News Ireland daily BLOG as told by Donie

Thursday 9th March 2017

Irish economy outpaces euro zone countries with a 5.2% growth for 2016

Quarterly national accounts from CSO suggest output grew in all sectors of economy

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The latest figures show industrial output in 2016 increased by 2.4% in volume terms.

Ireland’s economy grew 5.2% last year, outstripping all other euro zone countries and most official forecasts for the third successive year.

While the rate of growth is a fraction of the 26% recorded for 2015, that was largely seen as an aberration.

The latest quarterly national accounts from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) suggest output increased in all sectors of the economy.

The figures show gross domestic product (GDP) accelerated 5.2% in 2016, while gross national product (GNP) rose 9%. The bigger GNP number reflects the profits associated with so-called redomiciled plcs, which have relocated their headquarters here for tax purposes.

On a quarterly basis, GDP advanced 2.4% in the final quarter of 2016, down from the 4% recorded for the three months to September.

Investment, meanwhile, jumped 45.5% to €76 billion, driven by the import of intellectual property assets to Ireland. This was linked to once-off tax planning by multinationals amid a global clampdown on corporate tax avoidance.

Personal consumption, which accounts for almost half of domestic demand and ranks as the best indicator of local economic activity, rose 3%. This tallies with the rise in employment and tax revenue evidenced in other indicators.

Vigilant view?

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan welcomed the latest figures, saying the Government was committed to remaining vigilant in the face of an increasingly uncertain external environment.

“Domestic demand is now the main driver of growth, with private consumption up 3% in 2016 supported by favourable labour market dynamics, continued increases in disposable income and solid consumer confidence.”

While his department expects growth to stay above 3% over the next three years, it has estimated that a “hard Brexit”  involving Britain exiting the EU’s single market entirely – could knock about 3.5% off GDP over the next decade.

Merrion analyst Alan McQuaid said the latest figures show personal spending and construction were holding up well, but he warned of a possible Brexit-related slowdown in headline growth. “We expect that ‘Brexit’ worries will intensify in 2017, leading to lower overall GDP growth this year.”

 Latest industrial output?

The latest figures show industrial output last year increased 2.4% in volume terms. Within the industry sector, building and construction grew 11.4%, reflecting the recovery in property.

The distribution, transport, software and communications sector grew 7.8%; while the other services and agricultural sectors grew 6% and 6.2% respectively.

Separate CSO figures on the State’s balance of payments pointed to a current account surplus of €12.5 billion in 2016, which was €26 billion lower than the surplus recorded in 2015.

Over half in favour of an empty homes tax according to Peter McVerry Trust

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Pat Doyle says tax could yield an extra €20 million per annum to the State.

The latest CSO figures show there are 198,000 empty homes, excluding holiday homes in Ireland.

New research by homeless charity the Peter McVerry Trust has found that 62% of people are in favour of a tax on empty homes.

The latest CSO figures show there are 198,000 empty homes, excluding holiday homes in Ireland.

CEO of the Peter McVerry Trust, Pat Doyle said that putting a tax on empty homes, collected through the existing property tax would yield an extra €20 million per annum to the State.

“The Government is launching at the end of the month an empty homes strategy and what we are saying is that there will be grants to encourage landlords and those who are not using their properties to bring them back. But if they won’t or they are not interested in supporting the State tackle what is a crisis in housing right now we are saying there should be a tax.

“If you turn down the grant and you don’t have a legitimate reason to bring it in and are just sitting on it waiting for property prices to go up then that’s not good enough.

“That (the tax) could bring in about €19 or € 20 million a year and would support the Government’s campaign around granting aid to landlords to bring the properties back.”

Mr Doyle told Newstalk Breakfast that the trust believes there are 13 homes for every homeless person in urban areas.

“If you do the normal, there is around two of them will be in probate, three of them in legal dispute, two of them used for the fair deal scheme where people are using the property because someone is in hospital, that still leaves half of them at moment lying idle while we have a housing crisis.”

Minister of State for Housing and Urban Renewal Damian English said the Government was not be considering a tax on vacant homes at the moment and was more focused on projects like the repair and lease initiative and the national vacant housing reuse strategy to reduce homelessness.

He said a vacant tax levy had been scheduled for 2019 but that it was not a short term solution to the housing crisis.

“We’re very clear that there would be a long lead in time if you went down that road and we actually believe that we can get a better result by putting in place new initiatives to encourage people to bring their houses forward and to make them available.”

Mr English told RTÉ Morning Ireland that the Government had “reactivated 7,000 houses over the last 3-4 years” and had spent over €100 million on bringing vacant properties back into use.

He added that Minister for Housing Simon Coveney had committed to ensuring that the 720 families currently living in commercial hotels would be moved into housing by July. This move from hotels into housing would be made possible through the use of existing housing, refurbishing vacant properties through the repair and lease initiative and the “rapid construction” of new homes.

Asked by Morning Ireland to elaborate on the target of building 1,500 homes through rapid construction, Mr English said 150 were already under construction while 350 more “are in play”.

“We know and our targets, we have the sites secured to achieve about a 1000 additional housing under the rapid construction scheme before the end of this year,” said Mr English. “The increase of supply of housing is the solution here.”

The number of homeless people in Ireland reached a new high of 7,167 in January.

Some 4,760 adults and 2,407 children were homeless in January, a marginal increase of the previous record high of 7,148 reached in December, but a rise of a quarter on the same month last year (5,715).

The situation remains worst in Dublin where 3,247 adults and 2,046 children are homeless.

The number of homeless families in the State declined by 33 in January 2017, but it was still up by a third on that time last year.

Sister of ‘Sarah’ talks of ‘horrific sex abuse’ of those who lived in the Grace Foster Home.

‘Their lives were robbed’

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The sister of a child who spent time in the ‘Grace’ Foster Home has claimed her sister ‘Sarah’, also suffered horrific sexual abuse at the home.

In an interview with David McCullagh on RTÉ’s Prime Time, the woman spoke out about her family’s experience at the foster home.

Sarah had intellectual disabilities and the family decided that the best learning option for her would be in a home that was far away from the family.

“There was a private arrangement where Sarah could go just kind of respite during the week just to give her a break from all the travelling but this wasn’t approved by the Health Board at that stage and they were keen for Sarah to go and stay in a registered foster placement.

“It was a comforting thing to our mother because she felt well if this was under the Health Board, the HSE, then all the checks were in place and that would be the best place for Sarah because she would be safe.”

Sarah’s sister said the family began to have concerns about the home?

“As a parent this is your worst nightmare. Sarah was home on a Sunday afternoon with Mom playing in the sitting room and just being in the space and Sarah was a beautiful young child and Mom said a very innocent turn of phrase and to her absolute horror Sarah got into a position, took down her pants, and kind of got into a sexual position and as you can imagine for any Mum, my mum was shocked and she just was you know immobilised.”

The family raised their concerns with the Health Board as they believed it needed to be addressed immediately.

“It was led by our mother who just looked at other options to get her out of there and to see what would offer her the best and safest environment again to learn and grow into her young teens and into adulthood and that meant that she left the jurisdiction and had to go to the North.

“We knew that Sarah had to go and leave that place but again the options were limited and again mom had to look for places outside of Ireland up to Northern Ireland.”

According to RTÉ, Sarah’s mum was one of the first whistle-blowers in the home, and a recommendation was made that another child named ‘Grace’ would be removed from the foster home but no action was taken.

“Our mother would have been the first whistle-blower and again you’re living in a different time and different context altogether and it would have taken a lot of strength and courage to go forward really start speaking out about what her concerns were and not only was she met with a brick wall, they came down really hard on our mother, there was reports written up, they were quite aggressive towards the family, they just totally bullied us in to thinking that it was all just in Mam’s head.

“On the other hand, they were doing all of these checks themselves and reaching a decision well actually there is something going wrong and Sarah was there the same time as Grace, you know their lives have been robbed in so many ways.

“Both beautiful, innocent children. Some of the most vulnerable children in our state.”

Sarah’s sister said that she is not only a victim but a survivor.

“Sarah is a victim of this but she’s also a survivor and she is one of the most incredible human beings I know. I have no idea of the pain, the physical pain and the mental torture. Sarah doesn’t have words to express what happened to her how she suffered and yet Sarah greets every day fighting.

“Some days she struggles to get out of bed, there’s so much damage done to her bowel and yet she still has the ability to laugh, she’s one of the most forgiving people you’ll meet and she fights for her life and she fights to have meaningful role within our community and be part of our family and that’s why we’ll continue to fight for her right to be heard and her to have a voice and have justice and some truth around what she’s faced and what she’s gone through.”

The family are hoping that the Commission of Investigation will give them answers into why this happened.

“I just wonder why Finian Mc Grath in his role as the Minister, particularly in his role as Minister for Disability has chosen this path. We have looked under the Freedom of Information for Sarah’s files to know who has had access to her file and yet we still haven’t got that.

“I think we’re very fortunate that we have some really strong individuals who have gone forward as whistle blowers and we know that whistle-blowers are not treated very well in this country but I think without them and without the support of lots of champions in the area this story would be very easily forgotten about and the absolute horrors that have been inflicted on young vulnerable children would be just laid to rest.”

Brain activity can continue for 10 minutes after death?

A new study reveals

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Scientists cannot explain the single delta wave.

The human brain can continue functioning for more than 10 minutes after the body has died, scientists have discovered.

Intensive care doctors reported observing the same kind of brain waves in a patient whose pulse had stopped and whose pupils were unreactive as occurs during deep sleep in healthy people.

Researchers had previously thought that brain activity ends before or shortly after the heart stops beating, although two studies last year demonstrated that genes continue to function, in some cases more energetically, in the days after people die.

The authors of the new study, published in the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, say the fresh discovery raises ethical problems as to when it is appropriate to remove donor organs in patients who appear to have died.

The Canadian doctors reported observing seeing “single delta wave bursts” in the brain of a patient after the cessation of cardiac rhythm and arterial blood pressure.

Only one of the four people studied exhibited the long-lasting and mysterious brain activity, they pointed out, with activity in most patients dying off before their heart stopped beating.

However, all of their brains behaved slightly differently in the minutes after they died.

The study authors say they have no idea why one of the brains might have continued partially functioning so long after clinical death.

Probiotic found in yogurt can reverse depression symptoms,  A study finds

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Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have reversed depression symptoms in mice by feeding them Lactobacillus, a probiotic bacteria found in live-cultures yogurt. Further, they have discovered a specific mechanism for how the bacteria affect mood, providing a direct link between the health of the gut microbiome and mental health.

Based on their findings, the researchers are optimistic that their discovery will hold true in people and are planning to confirm their findings in patients with depression.

“The big hope for this kind of research is that we won’t need to bother with complex drugs and side effects when we can just play with the microbiome,” explained lead researcher Alban Gaultier, Ph.D. “It would be magical just to change your diet, to change the bacteria you take, and fix your health – and your mood.”

Treating depression

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States, with up to 7 percent of people experiencing a major depressive episode, Gaultier noted. “It’s a huge problem and the treatments are not very good, because they come with huge side effects,” he said.

The role of the gut microbiome – the bacteria that live inside us – has been of tremendous interest to researchers studying depression and other health conditions, both mental and physical. Gaultier, of the UVA Department of Neuroscience and its Center for Brain Immunology and Glia, set out to see if he could find a concrete link between depression and gut health. “When you’re stressed, you increase your chance of being depressed, and that’s been known for a long, long time,” he said. “So the question that we wanted to ask is, does the microbiome participate in depression?”

The answer appears to be yes. Looking at the composition of the gut microbiome before and after mice were subjected to stress, Gaultier’s team found that the major change was the loss of Lactobacillus. With the loss of Lactobacillus came the onset of depression symptoms. Feeding the mice Lactobacillus with their food returned them to almost normal. “A single strain of Lactobacillus,” Gaultier observed, “is able to influence mood.”

He and his team then went on to determine the mechanism by which Lactobacillus influences depression. They found that the amount of Lactobacillus in the gut affects the level of a metabolite in the blood called kynurenine, which has been shown to drive depression. When Lactobacillus was diminished in the gut, the levels of kynurenine went up – and depression symptoms set in.

“This is the most consistent change we’ve seen across different experiments and different settings we call microbiome profiles,” explained researcher Ioana Marin, a graduate student who is finishing up her Ph.D. work. “This is a consistent change. We see Lactobacillus levels correlate directly with the behavior of these mice.”

Testing in humans ASAP.

Gaultier was careful to call the symptoms seen in mice as “depressive-like behavior” or “despair behavior,” as mice have no way to communicate that they are feeling depressed. But those symptoms are widely accepted as the best available model for looking at depression in creatures other than humans.

Based on the new findings, Gaultier plans to begin studying the effect in people as soon as possible. He intends to examine the effects of Lactobacillus on depression in patients with multiple sclerosis, a group in which the disorder is common. Promisingly, the same biological substances and mechanisms Lactobacillus uses to affect mood in mice are also seen in humans, suggesting the effect may be the same.

In addition to looking at the effects in people, the researchers are continuing to explore the important role of kynurenine. “There has been some work in humans and quite a bit in animal models talking about how this metabolite, kynurenine, can influence behavior,” Marin said. “It’s something produced with inflammation that we know is connected with depression. But the question still remains: How? How does this molecule affect the brain? What are the processes? This is the road we want to take.”

