News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 17th March 2016 (St. Patrick’s day)

Ireland’s economy now growing as fast as China


Call it the luck of the Irish shamrock green…economy?

Ireland is booming. It grew almost 7% last year. That’s far better than the U.S. and on par with China (or, at least, what the Chinese government claims).

The emerald isle won the “best eurozone economy” prize each of the past two years and is widely expected to keep the streak going this year.

Ireland’s economic success wasn’t a given. The country was hit very hard by the financial crisis and Great Recession. Big Irish banks were on the verge of collapse from too much lending, especially on speculative property deals. Government debt skyrocketed, and unemployment topped 15% — significantly higher than what the U.S. experienced.

Only a few years ago, experts warned that Ireland, Spain and Portugal could be the “next Greece.” Ireland received €67 billion ($73 billion) in international bailout loans in 2013, after its property market collapsed and banks started failing.

Now the Irish have extra reason for St. Patrick’s Day cheer. Unemployment recently fell to 8.6%and no one is talking about an Irish default anymore.

“Ireland bounced back the best of any economy after the recession,” says Martin Schulz, head of international equity at PNC Capital Advisors.

How Ireland did it?

The path to success sounds simple: Ireland quickly wrote off its bad bank debt and made sweeping financial reforms, says Schulz.

The government cut costs and focused on growing exports. That turned out to be a shrewd move as the euro has fallen in value, allowing Irish (and other European) exports to thrive.

The reform measures weren’t always popular. Despite Ireland’s “Celtic tiger” growth miracle, Prime Minister Enda Kenny is struggling to hold onto power after his party lost seats in the latest election.

But as many countries, especially in Europe, struggle to jumpstart growth again, Ireland is a symbol of hope.

President Obama hailed “significant progress in the rebound of the Irish economy” when he met with acting Prime Minister Kenny on Tuesday.

Related: Americans fear a life of ‘dead-end crap jobs with crap wages’

Ireland is widely known as a tax haven. Several prominent U.S. corporations have headquarters there (or are trying to move there) to save money on taxes.

But the European Commission points out that the real Irish economy is growing too. It’s not just foreign businesses.

“While the recovery started in the external sector, domestic demand is now driving GDP growth,” a recent EU report concluded.

Housing charity Threshold call to reform ‘flawed’ Irish rent supplement law


Making it illegal to discriminate against tenants in receipt of rent supplement will not make it easier for vulnerable tenants to secure housing.

The chairperson of Threshold (Pic. above), Senator Aideen Hayden said the Government needs to do more to protect vulnerable tenants.

National housing charity Threshold said the legislation, which came into force at the beginning of the year, “is not a cure-all” for the current difficulties faced by tenants. It said the State needs to accept responsibility for the reality of tenant’s situations by addressing soaring market rents, higher than those seen during boom times, and inadequate rent-supplement limits.

It was reported earlier this week that property websites are still featuring adverts which discriminate against tenants in receipt of rent allowance — despite this being outlawed under the Equality Act 2015.

“While the new equality legislation in relation to those in receipt of housing support and assistance is welcomed, it is simply not good enough. The State can’t pat itself on the back and claim it has addressed the issue through legislation when the reality on the ground is quite different.”

“Market rents are surpassing the maximum rent supplement limits, making it almost impossible for tenants to secure adequate accommodation and remain in their homes, resulting in increasing numbers of individuals and families becoming homeless,” she said.

Ms Hayden called on the Government to reform the “seriously flawed” rent- supplement scheme which it said was contributing to rising levels of homelessness. “In Threshold’s experience, landlords are reluctant to engage with the rent supplement scheme for a wide variety of reasons, including the inadequacy of rent supplement limits, payment in arrears and bureaucratic delays.

“The rent-supplement scheme is seriously flawed: Rent supplement tenants are not pre-approved, and payments are made in arrears not in advance. This means landlords can be left waiting for their rent payment,” she said. Threshold said the new Government must reform how the scheme operates and provide a lasting solution for rent-supplement tenants, ensuring landlords feel secure in accepting rent supplement.

It said this can be done by increasing rent supplement limits to bring them in line with market rents, introducing a pre-approval mechanism for rent supplement claimants similar to mortgage pre-approval and ensuring payments are made directly to landlords in advance. The Threshold chairperson said the charity received calls daily from tenants who face discrimination because they rely on rent supplement.

