Category Archives: Fitness

News Ireland BLOG as told by Donie

Thursday 20th July 2017

Simon Coveney says he is happy at the direction of Brexit negotiations on Irish issues

Talks focused on avoiding a hard North-South border after Brexit

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The British Irish Chamber of Commerce held its first meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney TD in London today.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has expressed satisfaction at the direction of negotiations between Britain and the European Union over Ireland’s specific issues. Speaking in London after meetings about Brexit with academics, diplomats and business representatives, Mr Coveney said more work was needed on some areas.

“In particular, more detailed work is needed on how best to protect North-South co-operation, an essential aspect of the Good Friday Agreement. It has facilitated some of the most tangible benefits from the peace process and contributed directly to the normalisation of daily life in the border region. On the Common Travel Area, I welcome that both sides agreed that it should be maintained. It will now be for the UK side to confirm how it will ensure this,” he said.

The discussions in Brussels did not focus on the future of the Border but Mr Coveney said that talks between the British and EU teams this week about protecting the gains of the peace process were directly related to avoiding a hard Border after Brexit.

“My officials and I will continue to work closely with Michel Barnier and his team to ensure that sufficient progress is made on the Irish specific issues in phase one of the negotiations. Progress on these, on citizens’ rights and the financial settlement would allow parallel discussions to begin this autumn on the EU’s future relationship with the EU,” he said.

“This will require constructive engagement on all issues and a strong political willingness to achieve the best possible withdrawal agreement. Contrary to what some may think, no agreement would be disastrous for everyone. We must continue to work for the closest possible future relationship between the EU and the UK, facilitated by effective transitional arrangements.”

Theresa May on Thursday sought to reassure British business that its concerns would be considered as Britain continues its negotiations with the EU. The prime minister hosted representatives of big companies and business organisations at Downing Street for the first meeting of a new “business council”.

“The prime minister emphasised her desire to listen to the views of business, to channel their experience and to share with them the government’s vision for a successful Brexit and a country in which growth and opportunity is shared by everyone across the whole of the UK,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

“On Brexit, the prime minister reiterated that the government’s overarching goal is for a smooth, orderly exit culminating in a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU, with a period of implementation in order to avoid any cliff-edges.”

Brexit win for the West of Ireland as medical conference moves from London to Sligo

Firefly founder and medical director Martin McGeough and big-wave surfer Dr. Easkey Britton launch Firefly Summit 2017, which is moving from London to Sligo as a result of Brexit.

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The Firefly Summit, a conference of 200 podiatrists, mainly from London and the rest of the UK, will move to Sligo this year.

The summit will see 21 of the podiatry profession’s top minds deliver a series of quick-fire lectures, sharing their hands-on clinical practices.

Firefly, a custom-made orthoses company, made the decision to move the summit to Sligo as a result of the impact Brexit was having on its business.

“When sterling started devaluating on the back of the Brexit announcement, our margins were way down. We have managed to survive – but only just about. We had to decide how we were going to respond to it,” Martin McGeough, Firefly’s founder and medical director said.

While some companies are looking at how to reduce costs or increase prices, Firefly are looking at building relationships with customers who are podiatrists, and by moving the conference to Sligo the company hopes to cement existing relationships with customers and build more.

Firefly is also turning the concept of a medical conference on its head by taking speakers and delegates out of the lecture halls and into nature.

Surfing, hiking, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), golf and other activities are built into the programme of the Firefly Summit, which takes place from September 29-30.

This will allow attendees to connect with the UK and Ireland’s most renowned podiatric consultants and practitioners in a relaxed setting by removing the barriers of traditional conferences, Firefly said.

Podiatry or podiatric medicine is a branch of medicine devoted to the study, diagnosis and medical and surgical treatment of disorders of the foot and ankle.

It is expected that the conference will result in an economic boost of at least €320,000 to the local economy.

What makes a man’s best friend your dog ? It’s in their genes

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Two Saint Bernard dogs rest on a meadow as they make their way to the Great Saint Bernard mountain pass, near Bourg-Saint-Pierre, between Switzerland and Italy, on July 

Dogs that are extra friendly share certain genetic similarities with people who are born with a developmental disorder sometimes called the “opposite of autism,” which makes them hyper social, researchers said Wednesday.

The report in the journal Science Advances pinpointed changes in two genes that are related to extreme social behavior in dogs, and also in people who are born with Williams-Beuren Syndrome.

People with this condition tend to be highly outgoing, gregarious, empathetic, interested in prolonged eye contact, prone to anxiety and may have mild to moderate learning disabilities and intellectual impairment.

The findings offer new insights into how dogs became domesticated and split paths from their wolf ancestors thousands of years ago.

“It was once thought that during domestication dogs had evolved an advanced form of social cognition that wolves lacked,” said co-author Monique Udell, an animal scientist at Oregon State University.

“This new evidence would suggest that dogs instead have a genetic condition that can lead to an exaggerated motivation to seek social contact compared to wolves.”

Survival of the friendliest

Researchers studied 18 domesticated dogs and 10 captive gray wolves to see how social they were toward people and how they performed on problem-solving tasks.

Given the task of lifting a puzzle box lid to get a sausage treat, the canines were rated on how much they turned to a human in the room for help.

The wolves were more likely to figure out how to get the treat than dogs. The dogs were more likely to stare longingly at the nearby people.

“Where the real difference seems to lie is the dog’s persistent gazing at people and a desire to seek prolonged proximity to people, past the point where you expect an adult animal to engage in this behavior,” said Udell.

Then, researchers took blood samples and to see how the wolves’ and dogs’ genetic traits lined up with their personalities.

They found variations in two genes — GTF2I and GTF2IRD1 — “appeared to be connected to dog hyper sociability, a core element of domestication that distinguishes them from wolves,” said the report.

These genes have previously implicated in the hyper social behaviors of humans with William-Beuren Syndrome.

The changes weren’t identical in humans and dogs. For instance, in dogs, unique genetic insertions called transposons in these genetic regions were linked to a strong tendency to seek out human contact.

Some of these transposons “were only found in domestic dogs, and not in wolves at all,” said the report.

In people, the deletion of genes from this region in the human genome is linked to Williams-Beuren syndrome.

“We haven’t found a ‘social gene,’ but rather an important [genetic] component that shapes animal personality and assisted the process of domesticating a wild wolf into a tame dog,” said a statement by co-author Bridgett vonHoldt, an assistant professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University.

How wolves became dogs

Adam Boyko, an assistant professor at Cornell University and expert in dog genetics, called the study “truly interesting and important.”

“It may be one of the first studies to ever identify the specific genetic variants that were important for turning wolves into dogs,” he said in an email.

“That said, the overall sample size in the study is small, so validating the association of these variants in a much larger cohort of diverse dogs would be needed to prove that these are, in fact, the variants in the region driving both the association and the signature of positive selection.”

The topic of just when and how dogs become domesticated thousands of years ago is a subject of much debate in the scientific community.

A separate study out earlier this week in Nature Communications suggested dogs first split from wolves about 40,000 years ago.

It’s unlikely that humans sought out to tame wild wolves. Rather, the process would have started with the animals approaching hunter-gatherer camps in search of food, researchers said.

“Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this” and more likely to befriend humans, explained the report.

The research by Udell and vonHoldt lines up with this theory — that sociability, rather than smarts, drove dogs to become man’s best friend.

“If early humans came into contact with a wolf that had a personality of being interested in them, and only lived with and bred those ‘primitive dogs,’ they would have exaggerated the trait of being social,” vonHoldt said.

Minerals firm plans market listing to fund Sligo zinc drill

Erris Resources is plotting a flotation on London’s AIM market

‘Potential investors have been told that the company is looking to have its shares admitted to trading as early as August.

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Minerals explorer Erris Resources is looking to float in order to raise funds for drilling a zinc prospect in Sligo.

The London-based company is plotting a potential listing on that city’s AIM market, raising as much as £5m (€5.7m).

Potential investors have been told that the company is looking to have its shares admitted to trading as early as August. Erris declined to comment.

The prospect is at Abbeytown in Co Sligo and was the site of a lead mine in the 1950s and 1960s.

Erris believes that zinc, lead, silver and copper are at the site, which it labels historically overlooked. Drilling work that the company has undertaken indicates that there is a potential new mineral zone at the site.

It has presented investors with two scenarios; one, in which it raises £3.5m, releasing just over £1.5m for work at Abbeytown, and another, where it raises £5m, with more than £2.8m for Abbeytown.

A £5m fundraise would give the company a market capitalisation of £9.7m on a fully diluted basis – meaning that share options are included in the calculation of the company’s value, as well as shares.

Meanwhile, another zinc explorer with interests in Ireland, Group Eleven Resources, has plans to float.

The company, which has been backed by former Davy corporate finance chief Hugh McCutcheon, is hoping to list in Canada in the autumn.

“The reason to go to Canada is that Vancouver is really the capital of the junior resource market in the world. But if it made sense for us, I’d love to be listed in Dublin at some stage in the not-too-distant future,” Group Eleven chief executive Bart Jaworski said.

Last week, the company announced a deal to buy 60pc of a prospect which covers areas of Co Longford and Co Westmeath.

It is buying the asset known as the Ballinalack prospect from the Canadian mining giant Teck. The other 40pc of the prospect is owned by a Chinese company. The asset is located 50km west of Europe’s largest zinc mine at Navan in Co Meath.

A big rise in the price of zinc has lifted activity in the Irish sector in recent months.

The island of Ireland is the biggest zinc producer in Europe.

Australian-listed Hannan Metals has been drilling at a prospect in Kilbricken in Co Clare and announced its estimates of the resource potential based on the results earlier this week.

Chief executive Michael Hudson said the result “ranks Kilbricken as one of the top 10 base-metal deposits discovered to date in Ireland. This is a significant initial achievement in a country that is ranked first in the world in terms of zinc discovered per square kilometre since the 1950s.”

He added: “While this resource is substantial, it is also lies open in all directions, with excellent potential for expansion.

“We currently have one drill rig operating a resource expansion programme and we will soon be mobilising additional drill rigs.”

Elsewhere, the mining giant Glencore has resumed drilling at its Pallas Green prospect in Limerick.

“The objective is to better understand certain aspects of the deposit,” a Glencore spokesman said, adding that any decision about building a fully fledged mine at the site was “a long way down the road”.

Potential treatment for Huntington’s disease discovered by NUIG researchers

Collaboration with University of Barcelona aims to find cure for ‘relentlessly fatal’ condition

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Researchers at NUI Galway have discovered what they say are encouraging early signs for a potential treatment for Huntington’s disease.

Huntington’s is an inherited neurodegenerative disease that causes serious cognitive and movement defects.

Sometimes called Huntington’s chorea, it is “debilitating, untreatable and relentlessly fatal”, according to the researchers.

Prof Robert Lahue and his team at the Centre for Chromosome Biology and the Galway Neuroscience Centre at NUI Galway collaborated with scientists at the University of Barcelona.

They targeted an enzyme called histone deacetylase 3 (HDAC3), which is thought to alter important biochemical mechanisms in the brain of Huntington’s disease patients and thereby accelerate disease progression.

The study published on Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports shows that blocking HDAC3 with an experimental compound in a pre-clinical model of Huntington’s disease slows cognitive decline and delays the onset of molecular signs of neurodegeneration.

While these results are preliminary, the data shows that the onset of Huntington’s disease is delayed when HDAC3 is blocked in this pre-clinical setting. This is an encouraging first step because currently there are no effective treatments that target the root cause of the disease,” Prof Lahue said.

Prof Lahue noted the key role of the Spanish collaborators and co-authors, Dr Silvia Ginés and Nuria Suelves from the University of Barcelona.

Prof Lahue and Dr Ginés have applied for additional funding to develop the treatment further and to assess additional safety aspects.

Science Foundation Ireland and the European Huntington’s Disease Network supported the research in Ireland.

The Huntington’s Disease Association of Ireland estimates, based on research in Northern Ireland and a population of 4.67 million in 2011, that there are about 500 people here with the condition and a further 2,500 at risk.

While Huntington’s disease is relatively rare, over 9,000 family members in Ireland may require support and information, according to the organisation.

Huntington’s Disease is a genetic condition with each child of an affected parent having a 50 per cent likelihood of inheriting the gene.

Both men and women have equal chances of being affected and most people develop the symptoms between the ages of 30 and 50. About 5-10 per cent of people have onset of symptoms before the age of 20 and 10 per cent after the age of 60.

The average survival time after diagnosis is about 15-20 years, but some people have lived 30 or 40 years with the condition.

Artefact find suggests earlier arrival of humans in Australia

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Digs at Madjedbebe have unearthed stone tools, ochres, plant remains and bones

Humans arrived in Australia 10,000 years earlier than was previously thought, casting doubt on the theory that they killed off the giant kangaroo and other unique animals, scientists believe.

New artefact evidence suggests that the continent was first occupied about 65,000 years ago, long after the ancient ancestors of modern humans emerged in Africa.

The discovery challenges the theory that people caused the extinction of Australian megafauna including giant kangaroos, wombats and tortoises which disappeared more than 45,000 years ago.

Lead scientist Dr Ben Marwick, from the University of Washington, US, said: “Previously it was thought that humans arrived and hunted them out or disturbed their habits, leading to extinction, but these dates confirm that people arrived so far before that they wouldn’t be the central cause of the death of megafauna.

“It shifts the idea of humans charging into the landscape and killing off the megafauna.

“It moves toward a vision of humans moving in and coexisting, which is quite a different view of human evolution.”

Since 1973, digs at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in Australia’s Northern Territory, have unearthed more than 10,000 stone tools, ochres, plant remains and bones.

A dating technique called optical stimulated luminescence (OSL) was used to determine the age of the oldest buried artefacts.

The process can show the last time a sand grain was exposed to sunlight up to 100,000 or more years ago.

This and other tests built up a picture of the environment and showed that when the first humans arrived, northern Australia was wetter and colder than it is today.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, support the theory that our species Homo sapiens evolved in Africa before dispersing to other continents, Dr Marwick said.

News Ireland daily BLOG as told byDonie

Sunday 5th March 2017

Bus Éireann may sell company property and assets to pay for redundancy scheme?

As part of revised survival plan, move considered for voluntary redundancy scheme.

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Bus Éireann suggested in a confidential email to the WRC that funding could be secured to meet the cost of a voluntary redundancy scheme.

Bus Éireann may sell assets including property to part fund a voluntary redundancy scheme for staff as part of a revised survival plan for the company.

Bus Éireann believes the board of its overall parent holding group, CIÉ, will provide it with additional funding in the short term if it produces a viable plan to tackle potential insolvency and uncompetitiveness.

The company suggested in a confidential email on Friday to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) that funding could be secured to meet the cost of a voluntary redundancy scheme to be put in place over the next 12-18 months.

Sources suggested this money could be provided by both the CIÉ holding group and by Bus Éireann itself including by means of a sale of assets including property.

The company also indicated for the first time that the immediate threat of insolvency at the company could be overcome by staff co-operation with improved efficiency measures and the implementation of all existing national agreements across the company. Plans for cuts to terms and conditions and further cost-saving measures which were to be included in an all-embracing survival plan which was to have been completed by the end of March would appear to have been shelved.

Talks suspended?

A planned all-out indefinite strike at the State-owned transport company, which was scheduled to go ahead on Monday, was suspended on Friday after the intervention of the WRC, which invited the parties to talks on Monday.

Management at the company agreed to hold back on the planned unilateral introduction of work practice changes and new efficiency measures next Monday and in turn trade unions suspended their plans for strike action.

The planned closure of the Clonmel-Dublin route on March 12th and the scheduled reduction in frequency of Dublin-Limerick and Dublin-Galway services on the same date have also been deferred pending the outcome of the new talks.

In an email on Friday afternoon, Bus Éireann management told the WRC: “We all want Bus Éireann to survive and prosper. We are very conscious of the significant long-term damage that could be caused by a strike and are willing to engage with the unions and compromise to reach a sustainable agreement. With this in mind and in a final effort to avoid a dispute the company are putting forward the following position. We believe that if we can put forward a viable plan that demonstrates that we are addressing the insolvency and competitiveness issues that we can expect financial support in the short term. This proposal covers all items and there will not be a need for any additional plans such as those suggested for the end of March.”

Bus Éireann said that the issue of uncompetitiveness at the company would significantly be addressed by “restructuring and rationalisation”.

A staff reduction?

“The implementation of streamlining structures together with improved efficiencies will allow for a reduction in staff numbers. We are confident that if we reach agreement on improved efficiencies and show how this is addressing the imminent threat of insolvency that funds will be made available to provide for the costs of voluntary severance. Releasing staff through voluntary severance could then begin rolling out over the next 12 to 18 months. Redeployment will be a critical element of achieving the core manning numbers as will voluntary severance. The potential voluntary severance packages are likely to be available across all grades. “

Bus Éireann also said in the email it was willing to negotiate with the unions on the issue of a pay increase for staff “in the context of ensuring a plan for future survival without pre-conditions”.

