Category Archives: Health

News Ireland BLOG as told by Donie

Thursday 20th July 2017

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

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

Image result for Simon Coveney says he is happy at the direction of Brexit negotiations on Irish issues  Image result for Simon Coveney happy at the direction of Brexit negotiations & Michel Barnier and his team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Brexit win for the West of Ireland as medical conference moves from London to Sligo   Image result for The Firefly Summit, a conference of 200 podiatrists,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Survival of the friendliest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How wolves became dogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minerals firm plans market listing to fund Sligo zinc drill

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

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

Image result for floating on the market listing to fund Sligo zinc drill   Image result for Zinc exploration Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Potential treatment for Huntington’s disease discovered by NUIG researchers

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

Image result for Potential treatment for Huntington’s disease discovered by NUIG researchers   Image result for Potential treatment for Huntington’s disease discovered by NUIG researchers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artefact find suggests earlier arrival of humans in Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Ireland daily BLOG as told by Donie

Monday 10th July 2017

Irish motorists fear they have been sold laundered fuel after the recent seizure in Wicklow

 Image result for Irish motorists may have been sold laundered fuel after recent seizure in Wicklow  Image result for Irish motorists may have been sold laundered fuel after recent seizure in Wicklow

15,000 litres of laundered fuel was seized in Wicklow earlier this year.

One in 12 Irish motorists suspect that they have been sold laundered fuel in the past, according to recent survey carried out by AA Ireland.

The AA Motor Insurance survey, which was carried out in April, also found that 55% of those who suspect that they were sold laundered fuel also believed that their car was damaged as a result.

3,000 motorists responded to the survey, which was carried out in the wake of the seizure of 15,000 litres of laundered fuel in Wicklow earlier this year.

Motorists in Ulster were found to be far more suspicious about the possibility of being sold laundered fuel (30.48% of motorists in Cavan and 28.57% of motorists in Monaghan believed they had been sold laundered fuel), while at the other end of the scale, there was barely any suspicion amongst motorists in Waterford (1.72%) and Mayo (2.78%) that they may have been affected.

Conor Faughnan, Director of Consumer Affairs at the AA said: “We have seen a number of reports recently of seizures of laundered fuel and while there have been significant improvements made in tackling this issue the problem hasn’t been wiped out as of yet.”

“While fuel prices have been dropping in the past months, average prices for petrol and diesel are still approximately 7c higher per litre than August 2016. As a result of the higher prices motorists are keen to save anywhere they can and because of this may be tempted by a dealer offering fuel at unrealistically low prices.

“While it is important to shop around when it comes to purchasing petrol or diesel to ensure you make savings where you can, it’s also important to use common sense when it comes to prices. If the deal seems too good to be true then it’s very likely that the fuel you’re purchasing is not up to scratch.”

Laundered fuel has the potential to cause serious damage to a vehicle’s engine and Conor Faughnan had the following advice for anyone who suspects that they may have been sold it.

“If you suspect that you may have been sold laundered fuel then you should report it to the service station”, Faughnan added.

“The AA offer Fuel Assist, which will have the fuel drained and refilled with regulated fuel, and the contaminated fuel is then recycled.”


Image result for TÁNAISTE FITZGERALD WELCOMES THE NEW TRADE DEAL WITH JAPAN  Image result for JAPANESE IRISH TRADE DEAL  Image result for Minister for Trade, Pat Breen today welcomed a new EU trade deal with Japan

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald along with Minister for Trade, Pat Breen today welcomed a new EU trade deal with Japan which they say will bring great benefits to Ireland. 

Japan is the third largest economy in the world and is Ireland’s biggest trade partner in Asia after China and the largest source of FDI into Ireland from Asia.

There are more than 50 Japanese companies with a presence in Ireland across a wide range of industrial sectors and it is estimated that Japanese companies employ close to 3,900 people in Ireland.

Furthermore, Japan is one of Ireland’s top 10 goods export markets. Ireland’s goods trade with Japan is now valued at over €4 bn a year, up from €2.2 billion in 2005. In 2016, the value of goods exports from Ireland to Japan was €2.9 bn and the value of goods imports was €1.2 bn.

Ireland’s principal goods exports were Medical & Pharmaceutical Products while principal imports were Road Vehicles and Industrial Machinery.

Speaking today, Minister Pat Breen said, “Japan is the third largest economy in the world and this important trade agreement will open up exciting opportunities for Irish exporters and companies across a wide range of sectors, helping them to tap into Japan’s large market. Agri-food, which is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry, will see particular benefits from the agreement, with new access for dairy products in particular beef and chedder cheese industries.”

Workers taxes to pay for Irish elderly care among the recommendations by Citizens’ Assembly

 Image result for Irish elderly care among recommendations by Citizens’ Assembly   Image result for Irish elderly care among recommendations by Citizens’ Assembly

The 70 members also called for a statutory footing on the care of older people accessing home care

A radical workers’ tax to pay for elderly care, the abolition of the mandatory retirement age, a minister for older people and full Government accountability, are just some of the recommendations the Citizens’ Assembly has voted for.

The 70 members also called for a statutory footing on the care of older people accessing home care and for a compulsory pension scheme to supplement the State pension.

The majority of the Assembly recommended a ‘compulsory social insurance payment or earmarked tax for all workers linked to ‘labour market participation’ – similar to PRSI, fund long-term/social care for older people,’

A total of 87% recommended that there should be an increase in public resources for the elderly and 99% called on the Government to “expedite the current commitment to place home care for older people on a statutory footing.” 87% recommended Government introduce a compulsory pension scheme to supplement the State pension.

On Sunday, Dr Micheal Collins, assistant professor of social policy at UCD, told the Assembly it was possible to introduce a Fair Deal type initiative top up pension scheme to “claw back” up to €200-a-week from elderly property owners with assets of around €200,000.

A further 86% voted against a mandatory retirement based on age – meaning an older person could work as long as possible and 87% recommended the Government backdate the Homemaker’s’ Scheme to 1973 – to allow those who’d spent years looking after children, the sick or disabled, in the home to claim a contributory pension.

The Assembly voted 100% that Government should “urgently prioritise and implement” existing policies and strategies on older people, including for example the National Positive Ageing Strategy published in 2013; the Carers’ Strategy, and the National Dementia Strategy.

Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Age Action, said: “When presented with the evidence and given the time to deliberate the citizens showed the overwhelming consensus for a fair State Pension system, the abolition of mandatory retirement and investment in homecare.

The votes came a day after members stated they were displeased the Government hadn’t implemented strategies and had instead left the issue with citizens to deal with. The recommendations, a combination of State and personal responsibility for the care, pensions, working life and retirement, of the elderly, will be brought to the Oireachtas for consideration.

The Assembly Chair Justice Mary Laffoy said: “I would hope that the Oireachtas pays close attention not just to the recommendations, but to the debate and the discussion that informed them. These deliberations were at times vigorous, at other times challenging but always interactive, inclusive and conducted in the spirit of collegiality.”

The Mandatory retirement age may be abolished? 

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The Citizens’ Assembly is to tell the Government to abolish mandatory retirement ages, eliminate the time gap between retirement and eligibility for the old age pension, and to link that pension to average earnings.

The recommendations follow a weekend of hearings at which the assembly discussed a wide range of issues to do with income, work, and pensions for older people.

Sixteen proposed recommendations were voted on and will form the basis for a detailed report to be sent to the Dáil and Seanad.

On the question of abolishing mandatory retirement ages, 86% of the assembly members present said this practice should be outlawed, while 96% said the anomaly whereby people who are forced to retire at 65 then cannot get the State pension until they are 66 or 67 should be removed.

A recommendation to seek the introduction of some form of mandatory pension scheme to supplement the state pension was backed by 87%, and 88% said the pension should be benchmarked to average earnings.

A large majority also voted to recommend the rationalisation of private pension schemes.

On general issues of care for older people, the majority voted to recommend the allocation of more resources, with the preference that funding be ringfenced and come from a compulsory social insurance payment.

They want that money spent primarily on improved home care services and supports, and want statutory regulation of the home care sector.

Assembly chairwoman Ms Justice Mary Laffoy said she aims to have the report written and ready for the Oireachtas by the end of September.

The recommendations were decided following presentations by experts in law, finance, social care, and human rights, but not all the ideas put forward made the final cut.

Earlier, the assembly heard from Micheal Collins, assistant professor of social policy at University College Dublin, who suggested a radical change in policy to end tax breaks for people who invest in private pensions.

He said State pensions were the most important source of income for retired people in Ireland, accounting for 53% of their income as compared to 32% from private and occupational pensions.

“The policy of supporting private pension provision through tax breaks is skewed towards those on higher incomes,” said Prof Collins.

“It is worth considering whether society should more efficiently use its resources to provide an improved basic living standard for all pensions, one well above the minimum income standard, and discontinue subsidising private pensions savings.”

Justin Moran of Age Action and Ita Mangan of Age and Opportunity argued strongly for the abolition of mandatory retirement ages, and UCD professor Liam Delaney warned that any move towards mandatory pension enrolment for workers should first examine the likely impact on wages, on administrative burdens for small businesses, and on other forms of financial provision that people made for their future such as investments. None of these impacts had “off-the-shelf answers”, he warned.

Gardaí in protective barrier around Sligo council staff carrying out works at car park

Gardaí with riot shields in Sligo stand-off at Travellers’ site

Image result for Gardaí in protective barrier around Sligo council staff carrying out works at car park   Image result for Gardaí in protective barrier around Sligo council staff carrying out works at car park

Gardaí armed with riot shields faced Travellers during a stand-off in a car park in Sligo town on Wednesday.

A number of young children chanted “we have rights” as up to 14 uniformed gardaí, some carrying riot shields, formed a protective barrier around Sligo county council staff who were carrying out works at the Connaughton road car park.

Throughout the operation, a Garda Armed Response Unit vehicle was parked outside the car park.

The car park was the scene of a confrontation two weeks ago when gardaí accompanied workers as they dismantled a fence and painted in parking spaces on behalf of the county council.

The car park has been home to the extended McGinley family for an estimated 30 years. Speculation is growing that the family will mount an “adverse possession” claim, also known as “squatters’ rights”, against the council over the property. The council says it has been working hard to find alternative accommodation for the family.

‘Heavy-handed’ claim

Sources close the McGinleys accused the council of being “heavy-handed” in its approach to the family in recent weeks, while the council has insisted the Garda presence was necessary to protect its staff. Council sources said it had always maintained this was a public car park and it had a duty to continue to ensure the public had access there.

In a statement, the council said Wednesday’s operation was to remove a tree which had been obstructing traffic signage and to restore a height control barrier which had been restored some time ago and typical of barriers at all public car parks.

The council said it was “maintaining contact with the McGinley family through their solicitor in relation to recent issues at the car park”.

Continuing to engage

A spokesman said the council was continuing to engage with the family with a view to finding a solution to their accommodation needs.

The family has turned down three sites suggested by the council, saying two of them had been rejected before as they were in commercial/industrial areas.

There were no arrests following the two-hour operation. A Garda spokesman said Gardaí were present “to prevent any breach of the peace”.

It is understood the family has sought the advice of senior counsel in relation to its claim for adverse possession. Sources pointed out the erection of the height control barrier means it will no longer be possible to move caravans in and out of the car park.

While the council said it was required to ensure protection for staff carrying out works on its behalf, sources close to the family have described the presence of members of the Garda Armed Response Unit and Gardaí in riot gear as “over the top”.

Sparkly Meteors and 7 more sky events you cannot miss in July

Image result for Sparkly Meteors and 7 more sky events you cannot miss in July  Image result for The Milky Way glows brightly as shooting stars streak across the sky during the peak of the 2016 Delta Aquarid meteor shower

Gas giants take center stage among the best sky shows this month.

The Milky Way glows brightly as shooting stars streak across the sky during the peak of the 2016 Delta Aquarid meteor shower.

The Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower promises to add some glitter to the night sky in July, with as many as 25 meteors per hour during its peak.

The night skies will also showcase two of the largest planets in the solar system this month, while early mornings offers superb views of Earth’s neighboring planet, Venus, as it pairs up with the moon and a star that marks a cosmic bull’s eye.


Jupiter will form a trio with the moon and the star Spica on July 1.

Look for the waxing gibbous moon as it passes very close to the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter, and the star Spica. The cosmic trio will form an eye-catching triangular formation, making for a dramatic display as they rise over the southeast horizon in the early evening.


Early risers on July 5 can catch the “morning star” Venus passing near the star cluster Pleiades.

Very early morning, before any hint of daybreak, look for the bright “morning star” Venus in the east to guide you to the nearby Pleiades star cluster. The cosmic pair of planet and stars will be seven degrees apart—less than the width of your fist held at arm’s length. The 300 light-year distant stellar grouping is a staple of winter-evening stargazing, but now is an easy target for early risers with binoculars, thanks to Venus, the goddess of love, pointing the way.


Saturn made it closest pass to Earth less than a month ago and is still near enough to appear large when viewed through a backyard telescope in July.

After darkness falls, look southeast for the waxing gibbous moon pairing up with the ringed world Saturn. To the naked eye the gas giant looks like a bright yellow-tinged star; however, through even the smallest of backyard telescopes, it shows off its famous rings easily.

Having just made its closest pass to Earth less than a month ago, Saturn will still appear impressively big and bright through the eyepiece. A telescope will also easily reveal the Cassini Division, a large 3,000-mile-wide dark gap in the rings, and a few of Saturn’s largest moons floating nearby.


Venus swings past the orange-colored star Aldebaran on July 14.

At dawn, the brightest celestial object visible rising in the east is the planet Venus. Commonly referred to as the “morning star,” the second planet from the sun is currently the brightest celestial object in the morning skies—other than the moon and sun.

Venus is even more eye-catching than usual this week as it makes a close swing past the orange-hued star Aldebaran. This giant star, which marks the eye of the mythical Taurus, the bull constellation, appears less than three degrees from Venus. This apparent proximity is only an optical illusion, however. While our sister planet is a mere 152 million kilometers (94.5 million miles) from Earth, Aldebaran is 65 light-years distant.

It’s interesting to note that the Pioneer 10 spacecraft, launched back in 1972, is currently 17.9 billion kilometers away and is making its way in the direction of Aldebaran. It should reach the star’s vicinity in about two million years.

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A crescent moon joins Venus and Aldebaran in the night sky on July 20.

The brilliant second planet from the sun, Venus, has the waning crescent moon as a companion in the dawn skies today. The cosmic duo should make for a stunning photo opportunity near the horizon.


On July 26, Venus will pass very close to the brightest supernova remnant in our skies, the Crab Nebula.

Venus passes just south of the brightest supernova remnant in our skies, the Crab Nebula (Messier 1) located 6,300 light-years away. The odd celestial pair will be separated by no more than one degree—equal to the width of two lunar disks side by side. You can spot this expanding cloud of debris left behind by an exploding star using binoculars under dark countryside skies—though it will be a challenge—or with a backyard telescope in suburban skies.


For a second time this month, Earth’s moon glides by Jupiter in the evening sky. So if you missed it on July 1, this is your chance.


Keep an eye out for shooting stars from the Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower peaking in the early hours before dawn. With its famed cousin, the Perseid meteor shower, potentially being washed out by the moon in mid-August, this shower may actually be a better bet for sky-watchers.

With the first quarter moon setting soon after local midnight, this sky show should peak in the early mornings under ideal dark skies. The first Aquarid meteors will actually begin flying as early as July 20 and will continue to ramp up in activity, reaching about 25 meteors per hour on July 30. Sporadic meteors from the Aquarid stream will continue until it trickles out in August by mid-month.

Individual meteors from this shower can be traced back to their radiant, which is their namesake constellation Aquarius, the water bearer, seen very low in the southern skies across mid-northern latitudes. The best views will be for meteor watchers located near the equator and in the Southern Hemisphere.

News Ireland as told by Donie

Tuesday 13th June 2017

Enda Kenny steps down as Taoiseach after forty two years in politics 

‘This has never been about me but always about the challenges the people of our country face’

Image result for Enda Kenny steps down as Taoiseach after forty two years in politics   Image result for Enda Kenny steps down as Taoiseach after forty two years in politics 

An emotional Enda Kenny has made his final address to the Dáil as Taoiseach, saying he was the first to acknowledge that he had not got everything right.

“But I can honestly say my motivation was always what I believed was in the best interests of the Irish people,” he added.

He thanked his colleagues in Government and the contribution of Fianna Fáil under leader Micheál Martin.

He had been truly blessed, he said, to lead the country and he thanked the people of Ireland and Mayo.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny leaving Government buildings to go to Áras an Uachtaráin to submit his resignation to President Michael D Higgins.

“I really do believe politics is work worth doing, a noble profession,” he added.

Flanked by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan who will also stand down, Mr Kenny’s successor Leo Varadkar, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and Minister for Health Simon Harris, the Taoiseach informed the Dáil at 2pm he would be going later to Áras an Uachtaráin to submit his resignation to President Michael D Higgins.

He formally handed in in his letter on Tuesday evening.

During his speech in the Dáil, he daid it was a privilege and a pleasure to lead Fine Gael and wished everybody good health in dealing with the challenges ahead.

He quoted Michael Davitt wishing “fond thoughts” and “fullest forgiveness”.

He said he hoped he had made a modest contribution to making Ireland better as envisaged by Davitt.

Mr Kenny then sat down, visibly emotional, to applause from all sides of the House.

Before the Taoiseach offered his resignation, the Dáil stood for the prayer in Irish and English, but there was some confusion when a number of TDs started to sit down during the 30 seconds of meditation.

Members of Mr Kenny’s family sat in the distinguished visitors gallery, including his wife Fionnuala O’Kelly, son Ferdia, his brother Kieran, his personal assistant Sarah Moran and chief of staff Mark Kennelly.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described him as “an Irish patriot and an Irish democrat”. Throughout his time in elected office and in government he had been a proud representative of his community, political tradition and country.

Martin tribute

Mr Martin also said Mr Kenny had managed events so that they have proceeded at his desired pace. “He has ensured that those who were stalking the corridors in search of journalists to brief against him have been obliged to issue lengthy statements describing him as the greatest Irishman since Brian Boru”.

The Fianna Fáil leader said “the mischievous enjoyment he has taken in this has been a genuine joy to behold”.

