Tag Archives: ANTARCTICA

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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 15th January 2017

Irish mortgage rates still nearly double the euro area average?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xi Jinping Keynote address.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘He is doing well. The treatment is ongoing’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The BT Young Scientist exhibition category winners

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

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

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

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

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

Biological and Ecological Junior Group Caoimhe Lynch , Sylvie Plant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A huge glacier crack in the Antarctic ice shelf widens dramatically

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

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

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

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

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

What Could Happen After This Break?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Climate Change To Blame?

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

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

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

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

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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 5th November 2016

ESRI report predicts Ireland will find it difficult to be a magnet as a corporate tax friendly country after Brexit

Big demand for mortgage finance underlines need for foreign banks to operate in the Irish market

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In a world of increasing political and economic uncertainty, making meaningful medium to long-term economic forecasts is difficult. Nevertheless, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in publishing its outlook for the Irish economy has tried to chart a potential path for the domestic economy to 2025, and to identify some of the major policy challenges ahead.

The ESRI presents a relatively optimistic outlook. It regards a 3% growth rate for the domestic economy as sustainable, underpinned by a growing labour force and an expanding working age population – bolstered by net immigration. Much, however, will depend on the growth in global trade and on what form an hard or soft Brexit agreement ultimately takes.

The institute’s second concern is how the introduction of a Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCTB) in the EU might affect foreign direct investment in Ireland, by hitting employment growth and tax revenue. The CCTB does not change Ireland’s 12.5% corporate tax rate. Instead the tax payable by a company would reflect the location of its actual activities, and the profits earned there.

Since Ireland’s low rate would thereby apply to a smaller share of the profits of multinationals, the country would become a less attractive investment option to such companies; securing overseas investment would be harder, and corporate tax revenues would be depressed.

The ESRI suggests that under CCTB, which the Government opposes, economic output could decline by 1.5%, foreign direct investment would drop by some 5% and revenues from corporation tax decline by a similar figure.

The British government’s aims to lower its corporate tax rate from now 20% to 15% over time. President-elect Donald Trump is planning to lower the US rate to 15% within months.

The ESRI identifies another concern: the likely inability of the banking sector to supply adequate mortgage finance to meet the rising demand for housing. An additional €50 billion may be needed by 2024, it suggests. Irish banks may be unable to provide the loans, creating the need for foreign banks to re-enter the market.

Almost 40% of Irish consumers will overspend this Christmas

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New research commissioned by Ireland’s leading gift card company One4all shows that close to 40% of Irish consumers expect to spend more than they can afford this Christmas. Under 35s are the group most likely to go over their Christmas budget, with 45% of respondents in this age group anticipating an overspend. This correlates with research undertaken last year by One4all, which showed that 54% of us do not save for the Christmas period.

The survey was undertaken nationally by RedC in November, with 1,000 respondents overall.

Overspending is not the only thing getting Irish workers down about the holiday season, according to the nationally representative survey. 40% of respondents stated that they do not get enough time off at Christmas. Again, under 35s are the most affected by this lack of time off – more than half (51%) in this age group complained about their short Christmas holidays. However, only one third (33%) of Irish workers have used up all of their holiday entitlements for this year.

With Christmas traditionally being a ‘stay at home’ holiday, it is surprising to learn that 30% of respondents would rather spend Christmas abroad than here in Ireland. This rises to 37% in under 35s, and drops to 25% in over 55s, who would be more likely to want a traditional Christmas.

One4all also asked respondents who they think should be awarded a Christmas bonus this year. Our president Michael D. Higgins won out, with 39% thinking he deserved a bonus, followed closely by Robbie Brady at 33%. Only 20% of Irish adults reckon their boss deserves a Christmas bonus. Interestingly, women are more likely than men to feel their boss should get a bonus, with over one quarter saying they believe it’s deserved.

21% of adults feel that Donald Trump’s Campaign Manager deserves a Christmas bonus – and this is before the President elect won his election campaign.

New eagles have landed to bench with a record number of solicitors for 2016

Brexit ‘uncertainty’ prompts 800 solicitors from England and Wales to join Irish roll call?

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Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society of Ireland, said that solicitors’ firms are coming on the roll to ensure they maintain the status of EU membership.

A record number of new solicitors will be added to the Law Society of Ireland roll by the end of the year due to Brexit, the society has said.

There will be 1,347 new solicitors by the end of 2016, 500 more than the previous record set in 2008 and almost four times as many as in 2015.

More than 800 of the new solicitors are from England and Wales, from where only 70 transferred last year.

But that does not mean they will actually set up practice in Ireland; so far very few have taken out practising certificates.

Unlike solicitors from other EU countries, practitioners from England, Wales and Northern Ireland are not required to go through a transfer test. But once on the roll, they must apply for a practising certificate annually.

There are 462 new Irish trainees on the roll this year and 34 barristers. Both of these figures have doubled on 2015, which was a particularly low year for new entrants.

By the end of 2016, it is expected there will be more than 16,300 solicitors on the roll.

A ‘Tsunami’ of new solicitors

Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society, said the “tsunami of new solicitors” has been caused by the “Brexit-driven” transfer decisions made by solicitors qualified in England and Wales to take out a second jurisdictional qualification in Ireland.

“This they have been perfectly entitled to do since the mutual-recognition regime between the two jurisdictions was first put in place in 1991,” he said.

“The single word that dominates all assessments of the potential impact of Brexit is ‘uncertainty’. So far, the Law Society of Ireland has no knowledge that any of the England-based firms intend to open an office in this jurisdiction.”

He said solicitors’ firms are coming on the roll to ensure they maintain the status of EU membership.

More than 110 solicitors from one firm, international practitioners Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, one of the 10 largest law firms in the world, have joined. And 86 have joined the roll from Eversheds, which already has an office in Ireland.

Mr Murphy said he had spoken to Freshfields and it had unambiguously stated it would not be setting up an office in Ireland. He also said only anti-trust, competition and trade law specialists from the company had transferred to the Irish roll.

He also said there will be no real boost to the society’s finances as a result of the increase in numbers as the €300 per solicitor fee for admission to the roll only covers administration costs.

A handful of nuts can cut your heart disease and cancer risk

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Nuts are rich in vitamins and minerals

“People consuming at least 20 grams of nuts daily less likely to develop potentially fatal conditions such as heart disease and cancer,” The Independent reports. That was the main finding of a review looking at 20 previous studies on the benefits of nuts.

Researchers found consistent evidence that a 28 gram daily serving of nuts – which is literally a handful (for most nuts) – was linked with around 20% reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and death from any cause.

However, as is so often the case with studies into diet and health, the researchers cannot prove nuts are the sole cause of these outcomes.

It’s hard to discount the possibility that nuts could be just one component of a healthier lifestyle pattern, including balanced diet and regular physical activity. It could be this overall picture that is reducing risk, not just nuts.

The researchers tried to account for these types of variables, but such accounting is always going to be an exercise in educated guesswork.

Also, many non-lifestyle factors may be involved in any individual’s risk of disease. For example, if you are a male with a family history of heart disease, a healthy diet including nuts can help, but still may not be able to eliminate the risk entirely.

The link between nuts and improved health is nevertheless plausible. As we pointed out during a discussion of a similar study in 2015: “Nuts are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, protein, and a range of vitamins and minerals … Unsalted nuts are the healthiest option.”

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, Imperial College London, and other institutions in the US.

It was funded by Olav og Gerd Meidel Raagholt’s Stiftelse for Medisinsk forskning (a Norwegian charitable foundation), the Liaison Committee between the Central Norway Regional Health Authority and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and Imperial College National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

The study was published in the peer reviewed medical journal BMC Medicine on an open-access basis, so it is free to read online.

The UK media presents the results reliably but without discussing the inherent potential limitations of the type of observational evidence examined by the researchers.

What kind of research was this?

This was a systematic review that aimed to examine the link between nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and death.

Previous studies have suggested an intake of nuts is beneficial, and some have found it could be linked with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Other studies though have found no link. The researchers consider the possibility that there is a weak link and that’s what they aimed to look at.

A systematic review is the best way of compiling all literature on a topic available to date. However, systematic reviews are only as good as the underlying evidence. Studies looking at dietary factors are often observational and it is difficult to rule out the possibility of confounding variables from other health and lifestyle factors.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers searched two literature databases to identify any randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or prospective cohort studies that had looked at how nut intake in adults was linked with cardiovascular disease, cancer and death from any cause.

Studies had to report information on nut intake specifically (ideally by dose and frequency). Researchers assessed the quality of studies for inclusion.

Twenty prospective cohort studies met the inclusion criteria. Nine studies came from the US, six from Europe, four from Asia, and one came from Australia. All studies included adult populations; five were in women only, three in men only, and 12 in a mixed population.

The researchers did not find any suitable RCTs to include in their analysis. This is not especially surprising as RCTs involving diet are notoriously difficult to carry out. You could never be sure that everyone who was randomised into the “eat no nuts” group would stick to the plan, or vice versa.

Also they’d need large samples and long follow-up times to capture disease outcomes, so are not usually feasible.

What did they find?

Cardiovascular disease

Twelve studies (376,228 adults) found nut consumption reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease. Each 28 gram/day serving was linked with a 21% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (relative risk [RR] 0.79, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.70 to 0.88).

This was for any nut intake, but risk reductions were also found when analysing peanuts or tree nuts separately. Increasing intake was associated with reduced risk up to 15grams/day, above which there was no further risk reduction.

Looking at specific outcomes, 12 studies also found a 29% reduced risk of heart disease specifically (RR 0.71, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.80).

However, 11 studies didn’t find a significant link with the outcome of stroke specifically (RR 0.93, 95% CI 0.83 to 1.05).

Cancer

Nine cohorts (304,285 adults) found that one serving of nuts per day reduced risk of any cancer by 15% (RR 0.85, 95% CI 0.76 to 0.94). By separate analysis, the risk reduction was slightly higher for tree nuts (20%) than peanuts (7%).

All-cause death

Fifteen cohorts (819,448 people) recorded 85,870 deaths. One serving of nuts a day was linked with a 22% reduced risk of death during study follow-up (RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.72 to 0.84).

Looking at specific causes of death, each serving of nuts a day was linked with reduced risk of respiratory deaths (0.48 (0.26–0.89); three studies) and diabetes deaths (RR 0.61, 0.43 to 0.88; four studies).

There was no link with deaths from neurodegenerative diseases, and inconsistent links with deaths from kidney disease and infectious diseases. No other disease-related causes were reported.

Overall, the researchers estimate that 4.4 million premature deaths in 2013 across America, Europe, Southeast Asia and Western Pacific could be attributable to nut intakes below 20 grams/day.

What did the researchers conclude?

The researchers conclude: “Higher nut intake is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality, and mortality from respiratory disease, diabetes, and infections.”

Conclusions

This systematic review finds evidence that nut intake may be linked with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and death.

The systematic review has several strengths. It identified a large number of studies with a large total sample size. It also included only prospective cohorts assessing nut consumption and then followed up later disease outcomes.

It excluded cross sectional studies, which assess diet and disease at the same time, and so can’t show the direction of effect. It also excluded cohorts that have retrospectively questioned diet when the person already has the disease, which could be subject to recall bias.

However, there are still a number of inherent limitations which mean these studies cannot easily prove that nuts are the magic dietary ingredient that are solely and directly responsible for these outcomes.

There were no randomised controlled trials of nut consumption. All studies were observational where people were choosing their own diet.

The researchers took care to include studies that only looked at nut consumption as an independent factor and looked at results that had adjusted for any confounders. However, the factors that the studies adjusted for, and how well they were assessed, will have varied across studies.

As such it’s very difficult to prove that nuts alone are the causative factor and they are not just one component of a generally healthier lifestyle pattern, including balanced diet, regular physical activity, not smoking, and moderating alcohol.

