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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 15th January 2017

Irish mortgage rates still nearly double the euro area average?

Variable rate holders continue to pay price for profligate bank lending during boom years

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Irish mortgage interest rates remain nearly double the euro area average, according to data published by the Central Bank last Friday.

The weighted average interest rate on new mortgages, excluding renegotiation’s, was 3.38% in November, down 28 basis points year-on-year. The equivalent euro area rate was 1.72%.

Mortgage interest rates in Ireland used to reflect the main European Central Bank (ECB) lending rate, primarily because of the high proportion of tracker mortgages issued during the boom years.

The more recent divergence reflects the premium Irish banks have attached to variable rate mortgages issued since the start of the financial crisis.

Lenders here have resisted political pressure to lower their rates, insisting that lending into to Irish market represents a riskier proposition.

They also argue that Irish costs remain higher because of the higher funding costs they face as a result of the crisis.

Variable rates can rise or fall depending on wholesale interest rates, which are set by the ECB, though banks are not obliged to pass these changes on to customers.

Fianna Fáil is pushing for legislation that would give the Central Bank powers to cap variable mortgage rates, a move that is being resisted by the Central Bank and the Government.

The latest Central Bank data also show the volume of new mortgage agreements amounted to €548 million in November, bringing new agreements to €4.9 billion over the past 12 months.

Oxfam World report reveals ‘an obscene gap’ between the rich and poor.

Eight men’s wealth same as world’s poorest 50%, indicates study ahead of Davos forum

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The gap between rich and poor is becoming increasingly large, with just eight individuals owning the same wealth as 3.6 billion of the world’s poorest people, according to new research.

A report from Oxfam, launched on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos, found that the poorest half of the world has less wealth than previously thought, due to new data emanating from China and India. This means that the eight richest men in the world are worth the same as the poorest half of the world’s population, according to wealth distribution data provided by Credit Suisse.

“It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of just eight men . . . particularly when one in nine people in the world go to bed hungry every night,” said Oxfam Ireland chief executive Jim Clarke. “A fundamental change in the way we manage our economies is required so they benefit everyone, not just a fortunate few. We need a global economy for the 99%, not just the 1%.”

More than 3,000 participants, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, will descend on the snowy peaks of Davos, Switzerland, this week for the 47th World Economic Forum.

While the annual gathering has long been seen as a playground for the rich and powerful, the event this year is taking place against a background of resurgent populism and increasing public opposition to globalisation. This mood has been manifested in the election success of Donald Trump and the British vote to leave the European Union.

Although the US president-elect will not be attending the event, his inauguration as president of the US on Friday is expected to overshadow the summit. A number of sessions during the week are devoted to globalisation and the challenges posed by growing inequality and the question of wealth distribution. The theme of this year’s forum is “Responsive and Responsible Leadership”, a barely veiled acknowledgement of anxieties about the incoming regime in Washington and the series of elections scheduled to take place across Europe in 2017.

Xi Jinping Keynote address.

Among the most high-profile participants this year is Chinese premier Xi Jinping, who will deliver a keynote address on Tuesday. His presence marks the first visit to Davos by a Chinese leader.

British prime minister Theresa May will deliver a special address on Thursday morning, two days after she is expected to unveil details of her government’s vision for Brexit in a major speech.

British chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond will be in Davos on Friday, when he is expected to do a series of interviews and participate in a session titled “Britain and the EU: The Way Forward” with the former Italian prime minister and EU commissioner Mario Monti and others.

While more than 50 heads of state and government will travel to the exclusive Swiss ski resort, some of the world’s most senior banking and corporate executives will also attend the five-day event.

Among the economic heavy-hitters in attendance will be Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, and IMF managing director Christine Lagarde, as well as senior executives from the world’s biggest banks, such as UBS, Goldman Sachs and Deutschebank.

One familiar face on the Davos circuit, the Goldman Sachs chief operating officer Gary Cohn, won’t be present this time. He’s likely to be busy preparing to become Donald Trump’s new chairman of the National Economic Council.

Senior officials from Trump’s transition team will attend the event, however, and are expected to hold a series of bilateral meetings with senior political leaders, including possibly Xi Jinping, on the fringes of the event.

Outgoing US vice-president Joe Biden will address the summit on Wednesday, while US Secretary of State John Kerry will also attend the forum, undoubtedly one of his final official engagements of the Obama presidency.

Gaybo (Gay Byrne) hopes for best in battle against prostate cancer?

‘He is doing well. The treatment is ongoing’

Image result for Gaybo (Gay Byrne) hopes for best in battle against prostate cancer?  Gay Byrne on the Late Late Show in 1966  Image result for Gaybo (Gay Byrne) hopes for best in battle against prostate cancer?

Left Pic. Broadcaster Gay Byrne, with wife Kathleen, right pic. the old, the middle & the new L.L.S. hosts. Gay remains positive despite being diagnosed with prostate cancer

Ireland’s most-loved broadcaster Gay Byrne is upbeat and positive as he comes to terms with his cancer diagnosis, telling the Sunday Independent: “The treatment continues and we hope for the best.”

Gay was his usual sanguine self as he talked about his illness – echoing the thoughts of millions of well-wishers up and down the country who hope for his return to the airwaves in full health.

Last November, with typical understatement, Gay revealed to shocked listeners on RTE’s Lyric FM the disheartening news that he was suffering from cancer.

“I shall not be with our listeners on this day next week. Have to go to hospital… They think they may have discovered a bit of cancer in the prostate and they think it may have moved up into my back.

“I’ve had the most wonderful, fantastic, robust, good health all my broadcasting life,” he said in usual breezy style during his enormously popular show on the classical radio station.

“It’s my turn now… many, many people much worse off. Thank you for your good wishes,” he signed off.

Now, nearly three months on, Gay is in the throes of cancer treatment, but he is tough and resilient and well aware that he is undergoing the same difficulties endured by so many who are touched by the disease in this country.

And he is aware that prostate cancer is very treatable and the chances of a favourable outcome are quite high.

In short, Gay is not feeling sorry for himself but ongoing medical treatment obviously interrupted the usual Christmas and New Year celebrations – a favourite time of year for the couple who were married in 1964.

“Everything is on hold while we do our best to look after Gay,” his wife Kathleen Watkins told the Sunday Independent yesterday.

“He is doing well. The treatment is ongoing. Do thank the many people all over the country who have been in touch,” Kathleen requested.

“We got all the notes and letters and cards. We read all of them. Thank you. Thank you to all those kind people.It’s so much appreciated.”

The broadcasting legend is being looked after by his devoted wife at their home in Ballsbridge and there is lots of help and encouragement from the family – as well as the good wishes of an entire nation.

Local Property Tax in Sligo has highest compliance rate of almost 97% in Ireland

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There was a compliance rate of 96.8% with the Local Property Tax in Sligo in 2016 according to the figures just released by Revenue.

The national compliance rate is is estimated at 97% which is in line with previous years.

Revenue, which oversees its collection, say some €5.3 million was collected through the tax in county Sligo last year from almost 30,000 properties. Laois and South Dublin had the highest compliance rate in the country at 99.8%.

The vast majority of householders in County Sligo (43.8%) valued their homes in the lowest bracket of up to €100,000 with 32.1% valuing their houses up to €150,000 and 16.4 falling into the €150,001 to €200,000 category. Just 1.5% valued their homes at over €300,000 and a further 1.5% were in the €250,001 to €300,000 bracket. Approximately 42% of property owners self-assessed the same valuation band as the Revenue estimate and 58% of property owners self-assessed a different LPT valuation band compared to Revenue.

LPT Exchequer receipts in 2016 (at end December) are €463m. This includes approximately €50m in pre-payments for 2017 LPT as well as €70m in payments for 2015 LPT and earlier years. Exchequer receipts also include Household Charge (HHC) arrears. Revenue assumed responsibility for the collection of arrears of HHC from July 2013. By end 2016 in excess of €64m was collected (including nearly €8m in 2016) and over 360,000 additional properties are now HHC compliant.

For 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 Revenue issued 212,000, 148,000 and 324,000 and 300,000 compliance letters respectively. In the vast majority of these cases property owners fully complied with their LPT payment obligations, either on a phased basis or by way of a single payment. However, in each year there were a relatively small number of cases that chose to remain non-compliant,

Revenue say it left them with no alternative but to deploy debt collection/enforcement measures or other sanctions to ensure payment. Some 864 cases were referred to the Sheriff in 2016 and 40 cases to external solicitors for collection. Over 20,300 tax clearance requests were refused on foot of LPT non-compliance, of which almost 97% were subsequently granted clearance following mutually acceptable payment solutions.

Revenue deducted LPT from the salaries or pensions of almost 89,000 property owners last year of which over 49,000 ‘rolled over’ from mandatory deductions applied in 2015. Over 11,000 valuations were also increased in 2016 following Revenue compliance interventions.

The BT Young Scientist exhibition category winners

All the winners in each section of 2016 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition

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Right picture the overall BT Young Scientist & Technologist of the Year 2017 Shane Curran from Terenure College.

And above left picture:- Shay Walsh, managing director BT Ireland (left) and Minister for Education Richard Bruton (right), with Matthew Blakeney and Mark McDermott of the Jesus & Mary Secondary School, Sligo, runners-up at the BT Young Scientist & Technologist of the Year 2017 with their project Flint on the Moy?

The winners in each category of the 2016 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition have been announced.

1st place Junior group Kinsale Community School, Impact of sound pitch on the biological gustatory perception mechanism, a quantitative comparative study between adults and children.

Biological and Ecological Junior Group Caoimhe Lynch , Sylvie Plant

2nd place Junior group Loreto College – Foxrock, Does Simulating a Lack of Binocular Vision Have An Impact on performance?

Biological and Ecological Junior Group, Jessica Oakley O’Kelly, Margot Moore, Jennifer Leavy

3rd place Junior group St Mary’s Diocesan School, 40 Licks ( trying to determine if being weaned onto certain foods as a baby can effect your development into a super-taster) Biological and Ecological Junior Group Seb Lennon Calum Agnew

1st place Junior individual Christ King Girls Secondary School, An investigation on whether cereal is a healthy breakfast option for Children Biological and Ecological Junior Individual Romy Kolich

2nd place Junior individual Bandon Grammar School, A novel approach to growing Nannochloropsis in a controlled environment and it’s subsequent ability to produce oil Biological and Ecological Junior Individual Gregory Tarr

3rd place Junior individual Sandford Park School Ltd, Time as a variable in bread production Biological and Ecological Junior Individual Oscar Despard

1st place intermediate group Loreto Secondary School – Balbriggan, Does consuming certain varieties of potatoes as a staple food in a diet, increase blood glucose levels & chance of high blood pressure and diabetes in a sample of Rush residents Biological and Ecological Intermediate Group Sophie Weldon Laura Weldon Emma Kleiser Byrne

2nd place intermediate group Tullamore College , Investigating The Difference In Bacterial Contamination When Handling and Using a Device to Insert Contact Lenses Biological and Ecological Intermediate Group Lucy Leonard Michele Mann

3rd place intermediate Group Avondale Community College, Biodegradable plastic pots to minimise the effects of transplant shock. Biological and Ecological Intermediate Group Ayyub Azmat Niall Gaffeny Christopher Makin.

1st place intermediate individual Ardscoil Ris ‘To Bee or not to Bee’: Investigating solutions to falling bee populations using a multifaceted problem solving approach. Biological and Ecological Intermediate Individual David Hamilton

2nd place intermediate individual Colaiste Choilm, Investigating the use of natural plants oils and extracts as an antiproliferative cancer agents. Biological and Ecological Intermediate Individual Aivan Jose

3rd place intermediate individual Bandon Grammar School, A comparison of foot biomechanics in sport playing and non-sport playing teens Biological and Ecological Intermediate Individual Alex O’ Connor

1st place Senior group Midleton College , Foal sickness containment and prevention Biological and Ecological Senior Group Cathal Mariga George Hennessy

2nd place Senior group Loreto Secondary School – Balbriggan, To investigate whether contrast sensitivity can be improved from regular exposure to action video games and the impact on everyday tasks on a teenager with myopia Biological and Ecological Senior Group Chloe Tap Dagmara Dobkowska

3rd place Senior group St Joseph’s Secondary School, Stimulating plant growth using electricity Biological and Ecological Senior Group Niamh McHugh Vitalija Janusonyte

1st place Senior individual Our Ladys College – Drogheda, The Antimicrobial Potential of Tree Bark Extracts Biological and Ecological Senior Individual Niamh Ann Kelly

2nd place Senior individual Coláiste Choilm, An Investigation into the Application of Symsagittera roscoffensis & it’s symbiont Tetraselmis convolutae in Neurobiology and Biotechnology. Biological and Ecological Senior Individual Con Moran

3rd place Senior individual Scoil Mhuire Strokestown , An investigation into the quality of effluent discharging domestic waste water treatment systems (septic tanks) and an apparatus to improve this. Biological and Ecological Senior Individual Abbie Moloney

1st place Junior group Synge Street CBS, Generalisations of Feynman’s Triangle Theorem Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences Junior Group Carl Jones Keiron O’Neill

2nd place Junior group Synge Street CBS, New Conjectures Concerning the Partition Function Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences Junior Group Talha Moktar Abdulrhman Abouryana

3rd place Junior group Sutton Park School, The design and testing of a safe drinking water system for developing countries Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences Junior Group Xiangyu Carbon Mallol Méabh Scahill

A huge glacier crack in the Antarctic ice shelf widens dramatically

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A huge chunk of Antarctic ice is hanging on by a virtual thread. At the edge of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, a glacier is cracking from the inside out at an alarming speed. That’s scary because this glacier, and others like it, keep the ice from flowing into the sea, where it would raise sea levels by several feet.

The ice shelf in danger is known as Larsen C. British researchers who are monitoring the crack in this ice shelf believe that only about 12 miles now connect the chunk of ice to the rest of the continent. You can see more images of this ice crack here.

“After a few months of steady, incremental advance since the last event, the rift grew suddenly by a further 18 km [11 miles] during the second half of December 2016,” wrote Adrian Luckman in a statement from the MIDAS Project, which is monitoring changes in the area.

Luckman, a professor at Swansea University in Wales, and head of the MIDAS Project, is referring to a crack that has been growing for years and is now a total of roughly 70 miles long. When that fissure finally reaches the far side of the shelf, British scientists believe that an iceberg the size of Delaware will float off. The ice shelf itself is almost the size of Scotland, and the fourth largest of its kind in Antarctic. The piece that it is getting ready to break off is nearly 2,000 square miles in size.

It’s true that icebergs break off from ice sheets in the Antarctic on a fairly regular basis, but this one is especially significant because of its size, and because it shows that the ice retreat is happening farther inland than scientists had previously observed.

What Could Happen After This Break?

What will happen next? Scientists are uncertain. But the consequences of the break could be dramatic.

“When it calves, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10 percent of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded; this event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula,” said the MIDAS researchers in a statement about the rift.

The First Time In Over 12,000 Years and this could be part of a broader pattern for ice shelves.

It’s the latest sign of major ice loss in the fast warming Antarctic Peninsula, which has already seen the breakup of two other shelves in the same region, events that have been widely attributed to climate change. Larsen A collapsed in 1995, and much of Larsen B collapsed dramatically in 2002. Scientists have revealed that this is probably not something that has happened in the past 12,000 years or possibly, even more alarmingly, in more than 100,000 years.

So, Antarctica has lost ice shelves before, but none so huge as this one.

The iceberg resulting from this crack will not in itself raise sea levels, but if this ice shelf breaks up even more, that would have an impact on sea levels. Experts believe that if all the ice that the Larsen C shelf currently holds back entered the sea, global waters would rise by around four inches.

Antarctica is geographically a long way from most of us, but what happens there could be an indication of what’s happening with our planet Earth.

Is Climate Change To Blame?

The Project MIDAS group has not made any statement attributing the development at Larsen C to climate change, but has stated that the shelf would be “at its most retreated position ever recorded,” which suggests the possibility of climate change being the cause for this crack.

Previous research has also noted that the Larsen C ice shelf is becoming less thick, making it float lower in the water, which appears linked to the warming of the Antarctic Peninsula in recent decades.