Enda Kenny acknowledges the applause from TDs in the Dáil following his final speech as Taoiseach.

Mr Martin joked it was a “great burden” for Mr Kenny that Mayo had failed to win the Sam Maguire during his time in office.

He said the Taoiseach was courageous when he agreed to take over the leadership of his party when it was at such a low ebb in 2002. He was courageous when he decisively faced down those who challenged him and then went on to win the 2011 general election.

But most of all it was “incredibly courageous to give your heart and soul to working on your job in Government knowing Michael Ring was back in Mayo stealing your votes”.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said his party and Fine Gael did not agree on many issues but “I always found Enda to be friendly on a personal level. Probably the best leader Fine Gael ever had.”

He said the Taoiseach’s departure from office would be a big change for his family.

“Let me say I will miss you. I will miss your entertaining tales of meetings you have had and meetings you have not had and recollections of people you have met along the way, like the man with the two pints in one hand.”

Mr Adams said he would “miss your optimistic energy”, his jizz, sense of humour and his ability to field questions without giving a clue about his view on the question he was actually asked.

Forty-two years was a long time in the House and he deserved his time out. He also wished Minister for Finance Michael Noonan well in his retirement as a Minister.

Mr Adams said there had been successes including the success of the same-sex marriage referendum. But he said said there had also been abject failures, including the Taoiseach’s consistent failure to recognise the State of Palestine, “the squandering of the biggest mandate in the history of the State as the Fine Gael-Labour Government reneged on election promises, kowtowed to the elites in the EU and the banking and finance sectors, and saddled the people of this State with a debt of €65 billion”.

He said another great failing “has been a clear lack of affinity with the North, one of the deepest problems facing the political system here, and a clear lack of consistent strategic engagement with the process of change that is under way on this island”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny waves to wellwishers as he leaves Government Buildings to go to Áras an Uachtaráin to resign on Tuesday.

Party backbencher

Mr Kenny stands down after six years as the longest serving Fine Gael Taoiseach and the first to secure a second consecutive term in government for the party.

He now becomes a party backbencher until the next general election when he is expected to retire as a TD.

The Taoiseach is also father of the House as the longest serving TD with 42 years in the Dáil. He was first elected in 1975 in a byelection following the death of his father Henry and fought another 12 elections in his Dáil tenure.

He served three years as a cabinet minister, holding the tourism and trade portfolio in the 1994 to 1997 rainbow coalition.

He also served for a year as minister of state for education and for labour from February 1986 to March 1987.

Mr Kenny took over from Michael Noonan as party leader in 2002 after a disastrous general election for the party and in 2007 the party’s numbers in the Dáil went from 32 to 51 TDs.

In the 2011 general election at the height of the economic recession, Fine Gael secured 76 seats, the most in the party’s history, under his leadership.

For the first time Fine Gael was the largest party in the Dáil and Mr Kenny became the State’s 13th Taoiseach.

AIB secures likely buyers for all of IPO stake

Shares in bank plunge as speculative investors digest price range for 28.8% being offered

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At one stage, AIB was notionally Europe’s fifth-largest bank by market value.

Investment banks and brokers working on AIB’s upcoming flotation have secured enough demand to cover the maximum 28.8% stake the Government plans to sell in the coming weeks, according to market sources.

A spokesman for the Department of Finance said the fact that the order book has been covered is “in line with expectations and shows that there’s good investor interest” in the deal.

Crucially, the initial orders fall within the range of between €3.90 to €4.90 per share that the Government announced as the expected initial public offering price range on Monday evening.

However, the ultimate success of the IPO, due to price around June 23rd, will depend on the extent to which the share sale has been oversubscribed and the type of investors it attracts. AIB’s chief executive Bernard Byrne has set his sights on mainly attracting fund managers with a long-term perspective, rather than hedge funds, who might be willing to pay more but would only have a short-term interest in the bank.

The deal is being led by Deutsche Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Davy, with Goodbody Stockbrokers, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and UBS also on the team.

Shares plunge last Tuesday

Meanwhile, shares in AIB plunged by more than 28% on the junior market in Dublin on Tuesday morning as investors digested the expected price range. By late trading, the drop had reduced, but shares were still almost 14 per cent lower at €5.60.

Many small, speculative investors had ignored repeated warnings from the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan in recent few years that AIB’s stock – of which only 0.2% remained tradable after the State seized the bank in 2010 – had been overvalued amid thin trading volumes.

While the shares spiked late last month at €9.20, the Department of Finance revealed on Monday that it sees €4.90 per share as the top of its likely IPO range. This implies a value of between €10.6 billion and €13.2 billion for the bank.

The overvaluation of AIB first emerged in August 2011 when investors ignored a surge in the number of shares in issuance as taxpayers pumped the final amount of a total €20.8 billion rescue of the bank during the crisis.

At one stage, the bank was notionally Europe’s fifth-largest bank by market value, at over €60 billion, even as it was posting record losses. That was equivalent to nearly the State’s entire €64 billion bill for saving the banking system during the crisis and the €67.5 billion international credit line the Government was forced to accept in 2010 .

Being overweight, not just obese, carries a lot of serious health risks

Image result for Being overweight, not just obese, carries a lot of serious health risks  Image result for Being overweight, not just obese, carries a lot of serious health risks  Image result for Being overweight, not just obese, carries a lot of serious health risks

Excess weight can trigger a lot of killer diseases.

“Four million people died in 2015 as a result of being too tubby, struck by cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other killer conditions,” reports now show?

This is based on a global study that looked at how the proportion of people who are overweight and obese has changed over time. This was determined by recording body mass index (BMI), where a BMI of 25-29.9 means being overweight and 30 or above is being obese.

Researchers then assessed the link between having an unhealthy BMI and health outcomes including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

It found that, despite public health efforts, obesity is on the rise in almost every country and in both adults and children. Prevalence has doubled in most countries over the past 30 years. Researchers also estimated that having a high BMI accounted for 4 million deaths globally, 40% of which occurred in people who were overweight but not yet obese.

This demonstrates that being overweight may almost be as risky to health as being obese. The rate of increase in obesity was also greater in children, showing the need for interventions to halt and reverse this trend to avoid future disease and deaths.

What is considered a healthy weight – BMI 20 to 25 – was unsurprisingly found to be the category with the lowest health risk. The best way to obtain and maintain a healthy BMI is to eat a healthy calorie-restricted diet and exercise regularly; two concepts that are at the core of the NHS Weight Loss Plan.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from a wide range of global institutions and universities, but was led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE), based at the University of Washington in Seattle. It was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The research was published in the peer-reviewed The New England Journal of Medicine on an open-access basis, which means it is free to read online (PDF, 2.3Mb).

A surprising key finding, as the BBC reported, is that “of the 4 million deaths attributed to being overweight in 2015, nearly 40% were not considered clinically obese”. The BBC accurately explains how merely being overweight, and not just obese, can increase risk of death.

What kind of research was this?

This was a review and report of evidence from around the world that looked at how the prevalence of being overweight and obese has changed over time. The researchers then looked at how being overweight affects the risk of various health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease and death.

Gathering high quality data from across many studies over time is the best way to see whether prevalence has changed and to see which health conditions are most strongly related to high body mass index (BMI). However, it is difficult to know how big a role BMI plays in raising your risk of certain health conditions, as other factors also have an influence.

What did the research involve?

The researchers analysed data from 68.5 million people from 195 countries looking at the burden of disease related to BMI between 1990 and 2015, and according to age, sex, and country. They looked at both children and adults.

Disease burden was defined as deaths and disability-adjusted life years (accounting for years of life lost or lived with disability) due to high BMI.

Information on adult BMI was provided by 1,276 unique sources from 176 countries, and 1,211 sources from 173 countries provided data on children’s BMI.

For adults, “overweight” was defined as a BMI between 25 and 29 and “obese” was 30 or above. In children, the International Obesity Task Force definitions of childhood overweight and obesity were used. These definitions are based on the principle of a child being heavier for their age than you would expect. The results were broken down by sex and by 5-year age groups.

They looked at the effect of high BMI on health outcomes and estimated the increase in risk associated with a change of five units of BMI in 5-year age groups for:

  • ischemic heart disease (eg angina and heart attack)
  • ischemic stroke (caused by a blood clot)
  • haemorrhagic stroke (caused by a bleed)
  • hypertensive heart disease (strain on the heart caused by high blood pressure)
  • diabetes

To understand where most of the burden of disease occurs, they looked at three ranges of BMI (20 to 24; 25 to 29 and 30 or over) and for five overarching groups of diseases:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • chronic kidney disease
  • cancers
  • musculoskeletal disorders

They also determined the BMI associated with the lowest overall risk of death.

What were the basic results?

In 2015, globally 107.7 million children and 603.7 million adults were obese. The prevalence has doubled in more than 70 countries since 1980 and continuously increased in most other countries.

Obesity now affects an estimated 5% of all children and 12% of all adults. In all adult age brackets, prevalence was generally higher among women.

Worldwide findings included:

  • High BMI contributed to 4 million deaths in 2015 (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.7 to 5.3), representing 7.1% (95% CI 4.9 to 9.6) of all deaths globally.
  • High BMI contributed to 120 million disability-adjusted life years lost (95% CI 84 to 158).
  • A total of 39% of the deaths and 37% of the disability-adjusted life years were in people with a BMI of less than 30 (i.e. not obese).
  • Cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death and disability-adjusted life years with 2.7 million deaths (95% CI 1.8 to 3.7) and 66.3 million disability-adjusted life years (95% CI 45.3 to 88.5).
  • Diabetes was the second leading cause and contributed to 0.6 million deaths (95% CI 0.4 to 0.7) and 30.4 million disability-adjusted life years (95% CI 21.5 to 39.9).

A normal BMI of 20 to 25 in adults was associated with the lowest risk of death (the UK defines this as a healthy level).

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers concluded that their study “provides a comprehensive assessment of the trends in high BMI and the associated disease burden. Our results show that both the prevalence and disease burden of high BMI are increasing globally. These findings highlight the need for implementation of multicomponent interventions to reduce the prevalence and disease burden of high BMI.”


This impressively large global study demonstrates that the prevalence of obesity is increasing worldwide among both children and adults. It supports what has long been thought, that increased body mass index (BMI) contributes to a range of illnesses and is ultimately responsible for a large number of deaths, particularly from cardiovascular disease.

One potential limitation is the use of self-reported BMI or health outcome data in some of the studies, although the majority used a specific independent measurement so this is unlikely to have biased results too much.

It is also always difficult from observational data to be certain of the exact amount of years of life lost or lived with disability that are directly caused by high BMI. It is possible that being overweight or obese may contribute to the risk of getting a particular disease, for example cancer, in combination with other health and lifestyle factors. Therefore, though based on a large quantity of data, the results must still be considered as estimates.

Nevertheless the study highlights what we already know – that being obese is linked to a large number of chronic diseases. Perhaps more notable was that it also shows that almost half of the years of life lost or lived in poor health could be attributed to people being overweight, not just obese.

This study design cannot explain the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity. However, the fact that obesity has increased in countries of all levels of development indicates it is no longer a problem solely for high income countries. As the authors suggest, there are multiple factors contributing to this continuing trend, including reduced opportunities for physical education with growing urbanisation, along with increased availability, affordability and accessibility of energy-rich but nutritionally poor food.

There is an ongoing need for effective interventions to tackle overweight and obesity, both at the public health and the individual level. Otherwise the public health burden of obesity could be for the 21st Century what smoking was to the 20th Century – an entirely preventable cause of disability and death.

Ireland is one step closer to lifting the Good Friday alcohol ban

The Irish cabinet approved a number of amendments to a private members bill which would lift the ban.

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The lifting of the alcohol ban on Good Friday got one step closer today, as Cabinet approved amendments to a private members bill that will lift the ban in restaurants, registered clubs and hotels.

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has already said the Government will not oppose the Bill tabled by the Independent Senator Billy Lawless earlier this year.

The Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2017 aims to reverse the obligatory closure of licensed premises every year on Good Friday.

Today’s amendments extend the scope of the Bill, but as it stands the ban on alcohol in pubs on Good Friday still exists.

Originally, the Government had intended to deal with the 90-year old alcohol ban with its own legislation, but it is now happy to allow the private members bill to proceed on, with amendments made to it along the way.

While lifting the ban in pubs is yet to be approved by Cabinet, one government source said today’s amendments “signals the direction and intention” of the government to move towards an overall lifting of the ban in pubs, restaurants, clubs and hotels.

What do you think?

A Mini-poll: Should pubs be allowed to open on Good Friday?

The Poll Results: 

Glamping village owner hits out at banks over loans

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The undertaker who made world headlines when he transported a decommissioned Boeing 767 by sea to his planned glamping village, has hit out at banks who he claimed treat the west of Ireland as a “no-go area”.

The Quirky Glamping Village featuring a decommissioned Boeing 767 in Enniscrone, Co Sligo.

Enniscrone-based David McGowan told Sligo County Council that he hopes the first guests will be on site at the Quirky Nights Glamping site this time next year.

However, the entrepreneur who had hoped to be open for business this summer, outlined his difficulty in raising finance for the project saying he had been offered a bank loan, on terms which would have been “suicidal” for him to accept. He said banks had sought a €2m personal guarantee.

“As far as I was concerned I would be putting my family at risk”, said Mr McGowan.

He said the banks’ attitude was that “if it goes down, they are left with a hundred ton of scrap metal”.

Mr McGowan said that as well as being “very soul destroying”, this gave an insight into how lending institutions regard developers in the west of Ireland.

The undertaker said that he will now use Crowdfunding to raise the €2.5m needed to make his dream a reality.

He said he needed 25,000 people to pledge €100 each and was “fairly confident” of achieving that.

“I have 70,000 followers on my Facebook page,” he said.

He told councillors while there was a rumour out there he had run out of money this was not true.

“I am just being cautious. I think the banking system in this country is all wrong. I think they treat people in an inhumane way. They throw you out on the side of the road. They don’t care about your family”.

He told Sligo councillors that he had put the county on the world stage and had been trending third in the world on Twitter — behind Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin — on the night the Boeing 767 was successfully deposited on Enniscrone beach.

He has moved a decommissioned RAF helicopter, a London train and a number of former London taxis to the site.

A breakthrough in thin electrically conducting sheets paves way for smaller electronic devices

Image result for A breakthrough in thin electrically conducting sheets paves way for smaller electronic devices   Image result for Professor Marty Gregg from Queen's University School of Mathematics and Physics, have created unique 2-D sheets, called domain walls

Queen’s University Belfast researchers have discovered a new way to create extremely thin electrically conducting sheets, which could revolutionise the tiny electronic devices that control everything from smart phones to banking and medical technology.

Through nanotechnology, physicists Dr Raymond McQuaid, Dr Amit Kumar and Professor Marty Gregg from Queen’s University’s School of Mathematics and Physics, have created unique 2-D sheets, called domain walls, which exist within crystalline materials.

The sheets are almost as thin as the wonder-material graphene, at just a few atomic layers. However, they can do something that graphene can’t – they can appear, disappear or move around within the crystal, without permanently altering the crystal itself.

This means that in future, even smaller electronic devices could be created, as electronic circuits could constantly reconfigure themselves to perform a number of tasks, rather than just having a sole function.

Professor Marty Gregg explains: “Almost all aspects of modern life such as communication, healthcare, finance and entertainment rely on microelectronic devices. The demand for more powerful, smaller technology keeps growing, meaning that the tiniest devices are now composed of just a few atoms – a tiny fraction of the width of human hair.”

“As things currently stand, it will become impossible to make these devices any smaller – we will simply run out of space. This is a huge problem for the computing industry and new, radical, disruptive technologies are needed. One solution is to make electronic circuits more ‘flexible’ so that they can exist at one moment for one purpose, but can be completely reconfigured the next moment for another purpose.”

The team’s findings, which have been published in Nature Communications, pave the way for a completely new way of data processing.

Professor Gregg says: “Our research suggests the possibility to “etch-a-sketch” nanoscale electrical connections, where patterns of electrically conducting wires can be drawn and then wiped away again as often as required.

“In this way, complete electronic circuits could be created and then dynamically reconfigured when needed to carry out a different role, overturning the paradigm that electronic circuits need be fixed components of hardware, typically designed with a dedicated purpose in mind.”

There are two key hurdles to overcome when creating these 2-D sheets, long straight walls need to be created. These need to effectively conduct electricity and mimic the behavior of real metallic wires. It is also essential to be able to choose exactly where and when the domain walls appear and to reposition or delete them.

Through the research, the Queen’s researchers have discovered some solutions to the hurdles. Their research proves that long conducting sheets can be created by squeezing the crystal at precisely the location they are required, using a targeted acupuncture-like approach with a sharp needle. The sheets can then be moved around within the crystal using applied electric fields to position them.

Dr Raymond McQuaid, a recently appointed lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s University, added: “Our team has demonstrated for the first time that copper-chlorine boracite crystals can have straight conducting walls that are hundreds of microns in length and yet only nanometres thick. The key is that, when a needle is pressed into the crystal surface, a jigsaw puzzle-like pattern of structural variants, called “domains”, develops around the contact point. The different pieces of the pattern fit together in a unique way with the result that the conducting walls are found along certain boundaries where they meet.

“We have also shown that these walls can then be moved using applied electric fields, therefore suggesting compatibility with more conventional voltage operated devices. Taken together, these two results are a promising sign for the potential use of conducting walls in reconfigurable nano-electronics.”

News Ireland daily BLOG as told by Donie

Tuesday 23rd May 2017

The shredding of documents played a key role in downfall of FitzPatrick inquiry

Legal adviser ‘taken aback’ by Garda Commissioner’s note about witness statements

Image result for The shredding of documents played a key role in downfall of FitzPatrick inquiry  Image result for The shredding of documents

The former chairman and chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank, Seán FitzPatrick, has been acquitted on all charges against him at the Circuit Criminal Court.

The spectacular ending of the trial of the former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, Seán FitzPatrick, has come about in part because documents relevant to the case were shredded by a solicitor investigating the alleged offences.

The extraordinary shredding of documents led to a collapse of an earlier trial and contributed to the decision by the judge on Tuesday that he would direct the jury to acquit in this trial.

Kevin O’Connell, a legal adviser with the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, took on a lead role in the investigation but, according to evidence he gave in the absence of the jury, shredded documents during a “panic attack” in his office in May 2015.