It said any increase must be justified in its own right.

Siptu sector organiser Willie Noone said the union’s representatives would continue to play their part in trying to avert a national public transport dispute “but we rely on the management of Bus Éireann making genuine efforts to reach a resolution”.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said his members remained on a “war footing” and would be prepared to engage in an immediate all-out strike “should the company plough ahead with any attack on members’ terms and conditions.

Parkinson’s treatment app founder named as “Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur”

The app has helped people with Parkinson’s Disease in 40 countries.

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The founder of an app to help people with Parkinson’s Disease has been crowned Ireland’s best young entrepreneur.

The 26 year old Physiotherapist Ciara Clancy, developed Beats Medical which emits a beat or soundwave from your smartphone to help control movement and speech.

She will now receive a €45,000 investment through the Local Enterprise Offices to help develop her company further.

Minister Mary Mitchell O’ Connor and Minister Pat Breen announced the winner of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) competition at the Google European HQ in Dublin earlier today.

The competition, which is supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Enterprise Ireland and run by the 31 Local Enterprise Offices, attracted entries from over 1,800 18-to-35-year-olds and showcased some of the country’s best and brightest business talent.

In addition to becoming Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur, Ciara Clancy also won the ‘Best Established Business’ category.

The Beats Medical app provides individually tailored physiotherapy, speech and language and occupational therapy exercises through mobile phones.

Ciara Clancy said that her aim is to continue supporting more and more people with Parkinson’s around the world, as an estimated 10 million people currently live with the disease.

She is also developing digital treatments for other neurological conditions such as MS, Stroke, Dyspraxia and Cerebral Palsy.

Speaking after winning the award she said “These success stories keep all of the team at Beats Medical motivated every day to do more for the people that use our service.”

U2 at the top of Irelands rich list chart

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U2 are the richest entertainers in Ireland with a combined wealth of €645 million, according to the 2017 Sunday Times Irish Rich List.

Irish entertainers Niall Horan, Colin Farrell, Graham Norton, Michael Flatley, Daniel O’Donnell, and Enya also feature on the new list, which examines the wealth of the 300 richest individuals and families in Ireland across entertainment, sport, business, technology and construction.

U2’s last world tour took in $133m but the band are still some way behind the world’s richest entertainer, Paul McCartney, who was estimated to have a fortune of £730m on 2015’s Sunday Times list.

One Direction star Horan is the only person under 40 on the Richest Entertainers List, and has securing a place among the top 10. Donegal star Daniel O’Donnell also makes the grade with an estimated wealth of €31m.

Alastair McCall, Editor of The Sunday Times Rich List, said: “U2’s status as one of Ireland’s most recognisable exports is confirmed by their position at the top of our Entertainers’ Rich List, accounting in their own right for more than 30% of the wealth measured. They are to Ireland what Abba were to Sweden in the 1970s – a global brand with instant recognition.”

Actors including Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Farrell also appear on the Richest Entertainers List. Wicklow residents Daniel Day-Lewis and his wife Rebecca Miller are in at 8th place on the list with a fortune of €55m between them.

Threat to Sligo vet lab is against Irish rural policy says Marian Harkin

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The Independent MEP Marian Harkin.

The Independent MEP Marian Harkin has said the possible closure of the Department of Agriculture’s regional veterinary laboratory (RVL) in Sligo conflicts with Government rural policy.

The proposal by the Department to close the lab in Sligo and others is flying in the face of good animal health practice and in contravention of recent Government policies to stimulate development in rural areas, according to Marian Harkin MEP.

She was speaking after it was revealed by the Irish Farmers Journal that RVLs are subject to a major internal review headed by Professor Alan Reilly, the former chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

One of the recommendations from the report is to, in time, close Limerick, Sligo and Kilkenny, with an upgrading of the facilities at the other three labs.

“The Sligo laboratory also plays a significant role in helping to protect Ireland’s animal health status, which is a major positive marketing tool in promoting the country’s food products on a worldwide basis,” Marian said.

A six-hundred kilometre round-trip?

“We have seen successive lip service plans to supposedly bring long overdue balanced regional development and the latest Ireland 2040 plan’s strategy is to ensure that ‘the enormous potential of the rural parts of our country are maximised’”, she said.

If the closure goes ahead, it will leave farmers having to travel a 600km round-trip from the Inishowen Peninsula to the proposed centralised facility in Athlone.

Bringing a dead animal for the examination would have significance for both the farmer concerned and for the build-up of knowledge, which is vital to protecting the country’s animal disease status, the Independent MEP said.

She questioned how this aspiration for regional development could be taken seriously in the northwest when a service vital to the region’s most important economic sector was proposed to be removed.

Saving the lab petition.

In an effort to save the RVL, part-time suckler farmer Trevor Boland, who is from Dromard in Co Sligo, set up a petition.

He told the Irish Farmers Journal the RVL is of vital importance to farmers from Donegal to Sligo.

“If this RVL closes, the nearest one to us will be in Athlone and that will affect the speed of post-mortem tests and their results,” he said.

Obesity now linked to 11 types of cancer as our overweight population grows

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A new research finds a link between obesity and 11 cancers as the worldwide obesity rate continues rising, according to the World Health Organization.

Obesity is strongly linked to the development of 11 types of cancers, including breast, kidney, rectum, colon, and pancreatic cancer, scientists warned in a new study.

The research on excess body fat and cancer, published in the British Medical Journal, reviewed more than 200 studies on cancer and obesity and found “strong evidence” of a connection between increased body fat and 11 cancers.

“Other associations could also be genuine, but there is still substantial uncertainty about them,” lead study author Dr. Maria Kyrgiou, of Imperial College London, said by email, according to reports from several news outlets.

Researchers specifically reviewed the data on body mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height, and discovered links between an increase in BMI and a higher risk for cancers of the pancreas, kidney, bone marrow, esophagus and biliary tract.

The strongest connection was discovered between obesity and cancer of the digestive organs, and excess fat and hormone-related cancers in women, according to the survey.

But, the study authors cautioned that more research is needed to better understand the connection between obesity and cancer.

Cancer is a leading cause of death globally, with almost 9 million people dying from a form of the disease in 2015, according to the World Health Organization, and the numbers are expected to continue increasing by about 70 percent over the next two decades, the WHO said on its website.

Almost 2 million adults are overweight or obese, the WHO reported. Obesity increases the risks for all kinds of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 1st January 2017

Happy 15th birthday to the euro but where will you be at 30?

The European single currency now 15 years old on January the 1st.

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As the chimes of midnight struck on January 1st, 2002, almost 20,000 people gathered in the freezing cold close to the European Union institutions in Brussels to watch a spectacular fireworks display. They were celebrating the introduction of euro notes and coins in 12 European countries, an event many saw as a momentous step on the path towards Europe’s political integration.

“The euro is a victory for Europe. After a century of being torn apart, of wars and tribulations, our continent is finally affirming its identity and power in peace, unity and stability,” French president Jacques Chirac declared.

Fifteen years later, the EU has witnessed its first act of disintegration, with Britain’s vote in June to leave the organisation. And the euro, once heralded as a powerful binding agent for Europe’s nations, is now increasingly derided as corrosive to the principle of solidarity which underlies the European project.

The single currency remains popular in the countries that use it, according to the latest Euro-barometer report, although it is viewed negatively outside the euro area. The euro is especially popular in Ireland, with support for the single currency at 85%, second only to Luxembourg.

Support for the EU itself is in decline among Europeans, however, as is the number of EU citizens who say they are optimistic about the union’s future, down from 70% a decade ago to just half today.

This lack of confidence is reflected in the withering of ambition within the European institutions, where few now expect significant further political integration. In Brussels, power has shifted from the European Commission to the European Council, where national leaders pursue an intergovernmental agenda.

A loss of confidence.

Much of this loss of confidence is the result of the multiple crises that have shaken the euro zone in recent years, with the erosion of solidarity in one policy area seeping into others, making a common approach to issues such as the migration crisis more difficult to achieve.

There is a cruel irony here, as the euro was conceived by the previous generation of European leaders as a great political project as much as an economic one. When they started the process of economic and monetary union at Maastricht in 1991, it was partly in response to German unification the previous year.

France was determined that a bigger Germany should lose its dominant economic position in Europe and that the Bundesbank should no longer be in a position to determine the monetary policy of the entire continent. The historian Emmanuel Todd, who advised both Chirac and his predecessor, François Mitterand, summed up the French attitude to the euro succinctly: “Behind the euro euphoria lay a wish to make Germany disappear as a financial big power, to resolve the German question once and for all.”

Like the Schengen Agreement, which abolished border controls between most EU states, the euro was seen as a practical manifestation of the usefulness of European integration. It was hoped that it could serve as an antidote to the remoteness of European institutions, while reassuring European citizens that they could take an important step towards sharing responsibility without losing their national identities.

‘The euro must speak German’

France’s masterplan went awry from the start, with Theo Waigel, Germany’s finance minister throughout most of the 1990s, summing up his country’s determination to put its stamp on the new currency with the words “Der Euro muss Deutsch sprechen” (“the euro must speak German”).

The European Central Bank (ECB) was designed in the image of the Bundesbank, independent of political influence and with a narrow mandate focused on price stability. Other major central banks, such as the Federal Reserve in the US, must also take unemployment and economic growth into account when they make monetary policy decisions.

The impression that the currency served the interests of the EU’s more powerful members was reinforced when the euro zone’s two biggest countries, Germany and France, became the first to flout its fiscal rules, and received only the gentlest reprimand from Brussels.

But the low interest rates Germany needed to boost its economy in the early years of this century helped to fuel a massive construction boom in southern European countries and in Ireland, helping to overheat their economies.

With few political tools to influence national policies, Brussels and Frankfurt could do little more than sit back and watch the gathering storm, issuing regular warnings which were universally ignored.

Austerity doctrine

But if the ECB’s monetary policy helped fuel the spending boom and the debt crisis which succeeded it, the one-size-fits-all austerity doctrine imposed by euro-zone governments in response to the crisis helped to alienate citizens from Brussels and from their own governments.

Wielding the whip hand of the creditor, the Eurogroup of finance ministers has forced one government after another to bend the knee, obliging many to break the promises they had made to voters. The consequences of this approach can be seen in the erosion of the political centre throughout Europe, as a growing number of voters conclude that electing a new government will change little unless the entire system is upended.

As the euro enters 2017, the currency has survived its various crises and confounded predictions that it would collapse or disintegrate. ECB president Mario Draghi’s creative approach to the rules has helped to keep the euro zone together and fewer than one in three euro-zone citizens would like to return to national currencies.

But if the euro is likely to survive, its design flaws and the reckless policies pursued by the politicians charged with defending it continue to have serious repercussions for the EU itself and for public confidence in its institutions.

Policing Authority takes responsibility for senior Garda appointments

Minister says selection of candidates to senior Garda roles ‘an onerous responsibility’

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Josaphine Feehily, chairperson of the Policing Authority.

The Policing Authority will assume responsibility for the appointment of senior gardaí from tomorrow, taking over this function from the Government.

All appointments to the rank of assistant Garda commissioner, chief superintendent and superintendent will be managed by the authority.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said with the assumption of this responsibility on January 1st, the authority had, within 12 months of its formation, assumed all of its intended functions.

The Policing Authority is an independent body which has been set up to provide oversight of the provision of policing in Ireland by the Garda Síochána.

Ms Fitzgerald said the selection and appointment of candidates to senior Garda roles was “an onerous responsibility and I want to wish the authority every success with this very important work”.

Also from tomorrow, inspectors and superintendents in both An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland are eligible to apply for appointment to the assistant commissioner and chief superintendent ranks.

Before Christmas the Cabinet filled senior Garda vacancies shortly after Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan warned “critical” roles within the force needed to be filled.

Ms O’Sullivan had said eight of the 17 senior Garda officers currently listed for promotion must be appointed immediately to fill “critical” roles.

As well as making the eight promotions requested by Ms O’Sullivan, Ms Fitzgerald said an additional three appointments were also approved by Cabinet.

The appointments included one to the position of assistant commissioner, three chief superintendents, and seven superintendents. They will be made at national, divisional and district level.

“The Government is determined that there is no undue delay filling critical Garda vacancies and is determined to ensure that An Garda Síochána has a leadership team that can address the serious challenges it faces every day in maintaining law and order,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

Burglary conviction rate may be just 7% so CSO figures suggest

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Gardai say that as well as burglary, theft, particularly of mobile phones, is also vastly under-reported.

Just over 2,000 convictions resulted from the investigation of 27,653 ‘recorded’ burglaries in 2014, according to new data from the Central Statistics Office.

The CSO has, for the first time, included court proceedings and outcomes with figures alongside the ‘recorded’ cases of burglary.

The figures appear to uphold the long-held view of both gardai and victims of crime that there has been systematic manipulation of figures for years to suggest a higher ‘detection’ rate of crime such as burglary and theft.

Gardai say that as well as burglary, theft, particularly of mobile phones, is also vastly under-reported. Most mobile phone thefts are still recorded as ‘lost property’ even though thousands of phones are stolen annually by organised crime gangs, often from outside the State.

The change in the way the CSO records crime statistics came about in 2014 after an investigation by the independent watchdog body, the Garda Inspectorate, uncovered widespread manipulation of crime figures caused by the ‘recategorising’ of offences such as burglary to less serious offences or none at all.

For decades, Ministers for Justice have annually congratulated the Garda for falls in crime figures and this year was no different. Just before Christmas, the Tanaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, congratulated the Garda for their “impressive results in their sustained drive against burglars”. She was referring to a drop of “31pc in the level of burglary crime, continuing the positive trend shown in CSO figures for the first half of 2016”.

The Tanaiste said: “An Garda Siochana continue to achieve impressive results in their sustained drive against burglars under Operation Thor, which is powered by increased resources provided by the Government and supported by new legislation which I introduced this time last year, targeting repeat burglary offenders. The Government remains absolutely committed to supporting Garda efforts to combat crime including Operation Thor. It is encouraging that the regional breakdown of the CSO figures shows that Operation Thor is benefiting communities right across the country.

“Burglary is a terrible and invasive crime and we will continue this crackdown to ensure the safety and security of people in their homes all over Ireland.”

However, the CSO has warned that figures supplied to it by the Garda after years of inaction over an agreed system for accurately recording crime alongside court outcomes may not be accurate. For the first time, the CSO has compiled figures from the Garda and the Courts Service.

This resulted in the first record of the “number of crime incidents recorded, detected with relevant proceedings and court outcomes’ for 2014”, published in early December.

This table shows 27,653 ‘recorded’ burglaries with another Garda figure of 4,883 burglaries detected and 3,369 in which ‘proceedings were commenced’.

However, when the Garda figures are placed alongside the Courts Service records, it shows there were only 2,002 convictions, 672 acquittals and 620 appeals against conviction. This would suggest a conviction rate – rather than the ambiguous ‘detection’ rate – of 7pc or less.

The CSO states on its website that it is incumbent upon all agencies, including the Garda and private industry, to accurately supply it with data. It is an offence to provide the CSO with false data.

Commenting on the efforts made over a decade to try and establish an accurate classification system for crime, the CSO said: “It is possible to speculate that the task of providing these foundations fell between many stools and did not become the responsibility of any agency/department in particular

“There is a clear need to improve the coherence between sources of information in the criminal justice area and the introduction of a robust classification system is a fundamental step in this direction

“Ireland has one police force with one set of laws and therefore uniformity is more easily attainable.”

The figures cited by the minister show a ’31pc drop’ over 2015. This would mark the biggest annual decline in almost any crime category in the history of the force. Normally statistics supplied by the Garda show only small percentage changes.

Homeless activists take over a disused (Nama?) office building in Sligo town

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Activists in Sligo town have occupied an empty office building there.

The building, which is believed to be owned by Nama, has been taken over by homeless activists in a similar way to the occupation of Apollo House in Dublin by Home Sweet Home activists recently.

A local source has described the occupation as “along the same lines” as Apollo House, saying: “It’s just an old, disused Nama building, although the people involved could leave or they could stay, it’s hard to tell.”

The building’s location is being kept secret for the time being, but there is said to be fewer than 10 homeless people present in the disused offices which have no water or electricity.

However, the occupants do have mattresses and food and the conditions have been described as warm.

It is being reported by the Journal.ie that the owners of the building have not taken any action yet to take it back from the occupiers.

Breakingnews.ie have contacted the Gardaí and are awaiting confirmation from them about the occupation.

The Peter McVerry Trust says there needs to be a focus on long-term solutions for homelessness.

Staff from the homeless charity will visit Apollo House in Dublin today where occupants have until January 11 to vacate the building.

The Trust is opening up a further 25 beds in Ellis Quay tonight, where 70 people will be able to stay over Christmas, and into the summer.

CEO Pat Doyle says the Home Sweet Home campaign is doing a great job at highlighting the issue, but he fears for the residents of Apollo House.