When it comes to frequency or quantity of intake, it is likely there is an element of inaccuracy when people report how much they eat. For example, most people wouldn’t weigh out how many nuts they’re eating each day.

The review also provides limited information about specific types of nuts. Considering peanuts in particular, the studies included in the review didn’t specify whether these are plain nuts, or whether they could have added salt and oils.

It is also likely that cardiovascular and cancer outcomes were not assessed the same way in all studies, for example whether by participant self-report or by checking medical records.

Overall there does seem to be a link between nut consumption and health, but nuts alone won’t reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease or cancers, if your lifestyle is still generally unhealthy.

If you want to live a long and healthy life then you should exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in salt, sugar and saturated fats, while avoiding smoking and moderating your consumption of alcohol.

Nuts are high in “good fats” and can be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Unsalted nuts are best as excessive amounts of salt can raise your blood pressure.

Emotions high as Sligo Borough Council closes its books & is no more

Image result for Emotions high as Sligo Borough Council closes its books & is no more   Image result for Emotions high as Sligo Borough Council is no more

A chapter in Sligo’s proud history came to a close on May 6th 2014. Sligo Borough Council, which had been in existence for 400 years, was no more.

It was part of a move that summer whereby one county council would be in place after the local elections.

Sligo Champion reporter Michael Moran was there to capture the sombre mood in City Hall in what was a poignant day for the council and also a day to reflect on those who had played such a vital role down through the years and paving the future of Sligo. The Borough Council may be no more, but their stories will remain.

Michael revealed it was an historical and emotional day: “Four hundred years of Sligo Borough Council brought to an end in 77 minutes.

“City Hall had seen many momentous occasions over the Centuries. None ever like this.

“Freemen of the Borough, former Mayors and Councillors, past and present staff and invited guests were in the packed Council Chamber for the last ever meeting of the local authority.”

Members dealt with a number of issues on the Agenda before the final Mayor, Councillor Marcella McGarry, ruled that a number of deferred motions would remain so to allow Councillors have their say at the end of an era. “They did it with dignity, some sadness and sincerity,” Michael added.

Many expressed the hope that a Borough Council would return in the future.

Others reflected on the past. At the end and with the sound of a Piper echoing in the background, the Mayor concluded the meeting at 5.32pm. The Minute book was closed for the final time.

There was spontaneous applause as the concluding chapter was written.

Michael said: “The Chamber was then the scene for a celebration of the Borough Council.

Then, in an act to underline the sense of occasion, two symbols of Sligo Corporation,silver Maces presented in 1842 were handed by the Mayor to Council CEO Ciaran Hayes for exhibition in Sligo Museum. He then presented an inscribed souvenir to each serving Councillor.

“The curtain came down on the Borough Council with performances by representatives from Feis Shlighigh and Feis Ceoil.

“Earlier in the day, children from St Brendan’s NS, St John’s, Gael Scoil Chnoc na Re and St Edward’s were among the many visitors to City Hall to view the Sligo 400 Exhibition and view the Council Chamber.

Mayor Marcella McGarry said: “We reflect on 400 years of local history and pay tribute to the men and women who served this town; people who gave of their time and their toil for the community. They served with distinction over many generations.”

“”The presence among us of our Freemen and former Mayors and other distinguished guests bestows a palpable sense of occasion.

“It highlights the historical significance, the political importance and social and economic legacy of 400 years of Sligo Borough Council.”

Meanwhile, as the Borough Council was winding down, there were rumbles going on as what to do with the now-defunct Mayor’s chain. That summer saw Sligo host the All-Ireland Fleadh, with President Michael D Higgins being welcomed by the Mayor of Sligo Municipal District, Cllr Tom MacSharry. who was without a chain, as The Sligo Champion remarked.

“It was as formal an occasion you could have, the country’s President being welcomed to officially open the All Ireland Fleadh. Apparently Clr MacSharry can’t use the old mayoral chain, which had been in use by the now abolished Borough Council since 1882. It has now emerged that the outgoing Borough Council met in the mayor’s parlour prior to holding their last formal public gathering.

“At this private session the issue of what to do with the historic mayoral chain came up. Councillors voted that they would donate the chain along with the deputy’s mayor’s chain and ceremonial maces to the County Museum.

“The thinking behind the move was that the mayoral chain was presented to the Borough Council/Sligo Corporation in 1882 and as this body was being scrapped so too should the use of the chain. The situation leaves Clr MacSharry without a chain and he won’t have one unless a new one is commissioned. The other question, of course, is: does the present title deserve one?”

Antarctica glows blue as NASA AIM spacecraft observes early noctilucent cloud season

Over the Southern Hemisphere

Image result for Antarctica glows blue as NASA AIM spacecraft observes early noctilucent cloud season  Image result for Antarctica glows blue as NASA AIM spacecraft observes early noctilucent cloud season

Night shining clouds arrived early in the sky above Antarctica and are shining blue. The early arrival of the clouds has triggered suspicion that the warming of the Arctic region could be a reason. 

The sky above Antarctica glowing in electric blue has made big news after NASA updated about the arrival of noctilucent, or night-shining clouds, in the Southern Hemisphere.

In terms of looks, the luminescent clouds are looking wispy as in a blue-white aurora borealis when seen from the ground. The same looks like a blue gossamer haze when seen from space.

The data and images sent by NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere spacecraft (AIM) above the Antarctic sky showed the sky as radiating bright with electric blue color.

What makes it special this year is their early arrival, stumping scientists who suspect it as yet another manifestation of the warming of Arctic region.

Some scientists hold the view that this corresponds to an earlier seasonal change at lower altitudes. NASA spokesperson Lina Tran explained that the clouds were seeded by fine debris from disintegrating meteors.

AIM spacecraft analysis?

Since its launch in 2007, AIM spacecraft has been monitoring the atmosphere. Data show that changes in one region of the atmosphere also affect another region in what is called as “atmospheric teleconnections”.

The spacecraft’s evolving orbit has come handy in measuring the atmospheric gravity waves that are contributing to these teleconnections.

“AIM studies noctilucent clouds in order to better understand the mesosphere, and its connections to other parts of the atmosphere, weather and climate. We observe them seasonally, during summer in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. This is when the mesosphere is most humid, with water vapor wafting up from lower altitudes,” NASA explained in a statement.

The early arrival of Noctilucent Clouds

As mentioned, the early start of blue shining clouds this year — from Nov. 17 instead of late November or early December — has baffled scientists. So there is more mystery in the early start of the shining clouds season in the Southern Hemisphere.

Considered the highest and coldest clouds of Earth, Noctilucent clouds are normally spotted around 50 miles above the Earth’s surface in the mesosphere region.

The blue shine happens when ice crystals formed from the interaction of water vapors with the dust, and micro-debris from meteors start reflecting when sunlight falls on them.

Methane Concentration

One pivotal explanation to the phenomenon was offered by James Russell, a principal investigator of AIM. He said growing methane content in the atmosphere could be responsible for the phenomenon as it allows more water vapor to be loaded into ice crystals leading to these clouds.

Gary Thomas, a professor at the University of Colorado, calls noctilucent clouds a relatively new phenomenon.

“They were first seen in 1885,’ about two years after the powerful eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia, which hurled plumes of ash as high as 80 km into Earth’s atmosphere,” he said. But even after the ash dispersed, the clouds persisted.

The onset of night-shining clouds coinciding with the early arrival of summer in the Antarctica is a matter of concern for climatologists and NASA.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 19th November 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How stages of prostate cancer are determined?

Image result for How stages of prostate cancer are determined?  Where is the prostate gland is located?  Image result for Testing for prostate cancer?

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

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

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

Staging is necessary for several reasons:

Testing for prostate cancer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How prostate cancer is staged and what they mean.

Stage I cancer

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

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

Stage II cancer

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

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

Stage III cancer

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

Stage IV cancer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scientist’s now warn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 17th June 2016

Enda Kenny promises to extend voting rights to Irish living abroad

   

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has promised he will prioritise extending voting rights to Irish people living abroad.

Speaking at the Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester this morning Mr Kenny again expressed condolences to the family of murdered British Labour MP Jo Cox.

“It’s appropriate to pay tribute to the life and times of Jo Cox who was murdered on the street in West Yorkshire, a mother of two young children going about her business as any councillor or MP or public representative would do and to be shot down and taken away from her family and children is an appalling crime,” Mr Kenny said.

He said he would not be campaigning on Brexit as a mark of respect.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks to the media outside the Irish centre in Liverpool yesterday. Picture: PA

However, he told members of the Irish community in Manchester that the government is now looking at giving a vote in the presidential elections to Irish emigrants.

“One of the priorities that I have asked the minister to look at and hopefully to be able to implement is the situation as far as emigrant voting is concerned in presidential elections.

“This is an issue that has been around for a very long time but there have been quite sophisticated advances made in terms of voting from abroad and we need to set out a terms of reference as to the conditions that would apply in terms of who should be eligible to vote.

“That will be a priority for the Minister for the Diaspora,” Mr Kenny said adding that he would be seeking the input from Irish living abroad on the issue.

He said: “We will work towards assisting emigrant communities and situations abroad from Ireland in England, in America, in Australia and other areas.

“That means that we want to work in a closer way with the emigrant communities in Manchester, Birmingham, London, Liverpool, Scotland and so on.”

FF to reconsider Government support if housing plan inadequate

Barry Cowen says solutions to crisis crucial part of deal between his party and Fine Gael

   

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has insisted his party will reconsider its support for a Fine Gael minority Government if ‘adequate action’ is not taken on housing.

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has insisted his party will reconsider its support for the Fine Gael minority Government if “adequate action” is not taken on housing.

Mr Cowen said the report on housing by the Oireachtas committee must be accepted by Minister for Housing, Simon Coveney, and implemented without delay.

He said housing was the biggest crisis facing the State and the Government needed to move to address it.

“The housing committee was set the challenge of finding solutions to the housing crisis,” Mr Cowen said. “TDs from every party worked extremely hard to meet the deadline set. The challenge for Minister Coveney is to implement these recommendations without delay.”

Mr Cowen, who was part of the negotiations between his party and Fine Gael, said action on housing was crucial to the deal struck between the two sides.

“We facilitated a Fine Gael Government, so action could be taken on this issue, which is the biggest challenge,” he said. “Fianna Fail is adamant the housing situation has to be addressed. And if adequate action is not taken, our support cannot be guaranteed.”

Mr Coveney’s spokesman said the Minister would study the report in detail before deciding how to proceed.

It is understood the Department of Finance and the Minister for Finance,Michael Noonan, have already warned against the introduction of rent certainty measures.

Mr Coveney is expected not to accept the report’s proposals to link rent increases to the Consumer Price Index. He is currently compiling an action plan for housing, with a draft expected by the end of the month.

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said the Minister must now move to introduce the committee’s recommendations, calling them ambitious but necessary to tackle the crisis .

Sick of talk

Independent TD for Dublin Central Maureen O’Sullivan said she had been speaking about housing for seven years and was sick of talking about the problems. Action was now needed .

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Ruth Coppinger declined to sign off on the committee’s housing report, saying it was not ambitious enough and that targets set on social housing were disappointing.

The TD for Dublin West, who has issued her own minority report, said the committee does not locate the cause of the crisis or identify how the measures can be funded.

“Neither does the report grapple with the major issue of the day – rocketing rents,” Ms Coppinger said. “While there were some welcome reforms, the report is missing most of what is needed to really solve the housing crisis.”

Artwork exhibition dedicated to WB Yeats unveiled in Sligo

Artwork exhibition dedicated to WB Yeats unveiled in Sligo    Artwork exhibition dedicated to WB Yeats unveiled in Sligo

The Yeats-themed gallery was opened by WB Yeats’s granddaughter Caitríona Yeats 

An open-air gallery of artwork dedicated to Irish poet WB Yeats has been unveiled in Sligo.