He informed the Director of Public Prosecutions as to what he had done, then sought psychiatric help. The first trial of FitzPatrick, then ongoing, collapsed as a result.

The collapse of one of the most significant white-collar crime cases to come before the courts in the wake of the Irish banking crisis is a huge blow to the reputation of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), the agency established to investigate corporate crime. It led the inquiry. It is also a blow to the reputation of An Garda Síochána and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

FitzPatrick (68), of Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow, had pleaded not guilty to 27 charges under the Companies Acts relating to giving false or misleading information to Anglo’s auditors Ernst & Young (now EY).

In announcing his decision on Tuesday, Judge John Aylmer referred to O’Connell’s evidence that the documents he shredded were notes of phone conversations similar to other such notes he had discovered to the DPP.

However, the judge said the fact was we didn’t know what was in them and there must be a doubt about why they were singled out.

O’Connell had given evidence to the first trial of FitzPatrick, over six days, in the absence of the jury, as it was becoming evident that the investigation had been mishandled in relation to the taking of statements from two key witnesses.

In evidence heard by the court in the absence of the jury it emerged that O’Connell feared last year, at the time of the shredding, that he was going to be “hung out to dry” if the case collapsed.

Garda correspondence.

More recently, internal Garda correspondence, released to the trial by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, showed senior Garda officers being advised in the wake of the shredding that no members of the force were connected with the destruction of documents or with the taking of witness statements from two key witnesses.

O’Connell, in the witness box in the absence of the jury, said he was “taken aback” by the latter claim, given that Garda colleagues in the ODCE had been involved in the inquiry alongside him and had been copied in email correspondence and had attended meetings concerned with the taking of statements from the two witnesses.

Defence counsel Bernard Condon SC commented to the court that the Garda were “attempting to find a bus to put him [O’Connell] under.” An assistant Garda commissioner, the correspondence revealed, had been warned that the case might produce “adverse publicity” for the force.

Extended legal argument heard in the absence of the jury outlined how the inquiry was handled as if it was a civil case before the High Court rather than a criminal case. The process of taking witness statements from two key witnesses, the court heard, was “lawyer led”.

The two key witnesses, EY partners Kieran Kelly and Vincent Bergin, were “coached” and their witness statements contaminated, with some of the wording in both statements having been actually written by the former Director of Corporate Enforcement, Paul Appleby, the court was told. The interference included the suggested changing of key phrases in the statements. The taking of statements occurred as if they were affidavits being prepared for a civil case.

The two key witnesses, both former auditors of Anglo’s books, signed witness statements that were the product of a long engagement involving a number of individuals in the ODCE, as well as lawyers in EY and in the law firm that acts for EY, A&L Goodbody.

It was “statement by committee”, Condon told the judge, during the extended legal argument.

Potential conflict?

There was also an issue of potential conflict. Some of the lawyers acting for EY in the drafting of the statements were also acting for EY in a €50 million damages claim from the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation(IBRC). The State-owned body’s case includes matters relevant to the FitzPatrick trial.

The lawyers were also acting for EY in relation to an inquiry by the firm’s regulatory body, the Chartered Accountants Regulatory Board (Carb), which is investigating the adequacy of the audit work done by EY on Anglo’s books. Condon said the Carb inquiry could potentially lead to EY losing its licence.

One of the complaints from FitzPatrick’s defence team was that the ODCE did not seek out information that went to their client’s potential innocence as well as his potential guilt, a point that has now been accepted by the judge. The ODCE had been trying to “build” a case, the judge said.

FitzPatrick walks away an innocent man. It is the second time he has faced charges that came to trial and from which he has emerged with his innocence intact. In 2014 a jury found him innocent of charges of providing unlawful financial assistance to 10 individuals known as the Maple 10, in July 2008, so that they could buy shares in Anglo Irish Bank.

During that trial, Judge Martin Nolan directed that FitzPatrick be found not guilty of other charges relating to loans issued to members of the family of the businessman Seán Quinn.

The charges on which FitzPatrick is now to be acquitted related to the treatment of loans from the bank which were transferred each year end to the Irish Nationwide Building Society, before being transferred back to the bank. This meant they did not have to be disclosed in Anglo’s end of year accounts.

The so-called “warehousing” of the loans led to FitzPatrick’s resignation when it emerged in December 2008, and contributed to the loss in confidence in the bank that in turn led to it being nationalised in January 2009. The ODCE began investigating the matter in December 2008.

O’Connell said the documents he shredded had been overlooked when disclosure was being made to the FitzPatrick defence, and when he discovered them on a tray on the floor of his office, he realised he was going to have to go back to the witness box and give more evidence. After he informed the State legal team of what he had done, he sought psychiatric help.

Bizarre and dramatic development.

The bizarre and dramatic development turned a crisis caused by how the investigation had been conducted, into a full-blown catastrophe. Although O’Connell said he wasn’t sure what the documents he shredded were, he said he believed they were notes taken in meetings or during phone calls associated with the case. Complaints about disclosure had featured during his giving of evidence in 2015, and when he returned to the office and found more documents that had not been disclosed, he panicked, he said.

In 2015 he referred to eight or nine pages of notes, while this year he said he thought about three or four pages may have been involved. He refused to let the court have access to reports concerning his mental health.

O’Connell had played a key role in gathering evidence against FitzPatrick even though he had never played a role in investigating an indictable offence before.

The court heard that, as problems with the investigation emerged during the trial, the new Director of Corporate Enforcement, Ian Drennan, who had taken over from Appleby in August 2012, informed his staff that only Garda officers were to henceforth take witness statements.

He also said that when the details of what had happened in the FitzPatrick case emerged, it was likely that the agency would suffer “very severe reputational damage” as well as “parliamentary scrutiny”.

All of the interviews with the EY partners occurred in the presence of the solicitors from A&L Goodbody, including partner Liam Kennedy, with whom O’Connell was in regular contact.

There were up to 40 versions of the Kelly and Bergin statements in the huge discovery of documents released to the defence last year. It was after the multiple drafts were received that the defence learned of the flaws it argued existed in relation to how the investigation had been conducted.

Some of the drafts had been going “back and forth” between the ODCE and A&L Goodbody, some within the ODCE, and some within A&L Goodbody. It was “statement by committee”, Condon said. “Conspicuous by their absence were the guards.” He said standards in investigating a suspected crime could not be lowered just because it was an alleged white-collar crime. “Everyone goes to the same prison.”

The FG leadership battle & the candidates Simon Coveney v Leo Varadkar

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Simon CoveneyPersonal: Aged 44. Son of former Fine Gael TD and minister Hugh Coveney, who died in an accident in 1998.

As well as being a politician, his father was a successful surveyor and wealthy farmer. Married to Ruth Furney, an IDA executive in Cork. They have three young daughters.

Education: Clongowes Wood College. UCC, Gurteen Agricultural College, Tipperary, Royal Agriculture College, Gloucestershire, England. Holds a BSc in agriculture and land management.

Political: First elected a Fine Gael TD for Cork South Central in 1998 by-election caused by his father’s death. Was an MEP 2000-2007 but gave up Euro seat for Dáil politics. Appointed agriculture minister in 2011, took on additional defence portfolio in 2014. Housing Minister since May 2016.

Career trajectory: Began in the shadow of his late father’s reputation and later for a time dubbed “light weight”. But seen as a potential Fine Gael leader for almost a decade. Viewed as earnest and policy-driven – he has been cultivating personal support in recent years.

Strengths: Unfailingly polite, extremely hard-working and pays keen attention to policy details. A dealmaker, capable of standing his ground as well as compromising. Did heavy-lifting on Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil deal to underpin this Government.

Weaknesses: More focused on policy than people. Knockabout politics does not come naturally to him.

Lucky general? In his first job as agriculture minister in 2011, he presided over the only Irish sector doing well. Sided against Enda Kenny in 2010 ‘botched heave’ and still made cabinet.

Unlucky general? He landed the toughest Cabinet job in May 2016, leaving him a housing and homelessness crisis and the future of water charges. These just as he was trying to become taoiseach.

To be expected: From Cork’s wealthy section of society, he sails and played rugby.

A surprise: Was expelled from the elite Clongowes Wood secondary boarding school for partying and drinking, much to the anger of his parents. Specialised in human rights as an MEP.

Soundbite winner: “Whatever ministry I have, whether it’s defence, whether it’s marine, whether it’s agriculture, I’ve tried to make as big a mark as I can in taking on some big challenges and trying to overcome them. I’ve got some very big challenges at the moment to take on and overcome, and there’s a lot of people relying on me to do it,” in December 2016 on facing up to challenge of being the Housing Minister.

Soundbite gaffe: On March 1, 2016, he “dropped the ball” by suggesting abolition of Irish Water could be part of Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil government-making talks. “We need to take on board within reason, what they are looking for,” he said on RTÉ.

Unique Selling Point: Total commitment to policy achievements in whatever job he takes on.

Politician, living or dead, he most admires: Aung San Suu Kyi.

Stated hobbies: Sailing, rugby, GAA and following all sports.

Coveney’s policies

TAXATION: He would change Fine Gael’s current stance on scrapping USC. Also wants to raise bands so workers don’t hit the 40pc rate at €33,800.

INFRASTRUCTURE: A long-term strategic infrastructure plan as part of ‘Ireland 2040’. Ring-fence up to €20bn for infrastructure, mostly focused on transport.

BREXIT: With his experience as an MEP and agriculture minister, says he is best-placed to represent Ireland in talks.

HOUSING: Sticking to his ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ plan. Has committed more than 20,000 new homes a year being built.

INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS: From a policy point of view, says he agrees with Varadkar.

ABORTION: The Citizens’ Assembly recommendations go “too far” but the current laws need to be changed to recognise crisis pregnancies.

EDUCATION: ‘Action Plan for Education’ and produce specific annual targets.

HEALTH: Also cites the Oireachtas committee as an important process and plans “to substantially reduce health inequalities in Ireland”.

UNITED IRELAND: Committed to immediately drafting a white paper on possible reunification.

Leo Varadkar

Personal: Aged 38 and a qualified medical doctor. His father, Ashok, is an Indian-born medical doctor and his mother, Miriam, a nurse originally from Co Waterford. His parents met while working in England. He has two sisters – Sophia is a doctor in the neurology department of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London, while Sonia is a nurse at the Coombe in Dublin. Lived most of his life in the prosperous west Dublin suburb of Castleknock. Is unmarried and in January 2015 became Ireland’s first openly gay government minister.

Education: The King’s Hospital, Dublin, and Trinity College Dublin.

Political: Schoolboy and student Fine Gael activist. Unsuccessfully contested 1999 local elections, elected to Fingal County Council in 2004. TD for Dublin West since 2007. Minister for transport and tourism 2011-2014; health 2014-2016; Social Protection 2016 to date.

Career trajectory: Has been talked about as a potential Fine Gael leader since his arrival at Leinster House in June 2007. One of the party’s young Turks, once dubbed “Tory Boy” in his youth – has been busy dumping the right-wing rhetoric and gravitating to the middle.

Strengths: Quick-thinking and dynamic. Does a refreshingly candid “honesty-in-dishonesty line” and usually gets away with it. Very hard-working.

Weaknesses: More style than substance. For all his talk, was a “manager rather than a doer” as transport, health and finally Social Protection Minister.

Lucky general? His two full winters as health minister, 2014/15 and 2015/16, were mild and did not have a full-blown “trolley crisis”. Sided against Enda Kenny in 2010 ‘botched heave’ and still made cabinet in 2011.

Unlucky general? As tourism and transport minister, his two junior ministers were Michael Ring and Alan Kelly, two of the Dáil’s toughest characters. Had fretful two years in health when he faced high expectations as a doctor.

To be expected: As a medical student in TCD, social life was all about Young Fine Gael.

A surprise: Has been busy brushing up on his Gaeilge – came to this week’s decisive Fine Gael meeting directly after sitting a civil service Irish exam.

Soundbite winner: “It’s not something that defines me. I’m not a half-Indian politician, or a doctor politician, or a gay politician for that matter. It’s just part of who I am, it doesn’t define me,” his summation as he announced he was gay in January 2015.

Best howler: “I really can’t wait to get the keys to one of those government jets. My bowels aren’t feeling the Mae West today.” An over-sharing blog, as an opposition TD in 2009, recounting a marathon journey home from Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, involving long waits in Moscow and Heathrow.

Unique Selling Point: Can still claim to be “an outsider” carrying a certain air of mystery and intrigue.

Politician, living or dead, he most admires: Michael Collins.

Stated hobbies: Fitness, good food and wine, and good company.

Varadkar’s policies

TAXATION: Cut high marginal income tax rates.Tax equality for self-employed. Merge USC and PRSI.

INFRASTRUCTURE: Increase capital spending over 10 years, focusing on the Dublin Metro, the M20 between Cork and Limerick and motorway access to the west and north-west.

BREXIT: Five Brexit principles, including trying to keep Northern Ireland in the single market.

HOUSING: Scrap the ‘Help-To-Buy’ scheme if it is inflating prices, and spend on ‘Housing with Care’ for older people.

INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS: Essentially strikes will be banned after a Labour Court judgment has been made.

ABORTION: Would support access to a termination in cases of rape but not on demand.

EDUCATION: Increase the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance. He will also provide subsidised school books/tablets to all children.

HEALTH: “The health service of the future needs to be patient centred and about better access and outcomes”.

UNITED IRELAND: Prepare that it might happen in our lifetime but won’t agitate for it.

Fine Gael parliamentary party endorsements for leader

The Fine Gael parliamentary party makes up 65pc of the total electorate.

That makes each of the 73 members’ votes worth 0.9% of the total ballot.

Of the remaining electorate, 230 party councillors account for 10%, while the remaining 25% is rank and file members.

Leo Varadkar
Simon Coveney
Total: 45
Total: 19
Ministers: 17
Ministers: 5
TDs: 16
TDs: 5
Senators: 11
Senators: 8
MEPs: 1
MEPs: 1
Richard Bruton -Minister
Simon Harris – Minister
Frances Fitzgerald – Minister
Damien English – Minister
Michael Ring – Minister
Dara Murphy – Minister
Eoghan Murphy – Minister
David Stanton – Minister
Sean Kyne – Minister
Marcella Corcoran Kennedy – Minister
Joe McHugh – Minister
Kate O’Connell – TD
Helen McEntee – Minister
Maria Bailey – TD
Charlie Flanagan – Minister
Sean Barrett TD
Paul Kehoe -Minister
Hildegard Naughton – TD
Patrick O’Donovan – Minister
Peter Fitzpatrick – TD
Regina Doherty – Minister
Tim Lombard – Senator
Mary Mitchell O’Connor – Minister
Jerry Buttimer – Senator
Paschal Donohoe – Minister
Paudie Coffey – Senator
Heather Humphreys – Minister
James Reilly – Senator
Pat Breen – Minister
Colm Burke – Senator
Catherine Byrne – Minister
John O’Mahony – Senator
Andrew Doyle – Minister
Paul Coghlan – Senator
John Paul Phelan – TD
Gabrielle McFadden – Senator
Noel Rock – TD
Deirdre Clune – MEP
Tony McLoughlin – TD
Alan Farrell – TD
Michael D’Arcy – TD
Tom Neville – TD
Josepha Madigan – TD
Pat Deering – TD
Jim Daly – TD
Brendan Griffin – TD
Ciaran Cannon – TD
Colm Brophy – TD
Peter Burke – TD
Fergus O’Dowd – TD
John Deasy – TD
Joe Carey – TD
Neale Richmond – Senator
Catherine Noone – Senator
Paddy Burke – Senator
Martin Conway – Senator
Michelle Mulherin – Senator
Maura Hopkins – Senator
Ray Butler – Senator
Frank Feighan – Senator
Maria Byrne – Senator
Joe O’Reilly – Senator
Kieran O’Donnell – Senator
Brian Hayes – MEP


Enda Kenny – Outgoing Party Leader *

Martin Heydon – Party Chairman *

Michael Noonan – Minister  Michael Creed – Minister
Bernard Durkan – TD Sean Kelly – MEP
Mairead McGuinness MEP  
* Outgoing leader Enda Kenny and party chairman Martin Heydon will not make an endorsement  

Irish unemployment hits nine-year low as full-time jobs up 84,000 in first quarter

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said full-time employment had increased by more than 84,000 in the first quarter

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Ireland’s unemployment figures has fallen to levels not seen since the recession and economic collapse hit the country in early 2008.

Official figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed 33,200 fewer people out of work at the start of this year, compared with the same time last year.

The unemployment rate is now down to 6.4%, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said, with 148,800 people classed as out of work, the lowest number in nine years.

“The labour market has begun the year in a very positive manner and I welcome the very strong employment growth that was recorded in the first quarter,” Mr Noonan said.

“Employment gains of 68,600 (3.5%) clearly demonstrate that economic growth is generating significant dividends in the labour market. Indeed, it is noteworthy that full-time employment increased by over 84,000 in the first quarter and I particularly welcome this development.

“The policies that have been implemented by the Government continue to bear fruit. The objective in the months and years ahead is to enhance the resilience of the economy in order to protect these gains and generate more jobs in the future.”

A breakdown of the labour market figures recorded in the CSO’s Quarterly National Household Survey showed an 18.5% fall in the number of unemployed people in the year to the end of March.

It said that people who are classed as long- term unemployed after being out of work for a year or more now account for just over half the total number of jobless.

The CSO also said there are 2,191,400 people in the labour market.

As many as 460,000 may be exposed to unsafe radon levels in Ireland

Irish householders urged to test their homes?

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As many as 460,000 people in Ireland may be exposed to radon levels that are deemed to be unsafe, new research has found.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas present in all rocks and soils. When it surfaces in the open air, it is quickly diluted to harmless concentrations. However when it enters an enclosed space, such as a house, it can sometimes build up to high concentrations, leading to an potentially dangerous health risk.

Globally, radon is the second highest cause of lung cancer, coming after smoking. The gas is linked to around 250 cancer deaths in Ireland every year.

A research team led by geologists from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) has produced a new ‘risk map’ using indoor radon concentration measurements and relevant geological information.

They found that including more geological data, such as bedrock and glacial geology, provided a more detailed picture of the risks posed by radon.

According to this map, around 10% of Ireland’s population is exposed to radon levels that exceed the references safe level – that is around 460,000 people who may currently be at risk.

