News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 3rd June 2016

Broadband users face price hikes of 18% from September

Telcos say they intend to pass on Eir’s increase in wholesale rates to consumers

    

Eir defends price changes, saying they were linked to the company’s increased investment in high-speed fibre broadband.

Consumers can expect an 18% hike in broadband prices from next September as a result of changes to Eir’s wholesale rates.

The State’s largest telco rents space on its network to rival operators such as Vodafone, BT, Magnet and Sky, as well as its own retail arm.

From September, it plans to raise fibre broadband prices for wholesale customers from €19.50 to €23 a month. Non-Eir operators have signalled the hike, which has been approved by regulator Comreg, would be passed on in full to consumers.

Eir, however, said the rate increase, when combined with a €2.11 reduction in its traditional fixed-line rental rates due in July, was broadly price neutral, and therefore did not necessitate a price rise at the retail end.

The assertion was disputed by rivals, which claimed the two price changes related to different product sets and could not be used to offset each other.

Alto, the umbrella group for non-Eir companies, described Eir’s move as “cynical”, claiming it bore no relation to the costs associated with providing the service. “With improved efficiencies and economies of scale, the costs should actually be decreasing,” Alto spokesman Ronan Lupton said

He said Eir was imposing such charges with impunity and without any regard to the impact it would have on wholesale customers and ultimately the consumer.

In the context of the National Broadband Plan, Mr Lupton said Eir’s move emphasised the importance of having “very strict price controls on the winning tenderer”.

However, Eir defended the price changes, saying they were linked to the company’s increased investment in high-speed fibre broadband.

“We believe it is fair that we can make a reasonable return on investment that delivers much improved services,” the company said in a statement.

The likely price hike comes in the wake of an analysis by the European Commission, which suggested Irish consumers already face the second highest prices in the EU.

Priest claims Irish Catholic Church ‘is beyond the point of redemption’

Fr Tony Flannery says female clergy would make a dramatic change amid serious crisis.

      

Redemptorist Fr Tony Flannery pic above left: ‘The Catholic priesthood as we have known it, this male celibate thing, is gone.’

Dissident Irish priest Fr Tony Flannery has said the Catholic Church inIreland is in such “serious crisis” that it may well have gone beyond the point of redemption.

Fr Flannery, a Redemptorist priest who was suspended from duties in 2012 by the Holy See, was speaking in Rome on Wednesday at a meeting of WOW (Women’s Ordination Worldwide) in the celebrated House of Women, just down the banks of the Tiber from the Vatican.

Fr Flannery’s support for the concept of women priests in the Catholic Church was one of many issues which led to disciplinary sanctions against him.

Despite that, he repeated his support for women priests , saying: “We all know that the Church in Ireland is in serious crisis, indeed a lot of people would say at this stage that it has gone beyond the point of redemption.

“If you could release the energy of women, it would make a dramatic change.

“I’d say for example that a fair number of Redemptorist priests agree with what I say about women priests but they just think that I made the mistake of saying it publicly,” he said. “A lot of them keep their heads down because they don’t want to lose their ministry.

“The argument that a woman cannot be a minister of the Eucharist because she cannot be a persona Christi (someone who acts as Jesus and as God), that is such a ridiculous argument.

“That argument belongs to the time of the flat earth, when Galileo was persecuted.

“It is depressing and sad and disturbing that Pope Francis, a man for whom we have so much hope, seems to have that dreadful attitude (towards women priests)”.

Fr Flannery said parishoners “have moved light years ahead of the bishops in attitude”, which makes it difficult to maintain a dialogue with an ecclesiastical authority that is out of touch.

He said that within the church reform movement, people were warned “not to talk about the ordination of women”, because that was too “radical”.

Even though he conceded Pope Francis remains doctrinally conservative, he said he is “still quite hopeful” about the reform movement.

“The Catholic priesthood as we have known it, this male celibate thing, is gone,” he said. “So while all of that is happening, it gives me hope for real, real change. I certainly won’t live to see it…if it bears fruit in one hundred years’ time, it will have been worth doing.

“As for Ireland, it is no longer a Catholic country. A lot of people now say I don’t see what the issue is anymore, people just take it (sexual equality) for granted. Young Irish people will tell you that this Church is mediaeval in its thinking, they simply don’t care.”

Men can underestimate how much sex their wives and girlfriends want?

      

Men in long-term relationships tend to underestimate their female partners’ sex drive, new data from two Canadian universities show. A study published last month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates that the conventional wisdom eternally exploited in sitcom riffs and stand-up routines and that wives are incapable of satisfying their husbands’ gargantuan libidos which may be a figment of the male imagination.

