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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.

Partnership

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.

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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?

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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

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

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 by Donie

Tuesday 11th April 2017

Bus Eireann Unions may halt strike when a  proposal issue is settled

Image result for Bus Eireann Unions may halt strike when a  proposal issue is settled Image result for Bus Eireann Unions may halt strike when a  proposal issue is settled

Bus Eireann unions may halt the strike when the industrial relations’ court as a last resort issues a proposal to end the dispute.

A Labour Court hearing began this afternoon after a third round of talks collapsed at the Workplace Relations Commission this morning.

It is unclear when the court will issue its recommendation, but it likely to try to do so as soon as possible.

When the recommendation is issued, a collective decision will be taken by all five unions on whether to suspend industrial action while a ballot on the proposal takes place. Sources indicated they are likely to lift the pickets.

A total of 1,900 workers have been on strike for over two weeks over payroll cuts as the company attempts to stave off the threat of insolvency next month.

Many passengers have turned to private operators and management fears that many may not return when the dispute is resolved.

Opportunity to strike a deal in Bus Eireann dispute ‘squandered’, says SIPTU representative.0:00 / 01:44

Speaking on his way into the hearing, Siptu Transport Division Organiser, Greg Ennis, said a decision had not been taken on whether industrial action would called off.

He said after the court issued its recommendation, the national committees of the five Bus Eireann unions will take a collective decision on “the best course of action”.

General Secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers Union, Dermot O’Leary, said unions would make a submission to the court today and it may decide to engage in talks with the parties this evening.

He claimed there are “forces at play” that would prefer to see the demise of Bus Éireann, rather than concentrate on securing its future.

Unions claimed they had agreed savings worth €18m through a voluntary redundancy scheme and efficiencies at last night’s talks.

It is understood that there were disagreements when management sought further savings by replacing basic pay, overtime and premium rates with a single rate.

They questioned why further savings were needed “to deal with a €9m problem”, which is the value of the company’s losses last year.

Acting Chief Executive Ray Hernan has warned that Bus Éireann faces insolvency next month.

In a statement, Bus Éireann said progress was made at talks and agreement reached to eliminated many inefficiencies in work practices.

However, it said “an offer” made by the company to help deliver “financial viability” was rejected by unions representing drivers.

“We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused as a result of the ongoing industrial action,” said a spokesperson. Secretary of the National Bus and Railworkers Union, Dermot O’Leary, said unions would make a submission to the court today and it may decide to engage in talks with the parties this evening.

He claimed there are “forces at play” that would prefer to see the demise of Bus Éireann, rather than concentrate on securing its future.

Unions claimed they had agreed savings worth €18m through a voluntary redundancy scheme and efficiencies at last night’s talks.

It is understood that there were disagreements when management sought further savings by replacing basic pay, overtime and premium rates with a single rate.

They questioned why further savings were needed “to deal with a €9m problem”, which is the value of the company’s losses last year.

Acting Chief Executive Ray Hernan has warned that Bus Éireann faces insolvency next month.

In a statement, Bus Éireann said progress was made at talks and agreement reached to eliminated many inefficiencies in work practices.

However, it said “an offer” made by the company to help deliver “financial viability” was rejected by unions representing drivers.

“We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused as a result of the ongoing industrial action,” said a spokesperson.

Cystic Fibrosis Ireland welcomes new HSE medication deal

Image result for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland welcomes new HSE medication deal  Image result for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland welcomes new HSE medication deal  Image result for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland welcomes new HSE medication deal

Health Minister Simon Harris right pic told the Dáil on Tuesday that agreement had been reached “ in principle” between the HSE and Vertex on the commercial terms for the supply of Orkambi and Kalydeco to patients from next month. And left pic Jillian McNulty, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, has fought long and hard to get the drug funded by the HSE.  

Cystic Fibrosis Ireland has welcomed the long-awaited deal completed by the HSE and drug manufacturer Vertex to make a wonder CF drug available.

Almost 600 patients will benefit from Orkambi and Kalydeco because of their particular CF genotype. These drugs slow the progression of the illness, reduce hospitalisation caused by sudden worsening of the condition, and reduce dependency on other drugs like expensive antibiotics.

CFI chief executive Philip Watt said there “ is a very innovative element to the agreement which is that it is inclusive of ‘pipeline drug therapies’ from the same company that are currently showing promise in the advance stages of clinical trials”.

“Even with Orkambi and Kalydeco, there will be around 30% of the CF population that still has no drug that treats the underlying cause of their condition in Ireland. This is why a pipeline deal is so important. There also may be better drugs for those on existing Vertex drugs coming down the line.”

Health Minister Simon Harris told the Dáil that agreement had been reached “ in principle” between the HSE and Vertex on the commercial terms for the supply of Orkambi and Kalydeco to patients from next month.

Orkambi can be used by patients aged 12 and over while Kalydeco can be used on children aged 2-5.

Mr Harris said: “Both parties are now working to finalise the contractual arrangements and complete approval processes in advance of May 1. I want to also especially acknowledge that this has been an extraordinarily difficult time for CF patients, their families, and friends as they have been waiting for this process to conclude.”

About 40 people with CF had been receiving the treatment on a trial or compassionate-use programme.

Once the deal has been scrutinised by HSE lawyers, it will go before Cabinet for final approval.

Fianna Fáil TD Marc McSharry said “while the agreement in principle is welcome, the fact that it has taken this long to get to this point is beyond reprehensible”.

Water charges refund’s now on the cards as FG and FF agrees a deal

Barry Cowen and Simon Coveney below left picture.

Image result for Water charges refund's now on the cards as FG and FF agrees a deal  Image result for Water refund's  Image result for Water charges refund's now on the cards as FG and FF agrees a deal

Water charges are now dead in the ground and Housing Minister Simon Coveney must begin work on issuing refunds to almost one million law-abiding households?

After 10 days of frantic negotiations Fianna Fáil performed yet another u-turn on its policy to finally vote through a report on the future funding of domestic water services.

But their water spokesman Barry Cowen denied capitulating to Housing Minister Simon Coveney, arguing the party had ensured the “failed regime is gone”.

Mr Coveney will now begin work on legislation that will see around 70,000 a year hit with levies for “excessive” usage of water.

Every person will be allowed use 226 litres of water per day before risking prosecution.

And builders will be required to install meters in all newly built homes.

Fianna Fáil had objected to the word “excessive” and the further rollout of meters but backtracked on foot of fresh legal advice provided to the Oireacthas water committee.

Asked if he accepted Mr Coveney had won the battle, Mr Cowen replied: “I don’t care about whether it’s 2-nil, 3-nil, 5-nil or 10-nil or 1-1 or whatever it might be.

“When the spin fades away the facts will remain that there are no changes and Fianna Fáil has honoured its commitments.”

He said 10 days had been wasted on foot of Fine Gael game-playing which he suggested was the result of the leadership battle between Mr Coveney and Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar.

“Maybe you can ask Mr Varadkar if he’s happy now because it’s the same deal that was there 10 days ago,” he said.

Mr Cowen said if he expected others to abided by the legal advice then he would have to do so himself.

“Charges are gone, they are not coming back,” he said, adding that if households “wilfully abuse water I have no problem with them being fined”.

However, Solidary TD Paul Murphy who has led the anti-water charges movement last night urged people to start digging up water meters.

He noted that only houses with meters will be liable for excessive usage charges.

“So if people are out there and they currently have water meters that they don’t want to have, I’d suggest that if they get rid of those water meters then they can’t be faced with any charge whatsoever,” he said.

Mr Murphy said general charges were gone but they Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil had done a “backroom dodgy deal”.

As tensions rose yesterday Taoiseach Enda Kenny told Mary Lou McDonald not to come into the Dáil “exuding righteousness” on water charges.

Mr Kenny claimed Sinn Féin’s view on paying for water was “sabotaged” by the by-election victory of Solidarity’s Paul Murphy in November 2014.

“Then the sound of marching feet in Tallaght changed your view,” he said.

The Fine Gael leader was responding to an attack from Ms McDonald who said the “bully boys” of Government were trying to sabotage the work of the Committee set up to decide on the future funding of domestic water services.

“You are now trying to bully your friends in Fianna Fáil into a U-turn,” she said, in reference to the fact that new legal advice appears to have persuaded Micheál Martin’s party to accept significant changes to the committee’s final report.

“The argument on water has been won on the streets by thousands of protesters who marched at countless demonstrations.

“Your refusal to accept defeat on the issue of water represents a real crisis for democratic representation,” Ms McDonald said.

Department of Finance figures suggest next Irish budget will be more moderate 

Pressure on the public finances is expected to increase in the run-up to Budget 2018

Image result for Pressure on the public finances is expected to increase in the run-up to Budget 2018   Image result for Pressure on the public finances is expected to increase in the run-up to Budget 2018  Image result for Theres room for tax cuts and spending increases in the Irish next budget of 2018 likely to be considerably smaller than the 2017 package

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan (above left) who will present the latest forecasts to the Dáil Committee on Budget Oversight on next Thursday.

The room for tax cuts and spending increases in the next budget is likely to be considerably smaller than the 2017 package because of new spending commitments entered into last year, according to updated Department of Finance calculations.

While Budget 2018 is expected to allow for a €1.2 billion budgetary adjustment, the real room for manoeuvre could be as little as €570 million because of the carryover effects of measures contained in Budget 2017.

Pressure on spending from an ageing population and pay rises agreed under the Lansdowne Road deal have already limited the Government’s budgetary options.

Further concessions on public pay amid the threat of strike action from unions or a significant shift in the current tax trend could leave the Government with even less scope.

A spending review, scheduled to take place prior to Budget 2018, is expected, however, to generate “efficiency gains” within the system that will free up some additional money, albeit this is not expected to radically alter the Government’s position.

In a draft stability programme update, which will be submitted to the European Commission later this month, the department said the Irish economy is on target to create 55,000 additional jobs this year and a further 50,000 in 2018, bringing the unemployment rate below 6%.

Brexit threat.

It said the economy was growing strongly, but warned that the threat of Brexit and a changed policy stance in the US meant that “a continuation of robust economic expansion cannot be taken for granted”.

The department has reduced its projections for economic growth in 2019, 2020 and 2021 by roughly 0.5% each year on account of the greater likelihood of the UK opting for some form of hard Brexit.

However, the department upgraded Ireland’s growth outlook for this year amid a stronger-than-expected end to last year.

The department is now projecting that gross domestic product (GDP) will expand by 4.3% this year, from 3.5% at the time of the last budget. For 2018 a growth rate of 3.7% is projected.

A ‘Resilience’

The document says the key goal of budget policy is to improve the “resilience” of the economy so that any adverse developments can be absorbed “with minimal fallout”.

The documents forecast that Ireland will meet its borrowing forecasts of reducing the structural budget deficit to 0.5% of GDP by next year. This assumes that growth meets forecasts and that the scale of tax cuts and spending increases in the budget are in line with what was envisaged in earlier plans.

