News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 1st. March 2016

Simon Coveney says his party Fine Gael ‘willing to talk about water’

Enda Kenny says FG will ‘engage fully’ on coalition options

    

The current position: 156 out of 158 seats have been filled, 39 out of 40 constituencies completed and there was a 65% national turnout.

Water now on the table? 

Fine Gael will put a framework in place in which it will discuss a number of policy areas such as housing, taxation and water charges, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said.

Speaking today, Simon Coveney said Fine Gael will “certainly be willing to talk about water”?

Fianna Fáil has said water charges and the abolition of Irish Water would be a major issue if it is support a government.

“We need to take on board, within reason, what they are looking for,” Mr Coveney said of other parties and groupings.

Taoiseach is committed?

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has committed Fine Gael to engaging with other parties to discuss the changed circumstances that have arisen following the election.

In a statement, Mr Kenny said that despite the disappointing outcome of the election Fine Gael was determined to play its part in providing the Irish people with a Government committed to working on their behalf.

“We will engage fully and inclusively with other parties, groups and independent deputies to ensure that such a Government is established,” he said.

Mr Kenny said that following a meeting of Fine Gael Ministers today they would continue internal party discussions with the incoming Fine Gael parliamentary party on Thursday.

“In consultation with our elected representatives, we will formulate a set of principles that will guide Fine Gael participation in a future government. These principles will take account of the issues of concern that were highlighted and prioritised by the Irish people during the election campaign.

“We look forward to discussing these and other ideas with the other parties and groups in a new Dáil that reflects the changed circumstances following the election,” he said.

Fine Gael ministers also discussed possible political reforms and Mr Kenny said Fine Gael looks forward to discussing ideas “with the other parties and groups in a new Dáil that reflects the changed circumstances following the election”.

Mr Kenny said the Fine Gael parliamentary party “formulate a set of principles that will guide Fine Gael participation in a future government”.

“These principles will take account of the issues of concern that were highlighted and prioritised by the Irish people during the election campaign.”

Some Fine Gael ministers are now understood to be open to the idea of a rotating Taoiseach, if Fianna Fáil are to enter into Coalition.

Ireland’s unemployment rate declines by 0.1% in February this year

Number of jobless females unchanged from January to February to 6.8%

  

The seasonally adjusted number of persons unemployed was 190,900 last month the unemployment rate fell by 0.1% in February to 8.8%, new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show.

This marks its lowest level since December 2008. Total numbers unemployed in Ireland have now fallen by 42% from the 327,000 peak recorded in 2011.

Compared to the same month a year ago, the unemployment rate declined by 1.2% with youth unemployment falling from 20.3% in January to 20.1% in February.

The seasonally adjusted number of persons unemployed was 190,900 last month, down 2,000 compared to January and a decrease of 23,400 when compared to February 2015.

The number of unemployed males fell by 1,300 from January to February to 124,900. The seasonally adjusted rate for males was 10.5%, down from 10.6% in January and 11.5% for the same month a year earlier.

The number of unemployed females was 6.8%, unchanged on January but down from 8.2% in February 2015. In February, there were 66,100 unemployed women recorded, down 600 on the prior month.

Davy chief economist Conall Mac Coille said that at face value, the pace of decline in Ireland’s unemployment appears to have slowed over the past 12 months. However, he noted that the more measured rate reflects a pick-up in labour force growth.

His counterpart at Merrion Capital, Alan McQuaid, said that with the economy continuing to grow strongly, an average jobless rate of 8.5% is now envisaged for 2016, with another net increase in employment of close on 50,000.

Euro zone unemployment meanwhile fell for a third consecutive month in January, dropping to its lowest level since August 2011.

New figures from Eurostat reveal the jobless rate declined by 0.1% to 10.3% in the first month of the year with 6.647 million unemployed in the people in the euro zone and 21.789 millon for the European Union as a whole.

Could a new drug stop hair going grey?

A gene called IRF4 is known to be responsible for hair colour?

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Scientists have identified the gene that turns every shade to silver and say a drug to stop it can be produced.

Since time immemorial the first grey hair has been an unwelcome sign of the passing years and disguising its appearance has given rise to an industry of shampoos and dyes and a host of old wives’ tales.

But future generations face an altogether brighter prospect, after British scientists identified the gene responsible. They are confident that it will be possible to produce drugs or cosmetics to switch it off.

Grey hair is a result of the depletion of melanin, which is responsible for the pigment in hair, skin and eyes.

It was already known that a gene called IRF4 played a crucial role in hair colour, but researchers at University College London have now, for the first time, linked it to lack of colour.

“This is the first time a gene for greying has been identified in humans,” said Dr Kaustubh Adhikari, of UCL’s cell and developmental biology department, the lead author of the study.

“These findings have potential forensic and cosmetic applications. Preventing grey hair is a possibility and even reversing grey hair might not be impossible.”

The team analysed DNA samples from more than 6,600 volunteers recruited in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru, including individuals of European, native American and African ancestry, giving a large variation in head hair appearance.