Meanwhile, scientists wait for the anticipated break. Luckman told the BBC that “If it doesn’t go in the next few months, I’ll be amazed.”

But there are few certainties right now apart from an imminent change to the outline of Antarctica’s icy coast. “The eventual consequences might be the ice shelf collapsing in years to decades,” said Luckman.

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

Image result for The Sun is not the key driver of climate change    Image result for The Sun is not the key driver of climate change

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

Tuesday 6th December 2016

Ireland does not engage in “harmful tax competition” says European Commission

Officials face tough questioning on corporation tax plan at Oireachtas inquiry

Image result for Ireland does not engage in “harmful tax competition” says European Commission ? Image result for harmful tax competition in ireland does not happen says European Commissioner

Ireland does not engage in “harmful tax competition” in the European Union, the European Commission has told an Oireachtas inquiry, in a marked change of tone from previous criticisms.

Defending plans for changes to the EU’s corporate tax rules, the Commission officials rejected charges that they would lead, if implemented, to the harmonisation of rates across the Union.

Asked if the plan for a Common Consolidated Tax Base (CCCTB )was a “Trojan horse” for tax harmonisation, a leading Commission tax expert, Mr Bert Zuijdendorp was unequivocal. “No is the short answer,” he said.

Such an attempt, if it was made, would be “an insult to the intelligence of the member states,” he told the Oireachtas Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform committee in Leinster House.

Oireachtas questions?

The Commission officials were questioned by TDs and senators, including the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, who asked if Ireland had engaged in harmful tax competition.

Mr Zuijdendorp said: “Do we consider Ireland today is engaged in harmful tax competition? I don’t think the answer to that is yes. No. I don’t think that is the case. We are in a better place now that we were ten or 15 years ago.”.

The CCCTB plan, previously opposed by Ireland, was re-launched recently by the European Commission and Brussels insiders say there is more momentum behind the plan that when it was first proposed in 2011.

Even previously sceptical countries are now more open to the idea, though TDs and senators strongly expressed opposition. Officials from the Department of Finance and Revenue said that the Government had not yet taken a position.

The CCCTB would first introduce a common tax base across Europe with agreement on exactly what was taxable in corporate profits and what deductions and expenses could be allowed.

The second stage of the plan, if it is eventually accepted by EU states, would divide the tax paid by corporations amongst the member states by reference to labour, assets and sales.

Ireland has long feared that such an arrangement would lead to a substantial erosion of corporation tax receipts paid in Ireland – and suspect this is precisely why other European countries and the Commission want to progress the plan.

Multinational companies.

The Commission and several member states, including France and Germany, have always been irked at the relatively low rate of Ireland’s corporation tax, and at the activities of multinational companies which channel their profits through Ireland to minimise tax bills.

TDs and Senators were hostile to the plan on Tuesday, with Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath td accusing the Commission officials of “seeking to rewrite our entire corporation tax code”.

“This is a serious encroachment on the core competence of a member state,” Mr McGrath said.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty TD said that the Commission was engaging in “a blatant attempt to pull the wool over politicians’ eyes”.

Fine Gael TD Peter Burke said the CCCTB would be “an unmitigated disaster for Ireland”, while the committee’s acting chairman, Fianna Fáil senator Gerry Horkan said that there were “serious reservations from an Irish perspective”.

The Commission officials reminded the committee that unanimity was needed for the proposal to be adopted.

Nearly €13 million in Irish tax settlements in latest defaulters list

Image result for Nearly €13 million in Irish tax settlements in latest defaulters list   Image result for Nearly €13 million in Irish tax settlements in latest defaulters list

In total there were eight settlements in excess of €500,000 during the third quarter, while 32 were for more than €100,000

Settlements amounting to nearly €13 million were agreed with Revenue between July and September of this year, according to the latest tax defaulters’ list.

The largest single settlement of €895,931 for underdeclaration of VAT was agreed with the property developers O’Keefe Developments, which was based in Keady, Co Armagh. The company is now in liquidation.

Two other property development firms also made settlements of more than €500,000.

E L McGettigan & Sons from Kilmacrennan, Co Donegal – which is also now in liquidation – settled for €733,639 for underdeclaration of both corporation tax and VAT, while the now dissolved Highball – which was based in Ballsbridge in Dublin – settled for €669,315 in relation to underdeclaration of VAT.

Meanwhile, medical consultant Michael Geary, with an address at Torquay Rd, Foxrock, Dublin, settled with Revenue for €894,470 in relation to underdeclaration of income tax.

According to the list of tax defaulters, Crossan Hennessy Newsagents on the Naas Rd, Dublin 12 reached a settlement of €507,936 after underdeclaring VAT and PAYE/PRSI.

In total there were eight settlements in excess of €500,000 during the third quarter, while 32 were for more than €100,000.

Three of the 64 settlements published, yielding €630,000, relate to Revenue’s investigation into offshore assets and funds.

Big cuts needed to save Bus Éireann jobs & routes, says Minister Ross

Routes and jobs both under threat as losses expected to rise to €6m next year

Image result for Cuts needed to save Bus Éireann, says Minister Ross  Image result for Cuts needed to save Bus Éireann, says Minister Ross

Bus Éireann could be insolvent within two years, according to Transport Minister Shane Ross. The Minister for Transport Shane Ross has warned that Bus Éireann is facing insolvency within two years unless difficult decisions are made.

Mr Ross told his Cabinet colleagues between six and eight of the least profitable routes may have to be axed to bridge the funding gap at the company.

The Minister said the firm has reached a critical state in its financial situation and a number of unpopular decisions may have to be made.

Bus Éireann reported losses of up to €5.6 million last year and has projected a €6 million loss this year.

The semi-state company faults the Expressway services for the significant losses and is seeking to separate it from the rest of the firm.

In crisis?

It is also proposing a reduction in staff and the introduction of pay cuts for remaining employees.

Mr Ross told his Cabinet colleagues the losses were unsustainable and the semi-state company was now in crisis.

The bleak financial picture was outlined to the Minister recently when he met the chief executive of Bus Éireann, Martin Nolan. He also met the chair of the company, Aidan Murphy, on Monday.

  • Bus Éireann says there are too many buses on key routes

  • Bus Éireann seeks external review of Expressway plans

  • Bus Éireann drivers warn of industrial action on reform plan

Mr Ross said: “What they are looking at now is to find a solution to a critical situation in their finances.”

The announcement was made as management and unions met at the Labour Court to discuss union requests for pay increases of up to 21 per cent for drivers.

Management did not engage on pay insisting they could not assess the claims outside of examining the other cost-cutting measures.

In a statement the company said: “Bus Éireann incurred a €5.6 million loss in 2015 and is forecasting a similar deficit for 2016, mainly due to losses on our commercial Expressway services.

“The company must advance our cost reduction plan.

“The company attended the Labour Court with employee unions today December 6th, to address a pay claim.

“Bus Éireann has previously stated that we cannot afford a pay increase, given the immediate cost savings required to address ongoing losses.”

Mr Ross has backed the company and insisted it cannot afford the increases being sought by drivers.

The Minister and Bus Éireann will face stiff opposition to any proposals to cut staff or the company’s operations.

Some opposition?

The Programme for Government commits to a full review of public transport policy and to investing in services including an updated bus fleet.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on transport Robert Troy said his party were totally opposed to any reduction in bus services or compulsory job losses. He said Bus Éireann is losing business to the private sector and the company is not responding adequately enough.

“It is unbelievable that despite this being highlighted by Bus Éireann for months, Minister Ross is only bringing it to Cabinet now,” he said.

“You could question whether he is taking this seriously at all. We cannot have a situation develop here where connectivity is at risk. Rural services have already been decimated. Mr Ross now needs to examine the subsidies available to the company and how they can be better used,” he added.

A recent report also warned Iarnród Éireann faces insolvency unless it gets more State money. And even with some additional Government funding, the routes from Limerick to Ballybrophy and Limerick Junction to Waterford could close. The National Transport Authority and Iarnród Éireann’s review also said part of the Limerick-Galway route from Ennis to Athenry, which only came back into service in 2010 at a cost of €100 million, and the Wexford line south of Gorey could be shut, leaving Wexford town and Rosslare without a rail service.

The report found the semi-State needs an extra €103 million a year over the next five years to ensure its survival.

The chief executive of Bus Éireann, meanwhile, has made a number of appointments to its management team to assist with their financial difficulties. Mr Nolan confirmed Ray Hernon would be appointed as the new chief financial officer. Joe Kenny, who operated as the chief Human Resources Officer, left the company after over 30 years of service with the CIÉ group.

New RTE footage shows insurance scammers staging road crashes for fraudulent claims

Image result for New RTE footage shows insurance scammers staging road crashes for fraudulent claims  Image result for New RTE footage shows insurance scammers staging road crashes for fraudulent claims

New footage of insurance scammers staging road crashes in order to lodge fraudulent claims has been broadcast for the first time.

Gardai filmed the footage, broadcast on RTE’s Prime Time, that shows two crashes which were found to have been faked for insurance purposes.

Speaking to a former Garda Drug Trafficking and organised crime officer, reporter Fran McNulty hears that organised criminals are using insurance fraud to finance their criminal network.

In one of the clips, broadcast on Tuesday night, the aftermath of a crash between a van and a car is shown.

Footage shown on @RTE_PrimeTime shows people staging a car crash in order to make a fraudulent insurance claim

A car can be seen arriving on scene and two men exit this car and get into the crashed car.

It is only then that the emergency services are called to the late night incident.

In a separate piece of footage, the driver of a van that was rear ended by a car, instructs the man who crashed into him, to “move back and do it one more time”.

Fraud Manager with Aviva Insurance Rob Smyth told RTÉ Prime Time that he is “quite satisfied that criminals are using insurance fraud as a way of funding their lifestyle”.

“Unfortunately when police officers are stopping these people with cash, most of them have had an insurance claim in the past and it justifies having possession of that ten thousand euro of cash or that twenty thousand euro of cash, but the fact of the matter is, it is covering up their criminal activities,” he said.

People are flying into Ireland as a result of the high levels of payouts for whiplash and soft tissue injuries here, the programme also reports.

According to Prime Time, these fraudsters are then hiring cars and crashing them.

Hertz’s Michael Brennan tells RTÉ Prime Time that 20pc of its insurance reserve is set aside for suspected fraudulent claims.

“We have seen accidents staged within as little as thirty minutes from the time of the rental, in some instances with rentals as short as 24 hours,” he said.

“But, within that period a road traffic accident is taking place resulting in multiple injuries but when examined at a closer level the circumstances of the accident, the circumstances of the rental and the testimony of our renter appears highly incredible”.

Insurance Ireland tells RTÉ Prime Time that the payouts here are so out of kilter with other countries that fraud tourism and fraudulent claims are leading to what they term a “propensity” of people engaging in the illegal behaviour.

Every person that features in the footage, except for one, have been charged and convicted of offences.

Movember awareness exercise shows that men’s health is in crisis in Ireland?

Image result for Movember awareness exercise shows that men’s health is in crisis in Ireland?  Image result for Movember awareness exercise shows that men’s health is in crisis in Ireland?

The Phibsboro firefighters (above left) who grew beards/moustaches for Movember 2016.

The people behind Movember, an annual event to raise awareness of men’s health problems, have suggested that men’s health is in crisis.

Last month, the Movember foundation created a space where men could discuss their health and get what was, for many, their first check-up.

The Movember & Co initiative used a free barber shop as a Trojan Horse to discover how well men were looking after themselves. It found that 41% of men did not check their testicles, even though testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among young Irish men aged 15 to 34.

More than half of the men (55%) did not take regular exercise, while 14% did not exercise at all.

Also, 61% of men had high cholesterol and, for 5%, it was very high. It is typical of what doctors usually find.

The campaign also highlighted men’s mental health, with Movember on a mission to combat this crisis, too.

There were 380 pairs of men’s shoes laid on the street outside Leinster House to symbolise the number of Irishmen who die by suicide each year.

The shoes were a powerful reminder that mental health does not discriminate by job, age, or income, but it does by gender, with men accounting for eight out of 10 suicides each week.

Movember has grown into the largest men’s health foundation in the world and works year round to encourage men to take control of their health.

On average, globally, men die six years before women. Men also suffer from diseases that are often preventable with minor lifestyle changes.

Money raised during Movember is used to fund the Irish Cancer Society’s Action Prostate Cancer programme.

Earth’s day lengthens by two milliseconds a century,

Astronomers tell us?

Image result for Earth's day lengthens by two milliseconds a century  day chart 2   Image result for Earth's day lengthens by two milliseconds a century

The gradual slowing of the planet’s rotation is causing our day to lengthen, a comparison of nearly 3,000 years of celestial records has revealed.

Changes in the world’s sea levels and electromagnetic forces between Earth’s core and its rocky mantle also have effects on Earth’s spin.

There may never be enough hours in the day to get everything done, but at least the forces of nature are conspiring to help out.

Astronomers who compiled nearly 3,000 years of celestial records have found that with every passing century, the day on Earth lengthens by two milliseconds as the planet’s rotation gradually winds down.

The split second gained since the first world war may not seem much, but the time it takes for a sunbeam to travel 600km towards Earth can cost an Olympic gold medal, as the American Tim McKee found out when he lost to Sweden’s Gunnar Larsson in 1972.

For those holding out for a whole extra hour a day, be prepared for a long wait. Barring any change in the rate of slowing down, an Earth day will not last 25 hours for about two million centuries more.

Researchers at Durham University and the UK’s Nautical Almanac Office gathered historical accounts of eclipses and other celestial events from 720BC to 2015. The oldest records came from Babylonian clay tablets written in cuneiform, with more added from ancient Greek texts, such as Ptolemy’s 2nd century Almagest, and scripts from China, medieval Europe and the Arab dominions.

The ancient records captured the times and places that people witnessed various stages of solar and lunar eclipses, while documents from 1600AD onwards described lunar occultations, when the moon passed in front of particular stars and blocked them from view.

To find out how the Earth’s rotation has varied over the 2,735-year-long period, the researchers compared the historical records with a computer model that calculated where and when people would have seen past events if Earth’s spin had remained constant.

“Even though the observations are crude, we can see a consistent discrepancy between the calculations and where and when the eclipses were actually seen,” said Leslie Morrison, an astronomer on the team. “It means the Earth has been varying in its state of rotation.”

The Earth formed from a spinning cloud of dust and gas 4.5bn years ago, but it is thought to have received an extra rotational kick when a Mars-sized object crashed into the young planet and knocked off the material that became the moon. In that cataclysmic event, a day on Earth may have leapt from six hours to 24 hours.

But astronomers have long known that Earth’s spin is slowing down. The main braking effect comes from tides caused by the moon’s gravity. “The heaping up of water drags on the Earth as it spins underneath,” said Morrison. As Earth’s rotation slows, the moon’s orbit grows by about 4cm a year.

Tidal braking is not the only force at work though. The astronomers found that Earth’s spin would have slowed down even more had it not been for a counteracting process. Since the end of the most recent ice age, land masses that were once buried under slabs of frozen water have been unloaded and sprung back into place. The shift caused the Earth to be less oblate – or squished – on its axis. And just as a spinning ice skater speeds up when she pulls in her arms, so the Earth spins faster when its poles are less compressed.

Changes in the world’s sea levels and electromagnetic forces between Earth’s core and its rocky mantle had effects on Earth’s spin too, according to the scientists’ report in Proceedings of the Royal Society. The different forces seem to drive cycles in the Earth’s rotation spanning decades to centuries, with one cycle repeating every 1500 years.

“Geological processes occur on long time scales which makes direct observation of their evolution extremely difficult on human timescales,” said Jon Mound, a geophysicist at Leeds University who was not involved in the research. “This is a particular problem for phenomena such as the Earth’s rotation which don’t leave direct evidence in the geological record.”

“In many ways this is an amazing result that ties together a wide range of investigations at opposite ends of the scale of technological sophistication to determine to high precision an extremely small effect,” he said.

 

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 28th November 2016

Dáil expected to pass Bill legalising medicinal cannabis

Up to 90 TDs support new legislation proposed by People Before Profit’s Gino Kenny

Image result for Dáil expected to pass Bill legalising medicinal cannabis   Image result for Dáil expected to pass Bill legalising medicinal cannabis

Gino Kenny TD, whose Bill for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis has received widespread support in the Dáil.