While there is no harm in people with depression eating yogurt, people receiving treatment for depression should not stop taking their medications without consulting their physicians. More studies, the researchers noted, are needed.

Low gluten diets linked to higher risk of type 2 diabetes

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Diets higher in gluten were associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Study participants who ate less gluten tended to eat less cereal fiber, a known protective factor for developing type 2 diabetes.

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, gives bread and other baked goods elasticity during the baking process and a chewy texture in finished products.

Eating more gluten may be associated with a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention / Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2017 Scientific Sessions.

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, gives bread and other baked goods elasticity during the baking process and a chewy texture in finished products. A small percentage of the population cannot tolerate gluten due to Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, but gluten-free diets have become popular for people without these conditions, even though there is lack of evidence that reducing gluten consumption provides long-term health benefits.

“We wanted to determine if gluten consumption will affect health in people with no apparent medical reasons to avoid gluten,” said Geng Zong, Ph.D., a research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts. “Gluten-free foods often have less dietary fibre and other micronutrients, making them less nutritious and they also tend to cost more. People without Celiac disease may reconsider limiting their gluten intake for chronic disease prevention, especially for diabetes.”

Micronutrients are dietary components such as vitamins and minerals.

In this long-term observational study, researchers found that most participants had gluten intake below 12 grams/day, and within this range, those who ate the most gluten had lower Type 2 diabetes risk during thirty years of follow-up. Study participants who ate less gluten also tended to eat less cereal fiber, a known protective factor for Type 2 diabetes development.

After further accounting for the potential effect of cereal fiber, individuals in the highest 20 percent of gluten consumption had a 13 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in comparison to those with the lowest daily gluten consumption (approximately fewer than 4 grams).

The researchers estimated daily gluten intake for 199,794 participants in three long-term health studies — 69,276 from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), 88,610 from the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII) and 41,908 from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) — from food-frequency questionnaires completed by participants every two to four years.

The average daily gluten intake in grams was 5.8 g/d for NHS, 6.8 g/d for NHSII, and 7.1 g/d for HPFS, and major dietary sources were pastas, cereals, pizza, muffins, pretzels, and bread.

Over the course of the study, which included 4.24 million person-years of follow-up from 1984-1990 to 2010-2013, 15,947 cases of Type 2 diabetes were confirmed.

Study participants reported their gluten consumption and the study was observational, therefore findings warrant confirmation by other investigations. Also, most of the participants took part in the study before gluten-free diets became popular, so there is no data from gluten abstainers.

News Ireland daily BLOG as told byDonie

Sunday 5th March 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talks suspended?

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

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

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

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

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

A staff reduction?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U2 at the top of Irelands rich list chart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Independent MEP Marian Harkin.

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

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

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

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

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

A six-hundred kilometre round-trip?

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

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

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

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

Saving the lab petition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Ireland as told by DONIE

Ireland Monday 27th February 2017

A child became homeless in Ireland every five hours in January, Dáil is told

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‘Shameful’ statistic shows Government policy not working, says FF TD Barry Cowen. 

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen accused the Government of attempting to bamboozle people with details.

Focus Ireland said a child became homeless every five hours in January, a statistic called “shameful” by Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Barry Cowen.
“We are obliged in this House to seek to remove whatever obstacles that are preventing the implementation of any plans,” Mr Cowen told the Dáil on Thursday.
He said only 1,829 housing units were under construction as part of the Government’s plans. “The rest are going through various stages and the majority of them were approved over two years ago,” he said.
Mr Cowen accused the Government of being obsessed about announcements in the hope that people would be bamboozled by detail.
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, who took Opposition Leaders’ Questions, said the country was in a extraordinarily difficult economic situation just a few years ago. On Wednesday, she told the Dáil that unemployment figures were revealed to be down 6.8 per cent, a figure Fianna Fáil said would never be reached, she added.
The Government was providing more money and more detailed work with local authorities to deal with the housing situation, Ms Fitzgerald said.
Repair and leasing
The Tánaiste later said the allocation of €32 million to deal with repair and leasing of housing would be announced and local authorities would work to ensure that more properties were available for people seeking housing.
She said the four Dublin local authorities had confirmed the target would be met to ensure children and families would not be using hotels in the city.
There was a targeted social plan, but it would take some time, Ms Fitzgerald added.
Later, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said last year 2,700 “housing solutions” were put in place for homeless individuals and families.
In the past number of months, he said, the Government had managed to stop the significant increase by taking a lot of people out of homelessness as quickly as possible.
“We need to ensure that we slow down the numbers becoming homelessness and continue to increase the pace in which we can facilitate the transition out of emergency accommodation,” Mr Coveney added.
“I am still confident we can do that by July 1st.”
Mr Coveney said it was a big job to get between 700 and 800 families out of hotel accommodation and into appropriate accommodation in that period, but the Government was determined to do it.

RSA Ireland losses widen on setting aside £50m for prior-year accidents

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Insurer targets return to Irish operating profitability this year after £42 million losses.

RSA Insurance Ireland’s operating loss widened by 62% last year after the country’s once-largest provider of motor and property coverage was forced to set aside £50 million (€59.1 million) of reserves to cover the costs of accidents in 2014 and 2015.
The local subsidiary of London-listed RSA Group posted a £42 million full-year loss compared with a £26 million loss for 2015. The performance was described by the parent as “disappointing”, especially as it had returned last year to writing new business on a profitable basis, as it and the wider industry hiked rates.
Insurers in the Republic have increased motor rates by almost 60 per cent over the past three years, according to Central Statistics Office data, in an effort to return to profitability as they struggle with rising claims, attributed to more cars on our roads in a recovering economy and spiralling court awards.
RSA Insurance Ireland has suffered more than most, as it was embroiled in an accounting scandal in 2013, when it emerged the company had not been setting aside enough reserves to cover large claims.
RSA said it is targeting a return to operating profitability for the Irish unit this year “through continued underwriting improvement, portfolio remediation and cost reduction”. However, it warned that the unit may face “additional reserve volatility” this year as a result of claims inflation on the back of the Personal Injuries Assessment board recently updating its so-called “book of quantum” – the guidelines for injury awards and judicial reviews.
As a result of the additional amount of money RSA Insurance Ireland had to set aside to cover higher expected costs from accidents in 2014 and 2015, its combined ratio – a keenly followed figure that measures insurance losses and expenses against premiums earned – rose to 116.2% from 113.4% year-on-year. A combined ratio off less than 100% indicates an insurer is writing insurance on a profitable basis.
“The prior year loss is predominantly in the Republic of Ireland commercial and motor portfolios, where a combination of higher-than-expected claims and the distortion of our reserving patterns following the events of 2013 have resulted in further strengthening of reserves during 2016,” the company said.
“The issues have been amplified by a challenging Irish market, characterised by aggressive claims inflation and increasing litigation mitigated by a very hard rating environment.”
The bulk of the additional provisioning appeared to be in RSA’s commercial insurance business rather than its personal line, comparing the full-year results with its interim figures that were published in August.
RSA said premiums in Ireland were up 6% last year to £306 million from a year earlier. This was largely driven by continued rating actions. Net written personal premiums rose 2% to £185 million with commercial premiums increasing 12% to £121 million.
Insurers have been less able to rely in recent years on investment income to cushion the blow from underwriting losses, as they grapple with low global bond yields. RSA Insurance Ireland’s investment profit fell to £7 million last year from £9 million in 2015.
The latest results come a day after three former RSA Insurance Ireland staff Rory O’Connor, Martin Ryan and Gerard Bradley were fined a combined £182,000 (€206,090) under sanctions tied to an investigation by a UK accounting watchdog into financial irregularities at the firm in 2012.
The Dublin-based insurer’s London-listed parent RSA Insurance Group injected €423 million of cash between 2013 and 2015 after the country’s once-largest insurer was thrown into crisis when it emerged it had a large hole in its balance sheet. This was mainly the result of the business having been found at the time to have set aside too little money in reserve to cover large claims.
RSA Group made a further €90 million available to the Irish division, if needed, last March to bolster its balance sheet under new insurance capital rules, known as Solvency II.
The continuing woes of the Irish business contrast with a 25% surge in operating profits delivered by the broader RSA Group last year, to £655 million. The group, which has been undergoing a restructuring programme under ex-RBS boss Stephen Hester, raised its target for return on tangible equity to 13-17% from a previous range of 12-15% on Thursday, and said it hoped to “perform in the upper part of this range”.
RSA said its cost-reduction programme was ahead of original targets and it was upgrading that target for a third time to more than £400 million sterling of gross annualised savings by 2018, from a previous target of more than £350 million.
The insurer said it would pay a final dividend of 11 pence per share and total dividend of 16 pence, up 52% from a year earlier and above a forecast 15.1 pence.

Tesco calls on union to reconsider strikes after five more stores vote no

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Six ballots held on Wednesday night with all but one store voting against strike action

Tesco has called on Mandate to re-visit its strike strategy after five more stores voted against joining the picket.
There were six “supportive ballots” held on Wednesday night with all but one store voting against strike action. There are currently pickets on 16 stores, with six more set to go on strike from next Monday.
The strike centres around what the Mandate union says is an attempt by Tesco management to enforce contract changes which will see the wages of staff recruited before 1996 fall by more than 15%.
Tesco has repeatedly denied this and says it needs to make changes to contracts to reflect an altered retail environment which now includes late-night and online shopping, as well as Sunday openings.
It says only a very small number of staff will see contract changes and promised that they will not lose out financially.
In a statement, Tesco said that 23 stores, or more than of half the shops balloted, had “overwhelmingly refused to co-operate with the union’s strike”.
The company said there was “an onus now on Mandate to face up to the emphatic decisions by the majority of colleagues. It is incumbent on Mandate after tonight’s strike rejections to re-visit its strike plans.”
The spokeswoman said it was “incontrovertible that Mandate’s strike plan is not being endorsed, as is shown not just by the union’s overwhelming losses in ballots, but also by the increasing number of colleagues crossing picket lines to return to work, with a further increase today.”
The company said the union would have to “urgently reconsider its refusal to accept the Labour Court Recommendation and its undermining of the industrial relations processes at the company and of the State, including its use of a Labour Court intervention to try to strengthen its hand in ballots.”
However, Mandate has said supportive ballots in other stores will continue next week and has said intense pressure by management on staff in voting stores was having an impact on outcome of the ballots.

Eat more fruit and veg for a longer life & eat 10 portions a day

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Eating loads of fruit and vegetables – 10 portions a day – may give us longer lives, say researchers.

The study, by Imperial College London, calculated such eating habits could prevent 7.8 million premature deaths each year.

The team also identified specific fruit and veg that reduced the risk of cancer and heart disease.
The analysis showed even small amounts had a health boon, but more is even better.
A portion counts as 80g (3oz) of fruit or veg – the equivalent of a small banana, a pear or three heaped tablespoons of spinach or peas.
What counts as five-a-day?
The conclusions were made by pooling data on 95 separate studies, involving two million people’s eating habits.

Lower risks of cancer were linked to eating:
1. green veg (eg spinach)
2. yellow veg (eg peppers)
3. cruciferous vegetables (eg cauliflower).

Lower risks of heart disease and strokes were linked to eating:
1. apples
2. pears
3. citrus fruits
4. salads
5. green leafy vegetables (eg lettuce)
6. cruciferous veg.et is a big fan of spinach.

Harriet Micallef, from Chippenham, says she often manages eight to 10 portions a day and has multiple portions of spinach every day.
She told the BBC: “I have a lot, I don’t ever have a meal without veg or salad so eight to 10 portions is a regular thing.”
She starts her day with a veg-packed omelette containing spinach and sometimes avocado or tomatoes.
Harriet’s salad-based lunch is also packed with a mix of veg and her evening meals tend to be stir fries or stews.
Snacks during the day include blended fruit smoothies or peppers dipped in hummus.
She added: “It’s definitely healthy, if you’ve got loads of colours on your plate then you’re pretty much okay.”
The results, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, also assessed the risk of dying before your time.
Compared with eating no fruit or veg a day, it showed:
• 200g cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by 13% while 800g cut the risk by 28%
• 200g cut the risk of cancer by 4%, while 800g cut the risk by 13%
• 200g cut the risk of a premature death by 15%, while 800g cut the risk by 31%
The researchers do not know if eating even more fruit and veg would have even greater health benefits as there is little evidence out there to review.
Dr Dagfinn Aune, one of the researchers, said: “Fruit and vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and to boost the health of our blood vessels and immune system.
“This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold.
“For instance, they contain many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage and lead to a reduction in cancer risk.”
However, many people struggle to even eat the five a day (400g) recommended by the World Health Organization.
In the UK, only about one in three people eats enough.
Heather Saunders, 24 and from Oxford, routinely manages nine or 10 portions a day since becoming vegan.
She has two pieces of fruit with breakfast, a “massive pot” of roasted vegetables at lunch and then at least four vegetables in curries or chillies in the evening.
She told the BBC: “It is about making a conscious decision, I feel fuelling myself with plant-based foods is a more healthy way to sustain myself.”
Her tips for anyone trying to eat more is to do it gently: “Maybe decide to have one or two meat-free days a week and phase more veg in, I quite like a sweet potato curry with spinach and chickpeas.”
Dr Aune said the findings did not mean the five-a-day message needed to change.
He told the BBC: “There are many different considerations if changing policy, it’s not just the health effects – is it feasible?
“But our findings are quite clear in that they do support five a day, but there are even some further benefits for higher intakes.”
• Five-a-day advice ‘unrealistic’ says new GPs’ head
• Take the test: are you getting five-a-day?
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “The five-a-day target is the foundation of a healthy balanced diet and is an achievable way to help prevent a number of diseases.
“Whilst consuming more than five portions of fruit and vegetables a day may be desirable… adding pressure to consume more fruit and vegetables creates an unrealistic expectation.”