His granddaughter Caitríona Yeats unveiled the first of five pieces of art, which are being permanently installed on the outside of buildings linked to the Yeats family in Sligo town.

The poet, who born in Dublin but spent much of his childhood in Co Sligo and is buried there, was regarded as the driving force behind Ireland’s literary revival and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923.

The artwork will be securely fixed to the outside facade of five premises with protective glass and will be illuminated for night-time viewing.

The exhibition was launched over the weekend during celebrations to mark Yeats Day, which took place on Monday.

Each piece is a collaboration between an established artist and an internationally-noted appreciator of Yeats.

The poet’s granddaughter was a collaborator in the first piece of art installed along with artist Jane Murtagh.

Their artwork was unveiled on Sunday at Pollexfen House – the home of Yeats’s grandparents – and is based on the poem Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven.

“I am delighted to have been asked to be the first collaborator in this project which brings the work of my grandfather to the public in such an accessible manner,” said Ms Yeats.

“Pollexfen House is a fitting place to locate the work and for him to be remembered and celebrated.

“Jane was a pleasure to work with and I am delighted with the unique art piece she has produced from our discussions.”

The idea for the open-air gallery came from local business owners, Suzy McCanny, Keville Burns and Tom Ford.

“With the strong connection between Yeats and Wine Street, we felt it would be an appropriate location to honour the legacy of Yeats in some way,” said Mr Ford.

“We had the idea that it might be the world’s first free permanent open-air art gallery and it would bring the poetry of Yeats to the public in a unique way.”

Spending by British tourists in Ireland increases by 18% for first quarter of 2016

2015 marks record-breaking year for tourism with 8.6 million trips made to Ireland

    

Tourists browsing the Guinness Store house in Dublin (middle picture).

Spending by British tourists visiting Ireland rose by as much as 18% in the first three months of 2016 compared to the same period last year, according to the latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures.

The latest travel data shows that increasing numbers of European and non-EU tourists continue to visit Ireland, with spending on the rise among all nationalities.

Tourists visiting Ireland from Great Britain spent €33 million more between January and March 2016 than during the same period in 2015, marking a rise of 18.2%.

British tourists spent €214 million in the first three months of this year compared to €181 million during the same period last year. Visitors from Great Britain spent a total of €971 million last year.

Spending by tourists from France, Germany, Italy, the US, Canada, Australiaand New Zealand also rose between January and March of this year, with North Americans spending €144 million, a rise of of €19 million on the same period last year.

The overall number of overseas trips to Ireland by non-residents rose by more than 15%, with 1,785 million trips in the first three months of the year, up 254 million on last year.

Earnings

The duration of visitors’ stay in Ireland remained the same as last year, with people opting to spend an average of 6.5 nights.

Ireland’s total tourism and travel earnings during the first three months of 2016 rose by 18.7% on the same period last year, increasing from €780 million to €926 million.

Meanwhile, the number of Irish people travelling overseas increased by 13.1% from 1.306 million between January and March 2015 to 1.478 million during the first three months of this year. The CSO figures also reveal Irish people are spending more nights abroad than last year.

2015 marked a record-breaking year for tourism with 8.6 million trips made to Ireland.

The latest travel data follows news earlier this week that Dublin is facing a shortage in visitor accommodation options over the next two years, limiting the potential for tourism growth in the longer term.

A report commissioned by Fáilte Ireland found that while additional bedrooms are due to be created for visitors, most will not be available until after 2018 or later.

The report also warned that most of the new accommodation stock was not guaranteed and said the capital was facing “a capacity challenge” over the next two years.

Between 2010 and 2015, the number of tourists visiting Dublin rose by 33% while the availability of accommodation fell by 6%, according to Fáilte Ireland.

Antarctic observatories register 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide for the first time ever

   

An iceberg is pictured in the western Antarctic peninsula, on March 04, 2016.

One by one, the observatories sounded the alarm in the past few yearsfrom the peak of Mauna Loa in Hawaii, and the top of the Greenland ice sheet as the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere crept above 400 parts per million (ppm). 

The last alarm bells went off this week, when scientists announced that the Halley Research Station in Antarctica, as well as a monitoring post at the geographic South Pole, both located amid the most pristine air on the planet, have now passed the 400 ppm mark.

In other words, at every location on Earth where scientists routinely monitor carbon dioxide levels, we are now entering uncharted territory for humanity.

For reference, carbon dioxide levels were at about 280 ppm at the start of the industrial revolution, when humans began burning fossil fuels for energy. They have marched upward at increasing rates ever since.

According to Pieter Tans, the lead scientist for the Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, 400 ppm is the highest level that carbon dioxide levels have reached in at least 4 million years.

Carbon dioxide concentrations in the northern hemisphere have already eclipsed the 400 ppm milestone. These observatories are located closer to pollution sources, and this elevates the observed carbon dioxide levels.

However, it takes a while for carbon dioxide to reach Antarctica.

“This is the first time a sustained reading of 400 ppm, over the period of a day, has been recorded at a research station on the ice,” according to a press release from the British Antarctic Survey.

Keeling Curve of carbon dioxide concentrations at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

“The remoteness of the Antarctic continent means it is one of the last places on Earth to see the effects of human activities, but the news that even here the milestone of carbon dioxide levels reaching 400 parts per million has been reached shows that no part of the planet is spared from the impacts of human activity,” said David Vaughan, director of science at the Antarctic Survey, in a press release.

Today at Halley Station, CO2 is rising faster than it was when we began measurements in the 1980s. We have changed our planet to the very poles.”

A separate press release from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the South Pole observation occurred on May 23, but was announced on June 15.

In 2015, the global average carbon dioxide level was 399 ppm, and it’s expected that each month in 2016 will likely see carbon dioxide levels remain above 400 ppm for the first time.

“We know from abundant and solid evidence that the CO2 increase is caused entirely by human activities,” Tans said. “Since emissions from fossil fuel burning have been at a record high during the last several years, the rate of CO2 increase has also been at a record high.”

“We have changed our planet to the very poles.”

While scientists have ice core samples of carbon dioxide levels and temperatures dating back to about 800,000 years ago, they also have evidence from seafloor sediment of what Earth’s conditions were like dating back to about 4 million years ago, Tans told Mashable via email.

However, those measurements are not as precise as the ice core records, Tans said.

Because of the long atmospheric lifetime of carbon dioxide, it is not likely to fall below this level again in most of our lifetimes, even if the most aggressive emissions reduction plans are pursued.

A single molecule of carbon dioxide can remain in the atmosphere for hundreds to thousands of years.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 3rd November 2014

Net water charge will be known by the end of November

 

The Introduction of the new utility company is a ‘big undertaking for the State’ says Tánaiste Burton

Tánaiste Joan Burton said the time lines on the roll out of water metering had been ‘far more ambitious than has actually been realised’.

The net charge for water will be “modest” and hopefully will be known by the end of this month, Tánaiste Joan Burton has said.

Speaking at the opening of an exhibition at Farmleigh in Dublin this afternoon, M/s Burton said the Government had a number of meetings and detailed discussions, but had not yet settled “on the exact amounts”.

“I expect and hope they will conclude later this month and then we will be in a position to make an announcement for people,” she said.

She said she and the Government had been listening very carefully to what people have been saying and the concerns they have been expressing.

“It will be a capped charge for single occupancy households and a separate charge following the structure that the Commissioner for Energy Regulation has set out,” the Tánaiste said.

As already announced in the Budget, she said there will be a water support payment of €100 in addition to a tax credit of the same amount.

“So the net charge to people I’m very confident will be modest and will meet the needs to have a very significant funding programme,” she said.

Ms Burton said the time lines on the roll out of water metering had been “far more ambitious than has actually been realised” and because of that the Government was discussing how to have a “modest affordable charge”. This would provide “an element of the funding and the capacity to borrow money off-balance sheet to provide for the massive investment in water infrastructure that the country has to make over the next 10 years”.

“If we don’t have a mechanism from which to secure investment off the balance sheet we will actually have to provide for this massive investment out of ordinary day to day taxation,” she said.

“It is much better if we have a company, a state company like the ESB like An Bord Gáis that can borrow internationally and fund what will be a hugely ambitious programme to provide clean water for people.”

She described the introduction of Irish Water as the equivalent of the establishment of the ESB not long after the foundation of the State.

“It is a very big undertaking for the State,” she said.

Three Senators to publish bill on adoption rights

  

Senators Fidelma Healy Eames, Averil Power, and Jillian Van Turnhout launched the bill

A number of Opposition senators have called on the Government to support a bill they are proposing that would give adopted people an automatic right to their birth certificate.

Senators Averil Power, Fidelma Healy Eames and Jillian Van Turnhout published the bill at Leinster House this morning.

It would give adopted persons an automatic right to their birth certificate and the name of their mother and the time of their birth.

It would give fathers’ names, if they are available.

It would also provide for natural birth mothers to be contacted in advance of birth certificates being issued to see if they were willing to have their contact details passed on.

If birth mothers declined to consent to the release of their contact details, they would not be passed on to the adoptee, although the adoptee would be told of the refusal.

Mothers could also choose to allow health details and other relevant information be passed on to the adopted person, even when they opt not to have direct contact.

Under the bill’s provisions, birth parents would also be able to access information concerning the process of adoption of their children.

They could request adoption certificates for their children, their adopted names and the names of their adoptive parents.

The adopted person may, however, decline the release of any information that may identify them or their adoptive parents.

The legislation would also requir all bodies or individuals that hold adoption records to

Caroline Simons of the Pro Life Campaign calls on stem cell research results to be promoted better

  

Amid calls by researchers at a conference in NUI, Galway for wider availability of embryonic stem cells for scientific research, Caroline Simons of the Pro Life Campaign has said that results-based stem cell research should be promoted instead.

In a statement Caroline Simons said:

“For years now, those who push embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) have been trying to convince the public of the potential to cure a number of diseases but the reality is that ESCR has produced virtually no scientific or medical breakthroughs.”

“On the other hand, adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, which present no ethical dilemmas for scientists, continue to produce astounding clinical results.”

“Just last week it was reported that  a 40 year old paralyzed man from Poland can now walk again with the aid of a frame after breakthrough surgery transplanted cells from his nose into his spinal cord, which had been severed in a knife attack.”*

“And we know that companies, like Geron, a US-based firm which was involved in carrying out the first US government-backed embryonic stem cell research ceased it’s operations in recent years because of a lack of progress in the area of embryonic stem cell research.”

Ms. Simons pointed out that adult stem cell science presents the best possible outcome in that it does not involve the destruction of human life and it is repeatedly demonstrating its worth in medical and scientific terms.

“Focussing on embryonic stem cell research distracts from the successes of adult stems cell research that is producing tangible results. The Government and our universities should be committed to promoting ethical research that deliver results for patients. That’s a win-win solution”, she concluded

Diabetes types & controlling the insulin condition

 

Muiris Houstons looks at causes, signs, symptoms, prevention, treatment and useful resources.

Diabetes Mellitus occurs when there is excessive sugar in the blood. The term ‘diabetes’ means excessive urination and the word ‘mellitus’ means honey.

There are two distinct types of diabetes. Both are caused by a lack of sufficient insulin, which is produced by the pancreas gland.

Type I diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes and happens when the body produces insufficient insulin. It mainly occurs in young people and children and it requires the depleted insulin to be replaced through regular injections.

Diabetes type 2 or non-insulin-dependent diabetes mainly affects older people and those who are overweight.

It occurs when more sugar is consumed than the insulin produced by the body can handle. It is treated with diet and oral medication although some people with this version of diabetes will eventually require insulin injections.

Untreated diabetes affects many body systems and is linked to the development of other conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease and eye disease.

No cure yet?