Legislation allowing for the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes is expected to pass through the Dáil.

A Bill proposed by People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny has secured the support of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour, the Social Democrats, the Green Party and his colleagues in the Anti-Austerity Alliance.

A number of other Independent TDs including Dr Michael Harty and the Independents4Change are also expected to back it.

The Independent Alliance, which includes Minister for Transport Shane Ross, Minister of State at the Department of Health Finian McGrath and Minister of State John Halligan, has also secured a free vote on the legislation.

This means the Bill will have the support of up to 90 TDs in the Dáil ensuring its passage through the House.

Minister for Health Simon Harris is likely to propose a reasoned amendment to the legislation.

Mr Harris is eager to see change on the issue of medicinal cannabis but is awaiting a report from the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) on the subject. It is due to report back by the end of January.

The Minister has met Mr Kenny and People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett to discuss the legislation.

Mr Harris has asked the deputies to consider adjourning the debate or suspending the vote until the report is concluded.

The Bill, which is to be debated on Thursday, provides for the regulation of cannabis for medicinal use so that patients can receive a legally protected, secure supply that is safe and effective.

Regulatory authority?

However, it also proposes the establishment of a cannabis regulatory authority, which would be tasked with regulating the sale, labelling, advertising and marketing of cannabis and related products.

A Cannabis Research Institute, which would conduct or commission and publish cannabis-related research, has also been proposed.

Once the Bill is passed it will go to the Oireachtas health committee for examination.

While a number of parties have agreed in principle to support the Bill, it is likely they will seek a number of changes at committee stage.

Sinn Féin is to request the HPRA oversee the regulation of cannabis rather than establishing two new bodies. Fianna Fáil, the Independent Alliance and Labour are likely to seek safeguards to ensure this does not lead to abuse of the law or the decriminalisation of cannabis.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977 to 2016, cannabis is subject to stringent controls. A doctor can prescribe cannabis products in limited circumstances if granted a licence by the Minister for Health. One cannabis-based medicine, Sativex, is authorised for the treatment of multiple sclerosis in limited circumstances. Legislation could be amended to allow for its prescription on a wider basis.

Cannabis for medicinal use is permitted in the Netherlands, Croatia, Malta, the Czech Republic, Australia, Canada and a number of US states.

Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne said there should be an option for people to access cannabis for medical use.

“I have had a lot of calls on the issue with people making very good cases in favour of legalising cannabis for medical use, and against. In my own position, as Minister of State, I would be concerned that there would have to be very tight controls on it,” she said.

“I wouldn’t want people to think we are legalising cannabis, which is something I’d be totally against. We don’t want to see cannabis available on prescription and then being dealt on the streets.”

Doctor allegedly admitted cutting C-section patient in the wrong place

Obstetrician accused of professional misconduct in Sligo is before medical council

Dr Andrea Hermann  Image result for Consultant gynaecologist at Sligo Regional Hospital

Dr Andrea Hermann was also the subject of a previous fitness to practice inquiry at the Medical Council, in 2009 and 2010.

A doctor who allegedly admitted cutting a patient undergoing a Caesarean section “in the wrong place” is before a medical council fitness to practice inquiry.

Dr Andrea Hermann faces allegations of professional misconduct and poor professional performance arising from her care of six patients at Sligo Univerity Hospital where she worked as an obstetric and gynaecological registrar in 2013 and 2014.

Patient A told the inquiry that she suspected something was not right when she was still in hospital four days after giving birth. She asked her husband to take a look at her scar and, when he did so, she said he told her, “It’s an awful big scar. It goes down one side.”

She was allowed go home on the Sunday but just as she was leaving a woman at reception “roared” at her to stay. She said Dr Hermann then came up to her. The doctor brought Patient A into a room and, according to Patient A, said, “I cut you in the wrong place.”

Patient A said Dr Hermann admitted she had made a mistake, apologised and said she was sorry this had happened to her.

Patient A said Dr Hermann said by way of explanation that they were using new drapes – a large piece of fabric placed over the patient with a slit for the incision – during the surgery.

“At this point I didn’t know what to think,” Patient A told the inquiry. “I was very shocked. I was quite upset leaving the hospital.”

“I was devastated,” she said. “I couldn’t get my head around how she had made a mistake doing a planned section.”

She said she still experiences a twinge of pain on her side.

Serious consequences.

In relation to another patient, it is alleged that Dr Hermann failed to establish whether a Mirena coil was still in place during a follow-up appointment. This patient later conceived and miscarried, the inquiry heard.

It is also alleged that Dr Hermann failed to display any surgical skill when closing a uterotomy during a procedure undergone by a woman referred to as Patient F. The inquiry heard that during this procedure, in January 2014, Dr Hermann was attempting to suture Patient F’s uterus to her abdominal wall. If it had not been for the intervention of one of her colleagues, there could have been very serious consequences for the patient, the inquiry heard.

It is also alleged Dr Hermann failed to tell the Sligo hospital of previous conditions imposed on her by the Medical Council following an earlier fitness to practice inquiry in 2010.

Her legal representative, Gerard O’Donnell, of O’Donnell Waters solicitors in Galway, read out a statement on behalf of Dr Hermann, before going off record. In the statement, Dr Hermann said that as a result of events following the previous inquiry in 2009 and 2010, she suffered from severe depression and was “traumatised”. She said her privacy was of huge importance and asked that her name did not appear in the media again.

Senior counsel Patrick Leonard, for the Medical Council, said Dr Hermann was also the subject of a previous fitness to practice inquiry at the Medical Council, in 2009 and 2010. Before this time, Dr Hermann worked in the Galway Clinic.

On foot of this, the Medical Council recommended that Dr Hermann be suspended for one year and that certain conditions be attached to her registration, such as agreeing to certain supervision, once she began work again. These conditions were confirmed by the High Court in March 2011.

Dr Hermann was suspended from June 2010 to June 2011. During this time, she practiced as a doctor in Germany, where she is from originally, and she continued to work there until the summer of 2013.

Restrictions disclosure?

It is alleged that she did not disclose the restrictions attached to her registration at a job interview at Sligo University Hospital when she returned to Ireland, although Dr Hermann disputes this.

Her application for re-registration was accepted and on July 24th, 2013, the Medical Council emailed Sligo hospital to confirm that Dr Hermann was registered, with certain conditions attached.

However, it appears that the hospital “did not appreciate” that Dr Hermann’s registration was subject to conditions, according to Mr Leonard.

By January 2014, concerns had been raised within Sligo hospital about Dr Hermann’s clinical competencies. The hospital removed her from the on-call rota, and they increased levels of supervision for her. In May 2014, Dr Hermann resigned from her post.

The inquiry heard that Dr Hermann, who is not present at the inquiry, admits to a number of the clinical allegations, and that they amount to poor professional performance. However, she has not made any admissions regarding the allegations concerning the conditions attached to her registration.

At the start of the inquiry Dr Hermann applied for a privacy application, so that her name would be anonymised, but this was denied.

Ireland’s unemployment rate falls to 7.3% for this November

Youth unemployment also slips to 15.5%, according to new CSO figures for November

  Image result for Ireland's unemployment rate falls to 7.3%

The unemployment rate for women in November was 6.1% now down from 6.2% in October.

The Republic’s unemployment rate fell to a new post-crash low of 7.3% during November, according to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for November 2016 was 7.3% – down from 7.5% in October 2016 and down from 9.1% in November 2015.

The number of people unemployed was 160,700 in November 2016, down from 164,100 in October 2016.

The 160,700 figure also represents a decrease of 36,200 when compared to November 2015.

In November 2016, the unemployment rate was 8.3% for men – down from 8.6% in October 2016 and down from 10.7% in November 2015.

Youth unemployment

The unemployment rate for women in November 2016 was 6.1% – down from 6.2% in October 2016 and down from 7.1% in November 2015.

The number of men unemployed in November 2016 was 99,600. This is a decrease of 3,400 when compared to the October 2016 figure of 103,000.

In November 2016, the number of women unemployed was 61,100 – an increase of 100 when compared to October 2016.

The unemployment rate for people aged 15-24 years (youth unemployment rate) was 15.5% in November 2016, a decrease from 16.4% cent in October 2016.

Merrion Stockbrokers economist Alan McQuaid said the fall in the figrues may “to some degree” be down to people returning to education or taking up training schemes.

“Although emigration has been a factor to some degree in keeping unemployment down since the financial crisis, the labour market has improved dramatically in recent years, reflecting the strengthening of the economic recovery,” he said.

“Meanwhile, in the third quarter of 2016, employment rose in twelve of the fourteen economic sectors on an annual basis and fell in the other two in the quarter.”

The greatest rates of increase were in the accommodation and food service activities sector, which rose 9.6% or 13,400, and in construction, which rose 7.3% or 9,300.

“The pick-up in the latter is particularly encouraging given that it was the building industry that suffered the worst in the downturn,” said Mr McQuaid.

The outlook?

The outlook from next year on however, is “more uncertain” in light of Britain’s impending exit from the European Union.

“Increased labour market participation will also impact on the numbers,” he said. “Still, we expect the downward trend in unemployment to continue over the next twelve months, albeit at a slower pace than before.”

ISME chief executive Neil McDonnell said living costs were impacting job creation.

“Government policies strongly influence almost 48% of the costs in the Consumer Price Index,” he said. “They must act now to reduce these costs, in health, education, housing, rent, insurance and travel”.

Mr McDonnell called on Government to reduce business costs to below the EU average, target capital investment in job rich infrastructure, outsource more state sector services to SMEs, and to reform the social welfare system to make it more profitable to work.

“If Government-controlled costs are reduced, workers would have more money in their pockets,” he said. “This would reduce the calls for pay increases, and would allow employers take on more staff.”

A Fathers’ embrace as role leader is tied to less behavioural problems in pre-teens

Image result for A Fathers’ embrace is tied to less behavioural problems in pre-teens   Image result for A Fathers’ embrace as role leader is tied to less behavioural problems in pre-teens

A new U.K. study suggests a new father’s adjustment to being a parent and his confidence in this role, rather than the amount of direct childcare they give, seems to be important during a child’s early years.

Investigators discovered pre-teens whose dads embrace parenthood may be less prone to behavioral issues.

The nature of parenting in a child’s early years is thought to influence their short- and long-term well-being and mental health, which are in turn linked to development and educational attainment.

But it’s not entirely clear what impact the father’s role might have, as much of the research to date has tended to characterize paternal involvement in a child’s upbringing as one-dimensional.

The researchers therefore drew on data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) study, which has been tracking the health of nearly 15,000 children since birth, to assess several aspects of paternal involvement. The study is published in the online journal BMJ Open.

The parents of 10,440 children living with both their mother and dad at the age of 8 months were asked to complete a comprehensive questionnaire about their and their child’s mental health. The questionnaire explored attitudes to parenting; time spent on childcare; their child’s behavior and development; as well as details of household income/education.

When the children were aged nine and 11, their behavior was assessed using the strength and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ). This covers emotional symptoms, behavior (conduct) problems, hyperactivity, peer relationship issues, and helpfulness (pro-social behavior).

Fathers’ parental involvement was measured by asking them to rate their level of agreement with 58 statements, reflecting the amount of direct childcare they engaged in, including household chores; their attitudes to parenting; the relationship with their child; and how they felt about the birth eight weeks and eight months afterwards.

The final analysis was based on almost 7,000 nine year-olds and nearly 6,500 of the same children at the age of 11.

Three key factors emerged in relation to the children’s SDQ scores:

1. fathers’ emotional response to the baby and their parenting role;

2. how much time the dads spent on direct childcare;

3. and how well they adjusted to their new role, including how confident they felt in their abilities as a parent and partner.

Investigators discovered a father’s emotional response and confidence in their new role were most strongly associated with lower odds of behavioural problems when their children reached nine and 11 years of age.

A high paternal factor one score was associated with 21 percent and 19 percent lower odds of a higher SDQ score at the ages of nine and 11, respectively. Similarly, a high paternal factor three score was associated with 28 percent lower odds of a higher SDQ score at both time points.

When researchers adjust for potentially influential factors, such as age at fatherhood, educational attainment and household income, hours worked and sex of the child, the results remained consistent.

Researchers noted, however, that the study is observational and no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. Moreover, researchers note the study dates back 25 years, and parenting styles may have changed, so the findings may therefore not be widely generalizable.

But they write, “The findings of this research study suggest that it is psychological and emotional aspects of paternal involvement in a child’s infancy that are most powerful in influencing later child behavior, and not the amount of time that fathers are engaged in childcare or domestic tasks in the household.”

A flying camera will now take your selfies from mid-air!

It’s a drone, and also, a flying camera.

Image result for A flying camera will now take your selfies from mid-air!     Image result for A flying camera will now take your selfies from mid-air!

Selfie sticks are so passé. Millennials now have something new to look forward to: a pocket-sized flying camera or perhaps the only portable flying camera that integrates with smartphones has now set a completely new aspiration for the selfie brigade.

It is simply called AirSelfie the device generates its own WiFi that a smartphone can pair with, and comes equipped with a rechargeable battery through a cell phone case. Additionally, a vibration-absorber system and a host of in-flight stability systems claim to offer fluid flight and sharp images. Compatible with most popular smartphones such as iPhone (6, 6s, 7 and 7 Plus), Huawei P9, Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, it is comprised of four propellers and a 5MP video camera with which you can take both photographs and video recordings.

With the built-in 260 mAh 7.4 V battery and a 4GB microSD card, the mini-drone can fly for up to three minutes on a single charge, and is controlled by its own app (available for iOS and Android.) For obvious reasons, the AirSelfie will work well for those personal selfies, and will also prove beneficial while taking group shots and family photos from up to 66 feet away. Users can take indoor and outdoor aerial photos of subjects and locations that would otherwise be unreachable.

“Our team of 60 seasoned technology professionals and enthusiasts researched, designed and created a flying camera that exceeds all current standards,” said Edoardo Stroppiana, co-founder of AirSelfie. “We saw an increasing need for a device that goes beyond a selfie stick, allowing users to take pictures from all angles, and we’re excited to introduce AirSelfie to millennials and consumers around the world. It sets a completely new bar for the market.”

How it works?

To activate AirSelfie, users need to remove it from its case, turn it on, then pair it with a smartphones via its self-generated WiFi access point. After use, simply pressing the ‘slide to land’ label on the app causes the device to descend and power off. Using the ‘selfie delay timer’ function, users can also take timed photos, giving them up to 10 seconds to get into position for the picture.

AirSelfie is available for pre-order via Kickstarter beginning November 17, and is slated to commence deliveries by March next year.

The Great Barrier Reef has suffered the worst coral devastation  on record

Image result for The Great Barrier Reef has suffered the worst coral devastation on record V Image result for The Great Barrier Reef has suffered the worst coral devastation on record

Earlier this year, the Great Barrier Reef was devastated by the largest mass bleaching event ever seen as record-warm ocean temperatures turned large swaths of this vibrant 1,400 mile habitat into a ghastly white boneyard.

Now scientists have finally tallied up the damage. Data released Monday by Australian researchers shows that an unprecedented fraction of the coral in the more pristine northern part of the reef has died, with average mortality rates of 67 percent.

The good news is that the southern sections fared much better, with just 6 percent of coral dead in the central section and 1% dead in the south. “The [sea] corals have now regained their vibrant colour, and these reefs are in good condition,” said Professor Andrew Baird of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in a release. Here’s a map showing the damage:

The map, detailing coral loss on Great Barrier Reef, shows how mortality varies enormously from north to south.

The scientists note that it could take 10 to 15 years for the worst-hit sections of the reef recover — but the real fear is that, thanks to global warming, another mass bleaching event will come along very soon and make the situation even worse.

How mass bleaching ravaged the Great Barrier Reef this year

Coral reefs are often dubbed the rain forests of the ocean. Anchored by millions of coral polyps — tiny, soft-bodied animals that create elaborate calcium carbonate skeletons that shelter fish — these reefs cover just 0.1 percent of the sea floor but are home to 25 percent of marine fish species.

They’re popular spots for divers and tourists. They protect coasts from storms. They sustain food for half a billion people. And they’re just plain lovely. Here’s what a healthy reef looks like:

Coral reefs are, however, extremely vulnerable to soaring temperatures. In normal times, the living coral polyps form a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae, a colorful type of algae that synthesizes sunlight and carbon dioxide to create nutrients for the reef. This algae gives the coral its purple/gold color.