Bumble bees found to have ‘impressive’ brain power as they are trained to score ‘goals’

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Bumblebees can teach each other how to score “goals” with a tiny ball, a new study finds

Bumblebees can teach each other how to score “goals” with a tiny ball, displaying a learning ability never before seen in insects, a study has shown.
The bees surprised scientists by working out how to use a novel tool to obtain a food reward simply by watching their neighbours.
In the experiment, the bees were placed on a platform and had to roll a yellow ball to a specific location – or “goal” – in order to obtain a sugar solution.
They were given two types of training, either watching a previously trained bee “score”, or being shown the ball that appeared to move on its own with help of an unseen magnet.
Insects that observed the success of other bees were better at learning the task than those given the “ghost” demonstration.
Project leader Professor Lars Chittka, from Queen Mary, University of London’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, said: “Our study puts the final nail in the coffin of the idea that small brains constrain insects to have limited behavioural flexibility and only simple learning abilities.”
The bees did not simply copy exactly what they saw, but figured out their own way to get the ball to the right destination.
“This shows an impressive amount of cognitive flexibility, especially for an insect,” said Dr Olli Loukola, another member of the Queen Mary team.
During the tests, the bees had to roll a ball from the edge of the platform to the centre.
Initially, “demonstrator” bees were trained by watching a plastic bee pushing the ball to the goal.
They then moved the ball in front of other bees undergoing training, who quickly learned the same trick.
But in later trials “observer” bees faced with a choice of three balls made a beeline for the one closest to the goal, rather than the one at the platform edge.
In yet another test they had to move a differently coloured ball to earn the reward.
Dr Loukola said: “It may be that bumblebees, along with many other animals, have the cognitive capabilities to solve such complex tasks, but will only do so if environmental pressures are applied to necessitate such behaviours.”

News Ireland as told by Donie

Sunday 19th February 2017

Varadkar and Coveney in dogfight for power as gap closes on successor to Enda

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The likely lads to succeed Enda Kenny above?

Simon Coveney has dramatically narrowed rival Leo Varadkar’s lead as the public’s favourite to succeed Enda Kenny yes but there is also clear evidence that a third candidate could emerge to win a Fine Gael leadership contest, according to a Sunday Independent/Kantar Millward Brown opinion poll.

Social Protection Minister Mr Varadkar (27%) has a slight lead over Housing Minister Mr Coveney (23%), but almost a quarter of all voters favour somebody else (16%) or neither (8%) of the two front-runners to lead Fine Gael, according to the nationwide poll.

This is the first time that those polled were offered a choice of just two candidates to succeed Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Mr Kenny.

Mr Varadkar (37%) extends his lead over Mr Coveney (28%) among Fine Gael supporters, according to the opinion poll, but again almost one-quarter of party supporters favour somebody else (15%), or neither front-runner (7%), should Mr Kenny decide to step down.

Yesterday, Mr Varadkar increased the pressure on Mr Kenny to make his continued leadership intentions known, but the Taoiseach told the Sunday Independent he intended to “focus on the job in hand” which, his spokesman said, he would carry out with “continued dedication and dignity”.

But today’s opinion poll contains further findings which will add to the mounting pressure on Mr Kenny to resign. The state of the parties shows Fianna Fail (33%) — up six points since a comparable poll in October — has opened up an eight-point lead over Fine Gael (25%), down four points.

Fianna Fail is extending its lead — it is now at its highest point since 2008 — at a time when there has been a marked increase in consumer confidence.

The poll finds 23% believe they are better off than they were last year,  a seven-point increase, and 21pc feel worse off, a nine-point decrease, while 27% feel they will be better off next year, a seven point increase, and 14% feel they will be worse off, a nine- point decrease.

The poll also shows Sinn Fein (20%) unchanged, Labour (6%) down two points, the Greens (2pc) unchanged and Independents/others (14%) down one point.

Mr Varadkar told the Sunday Independent: “Everyone is waiting to hear from the Taoiseach. The current situation is distracting and destabilising for the Government, the party and the country. I have full confidence in the Taoiseach to settle it.”

Simon Coveney and his wife Ruth at the wedding Photo: Gerry Mooney

However, Mr Coveney said the Taoiseach should not be forced to “set a date” for his departure.

“Enda is still the leader of our party – he has been for 15 years. I think he deserves the respect to be given time and space to make any decisions he thinks he needs to make.”

Today’s poll also finds Mr Kenny’s satisfaction rating (27%) down just two points and dissatisfaction rating (62%) up three points since October. Furthermore, satisfaction with the Government (27%), down four points, and dissatisfaction (64%), up two points, have not significantly changed despite recent political turmoil.

The poll, among a representative sample of 960, was carried out between February 6 and 16 and has a margin of error of 3.2%.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (44%), up one point, remains comfortably the most popular party leader with an unchanged dissatisfaction rating of 40%.

However, only a slim majority (53%), down one point, want Mr Kenny to resign as Fine Gael leader while 25%, up one point, want him to remain. Fascinatingly, a majority (57%) of Fine Gael supporters say Mr Kenny should remain leader, a finding which may encourage him to resist pressure to resign and choose the time of his own departure. Furthermore, 73% of Fine Gael supporters are satisfied with his leadership.

Also interestingly, of those who believe Mr Kenny should remain, more opt for Mr Coveney (29%) than Mr Varadkar (27%c) as his successor, a finding which indicates that the Housing Minister is in a position to win the backing of more of Mr Kenny’s supporters in a leadership contest.

Of those who believe Mr Kenny should resign, 31% would support Mr Varadkar and 28% would support Mr Coveney.

These findings show that while Mr Varadkar must be the favourite to succeed Mr Kenny, a Fine Gael leadership contest would be far from a foregone conclusion.

Yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said Fine Gael needed to “keep calm and measured over the next few months” or the party would “catapult ourselves into a messy general election that will play into the hands of Sinn Fein and the loony left”.

Today’s opinion poll, however, finds that support for Independents and smaller parties has almost halved since the General Election.

Furthermore, when asked which party or political grouping they would not consider voting for in the next election, the poll finds that the Socialist Party (22%), up seven points; AAA-PBP (22%), up four points; Greens (20%), up three points; and Social Democrats (14%), up four points, appear to be falling out of favour with voters, while 36%, down two points, say they would not consider voting for Sinn Fein.

Tribalism is still a problem in Northern Ireland politics after 20 years of peace

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It is no great surprise to see that Northern Ireland politics are still as polarised as ever nearly two decades after the Good Friday Agreement was signed in a wave of optimism that society here could be changed forever.

It is no great surprise to see that Northern Ireland politics are still as polarised as ever nearly two decades after the Good Friday Agreement was signed in a wave of optimism that society here could be changed forever.

The survey from the Electoral Reform Society shows that only a tiny proportion of unionists or nationalists would ever contemplate voting first for a party outside their own bloc.

And even though the STV system allows voters to give their preferences right through the list for their constituency, few Catholics or Protestants would put their mark in the box of an opposing party.

Around one-third of all preferences were for parties outside the big four – DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP and UUP – but that does not give a corresponding return of Assembly Members. The centre ground still remains a minority.

Little wonder that UUP leader Mike Nesbitt received such a cold shoulder from even his own party when he said he would vote for a SDLP candidate as a second preference in the forthcoming election. His gesture may be the ideal way to conduct politics, but obviously tribal considerations trump real cross-party co-operation.

So where did it all go wrong after the Good Friday Agreement? The hope for a brighter future was fuelled first by the ending of conflict, but the guerrilla war conducted by the DUP and Sinn Fein against the original power-sharing partners, the UUP and SDLP, ensured that devolution never gained the momentum it should have.

The decision eventually by the DUP and Sinn Fein to share power offered new hope, but this has dwindled over the last decade as the parties both retreated towards the trenches in a welter of bad feeling and even more virulent language.

We are now a fortnight away from a new election, but the prospect of an early return to devolved government seems remote.

The inevitable conclusion – unless there is an unprecedented sea-change in voting habits – is that the majority of those who go to the polls are content to keep to their tribal silos no matter what the implications.

The one glimmer of hope is that a significant number of the 45% of voters who didn’t bother going to the polls last May – either through apathy or weariness -turn out this time and change voting patterns to register their displeasure with the status quo. History is not encouraging.

An Irish mum shares a heart-breaking video of her 21-year-old scoliosis daughter in agonising pain?

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A Kildare mum Tina O’Kelly has shared a video of her 21-year-old daughter Colleen in agony and pleaded with Health Minister Simon Harris for a surgery date.

Colleen O’Kelly has Joubert Syndrome and has now been waiting for an appointment for two years just to get on the list for scoliosis surgery.

Her mum Tina says that Colleen’s condition will worsen, unless she is granted surgery. The rate of curvature of her daughter’s spine is at 97%, and apart from causing Colleen to live with agonising chronic pain, it significantly increases her risk of lung collapse, pneumonia, and respiratory infections.

Tina spoke to Her Family about the heart-breaking situation,

“I wish that the HSE management and the government would stop blaming each other and just get together to get the root of this mess.

The HSE says it’s caused by a lack of money and the government say that it’s not a lack of money that’s the problem, but rather mismanagement of it.

While they are busy squabbling with each other nothing is getting done.”

The Naas mum explained that her 21-year-old daughter has already undergone a kidney transplant but unfortunately Colleen still has no date for surgery to correct the painful curvature of her spine,

“When Colleen turned 18 she had to be transferred from the care of Crumlin to Tallaght hospital as an adult patient. Her doctor in Crumlin essentially had to write a letter referring her to himself – from one of his patient lists to another.

She has waited two years just to get on another waiting list, she has been on the surgery waiting list since last August. The secretary said she’d ask the doctor for a 7th of March listing but I have heard nothing.”

Tina told us that Colleen is a fighter who has been through so much but has managed to keep a smile on her face,

“She is normally such a happy, happy person. She has flown through her transplant…through everything…with a smile on her face. That’s why it’s so heart-breaking to see her suffering like this now. She doesn’t have to suffer like this. This is avoidable.”

Tina says that she agonised over sharing a video of her daughter crying in pain, but she wants people to see the completely avoidable reality that they live with on a daily basis,

“Everyone that knows Colleen knows how amazingly happy she is. Lately her scoliosis has really been causing awful problems for her and it’s heart-breaking. She has no date for surgery. We have no idea when it will be.

This is the reality of living with this condition. It’s getting worse and compromising her health that we have fought so hard for all her life. It’s compromising her kidney transplant.

We wait every day for word from Tallaght.

We want her pain to end – she’s been through enough – and call on Simon Harris to fix this. ”

Take a minute to boost your fitness the easy way & it works

Rose Costello looks at the quickest and simplest way to get fitter?

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If you think that running for the bus is a waste of time, think again. Even if you don’t catch that bus, you will be doing a lot more for your fitness than you might realise. The latest research shows that taking exercise in short bursts could be just what the doctor ordered.

It’s known as high-intensity interval training (Hiit) and it is now part of any fitness instructor’s offering. Even those who can’t be bothered to go to a gym or who don’t have the time can benefit.

High-intensity training means really pushing yourself for a short amount of time, resting, then pushing yourself again. What’s shocking is how little time it can take to make a difference to your fitness.

A report published in the PLOS One journal last year followed two groups over 12 weeks: one spent just 10 minutes on training that included intense intervals that added up to one minute; the second group worked out at a moderate, even pace for 45 minutes. The surprise is that the two groups saw similar improvements in health. There are a number of other studies showing equally encouraging results.

Claire Mc Glynn, a competitive weightlifter and personal trainer at cmgfit.com in Dublin, loves to use Hiit and says it is the best and quickest way to achieve positive results in your physical and mental health. “It’s very simple really – everyone knows that when you put 100 per cent of effort into something, you get the best results and there is no exception when it comes to exercise.”

Level of intensity?

Mc Glynn points out that she can do the same Hiit routine as a beginner, but if they both do it at their top level of intensity, they both benefit dramatically. There is no need for modification of a routine for beginners. They key is to feel that you are pushing past your own comfort.

They might curse me for asking them to do it,” she says, “but once they’re doing it, the adrenaline kicks in and it’s just a matter of working through the process. Afterwards, endorphins – happy hormones – have been released and they’re tired, yet contented and have an air of accomplishment, and sometimes surprise at what they have been able to achieve.”

The 29-year-old runs hardcore classes in CrossFit353, which involves using heavy weights or pushing around massive tyres for fun. But she also teaches members of the Retired Teachers’ Association of Ireland, who are between 50 and 70.

“Their progress has been unbelievable. Many started with me two years ago and now they are blitzing sessions of many, many squats, lunges, push-ups, plank holds for up to three minutes and so on. Their mobility, strength, fitness, self-belief and confidence has increased tenfold.”

Hiit also boosts your metabolism, ie the rate at which you burn calories, for hours afterwards.

No class needed?

