Tag Archives: Babies

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 9th October 2015

Irish Government said to drop the threat of a Bank Levy increase

   

AIB pays the biggest portion of levy, at 60 million euros. The Government may signal extension of banks current levy.g levy.

Ireland’s government is poised to drop a threat to increase a 150 million-euro ($170 million) annual levy on the nation’s banks, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

In delivering the budget on Tuesday in Dublin, Finance MinisterMichael Noonan is set to signal the charge will remain in force after 2016, extending its original three-year lifespan, should the ruling coalition win re-election, said the person, who asked not to be named as the final decision hasn’t been made.

National elections are due by early April. Government officials were weighing doubling the levy to fund tax cuts, the Sunday Business Post reported last month, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter. While Noonan warned in May he would introduce a “penal” charge if banks didn’t cut home-loan rates, he said last month that most lenders had done so.

Holding off raising the levy, which is based on Irish deposits, may make it easier to sell the government’s remaining stakes in the country’s banks. Allied Irish Banks Plc, which is 99.8% government owned and pays a 60 million euros a year levy, would be most hurt by an increase, said Diarmaid Sheridan, an analyst with Dublin-based securities firm Davy.

“A significant increase in the bank levy would negatively impact bank profitability and valuations and would come at a time when banks are still state owned,” said Sheridan.

Irish finance ministry officials declined to comment.

Age Action survey highlights problems in Galway hospitals

   

Older people in Galway have criticised lengthy waiting times and high parking costs in a survey of their experience in local hospitals

Older people in Galway have criticised lengthy waiting times and high parking costs in a survey of their experience in local hospitals published by Age Action, who called on hospitals to end the block-booking of appointments.

The online and face-to-face survey of 385 older people attending hospital out-patient appointments was carried out by local Age Action members.

The length of time waiting to be seen by the doctor was identified as the most stressful part of the day with 122 of those questioned highlighting it as their chief concern.

More than two-thirds, 68 per cent, of those who drove to their appointment found the cost of parking to be “excessive”.

Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications in Age Action, said: “The survey was carried out by local Age Action members who have frequently raised concerns regarding the experience of older people accessing outpatient services.

“A lot of the feedback was positive, with older people generally satisfied with how their appointment was arranged and found they were dealt with sensitively by hospital staff.

Block-booking

“However, they also pointed to areas where hospitals in Galway could certainly improve. The continuing practice of hospitals block-booking appointments means that patients can be left waiting for hours.

“This approach has been frequently criticised, most recently by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar TD who urged hospital managers to bring the system to an end.

“As well as forcing patients to wait longer, block booking can be expensive. Many older people depend on the State Pension of €230 a week, even less for those not entitled to a full pension.

“Excessive parking costs hit their wallets and add to the stress of what can already be a difficult day.”

Driven by members

Mr Moran also pointed out that the research was substantially strengthened by being carried out by local Age Action members.

He continued: “This work was driven by our members. They highlighted the issue in the first place as one of concern and then drove the project.

“By using their own networks of contacts they made the research a lot stronger and ensured we have a deeper understanding of the challenges facing older people when using hospitals in Galway.

“As we mark the end of Positive Ageing Week 2015, the work undertaken by our members in shows that older people are actively engaged citizens who will ensure their voices are heard in the forthcoming election.”

Organic farmers body calls for new reduced inspection certification rates

     

The call for reduced inspection and certification rates is part of the plan to make it easier for organic farmers to stay in the sector and for farmers to enter the sector.

An organisation representing organic farmers has called for reduced certification rates and a reduction in the number of organic certification bodies in Ireland. 

Airing their grievances at a meeting with the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine yesterday (Thursday), members of the Organic Farmers Representative Body called for reduced certification rates charged by organic certification bodies. It also welcomed a suggestion that the number of organic certification bodies in Ireland be reduced.

Steered by chair Padraic Finnegan, the voluntary body, set up in 2010 to lobby on behalf of farmers in the sector, listed the average certification rates for organic farmers based on the prices charged by the two largest organic certification bodies in the country, the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association (IOFGA) and the Organic Trust (OT).

Finnegan expressed dissatisfaction with the high rates and asked why the Department of Agriculture could not do this work itself in order to lessen the cost burden on organic farmers. The rates given for certification were as follows:

  1. A farmer with 12ha pays €2,200 to the bodies over the five-year certification lifetime.
  2. A farmer with 30ha pays €3,000 to the bodies over the five-year certification lifetime.
  3. A farmer with 50ha pays €3,100 to the bodies over the five-year certification lifetime.

Finnegan said the rates are “absolutely scandalous” and that the Department needs to more clearly outline the role of the certification bodies, whom, he said, also collect certification fees from marts, co-ops and factories.

He said anything between 9% and 25% of the Organic Farming Scheme payment has to be paid back to those bodies each year for certification purposes.

Certification and inspections

Under current EU regulations, organic producers have to host an annual inspection on their farm in order to have their organic certification renewed. As these inspections are currently carried out by private certification bodies, farmers pay for the inspections on an annual basis. However, in June this year most Member States voted in favour of a compromise that would allow inspections to be targeted over two years for compliant or low-risk organic producers, thereby lessening the costs to farmers. The vote paved the way for a possible deal by the year’s end.

Before the vote Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney labelled some of the proposals in the reform package as “too ambitious”.

Cost of certification “exceptionally high”

Finnegan’s comments were received with surprise by the Oireachtas Committee members, who observed that the cost of certification seems “exceptionally high”.

Independent Senator Mary Ann O’Brien suggested that the five private organic certification bodies in Ireland be streamlined into one public body, a suggestion welcomed by the lobbying group. She also suggested that Bord Bia take on the role of inspecting and certifying organic farms as part of its free Quality Assurance Scheme inspection which takes place every 18 months.

Re-convening

Based on what it heard at the meeting, which included the difficulties faced by smaller hectare organic farmers due to the introduction of double funding across both GLAS and the Organic Farming Scheme, the Oireachtas Commitee proposed to re-convene with the organic farmers body at a later date. It said that representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Bord Bia and the organic certification bodies should also be present.

IOFGA refused to comment on these issues when contacted by the Irish Farmers Journal. Helen Scully of the Organic Trust says she is awaiting a transcript of this meeting and, therefore, is not in a position to respond at this time.

Organic farming in Ireland

Currently, 2% of land in Ireland is farmed organically, a figure well below the European average of 6%. In the Government’s Food Harvest 2020 strategy, announced in 2010, a target was set of increasing the percentage of land under organic use to 5% from its then level of 1.1%.

The Government admitted that the target was ‘‘ambitious’’, which the Organic Farmers Representative Body says is a “considerable understatement in light of the fact that the target requires an increase in organic land use to over three times its present level in a relatively short period.”

Will our smartphones ever get usage warning labels?

    

I’m a non-smoking libertarian.

That is, I prize autonomy and freedom of choice, but I also know I never would have kicked the habit without pressure from then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and my future wife. Together, their anti-smoking policies set me straight, and saved me from a world of hurt.  

Like a lot of people, therefore, I’m conflicted about mounting pressure to regulate mobile use.

Take a group of psychologists and computer scientists in the UK who are now calling for phone makers to attach warning labels to devices.

These scientists argue that mobile gadgets are turning people into digital addicts. “Excessive and obsessive usage and preoccupation about technology are associated with undesirable behaviors such as reduced creativity, depression and disconnection from reality,” Dr. Raian Ali, a professor of computing at the University of Bournemouth, said in a statement.

In the category of undesirable behavior, we should also add thescourge of distracted driving, which is costing thousands of lives a year in the U.S. alone.

The numbers are definitely scary. According to the second annual report on Consumer Mobility from the Bank of America and Flurry Analytics, U.S. consumers are perpetually plugged-in. Indeed, 71% of those surveyed actually sleep with their smartphones.

Mobile Addicts, consumers who launch applications 60 times or more per day, are growing at the fastest rate, from 176 million in the second quarter of 2014 to a whopping 280 million in the second quarter of 2015 — a 59% increase.

Of course, the industry isn’t helping. On the contrary, top platforms, publishers, and marketers are investing billions of dollars to increase usage numbers and “engagement” rates. At least in the short term, it would be in their collective best interest to glue a virtual reality headset to every consumer’s head, and, in true “Clockwork Orange” fashion, pump them full of content 24 hours a day.

Mark Zuckerberg probably wouldn’t paint that exact picture, but (following the release of Facebook’s Oculus Rift VR headset, early next year) such a scenario would do wonders for the company’s stock price.

So we know the industry isn’t going to regulate itself, and — given my personal experience — I don’t have much faith in the powers of self regulation.

Betraying my libertarian leanings, therefore, I think it may require an independent regulatory body to save us from our mobile-obsessed selves.