This new analysis divides the country into three risk categories – high, medium and low. This is based on the probability of having an indoor radon concentration level above the reference level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre.

The map shows that the probability of living in a home with a concentration above this is calculated to be 19% in high risk areas (around 265,000 people), 8% in medium risk areas (160,000) and 3% in low risk areas (35,000).

This map now needs to be validated using new annually available indoor radon data.

“EU member states need to translate European radiation protection legislation into national law, and this requires an accurate definition of radon-prone areas. Our research provides one example of how national-scale radon risk maps can be produced, which is especially relevant to countries developing their national radon programmes,” explained Quentin Crowley, assistant professor in isotopes and the environment at TCD’s School of Natural Sciences.

The researchers emphasised that according to the map, even some homes in the low risk category ‘will have elevated radon levels’.

“No model, no matter how sophisticated, can substitute for having indoor radon levels tested. For this reason we advise all householders to test their homes for radon and, if high levels are found, to have their houses fixed. Further information is available on,” commented Barbara Rafferty of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Large study uncovers genes are linked to our intelligence

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Exactly what constitutes intelligence, and to what extent it is genetic, are some of the most controversial questions in science. But now a new study of nearly 80,000 people, published in Nature Genetics, has managed to identify a number of genes that seem to be involved in intelligence.

According to a dictionary definition, intelligence is “the ability to learn, understand or deal with new situations” or “the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly”.

This is obviously quite broad. Indeed, even animals display a number of different forms of intelligence, typically critical for survival. These range from reaching or gathering sources of food and escaping predators to the sharing of duties within a group (such as in ant communities). Elephants or monkeys also possess forms of empathy and care, which strengthen their relationships and chances to survive.

Human intelligence started out as “reactive”, enabling us to find solutions to the challenges of nature. But it later became “proactive”, so that we could use the resources of nature to develop preventive measures aimed at solving problems. Ultimately, what makes human intelligence different from that of other animals is our ability to shape the environment, for example through farming. This became possible as we developed communities and started delegating tasks on the basis of talents. When the acute problem of survival was controlled, we could dedicate our intelligence to the development of arts or other higher skills.

There are many factors that enable us to shape and nurture our intelligence – ranging from access to resources and information to skills acquired through experience and repetition. But, like with most human traits, there is also a genetic basis.

The experiment?

The method used to measure intelligence in the new study was the so-called “g-factor” – a measure of analytical intelligence. Although it might appear reductive to catalogue all types of intelligence through a single test, the g-factor is often used in scientific research as being among the most unbiased methods. The authors looked at such scores in 78,000 people of European descent to search for genetic factors and genes that potentially influence human intelligence.

They carried out a genome-wide association study (GWAS). This assesses connections between a trait and a multitude of DNA markers called single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, which might determine an individual’s likelihood to develop a specific trait. The test enabled the researchers to identify 336 significant SNPs.

Generally, the vast majority of significant SNPs that result in this way fall in non-coding regions of the DNA. In other words, they indicate portions of the DNA that may regulate gene expression even though the actual regulated gene is unknown. This makes the SNPs from GWAS hard to interpret. So the authors then complemented their analysis with a so called genome-wide gene association analysis (or GWGAS), which calculates the effect of multiple SNPs within genes and can identify actual associated genes. They then combined both kinds of study to strengthen their confidence in naming the genes associated with intelligence.

This work led to isolating 52 candidate genes linked to intelligence. Although 12 of these had been previously associated with “intelligence”, the study needs to be replicated in future studies.

What do we gather?

The researchers discovered that the genes that were the strongest linked to intelligence are ones involved in pathways that play a part in the regulation of the nervous system’s development and apoptosis (a normal form of cell death that is needed in development). The most significant SNP was found within FOXO3, a gene involved in insulin signalling that might trigger apoptosis. The strongest associated gene was CSE1L, a gene involved in apoptosis and cell proliferation.

Does this all mean that intelligence in humans depends on the molecular mechanisms that support the development and preservation of the nervous system throughout an person’s lifespan? It’s possible.

And is it possible to explain intelligence through genetics? This paper suggests it is. Nevertheless, it might be warranted to consider that intelligence is a very complex trait and even if genetics did play a role, environmental factors such as education, healthy living, access to higher education, exposure to stimulating circumstances or environments might play an equally or even stronger role in nurturing and shaping intelligence.

It is also worth considering that the meaning of “intelligence” rather falls within a grey area. There might be different types of intelligence or even intelligence might be interpreted differently: in which category would for example a genius physicist – unable to remember their way home (Albert Einstein) – fall? Selective intelligence? Mozart nearly failed his admission tests to Philharmonic Academy in Bologna because his genius was too wide and innovative to be assessed by rigid tests. Is that another form of selective intelligence? And if so, what’s the genetic basis of this kind of intelligence?

Studies like this are extremely interesting and they do show we are starting to scratch the surface of what the biological basis of intelligence really is.

Europe was the birthplace of mankind, and not Africa, scientists now say?

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An artist’s reconstruction of Graecopithecus freybergi, left, with the jawbone and tooth found in Bulgaria and Greece.

The history of human evolution has been rewritten after scientists discovered that Europe was the birthplace of mankind, not Africa.

Currently, most experts believe that our human lineage split from apes around seven million years ago in central Africa, where hominids remained for the next five million years before venturing further afield.

But two fossils of an ape-like creature which had human-like teeth have been found in Bulgaria and Greece, dating to 7.2 million years ago.

The discovery of the creature, named Graecopithecus freybergi, and nicknameded ‘El Graeco’ by scientists, proves our ancestors were already starting to evolve in Europe 200,000 years before the earliest African hominid.

An international team of researchers say the findings entirely change the beginning of human history and place the last common ancestor of both chimpanzees and humans – the so-called Missing Link – in the Mediterranean region.

At that time climate change had turned Eastern Europe into an open savannah which forced apes to find new food sources, sparking a shift towards bipedalism, the researchers believe.

“This study changes the ideas related to the knowledge about the time and the place of the first steps of the humankind,” said Professor Nikolai Spassov from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

“Graecopithecus is not an ape. He is a member of the tribe of hominins and the direct ancestor of homo.

“The food of the Graecopithecus was related to the rather dry and hard savannah vegetation, unlike that of the recent great apes which are living in forests.  Therefore, like humans, he has wide molars and thick enamel.

The species could be the first hominid ever to exist?

“To some extent this is a newly discovered missing link. But missing links will always exist , because evolution is infinite chain of subsequent forms. Probably  El Graeco’s face will resemble a great ape, with shorter canines.”

The team analysed the two known specimens of Graecopithecus freybergi: a lower jaw from Greece and an upper premolar tooth from Bulgaria.

Using computer tomography, they were able to visualise the internal structures of the fossils and show that the roots of premolars are widely fused.

“While great apes typically have two or three separate and diverging roots, the roots of Graecopithecus converge and are partially fused – a feature that is characteristic of modern humans, early humans and several pre-humans,”, said lead researcher Professor Madelaine Böhme of the University of Tübingen.

The lower jaw, has additional dental root features, suggesting that the species was a hominid.

The tooth of Graecopithecus. Image result for Europe was the birthplace of mankind, and not Africa, scientists now say?

The species was also found to be several hundred thousand years older than the oldest African hominid, Sahelanthropus tchadensis which was found in Chad.

“We were surprised by our results, as pre-humans were previously known only from sub-Saharan Africa,” said doctoral student Jochen Fuss, a Tübingen PhD student who conducted this part of the study.

Professor David Begun, a University of Toronto paleoanthropologist and co-author of this study, added: “This dating allows us to move the human-chimpanzee split into the Mediterranean area.”

During the period the Mediterranean Sea went through frequent periods of drying up completely, forming a land bridge between Europe and Africa and allowing apes and early hominids to pass between the continents.

The jawbone of Graecopithecus.  

The team believe that evolution of hominids may have been driven by dramatic environmental changes which sparked the formation of the North African Sahara more than seven million years ago and pushed species further North.

They found large amounts of Saharan sand in layers dating from the period, suggesting that it lay much further North than today.

Professor Böhme added: “Our findings may eventually change our ideas about the origin of humanity. I personally don’t think that the descendants of Graecopithecus die out, they may have spread to Africa later. The split of chimps and humans was a single event. Our data support the view that this split was happening in the eastern Mediterranean – not in Africa.

“If accepted, this theory will indeed alter the very beginning of human history.” However some experts were more skeptical about the findings.

Retired anthropologist and author Dr Peter Andrews, formerly at the Natural History Museum in London, said: “It is possible that the human lineage originated in Europe, but very substantial fossil evidence places the origin in Africa, including several partial skeletons and skulls.

“I would be hesitant about using a single character from an isolated fossil to set against the evidence from Africa.”

News Ireland daily BLOG as told by Donie

Monday 15th May 2017

Investment bank JP Morgan move cements Capital Dock as flagship development

Dublin docklands scheme to have 32,000sq m of office space and 190 residential units

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Kennedy Wilson, the development manager of the Capital Dock site, will ultimately own an 85% interest in the site, with Nama owning the balance.

Capital Dock, where JP Morgan has just acquired a 12,000sq m (130,000sq ft) building, is a development by Kennedy Wilson, an international real estate firm, in Dublin’s south docks. The 613,000sq m (660,000sq ft) development is a joint venture with the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) and Toronto-headquartered Fairfax Financial Holdings.

The US investment bank announced on Monday that it is to acquire a 12,000sq m building in a move that will provide it with the capacity to double its Irish work force to 1,000.

Kennedy Wilson confirmed that the bank would become the first major occupier of the Capital Dock development through a forward-funding sale agreement. It is understood JP Morgan will pay about €125 million for the building, about €10,400 per square metre or €961 per square foot.

“We are excited to welcome JP Morgan, through its acquisition of 200 Capital Dock, as the first major office occupier to commit to this best-in-class mixed-use campus development, to grow its existing business and meet its long-term plans in Ireland, ” said William McMorrow, chairman and chief executive of Kennedy Wilson.

Extending over 1.9 hectares (4.8 acres) on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, the development will include 32,000sq m (345,000sq ft) of office space and 190 residential units.


The partnership between Kennedy Wilson, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and Nama began as the former sought to get zoning for the Capital Docks site. Part of that site was acquired in mid-2013 when Kennedy Wilson and its equity partner took ownership of a 3.4 acre plot.

Kennedy Wilson is reported to have paid €106 million to secure its interest in the site.

In December 2014, a joint-venture agreement was signed between Kennedy Wilson, its equity partner and Nama. The arrangement entailed Kennedy Wilson and Nama merging their adjacent sites at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay.

Kennedy Wilson, the development manager of the site, would ultimately own an 85 per cent interest in the site with Nama owning the balance.

Planning for the site was awarded in October 2015 and site-enabling works began a month later. The main contract was awarded to Sisk in July 2016 and was one of the biggest commercial development contracts awarded in the Irish market in recent years

Nama originally held an interest of 75% in the 22 hectares of undeveloped land in the docklands strategic development zone. It is estimated that about 370,000 sq m (four million square feet) of commercial space and more than 2,000 apartments will ultimately be delivered on the 15 sites originally held by Nama.

Some €250 million is being invested in Capital Dock, which is situated directly opposite the Three Arena in Dublin’s docklands and which will accommodate two large office blocks and a 23-storey residential tower.

In an interview with The Irish Times last year, Kennedy Wilson’s global chairman and chief executive Bill McMorrow said of Capital Dock: “In Los Angeles, that would be a very big development. We’re very proud of that particular project.”

The first of three office buildings is due to be delivered at Capital Dock in late 2017, followed by 190 high-quality residential apartments in mid-2018.

Last year, Alison Rohan, head of Ireland for Kennedy Wilson, said the scheme, which was designed by Irish architecture firm O’Mahony Pike, was the largest mixed-use development in Dublin’s south docks.

“As a campus location offering over 330,000sq ft of flexible office space in addition to on-site residential, leisure and retail amenities, we expect it will appeal to both Irish and international companies looking for a location in the heart of the capital, and from which to grow their business.”

Enterprise Ireland report reveals Brexit impact on Irish exports

Client companies record big drop in UK export growth in 2016 as sterling depreciates

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Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon: “We have to work on the basis that Brexit will create new barriers to Irish trade with the UK.”

Client companies of Enterprise Ireland have reported a major slowdown in the growth of Irish exports to the UK in the wake of Brexit.

In its latest report, the State agency responsible for helping Irish companies access international markets said export growth to the UK had slowed from 12% in 2015 to 2% last year.

The fall-off was largely due to a decline in food exports, which have been worst hit by the recent depreciation in sterling. The UK accounted for about a third of the €21.6 billion in exports from Enterprise Ireland-supported firms last year.

“The fact that the growth of exports to the UK has slowed suggests that the impact of Brexit on Irish companies has already started,” said Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon.

“Companies cannot afford to wait until the Brexit negotiations conclude – they must act now,” Ms Sinnamon said. “While diversifying from the UK might have been a desirable objective for Irish companies in the past, Brexit means that it is now an urgent imperative.”

New Euro-zone strategy

In response to the challenges posed by Brexit, Enterprise Ireland has launched a new euro-zone strategy, which aims to boost Irish exports to the bloc by 50% to €6 billion by 2020.

European Commission forecasts ‘robust expansion’ of Irish GDP

Speaking at the launch, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said helping companies to diversify into European markets was a significant plank of the Government’s overall Brexit strategy.

“Following the UK’s decision to leave the EU, the Government immediately acted to ensure our enterprise agencies had additional resources in order to offer all available assistance to our exporters to prepare for the challenges posed by Brexit,” he said.

Enterprise Ireland said its strategy would see it partner some 600 client companies, about half of which are what it described as “euro-zone start” – ie relatively new to the euro-zone market and heavily reliant on the UK.

The remainder were “euro-zone scale”, meaning they were already exporting into the bloc, it said.

Additional resources use?

Ms Sinnamon said some of the additional resources would be used to fund euro-zone market research and feasibility grants.

“This strategy is about driving one of the most significant shifts in the footprint of our client exports in the euro zone,” she said. “We have to work on the basis that Brexit will create new barriers to Irish trade with the UK.

“On the other hand, euro-zone markets can provide currency stability, proximity and potential for growth and opportunities for Irish companies,” she added.

Despite the economic uncertainty hanging over world markets, exports from Enterprise Ireland client companies grew by 6% to €21.6 billion last year. The UK accounted for more than a third of the total.

Export sales grew across most territories, the agency noted, with growth in the United States and Canada jumping by 19% to €3.7 billion, followed by the Asia Pacific region, which was up 16% to €1.8 billion.

On a sector-by-sector basis, the strongest export growth globally was in software and internationally traded services. which grew by 16% to €4.3 billion.

Life sciences, engineering, cleantech, paper print, packaging and electronics exports rose by 10 per cent to €3.9 billion while construction, timber and consumer retail exports increased by 8 per cent to €2.9 billion.

Garda Commissioner O’Sullivan may go before special sitting of committee over Templemore

Fitzgerald backs Garda Commissioner to address ‘deep-seated issues’

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An old pal’s pact is being acted out in public?

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has been criticised for supporting the Garda Commissioner’s retention in her role.

The Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee may hold special sittings before the end of this month to re-examine Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan on the extent of her knowledge of financial irregularities at Templemore Garda College.

The committee had originally invited the Garda Commissioner to attend its meeting on July 13th as part of its inquiry into the inflated Garda breath-test figures controversy.

However, at its meeting on May 4th, a senior civilian employee in the Garda – director of human resources John Barrett – gave an account of a meeting on the Templemore college issue that contradicted Ms O’Sullivan’s account of how and when she became aware of financial irregularities in the Garda training college.

Members of the PAC said on Monday they wanted the Garda Commissioner to come before it at a much earlier date to respond to that controversy.

Its chair, Sean Fleming (Fianna Fáil), said the committee would decide on Thursday what witnesses, besides the Garda Commissioner, it would recall and the programme of work that would be involved.

Two committee members, Alan Kelly (Labour) and Catherine Connolly (Independent) said they wanted the Garda Commissioner to attend as soon as possible.

Special sittings needed?

In Mr Kelly’s case, he said it should happen as early as next week if possible, and argued that the committee could convene special sittings if necessary.

Ms Connolly said she wanted the hearing to be held “as quickly as possible”. She said the committee “was not happy to wait until July given the urgency and import of the matter”.

Meanwhile, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said on Monday she continued to support the Garda Commissioner and had no objective evidence that Ms O’Sullivan had done anything wrong.

Ms Fitzgerald is facing increasing political pressure over her support for Ms O’Sullivan as the force remains dogged by a series of controversies.

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour have all strongly criticised Ms Fitzgerald for supporting the Garda Commissioner’s retention in her role.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and the party’s spokesman on justice Jonathan O’Brien confirmed they would consider tabling a motion of no confidence.

Political expediency

Ms Fitzgerald said “while of course the Opposition are going to ramp up the pressure and use the commissioner to ramp up pressure indeed on me, I would say that politics and political expediency aren’t going to sort out the very deep-seated issues in relation to An Garda Síochána”.

“I would also say that when you shine a light you see a lot of things that have been kept in the dark for a long period, and by previous governments indeed.

“The issues for example like Templemore and [phone] interception – the interception issues go back to the early 2000s with Fianna Fáil in government for 11 of the last 17 years.

“Templemore, we had reports in 2008, 2009; what action was taken then? And the idea that somehow you blame people who are trying to shine a light and do the current reforms is simply not the way that we are going to get real reform.”

Scientists find gene with key to bowel disorders

The gene, known as MDR1, governs an important extractor system for toxins in the gut, removing damaging substances from intestinal cells.

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Scientists have identified a key gene that helps to explain an underlying cause of incurable bowel disorders, which affect around 15,000 people in Ireland.

A study found that blocking the effects of the beneficial gene can harm vital parts of the cell, and lead to bowel disease.

The findings boost understanding of the cause of these lifelong conditions and could lead to new treatments, scientists say.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) includes disorders such as Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. The causes of these conditions are unknown and there is currently no cure.

The gene, known as MDR1, governs an important extractor system for toxins in the gut, removing damaging substances from intestinal cells, scientists said.

A research team, led by the University of Edinburgh, showed that MDR1 function was lower in people with inflamed IBD compared with those without inflammation.