The department will finalise its pre-budget forecasts, including the amount of money it will have to spend on budget day, in a summer economic statement. Prior to that, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan will present the latest forecasts to the Dáil Committee on Budget Oversight on Thursday.

A separate report from the National Competitiveness Council, meanwhile, has warned that Ireland’s failure to invest in infrastructure or to tackle under-resourcing in education would take it toll on the economy, particularly in the wake of Brexit.

Scientists unravel the knotted mystery of the loose shoelace

Image result for Scientists unravel the knotted mystery of the loose shoelace  Image result for tying your shoe with a knot  Image result for tying your shoe with a knot

Researchers discover how laces come undone and offer alternative way to tie them that does knot involve your granny

The lead research said his curiosity about why shoelaces came undone intensified when he began teaching his child how to tie them.

Things can start to unravel at any moment, but when failure occurs it is swift and catastrophic. This is the conclusion of a scientific investigation into what might be described as Sod’s law of shoelaces.

The study focused on the mysterious phenomenon by which a shoe is neatly and securely tied one moment, and the next a flapping lace is threatening to trip you up – possibly as you are running for the bus or striding with professional purpose across your open-plan office.

In a series of experiments involving a human runner on a treadmill and a mechanical leg designed to swing and stomp, the scientists revealed that shoelace knot failure happens in a matter of seconds, triggered by a complex interaction of forces.

Oliver O’Reilly, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California Berkeley and the study’s senior author, said: “It’s unpredictable but when it happens, it’s in two or three strides and it’s catastrophic. There’s no way of coming back from it.”

The study found that the stomping of the foot gradually loosens the knot while the whipping forces produced by the swing of the foot act like hands tugging on the ends of the laces. As the tension in the knot eases and the free ends start to slide, a runaway effect takes hold and the knot suddenly unravels.

The findings also revealed what knot experts, such as sailors and surgeons, have long suggested: that the granny knot many of us use to tie our laces comes undone far quicker than an alternative method that is no more complex.

Robert Matthews, a physicist at Aston University in Birmingham who was not involved in the latest work, said: “It’s provided hard scientific backing for what many people have long suspected: that the traditional way of tying shoelaces is pretty rubbish.”

O’Reilly said he was inspired to investigate after spending decades pondering why laces spontaneously unknot themselves – an intellectual niggle that intensified when he came to teach his daughter how to tie her laces.

The scientist enlisted a pair of PhD students and initial tests revealed that sitting on a chair and swinging your leg or stamping your foot does not generally cause a knot to come undone. It appeared to be a combination of both motions that conspired to unravel laces.

Next, the scientists captured slow-motion video of a runner on a treadmill. They found that the foot strikes the ground at seven times the force of gravity and as the fabric of the shoe squashes down on impact, extra lace is freed at the top of the shoe, causing the knot to loosen slightly with each stride. Meanwhile, the swinging leg causes the lace’s free ends to whip back and forth tugging them outwards. As the knot loosens, the friction holding the knot tight decreases, and as the free ends lengthen, the whipping force goes up, leading to an avalanche effect.

“The interesting thing about this mechanism is that your laces can be fine for a really long time, and it’s not until you get one little bit of motion to cause loosening that starts this avalanche effect leading to knot failure,” said Christine Gregg, a graduate student at UC Berkeley and a co-author.

The scientists tested two basic versions of the standard knot and bow: the square knot and the weaker granny knot. In a square knot, you start by crossing the lace in your right hand in front of the one in your left hand and then threading it under the left one. For the bow you repeat the process, but crossing the end that’s now in your right hand behind the one in your left (with added loops to make the bow). In a granny knot the same overhand motion is repeated for both knot and bow.

According to the data, the lace slippage rate was cut by at least a factor of five using a square knot compared with a granny knot. “Simply reversing the way we form the final knot when tying laces makes a huge difference,” Matthews said.

O’Reilly said: “With the strong [square] knot you might be able to get through the day without it failing.” Although he admitted to still using the granny knot himself through habit.

The study suggests the square knot works better because the impact of the foot loosens the knot more slowly, but the scientists were not able to establish why this is the case.

Biggest asteroid in 13 years is going to fly past Earth on today Wednesday

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On Wednesday the 12th, our planet’s going to get a close shave from an alarmingly large chunk of space rock – as the biggest asteroid in 13 years sails past.

The asteroid, known as 2014 JO25, will sail safely past 1.1 million miles away – but NASA says, ‘this will be a very close approach for an asteroid of this size’.

There’s no chance the asteroid will hit Earth – and is roughly 2,000 feet wide.

It was discovered in May 2014 by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona

NASA says, ‘The asteroid will approach Earth from the direction of the sun and will become visible in the night sky after April 19. It is predicted to brighten to about magnitude 11, when it could be visible in small optical telescopes for one or two nights before it fades as the distance from Earth rapidly increases.’

Small asteroids pass within this distance of Earth several times each week, but this upcoming close approach is the closest by any known asteroid of this size, or larger, since asteroid Toutatis, a 3.1-mile asteroid, which approached within about four lunar distances in September 2004.

News Ireland daily BLOG byonie

Sunday 12th February 2017

The Northern Ireland peace status is at risk because of Brexit,

Image result for The Northern Ireland peace status is at risk because of Brexit,  Image result for The Northern Ireland peace status is at risk because of Brexit,  Image result for The Northern Ireland peace status is at risk because of Brexit,

The Irish leader who helped secure the Good Friday agreement says he fears the consequences of a border dividing north and south.

Bertie Ahern at a press conference in Dublin in 2008, announcing his resignation as taoiseach.

Theresa May has been accused of putting Northern Ireland’s peace process in jeopardy by the Irish leader who helped to secure the Good Friday agreement.

In a sign of growing fears about May’s vision for Brexit, Bertie Ahern took aim at the prime minister over her recent white paper, in an interview with the Observer. Ahern, who served three terms as taoiseach between 1997 and 2008 and helped to deliver power-sharing in Belfast, said that the British government appeared to have resigned itself to the establishment of a border between the north and south once the UK leaves the EU in 2019, with potentially devastating results.

“[May] seems to be switching her language,” he said. “She’s saying not that there’ll be no border, but that the border won’t be as difficult as to create problems. I worry far more about what’s going to happen with that. It will take away the calming effects [of an open border]. Any attempt to try to start putting down border posts, or to man [it] in a physical sense as used to be the case, would be very hard to maintain, and would create a lot of bad feeling.”

In its Brexit white paper published last month, the government stated its aim to have “as seamless and frictionless a border as possible between Northern Ireland and Ireland”.

The secretary of state for exiting the EU, David Davis, has suggested that the arrangements between Norway and Sweden could be a model to copy, where CCTV cameras equipped for automatic number-plate recognition are in place. However, in an interview with the Guardian on Saturday, the European parliament’s Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt appeared to scorn such a model, given that there would need to be customs checks and restrictions on the free movement of people.

Ahern said he, too, was unconvinced that the current technology could do the job. There are 200 crossing points on the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, with 177,000 crossings by lorries a month, 208,000 by vans and 1.85m by cars.

“I haven’t found anyone who can tell me what technology can actually manage this,” Ahern said, adding that he feared the furious reaction of the unionist communities in the mid-1980s when the Republic was given an advisory role in the government of Northern Ireland could be repeated on the nationalist side if controls were reinstated. “Any kind of physical border, in any shape, is bad for the peace process,” he said.

“It psychologically feeds badly into the nationalist communities. People have said that this could have the same impact on the nationalist community as the seismic shock of the 1985 Anglo-Irish agreement on unionists, and I agree with that.

“For the nationalist community in Northern Ireland, the Good Friday agreement was about removing barriers, integrating across the island, working democratically in the absence of violence and intimidation – and if you take that away, as the Brexit vote does, that has a destabilising effect.

“With so many other issues, there is a real concern … the only way [of] doing this will be a hard border. When people talk about hard borders, they’re talking about the borders of the past – but now any kind of border with checkpoints and security constitutes a hard border.”

Ahern’s comments were made as an EU document leaked to the Observer appeared to dash May’s hopes that the two states can come to a bilateral agreement. The British prime minister has repeatedly suggested that the 1923 Common Travel Area deal can be the basis for the future, although it was signed before either state joined the EU.

However, a memo from the European parliament’s legal affairs committee, which is helping shape the negotiating position of the European commission and the red lines of the European parliament, rebuffs that suggestion: “The [Good Friday] agreement makes it abundantly clear that the fact that both parts of Ireland and the UK are within the EU is a basis for the agreement. Moreover, the fact that Brexit could result in the reintroduction of border controls and controls on the free movement of persons between Ireland and Northern Ireland means this is a question for the EU, and not only Ireland the UK.”

Boom in new Irish construction jobs as figures soar to near record levels?

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The PMI noted that activity in the Irish construction sector continued to rise sharply in January – prompted by an increase in new orders.

A surge in new construction jobs reached near record levels in Ireland last month, new figures indicate.

The number of firms reporting workforce expansions (27%) in the latest Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index was second highest recorded since the monthly survey was first run over 16 years ago.

The PMI noted that activity in the Irish construction sector continued to rise sharply in January.

This was prompted by an increase in new orders.

On the price front, the rate of input cost inflation quickened to the sharpest since February 2007.

The PMI provides a seasonally adjusted index that tracks changes in total construction activity.

Simon Barry, Chief Economist Republic of Ireland at Ulster Bank, said: “Irish construction activity continues to grow at a healthy pace according to the latest results of the Ulster Bank Construction PMI.

“The headline PMI index remained comfortably in expansion territory in January, albeit that the pace of growth eased for the third month running consistent with a modest loss of momentum early in 2017 after a robust end to last year.

“Very encouragingly, residential activity remains a particular bright spot with housing activity continuing to rise at a rapid pace, while commercial activity also very much remains in expansion mode, though the pace of growth has eased in recent months.

“Civil engineering continues to lag behind the other sectors, with respondents reporting a third consecutive monthly decline in activity.

“Respondents continue to judge the Irish construction outlook to be very favourable. Confidence about future activity prospects remained strongly positive in January amid further solid gains in new orders, despite some easing in the rate of increase.

“Indeed, buoyed by the ongoing increase in work volumes, last month saw a substantial and accelerated rise in staffing levels with the rate of job creation picking up to its second-fastest in the survey’s 16-and-a-half year history.

“One note of caution stems from further evidence of building cost pressures with the rate of input cost inflation picking up to its quickest in almost 10 years.

“Respondents reported higher prices for oil-related products and for items sourced from UK suppliers, the latter effect consistent with growing signs of Brexit-related price and costs increases in the UK economy.”

A motorway to Dublin should not be the only priority project for Sligo

Northwest gateway town also needs better infrastructure and regional connectivity

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Knock airport: needs more regular flights and quicker connections to Sligo City.

A Sligo-Dublin motorway would support Sligo city as a hub for the growth of the wider region around it, stretching into Donegal, but there are greater priorities.