Geophysical survey carried out at site of buried Tuam babies

A geophysical survey has been carried out on the site of a former mother and baby home in County Galway.

It is believed nearly 800 children are buried in the grounds of what was once a mother and baby home run by nuns in Tuam.

A child died nearly every two weeks between the mid-1920s and 1960s.

The Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes confirmed the survey was taking place.

It was being conducted over the surface of the ground and will be done with the consent of Galway County Council, who are the owners of the Dublin Road housing estate site.

The survey was being carried out to detect any possible sub-surface anomalies.

The Tuam home was one of 10 institutions in which about 35,000 unmarried pregnant women – so-called fallen women – are thought to have been sent.

The children of these women were denied baptism and segregated from others at school. If they died at such facilities, they were also denied a Christian burial.

County Galway death records showed that most of the children buried in the unmarked grave had died of sickness or malnutrition.

Ecotourism may be putting wildlife at risk

      

Ecotourists may be putting wildlife at risk by changing the behaviour of the creatures they flock to see, researchers have warned.

Animals that become accustomed to large numbers of visitors are likely to lose some of their instinct for self preservation, experts have warned.

The “taming” effect is said to run the risk of leaving them more at the mercy of predators.

Lead researcher Dr Daniel Blumstein, from the University of California at Los Angeles, said: “When animals interact in ‘benign’ ways with humans, they may let down their guard.

“As animals get used to feeling comfortable with humans nearby, they may become bolder in other situations.

“If this boldness transfers to real predators, then they will suffer higher mortality when they encounter real predators.”

Ecotourism is booming, with protected areas around the world receiving eight billion visitors a year, the team pointed out.

“This massive amount of nature-based ecotourism can be added to the long list of drivers of human-induced rapid environmental change,” Dr Blumstein said.

Writing in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution, the researchers compare the effects of ecotourism with that of animal domestication and urbanisation.

In each case, interactions between people and animals could lead to habituation – described as “a kind of taming”.

Evidence from domesticated silver foxes to goldfish had shown that animals living in close proximity to humans become less wary of predators.

Foxes, squirrels and birds living in urban areas were also bolder and less likely to flee from danger.

In some cases, the presence of humans could discourage predators and create safe havens, the researchers added – like vervet monkeys, who were less bothered by leopards with humans around.

But the scientists questioned what might happen to these animals when the visitors leave.

They wrote: “We know that humans are able to drive rapid … change in other species.

“If individuals selectively habituate to humans – particularly tourists – and if invasive tourism practices enhance this habituation, we might be selecting for or creating traits or syndromes that have unintended consequences, such as increased predation risk.

“Even a small human-induced perturbation could affect the behaviour or population biology of a species and influence the species’ function in its community.”

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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 2nd September 2015

Irish tax revenues €1.4bn ahead of target for first eight months of 2015

Latest exchequer returns benefit from spike in corporation tax payments.

   

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan is likely to face more calls for tax cuts on foot of the latest exchequer numbers

Tax revenues are now running €1.4 billion ahead of target thanks to a surge in corporation tax payments.

Exchequer returns for the first eight months suggest the Government is on course to end the year with €2 billion more in tax than anticipated.

The better-than-expected performance is likely to increase the clamour for tax cuts ahead of October’s budget.

The figures show total tax revenue stood at €27.3 billion in August, which was €2.4 billion or 10% higher than last year.

The main driver was corporation tax, which came in at €3.3 billion, some 38 per cent or €912 million above profile.

The Department of Finance linked the strong out-turn in company tax receipts to improved trading conditions here and abroad.

Income tax, the biggest tax heading, generated €11.2 billion, which was €146 million or 1.3% ahead of target.

The figures show VAT, which reflects consumer spending, also came in ahead of expectations, taking in €7.96 billion, which was €107 million or 1.4% ahead of forecasts.

Excise duty, which benefitted from car sales linked to the new 152 registration plates, was €3.3 billion, some €24 million or 0.7% up on projections.

The figures pointed to a budget deficit of €1.3 billion between January and August, compared with a €6.3 billion deficit for the corresponding period last year.

Overall, the exchequer deficit stood at €1.3 billion at the end of August, down from €6.3 billion at this stage last year.

On the spending side, the figures show total net voted expenditure of €27.3 billion, which was €297 million or 1.1% below profile.

The cost of servicing the Republic’s national debt was €4.6 billion, which was down €293 million or 6 per cent on last year, reflecting the impact of the early loan repayments to the International Monetary Fund.

The planet’s total tree cover down 46% since the arrival of humans

Ireland has lowest level of forest cover in Europe at 11%, says State forestry firm Coillte

   

A logging site at Nesset, Mau Forest, Kenya. Humans are clearing a net 10 billion trees a year from the surface of the Earth.

The Earth fairly bristles with trees, with new research showing it has an estimated 3.04 trillion of them.

Although this is almost 10 times more than expected, equating to 422 trees for every man, woman and child on the planet, the total has plummeted from 5.6 trillion trees – a 46% fall – since the dawn of human civilisation.

No other factor has had such a profound impact on the world’s stock of trees.

Human activity, including deforestation for agriculture, land-use change and forest “asset stripping”, carries away away more than 15 billion trees a year.

The planting of about five billion trees helps offset this, but the research study led by Dr Tom Crowther of Yale University puts global forest cover loss at about 190,000 sq km each year.

Youth initiative

Details of the research are published on Wednesday in the journal Nature. Dr Crowther was asked to conduct the study after an approach by Plant for the Planet, a youth initiative that leads the UN Environmental Programme’s Billion Tree Campaign, an effort to ensure the planting of a billion trees.

“This seemed like a reasonable goal,” Dr Crowther said, but people still needed baseline figures.

At the time the planet was estimated to have about 400 billion trees, but the study showed the Earth has a multiple of that amount. “They have remade their goal and will attempt to plant a trillion trees,” Dr Crowther said.

The study combined satellite data with almost 430,000 ground-sourced measurements of tree density to establish its estimates. The data also allowed them to provide a country-by-country guide to the most forested places on Earth.

The largest share of trees, almost 1.4 trillion, are found in tropical and subtropical forests, while 740 billion trees are in boreal regions in the far north. Another 610 billion are in temperate regions around the world.

The research provides total tree numbers per country, along with per square kilometre averages and per head of population.

Sweden has the most trees per square kilometre at 69,161, with Brunei second at 62,333. Ireland has 10,088 trees per square kilometre. If measured as trees per head of population, Sweden has 3,200, Brunei 856 and Ireland 154.

Forest cover

Ireland has the lowest level of forest cover in Europe, at 11 per cent, compared to a European average of 20%, said Pat Neville of Coillte, the State forestry company.

The Department of Agriculture oversees policy on forestation, and the current 2016-2022 forestry programme calls for 5-6,000 hectares of new forest cover and a similar amount in reforestation of cut forest, he said.

Trees carry out a range of important functions, including locking up huge amounts of carbon, supporting water and air quality, and providing food and timber. They also produce vast amounts of oxygen and are hotbeds of genetic diversity. They are an essential part of the planet’s environment.

It is therefore frightening that humans are clearing off a net 10 billion trees a year. If unchecked, that rate would see a whole planet clear-out of trees within 300 years, with human activity the cause.

Three Irish sisters give birth to three babies on the same day

   

Three Irish sisters have given birth to three babies on the same day at Mayo General Hospital.

The three sisters welcomed the three tots into the family yesterday, and another new arrival is expected in the coming hours as a fourth sister is waiting to give birth.

Speaking to RTE News at One, Mairead Fitzpatrick, one of three sisters – from Cloonfad on the Mayo-Roscommon border said no one was expecting the multiple births on the same day.

“We just never realised it would all happen on the one day,” she said.

“I was the first one to go at 3:25 am and then my sister had her little girl, Sorcha, at 11 am.

“Then Bernie’s boy Phelim was born last night at about half 8.

“The two girls that delivered my little boy delivered Bernie’s boy as well… so two women delivered two cousins in 24 hours,” she added.

“It was my first (Thomas Og), and Jolene’s second, Bernie’s third, and Christina, this will be her fourth,” Ms Fitzpatrick told News At One, saying that the family were keeping their fingers crossed that Christina would give birth today, or early tomorrow morning.

“There’s four girls, there’s five of us altogether in the house, and one brother,” she said.

““It was just so funny the way it happened.

“I was due on Friday the 28th of August, Jolene was actually sectioned, she was booked in for a section yesterday, it was her second baby.

“And Bernie was due today. Christina is still waiting for her little one, she was due on Sunday, the 30th of August.”

She added that she was not sure which counties the new babies will shout for ahead of May’s replay against Dublin on Saturday – as their dads are from Mayo, Galway and Roscommon.