Experts then showed that mice without MDR1 had faulty mitochondria, parts of the cell known as “batteries”, which play a vital role in energy generation and cell health.

This mitochondrial dysfunction then resulted in colitis, inflammation of the inner lining of the bowel – a defining feature of IBD.

Researchers involved in the study analysed genetic data from 90,000 people, 40,000 of whom had IBD.

The university study also revealed that a drug called Mitoquinone, which protects the mitochondria against toxins, can reduce colitis and promote bowel recovery in the mice lacking MDR1. Scientists have described this as a “significant step forward”.

Lead author Dr Gwo-Tzer Ho, of Edinburgh’s MRC Centre for Inflammation Research, said: “IBD has a serious impact on quality of life. We have shown that MDR1 and mitochondrial function are important jigsaw pieces in the complex causes of IBD. Our studies highlight the importance of shielding the mitochondria from damage. This will open new approaches to drug targets that focus on the mitochondria to better design treatments for patients.”

The study, carried out with researchers at the University of Bristol, the USA and Japan, was published in the journal ‘Mucosal Immunology’.

Ireland’s capacity to conduct clinical trials to be expanded

Increased scale of clinical research has benefited many Irish patients with better outcomes

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Norma Harte (left), Joan Jordan and Dr Fionnuala Keane at the HRB-CRCI seminar to mark International Clinical Trials Day.

The scale of clinical research has improved dramatically in Ireland over the past five years, leading to better outcomes for patients and helping many avail of innovative treatments. But the health service needs to be better structured to facilitate trials and involve patients more to match achievements elsewhere in Europe, 200 delegates heard on Monday at a national seminar to mark International Clinical Trials Day 2017.

“Without such trials medical progress becomes a matter of chance,” said Prof Joe Eustace chair of the Health Research Bureau Clinical Research Coordination Ireland (HRB-CRCI) which acts as a co-ordinating centre for Ireland’s involvement in clinical trials. While there was a dramatic improvement in the scale of research, it was not yet sufficient for Ireland to become a world-class trial location, he said. In Denmark, which has a similar population to Ireland, it has five times the number of trials in train compared to the Republic.

“Clinical research not only save lives but enhances patients’ lives in the longer term as new products come into the market. Those countries that have embraced research as part of their national healthcare system have also witnessed better outcomes for their patients,” Prof Eustace added.

New clinical trials

Since 2014, there has been a 37% increase in the number of sites conducting clinical research in Ireland. In 2016 there were 15 hospitals and almost 300 clinical investigators working with clinical research facilities and centres around the country. Over the past number of years, more than 100 new clinical trials have opened in Ireland, delegates heard at the event, which was hosted by the HRB-CRCI in Dublin.

Investments in physical infrastructure, researchers and research networks had been the springboard to the recent upsurge in clinical trials activity in our health system, noted Dr Mairead O’Driscoll, interim HRB chief executive. Between now and 2020, it is planned to spend a further €54 million to maintain and expand Ireland’s capacity to conduct clinical trials and healthcare intervention studies, she added.

In practice, there was a need for all interested health professionals to have the capacity to test new innovative treatments, therapies and medical devices with their patients during their daily work, said Dr Pat O’Mahony chief executive of Molecular Medicine Ireland, a body set up by third-level institutions to help medical research yield benefits for patients. “It would mean greater and easier access for patients, and increased opportunities to collect research data… fundamentally increasing the clinical research scale we have in Ireland. Our ultimate aim should be that any patient who needs care, is suitable and has a desire to access novel treatments under development, could have the option to do so,” Dr O’Mahony added.

Paediatric research

Clinical trials were especially important in paediatric research as so many diseases originated during pregnancy or in early childhood, according to Prof Geraldine Boylan, director of the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research based in Cork.

Young people were “protected from research” in the past, so much so very few drugs for children were developed. The reality is they cannot be treated as young adults and just given “a smaller dose”. Their make-up was different so they needed to be participants in research, including those at the earliest stages of life, to get the best possible outcomes. Where that involved a young baby, who was very ill at birth, or born prematurely, the whole family needed to be centrally involved, she said.

Prof Boylan outlined the circumstances of the birth of Tara-Lee to Norma and Jason Harte, who was born after a very difficult birth at Cork University Maternity Hospital, without a heartbeat having sustained a brain injury. She was treated in intensive care unit by cooling therapy where her core body temperature was brought down by several degrees over a 72-hour period. Now nearly 20 months old, Tara-Lee had benefited from a treatment which was developed by way of clinical research; her development since had been “absolutely perfect”.

Erin Dolan who lives in Lahinch, Co Clare, outlined how she participated in a clinical trial last year at University Hospital Galway during the months of her pregnancy as a consequence of having diabetes type 1 since she was 10. She had benefitted from continuous glucose monitoring, which accurately indicated her blood sugar level, and helped control high levels so it did not detrimentally affect her baby. While the trial required extra trips to hospital, “it was worth it as it benefited me and other women” in similar circumstances. Her daughter Maeve was born a normal, healthy baby, as a consequence.

User-friendly information

Patients needed to be more centrally involved in Irish clinical research to ensure a better success rate, said Dr Derick Mitchell of Irish Patient Organisations, Science and Industry, which supports delivery of health innovations to people with unmet medical needs.

Patients were trying to find out where clinical trials were happening, but they needed to make informed decisions. Having them centrally involved with user-friendly information of where trials were happening and how to get involved was essential. “Having them involved at the beginning can make a real difference in improving the quality of research,” he said.

For Ireland to be better recognised for its clinical research, where it can be done quickly and to the highest standard, Dr Mitchell said there was a need for clinicians in the health sector to be given “protected time” for their work, and for a central ethics committee to approve research rather than individual hospitals.

Scientists identify a 50-foot mystery sea beast washed up on Indonesian beach?

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A giant sea creature, possibly with tusks, washed up on a beach in Indonesia last week, freaking out people on the island of Seram and launching a global guessing game to determine what, exactly, it used to be.

A giant sea creature washes up on a beach in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia, cellphones come out and the image goes around the world, prompting thousands to ask: What is it? Meanwhile, Serum Island residents are asking: How do we get rid of this thing?

A giant sea creature, possibly with tusks, washed up on a beach in Indonesia last week, freaking out people on the island of Seram and launching a global guessing game to determine what, exactly, it used to be.

As images of the floating carcass rocketed around the Internet, the scientific community asked itself: What is it? How did it get to an Indonesian island? And what does its presence say about climate change and whale migration habits?

The people of Seram have a more pressing query: How do we get rid of it?

Asrul Tuanakota, a 37-year-old fisherman, initially thought he had discovered a boat stranded in shallow water, according to the Jakarta Globe. On closer inspection, he determined that it was the rotting corpse of a 50-foot-long dead sea creature, possibly a giant squid because the remains looked like tentacles.

Blood seeping from the dead sea beast had turned the water near the coastline a bright red, which didn’t stop locals from wading in for a closer look and snapping pictures.

George Leonard, the chief scientist at the Ocean Conservancy, told the Huffington Post that the rotting carcass was probably a baleen whale, judging by parts of a protruding skeleton and what appear to be baleen plates used to filter out food.

Decomposition gases bloated the whale into a very un-whale-like shape, and some of the noxious gases were seeping out.

Seram, the largest island in the Maluku Island group, is near the migration routes for baleen whales, so it makes sense that one would be nearby. Locals have asked the government to help remove the carcass, the Huffington Post reported.

But dead whales usually sink to the bottom of the ocean, providing a years-long buffet for the creatures that dwell there, according to Live Science. The publication theorized that the whale had a bacterial infection that produced more gases or that it possibly died in warm waters, allowing bacteria to accumulate and gases to expand its body. It also could have died an unnatural death after being clipped by a ship.

Of course, things die in the ocean all the time producing all kinds of weird phenomena. But now fishermen and villages and tourists — and their smartphones — are coming into contact with dead sea things as they go through the circle of life.

For example, fishermen off the western coast of Australia found a humongous floating balloon of flesh that looked as if it was the first sign of an alien invasion. At first, the father and son thought they had encountered a hot-air balloon.

“When we got closer we realized it had to be a dead whale because of the smell,” Mark Watkins told the West Australian.

They snapped photos of the whale balloon, then headed to shore. By then, they said, circling sharks had taken bites of the dead creature, causing it to deflate.

This year, a giant, hairy sea creature washed up on a beach in the Philippines, according to the Daily Mail. Locals believe the unusual occurrence was brought on by a recent earthquake.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 4th May 2017

‘More information now needed’ over Garda training college finances?

A Garda graduation ceremony at Templemore, Tipperary

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A Garda boss has said it is “too early to say” if crimes were committed amid financial irregularities at the force’s training college.

John Barrett, Garda human resources director, told a parliamentary committee he was “alarmed” when he learned about the use and transfer of public money at the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary.

An internal audit by the force uncovered a five million euro surplus in bank accounts and investment policies related to the college.

Concerns were flagged over the leasing out of land and some of the money being spent on entertaining and retirement gifts.

An internal investigation by an assistant commissioner as well as an audit by in-house officials into the findings is ongoing.

Before the Public Accounts Committee, Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan said no criminality had been detected to date in the ongoing investigations.

However, when a group of senior Garda managers flanking her were asked if they agreed, Mr Barrett insisted there remained “open issues” that needed to be resolved before criminality could be ruled out.

“I think it is too early to say on several fronts,” he said.

“The audit took in total 10 weeks, the matters being dealt with went back some considerable years.

“There are several matters that are now going to be followed up.

“I think we will be in a better position to report at that point.”

Mr Barrett said he was “neither agreeing or disagreeing” with Ms O’Sullivan, and added: “I’m saying there is more information required.”

The former US multinationals human resources boss said he discovered two internal reports, from 2008 and 2010, into the financial irregularities in June 2015.

He then drew up a summary of both reports and began asking questions about the control of the Garda college.

“I was alarmed,” he said, adding that in his experience such governance and “fundamental accounting” issues would have been dealt with much quicker in the private sector.

Mr Barrett said the answers he received were unsatisfactory.

Irish managers not up to speed with our digital revolution

Kingram Red Digital Transformation report finds businesses lack vision for digital future

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The KingramRed report on the state of digital transformation in Ireland 2017 found a majority of the participants still believed responsibility for going digital lay below CEO level with IT departments.  to LinkedIn

Businesses in Ireland are “struggling to transform to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital revolution”. That’s according to the 2017 KingramRed Digital Transformation Report. In the second report of its kind by the digital management consultancy, which included a wide range of Irish organisations across a variety of sectors, it was found “boards and senior management are not developing a vision of their digital future [and] leadership capabilities and awareness are not sufficiently developed in this area to drive direction and mitigate risks”.

Less than half of the organisations surveyed had established any formal vision for the future in terms of maintaining competitiveness in a digital world.

Only 53% even recognised there was any urgency to change.

Going digital?

The biggest take-home from the report, however, was that a significant majority of participants still believed responsibility for going digital lay below CEO level with IT departments. Over 60 per cent of those surveyed on management and board levels believed it was not a priority issue for the top levels – an oversight which has resulted in efforts to prepare for the looming digital transformation frequently becoming “dissipated in silos across organisations”.

The shortage of resources and skills is a serious challenge to driving forward with change

The report, which included input from Irish organisations working in finance, logistics, agriculture, food and beverage, measured companies’ awareness/use of current and emerging technologies such as AI, data analytics, robotics, algorithms and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Big data and analytics were far and away the most predominant technology already in use by organisations in Ireland, with “65 per cent already engaged and a further 20 per cent expecting to take advantage within two years”.

An early adoption plan

Robotics was one of the lowest technologies in terms of early adoption by firms, with “almost 30% per cent of organisations either actively investigating or imminently planning to assess robotic solutions”.

There was broad agreement in one area, though. Almost across the board, Irish businesses recognised the major challenge that insufficient digital skills and resources presented and identified the “shortage of skills and resources” as the greatest challenge to pursuing digital transformation.

According to the report, “the shortage of resources and skills is a serious challenge to driving forward with change. This tallies with the responses that, despite the fact that 72 per cent are investing in digital skills, only half of organisations believe that they have the skills and resources (both internally and externally) that they need to manage their digital initiatives.”

Irish Life report 44% increase in profits for Q1 2017

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Irish Life has reported a 44% increase in profits for the first quarter of 2017, contributing €54m to Canadian parent Great West Lifeco’s earnings in the quarter.

Profit in the first three months of this year was up from €37.5m in the same quarter in 2016.

The business was nationalised during the crash and sold on by the Government to Great West for €1.3bn in 2013.

Since then the business has seen continues growth, and paid up more than €210m in dividends to the new owners.

Last year Irish Life expanded into the health insurance market, it bought Aviva Health and took full control of GloHealth, where it had previously held a 49% stake.

David Harney, Chief Executive of Irish Life Group, said that Irish Life’s strong performance was due, in part, to the inclusion of Irish Life Health’s contribution for the first time in the quarter, and the continued success of the company’s multi-asset investment strategies (MAPS).

“We have seen increased investment across Irish Life’s pension, investment and savings plans as investors return to the market.

There is now over €9bn invested in our multi asset strategies including €2.5bn by retail investors. Over the last 12 months the number of individual investors has grown by over 40% to 46,000 and the total value invested in Irish Life MAPS has increased by 70%,” he said.

Brendan Drumm former HSE boss questions nuns’ ownership of maternity hospital

Former HSE boss asks why Hiqa are ‘allowing a bizarre governance structure’

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Brendan Drumm, former chief executive of the HSE.

The former chief executive of the HSE Brendan Drumm has said there is no reason why nuns should want to own the planned new National Maternity Hospital.

The announcement that the new €300 million maternity hospital would be given to a Sisters of Charity-owned healthcare group met with public protest last month, and the resignation of Dr Peter Boylan from the board of Holles Street hospital.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the planned new hospital at the St Vincent’s Hospital campus in south Dublin would have full clinical independence.

“In terms of ownership of hospitals, I can see no reason whatsoever why the nuns would want to own a hospital,” Mr Drumm said. “Hospitals that are invested in by the public should be owned either by a nonprofit organisation or by the public itself.”

Mr Drumm also questioned the management structure at St Vincent’s Hospital. “How can we have two boards or two management structures responsible for the care given to a woman undergoing vaginal surgery in St Vincent Hospital? I don’t believe there’s any governance structure in the world that would say that’s optimal in terms of the care,” he said.

“I believe the women of Ireland should be marching in the streets asking why Hiqa and other agencies, who have very strong governance, seem to be allowing what is a bizarre governance structure that will have two boards running what is essentially a single hospital,” he said.

Mr Drumm was speaking at the launch of Managing the Myths of Healthcare: Bridging the Separations Between Care, Control and Community by Prof Henry Mintzberg at UCD Business School on Thursday night.

Parents this is how to tell your children you’re dealing with depression and anxiety?

 Image result for Parents, this is how to tell your children you’re dealing with depression and anxiety  Image result for Parents, this is how to tell your children you’re dealing with depression and anxiety  Image result for Parents, this is how to tell your children you’re dealing with depression and anxiety

Tracey Starr (Above centre picture) is a Canadian editor and writer, but first and foremost, she’s a mom to her five-year-old daughter.

When it comes to parents revealing to their children they’re dealing with depression and/or anxiety, it’s best to keep in mind the age of the child.

Tracey Starr is a Canadian editor and writer, but first and foremost, she’s a mom to her five-year-old daughter. Starr is also a parent who suffers from depression and anxiety, and chooses to openly share with her daughter what she’s going through.

To Starr, her mental illness is something she lives with every day. She told Global News in a telephone interview that she first suffered from depression as a teenager in high school and was diagnosed with anxiety in her 30s.

“I put on a brave face every day since I could remember,” said Starr. “If I were to walk around crying or have a panic attack — those aren’t things that are well accepted or understood… a lot of people don’t even know, or wouldn’t even know, that I suffer depression or anxiety.”

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), 20 per cent of Canadians will experience some sort of mental illness in their lifetime.

In a recent Ipsos poll, 41 per cent of Canadians born between the years of 1961 to 1981, also known as Generation X, are at “high risk” when it comes to their mental health, while 24 per cent of Baby Boomers — those born between the years of 1946 to 1964 — are at high risk.

Depression and anxiety are also things that Starr talks to her daughter about, in order to not only be honest and open with her, but most importantly, to create a dialogue when it comes to mental illness.

“If she sees me sad, she’ll ask why I’m crying,” said Starr. “And I’ll say, ‘Sometimes it’s hard for mommy to relax and put a smile on my face but I’m doing my best like I ask for you to do your best.’”

Starr also said when she talks to her five-year-old about her mental illness, she doesn’t use the word “depression” to explain what she has.

“It’s not that I don’t want to or that I’m afraid. It’s not about shame because I never ever want her to feel shame about anything. It’s more about saying it in a narrative that she’ll understand so she won’t feel frightened.”

This method Starr chooses to use to talk to her daughter about anxiety and depression is one doctors agree is the best way for parents to approach their children about the situation.

Dr. Jillian Roberts, a registered psychologist who specializes in children and adolescents, said the age of the child and their circumstances should play a big factor into how parents tell their child what they’re going through.

“A mature child who doesn’t have any major stresses could handle more information than a child who is slow to develop when it comes to maturity, or going through a crisis of their own,” said Roberts.

Roberts also says that the younger the child is, the less a parent should share. For example, a child who is in preschool or younger, wouldn’t often need to know the condition the parent is going through.

“This is a time to shelter stress, as much as possible, from your child. Parents must seek treatment and surround themselves with as much support as they possibly can,” said Roberts.

Whereas, if your child is in the middle of elementary school, they could handle a bit more information.

“You could explain that you do not ‘feel well in your mind’ or ‘in your heart.’ It will still be very important to reassure your children, stress that this is not their fault in any whatsoever, and explain that you are getting the best help available.”

Reassuring her child, said Starr, is something she does.

“I say, ‘Mommy loves you, mommy is fine. Mommy just needs a moment but everything will be ok,” said Starr. “I say that to make sure she knows everything will be ok; I need to be her example. I don’t want to frighten her — I want to educate her.”

Dr. Shimi Kang, an adult and youth psychiatrist as well as a parenting author, said using an analogy of a physical illness is also another great method to explain to children about mental illness.