Economic development in Ireland over the past 20 years has been unbalanced. Economic activity and population growth has increasingly been concentrated in a select number of city regions.

The northwest, on the other hand, has experienced slower growth and rural decline. Regional and rural development requires a sizeable urban centre, and the northwest currently lacks such a centre.

The recently abolished National Spatial Strategy 2002-2020 recognised this. It selected Sligo as one of eight regional “gateways”, envisaging that it would be developed to such a scale that it would have the critical mass necessary to sustain strong levels of job growth in the region.

Critical mass is needed. In the new “informational economy”, the absence of a centre with sufficient scale is important. Otherwise, some businesses will not come and some workers will not stay.

One criticism repeatedly levelled at the National Spatial Strategy is that it picked too many gateways. Consequently, Sligo might lose its status in the new National Planning Framework now in gestation.

Given its strategic location, however, Sligo is likely to be accorded an important role in supporting local development. But the gateway concept is more sophisticated than the idea of a traditional growth centre.

The operative word today is “connectivity” between urban centres. A gateway requires strong connectivity not just to major centres at home and abroad, but also to smaller destinations closer to home.

A necessary element.

A motorway to Dublin is one necessary element. However, other key pieces of infrastructure are needed first. It currently takes two and a half hours to drive from Dublin to Sligo, which is not bad compared with the times to other regional centres.

However, one needs to be able to get into Sligo when one gets there. Traffic congestion there is already too heavy for a relatively small town, so other forms of connectivity might require more attention.

Rail services must be upgraded, since they are at least as important as a motorway to Dublin, both for the town, its hinterland and international visitors. Commuters, for example,must be able to get into Sligo to work.

Quality bus services to Sligo’s hinterland are crucial. Internationally, so are better flight services. Knock airport helps greatly, but it is an hour away. That connecting journey needs to be cut, and quickly.

Meanwhile, Knock airport should have regular services to London and Brussels, not just the ones that it has at present. It is important for international connectivity that Sligo must also have high-capacity broadband.

All of this, if combined with a strengthened third-level institute and a stronger Industrial Development Authority presence, will bring important investment to Sligo. If properly backed, Sligo could be the spark to set the northwest alight.

Experts warn of safety fear as patients are given the right to use medicinal cannabis

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Experts have now stressed there are many “unknown truth’s” around the safety of medicinal cannabis despite the fact patients with specified conditions will be able to access it later this year.

The Health Minister Simon Harris is to proceed with the legislation and regulations which would allow a “compassionate access” programme. Experts have stressed, however, there are still questions around the safety, quality and effectiveness of the products.

The specified medical conditions are:

  1. Spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis;
  2. Intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy;
  3. Epilepsy which is resistant to treatments.

The breakthrough emerged following a report from the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) .

It was asked to carry out a scientific assessment of its therapeutic use by the minister.

It followed pressure from patients and personal testimonies of gaining relief from symptoms including pain and seizures.

“I understand this is a matter of great concern to many patients, to many colleagues in the Oireachtas and to members of the general public who have contacted me,” Mr Harris said.

“I believe this report marks a significant milestone in developing policy in this area. This is something I am eager to progress but I am also obligated to proceed on the basis of the best clinical advice.”

Prof Tony O’Brien, a consultant in palliative medicine who chaired the group, said that making it available for a limited number of conditions would be a significant first step that recognised patient need.

It would also provide patient protection with oversight from consultants. The legislation should also allow for a registry to be set up to collect medical information and provide insight into the future use of cannabis products for medical purposes.

Cannabis has potential therapeutic benefits, but there is a need for robust evidence to be generated through clinical research in patients.

The group looked at the relevant scientific reviews and publications available worldwide, as well as the international approaches to cannabis for medical use.

There is limited scientific data available, the report has added.

“The safety of cannabis as a medical treatment is also not well characterised. For these reasons, and because most cannabis products available under international access schemes do not meet pharmaceutical quality standards, it is not possible to authorise such products as medicines,” it said.

NASA picks three potential drill sites for Mars 2020

All three could have supported life in ancient Mars.

Image result for NASA picks three potential drill sites for Mars 2020   Image result for NASA picks Jezero crater, which got the most votes, was once an ancient lake comparable to Lake Tahoe  Image result for Northeast Syrtis, which got the second highest number of votes

When the Mars 2020 rover reaches the red planet, it will quickly begin drilling for samples from its surface. NASA hasn’t picked the exact drill site yet, but it has narrowed its choices down to three during a workshop with scientists in Monrovia, California.

The group consulted images and data sent by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter before voting for easily accessible locations they believe could have supported life. Jezero crater, which got the most votes, was once an ancient lake comparable to Lake Tahoe. It was connected to a large river that fed it water and sediments, making it an ideal site for the rover’s search for signs of life.

Northeast Syrtis, which got the second highest number of votes, used to have hot water circulating under its crust. Finally, there’s Columbia Hills — the group’s third and most controversial choice where the Spirit rover used to roam. Spirit found silica rocks in the site resembling hydrothermal mineral deposits on Earth. Some of the people who attended the workshop didn’t think Mars 2020 would be able to shed light on whether the rocks could truly be linked to life.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 16th December 2016

Ireland’s residential property prices go up 7.1% in year to October

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Dublin remains the most expensive place in the country to buy a property, while Co Longford has the cheapest prices.

Residential property prices nationwide rose by 7.1% in the year to October, new figures from the Central Statistics Office show.

The CSO said this compares to growth of 4.4% the same time last year.

Dublin property prices increased by 5.5% in the year to October, with house prices up 6.1% and apartment prices rising by 4.1%. Dublin prices remain the country’s most expensive.

Within the Dublin area, the CSO noted the highest price increases were in Dublin City (at 7.5%), while the lowest growth rate was seen in Fingal with prices up 3.4% there.

Meanwhile, residential property prices in the rest of the country jumped by 10.2% in the year to October.

Houses prices rose by 10.3% with the Midland regions showing the fastest growth rate of 16.6%, while the Mid-East region saw the slowest growth rate of 6.1%.

Apartment prices in the rest of the country outside of Dublin rose by 9.3% in the year to October.

In October, the average market price paid for a new residence was €250,147. The CSO said that the average market price paid by households over 12 months – a more stable measure of price – was €235,750.

In the year to October, the average price paid for a home was higher in Dublin than in other region or county, with the average price amounting to €386,657.

After Dublin, the next most expensive region was the Mid-East, where the average market price was €238,492.

Within this area, Co Wicklow was most expensive, with an average price of €314,690.

The least expensive region for household purchases over the last 12 months was the Border region, with an average price of €112,586.

But the cheapest price for houses was seen in Co Longford, with an average price of €83,420

Today’s CSO figures show that from the lows reached in early 2013, property prices nationally have increased by 48.4%.

During this time, Dublin residential property prices have increased 64.7% while residential property prices in the rest of the country are 44.7% higher.

They also show that when measured by value, the housing market has increased by 6.8% from €762.9m to €815m in the 12 months to October.

Commenting on today’s CSO figures, Davy economist Conall Mac Coille said the latest monthly rise has softened slightly from the exceptionally strong gains through the summer – 2.4% in July, 1.4% in August and 1.5% in September.

But the economist said that the October increases were stronger than had been expected.

Mr Mac Coille said that house price inflation in 2017 will be stimulated by the relaxation of the Central Bank’s mortgage lending rules and the Government’s “Help-to-Buy” scheme.

This provides a 5% tax rebate, worth up to €20,000, for first-time buyers of newly built homes.

Why we have occupied Apollo House

We have 193,000 homes without people and 6,500 people without homes

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Jim Sheridan and Brendan Ogle of ‘Home Sweet Home’ at Apollo House at Poolbeg Street, Dublin.

It’s been just over two years since Jonathan Corrie, a homeless man, was found dead yards from Dáil Éireann as our elected parliamentarians went to work.

Jonathan’s 16-year-old son Nathan said today after the death of his father who had left Carlow because he did not want his family to see him in difficulty. Jonathan was 43 years old. Young yes, but the life expectancy for a homeless man is 44, and for a woman just 38.

Sixteen people died on our streets between 2011 and 2014 and the graph has been rising since. You might remember Jonathan’s name but will you remember the names of the other 15? The people dying now hardly merit a footnote on the national daily news stories about ‘recovery’ ‘growth’; so much bombast and bluster, and alongside it the reality of so much unnecessary death and suffering.

It is to our national shame that neither Jonathan’s death, nor that of any of the others before or since, has shocked us into addressing the root causes of homelessness. The situation has gotten exponentially worse: homelessness has risen 40 per cent in the last year alone. We are a nation that, in 2016, cherishes none of its children equally.

Artists row in.

I got a phone call from a friend in the music industry recently who is also a Trojan community activist in his native Ballymun. Dean Scurry, who I first met through the Right2Water campaign, told me how many of Ireland’s artists and poets, actors and film directors wanted to do something to address this human crisis. I knew one or two of them a little. Glen Hansard had done me the honour of launching a book I wrote recently about the water campaign and our dreadful, policy driven, inequality. Damien Dempsey has performed at Right2Water events and people like John Connors and Terry McMahon feel the pain of our broken nation deeply.

Others too were on board: ‘Christy’, Jim Sheridan, Kodaline, Saoirse Ronan, the list went on. Dean had an idea. Could a citizen-led intervention take homeless people off the streets until the Government got around to housing them? The artists would be open to supporting such a move if it had as its objective the creation of a home for people forced to live on our streets. It was the lads from Kodaline who stated “we have homes without people, and people without homes” when confronted with the startling statistic that while we have 6,500 people officially homeless including 2,400 children, that the census shows we have a whopping 193,000 empty homes in Ireland, excluding holiday homes.

Socialising private debt.

And then there’s Nama. The bad bank that was used to socialise private debt and bequeath to us buildings all over our landscape that lie fallow while people get soaked, freeze, go hungry and even die below. Did I think we could get access to a Nama property? ‘We’ owned it after all. It took about a week to find a property we could access with some assistance and eventually Apollo House, a former social welfare office now closed down, came into our possession.

This has been tried before. The wonderful Irish Housing Network and many other groups have been trying to provide support for our homeless people for a long time. But never in a Nama property and never with such support. So a loose coalition was formed. We all had different tasks, but the same motivation. Could we arrive at a situation where nobody, at least in Dublin, is forced to be without a roof and ‘home’ for this Christmas and beyond?

There are wonderful videos involving Jim Sheridan, Glen and many others and I hope, we all hope, that these efforts may force us all to look inwards and stop this madness. And it is madness that can be easily stopped. In recent years governments have given more than €2.7 billion in tax cuts disproportionately benefiting the wealthiest and corporations. Did you get any of that? Did it change your life? No, me neither. But it could have built over 10,000 homes each year. It could have changed the life of every homeless person, of every homeless child, and ultimately cleared social housing waiting lists.

A human decency?

Homelessness is a result of poor, or cruel, political policy decisions. I prefer to think of them as just poor. Otherwise, what have we become as a society?