Good form is key on whatever exercise you are doing, she says. “There is no point in repping out 100 squats if your back is rounded and knees are caving in, you’ll just do more harm than good.”

You don’t have to join a class to experience the benefit, however. These are principles you can put into practice every day. This doesn’t mean you should give up on beach walks, rather that you should run after that bus with abandon, for a minute anyway. And regardless of whether you catch it or not, you will have done yourself some good.

The World Health Organisation advises adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week or at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Incorporating Hiit doesn’t mean slacking off, simply realising that a few sharp bursts can be valuable too.

If you cannot exercise most days, but try to get out at the weekend, take heart. A report last month in the JAMA Internal Medicinejournal shows that “weekend warriors”, who did all their exercise on one or two days of the week, were found to lower their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 41 per cent and cancer by 18 per cent, compared with the inactive. Even those who didn’t manage to get the 150 minutes of activity advised by the WHO reduced their risk of early death by one-third.

Push yourself

For those not exercising now, walking quickly can count as “high-intensity” if you push yourself. Even a brisk 20-minute daily walk could reduce your risk of early death, according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Exercise in 2015. The study of more than 334,000 Europeans found that twice as many deaths may be attributable to a lack of physical activity compared with the number attributable to obesity, but that a modest increase in physical activity could have significant health benefits.

An earlier study in the Lancet in 2012 said that inactivity was killing about as many people as smoking.

If you have been following this series, you should be eating a pretty balanced diet that gives you more energy. Put that energy to good use by adding in some extra exercise – or even just some exercise.

An effective way?

The maxim still holds that you cannot outrun a bad diet, but to be healthy you need to do some exercise too. Using the principles of high-intensity interval training is an easy and effective way to achieve results without putting in too much effort.

Ashley Borden of the Body Foundation in California, who has trained actor Ryan Gosling, says she uses Hiit training because it is efficient, burns fat and builds muscle. There is no need to have any fancy equipment either, just the focus to really go for it for half a minute at a time.

This all comes with a proviso, of course: as with any form of exercise, you need to be in fairly decent shape to get started. If not, or if you are on medication or have any concerns or conditions, check with your doctor first. And wear the appropriate footwear. Then go for it.

GM ‘surrogate hens’ could lay eggs of rare chicken breeds,

So scientists say

A radical plan to maintain diversity of gene pool proposes the use of genetically modified chickens as surrogate mothers?

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Some of the genetically modified chickens bred by scientists at the Roslin Institute.

The Rumpless Game is squawky and, as its name suggests, lacks a tail, while the Burmese Bantam, has fantastically flared leg feathers and a head like a feather duster. But the true value of rare chicken breeds, according to a team of scientists working to save them from obsolescence, is not their decorative crests and plumage, but the diversity they bring to the chicken gene pool.

In a radical plan to preserve rare varieties such as the Nankin, Scots Dumpy and Sicilian Buttercup, scientists at the the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute have bred genetically modified chickens designed to act as surrogates that would be capable of laying eggs from any rare breed.

Speaking to journalists at the AAAS conference in Boston, Mike McGrew, who is leading the project, said: “These chickens are a first step in saving and protecting rare poultry breeds from loss.”

The surrogacy technique, which places a new, mind-bending twist on the classic chicken or egg question, involves first genetically engineering hens to be sterile. This is done by deleting a gene, called DDX4, that is required for the development of primordial follicles (the precursors to eggs) meaning that the surrogate hens will never lay eggs that are biologically their own.

A baby bantam. The scientists’ ultimate goal is to create a gene bank of chicken breeds preserved for posterity.

A batch of sterile GM chicks hatched at the Roslin Institute in 2016, becoming the first genetically modified birds created in Europe. “We produced a hen that doesn’t have any eggs,” said McGrew, who is first author on a paper on the work published this week in the journal Development.

The next step will be to transplant follicles from rare birds into the surrogate (this is done before the surrogate chick is hatched from its own egg), meaning it would go on to lay eggs belonging to entirely different breeds of chicken.

Given that the hens would also need to be artificially inseminated with sperm from the same rare variety, the approach may appear unnecessarily convoluted. Why not just breed the rare birds the normal way?

The scientists’ ultimate goal is to create a gene bank of chicken breeds preserved for posterity, and since primordial follicles can be frozen efficiently, while eggs cannot, the surrogacy technique serves an essential work-around.

The Roslin team has set up the Frozen Aviary, a £14m project aimed at preserving a wide variety of poultry breeds.

“We’re interested in chicken because that is the animal which is the most consumed animal on the planet and we want to protect all the different breeds of chickens that we have,” said McGrew. “So we can freeze down all the breeds of chicken.”

McGrew predicts that the surrogates will be able to lay eggs from any breed, including chicken’s wild predecessor, the red junglefowl, but he is doubtful about whether it will work efficiently across species – it is not likely that the surrogate hens will be giving birth to eagle chicks, for instance.

Richard Broad, a field officer for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, said the idea was appealing: “You can save all kinds of breeds, put them in a freezer and there would be a genetic ark for us.”

A Salmon Faverolle chicken. Scientists say rare breeds can bring diversity to the chicken gene pool.

“If you had one in every country it would be a wonderful thing. In terms of usefulness, we couldn’t wish for anything better – it would be unbelievably useful.”

Broad agreed that rare chickens could be a source of valuable genetic variation, potentially carrying variants that would provide resistance against new forms of avian flu. “It’s not what we’re protecting in the breeds that’s important, it’s what those breeds represent in their genes,” he said.

The Frozen Aviary, which would allow scientists to rapidly expand populations that contained a protective gene for a new disease, bring breeds back to life after they had been declared extinct and provide an insurance against commercial breeds, which have been honed for their fast-growing, being wiped out by a disease.

The avian biobank currently has genetic material from 25 different breeds and more than 500 samples from individual birds, all stored in liquid nitrogen cryostats. “They should be good – as long as the power doesn’t go out – for decades,” said McGrew.

At present, the team is focused on chicken breeds, but expects the technique to work to preserve rare varieties of ducks, geese and quail. Previously, scientists in Dubai used a similar technique in male birds to create a houbara (a large bustard) fathered by a cockerel.

In the future, it may also be possible to use the technique to conserve endangered species such as golden eagles – although this would depend on a suitable surrogate being identified.

“The question remains open on how evolutionarily related they have to be for them to transplant them,” said McGrew. “You need a bird that can be bred in captivity and produce a lot of eggs.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 15th February 2017

Another Garda whistle-blower demands inclusion of their case in public inquiry

Keith Harrison claims he and his girlfriend endured surveillance and referrals to Tusla?

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A second Garda whistle-blower has demanded that his case is included in a public inquiry into an alleged smear campaign against Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Another Garda whistle-blower has demanded that his case is included in a public inquiry into an alleged smear campaign against Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Keith Harrison claims he and his girlfriend endured covert and overt surveillance, referrals to Tusla – the Child and Family Agency, and that they were the victim of rumour, innuendo and malicious falsehoods.

Garda Harrison issued a lengthy statement through his solicitor after Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed a tribunal was being set up into the scandal of unfounded and false sex abuse claims being peddled against Sgt McCabe.

Mr Harrison claimed there is an “orchestrated system and culture” among senior management of the force that dictates the treatment of whistleblowers.

Mr Harrison said: “The efforts of this Government to restrict the inquiry/commission of investigation to the very traumatic story of Sgt McCabe absolutely ensures we will not get to the bottom of the culture of management failures and ill-treatment of whistleblowers within An Garda Síochána. ”

Effectively forced

The Government was effectively forced into ordering the tribunal with hearings to be public.

The decision was taken after Mr McCabe and his wife Lorraine said they would not accept any investigation into the controversy being held behind closed doors.

“There’s nothing worse in this country than to be called a sex abuser, nothing worse,” the Taoiseach told the Dáil.

The terms of reference of the tribunal are expected to be finalised in the next 48 hours, with the Government now under deepening pressure to extend it to include other whistle-blowers.

Who is Sgt Maurice McCabe?

In 2008, Sgt Maurice McCabe raised concerns about quashing of penalty points. In 2012, he was banned from using Pulse, the Garda system through which he identified questionable quashing. Controversy over his treatment led to resignations of Garda commissioner Martin Callinan and minister for justice Alan Shatter. In due course, Sgt McCabe was vindicated over his main complaint.

The Garda whistle-blowers: We found this helpful a Yes No

Garda Harrison, who was previously nominated for a Scott Medal for bravery but has been on extended sick leave, was stationed in Athlone when he stopped a colleague on suspicion of drink-driving in 2009.

He also raised concerns about drug-dealing investigations.

In the statement issued on behalf of Mr Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms, their solicitor claimed that since then both he and his family suffered victimisation, bullying, and intimidation.

Disciplinary action?

He has also faced disciplinary action and threatened criminal prosecution.

The officer was prosecuted for having no insurance on his car and he was reported to Tusla.

Garda Harrison has spoken out before and some of his claims have been put on the record in the Dáil.

“It is our belief that senior management within An Garda Síochána set out to attack and destroy our family because I sought to speak out about malpractice within the force,” Mr Harrison said.

“In doing so they tried to discredit me, and also reported ‘concerns’ regarding the wellbeing of my partner’s children, leading to a Tusla investigation, which revealed no risk whatsoever.”

Garda Harrison said his treatment bears similarities to the experience of Sgt McCabe and his family.

“It is clear to us the incidents contained in the disclosures of Supt (David) Taylor and Sgt McCabe are not isolated but rather, along with our experience, identifies a common approach within the senior management of An Garda Síochána to whistleblowers,” Mr Harrison said.

Under pressure

Amid the second whistle-blower going public, the Government is under pressure for Ministers, including the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, to formally explain what they knew and when they knew it, regarding the McCabe affair.

The sergeant was at the centre of an unfounded and false report on a Tusla file of an allegation of sex abuse against a colleague’s daughter.

A counsellor working on behalf of the agency has claimed the error was made when details from a different case were cut and pasted on to a file.

Sgt McCabe has rejected an apology issued by the Health Service Executive at the weekend.

A horrific ordeal?

And in a four-page statement issued on Monday, Sgt McCabe accused Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan of privately discrediting him while publicly declaring her support over his horrific ordeal.

The officer claimed the Garda chief’s lawyers set out to discredit him at the O’Higgins Commission which investigated and vindicated a series of allegations by Sgt McCabe of negligence in policing in the Cavan-Monaghan district.

Irish Cabinet approves new Irish drink-driving laws

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The Cabinet has approved new laws that will automatically ban all those caught drink driving from the roads.

Currently, first-time offenders are not necessarily disqualified and can pay a fine and get three penalty points.

Transport Minister Shane Ross said that this sends out the wrong road safety message.

Welcoming the decision to approve the General Scheme of a Road Traffic (Fixed Penalty – Drink Driving) Bill 2017, Minister Ross said: “The evidence shows that despite a perception to the contrary, drink driving continues to be a very serious issue in this country.

“We can no longer be ambivalent in our attitude toward this destructive practice.”

“What I am now proposing is that the existing provision allowing people to get penalty points rather than a disqualification for drink driving sends the wrong message and should go.

“Instead of three penalty points, such drivers will get a three-month disqualification. This is quite proportionate.

“Drink driving is serious, and potentially fatal. Even a small amount of alcohol can impair people’s reactions, and that cannot be tolerated when people are behind the wheel of a car.”

The Minister expressed his hope that this Bill can be passed quickly and without amendment.

Minister Ross added: “It is important to get it out there and working, and with it the message that drink driving will no longer be without serious consequences.

“This is an important step on the road to enacting what will be a focused, timely and urgently needed piece of legislation which will ultimately save lives.”

The General Scheme will now be submitted to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for formal drafting, with a view to its publication as soon as possible.

In line with Government policy, the Minister will also refer the General Scheme to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport for its consideration.

New Irish tenancy laws confuse both the tenants and landlords

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The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016, announced before Christmas, aimed to bring a greater level of predictability to the rental market. However, confusion remains for both tenants and landlords.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney last month announced an extension of the existing list of rent pressure zones (RPZs). The list now includes most of Galway City as well as 23 smaller commuter towns, including Cork City suburbs such as Douglas and Ballincollig.

While tenants will welcome the new measures in a climate of rapidly rising rents, many landlords see them as curtailing their potential rental income and their ability to manage their properties.

What does it mean if I live in a RPZ?

For those properties now located within a RPZ, rent rises are capped at 4% per year for three years. There is also a set formula which landlords must use when calculating the reviewed rent. This cap doesn’t apply if the property was vacant (before the current new letting), and was not let at any time in the 24 months before the area became an RPZ. The cap also won’t apply where there has been a substantial change in the nature of the accommodation since the rent was last set. For example, if major refurbishment works have been undertaken which would change the market rent applicable for that property.

How often will landlords be able to review rents?

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2015 had restricted a landlord’s ability to review rents to once every two years, so many tenants may now be confused as to when their rent can next be reviewed. The new legislation means that, in the case of existing tenancies within RPZs, the cap on rent rises will apply when the next rent review falls. So, if you are currently within a rent review freeze, the RPZ designation will become relevant once those two years are up. When that next review occurs, rent reviews will then be allowed annually, rather than every two years.

What happens when I have rented a property for six months or more?