For example, you could tell your child that Johnny’s asthma gets worse in the wintertime, just like how mommy and/or daddy feels better or worse during certain circumstances.

“Kids are very in tune with their parents,” said Kang to Global News. “With older kids, they may see something is wrong and have concerns. Give children some power and talk about what they’ve noticed themselves.

“[The child might say] they’ve noticed you crying a lot more or that you’re angry, and then you can say, ‘Wow, you’re right. I’ve been diagnosed with depression.’”

Kang also said it’s very important for parents to try and be confident in themselves.

“You’re the parent: it’s your job to teach your kids. If they don’t understand, don’t take it personally. Just teach them. Just like math — teach them about it.”

Dr. Oren Amitay, a Toronto-based registered psychologist, said another way to talk to your children is by using celebrities — someone kids may idolize or look up to.

“You could say, ‘So and so’ had it as well. Show them powerful people have it as well.”

Amitay also said it’s a great way for parents to be a role model to their children.

“This is a great life lesson: when you’re knocked down, show them you’re going to get back up somehow,” said Amitay. “Too many parents try to shield it. But kids internalize most things. If mommy can’t get out of bed, or daddy doesn’t smile, then the kids are going to say, ‘What’s wrong with me?’”

Amitay stressed it’s important for parents to remind their child that mental illness isn’t happening because of them.

“Reassure the child so they don’t take it upon themselves.”

In all cases, Roberts, Kang and Amitay spoke about mental illness being just as important as a physical illness, and that parents should seek support, whether from family, friends or their community, about what they’re dealing with in order to get the help they need, and to de-stigmatize mental illness.

“There needs to be more medical services,” said Roberts. “There’s a long wait list to see a specialist and sometimes, parents might be in a crisis — they can’t wait eight months to see someone.”

Starr said her advice to parents is just taking it one day at a time.

“I know it sounds silly but I always say, ‘Take baby steps. Be kind and gentle with yourself,’” said Starr. “I make sure my daughter is safe, happy, loved and surrounded by positivity and happiness. She’s my priority.”

SpaceX is to launch first homegrown satellite this year, and plans broadband network in 2019

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SpaceX plans to launch its own satellites on Falcon 9 rockets, like the one shown here lifting off from NASA’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida.

SpaceX has laid out its latest schedule for the satellite broadband service it’s developing in the Seattle area, starting with the launch of a prototype satellite by the end of this year.

The ambitious plan foresees beginning the launch of operational satellites into low Earth orbit aboard Falcon 9 rockets in 2019, with the constellation reaching its full complement of 4,425 satellites by 2024.

That constellation would provide high-speed internet access to billions of people around the globe, beaming data via the Ku and Ka transmission bands to SpaceX’s laptop-sized user terminals. Another 7,500 satellites operating in the V-band could be added later to boost the network’s capabilities.

This week’s update came in testimony provided to the Senate Commerce Committee by Patricia Cooper, SpaceX’s vice president for satellite government affairs.

“SpaceX plans to bring high-speed, reliable and affordable broadband service to consumers in the U.S. and around the world, including areas underserved or currently unserved by existing networks,” Cooper said in her written testimony.

SpaceX’s Redmond office is the center for its satellite operations. (GeekWire photo by Kevin Lisota)

Her statement signals that SpaceX’s satellite development center in Redmond, Wash., is likely to be ramping up in the months ahead – which meshes with the company’s expansion of its Redmond facilities.

Although SpaceX hasn’t provided employment figures for the Redmond operation, the company’s billionaire founder, Elon Musk, has said the figure could eventually rise to 1,000. SpaceX’s website currently lists more than 60 open positions in Redmond.

Cooper said this year’s first launch of a prototype satellite would be followed early next year with a second prototype launch, followed by a demonstration period before the start of the operational launch campaign in 2019.

Each 850-pound satellite would measure about 13 by 6 by 4 feet, with 19-foot-long solar arrays, according to SpaceX’s filing with the Federal Communications Commission. Operating lifetime is estimated at five to seven years per satellite.

The relatively low orbits designated for the satellite constellation – ranging from 690 to 823 miles in altitude – would provide relatively low latency for the flow of data, which has been a significant drawback for satellite broadband.

In her testimony, Cooper urged the senators to support the FCC’s efforts to modernize its regulations for satellite systems.

For example, she noted that current FCC rules require a licensee to launch all the satellites in its constellation within six years of receiving a license. “These systems should be allowed to grow more like cellular networks, where additional assets and updated technology are deployed over time to meet increased demand,” Cooper said.

Cooper also said next-generation satellite systems should be included in any legislation aimed at beefing up the nation’s infrastructure. The Trump administration has called for a $1 trillion public-private infrastructure initiative.

SpaceX isn’t the only venture planning to put satellites in low Earth orbit to provide widescale high-speed internet access. OneWeb, a consortium with backing from Airbus, Virgin Galactic and other partners, aims to start launching satellites within the next two years.

Blue Origin, the space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, said in March that it would send up OneWeb’s satellites on its yet-to-be-built New Glenn rocket starting in 2021.

The Boeing Co. has also drawn up plans for a satellite internet system, and last month Bloomberg reported that Boeing has discussed the project with Apple. TMF Associates’ Tim Farrar went further, quoting insiders as saying that Apple was funding Boeing’s V-band satellite development effort.

News Ireland daily BLOG as told by Donie

Sunday 23rd April 2017.

Housing census figures in Ireland paints a bleak picture?

A bleak picture of homelessness, overcrowding and reliance on overpriced rentals

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Even the Irish Government admits that its plans to increase the supply of new homes will fall woefully short of expanding demand. The State needs to build about 35,000 new homes every year to begin making a dent in the housing crisis,

The Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said last week. He admits that the current target is to build only some 25,000 new houses a year, a third less. It was a challenge, he confessed, that reflects a “fundamental structural problem in the housing sector”.

The first Central Statistics Office “thematic” report on housing from the 2016 census paints a bleak picture: homelessness, overcrowding, and forced reliance on an overpriced rental sector, on the rise, while home ownership and house-building have declined – a perfect storm of rising demand and falling supply.

Perhaps most dramatic is the stark contrast between the 0.4% growth (just 8,800 units) in the housing stock between 2011 and 2016 and the previous five-year period – the latter, at 225,232 new dwellings, was 26 times larger.

Close to one in 10 of the population now lives in some 95,013 overcrowded households which have more people than rooms, a rise in five years of 28%. The hidden homeless. And the number of owner-occupied homes also fell between 2011 and 2016 causing the overall rate to drop from 69.7% to 67.6%, a level last seen in 1971. We are moving backwards, fast.

For most young people renting is the only option and now exceeds owner-occupation among under-35s . And in a squeezed market like Dublin, rents have inevitably soared – up some 30 per cent in the capital since 2011, if you are lucky enough to find somewhere.

Yet, why is there not a more serious attempt to incentivise bringing the 183,000 homes that are currently vacant back into use? And why the obsession with building homes-to-buy for first-time buyers at ever-inflating prices, when the real demand is for affordable social and affordable housing and rental properties? Time for a broader range of solutions, Says Mr Coveney.

Meanwhile: —

New data shows just 2,076 homes built last year

Freedom of Information figures show new homes falling far short of Government’s 15,000 estimate. 

Image result for New data shows just 2,076 homes built last year  Related image

The number of new homes built in the State last year was just 2,076, a fraction of the Government’s 15,000 estimate, according to new figures.

The number of new homes built in the State last year was just 2,076, a fraction of the Government’s 15,000 estimate, according to new figures obtained under the Freedom of Information.

Taken from the Building Control Management System, which is widely acknowledged as the most reliable construction database, the figures cast further doubt on the Government’s estimate of homebuilding rates in the economy.

They show that, when one-off homes are excluded, just 848 estate houses and apartments were completed in 2016 compared to an official Department of Housing estimate of 8,729.

In Dublin city, the most populous part in the State, just 68 scheme homes and apartments were completed last year.

The figures for other local authorities were also well below official estimates; Fingal (121), Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown (78), South Dublin (69) and Cork City (21).

In three local authorities, Longford, Leitrim and Roscommon, there were no housing completions recorded at all in 2016, while a further eight counties recorded fewer than 10 completions.

The figures stand in stark contrast to the Department of Housing’s official housing completion figure for 2016 of 14,932.

The discrepancy stems from the department’s use of ESB metering data as a proxy to count new builds. Electricity connections can be triggered by work to existing buildings or by formerly vacant units coming back on stream.

Ghost estates in Ireland?

The official figures are also likely to have been inflated by the finishing out of so-called ghost estates built during the boom.

Dublin architect Mel Reynolds said the Government’s housing targets, contained in its Rebuilding Ireland strategy, are based on new-build levels that were “fictional”.

He said the remarkably low output figure for scheme homes and apartments also raised questions about the Government’s new Help-to-Buy scheme, which has been blamed for fuelling further inflation in the market.

Mr Reynolds said there were now almost five Help-to-Buy scheme applicants for every new home being built.

The Department of Housing has repeatedly defended its use of the 14,932 completion figure, suggesting electricity connections have been used as a proxy for completions since the 1970s, as developers would not connect a property to the grid until it is ready for sale.

It also claims the Building Control Management System database is not an accurate measure of homebuilding activity as it was only established in 2014 and may fail to capture projects commenced prior to that.

Last week, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said he hoped the level housing supply could be accelerated to 25,000 units a year by the end of next year. However, he indicated the State may need to build 35,000 units before demand in the market can be met.

Minister Varadkar supports an SSIA-style scheme to top up personal pensions

Varadkar says a plan is urgently needed to encourage more saving’s.

Image result for Minister Varadkar supports an SSIA-style scheme to top up personal pensions  Image result for an SSIA-style scheme to top up personal pensions

A new SSIA-style savings scheme should be introduced to try to tackle our ‘pensions time bomb’, according to Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar.

The original State-backed five-year SSIA plan, introduced in 2001, offered a bonus of €1 for every €4 saved monthly, subject to an agreed maximum.

Now Minister Varadkar wants a similar type of incentive for workers to pay into their own “personal” pension fund. The plan would give them additional retirement cover – on top of their State pension entitlement – and employers would be required to match their contributions.

“The minister’s preferred option would be an SSIA-type top-up from the Government, rather than the current system of a tax-relief incentive,” a spokesperson confirmed to the Sunday Independent.

“The SSIA top-up is very well understood, much more so than tax relief.

“It costs much the same, and would add to an individual’s pension income, as the money would go into their personal pension savings account.”

The fund would have to be phased in over a period of time with contributions starting at a “low level” in the first year.

The most favoured model would be similar to the Australian, Singaporean and New Zealand systems, and specially “tailored” for Ireland.

Every worker would be automatically enrolled in the scheme – but would have the right to avail of an opt-out clause. The fund would be the “private property” of the individual, could not be expropriated by any government, and could be inherited by a partner or family members if the worker passed away before drawing down any benefits.

It could be transferred to another jurisdiction, and there would be flexibility as to when benefits accrued could be taken out. The SSIA scheme of 16 years ago was generally regarded as a success, generating a huge national savings kitty.

Only a third of private-sector workers have a pension. During the recession years, many people sacrificed saving for their retirement as they battled to cope with more immediate bills such as mortgages, heating and food.

Meanwhile, the latest census data shows the proportion of those in the older age bracket continues to increase.

There are now 296,837 males and 340,730 females aged 65 or older in Ireland.

The number of men in this age category has gone up by 22% since 2011, compared with an increase of 16% for women. Medical experts predict improved medical care and other lifestyle changes will result in people generally living longer.

Financial studies show the demise of the traditional ‘permanent pensionable job’ as the nature of the workplace changes. Problems in many company schemes are an added complication.

Dermot O’Leary, chief economist with Goodbody Stockbrokers, suggests an SSIA-style government initiative could help deal with the ‘ticking pensions time bomb’.

He said recent census figures provided further confirmation that the over 60s segment of the population will increase in the coming years.

He suggested there would be obvious benefits to an SSIA-style scheme linked to pensions provision.

Nutritionists now agree there’s only one fruit that must find a place in your shopping basket “Berries”?

Related image  Image result for Nutritionists now agree there's only one fruit that must find a place in your shopping basket "blue Berries"?

Every fruit has its nutritional benefits but there is only one that seems to be winning the battle across the board when it comes to the expert’s advice.

If you tend to opt for berries of the red variety over blue because of their appealing buy me attractions, it might be time to change that because blueberries have multiple health benefits with 17 different dietitians agreeing that they’re one of the best superfoods available.

After surveying a group of nutritionists and cross-referencing their answers, Byrdie found the non-assuming berry came out on top.

Why is that?

Nutritionist Frida Harju, sums it up perfectly, when explaining:

“If you are going to add one fruit to your diet, make it blueberries. They have been labelled a superfood due to their high levels of polyphenols, antioxidative, and anti-inflammatory compounds that help to combat memory loss and enhance your mood.”

Due to the high amount of antioxidants present in blueberries, they help cardiovascular health and brain health.

They’re also high in fibre, good for your skin, aid digestion and unlike other fructose-laden fruits, blueberries have been shown to improve blood glucose and insulin levels.

If food shopping is on your Weekly to-do list, make sure blueberries find their way into your basket…

‘Hobbits’ Now claimed as one of the earliest forms of the human species?

Image result for 'Hobbits' Now claimed as one of the earliest forms of the human species?  Image result for 'Hobbits' Now claimed as one of the earliest forms of the human species?

A model of a female Homo floresiensis right picture.

Hobbits, known as Homo floresiensis, could be one of the most archaic forms of human according to new research.

Remains of hobbits were discovered on an Indonesian island in 2003, and since then scientists have debated where they originated from.

While some claim they were just short Homo sapiens, new Australian National University (ANU) research claims the hobbits were most likely a sister species to Homo habilis – who lived in Africa about 1.75 million years ago.

There’s also a chance that they even proceeded the Homo habilis, making them one of the oldest forms of humans.

They were about 3.5ft tall and used stone tools.

“It’s possible that Homo floresiensis evolved in Africa and migrated, or the common ancestor moved from Africa then evolved into Homo floresiensis somewhere,” study leader Dr Debbie Argue says.

Dr Argue said the analyses could also support the theory that Homo floresiensis could have branched off earlier in the timeline, more than 1.75 million years ago.

“If this was the case Homo floresiensis would have evolved before the earliest Homo habilis, which would make it very archaic indeed,” she said.

The hobbits lived on the Indonesian island of Flores until as recently as 54,000 years ago.

Prior to the ANU study it was believed that the Homo floresiensis evolved from Homo erectus, a larger human that lived on the Indonesian mainland of Java.

However the ANU researchers say that’s almost certainly not the case.

“We can be 99 per cent sure it’s not related to Homo erectus and nearly 100 per cent chance it isn’t a malformed Homo sapiens,” Professor Mike Lee said.

The research was published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

It’s unclear whether Bilbo Baggins is connected to the Homo floresiensis, or how he and his relatives made their way to Hobbiton from Indonesia.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 3rd. April 2017

Major broadband providers ordered to block illegal streaming sites

Major film and TV studios say up to 1.3 million users here may be involved in illegally accessing their output

Image result for Broadband providers ordered to block illegal streaming sites  Image result for Broadband providers ordered to block illegal streaming sites

Six major film and TV studios have secured injunctions directing internet service providers to block access to websites involved in illegal streaming or downloading of films and TV shows.

Mr Justice Brian Cregan made the orders against nine internet service providers after saying it was “clear” from evidence before the court breaches of the studios’ copyright had “manifestly occurred.”

The orders would not amount to a breach of lawful use of the internet and were not disproportionate, said the judge.

Their proceedings were brought against a number of ISPs – Eircom, Sky Ireland, Vodafone Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland, Three Ireland, Digiweb, Imagine Telecommunications and Magnet Networks.

None opposed the application for the injunctions and the court heard they had adopted a neutral stance.

The studios, all members of the Motion Picture Association, sought the orders on grounds including up to 1.3 million users here may be involved in illegally accessing their films via various websites.

  • Irish film industry lauds judgment blocking piracy websites
  • Online content: Studios’ battle with streaming services heats up
  • Music industry shows movie makers the way with illegal downloads

Represented by Jonathan Newman SC, the companies argued digital piracy is costing the studios hundreds of millions annually and, according to recent research, led to the loss of 500 jobs here in 2015 and €320 million in lost revenues.

The plaintiffs are Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Disney Enterprises, Universal Studios, Sony Pictures Television and Columbia Pictures. Their case was supported by independent distributors and film-makers in Ireland.

Disable access ???????

In a ruling on Monday evening, Mr Justice Cregan granted orders requiring the ISPs to block or disable access by subscribers to a number of websites, known as “streaming” websites, including, and

There was no opposition to the orders but the court was asked to deal with issues raised by Eir.

Eir said it was prepared to pay the cost involved in dealing with the relevant websites to date but was concerned about the cost implications if it had to deal with a large number of these sites into the future.

It asked the court to put a cap on the number of notifications per month, which the movie companies could make directing the ISPs to block websites.

Conor McDonnell, solicitor for Eir, said it was suggesting a cap of perhaps 50 notifications per month but the movie companies were opposed to any cap.

The judge said there should be no cap on the amount of notifications for the time being.

The judge welcomed that Eir and the movie studios had resolved another outstanding issue in relation to the temporary blocking of certain websites.

American families desperate to flee to Canada from Donald Trump’s power grasp

Image result for American families desperate to flee to Canada from Donald Trump's power grasp  Image result for fleeing families to Canada

The number of people trying to cross the US border into Canada has increased dramatically since Donald Trump came to power.

At the end of a lonely country road in upstate New York, a taxi pulls up.

Five people get out and stand uncertainly in the freezing rain – two men from Yemen, a woman from Eritrea and her two small boys.

They’ve come to flee America through its northern border, in to Canada.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police waiting on the other side of the snowy ditch tell them they will be arrested if they cross at this unofficial border point.

They know this, but it is still scary to hear and the group pauses, just a few feet from the border.

One man is starting to shiver in the cold? and another explains that his visa has expired and he cannot go back to his war-torn country.

“Can you help us, please?” asks the woman as she tries to hold both her children to stop them standing in the snow, but they are wriggling and she lets one go.

He is giggling and playing next to abandoned luggage and a baby stroller from previous crossings as his mother calculates if this is going to be worth the risk.

Suddenly an officer offers the information she is waiting to hear – she will be arrested, processed, and then if all is well, released to the immigration authorities.