Ultimately homelessness and its causes will only be resolved by a movement in policy towards housing that is based on citizenship as much as profit, that puts human decency above uncaring ideology.

I do not know how ‘Home Sweet Home’ will work out, but whatever differences we all have, can we please resolve to end this cruelty? The gardaí who came to Apollo House last night praised the volunteers and confirmed the event as peaceful and well organised. They toured the building checking the welfare of the homeless people who were sleeping in private rooms on new mattresses for the first time in a long time. We told them that Apollo House was a ‘dry house’ for genuinely homeless people, well-resourced and taken care of. So please help in any way you can.

Tonight there are people sleeping in a safe and secure building with heating and electricity, and if it wasn’t for this intervention of artists and citizens they would be in doorways and alleyways. I have no doubt this intervention, with your support, can save lives. To find out more about how you can help please go to homesweethome.irish

Emergency 65 bed hostel in Dublin can open until legal row resolved

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Independent TD Katherine Zappone children’s Minister (left pic.).

The 65-bed Carman’s Hall facility was one of four in the city being set up to help address homelessness

A judge has ruled that an emergency hostel for the homeless in the Liberties in Dublin can be open until the legal row over the use of the facility has been determined.

The opening of the temporary hostel in the converted Carman’s Hall, which had been used as community centre until it shut in 2013, in Francis Street has been halted due to a legal challenge by the Carman’s Hall Interest Group, the Michael Mallin House Residents and a youth and community worker, Elizabeth O’Connor.

The residents want the facility reopened as a community centre and have secured permission for judicial review of the Council’s decision allowing the centre be used as a hostel to deal with the homeless emergency.

The court’s permission for judicial review proceedings also acted as a stay on the hostel opening.

Because of the current homeless situation Dublin City Council, which opposes the resident’s challenge, asked the court for the stay to be lifted pending the outcome of the full hearing.

Lawyers for the residents argued the stay should remain in place.

In his ruling Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said he was satisfied the balance of justice lay in lifting the stay preventing the facility from being used as an emergency hostel until the full dispute has been determined.

The judge said when considering the application he had to take factors into account such as the residents inconvenience and the needs of one of “a very vulnerable section of society” particular during the winter months.

The judge said he noted the residents concerns.

However evidence was given to the court about the homeless crisis that the number deemed homeless in Dublin city, has increased from 3,700 to 5,000 in the period between September 2015 and September 2016.

While the number of rough sleepers in the city fluctuates evidence had been given that emergency hostel facilities are currently at capacity, the judge said.

The Carman’s Hall facility the judge said is to be run by groups that considerable expertise in working with the homeless.

In the circumstances the court was satisfied to lift the stay.

The judge, noting the urgency of the matter, had previously listed the full hearing of the case for 18 January.

The residents he said have challenged council’s decision of 24 October allowing for a change of use of Carman’s Hall to a hostel.

As part of their challenge the residents, and their expert, say that going ahead with the hostel without going through the public consultation process amounted to a material contravention of the city development plan, the judge said.

He said the council, and their expert, disputes that claim and maintains it was entitled under the planning laws to allow the centre be converted into a hostel for the homeless.

This argument clearly was a “complex question of law,” the judge said.

However the judge said that at this stage the court was not deciding on the merits of either sides arguments which would be matters to be determined at the full hearing of the case.

Declan McGrath SC, with Niall Handy BL, for the residents, said their concern is about an “undue concentration” of homeless and social support services in the south inner city.

There are 12 homeless and social support services within 500m of Carman’s Hall and more than 660 people deemed homeless are being accommodated in Dublin 8, compared to 78 in Dublin 4 and “none whatsoever” in Dublin 6W, he said.

James Connolly SC, with Stephen Dodd BL, for the Council, argued the stay should be lifted due to the number of vulnerable rough sleepers on the streets at this time of year.

The Council has already spent about €930,000 converting the building into a hostel after acquiring it under a five-year lease from its owners the Dublin Catholic Archdiocese, he said.

Dublin City Council had not committed to using the premises as a hostel beyond the 2017-18 winter period.

The 65-bed Carman’s Hall facility was one of four in the city being set up to help address homelessness and was offered by the local parish priest to help with the homeless emergency, counsel said.

A survey carried out on 22-23 November found 142 rough sleepers in Dublin but that situation was fluid and facilities for the homeless are currently full up with people being turned away, the court heard.

Bank of Ireland admits to over-charging thousands of its Irish mortgage customers

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The Bank of Ireland has admitted over-charging thousands of its mortgage customers and it is the latest twist in the tracker mortgage scandal.

The bank had already restored 2,100 customers to good value tracker rates in 2010.

Now it says it has found another 600 cases where homeowners were wrongfully denied a low-cost tracker rate.

And the bank said another 4,000 mortgage customers do have trackers, but they were paying too much interest, the bank said.

It is understood that most of the mortgage holders either denied a tracker or charged the wrong tracker margin were bank staff.

However, the bank would not say how many of the latest cases relate to staff..

In a statement, it said: “The Bank of Ireland Group would like to sincerely apologise to each of these customers for these failures. The correct rate should have been applied to these accounts and we sincerely apologise for not applying the correct rate in these cases.”

Almost all lenders are being forced to probe their mortgage books and identify customers denied a tracker, or put on the wrong tracker interest rate, over the last eight years.

Banks had denied people trackers when interest rates rose in 2009, as these people opted to fix their mortgage rate, but then could not get back their tracker.

AIB has around 3,000 tracker-denial cases, with 2,000 at Ulster Bank.

Permanent TSB has had to compensate 1,400 customers over the tracker scandal. Its subsidiary, Springboard, was fined earlier this month over the issue.

Ageing can now be reversed, according to a new study

Researchers have now managed to turn back the cellular clock using stem cell techniques.

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Ageing can be reversed by adopting an approach used by stem cell scientists to turn back the cellular clock, new research suggests.

In laboratory experiments, researchers rejuvenated human skin, increased the lifespan of mice with a premature ageing disease by 30 per cent and accelerated healing.

Although the work is at a very early stage, they believe it could open the door to “fountain of youth” anti-ageing treatments that would help us live longer and look younger.

The research developed from techniques used to create stem cells with embryonic properties from reprogrammed adult cells.

A key part of the process of producing such “induced pluripotent” stem (iPS) cells involves the re-activation of four dormant genes known as “Yamanaka factors”, named after Japanese stem cell pioneer Shinya Yamanaka.

In the new study, scientists activated the genes intermittently and found they were able to turn back the ageing clock without cells losing their adult identity.

Dr Pradeep Reddy, from the Salk Institute in California, said: “In other studies, scientists have completely reprogrammed cells all the way back to a stem cell-like state.

“But we show, for the first time, that by expressing these factors for a short duration, you can maintain the cell’s identity while reversing age-associated hallmarks.”

The genes have to be handled with care because the rapid cell division seen in embryos could be a hallmark of cancer in adults.

Having large numbers of cells revert to an embryonic state in an adult also raises the risk of organ failure and death.

But mice with the premature ageing disease progeria did not develop cancer and appeared to thrive after receiving the treatment.

Compared with untreated mice, they looked younger, the performance of their hearts and other organs improved, and they lived 30 per cent longer.

In normal ageing mice, the intermittent activation of Yamanaka factors led to improvements in the regenerative capacity of pancreatic tissue and muscle.

Injured pancreas organs and muscle also healed faster in otherwise healthy ageing mice that were reprogrammed.

Rejuvenation of a person?

Prof Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, who led the Salk team, said: “Obviously, mice are not humans and we know it will be much more complex to rejuvenate a person.

“But this study shows that ageing is a very dynamic and plastic process, and therefore will be more amenable to therapeutic interventions than what we previously thought.”

In the experiments, the mice were treated by spiking their drinking water with a chemical, doxycycline, that activated the four genes.

Continuous activation of the genes resulted in significant weight loss and death after four days, said the researchers, writing in the journal Cell.

This was avoided by switching to a cyclic regime consisting of two days of doxycycline treatment, followed by five days of withdrawal.

Hairy chested new crab species found near ocean floor hot springs

“We can be certain that the new species we’ve found also live elsewhere in the southwest Indian Ocean,” said researcher Jon Copley.

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The hairy-chested Hoff crab (above left & right) was one of six new species found living near hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. 

Researchers have discovered six new species living near hydrothermal vents on the sea floor.

The collection of hot springs, called Longqi, which translates as “Dragon’s Breath,” are situated 1,240 miles southeast of Madagascar, 1.7 miles beneath the surface of the Indian Ocean.

Unique communities of deep sea creatures are drawn to warmth emanating from Longqi’s vent chimneys, mineral spires rising two stories in height.

In 2011, a team of scientists the University of Southampton, Newcastle University and London’s Natural History Museum began exploring the vents with a deep-diving, remote-controlled submersible — the first survey of its kind in the region.

During their exploratory missions, scientists found six new species unique to the Longqi vents. First, scientists found a hairy-chested crab similar to the “Hoff crab” found near vents in Antarctica. Hoff crabs are a species of deep-sea squat lobster yet to be described in the scientific literature.

Researchers also discovered two species of snail, as well as a new species of limpet, scaleworm and deep-sea worm.

“We can be certain that the new species we’ve found also live elsewhere in the southwest Indian Ocean, as they will have migrated here from other sites, but at the moment no one really knows where, or how well-connected their populations are with those at Longqi,” lead researcher Jon Copley, a scientist at Southampton, said in a news release. “Our results highlight the need to explore other hydrothermal vents in the southwest Indian Ocean and investigate the connectivity of their populations, before any impacts from mineral exploration activities and future deep-sea mining can be assessed.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 9th December 2016

Irish economy bounces back & grows 4% in third quarter of 2016

Figures are again affected by financial flows related to multinationals

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On an annual basis GDP was 6.9% higher compared to the same quarter in 2015, with GNP up 10.2%.

Ireland’s economic growth rate bounced back in the third quarter after a weak start to 2016, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

However, the figures are again affected by the activities of multinationals, with a significantly slower rate of growth in the domestic economy than shown in the headline figures.

Gross domestic product (GDP) rose 4% versus the second quarter, while gross national product (GNP), which strips out the effect of multinational profit repatriations, increased 3.2%.

On an annual basis, GDP was 6.9% higher compared to the same quarter in 2015, with GNP up 10.2%. However, the latest figures were again influenced by financial flows related to big multinationals in Ireland involving the treatment of intellectual property and profit repatriations. This led to a large fall in the measured level of investment and also to a big drop in imports.

The CSO said that elsewhere investment increased, with a 3% rise in spend on machinery, led by aircraft, and a 4.6% jump in construction.

Commenting on the data, Dermot O’Leary, chief economist at Goodbody, said a more meaningful gauge than the GDP/GNP figures was core domestic demand, which shows the economy growing by about 3%; still double that of the euro zone average.

The three largest sectors of the economy experienced growth during the third quarter, with industry rising 3.8% in volume terms. Distribution, transport, software and communications increased 5.3%, while “other services” grew 1.5%.