A SMARTPHONE APP THAT CAN DETECT WHEN YOU’RE BORED

AND it RECOMMENDS A SOLUTION

  

There are technological crimes that we all commit— repeatedly checking our phones, scrolling again through already-read Twitter feeds, and mindlessly swiping through app pages without opening anything. They’re all indicators of one thing: boredom.

If anything, we’re looking to technology to help us with this problem, but not finding the stimulation we require. In an effort to identify and banish smartphone boredom, researchers from Telefonica Research in Spain have developed Borapp, a boredom testing tool, and its sibling Borapp 2, a boredom curing tool.

The researchers found that males were bored more often than females, and when people are bored, they specifically check Instagram and their email, and fiddle with settings. Also, the more the phone was being used, the more bored the participants felt. Researchers now have cold, hard data on how we use phones specifically to kill time.

The authors wrote that this research should be taken as a “quasi-experiment,” and preliminary, because the sample size of 54 is small. Boredom also can’t be randomized, which complicates trial design.

Borapp tracks users’ interactions with their phones through 35 parameters, like battery level, whether the screen was turned on, and if music was playing. Over the two-week study, researchers collected more than 40,000,000 data points and 4,000 self-reports of boredom from 54 users. (From an original set of 61, seven users were filtered out because researchers didn’t think they were taking the study seriously.) The app would send a push notification in intervals greater than 60 minutes, more likely when the participant was using their phone. It would ask how energetic, positive, or bored the participant was on a five-point scale, and continuously log how the phone was used. This data allowed the Borappto predict boredom with 82 percent accuracy, according to the study.

Researchers developed free Android app Borapp to track user boredom.

While Borapp is mainly for data gathering, researchers built Borapp 2 to actually remedy listlessness. If the app thinks a user is bored, it will send a notification suggesting a place on the internet designed to kill time with cat GIFs and digestable news: BuzzFeed.

Researchers write that when bored, people are more likely to click on suggested content. The study sees potential for mobile developers to use this information, so they can design experiences that engage users at their moments of boredom to talk with friends or clear their to-do lists.

The apps were free to download on the Google Play Store (and still are), and researchers recruited initial volunteers via email with the promise of 20 Euro gift cards. The researchers will present their findings at theUbiComp conference in Japan.

The same team has another research app in the Google Play Store namedCall Me Maybe, which connects two phones and displays a widget predicting whether messages will be looked at or ignored.

Why thinking you’re overweight can make you gain weight

    

Thinking you’re fat can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It makes sense that if you think you’re overweight, you’ll work hard to lose weight. But scientists have discovered that just the opposite is true.

New research published in the International Journal of Obesity found that people who think they’re overweight are more likely to gain more weight than those who don’t think they’re overweight.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from three longitudinal studies of 14,000 adults in the U.S. and the U.K.: the U.S. National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, the U.K. National Child Development Study, and Midlife in the United States.

Scientists studied the participants’ perception of their own weight once they reached adulthood, whether it was correct, and their weight gain over time. The British study had data that followed participants from ages 23 to 45, but the other two studies followed participants for up to 10 years.

Researchers discovered that people who said they were “overweight” were more likely to say they overate due to stress and, as a result, gained weight.

But this happened regardless of whether a person was actually overweight or not, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Adults are classified as “overweight” when they have a body mass index (BMI) within the range of 25 to 29.9, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (A person who is 5′9″ and weighs between 169 and 202 pounds would be considered “overweight.”) According to data from the National Institutes of Health, more than 33 percent of adults in the U.S. meet this classification.

Study co-author Jeffrey Hunger tells Yahoo Health that he was surprised by the findings at first since “there is this assumption that people need to see themselves as overweight in order to engage in weight maintenance behaviors.”

However, he now says it makes sense that thinking you’re overweight can have a poor impact on your health because there are negative health effects that come with the stigma of being overweight — among them exercising less and eating more.

According to Peter LePort, MD, medical director of MemorialCare Center for Obesity at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., it’s all tied in to a person’s stress mechanism.

“People react to stress in different ways, but for some, eating is a stress relief,” he tells Yahoo Health. “Even if they’re a normal weight to begin with, if their method of dealing with stress is to eat, they’re going to gain weight.”

While general life stressors can come into play, LePort says the concept of being overweight is very stressful for some people, which further complicates what can become a vicious cycle: They are stressed out because they think they’re overweight, they eat more to cope with that stress, and consequently become or stay overweight.

“Instead of taking that stress, they ignore it and just use what has worked in the past to make them feel better eating,” says LePort. “But that stressful feeling is back as soon as they’ve finished eating, and they haven’t solved the problem.”

Unfortunately, Hunger says, this phenomenon can apply to anyone who thinks they’re overweight, because they think they need to lose a few pounds.

Luckily, it’s possible to break the cycle, Shenelle Edwards-Hampton, a clinical psychologist who specializes in weight management at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, tells Yahoo Health.

The first step is to essentially give yourself a break. Edwards-Hampton recommends trying to think more positively about your body and to focus more on the things you’ve done well, like having eaten a nutritious meal or exercised recently. That can help make stress eaters less inclined to use food as a coping mechanism, she says.

She also suggests distraction, e.g., going for a walk, reading a book, or doing anything other than eating if you feel stressed out about your weight.

Edwards-Hampton says counseling can also be very effective. However, she points out that changing the way a person deals with food doesn’t happen overnight: “I tell patients all the time, ‘You’ve been eating this way for a long time. It’s going to take time and practice to change these eating habits.’”

Us humans went through four stages of evolution

   

The evolution of the human body’s size and shape has gone through four main stages, a study of 430,000-year-old fossils collected in northern Spain has found.

A large international research team studied the body size and shape in the human fossil collection from the site of the Sima de los Huesos in the Sierra de Atapuerca in northern Spain.

Dated to around 430,000 years ago, this site preserves the largest collection of human fossils found to date anywhere in the world, researchers said.

The researchers found that the Atapuerca individuals were relatively tall, with wide, muscular bodies and less brain mass relative to body mass compared to Neanderthals.

The Atapuerca humans shared many anatomical features with the later Neanderthals not present in modern humans, and analysis of their postcranial skeletons (the bones of the body other than the skull) indicated that they are closely related evolutionarily to Neanderthals.

“This is really interesting since it suggests that the evolutionary process in our genus is largely characterised by stasis (i.e. little to no evolutionary change) in body form for most of our evolutionary history,” said Rolf Quam, anthropologist at the Binghamton University in New York.

Comparison of Atapuerca fossils with the rest of the human fossil record suggests that the evolution of the human body has gone through four main stages, depending on the degree of arboreality (living in the trees) and bipedalism (walking on two legs).

The Atapuerca fossils represent the third stage, with tall, wide and robust bodies and an exclusively terrestrial bipedalism, with no evidence of arboreal behaviours.

This same body form was likely shared with earlier members of our genus, such as Homo erectus, as well as some later members, including the Neanderthals.

Thus, this body form seems to have been present in the genus Homo for over a million years.

It was not until the appearance of our own species, Homo sapiens, when a new taller, lighter and narrower body form emerged, resaerchers said.

The authors suggest that the Atapuerca humans offer the best look at the general human body shape and size during the last million years before the advent of modern humans.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 31st May 2015

Plans for new Dublin Airport runway ready for take-off

   

Plans for a €300m second runway at Dublin Airport have gained dramatic new impetus following the IAG takeover of Aer Lingus which includes plans to use Dublin airport to feed traffic from Europe to North America.

Over the next five years IAG plan to boost Aer Lingus feeder traffic through Dublin by an extra 2.4m passengers a year.

But even before the IAG bid for Aer Lingus emerged earlier this year the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) had reignited plans for a new runway on the 2,500 acre site at Collinstown.

New research released last week by the respected aviation website anna aero shows that Dublin is the fastest growing airport in Europe for long-haul traffic this year

Now plans for the construction of a second runway, which first emerged more than 30 years ago, look set to be fast tracked.

Planning permission for a new east-west runway, 1.6 kilometres to the north and parallel to the existing main runway was granted back in 2007 and remains valid for the next two years.

But air industry sources suggest a new planning application may have to be lodged because the original permission contained 31 restrictive conditions including a requirement that no flights operate from the second runway between 11pm and 7am.

The hour between 6am and 7am remains the airport’s busiest time and a ban on flights leaving a new second runway before 7am is considered impractical. Passenger numbers travelling through Dublin leapt by 8% to 21.7 million last year and are already 15% up on that figure in the first four months of 2015.

A DAA spokesperson said “We are currently examining the various options regarding the delivery of a second parallel runway at Dublin Airport, but have not yet made a final decision in relation to this issue.”

“A second parallel runway has been part of the overall development plan for Dublin Airport for several decades and we’re fortunate that land was earmarked for this project many years ago within the overall Dublin Airport campus.”