While diabetes cannot be cured, the condition can be controlled. A combination of sensible weight loss, avoidance of sugar and refined carbohydrates and increased exercise may be sufficient to control Type 2 diabetes. If you have type 1 disease, then carefully matching your blood sugar levels to the dose of injected insulin can produce good, tight control.

The International Diabetes Federation estimate there are over 91,000 people with diabetes in Ireland, with a prevalence of 6.1 per cent of the population.

According to Diabetes Ireland there are about 30,000 people here with the disease but how many remain undiagnosed?

Causes, Signs and Symptoms and Diagnosis:

Type 1 diabetes is caused by the body’s own immune system destroying the insulin making cells in the pancreas. It tends to occur in childhood. Type 2 diabetes develops slowly in adults and is linked to lifestyle, especially being overweight and not exercising sufficiently.

The real discovery facts about diabetes?

The symptoms of diabetes include an excessive and frequent need to pass urine, excessive thirst, tiredness and lack of energy. Some people notice an increased tendency to develop infections especially those of the skin. Weight loss is common in Type I diabetes.

 Complications discovery?

When your doctor examines you there may be no outward signs of diabetes, especially with type 2 disease. However if you have developed some complications they may find you have high blood pressure or there may be evidence of the disease when they examine your neurological system or look at the back of your eye. Spot testing your urine for sugar may also indicate the possibility of diabetes.

Ultimately the diagnosis is made by a blood test. A fasting blood glucose above a certain level strongly suggests the diagnosis. In borderline cases you may be asked to undergo a glucose tolerance test where you drink the equivalent of a bottle of Lucozade after which your blood sugars are checked. A test called the Haemoglobin 1Ac, initially developed as a means of monitoring diabetes control is now also used as a diagnostic test.

Allergens on loose foods in Ireland to be labelled

  V

Specific allergens, such as peanuts, milk and shellfish, will have to be clearly labelled on all loose foods from next month, the Department of Health has said.

New laws have been brought in by Health Minister, Leo Varadkar, as required under EU regulations. Similar measures are being signed into law throughout the EU and will come into effect on December 13.

The new regulations will cover loose food sold in shops, as well as food sold in a range of businesses, including takeaways, restaurants, pubs and food stalls.

“This is a significant measure for people who suffer from allergies to some of the most common food products. Although allergens already have to be declared on prepacked food, there is no such requirement for loose or non-prepacked products. The impact of allergens on sufferers can range from irritation, to a life-threatening reaction,” noted Minister Varadkar.

He said that while many commercial outlets already provide this important information, ‘consumers with allergies cannot afford to take chances’.

“I look forward to consumers of non-prepacked foods receiving the same information as is currently available to consumers of pre-packed foods, as it will allow them to make informed choices,” Minister Varadkar added.

According to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), 14 food allergens specified under EU law will now have to be detailed on all loose foods. This also extends to food sold on the internet. The allergens covered by the new laws include milk, eggs, shellfish, cereals containing gluten, nuts, mustard and soybean products.

“By extending the food allergen declaration requirement to include non-prepacked or loose food, consumers can now be confident they will be able to make more informed choices about all of the food they buy,” commented FSAI chief executive, Prof Alan Reilly.

Robotic baby penguin helps researchers get closer to shy adults

  

Researchers used the robot in Adelie Land, Antarctica, where ‘March of the Penguins’ was filmed

A tiny grey robotic penguin as above with four, thick, snow-ready black wheels is helping scientists to understand the specie’s behaviour.

As emperor penguins are notoriously shy creatures, they retreat when researchers approach them – causing their heart rates to rise and interfering with data on their health.

To tackle this problem, a team of scientists and film-makers led by Yvon Le Maho of the University of Strasbourg in France created a remote control rover disguised as a chick. The cunningly designed robot can easily sidle up to penguins without scaring them away.

The robot has been deployed in Adelie Land, Antarctica, where the 2005 documentary March of the Penguins was filmed, and allowed researchers to study the animals from over 650 feet (200 meters) away.

But to create the successful bot, scientists endured a process of trial an error, with the first disguised version of the rover, made of fibreglass scaring the real birds, Le Maho said.

Researchers tried about five versions before they found their final design which is covered in grey fur, sports black arms, and has a black-and-white painted face and black beak.

  “The penguins did not scamper away and even sang to it with “a very special song like a trumpet,” Le Maho said.

Le Maho suggested that the adult penguins were trying to find a mate for their chicks and they were listening for a response, but researchers didn’t program the rover to make a sound.

“They were very disappointed when there was no answer,” Le Maho said. “Next time we will have a rover playing songs.”

At other times, the rover crowded in with a group of chicks, acting as “a spy in the huddle,” Le Maho said.

Le Maho also used a rover without any animal disguise to spy on king penguins and elephant seals because those animals do not flee from strangers.

Even though the king penguins attacked the small rover with their beaks when it moved, it allowed the device to get close enough to get readings. Meanwhile, the large lumbering elephant were not disturbed when the rover zipped by and around them.

In the future, the researchers plan to use a more autonomous robot to spy on the emperor penguins. The idea is to use devices on the rover to read signals from radio tags on the birds.

The study is published Sunday by the journal ‘Nature Methods’.

News Ireland daily BLOG update Sunday

Sunday 11th May 2014

Ireland smothered by its own blanket guarantee

 

Europe needs to learn from its bad choices and transform itself into a true monetary union

Given the profound alteration in Ireland’s relationship with Europe since the last European elections in 1979, it is unfortunate that media coverage of the poll due on May 23 has consisted largely of parochial speculation about who will win in each constituency, a matter of no importance to anyone other than the candidates and their supporters.

There has been no discussion of party positions on European issues, since there appear to be none. There is no greater European issue than the failure of the common currency experiment and the continuing unwillingness to take the measures necessary to avoid a repetition. Not one Irish party has offered a vision of what a future European monetary union should look like, campaigning instead on complaints about austerity and unsupported promises of better jobs, decent wages and free water.

There are serious issues aplenty. In his recent book*, Philippe Legrain argues that the handling of the eurozone crisis by the EUCommission, and particularly by the European Central Bank, has been inept, deeply politicised and damaging to the broader European project. He is no eurosceptic, indeed his strictures are the more compelling because his concerns are those of a supporter of European integration. Legrain is particularly scathing about the actions of the European Central Bank under the presidency of Jean-Claude Trichet, including its dealings with Ireland.

The worldwide banking crisis became evident to even the less alert policymakers by the summer of 2007. The first European bank to go under was the German lender IKB, bailed out in July of that year. The source of its collapse was investment in US subprime mortgage securities peddled by Wall Street banks.

There were numerous other banking tremors during 2007 including several in the US and Northern Rock in Britain. The crisis erupted the following year, culminating in the Bear Stearns collapse and rescue in March and the Lehmans’ bankruptcy in September, followed promptly by the unravelling of the Irish banking system in the following months.

The textbook response to a systemic banking crisis is easily written: individual banks can be allowed to go under, particularly ones deemed to pose little threat to the broader financial system, but governments are understandably loath to let the broader banking system crash and invariably resort to ad hoc, often panicky, measures resulting in large taxpayer bailouts of bank creditors. These responses were universal in 2008 and 2009, the slow-motion panic in Ireland being merely the most egregious example.

Until such time as interconnected mega-banks are brought down to manageable size, small enough to fail at the expense of shareholders and creditors, governments will remain tempted to bail them out at taxpayers’ expense, even at the risk of bankrupting national treasuries and imposing losses on those who prudently lent to solvent governments rather than to dodgy banks.

Banks have not been required to raise extra capital in adequate amounts and many continue to pay dividends and extravagant bonuses, instead of using their operating profits to augment their thin capital buffers. As a result, they are reluctant to lend – and large areas of the eurozone continue to experience credit famine.

The result has been the longest and deepest economic downturn since the early years of the Second World War, instigated by an explosion in bank balance sheets devoted to poor lending and financed through excess debt with too little loss-absorbing capital. All of this was overseen by complacent central banks and regulators.

Only in the United States have measures been taken designed to ameliorate a repetition. In the eurozone, a policy of doing too little, too late remains stubbornly in place, currently enjoying a degree of apparent success through the untested expectation that the ECB will act as lender of last resort to the next round of bank busts. This expectation also explains the ability of over-extended European sovereigns to borrow at historically low interest rates in bond markets.

Legrain and numerous other writers have outlined a programme of reform in European banking which would offer better assurance that a repetition would be avoided. The mega-banks, some of which have balance sheets exceeding the national income of their home countries, are now ‘too big to save’ if there is another crisis. Too big to save means too big, and they should be broken up.

There should be far higher capital standards – all banks should have shareholder risk capital on hand adequate to handle the inevitable loan losses which will arise from time to time. Those who finance them through the medium of bank bonds should also stand to lose if things go wrong. The 100 per cent bailout of bank bondholders and wholesale depositors who backed the wrong horse has been perhaps the single most damaging policy mistake made by European policymakers throughout the crisis, resulting in an expectation that the exercise will be repeated and resulting in a huge hidden interest-cost subsidy to large European banks.

Misdiagnosis leads to quack cures and the initial European response, which persisted from the onset of the crisis into 2012, was that the eurozone’s problems derived from excessive budget deficits run by the countries experiencing the greatest liquidity strains. This line was peddled most vociferously by the European Central Bank whose line was followed slavishly by the EU Commission.

With the solitary exception of Greece, the eurozone crisis was a banking bubble, not an orgy of fiscal excess. From a long list, Legrain picks the botched bailout of Greece in May 2010 as the original sin of the euro debacle. European politicians led by German chancellor Angela Merkel insisted that Greece, which was heavily indebted to French and German banks, was solvent and worthy of official credit when just about nobody else shared that view.

In due course, Greece defaulted on unsustainable private bondholder debts to the tune of €100bn, the largest sovereign default in history. The French and German banks emerged largely unscathed, protected from the losses their carelessness had earned. At the time of the first Greek bailout, IMFofficials favoured a sizeable creditor haircut but were overruled by the politicians. When sanity finally prevailed and creditor losses were imposed, the default was inadequate – and Greece remains borderline insolvent to this day.

In Ireland, the panic decision to underwrite virtually all of the liabilities of the domestic banking system similarly protected capital providers to mismanaged banks from market discipline. By the time the balloon went up, Irish bank shares had been tanking for 18 months.

The blanket guarantee decision, which eventually cost enough to push the Irish State into insolvency and the tender mercies of the troika, remarkably still finds its defenders. In fairness to the European institutions, this initial decision appears to have been an Irish solo run but Legrain is clear-eyed about what the ECB did two years later.

He writes: “Eurozone policymakers, notably ECB President Trichet, outrageously blackmailed the Irish government into making good on its guarantee by threatening to cut off liquidity to the Irish banking system – in effect threatening to force it out of the euro.” He goes on: “This was a flagrant abuse of power by an unelected central banker whose primary duty ought to have been to the citizens of countries that use the euro – not least Irish ones.”

My guess is that a majority on the ECB governing council approved this decision and that it was not taken by M Trichet on his own initiative. Since the ECB, unusually among central banks, does not publish minutes of its meetings, no paper trail is available. The same performance was repeated in April 2011, when ECB threats were again used against the incoming Fine Gael/Labour Government on the same issue.

Legrain goes on to outline the reforms which would turn Europe’s dysfunctional and mismanaged common currency area into a proper monetary union, steps which have to date been taken only in part – to wit, the parts which least disturb the survival of the largely unreformed French and German banking systems.

This book, unfortunately lacking an index, is a spirited and readable account of the biggest policy failure to have afflicted the European project since its inception almost 60 years ago.

Irish water charges now means new loo rules

If it’s yellow, let it mellow

  

Goodbye your nice garden: If we have a summer like the one we had in 2013, then only the wealthy Irish people can afford to water their plants.