“However, there is no point pretending that landlords will take less than market rent because someone is on rent supplement,” she said. “The new Government must increase rent-supplement limits to bring them into line with market rents and remove the administrative flaws and payment delays inherent in the scheme.”

Irish firm Movidius brings vision to drone maker

Movidius unveiled as provider behind the Phantom 4’s vision-aided flight system

   Curt Walton prepares a DJI S900 drone to shoot aerial video of a $12.5 million home for sale in Alamo, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 26, 2016. The use of video from drones as a marketing tool to help sell multi-million dollar homes is rapidly expanding even as the FAA formulates the use of drones for commercial use. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)

DJI drone: Movidius processor facilitates a number of new features.

Irish company Movidius has done a deal with drone maker DJI that brings the company’s vision-sensing technology to the latest Phantom drone.

The Dublin-founded firm has been unveiled as the provider behind the Phantom 4’s vision-aided flight system, which gives the drone the ability to sense and avoid obstacles in real time. DJI developed specialised software algorithms in spatial computing and 3D depth sensing to combine with the Movidius’ Myriad 2 chip.

The Movidius processor facilitates a number of new features in the DJI drone, including Tap Fly, which allows pilots to tap a spot on the screen to direct the drone and Active Track, which can designate an object or person on the screen to track.

The drone can also hover in a fixed position without the need for a GPS signal.

“DJI’s goal with this is that it be impossible to crash and it lowers the barrier to people adopting drones. It’s much easier for people to fly,” said chief operating officer and co-founder of Movidius Seán Mitchell. “It’s more intuitive than using the two-stick controller.”

The platform enables streams from multiple video cameras to be processed, along with readings from other sensors such as accelerometers, depth sensors, gyroscopic sensors and sonar. “That’s all coming together and we can put on top of that object identification and tracking.”

Mr Mitchell said the Phantom 4 was a milestone for vision-sensing technology.

“It is going to be very interesting to see how things evolve as these devices become more autonomous and more intelligent. The intention is to make life easier for people and safer,” he said.


Paul Pan, senior product manager at DJI, said the company was constantly seeking ways to expand its technological capabilities. “Movidius’ vision processor platform, Myriad 2, met the rigorous requirements we set for our flagship product,” he said.

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas saw a number of new drones unveiled at the show. Intel demonstrated a drone, the Typhoon H, on stage that offered obstacle recognition using its RealSense camera, dodging a falling tree as part of the showcase. However, the product, made by Yuneec, has yet to hit the market. The Phantom 4 is available for €1,600 now.

“We’ve seen companies showing demonstrations; this is a real product and it’s a flagship product by an industry leader, and I think that’s the real proof of the pudding,” said Mr Mitchell.

The DJI deal is the latest announcement from the company which also revealed a lucrative deal with Google earlier this year. Movidius employs about 140 people between its offices in Dublin, Romania, the US and China.

Fáilte Ireland launches Virtual Reality tours of the Wild Atlantic Way

Have a headset, will travel?


Fáilte Ireland’s VR experiences will be shared on the Oculus store where millions of people with VR headsets can download and enjoy them.

Fáílte Ireland has captured several experiences along the Wild Atlantic Way for Virtual Reality (VR) viewing.

The VR products, piloted this week at the ITB Berlin travel fair, will give people the chance to remotely experience 3D tours of the coastal route.

The “unmissable”, 360-degree experiences include surfing under the Cliffs of Moher, horse-riding in Sligo, cycling in the Burren and climbing one of the tallest sea stacks in Europe off the coast of Co. Donegal.

Streaming through Samsung VR Gear and Occulus Rift tehnology, the experiences were captured with the help of activity partners along the Wild Atlantic Way.

For the surfing experience, for example, Fáilte Ireland worked with creative agency Big O Media to shoot champion surfer Ollie O’Flaherty using specially adapted cameras in the Atlantic. You can watch several ‘making-of’ snippets in this video:

VR products are in their infancy, but their potential to transform travel marketing and help consumers make travel decisions is viewed as a huge opportunity.

“You forget it’s a 3D/360 experience and you think its reality,” said one user at ITB Berlin this week. “It really gave me the full experience of the Wild Atlantic Way – I never knew you could do that in Ireland, it was amazing.”