“The various options relating to its development will be carefully considered before the company makes a final decision on the best way forward and a second runway remains a central element of Dublin Airport’s long-term plans,” the DAA spokesman confirmed

Dublin Airport now has two flights per day to Dubai and Abu Dhabi with Emirates and Etihad both flying twice a day since last year.

Passenger numbers to the Middle East and North Africa doubled between 2011 and 2013.

The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) has ruled that Dublin Airport will not be allowed to pass on any of the costs associated with the development of a second runway until passenger numbers pass 25 million in a 12 month period.

Between 2010 and 2014, Dublin Airport increased its transatlantic passenger numbers by 42% with seven new transatlantic services during the same period.

This summer, Dublin Airport will be the sixth largest airport in Europe for services to North America with 318 flights per week (159 weekly departures) between Dublin and 15 separate destinations in the United States and Canada.

Fianna Fáil want new law to allow Irish Central Bank to lower mortgage rates

  

Fianna Fáil has said legislation is needed to force banks to lower their variable mortgage rates.

It comes as Bank of Ireland yesterday announced that it is reducing its fixed-rate mortgages by 0.3%.

It has made no announcement on its variable rate however, which stands at 4.5%.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan recently met with financial institutions to ask that they reduce variable rates in line with falling ECB rates.

Fianna Fáil Finance Spokesperson Michael McGrath said that legislation might be the only way to deal with this problem.

“I firmly believe that legislation is going to be required in the Oireachtas to give the Central Bank power to intervene where a market failure has occurred – and one has occurred in the Irish mortgage market – and to put a cap on the level of rates that the banks are charging variable rate customers,” he said.

“This issue is simply not going to go away.

“The Minister met with the banks a couple of weeks ago and, judging by this reaction from Bank of Ireland, those meetings have simply failed.”

Meanwhile back at the bank of money:

Irish Central Bank spends €55,000 on biscuits last year 2014?

The Irish Central Bank spent €55,000 on biscuits last year?

   

It looks like bankers have a very sweet tooth judging by figures released of the Central Bank’s food bill for 2014.

The bill was published in The Sunday Business Post today and shows that €55,000 was spent on biscuits alone last year.

The total is part of a sweet deal for staff which sees their food, tea, coffee and refreshments subsidised to the tune of over €1 million.

Banks bosses said the treats are also snapped up at seminars and meetings as well as press conferences and briefings.

Kidney Health could be a better way to predict heart disease risk

 

Kidney function could be a better gauge of heart attack risk than cholesterol levels and blood pressure, according to a recently conducted study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

According to a JHSPH news release, the researchers reviewed data collected from 637,000 patients in 24 studies who had no history of heart disease and found that results from common kidney function tests, which are used to assess levels creatine in the blood and the amount of albumin leaking out of the kidney into urine, improved the successful prediction rate of heart problems.

The amount of creatinine in the blood reflects how well the kidneys are filtering out waste.  Higher amounts of albumin indicate the presence of kidney damage.  In the study’s participants, the levels of creatinine and albuminuria predicted cardiovascular disease in general, particularly heart failure, heart attack and stroke.

Albuminuria was found to be the strongest predictor, outperforming cholesterol levels and blood pressure as a risk assessor for heart failure and death from heart attack or stroke. The study’s lead author Kunihiro Matsushita, MD, PhD, an assistant scientist at Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology, believes that the study’s findings show that health care providers can use data on kidney damage and kidney function to better understand a patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

Cholesterol levels and blood pressure tests are good indicators of cardiovascular risk, but they are not perfect.  This study tells us we could do even better with information that often times we are already collecting. People with chronic kidney disease are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as those with healthy kidneys and roughly half of them die from it before they reach kidney failure

While the biological mechanisms linking kidney disease to cardiovascular disease aren’t well understood, Matsushita says that poorly functioning kidneys can lead to a fluid overload that may result in heart failure.

The results of the study were published in The Lancet’s journal Diabetes and Endocrinology on May 29. In other news about heart disease here at Immortal News, treating depression with antidepressants has been shown to lowers rates of death, coronary artery disease and stroke.

ICSA calls for standalone hen harrier compensation scheme

   

The ICSA has called for a standalone scheme to provide proper compensation for farmers with hen harrier designation

ICSA Rural Development Chairman Billy Gray said that while there is some provision for hen harrier designation in GLAS, this covers a maximum of 19ha and is unsuitable for many farmers with larger designated areas.

“ICSA is adamant that there should be no designation without compensation – farmers must be compensated fully and equally for every designated hectare of their land,” Gray said.

The ICSA Rural Development Chairman was speaking after a meeting in Templeglantine, Co. Limerick recently.

Gray also suggested that it was time to revisit the blanket ban on new afforestation on designated ground.

“The scientific basis for this ban is far from categorical. For example, it is now accepted that the first 12 years of a forestry plantation provide ideal cover for the hen harrier.

“As modern sitka spruce plantations can be brought to clearfell in as little as 25 years, and Christmas trees in a far shorter time.

It is clear that there is at the very minimum scope for staggered plantation mixed in with some open ground.

He said that this is especially pertinent to farmers with large designations in excess of 20ha.

The Rural Development Chairman said that while a more flexible approach to forestry would certainly be helpful, there is no getting away from the fact that there must be a stand-alone scheme covering every hectare of ground affected by hen harrier designation.

“Now that the Government is loosening the purse strings to provide substantial amounts of money for public sector pay rises, there is no good reason why a relatively small amount of money could not be set aside for such a scheme,”

Top gynaecologist warns women to have babies by age thirty.

To avoid the ‘devastation and regret’ of infertility

   

A new mother holding a sleeping newborn infant in hospital

A top UK fertility specialist has said that women who have children after thirty are placing a huge pressure on the British health system and warned them to start having children in their twenties.

Consultant gynaecologist Professor Geeta Nargund believes the UK faces a ‘fertility time-bomb’ as the average age a woman has her first child continues to rise.

The lead consultant for reproductive medicine at St George’s Hospital in London claims that fertility issues encountered by women who begin trying for a baby in their thirties place “costly and largely unnecessary burden on the NHS” as they opt for IVF and other means of conceiving.

In a letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan obtained by The Sunday Mail, Professor Nargund wrote: “I have witnessed all too often the shock and agony on the faces of women who realise they have left it too late to start a family.

“For so many, this news comes as a genuine surprise and the sense of devastation and regret can be overwhelming.

“And so often the cry will be “Why did no one warn me about this?”’

Professor Nargund believes that children should be given ‘age appropriate’ information from primary school to university to highlight the importance of having children when they are at an optimum age.

“Information is power and the best way to empower people to take control of their fertility is through education.”

“Ideally, if a woman is ready for a child, she should start trying by the time she is 30. She should consider having a child early because as a woman gets older, her fertility declines sharply.”

“As women get older, they experience more complex fertility problems, so treatment tends to be less successful and more expensive.

“On average, more [IVF] treatment cycles are required for a successful pregnancy. So educating people about fertility is very important for the public purse, because it will help us to get more babies within the same NHS budget.”

In the UK IVF is funded by the NHS. IVFs success rate remains at just one birth per four cycles of IVF which costs the health system £20,000 (€28,000). In 2013, the NHS funded over 25,500 cycles in England and Wales.

Professor Nargund had her first child at 29 and said: “My biological clock was absolutely on my mind.”

The doctor revealed that many women are badly misinformed about their fertility.

“Educated women are not necessarily educated about their fertility,” she said.

The average age Irish women have their first baby is 30.3.

We are drinking dinosaur pee every day we drink water:

    

Here’s Why

Do you drink water? If so, how would you react if we told you that all the water you’ve ever drunk and all the water you are ever going to drink in the future comes from the urine of a dinosaur?

The average American drinks four cups of water every day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That is far short of the recommended eight glasses of water every day and is equivalent to around four cups of dinosaur pee.

Whether it is tap, filtered, bottled, sparkling or sourced from the Himalayan glaciers and sparkled with gold dust, you are just actually drinking the liquid wastes of an ancient beast, says science-centric YouTube channel Curious Minds.

A video explaining this theory says a very small percentage of all the water in the world is available for drinking purposes, but it is still a huge amount of water to provide for the needs of every human being that has ever walked on the surface of the Earth for the last 200,000 years.

Every year, around 121,000 cubic miles of water, or about the equivalent of 42 Superior Lakes, falls down on Earth and constantly flows through the rivers, lakes, ground reservoirs and everywhere else it passes through, including inside the guts of people and animals that drink it.

So what do dinosaurs have to do with all this? Unlike humans, who have been on Earth for a tiny fraction of the 186 million years that dinosaurs ruled this planet, the beasts were here far longer than we have ever been. In that long span of time, it is very likely that the dinosaurs have drunk all the water available back then, and all the water available now is simply water that has passed through a dinosaur’s kidneys making its way through the never-ending water cycle.

