be a cultural shift in how we regard substance misuse if we are to break this cycle and make a serious attempt to tackle drug and alcohol addiction,” said Mr Ó Ríordáin.

He added that compassion had to be brought to the issue, and that as far as possible drug addiction should be removed from the criminal justice system.

The Minister’s address comes in the wake of leaked report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime indicating it will call for the decriminalisation of consumption of drugs on public health and human rights grounds. Mr Ó Ríordáin says the heads of a new Misuse of Drugs Bill are being drawn up which will “unblock” the legislative obstacles to opening injection rooms.

The Minister hoped the new Bill would be enacted “early next year”. Regulations will follow, which will mean the State’s first injecting room open in the capital.

Treatment professionals.

He has had approaches from drug treatment professionals in other towns and cities. On opening injecting rooms, the Minister said: “every city is different, every drug-using population is different, so different locations will have different needs.”

He said that following an appraisal of the Dublin facility, more will open as needed.

Outlining his thoughts on injecting rooms, Mr Ó Ríordáin will tell Monday’s conference, hosted by the school’s International Drug Policy Project, that he does not see injecting rooms as “free-for-all” facilities for drug addicts.

“These are clinically controlled environments which aim to engage hard-to-reach populations” of drug users, including homeless drug users who would otherwise take drugs in the open, creating risks to themselves and the public.

“Research has shown that the use of supervised injecting centres is associated with self-reported reductions in injecting risk behaviours.”

Mr Ó Ríordáin said he wanted to remove the “stigma” from drug addiction and the key to this will be preventing, as much as possible, those caught up in addiction ending up with criminal convictions. He added that the “shame” that dominates the discourse around drug use “disrupts the capacity of families and individuals” to seek help.

Though a matter for the next administration, he told The Irish Times there was now a “strong consensus that drugs across the board should be decriminalised”, but that this would be a matter “for the next government”.

Stressing a distinction between legalisation and decriminalisation, he said it would remain a crime to sell, distribute or profit from illicit drugs. But it would not be a crime to be a drug user or addict.

“This will be a wider discussion under the next government but once people get their head around the argument, about what decriminalisation actually means, that policy won’t be about the drug but about the individual. Then regardless of the drug the individual needs an intervention and society will be saying, ‘the substance is illegal, but you are not a criminal for taking it’.”

He concluded: “Above all the mode must be person-centred and involve an integrated approach to treatment and rehabilitation based on a continuum of care with clearly defined referral pathways.”

Ryanair sees it’s profits jump by 27% to €1bn

 

A Bumper summer boosts profits at airline as it forecasts double digit growth in Ireland.

Irish airline Ryanair saw its first half profits soar by 37 per cent to €1 billion, on the back of a “bumper summer” and fuel savings, as it forecast that full year profit will be at the upper end of its € 1.175bn to € 1.225bn range.

In the six months to September 30th 2015, revenues at the airline rose by 14 per cent to €4bn. Traffic grew 13 per cent to 58m as load factor jumped 4 percentage points to 93 per cent, while average fares rose 2 per cent as unit costs fell by 6 per cent. When fuel is excepted, costs were flat.

Michael O’Leary, chief executive Ryanair, said he was “pleased” with H1 results.

“We have enjoyed a bumper summer due to a very rare confluence of favourable events including stronger sterling, adverse weather in northern Europe, reasonably flat industry capacity and further savings on our unhedged fuel, as millions of customers switched to Ryanair for our Always Getting Better (“AGB”) customer experience programme.”

Ryanair will open four new bases this winter – Berlin, Corfu, Gothenburg & Milan – and is set to launch 119 new routes including a four daily Dublin – Amsterdam route. Mr O’Leary said that the airline is targeting double digit growth in Ireland, UK, Spain, Italy,Portugal, Poland, Germany, and in Denmark.

The airline said that it took advantage of occasional oil price weakness this summer to further extend its fuel hedges to 95 per cent cover for FY17 at an average rate of $62 a barrel, a move which should deliver deliver fuel savings of some € 430m in FY17. The airline has also hedged against the US dollar, at an average euro/dollar rate of 1.31, and it noted that this means that it will add its new Boeing 737-800NG aircraft at lower euro prices than most of its existing fleet.

Looking ahead, Mr O’Leary said that there are “significant growth opportunities” and it has raised its full year 2016 traffic target from 104m to 105m customers, due to higher load factors in H2 with Q3 traffic set to grow 17 per cent and Q4 by 22 per cent.

Ryanair said that Q3 average fares will be “broadly flat”, but prices will fall by about 4 per cent in Q4, with unit costs also down by about 5 per cent in FY16.

“Accordingly, we now guide that full year net profit (pre-exceptions) will be towards the upper end of our € 1,175m to € 1,225m range,” Mr O’Leary said, but cautioned that this is “heavily dependent” on the strength of close-in bookings in Q4 where the airline has “almost zero visibility”.