The water charges will cost the average household €240 a year,  after the Irish Government’s last week. Each household will have a free allowance of 30,000 litres a year before water charges kick in – with an additional allowance to cover water used by under-18s.

Although Environment Minister Phil Hogan described that free allowance as “generous” last week, you will fly through it easier than you think. If you have an old-style flush toilet and you flush your toilet seven times a day, your toilet flushing alone could eat up your free allowance.

The average household uses about 140,000 litres of water a year, according to the Department of the Environment.

Trying to reduce that consumption to 30,000 litres in a bid to avoid water charges will be a major shock to the system. Here are seven things you will have to kiss goodbye to when water charges come on board this October – otherwise, you risk paying through the nose for water.

Bubble baths

A full bath can use up to 80 litres of water – so you’ve no chance of staying within your free allowance if you have a bath a day. Most of us don’t have a daily bath – but even cutting back on your weekly bath could save you a small fortune.

Long showers

Knocking a minute off your shower will save you seven litres of water a go, according to Jacob Tompkins, managing director of Waterwise, a British organisation that encourages people to conserve water. So you’ll save 2,555 litres a year by showering for a minute less every day – if you plan on having a shower a day.

As well as cutting your water usage – and keeping your water charges down – the shorter shower could save you about €150 a year in energy bills, said Tompkins. “It takes a lot of energy to heat water,” added Tompkins.

Switching your showerhead to an aerated or low-flow showerhead should also help to keep your water bills in check. These showerheads reduce the amount of water used – but should still give the feel of a normal shower.

Leaks

One of the most important things you can do before water charges are introduced is to check for leaks, advised Graham Smith, the interim head of water with consumer lobby group the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland. Water leaks have cost businesses in the North thousands, according to Smith.

“The water in a leak will be counted as consumption,” said Smith. “If you have a leak, you could be hit with a major bill, depending on how big the leak is – and for how long it has been running.

“To check for a leak, take a meter reading when your water meter is put in, then make sure all your water taps and radiators are turned off – and check the meter. If the meter is still turning, you might have a leak.”

If you have a leak, contact Irish Water. Under Irish Water’s ‘first fix free’ scheme, the company should repair the leak for free – as long as the leak is outside your home and identified within a certain time of your water meter being installed or water charges beginning. Leaks outside your home can often be traced to the water pipe leading to your property – or the main stopcock on the road into your home.

If the leak is in your home, such as from a burst or badly fitted water pipe, you will need to hire a plumber and cover the cost of repairs yourself.

If it’s yellow, let it mellow

Flushed toilets account for about one-third of the water used by a typical family, said Tompkins. “Look at how you’re flushing the toilet,” added Tompkins. “For example, do you really need to flush it every time you put a tissue into it?”

A dual flush toilet – where you can choose the amount of water that will be used with each flush – could be worth investing in. Dual flush toilets typically use between four and six litres of water a flush – compared to the 13 litres used in an old-style flush system, according to Waterwise.

A cistern displacement device, which takes up space that would otherwise be occupied by water, could also be worth installing in your toilet cistern. The device, which reduces the amount of water that is available for flushing, can save up to 5,000 litres of water a year, according to some experts.

Dripping taps

A running tap can easily use six litres of water a minute, according to Smith. So before water charges kick in, get out of the habit of running the tap when brushing your teeth.

Use a bowl to wash up the dishes rather than leaving a tap running.

Adding a tap aerator can help reduce the flow of water from your tap and, therefore, the amount of water used.

That dripping tap that keeps you awake at night should also be fixed. “A tap that drips once a minute throughout the day will use up 30 litres of water a day – and that adds up over the year,” said Smith.

Tarmac the lawn

Using a hosepipe to water the lawn will cost you a fortune. Although attaching a trigger nozzle to the hosepipe can reduce the amount of water used, using a water butt is a better idea.

Water butts allow you to catch large amounts of rainwater and to use that rainwater then to water your lawn or flowers. “Rainwater is better for your plants than treated water,” said Smith.

If you live in a terraced house and have no down spout on your house, you should maybe consider tarmacing over the flowers.

Don’t wash recyclables

Running the washing machine or dishwasher when it is half empty will be an expensive waste. Make sure you fully load your dishwasher or washing machine before turning it on.

Avid recyclers should think twice about cleaning recyclables before binning them.

HSE admits big mistakes made on medical cards removal from needy Irish people

    

A leading HSE official has admitted that the recent removal of discretionary medical cards from some patients was ‘indefensible’ and says he believes the current medical card eligibility system should be replaced.

John Hennessy, the HSE’s National Director of Primary Care, was speaking at the annual conference of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) in Galway.

In response to queries from the floor from GPs about needy patients who had had their medical cards removed, Mr Hennessy said medical card eligibility was a difficult issue and it if was easy it would have been fixed a long time ago.

“There are some things that have happened that are clearly indefensible,” Mr Hennessy admitted, adding that this type of situation should not be allowed occur in future.

Mr Hennessy told the conference he believed that the system of assessing eligibility for medical cards was outdated, and it was high time it was replaced.

Bray Co. Wicklow GP Dr Rita Doyle, whose disabled patient was the subject of a discretionary medical card removal recently highlighted in the media, told the meeting that the removal of these cards was ‘single most evil thing our society is standing over’.

She said if the discretionary medical card issue was not sorted out she would have no stomach for taking part in the planned free GP care scheme for children under six.

Mr Hennessy commented that this case was an example of ‘how we should not be doing things’

“We need a different scheme, he said.

Dr Declan Larkin, a GP from Galway, told the ICGP meeting his medical card patient list had been reduced from 800 down to 600.

Mr Hennessy pointed out that there was considerable variation in the issuing of discretionary cards from county to county. It varied from five per 1,000 population to 50 per 1,000 between some counties.

He said he had no interest in a ‘two or three tier health system’, but in a good quality service.

He said the currrent medical card scheme was not fit for purpose and a new one was needed. He suggested that the future provision of universal access to GP care could provide a solution.

Health Minister James Reilly recently announced that in the wake of the controversy over the removal of medical cards from vulnerable people, the possibility of having a ‘third tier’ of medical card was being looked at.

The Galway meeting also reiterated concerns among GPs about the Government’s plans for the under sixes scheme, and in particular about the draft contract for the scheme, which they say is unworkable.

Cork GP Dr Brian Coffey told the meeting that the contract, which was presented to GP groups at a meeting earlier this year, had antagonised GPs and had united then as never before in opposition to it. He said the contract should be taken back and started on again, and should not be negotiated in its current form.

Mr Hennessy, in response, said it may have been better in hindsight to have appeared at the table with no draft contract document initially, but the decision was made at the time to produce the document.

GPs at the meeting also claimed that a ‘gagging clause’ in the contract would prevent doctors advocating for their patients and speaking out on health service deficiencies.

Dr Ilona Duffy from Co.Monaghan said hospital consultants under their contracts had been censured and penalised for speaking out on behalf of their patients.

Mr Hennessy disagreed, stating that if this really was the case, such a gagging clause had not worked very well on consultants. He said he had never known of a consultant who had been challenged or disciplined in any way in relation to comments they had made.

He said the relevant clause in the draft GP contract was never intended to prevent GPs advocating on behalf of their patients. “If it (the clause) needs an amendment to reflect that I would not see that as a problem.”

Mr Hennessy admitted there had not been enough dialogue between health management and GPs and as a result there had been mutual distrust of the respective motives of both sides.

He hoped that dialogue could now take place in a productive way.

“Talks about talks’ between the doctors’ union, the IMO, and Minister for Primary Care Alex White on the under sixes proposals were held on Friday and are set to resume later this week.

Obesity epidemic to hit Ireland by year 2030

Action now required states a study

 

A study has reported that over 84% of women and 90% of men would become obese or overweight by then. As usual, major contributors of this is unhealthy diet which includes high amounts of fats and sugar along with sedentary lifestyle, which includes very little or no exercise.

The study also reported that it is not only Ireland that will be affected, but the entire Euro zone countries as the prediction shows increase in obesity rates across almost 53 Eurozone countries.

As per the study, BMI of 25 and above was considered overweight and about 30 was considered obese. BMI measurements based on computer modeling shows trends that even countries that do not show any signs of obesity will suffer. For instance, as per the study by 2020, 47% of Dutch men and 44% of Belgian men will become either overweight or obese. It is important to note that French fries with mayonnaise are their favorite snack. Further 80 out of every 100 men in Spain, Poland and Czech Republic will become overweight or obese; with 75% of English men will be classified as the same.

Dr Laura Webber, lead author of the study informed in the UK Health Forum that the study presents worrisome picture predicting rise of obesity across European countries. She further stated that policies should be implemented to change the trends with immediate effect. In an interview with the Shots she informed that there is no shortcut to tackling this issue and policies should be initiated to ensure healthy eating, combined with active daily life.

Romania, the poorest country in Europe will also suffer with over 10% of women to be classified as obese or overweight. However, according to Dr Webber as the data was scarce, the actual figure might be higher. Further, she added that the obesity levels in children have not been factored into and hence this is an underestimated projection.

Scientists find link between Southern ocean winds and drying Australia

 

Researchers have established a new explanation for why southern Australia has dried out over the past few decades – and it is all to do with Antarctica.

A painstaking reconstruction of the past 1,000 years of Southern Ocean winds has found they are strengthening and moving closer to Antarctica.

The report in the journal Nature Climate Change has found the winds keep Antarctica cool and effectively pull storm clouds away from Australia.

Australian National University researcher Dr Nerilie Abram said those winds, known as the Southern Annular Mode, pose significant problems for farmers, particularly the nation’s south-west.

“As we see those westerly winds pull in tighter towards Antarctica, it means that the farmers in [southern Australia] are actually getting less of those storms bringing them that vital rain,” the lead author said.

The report shows that between 1300 and 1400AD there was a significant weakening of the winds, but Dr Abram said this recent strengthening was more than natural variability.

“That’s why having these long records [is so important],” she said.

“We can see that what’s happening now steps outside that envelope of natural variability and is something that’s unusual.

“We can then relate that quite clearly to the increases in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Sceptics have pointed to the fact that Antarctica is not warming as fast as the rest of the world, as an example of the climate change threat being overblown.

Dr Abram said her work questioned some of those theories.

“We can explain Antarctica not getting warmer as quickly as the other continents by the strengthening of the westerly winds,” she said.

“Because as those westerly winds tighten around Antarctica, they actually trap air and they stop those warm winds from being able to come in over the continent.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 11th January 2014

Bank documents now missing ahead of Banking inquiry,

  

Material relates to communication between Bank of Ireland governor and a tax adviser

Sinn Féin has said “key” documents relating to the bank guarantee have gone missing from the Department of Finance in the build-up to a banking inquiry.

Party finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD said he became aware of the absence of the records following a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

The material in question relates to two letters from 2009 between the Bank of Ireland governor and a named tax adviser which had been copied to late minister for finance Brian Lenihan.

Their exact significance was not clear last night.

However Mr Doherty said: “These are some of the only documents between the governor of the Bank of Ireland and the minister for finance during a period when the government decided to pump €3.5 billion of taxpayers’ money into that bank.

“I have now been informed that these letters have gone missing from the Department of Finance.”

Mr Doherty also said the development lent further weight to previous comments made in the Dáil by Taoiseach Enda Kenny with regard to documents having gone missing. “He said they have either been shredded disposed or dispatched of,” Mr Doherty said.

“This new revelation compounds that criticism. Once again, key documents in relation to the bank guarantee cannot be found after Fianna Fáil have left office.

‘Sensitive documents’
“The only reason we know that these documents are missing is because two separate FoIs were made on the same document over a four-year period. The question has to be asked about what other sensitive documents have gone missing. The reality is that we may never know. If the upcoming banking inquiry is to be successful, it is important that all relevant documents are found or returned.”