Once you have lived in a property for more than six months, a part 4 tenancy occurs, entitling you to remain for a further three-and-a-half years. This right is separate to any lease agreement with the landlord, so even if you have a one-year lease, after six months, you also have part 4 tenancy rights. After four years, if you remain in the property, a further part 4 tenancy begins.

The landlord can only terminate a part 4 tenancy on certain specific grounds, for example, if they require the property for their own use, for that of a family member, or if they plan to substantially refurbish the property.

Two main changes have been introduced to give tenants greater security of tenure.

The first is the extension of the cycle from four to six years, for tenancies that began after December 24, 2016. For any part 4 tenancy beginning before that date, a four-year cycle remains but, as soon as that ends, the further part 4 tenancy will be a six-year cycle.

The second change relates to how a part 4 tenancy can be terminated. Previously, once the first cycle was up, a landlord was entitled to terminate the tenancy at any time in the first six months of the further part 4 tenancy, without needing to fall within one of the above termination grounds.

That six-month window has now been removed. For all tenancies, which began after December 24, 2016, once the further part 4 tenancy commences, the stated reason for termination must also be one as set out in the legislation. This is expected to be extended shortly, to tenancies which commenced on or before that date.

Landlords who wish to avoid having to give specific grounds will need to time the termination correctly so that it falls before a further part 4 tenancy begins.

To achieve this, they will have to serve notice before the current part 4 tenancy ends, with the notice period expiring on, or after, the tenancy’s end-date. This ensures that a further part 4 tenancy does not occur.

Anything else that we should know?

A further provision, which has not yet commenced, is a restriction on landlords seeking to terminate tenancies on the grounds of “intention to sell”. This is where they propose to sell ten or more units within the same development, either at the same time or within a six-month period. This will be of interest given recent media attention around “vulture funds” buying up loans from banks. As they now wish to sell off properties they hold as security, these vulture funds are serving notices on multiple tenants within the same development of “intention to sell”.

Landlords will soon only be able to rely on these grounds if they can prove that selling the property with the tenant still remaining will reduce the market value by 20% below what it would be, if sold with vacant possession. They also need to prove it would cause undue hardship on the landlord.

Irish Water reveals households wasting less than it was previously thought

Managing director Jerry Grant: 765m litres a day still being lost in public pipe network

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Metering is said to have identified that “by far the most beneficial gain” in Irish Water’s activities was in fixing leaks “on the public side” of the pipe network.

Information gathered from the State’s water-metering programme has led Irish Water to conclude households waste less water than previously thought.

Jerry Grant, managing director of Irish Water, told the Oireachtas Committee on the future of water charges the utility was “forced to rethink” its calculations on water usage, after the metering programme revealed individual water use was about 110 litres per day, at the lower end of international comparisons.

It had previously been estimated that individuals used in excess of 140 litres per day, but metering had identified that “by far the most beneficial gain” in Irish Water’s activities was in fixing leaks “on the public side” of the pipe network.

Mr Grant told the committee on Tuesday that domestic meters measured “flow” to households “for a variety of uses”, but he said “it was a government decision to charge” for that water.

Drinking water supply?

He said Irish Water provided about 1.7 billion litres of drinking water to homes and businesses a day. Of this, 600 million litres were consumed by households and 300 million litres went to “non-domestic” premises.

He said these figures were dwarfed by the 765 million litres a day which were still being lost in the public pipe network – about 45% of overall water production.

The use of domestic meters had already identified leaks of 77 million litres per day on the householder’s property, which had been fixed under the utility’s free “first fix scheme”.

Already conserving water?

The data the company had got from 800,000 water meters had shown most households were already conserving water – but one per cent of households used over 20% of all domestic water. Five% of households accounted for use of one third of domestic water supplies.

Mr Grant said metering had helped the utility establish that some households had “continuous night flows”, which indicated leaks.

Some 28,000 homes had availed of the utility’s free “first fix” scheme, resulting in savings of 70 million litres of water per day.

He said about a half a billion euro had been spent on domestic water meters when the scheme was suspended, and the remaining fund of about €150 million had been redirected to invest in the network, largely in new connections.

One domestic leak under a driveway could typically see consumption rise to that of 20 households, he said.

“The information is telling us the fundamental gain is about fixing leaks,” Mr Grant said.

He added the greatest gains in water conservation over the next 15 to 20 years will not be from individual household conservation measures, but in fixing leaks and installing district meters.

Mr Grant was asked by Anti Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy why water meters were used to gather information on households, while district networks used other tools, from “listening sticks” to technology, to establish water flow.

Mr Grant said Irish Water could gather data from 80,000 meters in two months, collecting by the use of technology-equipped vans, whereas to send out individuals to seek access to individual properties and stopcocks would take a multiple of that time.

A lust for life and why sex is better in your 80’s

Sexually active older people are considered a curiosity, but a new survey suggests that lovemaking is often more fulfilling for ‘sexual survivors’ than those in middle age

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Dr David Lee says ‘sexual survivors’ are probably ‘the healthiest people in older age’.

Dr David Lee, a research fellow at Manchester University’s School of Social Sciences, calls them “sexual survivors” – people over the age of 80 who still enjoy an active sex life. In a report written with Professor Josie Tetley, using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, he notes that while physical challenges (erectile difficulties, for instance) occured more frequently with age, the emotional side of sex appeared more fulfilling for people over 80. Men and women in this age bracket reported more shared sexual compatibility and emotional closeness than those in their 50s, 60s and 70s – which sounds like good news for anyone going through a drought in middle age.

Sex isn’t defined by penetration, says Lee – some older people find more imaginative ways to keep their sex lives active. “We saw quite a lot of adaptation in the older people, saying they no longer had penetrative sexual intercourse and were more content with kissing and cuddling and general intimacy. We kept a very broad definition of sex. We saw what appeared to be adaptive behaviour in the older members of our sample.”

Don’t bank on hitting your sexual peak so late, though. The problem is, having a sex life at all in your 80s is far from guaranteed. Only about one in 10 women aged 85 or older, and nearly one-quarter of men of that age, enjoy one. “They’re a minority, clearly, but they’re an interesting minority,” says Lee. “Among those who were [sexually active], it was quite interesting that they seemed happy with their sexual lives.”

Lee is studying what it takes to become a sexual survivor. There is likely to be a range of factors, he says. Having a partner is important, of course, and many people in their 80s have been widowed. “I would envisage that these [sexual survivors] are the healthiest people in older age,” he adds. Medication, for instance, can interfere with sex drive and ability.

Sexually active octogenarians are still considered such a curiosity that documentaries are made about them (such as Channel 5’s Party Pensioners, which featured an octogenarian burlesque dancer, and Sex and the Silver Gays, a film about older gay men who go to sex parties). Sites aimed at millennials run interviews with them, too – in 2015, Vice published an interview with an 82-year-old called Chris Wilson about his exploits on Grindr (he said he found the hook-up app “especially helpful when travelling. When I was in London, England, I got hit on by about 40 guys. I had sex eight times in seven days!”).

Lee says we need to get used to the idea that some older people may want a fulfilling sex life – and take seriously the means to allow them to achieve this. “We’re simply trying to broaden the discussion around sex and saying, irrespective of age, there is a need for joined-up healthcare services that people can access if they wish. We’re seeing from the comments in our survey [that] when older people try to access healthcare [for] sexual problems they have come across dismissal: ‘You should expect it at your age.’” But Lee has also seen how it becomes internalised in older people: “They think: ‘It’s not relevant to me anymore.’” Better, instead, to know you could enjoy a later-life sexual peak.

First live birth evidence in a group of dinosaur relatives found

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It was adapted for a fully aquatic lifestyle

Scientists have uncovered the first evidence of live births in the group of animals that includes dinosaurs, crocodiles and birds.

All examples of this group, known as the Archosauromorpha, lay eggs.

This led some scientists to wonder whether there was something in their biology that prevented live births.

But examination of the fossil remains of a very long-necked, 245 million-year-old marine reptile from China revealed it was carrying an embryo.

Jun Liu, first author of the new study in Nature Communications, said that the animal would have measured between three and four metres long, with a neck that was about 1.7m long.

The embryo may have been around half a metre long and is positioned inside the rib cage of the adult Dinocephalosaurus fossil, which was discovered in 2008 in Luoping County, Yunnan Province in southern China.

Researchers had to consider whether the smaller animal might have been part of the adult’s last meal. But it’s facing forward, whereas swallowed prey generally face backwards because predators consume the animal head first to help it go down the throat.fossil embryo appears to be facing forwards; ingested prey often end up facing backwards

Another line of evidence in favour of the live birth idea is that the small reptile inside the mother is clearly an example of the same species.

Co-author Prof Mike Benton, from the University of Bristol, told BBC News that the fossil was important because the Archosauromorpha form one of three large groupings of land-based vertebrates (backboned animals), each including about 10,000 species.

Since we now know that no fundamental biological barrier to live births exists in this group, palaeontologists would be “looking very closely” at other fossils. He suggested one target would be a group of aquatic crocodile relatives – whose mode of reproduction was not well known.

Prof Liu, from Hefei University of Technology in China, said the discovery pushes back evidence of reproductive biology in the archosauromorphs by 50 million years.

The mode of reproduction in Dinocephalosaurus also points to how the sex of its offspring was determined.

Co-author Prof Chris Organ, from Montana State University, added: “Some reptiles today, such as crocodiles, determine the sex of their offspring by the temperature inside the nest.

“We identified that Dinocephalosaurus, a distant ancestor of crocodiles, determined the sex of its babies genetically, like mammals and birds.”

Prof Benton explained: “This combination of live birth and genotypic sex determination seems to have been necessary for animals such as Dinocephalosaurus to become aquatic.

“It’s great to see such an important step forward in our understanding of the evolution of a major group coming from a chance fossil find in a Chinese field.”

The possibility that an eggshell once surrounded the embryo but was not preserved in fossilisation could not be ruled out, said Prof Benton. But living Archosauromorphs all lay eggs very early in embryonic development, whereas this embryo is very advanced, with well developed bones.

Furthermore, the team says Dinocephalosaurus’s long neck and other features of its anatomy suggest it could not have manoeuvred easily out of the water, meaning a reproductive strategy like that of turtles – which lay eggs on land before returning to the water – was probably not an option.

News Ireland daily BLOG byonie

Sunday 12th February 2017

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

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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

Monday 6th February 2016

Irish Government Ministers divided over inviting Donald Trump to Ireland?

Kenny to go ahead with White House trip but declines to clarify if he will invite Trump here

Image result for Irish Government Ministers divided over inviting Donald Trump to Ireland?   Image result for Irish Government Ministers

US president Donald Trump: Ministers are at odds over whether Taoiseach Enda Kenny should invite the US president to Ireland.

Government Ministers are divided over whether Taoiseach Enda Kenny should invite US president Donald Trump to visit Ireland.

Mr Kenny has confirmed he will proceed with his trip to the White House on St Patrick’s Day despite protest from Opposition parties.

However, the Taoiseach has declined to clarify whether he will issue an invitation to Mr Trump to come here.

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar and Minister of State at the Department of Health Finian McGrath have both said they would not support such a proposal being made.

“I’m not sure what purpose it would serve,” Mr Varadkar said. “An invite will be the Taoiseach’s decision. I wouldn’t invite him.”

Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan have indicated they would back a visit from the president.

  • Ministers at odds over inviting Donald Trump to Ireland
  • Diarmaid Ferriter: Supine pragmatism will define Irish dealings with Trump
  • Hundreds attend protest against Trump at US embassy

‘Appalling policies’

Mr McGrath, an Independent Alliance Minister, told The Irish Times: “I do not think we should invite him. His statements and policies are appalling and have to be rejected.”

Mr Varadkar questioned what purpose a visit would have, insisting he would not issue such a request.

Speaking last week, the Taoiseach declined to rule out an invitation to Mr Trump, saying that he would consider the question of an invitation when he was in Washington for St Patrick’s Day.

However, newspaper reports on Sunday said Mr Kenny had decided not to invite Mr Trump.

A Government spokesman then followed up stressing that Mr Kenny’s remarks still stood, but that the Taoiseach would be concentrating on raising the plight of illegal Irish immigrants in the United States when he meets Mr Trump.

Government sources stressed the importance of the meeting with the US president went beyond the occupant of the White House at any one time.

The Minister for Finance said an invitation should not be ruled out but insisted the timing must be right. Mr Noonan was strongly criticised when he welcomed Mr Trump to Ireland previously.

Strong links

While Ms O’Connor claimed Ireland needed to actively work to maintain the strong links with the United States. She said she fully supported Mr Kenny in his decision to travel to meet Mr Trump.

“There are over 150,000 Irish people employed in US companies here in Ireland and I would like to make sure that there is US investment into the country,” Ms O’Connor said.

“I want to see US investment so I want to see a good collaborative environment and a good collaborative relationship between Ireland and the US.”

Mr Trump had planned a visit to Ireland during the election campaign but it did not proceed.

Brexit already hitting English businesses, A UK survey finds

Up to 58% of respondents from Britain’s biggest firms see negative impact

Image result for Brexit already hitting English businesses, A UK survey finds   Image result for Brexit already hitting English businesses, A UK survey finds

“Business in this country is already feeling the pain of the economic upheaval of leaving the EU,” said Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos Mori.