By2024, the airline is targeting 180m customers a year.

Ryanair will return the €398m proceeds from the sale of its Aer Lingus stake to shareholders in November.

Population growth to drive Irish housing demand,

Says Moody’s

Rating agency assesses outlook for property markets in five European markets

   

The Moody’s report compares population forecasts for five European residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) markets – the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Ireland.

Rating agency Moody’s believes population growth and economic recovery in Irelandwill continue to drive housing demand and property prices for some time to come.

In a report, the agency cites a projected fall-off in the number of 25-35 year-olds here as an unfavourable development for housing demand.

However, it says the demographic changes will be offset by stronger-than-expected economic recovery and improved employment/ income prospects.

acked securities (RMBS) markets – the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Ireland.

It notes Ireland’s population growth is set to slow down, rising by only 0.2 per cent between 2015 and 2020, compared with 1.2 per cent over the past five years.

While further net emigration could offset natural demographic trends in Ireland, Moody’s says the strength of economic recovery is likely to draw recent expatriates back, resulting in a continuing increase in population.

This higher population growth will support housing demand, which is facing tight housing supply in urban locations, particularly in Dublin and to a lesser extent Cork and Galway, while on national level there is oversupply, it says.

The latest official house price figures indicate house prices in Dublin increased by 0.9 per cent in September and were 6.5 per cent higher than 12 months ago, the lowest annual rate of inflation recorded in over two year.

Most experts link the fall-off to the introduction of the Central Bank’s lending restrictions and the ending of the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) waiver for property purchases.

Nonetheless, prices are expected to remain on an upward curve due to demographic pressures, rising employment and lower taxes.

The Moody’s report makes similiar projections for Spain where a slowdown in population growth is coinciding with economic recovery.

Robust economic growth, low or falling unemployment rates and steady population increases in the UK and the Netherlands are expected support demand for housing and house prices there.

Slower population growth and muted economic growth is, however, expected to weigh on housing demand in Italy.

Extra beds to open this week as HSE tackle Hospial overcrowding

Emergency Department Task Force meets

   

The taskforce discussed the opening of around 455 new and closed beds

Health Service Executive Director General Tony O’Brien has said that the overcrowding issues in hospital emergency departments are local and variable.

Mr O’ Brien said that his recent visits to hospitals confirmed it was not a single national problem, but 28 different sets of issues.

He was speaking after a meeting of the Emergency Department Task Force in Dublin to review the problem of hospital overcrowding.

It discussed the opening of around 455 new and closed beds, some of which are subject to staffing.

The 455 beds include 301 new beds and 154 beds which were closed.

Mr O’Brien said that the first of the extra beds would open this week and the aim was to stabilise the situation through tailored solutions for each hospital affected.

Mr O’ Brien said he wanted this winter to be “no worse than last year and ideally better”.

He said he wanted to make the situation more predictable and ensure health services can bounce back from any spikes if they occur.

Mr O’Brien said that among the measures put in place in hospitals were better GP access to diagnostics and improving the performance of Acute Medical Units, in some cases involving local GPs in these units in order to have them operate more efficiently.

Mr O’ Brien said other measures would take longer to implement, such as having acute surgical assessment units in place to ensure patients are seen faster.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar also attended today’s meeting.

There are 309 patients on trolleys in emergency departments or on wards today, waiting for admission to a bed.

The hospital worst affected is University Hospital Limerick, with 28 patients waiting.

Other hospitals with a large number waiting are Beaumont with 27, Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda with 24 and St Vincent’s University Hospital with 23.

The figures are compiled by the Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation.

Not-so-young scientists can now take part in BT scientist’s exhibition

BT Masters competition to consider all applicants – from aged 20 to 90 and beyond

   

Maureen McNulty and Hannah Smith at the launch the BT Masters in association with the 2016 BT Young Scientist exhibition.

Dr Who isn’t the only one with a time machine; there will be a new way to turn back the clock next January at the annual BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition to be held at the RDS.. A new competition for “senior” entrants has opened as part of the 2016 event and should appeal to anyone who ever hankered to take part in the exhibition.

Senior in this case is actually anyone over 20, but in fact the BT Masters competition will consider all applicants whether aged 20 through 90 and above.

“We have seen so much emerging talent come through the RDS from secondary school students,” according to Shay Walsh, managing director of BT Ireland the main sponsor and organiser for the young scientist event, “so we thought it would be a great idea to see how the adults would fare when asked to demonstrate their creativity with the critical Stem subjects.”

Taking part involves the same procedures as for schoolgoing entrants, with the process starting as a one-page submission with a project idea.

The BT Masters programme will shortlist a number of these submissions and these individuals will be asked to develop a PowerPoint presentation on how they would pursue the research described in their project.

Successful shortlisted entrants will not be asked to sit at a young scientist stand or carry out actual research, but they will be grilled by judges on the Wednesday, the second day of the five-day event. The winner will be announced the following morning.