The two men, the woman and her sons take just a few steps over the invisible border and in to police custody, hoping to one day become a refugee in Canada.

The next morning it happens again.

Three smartly dressed men from Turkey say they want to claim asylum in Canada.

They don’t speak much English but they’ve brought carefully written letters explaining why they want to leave.

One is a former history teacher who was arrested and harassed in Turkey and he has been living in the States but now feels he cannot remain here anymore.

Why not stay in America? We asked “Because of Trump” his friend says, shaking his head.

In just this one location these crossings are happening up to five times a day.

Up and down this vast border region thousands have done the same, the numbers increasing sharply since Donald Trump rode to power on a wave of populist anti-immigrant sentiment.

The Canadian Border Services Agency says there was a six-fold increase in refugee claims just at Quebec’s border in February compared to the same month in 2016.

Nationally, the agency says that in January and February 2017 more than 2,500 people crossed over and made asylum claims.

RCMP Corporal Francois Gagnon said: “It’s mostly families … parents with kids, strollers.

“We’re going to use compassion on every occasion, but definitely seeing those families crossing the border, you know it touch somewhere our hearts, you know we are all most of us fathers and mothers, so the approach is going to be softer.

For many, being detained by the Canadian police is actually the aim.

An agreement between the US and Canada prevents people from either country seeking refugee status in the other.

But if they are arrested while crossing illegally, most people are given a criminal background check and then are released and given access to housing, schools, emergency healthcare and work permits while they await immigration hearings.

Immigration lawyer and head of the Canadian Association for Refugee Lawyers Mitchell Goldberg said: “I think it’s decent, I think it’s the right thing to do, I think it’s an investment in the future of Canadians.”

‘A lot of the time’ I am just waiting on a system that may or may not work properly

Colin McSweeney is just one of 4,875 adults nationwide relying on emergency accommodation every night?

Image result for we am just waiting on a system that may or may not work properly  Colin, who told his story on Ireland's Property Crisis (Image via RTE)

An RTÉ documentary highlighting Ireland’s property crisis tonight shone a big light on a homeless Trinity College graduate who is working but still can’t afford somewhere to live.

Colin McSweeney, 45, above left pic began working in the IT sector after completing his degree in Dublin. When that company folded, he found himself not being able to afford his rent and relying on the emergency accommodation system to shelter him.

Although he has a job as a researcher in a library, Colin spends his nights searching for accommodation in different hostels.

The college graduate details the trouble with finding a bed in the city and revealed that he sometimes relies on using the 24-hour Starbucks, which is located at the former Anglo Irish Bank HQ on St Stephen’s Green, to keep him warm through the night.

“This is Dublin’s first and only 24-hour Starbucks. I’ve spent a few nights over the last five months here. I’ve gone an entire evening here on just a cup of tea. The one thing is that if you try and sleep, you’ll be woken up by the security guard. But they’re nice.”

Colin is forced to find ways of keeping warm and safe for a whole night when the emergency accommodation system lets him down.

He spends his days in Pearse Street library waiting for a call back to see whether or not he has somewhere to stay that night.lin receives the phone call telling him he has a bed for the night.

Waiting on the call, he says: “Today revolves around this phone call. At this point, the system should ring me back.

“A lot of the time, you’re just waiting on a system that may or may not work properly and call you back. The longer you wait, the worse it seems.”

Thankfully, just as he was about to give up hope, Colin receives a call telling him he has a bed for the night and he makes his way to Frederick Street. This is what he does every night of the week.

Other people featured on Ireland’s Property Crisis included single mother Selena who is trying to find a new home to rent since her landlord sold her current property. Selena must leave the property by Easter Monday but the new Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme has found nothing suitable in her area.

In another example of people trying to make ends meet, the Sadlier family are paying rent on their house in Donnycarney, Dublin, while also trying to pay off the mortgage on a one-bed apartment they bought ten years ago.

The number of people presenting as homeless in Ireland was at an all-time high in February.

There were 4,875 adults staying in emergency accommodation. As well as this, there are 1,239 families with 2,546 children, according to the latest Housing Department figures.

Bowel cancer and doing this could reduce the risk of this cancer by nearly 50%

Image result for Bowel cancer and doing this could reduce the risk of this cancer by nearly 50% Image result for Bowel cancer and doing this could reduce the risk of this cancer by nearly 50%

Bowel cancer risk is 46% higher in people with the largest waist circumference, compared to those with the smallest.

Bowel cancer: Losing weight is key and could reduce the risk by as much as 50%, experts now claim

Research has revealed women in the UK are not considering their cancer risk when it comes to their weight.

According to 2017 statistics, only just over one in ten UK women – 11 per cent – would be motivated to lose weight to reduce their cancer risk.

Lee Dvorkin, consultant general and colorectal surgeon at BMI Healthcare said: “Factors thought to increase the risk include smoking, obesity and eating excessive red meat, alcohol, animal fat and sugar.”

Obesity and a high body mass index (BMI) ratio are strongly associated with an increased risk of bowel cancer, argue experts.

Additional body fat is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and World Cancer Research Fund as a cause of bowel cancers.

Bowel cancer: Over half of cancer cases are diagnosed too late

An estimated 13% of bowel cancers in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese.

Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise is essential to lowering the risk of the second biggest cancer killer.

Bowel cancer can affect both men and women of any age.

It is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, and the second biggest cancer killer, with someone dying of bowel cancer every 30 minutes in the UK.

Factors thought to increase the risk include smoking, obesity

Over half of bowel cancer cases are diagnosed late, but an early diagnosis is crucial.

In line with new 2017 NHS Digital statistics, 58% of women in the UK are currently overweight or obese, and 27% of women are currently inactive – doing less than 30 minutes of exercise a week.

Maintaining a healthy weight is essential not just for overall health but also to help prevent cancer development.

Despite this the latest research, conducted on behalf of BMI Healthcare points to the vast majority of women in the UK not being motivated to lose weight to cut their risk of cancer.

Bowel cancer concern: Maintaining a healthy weight can prevent the cancer developing

The new research conducted independently on behalf of BMI Healthcare as part of its April Be Bowel Cancer Aware campaign reveals that 42% of UK women would feel embarrassed to tell someone if they had irregular bowel habits or blood in their stool, the two key warning signs of the cancer.

The new figures raise the concern that women are putting themselves at increased risk of late diagnosis because they are too embarrassed to tell anyone about their bowel habits.

More than a quarter – 27% – of women have or may have had bowel cancer related symptoms.

However some 40% of women did not discuss their bowel cancer related symptoms with anyone – this includes just talking to a partner, friend or a family member.

Fearless fanged Coral Reef fish’s heroin-like venom could lead to pain killing treatments

Image result for Fearless fanged Coral Reef fish’s heroin-like venom could lead to pain killing treatments   Image result for Fearless fanged Coral Reef fish’s heroin-like venom could lead to pain killing treatments

A fearless fanged coral reef fish that disables its opponents with heroin-like venom could offer hope for the development of new painkillers.

University of Queensland researcher Associate Professor Bryan Fry said the venomous fang blenny was found in the Pacific region, including on the Great Barrier Reef.

“The fish injects other fish with opioid peptides that act like heroin or morphine, inhibiting pain rather than causing it,” he said.

“Its venom is chemically unique????

“The venom causes the bitten fish to become slower in movement and dizzy by acting on their opioid receptors.

“To put that into human terms, opioid peptides would be the last thing an elite Olympic swimmer would use as performance-enhancing substances. They would be more likely to drown than win gold.”

Fang blennies, also known as poison-fang blennies or sabre-tooth blennies, of the genus Meiacanthus, are popular as ornamental tropical aquarium fish.

“Fang blennies are the most interesting fish I’ve ever studied and have one of the most intriguing venoms of them all,” Associate Professor Fry said.

“These fish are fascinating in their behaviour. They fearlessly take on potential predators while also intensively fighting for space with similar sized fish.

“Their secret weapons are two large grooved teeth on the lower jaw that are linked to venom glands.”

Associate Professor Fry said the unique venom meant, the fang blenny was more easily able to escape a predator or defeat a competitor.

“This study is an excellent example of why we need to protect nature,” he said.

“If we lose the Great Barrier Reef, we will lose animals like the fang blenny and its unique venom that could be the source of the next blockbuster pain-killing drug.”

The research, published in Current Biology, was led by Associate Professor Fry, who works with the UQ School of Biological Sciences Venom Evolution Laboratory, and Dr Nicholas Casewell of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK.

It involved researchers from across UQ and from Leiden University and the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands; Monash University; and the Bangor and Anglia Ruskin universities in the UK.

News Ireland daily BLOG as told by Donie

Monday 27th March 2017

Oxfam report accuses Ireland of facilitating tax avoidance by European banks

Oxfam report claims 16 of Europe’s top 20 banks booked profits here in 2015

Image result for Oxfam report accuses Ireland of facilitating tax avoidance by European banks  Image result for Oxfam report accuses Ireland of facilitating tax avoidance by European banks

The 16 top European banks operating in Ireland examined by the report paid an average effective tax rate here of no more than 6%.

Ireland has been accused of facilitating large-scale corporate tax avoidance by European banks. A report by Oxfam and the Fair Finance Guide International said a “disproportionate” amount of profits generated by these institutions are being booked through Ireland.

The research found 16 of Europe’s 20 biggest banks had reported profits here in 2015. It said these banks had generated €2.3 billion in profits in Ireland on €3 billion of turnover. That equates to a profitability rate of 76 per cent, four times higher than the global average. Only the Cayman Islands had a higher average profitability rate at 167 per cent.

Responding to the report, the Department of Finance said it rejects any allegations that the State is a tax haven. In a statement, it said: “Ireland does not meet any international definition of being a tax haven. We only have and want real substantive foreign direct investment, the kind that brings real jobs and investment into Ireland. Ireland is also fully compliant with all international best practices in the areas of tax transparency and exchange of information.”

The report said Ireland appears to be “a very productive location” for European banks with just the Cayman Islands, Curacao and Luxembourg having a higher average profit per employee.

An average employee in Ireland generated €409,000 in profits in 2015, more than nine times the average for employees worldwide.

It pointed to Spanish bank BBVA Compass as an example. That bank’s employees generated on average a profit of €33,000 each, but its average employee in Ireland generated €6.8 million, which is more than 200 times as much.

The 16 top European banks operating in Ireland examined by the report paid an average effective tax rate in Ireland of no more than 6 per cent , half the statutory rate of 12.5 per cent, with three banks (Barclays, RBS and Crédit Agricole) paying no more than 2 per cent.

Oxfam said countries were being denied large amounts of potential tax revenue by corporate tax avoidance.

This was contributing to inequality and poverty with governments forced to decide between increasing indirect taxes such as value-added tax (VAT), which are paid disproportionately by ordinary people, or cutting public services, which hits the poorest hardest.

It also said increased profits as a result of lower corporate taxation benefit wealthy companies’ shareholders, further increasing the gap between rich and poor.

“The massive profitability levels of European banks in Ireland suggests that large profits may be reported in Ireland as a tax avoidance strategy,” Oxfam Ireland’s senior policy and research co-ordinator Michael McCarthy Flynn said.

“This is creating little additional benefit to the Irish economy and tarnishing Ireland’s reputation,” he added.

Oxfam’s report suggested tax havens accounted for 26 per cent of the profits (an estimated €25 billion) made by the 20 biggest European banks but only 12 per cent of banks’ global turnover and 7 per cent of the banks’ employees.

This was out of proportion with the real level of economic activity that occurs in these jurisdictions.

While there may be legitimate business reasons for booking high profits in some cases, the report suggests that discrepancies may have arisen because some banks are using tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of tax, to facilitate tax dodging for their clients, or to circumvent regulations and legal requirements.

No Stormont agreement & no budget, “So what happens next”

Image result for No Stormont agreement & no budget, "So what happens next" Image result for No Stormont agreement Flanagan & Teresa May Image result for No Stormont agreement & no budget

Failure to agree a political deal at Stormont means no budget will be passed for the new financial year, which begins next week. So, what happens next?

The lack of a budget does not mean public services will grind to a halt.

Instead, the most senior civil servant at the Department of Finance, David Sterling, will use emergency powers to keep the money flowing.

On Wednesday, he will gain immediate control of a sum of money equivalent to 75% of this year’s budget.

Section 59 of the Northern Ireland Act allows him to use that money “for such services and purposes” as he directs.

Community groups vulnerable

In practice, that will mean funding existing services at their current level.

In January, Mr Sterling told a Stormont committee that he viewed this only as an interim measure.terling will shortly become the man holding the purse strings at Stormont

“It is purely a stopgap to ensure that business continuity prevails and that departments have the cash necessary for them to run their services until such times as a budget act is put in place,” he said.

On the whole, these emergency measures should not mean cuts to services in the short term.

However, voluntary and community groups which receive government funding on a year-to-year basis could be vulnerable.

They do not have certainty that their funding will continue and some organisations have already warned staff they are at risk of redundancy.

Health service difficulties

This extraordinary situation could also be storing up trouble for later in the financial year, particularly for the health service.

Mr Sterling told MLAs that the Department of Health “faces real difficulties in this scenario”.

“The quality of service provided will depend on the pattern of spend that the department is allowed to incur from the beginning of April,” he said.service is set to face “real difficulties” in the absence of a budget

“So, some big decisions need to be taken around that – I cannot say what those decisions are.

“Obviously, from my perspective, it is better that it is ministers who are taking those decisions.”

If we get as far as July and there is still no budget then the situation becomes critical.

The law says that Mr Sterling will then have the right to spend an amount equivalent to 95% of this year’s budget across the whole of the financial year.

That will effectively mean in-year cuts of least 5% across the public service.

Resources seriously squeezed

There are other complications – Stormont has not set a regional rate so rates bills cannot be issued.

Households and businesses will get a bill at some point, but it is not clear when.

subsidies for farmers will have to come from Mr Sterling’s pot of money

Councils, which rely on rates revenue, will instead get their money directly from Mr Sterling’s pot, but that cannot go on indefinitely.

The rules also mean that European farm subsidies cannot be paid out in the normal way.

Farmers will still get their money, but again that will have to come out of Mr Sterling’s pot until such time as a budget is passed.

Resources could becomes seriously squeezed long before the end of the financial year.

One other thing to remember is that even in the absence of a crisis Stormont’s budget was falling in real terms in the coming year.

When a budget is eventually passed, it will mean cuts anyway.

Sligo to retain ban on fracking in county development plan

Council chief, backing activity, cites conflict between national and local government needs

Image result for Sligo to retain ban on fracking in county development plan  Image result for Sligo to retain ban on fracking in county development plan

Rural fracking. Cllr Declan Bree said the ban had been welcomed by the Sligo community “who fully recognise the dangers fracking poses to water quality, to human safety and to the general environment”.

Sligo county councillors have unanimously voted – for a second time – to have a ban on fracking included in the county’s new development plan.

The councillors rejected a recommendation from council chief executive Ciaran Hayes that the ban, agreed last June, should be omitted from a new county development plan.

Mr Hayes said this was a situation where there was a conflict between the requirements of national government and local government.

He made the recommendation following a submission to the Draft County Development Plan 2017-2023 from the Department of Local Government suggesting that a ban on Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction would be “premature”.

Fracking is the extraction of natural gas by pumping high pressure water and chemicals into shale formations deep underground.

In a separate submission, David Minton, director of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA), said the proposed ban would be ultra vires (beyond one’s legal power or authority) and should not be included.

Cllr Declan Bree (Independent) said the ban had been warmly welcomed by the community “who fully recognise the dangers fracking poses to water quality, to human safety and to the general environment”.

He said he had “half expected” a pro-fracking commercial operator to make a submission seeking to have the ban removed. “Imagine my surprise when I heard that the submission seeking the removal of the ban was made by the Northern and Western Regional Authority,” he said.

“Fortunately it is not regional assembly or the chief executive who ultimately decide what is included in our development plan – it is the elected representatives of the people of this county who will make the decision,” he added.

In his submission, Mr Hayes said the NWRA had pointed out that placing a ban on certain exploration and extraction activities in Co Sligo was “ beyond the legal powers of the county council”.

He also pointed out that at the end of October 2016 the Dáil had passed the first stage of a Bill calling for a ban on fracking in Ireland. This Bill was introduced by Sligo-Leitrim TD Tony McLoughlin.

Irish researchers make a ‘significant’ diabetes finding?

Hopes that discovery may lead to screening test for the most serious type of diabetes

Image result for Irish researchers make a ‘significant’ diabetes finding?  

Researchers said their discovery had the potential to contribute to the identification of biological markers that predict the development of Type 1 diabetes.

Irish researchers have made a “significant” medical discovery they believe may ultimately lead to a screening test for the most serious type of diabetes.

The 3U Diabetes Consortium, composed of researchers from Dublin City University, Maynooth University and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, published the finding in the online journal Diabetic Medicine this week.

They said it had the potential to contribute to the identification of biological markers that predict the development of Type 1 diabetes, a chronic autoimmune disease.

The research showed the presence of a substance called 12-HETE in blood samples provided by newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetes patients at Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown and the Children’s University Hospital Temple Street.

This substance was not found in patient samples where the condition was already established, the researchers said.

“The elevated levels of 12-HETE, detected in early-onset Type 1 diabetes patients indicates the potential of this substance, in collaboration with other factors, to act as a biomarker for the onset of the autoimmune disease,” they said on Monday.

Analysing samples?

They will now turn their attention to analysing retrospective samples from patients who subsequently developed Type 1 diabetes.

“If 12-HETE is found in samples from people prior to diabetes onset, the researchers are hopeful that it can ultimately be used, in conjunction with other biomarkers, to develop a screening test for Type 1 diabetes among the general population,” the research team said.

Type 1 diabetes is caused by the body’s own immune system destroying the cells in the pancreas that make insulin, the hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy.

It usually occurs in childhood or early adulthood. It can develop extremely rapidly and requires life-long self-management of glucose monitoring, insulin injections, food intake and exercise.

The research team said early diagnosis of the condition was crucial to ensure the serious complication diabetic ketoacidosis did not develop.

Up to five children and teenagers are diagnosed each week in Ireland with Type 1 diabetes and one in 10 are affected by a late diagnosis which can result in critical illness.