Business is already suffering from Brexit, according to some of Britain’s biggest companies, lending weight to a cross-party effort by MPs this week to avert the risk of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Despite a stream of positive economic data, an Ipsos Mori survey of senior executives from more than 100 of the largest 500 companies found 58 per cent felt last year’s vote was already having a negative effect on their business.

Just 11 per cent found the Brexit decision had meant a positive impact while nearly a third – 31 per cent – thought it had made no difference to their company.

“Business in this country is already feeling the pain of the economic upheaval of leaving the EU,” said Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos Mori. “There is no sign that this is likely to ease this year.”

Company bosses have voiced concern about losing competitive advantage against European rivals if tariffs rise after Brexit, adding to the cost of producing and exporting goods.

Investors also appear to be waiting for greater clarity about the outcome of Brexit negotiations before committing funds to longer-term projects.

Theresa May will this week face a rebellion by pro-European Tory MPs who fear that she could walk away from the negotiating table in Brussels without a deal, with potentially serious effects for business.

The prime minister has said she would prefer “no deal to a bad deal”, raising the prospect of Britain leaving the EU to fall back on World Trade Organization rules, including tariffs.

Steve Baker, a Tory Eurosceptic MP, said up to 27 Tory MPs could this week back a “wrecking amendment” in the committee stage of the bill authorising Mrs May to invoke Article 50 and trigger Brexit.

The amendment would give parliament a say if Mrs May concluded that no deal was possible, in effect requiring her to go back to Brussels to seek better terms. She will order Tory MPs to oppose the measure.

For Labour, the agony over Brexit continues, with Jeremy Corbyn facing the prospect of losing two of his closest allies – Diane Abbott and Clive Lewis – if they defy him and vote against the Article 50 bill on its third reading on Wednesday.

Mr Corbyn said he had yet to decide whether to impose a three-line whip requiring Labour MPs to back Brexit, but hinted that he would show clemency to rebels in any event: “I am a very lenient person,” he told Radio 4’s The World this Weekend.

The Commons battles over Brexit have been played out against a benign economic backdrop, confounding those who predicted a downturn after a Leave vote.

The Office for National Statistics reported last month that the UK was the fastest growing economy in the G7 last year, and was not yet showing any signs of the slowdown that many economists predicted would follow the vote to leave the EU in June.

But the less rosy sentiment from business is supported by economic forecasters, with Sir Charlie Bean of the Office for Budget Responsibility and former deputy governor of the Bank of England saying last week that the strong consumer spending seen after the Brexit vote in June was likely to fall away in coming months.

Bank of England figures show that consumer borrowing growth in December slowed to its lowest in more than two years, while consumer confidence has also dipped.

Two-thirds of the 114 FTSE 500 business leaders surveyed believe the business environment will become more negative over the next 12 months, while only 13 per cent believed the opposite.

A large majority – 84 per cent – said that it was “vital” to their business that the government handled Brexit negotiations well. But half said they were not confident in the government’s ability to negotiate the “best deal possible” with the EU for UK companies.

An even larger majority – 96 per cent – was confident their business could adapt to the consequences of leaving the EU, and more than two-thirds had already taken action in response to the referendum result. A tenth were moving business outside the UK.

In terms of their priorities for the forthcoming negotiations, the business leaders said movement of labour and access to skilled labour came the highest, followed by securing free trade or retaining the single market with the EU and passporting rights.

Nurses’ union talks break down & are now likely to give notice of industrial action

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Talks between the HSE and nurses’ unions that have been ongoing for three weeks ended this evening without agreement.

Now, unions will meet to discuss potential industrial action.

The INMO told Health Service management that proposals have to be “radically improved” before any further discussion can take place.

The talks were focused on staffing, recruitment and retention.

They were aimed at restoring the current nursing/midwifery workforce to “at least 2007 levels”.

  1. In a statement issued to the media, the INMO said HSE management,
  2. “Refused to allow Directors of Nursing and Midwifery fill all posts which become vacant during 2017;
  3. Refused to guarantee that sufficient funding would be made available to allow the permanent employment of all Irish trained nurses and midwives graduating in 2016/17; and,
  4. Refused to guarantee replacement of maternity leave vacancies on a one for one basis.”

A 17% rise in complaints to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland

Image result for 17% rise in complaints to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland  Image result for live insects# complaints to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland  Image result for 17% rise in complaints to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland

A live insect in a dessert, a human nail in a takeaway meal, and a cigarette butt in a bag of chips were among thousands of complaints made by the public to the Food Safety Authority.

New figures from the FSAI show its advice phoneline received 3,202 complaints by consumers relating to food, food premises, and food labelling last year. That was an increase of 17% on the 2015 figure of 2,739.

Meanwhile, the number of complaints about food poisoning jumped by 45% last year compared to 2015.

A total of 1,126 complaints were made relating to unfit food, 864 to hygiene standards, 741 to suspect food poisoning, 221 to incorrect information on food labelling, and 60 related to non-display of allergen information.

Grievances about poor hygiene standards were up 34% on the previous year, while complaints about incorrect information on food labelling were up 15% and those on unfit food was up 7%.

Edel Smyth, FSAI’s information manager, said Irish people are far more likely to complain about hygiene standards than they may have been in the past.

“The statistics from our advice line service continue to show an upward trend, with consumers expressing much more concern and being more conscious about the food they consume, and are being increasingly vigilant about food safety issues,” she said.

“There is a culture developing among consumers, which indicates zero tolerance towards poor hygiene standards and, in particular, food that is unfit to eat.”

The FSAI report says contamination of food with foreign objects was also frequently reported by consumers.

In 2016, reports included allegations of food contaminated with insects and glass, as well as other foreign objects.

Examples included a live insect found in a packaged dessert, a long black hair in garlic sauce, a human nail in a takeaway meal, glass in a dessert, plastic rope in a takeaway meal, and a cigarette butt in a bag of chips.

Other complaints in relation to poor hygiene standards referred to dirty customer toilets, rats observed on the premises, and dirty tables and floors.

In one case, a consumer complained about a staff member at a deli sneezing into their hands and then preparing sandwiches without washing their hands.

All complaints received by the FSAI were followed up and investigated by its enforcement officers throughout the country.

Its advice line received a total of 10,497 queries in 2016 from not only consumers but people working in the food service sector, such as manufacturers, retailers, researchers, and consultants.

The most popular queries were regarding legislation on food labelling requirements, allergens, and additives, as well as requests for FSAI publications.

FSAI chief executive Pamela Byrne said the advice line, as well as the agency’s website are important resources for the food industry where its experts are available to assist food business owners and managers to fully understand their legal requirements.

Proposed plan to open injection facility in Dublin for drug users

Laws would exempt drug users from prosecution if found with certain drugs at centre

Image result for Proposed plan to open injection facility in Dublin for drug users  Image result for Proposed plan to open injection facility in Dublin for drug users  Related image

The proposed injection centre would open for 12 hours a day, seven days a week and would cost between €1.5 million and €1.8 million per year.

The Government will on Tuesday discuss legislation which would exempt drug users from prosecution if found with certain illegal drugs in a supervised injection facility.

Minister for Drugs Catherine Byrne will seek approval to proceed with plans which would open such a facility in Dublin’s city centre.

The centre would open for 12 hours a day, seven days a week and would cost between €1.5 million and €1.8 million per year.

Government sources stressed the Misuse of Drugs Act, which controls the possession of substances, will still apply.

Exemption from prosecution will only be applicable to authorised users when on the premises and injecting with the licence holder’s permission.

A Government source stressed: “In all other circumstances, inside and outside a supervised injecting facility, the offence of possession of a controlled drug still applies.

“The possession of a drug for the purpose of selling and supplying it to another is unaffected and remains a crime.”

A concern?

Gardaí will be able to enter the premises without a warrant but they will not be able to arrest those inside.

There has been some concern that Gardaí may be unable to adequately enforce the law while reflecting the Government policy.

Ministers have said the law must be clear and insisted there can be no ambiguity which would affect the powers of the Gardaí.

The legislation will also provide an exemption for licence holders to allow them to possess or prepare a controlled substance on the premises.

The initiative, which was first proposed by the former Labour Party minister of state Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, has caused some concern.

However, Ms Byrne will stress the facility will not become a free-for-all for those who want to inject drugs.

Government sources say the aim is to minimise the harm associated with injecting drugs by providing a controlled environment.

The Health Service Executive will be asked to run the facility and will consult with An Garda Síochána and community groups before its establishment.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton has requested that the centres do not open near schools.

Debated

Mr Bruton has asked that proximity to children must be considered as part of the discussion on location and called for schools to be consulted ahead of any decision being made.

The legislation proposed by Ms Byrne is not prescriptive in terms of location but sets out policies which should be considered.

The level and the nature of drug use, paraphernalia and incidents of overdose or death should be factors, according to the Minister.

The legislation, if passed by Cabinet, will be debated in the Dáil and the Seanad.

It is expected the facility may be open by September. It will not be a new building but one that is unused at present.

If the pilot project is successful, it is envisaged a number of others will be opened across the country.

However, funding has only been set aside for one facility and the Department of Health has been advised any additional spend must come from within expenditure allocations.

The moon will smash Earth and turn our planet’s surface into a sea of fire, scientists warn

Image result for The moon will smash Earth and turn our planet’s surface into a sea of fire, scientists warn Image result for The moon will smash Earth and turn our planet’s surface into a sea of fire, scientists warn

Stargazers set out the grim destiny of our planet’s satellite, which will plough into humanity’s home world in the very distant future

The moon is locked into a death spiral which will eventually cause it to smash into Planet Earth, an astronomer has warned.

This apocalyptic event is likely to be so devastating that it will turn the surface of our home world into a seething pit of red hot lava.

The moon will plunge into Earth, although humans may not be around to see it

“The final end-state of tidal evolution in the Earth-Moon system will indeed be the inspiral of the Moon and its subsequent collision… onto Earth,” Jason Barnes, a planetary scientist at the University of Idaho, told Forbes.

“The energy released in the merging would re-melt the Earth into a magma ocean.”

Sadly, humans won’t be around to see this disaster – because they will probably have been wiped out in another one like?

According to the Global Catastrophic Risks 2016 report, the biggest threats humanity should prepare for are climate change-related catastrophes, natural pandemics and nuclear war.

These were all listed as high priority and had the highest likelihood of occurring in the next five years.

However, other threats to look out for include pandemics from man-made pathogens, failure of geo-engineering projects, and catastrophic disruption from artificial intelligence.

In terms of mitigating risks, the report draws comparisons with fatal car accidents, where governments have mandated basic safety features, such as seatbelts and air bags.

It states that while the risk of human extinction is small, at 0.1% each year, it means that a person is five times more likely to die in an extinction event than a car crash.

Catastrophic climate change poses such a high risk due to the cumulative effects of rising carbon dioxide levels, feedback loops in the carbon cycle, and lack of action and financial investment.

The report states of the need for the international community to take strong action to avoid the upper limits of global temperature change, which could have devastating impacts on food security and human life.

The sun will one day swell to a huge size and fry everything on Earth

The moon will crash into Earth in about 65 billion years, which is about 59 billion years after everything in our planet has been burned alive in the death throes of the sun.

If our species manages to avoid being wiped out by nuclear war, doomsday space rocks or apocalyptic epidemics, we may live to see the day our closest star swallows up much of the solar system.

“Five billion years from now, the Sun will have grown into a red giant star, more than a hundred times larger than its current size,” Professor Leen Decin from the KU Leuven Institute of Astronomy said last year.NASA astronaut Eugene Cernan, last man to walk on the moon, dead at 82

Earth will be hit by an asteroid that will wipe out life as we know it today… but not for a million years, say boffins

 

“It will also experience an intense mass loss through a very strong stellar wind. The end product of its evolution, 7 billion years from now, will be a tiny white dwarf star.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Theresa May to meet An Taoiseach Enda Kenny amid growing Brexit fears

British leader is visiting Dublin as concerns increase over UK’s plan for leaving the EU

Image result for Theresa May to meet An Taoiseach Enda Kenny amid growing Brexit fears   Image result for Theresa May to meet An Taoiseach Enda Kenny amid growing Brexit fears

British prime minister Theresa May plans to meet Enda Kenny in Dublin on today Monday.

British prime minister Theresa May meets the Taoiseach in Dublin on Monday amid growing concern in Government about the impact of a hard Brexit on the Border and on trade between Ireland and Britain.

The meeting comes two weeks after Ms May said Britain would leave the single market and key parts of the customs union when it withdraws from the EU.

Ms May has identified maintaining the Common Travel Area as a key objective in Brexit negotiations and the Government is confident that there is broad support in other EU member states for that position.

The prime minister’s decision to leave the customs union’s common commercial policy and common external tariff, however, has made some form of customs control along the Border difficult to avoid.

The EU is responsible for agreeing trade policy on behalf of all its member states and there is little enthusiasm in Brussels for a special trade arrangement between Britain and Ireland.

‘Frictionless’

The focus for British and Irish negotiators is likely to be on ensuring that any customs controls on the Border will be as “frictionless” and unobtrusive as possible.

Last night, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said the prime minister was aware of the concerns the Government had about the impact of Brexit on the island.

He said Ms May’s visit afforded an opportunity to hear her priorities and to discuss her response to the difficulties Ireland faced.

“Our priorities are well known to the British prime minister and I believe it’s important that [today] we hear her view on what again is a great challenge to the island of Ireland with particular reference to our economy, our trade with the United Kingdom and of course the Good Friday Agreement and the Peace Process and the need to ensure, in the context of the forthcoming negotiations that the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement is fully adhered to,” Mr Flanagan said.