But this symbiosis only thrives within a fairly narrow temperature band. If the water in the reef gets too warm, the zooxanthellae’s metabolism goes into overdrive and starts producing toxins. The polyps recoil and expel the algae from their tissue, leaving the coral with a ghastly “bleached” appearance. At that point, the coral loses a key source of food and becomes more susceptible to deadly diseases.

That’s what happened in January through March of this year. Record high temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, fueled by global warming and a powerful El Niño, caused mass bleaching throughout the Great Barrier Reef. Here’s a shot of bleached staghorn coral at Lizard Island, taken February 2016:

Bleaching doesn’t kill the coral right away; if ocean temperatures drop again, the zooxanthellae will come back. But if temperatures stay high for a long period and the bleaching gets really severe, as was the case in the Great Barrier Reef, then a lot of coral will start to die of malnutrition or disease.

Here’s another picture of Lizard Island taken two months later, in April 2016 — the staghorn coral is completely dead and smothered in algae:

Dead staghorn coral overrun by algae in April 2016 at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef.

Once the coral dies off, it can adversely affect the fish that rely on the reefs. The entire ecosystem suffers.

Bleached coral reefs can recover — but only if they’re given a chance

Now, the good news is that coral reefs can recover from these mass die-offs. Now that El Niño is gone, ocean temperatures have fallen around Australia. New polyps are returning and starting to build new skeletal structures to replace the dead coral.

The hitch is that recovery takes time. Lots of time. In places like the Seychelles, where reefs are mostly sheltered from pollution, tourism, and heavy fishing, it has taken at least 15 years for damaged reefs to come back. In areas stressed by human activity, the process can take much longer.

What’s more, recovery is often uneven. The fast-growing “branching” corals bounce back first. But there are also older, massive corals that are centuries old and provide valuable shelter for bigger fish. When those die off, they don’t return overnight.

And here’s the catch: The current pace of global warming may not give these damaged reefs sufficient time to bounce back fully. Before the 1980s, mass bleaching events were virtually unheard of. Now they’re becoming more and more frequent, particularly every time there’s an El Niño, as ocean temperatures spike. In April, a paper in Science warned that the Great Barrier Reef may lose its ability to bounce back as global warming continues.

“This year is the third time in 18 years that the Great Barrier Reef has experienced mass bleaching due to global warming, and the current event is much more extreme than we’ve measured before,” Terry Hughes of the ARC Centre said back in May.

Another complication: As we pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the oceans are becoming more acidic. In some cases, acidification can make corals more sensitive to bleaching at lower temperatures. It can also make it harder for the corals to build their protective skeletons and recover from events like this.

Now, there are some things that Australia (and other countries) can do to help make reefs more resilient to bleaching. Humans can limit fertilizer and sewage runoff that further damage the coral. We can avoid overfishing key herbivores like the rabbitfish that nurture the reefs by clearing away excessive algae.

Chomp, chomp. The white-spotted rabbitfish has been spotted clearing away harmful coral in the Great Barrier Reef.

Humans can also avoid wreaking havoc on reefs by rerouting boats around them and restricting construction in the coastal areas near them. Australia is on the wrong track here: In 2015, the government approved plans to expand coal exports via ship in the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef.

But ultimately, reducing our CO2 emissions is the crucial step. Mark Eakin, who runs who runs NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch program, told me back in March that we’d likely need to keep total global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius for coral reefs to continue thriving. Right now we’re on course to blow past 2 degrees Celsius, which could doom recovery efforts.

“At 2 degrees Celsius,” Eakin says bluntly, “we are likely to lose numerous species of coral and well over half of the world’s coral reefs.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 19th November 2016

Almost 200 countries agree climate time-frame change and make appeal to Trump

Marrakesh conference agrees to work out a rule book by December 2018

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Members of International delegations at the climate conference in Marrakesh on Friday.

Nearly 200 nations agreed around midnight on Friday to work out the rules for a landmark 2015 global deal to tackle climate change within two years in a new sign of international support for a pact opposed by US President-elect Donald Trump.

At the end of two-week talks on global warming in Marrakesh, which were extended an extra day, many nations appealed to Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, to reconsider his threat to tear up the Paris Agreement for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Showing determination to keep the Paris Agreement on track, the conference agreed to work out a rule book at the latest by December 2018.

A rule book is needed because the Paris Agreement left many details vague, such as how countries will report and monitor their national pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Two years may sounds like a long time, but it took four to work out detailed rules for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement’s predecessor, which obliged only developed countries to cut their emissions. Paris requires commitments by all.

The final text also urged rich nations to keep building towards a goal of providing $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar told a news conference that Marrakesh had been the start of turning promises made in Paris into action.

“We will continue on the path,” he said, urging Trump to join other nations in acting to limit emissions.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who will host next year’s climate meeting in Germany, invited Trump to drop his scepticism about climate change and visit the South Pacific nation to see the effects of stronger storms and rising seas.

Trump plans to favour fossil fuels over renewable energies and has threatened to halt any US taxpayer funds for UN climate programmes.

On Thursday, governments reaffirmed their commitment to “full implementation” of the Paris accord which seeks to phase out greenhouse gas emissions this century and to limit a global average rise in temperature to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

“Not one country has said that if President Trump pulls the United States out of Paris, they will follow him,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Environmental groups said the outcome in Marrakesh was a step in the right direction, but many issues needed to be resolved over the next two years, including funds for developing nations.

“Rich countries have been trying to wriggle out of their pledges to help poorer countries meet the costs of coping with impacts and greening their economies,” said Harjeet Singh at ActionAid.

Also on Friday, a group of 48 developing countries most at risk from climate change said they would strive to make their energy production 100 percent renewable “as rapidly as possible”, as part of efforts to limit global warming.

The Social Democrats joint leaders call for radical changes in Ireland?

Party seeks end to religious discrimination, repeal of the 8th amendment

Image result for The Social Democrats joint leaders call for radical changes in Ireland?  Image result for The Social Democrats joint leaders call for radical changes in Ireland?

Catherine Murphy (centre) and Róisín Shortall address the party event in Dublin.

The joint leaders of the Social Democrats have called for radical changes in Irish society including an end to religious discrimination, repeal of the 8th amendment, an end to corruption, and prioritising public services over tax cuts.

Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall set out a vision for the party based on the Nordic political model, with a strong liberal outlook, at the first national conference of the new party.

In their leaders’ address to the conference at the Dublin Convention Centre last night, Ms Shortall and Ms Murphy emphasised homelessness, affordable homes, a universal health system free at the point of delivery, as well as saying that spending on public services should always be prioritised over health cuts.

Speaking to about 300 members, the leaders called for repeal of the Official Secrets Act, as well as the Ministers and Secretaries Act. Ms Shortall said that it would open up government.

She also said that the Social Democrats in power would also ensure that those found guilty of white-collar crime and corruption would be put beyond bars. The part, she said, would establish an anti-corruption agency.

Both Ms Murphy and Ms Shortall called for repeal of Section 7 of the Equal Status Act. That they said would remove the “baptism barrier” and ensure that there would be no bar on grounds of religion preventing children being enrolled in faith-based schools.

“The law of the land, as it currently stands, is that state-funded schools are perfectly entitled to refuse entry to children as young as four because they are not signed up to a particular religious belief.

“Even schools which do allow access to children of different faith, or no faith, continue to expose those children to a religious ethos to which they do not subscribe. This is entirely unacceptable.”

Ms Murphy said the party would also pledge to abolish zero hours contracts if in power.

Ms Shortall said: “Across the world people are hurting and are seeking to lash out at an establishment that has hurt them.

“But lashing out is not enough; we want to replace anger with hope; hope that things will be better for the many and not just for the chosen few. Brexit and the unknown quantity of a Trump presidency have the potential to impact negatively on all of us, and on our ability to compete on the world stage.”

She said the most successful countries were those where the gap between rich and poor was smallest. “The countries that manage to achieve this, are ones which strive towards equality of outcome. Invariably the Nordic countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway deliver better on these successful outcomes.”

Ms Murphy was highly critical of the reforms that have taken place over the past decade, saying they were driven by savage cuts.

“We see it in our chaotic health service; in our ever-worsening homelessness and housing crisis; in our underfunded and disjointed public transport system; in the second most expensive childcare costs in the world; and an educational system where parents are increasingly being asked to fund basic services such as school-heating costs.”

Ms Shortall also committed the party to a goal to end consistent child poverty by 2021.

On housing, Ms Murphy called on the Government to take immediate action to ensure long term rent certainty.

“We have to immediately free up many of the 200,000 vacant homes across the country,” she said.

As much as 130,000 customers hit by Three mobile data breach

Image result for As much as 130,000 customers hit by Three mobile data breach   Image result for As much as 130,000 customers hit by Three mobile data breach

The primary purpose of this was not to steal customer information but was criminal activity to acquire new handsets fraudulently.

More than 130,000 users of the Three mobile network has been compromised in a cyber security breach.

Customer information from more than 130,000 users of the Three mobile network has been compromised in a cyber security breach, the mobile operator has said.

Three boss Dave Dyson said in a statement that all affected customers were being contacted individually and that while personal information had been accessed, no financial information had been compromised.

Three men were arrested after the data breach was revealed, over the alleged fraudulent use of the company’s phone upgrade system in attempted to steal handsets.

“As you may already know, we recently became aware of suspicious activity on the system we use to upgrade existing customers to new devices and I wanted to update all our customers on what happened and what we have done,” Mr Dyson said.

“On 17th November we were able to confirm that eight customers had been unlawfully upgraded to a new device by fraudsters who intended to intercept and sell on those devices.

“I can now confirm that the people carrying out this activity were also able to obtain some customer information.

“In total, information from 133,827 customer accounts was obtained but no bank details, passwords, pin numbers, payment information or credit/debit card information are stored on the upgrade system in question.

“We believe the primary purpose of this was not to steal customer information but was criminal activity to acquire new handsets fraudulently.”

Three said it was continuing to work with law enforcement agencies, and as a precaution additional security measures had been placed on customer accounts.

The company had been criticised by some customers on social media for what was seen as a muted response to the breach, however Mr Dyson said Three would address all consumer concerns.

“I understand that our customers will be concerned about this issue and I would like to apologise for this and any inconvenience this has caused,” he said.

“We are contacting all of these customers today to individually confirm what information has been accessed and directly answer any questions they have.”

Security experts have again called for major companies with large amounts of customer data to do more to protect consumers.

The breach is the latest in a string of cyber attacks and data breaches, including those on TalkTalk and Yahoo.

How stages of prostate cancer are determined?

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Any diagnosis of cancer has its own method of staging, which is a way to describe how much cancer is in your body and where it’s located.

Any diagnosis of cancer will have its own method of staging of the cancer detected. Cancer staging is a way to describe how much cancer is in your body and where it is located.

Staging of prostate cancer gives the doctor the information he needs to know on how big the tumor is, whether it has spread or not and if it has spread, where has the cancer gone to.

Staging is necessary for several reasons:

Testing for prostate cancer?

Image result for Testing for prostate cancer? When a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, the initial staging is based on the results of PSA blood tests, biopsies, and imaging tests. This phase of staging is referred to as clinical staging.

A PSA blood test is used primarily to screen for prostate cancer and it measures the amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. PSA is a protein produced by both cancerous and noncancerous tissue in the prostate gland.

The higher the level of PSA is an indication of a more advanced cancer. The doctor will want to know how fast the PSA levels have been rising from test to test as a faster increase could indicate a more aggressive tumor.

A biopsy of the prostate can be done in the doctor’s office and the results from this can tell what percent of the prostate is involved. It can also determine a Gleason score, which is a number from 2 to 10 showing how closely the cancer cells look like normal cells when viewed under a microscope.

If the score is less than 6, it suggests the cancer is slow growing and not aggressive. A higher number indicates a faster growing cancer that is likely to spread.

Imaging tests used to determine prostate cancer can include CT scans, MRI, or a bone scan.

How prostate cancer is staged and what they mean.

Stage I cancer

This stage is known as localized cancer, as the cancer has been found in only one part of the prostate.

Stage I cancers cannot be felt during a digital rectal exam or seen with imaging tests. If the PSA is less than 10 and the Gleason score is 6 or less, stage I cancer is most likely a slow growing cancer.

Stage II cancer

This stage of cancer is still localized and has not spread beyond the prostate but is more advanced than stage I.

In stage II, the cells are less normal than stage I and may grow more rapidly. There are two types of stage II prostate cancer: Stage IIA, which is found only on one side of the prostate; and Stage IIB, found in both sides of the prostate

Stage III cancer

This stage of cancer is called locally advanced prostate cancer and has spread outside the prostate into local tissue such as the seminal vesicles, the glands that make semen.

Stage IV cancer

This stage of cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, such as nearby lymph nodes or bones of the pelvis or spine. It could have spread to other organs such as the bladder, liver, or lungs.

For men diagnosed with stage I, II or III prostate cancer, the goal is to cure the cancer by treating it and keeping it from returning.

For men diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer, the goal is to improve symptoms and to prolong life as in most cases, stage IV prostate cancer is not curable.

The stage of prostate cancer along with the PSA and Gleason score will help the doctor to decide on the best treatment taking into account a man’s age, overall health, symptoms, side effects of treatment, and what are the chances the treatment can cure the cancer.

More than 38,000 people killed on Irish roads since records began in 1959

The stats come ahead of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims

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Records show that a total of 38,787 people have been killed on Irish roads since records began in 1959.

While 14,839 people have been killed on roads in Northern Ireland since deaths were first recorded there in 1931.

The statistics come ahead of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, to be held on Sunday November 20th.

Ceremonies are to be held to mark the day across the island.

The transport minister, Road Safety Authority (RSA), An Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and road safety groups are calling on road-users to join the international community to mark the day.

Transport Minister Shane Ross has welcomed the fact that people both north and south were coming together to remember all the lives lost on the island’s roads.

“Many lives have been saved and injuries prevented as a result of the collaborative work by road safety agencies on both sides of the border in recent years so it is fitting that we should come together on World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims’ to remember those who have tragically died on the road and to also think of their families.”

“I would also like to acknowledge the great work done by those in the emergency services and medical professionals, on both sides of the border, who have to deal with the aftermath and consequences of collisions.

“We will be thinking of them too on Sunday and the life-saving work that they do.”

“People just like you and me have lost their lives”

While Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Minister, Chris Hazzard, added:  “Across many generations thousands of families have been devastated by the heartache of road tragedy.

“Almost 15,000 people, people just like you and me, have lost their lives across the north since records began.  Many others have been seriously injured and are living with the physical and emotional scars.

“Road safety is a continuous challenge and road deaths do not discriminate. All road users are vulnerable – every journey, every day, every road.”

Chief Superintendent Aidan Reid of the Garda National Traffic Bureau said: “This Sunday gives us all an opportunity to reflect on our behaviour on the roads. An Garda Síochána is committed to working with communities and organisations to make every effort to keep our roads free from tragedy, but our biggest enemy is complacency.”

While PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “So far this year, Police officers have visited the homes of 59 families across Northern Ireland to deliver the devastating news that one of their loved ones has been killed on our roads.

“Many more have received news of serious injuries. Behind every statistic, every news report, there are families and friends who have been affected and we must remember them.”

The Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims was first held in 1993 in the United Kingdom.

Since then it has been organised by non-governmental organisations in a number of countries.

It was created as a means to give recognition to victims of road traffic crashes and the plight of their loved ones who must cope with the emotional and practical consequences of these events.

On October 26th 2005, the United Nations adopted a resolution which calls for governments to mark the day each year.

Global sea ice (Antarctica) shrinking at never before recorded speeds,

Scientist’s now warn

Image result for Global sea ice (Antarctica) shrinking at never before recorded speeds  Arctic sea ice at record low wintertime maximum event

Climate change experts say the repercussions of warmer sea temperatures are already being felt.

While ice in the Arctic is close to reaching record lows, the Antarctic has seen sea ice running at lowest ever levels since records began.

Global sea ice is retreating at unprecedented speed with its impact already being felt across the globe, a leading scientist has warned.