The domestic demand?

Overall total domestic demand fell 1.8% versus the second quarter. Personal consumption, which accounts for about 53% of domestic demand, rose 0.7% in the quarter, and was running 2.1% ahead on an annual basis. Government consumption was up 0.8%.

Service exports increased €3.5 billion to €34.7 billion in the third quarter, driven by exports of computer services and business services, the CSO said. Capital investment fell 7.2% on an annual basis.

Separately, the CSO said the current account balance of payments, a measure of Ireland’s financial flows with the rest of the world, is now at an all time high of 14.7% at €10.1 billion. This compares to a surplus of €6.9 billion for the same quarter a year earlier.

Austin Hughes, chief economist at KBC, said the 4% jump in third-quarter GDP was “largely technical”. However, he added that solid gains in household spending and construction suggested healthy domestic demand.

Technical

“The outsized quarterly jump in GDP is largely technical in nature but, beyond the headline figure, the details of today’s release suggest that activity remains on a positive path, with a solid growth rate of around 4% in prospect for 2016.

“There are also signs of a more cautious consumer, continuing catch-up in construction and tentative signs of some impact from sterling weakness on goods exports,” Mr Hughes added.

Merrion’s chief economist Alan McQuaid said the National Accounts data “remain unsatisfactory”.

He said that personal spending and construction activity appeared to be holding up. However, he added that “Brexit” worries would likely intensify next year, leading to lower overall GDP growth in 2017.

The owner of the Patrick Pearse letter is to keep it in his collection abroad

Historic document may end up on display at cultural institution

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Patrick Pearse (right) with his brother, Willie, in the gardens at St Enda’s.

Patrick Pearse’s order of surrender is held by Stuart Cole, a director at Adam’s auctioneers, at their offices in Dublin, after it failed to sell at the reserved auction price.

The owner of the Patrick Pearse surrender letter which failed to sell at auction this week intends to keep it in his private collection overseas and bequeath it to his children.

The historic document may end up on display at an unspecified cultural institution in the owner’s home country, Adam’s auctioneers has said.

Retaining his anonymity, the proprietor was said to be “philosophical” about the document’s withdrawal from auction on Wednesday when bidding stopped at €770,000. It had a guide of between €1 million and €1.5 million.

The letter, written by Pearse in Easter Week shortly after his surrender to Brig Gen William Lowe, had been the focus of significant attention in the run up to its sale, prompting calls for it to be retained in Ireland.

Adam’s had made efforts to sell it on behalf of its client to the State without success. The Government said it would be an inappropriate way to spend public money and Adam’s will now apply for an export license clearing the way for it to leave the country.

“He [the owner] intends to give it to his kids at some point in the future and say, ‘you know what, here is a piece of Irish history and we are lucky to have it’,” said Stuart Cole, a director at Adam’s.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if at some time you see it being given to an institution outside of Ireland. More than likely a museum or a library.”

Mr Cole said such a move would be taken in order to protect the 100 year old letter which has spent the last 12 years in specialised storage.

The owner, described as being “of substantial means” and not motivated by profit, paid about €800,000 for the document. He is now resigned to the letter not being wanted by the State.

‘Very philosophical’

“He was very philosophical about [its failure to sell at auction]. He said either people will want it or they won’t want it.”

On Thursday, Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys said there was nothing preventing the owner donating it to the State and claiming 80 per cent of the value back in tax relief.

Under Revenue’s S1003 scheme – which encourages the donation of heritage items to Irish institutions – 80 per cent of the market value can be offset against the tax liability of the owner.

Mr Cole said, however, this would not apply to the owner of the Pearse letter as he held no business interests or tax liabilities in the State.

The anonymous collector is a frequent traveller to Ireland and decided last April, having been impressed by the Government’s handling of the 1916 centenary celebrations, it was a suitable time to sell the letter back to the country.

Mr Cole said auction was the last option but the State had shown no interest in their approaches.

Ms Humphreys told RTÉ News it was “very clear to me” that Adam’s maximised publicity to “put a very high price on this letter and they have been pressurising the State to use taxpayers’ money to purchase it”.

“The Minister is correct,” Mr Cole responded of the publicity, “my job was to work for my client and to publicise the auction as much as I could.”

He said they had approached the Government several months before the auction date “out of the limelight” to avoid bringing public pressure.

Ireland’s student unions warn against introducing a loan scheme

Graduates who emigrate may be ‘too afraid’ to return home, Oireachtas committee told Ibec,

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However, they told the committee that an income-contingent loan system was the only “equitable and sustainable” option.

Thousands of graduates will end up leaving Ireland and may never return if a student loan scheme is introduced, an Oireachtas committee heard on Thursday.

An income-contingent loan system – where graduates pay fees when their earnings reach a certain level – is one of a number of options proposed in a Government-commissioned report into the future funding of higher education.

However, Jane Hayes-Nally, president of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union, said many graduates from New Zealand were “too afraid” to return home since it introduced a loan scheme.

“Is this what will happen to me? Too afraid to come home, struggling to make repayments, saddled with debt before I am even 25,” she asked.

The fifth-year secondary school student said income-contingent loans would end up driving students overseas to countries such as Germany where third level is publicly funded.

“My only option could be to enrol in Germany. Right now, no fees apply to international students in Germany, bar a small contribution of €50. So for the class of 2016, willkommen Deutschland.

A radical idea.

Other student representative bodies, including the Union of Students of Ireland (USI) and Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union, also called on committee members to support a publicly-funded higher-education system.

Annie Hoey, USI president, said a publicly-funded system was not a radical idea and that “fully-free” education was available in Scotland, Scandinavia and Germany.

Universities and employers’ groups, however, were generally supportive of a loan scheme as the most realistic way of providing the kind of funding needed to tackle a “crisis” facing the sector.

Employers’ group Ibec said a publicly-funded system was not economically sustainable or socially desirable.

Tony Donohoe, Ibec’s head of education, said an income-contingent loan system was the only “equitable and sustainable” option.

Such a model needed to avoid mistakes made in other countries, he said.

“It would be economically foolish and socially unacceptable to saddle a generation of young people with the scale of debt that we see in the US and will probably see in the UK,” he said.

“Therefore, we need a balanced, fair and sustainable system that combines adequate State investment with an affordable student contribution.”

A structured approach?

He said business currently contributed €360 million a year through the National Training Fund – a levy on employers – and individual companies contributing directly to colleges.

Mr Donohoe said employers were willing to play their part through more effective use of the National Training Fund and a structured approach to supporting programmes in areas of skills demand.

The chair of NUI Galway’s governing body, former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness, said that while she would like a State-funded system, it was not realistic and student loans seemed “the best solution”.

She said the “free fees” system introduced 20 years ago had not led to a significant narrowing in the social divide.

“We can at least see if we can design a system that does not let the State or employers off the hook,” she said.

Government’s ‘Creative Ireland’ plan is outlined by Taoiseach

Taoiseach launches five-year programme to promote culture as part of everyday lives

Image result for Government’s ‘Creative Ireland’ plan is outlined by Taoiseach   Image result for Government’s ‘Creative Ireland’ plan is outlined by Taoiseach

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the National Gallery of Ireland said: “We can make Ireland the first country in the world to guarantee access for every child to tuition and participation in art, music, drama and coding.

There was a broad welcome across the arts and culture sectors for the Government’s new five-year plan, Creative Ireland, which was launched by the Taoiseach in the newly refurbished Shaw Room at the National Gallery of Ireland on Thursday.

In front of an audience which included the heads of most of the State’s key cultural institutions, Mr Kenny outlined an ambitious vision for what he described as “placing culture at the centre of our lives, for the betterment of our people and for the strengthening of our society”.

The Taoiseach, along with Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Pascal Donohoe, laid out the details of the cross-governmental initiative, which aims to build on the legacy of the Ireland 2016 centenary programme.

The Taoiseach himself will chair a new Government committee dedicated to achieving the objectives of the plan, while a dedicated programme office will be set up within the Department of Arts.

Commitments announced for the next 12 months include:

* a pilot scheme to assist self-employed artists who have applied for Jobseekers Allowance;

* a new annual cultural day, to be held nationwide on Easter Monday each year; and

* the appointment of a culture team by every local authority in the country.

Heritage infrastructure in Ireland?

Plans will be drawn up for an investment programme for Ireland’s cultural and heritage infrastructure and institutions, as well as for developing Ireland as a global hub for film, TV drama and animation. The first item on the agenda, however, is the drafting of a five-year “Creative Children” plan, which will “enable every child to access tuition in music, drama, art and coding”.

“Together we can do extraordinary things,” Mr Kenny said at the launch. “We can make Ireland the first country in the world to guarantee access for every child to tuition and participation in art, music, drama and coding. We can make every local authority a dynamic hub of cultural creativity.

“We can unlock the huge potential of our people in the creative industries. And we can make an important statement to ourselves and to the world about the interdependency of culture, identity and citizenship.”

Mr Donohoe said the Government recognised that high-quality infrastructure was critical for a vibrant arts and culture sector. Investment in culture underpinned social cohesion and supported strong and sustainable economic growth.

Culture and citizenship

Ms Humphreys said the initiative had been inspired by the “extraordinary public response” to the 1916 Centenary Programme. “This year thousands of cultural events were held around the country,” she said. “Bringing people together in shared reflections on identity, culture and citizenship that combined history, arts, heritage and language. We now want to build on the success of the commemorations and plan ambitiously for our arts and culture sectors for the years ahead.”

Ms Humphreys described the plan as “a very ambitious public policy initiative; possibly the most significant for the arts and cultural sectors in a generation”.

The plan was welcomed by the director of the National Library of Ireland, Dr Sandra Collins, who described it as “progressive and exciting”.

The National Campaign for the Arts, a nationwide, volunteer-led movement, said the plan had “the potential – if delivered – to realise a sea-change for the cultural sector but also for the wellbeing of Irish society as a whole” and welcomed the proposed social protection changes as a “a long overdue safety net for self-employed artists” .

Ireland and Sligo hosts European Capital of Volunteering campaign for 2017 in January 2017

Image result for Sligo Capital of Volunteering campaign for 2017 in January 2017  Image result for Sligo hosts European Capital of Volunteering campaign for 2017 in January 2017   Image result for Sligo Fleadh Volunteers of 2015

Sligo is to stage a spectacular opening ceremony to kick off its year as European Volunteering Capital 2017, with acclaimed musicians and volunteers taking centre stage at a Friday, January 27 , 2017 civic and gala event.

The designation of European Volunteering Capital 2017 was formally bestowed on Sligo at an event held in London’s City Hall on Dec 5.

The EVC 2017 designation is a coup for Sligo in that it follows the major European cities of Barcelona, Lisbon and London in being chosen to showcase volunteering and the positive impacts that it has on lives across Europe.

The gala celebration at the IT Sligo Knocknarea Arena will feature VIP guests and specially composed pieces by acclaimed musician Michael Rooney.