Mr Doyle said: “I know our population of homeless people, I’ve worked with them all my life and we’ve worked with around 4,500 of them this year.

“Some people who are homeless just need a house, but some people have other issues, complex issues, and so obviously, I would have concerns for their wellbeing.

“That’s not to put any judgement on those who are running Apollo House.”

New IT Sligo research aims to help transform Stroke recovery

RESEARCHERS LOOKING FOR STROKE PATIENTS TO PARTICIPATE IN CLINICAL TRIALS

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IT Sligo Stroke Research Group member & PhD student Daniel Simpson receives his research bursary from Ed Blake of the North West Stroke Group. Back Row L-R: Dr Kenneth Monaghan (Stroke Research Group

An established Stroke Research Group within the Clinical Health and Nutrition Centre (CHANCE) at IT Sligo is working on new ways to help patients recover from Stroke.

Daniel Simpson from the Stroke Research Group, which is headquartered in IT Sligo’s School of Science, is currently carrying out clinical trials into new and exciting rehabilitation treatments for home-based stroke patients.

The PhD student, who is originally from Wales, has received a bursary worth €6000 from the North West Stroke Group Ltd towards continuing research into innovative rehabilitation techniques.

The treatments will use simple mirrors and innovative strength training techniques, to allow stroke patients to carry out therapy with minimal assistance at home or in a therapy setting. The therapy is already showing huge potential.

The stroke research group, is also carrying out home based clinical trials using a simple treadmill with mirrors, and has established a strong network with the Health Service Executive and the Stroke Unit in Sligo University Hospital, and their Consultant Geriatrician Dr Paula Hickey.

‘We know that there are over 30,000 people living in Ireland with disability due to stroke,” explains Dr Hickey.

“Through our collaboration with this research group, we are seeing substantial benefits in a group of patients that traditionally might have been viewed as having ‘finished’ their treatment and even felt to be beyond help. Not only does this help the stroke victims themselves but it has a broader benefit to their families and healthcare workers and students.”

The stroke group also works closely with both University College Dublin (UCD), and Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI).

With stroke patients allowed to carry out four-week innovative exercise programmes in their own home, in a tailored fashion, the clinical trials have been attracting increased interest in the North West stroke community.

Laurence Cassells, Secretary for the North West Stroke Group describes the potential benefits of this research as exciting. “We are donating this money because we genuinely believe that there is huge potential to improve the lives of our members,” he says.

“It is amazing to see improvements in people who had their stroke many years ago and felt that they had no chance of further recovery.”

It is expected that these new innovative rehabilitation treatments will be used within rehabilitation settings, and also within the patient’s own home in the future.

The Stroke Research Group, was founded by Dr Kenneth Monaghan, Mr Patrick Broderick, Mr Daniel Simpson, and Ms Monika Ehrensberger, in 2014. This Group is supported by IT Sligo and is currently looking for more stroke patients to participate in clinical trials in their own home.

For more information or to volunteer for clinical trials, please contact  Daniel Simpson on 087-0531507 or email Daniel.simpson@mail.itsligo.ie .

The Sun is not the key driver of climate change new studies show

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Climate change has not been strongly influenced by variations in heat from the sun, a new scientific study shows.

The findings overturn a widely held scientific view that lengthy periods of warm and cold weather in the past might have been caused by periodic fluctuations in solar activity.

Research examining the causes of climate change in the northern hemisphere over the past 1,000 years has shown that until the year 1800, the key driver of periodic changes in climate was volcanic eruptions.

These tend to prevent sunlight reaching the Earth, causing cool, drier weather. Since 1900, greenhouse gases have been the primary cause of climate change.

The findings show that periods of low sun activity should not be expected to have a large impact on temperatures on Earth, and are expected to improve scientists’ understanding and help climate forecasting.

Historical data
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh carried out the study using records of past temperatures constructed with data from tree rings and other historical sources.

They compared this data record with computer-based models of past climate, featuring both significant and minor changes in the sun.

They found that their model of weak changes in the sun gave the best correlation with temperature records, indicating that solar activity has had a minimal impact on temperature in the past millennium.

The study, published in Nature GeoScience, was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council.

“Until now, the influence of the sun on past climate has been poorly understood,” says Dr Andrew SchurerSchool of GeoSciences.

“We hope that our new discoveries will help improve our understanding of how temperatures have changed over the past few centuries, and improve predictions for how they might develop in future. Links between the sun and anomalously cold winters in the UK are still being explored.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 6th July 2016

Ireland secures improved access to US beef market

Improved trading agreement access between Ireland and Washington set up by Government

   

US decision will allow Irish exporters ship mince used in burgers and other products to the world’s largest beef market opens up.

The Irish Government has secured improved access to the US beef market, paving the way for exports of manufacturing beef or mince, long regarded as the more lucrative end of the trade.

In a timely boost for the sector, which is heavily exposed to the current uncertainty hanging over the UK, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said US authorities had agreed to recognise the Republic’s raw meat control system as equivalent to their own.

This will allow Irish exporters ship mince used in burgers and other products to the world’s largest beef market, he said.

Up to now, the trade agreement between Dublin and Washington only extended to high-value steak cuts, such as fillet, rib-eye and sirloin, which are a hard sell in the US where most consumers view domestic beef as superior to imported brands.

As a result, the Republic’s beef exports to the US since the lifting of the BSE-inspired embargo early last year have been relatively small, worth about €14 million on an annual basis.

Mince for the burger industry, however, acounts for the bulk of US imports, which totalled one million tonnes last year.

Even a small slice of this trade would be a significant boost for the sector here, which exports more than 50 per cent of its output to the UK.

Minister Creed said the decision by the US, which centred on bridging different hygiene protocols related to E.coli, represented a huge endorsement of Irish beef as well as the industy’s production and regulatory systems.

“As we know, this US market is a potentially huge prize given the size of the market and the demand we know exists there for premium grass-fed beef,” he said.

“We already have first-mover advantage as a result of being the first EU member state to gain entry, which we have been exploiting through various marketing initiatives and this decision now creates an opportunity for industry to become involved in the export of manufacturing beef to the US,” Mr Creed said.

Ireland, the fourth largest beef exporter in the world, remains the only European state with access to the US market.

The US decision clears the way for the Department of Agriculture to approve individual beef plants wishing to export mince to the US.

There are currently six Irish plants approved to export premium beef cuts to the US.

Welcoming the announcement, president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Joe Healy said: “It is very important that real delivery is made on accessing new markets for Irish beef, particularly in light of the recent Brexit outcome.”

“A lot more work needs to be done in getting more beef plants approved for export to the US,” he added.

Meat Industry Ireland, the Ibec group which represents processors, also welcomed the move,claiming it was an endorsement of the processing, quality and control standards in Ireland.

“Maximising full market access for Irish beef and other meats in international markets has been at the forefront of our agenda. It is critical to optimising market return, to underpinning the growth ambition of the meat sector and is all the more relevant in the context of the uncertainty around Brexit,” the group said.

Just three bidders shortlisted for Ireland’s national broadband plan

    

Rural broadband network to be rolled out from 2017.

Three bidders have been shortlisted by the government for the National Broadband Plan contract to provide state subsidised rural broadband for up to 927,000 Irish homes and businesses.

Eir, Enet and Siro, which is a joint venture between the ESB and Vodafone, have been told by the Department of Communications that they will proceed to the next stage of bidding for the lucrative 25-year contract.

Two consortia, Imagine and Gigabit Ethernet, have been told they were unsuccessful in their applications to make the shortlist.

The bidders will now compete for a state contract estimated to be worth up to €500m in one or more geographical lots.

Today, the government said that the state-subsidised National Broadband Plan is to be expanded to over 900,000 rural homes and businesses.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten said that it had “emerged” that 170,000 homes previously considered to be adequately covered actually have broadband connections of lower than 30Mbs, the standard set by the government for future connectivity.

They will now join the 757,000 rural homes and businesses earmarked for the taxpayer-funded scheme.

The rural rollout is due to start in the summer of 2017 and is expected to take up to five years to complete.

Broadband is an economic necessity for rural businesses.

The government also said today that it has chosen to privatise the National Broadband Plan network once the initial 25-year state contract is over. The move means that whoever wins the upcoming tender to serve high speed broadband to rural premises will also get to keep the state-funded network.

Mr Naughten said that the privatised model was being pursued as it would lower the cost of the broadband rollout. He also said it would prevent further delays in signing contracts, which have already seen setbacks in the last 12 months.

Mr Naughten said that his Department had commissioned “detailed costings down to every individual home” in the affected poor broadband areas.

If the government continued with a public ownership model, it would “reduce the Exchequer’s Capital Funding Envelope by €500m to €600m over the next 6 years”, he said.

Opting for a private-owned network would save up to 50pc in costs for the government, he added.

“While I recognise the potential long-term value in the State owning any network that is built, I am advised that under a [state ownership] model, the entire cost of the project would be placed on the Government’s balance sheet, with serious implications for the available capital funding over the next five to six years,” he said.

“Given that both models will deliver the same services and be governed by an almost identical contract, I cannot justify reducing the amount of money available to Government for other critical priorities such as climate change, housing and health over the next six years.”

Mr Naughten also said that he has already “raised” the question of a Universal Service Obligation (USO) for high speed broadband “at EU level”. This would mean that every home has a right to high speed broadband by law.

He said that he is “in discussion” with ComReg about a form of USO in areas “where commercial providers have already built high speed broadband networks, but where issues might arise with new-builds”.

Here’s how effective fertility treatment really is

   

Women are becoming more and more open about the many processes they undergo in order to become pregnant. But there’s still so much that’s unclear and individual about fertility treatment. Now, new research is helping to take some of the unknown out of that equation, and the results might be more encouraging than you’d think.

The study, presented this week at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, followed 19,884 Dutch women who got fertility treatment between 2007 and 2010. The researchers checked in with them for five years after their treatment.

Results showed that the majority of women (57%) gave birth within two years of their treatment. After three years, 65% had given birth. And that rose to 71% after five years. The researchers found that, predictably, participants’ ages had an effect on birth rates: For women under 35, the birth rate was 80%. But that went down to 60.5% for those between 35 and 40, and down to 26% for those over 40. The fertility treatment itself also affected birth rates: Of those who tried in vitro fertilization (IVF) as their first treatment method, 46% conceived. Another 34% had success when trying intrauterine insemination (IUI) first. And, interestingly, 14% of participants conceived “spontaneously” during the study — without the help of treatment.

These kinds of results are important because, for many patients, going through the fertility treatment process is still shrouded in mystery — and it’s expensive. “At this point, couples have no idea how many treatment cycles they will need or have,” said Sara Malchau, MD, first author on the study, in a press release. “So a prognosis based on fixed points in time [i.e. the number of years after treatment] better reflects their prospect of conception and delivery than…different numbers of attempts.”

With more studies like this, those who hope to become pregnant will have a better idea of what to expect before they’re expecting.

A Three decade study confirms saturated fats are bad for health

     

Saturated fats in butter, lard and red meat raise the risk of early death, but replacing these with fats like olive oil can offer substantial health benefits, a three-decade study has confirmed.

The research involving more than 120,000 people was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine.

“There has been widespread confusion in the biomedical community and the general public in the last couple of years about the health effects of specific types of fat in the diet,” said lead author Dong Wang, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“This study documents important benefits of unsaturated fats, especially when they replace saturated and trans fats.”

Among the key findings of the study were that people who ate more saturated and trans fats had higher mortality rates than those who consumed the same number of calories from carbohydrates.

It also found that replacing saturated fats like butter, lard, and fat in red meat with unsaturated fats from plant-based foods – such as olive oil, canola oil, and soybean oil – could offer “substantial health benefits and should continue to be a key message in dietary recommendations.”

The findings were based on questionnaires answered by health professionals every two to four years about their diet, lifestyle, and health for up to 32 years.

Trans fats, including partially hydrogenated oil products like margarine, had the most severe impact on health.

The study found that every 2% higher intake of trans fat was associated with a 16% higher chance of dying early.

Every 5% higher increase in consumption of saturated fats was linked to an 8% greater risk of dying.

But eating large amounts of unsaturated fats “was associated with between 11% and 19% lower overall mortality compared with the same number of calories from carbohydrates,” said the study.

These included polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 and omega-6 found in fish oils as well and soy and canola oils.

“People who replaced saturated fats with unsaturated fats – especially polyunsaturated fats – had significantly lower risk of death overall during the study period, as well as lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease, and respiratory disease, compared with those who maintained high intakes of saturated fats,” said the study.

While some outside experts noted that the study was observational in nature and relied on surveys, which can introduce bias, the overall result is in line with many other large studies on diet and health.

According to Ian Johnson, emeritus fellow at Britain’s Institute of Food Research, the “findings are consistent with current public health recommendations in the UK and elsewhere, and particularly with the concept of a beneficial Mediterranean-style diet, rich in unsaturated fats from plants, fish and olive oil.”

Mr Johnson, who was not involved in the study, added: “There is nothing in these results consistent with the notion that ‘butter is back.'”

Galway University Hospital study highlights high rates of lung problems in Irish farmers

  

A new study carried out by the Galway University Hospitals group shows that farmers are at a high-risk of non-smoking related lung problems.

The Irish Farmers Lung Health Study, which is the first of its kind in Ireland, has been published in a major journal on Respiratory Medicine.

The research was prompted by the high prevalence of respiratory problems in farmers, and recent reports of increasing mortality rates in the agriculture sector.

The study involved 400 farmers, who were asked to complete a questionnaire and undergo lung function testing.

Almost 65% of those surveyed reported one or more chronic breathing-related symptoms.

91% were non-smokers, yet 13% had a pre-existing diagnosis of obstructive lung disease, while a further one in ten demonstrated abnormal lung function.

The study finds that farmers are at significantly increased risk of respiratory issues – but further studies will be required to explain the association.

Why climate change is an education issue

     

Climate change affects us all, but we still are not acting as quickly as we should to address its causes, mitigate the damage, and adapt to its effects. Many people don’t understand the risks climate change poses to global economic and social structures. And, sadly, many who do understand are dismissive of the far-reaching benefits a global shift to sustainability and clean energy would bring about.

According to a recent Pew study, seven out of ten Americans classified as political independents were not very concerned that climate change would hurt them. Worse still, Yale University researchers recently found that 40% of adults worldwide have never even heard of climate change. In some developing countries, such as India, that figure climbs to 65%.

These figures are discouraging, but they can be improved. The Yale study concluded that, “educational attainment tends to be the single strongest predictor of public awareness of climate change.” By investing in quality education, we can set the next generation on the right path to addressing this global problem.

Education and climate action work together in three ways. For starters, education fills knowledge gaps. Understanding how climate change is already having an impact on one’s life can have practical benefits. This is especially true for poor populations that are most vulnerable to crop failures and natural disasters, such as landslides and floods, caused by climate change. Populations that must rebuild from scratch after each new catastrophe miss out on opportunities for rapid development. By understanding that their world is changing – and that the likelihood of future disasters is increasing – these populations can build resilience and learn to adapt to the sudden and slow stresses of a changing climate.

Second, education challenges apathy. Knowing the measures available to address climate change can open up vast opportunities for economic growth. Global investors should be made to understand that sustainable solutions can increase wellbeing and create additional economic opportunities. To take one example, in Niger, education and improved farming techniques helped double real farm incomes for more than one million people, while restoring huge tracts of severely degraded land. In the US, as of 2014, there were more jobs that depended on solar energy than on coal mining.

Still, many people insist that implementing measures to mitigate the effects of climate change is too costly to our current way of life. According to the Pew study, almost seven out of ten people believe that, given the limitations of technology, they would have to make major lifestyle changes. This does not have to be the case, and education can challenge the kind of scepticism that forecloses opportunities for climate-smart living.

Finally, education furnishes the technical knowledge needed to build a better future through innovation – one that includes clean and safe energy, sustainable agriculture, and smarter cities. Broadening access to education would lead to more home grown innovation – entrepreneurs spotting opportunities to address local problems. Globally, we cannot rely on knowledge centers such as Silicon Valley or Oxford to develop a silver bullet to the climate problem. Solutions may come from tech hubs, but they will also come from villages and developing cities, from farmers and manufactures with vastly different perspectives on the world around them. And this will create a virtuous cycle. It is easier for educated people to migrate and integrate into new societies, sharing the knowledge they’ve brought with them.

Fortunately, younger generations today are better educated and more committed to reducing their own carbon footprint than previous generations were. They are leading the way and forcing us all to reconsider our own actions. But we must broaden the availability of education worldwide to ensure that their efforts are not in vain.

In recognition of education’s importance, the government of Norway, under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Erna Solberg, has established the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, of which I am a member. We will meet this week in Oslo, and it is my hope that we will confront the challenges of our time and act on the knowledge that education is the best problem-solving asset we possess.

Addressing the dangers of climate change is not only an existential imperative; it is also an opportunity to move toward a cleaner, more productive, and fairer path of development. Only an educated global society can take the decisive action needed to get us there.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 16th June 2016

Ireland most expensive EU country due to taxes and retail, says academic

New data shows Ireland most expensive country in Europe in which to buy alcohol

   

Ireland is the most expensive country in the EU in which to buy alcohol, according to recent data.