While ice in the Arctic is close to record lows, the Antarctic has seen sea ice running at lowest ever levels for this time of year since records began.

Professor Peter Wadhams, head of the polar ocean physics group at Cambridge University, said rates of ice growth in winter had slowed and rising temperatures were causing it to melt faster in the summer, causing a dramatic reduction in area and thickness.

He warned the global repercussions of the reduction of sea ice were already being felt, long before the ice has fully disappeared.

“As the ice area gets less, you’re changing the albedo of the earth, which is the fraction of solar radiation that gets reflected straight away back into space, so you’re absorbing radiation which warms the earth quicker creating a feedback effect as the ice retreats,”

“The only secure way of stopping the sea ice to retreat is stopping warming the climate and that is really by reducing our carbon dioxide emissions.”

He also warned of the disastrous implications melting sea ice had for rising sea levels across the world.

According to a new study, sea water levels have risen by almost 7.8 inches due to ice melting since 1870, causing flooding of low-lying coastal communities and displacement of fish populations fleeing increasingly warm waters.

“As the ice retreats you get warmer air over the Arctic and that warmer air spreads out to places like Greenland’s ice cap causing it to melt faster in the summer than it did in the past, which is contributing to global sea level rise,” he said.

He also warned of the release of the powerful greenhouse gas methane from the seabed as the ice melts, a gas that scientists recognise as a key driver of climate change.

“We are now seeing huge plumes of methane coming up to the surface from methane being released from the seabed,” he told The Independent.

“The ice in summer has shrunk back from all the seas around the edges of the arctic and without the sea ice, those seas around the edge can now warm up because the water is shallow which allows this warmer water to bathe the seabed.

“The seabed at the moment is covered with permafrost, frozen ground, hiding a large volume of methane underneath. As soon as the warmer water starts to act on the seabed the permafrost melts and the methane is released.”

Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in October were unusually high over the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, as well as the Barents and Kara Seas along the Eurasian coast, helping to limit ice growth (Climate Change Institute/University of Maine)

Concern is also growing among the scientific community over Donald Trump’s election as US president.

Last week, what is hoped will be one of the biggest ever environmental campaigns was launched by a group of scientists and environmentalists in an effort to convince the President-elect that global warming is real.

Professor Wadhams warned that Mr Trump’s stance as a climate change denier could be “a disaster and a catastrophe for the world”.

“I recently attended the Marrakech climate change conference and there was enormous concern because the US delegation who signed the Paris agreement is still Obama’s administration,” he said.

“Legally the US is taking part fully in the Paris accords but as John Kerry was saying, his administration would only be in office for the next two months. There’s general gloom everywhere, you quiver with fear with the rest of the globe for the future.”

However, Professor Wadhams, who recently published a book on the shrinking of sea ice, A Farewell to Ice, said there was hope for the future if the proper measures were put in place.

“One measure to stem the methane emissions from the seabed would be a kind of fracking method that the oil industry suggests which would be to drill down through these sediments, open up cavities which would then be filled with methane when you pump it out,” he said.

“Global warming and climate change is not going to be easy to reverse, especially sea level rise as that just seems to continue inexorably. The only way that’s been suggested that might work is ‘marine cloud brightening’, a form of geoengineering where you inject very fine water particles into the bottom of low cloud, these particles evaporate and it makes them brighter which will reflect more solar radiation.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thurs 10th November 2016

Irish Government appeals against €13bn EU ruling

Image result for Irish Government appeals against €13bn EU ruling  Image result for Irish Government appeals against €13bn EU ruling

Ireland’s stance on the EU’s landmark ruling against Apple, saying the tech giant owed the country €13bn, has finally been made official.

Ireland doesn’t want the EU’s help when it comes to taxation. So much so that Michael Noonan, Ireland’s Minister for Finance, has officially appealed against the Apple ruling.

In August, Europe’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, revealed the culmination of a three-year investigation into Apple’s tax status in Ireland.

Finding that Apple enjoyed a special agreement of sorts with the Irish Government, €13bn was the value Vestager put on the arrangement.

“This selective treatment allowed Apple to pay an effective corporate tax rate of 1% on its European profits in 2003, down to 0.005% in 2014,” she said.

Quids in for Ireland, with billions of winnings a boon to a country still operating under a shroud of debt. However, the Irish Government has been firmly in Apple’s corner throughout the case, and ever since.

Yesterday, just one day before the appeal deadline, Noonan acted.

“The government fundamentally disagrees with the European Commission’s analysis and the decision left no choice but to take an appeal,” Noonan told a European Parliament committee in Brussels.

“The tax practices that gave rise to the Apple decision are no longer part of Irish law, but we still think that the competition commissioner is wrong in law, and we’re appealing on those grounds.”

At the time of the decision, Apple CEO Tim Cook called it “maddening”.

“It’s maddening. It’s disappointing. It’s clear it comes from a political base and has no basis in fact,” he said.

Speaking to RTÉ, Cook strongly lauded Apple’s Irish workforce, currently employing some 5,000 people in Cork, with this figure soon to rise to 6,000. There’s also a new data centre in Galway to be built, but some are now concerned future investment could be curtailed should Apple be forced to pay up.

Apple’s relationship with Ireland “has not been diminished one iota”, said Cook, calling the company’s Ireland-based employees “world class”.

“I’m pretty confident that the Government will do the right thing. That is to stand up and fight against this overreach.”

Ireland must ‘practise what we preach’ on USA undocumented people

If State wants Trump to help Irish illegals we must address ‘crucial issue’ here.

Image result for Ireland must ‘practise what we preach’ on USA undocumented people   Image result for 50,000 undocumented Irish in the United States

Labour leader Brendan Howlin raised concerns about Donald Trump’s position on immigration which he said was the direct opposite of Ireland’s.

Ireland needs to “practise what we preach” and address the issue of the undocumented migrants living in the State if the Government wants US president-elect Donald Trump to help illegal Irish immigrants in America.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said the Migrant Rights Centre estimated that 20,000 to 26,000 undocumented immigrants are in Ireland of whom 2,000 to 6,000 are children, who “live in the shadows of our society”.

He said that “if we’re going to take the initiative to protect the 50,000 undocumented Irish in the United States, is there not an absolute imperative on us to practise what we preach and address those in our State who are undocumented”.

Mr Howlin raised in the Dáil concerns about Mr Trump’s position on immigration which he said was the direct opposite of Ireland’s.

“He has promised to deport illegal immigrants in the first 100 days and the clock is ticking.” Mr Howlin asked what the Government was doing “to address the crucial issue” of the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in the US.

Equal obligation

And he said there was an equal obligation on the State to help deal with the undocumented in Ireland.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald told him: “I do want to confirm to this House that on immigration reform, relief for undocumented Irish remains an absolute priority for the Government.”

She said the Government was taking a two-pronged approach in trying to regularise the status of the undocumented and trying to get a dedicated quota for legal emigration from Ireland.

She said Taoiseach Enda Kenny had had a preliminary conversation with US president-elect Trump “and we will continue to pursue the values that we hold dear and the priority issues of which immigration reform remains an absolute priority”.

The Government raised this issue at every opportunity and fully intended to do so again “in our contacts with this administration”, she said.

Ms Fitzgerald, who is Minister for Justice, said she had met the Migrant Rights Council a number of times and intended to have further discussions with them.

She said “we would encourage people to make contact with officials and regularise their position”.

She said that every few months there were citizenship ceremonies and “we have a very inclusive approach” to immigrants seeking to work in Ireland.

HSE boss Tony O’Brien apologises after leaked memo said patients could be removed with “minimum force”

Minister for Health Simon Harris said that the rescinded memo was “utterly offensive and unacceptable”.

  Image result for HSE boss O'Brien apologises after leaked memo said patients could be removed with "minimum force"

The HSE boss Tony O’Brien has apologised for any distress caused after a leaked memo said nurses could remove patients from beds “as trespassers” using “minimum force” to free up beds.

O’Brien told the Oireachtas Health Committee this afternoon that the memo should not have been disseminated as widely as it was.

He apologised for any distress it caused.

However, he did say it was drafted based on legal counsel in relation to rare cases where patients refused to leave hospital.

Yesterday, Minister for Health Simon Harris said that the memo was “utterly offensive and unacceptable” and had been rescinded.

He was agreeing with Liam Doran, General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, who welcomed the retraction but also expressed worry over why the memo included those instructions in the first place.

Roscommon-Galway Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice shared his concern, and said that those responsible for HSE statement on removal of patients should be removed from their roles.

“The notion that the HSE would ask nurses to use force to remove patients from beds is absolutely unbelievable and a further indication of the disconnect that there is between some of the people who run our health service and the most important people of all, who are the patients.

“The callous tone of this statement is quite astonishing and to suggest that anyone in a civilised society would be treated in this manner is quite shocking.”

Simon Harris pledges to take action on medicinal cannabis

Minister makes promise to mother of child with a catastrophic form of epilepsy

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Buds of cannabis at a a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, California, US. Minister for Health Simon Harris has promised he will take action on the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has promised the mother of an ill child that he will take action on the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes in January.

The Minister made the promise to Vera Twomey after she embarked on a walk from Co Cork to Leinster House in order to draw attention to the issue.

Her six-year-old daughter, Ava Barry, has a catastrophic form of epilepsy, but is now almost seizure-free after she started taking two doses of cannabis oil a day.

Ava suffers from Dravet syndrome and needed around-the-clock care before she started taking cannabidiol oil earlier this month.

Ms Twomey is calling for a change to Irish law to allow for cannabis to be used for medicinal purposes.

Cannabis for medicinal purposes is legal in a number of countries, including the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Canada, Australia, Malta, Croatia and some US states.

It is usually made available on prescription from doctors and supplied in a standardised form through pharmacists.

Mr Harris had said the Government had ordered a review of the Republic’s policy on medicinal cannabis.

As part of the review, Mr Harris has asked the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) to provide him with expert scientific advice on the matter.

The Oireachtas health committee is also due to discuss the issue later this month.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Harris said he “had a good meeting with Vera and Paul Twomey”, where he took the opportunity to update them on the policy review.

He said the HPRA had been asked to provide advice on recent developments in the use of cannabis for medical purposes, and an overview of related products that have been authorised in other jurisdictions.

Additionally, he said he had asked for an overview of the “wider ongoing and emerging clinical research” on the efficacy of medicinal cannabis, as well as an overview of the different regulatory regimes in place in states which allow it.

The HPRA will also advise on the legislative changes that would be required to allow the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes in the Republic.

Mr Harris said he hoped to receive the report from the HPRA and advice from the Oireachtas health committee in January.

He said he will then move forward with any legislative changes that may be recommended.

Cannabis for Medicinal Use Bill

Separately on Wednesday, Anti-Austerity Alliance-People before Profit TD Gino Kenny launched the Cannabis for Medicinal Use Bill 2016 at a press conference in Dublin.

The Bill is unlikely to be passed without Government support.

The Bill provides for the regulation of cannabis for medicinal use so that patients can receive a “legally-protected, secure supply” of a quality-controlled cannabis-based medicine.

The Bill includes provisions for a regulatory authority that would issue licences for importation and supply of such medicines.

The cannabis-based medicines would only be available from a pharmacy under the terms of the Bill, while the advertising and the sale of cannabis to minors would be banned.

Some 90% of Ireland’s prostate cancer patients alive after five years

N.B.: Scientists have revealed recently that a component found in green tea may help reduce the development of prostate cancer in men facing high risk.

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Nine out of 10 prostate cancer patients survive more than five years, compared to just one in three 40 years ago.

As part of the Movember fundraising campaign, the Irish Cancer Society has been looking back on prostate cancer research advances in Ireland.

Survival rates have improved tremendously, because of huge strides in the prevention, detection, and treatment of the disease.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Irish men, accounting for a third of their cases.

About 3,400 new cases of the diseases are identified in Ireland every year, due to improved detection.

However, more needs to be done to improve survival rates, particularly for men with metastatic prostate cancer.

Also, ways need to be found to improve the lives of men who have survived the disease, as they often suffer a reduced quality of life.

The Irish Cancer Society and the Movember Foundation Ireland became partners nine years ago to invest in Irish prostate cancer research projects.

Consultant medical oncologist, Prof Ray McDermott, said prostate cancer survival rates only showed one side of the journey a patient with the disease travelled.

“For survivors, their diagnosis and treatment often impact on their physical and mental wellbeing in ways men rarely speak openly about,” he said.

Prof McDermott is clinical director of the prostate cancer research initiative, iPROSPECT, funded by the Irish Cancer Society in partnership with Movember, to devise personalised treatments and improve patient outcomes.

Scientists have revealed recently that a component found in green tea may help reduce development of prostate cancer in men facing high risk.

Trump’s climate change denial poses big problems in global fight

US president-elect has promised to tear up the Paris climate accord ratified last year

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The greatest danger posed by US president-elect Donald Trump may be his threat to “cancel” the Paris accord on climate change, which was concluded last December after decades of negotiations.

The Paris accord seeks to limit the rise in global temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees compared to pre-industrial revolution levels; 1.5 degrees if possible.

“Article 28 of the text I negotiated foresees that a state which has signed – and President Obama signed – may renounce the accord three years after it enters into force,” Laurent Fabius, who presided over the 21st Conference of Parties, or COP, told France Inter Radio.

The accord took effect on November 4th, after the required two-thirds threshold of ratification by 55 countries, accounting for 55% of global greenhouse emissions, was met.

Trump could renounce the agreement in 2019, Fabius said. A US withdrawal would take effect in 2020. The US is the world’s second-largest producer of carbon emissions, after China.

Fabius recalled going through the agreement, line by line, with US and Chinese envoys. China linked its ratification to that of the Americans, and a US pullout could create a domino effect.

“It would have huge repercussions,” Fabius said. “Once you put greenhouse gases in the air, they stay there for up to 10,000 years. There’s a risk that other countries will say, ‘If the US is doing nothing, we won’t either.’ It would be extremely grave for the world; the future of the world is at stake.”

News of Trump’s election cast a pall over COP22 in Marrakech, the first international climate summit since the Paris accord. The meeting had started with great optimism on November 7th, because the ratification procedure had been completed much more quickly than expected.

In other positive news for the fight against climate change, the first global climate deal for aviation was reached on October 6th, and an agreement to phase out planet-warming hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, used in air conditioners and refrigerators, was concluded in Kigali on October 15th.

This hard-won progress is threatened by Trump’s climate negationism. “With Donald Trump’s election, a period of great uncertainty regarding US climate policy has opened,” Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists told Le Monde from Marrakesh.

“It will have an undeniable psychological effect, even if it doesn’t block the working session in Marrakesh.”

On Tuesday, US election day, the World Meteorological Organisationpresented its analysis of the global climate from 2011 through 2015 at COP22. The five-year period was the hottest on record. The organisation reported “the increasingly visible human footprint on extreme weather and climate events with dangerous and costly impacts”.

The same day, the Germanwatch group reported that more than 528,000 people have died in the past decade due to some 11,000 extreme weather events.

Trump has often ridiculed one of the most powerful scientific consensuses of our time. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive,” he tweeted in November 2012.

Global warming

In a campaign speech last May, Trump promised to “cancel” the Paris accord on the grounds it gave “foreign bureaucrats” control over US energy consumption and would “kill jobs and trade”.

In other tweets, Trump has cited freak cold weather events as proof that global warming is a hoax, claimed that wind turbines are “bad for people’s health” and that low-energy light bulbs cause cancer.

Trump does not even need to renounce the Paris accord to sabotage it. At the insistence of the US and other parties, the accord is non-binding, and there are no sanctions against countries who do not fulfil their pledges to cut carbon emissions.

Trump has vowed to dismantle the US Environmental Protection Agency, which has an $8 billion budget, and whose work he termed “shameful”. He also said he would cut US funding for UN projects that fight climate change.

The Obama administration pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries make the transition to renewable energy.

President Barack Obama’s “Clean Power Plan”, designed to reduce emissions from power plants, has been suspended since February, following a lawsuit by 27 mostly Republican states.

The president-elect wants to develop fossil fuels and increase reliance on coal mining and coal-fired power plants, which are responsible for 40% of US carbon dioxide emissions. And he may resurrect plans for the Keystone XL pipeline between Alberta, Canada, and refineries in Illinois and Texas.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 7th November 2016

President Higgins starts eight-day visit to Vietnam and Laos

Higgins says Irish impressed by Vietnam’s defeat of several imperialist aggressors.