“Humans consume a lot of water, but our species hasn’t had the numbers or time to process a large portion of the Earth’s water. Dinosaurs on the other hand had a long time to drink water,” the video explains. “The Mesozoic era – the reign of the dinosaurs – lasted for 186 million years.

That gave them time to drink a lot of water. So while most molecules in your eight-ounce glass have never been drunk by another human, almost every single molecule has been drunk by a dinosaur.”

Charles Fisherman, author of “The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water,” says water molecules are extremely resilient, and it’s likely that all water molecules present now were the same water molecules available for billions of years.

“All the water on Earth has been through a dinosaur kidney,” Fishermantells Marketplace.org. “Every bottle of Evian you drink from is Tyrannosaurus Rex pee. All the water on Earth has been here for 4.5 billion years. It’s all toilet-to-tap at some level.”

Believe it or believe it not?

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 13th February 2015

Aer Lingus Board Urges the Irish Government to Support Takeover Bid

  

Aer Lingus is open to a takeover under certain conditions.

The board of Aer Lingus urged the Irish government on Friday to support a takeover bid by the parent of British Airways, saying the offer will accelerate the Irish airline’s growth plans and enhance Ireland’s position as hub for trans-Atlantic travel.

The parent company, which is known as the International Consolidated Airlines Group, or I.A.G., has offered to pay about €1.36 billion for the airline but must win the support of the discount carrier Ryanair and the Irish government, the two largest shareholders of Aer Lingus.

This week, I.A.G. said it was willing to enter into a number of legally binding commitments to win the government’s support, including maintaining existing connections between Ireland’s airports and Heathrow Airport near London, a crucial point of contention for the Irish government.

“We have had further detailed discussions with I.A.G., and the board has a greater understanding of I.A.G.’s intentions for the future of Aer Lingus and the proposed commitments that I.A.G. is prepared to make in relation to Aer Lingus,” Colm Barrington, the Aer Lingus chairman, said in a news release.

“These discussions have further confirmed that it is clearly in I.A.G.’s interests to continue to grow Aer Lingus within the I.A.G. Group,” he said. “The board’s view is therefore that a combination of Aer Lingus with I.A.G. has a compelling strategic rationale and will deliver significant benefits for Aer Lingus, its employees, its customers and for Ireland.”

The Irish government is Aer Lingus’s second-largest shareholder, holding a 25.1% stake. Ryanair, is the largest, with a 29.8% stake.

Aer Lingus rejected two takeover offers late last year from I.A.G. but has said it would be willing to accept the latest sweetened proposal, made last month, if certain conditions were met.

In its latest bid for Aer Lingus, I.A.G. offered 2.55 euros, a share, including a dividend. The deal, if consummated, values Aer Lingus at about €1.36 billion.

Shares of Aer Lingus declined 1.8%, to €2.21, in late afternoon trading in Dublin on Friday.

In part, I.A.G. has pledged to keep the airline’s head office in Ireland and has said that Aer Lingus would continue to operate as a separate business with its own branding and management.

I.A.G. is one of the world’s largest airline companies, carrying more than 77.3 million passengers in 2014. Its portfolio of carriers includes British Airways and two Spanish carriers: Iberia, a full-service airline, and Vueling Airlines, a low-cost carrier.

The company posted revenue of €15.2 billion in the first nine months of 2014, up 7.4% from the period a year earlier.

Almost 50% of Ireland’s water supply is lost through leaks

 

Irish Water can confirm that about 800 million litres of water lost through leaks each day?

Workers install water meters outside houses in Fortlawn Estate near Blanchardstown, west Dublin, earlier this year. Jerry Grant says that without water meters, resolving the leakage issue is like looking for “a needle in a haystack”.

Almost half of the water supply in the State is being lost through leaks, according to the latest figures from Irish Water.

Jerry Grant, head of asset management for Irish Water, said about 800 million litres of water is being lost each day, which is 49% nationally.

Mr Grant said the more than 500,000 meters rolled out to domestic properties last year are being used to calculate the leakage.

“The figures are much more accurate than they were. There will always be a degree of estimates in them because we don’t have metering of every property,” he said.

Mr Grant told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland the target was to save 2% of water this year.

“We’re reasonably confident for this year (to meet the target),” he said.

Mr Grant said the company will reduce pressure in some parts of the country to reduce leakage.

“The real bull work of water conservation and leakage management is to have district meters. We have about 10,000 of them across the country.”

Mr Grant said many of these meters did not work properly and were audited last year.

“Without them it’s like a needle in a haystack looking for leaks,” he said.

“There is no silver bullet solution. This effort will have to be maintained indefinitely.”

In figures released to RTÉ news, most local authorities said they are losing about 40 per cent of their water supply through leaks.

The report shows areas losing more than half their supply to leaks were Cork city, Co Cork, Tipperary, Mayo, Kerry and Roscommon.

The Prophets are weeping by: President Michael D Higgins the President of Ireland

  

The Prophets are Weeping tackles extremism and is first poem since assuming office

The President said his poem was influenced by the flight of people from northern Iraq and those in flight from the Syrian conflict.

President Michael D Higgins has released the text of the only poem he has written since assuming office in 2011.

The Prophets are Weeping with its references to extremism and the displacement of people could hardly be more topical given the situation in the Middle East.

The poem was completed last year before the attack on theCharlie Hebdo offices in Paris which left 12 people dead. That attack inspired the following week’s cover which featured the prophet Mohammad weeping.

Mr Higgins finalised the poem in October last year but had been working on it for some time.

The President was influenced by the flight of people from northern Iraq and those in flight from the Syrian conflict. The poem begins:

“To those on the road it is reported that The Prophets are weeping, At the abuse of their words, Scattered to sow an evil seed.”

The President first mentioned the poem publicly at theGaisce awards to young people last week.

He said he was concerned that levels of youth unemployment would drive many young people towards extremists.

“It would be very wrong if we just stepped back and allowed the marginalisation of young people, that they be left in ghettos of Europe to be available to the predators of fundamentalism and the abuses of texts,” he said.

He referred to the “incredible threats from those who abuse sacred texts”.

He included the text of the poem in his Christmas card but it has not been more widely available until now.

The President once lectured on the sociology of migration and has often referred to the movements of people in different speeches.

He has also frequently referred to his own time as an emigrant in the UK and the United States.

After the Charlie Hebdo attack, President Higgins expressed solidarity with the people of France and “Ireland’s unfaltering commitment to the freedom of thought and expression that today’s cruel events have attempted to undermine.”

President Higgins has published four books of poetry to date: The Betrayal in 1990, The Season of Fire in 1993, An Arid Season in 2004 and New and Selected Poems in 2011.

The Prophets are Weeping

To those on the road it is reported that

The Prophets are weeping,

At the abuse

Of their words,

Scattered to sow an evil seed.

Rumour has it that,

The Prophets are weeping,

At their texts distorted,

The death and destruction,

Imposed in their name.

The sun burns down,

On the children who are crying,

On the long journeys repeated,

Their questions not answered.

Mothers and Fathers hide their faces,

Unable to explain,

Why they must endlessly,

No end in sight,

Move for shelter,

for food, for safety, for hope.

The Prophets are weeping,

For the words that have been stolen,

From texts that once offered,

To reveal in ancient times,

A shared space,

Of love and care,

Above all for the stranger.

By M.D.H. 2014  

Sligo College lecturers concerned over plan to demote job titles

  

St Angela’s College staff in Sligo will have ‘teacher’ posts following merger with NUIG

St Angela’s College, Sligo: there are almost 60 full-time academic staff at the college, most of them female, and all currently hold the position of lecturer.

Academic staff at St Angela’s College in Sligo have expressed alarm at a plan to demote their posts from university lecturer to teacher as part of full integration with NUI Galway (NUIG). There are almost 60 full-time academic staff at the college, most of them female, and all currently hold the position of lecturer.

NUIG has accredited courses since 2006 at St Angela’s College, which provides third-level education in nursing, education and home economics. Under full integration, St Angela’s will merge with NUIG from next September.

The academic staff have been informed by management that an NUIG academic will meet them in separate groups early next week to brief them on qualifications for positions which they already hold. Staff will be asked to fulfil criteria which have not yet been specified to apply for a “small number” of lecturer posts.

An extraordinary meeting of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) branch at St Angela’s yesterday discussed serious concerns about the impact of the change in terms and conditions, which could restrict research and promotional opportunities and could have an impact on decision-making and curriculum development.

Staff have pointed out that the changes come just weeks after recent Equality Tribunal and Higher Education Authority reports highlighting gender imbalance at NUIG. The staff feel “particularly vulnerable”, according to sources, as many of whom have not had written contracts due to an internal dispute at St Angela’s dating back a number of years.