An Irish academic says higher taxes, a different retail structure and market factors are the reason why Ireland is one of the most expensive countries in Europe.

Damien O’Reilly, a lecturer in retail management in DIT, told Morning Ireland that market factors tend to drive up the cost of food. He was responding to new data from Eurostat which show that Ireland is the most expensive country in Europe in which to buy alcohol with prices at 175% of the EU average.

On average the cost of food and non-alcoholic drinks in Ireland is 119% of the EU average, the fourth highest in the EU.

The EU’s statistics agency also said Ireland is the second most expensive for tobacco at 189% of the EU average, with only the United Kingdom higher at 218%.

Only Denmark (145%), Sweden (124%), Austria (120%) are more expensive.

In Ireland, bread and cereals (111% of EU average), meat (106%) and milk, cheese and eggs (128%) all cost above the EU average.

The data is based on a 2015 price survey covering 440 products across Europe.

Donall O’Keefe of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) said the high price of alcohol in Ireland is directly related to the unfair excise rate and that this is a direct tax on jobs, tourism and consumers.

“Excise is a tax on jobs, it is a tax on tourism and it is a tax on Irish consumers,” he said.

The Eurostat figures also show Ireland had the second highest per capita GDP in the EU in 2015 at 145% of the EU average.

Luxembourg had the highest per capita GDP in the EU at 271% of the average, while Bulgaria (46%) had the lowest.

However, when it comes to Actual Individual Consumption (AIC) – which measures the material welfare of households – Ireland was at 95% of the EU average.

Mr O’Reilly said that the reason Ireland’s dairy products cost so much even though there is a large dairy industry here is because 90 per cent of the milk produced in Ireland is for export.

“A lot of it is then re-imported as finished product which drives up the cost,” he said.

He also said supermarkets in Ireland have higher margins than elsewhere in Europe and that Irish shoppers are attracted to brands when they could buy cheaper own brands.

He said Irish shoppers tend to go for “higher quality foods”

EU may rule on Apple tax case next month

EU found against Ireland in initial findings on Apple in 2014

   

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan says there is speculation that the European Commission is to decide next month on whether Apple’s tax dealings in this country breached state-aid rules.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan says there is speculation that the European Commission is to decide next month on whether Apple’s tax dealings in this country breached state-aid rules.

“The speculation now is that the Commission may make a decision sometime in July,” Mr Noonan said in an interview with Bloomberg in Luxembourg. “But we don’t know that with certainty. It’s the general feel around Brussels that they’re walking toward a July decision.”

Initial findings by the commission in 2014 said that Apple’s Irish tax arrangements were improperly designed to give the iPhone and iPad maker a financial advantage in exchange for jobs in the country. In a worst-case scenario, JP Morgan analysts estimate Apple could end up having to pay a $19 billion (€16.7 billion) in back taxes, though the expectation is that any negative ruling would end up with a much smaller bill.

The Government has repeatedly said that it will appeal any negative finding to the EU Court of Justice.

In the past, Apple has said it doesn’t use “tax gimmicks”, while the Government has repeatedly said that no State-aid rules were breached in this case.

Jobs lost shock as receivers shut McCormack Stores in the North West

     

Some 208 jobs have been lost and 15 business locations closed across the North West following a receivership order by Bank of Ireland against McCormack Oils.

The news that the stores at Leitrim Village, Drumshanbo and Manorhamilton had been closed down with immediate effect was met with shock and astonishment by staff and members of the public.

The receivers arrived at the 15 premises located across Leitrim, Cavan, Sligo and Meath on Monday morning after 10am.

It is understood the three stores in Leitrim were open as per normal when the receivers entered the premises and told staff to close the doors and proceeded to put up the closure notice and seize assets.

In the ensuing hours other staff members arrived at the doors to be informed they no longer had jobs and were handed letters of redundancy from the receivers.

A statement from Receivers to the Leitrim Observer said, “Grant Thornton can confirm that Aengus Burns and Michael McAteer have been appointed as receivers to Excol Oil Limited which operates ten filling stations across the North West, two oil distribution facilities (McCormack Fuels Limited, Sligo and Breffni Oil Distribution, Cavan) and McCormack’s car sales and garage businesses in Sligo.”

They told the paper, “Our first priority is to brief employees at all 15 locations and process their entitlements for redundancy. The receivers are making every effort to sell the various businesses.” It is understood they do not intend to re-open the businesses and are hoping to sell them as soon as possible.

The umbrella company operated filling stations in Drumshanbo, Leitrim Village and Manorhamilton as well as in Killeshandra, Belturbet and Virginia, Co Cavan, Athboy, Co Meath and more in Castlebaldwin, Carraroe and the Mail Coach Road, Sligo.

Staff who were not at work on Monday were called to the businesses and handed letters of redundancy. It is understood the offer is the statutory redundancy of two weeks pay for every year worked. The letter explained that Bank of Ireland has appointed receivers to the business and also outlined entitlements for social welfare payments.

The businesses employed many local people, including a number of couples and workers from the same family.

Staff told the Leitrim Observer they are “devastated” and that the news came as a “huge shock” as they felt local stores were performing well.

A spokesperson for Grant Thornton told the paper he was unaware if the owners had knowledge of the order for receivership before Monday morning, as sometimes they are not notified beforehand.

The McCormack Family were contacted for a comment but they declined to speak at this time. Security remains outside all stores this week.

Local people were shocked and annoyed at the closures with many calling it “sad news” on Monday.

On Facebook, locals poured out their sadness and disbelief. Kelly Hewitt Kelly said, “It’s bloody awful. My husband worked in Manor and they were just handed stupid letters and told they have no job at all – out, that was it terrible way to be treated – we have 4 young kids to think about.”

Noeleen Moffatt commented, “Terrible News for Leitrim Village and surrounding areas. Travel to Drumshanbo, Carrick-on-Shannon or Pauline Skeffington’s Shop in Drumboylan for essential items.”

Mar Kelly sympathised saying, “Terrible for the McCormack family and their loyal staff.”

About 15 minutes of exercise may lower death risk in elderly people

New study finds

   

Exercising is as important for the elderly as it is for the youth. A study has found that even as little as a 15-minute workout could do wonders for the elderly and decrease death risk.

The study, in fact, goes on to say that it may help them cheat death, by linking it to lower death risk among the elderly, which showed how exercising lesser than the recommended number of hours might help them.

The Tech Times, French researchers analyzed a group of 1,011 French individuals aged 65 in 2001 and were followed for 12 years. They also looked at a huge group of more than 122,000 people from an international cohort who were about 60 years old and were followed for about 10 years.

The team measured physical activity via Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) minutes every week, meaning calories spent per minute of physical activity. A MET minute every week equates to the amount of energy expended by sitting; recommended levels of exercise, for instance, are from 500 to 1,000 MET minutes a week.

It was observed that, during the study, as people exercised more, their potential death risk dropped considerably. Furthermore, those with low activity levels, recorded approximately 22% decreased death risk, while those with medium and high levels had 28% and 35% lower risks.

Tech Times interviewed study author and University Hospital of Saint-Etienne physician, Dr. David Hupin, who said that, “Age is not an excuse to do no exercise. It is well established that regular physical activity has a better overall effect on health than any medical treatment.”

Top professionals are twice as likely to marry as unskilled workers

A recent survey reveals ‘marriage chances’ by class which diminish right down the economic scale?

     

This is the first time such data looking at the gap in “marriage chances” by class has been brought together in Ireland.

Highly paid processionals are almost twice as likely to be married as unskilled workers, a report published this morning finds.

Some 65.7% of adults, aged 18-49 in the best off groups, were married at the end of last year, while 31.8% of the same age in the least well off group were married, notes the study, Mind the Gap, published by the Iona Institute Christian think tank.

The report also shows the likelihood of marrying diminishes right down the economic social scale, apart from in the second least well off group, which are described as “process, plant and machine operatives”.

Some 53.6% of adults in this class were married, according to the report which draws on data contained in the Central Statistics Office’s Quarterly National Household Survey from the end of 2015.

This is the first time such data looking at the gap in “marriage chances” by class has been brought together in Ireland. The findings reveal a phenomenon replicated in other western societies. It is an issue which receives much discussion and scrutiny in the United States.

This study maps likelihood of marriage by area, in Dublin, Cork and Galway cities, showing huge variations aligning by levels of prosperity or disadvantage.

In Dublin marriage rates range from highs of up to 59 per cent in Clontarf and Rathgar/Terenure to as low as 19% in north and south inner city.

Worst chances

In Cork, they range from 60% in Ballinlough, to 17% in Shandon, Gilabbey and South Gate, while Galway adults with the best prospects of marriage are those in Rockbarton, Knockacarragh and Taylor’s Hill where rates are up to 53%. Galwegians with the worst chances are in Nun’s Island and St Nicholas, with rates as low as 19%.

Prof Patricia Casey of the Iona Institute said the inequality in access to marriage were “deeply concerning”. She said those entering marriages had better social and economic prospects, while children in lone parents households were at the greatest risk of poverty.

The Institute said it was publishing the report in the hope of sparking a debate on why some groups were not marrying.

Marriage, she said, was one of the greatest bulwarks against poverty and yet those in poverty had far less access to it.

“Why is it that the better off a person is the more likely they are to be married? Social disadvantage clearly diminishes a person’s chances of marrying and not marrying in turn increases the odds of remaining socially disadvantaged, It’s a vicious circle and one which obviously affects children.”

Irish society had shown it believed the gay and lesbian community should have access to marriage. So too should the poor, said Prof Casey.

The increasing proliferation of low-paid, insecure jobs at the lower end of the economic scale undoubtedly had an impact on people’s sense of their financial ability to enter into marriage, she added.

“There are also disincentives to marry built into the social welfare system . . . It can be more financially advantageous for two people on social welfare to remain single than to marry.”

Gravitational waves detected for the second time

Scientists spot ripples in space-time caused by two colliding and merging black holes

   

An artist’s rendition shows two black holes 14 and 8 times the mass of the sun just moments before they collided and merged to form a new black hole 21 times the mass of the sun.

Gravitational waves, ripples in space-time predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago, have been detected for the second time, scientists have announced.

An international team spotted the phenomenon on St Stephen’s Day but has only now made the news public.

As with the earlier detection in September 2015, the source was found to be two colliding and merging black holes unleashing titanic forces.

The event, some 1.4 billion light years away, caused a quantity of energy roughly equivalent to the mass of the Sun to be converted into gravitational waves.

After travelling an unimaginable distance across space, the waves were “captured” by the twin Ligo (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) detectors located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, US.

Team member Dr Stephen Fairhurst, from Cardiff University, said: “This event heralds the true beginning of gravitational wave astronomy and the opening of a new window on the universe.

“The different masses and observable spins that we witnessed in the Boxing Day event show that we’re starting to collect vital information about the population of black holes that exist in the universe.

“Future gravitational wave observations will allow us to understand how black holes form from the death of massive stars, and test whether they are really as predicted by Einstein’s theory.”

The Theory of General Relativity?

Gravitational waves are predicted in Einstein’s Theory Of General Relativity, which shows how gravity arises from mass curving space and time.

They are ripples in space-time that propagate as waves. Anything in their path, from humans to whole planets, is made to stretch and compress slightly as the fabric of space-time is distorted.

Each of the Ligo detectors, consisting of an incredibly sensitive system of mirrors and lasers, is also made to “wobble”. But the effect is really tiny.

The amount of movement is thousands of times smaller than the width of the nucleus of an atom.

Scientists hope gravitational waves will offer a completely different view of the universe, allowing them to study events that might be hidden from traditional optical and radio telescopes.

An illustration of this was seen in results from the December 26th detection, presented at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Diego, US.

By analysing the signal, the scientists were able to tell that the colliding black holes were 14 and eight times more massive than the Sun.

They orbited each other at least 27 times before merging into a more massive spinning black hole 21 times the Sun’s mass.

Using two detectors spotting the waves 1.1 milliseconds apart made it possible to determine the source’s rough position in the sky.

‘Key questions’

Prof Sheila Rowan, director of the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Gravitational Research, who took part in the discovery, said: “We know from this second detection that the properties being measured by Ligo will allow us to start to answer some key questions with gravitational astronomy.

“In future we will be able to study this and better understand cosmic history, aiming to fill in the ‘missing links’ in our knowledge.”

The findings have been accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Dr Chad Hanna, from Pennsylvania State University in the US, who co-led the detection team, said: “We now have far more confidence that mergers of two black holes are common in the nearby universe.

“Now that we are able to detect gravitational waves, they are going to be a phenomenal source of new information about our galaxy and an entirely new channel for discoveries about the universe.”

The Ligo Scientific Collaboration consists of more than 1,000 scientists from 17 countries.

Each Ligo site has two tubes, both 4km long, arranged in an L shape.

A laser is beamed down each tube to monitor very precisely the distance between mirrors at each end.

If a gravitational wave is present, it will alter the distance between the mirrors by a minute amount.

News Irelanddaily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 22nd May 2016

Ireland’s wounded bank structure will need more than a few quick small patch-ups

It must be acknowledged that high variable rates are a symptom of deeper problems in the system,

      

Micheal Martin with his front bench colleagues outside Leinster house. The FF Bill empowering the Central Bank to cap certain mortgage lending rates will please mortgage borrowers but will hardly appeal to the Central Bank, which has not sought these powers.

Ireland’s retail banking system comprises the patched-up remnants of the dysfunctional and swollen structure which arose during the bubble. There were spectacular collapses, every single bank had to be rescued, some remain in majority public ownership, several disappeared and a well-functioning system has yet to re-emerge. As is true in many countries, the banks remain burdened with non-performing loans and there are reservations about balance sheet quality. Customers complain about credit availability and cost and there is an evident lack of competition. There continues to be an over-concentration on housing finance.

The Fianna Fail Bill empowering the Central Bank to cap certain mortgage lending rates is an understandable response to borrower concerns and may succeed in reaching the statute book. It will please mortgage borrowers but will hardly appeal to the Central Bank which has not sought these powers, may decline to exercise them and cannot be forced to do so.

Variable rates on mortgage loans in Ireland are about 1.5% higher than the average in Eurozone countries, and in some cases the excess is even greater. Banks which owe their survival to the taxpayer are reporting profits, promising to resume dividends and able to afford pay increases and pension fund top-ups. Borrower discontent is hardly a surprise.

The problem with variable rates reflects the structure of the banking system which emerged after the crash and rescue. The survivor banks have scrambled to rebuild net interest margin, the excess of what borrowers pay over the cost of bank funding. A highly competitive, indeed excessively competitive, mortgage market has been replaced by a small handful of lenders willing to offer mortgages and in a position to expand margins at the expense of captive legacy borrowers.

There are just five active mortgage lenders, AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB, Ulster and KBC. The latter is reviewing its involvement and could exit, following the departures of National Irish, Bank of Scotland (Ireland), Irish Nationwide, Educational and others. Just over half of the performing Irish mortgage loans are at variable rates, ranging from 3.5% to 4.5% and even higher, but the remainder are trackers charging 1% or thereabouts and they lose money for the banks. Trackers, which locked the banks into long-term lending at tight margins, are no longer profitable and are no longer offered.

The banks cannot borrow cheaply enough, even with deposit rates near zero.

The lending rate on trackers was set at a modest margin, around 1pc in most cases, over the ECB’s main lending rate at a time when banks could borrow wholesale funds at roughly the ECB’s figure. This rate has been reduced steadily through the crisis and is now zero.

But the Irish banks have been paying well above the ECB’s rate for wholesale funds and are stuck (the margin on trackers is contractually fixed) with the huge book of tracker mortgages issued in the years 2004 to 2008. They made an unhedged bet on the indefinite availability of cheap financing and they lost (or rather, the taxpayers lost).

The resulting hole in their annual revenue has been filled through their ability to expand margins at the expense of captive borrowers, principally variable-rate mortgage borrowers. The ability to expand margins reflects the weakness of competition in the post-crash marketplace.

Irish banks are not substantial lenders to small business – their principal activity consists of mortgage lending and lending to housebuilders and holders of residential land. For AIB and Bank of Ireland, about two-thirds of lending activity is related to housing, for Permanent TSB an even greater portion. Some of this (the trackers) is unavoidably loss-making. Margins on lending to farmers and SMEs have also been edged upwards but the expansion in spreads on variable-rate mortgages is the principal driver of the profit recovery, more than compensating for the losses on trackers.

Bank profits would fall substantially, or in some cases disappear, if variable rates were cut severely. The banks have been rescued through a huge, once-off bailout by taxpayers. They are being rescued every day through a further and continuing subsidisation of their loss-making tracker loans by other borrowers, notably those on variable rates.

