Tag Archives: business

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 6th February 2016

Irish Government Ministers divided over inviting Donald Trump to Ireland?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Appalling policies’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strong links

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

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

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

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

Brexit already hitting English businesses, A UK survey finds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, unions will meet to discuss potential industrial action.

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

The talks were focused on staffing, recruitment and retention.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proposed plan to open injection facility in Dublin for drug users

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A concern?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Debated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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News Ireland daily BLOG by donie

Thursday 3rd December 2015

White Paper to address concerns over Ireland’s wind power

Minister Alex White denies ministerial rift with Alan Kelly over wind turbine regulations

     

Minister for Energy Alex White warned Opposition TDs they could not reduce energy policy to the legitimate concerns that local communities have on the issue

The Government’s White Paper on energy will be published next week and will address “tension” between energy policy and the “genuine concern” local communities have about wind turbines, according to the Minister for Energy.

Alex White also warned Opposition TDs they could not reduce energy policy to the legitimate concerns that local communities have.

They had to match that to “what we need to do as a country to have a renewable energy policy that meets the challenges of the future”.

Mr White has denied a ministerial rift between himself and Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly over draft wind energy guidelines, published two years ago but still not decided on. A final decision had been expected in 2014.

The guidelines deal with turbine size, their shadow flicker, noise levels and the setback distance from dwellings. Planning applications for wind turbines are currently operating on guidelines from 2006.

Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy had asked if talks between himself and Mr Kelly had broken down.

He said Mr Kelly favoured a distance of between 600m and 1.5km from dwellings but that Mr White was on record in disagreeing with long distances from housing because it would wipe out onshore wind energy in Ireland.

Mr White insisted: “Nothing has broken down between Ministers in relation to it. The departments are continuing to consider what would be the best set of guidelines. But we have guidelines in place at the moment.”

The Minister said there was a good argument to make the guidelines statutory with a very strong case for changing them to deal with the issue of noise and shadow flicker.

However, he said “the issue of having a setback distance that’s unconnected to the issue of noise or shadow flicker is more problematic in my view and I’ve been very honest about that.

“If we put in place a setback distance of the kind some people are advocating, it would wipe out onshore wind in this country as a renewable.”

International best practice

Mr Troy said Fianna Fáil had published its alternative policy and had visitedDenmark to consult the experts in a country that is held up for international best practice.

He said Denmark had moved away from onshore to offshore wind energy. His party was committed to meeting the European Union targets but the wind issue was one of huge concern.

“It might not be a big issue in the centre of Dublin but it is in my constituency of Longford-Westmeath,” he said in reference to Mr White’s Dublin South constituency.

Confirming the White Paper would be published next week, Mr White said a central element would be addressing the genuine tension between what needed to be done with renewable energy and the genuine concerns of citizens.

New draft provisions to regulate wind energy were published two years ago, which included noise limits of 40 decibels and a setback distance of 500m.

Over 3,500 HSE public patients waiting three months for colonoscopy

Irish Cancer Society warns disease will have advanced in some due to delay in diagnosis

      

More than 3,500 public patients have been waiting at least three months for a colonoscopy. Private patients can access the test within 12 days.

Some of the 3,510 patients currently waiting more than three months for a colonoscopy will have a cancer that may have advanced because diagnosis was delayed, the Irish Cancer Society has warned.

The number of patients waiting that long for the test peaked in October at 4,235 before dropping back to 3,510 by the end of November. This is an increase of 954 people on the same time last year.

The society said that colonoscopy waiting times are unacceptable and highlight the health gap between those who can pay and those who cannot. Private patients can access the test within 12 days.

The consequence of a person waiting more than three months for a colonoscopy could be that if they have bowel cancer, it may be diagnosed at a later stage. This means that there may be fewer treatment options available than if it had been caught earlier and the treatment prescribed could be more invasive. The survival rates also decrease the later the stage of the cancer at diagnosis.

“The Irish Cancer Society is deeply concerned by the large number of people waiting longer than three months for a colonoscopy,” the society said. “The HSE is a long way off meeting its target of performing 100 per cent of colonoscopies within 13 weeks.

“Currently, 41 per cent of patients are waiting longer than three months for the cancer test. The tragic reality is that we can expect some colorectal [bowel] cancers to be diagnosed when the patients on waiting lists eventually receive their colonoscopy.”

Investment

The organisation’s head of advocacy Kathleen O’Meara added that long-term solutions were required to solve the ongoing issues and called for investment to ensure enough radiographers and gastroenterologists were working in Irish hospitals.

“We also want GPs to have clear guidelines for when they should refer a patient for a colonoscopy and when another investigation is better suited,” she said.

“Additionally, we are hopeful that hospitals working within the same hospital group will co-ordinate their colonoscopy workloads so that a situation where endoscopy suites in one hospital are under-utilised while a hospital in the same group is overburdened, is avoided.”

The November waiting list figures show an overall drop of 725 patients in the past month. “It is certainly a move in the right direction but given no one should be waiting more than 13 weeks and the fact that there are still 3,510 public patients waiting more than this time, the drop needs to continue and the underlying problem solved,” Ms O’Meara said.

Separately, research from the Lancet Oncology shows the price of new cancer drugs varies by 28 per cent to 388 per cent between high-income countries in Europe and Oceania .

The study reveals that overall the UK and Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Spain, and Portugal pay the lowest average unit manufacturer prices for a group of 31 originator cancer drugs (new drugs under patent), whereas Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany pay the highest prices.

The trial of mother for cruelty to eight children collapses

Jury told technical difficulties were to blame as video link evidence had not been recorded

    

The trial of a mother who faces charges of cruelty and neglect towards eight of her children (Not the above family) over a six-year period has collapsed due to technical difficulties at Galway courthouse.

It was discovered late on Wednesday evening that a live video link facility, which was used to allow a child give evidence from another room in the courthouse that afternoon, was not recording her evidence to the trial.

Judge Karen O’Connor explained to the jury on Thursday morning that, by law, evidence heard by video-link “shall” be recorded, but unfortunately, in this case, she said, this did not occur in relation to the girl’s evidence on Wednesday afternoon.

Judge O’Connor said she had no alternative but to discharge the jury “with regret”.

She told jurors a new trial will begin with a new jury in due course.

Judge O’Connor then listed the case for trial on January 12th.

The woman, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the children, pleaded not guilty to 44 charges before Galway Circuit Criminal Court.

The charges include child cruelty by wilfully assaulting, ill-treating, neglecting, or abandoning the children, or causing or allowing the children to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, or abandoned, in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to their health or well-being.

The offences, contrary to section 246 (1) and (2) of the Children Act 2001, are said to have occurred on dates between September 1st, 2006, and May 12th, 2011.

Shane Costelloe SC, prosecuting, told the jury on Wednesday some of the children would be giving their evidence for the prosecution by either live videolink from a separate room in the courthouse or, in the case of the younger ones, by previously taped interviews with specially-trained Garda interviewers.

Physical abuse

Mr Costelloe said it would be the prosecution case that after the children were taken into care in May 2011, and were placed with foster parents, they began to tell of how their mother physically abused them over the years.

They recounted stories of how she used to assault them with wooden spoons, a leather belt and a bamboo back-scratcher, and hit their heads off the furniture. She would also pour washing-up liquid down their throats if they said a bad word.

Two of the boys recalled their mother threw them out of her car one day because they were messing and had spilled icecream in the back seat. They said she then drove the car at them and they had to jump up on a hedge to avoid being hit.

The eldest child gave evidence by videolink telling the court “she was not a proper mother”.

“She abandoned her children,” the girl said. The girl said that when her mother started drinking sessions in the house it would always end in violence for the children. “There would be violence towards me too. My mother came home from a concert once very drunk … her partner told her I said a bad word and my mother dragged me off the couch by my hair. She dragged me into the kitchen and put my face down into the sink.

“She started to choke me and she began filling the sink with water to drown me – just because of one word,” the girl said.

She recalled her mother leaving the home to go drinking around the time of her 14th birthday. She said the mother returned home the next day and slapped her across the face while saying “that is your birthday present”.

Urgent need now to educate Irish youth as HIV cases skyrocket

      

Deirdre Seery (above left), Cork Sexual Health Clinic, said a new generation of young people had not been targeted by safety campaigns.

A marked rise in the number of people being diagnosed with HIV has prompted calls for new information campaigns and a nationwide introduction of free test kits.

So far this year, there have been 427 new cases of HIV, compared to 342 this time last year, figures from the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre show.

The statistics were discussed yesterday as part of a meeting of the Oireachtas health committee, held to mark World Aids Day.

“The age group of people most at risk of HIV is getting younger,” said Tiernan Brady of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network. “There is a real and urgent need to educate a new generation of young people, and young gay and bisexual men in particular, about HIV and the importance of knowing your HIV status.”

r Brady tsaid that, since 2005, the number of gay men diagnosed with HIV had increased by 210%.

“It is clear from the latest figures that HIV remains an issue of critical concern for gay and bisexual men,” he said. “The figures for 2015 show that gay and bisexual men are the group most likely to acquire HIV.”

CEO of the Cork Sexual Health Clinic, Deirdre Seery, called for a rise in rapid, free, community-based tests and new information campaigns.

“There are new, younger generations of people becoming HIV positive who would not have been exposed to the old safer sex and safer drug use campaigns,” she said.

Also yesterday, Health Minister Leo Varadkar unveiled HIV Ireland, formerly the Dublin Aids Alliance.

“This rebranding is a positive step which can only build on all the good work the organisation has performed so far,” he said, adding the Government would pilot a rapid HIV test service.