Psychologists from the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario studied 229 North American couples, most of which were heterosexual partnerships. (A few same-gender couples participated, but not enough to produce any statistically significant data.) Research subjects were aged 18 to 68 and had been in their current relationships for an average of six years; they reported having sex about one to two times per week.

The members of the couples either visited the lab once to report on their general sexual desire, their perception of their partner’s sexual desire, and their satisfaction with their relationship, or kept a daily three-week diary on those same three factors. Some also reported on their daily level of motivation to evade sexual rejection.

The researchers found that, on a regular basis, men significantly underperceived the degree of their female partners’ sexual desire, while women consistently made accurate judgments about how much their male partners wanted sex. Among diary-keeping couples, on days when men underestimated their female partners’ libido, the women showed higher levels of relationship satisfaction.

This suggests that, whether consciously or not, men might be better partners when they think they have to work for it—in other words, a man will try harder to please his female partner if he thinks she’s not responding to his advances, which keeps him from taking the relationship for granted and getting lazy. Another likely explanation for male sexual underperception: fear of rejection. On days when men reported in their diaries a high level of motivation to avoid sexual rejection, they were more likely to underestimate their partners’ desire for sex, perhaps as a precaution against making advances that could go unreturned.

Socialized beliefs and behaviors could contribute to the perception gap, too. Women may make fewer or subtler sexual overtures that their partners, or, Elizabeth Bernstein suggests at the Wall Street Journal, if a woman knows she has a higher sex drive than her husband in general or on a particular occasion, she may refrain from making a move to avoid embarrassing or emasculating him if he wants to say no.

But there’s a larger, more amorphous barrier to accurate male sex predictions out there: The prevailing notion that women just aren’t that concerned with sex. As Taryn Hillin writes at Fusion:

Consider this—when this study started making news this week, the most common headlines were some variation of “Women are more interested in sex than you think” or “Hey guys, women want sex more often than you think.” These headlines assume that we, the readers, believe women are not interested in sex to begin with, and so this news is somehow shocking.

These framings ignore the fact that women also read news reports and probably already know that all those sitcom gags about sexually uninterested wives don’t match up with the reality of their experiences. As a lump demographic, men report higher sex drives than women, but women’s reports cover a much larger range that varies based on geography and other environmental factors, suggesting that the concept of sex drive is molded by sociocultural forces. Kristen Mark’s June 2015 paper in Current Sexual Health Reports analyzed 31 studies on sexual desire and sex-drive discrepancy in relationships; she found that, in long-term heterosexual partnerships, women and men are equally likely to be the lower-libido member of their couple.

Still, the findings of this new Canadian study were somewhat surprising, because the only previous research on men’s sex-drive perception focused on the situation of a man meeting a woman for the first time or evaluating the sexual interest of a fictional or unknown woman. These studies have reliably shown that men tend to overestimate the sexual interest demonstrated by these women’s behaviors.

That explains the circumstances of most overaggressive late-night bar encounters. Taken together, these contradicting trends suggest that when many men try to gauge a partner or potential partner’s desire, they perceive what they want to believe.

Now you can obtain a Wild Atlantic passport!

     Pictured at the launch of a new passport for the Wild Atlantic Way are Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O'Donovan with Fiona Monaghan, Head of Wild Atlantic Way, Failte Ireland

Pictured (right) at the launch of a new passport for the Wild Atlantic Way are Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O’Donovan with Fiona Monaghan, Head of Wild Atlantic Way, Failte Ireland

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Patrick O’Donovan has launched the official Wild Atlantic Way Passport.

The joint Fáilte Ireland and An Post initiative provides visitors to the west with a recorded souvenir of their journey along some or all of the 188 Discovery Points on the world’s longest coastal touring route.

Minister O’Donovan said: “The Wild Atlantic Way is already proving popular with visitors – both from overseas and from Ireland. We want to deepen visitor engagement and encourage those who travel along the route to slow down, dwell longer and immerse themselves in the local towns and villages of Sligo along the west coast. The local Post Office is at the heart of these communities and the passport is a clever means to build such interaction into the Wild Atlantic Way experience.”

The new passport contains a section for each of the various zones along the route and visitors to Discovery Points can call in to the local Post office to have their passport stamped with a unique motif for each one. The Wild Atlantic Way Passport may be purchased (for €10) at over 130 selected An Post Offices, along the Wild Atlantic Way route as well as at Dublin’s GPO and St Andrew’s Street Post Offices.

Fiona Monaghan, Fáilte Ireland’s Head of the Wild Atlantic Way, today emphasised: “This passport is a wonderful way for visitors to record their experiences along the Wild Atlantic Way. However, by encouraging visitors to visit local towns to get their passport stamped in the Post Office, we also hope the passport will help increase tourist activity and engagement with people and places of Sligo.