A well-functioning market competition, or the threat of competitive entry, would discipline the lenders against overdoing it, since borrowers can switch. But there is limited competition and the weakness of, in particular, the UK banking system has dissuaded potential entrants. The Central Bank is caught in a dilemma and the Government in a conflict of interest.

The Central Bank is doubtless pleased to see the banks restored to profitability, since profits (unless dissipated in dividends) help to rebuild capital. Healthier banks are able to borrow on better terms and are less likely to go wallop again. But the Central Bank has responsibilities to bank customers, too, and cannot be unaware of the cross-subsidisation going on in the mortgage market.

The Government owns a large slice of the banking system and hopes to recover some of the bailout costs through selling off bank shares. Profitable banks able to pay dividends are reassuring for shareholders, and the Government is the biggest shareholder. Awkwardly, the variable-rate borrowers are voters, and their interests diverge from those of the Government as shareholder. It is hardly an accident that the highest variable rate is charged by the bank in which the Government has the smallest stake.

There is a second conflict of interest for the political system. Mortgages are secured loans, collateralised through the lender’s right to repossession. Without this security, housing finance would be much more expensive – check out the interest rate on personal or small business loans to see the difference! Politicians of all parties are sympathetic to the plight of underwater mortgage borrowers, and have been chipping away at the entitlement of banks to repossess.

As a matter of social policy this is perfectly understandable, but it has consequences. One consequence is that the appropriate lending rate goes up, not down, when the collateral value of the loan security is diminished. A draconian regime of instant eviction for non-payment with no sensitivity shown for delinquent borrowers is the one likely to offer the lowest borrowing rates.

It would be nice to have a competitive, profitable, well-capitalised banking system charging low rates to borrowers, paying decent returns to savers, slow to realise collateral from defaulters, yielding generous dividends and offering high returns to departing shareholders. We had a banking system which looked like this for a while and you know what happened next. It is not possible to whistle up these conflicting features by political fiat in the wounded structure of post-crash Irish banking.

The Fianna Fail Bill will now go through a deliberative process in the Oireachtas, presumably the first task of a new committee on banking and finance. This committee will need to acknowledge that high variable rates are a symptom of deeper problems in Irish banking and to address the longer-term structural issues.

Brendan Walsh, formerly the chairman of UCD’s economics department, passed away suddenly last Thursday at the age of 76. Brendan was the outstanding Irish economist of his generation, a gifted teacher, prolific researcher and contributor to public policy, and a wonderful colleague. Ni fheicimid a leitheid aris

Irish Government now to replace jobBridge internship scheme, says Leo Varadkar

The Minister for Social Protection says a more targeted scheme needs to be introduced

  Gone? >

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar said he would replace JobBridge with a scheme more suited to the current job market and will be replaced by another that is more fit for purpose. This will not be before the end of September however.

The JobBridge scheme, which provided internships for unemployed graduates, is to be replaced with a more targeted scheme, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has said.

The Minister said the scheme, introduced in 2011 by then minister for social protection Joan Burton to provide work experience to graduates, had served its purpose. He said he would introduce a new scheme more suited to the current job market.

Under JobBridge, interns work for between six and nine months, 30-40 hours per week, for an additional €52.50 on top of unemployment allowances. About a third of the 46,500 people who signed up to the scheme have gone on to secure full-time employment.

Since its inception, the scheme has attracted criticism from politicians, trade unions and other bodies, including the National Youth Council of Ireland.

In April this year, trade union Impact called for the scheme’s abolition following reports it had been used to fill hundreds of positions for State agencies and multinational corporations.

Recurring exploitation?

Deputy general secretary of the union Kevin Callinan said many of those who welcomed the scheme in 2011 have been troubled by the recurring reports of abuse and exploitation, “which have dogged its reputation and greatly undermined its many positive outcomes”.

“While the scheme undoubtedly served a useful purpose when youth unemployment and emigration was rocketing at the height of the economic crash, it’s now time to move on,” he said.

The most frequent user of the scheme has been the HSE, which took on 399 JobBridge interns over five years, followed by the GAA with 249 interns. Global IT firm Hewlett-Packard brought in 176 JobBridge interns.

Last week, Minister of State for Training and Skills John Halligan, also spoke against the scheme and said it should be scrapped.

Last week, the Department of Social Protection said decisions on the future of the scheme would only be made after the publication of a review, being undertaken by consultancy Indecon. The report was expected to be ready in September.

Welcoming Mr Varadkar’s announcement, Fine Gael TD for Dublin North-West Noel Rock said there was ample evidence to suggest that the abuses of the JobBridge scheme were outweighing any good that it did.

“As the economic recovery widens and deepens through all sectors, we are thankfully seeing the rate of youth unemployment fall,” he said.

“As such, the JobBridge scheme is now past its sell-by date. I welcome the speed with which Minister Varadkar has recognised this fact, and look forward to further reforms.”

Independent TD Dr. Harty denies his support for new Government is guaranteed 

      

The Clare TD Dr Michael Harty.

The future of the new Government has been thrown into doubt this weekend after an Independent TD warned he may not support Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s administration on crucial votes.

Clare TD Dr Michael Harty has insisted he will approach any future votes on a strictly case-by-case basis in a move that suggests his support is far from guaranteed.

But Dr Harty, who is one of eight Independent TDs who is voted for Kr Kenny, rowed back on remarks that suggested his support had been pulled.

Dr Harty said today he was not part of the Government and said he will approach all votes including any motions of no confidence in either the Taoiseach or his ministers on a strictly case-by-case basis.

The TD said he backed Enda Kenny as Taoiseach because he believed the country did not want to go back to the polls but insisted he never committed to full-time support of the Government.

However, he rowed back on his statement when his stance came under the media spotlight.

The Clare deputy said he will now back Mr Kenny on motions of no confidence and budget votes.

“When I said on case-by-case basis I meant votes in the Dail and not votes which could bring down the Government,” he said.

Dr Harty also insisted he is a “wholly Independent TD” despite pledging to back Mr Kenny in crucial votes.

When the contradiction in this statement was pointed out, Dr Harty said: “Obviously, if the vote (of confidence) on cataclysmic, unforeseen event it will depend on the issue at hand.”

The doctor said he never sought a position in government from Fine Gael and insisted he is not “throwing his toys out of the pram” because he was not appointed as junior minister.

There is now speculation that Fine Gael may seek to back Dr Harty as chairman of a powerful new Oireachtas health committee.

A Fianna Fail source said last night that Dr Harty’s decision leaves the Government in a “very tenuous” position.

“Our aim is not to pull it down unless we are adamantly against something, but if he loses another vote things will become very volatile and Kenny will have to watch every vote,” the source said.

Last week, former Independent Alliance member Michael Fitzmaurice also ruled out supporting the Government, despite the rest of his political grouping backing Mr Kenny.

Each member of the Independent Alliance has been given a ministry, as was Denis Naughten, who was part of the so-called Rural Five along with Dr Harty.

Another Independent TD, Katherine Zappone, was given a senior Cabinet position.

The only other Independent TD who supported Mr Kenny for Taoiseach and was not given a position is Tipperary deputy Michael Lowry.

Fine Gael has sought to distance itself from Mr Lowry, but now his support is more essential than ever.

He has claimed he has an understanding with Fine Gael in return for his support, but the party has denied any such arrangement is in place.

Low-salt diets may not be beneficial for everybody, a study suggests

Salt reduction only important in some people with high blood pressure

    

A large worldwide study has found that, contrary to popular thought, low-salt diets may not be beneficial and may actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death compared to average salt consumption. The study suggests that the only people who need to worry about reducing sodium in their diet are those with hypertension (high blood pressure) and have high salt consumption.

Risks associated with low-sodium intake — less than three grams per day — are consistent regardless of a patient’s hypertension status.

A large worldwide study has found that, contrary to popular thought, low-salt diets may not be beneficial and may actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death compared to average salt consumption.

In fact, the study suggests that the only people who need to worry about reducing sodium in their diet are those with hypertension (high blood pressure) and have high salt consumption.

The study, involving more than 130,000 people from 49 countries, was led by investigators of the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences.

They looked specifically at whether the relationship between sodium (salt) intake and death, heart disease and stroke differs in people with high blood pressure compared to those with normal blood pressure.

The researchers showed that regardless of whether people have high blood pressure, low-sodium intake is associated with more heart attacks, strokes, and deaths compared to average intake.

“These are extremely important findings for those who are suffering from high blood pressure,” said Andrew Mente, lead author of the study, a principal investigator of PHRI and an associate professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

“While our data highlights the importance of reducing high salt intake in people with hypertension, it does not support reducing salt intake to low levels.

“Our findings are important because they show that lowering sodium is best targeted at those with hypertension who also consume high sodium diets.”

Current intake of sodium in Canada is typically between 3.5 and 4 grams per day and some guidelines have recommended that the entire population lower sodium intake to below 2.3 grams per day, a level that fewer than five per cent of Canadians and people around the world consume.

Previous studies have shown that low-sodium, compared to average sodium intake, is related to increased cardiovascular risk and mortality, even though low sodium intake is associated with lower blood pressure.

This new study shows that the risks associated with low-sodium intake — less than three grams per day — are consistent regardless of a patient’s hypertension status.

Further, the findings show that while there is a limit below which sodium intake may be unsafe, the harm associated with high sodium consumption appears to be confined to only those with hypertension.

Only about 10 per cent of the population in the global study had both hypertension and high sodium consumption (greater than 6 grams per day).

Mente said that this suggests that the majority of individuals in Canada and most countries are consuming the right amount of salt.

He added that targeted salt reduction in those who are most susceptible because of hypertension and high salt consumption may be preferable to a population-wide approach to reducing sodium intake in most countries except those where the average sodium intake is very high, such as parts of central Asia or China.

He added that what is now generally recommended as a healthy daily ceiling for sodium consumption appears to be set too low, regardless of a person’s blood pressure level.

“Low sodium intake reduces blood pressure modestly, compared to average intake, but low sodium intake also has other effects, including adverse elevations of certain hormones which may outweigh any benefits. The key question is not whether blood pressure is lower with very low salt intake, instead it is whether it improves health,” Mente said

Dr. Martin O’Donnell, a co-author on the study and an associate clinical professor at McMaster University and National University of Ireland Galway, said: “This study adds to our understanding of the relationship between salt intake and health, and questions the appropriateness of current guidelines that recommend low sodium intake in the entire population.”

“An approach that recommends salt in moderation, particularly focused on those with hypertension, appears more in-line with current evidence.” The study was funded from more than 50 sources, including the PHRI, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

NASA DOES NOT WANT YOU TO SEE THIS GIANT HOLE AT NORTH POLE THAT PROVES THE HOLLOW EARTH THEORY,

AS CONSPIRACY THEORISTS CLAIM

The Blue Marble    

Conspiracy theorists claim to have stumbled upon NASA images that prove the controversial Hollow Earth theory. The Hollow Earth theory claims that the Earth is hollow and consists of an “inner Earth” populated by people and animals.

The inner Earth, according to Hollow Earth theorists, has a Sun and a technologically advanced civilization.

Hollow Earth conspiracy theorists claim there is a hole at the North Pole, as well as at the South Pole, through which the inner Earth can be accessed.

Conspiracy theorists also claim that the government and NASA are aware of the presence of a gaping black hole at the poles, but have tried to cover up the evidence by obscuring the hole in satellite images of the poles. Thus, most satellite images of the North Pole have a “dark zone or blackout region where no information is available.”

But according to the YouTube alien and UFO hunters Secureteam10, in a video uploaded online on May 20, 2016, titled, “NASA Caught Hiding Something At North Pole! Hollow Earth?” new, uncensored and never-before-seen satellite images of the North Pole allegedly prove that NASA and the government have been hiding evidence that there is a hole at the North Pole that leads into the “inner Earth.”

“Every single satellite image that we have of the North Pole shows a massive hole or a blackout hole put there to hide whatever’s underneath,” according to Secureteam10.

NASA, according to conspiracy theorists, quickly delete from their websites all images showing a massive hole at the North Pole when, occasionally, they are uploaded unintentionally. Thus, the only images of the North Pole available to the public are those showing a “blackout” region at the North Pole designed to hide from the public the fact that there is a gaping hole at the North Pole.

Images of the South Pole are also obscured to hide the hole there.

Hollow Earth conspiracy theorists claim that testimony by the few people who have seen the hole at the North Pole and entered the inner Earth are being suppressed by government.

It is claimed that the polar explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd, found the hole and traveled into the inner Earth. His missing diaries from the late 1940s, according to conspiracy theorists, contain an account of his journey in the inner Earth covering about 1, 700 miles, during which he saw lush vegetation, lakes, mountains and animals, such as woolly mammoth.

He also encountered advanced civilizations.

A German sailor, Karl Unger, also allegedly entered the inner Earth in 1943, during a U-boat expedition to the South Pole. Unger encountered an advanced civilization on an island called “Rainbow Island.”

Adolf Hitler is also rumored to have escaped to the inner Earth.

One of the earliest known proponents of the Hollow Earth theory was John Symmes, who proposed a “theory of concentric spheres and polar void.”

According to Symmes, the Earth is “hollow and habitable within, containing a number of solid concentric spheres, one within the other, and that it is open at the poles 12 or 16 degrees.”

Symmes toured the U.S. in the 1820s, campaigning for support to equip an expedition to “explore the hollow.” He petitioned the U.S. government to finance an expedition to find the hole at the North Pole.

According to the Telegraph, on March 7, 1822, Senator Richard Thompson proposed a bill in Congress to provide Symmes “with the equipment of two vessels of 250 to 300 tons for the expedition, and the granting of such other aid as Government may deem requisite.”

But the bill failed after a long debate.

Symmes died in May 1829 without achieving his life-long ambition. Rodney M. Cluff is regard widely as Symmes’ successor in the quest for the entrance to the inner Earth. The author of the World Top Secret: Our Earth Is Hollow! claimed to have been introduced to the idea as a teenager while employed at a farm in New Mexico.

After reading “the Scriptures, history and science,” Cluff became convinced that the Earth “as well as all the planets and the moons and even asteroids” are hollow.

In 1981, he traveled with his family to Alaska to “find the way to the Hollow Earth.”

But after the initial attempt in 1981 failed, he tried again in 2003 in partnership with Steve Curry, who managed a travel firm. But after setting up a plan to charter a Russian nuclear ice breaker and a plane to fly over the pole to locate the legendary hole, Steve Curry, leader of the expedition, died before the date selected to start the journey.

The team appointed a new leader, Dr Brooks Agnew, and chose the summer of 2014 to start the journey. But Agnew resigned before the date due to business issues.

And after another member of the team died in a plane crash, Cluff begin to fear that supernatural forces were trying to scuttle the planned expedition.

More recently in 2002, Dallas Thompson, from Bakersfield, California, became convinced, after a car accident in which he nearly lost his life, that the Earth is hollow and that there is a hole in the North Pole that leads to the inner Earth.

His car had plunged down a ravine but he survived miraculously. During the near-death ordeal, he received insights about the inner Earth and the opening in the North Pole.

He appeared on Coast to Coast on October 4, 2002, to discuss his plan to find the hole.

He told Coast to Coast’s Art Bell that the hollow Earth has “cavern systems and caves that traverse the whole mantel.”

He claimed there were huge herds of mammoth and a civilization in the inner Earth. But he couldn’t explain how he came about the knowledge.

Thompson claimed he had secured funding to find the hole. He revealed a bizarre plan to descend into the hole using a helicopter backpack and said he planned to depart on May 24, 2003.

News about the planned expedition spread and soon his book, Cosmic Manuscript, in which he described his Hollow Earth theory, became a bestseller.

But suddenly, and inexplicably, Thompson disappeared after posting to his Yahoo Group on January 11, 2003.

It is claimed that he went into hiding to avoid lawsuit following an allegation that the material in his book Cosmic Manuscript, was plagiarized.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 15th April 2016.

What role could M D Higgins play in resolving the current political stagnation?

The President can refuse a dissolution request when the Taoiseach does not have the support of the majority of the Dáil

     

The odds on a second election have shortened after Fianna Fáil has rejected a Fine Gael proposal to enter a partnership.

Should that happen, acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny would have to travel to Áras an Uachtaráin seek a dissolution of the 32nd Dáil from the President.

Michael D Higgins would have powers to refuse the dissolution request – but would that influence the outcome of the political stalemate?

Conor O’Mahony is a constitutional law lecturer in UCC, and spoke to Newstalk Breakfast about the situation.

“It’s really quite straightforward, and pretty limited,” Conor explained. “The Constitution grants [the President] the absolute discretion – where the Taoiseach does not have the support of the majority of the Dáil – to refuse a dissolution.

“Sometimes you will hear media commentary which suggests it goes further than that, and people describe the idea of the president reaching out… but that’s not what the Constitution envisages.  The President has the power to refuse a dissolution, and the purpose of that would be to really try and suggest to the various parties that they need to spend a bit longer at it.

“There’s no power beyond that for the President to chair those negotiations, or try to bang heads together,” he added. “It’s really very much a question of the President trying to create the conditions whereby attention might focus a little bit more”.