Fáilte Ireland says it is also looking at the possibility of integrating the immersive VR experiences across its Tourist Office network, and offering them to trade and industry partners for promotional activites.

“Virtual Reality is proving to be a game-changer in how experiences are consumed and this technology is set to be the most exciting innovation in travel and tourism marketing during 2016,” said its Director of Marketing, Noel-John McLoughlin.

The Wild Atlantic Way experiences will be available for consumers with VR headsets to download on the Oculus store by the end of March, the tourism agency says.

The 360-degree video tours will also be released on YouTube.

Ditch your car for public transit to shed those extra kilos


Adults who commute to work via cycling or walking have lower body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI) measures in mid-life compared to adults who commute via car, the study found.

You should ditch your car and lace up your walking shoes or choose to cycle or take public transport for your morning commute, if you want to shed those extra kilos, according to a recent study.

Adults who commute to work via cycling or walking have lower body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI) measures in mid-life compared to adults who commute via car, the study found.

Even people who commute via public transport showed reductions in BMI and percentage body fat compared with those who commuted only by car. This suggests that even the incidental physical activity involved in public transport journeys may be important.

The study looked at data from over 150000 individuals from the UK Biobank data set, a large, observational study of 500000 individuals aged between 40 and 69 in the UK.

The strongest associations were seen for adults who commuted via bicycle, compared to those who commute via car.

After cycling, walking to work was associated with the greatest reduction in BMI and percentage body fat, compared to car-users. For both cycling and walking, greater travelling distances were associated with greater reductions in BMI and percentage body fat.

Commuters who only used public transport also had lower BMI compared to car-users, as did commuters who combined public transport with other active methods. The effect of public transport on BMI was slightly greater than for commuters who combined car use with other active methods.

The link between active commuting and BMI was independent of other factors such as income, area deprivation, urban or rural residence, education, alcohol intake, smoking, general physical activity and overall health and disability.

Study author Dr. Ellen Flint from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said, “We found that, compared with commuting by car, public transport, walking and cycling or a mix of all three are associated with reductions in body mass and body fat percentage, even when accounting for demographic and socioeconomic factors. Many people live too far from their workplace for walking or cycling to be feasible, but even the incidental physical activity involved in public transport can have an important effect.”

Dr Flint adds: “Physical inactivity is one of the leading causes of ill-health and premature mortality. In England, two thirds of adults do not meet recommended levels of physical activity. Encouraging public transport and active commuting, especially for those in mid-life when obesity becomes an increasing problem, could be an important part of the global policy response to population-level obesity prevention.”

The study appears in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal India is on the verge of complete eradication of poliomyelitis, the last reported case of wild polio virus disease was in January 2011.

“With the switching over to bOPV and simultaneous introduction of single dose of injectable polio vaccine, we are aiming at complete eradication of poliomyelitis. Thereafter, oral polio vaccine would be completely withdrawn and replaced by injectable polio vaccine, as being currently practised in the developed countries,” said pae diatrician Jayant Joshi, president of Pune branch of the IAP .

“Among 686 cases of paralytic polio caused by circulating vaccine derived polio viruses (cVDPVs) that have been detected since 2006, type 2 cVDPVs (cVDPV2s) accounted for 97% of the cases,” said paediatrician Rajeev Joshi.

To eliminate the risks posed by cVDPV2s, OPV serotype 2 will be withdrawn from all immunization activities through a global, synchronized replacement of all tOPV with bivalent OPV . “Eventually , we want to get rid of the polio virus, be it wild virus or vaccine virus. So the bivalent oral polio vaccine will be replaced by injectable polio vaccine by 2020 which will eliminate all types of circulating polioviruses and the adverse events caused by the current oral polio vaccine,” said paediatrician Sanjay Lalwani, head of the paediatrics department at Bharati hospital.

Astronaut Tim Peake captures the lush green Emerald Isle on St. Pats day from on board the ISS


  • The British astronaut took the photograph of Ireland from the ISS
  • It shows the lush-green landscape of the Emerald Isle on St Patrick’s Day
  • He will have opportunities to take further shots of the country today because the ISS will pass over Ireland a total of 16 times

Cracking open a can of Guinness on the International Space Station (ISS) would likely result in chaos, so instead, Tim Peake is celebrating St Patrick’s Day by sharing a photograph of Ireland.