The ‘Spirit of Sligo’ celebration event will also feature a selection of inspiring volunteer stories and performances by other artists including Niamh Crowley, Kieran Quinn, Sligo Gospel Choir and the Sligo Academy of Sinfonietta Orchestra.

Highlights from Michael Rooney’s rousing compositions Famine, Battle of the Books, De Cuellar and Macalla suites will be performed alongside a new arrangement of his seminal Prince Charles Suite by traditional and classical musicians.

Ciara Herity of Sligo Volunteer Centre said: “The designation is a real honour and a chance to tell the many stories of volunteerism which happen every day in Sligo and beyond.

“London showed in 2016 what was possible in connecting people to volunteering and next year we hope to emulate that work by showcasing Sligo at its very best.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Ciaran Hayes, CEO of Sligo County Council, who attended the launch of the January 27 ‘Spirit of Sligo’ gala event.

He said: “The ‘Spirit of Sligo’ gala event is a wonderful not to be missed show. It’s also a recognition and celebration of all of those who give back to their community, the silent majority who contribute so much to Sligo and who make us what we are.

“The range and extent of volunteering and generosity of volunteers in this county is breathtaking. It’s a special and remarkable place to live and I’m delighted that we can now bring those stories to life and bring the real Sligo to the fore with such a spectacular and entertaining opening.”

Say what you like? But monkey mouths and throats are equipped to talk like us

Image result for monkey mouths and throats are equipped to talk like us   Image result for monkey mouths and throats are equipped to talk like us

Monkeys’ vocal equipment can produce the sounds of human speech, research shows, but they lack the connections between the auditory and motor parts of the brain that humans rely on to imitate words.

If you could change the way a monkey or an ape’s brain is wired, that animal would be capable of producing perfectly intelligible speech.

That’s the conclusion of a study that closely tracked the movements of a monkey’s mouth and throat with X-rays, to understand the full potential of its vocal tract.

The researchers used X-ray videos to capture and trace the movements of the different parts of a macaque’s vocal anatomy — such as the tongue, lips and larynx — during a number of typical macaque behaviors, including lip-smacking, yawning, grunting and cooing.

Researchers then used that information to create a computer model of what it would sound like if the monkey were able to say phrases such as “happy holidays.”

Monkey Voice Simulation Saying “Happy Holidays”

The finding calls into question long-held assumptions about how humans developed their unique ability to use spoken language.

“What you’ll find in the textbooks is that monkeys can’t talk because they don’t have the appropriate vocal tract to do so,” says Tecumseh Fitch, a cognitive biologist at the University of Vienna. “That, I think, is a myth. My colleagues and I all get very tired of seeing this. But you see it in all the textbooks. Lots of popular books, and also scholarly books about the evolution of language, assume that in order to evolve speech we had to have massive changes in our vocal tract. ”

In the past, scientists looked at dead animals to judge what their vocal tracts could do. But Fitch says that made people vastly underestimate the flexibility of nonhuman mammals.

He and his colleagues monitored a long-tailed macaque named Emiliano as he made a wide range of different gestures and sounds, including lip-smacks, yawns, chewing, coos and grunts. Their special equipment took a rapid series of X-rays that allowed them to capture the full range of movement in the monkey’s vocal tract. Then they used computer models to explore its potential for generating speech.

Friday, in the journal Science Advances, his team reports that monkeys would be physically capable of producing five distinguishable vowels — the most common number of vowels found in the world’s languages.

And human listeners could clearly understand phrases they created with their synthesized monkey speech, including a marriage proposal.

Monkey Voice Simulation Saying “Will You Marry Me?”

The bottom line, says Fitch, is that a monkey’s speech limitations stem from the way its brain is organized.

“As soon as you had a brain that was ready to control the vocal tract,” Fitch says, “the vocal tract of a monkey or nonhuman primate would be perfectly fine for producing lots and lots of words.”

The real issue is that monkeys’ brains do not have direct connections down to the neurons that control the larynx and the tongue, he says. What’s more, monkeys don’t have critical connections within the brain itself, between the auditory cortex and motor cortex, which makes them incapable of imitating what they hear in the way that humans do.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a science fiction movie from 2011, actually has the right idea, notes Fitch. In that film, after a lab chimp named Caesar undergoes brain changes, he eventually is able to speak words such as “No.”

“The new Planet of the Apes is a pretty accurate representation of what we think is going on,” says Fitch.

 

 

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 6th December 2016

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

Officials face tough questioning on corporation tax plan at Oireachtas inquiry

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

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

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

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

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

Oireachtas questions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multinational companies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In crisis?

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

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

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

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

  • Bus Éireann seeks external review of Expressway plans

  • Bus Éireann drivers warn of industrial action on reform plan

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

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

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

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

“The company must advance our cost reduction plan.

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

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

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

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

Some opposition?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earth’s day lengthens by two milliseconds a century,

Astronomers tell us?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 3rd December 2016

Irish Tax trends show VAT is now the weakest link

Image result for Irish Tax trends show VAT is now the weakest link Image result for The latest Irish tax returns showed strong growth in tax revenues, led by better than expected corporation tax.

The latest Irish tax returns showed strong growth in tax revenues, led by better than expected corporation tax.

The latest Exchequer returns for November show the State is well on track to hit its deficit forecast for the year, but with signs Brexit and sterling may be starting to have an impact.

VAT income in particular was coming in less strongly than expected.

As has been the trend, the latest returns showed strong growth in tax revenues, led by better than expected corporation tax. Total revenues this year were now €777m higher than profile, or expectations. Spending was coming in €784m below profile.

That leaves the Exchequer better off, with an excess of spending over income of €407m compared to €1.7bn last year.

Exchequer Returns to the end of November showed more tax had been paid this year than at the same time in 2015 across all four of the main areas.

As well as corporation tax coming in ahead, income tax ended November 5.9pc, or €978m, higher than at the same time last year.

However, VAT receipts closed November 6.6pc or €128m behind expectations. The Department of Finance said that was mainly accounted for by larger than expected repayments.

VAT receipts were now €413m below profile for the year to date, though in absolute terms up from last year. Excise duties recorded an expected shortfall of €24m in November, but were running just ahead of profile for the year.

“The trend in VAT receipts is a little concerning: these were 6.6pc behind profile in November, the final ‘due’ month of the year. VAT receipts are now €413m (-3.2pc) behind profile year-to-date, which might reflect the softer retail sales data in recent months,” David McNamara of Davy Stockbrokers said.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has said Ireland’s economic prospects remain bright, but warned of “clouds” on the horizon. The warning came following the conclusion of the sixth post-programme surveillance mission. The statement by the commission said: “GDP is expected to continue to grow, the future evolution of the activities of multinational enterprises remains uncertain and the external environment has become increasingly unpredictable, especially after the UK ‘leave’ vote.”

Ireland’s Central Bank denies turning away UK businesses

Image result for Ireland's Central Bank denies turning away UK businesses  Central Bank Governor Philip Lane has tweaked one of the levers of mortgage lending. Photo: Gareth Chaney / Collins

Cyril Roux, deputy governor & the Governor Philip Lane of the Central Bank of Ireland .

The Republic of Ireland’s Central Bank has not tried to turn any UK banks or firms off setting up in Ireland in the wake of the Brexit vote, its deputy head said yesterday.

Cyril Roux, the deputy governor of the Central Bank, insisted that the regulator had not discouraged investment banking or trading in Dublin, contrary to recent reports.

The statement contradicts claims that Irish authorities had discouraged UK companies from relocating in the Irish Republic after Brexit because of regulatory concerns about how they would be policed.

But Mr Roux was adamant this was not the case. “I want to be clear… we do not have such a position,” he said.

“We have not sought to dissuade any such entities from seeking authorisation, nor are we planning to do so.”

However, he reiterated that the Republic’s Central Bank  would only allow new businesses into Ireland that have a “substantive presence” in the country. Mr Roux said the bank was not concerned about the arrival of major firms, but that smaller financial institutions may attempt to use Ireland as a convenient base within Europe, while the companies retain their real operations in the UK.

“The flagship firms are not a problem,” he added. “They don’t expect to bring a big balance sheet here and have a handful of people.

“There are some other firms of a different nature who believe you can just come here and nail a brass plate and rent a room and keep on doing everything from the UK. We have to tell them it’s not going to happen.

“The Irish financial sector is set to grow, and quite possible to a significant extent.

“The bank is committed to meeting the challenge.”

Ireland fifth in Europe for non-performing bank loans

Ratio affects bank stress tests performances, with SME sector highest at 30%

Image result for Ireland fifth in Europe for non-performing bank loans  

The CEO of AIB Bernard Byrne (above left) said the bank’s NPL ratio was about 17.5%.

Ireland has ranked fifth among European states in terms of the ratio of non-performing loans (NPLs) held by its banks, according to a report by the European Banking Authority in London.

The analysis shows Ireland with an NPL ratio of just more than 20%, ranking fifth behind Cyprus, Greece, Portugal and Slovenia.

Across the board, the rate was 5.4% with Luxembourg the best in class with a figure of about 1.5%.

In Ireland, the ratio was worst for the SME sector at 30%, with large corporates at about 13% and households at 15%.

Ireland’s poor performance is clearly a factor of the crash of both the economy and property market from late 2008 onwards. The concentration of NPLs was one of the reasons why AIB and Bank of Ireland fared so badly in recent bank stress tests under the adverse scenario, in spite of both being back in profit and generating capital.

Potential improvements

The EBA said that while there are signs of potential improvements across Europe in terms of dealing with NPLs, asset quality is still weak compared to historical figures and other regions.

In its report, the EBA said action on NPLs was needed, including supervisory actions, structural reforms and development of secondary markets.

AIB chief executive Bernard Byrne told the Oireachtas finance committee last week that NPLs were a major focus of its regulators at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. He said AIB’s ratio was about 17.5%.

The EBA also found that cyber attacks were on the rise and that banks are “struggling to demonstrate their ability to cope”.

“In this context, supervisory are focusing on IT-related risks including measures to fix rigid and outdated legacy IT systems, IT resilience, and governance and outsourcing,” it said.

As much as 9,300 plus patients on hospital trolleys last month in Ireland

Worst November figures on record?

Image result for A lot of patients on hospital trolleys in Ireland  Image result for A lot of patients on hospital trolleys in Ireland

Over 9,300 patients were left waiting on Ireland’s hospital trolleys last month? The worst November figures ever recorded, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has said.

Last month’s figures represent a staggering 99% increase when compared to November 2006, when 4,671 people were left waiting on trolleys. It is also a jump of 26% when compared to the same period last year, when 7,407 people were left on trolleys.

The worst affected hospitals last month included University Hospital Limerick (789), South Tipperary General Hospital (680), Cork University Hospital (648), Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda (607) and University Hospital Galway (594).

However, the news was not all bad. The overall trolley figures from January to November 2016, show a small reduction of 1% when compared to the same period last year. This is the first year a reduction during this period has been recorded since 2006.