The President’s constitutional power has never been exercised, so there is no clear precedent. However, previous presidents have come close.

In 1994, Labour walked out of government, and it is believed that Mary Robinson implied to Albert Reynolds that she would not dissolve the Dáil – a move that may have helped lead to the formation of the Rainbow Coalition.

Conor also explained how in 1987 “there were some back channel discussions between Patrick Hillery and Garret FitzGerald, in which Paddy Hillery suggested he would exercise that power”.

However, in both cases the power was not ultimately exercised – if Michael D Higgins does choose to do so, it will be a first.

“In the event that the Taoiseach has a majority, then the President has no choice but to grant a dissolution – that’s what we see before every election is called,” Conor explained. “It’s where the Taoiseach no longer has a majority, as is currently the case, that this discretion arises for the President.

“Really it’s a question of him making an assessment as to whether he thinks this might bring about a better chance of government formation. If there’s no realistic prospect of that, there’s no real point – all it does is prolong the agony,” he added.

“What I’m saying is that he may refuse a dissolution – I think it is quite plausible he would refuse a dissolution. Other suggestions – around addressing the Oireachtas or chairing negotiations – I think those things are not going to happen,” Conor observed.

Ireland (NTMA) raises a 10-year debt sale at record low rate of 0.817%

Agency could reach its target of €6bn for fund-raising this year by May auction

   

The Treasury Building, home to the NTMA. 

Ireland’s debt agency sold €750 million of bonds yesterday at a record low interest rate as investors shrugged off political uncertainty to focus on the European Central Bank’s ongoing support for government debt markets.

The National Treasury Management Agency sold the 10-year notes at a yield, or interest rate, of 0.817% in its first such auction since February’s inconclusive general election. This compares with a 1% rate attached to similar bonds in mid-February.

While some analysts had feared that demand for the bonds would be muted as the country remains without a government, the NTMA received bids from investors for 2.4 times the amount of debt on offer. Still, this is below the median ratio of 2.7 times for the previous seven auctions.

“Ireland’s supportive economic fundamentals and ECB interventions have more than cancelled out any concerns around the domestic political situation,’’ said Philip O’Sullivan, an economist with Investec in Dublin.

The NTMA has now sold €4.75 billion of bonds so far this year against its target of between €6 billion and €10 billion.

The agency managed to sell the bonds just before euro area bond yields began to rise after the European Union’s statistics office revealed that a dip in consumer prices in February proved short lived. Inflation was revised to zero for March from an initial estimate of a 0.1% decline and a 0.2% drop in February.

This takes some pressure off the ECB, which last month cut its main interest rate to zero and upped its government bond-buying spree to €80 billion a month to boost the euro area’s flagging economy and inflation. Still, inflation remains well off the ECB’s target of close to 2%.

The yield on Ireland’s 10-year bonds nudged up to almost 0.85% from a low of just over 0.80% during the course of the session. Yields on similar bonds from Germany to Italy also rose.

“The strength of the auction continues to underline the confidence international investors have in the Irish recovery,” said Colm Ryan, head of the fixed-income desk at Goodbody Stockbrokers.

The European Commission estimates Ireland’s economy, as measured by gross domestic product, will grow by 4.5% this year – almost three times the rate of the broader euro zone. In addition, the ECB is set, under its bond-buying programme, to buy more of the country’s debt than the NTMA intends to issue this year.

Still, concerns over the hiatus in forming a government and the prospect of the country’s biggest trading partner, the UK, exiting the EU following a referendum in June may return to the fore in investors’ minds at any time, according to analysts.

“The lack of government, while not a factor in the result seen today, may begin to erode investor confidence over the longer term, as we begin to formulate thoughts around the budget, and the ability of any budget to get passed in parliament,” said Mr Ryan.

CSO figures show 91 of same sex marriages since Irish referendum

Brides and grooms waiting almost a decade longer to get married than in the 1970s

      

Crowds in Dublin celebrate the result of the Marriage Equality referendum last year.

There were 91 same sex marriages in the last six weeks of 2015 after they were legalised for the first time, figures from the Central Statistics Office show.

The Marriage Equality referendum was passed in May last year and came into effect with legislation on November 16th. The figures show that up until the end of December 47 male couples and 44 female couples tied the knot.

Kieran Rose of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) said the weddings were “ a tribute to the generosity of the Irish people in giving full equality to their lesbian or gay family members, friends and neighbours” .

Figures also show brides and grooms are waiting almost a decade longer to get married than they did in the 1970s.

The latest data on marriages and civil partnership show the average age of those getting married was at its highest last year since records began.

The average age of a groom in 2015 was 35.3 years which is 0.3 years older than in 2014, while brides averaged 33.2 years of age.

These compare with 1977 when grooms were on average 26.2 years old and and brides were 24 years. The ages had been falling from 1965, when grooms had been 29.4 years old on average and brides 26, to their 1977 low-point. Wedding-day ages have been creeping up since.

The CSO statistical bulletin gives a wealth of information about ages, socio-economic class, religious ceremonies, regional variations, the most popular days and months for marriage and, for the first time, some basic data on same sex marriages.

The rate of marriage has remained steady, with 22,025 marriages last year, just 20 fewer than the 22,045 in 2014 . This is an unchanged marriage rate of 4.8 per 1,000 populations.

Two thirds of marriages were religious ceremonies last year, with Roman Catholic the most popular, accounting for 56.7%.

However civil ceremonies were the second most popular after Catholic, accounting for 28% of weddings, followed by Humanist ceremonies (5.7%), Spiritualist Union of Ireland (3.7%) Church of Ireland (1.8%), Presbyterian (0.3%) and other religious ceremonies accounted for 3.8%.

Couples taking part in civil ceremonies were the oldest on average, with grooms averaging 37.8 years and brides 35.2 years, while Roman Catholic couples were the youngest, with grooms averaging 33.7 years and brides 31.9.

Grooms were older than the brides in just over 63% of marriages last year, while 88% marriages were first-time weddings for both bride and groom. There were 2,442 marriages involving at least one divorced person.

The most popular month to marry was August- for the fourth consecutive year – when there were 2,927 (26.5%) weddings, with January the least popular, with 767 ceremonies (3.5%).

Friday and Saturday were the most popular days of the week, with Sunday the least.

The two busiest days of last year for weddings were Friday July 31st and Saturday August 1st, when there were 276 on each day. These were followed by Friday 4th September, when there were 248 .

There appears to have been a significant level of individuals marrying individuals outside their socio-economic group, with just 22.8% of couples being comprised of two individuals from the same socio-economic group.

The ‘professional occupations’ were most likely to marry within their socio-economic group – 55.6% of grooms and 41% of brides here marrying an individual from the same group. In the ‘unemployed, retired, student, occupation unknown’ group 41.6% of grooms and 16.4% of brides married with their group.

In the ‘skilled trades’ category, 2.5% of grooms and 39% of brides married within their group.

There were 376 civil partnerships last year, 250 male and 126 female. Over three quarters of these (294) were of couples living in Leinster, with over half (248) living in Dublin. There were no civil partnerships in Carlow, North Tipperary, Leitrim, Roscommon, Cavan or Monaghan

Comparing rates across the EU, in 2013 (the year with the most recent data for EU) Ireland ranked 13th in the EU, with a marriage rates of 4.5 per thousand. Lithuania had the highest rate with 6.9% and Slovenia the lowest at 3 per 1,000 people.

Defective tyres new Irish law? Now means an €80 fine and two penalty points

Bad tyres have proven a significant contributory factor in road deaths, says Pascal Donohoe.

      

The Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe (above pic.) said defective tyres had proven to be a significant contributory factor in Irish road deaths.

Drivers found with defective or worn tyres on vehicles will now face penalty points.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe, announcing the latest motoring offence to incur points, said defective tyres had proven to be a significant contributory factor in road deaths.

Earlier this month the Road Safety Authority (RSA) said “vehicle factors” played a role in one in eight fatal collisions between 2008 and 2012.

It is already an offence to drive with defective or worn tyres, but now a fixed charge of €80 will apply with two penalty points, rising to four following a conviction in court.

A Sunday introduction?

The new regulations take effect from next Sunday the 17th April.

Defective tyres were “the most significant factor” in vehicle-related fatalities, Mr Donohoe said, linked to the deaths of 71 people in the past five years.

“None of us can predict what will happen on our roads – we may encounter other drivers behaving poorly or adverse weather conditions,” he said.

“However, we can take personal responsibility for ensuring that our vehicle is properly maintained and be confident that our tyres can reliably respond to whatever conditions we may encounter.”

Major outbreak of vomiting bug hits Sligo University Hospital

Management appeals to public to stay away unless it’s absolutely necessary?

   NorovirusVomitingBug.jpg   

The management at Sligo University Hospital are encouraging the public to contact their GP and not to attend the emergency department.

Sixty patients and staff are believed to be experiencing symptoms of the vomiting bug in Sligo University Hospital.

Eight beds are closed and there are 20 patients with a confirmed diagnosis in what has been described as an unprecedented outbreak of the norovirus in the experience of Sligo University Hospital.

Management is appealing to people not to come to the hospital unless absolutely necessary saying that people with family members in critical situations will be facilitated but otherwise ward restrictions are in place, with no children allowed because they would be particularly susceptible to the illness.

Management is also encouraging the public to contact their GP or GP out-of-hours service in the first instance and not to attend the emergency department unless absolutely necessary.

Patients with pre-planned hospital appointments such as outpatients who have not had any symptoms of vomiting or diarrhoea should attend their appointment as normal, unless otherwise advised by the hospital.

Sligo University Hospital emergency medicine consultant Dr Fergal Hickeywas speaking on Shannonside’s Let’s Talk programme.

The 3 most environmentally damaging habits you might want to change?

It’s not easy going green. That doesn’t mean we can’t cut back on the amount of meat we consume and more.

    

Homo sapiens means “wise person.” But considering our behaviors that are putting the Earth’s ecosystems at risk, we haven’t been very wise at all. Every single day, many of our personal choices and individual actions negatively impact the environment in myriad ways. From turning on a light switch to throwing away a plastic bottle to having a hamburger, even the most mundane actions have a cumulative negative effect on the Big Blue Marble—the home we share with countless other Earthlings.

Think about that brand-new plastic bag you took home today from the store. That bag can take up to 1,000 years to fully decompose. And if it doesn’t end up in a landfill, it could end up in the ocean and in the stomach of a fish, bird or dolphin—a fatal occurence that happens all the time. In China, a staggering 3 billion new plastic bags enter into circulation every single day. The Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive swirling collection of plastic trash in the North Pacific Ocean, is estimated to be anywhere from 270,000 square miles (about the size of Texas) to more than 5,800,000 square miles (up to 8 percent the size of the entire Pacific Ocean).

With all the ways we affect the health of the planet, it’s hard to know exactly what changes might have the greatest impact. Plus, every person is different. Some people drive every day, while others are rarely behind the wheel. Some of us love to buy stuff; others tend to be minimalist.

Taking into account these variations, here are three of the most environmentally damaging things you probably do that you might be able to change. If you’re truly interested in reducing your impact on the environment—and helping future generations of Earthlings have a better chance of surviving with the planet’s rapidly dwindling resources—these recommendations should be high on your to-do (or rather, not-do) list.

  1.  Eat less meat or stop eating meat.

It’s difficult to overstate the massive negative impact the meat industry has on the environment. According to a staggering report published by the Worldwatch Institute, more than half of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. It’s no coincidence that the carbon footprint of the average meat eater is larger than that of a vegetarian by around 1.5 tons of CO2.

Beef produces a total of 30kg of greenhouse gas (GHG) per kg of food, while carrots, potatoes and rice produce 0.42, 0.45 and 1.3 kg GHG per kg of food, respectively. No wonder the United Nations said a global shift toward eating less meat is necessary to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

Keeping an animal alive is also resource intensive. Approximately 1,850 gallons of water are needed to produce a single pound of beef. Conversely, only 39 gallons are required to produce a pound of vegetables.

The meat industry also maintains society’s dependence on fossil fuels. Approximately25 kilocalories of fossil fuel energy is required to produce 1 kilocalorie of all meat-based protein. But only 2.2 kilocalories of fossil fuel input is needed to produce 1 kilocalorie of grain-based protein.

The vast majority of us are meat-eaters. In the United States, only 3.2 percent of adults, or a little over 7 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet. That leaves the rest—more than 97 percent—of Americans who include meat as a regular part of their diet.

So is it crazy to think that people would ever stop eating meat? One of the arguments meat-eaters commonly make is that humans need meat, that it’s a necessary part of a healthy diet. But that’s simply not true. Nutritionist Julieanna Hever sets the record straight:

A popular misconception is that animal products are the best source of protein. One important reason this myth has been perpetuated is because the amino acids—the building blocks of protein—are assembled in a way in animal foods that more closely resembles what humans actually utilize. However, we now know that this is inconsequential. When you consume any protein, it is broken down via digestion into its separate amino acid constituents and is pooled in the blood for further use. When the body needs to construct a protein for an enzyme or to repair muscles tissue, it collects the necessary amino acids and strings them back together in the sequence appropriate for what it is currently creating. This occurs regardless whether you consume animal or plant protein.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Recommended Daily Allowance of proteinfor adult men and women is 0.7 grams for every kilogram (about 2 pounds) of body weight. So an average 130-pound female should be consuming 46 grams of protein per day. A 170-pound male needs 62 grams.

Hever also points out that though we only need 10 percent of our caloric intake to be protein, we’re also generally eating too much protein, which is bad for our health:

Many people are consuming approximately 20 to 30 percent of their calories from protein, which equals 90 to 135 grams of protein on an 1,800-calorie diet (typical female intake) and 125 to 188 grams of protein on a 2,500-calorie diet (average male intake). This is equivalent to two to three times more than the USDA recommendations. Much of this excess protein comes from animal sources, which may be particularly damaging. Excess protein taxes the kidneys, contributes to gout, and is associated with an increased risk for many chronic diseases.

The U.S. addiction to meat is intense: Americans eat nearly four times as much meat as the global average. It may be tasty, but from a health standpoint, every last bloody morsel is unnecessary. “Whole plant foods, as provided in nature,” Hever says, “offer the ideal amount of protein necessary for growth, maintenance and functioning of metabolic processes.”

Many of today’s top performing athletes would agree with her assessment. Take mixed martial artist Nick Diaz, one of the top UFC fighters, an elite class of athletes. Diaz is a raw vegan, and he recently upset featherweight champion Conor McGregor—a meat eater. In fact, the list of so-called ultimate fighters who are switching to a vegan diet strictly for performance reasons is growing.

Eating vegetables over meat is healthier, leads to higher physical performance, is good for the planet and it’s also more ethical, as it avoids the killing of intelligent animals. In many ways, moving away from carnivorism toward veganism is a more evolved, more enlightened state of being.

Cutting out meat one day a week could be a good way to start. “Going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity,” notes the Meatless Mondaywebsite. “And going meatless once a week can also help reduce our carbon footprint and save precious resources like fossil fuels and fresh water.”

If you’re still not convinced that taking meat off your menu—or at least reducing your consumption of it—is one of the most important things you can do for the planet’s health, maybe the man whose name is synonymous with genius might push you over the edge. Albert Einstein once said, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

  1. Have fewer kids or no kids at all?

This one is a no-brainer. Pretty much all of the anthropogenic, or human-caused environmental maladies the Earth is undergoing would be less intense if there were fewer people—in the end, it’s a numbers game. Climate change, species extinction, deforestation, ocean acidification, air pollution, spread of disease, destructive farming practices, pesticide overuse, resource depletion—the intensity of all these crises is directly tied to human overpopulation. Martin Luther King Jr., was aware of how problematic our species’ rapid multiplication is, calling overpopulation “the modern plague.”

The United Nations warns: “Rapidly increasing population exacerbates existing problems, such as transnational crime, economic interdependency, climate change, the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and various other pandemics, and such social issues as gender equality, reproductive health, safe motherhood, human rights, emergency situations, and so much more.”

Take water, the most important resource for carbon-based life after air. Though three-fourths of the planet is covered in water, less than 1 percent of it is readily accessible freshwater that is available for human use. But by 2025, when the population reaches 8.1 billion, more than half the world’s people will face water-based vulnerability as demand for available freshwater reaches 70 percent. And while it may feel like rain just appears out of the blue, the Earth is a closed-loop system. Thus water, at least for the foreseeable future, is a finite resource.

Keeping the human population to an acceptable rate of growth isn’t just about helping the environment, it’s about helping humans survive. As Roger Bengston, a founding board member of World Population Balance, puts it, “The point of population stabilization is to reduce or minimize misery.”

In 1992, 1,700 of the world’s leading scientists, spanning 70 countries and including the majority of Nobel laureates in the sciences, issued a global appeal to limit population growth. In their “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” they write:

Pressures resulting from unrestrained population growth put demands on the natural world that can overwhelm any efforts to achieve a sustainable future. If we are to halt the destruction of our environment, we must accept limits to that growth.