In a statement to RTE last night, the Department of Finance said it had conducted a widespread search for the documents and it was not clear why they could not be located.

A €126m plan for Galway harbour should create some 800 jobs  

But Europe must give green light

 

A computer-generated image above left of the Galway harbour plan, which would give a boost to trade and tourism in the West.

A major €126m redevelopment of Galway Harbour, which would open up trade and tourism routes to the West, will create up to 800 new jobs, according to developers.

The planning application for the venture, which is the first in the country to use the ‘IROPI’ route, must be green-lighted by Europe because it is being built into a designated European habitat.

The IROPI clause in contained in the EU Habitats Directive and states that projects which may have a negative environmental impact may still proceed for reasons of ‘Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest’.

Eamon Bradshaw, CEO of Galway Harbour Company, said they were confident the project would be given the green light because it had been open about the impact it will have.

“We are putting up our hands and saying at the very beginning yes we will have an impact on the habitat and we’re acknowledging that. And that’s what is different from other planning applications,” he said.

Mr Bradshaw said the group had liaised closely with European Commissionofficials on the plans and also brought people from Hull Port, which has previously gone through the process, to Galway to examine the site.

If the plans are green-lighted the Galway Harbour Company must put forward a compensatory habitat. A number of alternative sites and separate compensatory measures are now being looked at.

The plans for a 27-hectare extension include a 216-berth marina, a 12-metre deep commercial quay, deep sea berthing suitable for cruise liners and a nautical centre.

A cruise and coach terminal will also be included.

If given the green light, the expansion project will be carried out in four stages, with construction on the first stage due to begin next year at a cost of €52m.

The planning application will go live on January 20, with a final decision expected in around six months.

Working mothers are the real heroes of this world says Kate Winslet

 

Working mothers are “real heroes”, the actress Kate Winslet has said, as she discloses she spurns outside help with her children because it would make her unhappy.

Winslet, who has recently had her third child, said she chooses not to have “lots of people who do the cooking, the driving, all that jazz”.

She told Glamour magazine she would not want her children “raised that way”, as she praises mothers who work full time as “heroes”.

Winslet, who recently played single mother Adele in film Labor Day, said the character had a lot of strength to be able to function despite her sadness.

She told the magazine the role had showed her that women from all walks of life are able to “just pull it together because you have to”.

“Mothers who work full time – they’re the real heroes,” she said.

When asked about her life, which she described as “little” when away from the cameras, she added she “trundles along”, having friends over and making dinner.

“It’s weird because the two worlds are so different: from fishmongers to tea to film sets. But that’s the case for any actress who’s a mother.

“Sure, I could have lots of people who do the cooking, the driving, all that jazz – but I would be unhappy.

“I wouldn’t want my children raised that way.”

Console Charity says 600 Irish people in UK at risk of suicide

An Irish suicide charity’s helpline in Britain last month received 600 calls from Irish immigrants who it deemed to be of “immediate risk” of taking their own lives.

Of the further 1,600 calls that Console’s newly formed London centre received last month, 1,100 were from people deemed to be at “low or moderate risk” of suicide and 500 from family members still in Ireland who were concerned about the welfare of their loved one living in Britain.

Paul Kelly, who founded Console here 11 years ago, said the majority of those deemed to be of immediate risk of taking their own lives and who contacted the Westminster centre from across Britain, were young adults aged 18 to their early 30s, particularly young men.

Mr Kelly said a number of factors had lead to the people reaching such a low ebb. He said many had travelled to Britain full of hope for a future where they could secure work and build a new life.

However, he said many, particularly from rural backgrounds, had found themselves unprepared for numerous factors including a lack of work there and the high cost of accommodation. That had led some to suffer from mental health problems such as depression but they did not know where to turn for help.

“They said things like they felt disconnected, suffering from loneliness and isolation. That led some to enter into a state of despair. They felt they had let themselves and their families down,” he said.

Mr Kelly also made reference to the large number of calls which came from Ireland to the Westminster centre from family members of people living in Britain.

He said many were from mothers and girlfriends of people about their sons and boyfriends who were struggling but who had great difficulty in expressing what they were going through.

As is the case in Ireland, the people receiving the calls in the year-old Westminster centre are trained mental health professionals.

Mr Kelly said there was a good news story to come out of the Irish charity’s operation in Britain as, in only the last 12 months, it has even managed to attract the attention of the NHS which has sought its advice on training programmes for those dealing with suicide and bereavement.

Meanwhile, St Patrick’s Mental Health Support Service says it had 2,510 calls for support in 2013 — 29% more than in 2012. Email contacts rose 46% to 1,450.

Its figures for 2013 showed a significant rise in calls relating to depression: 572 in 2013 compared to 382 in 2012. It also said the number of female callers (1,846) almost tripled that of their male counterparts (664) in 2013.

Tom Maher, director of Clinical Services at St Patrick’s said: “It’s encouraging to see the substantial increase in mental health queries to the St Patrick’s Support Service during 2013. It’s a sign that we are getting better at talking about our mental health”

* St Patrick’s Mental Health Support Service: 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an answering and call-back facility outside hours. 01 249 3333, or email info@stpatsmail.com

* Console: 1800 201 890

Cork student develops software that adds to what search engines do

 

Caelen’s code modifies what the engine is doing to deliver an enhanced service

15-year-old Caelen Feller developed software that looks to improve search engines

We all use search engines when surfing the internet, but few of us know what these engines do. Caelen Feller knows, and also knows how to improve them.

The 15-year-old transition-year student from Coláiste Choilm, Cork, developed software that adds to what search engines do, and he presented his research at RDS.

It took him a month and a half to produce the software code to achieve it but his code convinced 158 people that they had an improved experience with better searches.

“I investigated ways to improve web searches with a focus on news,” Caelen said.

He wanted to be able to tailor the browsing experience for the user with changes that would give more power to the user.

The primary search engine remains functioning behind, but Caelen’s code modifies what the engine is doing to deliver an enhanced service.

Rory Flynn, a 17-year-old fifth year from Newbridge College, Kildare, also wanted to improve a service for users.

“Data compression is used every day on websites to speed up movement of pages,” he says.

It is based on using mathematical algorithms to crunch down the data to speed up transmission and then un-crunching it when it arrives on screen.

Most of the algorithms used today were written in the 1980s and 1990s however, and Rory wanted to develop a new one.

While he achieved his aim, he found his compression algorithm did not perform as well as competitor systems.

It achieved less compression and was slower, but it is “lossless” and can reconstitute data without loss of quality or clarity, he says.

Penguins climbing the walls as Antarctic ice becomes too thin

 

Emperor penguins endure forced marches, awkward mating rituals, blistering cold and the possibility that all these indignities will be exposed by David Attenborough.

Yet life for at least some of these birds has become even harder. Satellite and aerial reconnaissance by the British Antarctic Survey shows that four colonies of emperors have been forced to forgo the usual sea-ice breeding grounds and repair to firmer ice shelves that jut from the continent.

The shift, apparently caused by a lack of sea ice in warmer promontories of Antarctica, appears to be forcing thousands of birds to surmount walls of ice up to 30m high. The scientists are not clear on how they manage this.

They speculate that a colony of birds spotted near the edge of an ice shelf on Barrier Bay may have ascended through a gully a few kilometres from their breeding ground.

A colony of breeding birds on the Shackleton Ice Shelf also appeared to have made the uphill journey via a shallower route along ice creeks, although it was not clear how they managed to get down afterwards.

“On the way out, they negotiate a large ice cliff,” the scientists write in the journal PLOS ONE. “The drop may be considerable, although there is evidence of large snow drifts abutting the cliff … How the emperor penguins get down the ice cliff is … unclear.”

Peter Fretwell, a geographer at the British Antarctic Survey, said it was possible they were sliding down the cliff, their fall cushioned by the drifts. “We usually imagine emperor penguins to be quite clumsy,” he said. “We don’t think they can climb up the shelves.”

The birds’ predicament – and potential agility – carried uncanny echoes of the 2011 animated film Happy Feet Two, a work of fiction not hitherto thought to contain particularly accurate observations on the lives of emperor penguins.

Dr Fretwell said he had not seen the movie, and thus could not comment on whether it would now be regarded as prophetic in the annals of Antarctic research.

The study concludes that in at least two cases, colonies of emperors may be choosing to forsake the sea ice in years when it becomes too thin – adaptive behaviour that could stand them in good stead if the Antarctic begins to warm, as predicted by scientists. “The Arctic has warmed, the Antarctic hasn’t yet,” Dr Fretwell said.

Emperor penguins were akin to the canary in the coalmine of Antarctic warming – the disappearance of sea ice was expected to endanger the species. If the birds were able to climb on to ice shelves, they might have a stronger chance of surviving in greater numbers.

“It’s not going to be a silver bullet for the emperor penguins,” said Dr Fretwell. “Ice shelves are more exposed in winter, they are farther from their feeding grounds. There are disadvantages as well.”

He said that none of the sites had been visited, not even by Sir David – although a plane had flown over two of them to take more photographs of the habitat.

Dr Fretwell and his three co-authors are uncertain how long the four colonies have been breeding on these loftier spots, formed by the ice of glaciers flowing off the continent. “It is unclear at present whether this behaviour of breeding on ice shelves is a new phenomenon associated with recent climate change or one that has always existed but has not yet been documented,News Irland daily BLOG

News Ireland daily news BLOG

Thursday 12th December 2013

Three quarters of Irish mortgages in arrears are still not restructured

   

Data also shows marginal rise in buy-to-let mortgages slipping into arrears

The most popular mortgage restructure methods for lenders in difficulty include a term extension of a mortgage, going interest only, and arrears capitalisation.

An additional 3,855 residential mortgage accounts were restructured in October, while the number of mortgages in arrears of more than 90 days fell by 302 accounts during th emonth, the Department of Finance said today. However, more than three quarters (75%) of mortgages in arrears of more than 90 days, have still not been restructured.

Based on information from the six main banks – AIB, Bank of Ireland, PTSB, ACC, KBC Ireland and Ulster Bank –engagement between consumers and lenders has led to 49,032 permanent mortgage restructures, an increase of 3,855 accounts in October.

Total mortgage accounts in arrears (all arrears 1 day past due) fell during October by 727 accounts, while the number of mortgage accounts in arrears of greater than 90 days decreased from 81,156 to 80,854, a drop of 302 accounts.

Temporary restructures continue to fall, “indicating a move towards a greater utilisation of permanent restructures” the Department said.

The most popular mortgage restructure methods involve a term extension of a mortgage (14,804 accounts); interest only (13,682); and arrears capitalisation (13,093).

With regards to buy-to-let (BTL) mortgages, among the six main banks total mortgage accounts in arrears past one day increased marginally this month, up from 34,192 to 34,237. There was also a slight increase in the number of mortgage accounts in arrears greater than 90 days, up to 26,489.

For BTL mortgages the number of permanent restructures increased by 214 on September, up to 10,020, while restructures of accounts in arrears greater than 90 days, increased marginally, up to 5,391. The predominant restructure type for BTL arrears is temporary interest only, with 8,004 accounts in this category, followed by arrears capitalisation (3,481).

Meanwhile a survey from PIBA, the country’s largest group of financial brokers and covering the third quarter of 2013, showed that interest only arrangements remain the most prevalent option for lenders in coming to an arrangement with mortgage holders, at over 65 per cent. The second most popular resolution was a split mortgage (37.7%), followed by repayment break (15.9%) and debt forgiveness (14.5%).

Rachel Doyle, chief operations officer at PIBA, said that the situation is “still far from desirable”.

“We are a long way off what is required. Our brokers are reporting that the interest only arrangements favoured by lenders are not long term solutions for many of those in difficulty. We need to see lenders facing up to the reality that write downs of part of the borrowings is the only suitable arrangement for many who will never be in a position to repay in full,” she said.