“Early detection allows treatment to start early, it minimises the long-term health implications, and reduces potential new infections,” he said.

Taller or bigger people might live shorter lives, according to scientific research

   

Bad news for big people – you might have a shorter lifespan than your smaller counterparts, research suggests.

A new study on wild house sparrows showed how changes in DNA that are linked to ageing and lifespan take place as body size gets bigger.

The research centred on telomeres, a special DNA structure which all animals, including humans, have at the ends of their chromosomes and are said to function like “the protective plastic caps at the end of shoelaces”.

Who needs such a good view anyway?

Growing a bigger body means cells divide more and part of our telomeres are eroded, making cells and tissues function less well, researchers say. So, you may be able to reach the milk at the back of the top shelf at the supermarket, tall people, but your DNA isn’t happy about it.

The study, conducted jointly by the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine and the Centre of Biodiversity Dynamics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, found that skeletally bigger house sparrows had shorter telomeres.

Pat Monaghan, regius professor of zoology at the University of Glasgow, who supervised telomere analysis, said: “The reason why the bigger individuals have shorter telomeres might also be related to increased DNA damage due to growing faster. Being big can have advantages, of course, but this study shows that it can also have costs.”

Those tiny birds have nothing to worry about, really (Tomas Belka/birdphoto.cz/Univers)

Thor Harald Ringsby, associate professor in population ecology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said: “The results from this study are very exciting and broad-reaching. It is especially interesting that we obtained these results in a natural population.

“The reduction in telomere size that followed the increase in body size suggests one important mechanism that limits body size evolution in wild animal populations.”

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal. The study was funded by the European Research Council and the Research Council of Norway.

 

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 28th November 2015

Fine Gael’s new vote gain plan to lure 70,000 emigrants back with proposals to include tax breaks

   

Some of the proposals being put forward by Fine Gael to attract more than 70,000 emigrants home by 2020 include tax breaks; plans to help parents register children in schools from abroad; and recognising time abroad as time served in public service jobs.

However, doubts have been cast over the ability of the party to deliver the plan given the chronic shortage of suitable housing.

Details of the proposals, obtained by the Irish Examiner, are being drafted by Finance Minister Michael Noonan along with Minister for Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation Richard Bruton and junior minister Simon Harris. The trio has been asked by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to form the party’s economic team ahead of the election.

Mr Noonan and many within Fine Gael had hoped to announce a wide-ranging package of measures for emigrants to return home in last month’s budget, but they hit a snag and were omitted. Despite the setback, the party remains deeply committed to bringing forward a package of measures to help the move home become much easier.

The party is still examining a range of “practical logistical measures” which could ease the transition home, especially for young families. It is understood the party is seeking to deliver a plan that would enable parents register their children in schools here before they move home, which they cannot do at present.

Another proposal being developed is to allow public servants factor in time served abroad as part of their service should they move back home to work for the State. This would have significant ramifications for public pay and pensions policy, but party sources have said such a move could help fill gaping holes in the skill set.

“Helping bring emigrants home is a big thing for us in Fine Gael and we are examining ways to help the move home, particularly with many practical logistical issues,” said one minister.

“But we all have family members abroad, be they sons, daughters, brothers whatever who we want to see come home,” the minister added.

Mr Kenny said that next year, for the first time since the economic crisis began, Ireland could expect to welcome home more people than will leave.

Earlier this year, the HSE began a campaign aimed at encouraging Irish nurses and midwives to return home. They hope to recruit 500 workers by offering a relocation package of up to €1,500, paying first-time nursing registration fees and funding postgraduate education.

Fintan McNamara of the Residential Landlords Association said there is already a chronic shortage of homes in the rental sector with many landlords leaving the industry. “People returning home will find it difficult [and] they may have to move home for a while. There is just not enough supply there,” he said.

Meanwhile: –

Staff-starved Central Bank allowing it’s best staff to transfer to the ECB in Europe?

    

Left the Central Bank headquarters in Dublin and right the ECB in Germany.

The Central Bank is allowing staff to transfer to the European Central Bank, despite claiming it has too few employees in Dublin to supervise the banks, the Irish Independent has learned.

Financial Regulator Cyril Roux said the Bank will lose more of its supervisory staff to the ECB next year, placing further stresses on the strength of banking supervision in Ireland.

Mr Roux said staff are attracted by the move to the new pan-European supervisory unit in Frankfurt in part because of the “much better” terms and conditions.

Add public sector pay restrictions in Ireland into the mix and the challenge of replacing those who have left, and it leaves the Central Bank under pressure, Mr Roux said.

The claims come amid controversy over retention schemes at the Central Bank put in place to ensure key staff do not leave.

“They [staff moving to Frankfurt] have been attracted by the exciting challenge of working abroad, in helping establish the SSM (Single Supervisory Mechanism), and the much better financial terms and employment conditions offered to them,” Mr Roux told the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland Banking Union conference.

“A second wave of supervisors is expected to leave the Central Bank and other national competent authorities next year, as the ECB will be increasing its SSM headcount by 25pc,” he said.

“Combined with the familiar constraint of FEMPI (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest), this will bring further stresses to the bench strength of banking supervision in the Central Bank, and to the challenge of replenishing once more our ranks.”

However, a spokeswoman for the Central Bank confirmed that those who have gone to the SSM are essentially on secondment as they will be able to return to the Central Bank. She said 20 staff overall have left.

“Their positions here are filled on a specified-purpose basis until they return from SSM – none have permanently left as such,” the spokeswoman added.

She confirmed that Dame Street is not obliged to agree to these secondments, but suggested it will not block them, despite the alleged staffing pressures.

“While we’re not obliged to let staff take secondments, the Central Bank values secondment opportunities for staff and views them as an enabler to gaining valuable experience and enhanced skills,” she said.

The claims come as staff at the Central Bank are to vote on a motion of no confidence in the management of the organisation amid the controversy over retention payments for certain staff. The Central Bank has denied it is paying bonuses in breach of Government policy, insisting there are two retention payment schemes.

75% of Ireland’s GPs suffer from high stress,

A new survey reveals

New review shows high level of demoralisation and risk of burnout among doctors

   

Three out of four Irish family doctors suffer from high stress, according to a new survey. 

Stressed, depressed and often unable to take a break, even for a short period – a new survey reveals the extent of disillusionment and demoralisation among Irish GPs

Three out of four family doctors said they suffered from high stress and almost half reported poor or very poor morale, according to the survey by the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP).

Three-quarters of those responding said morale had worsened over the past five years.

The impact of manpower shortages on general practice is evident in a finding that more than half of GPs who tried to recruit a sessional doctor or assistant in the past year were unable to do so.

Locum recruitment

Only 44 per cent of GPs seeking to recruit a locum were able to do so on more than half the occasions they tried.

Rural GPs were least successful at recruiting cover, the survey found.

The ICGP, which holds its winter meeting in Athlone today, said it had been warning of manpower shortages and risks to the viability of the profession for years as large numbers of trainees and graduates are attracted to better conditions abroad.

After a year of often bruising interactions between the Government and the profession, the survey finds 90 per cent of doctors feel communication between the Government and GPs has failed both doctors and patients.

ICGP medical director Dr Margaret O’Riordan said the survey showed for the first time the extent of falling morale among members caused by worsening underinvestment in general practice.

Professional burnout

“Research shows that factors such as work overload, lack of control over work demands and insufficient reward for work volume and complexity are risks for professional burnout.

“The high prevalence of these risk factors among Irish GPs would suggest that this is a high probability for many,” she said.

Promoting job satisfaction and morale, in addition to addressing issues such as administrative demands, would help to retain the current workforce, she said.

Most of the 815 GPs who responded to the survey felt free GP care to under-sixes and over-70s would impact on waiting times for patients, though one-third said free care for over-70s would result in improved monitoring of patients’ health needs.

Although the Government has placed great emphasis on the development of primary care, only 13 per cent of GPs felt they were working in a well- functioning primary care team, and less than a quarter indicated a preference for co-locating with a primary care team.

PERSONALLY TAILORED DIABETES CARE REDUCES MORTALITY IN WOMEN BUT NOT MEN

    

A follow up study to assess the effects of personally tailored diabetes care in general practice has revealed that such care reduces mortality in women, but not men, according to a report published on The Lancet.

After six years of tailored treatment, no effect was seen on mortality and other anticipated non-fatal effects. However, the observed effect of structured personal care on reducing glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c – a standard method for measuring blood glucose control) measured 6 years after diagnosis was present only in women.

For the latest study, the authors followed the same participants until 2008. Of these, 478 were women and 492 were men. Women given specific recommendations about diet and exercise were 30 per cent less likely to die from diabetes-related causes than those given routine care, Danish scientists found.

The results showed women given personal care plans were 26 per cent less likely to die of any cause and 30 per cent less likely to die of a diabetes-related cause than women given routine care. Women given the personal care intervention were also 41% less likely to suffer a stroke, and 35% less likely to experience any diabetes-related endpoint. According to Dr Marlene Krag from the University of Copenahgen, the structured form of care provides women with much needed attention and support, which helps them adhere to treatment plans. She said:

‘Women accept disease and implement disease management more easily, which might affect long-term outcomes’. But when it comes to men, the daily consideration and lifestyle changes that diabetes demands can challenge masculinity. Essentially, the structured approach of such diabetes care goes against “men’s tendency to trust self-directed learning instead of self-management”.

“We propose that the improved outcomes in woman may be explained by complex social and cultural issues of gender”. And added we need to re-think how care is provided to men and women ‘so that both sexes benefit from intensified treatment efforts’.