Before travelling to Dublin, Ms May will host a meeting in Cardiff of the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) which co-ordinates the relationships between Downing Street and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

No veto

Britain’s supreme court ruled last week that the devolved administrations have no veto over the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which starts formal Brexit negotiations.

Ahead of the meeting in Cardiff, however, the prime minister said she remained committed to listening to the views of legislators in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“We will not agree on everything, but that doesn’t mean we will shy away from the necessary conversations and I hope we will have further constructive discussions today,” she said.

“The United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, and the UK government has a responsibility to deliver on that mandate and secure the right deal for the whole of the UK.

“We all have a part to play in providing certainty and leadership so that together we can make a success of the opportunities ahead.”

Irish House building activity increased by more than 30% in 2016

A total of 5,626 residential units registered in year, says Construction Industry Federation

Image result for Irish House building activity increased by more than 30% in 2016  Image result for Irish House building activity increased by more than 30% in 2016

The majority of housing units registered last year were in Dublin.

House building activity increased by more than 30 per cent in 2016, according to the latest figures from the Construction Industry Federation (CIF).

A total of 5,626 residential units were registered to start construction in 2016, a 31 per cent increase on 2015.

The majority of housing units registered last year, or some 3,223 homes, were in Dublin, but house building activity is also strengthening elsewhere in Ireland, the federation said.

“All measures of house building activity and housing output show a strengthening trend as we begin 2017,” said CIF director general Tom Parlon.

“However, the planning environment and access to development finance will continue to be critical factors for all involved in the house building sector.”

Housing supply will remain “a key issue confronting industry and Government” throughout 2017, he said.

“Measures must be taken to provide finance to regional housebuilders in tandem with the recent measures taken at national level such as the local infrastructure fund and the help-to-buy initiative,” Mr Parlon added.

An increase

According to the CIF House Building Activity Report, a total of 11,320 residential units were commenced in the 11-month period January to November 2016.

This figure represents an increase of 46.5 per cent, or 3,593 units, on the total number of units commenced during the first 11 months of 2015.

Individual or one-off housing accounted for 36 per cent of total commencements.

Urban centres such as Cork and greater Dublin continue to experience the most concentrated levels of new housing supply with 1,419 and 6,209 new units commenced respectively last year.

A total of 13,376 residential units were completed in the 11-month period January to November 2016, which represents an 18.2 per cent increase in activity on the same period in 2015. The average monthly completion figure currently stands at 1,216 units.

In its last House Building Activity Report, the CIF estimated that circa 14,000 residential units would be completed by the end of 2016. But it said activity had increased near the tail end of the year and that the final figure would be closer to 14,500.

€500,000 to be invested in boosting tourism at Ireland’s national parks

The funding will focus on the five national parks and five nature reserves along the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as Wicklow National Park.

Image result for €500,000 to be invested in boosting tourism at Ireland's national parks Related image  Image result for Ireland's wildlife national parks

Failte IRELAND is set to invest some €500,000 in boosting tourism to Ireland’s national parks.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny today announced Fáilte Ireland’s new strategic partnership with the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS), which aims to increase tourism in the rural areas where the parks are located.

This initial funding will focus on tTourism Irl.,he five national parks and five nature reserves along the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as Wicklow National Park.

Announcing the initiative in Ballycroy National Park, Co Mayo, Kenny said the money “will undoubtedly allow for the design of excellent tourism projects building on the strengths of each location, as well as further promoting our national parks and nature reserves for visitors and tourists”.

Michael Ring, Minister for State for Regional Economic Development, added: “While the last few years have been difficult in relation to exchequer funding, I am delighted that we are now in a position to invest further in our natural heritage”.

A bumper year in 2016.

Speaking about the project, Fáilte Ireland’s Director of Strategic Development Orla Carroll said: “We know from our own research that more and more visitors want to experience the Irish landscape up-close and personal.

Our national parks can do just that – by unlocking this potential we can give our visitors a real opportunity to get back to nature and get in touch with Ireland.

2016 was a record-breaking year for Irish tourism, with nine million visits taking place in the first 11 months. There were 8,919,700 million visits to Ireland up to the end of November, an 11% increase compared to the same period in 2015.

Galway city and 23 other towns to be added to the 4% rent cap list

Opposition TDs criticise Coveney’s decision not to include Waterford and Limerick in list

Image result for Galway city and 23 other towns to be added to the 4% rent cap list  Image result for Galway city and 23 other towns to be added to the 4% rent cap list

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said he was delivering on the commitment he gave when he published the Government’s rental strategy in December.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has confirmed rent caps are to be extended to Galway city and 23 towns.

They were declared “rent pressure zones” after the Government reached agreement with Fianna Fáil. Galway city, nine towns in Meath, seven in Kildare, three in Wicklow and four in Cork will have rent increases restricted to 4 per cent per annum for the next three years.

Mr Coveney said he was delivering on the commitment he gave when he published the Government’s rental strategy in December, naming Dublin and Cork as rent-pressure zones.

Opposition TDs have criticised the decision not to add Waterford and Limerick to the list.

A push for more towns?

Fianna Fáil spokesman on housing Barry Cowen said the party would continue to push for more towns to be included. He said they had sought the inclusion of 40 towns.

Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan said tenants in Waterford and Limerick would suffer as a result of the decision. “This is disastrous for tenants who are already struggling to pay and now face rises they can’t afford. Linking rent increases to the consumer price index as the Labour Party has proposed would have been a much fairer way to go.

“The people of Limerick, Waterford and other parts of the country are now left with no protection from steep hikes, which is a direct result of this legislation.”

Rent pressure zones

Mr Coveney said in drawing up the list of rent pressure zones, he was guided solely by information given by the Residential Tenancies Board.

“In rough speak there needs to be a sustained level of unsustainable rental increases for four of the last six months. There needs to have been at least seven per cent annual rental inflation in rental markets.

“Secondly, it needs to be a high rent in that area, it needs to be above the national average.

“I want to reassure people. This isn’t politicians making designations to be popular or to try and bring home good news to their areas.”

Towns to have rent caps:

Naas, Sallins , Celbridge, Leixlip, Rathangan, Kildare, Newbridge, Slane, Julianstown, Duleek, Laytown, Bettystown, Ashbourne, Dunboyne, Dunshaughlin, Ratoath, Bray, Enniskerry, Wicklow, Douglas, Ballincollig, Carrigaline and Passage West

How cruel & fat shaming comments can actually make people very sick

The cruel comments and mocking behavior can take a real physical toll, researchers say.

Image result for How cruel & fat shaming comments can actually make people very sick   Image result for How cruel & fat shaming comments can actually make people very sick   Image result for How cruel & fat shaming comments can actually make people very sick

The now President Trump is not without blame?

It’s a sad but true fact: Fat shaming is everywhere. Now, there’s evidence it can do more than damage self-confidence—it may also have serious health consequences. A new study found that overweight women who believe negative messages about their bodies are at greater risk for heart disease and diabetes than those who maintain a more positive body image.

The research, published in the journal Obesity, showed that higher levels of “weight-bias internalization”—the term for what happens when people are aware of negative stereotypes about obesity and apply those stereotypes to themselves—were associated with more cases of metabolic syndrome, a combination of health issues that raise the risk for heart disease and diabetes. This was true above and beyond the effects of body mass index (BMI), indicating that internalization isn’t just a result of weight or other issues, but a risk factor on its own.

“There is a misconception that sometimes a little bit of stigma is necessary to motivate people to lose weight,” says lead author Rebecca Pearl, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “But time and time again, research shows that this is just not the case.”

The new study supports the idea that when people feel bad about themselves, it can affect their physical health as well as their mental health, Pearl says.

To study this effect, Pearl and her colleagues at Penn’s Center for Weight and Eating Disorders focused on 159 obese women who were enrolled in a clinical trial to test the effects of weight-loss medication. (The study was funded by the drug’s parent company, Eisai Pharmaceutical Co.)

To determine their level of weight-bias internalization, the women indicated how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements such as, “I hate myself for being overweight.” The statements touched on stereotypes about overweight people being lazy, unattractive, or incompetent.

The women were also examined to determine whether they had metabolic syndrome, which includes risk factors like high triglycerides, blood pressure, and waist circumference.

After the researchers adjusted for age, gender, race, and BMI, they found that women who scored in the top half for weight-bias internalization were three times more likely to have metabolic syndrome that those in the bottom half. They were also six times more likely to have high triglycerides, one aspect of high cholesterol.

The findings were also adjusted for depression, which is also associated with poor self-esteem and negative body image.

Most of the women in the study were African American. That’s important, says Pearl, because most weight-bias research to-date has included mostly white women. Internalization scores do tend to be lower for black women, Pearl says, “but that doesn’t mean it’s doesn’t affect some African Americans just as it affects white people or Hispanic people.”

The study was not able to show a cause-and-effect relationship, and Pearl says it’s also possible that people with more health problems feel worse about themselves as a result. But previous research helps support the researchers’ theory that bias can have a direct impact on health.

It’s been shown, for example, that fat-shaming experiences can lead to increased inflammation and stress-hormone levels in the body. People who feel bad about their bodies are also less likely to exercise, Pearl adds, and can have a harder time eating healthy.

It isn’t clear why some women internalize weight bias and others don’t, Pearl says—whether they’re in a supportive environment and exposed less to fat shaming, or are simply less vulnerable to its effects. But for many women, she says, these messages are hard to avoid.

“People with obesity are portrayed in negative ways in the media; there’s bullying at school and on social networks; people even feel judged by family members or in health-care settings,” she says.

It’s important for loved ones, and the general public, to be sensitive to this issue, Pearl says. “Rather than blaming and shaming people and being dismissive of their struggle, we need to work collaboratively to set goals to improve health behaviors.”

As for women and men who are struggling with their own body image, Pearl recommends taking a good look at the stereotypes they’ve internalized—and then challenging them.

“A patient claims she overheard a member of staff referring to her”

“as just a psychiatric case”

Our health service must place a greater priority on the physical healthcare needs of people with mental illness, writes Dr Stephen McWilliams.

 Image result for patient claims she overheard a member of staff referring to her with mental illness Image result for patient claims she overheard a member of staff referring to her with mental illness  Image result for patient claims she overheard a member of staff referring to her with mental illness  

Image result for Dr Stephen McWilliams  By Dr Stephen McWilliams

Some patient’s claim that, by virtue of their existing mental illness, they must work twice as hard to have their physical illnesses taken seriously by the health service.

In the waiting rooms of general hospitals, accident and emergency departments and outpatient clinics, they overhear themselves talked about primarily with reference to their anxiety, depression or psychosis, even when their reason for attending is purely physical.

One such patient told me she overheard a member of staff referring to her as “just a psychiatric case”. Another recalled being informed by a general nurse (in a private medical hospital), “we don’t do mental health here.” Such examples are not unusual.

These attitudes, where they exist, come at a cost

Psychiatric patients often feel marginalised in general medical settings. They receive less effective and often delayed care for their physical illnesses because such symptoms are frequently eclipsed by their psychiatric diagnosis.

My patients are not alone in experiencing this. The phenomenon – termed “diagnostic overshadowing” – has been highlighted as a real problem in the healthcare of individuals with psychiatric illness.

Diagnostic overshadowing is a major theme in a recent report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London entitled: “Whole person care: from rhetoric to reality – Achieving parity between mental and physical health.” In Ireland, the drive to reduce costs has seen funding for the treatment of psychiatric illness gradually shrink in comparison to that for physical illness.

This is despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimation that 350 million people worldwide have depression, making it the world’s leading cause of disability. Mental illness and physical illness are a long way from gaining parity of esteem. They simply are not seen as equally important. It is little wonder people with mental illness sometimes feel disenfranchised.

Separation of mental illness and physical illness is largely artificial

They often occur in the same people. A recent report by the UK think-tank QualityWatch examined 100 million hospital episodes annually over five years. They found that almost half of people with mental ill health have a concurrent physical condition. They are four times more likely to die of respiratory (lung) disease and 2.5 times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease.

QualityWatch also reported that people with serious mental illness die 10 to 17 years younger, which echoes a WHO assertion that individuals with schizophrenia die 10 to 25 years younger.

Suicide accounts for some of this, but physical illness is the main reason. For example, people with schizophrenia are six times more likely to smoke heavily, while approximately half are significantly overweight. Up to 15% have diabetes and 58% have elevated blood pressure.

Meeting medical needs

As a general rule, meeting the medical needs of any patient will reduce the amount of emergency care they need relative to planned care. People with mental illness have 10% fewer planned medical admissions than the general population, according to QualityWatch.

Instead they have three times more A&E attendances and almost five times more emergency admissions. Less than one in five of these emergency admissions among psychiatric patients are to address their mental health needs; most are for the potentially-preventable complications of common illnesses such as high blood pressure, heart disease, epilepsy and various infections.

Individuals with underlying mental illness are more likely to be admitted overnight and they generally remain longer in hospital.

Deaths that could be avoided

It is little wonder that the UK National Health Service has estimated that some 40,000 deaths might be avoided each year if individuals with serious mental illness were afforded the same amount of physical healthcare as the general population. The equivalent number of deaths annually based on Ireland’s population would be almost 3,000.