   Image result for President Michael D Higgins on an eight-day visit to Vietnam and Laos will focus on trade, investment, development, education and training

President Michael D. Higgins and his wife were welcomed at Noi Bai International Airport.

President Michael D Higgins: “I think one of the great challenges facing both countries, here in Ireland and in Vietnam, is to get an economic model that will benefit all the people.”

President Michael D Higgins has begun an eight-day visit to Vietnam and Laos that will focus on boosting bilateral ties, especially in trade, investment, development, education and training.

Mr Higgins is due to meet Vietnamese president Tran Dai Quang at the presidential palace on Monday and later in the day he will also meet Nguyen Thim Kim Ngan, chair of the National Assembly.

A strong focus of the trip will be Irish Aid projects in Vietnam and Laos, and on Tuesday President Higgins will give a keynote address to the country’s oldest university, the Vietnam National University. He will be accompanied by Sabina Higgins, as well as Minister for Foreign Affairs Charles Flanagan

A significant part of the visit will be focused on aid. Vietnam is the only Irish Aid Key Partner country outside Sub-Saharan Africa, and while it continues to have significant development challenges, Vietnam has made major progress in recent years.

Imperialism

In an interview with Vietnam News, Mr Higgins said Ireland and Vietnam shared a struggle for independence, and he said Irish people were impressed by how the Vietnamese people had to defeat not one but several imperialist aggressors.

“I think one of the great challenges facing both countries, here in Ireland and in Vietnam, is to get an economic model that will benefit all the people, when all the citizens have an opportunity to get an education, get housing, etc,” he said.

“In this context, the reduction of poverty from 70 per cent to less than 23 per cent is a very significant achievement,” the president said.

Vietnam is four times bigger than Ireland and has a population of over 88 million. Ireland gave $150 million (€134.88 million) in non-refundable aid to Vietnam between 2007 and 2016, focusing on poverty reduction, support for vulnerable groups, and improving economic management.

Ireland has provided €1.54 million for research into the climate impacts on the Lower Mekong Basin work through the EU-led Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) from 2012 to 2015.

Climate-sensitive development

Ireland provides support to civil society organisations (CSOs) working to pilot and scale up new models in community-based climate-sensitive development. Of the total funding under the bilateral development co-operation programme in Vietnam, administered and co-ordinated by the Irish Embassy in Hanoi, €3.33 million relates to climate finance.

The state visit marks 20 years of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Vietnam.

Bilateral trade reached $402 million (€360.55 million) in 2015, up 28 per cent from the previous year. Ireland currently has 17 investment projects with combined capital of $20.7 million (€18.7 million) in Vietnam, ranking 67th among 115 countries and territories investing here.

Pepper Money sells out new mortgage’s with geographic criteria

Australian financial firm selling mortgages that exclude certain Irish counties

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Pepper Money will provide mortgages for both residential and buy-to-let customers, and it specialises in areas including refinancers, buy-to-let, the self-employed and people with historic credit issues.

Pepper, the Irish subsidiary of the Australian-listed financial services group, is to start selling mortgages directly to Irish customers for the first time through the launch of a new direct-to-consumer platform .

Pepper Money will provide mortgages for both residential and buy-to-let customers, and it specialises in a number of areas including refinancers, buy-to-let, the self-employed and people with historic credit issues.

Customers can apply for a mortgage with the lender via its website (peppermoney.ie) or its customer services team in Shannon. Customers can also still submit an application through Pepper’s panel of approved mortgage brokers. Pepper promises to respond with an approval in principle for customers within 24 hours.

Paul Doddrell, chief executive of Pepper Ireland, said the move was a reflection of the success of its mortgage launch in the Irish market, particularly for groups of consumers with otherwise limited options.

“ Our products are intended to target a broader and more diverse range of customers so we tailor our loans based on people’s needs; for example, our Advantage mortgage is really unique and fit-for-purpose in this market because it gives people with a legacy credit event an option they probably won’t find elsewhere.”

Post-crash

Pepper became the first new mortgage lender in the Irish market since the banking crash in late 2008 and the first non-bank group to offer home loans, when it started offering mortgages last February through a small group of brokers. Now it’s ramping up its presence.

Pepper Money is the new consumer-facing brand launched globally by Pepper Group, and it offers a range of consumer finance products including mortgages, personal and car loans, equipment finance and credit cards. It is expected that the group will roll out some of these additional products, such as car loans, in Ireland too.

“The new Pepper Money brand will support our ambition to expand our finance products into areas such as auto and personal loans, as we look to grow the business,” Mr Doddrell said.

Three products

Pepper offers three mortgage products, with specific products available for self-employed professionals or those with non-standard employment types, as well as those with legacy credit issues that may hinder their ability to borrow. Rates start from 3.1 per cent or 3.23 per cent APR for borrowers with a loan to value of less than 50 per cent, or from 3.85 per cent (4.01) for those with credit issues. For investors, Pepper has buy-to-let rates starting at 4.4 per cent. However, there are restrictions in where it will lend; on its website Pepper says it will only lend in Dublin and surrounding counties (Louth, Meath, Kildare, Wicklow); Cork city; Galway city; Limerick city; Ennis; Shannon; and Kilkenny. However, according to Pepper, while its initial focus is on the main geographic regions and commuter belts, it will look to expand to new locations over time, and recently added Kilkenny to its approved locations.

Pepper first came to Ireland in 2012 and it now employs more than 400 people in Shannon and Dublin, where its offices are located. It has over €16 billion of assets under management.

Ireland’s new home buyers are using big deposits to buy their properties

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New home buyers are using big deposits to buy properties, a new research shows.

The findings come just weeks before of the Central Bank is due to announce a review of its mortgage lending restrictions.

These rules set out that first and second-time buyers have to have big deposits when buying, and limit lending based on income.

Now economists working for the Central Bank have looked at most mortgages issued this year and found that the average first-time buyer has a deposit of €64,000.

This represents 26% of the value of the home, new research carried out by Central Bank economists shows.

The average income for these borrowers was €66,000.

Small numbers of borrowers can get exemptions from the limits, but these tend to be Dublin-based, with high income.

When those getting an exemption are excluded, the average deposit size for a first-time buyer works out at 21% of the property’s value, economists Christina Kinghan, Paul Lyons and Yvonne McCarthy found.

The findings come ahead of a review of Central Bank lending restrictions, the outcome of which is expected to be announced before the end of this month.

The lending limits have proved hugely controversial, with estate agents and mortgage brokers claiming they are slowing down the home-buying market. They were introduced in February 2015.

The Government’s new help-to-buy scheme is seen as an attempt to circumvent the rules.

Under the regulations first-time buyers can borrow with a deposit of at least 10% for the first €220,000, and need a 20% deposit for all amounts over this. They are limited to borrowing only three and a half times their income.

Second-time buyers need a deposit of at least 20%, and have the same income limit on borrowing. There are some exemptions.

The average second-time buyers have equity of €170,000 when moving home, the research shows.

Those not getting an exemption have equity of 34% on average when moving.

Why it’s no surprise that hypochondriacs get more heart disease

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Hypochondriacs are more likely to develop heart disease, according to research at the University of Bergen in Norway.

The ‘worried well’ were 73% more likely to develop heart disease than those who are not anxious about their health.

The link may be explained by the fact that stress of any kind has long been recognised as a risk factor for the disease.

During the study, published in the journal BMJ Open, the researchers examined health data from more than 7,000 people born in Norway in the 1950s. The participants’ heart health was tracked using national data on hospital treatment for heart conditions. Their anxiety was measured using a standard scale.

By 2009, 234 people in the group had experienced acute angina or myocardial infarction (a heart attack). The researchers said they were unable to establish a causal relationship between anxiety and heart disease, and that people with anxiety were more likely to have other mental health problems which could contribute to poor health.

The researchers wrote: ‘These findings illustrate the dilemma for clinicians between reassuring the patient that current physical symptoms of anxiety do not represent heart disease, contrasted against the emerging knowledge on how anxiety, over time, may be causally associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease.

‘Our research indicates that characteristic behaviour among persons with health anxiety, such as monitoring and frequent check-ups of symptoms, does not reduce the risk of coronary heart disease events.’

This study was a prospective cohort study examining the relationship between health anxiety (determined by validated questionnaire) and the development of coronary heart disease (defined as heart disease leading to angina or a heart attack). Studies like this do not establish causation but usually highlight correlation.

During the seven-year follow-up period, double the number of people with health anxiety experienced a cardiac event compared to those without (6.1% versus 3%). After analysis, men and women with anxiety were almost twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease, with the effect more pronounced in men, even after adjusting for risk factors.

The results are consistent with previous data suggesting stress is an important risk factor for heart disease; anxiety about health is also a form of stress, and so it should come as no surprise that this relationship was found.

What would have been interesting is if the activities of those patients most at risk had been tracked. Did their health anxiety translate into ‘heart-healthy’ activities? Did they attempt to make positive lifestyle changes in order to alleviate risk?

Take-home message: mental health is as important as physical health.

Things you need to be doing to get a good night’s sleep

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According to various researches, it has been found out that there are a myriad of habits and practices that can help you have a good night’s sleep. This is also called “Sleep Hygiene”. By following these habits, you can be benefited even if you’re suffering from insomnia.

These habits when practised regularly will help you have a peaceful sleep. Sleep is the most important thing that each one of us require on a daily basis. Ideally, 7-8 hours of sleep time is a must to rejuvenate your body and also have a calm, peaceful mind. Here are some things you need to do for a good sleep.

Things you need to do for a good sleep are:

1.Hit the sack when you feel tired: There is no need to struggle to fall asleep. If you don’t have a busy schedule, try to keep yourself engaged with various other activities like gym, cycling, grocery shopping, cooking, reading, etc. After a totally busy day, you will automatically feel tired enough to doze off in no time. This is one of the simplest tips for a healthy sleep.
2.Say Goodbye To Alcohol, Caffeine, Nicotine, etc: If you want to have a good quality sleep, you must avoid all the caffeinated stuff because they contain caffeine, which is a stimulant that keeps you active and awake. Stay away from coffee, cola, chocolate, tea, etc, for at least 4-5 hours before your bedtime. If you’re addicted to smoking, you should avoid cigarette just before hitting the bed.
3.Exercise Is A Must: Exercise stimulates your body to secrete the “cortisol” (stress-related hormone) which helps to trigger the alerting mechanism in your brain. Exercise also promotes a good night’s sleep if it is done at the right time. One of the simplest tips for a healthy sleep is to work out early in the morning and avoid exercising when you are too close to your bedtime.
4.Always Keep Your Sleep Schedule Constant: Always keep your wake-up time and your bedtime same, even on your weekends. This will help to control your body’s clock and will help you fall asleep every night at the same time.
5.Avoid the afternoon naps: If you have the habit of taking naps during the daytime, then this can keep you awake till late night. Thus, avoid napping, especially in the afternoon, to get a better and sound sleep throughout the night.
6.Have a light Dinner: Having rich foods, very close to your bedtime, can trigger indigestion which can disrupt your sleep. Take a light dinner that includes the necessary nutrients and try to finish your dinner a few hours before hitting the bed. This is what you need to do for a good sleep.
7.Take a balanced intake of fluids: Hydrate yourself enough before going to bed, so that you do not wake up feeling thirsty during the night. However, make sure you do this a couple of hours before hitting the bed, so that you don’t have to wake up to go to the bathroom in the night.
8.Make your room devoid of all the disruptions: One of the simplest tips for a healthy sleep is to slumber in a tranquil and cool room. Make sure the room is dark while you sleep and there should also be no noises or any other disturbances during your bedtime.
9.Make your bed comfortable: Make sure that your mattress and pillows are soft and comfy. If you have been using the same mattress for more than 9-10 years now, then it is time you got a new one. Keep beautiful and comfortable pillows on your bed that invite you for sleep.

They are the things you need to do for a good night’s sleep.

Ireland ratifies Paris Agreement on global climate change

Minister for Communications to participate in UN climate talks in Morocco next week

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UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa (above) said no one can doubt that the world is determined to shift towards a “low-emission, resilient society”.

Ireland has formally ratified the Paris Agreement on global climate change, it was announced on Monday.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten completed the process last Friday, the day the deal came into force.

A spokeswoman for Mr Naughten said Ireland had “deposited the instrument of ratification” with the United Nations last week.

The confirmation came as leaders from almost 200 countries met in Marrakesh, Morocco, for the annual United Nations climate talks.

UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa told delegates “no politician or citizen, no business manager or investor” can doubt that the world is determined to shift towards a “low-emission, resilient society”.

The agreement marks the first time all countries have pledged to fight global warming by curbing the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.

Ms Espinosa said: “Achieving the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement is not a given. The peaking of global emissions is urgent, as is attaining far more climate-resilient societies.”

Mr Naughten is expected to travel to Morocco next week to participate in the discussions.

Delegates will meet for two weeks to work on the rules for implementing the deal, including how to measure and report emissions so that countries can be held accountable.

The goal of the agreement is to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial times.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 17th October 2016

Donegal based Garda whistle blower claims he was followed to GSOC meeting

A DONEGAL-BASED GARDA SAID HE RECOGNISED UNMARKED GARDA CAR

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The Garda Ombudsman is investigating a Donegal based Garda whistle blower’s claim that an unmarked Garda car followed him to a meeting with GSOC.

Garda Keith Harrison told the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) that he was followed from Donegal to Galway last March when he was on his way a confidential meeting with them, RTÉ’s This Week programme reported yesterday.

The meeting was to discuss GSOC’s investigation into his allegations that he has been harassed and subject to unwarranted disciplinary inquries since 2009, when he arrested a colleague for suspected drink driving.

Gda Harrison told GSOC that he recognised the unmarked garda car, as it was one of many which he claims regularly drove past his home in Donegal as part of the alleged harassment.

According to RTÉ, “It is understood that a senior inspector at GSOC informed Garda Harrison’s lawyers in March that they were examining the allegation” that he was followed to the meeting.

The GSOC is understood to be “taking the allegation seriously”.

A GSOC spokesperson said the office, “cannot, for confidentiality reasons, discuss the detail of an investigation that may be under way as a result of a disclosure made to GSOC under the Protected Disclosures Act”.

The garda press office told DD/DPP that it was “precluded from commenting on protected disclosures”.

The garda spokesperson added, “Without discussing any individual, An Garda Síochána seeks to ensure any employee of An Garda Síochána who raises issues will be fully supported.

In this regard, Protected Disclosure Managers have been recently appointed to liaise directly with employees making protected disclosures, and we are working with external experts in this area to help ensure that anyone speaking up is supported and protected in An Garda Síochána.”

A lot of Irish people applying for insolvency deals, but not many arrangements are put in place

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Many of the people being approved for a home loan are competing hard with each other for the few houses that are available.

The number of financially-stretched people applying for a State-sanctioned debt deals has doubled. But the actual number of deals put in place is down.

New figures from the Insolvency Service of Ireland show that almost 900 people applied to put a formal arrangement in place with their lenders.

The figures were for the three months to the end of September. This was up 102% on the same three months last year. But the number of heavily-indebted people who secured a formal deal from their banks and other lenders fell in the three months to September, when compared with the same quarter last year.

Just 180 people had a deal known personal insolvency arrangement (PIA) approved in the July to September period. This was down by five PIAs in the same quarter last year.

A PIA allows a person to reduce what they are paying, and return to solvency while staying in their home. There was also a fall in the number of bankruptcies of 26pc to just 61 the third quarter.

In the year so far, a total to 345 people were declared bankrupt, compared with 479 for full-year 2015. This is despite the term for bankruptcy being reduced recently to one year.

Insolvency Service director Lorcan O’Connor blamed the summer recess in the bankruptcy courts for the fall.

Large numbers of people are still struggling to pay their mortgages. The number of people two years or more in arrears on their mortgages was close to 35,000 in June, down slightly from the previous quarter, separate Central Bank figures show Those in arrears for more than two years risk losing their homes.

Mr O’Connor said: “This quarter saw continued growth in new applications with protective certificates and approved arrangements at similar levels to last quarter.