Prof Martin Clynes of DCU said it had been a “surprise” to the research team to discover the 12-HETE substance in people recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It was not present in people with the lesser form, Type 2, or in those who had established Type 1 diagnoses.

“It could be useful as a signal that children will go on to get Type 1,” he added.

The researchers will now try to get access to data from other countries to study the phenomenon further.

The study, conducted over a period of three years and then peer reviewed, had received little in terms of core funding.

Prof Clynes said there had been some funding from the Health Research Board, but that in general the researchers had to “beg, borrow or steal” resources as they went along.

It was not as easy to get funding for diabetes research in Ireland as it was for cancer, he added.

“Diabetes is very poorly supported.”

About 226,000 people in Ireland live with diabetes, with between 14,000 and 16,000 of those having the Type 1 form. About 2,750 of those are under 16.

Aliens are HERE on Earth and they will eventually TAKE OVER,

Claims a nuclear scientist

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Brian Cox scientist (middle pic) says that aliens have killed themselves off so what?

A SCIENTIST has issued a chilling warning that aliens are already here on Earth and are biding their time before unleashing a full reveal.

Stanton Friedman,a nuclear physicist, (Above left Caption) is convinced there have been multiple visitations of Earth by aliens, who will ultimately quarantine us here on Earth.

The Canadian claimed there “was not a shadow of a doubt” the existence of intelligent aliens was being covered up by global governments as part of a so-called truth embargo.

Mr Friedman, 82, is a top Ufologist, who has been at the heart of investigations into the mysterious Roswell alleged UFO crash of 1947, after previously working on classified projects for American aerospace corporation McDonnell Douglas.

Speaking to, he said: “We have enough to prove without a shadow of a doubt that planet Earth is being visited [by aliens].

“This is kept from people because who would want the world in upheaval? There would be mass panic and distress.

“If they (the aliens) want to make themselves known, it’s easy – they will.”

He said recently declassified CIA files on UFO sightings were all part of the proof.

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So why does he say they are here?

Mr Friedman says aliens actually want to prevent humans colonising space and will ultimately quarantine us here for the greater good to prevent mankind travelling.

He said: “I think they are here. I think they are here to quarantine us, keep us from going out there.

“With our track record – we’re evil.”

But Mr Friedman claims our governments are trying to take advanatage of aliens being here by obtaining their technology to achieve world supremacy.

He said: “The first country to replicate [alien] technology will rule the roost if they can build it.

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We have enough to prove without a shadow of a doubt that planet Earth is being visited by aliens.

“It’s political too – the US says ‘are we ready to put out anything if the Russians don’t or the Chinese don’t’.”

Mr Friedman, who has written extensively on Aliens and UFOS, has described this culture of secrecy as the world’s “Cosmic Watergate” – a reference to the President Nixon cover-up scandal in the 1970s.

He now tours the globe giving talks on his beliefs at universities and conferences.

Some sceptics are not convinced by his arguments, however.

One poster on the forum wrote: “Recently I was looking at some of Friedman’s arguments for UFO’s and against sceptics.

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“Overall he did a pretty poor job of battling sceptics and proving his point.

“When he says he debunks the debunkers he makes sweeping generalisations and says sceptics ignore some ‘big’ cases even though many of them were looked at by sceptics.

“So my question is what’s his point.

“He only uses old cases that were mostly debunked and just tries to discredit sceptics rather than provide non-speculative evidence.”

News Ireland daily BLOG as told by Donie

Sunday 19th March 2017.

Enda Kenny to stay ‘until North crisis is resolved’

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny has risked deepening the increasingly bitter Fine Gael war over when he will step down by saying he has no intention of leaving until the Northern Ireland political crisis is resolved.

Speaking after the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York City, Mr Kenny said the Northern Ireland issue “takes precedence over everything else”, effectively delaying his departure until at least the summer.

In the aftermath of a tentative coup against Mr Kenny last month, the Taoiseach told the parliamentary party he would address the leadership issue conclusively on his return from his week-long US visit.

However, while the position was widely seen to indicate he would step down later this month or in early April, no definitive timeline was given.

In recent weeks, Mr Kenny has caused concern among Fine Gael dissenters that he will not leave due to his repeated references to the need for stability during the Brexit negotiations next month and last Thursday’s meeting with US president Donald Trump.

However, while those close to Mr Kenny have sought to downplay such fears, the Taoiseach poured further fuel on the flames yesterday by saying the Northern Ireland political crisis is now another reason for why he should not step down.

Asked about when he will resign after walking past cheering crowds at the New York City St Patrick’s Day parade, Mr Kenny said he continues to have “a number of priorities” that must be resolved.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Taoiseach Enda Kenny march in the St Patrick’s Day parade on 5th Avenue.

He said the political impasse in the North caused by last month’s Stormont elections, and the fact Sinn Féin and DUP now have just three weeks to form a government or be forced into another election in May, was a new addition to these “priorities”, and stoked backbench anger by saying Ireland must provide “stable” leadership.

“What I’ve always said is I need to deal with a number of priorities here, the first priority is to put in place an executive in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Kenny.

“We have no government, no devolved authority, in Northern Ireland now. I hope the parties who are elected will accept the responsibility of putting together a government within the three-week period.

“What I did say to my party is that I would deal with this effectively and conclusively on my return, that’s my intention. But I think these are priorities that take precedence over everything else.”

Asked directly when he is “going to deal with it [the leadership question]”, Mr Kenny said: “I’m not going to answer that for you. Do you not think it’s appropriate that the immediate priority is to have an executive functioning in Northern Ireland, do you not think it’s appropriate that all the work we put together we should have an agreed negotiating stance for the EU that’s going to affect everybody in our country?

“I intend to follow through on those [priorities] very, very diligently.”

A number of Fine Gael backbenchers known to want Mr Kenny to step down as soon as possible last night declined to comment publicly, but said it has already been made clear to the Taoiseach he cannot continue to ignore the leadership issue.

Mr Kenny’s New York comments came 48 hours after a draft version of his speech to the American- Ireland Fund Gala in Washington DC said this would be his last St Patrick’s Day as Taoiseach before it was deleted from the script.

Asked about the change to the otherwise untouched 1,500-word speech on Wednesday, Mr Kenny simply said it was removed “because it shouldn’t have been in there”.

The McEvaddy brothers get Dubai backing for €2bn airport terminal

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The Marker Hotel in Dublin’s Grand Canal Square will have 30 bedrooms on the new floor, and the main restaurant will be moved to the rooftop.

Businessmen Ulick (above pic) and Des McEvaddy have secured the financial backing of a Dubai-based investment group to build a proposed €2 billion terminal scheme at Dublin Airport, according to the media.

Omega Air boss Ulick McEvaddy and his brother Des have been attempting for more than 20 years to develop a third independent terminal on 130 acres of land they own adjacent to the airport. They now have the support of Dubai-based Tricap Investments, an investment fund with a diversified portfolio that spans real estate, energy and aerospace in the Middle East, the US, Asia and Africa.

The Marker Hotel in Dublin’s Grand Canal Square will  have 30 bedrooms on the new floor, and the main restaurant will be moved to the rooftop. Photograph: Cyril Byrne   Brehon to add new floor to Marker hotel in €10m upgrade

Brehon Capital Partners, the owners of the Marker hotel, in Dublin’s Grand Canal Square, is planning a €10 million investment that will add a new floor and upgraded roof bar to the property.

The expansion will include about 30 bedrooms on the new floor, bringing the hotel up to 217 rooms, while it also involves moving the main restaurant to the rooftop. The roof would be about two-thirds enclosed, with a small, open terrace, allowing it to be used all year round.

JP Morgan may double its Irish workforce.

US investment bank JP Morgan may add up to 500 people to its operations in Ireland, which would more than double its workforce here, the Sunday Business Post suggests. The bank is among those to have instructed property agents to find additional office space in Dublin, it reports.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said on St Patrick’s Day that more than 120 overseas banks, insurers and other financial companies are currently in talks to move operations to Ireland as a result of the UK’s decision to quit the European Union.

Mr Noonan made the comments on Friday at an event in Singapore.

Aryzta sets four-year target to cut debts by €1bn.

Aryzta chairman Gary McGann has told analysts that he plans to cut debt levels at the troubled frozen baked goods company by €1 billion within four years, according to the Sunday Times.

Mr McGann, in his first public outing as chairman of Aryzta, said the company would undertake an overhaul of the board and a review of its business model. He also said he had received “very, very clear feedback” from shareholders that they did not see “the strategic fit” between Aryzta and Picard, its French frozen-food retailing associate.

Unilever may sell off its margarine division for €6bn.

Consumer goods giant Unilever is eyeing the £6 billion sale of its margarine division, which produces Flora and Stork, says the Sunday Telegraph. The FTSE 100-listed manufacturer has been forced into a strategic review of its operations after an audacious £115 billion takeover approach from Kraft Heinz, it reports.

The newspaper understands that rather than opt for a defensive bid for a rival such as Colgate-Palmolive, or a spin-off of its entire food arm, Unilever is leaning towards a sale of the margarine business, which controls just under a third of the entire global margarine market.

Eight men rescued off the Sligo coast after dive boat capsizes

Two men taken to hospital following the incident east of Sligo town

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Rescue 118 was called off from its search at Blacksod Bay, Co Mayo to assist with the operation.

Eight men have been rescued from the sea off the coast of Co Sligo after a dive boat capsized.

Two of the men were taken to hospital following the incident which occured off Aughris Pier, east of Sligo town.

A mayday call was received by Malin Head Coast Guard at 11.24am on Sunday. Fortunately, the Sligo Bay RNLI lifeboat crew were on a training exercise in the area and arrived at the scene of the incident at 11.43am.

The lifeboat crew rescued all eight people from the water and one man was airlifted to hospital by the Irish Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue 118. He suffered a head injury when the boat capsized in heavy seas.

The remaining seven men were taken to Aughris Pier where one person was taken by ambulance to hospital. Following the rescue, the lifeboat crew returned to the scene to tow the vessel back to the pier.

Rescue 118 was called off from the search at Blacksod Bay, Co Mayo for the missing crew members of Rescue 116, the Sikorsky helicopter which crashed into the sea on Tuesday morning.

Sligo Bay RNLI lifeboat operations manager Willie Murphy said the incident happened at the end of a difficult week for the rescue services following the loss of Rescue 116.

He said: “This morning’s callout shows that the professionalism and dedication of the search and rescue community remains unchanged.

“The RNLI crew at Sligo Bay along with their colleagues at Rescue 118 were on scene minutes after the call for help was raised and rescued eight people from the water. Our thoughts are with the man who was airlifted to hospital and with our colleagues still searching in Blacksod Bay for the three missing crew members of Rescue 116.

Cancer the dreaded disease of women

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Cancer is a dreaded disease, and rightly so because hitherto treatment was vague and patients were generally doomed to die of it. Advances in surgical technique and adjuvant treatment have now made cancer a treatable and possibly curable disease in early stages.

Women suffer nearly half the burden of cancer even though they are not pre-disposed to the conventional causative factors like tobacco and alcohol. The causal factors in women are generally age, lifestyle, hereditary, infections and environmental factors.

Social factors, especially inequalities, are major determinants of cancer burden in females, with poorer females more likely to die of their disease than affluent ones. Cancer can have profound social and economic consequences for the people of India, often leading to family impoverishment and societal inequality.

Common cancers and their screening?

Females generally postpone their first contact with a health facility, leading to a delayed diagnosis in an advanced stage. Unfortunately, the four most common cancers afflicting females can be screened and diagnosed at an early stage.

  1. Firstly, Breast cancer, can be screened by monthly self-breast examination, annual clinical examination and mammograms after the age of 50 years.
  2. Second, cervical cancer, a sexually active female should undergo a pap smear every three years from the age of 21 years and co-testing with HPV after the age of 30 years.
  3. Third, ovarian cancer, can be diagnosed by having a high clinical index of suspicion in a female presenting with vague abdominal symptoms, early satiety and a timely investigation by tumour markers and an ultrasound examination.
  4. Fourth, uterine cancer, presents as inter-menstrual or postmenopausal bleeding usually in an obese elderly female. The sad common denominator in all these cancers is that they can all be diagnosed early with minimal effort and cured by surgery.

How is cancer treated?

Once a patient is suspected of having symptoms of cancer, a general evaluation followed by a staging workup including a tissue biopsy is done. Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, treatment options are discussed and if possible an appropriate radical surgery is planned. Radical surgery for cancer is the only curative treatment modality for solid organ cancers. Radical cancer surgeries require a centre where trained surgical oncologist interact with their medical and radiation oncology colleagues and have adequate post -operative ICU care  to obtain best results.

The first attempt at treatment is generally the best chance of cure as recurrence is resistant to most forms of treatment. After surgery the patients are followed up by designated protocol and undergo adjuvant therapy (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy) as needed.

The role of women in cancer is prevention?

Women have a central role in the fight against cancer, not only can they encourage their family members to change to a healthy lifestyle (abstinence from smoking/alcohol, healthier food habits, exercise) leading to cancer prevention, they can also be an observant family member who encourages an early medical consultation for a possible cancer symptom leading to early detection and cure. We must therefore, empower women with knowledge and use them as our sentinels in the war on cancer.

Scientists say the ‘five second’ rule is correct when dropping food on the floor

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What do you do when you drop some food on the floor? Does it go straight in the bin or do you adhere to the widely-used ‘five second’ rule and eat it?

A study, undertaken by scientists at The Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, shows that four out of five people or 79 per cent of us admit to popping fallen food in our mouths.

Of course most people think their own floors are cleaner and thus it’s more acceptable to eat food off – 56 per cent of them in fact – but that figure drops considerably to just 17 per cent if eating off another’s floor.

The research also shows people are just as likely to serve food that’s fallen on the floor to their dog (18 per cent) as they are their partner (17 per cent).

The most radical examples of ‘hoovers’ include people eating snacks off the floor of the cinema (2 per cent) or public transport (1 per cent).

But when asked to justify why they would do thus, a fifth of people admitted to following ‘five-second rule’, which scientists have now revealed as legitimate and safe in most cases.

Germ expert, Professor Anthony Hilton from Aston University, told the Birmingham Mail: “Eating food that has spent a few moments on the floor can never be entirely risk free.

“Obviously, food covered in visible dirt shouldn’t be eaten, but as long as it’s not obviously contaminated, the science shows that food is unlikely to have picked up harmful bacteria from a few seconds spent on an indoor floor.

“That is not to say that germs can’t transfer from the floor to the food.

“Our research has shown that the nature of the floor surface, the type of food dropped on the floor and the length of time it spends on the floor can all have an impact on the number that can transfer.”

Supermarket soups can be laced with up to seven spoons of sugar

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Some “healthy” commercial soups contain a staggering seven teaspoons of sugar, a top chef has revealed.

Hilary O’Hagan-Brennan said one spiced chicken soup was made with 28 grams of sugar per tub. The World Health Organisation recommends people take no more than 24 grams a day.

Ms O’Hagan-Brennan said on the RTE’s What Are You Eating? programme that even a root vegetable soup, which people might assume was healthy, contained 16 grams of sugar, or four teaspoons.

She says “There is no place for added sugar in soup”?

And sugar wasn’t the only hidden ingredient in our convenience foods, presenter Philip Boucher-Hayes discovered when he investigated.

He found that one third of us believe wraps are more healthy than traditional sandwiches.

But a large wrap can be equal to two slices of bread. And commercial tortillas are made with glycerol – a form of sugar – to keep them moist, and emulsifier to bind the ingredients together and extend their shelf life.

“Some chicken wraps have as many calories as a 12-inch pizza,” he discovers.

Consultant dietitian Aveen Bannon reveals that while salads are good for you, the benefits are often undone by large amounts of dressing. An average tablespoon of mayonnaise contains 94 calories – and people often use two or three spoons with a salad.

What would happen if the Earth’s rotation change direction or stop

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The Earth, is the only planet in our solar system, that as long as we know it has life, and moves with a certain pattern, which we assume. Our planet rotates around its axis, a drive that takes about 24 hours, which seems to be from east to west at a speed of about 30 km per second.

We might think that these rules are insignificant and do not affect our existence. Only if our planet “rebels” and change course or reduce speed, then nothing will be the same.

According to the BBC, if the Earth began to move east, the climate in most regions would change drastically. The Sahara would be more rainy and desert will be turned into a jungle. Another case is that of anhydrous California which will also have more rain, as opposed to Florida we would see the swamps to dry up.

If again our planet began to move very slowly, then life on the planet would not survive as well, cause the side that would strike the sun would burn, and the “dark” side would freeze. In just one day we would have a transition from the Ice Age … the planet Venus. It’s a fact that the Earth actually reduces its speed, but it will spend trillions of years until it stops completely.

But here is a summary of the question answers.?

  1. The Earth would become an even more imperfect sphere and this would reduce the acceleration due to gravity; it would decrease at the equator and increase at the poles. Also, the days would shorten.
    2. Since the effect of gravity has decreased near the equator, we would observe tides much higher than usual in these areas, much more land would go underwater during high tides. I assume Venice would cease to remain habitable.
    3. The precession of the Earth’s axis would change. As the Earth becomes an even more Oblate Spheroid, the gravitational differences (of the Sun on Earth) would be larger on different parts of the Earth, this would make the axis precess even faster. The current cycle is 26,000 years long for one complete precession, this would shorten depending on the increase in rotational velocity. Axial precession

    4. North Star would change faster. Currently the North Star is Polaris which is set to be replaced by Deneb in 8,000 years. Due to the above reasons, it would occur faster.

    5. It is also possible that the axial tilt of the Earth would increase. This would mean that winters would be colder and summers would be hotter.

    6. Since the Earth now rotates faster and the Coriolis effect depends on the rotation of the Earth, the impact of Coriolis effect would increase and we would experience faster wind speeds. Coriolis force

    7. This would be a boon for geostationary satellites as the operational altitude would reduce due to Earth’s increased rotational velocity. Geostationary orbit

    8. Since the Sidereal day (Sidereal time) would now be shorter, we would have to redefine our present units of time.

    9. Since we would have to redefine our units of time and also the orbit of our satellites, it would be a disaster for the GPS system, I can safely say that it would be unusable for at least a few years until all the corrections have been made.

    10. Since the Coriolis Effect would alter the wind speeds, and the rotational velocity of Earth has increased, the travel time of aeroplanes would change.