“The passport is also neatly placed to encourage a return trip for those that have part-completed their passport – and we will be urging visitors to think about completing their collection of Wild Atlantic Way stamps over a number of years.”

Visitors will be rewarded for buying a passport with free entry into a draw for a holiday of a lifetime along the Wild Atlantic Way. Additionally, every time a visitor reaches 20 new stamps in their passport, they are encouraged to call into the nearest Tourist Information Office to receive a Wild Atlantic Way gift.

An Post Director of Innovation and Quality, John McConnell said that visitors are assured of a warm welcome at Post Offices along the Wild Atlantic Way.

“Ensuring the best possible customer experience is what An Post does on a daily basis throughout our retail network. This colourful, keepsake Passport is a great addition to our range of products and services and will help to drive footfall into rural Post Offices along the route. We’re delighted to be working so closely with Fáilte Ireland and here’s to a busy summer season ahead.”

Promotional material will be visible in all participating Post Offices and 16 Tourist Information Offices advertising the Passports to both domestic and overseas visitors. Training for all the Post Office staff involved has been provided to ensure they are knowledgeable about the Wild Atlantic Way initiative and its objectives.

The Wild Atlantic Way Passport is also being promoted across all Wild Atlantic Way digital platforms – the website, the dedicated App and social media channels.

Fungie the bottlenose dolphin injured by a ‘propellor blade’

      

The beloved Dingle dolphin, Fungie, has been injured, most likely due to a propeller of a boat.

Spotted yesterday, photos show the bottlenose dolphin has a deep wound on his side while a scratch goes over the side of the dorsal fin.

A Facebook page devoted to the dolphin and his welfare, Fungie Forever, posted the images of the injury saying that “while it looks deep, wide and red but we have seen deeper wounds on other dolphins that healed quite well”.

In a post on Facebook, they said they will continue to keep an eye on him:

“At first Fungie seemed to be quiet and stayed under water but after as while he started to play spontaneous and jump over and over and over… We tried to leave him in peace, give him some rest but he started to jump again and again.”

They also say that while they are “gutted”, they expect him to make a full recovery – last year, he sustained an injury to his chin which has healed within weeks.

It is unknown how exactly the injury was sustained – Fungie is said to be well used to the local boats, he is sometimes attracted to visitors to the harbour.

Our Universe is expanding way faster than we had thought, Researchers now say

I write about the Universe as we understand it.  

      

Left picture is a diagram of the cosmic distance ladder.  The bright spot in the lower left of the middle picture is a supernova in the NGC 4526 galaxy.

The Universe is expanding. In the standard model of cosmology the rate of that expansion is given by the Hubble parameter, which is a measure of the dark energy that drives cosmic expansion. New observations of distant galaxies yield a higher than expected Hubble value. That may mean the Universe is expanding faster than we thought, but there’s no need to start rewriting textbooks just yet.

Since the Hubble parameter measures the rate of cosmic expansion, one way to determine it is to compare the redshift of light from distant galaxies with their distance. The cosmological redshift of a galaxy is easy to measure, and is due to the fact that cosmic expansion stretches the wavelength of light as it travels across millions or billions of light years, making it appear more red. By comparing the redshifts for galaxies of different distances we can determine just how fast the Universe is expanding.

Unfortunately distance is difficult to determine. It relies upon a range of methods that vary depending on distance, known as the cosmic distance ladder. For close stars we can use parallax, which is an apparent shift of stars relative to more distant objects due to the Earth’s motion around the Sun. The greater a star’s distance the smaller its parallax, so the method is only good to about 1,600 light years. For larger distances we can look at variable stars such as Cepheid variables.

We know the distance to some Cepheid variables from their parallax, so we can determine their actual brightness (absolute magnitude). From this we’ve found that the rate at which a Cepheid variable changes in brightness correlates with its overall brightness. This relation means we can determine the absolute brightness of Cepheid variables greater than 1,600 light years away. If we compare that to their apparent brightness we can calculate their distance. By observing Cepheids in various galaxies we can determine galactic distances. We can observe Cepheids out to about 50 million light years, at which point they’re simply too faint to currently observe.

Enter the supernova. In a single burst of light a supernova can outshine an entire galaxy, so they can be detected across billions of light years. While there are several types of supernovae, one type (Type Ia) has a fairly consistent maximum brightness. We know this by observing several in galaxies where Cepheids have been used to determine their distance. Just like Cepheids, we can compare the actual brightness of a Type Ia supernova with its apparent brightness and determine the distance of a galaxy.

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