If breast cancer spreads, surgery does not help

   

Surgery and radiotherapy do not necessarily ensure longer survival for women with Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) — cancer that has spread to other vital organs in the body.

Chemotherapy and hormonal treatment can achieve almost similar benefits, a landmark study by the Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH) has established.

The study presented in the ongoing San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in US could alter the way MBC is managed and save many patients from needless surgery or exposure to radiation.

It also solves the dilemma most cancer surgeons face when presented with MBC. In 5-20% of breast cancer patients, the cancer has already attacked other vital organs by the time of their first visit to a doctor. In India, where there’s a dearth of preventive screening programmes, a significant majority of women get diagnosed for breast cancer long after the cancer has spread.

The trial involving 350 women was carried out between February 2005 and May 2013, where they were divided into two groups. One group had 173 women who underwent surgery and radiotherapy while another group of 177 women were spared these. Both groups had undergone six successful rounds of chemotherapy before their recruitment into the trial. Women who underwent surgery had the primary breast tumour, where the cancer had originated, and lymph nodes removed, followed by several weeks of radiation.

The average survival rate for both groups was found to be between 18 to 20 months. “We found there was no difference in overall survival between those who received loco-regional treatment (surgery and radiation) and those who did not,” said Dr Rajendra Badwe, director of TMH in a statement.

“A lot of oncologists who believe in conventional wisdom and don’t provide loco-regional treatment will feel a lot more comfortable looking at the results,” he added. There was an insignificant 7% excess death rate noted in patients who underwent surgery and radiotherapy.

The findings could change the way MBC is handled the world over. At least 30-50% of patients are given the surgical option. “The efficacy of surgery and radiation was always a debated area as most studies were retrospective and gave conflicting results,” said Dr Sudeep Gupta, TMH professor of medical oncology.

Tata Hospital had stopped operating on MBC patients long ago. “Many more women would be spared the anxiety of undergoing a breast removal surgery,” Gupta added.

Ashwini Budrukkar from the hospital’s department of radiation oncology said in cases where patients are advised surgery and radiation the patients easily spend around 2-3 months for surgery and radiation sessions. “We will not only be saving resources but patients too will be relieved of a financial burden,” she said.

Badwe added that treatment options like surgery and radiotherapy should be reserved for palliative reasons.

A study shows Ireland’s older population is set to double over next 20 years

 

The older population will almost double over the next two decades, new figures have shown.

Ireland’s older population will almost double over the next two decades, new figures have shown.

As life expectancy rates rise with the average woman predicted to live until 87 and the average man until 83 come 2031, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) predicted the population of Dublin alone could rocket by between 96,000 and 286,000.

The projections were based on birth and death levels across the country’s eight regional authorities and the potential of people moving from one area to another between 2016 and 2031.

“The report is not an attempt to predict the future, but rather presents how the population of the various regions will evolve under different scenarios by making assumptions about future trends in migration, both internal and external, and fertility,” the CSO said.

The Greater Dublin population, made up of the capital and the Mid-East regions, is projected to have risen by between 174,000 and 401,000 in 18 years’ time.

This could see an annual population increase in Greater Dublin of up to 20,100 each year.

One scenario considered by the CSO would see the number of over-65s almost double across every region between 2016 and 2031.

The most marked increase would occur in the Mid-East with a hike in pensioners of 136.5%.

The number of over-65s in the Midland region is expected to increase by 95.1%.

Meanwhile, on a national level, men are expected to live an average four and a half years longer by 2031 than they were in 2011, and women by over three and a half years.

As people move from one region to another, some areas will see a population rise that is disproportionate with births.

For example, while the Border region has projected births of 123,000, its population will increase by just 18,000, and while the West has projected births of 97,000, its population is likely to rise by just 15,000.

Elsewhere, one scenario envisaged by the CSO will see the number of young people aged from birth to 14 increasing in the Mid-East by 4.7% between 2011 and 2031, while all other regions will experience a decrease in the population of this age group.

Race is on for recruitment of 300 new Garda jobs

  

More than 1,000 people applied for up to 300 new Garda posts in the first few hours after they were advertised

More than 1,000 people have already applied for up to 300 new Garda posts in the force’s first recruitment in five years.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he expects 20,000 men and women to apply to be one of the new recruits who will begin entering the Garda College in the middle of next year.

They will undergo eight months of training in Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary, before being assigned to Garda stations with full policing powers.

Mr Shatter said it was an important day for the force.

“It is in the public interest and in the interest of the force itself that new members are recruited to bring their personal skills and insights and a fresh dynamic to the force in the context of it undertaking its very important duties,” he said.

Mr Shatter said 1,000 applications have already been received since the posts went live on publicjobs.ie this morning.

It is the first time trainee gardai have entered Templemore since May 2009, before the recruitment moratorium was put in place.

The new course will cut the time trainees spend in the Garda college to 32 weeks.

When moved to stations they will also undergo a further 72 weeks of on the job learning – bringing force levels back to over 13,000. After two years they will be awarded a BA in Applied Policing.

Mr Shatter said despite the reduction in Garda force numbers because of the financial difficulties in the state, it was important to acknowledge a cut in most crime areas over the last two years.

“Their specialised and targeted approach to a variety of forms of crime has resulted in significant arrests and the gardai securing significant convictions in our courts of those engaged in serious crime,” he said.

“I want to congratulate all members of the force for what they have achieved through their hard work, dedication and expertise.”

The announcement was made as 93 Garda reserves – 71 men and 22 women including Irish, Ukranian and Polish nationals – graduated in Templemore.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said he expects many of the reserves to apply for the new posts, which will boost morale.

There are currently 1,290 Garda reserves, including 1,107 fully attested and 183 in training.

“I think it’s a natural assumption to make that the reserves will have a certain advantage,” he said.

“After all they have received initial training here, they have been working with colleagues on the force.

“I think any interview board will take that in to account when dealing with these people.”

Deputy Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan watched on proudly as her son Ciaran McGowan graduated as a reserve.

The 25-year-old photographer, whose father is Detective Superintendent Jim McGowan, will be based at Clontarf Garda Station.

His mother said she will worry about him the same the same way she worries for all the men and women in the force.

“I think he would love to be one, he would love to join the full time guards,” she said.

“My ambition was always that they would do what they want to do.”

Deputy Commissioner O’Sullivan joined An Garda Siochana in 1981 and is the most senior female in the force.

“It’s a great organisation,” she said.

“It has got much more dynamic, it is much more diverse as well, there is much more of a national and international dimension to it.

“We have always been lucky to have the support of the community but that is one of the most important things we do.”

Baby mangabey joins Dublin Zoo family

White-crowned mangabeys  

The baby is the third addition to Tema and Danso’s family.

Parents Tema and Danso and the staff at Dublin Zoo are celebrating the birth of a female white-crowned mangabey.

The baby was born on November 11 and weighs 400g.

Yet-to-be-named, she is the third addition to Tema and Danso’s family.

Helen Clarke-Bennet, Team Leader at the African Plains, said: “We are very proud of the new mangabey arrival at Dublin Zoo. This is Tema’s third baby and she is a fantastic mum. She takes everything in her stride and Danso is a very protective dad.

“The new arrival will stay close to her mother for about a year but will eventually become more independent.”

Dublin Zoo says: “White-crowned mangabeys are listed as endangered in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list because their population is decreasing rapidly.

“Dublin Zoo is one of 12 zoos in Europe participating in a breeding programme and has a very successful breeding record, with 18 white-crowned mangabeys born at the Zoo in the last 10 years.”

Record cold temperature and growing ice chills towards global warming growing rapidly

  

These days the big news from Antarctica is the -135.8 degrees Fahrenheit on the planet recorded record cold temperature is the lowest temperature.

It seems to be going unreported , what Antarktikarek cold on the southern ice sheet faster than account for the theory of Global Warming is growing at a rapid pace.

Around Antarctic sea ice in November 17,160,000 square kilometers ( 6.63 million square miles ) average. The average term of içinuz 16:30 November 1981 2010 million square kilometers ( 6.29 million square miles) is . All the arguments seem to camp Climate Change ” Whatever , it still is evidence of Global Warming . ”

Conflicting evidence against the global emerging as record cold temperatures -can you , as proving the hypothesis eşitayn sited really can be called science ? Ice in these events stridently Global Warming as “proof” would be sited ( for the past dozen or more years had yapılıyortahm days ) quickly reduce the Antarktika’daki low temperatures creep upward increasingly been seen . Climate change their supporters will agree contradictory claims with any evidence or event do you have ?

Recorded in recent years ısınmanınmutlak about the lack questioned , Climate Change camp quietly , reluctantly , one will confess “pause . ” A pause they know warming, this lack just a short one heck of a show is going on any given day , going on now . In doğruiklimgeçmiş they had never , been able to predict what is going to do.

” Greenhouse gases ” considering the economy paralysis had no interest seems to countries like China by the record levels of the atmosphere is pumped to the time of this “pause” , today, is currently taking place ” scientific consensus . ” Maybe, in the Antarctic ice growing and record cold cold Chinese global It is theorized caused warming is a scam .
Works Both Ways ‘ Scientists’ Consensus ‘

Geophysical Review Letters , Science and Nature magazine found in August as a scientific literature analysis , more than 500 science adamımevcut anthropogenic ( man-made) Global Warming theory suggests that conflicting articles have been published . Many of the articles more than a dozen 1500 -year cycle ” Warmings back” is responsible for the connection to the last Ice Age has generated evidence . Whatever man , which had no effect on . History has always been Warmings , just bağlısonu modern warming is primarily to fluctuations of solar radiation much more reasonable.

“These data and science adamlarınınliste a scientific consensus ‘ cause you artışlarının global temperatures since 1850 as a procession of people are blaming the recent allegations ,” Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Dennis Avery, he said. ” All of these researchers would describe themselves as global warming skeptics not ,” Avery said, “but there is no çalışmalarındakanıt to see all their own . ”

Peer review process itself , has come under a lot of scrutiny lately . Traditionally, personal friendships or philosophical differences that may be caused to eliminate potential bias , an editor will review and explanation of yaşıtlarınamakal , then send you want to remove an author’s name . A “double- blind ” peer review process, kept everyone honest .

Unfortunately, billions of dollars in research money to influence policy trillions of dollars in ” climate science ” today’s politically charged , grants hungry world, peer review has become something less than honest . No longer applied ” double-blind ” There is just . Great climate magazine editors all views of yüzdenyorumcu ” in crowd ” rubber stamp , for a life gönderilenbelg they üzerindeyazar names of other newspapers have taken leaving .

This system also ” in crowd ” can be prepared from the appropriate digestion down until the global warming evidence against keeping can work for : Rochester’s David Douglass, University of Climatology International Journal a paper offered time , indicating that a large at high altitudes warm tropical ” enhanced greenhouse effect ” alleged changes hangianaht factor climate only (thus ” global warming ” foretoldıpcc computer models , however, unequivocally , is proving not editördoğr players counterpoint can write much pressure kaldırdıgerçek observed data ) with interest .

Global warming “evidence” seems to overwhelm the data Bütüngözlen . Sea levels increased significantly failed. Storms verilenkorkunç warnings about the dangers of global warming completely contradicts the more frequent and there is light . In fact, only 13 named storms formed in 2013 içinatlantik , only two of them became hurricanes .

Tropical Storm Andreadüny about 70 percent of the post- 1850 warming occurred before 1940, was the only one to make landfall in the United States . This yüzdenpost – WW2 build industry veküresel a safe bet that the economy has nothing to do with it. More importantly , the total net post -1940 “warm up” totals only a tiny 0.2 degrees C

Fifteen years ago , nobody would have dared Global Warming camp a ” growing ice sheet ” or in Antarctica for 2013 ” record cold ” weather . Loudly questioned the sanity of someone saying these things , or at least could have gotten their own identity . Why book with all of these things together have been expected to believe now ?