Altogether, 85,731 patients were left waiting on trolleys in the first 11 months of this year, compared to 86,864 during the same period last year.

The waiting figures in the east reduced by 21%, with Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown recording a 48% fall in its trolley waiting figures. However, many hospitals outside of Dublin recorded an increase, with the biggest jump – 162% – recorded in South Tipperary General Hospital.

The INMO said that overall, these figures are ‘very disappointing’, as they confirm that all of the measures taken to date to tackle this issue have failed to work.

“These figures are hugely disappointing, if not surprising, and confirm yet again that our health service cannot cope with the demands being placed upon it. The figures for November are particularly alarming as we enter the peak winter period, with the inevitable increased demand that takes place every year over the next three to four months,” commented INMO general secretary, Liam Doran.

Garda warning after gang target Donegal retailers in credit card scam

Image result for Garda warning after gang target Donegal retailers in credit card scam   Image result for credit card scams in ireland

Gardaí are warning retailers to be especially vigilant after a Dublin based gang used false credit cards at a number of stores in Letterkenny.

Crime Prevention Officer Sgt Paul Wallace told the Democrat today that the gang made off with thousands of euros worth of high end goods and cash in the scam yesterday evening.

“They used false credit cards to buy high value goods such as phones, laptops, tablets, designer watches and fragrances at a number of shops in Letterkenny on Friday evening. Another tactic they used was to ask for cashback,” he said.

Prevention is the key

Sgt Wallace appealed to shop owners to take a few minutes at the start of the day to ensure all their staff are familiar with the security protocols.

“The criminals are aware that many towns and villages are in the midst of their Christmas promotions. Shops are busy and there are a lot of inexperienced, seasonal staff doing their best.

“Taking ten minutes at the start of the day to go through all the security protocols can save a lot of anguish,” he advised.

Tips for debit and credit card security can be found at http://www.safecard.ie

Owners and staff are also advised to be extra wary if a customer they don’t know immediately asks to see the most expensive range of goods on offer, especially something that could be sold on very easily, or looks for a lot of cash back in addition to their card transactions.

Counterfeit notes in circulation.

In addition, Sgt Wallace warned that false notes, especially €50 and €20 notes, are in circulation.

Again, he said, there are some simple safety measures that can prevent a business being caught out.

“Go to the Central Bank website for guidelines on how to tell the difference between real notes and counterfeits, and ensure that your staff are familiar with these.

“We also recommend using a security light for cards and notes, as that’s the best way to reveal whether important security features are missing.

“There is a lot of helpful information easily available on how to prevent crimes such as these,” Sgt Wallace said. “They key thing is to ensure that you and your staff know about them and can spot such scams as they happen.”

‘We are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity’

So says, Stephen Hawking warns we are at risk of destroying Earth

Image result for 'We are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity'  Image result for dangerous moment in the development of humanity

  • Professor Hawking said people need to work together to tackle the issues
  • These include environmental threats like climate change and diseases
  • He also mentioned the dangers of people losing jobs to AI and robots
  • The physicist said we have technology capable of destroying the planet

We are living through the most dangerous time in the history of the human race, according to Professor Stephen Hawking.

The Cambridge University physics professor named overpopulation, climate change and diseases as just some of the threats facing our planet.

He said we have developed technology that could destroy Earth, and we must ‘retrain’ for a new world where robots have replaced many everyday jobs.

We are living through the most dangerous time in the history of the human race, according to Professor Stephen Hawking. The Cambridge University physics professor named overpopulation, climate change and diseases as just some of the threats facing our planet

Writing in a comment article in The Guardian, Professor Hawking explained what worries him about the future of our planet.

‘For me, the really concerning aspect of this is that now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together,’ he said.

‘We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans.

‘Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity.

‘We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it.’

‘Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it.’

The world-famous physicist has previously issued warnings to the world that robots could wipe out humanity and that leaving Earth is our only hope, and that our days on Earth are numbered,

Professor Hawking said life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers

In September the physicist warned our planet is becoming a dangerous place because of the threat of war or disease.

Our desire to create helpful digital assistants and self-driving vehicles could bring about our demise.

Professor Stephen Hawking warned that humanity faces an uncertain future as technology learns to think for itself and adapt to its environment.

Speaking at an event in London earlier this year, the physicist told the BBC: ‘The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.’

This echoes claims he made earlier in the year when he said success in creating AI ‘would be the biggest event in human history, [but] unfortunately, it might also be the last.’

He argues that developments in digital personal assistants Siri, Google Now and Cortana are merely symptoms of an IT arms race which ‘pale against what the coming decades will bring.’

But Professor Hawking noted other potential benefits of this technology could also be significant, with the potential to eradicate, war, disease and poverty.

‘Looking further ahead, there are no fundamental limits to what can be achieved,’ continued Professor Hawking.

‘There is no physical law precluding particles from being organised in ways that perform even more advanced computations than the arrangements of particles in human brains.’

‘I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers,’ he said.

‘I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go to space.’

Professor Hawking made similar comments earlier this year while recording the BBC’s annual Reith Lectures on January 7.

The lecture explored research into black holes, and his warning was made during questions fielded by audience members.

When asked how the world will end, Hawking said that increasingly, most of the threats humanity faces come from progress in technology.

The scientist, who turned 74 this year, said the threats include nuclear war, catastrophic global warming and genetically engineered viruses.

‘We are not going to stop making progress, or reverse it, so we must recognise the dangers and control them,’ he said, speaking to Radio Times ahead of the lecture.

To get away from these threats, humankind will have to colonise other planets, which Hawking believes will take more than a century.

‘We will not establish self-sustaining colonies in space for at least the next hundred years, so we have to be very careful in this period,’ Hawking said.

In July, Professor Hawking and Tesla founder Elon Musk led 1,000 robotics experts in an open letter warning that ‘Autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow’

‘The probable life span of human civilization is much greater if we’re a multi-planet species as opposed to a single-planet species,’ Elon Musk said last year.

‘If we’re a single planet species, then eventually there will be some extinction event,’ Mr Musk said.

His company SpaceX is working to send humans to space.

Last week the firm test fired one of its new Raptor ‘interplanetary transport engines’ which the company will use to carry astronauts to Mars.

This week the US Senate introduced a bipartisan bill that authorizes a new $19.5 billion (£15 billion) budget for Nasa to send a crew to the red planet, but mandated it must happen within the next 25 years

The rocket engine is three times more powerful than the one on the Falcon 9 rockets. It will ultimately be used to launch SpaceX’s manned spacecraft off our planet.

Mr Musk, chief executive of SpaceX, said the rocket will be ultimately capable of producing thrust of 690,000lbs over 382 seconds.

The engine is powered using liquid methane and liquid oxygen rather than the kerosene used in the Merlin engines of its Falcon 9 rockets.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 28th November 2016

Dáil expected to pass Bill legalising medicinal cannabis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regulatory authority?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obstetrician accused of professional misconduct in Sligo is before medical council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serious consequences.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restrictions disclosure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth unemployment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The outlook?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How it works?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How mass bleaching ravaged the Great Barrier Reef this year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 16th November 2016

Martin McGuinness says he was ‘in the dark’ over Project Eagle

Sinn Féin Minister to tell PAC that the Nama sale raises ‘serious’ questions

Image result for Martin McGuinness says he was ‘in the dark’ over Project Eagle   Image result for Martin McGuinness says he was ‘in the dark’ over Project Eagle

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will tell the Dáil’s inquiry into Nama on Wednesday that he was effectively kept in the dark about the sale of the Project Eagle properties and that there are “very serious” questions about the sale which need to be answered.

Mr McGuinness, who is also Sinn Féin’s leader at Stormont, has said he had no knowledge of, and did not approve, contacts between the Stormont administration, Nama and US company, Cerberus – the purchasers of Nama’s Northern loans, known as Project Eagle.

Nama sold the loans to Cerberus in April 2014 for €1.6 billion.

Claims that Belfast business and political figures were to benefit from the deal have led to investigations by the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the UK’s National Crime Agency.

A statement?

According to a statement that Mr McGuinness will make to the PAC on Wednesday, he was concerned when he learned of the extent of the contacts between potential purchasers of the portfolio and the office of the First Minister, then occupied by Peter Robinson.

Mr McGuinness will say that a meeting between Mr Robinson and the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, in September 2013, took place without his knowledge.

Nama had decided that month to sell the loans through an open auction, following an approach from another US company, Pimco.

Similarly, Mr McGuinness will say that a meeting involving Pimco, Mr Robinson and then Northern finance minister Sammy Wilson, earlier in 2013, “happened without my knowledge or approval”.

Former Nama advisor Frank Cushnahan and Belfast solicitor Ian Coulter also attended that meeting.

Pimco chief legal officer Tom Rice wrote to the PAC last week confirming that the company left the Project Eagle auction in March 2014, after US lawyers, Brown Rudnick, sought a £15 million fee.

That money was to be split equally with Mr Cushnahan and Mr Coulter, it was claimed.

Personal guarantees

Mr McGuinness will also tell the inquiry that a memorandum of understanding which was sent to Nama by Mr Robinson’s office, in January 2014, “did not have my consent or approval”.

The memo included a commitment by Pimco to cancel personal guarantees given by property developers in the North that they would repay the loans and write-off some debts – in return for the borrowers’ co-operation.

It did not represent the Northern Ireland Executive’s position, Mr McGuinness will say.

“It has no status and is, frankly, not worth the paper it was written on. It is my view that all of these contacts certainly raise legitimate questions about how Michael Noonan, Nama and others were handling the situation,” Mr McGuinness will tell TDs.

Mr McGuinness was present at a phone call between Mr Robinson and Mr Noonan in January 2014, during which Pimco’s commitments were discussed.

The then first minister stressed at the time that he was not aligned to any buyer of Nama’s Northern Ireland loans.

Cerberus made similar commitments in a letter written to Mr Robinson on March 24th, shortly before its bid for Project Eagle succeeded.

Not enough being spent’ on State’s €30bn motorway network

Transport Infrastructure Ireland: Planned Cork-Limerick road at least 10 years away

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The State’s motorways are not receiving enough investment to maintain them, according to the TII.

The State’s new motorway network, worth an estimated €30 billion, is on a deteriorating spiral with not enough money being spent to keep it on “steady state” maintenance, according to Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII).

In addition, the authority said the proposed M20 Cork to Limerick motorway – which has been identified as crucial to achieving a government target of 300,000 jobs for the southern region, is at least 10 years away – and that is if money is allocated under the Governments mid-term review of capital spending.

In Northern Ireland, where the State is committed to spending on cross-border routes, neither TII nor Monaghan County Council is actively engaged with Transport Northern Ireland on the A5 /N3 link up.

The gloomy outlook for the State’s roads was delivered by TII chief executive Michael Nolan and Department of Transport assistant secretary general Ray O’Leary on Wednesday.

Mr Nolan was the second chief executive of a major State transport operator this week to tell the Government it had insufficient money to fulfil its objectives.