“When compared to the same period last year, there is significant growth in all categories.”

So far, some 4,000 people have gone through different processes overseen by the Insolvency Service to return to solvency.

Earlier this month the Government launched its ‘Abhaile’ plan to tackle the problem of mortgage arrears. This service will provide free, independent expert advice and support on financial and legal issues through the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), working with the Insolvency Service of Ireland, the Legal Aid Board and the professional accountancy bodies. Mr O’Connor said this new initiative is “expected to drive further growth in the coming months”.

Minister for Health Simon Harris says Politicians setting their own pay is a bad idea

Image result for Minister for Health Simon Harris says Politicians setting their own pay is a bad idea   Image result for Minister for Health Simon Harris says Politicians setting their own pay is a bad idea

He has no intention of accepting a €4,000 pay-rise.

Simon Harris, the Minister for Health, says he has no intention of accepting the pay-rise set out in the recent budget.

Ministers are expected to vote on Tuesday to reject the pay increase at a cabinet meeting, this after TD Finian McGrath told a media source “They (TDs) are probably going to go bananas but as far as I’m concerned, you take the hit.

“We have just come out of a major eight years of austerity and an economic crash and I think these are exceptional times and I think TDs and ministers should take their hit and stop whingeing.”

Harris agrees?

“TDs being linked to civil service pay – going down when they go down and going up when they go up – largely serves the country well,” said the 30-year-old health minister.

“Politicians setting their own pay – I don’t think that’s a good policy and “I certainly have no intention of taking the increase.”

ESB to introduce new peak-time bill rate to encourage greener behaviour

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Electricity charges will soon depend on what time of the day you use power, the ESB has said.

Under a new ‘time of use’ tariff scheme, householders will be encouraged to use power at non-peak times to ease pressure on the national electricity grid.

The new system is expected to be introduced within the next two years.

“There will be time-of-use tariffs in the future,” said Paul Mulvaney, the ESB’s director of innovation. “It might be based on green energy periods.

“It will be part of a smart metering programme and residential customers can expect to see it in 2018 or 2019.”

Mr Mulvaney did not say whether this meant tariffs would become more expensive during peak daytime hours or simply cheaper at night.

“The idea is that you encourage people to use less energy and greener energy and flex demand so as to be easiest on the system,” he said.

“If you can get people to shift their load to night time, it’s easier on the grid. We carried out trials and found that when people knew there were cheaper tariff periods, they saved 4pc to 5pc on their bills.”

Mr Mulvaney was speaking as the ESB prepares to host a ‘hackathon’ in Dublin this weekend.

The event, to be held in CHQ’s Dogpatch Labs from Friday to Sunday, will seek to reward the best new ideas on improving energy efficiency, electricity reliability and ecar management. Winners of the competition will win cash prizes of €5,000, €3,000 and €2,000 respectively.

The ESB will be providing anonymised data sets for each of the challenges to help people understand usage, customer profiles and trends in advance of the hackathon.

Mr Mulvaney said that the event was on course to attract more than 100 coders, entrepreneurs and start-up personnel to the event.

Applicants can enter on the website bigenergyhack.ie.

He also said the ESB would finally begin requiring payment for eCar charging points around the country.

Earlier this year, the utility postponed seeking €17 per month for usage of the almost 1,000 charging points nationwide.

However, Mr Mulvaney says the ESB is now communicating with eCar customers about the imminent introduction of charges. “We’re currently looking at the appropriate tariffs,” he said. “Ultimately, everything has to be paid for. We need to reinvest and keep the system up to date. We will have to charge.”

New cancer institute to set gold standard for Ireland

 Image result for New cancer institute to set gold standard for Ireland  Image result for Dr Patrick Prendergast, provost of Trinity  Image result for New cancer institute to set gold standard for Ireland

Trinity College and St James’s Hospital have joined forces to develop a new cancer institute, with plans to create a “new standard for cancer care” across the country.

To be located on the campus at St James’s Hospital, the new Trinity College collaboration was announced today to replicate similar projects around the world.

With incidents of cancer estimated to double by 2040 in Ireland, the cancer institute is hoped to build better tools to treat people in years to come.

The first of its kind in Ireland, both stakeholders claim the new cancer institute “will set a new standard for cancer care nationally, integrating medicine and science in cancer prevention, treatment and survivorship”.

Trinity and St James’s Hospital have been scaling up for the new cancer institute with the recruitment of key new clinical academic and research appointments in oncology.

The plan is to get recognised by the Organisation of European Cancer Institutes, the body that sets the gold standard for leading cancer institutes in Europe. It will benchmark performance against international standards and direct the cancer services and research to the next level.

Dr Patrick Prendergast, provost of Trinity, said the new institute should consolidate the strengths of both parties, with clinical and scientific research subsequently benefiting all.

“It will deliver substantially improved outcomes for cancer patients by providing research-led diagnosis and treatment, and promoting a better understanding of cancer through interdisciplinary research,” he said.

This all comes as cancer week kicks into gear, with Trinity hosting a conference on the subject as part of an initiative now into its third year.

“This cancer centre will place research, education and treatment side-by-side,” said St James’s Hospital CEO, Lorcan Birthistle, “which is in line with the model for the very best cancer centres internationally.

“The best outcomes for patients are achieved in centres that combine high volume and highly specialised evidence based cancer care with scientific and technological advances. This exciting joint development between Trinity College and St James’s will achieve this goal.”

The Great Barrier Reef is not actually dead

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Composed of more than 3,000 individual reefs interspersed with more than 600 topical islands, the world’s most extensive coral reef system is so large it can be identified from space. While the region has been protected since 1981, a 2012 study found that the delicate ecosystem has lost more than half of its coral since 1985 due to a combination of factors including coral bleaching caused by climate change.

There is a big difference between dead and dying?

Outside Magazine published a somewhat tongue-in-cheek obituary for the Great Barrier Reef earlier this week, citing its lifespan from 25 million BC-2016. The article detailed the life of the reef, its active membership in the ecological community, its worldwide fame and the coral bleaching that has led to its deteriorating health. “The Great Barrier Reef of Australia passed away in 2016 after a long illness. It was 25 million years old,” read the article.

Immediate response on social media

The obituary was met with horror and disbelief, both by scientists and social media users alike. Russell Brainard, chief of the Coral Reef Ecosystem Program at NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, told HuffPost that he believes the article was highlighting the urgency of the situation, but that those who don’t have any context “are going to take it at face value that the Great Barrier Reef is dead.”

Many people on social media are indeed taking it at face value. Twitter users have been grieving the loss of the reef and urging followers to pay serious attention to the consequences. Many are spreading false information entirely. Rowan Jacobsen, the writer of the obituary, is a food and environmental writer, not a scientist. But the article has led some outlets to claim that scientists have declared the reef officially dead, further spreading the exaggeration.

People have also taken to Twitter to try to get the truth out. Environmental reporter Tony Davis tweeted, “Reports of the Great Barrier Reef’s death are greatly exaggerated, say scientists, booing Outside Magazine” and the Cornell Cooperative Extension at Rockland County, which cites ecological sustainability as one of its missions, tweeted “Great Barrier Reef is Dying NOT Dead! ‘The message should be that it isn’t too late… not we should all give up.’”

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It covers more than 300,000 square kilometers and consists of more than 3,000 reefs, 600 islands, and 300 coral cays.

Recovery efforts

There’s no denying that the Great Barrier Reef is in serious trouble. According to a report by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, 93% of the reef is affected by bleaching, putting the reef in danger of extinction. Bleaching occurs when coral are put under extreme stress by changes in conditions like temperature, light, or nutrients. In these conditions, they expel symbiotic algae from their tissues, causing them to turn white.

Scientists are increasingly worried that over-exaggerating the state of the reef will promote the idea that it is past the point of recovery. Professor John Pandolfi from the ARC Centre at the University of Queensland has expressed hope. “It is critically important now to bolster the resilience of the reef, and to maximize its natural capacity to recover.” But the effects are serious and possibly permanent. “The reef is no longer as resilient as it once was, and it’s struggling to cope with three bleaching events in just 18 years,” he said.

The obituary lays blame on the Australian government, noting that the government pressured the United Nations to remove the reef from a climate change report because it was concerned about its impact on tourism. But on September 28, the Australian and Queensland governments released the first Reef 2050 Plan annual report, showing the $2 billion investment toward improving the reef’s health for future generations is paying off. The plan has accomplished 29 of its 151 intended actions, though it notes that the recovery process needs to be accelerated if they want to continue to be successful.

Coral bleaching, fishing, mining, and burning fossil fuels have all contributed to the destruction of the reef over several decades. More than 2 million people visit it each year, and governments, scientists, and charities are working so future generations can continue to appreciate its beauty.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 15th October 2016

Irish Cabinet now expected to agree to waive scheduled pay increases

Image result for Irish Cabinet now expected to agree to waive scheduled pay increases  Image result for Richard Bruton  Image result for Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald said ministers were in line for rises worth €12,000 over three years.

Richard Bruton said ministers will not be taking the scheduled pay increases and the Cabinet is expected to agree next week to waive pay hikes for Ministers and Ministers of State.

Ministers were due to get increases under the terms of the Haddington Road Agreement on public sector pay.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe will bring a proposal to extend the freeze on pay restoration for Government members meaning they will forego €12,000 over the next three years.

However TDs will get their pay restored by €5,414 over the same period according to the Department of Public Enterprise, since 2009, TDs’ pay has been reduced by €19,920.

The pay of the taoiseach has been reduced by €117,645 since 2009, a reduction of 41.1%.

The pay of the tánaiste has been reduced by €89,828 since 2009, a reduction of 36.6%.

The pay of a minister has been reduced by €82,023 since 2009, a reduction of 36.4%.

The pay of a minister of state has been reduced by €43,698 since 2009, a reduction of 28%.

Earlier, Minister for Education Richard Bruton told the Dáil that ministers will agree next week to forgo pay increases.

Speaking in the Dáil, the minister said he agreed that politicians need to take a lead and that the Government will confirm next week that ministers will not be taking the proposed pay rise.

Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald said ministers were in line for rises worth €12,000 over three years.

A stop must be put to all increases for politicians, she said and not just “a voluntary pause on these increases”.

We are like athletes says Trump & proposes drug testing before the final debate

Republican’s suggest Hillarly Clinton may have taken performance-enhancing drugs in last showdown and at New Hamphire rally repeats suspicion of a ‘rigged’ election

Image result for We are like athletes says Trump & proposes drug testing before the final debate  Image result for We are like athletes says Trump & proposes drug testing before the final debate

Donald Trump suggested on Saturday that Hillary Clinton might have taken performance-enhancing drugs to prepare for their presidential debates, and that both candidates for president should be tested before Wednesday’s final debate.

“We’re like athletes,” the Republican nominee told a rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. “They make them take a drug test. I think we should take a drug test prior to the debate. I think we should – why don’t we do that?”

Trump continued: “We should take a drug test prior because I don’t know what’s going on with her, but at the beginning of her last debate she was all pumped up at the beginning and at the end if was, ‘Huh, take me down.’ She could barely reach her car. So I think we should take a drug test. Anyway, I’m willing to do it.”

Trump’s campaign has previously criticised the media for taking his rally statements literally, for instance saying that the candidate was being “sarcastic” when he said Barack Obama “founded” Isis. Aides have yet to say whether he was speaking tongue in cheek.

Life after Trump: Republicans brace for betrayal and civil war after 2016

The health of both candidates has been under scrutiny in the final months of the grueling 2016 campaign. Clinton was slow to reveal a bout of pneumonia, which her campaign only revealed after she made a premature departure from an 11 September memorial service in New York.

Trump’s repeated sniffling during the first two debates has also drawn attention, and Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, was forced to apologise for tweeting a suggestion that it could be due to cocaine use.

The Trump campaign did not respond to questions about what drugs the candidate was suggesting could have been used to enhance Clinton’s debate performance .

A pro-Trump Super Pac, run by millionaire donor Robert Mercer, released an ad earlier this month questioning Clinton’s health. “If athletes need to be tested for drugs for the biggest race of their lives,” the ad says, “shouldn’t candidates be tested for the biggest race of yours?”

With his campaign in a tailspin after several women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment, Trump began Saturday with another barrage of tweets that have become a hallmark of his campaign. In them, he alleged that the election was rigged and suggested that a loss on November 8 would be illegitimate. He wrote in one: “100% fabricated and made-up charges, pushed strongly by the media and the Clinton Campaign, may poison the minds of the American Voter. FIX!”

Donald Trump ‘grabbed me and went for the lips’, says a ninth accuser?

In another, he said: “This election is being rigged by the media pushing false and unsubstantiated charges, and outright lies, in order to elect Crooked Hillary!”

And a third: “Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and should be in jail. Instead she is running for president in what looks like a rigged election.”

The Republican nominee has repeatedly suggested that the election is “rigged” over the past few months and warned of voter fraud, without any evidence. Since August, Trump has stirred conspiracy theories in the swing state of Pennyslvania, warning of fraud in “certain areas”, such as Philadelphia, a diverse but majority black city. He has also echoed a 2012 conspiracy theory that Mitt Romney fell victim to voter fraud in the city that year, because he did not receive a single vote in 59 precincts in African American neighborhoods. There are 1,687 precincts in the city and Obama received more than 85% of the vote there in 2012.

Trump picked up the theme during his rally in New Hampshire, scene of his first victory in the Republican primary campaign. “Hillary Clinton is running for president in what looks like a rigged election, OK?” he said. “It looks to me like a rigged election. The election is being rigged by corrupt media pushing completely false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect her president. And you know what I mean.”

The businessman has been widely condemned by members of both parties for seeking to undermine the legitimacy of the election. But introducing Trump on Saturday, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions fueled the fire. “They are attempting to rig this election,” he said, shaking his fists. “They will not succeed.”

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, denounced the claim. “Campaigns should be hard-fought and elections hard-won, but what is fundamental about the American electoral system is that it is free, fair and open to the people,” he said.

‘I’m a gentleman’ as Trump menaces Clinton with imposing presence and brash insults

“Participation in the system – and particularly voting – should be encouraged, not dismissed or undermined because a candidate is afraid he’s going to lose.”

AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, said the top Republican in Washington does not agree with Trump’s assertion of fraud. “Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity,” she said.

A spokesperson for Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus did not respond to a request for comment and a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to comment about whether they agreed that the election is “rigged.” Priebus, McConnell and Ryan continue to support Trump although dozens of their party colleagues have denounced him.

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson also disputed the claim, with spokesman Joe Hunter saying “he doesn’t believe the actual voting is rigged”. “He has major issues with the two-party control of ballot access, debates, etc,” Hunter added.

In contrast, Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a fierce Trump critic, tweeted on Saturday: “Freedom-loving Americans repudiate anybody who says they want to make lawful voters ‘a little bit nervous’ at polls.”

Trump also attempted to defend himself against the repeated sexual harassment allegations. “How about this crazy woman on the airplane,” he said of one accuser. “I mean, can anybody believe that one? How about this? After 15 minutes! We don’t know each other.”

“After 15 minutes, she says, ‘Well, that was too much, I decided’. Fifteen minutes! With the ladies in this place it would be one second and then it would be smack. Fifteen minutes! It’s a crazy world we’re living in.”

Fianna Fáil wants changes to first-time buyer scheme

Fianna Fáil is to put pressure on Government ministers to vote in favour of changing their own first-time buyers scheme.

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The main opposition party is now seeking the support of the Independent Alliance when they table amendments the new first-time buyers scheme.

Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Barry Cowen yesterday said: “I will be asking the Independent Alliance to support the amendments we table, in particular we will be asking them to back our amendment to lower the ceiling to €400,000.”

The tax rebate announced as part of the budget will allow first-time buyers to claim up to €20,000 back on a new home. Buyers can claim back 5% of the price of a €400,000 and above that the rebate will be capped at €20,000, however those who purchase homes up to the value of €600,000 will all be eligible for the scheme.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney yesterday defended the €600,000 ceiling by saying he didn’t want to create a “cliff effect”.

“If someone was buying a house for €405,000 we didn’t want them to get nothing, yet a person buying a house for €400,000 would get support from the State to the tune of €20,000. So that’s why we effectively stopped the benefit at €400,000 and then the benefit is frozen beyond that up to €600,000. But we don’t expect first-time buyers will be buying houses at above €400,000 in any numbers.”