 Tim Peake as photographed by one of his fellow Astronauts. 

He will have opportunities to take further shots of the country because the ISS will pass over Ireland a total of 16 times today.

British astronaut Tim Peake has shared  a photograph of Ireland (pictured) from 255 miles (410km) above the Earth on the International Space Station. He will have opportunities to take further shots of the country because the ISS will pass over Ireland a total of 16 times today

The ISS completes an orbit of Earth every 92.91 minutes and moves at 17,100mph (27,600km/h) per hour.

The snap is one of many impressive shots, ranging from countries and weather events to selfies, taken by Major Peake, who is three months into his mission.

He tweeted: ‘The Emerald Isle is looking lush and green from space…Happy St Patrick’s Day to all down there!’

Last month, he captured storms raging across Europe and Africa in all their mesmerising beauty.

The British astronaut tweeted a timelapse of the footage, explaining that it’s ‘amazing how much lightning can strike our planet in a short time.’

Earlier this year, as storms raged across Europe and Africa, Tim Peake captured them in all their mesmerising beauty from on-board the International Space Station. The footage was filmed as the ISS travelled over North Africa, Turkey and towards Russia (pictured)

Construction of the ISS began on 20 November 1998.

It supports a crew of up to six, with crews split into groups of three.

The station orbits at a height of about 255 miles (410km).

It has a total mass of about 990,000 pounds (450,000kg) and has living space roughly equivalent to a five-bedroom house.

It completes an orbit of Earth every 92.91 minutes and moves at 17,100 miles (27,600km) per hour.

It has now been in space for more than 5,900 days, during which time it has completed more than 92,000 orbits of Earth, and has been continuously occupied for more than 13 years.

It was filmed as the ISS travelled over North Africa, Turkey and towards Russia.

The ideal conditions for lightning and thunderstorms occur where warm, moist air rises and mixes with cold air above.

These conditions occur almost daily in many parts of the Earth and rarely in other areas, making certain regions more prone to strikes.

For example, parts of Africa including the Democratic Republic of the Congo have the highest frequency of lightning on Earth.

This is caused by air from the Atlantic Ocean hitting mountains as it blows across the region.

Nasa tracks lightning strikes using satellites fitted with sensors and information from these satellites is sent to staff on Earth.

During the 33-second clip, a spattering of flashes is seen on the horizon.

As the ISS soars towards Eastern Europe, the flashes become more intense and centralised and the cloud cover thickens.

More lightning occurs over land than water because the sun heats the land surface faster than the ocean.

The heated land surface warms the air above it and that warm air rises to encounter cold air.

Researchers recently found that regardless of where in the world a person is, lightning bolts are at their most powerful at 8am.

The ISS completes an orbit of Earth every 92.91 minutes and moves at 17,100 miles (27,600km) per hour. It typically visible as it flies over the regions in the clip between 6pm and 7pm local time. Lightning strikes are shown by the bright flashes in the centre of this image

The Ireland snap is one of many impressive shots, ranging from countries and weather events to selfies, taken by Major Peake, who is three months into his mission. The astronaut is shown somersaulting

This is because there are fewer particles in the atmosphere overnight so it takes a more powerful charge to overcome the extra distance between these particles and release the bolt of power.

By comparison, more storms occur in the afternoon as solar heating charges a higher number of particles, but these storms are weaker.

Typical afternoon lightning might vary from 6,000 to 20,000 amps per ground flash but powerful morning lightning to ground strokes can average 30,000 amps.

Urbanised areas are also 5 per cent more likely to be hit by thunderstorms, on a given day, than rural areas of the same size.

Storms were more likely to hit these urbanised areas during warmer months, in July and August, in the late afternoon and early evening.

These findings add further weight to the fact rising temperatures increase the frequency of storms, but also that increased pollution levels in urban areas play a major role.

In addition to pollution, urbanised areas cause more storms because they create ‘urban heat-islands’.

Concentrations of buildings can increase temperatures causing low pressures to form above cities, compared to high pressures in rural areas.

This causes a so-called ‘low-level atmospheric convergence’, which forces air up into thunderstorms.

Buildings may also change the flow and direction of winds, which in turn changes pressure levels and affects the upward movement of air.


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