Visual traits of each individual were compared to analysis of their DNA to identify the genes responsible.

The finding could also ultimately make it possible to change hair or eye colour without using dyes. It could simply become a matter of taking a n enzyme which changed the expression of the related genes, turning blondes into brunettes, preventing grey hair or making brown eyes blue.

The team also identified genes linked to the ability to grow a bushy beard, to eyebrow thickness and likelihood of a monobrow and hair curliness.

The findings could help develop forensic techniques to build a visual profiles based on an individual’s genetic make-up, showing for example that a suspect had curly hair.

The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Met Eireann issue warnings as Storm Jake is set to slam into Ireland

High winds and snow are on the way, thanks to Storm Jake.

  

Met Eireann have this afternoon issued a number of warnings about the high winds, ice and snow that Storm Jake is set to bring to the country overnight.

The most serious of the warnings is a Status Orange warning for the north, west and south coastal regions.

Winds there will be between 65 and 75kph but gusts will hit between 110 and 130kph.

That warning is in effect from 10pm tonight until 8am tomorrow.

There is a Status Yellow warning for the rest of the country regarding wind, with strong winds expected to gust up to 110kph.

That warning is in effect for 12 hours from 10pm tonight.

Unfortunately, it is not just winds we will have to deal with tonight, as there is also a Status Yellow warning for snow and ice in Connacht, Leinster, Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal.

They are forecasting ‘heavy’ snow showers, with accumulations of up to 3cm expected, with larger amounts on higher ground, between 10pm and 9am tomorrow.

Met Eireann also explained a little more about what we can expect from Storm Jake.

On their site they say: ‘A depression in the Atlantic to the south of Iceland will track eastwards to the North of Ireland tonight and become complex. A small low pressure centre or trough is expected to cross northern parts of Ireland and will sustain a very strong core of winds over the southern two thirds of the country, producing a storm force gradient in western and southern sea areas and an orange status wind warning has been issued for coastal counties of the north, west and south.’

Scientists have found a new way to detect messages from aliens

    

The ‘transit zone’ within which distant observers could spot the Earth passing in front of the sun  (Axel Quetz (MPIA)/Axel Mellinger/PA)The new proposal involves turning a collective ear to Earth’s “transit zone” – the thin slice of space from which our planet’s passage past the sun can be detected.

Scientists have come up with a new plan to avoid “missed calls” from extraterrestrials trying to contact Earth.

The idea is based on the premise that alien astronomers will use the same techniques that we do to search for life-sustaining planets.

One of the key methods is to measure the dimming light caused by a planet crossing or “transiting” the front of its parent star.

If most extraterrestrial signals are focused on this region, this would reduce the chances of missing them.

Dr Rene Heller, from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany, said: “It’s impossible to predict whether extraterrestrials use the same observational techniques as we do.

“But they will have to deal with the same physical principles as we do and Earth’s solar transits are an obvious method to detect us.”

“The key point of this strategy is that it confines the search area to a very small part of the sky. As a consequence, it might take us less than a human lifespan to find out whether or not there are extraterrestrial astronomers who have found the Earth.

“They may have detected Earth’s biogenic atmosphere and started to contact whoever is home.”

The scientists have compiled a list of 82 nearby sun-like stars within the transit zone considered to have the best chance of hosting planets supporting highly-evolved life.

The star catalogue is being offered as an immediate target list for Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Life) initiatives.

‘A smart wallpaper’ could power our future homes

    

Scientists in Surrey have created super-thin flexible graphene sheets, which they believe could be used to create ‘smart wallpaper’ capable of generating electricity from the smallest amounts of light and heat.

Researchers working at the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology institute (ATI) used a technique called nanotexturing to create the sheets, which involves growing graphene around a textured metallic surface.

The team took inspiration for the design of the sheets from the natural world, mimicking the unique structure of moths’ eyes in the construction of the material.

Professor Ravi Silva, head of the ATI, explained: “Moths’ eyes have microscopic patterning that allows them to see in the dimmest conditions. These work by channelling light towards the middle of the eye, with the added benefit of eliminating reflections, which would otherwise alert predators of their location.”

Graphene is known for its high electrical conductivity and strength, but is traditionally inefficient at light absorption. Typically, a graphene sheet would only absorb around two to three per cent of the light that hits it.

However, by patterning graphene in a similar way to moths’ eyes, they boosted its absorbency by 90 per cent, creating the most light-absorbent material for its weight that has ever been created.

The technology is still in the early stages, but the team have big ambitions for the future. They see these sheets being embedded in wallpaper and window panes, absorbing waste light and heat from inside and outside the home and converting it to electricity, which could then be used for a number of applications.

They also believe a number of ‘Internet of Things’ devices could be coated in these sheets, meaning they would not need to be constantly recharged or connected to the mains.

The next step for the team is to start incorporating their material in different existing technologies. They are currently looking for industry partners to help take their creation forward.

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