Snakes lost their limbs when they started living in Burrows!

    

An ancient skull (Right Pic.) shows the secret as to why snakes lost their legs.

A new study carried out by researchers from the American Museum of Natural History and the University of Edinburgh claims to have solved a long-term puzzle related to evolution of snakes.

Scientists usually have different opinions about why and how snakes went from walking to slithering. Many scientists believe snakes lost their legs after they started living in the sea or water. However, the latest study reveals that the limbs of snakes became redundant when they started living and hunting in burrows.

In this study, researchers analyzed CT scans of a 90-million-years old fossil of Dinilysia Patagonica snake and compared them with scans of modern reptiles. Dinilysia Patagonica was a 2-metre long stem snake closely related to modern snakes. Researchers analyzed scans of the bony inner ear of this snake and found that bony canals and cavities of this snake controlled its balance and hearing. Three-dimensional virtual models were created to compare the inner ears of Dinilysia Patagonica with those of modern snakes and lizards.

A distinctive structure was found within the inner ears of reptiles/animals that live in burrow, and according to scientists, this distinctive structure most likely helped animals in detecting prey and predators. This structure is however not found in modern snakes that live in sea or above ground.

“How snakes lost their legs has long been a mystery to scientists, but it seems that this happened when their ancestors became adept at burrowing.” said Dr Hongyu Yi, the lead author from Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences.

“The inner ears of fossils can reveal a remarkable amount of information, and are very useful when the exterior of fossils are too damaged or fragile to examine.” he explained.

The findings also confirmed that Dinilysia patagonica is the largest burrowing snake ever known. The results also indicate about a hypothetical ancestral species (of all modern snakes) that was likely a burrower.

“This discovery would not have been possible a decade ago – CT scanning has revolutionised how we can study ancient animals.” said Mark Norell, of the American Museum of Natural History, who took part in this study.

“We hope similar studies can shed light on the evolution of more species, including lizards, crocodiles and turtles.”

The results of this study have been published in journal Science Advances.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 25th November 2015

Ireland in ‘A coalition of devils’

Says an alleged Islamic State video

Department of Justice says terror threats being monitored as group vows it will ‘burn’ enemies

    

A new video allegedly from ISIS is asking the world to ‘bring it on’. The video features the Irish flag among what the booming American voice over describes as the ‘coalition of devils’.

A video claiming to have been issued by the Islamic State group has included Ireland as part of “a coalition of devils” that has formed against it, before threatening to “burn” its enemies.

The authenticity of the video – which models itself on a Hollywood film trailer – cannot be vouched for, but it bears a strong resemblance to others issued by the group over recent months.

Flags from a host of countries, led off by the United States and the United Kingdom, but including Ireland, are displayed, though no specific reference to Ireland is made in the accompanying voiceover.

“There’s your coalition of devils with Iran, Turkey and Russia joining the fray. That’s because the Millah of Kufr [unbelievers] will also unite you to fight the truth. So bring it on – all of you. Your numbers only increase us in faith.

“We’re counting your banners, which our prophet said would reach 80 in number and then the flames of war will finally burn you on the hills of death,” the American-accented voice declares.

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice said international terrorism threats were kept under constant review: “The Minister and the Garda Commissioner maintain regular, ongoing contact on security matters,” said a spokesman.

People before Profit said the threat showed the need to block American military from using Shannon.

Labour party to seek a cross-party consensus on abortion legislation

Proposal to repeal eight amendment to be key demand for party after general election

  

Sinead Ahern, chair of Labour Women, and Senator Ivana Bacik during the launch by Labour Women of the General Scheme of the Labour Women Repeal the 8th Amendment Bill in Buswells Hotel,Dublin.

The Labour Party has published plans to scrap Ireland’s Eighth Amendment ban on abortion – which will form a key demand of the party in post-election coalition negotiations.

The 1983 amendment, which governs Ireland’s abortion laws, enshrined the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn in the Constitution.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said Labour’s proposals would allow for abortion under four medically-certifiedgrounds: risk to life; risk to health; cases of rape; and fatal foetal abnormality.

It would also decriminalise abortion.

“The Labour Party is the party of social change and we are including a commitment in our manifesto to hold a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment if returned to Government,” Ms Bacik said.

“Labour Women have produced this framework for the scheme of a Bill which would be introduced by the Labour Party if the eighth amendment is repealed by way of referendum.”

Labour is seeking to build a cross-party consensus, she said. Consultant Obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan, former Supreme Court Judge Catherine McGuinness and former Senator Dr Mary Henry attended the launch.

The chairwoman of Labour Women, Sinead Ahern, said an average of 12 women travelled from Ireland to the UK for abortions every day.

“Abortion is already a reality for women in Ireland and we cannot continue to export this issue. Nobody under the age of 50 has had a chance to vote on whether the eighth amendment should be in our constitution. It’s time we let the people have their say,” Ms Ahern said.

She insisted public opinion on abortion was changing, “and we know that the majority of voters want to repeal the eighth amendment”.

Describing Labour’s stand as “blinkered”, the Pro-Life Campaign’s deputy chairwoman Cora Sherlock said she believed some parents are coming under pressure to abort following the diagnosis of a life-limiting condition.

“The thing that stands out about today’s launch by the Labour Party is the complete absence of any mention of the unborn child’s right to life,” she said.

Ms Sherlock said abortion had “devastating effects” on many women.

Referring to Labour, she said: “Do they seriously think they can run and hide and ignore the grave injustice that abortion involves and its long-lasting effects?”

IFA to challenge former chief of on €2m severance package

IFA President Eddie Downey is stepping down   

Under deal Pat Smith (right pic) received the sum of €1m upfront and €100,000 a year for 10 years.

Eddie Downey (above left), president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), has resigned just hours after it emerged the organisation would legally challenge a €2 million severance package he is understood to have agreed with its former general secretary Pat Smith.

The executive council of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has voted unanimously against paying a severance package to its former general secretary Pat Smith.

The vote was taken during an all-day meeting of the national executive in Dublin which heard IFA president Eddie Downey had agreed a €2 million exit package with Mr Smith last week.

The deal, which involved €1 million up front, followed by €100,000 per year for 10 years, was agreed when Mr Smith resigned amid controversy over the size of his pay package.

The association was thrown into crisis this month by revelations Mr Smith received a total two-year pay package of nearly €1 million in 2013 and 2014. He resigned as general secretary in the face of outrage from many farmers at the scale of his pay, which the IFA had not previously made public.

Mr Downey last night announced his resignation as IFA president. He had earlier stood aside from the role pending a major review of corporate governance at the IFA, which is to be carried out by its former chief economist, Con Lucey.

Frustrated

Mr Lucey resigned last year as chairman of the IFA’s audit committee, claiming the committee was being frustrated in its work by Mr Smith.

In a statement, Mr Downey said he was stepping down in the best interests of the association. “I have always demanded the highest levels of governance and accountability within IFA and my clear understanding was that governance and management of IFA was a clear function and responsibility of the senior executive leadership with oversight from elected officers.”

He said it was well known he was determined to be a reforming president. He had worked to get an audit committee up and working.

He had met Mr Lucey and agreed with his proposed solutions to issues to be addressed by the committee, but unfortunately its work had been “frustrated.”

At an emergency meeting of the IFA’s executive council in Dublin yesterday, members were told Mr Smith’s severance agreement was signed by Mr Downey and Mr Smith, but not by IFA treasurer Jer Bergin, financial controller Ken Heade or deputy president Tim O’Leary. The latter three are understood to have opposed the deal.

Mr Smith had been general secretary for six years, but had worked for the IFA for 25 years in a variety of posts.

The IFA confirmed to The Irish Times it would mount a legal challenge to the severance package. Members at the meeting were also informed Mr Smith’s pension pot was worth €2.7 million 12 months ago when he transferred it out of the IFA and into his own possession.

At the meeting, the second in a week, members vented their anger at the board of the IFA over the ongoing pay controversy. Four resolutions from county executives in Galway, Mayo, West Cork and Cavan calling for the entire seven-man board to resign were tabled.

Earlier, the association announced its review of corporate governance, including remuneration, would be carried out by Mr Lucey, who will report back to the council with his recommendations on December 15th. The 53-member council unanimously welcomed Mr Lucey’s involvement, noting it was an “important step forward in rebuilding the trust of farmers”.

Mr Lucey said his recommendations would “reflect the fact that times and corporate governance standards have changed; businesses and organisations are now subject to greater scrutiny as regards how they operate”.

Review

Mr O’Leary, who will undertake the functions of the IFA president during the review, confirmed Mr Lucey had agreed to examine all aspects of the remuneration package of the former general secretary from his appointment in 2009 until his resignation last week. “He will do the same for the president and the deputy president, in order to provide the membership with full transparency,” Mr O’Leary said, adding that the IFA would make all financial data available to Mr Lucey.

Mixing alcohol with diet soft drinks will “get people drunk faster”

According to a new study

  Intoxicated: When men and women were given vodka mixed with either ordinary lemonade or sugar-free lemonade, they became inebriated more quickly with the diet version   

On a boozy night out, many of us reach for diet mixers in the hope it will keep the calorie count down.

But while the artificially-sweetened drinks may not be as bad for our waistlines, experts now warn they could get us drunk faster – even taking us over the drink-drive limit.

US researchers from the Northern Kentucky University studied 20 men and women, breathalysing them after drinking either a vodka and lemonade or vodka and diet lemonade. While the amount of alcohol was the same, the readings were up by 25 per cent for those who’d had diet mixers.