Mr Coveney said that in total first-time buyers bought 760 homes across the country last year.

“Builders simply aren’t building homes for that sector. And we need to change that.”

But Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin said the incentive would only push up prices and called on them to withdraw the scheme.

“If Mr Coveney is going to press ahead, he needs to outline how he’s going to monitor house prices over the next 12 to 18 months, and if there’s any evidence of house price inflation — as we believe there is going to be — then he needs to suspend the scheme.”

He said the Oireachtas housing committee had spent a “lot of time” speaking with experts on the issues but this work had been “ignored” by Mr Coveney.

“In general our view was that we needed to see the price of house reduce, rather than schemes to increase access to credit,” said Mr Ó Broin. “What we proposed back in June was that the Housing Agency be given a task of doing an annual audit of the all-in cost of providing residential units, and within three months — and that would have been in time for the budget — to make clear policy recommendations based on evidence and international best practice, as how to reduce those costs.”

UHG Inquiry after amputation of toes was performed in non-sterile ward hospital

A review is under way in University Hospital Galway into why the procedure was not in theatre

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It is understood that theatre space had been booked for a patient who was due to have several toes amputated in one procedure.

University Hospital Galway has initiated a “review” into how an amputation scheduled for theatre took place in a general ward yesterday.

The hospital run by the Saolta University health care group in Galway city could not outline the circumstances due to “patient confidentiality”. However, it confirmed that the incident had occurred.

It is understood that theatre space had been booked for a patient who was due to have several toes amputated in one procedure. However, the procedure was carried out in a ward instead. It is understood that nursing staff were concerned that protocols may have been breached. Medical protocols normally require that amputations take place under sterile conditions and under anaesthetic in a theatre.

A procedure room?

In certain circumstances surgical procedures can take place in a clinical or procedure room. This might occur if theatre space was not available, or the surgery was being carried out under local anaesthetic. A spokesman for Saolta health care group management said in a statement that “an inquiry has been initiated into how an amputation took place in a ward rather than a theatre at University Hospital, Galway”.

“We can confirm that management at University Hospital Galway are currently reviewing the circumstances surrounding a surgical procedure carried out today at ward level,” the statement said. “In the interests of patient confidentiality, no further comment will be made,” it added.

The hospital is one of the busiest in the State, and pressure on its emergency department has led to implementation of full capacity protocols on a series of occasions in recent months.

Man who saved baby at Buncrana tragedy pier gets medal for bravery

Davitt Walsh who swam out to car where five drowned among those honoured in Dublin.

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Davitt Walsh, who rescued a child from drowning off Buncrana pier in March, with his mother Siobhán, as he received the Michael Heffernan gold medal for bravery at Farmleigh, Dublin.

The Donegal man who rescued a four-month-old baby from a car which was sinking off Buncrana pier earlier this year has been awarded a gold medal by the State.

Davitt Walsh (29), who brought Rionaghac-Ann McGrotty to safety after the car in which her family was travelling slipped off the Co Donegal pier, was conferred with the Michael Heffernan gold medal for marine gallantry on Friday evening.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross, who presented the awards at Farmleigh House, Dublin, paid tribute to Irish Coast Guard volunteer Caitríona Lucas, who lost her life during a search off Co Clare last month.

The nominations for this round of awards had closed before Ms Lucas lost her life.

The citation for Mr Walsh’s action in Buncrana extols his bravery at “huge peril to his own safety” and his “quick reactions to a very rapidly deteriorating situation”.

Five people, including the baby’s father Seán, and two brothers Mark (12) and Evan (8), died in the incident on Lough Swilly on March 20th. The RNLI Lough Swilly lifeboat crew who assisted in the alert received a ministerial letter of appreciation.

The gold medal – named after the late diver Michael Heffernan who lost his life while assisting in a cave rescue off north Mayo in October 1997 – was also awarded to Irish Coast Guard helicopter winchman Gary Robertson for his rescue of a fisherman off Inishinny island, Co Donegal, last April.

Mr Robertson worked in very dangerous conditions to cut the fisherman free when he became entangled and trapped in gear attached to a sinking vessel.

A bronze medal was presented to Sam Nunn and his crew of Ruarí Nunn, Brian Kehoe and Niall McGee, who rescued nine people from drowning close to the Saltee Islands off the south Wexford coast in August 2015.

Bronze medals were also given to Paul Dolan and Dean Treacy, who rescued a man from a rigid inflatable off Clontarf, Dublin, in October 2012; and to Charlie Hennigar, who rescued three people after a gangway collapsed between a pier and ferry on Inisheer in June of this year.

Ministerial letters of appreciation for their role in rescues were also awarded to the Skerries Coast Guard unit in north Dublin; the RNLI Castletownbere and Kinsale lifeboat crews in Cork; the Irish Coast Guard’s rescue 116 helicopter crew and its winchman Richard Desay; Dean Coleman who rescued a swimmer off Sandycove, Dublin, last summer; and Gavin Byrne who rescued three people off the Wexford coast last year.

Some 150 countries agree to sign new Climate Change deal

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About 150 countries have agreed to a deal reducing greenhouse gases far more powerful than carbon dioxide in an effort to fight climate change.

The agreement divides countries into three groups with different deadlines to reduce the use of factory-made hydrofluorocarbon gases, according to Rwandan minister Vinncent Biruta.

The developed nations, including most of Europe and the US, will reduce their use of the gas by 10% before 2019, reaching 85% by 2036.

More than 100 developing countries, including China, the world’s worst polluter, will freeze their use of the gas by 2024.

A small group of countries, including India, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and some Gulf states negotiated a later start in 2029.

That date is two years earlier than India, the world’s third-worst polluter, had initially suggested.

These countries will then reduce their use gradually.

Environmental groups say they hope the deal can cut global warming by a half-degree celsius by the end of this century.

Durwood Zaelke, president of Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, said the agreement gets about 90% of the way there, with a statement from his group describing it as the ‘largest temperature reduction ever achieved by a single agreement’.

Clare Perry, UK climate campaign leader with the Environmental Investigation Agency, said: ‘Compromises had to be made, but 85% of developing countries have committed to the early schedule starting 2024, which is a very significant achievement.’

David Doniger, climate and clean air program director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the deal is ‘equal to stopping the entire world’s fossil-fuel CO2 emissions for more than two years.’

Small island states, such as those in the Pacific, had called for quicker action, saying that they face the biggest danger from climate change.

Mattlan Zackhras, representing the Marshall Islands, said: ‘(The deal) may not be entirely what the islands wanted but it is a good deal.

‘We all know we must go further and we will go further.’

HFCs were introduced in the 1980s to replace ozone-depleting gases.

They are used in fridges, air conditioning, some inhalers and insulating foams.

But they can be 100,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as greenhouse gases and their danger increased as sales of fridges and air conditioning massively increased in developing economies such as China and India.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 18th August 2016

Irish household debt decreases by €1.1bn in first quarter of 2016

Irish households fall to fourth most indebted in the European Union

   

New figures from the Central Bank Show Irish household debt stood at €31,216 per Capita in the first three months of the year, the lowest level since the first quarter of 2006.

Irish households fell from being the third most indebted in the European Union to the fourth during the first quarter of this year, according to new figures from the Central Bank.

The figures show Irish household debt fell by €1.1 billion to €148.5 billion in the first three months of the year.

This represented a household debt per capita of €31,216, which is the lowest level since the first quarter of 2006.

Household net lending fell to a level of €2.4 billion during the first quarter.

The net worth of households increased by 0.3% to €628.7 billion, mainly driven by a rise in house values, and a decline in household liabilities.

Household net worth has regained two-thirds of the drop that followed the Celtic Tiger’s high-water mark of €718 billion in the second quarter of 2007.

The Central Bank said household debt as a proportion of disposable income now stands at 149.4%, its lowest level since the end of 2004.

Investec said the stock of household liabilities now stands at €148.5 billion, 27% below the all-time high of €203.7 billion reached in the third quarter of 2008. It noted household net worth has increased for 12 successive quarters.

“Notwithstanding external pressures, we expect the Irish economy to continue to turn in some of the strongest growth in the EU both this year and the next, facilitating further improvements in the aggregate balance sheet of Irish households,” said Investec chief economist Philip O’Sullivan.

Irish Parents spend some €450 a month ‘supporting’ students

Irish League of Credit Unions data shows 87% will back children financially while in college

   

Just over two-thirds of students work throughout the academic year to fund third-level education, working on average 17 hours weekly for €12 an hour.

The vast majority of students attending third level institutions will be financially supported by their parents over the next year with the average parent spending €447 each month, a survey has found.

According to a piece of research published by the Irish League of Credit Unions this morning 87 per cent of parents will financially support their children through the academic year with 60 per cent getting into debt to do so.

The research asked both parents and students about how they meet the costs of third level education and the financial challenges facing families. The results highlight the impact of sending children to college (in financial terms) has on spending and budgets as well as the challenges and concerns parents have in relation to finance, debt, accommodation, course choice and job prospects.

All told just under three quarters of parents polled said they would struggle to cover the cost of their child’s third level education. The average amount of debt parents will accrue is put at €4,300 down from €4,670 in 2015.

The piece of research also found that parents save for an average of eight years to cover third level costs for their children and manage to accumulate on average €8,150 over that period.

A worry?

The survey also asked parents what they worried about as their children headed off to college. Employment prospects after graduation was the biggest concern for parents with 32 per cent saying it was the thing which worried them the most. Passing exams was in second place with 17 per cent highlight that while concerns over the misuse of drink and drugs has jumped sharply to 17 per cent up from 10 per cent last year.

It is not only parents who have worries ahead of the new term. The poll suggests that just over two thirds of students who need to live away from their family home are “extremely worried” about finding suitable accommodation for the academic year.

Concerns about the availability and affordability of accommodation could be behind a slight increase in the number of students who say they will live at home over the course of the next academic year. The survey says that 65 per cent of students will be living at home compared to 62 per cent in 2015.

The cost of living away from home is laid bare in the study with students living outside the home saying they will spend €1,048 euro per month while those living at home will spend €530 per month

Just over two thirds of students work throughout the academic year to fund third level education working an average of 17 hours per week getting paid an average of €12 per hour.

The survey by iReach was carried out in July using 1,000 responses from over-18s across Ireland.

Nutrition business progress drives Glanbia earnings growth

   

Exceptionally strong growth in Glanbia’s performance nutrition business helped the Irish company to earnings of €176.5m in the opening half of the year.

Glanbia’s H1 earnings increased by close to 11% compared with the same period last year in what company chief executive Siobhán Talbot described as a “strong set of results”.

That firm’s earnings growth was driven primarily by its performance nutrition (GPN) business which accounted for almost half the company’s earnings.

The performance nutrition business segment’s earnings before interest tax and amortisation (EBITA) totalled €81.7m a 35% increase on H1 2015 on a constant currency basis.

Ms Talbot said she was pleased with the progress of GPN which develops products aimed at the sport and fitness markets, including protein shakes.

Growth would moderate to more modest and sustainable levels over time, she accepted.

“Sales of performance nutrition brands and value-added nutritional ingredients showed good growth in the first half of 2016 delivering on our vision to be a leading nutrition business.

“Our overarching strategy is to continue to get growth across the group. Various dynamics in various periods of the year and indeed full years can accelerate that and we’re very pleased with the 35% that we had in the first half [of 2016].

“We very much look to that long-term sustainable growth rate and we’re obviously not saying that that level of growth will be sustainable but if you take our overall guidance for the year that we’ve reiterated of 8%-10%, growing performance nutrition is an important factor within that,” Ms Talbot said.

GPN’s growth will be increasingly driven by new product innovations rather than breaking into new markets.

Ms Talbot said she expected continued “pull” on pricing in its Irish dairy division after a 4.9% decline in prices in the first half of the year.

Glanbia described Dairy Ireland’s performance as “satisfactory” despite a 3.3% decline in revenue to €356.9m which reflected the continued price drop as well as a 1.1% increase in volumes.

Ms Talbot said conditions for “anybody in the dairy space are a bit challenging” but noted that Dairy Ireland delivered a modest profit increase in the first six months of the year.

The company is dealing with currency headwinds arising from both the relative strength of the dollar and the uncertainty created by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

Ms Talbot said the UK is not a particularly big market for Glanbia but like all other corporates, the Irish firm doesn’t like uncertainty and currency volatility caused by the Brexit vote would need to be monitored.

Similarly, Glanbia is “always watching” the dollar-euro exchange rate and is used to managing the associated risk.

The relative strength of the dollar against other currencies can have a marked effect on demand in other markets, such as Brazil, however.

Ms Talbot said the dollar’s strength was actually more of an issue last year than it has been in the opening half of 2016 though.

The company remains on the lookout for potential acquisitions and has a good pipeline of deals.

Ms Talbot said, however, that it is difficult to be prescriptive about how many deals would be completed or when.

Viruses are more dangerous in the morning and so maybe we should all sleep in

   

Early morning commuters on packed trains can finally feel justified in their aversion to their fellow passengers, after a new study found viruses are more dangerous in the morning.

A science paper (rivetingly) entitled “Cell autonomous regulation of herpes and influenza virus infection by the circadian clock” found viruses were 10 times more successful at breaking down their host if the infection began in the morning.

The study, by the University of Cambridge, involved infecting mice with either the influenza (the cause of flu) or the herpes virus. Tests showed mice infected in the morning had a viral level 10 times higher than those infected in the evening.

Professor Akhilesh Reddy told the BBC: “It’s a big difference. The virus needs all the apparatus available at the right time, otherwise it might not ever get off the ground, but a tiny infection in the morning might perpetuate faster and take over the body.”

Viruses hijack living cells in order to replicate and proliferate around the body. It is thought the body clock, or circadian clock as per the paper title, is what makes cells more susceptible to viruses at different times.

Bmal1 is the body clock gene scientists in this study identified as the key to this susceptibility and it peaks in the afternoon, increasing resistance to infection. Bmal1 activity is low in the morning however, so we have increased vulnerability.

So should we all be locking ourselves in quarantine in the mornings for fear of microscopic germ warfare? Well no, but the findings could be helpful in preventing the spread of disease during a viral pandemic.

“In a pandemic, staying in during the daytime could be quite important and save people’s lives – it could have a big impact if trials bear it out,” said Professor Reddy.

One thing is clear – we’ve all been given one more reason to hit that snooze button tomorrow…

Zebra finches sing to eggs to prepare babies for global warming ahead

This could be one way birds learn to survive the heat

    

Zebra finches program their offspring to prepare for global warming by singing to eggs before they hatch. In especially hot areas, finch parents make a special call to incubating eggs, basically telling them it’s really hot outside and they better not grow too big. The hatchlings listen and this mechanism might explain how birds learn to adapt, and survive climate change.

Many bird species sing to their eggs. These calls have been shown to do everything from improving learning to synchronizing hatching times. When it comes to the Australian zebra finch, we already know that they make a specific call when it’s unusually hot outside, which in this case means over 79 degrees Fahrenheit no matter what season it is.

Finch parents start making these calls about five days before the eggs are supposed to hatch and the calls become more frequent the closer it gets to hatch time. This suggests the calls are a way to tell the soon-to-be-born finches about the world outside, and not just the parents complaining about the heat.

But how do we know if it’s just a coincidence? Mylene Mariette and Katherine Buchanan at Australia’s Deakin University figured out a way to test this. For a study published today in Science, they put a bunch of zebra finch eggs in an incubator that created a temperature around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Mariette and Buchanan then played the “global warming” call for some of the eggs and not others.

Next, the scientists waited to see if there were significant differences between the two groups. If there were, it was probably because of the difference in the calls they heard.

After the eggs hatched, the baby finches were raised in an environment where the temperature varied naturally. By day 13 after hatching, nestlings that heard the “heat” calls were smaller than the ones who didn’t. This seems to confirm that the embryos in the eggs really do listen to the calls and then change how they grow.

All this makes sense because other research tells us that animals end up smaller when it gets hotter because the smaller size makes it easier to cope with high temperatures. Mariette and Buchanan also found that birds who were smaller in hot conditions produced more fledglings during their first breeding season, showing that this is a good evolutionary strategy after all.