The staff have been told that their pay will not be cut, but they say their unions have not been permitted to participate with college management in the incorporation negotiations with NUIG. The heads of agreement are due to be signed off by the end of next month. Staff are understood to have made several requests to have the issue be referred to the Labour Relations Commission.

NUIG says it has two parallel grades of academic contract in its current structure – university teacher and lecturer. “The salary scales and promotion tracks of both grades are identical,” it said, with lecturers carrying out a mixture of research and teaching while teachers focused primarily on teaching. It said it was “clear that the most appropriate contract is that of university teacher”, but this did not involve a demotion.

NUIG said that “at a future stage… full support will be provided for St Angela’s staff wishing to pursue research activity” and such support is already in place for NUIG university teachers.

St Angela’s College president Dr Anne Taheny said in a statement that “the proposed incorporation of St Angela’s College Sligo and NUIG is part of the National Strategy for Higher Education 2010 and discussions on the incorporation are continuing”.

“The terms and conditions, including pay, of all staff are governed by EU Transfer of Undertakings Regulations (TUPE) and, as public servants, by public service agreements such as Croke Park and Haddington Road,” her statement said.

Trying for a baby can be a stressful time for some couples

    

How to stop fertility problems damaging your relationship with your partner.

Fertility problems are a concern for many couples and trying for a baby can cause a serious rift in your relationship, if the emotional impact is overlooked.

Coping with Fertility Problems:

  • Don’t blame yourself or your partner
  • Share your concerns
  • Be open about your feelings
  • Listen to each other
  • Get support from others with fertility problems
  • Plan activities together

Infertility problems

Infertility deals a severe blow to both men’s and women’s identities. In fact, their sense of themselves as sexual people becomes distorted as their ability to procreate is called into question. Men often feel emasculated as a result of infertility, particularly if there is a male factor involved. Women feel unfeminine, damaged and defective.

Sex comes to mean failure-failure to conceive and therefore failure to be a “real man” or a “real woman.” These negative distortions become magnified as infertility progresses, and often get generalized so that one’s self-esteem is affected. Infertile men and women can easily feel worthless as people. Infertility takes the spontaneity out of sex. 

Infertility, particularly if it is long-term, is probably one of the most difficult times in a couples’ life. Nothing can erase the pain; one must go through it in order to come out of it. Most importantly, couples must talk to each other about their fears, worries, sadness, anger and any other feelings related to their infertility.

For men who have been taught not to express their feelings, this can be especially difficult. Yet people feel less depressed, and hence more sexual, when they can express their emotions. It is important to be honest with oneself about the source of one’s feelings. For example, a fight about whose turn it is to do the dishes might stem more from anger over infertility than from frustration about getting housework done.

It is also important for partners to remind themselves, and each other, that infertility should not determine one’s self-worth or one’s sexuality. Being a “real man” has about as much to do with the quality of his semen as it does with whether or not he eats quiche. Likewise, being a “real woman” is simply not related to her ability to bear children.

Though it may be difficult to harness the energy, men and women should continue the same kinds of behaviors that made them feel sexual before their infertility, whether it be dressing in a certain way, sharing a romantic dinner or going dancing. It is especially important to exercise, eat properly, get enough sleep and in general keep one’s body in good shape. The healthier one is, the better (and more sexual) he/she will feel.

The key ingredient is nurturing. It is essential to nurture your relationship. Consider it even more important than the child you wish to have. Children usually remain at home about 18 years; most marriages that endure last far longer. And relationships, like children, flourish when there is an abundance of love, caretaking, attention and consideration. It is important to stay connected to each other.

* Make sure you spend time discussing matters other than infertility. Do set up regular times, however, to talk about infertility.

* Share your emotional responses (which may be constantly changing), and when it is necessary to make decisions relative to treatment, use that time to discuss those options.

* Minimally, arrange weekly meetings in which you “check in” with your partner. Each of you can take a turn talking about your feelings, concerns and preferences about treatment.

* In making decisions, be sure to listen to each other in a non-judgmental way without trying to change the other’s mind. Try to set aside your own feelings for the moment in order to understand your partner’s position. When each of you feels fully understood, then you can negotiate more easily and make decisions with which you both feel comfortable.

* If a particular month is especially stressful, perhaps due to an IVF cycle, a poor semen analysis, etc., then “check in” with each other more often – daily if necessary! It is also important when your period comes, to acknowledge together the sadness and disappointment you feel. If possible, plan a special treat for yourselves at that time.

* Be open about your feelings on an ongoing basis, in addition to regular meetings in which you set aside time to talk. If you don’t share your feelings, your partner will be forced to make assumptions that may or may not be true.!

* State your wishes to your partner. Even the most sensitive and perceptive people are not mind readers.

How friends and family can help

Ultimately, many infertile women and men become enraged over these multiple losses. They are upset by other people’s insensitivity, hurt by criticism from their families, tired of treatment, frustrated by limited options and resentful of their “fishbowl” existence. But support from family and friends can help — making infertile women and men feel better about themselves, relate better to those who care about them and respond better to treatment. One Houston endocrinologist has even suggested there would be “more successful pregnancies if family and friends knew how to be emotionally supportive.” This task will be easier if those who want to help respond in some way to the losses of infertility.

Main guidelines to remember

Admit there is a problem.

Pretending the problem does not exist or avoiding it is not helpful. You may first have to deal with your own feelings about infertility, work through disappointment and thwarted expectations of being a grandmother or grandfather, for example, and examine deep-rooted beliefs about conception, child- bearing and medical intervention.

Acknowledge the infertility by asking how things are going with treatment or how they are feeling. This shows your interest and offers them a chance to confide in you if they choose. If they do not elaborate on their activities, do not question them further at that time. At least they will know someone recognizes the significance of this experience in their lives.

Become informed.

Hurtful comments like: “Just relax;” “Quit work and you’ll get pregnant;” or “Adopt and you’ll get pregnant” reveal serious misunderstandings about infertility. Broadly defined, infertility is a medical problem which prevents a couple from carrying a pregnancy to term or conceiving after one year of unprotected sexual intercourse. The problem may be with the woman (40% of the time) or the man (40% of the time). In the remaining 20%, both individuals have problems or the reason for their infertility is unknown. Only 5% of all couples who adopt later get pregnant. Furthermore, adoption is not an option for all couples.

Be realistic.

Often people believe that to be helpful, they must be able to eliminate another’s pain. This is impossible; caring people cannot take away the pain, but can only help them to manage it. Be honest with yourself as well as with your friend/loved one about your discomfort and emotional limitation

Listen carefully.

Don’t be afraid of your friend’s/loved one’s depression, anger, or guilt. If they will talk about their infertility, allow them to freely and fully express their emotions. They may grieve, going through a process of crying and repeatedly talking about what has happened and what might happen in the future. By venting negative feelings and releasing tension, they can often move on to a more positive, optimistic perspective. Suppressing emotional pain may just delay the grieving process or protract it. Bear in mind that people experiencing infertility want a sounding board more often than an opinion.

Accept different ways of coping.

Each person must discover how to cope best with their problem. People come from divergent economic, religious, and cultural backgrounds all of which influence their responses to infertility. Don’t expect them to act or react as you think you might. Some people want to be included in all family and social gatherings which involve children, while others actively avoid such events. Some talk openly about their treatment; others share nothing. Moreover, treatment demands are so varied that needs change.

Ask them how you can be supportive.

Do they want you to ask how things are going or do they want you to wait until they initiate discussion? Would they like you to accompany them to the clinic? Would it be helpful for you to bring over the evening meal, particularly after certain procedures or surgeries? If they don’t know, encourage them to think about what they expect so that they can let you know. This acknowledges that they are the authority on what they need, when they need it and from whom they would like to receive it.

Make the invitation.

Baby showers, christenings, family reunions and holidays are especially difficult times. An invitation lets the infertile woman or man know they are thought of and wanted; it’s always nice to be asked. If they choose to decline, accept their choice. If you know them well enough, ask them what kind of social involvement they want. What would make events easier for them?.

Respond to the need for dignity and respect.

Let your friend/loved one know that you see them as multi- faceted people and that infertility is only one part of their lives. Remind yourself that infertility does not make them helpless or their lives less meaningful. Respect the desire for a child, even if you do not agree with the method of attaining that goal. By the same token, respect the decision to stop treatment or rule out adoption.

New tiny contact lenses will help people see with inbuilt telescope

  

A tiny device in new contact lenses, aimed at hundreds of thousands of people suffering from age-related eye problems, could increase the user’s vision nearly by three fold

Contact lenses with inbuilt telescope could help hundreds of thousands see better

Hundreds of thousands of people with sight problems could be helped with a revolutionary new contact lens, which has an in-built telescope to aid vision.