It’s such a big difference that scientists want bars to warn staff and punters of the dangers of going diet.

As for why the readings were so different, it’s believed sugary mixers could act in the same way as food, slowing the passage of alcohol to the bloodstream, claims the research in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal.

The same US team has carried out similar research before, finding that diet mixers could take someone over the drink-drive limit. As test subjects who’d had the low-calorie drink didn’t feel any more inebriated, it could result in people accidentally drink-driving.

Their biggest worry is women, who are often the people who opt for diet drinks.

“While all alcohol consumers should be aware of this phenomenon, it appears more likely that women would select alcohol beverages with a diet mixer given that they are more likely to be conscious of calories in their drinks,” study author Dr. Cecile Marczinski warned.

“Young women may be particularly vulnerable as they frequently use diet mixers with alcohol and they also restrict food intake when drinking to control calorie consumption and, ultimately, body weight.”

Remember though it’s safer not to drink at all on nights when you’re driving.

Those from less well-off areas less likely to beat cancer

      

The rich-poor divide is continuing to leave people in the least well-off areas of the country facing lower odds of surviving cancer after five years.

Worrying new figures reveal a stark difference in survival rates for two common cancers.

The early data from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, due to be officially published early next year, shows the five-year survival rates for bowel cancer is 56pc in poor areas. This compares to 64pc for patients with the same disease in more affluent regions.

Poorer patients with lung cancer have a 16pc survival rate.

But survival for the better-off who have lung cancer stands at 22pc.

“Where you live has a significant impact on how long you live,” said Kathleen O’Meara, head of advocacy and communications at the Irish Cancer Society.

The organisation will unveil the sharp divide in cancer survival rates at a conference in Dublin today.

“Cancer affects all parts of Irish society, but some people are more at risk than others,” she pointed out. “The data shows that those in the poorest communities in Ireland have a reduced chance of surviving their cancer diagnosis.

“The new data highlights again that, if you come from a poorer community, you are less likely to survive cancer.

“This is hugely unfair. All communities and backgrounds should have equal access to diagnostics and fast treatment.”

She suggested one of the contributory factors is the ongoing risk of delayed diagnosis by those who cannot afford to pay for scans themselves to find out if their symptoms are cancerous.

This is one of the barriers which is helping to maintain the ‘cancer gap’, where those from the most deprived communities are twice as likely to be diagnosed and die from cancer as those who are the least deprived, she warned.

“The reasons for the gap are multiple, but often the people in these communities have the greatest difficulties in accessing healthcare. Late diagnosis can lead to late treatment and to worse outcomes. In some deprived Dublin areas, there are not enough primary care resources – for instance, in North Dublin there is one GP for every 2,500 people. Nationally, this figure is one for every 1,600.

“It’s going to take a big effort on the part of government, the HSE and organisations like the Irish Cancer Society to take action in closing this worrying divide. But it can be done.”

Betrayals forced early humans to spread across the world

    

Moral disputes motivated by broken trust and a sense of betrayal motivated early humans to put distance between them and their rivals

Betrayals of trust resulting from moral disputes were a significant reason for such risky dispersals into apparently unwelcoming environments with a desire to avoid physical harm from disgruntled former friends and allies being a key motivation. Photo: iStock

London: Betrayals of trust resulting from moral disputes forced early humans to cross major geographical barriers, including deltas such as the Indus and the Ganges, and spread across the world about 100,000 years ago, a new study has found.

Penny Spikins from the University of York in the UK said that the speed and character of human dispersals changed significantly around 100,000 years ago.

Before that movement of archaic humans were slow and largely governed by environmental events due to population increases or ecological changes. Afterwards populations spread with remarkable speed and across major environmental barriers. Spikins relates this change to changes in human emotional relationships.

Researchers said that neither population increase nor ecological changes provide an adequate explanation for patterns of human movement into new regions which began around 100,000 years ago.

They suggest that as commitments to others became more essential to survival, and human groups ever more motivated to identify and punish those who cheat, the ‘dark’ side of human nature also developed. Moral disputes motivated by broken trust and a sense of betrayal became more frequent and motivated early humans to put distance between them and their rivals.

Larger social networks made it easier to find distant allies with whom to start new colonies, and more efficient hunting technology meant that anyone with a grudge was a danger but it was human emotions which provided the force of repulsion from existing occupied areas which we do not see in other animals.

Early species of hominin were limited in distribution to specific environments such as grasslands and open woodland.

The expansion of Homo erectus out of Africa into Asia around 1.6 million years ago appears to have been caused by the need to find more large scale grasslands.

By contrast, Neanderthals occupied cold and arid parts of Europe. All archaic species adapted slowly to new opportunities for settlement and were often deterred by environmental and climatic barriers.

After 100,000 years ago, dispersal into distant, risky and inhospitable areas became relatively more common compared with movements into already occupied regions. Humans moved into cold regions of Northern Europe, crossed significant deltas such as the Indus and the Ganges, deserts, tundra and jungle environment and even made significant sea crossings to reach Australia and the Pacific islands.

Spikins said that betrayals of trust resulting from moral disputes were a significant reason for such risky dispersals into apparently unwelcoming environments with a desire to avoid physical harm from disgruntled former friends and allies being a key motivation.

 

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 16th November 2105

Double standard in responses to terrorist attacks is condemned

The outpouring of empathy in the West for France has caused resentment in other places

      

Egyptians light candles as the French and Egyptian flags and France’s national colours are projected onto one of the pyramids at Giza, outside Cairo, in tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks. The words on the pyramid read: “Solidarity with France”.

Egypt lit the Giza pyramids on Sunday night with the colours of the flags of both Franceand Russia in solidarity with the victims of Islamic State attacks that killed 129 people in Paris and 224 passengers on a Russian civilian airliner flying from Sharm al-Sheikhto St Petersburg.

Cairo’s effort followed the flood lighting of iconic landmarks in the US, Australia,Mexico, Mumbai and many other cities with the red, white and blue of the French tricolour.

The Egyptian event could also, however, have been seen as a rebuke to the international community for failing to mourn and express solidarity with Russia over its losses and pain.

The shock delivered to western sensibilities by the Paris atrocities and the outpouring of grief and empathy with victims has rekindled feelings in the Middle East, Africa andAsia that a double-standard applies to responses to terrorist attacks.

US president Barack Obama made this all too clear when he dubbed the Paris onslaught an “attack on all humanity” but said nothing about the Beirut bombings the evening before Paris was hit.

Dismissed

Ali, a Lebanese resident of south Beirut where two Islamic State suicide bombers killed 45 civilians, said the West dismissed this event, the most bloody in Lebanon in years, since it involved Arabs in a war-prone region. “Arab lives don’t matter,” was his response. Palestinians consulted took the same view.

A Lebanese blogger, Elie Fares, wrote on his blog, A Separate State of Mind: “When my people were blown to pieces on the streets of Beirut on November 12th, the headlines read: explosion in Hizbollah stronghold,” dismissing the dead for living in this poor, densely packed locality.

World leaders, he added, did not rise in condemnation. “There were no statements of sympathy with the Lebanese people. There was no global outrage . . . Obama did not issue a statement about how their death was a crime against humanity.

“When my people died, no country bothered to light up its landmarks in the colours of their flag.”

Solidarity was not shown for Iraqis on Friday when 26 were killed by roadside bombs targeting Shias.

Since the rise of Islamic State, Baghdad has suffered nearly daily attacks, killing thousands.

Indian blogger Karuna Ezara Parikh, whose father grew up in Beirut, responded to the double standard with a poem: “It is not Paris we should pray for. It is the world. It is a world in which Beirut, reeling from bombings [one day] before Paris, is not covered in the press. A world in which a bomb goes off at a funeral in Baghdad and not one person’s status update says, ‘Baghdad’, because not one white person died in that fire.”

Although US president Barack Obama offered condolences to his Turkish counterpart,Recep Tayyip Erodogan, last weekend, global empathy was absent on October 10th when 102 Turks, most of them secular leftists and Kurds, were killed by Islamic State bombers at a peace rally in Ankara.

Limited reaction

Kenyans responded to the Paris attacks on Twitter and Facebook by comparing the outpouring in response to Paris to the limited global reaction to the April killing of 147 students at Garissa University College. The contrast has been blamed on Kenya being a third-world country.

Mumbai lit up its train station with France’s red, white and blue on Sunday, reviving Indian fears of another terrorist attack like the 2008 assault by 10 Pakistani-affiliated gunmen who murdered 164 at the station and other prime sites. As well as being galled by the disparity in world reaction to the two cases, Indians saw the Mumbai assault as a model for Paris and castigated global powers for failing to deal with fundamentalist terrorism at that time.

Irish Government announces regional jobs strategy for the west

Plan will seek to achieve increase of 25% in number of start-ups

      

The Government has announced details of a regional jobs strategy that it says will generate 25,000 extra jobs.

The West Action Plan for Jobs aims to deliver 10-15 per cent employment growth inMayo, Roscommon and Galway before 2017.

The plan is the fifth of eight regional jobs plans to be published over the coming months, as part of a new €250 million regional jobs strategy.

A statement from the Government said that following “several difficult years” since the crash, employment in the west “has returned to growth” with 5,000 extra people at work over the past twelve months. During the years 2008-2011, some 400 jobs were lost in the region.

Key sectors targeted as part of the plan include agri-food, tourism, medtech, ICT and pharma.

The plan will seek to achieve an increase of at least 25 per cent in the number of start-ups in the region, and a 25 per cent improvement in the survival rate of new businesses.