He followed David Franks of Iarnród Éireann who said some railway routes may have to close unless there is major investment.

Mr Nolan and Mr O’Leary told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport future costs for bringing the road network back up to standard could be well in excess of the cost of maintenance.

Mr Nolan told the committee the damage being done to the roads by lack of adequate spending in the longer term would see the costs remediation being “double” the cost of maintenance.

He said current levels of investment in “pavement” renewals was less than a third of that required.

‘Shovel ready’

In relation to minor works on national roads, Mr Nolan said “the current construction programme of realignments will end shortly. While there are some 50 other such schemes at various stages of planning, none of these schemes can proceed to construction in the short term”, as they are not “shovel ready”.

The Government’s current capital investment plan provides for the construction of eight major national road projects.

The plan identifies five other projects to be progressed to construction, subject to planning. The total investment is €730m with 90 per cent of this spread over the last three years of a seven-year plan.

Most are due start construction after 2019, with the exception of the widening of the M7 at Naas, which is expected to be sooner.

Under the State’s public private partnership programme, three new roads are being delivered. These are the M17/18 Gort to Tuam motorway, the N25 New Ross bypass and the M11 Gorey to Enniscorthy motorway.

Mr Nolan said should additional funding be allocated following the mid-term review of the capital expenditure plan, TII would look at the potential to accelerate some projects, the construction of additional projects and the planning of others, including the upgrade of a strategic M20 connection between Cork and Limerick.

However he said it could take up to 10 years for the M20 to be realised, divided between design, planning and construction, and that was not counting the possibility of a court challenge.

But he said failure to respond to future needs would lead to increased congestion, longer and less reliable journey times, less safe roads, higher costs and suppressed economic activity.

In relation to the Government’s commitments to contributing to cross-Border road schemes, Mr Nolan said the only cross-Border national route planned at the moment is the link crossing the River Foyle between Lifford and Strabane. The construction of this link is conditional on the construction of the A5.

At the southern end of the A5, he said there would be a need to agree details where the new A5 meets the N2.

“As that section of the A5 will not be built for some years, neither Monaghan County Council nor TII are actively engaged with Transport NI on the crossing” he said.

Mr O’Leary told the committee the Department of Transport had made a submission to Government for additional funding in the mid-term review of capital expenditure.

33% of Garda cars now have a licence plate recognition facility

Tommy Broughan highlights rise in road deaths, decline in Garda traffic personnel

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One third of Garda cars are fitted with automatic number plate recognition technology.

Just under one third of Garda traffic corps vehicles are fitted with automatic licence plate recognition technology, it has emerged.

There are 289 vehicles “assigned for use” by the traffic corps, according to Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald. There are 103 official Garda vehicles fitted with the technology of which 91 are in the Traffic Corps.

The technology can automatically identify vehicle owners from their licence plates and allows gardaí to do this directly.

Ms Fitzgerald told Independent TD Tommy Broughan in a written reply to a parliamentary question that she had been informed that the technology “is in use in all Garda divisions and districts nationwide and that the use of this technology is kept under constant review by Garda management”.

Mr Broughan said that in comparison with the North, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) “seems to have that technology available across the service for a long time and we don’t seem to have the same invigilation”.

The Dublin Bay North TD said the Traffic Corps was now down to under 700 gardaí and figures for those killed in road collisions was already higher than last year.

A total of 162 people died on Irish roads last year and this year there have already been 163 fatalities, Mr Broughan said, 33 more than at the same time last year.

The Tánaiste stressed that decisions on the provision and allocation of resources was a matter for the Garda Commission and she had no direct role in the matter.

But she pointed to the five-year Garda strategy that runs until 2021 – the Garda Síochána Modernisation and Renewal Programme – which aims to make greater use of licence plate recognition technology.

Ms Fitzgerald said the programme aimed to expand the number of units with the technology and “all units being 3G-enabled to give gardaí real-time information on suspect vehicles”.

The strategy also “envisages that An Garda Síochána will examine the introduction of fixed ANPR (Automatic Name Plate Recognition) sites at strategic locations across the road network” as well as the patrolling units.

The HSE has been offered an additional 1,000 beds this winter by (NHI)

The offer has been made by Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI).

Image result for chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland Tadhg Daly.   Image result for The HSE offered an additional 1,000 beds this winter   Image result for The HSE offered an additional 1,000 beds this winter

The HSE has been offered an additional 1,000 beds in Irish nursing homes this winter to alleviate overcrowding in state hospitals. The suggestion has been put forward by chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland Tadhg Daly (above left).

In a statement the organisation said it has today “offered partnership to the Department of Health, HSE and Emergency Department Taskforce in planning for the winter pressures… in acute hospitals”.

It’s understood that the NHI beds have not been included in the HSE’s planning for the winter months to come.

The NHI is today holding its annual conference at the City-west Hotel in west Dublin.

Kelly this morning expressed his “disappointment” that Minister for Health Simon Harris will not be appearing at that conference having cited “government business”.

“Back in July, the Department of Health and Minister Harris’s office committed to engage with the NHI ‘in a timely manner’ as part of its winter planning process. We are now in November, winter is upon us and there is no sign of the engagement committed to,” Daly said.

A survey we undertook at the start of the month has informed nursing homes have capacity this winter of up to 1,000 vacant beds. This is the equivalent of creating capacity of four good-sized hospitals and could play a lead role in facilitating Government’s stated objective of providing care in the community.

Nursing homes have the capacity and expertise to provide convalescent, rehabilitative and respite care removed from hospitals and in our communities. Yet here we are approaching into the winter period of high numbers of persons lying on trolleys within our hospital corridors and wards and engagement with the majority providers of long-term nursing care is absent.

Daly added that he finds it “disappointing” that a “parochial attitude” has been taken by stakeholders with regard to the issue.

Health survey depicts Ireland as a nation of overweight drinkers

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The Irish Health Survey looked at the state of the nation’s wellbeing

Ireland is a nation of overweight drinkers with back problems, high blood pressure and allergies, suggests the first survey of its kind.

Almost a 10th of the population is depressed while one in 10 youngsters has seen a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist over the past year.

The stark findings are revealed in the Irish Health Survey, a state-of-the-nation study under a wider European project which polled more than 10,000 households across the country.

It found more than half (53%) of Irish people are overweight or obese.

More than a fifth (22%) smoke, with people living in poorer areas more likely to have a tobacco habit.

Eight in 10 (81%) people regularly drink alcohol – with a sixth (16%) of the population saying they “binge drink” more than once a week.

The survey found:

:: Almost a 10th (8%) of the population said they are at least moderately depressed.

:: One in 10 of those aged 15 to 24 said they have visited a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist over the past year.

:: Chronic back pain is the most common condition, affecting almost a fifth (19%) of the population; followed by high blood pressure (16%); and allergies such as rhinitis, eye inflammation, dermatitis and food allergies (14%).

Despite this, the vast majority of people questioned (83%) said they believe their health to be good or very good.

But almost a third (32%) said they have a long standing illness or health condition.

Damien Lenihan, of the Central Statistics Office which released the report, said the findings give a good overview of the state of the nation’s health.

“This first release of the Irish Health Survey provides a comprehensive picture of self-reported health in Ireland,” he said.

“This is due to the breadth of the survey, examining aspects of health such as health status, health care usage, and health determinants.”

The average Irish person visits the GP six times a year, the poll found.

A quarter of the population reported taking at least one day off work over the past year because of a health-related problem.

The survey also revealed one in 10 looks after someone with a chronic health condition or infirmity due to old age.

In most cases the person being cared for is a family member.

The average number of hours spent providing care is almost 45 hours every week.

Rachel Clark, health promotion manager at the World Cancer Research Fund, said the report is incredibly worrying as being overweight or obese and drinking too much alcohol significantly increases the risk of many common cancers.

“After not smoking, being a healthy weight and avoiding alcohol are the most important things you can do to reduce your cancer risk,” she said.

“We urgently need to increase awareness across Ireland of the dangers of drinking alcohol and being overweight.”

Cockatoo filmed making tools from twigs, wood and cardboard to reach a nut

Image result for Cockatoo filmed making tools from twigs, wood and cardboard to reach nut Image result for Cockatoo filmed making tools from twigs, wood and cardboard to reach nut  Image result for Cockatoo filmed making tools from twigs, wood and cardboard to reach nut

The cockatoo perforated the cardboard with bites then tore off the strip to be used as a tool to knock the nut off the perch. A nut was placed out of reach and the birds had to solve the problem of how to reach it (as above pictures show)

Cockatoos clearly have a design in mind when they begin fashioning tools?

Cockatoos have been filmed making the same tool from three different kinds of material, proving for the first time that they have a design in mind and are anticipating how it can be used.

Tool manufacture was once thought to be unique to humans, but in recent years many animals such as chimps, crows, finches and vultures have been seen to make their own tools.

The Goffin’s cockatoo, which his native to Indonesia, is not known to use tools in the wild, but have learned in captivity.

One bird, called Figaro, who lives at the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, previously displayed the ability to spontaneously make tools by biting long splinters out of the wooden beams of its cage, which he then used to rake pieces of food that were otherwise out of reach.

Three others have since followed, showing that making such tools is within the capacity of the species.

However scientists could not tell if the birds intended to make the shape, because the wood would naturally splinter into a long shape anyway.

To test if the birds were aiming to make elongated tools that could bridge a particular distance, the researchers in Vienna and Oxford University gave them the problem of reaching a piece of food placed a few centimetres beyond a circular hole in the transparent wall of a box.

They were given four different materials that required different manipulations to produce suitable tools: larch wood, leafy beech twigs , cardboard and beeswax.

“While none of the birds succeeded in making tools out of beeswax, we found that at least some of them could make suitable tools from the three remaining materials,” said Dr Alice Auersperg, who heads the Goffin Laboratory at the University of Veterinary Medicine.

The successful parrots made well-shaped tools, even though each material required different manipulation techniques.

To make tools out of larch wood, they bit the material once or twice and tore off the resulting splinter. To use the leafy twigs, they snapped off redundant leaves and side branches until what was left was usable. Finally, to make cardboard tools, they simply cut what was necessary from the edge of the sheet provided.

‘To us, the tools made from cardboard were the most interesting ones, as this material was not pre-structured and required the birds to shape their tools more actively,” added Dr Auersperg.

” They succeeded by placing a large number of parallel bite marks along the edge of the material like a hole punch, using their curved upper beak to cut the elongated piece out of the cardboard block after reaching a certain length.

“Interestingly, this length was usually just above or very close to the minimum length required to reach the food reward placed behind the barrier.”

Co-author Professor Alex Kacelnik, from the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, said: ‘Ultimately, we want to understand how animals think – namely, to produce the equivalent of explicit computer programs capable of doing what the birds do.

“We really don’t know if the birds can picture in their minds an object that doesn’t yet exist and follow this image as a template to build something new, or how their brains elicit the appropriate set of movements to organise their response to novel problems, but this is what we are trying to find out.”

The research was published in the journal Biology Letters.