The warning was spearheaded by Nobel laureate Henry W. Kendall, former chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He described our precarious situation bluntly: “If we don’t halt population growth with justice and compassion, it will be done for us by nature, brutally and without pity, and will leave a ravaged world.”

Getting the population growth rate to stop skyrocketing into an increasingly overcrowded future is no small task. Doing it through official governmental channels, as China did in the late ’70s when it launched its one-child policy (which it recently upped to two children), opens up a Pandora’s box.

Robert Engelman, president of the Worldwatch Institute, has a better idea: Put the decision in the hands of women. In his book State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity, he lays out a series of initiatives, including access to contraception, guaranteed secondary school education and the eradication of gender bias “from law, economic opportunity, health and culture,” which he argues will ensure a decline in the birthrate (with a goal of stopping short of 9 billion), solely based on a woman’s intention to have smaller families or even no children.

“Unsustainable population growth can only be effectively and ethically addressed by empowering women to become pregnant only when they themselves choose to do so,” Engelman writes.

Philip Njuguna, a pastor in Nairobi, Kenya, puts it more plainly: “When the family is small, whatever little they have they are able to share. There is peace.”

That’s good advice, particularly in impoverished and populous countries where the sheer number of people puts an unrelenting pressure on limited resources. But that advice also applies to rich countries, whose citizens have much bigger carbon footprints. According to a 2009 Oregon State University study, “an extra child born to a woman in the United States ultimately increases her carbon legacy by an amount (9,441 metric tons) that is nearly seven times the analogous quantity for a woman in China (1,384 tons).”

The study found that having one less child would yield a long-term environmental benefit. “The carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more important than some of the other environmentally sensitive practices people might employ their entire lives—things like driving a high mileage car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs,” writes OSU science writer David Stauth about his colleagues’ study.

  1. Fly less or don’t fly at all?

In 2013, New York Times reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal wrote an article whose title neatly summed up one of our worst environmental behaviors: “Your Biggest Carbon Sin May Be Air Travel.” She writes:

For many people reading this, air travel is their most serious environmental sin. One round-trip flight from New York to Europe or to San Francisco creates a warming effect equivalent to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. The average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide a year; the average European, 10. So if you take five long flights a year, they may well account for three-quarters of the emissions you create.

If you you live in an urban center like New York City, where driving is minimal and the housing of choice is small apartments, flying is most likely the biggest contributor to your carbon footprint.

In the large scheme of things, aviation is a fairly small industry, but it has a disproportionately big impact on the Earth’s climate, accounting for somewhere between five and nine percent of the total impact human activity has on climate change. And its impact is going to grow, with air travel volume steadily increasing—and faster than fuel efficiency gains can compensate.

Canadian environmental activist David Suzuki points out that, compared to other modes of transport like driving a car or taking a train, flying has a much greater climate impact per unit of distance traveled. He writes:

Since 1990, CO2 emissions from international aviation have increased 83 percent. The aviation industry is expanding rapidly in part due to regulatory and taxing policies that do not reflect the true environmental costs of flying. “Cheap” fares may turn out to be costly in terms of climate change. …

A special characteristic of aircraft emissions is that most of them are produced at cruising altitudes high in the atmosphere. Scientific studies have shown that these high-altitude emissions have a more harmful climate impact because they trigger a series of chemical reactions and atmospheric effects that have a net warming effect. The IPCC, for example, has estimated that the climate impact of aircraft is two to four times greater than the effect of their carbon dioxide emissions alone.

Nearly a decade ago, New York Times writer John Tierney put the impact of flying in terms of recycling plastic bottles. “To offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger roundtrip flight between New York and London, you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles” in coach (or up to 100,000 for business or first-class seats, adjusting for the additional space pricier seats take up). So if you’ve simply got to board a plane, sitting in coach is a much better environmental option. You can also purchase carbon offsets to reduce your air travel carbon footprint.

What else can you do?

Of course, there are many other things you can do, from not buying plastic water bottles to using cloth shopping bags to simply reducing the amount of stuff you buy. When it comes to consumption, the old adage “reduce, reuse, recycle” isn’t just a list—it’s a hierarchy. The most important thing you can do is reduce your consumption. If you have to consume, try to reuse something rather than buying it new. And if you have to buy it new, recycle it when you’re done.

We can’t all be a part of vegetarian, one-child families who never fly. But if we can all try to get a little closer to that ideal, it’ll be better for everybody—for all Earthlings, not just Homo sapiens. Maybe then we can finally start living up to our name.

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.

Capabilities

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.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 21st January 2016

Tanaiste and Mary-Lou McDonald confrontation over 250 children afflicted with Scoliosis

Vicious personalised comments during bitter Dáil debate

       

The confrontation between the two long-time rivals came during a heated Dáil exchange over the plight of 250 children afflicted with Scoliosis and awaiting treatment.

Tánaiste Joan Burton has accused Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald of using “a tsunami of hatred and invective” against her.

The confrontation between the two long-time rivals came during heated Dáil exchanges about the plight of 250 children afflicted with Scoliosis and awaiting treatment for up to 15 months in intense pain.

:00 / 01:04

Ms McDonald said this “scandalous situation” typified the “chaos and failure” of Labour in government and the cancelling of routine procedures at Cork University Hospital due to pressure of work was another.

“Tánaiste, would you accept a 15-month wait for your child?” Ms McDonald asked the Labour leader.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Joan Burton hit back by accusing Sinn Féin of trying to disrupt a well-laid plan to assist the children with Scoliosis, which is a severe curvature of the spine.

She said plans were afoot to open a new operating theatre at Crumlin Children’s Hospital, which had treated 100 children in 2015 – a 51pc increase on the previous, while another 33 children received treatment elsewhere including a British hospital.

Ms McDonald then accused Ms Burton of using “a single-transferrable anti-Sinn Féin rant.”  She accused the Labour leader of trying to claim special treatment for children with Scoliosis would put the economic recovery at risk.

“There’s something obscene about an assertion like that,” the Sinn Féin deputy leader said.

Ms Burton then hit back again. “Have you finished your tsunami of hatred and invective against me?” she asked Ms McDonald.

The Labour leader said Crumlin Children’s Hospital was a world class facility and its lead role in treating Scoliosis would be expanded with extra staff and resources.

Ms Burton also accused Sinn Féin pursued “draconian policies” in Northern Ireland. She cited their Education Minister advising young people there to avoid teaching because there would be no teachers’ jobs in future.

Ms McDonald said the children and their families cared nothing about Ms Burton’s views on Sinn Féin or any other party. “It’s a typical diversion by you,” she said.

Donegal Independent TD, Thomas Pringle, said that his native county had got a very bad service from the Coalition over the past five years. He said 60pc of the county’s population qualified for a medical card indicating high levels of unemployment, poverty and deprevation.

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley sought assurances from the Tánaiste would ensure flood-hit families without insurance would get compensation.

Niall Breslin (Bressie) tells the  Oireachtas of a great epidemic unhinging our mental health

Oireachtas group hears of mounting expectations and pressure on Ireland’s young generation

     

Niall Breslin: Ireland is going through a transitional period as people are talking about mental health and emotional wellbeing

Mental health issues are the “great epidemic of this generation” that can no longer be ignored, musician and campaigner Niall Breslin told the OireachtasHealth Committee on Thursday.

Breslin, also known as Bressie, said he was speaking so young people could get help when they needed it and not suffer in silence.

“They are exposed to too much. So much is expected from them and both the external and internal pressures they are being asked to cope with are simply not sustainable. And the result is the great epidemic of this generation,” he said.

“Agonising suicide rates, disturbingly high anxiety and depression rates, self-harm, eating disorders, OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder] . . . We simply cannot ignore this anymore.”

The singer shared his own personal struggles as a teenager dealing with anxiety.

“Crippling insomnia, harrowing panic attacks and incomprehensible self-harm dictated my life,” he said.

“It was let grow into a monster, a monster that fed on silence, fear and lack of understanding.”

Breslin told the committee that policy was not good enough to help people suffering from mental health problems.

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“The idea of a teenager having to be driven half way across the country after waiting two months for a referral is completely unacceptable,” he said.

“Everyone in this room has to be painfully honest with each other and accept that our mental health services and systems are not even close to being adequate or resourced for the demand and requirement that is put upon them.”

“It’s a matter of joining the dots and building something together that can give our youth the support they require to survive in this often chaotic world.”

Ireland is going through a transitional period as people are talking about mental health and emotional wellbeing, said Breslin.

“The draconian stigma that has ravaged families throughout Ireland for generations is slowly eroding,” he said.

“We have gradually commenced normalising the conversation surrounding our mental health and this must be promoted, nurtured and celebrated at every level.”

He spoke of Caoilte Ó Broin, whose body was found in the river Liffey earlier this month.

“Many times his family tried to access help but they were refused because this young man was consuming alcohol and told he couldn’t be helped because of his drinking, which was intrinsically linked to his mental health illness,” he said.

“This family don’t want to play the blame game, or point fingers, they simply want change.

“We need to ask hard questions. Those stories are too common. So many people wanted to help this young man, but their hands were tied by bureaucracy and lack of resource.”

“We have to be honest and ask ourselves, truly are we doing enough?”

Dr Paul D’Alton, head of the Psycho-oncology department St Vincent’s University Hospital, also addressed the committee. He said over the last three decades there was increasing evidence a “whole system” approach was needed to improve mental health.

“As long as we continue to seek a solution in one particular department or in one particular service the HSE provide, such as the mental health services, we are destined to repeat the annual national tragedy of more than 500 lives lost to suicide,” he said.

Dr D’Alton said every person in the State wanted radical change for the wellbeing and mental health of people.

“We need to be very cautious of an insidious mentality that places excessive responsibility for wellbeing and mental health in the hands of the individual,” he said.

Pubs to remain closed on Good Friday 2016,

says Frances Fitzgerald

   

Publicans campaign for end to ban, saying it affects business and confuses tourists

Pubs will remain closed on Good Friday 2016 despite a campaign from vintners for the alcohol ban to be lifted.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald on Thursday ruled out an imminent change to the trading rule. “I won’t be doing it this year,” she told RTÉ radio. But she added that it is an issue that would be considered under new alcohol laws. (Election promises?) 

Publicans said they were extremely disappointed with Ms Fitzgerald’s decision not to introduce legislation which would permit all licenced premises to serve alcohol on Good Friday this year.

The Licensed Vintners Association (which represents Dublin pubs) said its members and the public at large will struggle to understand the rationale behind the Minister’s decision. “Our legal advice was that the law only required a minor legislative change,” said its chief executive Donall O’Keeffe.

“This is a lost opportunity not just for publicans but for the capital city and the tourist sector as a whole. This year there was a particular urgency around this issue given the Ireland 2016 celebrations would focus on the Easter weekend and that we have an international soccer friendly between Ireland and Switzerland taking place in the Aviva Stadium on Good Friday itself. Once again thousands of tourists and holiday goers are going to be at a loss wondering why they can’t go to a pub for a drink” O’Keeffe said.

Publicans had called on the Government to lift the ban on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday and on Monday launched the #AboutTime campaign.

“The Minister has had ample time to repeal this archaic law,” said Padraig Cribben of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (which represents publicans outside Dublin). “ Frankly it’s an embarrassment that this legislation is still in force in 2016. Both the VFI and the LVA have had a very positive reaction to our #AboutTime campaign and we were very hopeful that the Minister would finally move on this issue this year.”

He continued: “Previously the Minister indicated that Good Friday trading would be permitted in the context of the Sale of Alcohol Bill and she has had plenty of time to advance that legislation.

“Most other retail businesses will be open and trading but once again the licensed trade will be closed. For a Government which claims to be pro business and seeking election it makes no sense.”

The Intoxicating Liquor Act, when introduced in 1927, said alcoholic drinks could not be sold on Christmas Day, Good Friday and St Patrick’s Day. The St Patrick’s Day clause was repealed in 1960 to accommodate visitors coming from overseas to celebrate the national holiday.

The legislation provides exemptions allowing the sale of alcohol to those attending events or travelling by sea, rail, air or ferry. Alcohol can also be sold in a licensed theatre. Guests staying in hotels can be served alcohol, as long as it is taken with a meal.

Maynooth University team makes diabetes type 2 treatment breakthrough

Researchers working on compound that mimics the anti-diabetic effects of vigorous exercise

    

The new family of drugs discovered by the group ‘works 1,000 times better than the current top diabetes drug Metformin’

Researchers at Maynooth University have come up with a new way to tackle type II diabetes using a compound that mimics the anti-diabetic effects of vigorous exercise.

They have also discovered these compounds reduce the weight increase sometimes seen with the current best treatments available to keep Type II under control.

“There is a lot more work to do, but this looks very promising,” said Dr John Stephens who heads the department of chemistry.

“If it is as clean as it looks, it will be a great improvement on what is currently available on the market.”

The incidence of diabetes in Ireland and abroad has soared over the past decade, with type II patients here numbering at least 200,000 and 370 million worldwide, Dr Stephens said.

The condition occurs when the body becomes unable to take sugar out of the bloodstream and use it up as energy.

Lack of exercise and obesity are key risks, and there are serious health repercussions if it goes untreated, he said. “Diabetes is very serious; you can go blind, you risk amputations, it is a very serious condition.”

They body uses insulin to encourage cells to take sugar as glucose out of the bloodstream. The more one exercises, the more glucose that will be taken up.

The new family of drugs discovered by the Maynooth group does the same thing – but in a different way. It works 1,000 times better than the current top diabetes drug Metformin, and does not seem to cause that drug’s side-effects, Dr Stephens said.

“Our compound is nothing like the drugs used at the moment so it is a potent new class of anti-diabetic agent.” he said.

The team of scientists involved has spent five years developing the new compounds and has already used them to control Type II in mouse models.

“Our compounds are independent of the insulin pathway. The fact that it is independent of insulin means it could serve as an alternative to insulin, but there is much more work to do,” he said.

“We know quite a lot about the compounds, but there is still a long way to go in pre-clinical and toxicological work before we can run human trials. That is some years off – at least three or four,” he said.

The research team includes Prof John Findlay and Dr Darren Martin of Maynooth University, and Dr Gemma Kinsella, formerly of Maynooth and now at of Dublin Institute of Technology.

They also have collaborators in Trinity College Dublin and the University of Leeds.

The team will publish its results in the Journal of Molecular Endocrinology.

An ancient dragon found in Wales named as Dracoraptor hanigani

The apparently youthful dinosaur was running around Wales some 200 million years ago?

Representation of Dracoraptor hanigani  Hand of dinosaur   Hip and vertebrae of dinosaur

Scientists have found the skull and bones (as above pictures right) of a huge beast near Penarth in Wales. The creature has been named Dracoraptor hanigani and is one of the world’s oldest Jurassic dinosaurs.

Dracoraptor is Latin for “dragon robber”, an apparent reference to the dragon on Wales’ flag. The rest of the name comes from Nick and Rob Hanigan, the amateur fossil-hunters who found the bones while they were looking for ichthyosaur remains.

The dragon was related to the Tyrannosaurus rex. But it was a lot less terrifying, scientists say.

The bones aren’t yet fully formed, and so the specimen probably belongs to a youngster.

The dragon would have roamed before dinosaurs took over the world, when it was instead dominated by crocodiles and mammals. The climate of Wales would also have been very different and much warmer.

Dinosaur scientist Steven Vidovic, from the University of Portsmouth, one of the experts whose description of D. hanigani appears in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE, said: “The Triassic-Jurassic extinction event is often credited for the later success of dinosaurs through the Jurassic and Cretaceous, but previously we knew very little about dinosaurs at the start of this diversification and rise to dominance.

“Now we have Dracoraptor, a relatively complete two metre-long juvenile theropod from the very earliest days of the Jurassic in Wales.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 13th November 2015

More than 150 people dead in Paris terror attacks

Emergency declared as president says ‘unprecedented’ situation unfolding; shots fired in several locations, explosions near Stade de France and hostage situation at theatre

        Security forces have been dispatched across Paris as a number of attacks have taken place across the north of the city.

A state of emergency has been declared in Paris after more than 150 people were killed in a series of separate but simultaneous terrorist attacks on Friday night.

The incidents included a siege at a concert hall, in which city officials said 118 people died, and suicide bomb outside the Stade de France during a football match attended by president Francois Hollande.

Gunmen stormed the packed concert hall, the Bataclan, in the city’s 11th districtwhere hundreds of concert-goers were attending an Eagles of Death Metal gig.

Scores were taken hostage until security forces entered the building at about midnight and killed two of the assailants.

Witnesses spoke of “carnage” and “scenes of apocalyse” caused by grenade attacks inside the Bataclan, at 50 boulevard Voltaire in the 11th district. A number said several gunmen entered the back of the hall and began shooting.

One of them shouted: “This is for Syria.” Members of the audience threw themselves to the floor and into the orchestra pit with others escaping. The gunmen reportedly opened fired on those in the orchestra pit.