It will also seek to create a “food innovation hub” in the region, and generate 540 extra jobs in Gaeltacht regions in life sciences, mariculture and food.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the plan represented “a clear pathway to unlock the potential of the region”.

“No single agency can bring jobs to a region,” he said. “This takes collaboration and that is at the heart of this plan.

“Local enterprise offices, tourism bodies, agri-food bodies and the national enterprise agencies will all work with local stakeholders to provide the best supports possible to help enterprise invest in the west.”

Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton said the west of the country “has faced major problems” over recent years.

“Between 2008 and 2011 27,400 jobs were lost in the region, almost 60 per cent of these in the construction sector alone,” he said. “Emigration skyrocketed. However in recent years the region has bounced back, with 5,000 jobs created in the last year.”

Minister promises 10 times more social houses by year end

More than 300 beds will be available over the Christmas, Kelly tells homeless forum

   

The Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly: “Anybody who wants a bed over this Christmas period will get it.” Photograph: Eric Luke

The number of social houses built will increase tenfold by the end of the year, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has said.

He was speaking following a homeless forum at the Department of the Environment on Monday which was held to discuss winter preparedness for those in the homeless sector.

It comes just weeks before the first anniversary of the death of homeless man Jonathan Corrie, near Leinster House. His death on December 1st 2014 gave rise to widespread calls for more urgent action on the needs of rough sleepers.

Mr Kelly confirmed only 20 social houses had been built in the first half of 2015. However, he said: “I can assure you that will increase substantially by the end of the year. It will be ten times higher.

Announcing more sites

“The issue here is that the volume of sites is in excess of 200. Myself and Minister [Paudie] Coffey will be announcing a lot more sites in the coming weeks.”

Mr Kelly said €4 billion has been allocated to local authorities to build social houses but they cannot be built overnight.

The Minister insisted the department was “quite happy” with the turnaround by the councils. He said anybody who wanted a bed by Christmas would have one. “There will be over 300 beds available for anyone sleeping rough. Anybody who wants a bed over this Christmas period will get it.”

Charities working with the homeless were cautiously positive after the forum. Niamh Randall, head of policy with the Simon Communities, however said she remained “very concerned about the future”.

“We have concerns about the numbers [of homeless] growing month by month. The numbers stuck in emergency accommodation are growing.”

While the rent certainty measures announced last week would offer some stability, rent supplement rates remained too low. “So we are going to see more people pushed out of their rented homes into homelessness.”

Mike Allen, director of advocacy with Focus Ireland, said there was now no reason not to increase rent supplement, given the two-year “rent freeze” announced last week.

Bob Jordan, chief executive of Threshold, said the charity was getting between 40 and 50 calls a day from tenants concerned about rent increases.

Alice Leahy, founder of Trust, which works with rough sleepers, said she felt “the Department and the Minister really are doing a very good job, in very challenging times”.

Other issues

“People will die on the streets because of their lifestyle,” she said. “People won’t change because we want them to change. Some people won’t go into emergency beds . . . The beds will be there. So if people die on the streets there are other issues, because homelessness is extremely complex.”

A new clever device to help you find your keys is coming to EE stores

     

Misplacing your keys, a wallet or mobile phone is pretty much an everyday occurrence for most of us these days, but EE has something to say about that.

The network operator has teamed up with a device called the TrackR Bravo – a coin-sized tracking device that can be attached to objects to help you locate them. The mobile carrier is to start selling the devices in their retail stores.

As the video shows, the attachable syncs to your smartphone via an app, and can give you location information as well as ring in order to help you find those misplaced keys.

The Crowd GPS feature is an interesting aspect too; enabling users to log in and track items they lose outside. If you activate this feature, you can use other TrackRs to find your belongings; any TrackR user who comes within a mile of your item will cause the app to alert you.

If you happen to be particularly prone to losing things, you can buy packs of two or four TrackRs, as well as a single unit. Those cost £24.99, a pair is £44.99 and four will cost you £79.99.

For the peace of our mind it might be worth it.

An Indian takeaway has more calories than an entire daily allowance

Most meals contain enough food for two people, A new research finds.

     

The average portion size of a chicken tikka masala main course contained 1,249 calories, almost two-thirds of the guideline daily amount (GDA).

Eating a typical Indian takeaway meal of a starter, main course and pilau rice can contain far more calories than an adult’s total daily requirements, new research has found.

A study of 280 Indian food samples from 36 outlets across Ireland has found that many Indian meals contain enough food for two people with approximately twice their recommended maximum level of fat and high levels of salt.

The research has been carried out by Ulster University on behalf of Safefood, the food safety promotion board. The survey analysed 280 Indian food samples from 36 outlets across the island of Ireland.

The average portion of chicken tikka masala contained 1,249 calories, almost two-thirds of the guideline daily amount (GDA) of 2,000 calories. A chicken korma had almost the same amount of calories (1,248) while a chicken jalfrezi had 721 calories.

The average portion of rice contained enough for two people and an average portion of pilau rice contained almost 500 calories.

Of the side dishes surveyed, the average portion of peshwari naan bread contained 748 calories.

All starter dishes contained one third of an adult’s GDA for salt and all main courses tested contained more than half of an adults’ total guideline daily amount of salt (6g).

The top three most popular main courses identified were Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Korma and Chicken Jalfrezi.

Commenting on the research, Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director of Human Health & Nutrition with safefood said traditional meals in India are low in fat and high in fibre, but the ones adopted in Ireland contain foods high in fat and salt and serving bigger portions.

“These dishes have become very popular, but the Indian dishes tested in this survey were less than healthy.”

Lead researcher Ruth Price of Ulster University advised people not to stop eating takeaway foods, but to “consider consuming them less often and in moderation, by either choosing smaller portions, sharing portions or limiting the added extras such as starters and side orders.”

Safefood has recommended that the public consider Indian takeaway meals as an occasional food and one portion should ideally be shared between two people.

Shop-bought options instead of takeaway are recommended as they are generally smaller in size and have fewer calories, as well as less fat and salt.

Choose boiled rice over pilau rice and share the portion of rice as the average portion provided enough for two people. Consider not eating both a portion of naan bread and rice, unless they are shared.

Minimise the intake of sauces as they are usually high in calories, fat and salt. Add extra vegetables to your meal instead.

The DNA from Inca child mummy reveals early genetic diversity

     

Back in 1985, near the border between Argentina and Chile, mountaineers stumbled on a frozen body partially buried on Aconcagua, the world’s tallest peak outside of Asia.

The boy, 6 or 7 years old, had been wrapped in cloth and buried surrounded by a number of small statues; he is believed to have been sacrificed in a ritual ceremony some five centuries ago by members of the Inca civilization. Recently, when Spanish researchers extracted and analyzed the boy’s DNA, they found he had a rare genetic code that has virtually disappeared from the population of modern South America.

At the time Spanish conquistadores arrived in 1532, the Inca Empire stretched along the South American coast from Ecuador to south-central Chile. According to Spanish chronicles, the Inca religion included the practice of capacocha, in which some of the healthiest and most beautiful young members of the population were chosen to become sacrifices to the gods. In many cases, these children were taken to high mountain peaks, considered to be closer to the realm of the gods. Once there, they were either killed or simply left to die of exposure.

In a new study, published last week in the journal Scientific Reports, a team of researchers explains that capacocha rituals “were performed during or after important events (death of an emperor, the birth of a royal son, a victory in battle or an annual or biennial event in the Inca calendar), or in response to catastrophes (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and epidemics).” Their study focuses on one of these sacrificed children: a 6- or 7-year-old boy whose frozen, naturally mummified body was found high in the Andes in 1985.

After Spanish geneticists extracted mitochondrial DNA (which is passed from mother to child) from a small portion of the boy’s lung, they compared his genetic information with hundreds of thousands of samples held in a genetic database. They found only four matches: one individual of the ancient Wari Empire, dominant in the Andes from A.D. 500 to 1100, before the Inca heyday, and three modern-day people living in Peru and Bolivia. The Inca boy’s DNA identified him as part of a previously unknown offshoot of an ancient Native American lineage, which was one of the first to emerge among the humans who crossed the Bering Strait and spread into North and South America some 18,000 years ago.

Though the boy’s genetic profile is extremely rare today, the researchers say it was likely more common at the time of the Incas. As much as 90 percent of the native South American population perished after the Spanish conquest, mostly from epidemics of influenza and other diseases brought from the Old World; it makes sense that a great deal of genetic diversity would have been lost as well. As lead researcher Antonio Salas, a geneticist at University of Santiago de Compostela, told BBC News: “It is well-known that the effective population size was severely reduced at the arrival of the Spanish conquerors….An important amount of the variability of these populations could have disappeared at the time of this contact.”

The new study is the first to analyze the complete mitochondrial DNA of an Inca mummy. Salas now plans to sequence the boy’s complete nuclear genome, as well as the DNA of microbes found in his gut. According to him, the boy’s mummified body is extremely valuable for research purposes due to its well-preserved condition, as well as its “unique anthropological characteristics.”

In addition to the most recent DNA information, the Inca boy’s body has also yielded gruesome insight into the practice of child sacrifice among the Inca. Archaeologists found that he was strangled and died from a blow to the head. They also found evidence that he consumed achiote, a dye that can act as a hallucinogen, before his death. Similarly, a 2013 study of three other frozen mummies found in Argentina revealed that alcohol and drugs played a role in such child sacrifices.