Swiss scientists have invented a tiny device which can increase a user’s vision by nearly three-fold – in the wink of an eye.

The contact lenses would be far cheaper than surgery and will help people suffering from age related macular degeneration (AMD) to see more clearly in their peripheral vision.

AMD is the biggest cause of sight loss in Britain, affecting more than 500,000 people who lose the ability to see in the centre of their vision making it difficult to read and recognize people’s faces.

Sufferers include Judi Dench, the actress, who now says she struggles to read scripts because of the condition.

Designer Dr Eric Tremblay, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, said the magnifying contacts would allow people with sight loss to read text more easily and see faces.

Presenting a working prototype at the American Association of the Advancement of Science conference he said: “They are a contact lens that has a very thin telescope built into it – it allows you to have magnified vision. So it makes the object that you look at bigger.

“The most compelling reason why you would want to have this is to help people with serious visual problems, such as macular degeneration, or other retinal illnesses where people have severe vision loss.

“In a lot of cases magnification is very useful. So what people usually use are head mounted telescopes which doesn’t work for everything. It doesn’t track with vision and it’s quite bulky and interferes with social interaction.”

The lenses have tiny telescope built into their centre which works the same way as looking through a pair of binoculars.

To activate the lens, users must be paired with specially adapted glasses that recognise winks, but ignore blinks.

The contact lenses have two apertures, one which is magnified and one normal.

When users shut their right eye, the glasses change the polarization of light so that it hits the contact lens at the right angle to trigger the magnification effect. A wink with the left eye effectively turns off the telescope.

The contacts zoom in thanks to special light filters. And when they wink their left, the image returns to normal.

“So the contact lens does all the optical zoom and the glasses can switch between vision,” Dr Tremblay added.

“It is instant. You wink and the image changes. It is quite large and rests on the white part of your eye and is quite large and quite thick.”

There are already glasses on the marked for people with AMD which have mounted telescopes but they tend to look bulky and interfere with social interaction. They also do not track with head movement so users must position the eyes and tilt the head to use them.

Currently a small telescope can be surgically inserted into the eye but the operation can cost around £6,000. The new lenses are likely to be far cheaper.

The breakthrough was welcomed by charities who said that it could help with daily tasks like driving and reading instructions on medication.

Clara Eaglen, RNIB Eye Health Campaigns Manager, said: “It is encouraging that innovative products such as these telescopic contact lenses are being developed, especially as they aim to make the most of a person’s existing vision.

“Anything that helps to maximise functioning vision is very important as this helps people with sight loss to regain some independence and get out and about again, helping to reduce isolation.

“The more sight someone has, the more they are able to live safe, independent lives. This could mean not having to give up driving, remaining in employment, being able to cook safely and read medication instructions.

“This research is still at an early stage but it will be exciting to watch how it progresses and to fully understand how this could help people with AMD.”

Acting CEO of the Macular Society, Cathy Yelf, said: “There is virtue in having a zoomable contact lens for some people with macular degeneration who have lost their central vision. We will be interested to see how in practice it works for people with AMD.

“With an ageing population investment in research and new treatments is a pressing issue as there are 600,000 people in the UK with this form of sight loss.”

The research was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in San Jose, California

News Ireland daily BLOG

Saturday/Sunday 5th & 6th October

Rising Irish market demand sees Nama prepare to sell €300m worth of property loans

    

Nama is preparing to sell about €300m of property loans as demand from overseas buyers rises, three people with knowledge of the plan said.

The loans are linked to properties built by Dublin-based developer McGarrell Reilly Group and will be sold at a discount, according to the people, who declined to be identified because the matter is private.

Ray Gordon, a Nama spokesman who works for public relations firm Gordon MRM, and Sean Reilly, executive chairman of McGarrell Reilly, declined to comment.

International investors have been buying property and loans backing real estate in Dublin as returns rebound following Ireland’s property crash.

Overseas investors bought about 70% of the €545m of income-producing property sold in Ireland last year, compared with little or none in 2007, according to CBRE Group.

McGarrell Reilly’s developments include The Watermarque office building near Google’s European headquarters and the Iveagh Court office complex in Dublin’s central business district, according to its website.

The Irish Independent reported in May that Reilly was trying to buy back the loans at a discount from Nama without saying where it got the information.

Nama was set up in 2009 by the government to take over €74bn of risky commercial real estate loans held by Ireland’s banks and sell them over as many as 10 years.

Ireland’s teenage births at lowest level in 12 years while suicides at all-time high

  

THE percentage of babies born to teenage mothers is at a 12-year low, but the number of suicides is at its highest level since records began.

New figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on births and deaths in 2011 paint a mixed picture of Irish life. They show that:

* After a decade-long baby boom, the birth rate is falling and is now at its lowest level since 2009, with 74,033 babies born in 2011, yet Ireland continues to have the highest fertility rate in the EU.

* The number of teenage pregnancies has fallen again. Some 2.3pc of all births (1,690 babies) were to women under the age of 20, down from a high of 6.2pc in 1999.

* The number of babies born outside of marriage continues to grow, with 25,091 babies or 33.9pc of all births in 2011 falling into this category, up 0.1pc compared with 2010.

* The recession has seen a huge increase in the number of suicides. In 2011, 554 people took their lives, up from 458 in 2007. Suicides are believed to be at their highest level since records began in 1890.

* Heart and vascular diseases were the leading causes of death in 2011, closely followed by cancer, with each accounting for almost a third of the total number of 28,456 deaths.

The CSO’s Vital Statistics 2011 report released yesterday shows Ireland’s baby boom appears to be on the wane, with a fall in the number of births for the second successive year. In 2011, 74,033 children were born – 37,898 boys and 36,135 girls – down 1.5pc on 2010.

The fertility rate – how many children an Irish woman has in her lifetime – fell in 2011 from an average of 2.06 to 2.02. However, Ireland still has the highest fertility rate in the EU, despite it falling by 34pc since 1981.

The average age of women giving birth in 2011 was 31.8 years, but the figures show the number of teenage mothers continues to fall and is now at a 12-year low. Most of these births were to mothers aged 18 and 19; 103 were to girls aged 16; and 36 babies were born to girls aged 15 and under.

Just over a third of babies (33.9pc) born in 2011 were born outside of marriage or civil partnership, but the highest level was seen in Limerick city, where 48.8pc of all babies were born to unwed parents, while the lowest was in Co Galway, at 25.2pc.

The busiest day for deliveries in 2011 was September 29 when 269 were born around the country, while the quietest was May 8 when only 113 were born.

While almost all babies are born in hospital, there was a slight increase in the number of home births (334), up 2.5pc on 2010.

The report shows a worrying increase in the number of suicides, with 458 men and 96 women taking their lives in 2011. This is more than twice the number of suicides of 30 years ago, and accounted for almost 2pc of all deaths in 2011.

TURMOIL

The biggest number of suicides was in Co Cork (62), followed by Dublin city (57), south Dublin (37) and Wexford (29). Those aged between 25 and 34 were most likely to take their lives.

Ciaran Austin of Console said the record high number of suicides was “very concerning”.

He said that while it was impossible to draw a direct correlation between the recession and the number of suicides, it reflects a global trend during times of economic turmoil.

“Economic issues, debts, unemployment can put additional strain on people and will add extra stress to those who are already vulnerable.”

He criticised the time-lag in recording suicides, which often does not happen for several years, and called for improved recording of suicides so that resources can be targeted at specific counties quickly.

Irish Doctors strike will go ahead on next Tuesday

 

The Irish Medical Organisation says it is resigned to the Junior Doctors strike going ahead next Tuesday.

The IMO was responding to comments from the HSE today, suggesting the strike was avoidable.

The HSE wants doctors to return to the Labour Relations Commission to discuss a resolution of the dispute, which centres around working hours.

But the union says talks won’t produce results as the two sides are still divided on a number of serious issues.

Eric Young of the IMO said “we have had many talks … but unfortunately the situation is now that we have to do something.”

He said one major issue outstanding was the implementation of sanctions on hospitals which don’t adhere to deadlines for reducing hours.

Irish Lottery state asset sale raises €405 million

  

For once the sale of a State asset, the National Lottery, has been completed without either public controversy or political recrimination about sale of the family silver.

The deal that the Government has struck with Premier Lotteries Ireland – which includes An Post and Camelot, a UK lottery operator – for the sale of the lottery license is a good one. The sale should leave most people satisfied: first, with the price obtained; second, with the terms agreed with the new operator; and third with how the Government plans to use the sale proceeds.