News Ireland daily BLOG by DONIE

Monday 9th September 2013

Banks refuse 57% of SME loan applications – says ISME

  

Mark Fielding of ISME.

On average it took banks five weeks to give a decision on a credit application, according to the ISME survey

Nearly six out of ten loan applications made by small businesses in the last three months were turned down by the main banks, according to a survey by the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association.

ISME’s Quarterly Bank Watch Survey shows that 57% of funding applications made in the past quarter were refused, up from a refusal rate of 44% seen in the last quarter.

The survey also found that, on average, the length of time it took for a decision to be given by a bank had increased from four weeks to five.

However 14% of initial bank decisions were made within one week – a 1% improvement on the previous quarter.

More than 1,020 owner-managers of SMEs responded to the survey, which represents 14.7% of those asked.

Of those respondents, 35% had requested credit in the past quarter, down from 41% in the last survey.

ISME said that 12% of those who required finance did not apply for a number of reasons, with one third of those claiming they were discouraged by their bank from making such applications.

Moynalty, Co Meath named Ireland’s overall tidiest town for 2013

 

Judges impressed by Moynalty level of care as village awarded top prize, narrowly pipping Killarney, Ennis and Kenmare to the honour – and €10,000 cheque

The village was unveiled as the overall winner of the annual Supervalu National Tidy Towns competition at a ceremony in Dublin today.

It is the first overall victory for Moynalty, and the first Meath winner of the competition since Trim took the top prize in 1984.

The judges commended organisers for topping the list of 832 towns and villages which entered this year’s competition,

As Ireland’s tidiest village with 316 points, it receives a trophy and a cheque for €5,000.  A second trophy and cheque for €10,000 is also awarded as overall winner.

“This is a fantastic achievement for Moynalty after 53 years in the competition; a really worthy winner,” Environment Minister Phil Hogan said.

“My congratulations to Moynalty and all of the other prize-winners today.  I am always impressed by the ambition and enthusiasm of all those involved in the TidyTowns effort. These people volunteer their time, effort and expertise, year on year, to help make their communities better places to live and work in.

“The results of their efforts are obvious in the attractive, well cared-for towns and villages we see throughout the country.  It is clear that working together, getting to know your neighbours, and getting things done increases peoples’ pride in where they live and helps to build vibrant communities.”

Moynalty took the Silver Medal Award at the international LivCom 2012 in Abu Dhabi, and judges said it was “no surprise” that the village was one of the most liveable communities in the world.

All buildings looked “recently painted and without exception look well”, the judges said.  Some 2,000 trees planted and construction of new stone flower beds were an “attractive development”, while picking up litter twice a day was  “unquestionably the most important tool for maintaining the village litter-free”.

Moynalty also claimed the award of Ireland’s Tidiest Village. Other winnersincluded Kenmare, Co Kerry which received the award for Ireland’s Tidiest Small Town, Killarney, Co Kerry received the award of Ireland’s Tidiest Large Town, and Ennis, Co. Clare retained their title as Ireland’s Tidiest Large Urban Centre.

Managing director of SuperValu, Martin Kelleher, said the Tidy Towns committees made a “real difference” at local level.

“SuperValu TidyTowns is the public expression of the work countless individuals undertake to build community spirit and make their local area a better place to live,” he said.

“SuperValu together with its countrywide network of local retailers is – through the continued sponsorship of TidyTowns – committed to helping build and support vibrant local communities.  I am delighted to congratulate this year’s winners and to recognise the commitment and dedication of TidyTowns committees nationwide who make such a real difference at a local level”.

More than 800 towns and villages have entered the competition over the last three years.

One pub a day closes in Ireland according to Drinks Industry Group DIGI.

 

The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) this week called for a reversal in the tax increases on alcohol that was introduced in last year’s budget, as almost a pub a day closes and sales continue to decline.

The organisation points out at the rate of pub closures had almost doubled since the excise increase in last year’s budget.

Previously three pubs were closing a week, but since the excise increase in last year’s budget almost a pub a day has closed, according to Revenue Commissioner data. In a pre-budget submission to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, DIGI has warned that last year’s tax increases are threatening jobs and tourism and damaging the Government’s tax take.

Peter O’Brien, Chair of the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland and Diageo’s European Corporate Relations Director said: “The reality is that taxes kill jobs, the excise increase killed jobs. The rate of pubs closing has doubled since the measure was introduced and we are now looking at the grim reality where almost a pub a day is closing.

Last year’s excise increase is not meeting desired targets. Budget 2013 expected excise to increase by €180 million or 21% on the 2012 level without allowing for buoyancy effects. The Government should be setting up a task force to assist these small family-run businesses, and reverse last year’s excise increase.

Figures for the first five months of 2013 show that alcohol excise receipts are substantially below the expected increase. Anthony Foley, DCU Business School said: “The overall drinks market continued to decline in the first half of 2013 compared with 2012. Bar sales volume continued to decline with a slower decline in the second quarter than in the first quarter.

Sales value dropped by less than the volume decrease due to the excise and supplier induced price increases. Off-licence sales declined in the first half of 2013. According to clearance figures, cider sales have dropped by almost 8 per cent in the period, wine by 9 per cent and spirits by 13.5 per cent, beer is up slightly. The domestic drinks market has weakened further in 2013.”

Last year’s budget saw a 10 cent increase on beer and spirits and €1 added to the price of a bottle of wine. Wine excise is now the highest in Europe, tax on cider is second highest in EU, tax on spirits is the third highest and taxes on beer are the fourth highest. According to Eurostat, the price of alcohol in Ireland is 62% higher than the EU average.

Faulty prostate cancer testing kits withdrawn at Connolly Dublin and Mayo hospitals 

 

Key prostate indicators up to 23 per cent too high because equipment failure

Mayo General Hospital is reviewing the results of almost 13,000 tests for prostate cancer after it emerged the model of kits used on patients was faulty and resulting in artificially high readings.

News that such a high number of tests are being reviewed comes after Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, Dublin, said it had withdrawn the kits after they were found to be faulty.

The kits, manufactured by Siemens, are used to measure PSA, a protein made by the prostate gland and which, when raised, may indicate the presence of prostate cancer.

They were used at Blanchardstown hospital between February 2013 and June 2013 and in Mayo General between July 2012 and June 2013. They indicated levels of protein up to 23 per cent higher than reliable working kits.

A total of 12,866 tests were carried out in Mayo General in the period and in a statement the hospital said its review would determine how many results were elevated as a result of the faulty equipment.

“This incident, which is outside the control of Mayo General Hospital, is considered to be of low clinical risk in relation to long-term negative outcomes for patients,” the statement said.

In Blanchardstown, some 2,186 patients were tested during the period and of these, 162 received a result which may have indicated a need for further investigation.

In a statement, the HSE said it was reviewing the results of these 162 patients in Blanchardstown to determine if further actions were necessary.

It said it was in contact with GPs to track patient outcomes. Similar steps were being taken in Mayo with a view to offering doctors re-tests for any patients.

PSA tests at Connolly Hospital are currently being sent toBeaumont Hospital for analysis where the Siemens kits are not in use. A spokesman for the HSE was unable to say when analysis of PSA tests would resume at Connolly Hospital.

Mayo General Hospital said an alternative method of testing had been in place since July when the issue with the Siemens kit emerged.

A statement from the hospital added that since late June, a notice for doctors had been attached to all PSA test results from the new method, informing them a new test was being used and alerting them to the elevated levels in the now discontinued Siemens testing kit.

UK scientists to probe ANTARCTICA’S Pine Island Glacier

  

UK scientists are about to set out for Antarctica to investigate the mighty Pine Island Glacier.

The PIG drains about 10% of all the ice sliding off the west of the continent, and has seen a marked thinning and a surge in velocity in recent decades.

Its contribution to sea level rise is now greater than any other glacier on the planet.

The British Antarctic Survey-led team hopes its iStar project will provide new insights into the PIG’s behaviour.

The researchers will gather their measurements using a diverse set of techniques and technologies, including robotic subs and satellites, and even instrument-carrying elephant seals.

“We want to improve our understanding of what this glacier is doing and to use that informationto be able to make good predictions for its contribution to global sea level in the years ahead,” said Dr Andy Smith, iStar’s science programme manager at BAS.

“And if we can do that, if we can make those good predictions, then we’ll also have some tools to apply to the rest of the Antarctic and the Greenland ice sheet as well,” he told BBC News.

Dr Smith officially announced the venture on Monday at the British Science Association annual festival in Newcastle.

A traverse across the glacier by tractor will acquire a raft of new measurements

The PIG is vast. The glacier runs alongside the Hudson mountains into the Amundsen Sea, draining an area covering more than 160,000 sq km – about two-thirds the size of the UK. And it can produce colossal icebergs, such as the 720-sq-km “ice island” that broke off into the ocean in July.

But the PIG’s remoteness has made it difficult to study, and it is only in the past 20 years or so, with the aid of satellites, that scientists have realised the glacier is undergoing significant change.

Space data indicates the rate at which it is losing mass is doubling about every five years.

This acceleration has been attributed in part to warmer ocean waters getting under and melting the PIG’s ice shelf – the long floating tongue that protrudes out into Amundsen Bay. The grounding line – the point where this shelf starts to become buoyant – has pulled back further and further towards the land.

The iStar project has two major expeditions this Antarctic summer to try to probe more keenly how the warming of the ocean is coupling to the drawdown of ice deep inland.

Small oceanographic sensors attached to the seals’ fur fall off after a few months

The first mission, starting in November, is a 10-week, 1,000km traverse by tractor across the top of the glacier. One of its tasks will be to map the rockbed beneath Pine Island Glacier. Much of the traverse data is expected to feed back into the validation of future space monitoring, says Dr Andy Shepherd of Leeds University.

“We need field measurements to beat down the remaining uncertainties in the satellite data,” he told the BBC.

“There will be ground measurements that help us understand how much rock uplift there is beneath the ice; how much compaction of snow there is at the surface of the glacier; and indeed how much variability there is in the snowfall from year to year.

“All of these factors can complicate the signal and we want to iron them out so that scientists can see that the satellite numbers are robust and can be trusted.”

The nearly three-tonne Autosub operates on its own for up to 30 hours

In January, iStar’s oceanographers are expected to arrive in the Amundsen Sea onboard the RRS James Clark Ross.

They will be putting a fleet of ocean robots known as Seagliders into the water. These vehicles measure temperature, salinity and current behaviour at different depths. The gliders will operate in front of the ice shelf. The ship will, however, release its big unmanned submarine, Autosub, to go under the shelf.

This 7m-long probe will map the cavity and the geometry of a ridge on the seabed that appears to play a key role in limiting the ingress of warm water from the ocean.

BAS has new technologies, such as air-dropped GPS stations, to monitor glacier flow

“We want to look in more detail at the processes that control the exchange of waters over this ridge, and in particular the mixing of the waters as they go in and out,” said Dr Adrian Jenkins from BAS.

“What the structure of the water column looks like – the warm layer below, the cold layer on top and a transition layer between the two – in relation to the height of this ridge, and the exchange that’s possible over the ridge, is absolutely critical to what happens in the future.”

The ship will only have 30 days in Amundsen Bay to complete its work, but the scientists plan to leave autonomous instruments behind to gather ocean and ice information throughout the winter. It is in winter, also, when the elephant seals will do their work.

Researchers from St Andrews University have developed small sensors that can be glued to the animals’ coats. These gather data, such as water temperature and saltiness, as the seals swim.

The measurements are fed back to the UK via satellite whenever the seals surface. Eventually, after several months, the mammals moult and the sensors fall off.

The £7.4m iStar programme has been funded by the National Environment Research Council and is expected to take six years to complete.