There is an incentive for those who take part. Aside from the notoriety of becoming the first winner of the BT Masters competition, there is a €1,000 cash prize.

Entrants will have to choose a topic within the standard four young scientist categories and the initial one-pager must arrive by email on Friday November 27th to btmasters2016@gmail.com, with the winner announced on January 7th. Further information about terms and conditions is available at btyoungscientist.com/byste-masters 

Quantum computers could be next great leap for mankind

Scientist Eric Ladizinsky (Below left pic) compares advent of new technology to discovery of fire

     

“We have come a long way in a very short period of time. That is the goal, to become self sustaining”

It will have unimaginable power and will easily outperform today’s supercomputers – provided of course it can be made to work at all.

Quantum computers are at the early stage of development, but look promising enough to attract the interest of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Googleand the Universities Space Research Association.

based D-Wave is a quantum computer development company right in the middle of this, producing early prototype quantum devices in the 10 years since it was established.

The company’s chief scientist and co-founder Eric Ladizinsky is in Belfast and Dublin this week to give talks on how far things have progressed with quantum computing.

“Quantum computing represents a paradigm shift, a radical change in the way we do computing and at a scale that has unimaginable power,” Ladizinsky said in advance of his talks.

He fully believes that quantum computing could revolutionise the information age and have as big an impact on society as the conventional computer already has.

“It will be able to do computation that would be forbidden on the computers we build today,” he said.

Many commentators would argue that quantum computing is still more about theory than an actual product that can be sold, but D-Wave has managed to live off investments and more recently on actual sales of the devices it builds at its Burnaby, British Columbia headquarters.

Nasa interest

Its latest model the D-Wave 2X system has been installed at the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab at Nasa’s Ames Research Center.

“You can buy processors now. Many companies like Google are using them to begin to understand how they work and what they can do, same as does Lockheed and Nasa,” said Ladizinsky.

“Sales provide revenue and confidence for our investors that there is interest in our processors, and we have raised significant venture capital.

“We are still working to become self-sustaining, but with every generation of processor that comes out the more inevitable it becomes that we will reach this point.”

The company formed in 2004 when Ladizinsky joined up with D-Wave’s original founder Geordie Rose to change the IP based company into a technology development company.

“At D-Wave we built a mini Manhattan project, founding a company with a focus on quantum processing. It was interdisciplinary and managed to raise finance from visionary investors. The plan was not only to build microscopic circuits but build macroscopic circuits with quantum computing properties,” he said.

Counterintuitive.

Quantum computing is based on an area of physics called quantum mechanics. It describes the unusual way that matter interacts with matter not at human scale but at a scale down to atoms and electrons.

Strange counterintuitive things happen in that world and it is these characteristics that are central to and harnessed for quantum computers.

The net result is a computer that can achieve parallelism that easily outstrips the same capacity in conventional computing.

Today’s computers can only handle data bits as either a one or a zero and can only do this one step at a time.

Quantum computers handle what are called quantum bits or qubits that can readily have a value of one or zero or anything in between, Ladizinsky says. And they can have these millions of values all at one time.

“Imagine you have a maze and there are billions of ways to turn left and right and you are given five minutes to get through. With conventional computing you would try each path sequentially.”

But quantum computing would allow all possible paths to be tested simultaneously with an answer given immediately. This is the power that is possible with the technology, he said.

The more qubits a device has the greater its potential. One early prototype from 2007 had a 16-qubit processor and by 2011 it had a 128 qubit chipset. Early versions tended to be designed to tackle a single type of problem. Its latest processor offers more than 1,000 qubits.

“We built the only quantum computing platform in a scalable form up to 1,000 quantum objects and can control the interaction between them,” he said. “We have come a long way in a very short period of time. That is the goal, to become self sustaining, and based on that you can do research into new forms of quantum computer or a universal machine.”

An evolutionary leap

He has a missionary-like zeal about quantum computing and likens it to other great moments when humans discovered new ways of harnessing nature such as the use and control of fire, tool making and the development of early technology.

He believes quantum computing is just such a moment when a basic characteristic of nature – quantum mechanics – is harnessed to deliver something new for the benefit of society.

Eric Ladizinsky’s visit to Ireland was organised by the Royal Irish Academy, theCanadian Embassy and the Irish Centre for High End Computing. His talk is entitled ‘Evolving Quantum Computers’. The lecture is free of charge but booking is essential at ria.ie.

The talk on Wednesday, November 4th is at 6pm at Riddel Hall, Queen’s University Belfast and on Thursday, November 5th at 7pm at Burke Theatre, Trinity College Dublin.

The talk is the inaugural annual John Bell lecture. It commemorates the life of John Bell (1928-90) who was born in Belfast and conducted important research in quantum mechanics and proving that quantum entanglement is real.

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