It was the worst terrorist attack in the European Union since the 2004 Madrid bombings.

‘Unprecedented’

Mr Hollande said it was an “unprecedented” series of “terrorist attacks” and that several dozen people were dead.

“A state of emergency will be declared,” he said. “The second measure will be the closure of national borders.”

Mr Hollande was earlier at the France v Germany game at the Stade de France and had been taken to the interior ministry for a crisis meeting with members of his cabinet. Traffic has been banned in some areas of the city and people have been advised to stay in their home. The army has been mobilised.

He later visited a security command centre where he said “the terrorists who were not far from here(the Bataclan) were killed.”

US president Barack Obama said the attacks were an “outrageous attempt” to terrorise innocent people. These were not just attacks on Paris but on all of humanity, he said.

He declined to speculate as to who was responsible for the incidents. US security officials believe the attacks were likely co-ordinated.

Suicide bomber?

At least three people were killed in what were believed to have been grenade attacks outside the Stade de France. At least 10 were seriously wounded. The explosions could be clearly heard inside the stadium, from which tens of thousands were slowly evacuated.

A dismembered body found on the scene was believed to be that of a suicide bomber.

Another shooting attack occurred outside the Petit Cambodge restaurant in the rue Albert in the 10th district, a street that is particularly busy on weekend evenings. Eye witnesses reported seeing bodies on the pavement covered with blankets. Dozens of people tried to hide behind cars, in doorways and in the courtyards of buildings. Many took refuge in cafes, which pulled down their metal curtains. Others ran in panic towards the Place de la Republique.

Jean-Pierre, a witness in the rue de Charonne in the 10th district, said he saw gunmen targeting picking off diners seated at restaurant tables. “It was horrible, horrible, horrible,” he told BFM television, choking back emotion.

Another witness said he hear gunshots as he was walking on a street in the 10th district of Paris close to Place de La Republique. When he arrived outside a restaurant he saw bodies on the ground. “I saw three bodies being put into body bags,” said Fabien Baron, a student.

Eyewitness Ben Grant said he was in a bar with his wife when the gunshots were fired and he had seen six or seven bodies on the ground.

He told the BBC: “I was told people in cars had opened fire on the bar. “There are lots of dead people. It’s pretty horrific to be honest.

“I was at the back of the bar. I couldn’t see anything. “I heard gunshots. People dropped to the ground. We put a table over our heads to protect us. “We were held up in the bar because there was a pile of bodies in front of us.”

Europe 1 Radio said another shooting was taking at Les Halles shopping mall.

‘Terrible events’

President Michael D Higgins said he was shocked to learn of and view the images of “the terrible events unfolding in Paris” on Friday night.

“On behalf of the Irish people and on my own behalf I offer deepest sympathy through President Hollande to the people of France on this dreadful loss of life and appalling injuries,” he said in a statement. “All of our thoughts are with the people of France as events unfold.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the embassy in Paris and department in Dublin were actively monitoring the unfolding situation in Paris.

“Those who wish to register concern can do so at 01 408 2000,” it said.

The scene of the hostage situation, the Bataclan, is only a few hundred metres away from the former Charlie Hebdo magazine office were 12 people killed last January 7th.

In June, France launched a terrorism investigation after police found a decapitated body in a gas factory in the south-eastern city of Lyon. And two months later three Americans and one Briton were awarded medals for bravery after they overpowered a heavily armed gunman on a train in France.

A statement on Eagles Of Death Metal’s Facebook page said: “We are still currently trying to determine the safety and whereabouts of all our band and crew. Our thoughts are with all of the people involved in this tragic situation.”

Irish mortgage drawdowns up in third quarter but pace slows

A total of 7,292 loans were drawn down by borrowers from July to September

     

The volume of new mortgage lending is falling year on year, according to the latest figures from the Banking and Payments Federation. However, the data reveals an increase in the number of mortgages drawn down between July and September of this year.

The figures show that the volume of new lending was up 15.6% year on year in the third quarter. This is down considerably from a 30% annual increase in the second quarter and a 64% year on year rise for the first three months of 2015.

The data indicate that the number of mortgages drawn down from July to September rose 15.6% compared to the same period a year earlier and were up 16.7% compared to the preceding three months.

A total of 7,292 loans, valued at €1.33 billion, were drawn down by borrowers from July to September. This marks a 22.7% value increase on the second quarter and was 18.1% higher than for the same three months in 2014.

First-time buyer, mover purchase and residential investment letting volumes rose to their highest third-quarter levels since 2009, the figures show.

The value of new lending to first-time buyers was up 16% in the third quarter, compared to an increase of 39% in the preceding three months. First-time buyer loans accounted for 50.4% of all loans drawn down from July to September.

Re-mortgage volumes

Re-mortgage volumes rose by 25% compared to the second quarter and were up 138% year-on-year, the data shows.

The average loan size increased to €182,406 in the third quarter, up 2.2% on the same period a year earlier and rising for the ninth successive quarter. The average mortgage drawn down for property purchase increased on a year-on-year basis, up 1.6% to €189,707.

“In terms of where new lending goes from here, the mortgage approvals trends suggest a further slowdown over the coming quarters. In September, the volume of approvals for house purchase fell by 3% year-on-year, with the value flat. This is somewhat better than the August outturn, but taking the third quarter overall, the volume and value is effectively unchanged on the previous year,” said chief economist Dermot O’Leary.

Davy said households are being prevented from increasing their leverage by stretched affordability and the Central Bank’s lending rules.

“Understandably, attention has focused on the Central Bank’s lending rules – preventing households from increasing their leverage. However, the bigger picture is that lending opportunities are being held back by weak home building. Housing completions in the year to September were 8,914, up just 14% on 2014…homebuilding in 2015 will be well below 13,000 units and the 25,000 necessary to satiate demographic demand,” said Davy economist Conall Mac Coille.

Additional Banking and Payments Federation figures show a total of 2,683 mortgages were approved per month, on average, in the three months ending September 30th, of which 2,348, or 88% were for house purchase.

The number of mortgages approved rose by 3.7% year-on-year but fell by 1% month-on-month.

The value of mortgages approved per month, on average, in the third quarter was €499 million, of which €460 million or 92% was for house purchase.

The value of mortgage approvals increased by 6.4% year-on-year and fell by 3.1% month-on-month.

10 reasons why Irish rents are so high?

It’s not a simple construction problem. The bedsit ban and unfair taxes are also to blame

     

Less construction, greater internal migration and a pickup in the economy are some of the factors leading to a housing crisis characterised by a severe shortage of accommodation combined with rising rentals and house prices.

Irish Rents have been rising steadily since 2013, particularly in Dublin. Rents in the capital rose 9.2% in the year to the end of June, and rents across the State went up by 5.8%, according to the Private Residential Tenancies Board.

The average Dublin rent is now €1,387 for a house and €1,260 for an apartment. Rents for houses outside Dublin average €695, or €660 for apartments.

1. Lack of supply.

Stop building homes and eventually you’ll run out of them. We’re building houses at 1970s rates for a population that’s 55% higher than it was in that decade. We’ve plenty of ghost estates – but they were built where they were not needed. Urban Dublin never had much of a problem with ghost estates. In comparison, Co Cork still has 130, and Co Donegal still has 64. No houses means nowhere to buy and nowhere to rent.

2. End of the living-over-the-shop scheme.

This was an extraordinarily generous scheme that could have provided more rental accommodation where it was needed and brought new life to moribund town and city centres. Ireland’s urban streets are full of old empty upper floors. The scheme offered 100 per cent tax relief for the cost of converting spaces over shops into apartments. The take-up was abysmal. Buildings’ owners cited onerous regulations, and too few streets were included in the scheme.

3. Tax treatment of private landlords.

Without landlords there are no rental properties, and more than 70 per cent of private landlords with mortgages say that the rents don’t cover their repayments. In 2009 mortgage-interest relief against rental income was reduced for the private rental sector from 100 per cent to 75%; the commercial rental sector still gets 100 per cent relief. New measures reinstate the 100 per cent relief but only for landlords renting to tenants in receipt of State support.

4. Incentives for making homes uninhabitable.

An occupied commercial property is subject to commercial rates. A habitable unoccupied property is subject to 50 per cent of commercial rates. An uninhabitable, unoccupied property is not liable for rates at all, which may encourage a developer or owner to rip out toilets, lift and stairs – just to be sure there isn’t a tax liability. The Government says it’s going to change this one, but it’s a shocker that it has been going so long.

5. Ending the construction of social housing.

Everyone blames the last government for ending social-housing construction and forcing local authorities to rent from private landlords. But the current lot haven’t done much to reverse that. Of the 100,000 social-housing units the Government says will be put into the system by 2020, only 35,000 will be built; the rest will be leased or rented. People on low fixed incomes don’t belong in the private sector, at least not in its current form.

6. Too many small apartments.

In December 2007 Dublin City Council changed its development plan to increase the minimum size of one-bedroom apartments to 55sq m, up from the national standard of 45sq m. Recently there has been a clamour for it to reduce the minimum size, which it is proposing to do in limited circumstances. But we already have a preponderance of small one-bed apartments, many built between 1999 and 2004. Too many small apartments means that anything decent is too expensive.

7. Letting the sector deteriorate.

Almost 85 per cent of Dublin flats inspected in a three-year programme to root out substandard private accommodation failed to meet minimum standards. Problems included fire safety and rat infestations. Old flats are not required to meet the size rules of new apartments, and the flats inspected were half the general minimum size of 55sq m on average. If these deteriorate so much that they have to be shut down, this will further compound the problem.

8. The banning of bedsits.

A bedsit does not have to be a byword for substandard accommodation. The 2013 ban relates to flats that do not contain a bathroom. Taking these units out of the system makes sense in the long term, but the ban has reduced the supply of lower-cost accommodation. A more sensible approach might have been to ban the units from being relet once the existing tenant had left rather than insisting that they be upgraded or the tenancy ended.

9. Political kite flying

The Government has finally announced a plan for dealing with spiralling rents, but the extended public toing and froing frightened landlords. That fear probably prompted many landlord to raise their rents in recent months. Tenants and landlords would benefit if politicians came to an agreement behind closed doors and then stuck to it.

10. Slow pace of construction

Rebooting the construction industry has been painfully slow. The Budget announcement that 20,000 homes would be built on sites controlled by the National Asset Management Agency by 2020 should speed things up, and that 90 per cent will be built in Dublin should ease pressure on the rental sector. But more homes are needed far more quickly. One issue is the use of old-fashioned construction methods. Greater use of modular, factory-built housing, assembled on site, could considerably speed up delivery.

‘It’s tough to stay healthy on the go,’ says lovely Kathryn Thomas

 

Kathryn Thomas admitted she finds it “tough” to be healthy when she’s on the road presenting Operation Transformation.

The 36-year-old is known for her love of fitness, and said being organised is key to eating healthily.

“We’re giving the advice to the leaders telling them not to ‘dashboard dine’ and then the crew have to stop for petrol and we do it,” she told the Herald. “I’m traveling next week revealing the leaders, so I’ll be making chia balls and protein bars beforehand.

“Then it’s about healthy choices in hotels in the evening.

“Once you’re organised, there’s never enough of an excuse,” she added.

The Operation Transformation experts will also be returning this year with Dr Ciara Kelly, Karl Henry, Aoife Hearne and Dr Eddie Murphy ready to guide the leaders along their weight-loss journey.

Twenty finalists were chosen from thousands of applications, and the five leaders will be revealed on the Ray D’Arcy Show from next Tuesday.

Those hoping to make it to the final five include Damien Dillon, from Birr, Co Offaly, who wants to change his lifestyle after beating Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma 10 years ago and having another scare last year.

“I’m 19st 8lbs and my oncologist told me I needed to have a complete lifestyle change,” he said. “I have an 11-year-old son and I want to set a good example for him.

“On my 43rd birthday, I will go to have my all-clear scan, and on that day I would love to be three stone lighter.”

Mum-of-one Lucy Dillon (24), from Kells, Co Meath, currently weighs 17st 4lbs and doesn’t want her one-year-old daughter Molly to go down the same path.

“Weight has always been an issue for me for as long as I can remember,” she said.

“I’ve had a rough few years, my mum Terese passed away and I had post-natal depression. I’m just constantly eating with stress and I want to change that,” she added.

Ballycullen native Louise Butler Byrne (28) has warned her boyfriend not to propose until she loses some weight.

“I’m 18st 8lbs and I’m sick and tired of my weight holding me back – I want to change my life,” she said.

Kathryn will be speaking at the Image Networking Breakfast at the Marker Hotel on Monday, November 16.

A change in sense of humour is ‘a sign of impending dementia’

     

An increasingly warped sense of humour could be an early warning sign of impending dementia, say UK experts.

The University College London study involved patients with frontotemporal dementia, with the results appearing in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Questionnaires from the friends and family of the 48 patients revealed many had noticed a change in humour years before the dementia had been diagnosed.

This included laughing inappropriately at tragic events.

Experts say more studies are now needed to understand how and when changes in humour could act as a red flag for dementia.

There are many different types of dementia and frontotemporal dementia is one of the rarer ones.

The area of the brain it affects is involved with personality and behaviour, and people who develop this form of dementia can lose their inhibition, become more impulsive and struggle with social situations.

Dr Camilla Clark and colleagues recruited 48 patients from their dementia clinic at University College London.

And they asked the friends or relatives of the patients to rate their loved one’s liking for different kinds of comedy – slapstick comedy such as Mr Bean, satirical comedy such as Yes, Minister or absurdist comedy such as Monty Python – as well as any examples of inappropriate humour.

Nearly all of the respondents said, with hindsight, that they had noticed a shift in the nine years before the dementia had been diagnosed.

Many of the patients had developed a dark sense of humour – for example, laughing at tragic events in the news or in their personal lives. The dementia patients also tended to prefer slapstick to satirical humour, when compared with 21 healthy people of a similar age.

Dr Clark said: “These were marked changes – completely inappropriate humour well beyond the realms of even distasteful humour. For example, one man laughed when his wife badly scalded herself.

‘More and more erratic’earce (right) with his mum and brother

Lee Pearce, from Sheffield, was not involved in the study, but he can relate to the findings.

He first noticed a change in his mum’s behaviour when she was 55, but it took four years before she received the correct diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia.

“She’d always been very loving and family-focused but became increasingly uninvolved and emotionless,” he says.

“As she had a history of depression, we put it down to that, and her doctor agreed.

“Mum’s behaviour became more and more erratic, and we began to question the diagnosis.

“She’d forget family birthdays, laugh if someone had an accident or she heard someone was unwell and was even sacked from her job – all completely out of character.”

Dr Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said anyone concerned about changes in their behaviour should speak to their GP.

“While memory loss is often the first thing that springs to mind when we hear the word dementia, this study highlights the importance of looking at the myriad different symptoms that impact on daily life and relationships,” he said.

“A deeper understanding of the full range of dementia symptoms will increase our ability to make a timely and accurate diagnosis.”

Primitive rocks reveal the secret of how water arrived on Earth

  

Scotish scientists have made a breakthrough discovery in the search for evidence of the origins of water on Earth.

A research team from Glasgow and Hawaii universities have found that water was trapped in some of the earliest known rocks, supporting the theory that it was present on Earth when it formed from rock and dust more than

Some 4.5 billion years ago.

Water covers more than two-thirds of the Earth’s surface and scientists have long been uncertain whether water was present when the planet was formed or if it arrived later, perhaps carried by comets and meteorites.

The Glasgow and Hawaii team used “advanced ion microprobe technology” to examine rocks from Baffin Island, in the Canadian territory of Nunavut.

Dr Lydia Hallis, who led the research, first at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and then as a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow, said the Baffin Island rocks had been analysed extensively since their collection in 1985 and scientists “know they contain a component from Earth’s deep mantle”. She added: “The Baffin Island rocks were collected back in 1985, and scientists have had a lot of time to analyse them in the intervening years. As a result of their efforts, we know that they contain a component from Earth’s deep mantle.

“On their way to the surface, these rocks were never affected by sedimentary input from crustal rocks, and previous research shows their source region has remained untouched since the Earth’s formation.

“Essentially, these are some of the most primitive rocks we’ve ever found on the surface of the Earth, and so the water they contain gives us an invaluable insight into the Earth’s early history and where its water came from. We found that the water had very little deuterium, which strongly suggests that it was not carried to the Earth after it had formed and cooled.

“Instead, water molecules were likely carried on the dust that existed in a disk around our Sun before the planets formed.

“Over time this water-rich dust was slowly drawn together to form our planet. Even though a good deal of water would have been lost at the surface through evaporation in the heat of the formation process, enough survived to form the world’s water.”

Details of the team’s findings are explained in the paper, Evidence for Primordial Water in Earth’s Deep Mantle, which has been published in the journal Science. Dr Hallis added: “It’s an exciting discovery, and one which we simply didn’t have the technology to make just a few years ago. We’re looking forward to [carrying out] further research in this area in the future.”