The strikingly well-preserved bodies of a 13-year-old girl and two younger children, a boy and a girl both 4 or 5 years old, were found buried in 1999 in a shrine near the summit of the Llullaillaco volcano. When an international team of researchers analyzed the chemicals found in the children’s hair, they found that all three had consumed alcohol and coca leaves (from which cocaine is extracted) in the months before their deaths.

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

Monday 17th August 2015

A technical error sees Revenue ask foreign businesses for millions of euro

The issue relates to the new ‘VAT Moss’ system.

  

The Irish revenue has said that a “technical error” resulted in around 2,000 overseas businesses being sent incorrect invoices.

These were supposedly for the new VAT Moss system that has been put in place to allow businesses to pay tax abroad without having to register in each jurisdiction.

Revenue has said that it is working to update the system to prevent a recurrence of the problem.

Traders who received the invoices took to social media to express their disbelief, with the error being covered on the WebDevLaw blog. Earlier Alastair Houghton, a member of the HMRC/SME VAT Moss Working Group in the United Kingdom, said that the letters had come from the Irish Revenue Commissioners but had been sent in error.

There has been no financial impact on those who received the invoices and Revenue has issued an apology for the incident.

Earlier letters were asking some individuals for amounts in excess of €1 million.

Invoices were mostly sent to customers in the United Kingdom. Other correspondence is known to have been sent to the Netherlands and possibly the United States.

The letters sent out were addressed from Michael Gladney, the collector-general with the Revenue. Individuals were given instructions on where to transfer money to.

Irish Water staff start calling customers who fail to pay first bills

  

Irish Water Staff now calling customers who have not made a payment after first two bills, and they remind customers to pay the bill and the charges due.

Irish Water has started calling customers who have failed to make any payments on their first two utility bills to remind them to pay the charges.

Irish Water spokeswoman Elizabeth Arnett said call centre staff last week began phoning customers who had yet to make any payments 21 days following the issuing of their second water bill.

The company had stated five weeks ago that it intended to take this step, which was normal practice “in every single utility company”, she said. Ms Arnett denied suggestions made in some media that there was any targeting of older customers by the call centre staff.

“There is no age profiling, no targeting of older people. I absolutely categorically refute that, it is absolute nonsense.”

She also emphasised the calls were being made by the company’s call centre, and the debts had not been passed on to a debt collection agency. Suggestions made by anti-water charge protesters that some elderly people had been told their water supply would be cut were also false, she said.

“We record every single phone call, this would not and could not happen.”

Payment’s.

Call centre staff offer customers the opportunity to pay over the phone, and outline the different payment methods to those who do not wish to pay at that time, she said.

Figures released by Irish Water in mid-July showed 46 per cent of water charges issued for the first three months of the year had been paid, €30.5 million of the €66.8 million due

This equates to about 675,000 households or 43 per cent of the estimated 1.5 million households on the public water network.

While follow-up calling for non-payment of utility bills may be a common practice, the decision represents yet another public relations blunder for Irish Water. There have been a succession of incidents that have plagued the utility.

Questions were raised over executive remuneration and bonus payments. Head of Irish Water John Tierney revealed on RTÉ that the company had paid €50million to consultants. Then within weeks it emerged that 29 staff members earned more than €100,000 each.

The ESRI economist John FitzGerald calculated that the extra 2,000 staff the company absorbed from local authorities would cost Irish Water up to €2 billion by 2025.

Two weeks ago Eurostat raised a number of concerns about the Government’s considerable control of the utility company. The EU statistics agency confirmed the company had failed the Market Corporation Test which means it must remain on the exchequer balance sheet in the coming years. It also took issue with Government control regarding board appointments and operations.

A third of us have spotted people shaving or putting on make-up while driving

 

Almost a third of drivers say they regularly see people applying make-up or shaving while driving.

The figure comes from a survey by the AA, which also says that 83% of us have seen people using a phone while behind the wheel.

56% of those polled said they had seen people texting while driving, while another regular experience was witnessing people not indicating properly on roundabouts (84%).

Personal grooming – applying make-up or shaving – are not explicit offences, but the AA warned it could be considered “driving without reasonable consideration.”

“It is worrying to think that people are still taking risks despite the fact that everyone with an ounce of sense knows the dangers. There are stricter provisions on mobile devices that will soon become law and there are really no excuses,” said Conor Faughnan, Director of Consumer Affairs at AA Ireland. “Certainly not for personal grooming; that’s ridiculous behaviour.”

The AA also collected anecdotal evidence by positioning a fieldworker on a busy intersection to observe traffic. They reported that, out of 415 vehicles observed passing the intersection during one hour, 10 motorists – including two taxi drivers – were using mobile phones. Another four used their phones while first in the queue at lights.

Researchers target early warning system signs of concussion

Leinster Rugby and TCD have linked up in two promising brain injury studies.

  

Ulster’s Stuart Olding above picture left leaves the field after a head injury sustained against Munster at Thomond Park in last season’s Pro12 competition.

Concussion continues to hang over rugby like an unwelcome cloud. We can expect the World Cup to highlight the dangers and see how far the sport has travelled on what has been a steep learning curve. But the threat of brain trauma is becoming less sinister and more understood as academics in Trinity College Dublin begin to make inroads and promote some optimism.

In recent months researchers at the university doing work involving blood examinations, as well as using cadavers to see how body movement behaves on impact, have joined forces with Leinster Rugby for two innovative projects into the diagnosis and analysis of the injury.

Early warning system

Ultimately, the teams hope to identify incidences of concussion and predict when a player should be taken out of a match. They are not at that stage yet, but initial findings have moved both projects closer to the main objective of an early warning system that would increase player welfare.

One of the projects is based on studying the movement of human bodies in car accidents to help understand what positions and actions cause brain trauma in sports collisions.

The other is a simple blood test that shows up proteins that are associated with concussion. In time they hope a pin-prick test can be used to determine head injury. They have already identified what they call metabolic patterns that indicate trauma has taken place.

“Every activity in the body leaves a map,” says Dr Fiona Wilson, a former Irish rowing team physiotherapist, who along with physiologist Áine Kelly, is conducting the research into blood.

“The fluids of your body tell you a lot. It’s a protein and shouldn’t appear in the general circulation unless the blood brain barrier has been compromised. We are looking at these metabolites and early stages show we may have a map.”

Brain trauma

They have studied the blood from people with severe brain trauma and examined the proteins. They then took blood from rowers, who do not have any collisions in their sport but their metabolic systems work as hard as professional rugby players.

This was to determine that the proteins found in rugby players were from multiple collisions and not physical exercise. From the injured patients they knew what “brain damage” proteins would appear in the blood.

“It’s the same as having a heart attack,” adds Wilson.”You go in to hospital with a pain in your chest and they measure cardiac enzymes. It’s like a brain injury. We know patients with brain injury so we can match our players against that.

“Our initial findings indicate that we have made significant progress in identifying the blood test. Collaboration with Steno Diabetes centre in Denmark means progress can be made towards a finger-prick blood test already familiar to diabetes management.”

In time, debates like those around Irish outhalf Johnny Sexton and Welsh winger, George North – should they or shouldn’t they return to play – will be measurable, a sort of Hawkeye for head injury.

The movement patterns, of bodies involved in collisions may appear ghoulish, but in scientific endeavour there’s no such thing as squeamish and dead people can often keep the living alive for longer.

Associate professor Ciarán Simms and bioengineering PhD student Gregory Tierney are using multi-angled videos to look at collisions. They take real footage of rugby incidents and superimpose a model skeleton image on the players.

Based on previous knowledge from experiments conducted on cadavers and studies of pedestrian crashes, they use mathematics to conclude what forces are in play and identify various tolerance thresholds.

From a database compiled over years of research, they can look at the kind of body movements and collisions that cause concussion. It takes several weeks to do a study, but with automation the goal is for real time use during rugby matches.

“The aspiration is to have a real time use. But we’re at early stages,” says Simms. “We are also reconstructing collision cases with ‘what if’ scenarios. For coaches, for example, you could ask what could a player do to effect a tackle without getting injured.”

The findings are ready to be peer reviewed, with a draft of findings expected to be ready within a month. The perfect outcome would be that for each match a TMO equivalent could look at impacts and use the technology to instantly tell whether a concussive impact has occurred or not. In tandem with the blood markers and the other battery of neurological tests there is excitement about bringing the lab to the pitch.

“Leinster is very supportive of the research,” says Wilson. “They have been so invested in making sure this happens. Every time the players give blood it’s a favour because there is no immediate benefit to them. It’s unusual for athletes, because they are usually being pulled in all directions by different people, to be so helpful.”

The research is being funded from America by the NFL’s Head Health Challenge, a fund for the development of new materials and technologies that can detect early-stage mild traumatic brain injuries and improve brain protection. As collaborators, they are committing up to $20 million to a variety of projects.

Owls use a ‘stealth technique’ to capture their prey

 

Owls are equipped with sophisticated ‘stealth technique’ to help them swoop on prey undetected, according to new study that unveils the secret behind the nocturnal bird’s silent flight.

Owls are equipped with sophisticated ‘stealth technique’ to help them swoop on prey undetected, according to new study that unveils the secret behind the nocturnal bird’s silent flight.

Scientists have long been puzzled by the owl’s ability to flap its wings hard enough to rise into the air without a sound while swooping silently on swift-moving rodents out of the still night.

The researchers crowned the owl the “king of acoustic stealth” after discovering that its wings absorbed the energy of flight vibrations and converted it to heat much more efficiently than other birds they examined.