In the words of the WHO, the reduced life expectancy of individuals with serious mental illness is due to “a society socially and functionally biased towards the population living with severe mental disorder.”

They die earlier not because of their psychiatric illness per se, but “because of the discrimination and lack of access to good health services.” The WHO further asserts that stigma is the biggest barrier preventing people with severe mental illness from receiving effective care.

People with mental illness already get a raw deal

It behoves our health service (our Government and, indeed, society) to place a greater priority than it currently does on the physical healthcare needs of people with mental illness.

Mysterious UFO-shaped cloud appears above mountains in Sweden which baffles skiers

The mysterious cloud was spotted above the mountains in ski resorts in Sweden

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A mysterious UFO-shaped cloud appeared above mountains and baffled skiers who were stunned after seeing it in the sky.

The bizarre sight could be seen over the Duved ski resort in Sweden earlier this week and many stopped on the mountain to take photographs.

Nature photographer Sara Björkebaum spotted the cloud and uploaded a picture of it to her Instagram page, ‘bbaumish’.

Björkebaum, from Sweden, wrote, “Weird weather, cool clouds. I think I may jump on that spaceship.”

Experts have said that it was a “lenticular cloud”, which typically form over mountain peaks.

They usually appear when the air rises near the mountains, and as it cools, it creates a cloud.

An unidentified flying object, or UFO, in its most general definition, is any apparent anomaly in the sky that is not identifiable as a known object or phenomenon. Culturally, UFOs are associated with claims of visitation by extraterrestrial life or government-related conspiracy theories, and have become popular subjects in fiction. UFOs are often identified after their sighting. Sometimes, however, UFOs cannot be identified because of the low quality of evidence related to their sightings.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 19th January 2017

Figures within weeks to allow rent cap in new areas, says Simon Coveney

Minister insists housing policy needs to include a balance towards landlords

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Simon Coveney says: “If areas qualify under the criteria with which everyone is familiar, they will be designated as rent-pressure zones and the rules will apply’’

Figures will be available in the next few weeks to allow for the introduction of a rent cap in 15 new areas, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has said.

“We will get assessments of those areas done quickly so that we can create new designations for rent-pressure zones as quickly as possible.’’

Mr Coveney said the areas focused on were cities like Waterford, Limerick and Galway, as well as areas adjacent to Dublin and Cork city. This included counties like Wicklow, Kildare, Meath and places in the outskirts of Cork city like Carrigaline and Ballincollig.

“If areas qualify under the criteria with which everyone is familiar, they will be designated as rent-pressure zones and the rules will apply,’’ said Mr Coveney. “We will limit rent inflation in those areas to 4 per cent annually.’’

AAA-PBP TD Ruth Coppinger said the National Competitiveness Council had reported people were spending 41 per cent of their income on rent.

“That is not sustainable, particularly for families. Obviously, for those in receipt of rent allowance, the amount they must personally pay has increased dramatically.’’

Mr Coveney said some people in the House only wanted to make the case for one side of the rental debate.

“Of course we need to introduce changes to protect tenants from spiralling rents and to address the matter of security of tenure to ensure that landlords are not abusing tenants, but we also need to have a policy that is balanced towards the landlords. Otherwise we will not have any landlords.’’

He said his job was to introduce a balance to allow the rental sector to function. He must ensure an increased amount of social housing while retaining a private rental market which was functioning properly.

Ross says fixing Bus Éireann is a must for the unions and Bus Eireann

Related image  Image result for Ross says fixing Bus Éireann is a must for the unions and Bus Eireann  Dermot O’Leary: NBRU trusts major progress can be made. Photo: Damien Eagers

Bus Éireann unions to meet next week to consider joint strategy and have warned of potential industrial action

Shane Ross told the Dáil that Bus Éireann was losing €6m a year, mainly due to losses being run up by its commercial Expressway arm

Finding a resolution to the problem of unsustainable losses at Bus Éireann is a matter for management and trade unions, Minister for Transport Shane Ross has indicated.

He told the Dáil that Bus Éireann was losing some €6 million a year, and this was not as a result of the State’s subvention to the company but rather due to losses being run up by its commercial Expressway arm, which faces intense competition from private operators.

Mr Ross did not say whether he supported controversial proposals put forward by management on Wednesday to restructure the company which includes redundancies and cuts to premium payments, allowances and overtime rates.

Bus Éireann has argued that its financial position is unsustainable, and without action to tackle its cost base and inefficiencies it will go out of business within two years.

Unions have promised to resist the company’s plan, which they argue could see a 25-30 per cent reduction to their members’ earnings.

The union groups at Bus Éireann will meet next week to consider a joint strategy, and have warned of potential industrial action over the proposed cuts.

They indicated this could ultimately spread to CIÉ sister companies Irish Rail and Dublin Bus.

Pensions

Union sources have suggested that a potential trigger for any broader row could be a dispute over pensions for staff in the three companies.

A spokesman for the CIÉ group said it would be resuming talks with unions at the beginning of February on the future funding of pension schemes in the group with a view to developing joint proposals.

Meanwhile, Bus Éireann appears to not have ruled out introducing compulsory redundancies as part of its restructuring plans. Sources said it would prefer any severance arrangements for staff to be on a voluntary basis.

Mr Ross told the Dáil that rural communities would not be abandoned as a result of any decisions by Bus Éireann to discontinue operating any existing routes. He said the National Transport Authority had clarified that it could and would “step into any area, assess the transport needs and ensure continued public transport connectivity”.

In part of a speech circulated by the Department of Transport but not delivered in Dáil, Mr Ross said the difficult position being experienced by Bus Éireann should not be underestimated.

However he did not, either in his comments in the Dáil or in the prepared speech, indicate whether he endorsed the controversial proposals set out by Bus Éireann management in its new survival plan.

Emergency aid fund for tillage farmers gets a step closer

After Government loses vote?

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Fianna Fail has had a private members motion passed in the Dail in favour of the creation of a support fund for up to 300 tillage farmers hit with significant crop losses last year.

Fianna Fail spokesperson on agriculture Charlie McConalogue said the motion was passed with “strong support” and the onus is now on the Minister for Agriculture to call an urgent meeting of the Tillage Forum and discuss what such a scheme could look like.

“Now it is the wish of the Dail that these farmers are supported.”

He said that it is imperative a scheme and fund is agreed within the next few weeks, which would provide aid to 250-300 tillage farmers who lost over 25pc of their crops last year.

“These farmers are mainly located along the western seaboard and some inland counties and a fund in the region of €4.5-5m is needed.

“The Minister for Agriculture does have access to such funds, due to the large carryover of funds in his department from 2016.”

IFA President Joe Healy said he welcomed the support in the Dail for IFA’s campaign for emergency aid for grain growers seriously affected by weather losses in the 2016 harvest.

“Following our protest outside the Dail yesterday, there is a groundswell of support for those tillage farmers who incurred significant weather losses during last year’s harvest.”

Healy too called on the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to reconvene the National Tillage Forum as a matter of urgency to deal in the first place with the emergency aid issue.

We have to tell pregnant Irish women not to drink alcohol

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Although it’s accepted that binge-drinking poses significant risks to a foetus, health professionals and the public are divided on the effects of an occasional drink after 12 weeks. 

A recent study suggests that over 60% of Irish mothers drink alcohol during pregnancy. The research looked at more than 3,500 Irish maternal records from 1990 to 2011 and examined the rate of foetal alcohol syndrome, where the baby in the womb was affected.

The official advice from the Department of Health is that women should not drink any alcohol during pregnancy. However there is no strong evidence that low levels of drinking is harmful. We asked two commentators to tell us their views.

YES. Being American and growing up surrounded by health education and open diagnoses regarding substance abuse, I, of course, think everyone is an alcoholic and should go to AA.

I admit, I love to diagnose (with no qualification) psychiatric and substance abuse issues, and that I have been influenced by what is an overzealous health care system (with severe issues of its own) and media culture in the United States.

Before I was pregnant, I had plenty of interesting conversations about healers and home remedies with Irish colleagues and friends. I also had a few friendly debates about the merits of booze to cure my upset stomach, my flu, and of course my headache from drinking too much booze the night before.

The same people that refused to take medication preferred to drink their remedies, and believed this was a healthier and more natural option than popping pills like Americans. Maybe it is healthier but what it definitely is to me, is the confirmation that popular beliefs about alcohol play a stronger role in many Irish people’s decisions than medical evidence or health education.

In Ireland I felt a bit silly and paranoid for maintaining that doctors don’t know exactly what level of alcohol affects the foetus so it was safest to not drink. I had an odd drink or sip and didn’t feel particularly guilty because I knew I would never drink more than that but I was also aware of the public image a pregnant woman drinking alcohol presents and I wasn’t comfortable normalising that image.

Since it is unknown what level of alcohol consumption causes Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and alcohol consumption is notoriously open to subjective and cultural interpretation, why believe that the average woman understands what a few drinks means? How much is “a few” drinks while pregnant?

I heard a woman say that drinking a six-pack was fine once it was only West Coast Coolers. I also heard women and men agree that it’s safe to drink in the last trimester because the baby is already developed when in fact the liver is not developed. Most husbands and wives can’t agree on the definition of “having one” so why did the Irish government think the public could?

I hope that the clear recommendation to avoid drink will make pregnancy easier for women in Ireland by presenting a consistent public health message and associated education that should result in a shift in culture around drink (without thinking everyone needs Alcoholics Anonymous).

Colleen Hennessy is a writer and mother to two Kerry-born munchkins. She can be reached at colleenhennessy.com or @colleenhennessy4 on Twitter.

  1. This kind of thinking opens the door to monitoring women’s behaviour in pregnancy. What about the binge eating mom who risks passing on diabetes? Or the cyclist who might fall off and injure herself? Or the vegetarian lacking iron?

We all know that excessive drinking in pregnancy is very stupid and irresponsible. We know that drinking a lot of alcohol – six or more units a day – can cause foetal alcohol syndrome, which stunts the mental and physical development of a child, and can even trigger a miscarriage. We know that a baby’s organs can’t deal with alcohol in the way that ours can.

However, there is no confusion about how much is safe. And – of course – many women who are not alcoholics drink too much before even realising that they are pregnant. But for the vast majority of women, discovering they’re having a baby switches on the overwhelming instinct to protect and nurture.

We women are lectured to enough when it comes to our bodies. It’s time for us to take back control. Yes, we will listen politely to the advice. But then, as with all advice, we will make our own decisions as to whether to adhere to it or not.

World’s primates facing ‘an extinction crisis’

Victoria Gill explains the threat to primates, with the help of some lemurs

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The world’s primates face an “extinction crisis” with 60% of species now threatened with extinction, according to research.

A global study, involving more than 30 scientists, assessed the conservation status of more than 500 individual species.

This also revealed that 75% of species have populations that are declining.

The findings are published in the journal Science Advances.

Professor Jo Setchell from Durham University, a member of the team, explained that the main threats were “massive habitat loss” and illegal hunting.

“Forests are destroyed when primate habitat is converted to industrial agriculture, leaving primates with nowhere to live,” she told BBC News.

“And primates are hunted for meat and trade, either as pets or as body parts.”

Other threats – all driven by human behaviour – are forest clearance for livestock and cattle ranching; oil and gas drilling and mining.

“The short answer is that we must reduce human domination of the planet, and learn to share space with other species,” Prof Setchell commented.

No alternative

Deforestation has driven the Sumatran orangutan to the brink of extinction

The study also cited poverty and civil unrest as a driving force for hunting – in the poorest parts of the world many people are being driven to hunting primates in order to feed themselves.

“We need to focus on the development of these parts of the world and make sure people have an alternative source of protein,” said Prof Serge Wich from Liverpool John Moores University.

He pointed out that the loss of primate species represented the loss of forests that are essential for the future of our own species.

“These forests provide essential services for people,” he told BBC News.

“They help in being carbon stocks to mitigate climate change; they help in providing clean water and providing pollination services for people, so they can grow their crops.”

The researchers also pointed to some personal choices that people could make as consumers, particularly in the west, to avoid contributing to tropical deforestation.

“Simple examples are don’t buy tropical timber, don’t eat palm oil,” said Prof Setchell.

But more broadly, “we need to raise local, regional and global public awareness of the plight of the world’s primates and what this means for ecosystem health, human culture, and ultimately human survival.

“In industrialised nations, we must decrease our demand for resources that we don’t need, and stop confusing wants with needs.”

Dr Christoph Schwitzer, from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature is also director of conservation at Bristol Zoological Society. He told the BBC that it was his “strong belief” that “with a concerted effort by the world’s governments and conservationists, primate declines can be halted and populations stabilised”.

He added that changes in consumer behaviour could help, for example “choosing FSC-certified wood and paper products, and making sure palm oil comes from sustainable sources”.

Video

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 15th January 2017

Irish mortgage rates still nearly double the euro area average?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xi Jinping Keynote address.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘He is doing well. The treatment is ongoing’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The BT Young Scientist exhibition category winners

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

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

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

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

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

Biological and Ecological Junior Group Caoimhe Lynch , Sylvie Plant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A huge glacier crack in the Antarctic ice shelf widens dramatically

Related image Image result for A huge glacier crack in the Antarctic ice shelf widens dramatically

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

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

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

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

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

What Could Happen After This Break?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Climate Change To Blame?

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

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

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

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