By selling the national lottery licence for €405 million, the Government has secured a sale price that is one third higher than initial industry estimates for the franchise. The terms of sale include a continuing State involvement, via An Post’s role. And, few will criticise how the Government proposes to spend the privatisation proceeds. For half the sum raised will be spent on financing the construction of the long awaited National Children’s Hospital in Dublin, with the first of two payments to the exchequer scheduled before year end, and the second next year. As the Government struggles to meet annual budget targets, and plans to leave the international bailout programme by year-end, the sale proceeds could not come at a more opportune moment.

Since its introduction in 1987, the National Lottery has proved highly popular with the public, and very beneficial for the charities, sporting bodies and worthy causes that have received lottery funding – over €4 billion in the past 26 years. Ireland, on a per head basis, spends more on lottery tickets than most other European countries. And while six years of austerity measures have depressed ticket sales somewhat during the recession, nevertheless the lottery has managed to retain its broad appeal to the public.

Recent changes made under the Lottery Act are seen as central to the growth of the National Lottery, and the income that it can generate for good causes. At present, just three per cent of its revenue comes from online sales, compared with 15 to 17 per cent in Camelot’s UK operation. The easing of legal restrictions on the online sale of lottery tickets has greatly enhanced the lottery’s potential for revenue growth. And the Government is confident that under the new licensing terms for the lottery the annual income for good causes, at present €225 million, can be raised to €300 million in five years.

The sale of the National Lottery marks the first in a series of disposals of State-owned assets – some €3 billion – designed in part to pay down public debt and, as in the case of the proposed sale of Bord Gais Energy, in part to finance a stimulus fund to boost jobs. The Government’s skilled handling of the sale of the National Lottery, hopefully, augurs well for successful completion of the rest of the privatisation programme.

Why are there still so few Women in Science?

 

Researchers at Yale published a study proving that physicists, chemists and biologists are likely to view a young male scientist more favorably than a woman with the same qualifications. Presented with identical summaries of the accomplishments of two imaginary applicants, professors at six major research institutions were significantly more willing to offer the man a job. If they did hire the woman, they set her salary, on average, nearly $4,000 lower than the man’s. Surprisingly, female scientists were as biased as their male counterparts.

The new study goes a long way toward providing hard evidence of a continuing bias against women in the sciences. Only one-fifth of physics Ph.D.’s in this country are awarded to women, and only about half of those women are American; of all the physics professors in the United States, only 14 percent are women. The numbers of black and Hispanic scientists are even lower; in a typical year, 13 African-Americans and 20 Latinos of either sex receive Ph.D.’s in physics. The reasons for those shortages are hardly mysterious — many minority students attend secondary schools that leave them too far behind to catch up in science, and the effects of prejudice at every stage of their education are well documented. But what could still be keeping women out of the STEM fields (“STEM” being the current shorthand for “science, technology, engineering and mathematics”), which offer so much in the way of job prospects, prestige, intellectual stimulation and income?

As one of the first two women to earn a bachelor of science degree in physics from Yale — I graduated in 1978 — thisquestion concerns me deeply. I attended a rural public school whose few accelerated courses in physics and calculus I wasn’t allowed to take because, as my principal put it, “girls never go on in science and math.” Angry and bored, I began reading about space and time and teaching myself calculus from a book. When I arrived at Yale, I was woefully unprepared. The boys in my introductory physics class, who had taken far more rigorous math and science classes in high school, yawned as our professor sped through the material, while I grew panicked at how little I understood. The only woman in the room, I debated whether to raise my hand and expose myself to ridicule, thereby losing track of the lecture and falling further behind.

In the end, I graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with honors in the major, having excelled in the department’s three-term sequence in quantum mechanics and a graduate course in gravitational physics, all while teaching myself to program Yale’s mainframe computer. But I didn’t go into physics as a career. At the end of four years, I was exhausted by all the lonely hours I spent catching up to my classmates, hiding my insecurities, struggling to do my problem sets while the boys worked in teams to finish theirs. I was tired of dressing one way to be taken seriously as a scientist while dressing another to feel feminine. And while some of the men I wanted to date weren’t put off by my major, many of them were.

Mostly, though, I didn’t go on in physics because not a single professor — not even the adviser who supervised my senior thesis — encouraged me to go to graduate school. Certain this meant I wasn’t talented enough to succeed in physics, I left the rough draft of my senior thesis outside my adviser’s door and slunk away in shame. Pained by the dream I had failed to achieve, I locked my textbooks, lab reports and problem sets in my father’s army footlocker and turned my back on physics and math forever.

Not until 2005, when Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard, wondered aloud at a lunchtime talk why more women don’t end up holding tenured positions in the hard sciences, did I feel compelled to reopen that footlocker. I have known Summers since my teens, when he judged my high-school debate team, and he has always struck me as an admirer of smart women. When he suggested — among several other pertinent reasons — that innate disparities in scientific and mathematical aptitude at the very highest end of the spectrum might account for the paucity of tenured female faculty, I got the sense that he had asked the question because he genuinely cared about the answer. I was taken aback by his suggestion that the problem might have something to do with biological inequalities between the sexes, but as I read the heated responses to his comments, I realized that even I wasn’t sure why so many women were still giving up on physics and math before completing advanced degrees. I decided to look up my former classmates and professors, review the research on women’s performance in STEM fields and return to Yale to see what, if anything, had changed since I studied there. I wanted to understand why I had walked away from my dream, and why so many other women still walk away from theirs.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 16th August 2013

Republic of Ireland babies at risk of having a wrong blood group

      

Most of the cases are at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin

Hundreds of new mothers in the Republic of Ireland have been told there may be a small chance their baby was incorrectly blood grouped at birth.

The mistake is believed to be due to a mislabelling of a blood test kit for newborns.

Around 540 patients – mothers and babies – have been notified.

The Republic’s Health Service Executive (HSE) said there are no immediate safety concerns and the risk of a blood group being incorrect is extremely low.

The five maternity hospitals affected are the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, Cavan General, Sligo General, Limerick and Galway.

Most of the cases are at the Rotunda, one of the biggest hospitals in thecountry.

The hospitals began contacting affected mothers on Monday and letters have been sent to anyone potentially affected by the manufacturing error.

GPs are also being notified.

The HSE said it was recently notified by Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, a Johnson & Johnson company, that a small number of the ORTHO BioVue System Cassette testing kits supplied worldwide had been incorrectly labelled.

The manufacturer estimates that the potential risk of a kit being labelled incorrectly is less than one in 11 million.

According to the HSE all hospitals have completed an inspection of their remaining kits and have removed any potentially affected batches.

All patients, including babies, have a repeat blood group test when being admitted to any hospital or in pregnancy.

Hard-up Irish pensioners living on the breadline, new CSO figures reveal

      

Almost 10% of over 65s were left destitute in 2011

One in 10 elderly people in Ireland have been at risk of poverty according to worrying figures now revealed.

A new report from the Central Statistics Office detailed how 9.7% of over-65s were living on the breadline in 2011 – up from 8.7% the year before.

The figures also revealed that average weekly incomes among the elderly dropped by 5% from 2009 to 2011.

Age Action spokesman Eamon Timmins said he was not surprised by the startling figures and said it highlighted the need for the elderly to be protected in the upcoming Budget.

He said: “The fact that the average income of people aged over 65 fell by 5%, combined with the rise in poverty levels over such a short period, only shows part of the difficulties which many older people are currently facing.

“On the other side of the equation there are new charges and rising prices which have to be met from these declining incomes.

“These increase taxes, charges and costs have escalated since these statistics were gathered, leaving many older people seriously struggling to make ends meet.”

The CSO’s figures show the average fell from €428.86 in 2009 to €407.28 in 2011.

The at-risk of poverty rate rose over the two-year period, the number of pensioners population experiencing two or more forms of deprivation rose from 9.5% to 11.3%.

Mr Timmins said: “Age Action is not surprised that the poverty indicators for older people are rising, with financial pressures increasing substantially on older people in the last 18 months.

“Property tax, a trebling of the prescription charge and soaring energy prices are just some of the increased costs which have been introduced since 2011, with older people having to pay them from a declining income.

“The increased costs are on unavoidable elements of their cost of living – a roof over their head, essential medication and heat.”

The news came as the Government weighed up the option of slashing the pension by €10 in October’s Budget.

The figures said more than half of the over-65s surveyed revealed they suffered from a chronic illness or health problem, but only 7% described their health as “bad or very bad”.

In 2011, 55% of Ireland’s elderly population was female, while just over a third were widowed, divorced or separated.

Around 52% of the elderly were retired and just over 7% were still at work.

Benefits accounted for the most significant source of income for the over-65s. In 2011, social transfers made up nearly two-thirds of the average person’s total income.

More than 4 cups coffee a day linked to higher death risk

 

Drinking more than 28 cups of coffee a week may be harmful for people younger than 55, according to a study.