Generating enough thrust to get aloft involves a large amount of force and disturbs a lot of air. Yet most owl species manage to do it at frequencies below 2 kilohertz (kHz), well out of their prey’s hearing range, ‘The Times’ reported.

Researchers used the feathers of a long-eared owl, a golden eagle and a pigeon.

Simulating wing-beats, they measured the vibrations and found that the owl feathers trapped much more of the energy as heat than the others.

Scientists could copy the owl’s noise-reduction mechanisms to quieten machine noises such as the thrum of onshore wind turbines, said Jinkui Chu, professor of mechanical engineering at Dalian University of Technology in China.

“The owl’s silent flight ability is even more superior than we thought,” said Jinkui.

“It not only manages to suppress aerodynamic noise when gliding, but also mechanical noise caused by vibration during flying. This is remarkable, considering the noise that creates for other birds,” he said.

Donie’s Ireland daily news BLOG

Saturday 25th July 2015

It’s time to jail reckless bankers say’s & urges Lucinda Creighton in new policy

Bankers who recklessly lend money to people should face jail, Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton has said.

  

Renua Ireland founder & leader Lucinda Creighton

The leader of one of Ireland’s newest political parties was at Leinster House to publish her party’s plan on tackling white-collar crime.

Renua Ireland TD Billy Timmins said the Irish justice system does not take white-collar crime as seriously as so-called ordinary crime.

“If you steal an apple in Moore Street, odds are you will go through the process. But we know that many big criminals involved in company crime and fraud get away with it,” Mr Timmins said.

The plan

The party has published a 10-point plan aimed at increasing action against white-collar criminals, including making reckless lending a criminal offence – as recommended by the Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan.

“There is a really strong sense that notwithstanding the extraordinary collapse of the banking system and the massive destruction caused to the economy which has affected the lives of ordinary citizen, nothing has really changed,” Ms Creighton said.

The former Fine Gael junior minister said the policy would bring real accountability to actions and failures to act in the business world.

“We will introduce legislation which imposes criminal liability on a senior manager of a banking institution, fund or insurance undertaking who knowingly puts the viability of the institution at risk,” Ms Creighton said.

The other seven actions include:

1.       Criminal sanctions for company directors who conduct business recklessly, based on laws already in force in Australia.

2.      Curbing the use of limited company liability to escape punishment for breaking the law.

3.      Tightening provisions to ensure claiming ignorance of the law is not a defence.

4.      Reducing scope for sentence mitigation on grounds of previous good character or “good family”.

5.      Improving training for all company directors.

6.      Facilitating whistleblowers – including giving them a percentage of taxpayers’ money recouped from detecting wrong-doing.

7.      A special white-collar crime court with streamlined procedures and more training for judges and lawyers.

Asked generally about the new party, just launched in March, Ms Creighton said they are organised in all 40 constituencies nationwide in a very short space of time.

She conceded that she had said the party needed something like €1m to run a national election campaign but they had decided from day one not to take company donations.

“So the party in every constituency in the country is engaged in fundraising. It is amounts, big and small but mainly small, from individuals and not companies,” she said.

The Candidates?

Ms. Creighton said by the end of next week 14 candidates will have been selected.

“I think that is excellent for what is a party only launched weeks ago,” she added.

Wicklow TD Mr Timmins said the new party could not match the spending power of the big parties. He said unlike the big ones it got no taxpayer funding as this is decided at the start of each Dail term.

“But we have something special and that is the enthusiasm and commitment of our new members who want to change Irish politics for the better,” Mr Timmins said.

A number of candidates attended the launch, including Cllr Patrick McKee who stood in the recent Carlow-Kilkenny by-election.

Laya Healthcare hike up prices by a mighty 4%

 

Company blames rise on significant increase in volume and cost of claims

Dónal Clancy, managing director of Laya Healthcare, blamed a rise in the number and cost of claims for price rises that will apply to more an half the firm’s customers from September.

Most Laya Healthcare customers will face price increases averaging 4% from the beginning of September.

The company blamed the price increases on a significant increase in the volume and cost of claims over the past year.

The price increases will apply to around 55% of policies and will apply to policies renewed after September 1st. Laya says it has around 500,000 customers.

Laya managing director Dónal Clancy said the company was “acutely conscious of the impact” the increases would have and said it had “tried to minimise the impact across our schemes”.

“We have protected 49 of our schemes from a price increase, and minimised the impact on families with our free kids cover,” Mr Clancy said.

He said the price rises had been driven “by the significant increase we have experienced in the number and costs of medical claims in the past year”.

Mr Clancy said Laya had seen an 18% increase in the volume of claims while the cost of claims has climbed by 15% over the last 12 months.

“While better practices, high-spec technology and improved treatments are all translating into better patient outcomes, they are driving medical costs higher; which in turn has a negative impact on premiums,” Mr Clancy said.

He also pointed to a medical cost management programme implemented by the company which he suggested would deliver efficiencies of €100 million between 2012 and 2016 and had helped minimise the increases.

The Laya price increase sees it join GloHealth and Aviva in upping prices this year and attention now is likely to focus on what will happen and the State’s largest insurer, the VHI. While VHI has made no announcement on its pricing plans, an increase of some kind before 2016 seems likely.

Almost 100,000 new private health insurance policies were sold earlier this year as people rushed to enter the market to avoid age-related penalties introduced at the beginning of May.

Under the new Lifetime Community Rating (LCR) regime which started on May 1st, anyone aged over 34 without private health insurance has to pay higher prices when they take out a policy.

While the price increases will attract most attention, Laya healthcare also announced a range of new and extended benefits.

It has extended its “Free Kids” cover to its Essential Connect Health plan for a second child and every child up to the age of 18.

It will also reduce child rates on 18 schemes by between 3 and 6% and has promised to extend its 24 hour confidential GP Line.

Increases in Irish wine tax is totally against the spirit of the EU trade,

A group claims

 

The Support Your Local campaign said increases in the cost of a bottle of wine goes against the spirit of the European Project.

The group is calling on the Government to reduce excise duty on the beverage in the next budget.

It says a €1.50 increase since 2012 is having detrimental impact on farmers across the continent, while lowering the quality of wine being consumed here.

“€1.50 has been added in excise to a bottle of wine over three budgets,” said Evelyn Jones of the National Off-Licence Association, adding that the group is campaigning for a 50c reduction – one-third of the recent increase.

“That would go a long way towards improving the basic quality of wine tin he bottle.”

“The fact of the matter is that that Government is choking the quality out of an artisan product that’s produced by farmers across Europe.

“It’s seen as middle-class taxation- easy pickings – [but] would be contrary to the spirit of the EU treaty, as we don’t make wine here ourselves.”

There are a handful of wineries and vineyards in Ireland, but they are small in scale. The Lusca winery in Lusk, Co Dublin, produces only a few hundred bottles a year from vines next to their apple orchard.

Scientists stop aging process in earth worms, humans may be next

 

Human eternal life is just around the corner?

New research by molecular scientists at Northwestern University has led to the development of a procedure that allows them to switch off the aging process in worms.

As with most organisms, the worms initially showed that their adult cells began deteriorating when they reached reproductive maturity. The aging process — versus growing — begins because biological functions that protect cells within the body are shut down.

Since humans have the same genetic switch, the findings lend credence to the hope that humanity may one day be able to alleviate the aging process and certain degenerative diseases, according to the Daily Mail.

“Wouldn’t it be better for society if people could be healthy and productive for a longer period during their lifetime?” Richard I. Morimoto, senior author of the study, asked Phys.org. “I am very interested in keeping the [biological] quality control systems optimal as long as we can, and now we have a target. Our findings suggest there should be a way to turn this genetic switch back on and protect our aging cells by increasing their ability to resist stress.”

Morimoto is the Bill and Gayle Cook Professor of Molecular Biosciences and director of the Rice Institute for Biomedical Research in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, where he has been building up to his latest findings for a decade. The study was published in the 23 issue of the journal Molecular Cell.

The transparent roundworm C. elegans has a biochemical environment similar to that of humans and are a popular research tool for the study of the biology of ageing and are used to model human diseases.

“C. elegans has told us that aging is not a continuum of various events, which a lot of people thought it was,” Morimoto said.

Harmful drinking is a middle-class phenomenon?

  

Wealthy over-50s are endangering their health by drinking far too much, experts have warned

Wealthy over-50s are endangering their health by drinking far too much, UK experts have warned.

Harmful drinking is a ‘middle-class phenomenon’ with older, successful people at most risk, AGE UK has warned.

Although affluent middle aged people often appear to look after themselves by eating well and exercising regularly, they are actually far more likely to drink too much than their less successful peers.

UK researchers warned it was a ‘hidden health and social problem’ because on the outside most wealthy middle class people appeared to be living well.

“Our analysis challenges popular perceptions of who is drinking too much,” said Age UK’s Chief Economist , Professor Jose Iparraguirre who carried out the research .

“It suggests public health messaging is not reaching high income groups who are most at risk.

“Because this group is typically healthier than other parts of the older population, they might not realise that what they are doing is putting their health in danger.”

The findings are based on responses from 9,000 over 50s who took part in the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing. They were asked about income, educational attainment, health, physical activity levels, loneliness depression, marital status, and employment.

Current NHS guidelines advise that men drink no more than 21 units a week – roughly 10 pints of beer. Women are advised to stick to 14 units, around seven glasses of wine.

The researchers defined harmful drinking as between 22 and 50 units a week for men and 15 to 35 weekly units for women. Higher risk was quantified as 50 units for men and 35 for women. One unit represents

Analysis of the responses showed that the risk of harmful drinking peaked for men in their early 60s and then gradually tailed off.

Women on high salaries and those who had retired were more likely to drink heavily, while smoking, higher educational attainment, and good health were all linked to heightened risk in both sexes.

Although the researchers found that heavy drinking was no linked to feeling lonely or depressed, men who lived on their own were more likely to consume harmful amounts of alcohol.

A report by the think tank 2020Health found that around eight million British adults drink more than is considered safe my experts, many of whom are middle class people who regularly drink wine with their evening meal.

Women are at greater risk if they evenly share a bottle of wine with their partner because their alcohol tolerance is lower than men’s.

The rise of home shopping delivery services has also been blamed for encouraging more older women to drink.

Government figures published last October showed a 65 per cent increase in the number of women over pension age beginning treatment for drink related problems in the last five years in England.

“We can sketch the problem of harmful drinking among people aged 50 or over in England as a middle class phenomenon: people in better health, higher income, with higher educational attainment and socially more active are more likely to drink at harmful levels,” added Professor Jose Iparraguirre

“Our findings suggest that harmful drinking in later life is more prevalent among people who exhibit a lifestyle associated with affluence and with a ‘successful’ ageing process.

“Harmful drinking may then be a hidden health and social problem in otherwise successful older people.”

Charities said that many middle aged older people did not realise how much they were drinking because they often did it at home.,

“Harmful drinking is a real issue for middle-aged and older people, many of whom are regularly drinking above recommended limits, often in their own homes,”

“These are the people who, if they develop alcohol related illnesses, tend to require the most complex and expensive health care due to the mental and physical problems caused by drinking too much.

Drinking too much alcohol is directly linked to over 60 medical conditions including liver disease sevenfold, mouth cancer fivefold and stroke threefold. For women, breast cancer risk doubles.

A four-legged Brazilan snake discovered recently

Fossil discovered of four-legged snake from 113 million years ago

  

An four-legged snake, Tetrapodophis amplectus a salamander.

Scientists have discovered a 113 million-year-old fossil of a snake which has four legs with fingers and toes.

The Tetrapodophis amplectus – nicknamed ‘huggy snake’ – is the first evidence found of a four-legged snake.

The 20cm-long skeleton, which is thought to be from Brazil, has a tiny head the size of a human fingernail.

It has two very small front legs with wrists, elbows and hands and slightly longer back legs, which would have been used to grasp its prey.

A skeleton of a Tetrapodophis

The fossil, which is of a juvenile, also shows adaptations for burrowing, rather than swimming, strengthening the idea that snakes evolved on land.

Dr Dave Martill, who discovered the unseen fossil in a collection in a German museum, said it is “an incredibly significant specimen”.

The University of Portsmouth professor said: “It is generally accepted that snakes evolved from lizards at some point in the distant past.

“What scientists don’t know yet is when they evolved, why they evolved, and what type of lizard they evolved from.

“This fossil answers some very important questions, for example it now seems clear to us that snakes evolved from burrowing lizards, not from marine lizards.”

• Fossil with hips shows snakes’ lizard past

Dr Martill has been working with expert German palaeontologist Helmut Tischlinger and Dr Nick Longrich, of the University of Bath, who studied the evolutionary relationships of the snake.

Dr Longrich, who had previously worked on the origins of snakes, became intrigued when Dr Martill told him the story at the local pub in Bath.

He said he was initially sceptical, but when Dr Martill showed him photographs, he knew immediately that it was a fossil snake.

He said: “A four-legged snake seemed fantastic and as an evolutionary biologist, just too good to be true.

“It is a perfect little snake, except it has these little arms and legs, and they have these strange long fingers and toes.

• Scientists discover fossilised remains of world’s longest snake

“The hands and feet are very specialised for grasping. So when snakes stopped walking and started slithering, the legs didn’t just become useless little vestiges – they started using them for something else.

“We’re not entirely sure what that would be, but they may have been used for grasping prey, or perhaps mates.”

Interestingly, the fossilised snake also has the remains of its last meal in its intestine, including some fragments of bone.

The prey was probably a salamander, showing that snakes were carnivorous much earlier in evolutionary history than previously believed.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 27th April 2015

An Post could dump our letters that don’t have enough stamps on them

    

An Post could end up dumping away our letters that don’t have enough postage paid on them under new proposed terms it wants to impose on Irish customers.

And consumers could end up insuring letters to carry cash but get nothing back if the mail gets lost.

The regulator ComReg has highlighted a number of serious concerns it has with new terms and conditions proposed by An Post.

It says that some of the new conditions An Post wants to impose are very heavily weighted against customers and would have a “significantly adverse effect on postal service users”.

In a consultation paper on the new postal terms and conditions, ComReg highlights particular issues where consumers want to send cash or vouchers in the post.

ComReg said An Post on the one hand appears to prohibit the sending of cash through the post but then permits it if in a secure insured package.

Another clause then states that cash, bank drafts and vouchers can be sent in postal packets to addresses inside and outside the state, but says they are excluded from compensation.

This implied people could pay insurance but would not then get anything back if the item went astray.

“ComReg considers that it would be difficult for postal service users to know whether they can or cannot send money by post and if so in what circumstances this is permitted and what compensation is payable,” it said.

An Post is also seeking the right to detain or dispose of underpaid letters and packages rather than delivering them with a surcharge to the recipient, as is currently the practice.

ComReg is also calling foul on this new postal condition, arguing that it gives An Post very wide-ranging discretion and that it is “a fundamental change” to how post has always been treated as the property of the addressee.

This new way of doing business would also allow An Post to open private letters, and would mean that neither the sender nor the recipient might be aware what had happened to their mail.

This is the first time that An Post has drawn up terms and conditions that are subject to regulation

ComReg is now looking for interested parties to have their say on the changes by May 20 before new rules are set.

PTSB raises €525m from capital markets with stock priced at €4.50 per share

 

  • Bank sells €400m in shares and sources €125m via debt instrument

PTSB chief executive Jeremy Masding described the investor interest as “exceptional” with the company making more than 100 presentations to potential investors over the past six months.

Permanent TSB has raised €525 million from capital markets through the sale of €400 million worth of shares and €125 million via a debt instrument.

PTSB today raised €400 million through the sale of 88.9 million ordinary shares with private investors. This priced the stock at €4.50 per share, which was the top of the price range indicated by the bank last week.

It has also raised €125 million through the issuance of AT1 capital with a coupon of 8.625%.

In addition, the Government is selling 21.8 million shares in the group for €98 million. All of this will have the effect of reducing the State’s holding in PTSB to 75% from the 99.2% currently.

The bank will now seek admission to the main stock markets in both Dublin and London in the next two days.

The funds will be used in part to plug a €125 million hole in its capital, which was identified in regulatory stress tests last October. In addition, the bank will pay €410.5 million to the Government through the repurchase of the State’s contingent capital notes.

PTSB chief executive Jeremy Masding described the investor interest as “exceptional” with the company making more than 100 presentations to potential investors over the past six months.

The bank also plans an open offer to existing retail shareholders, who own the residual shares in the bank. This will be on the same terms as offered to the new investors today. The open offer will close in three weeks.

The Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, welcomed the capital raising by PTSB and its return of some of its €2.7 billion bailout to the State following its recapitalisation in 2011.

He said it was an “important milestone” for the company and he expressed his satisfaction at the State retaining a “valuable” 75% holding in PTSB.

“The move to the main markets on both the Irish Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange is a positive for the bank and allows the State additional flexibility and liquidity to manage its sell down of PTSB in the future,” Mr Noonan said.

Markus Feehily abused to chanted vile homophobic abuse in Sligo pub

  

The singer was forced to leave a pub after a group of men chanted abuse at him

Markus Feehily has revealed he was forced to leave a pub in his Hometown after being subjected to vile homophobic abuse.

The Westlife star was enjoying a drink when a man approached him to take a picture.

A group of the man’s friends then crowded around the singer and began chanting abuse at him.

Shock: Mark was ganged up on in the pub Markus admitted the experience was “intimiating” and “upsetting”.

“A man asked to take a picture of me then four of his friends crowded round yelling, ‘What the f**k are you doing? Why are you taking a photo with him – you gay? You queer!’”

“We left quickly, the fear kicks in. I was shocked,” Markus said.

The Sligo native feels more work needs to be done to crack down on anti-gay sentiment.

“It would be a mistake to think it’s over. Things are far from where they need to be.”

Markus is currently busy promoting his debut solo single Love Is A Drug and recently performed the tune on The Saturday Night Show.

First Irish-American collaboration to target prostate cancer research

  • Irish American collaboration ‘the first of its kind’

    

The Irish Cancer Society (ICS) is to join forces with two leading US institutions in an attempt to advance research and identify new treatments for prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common male cancers, affecting around one in every six men in their lifetime. Over 2,000 Irish men are newly diagnosed with the disease every year.

The ICS is joining forces with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to form the Boston-Ireland Prostate Cancer Collaboration.

This new collaboration, the first of its kind, aims to make ‘a significant and lasting impact on the diagnosis, treatment and management of the disease’, the ICS said.

“This fellowship programme will address key clinical needs in prostate cancer such as accurate diagnosis, assessment of treatment options to ensure best quality of life and identification of new therapeutic targets for treatment-resistant disease,” the society noted.

A highly competitive selection process to find a young scientist or clinician to undertake this opportunity is due to start later this year. The successful recipient will spend two years in the US, before bringing their expertise back to Ireland.

“This collaboration brings together internationally unique expertise in the field of prostate cancer. This novel partnership will leverage our combined knowledge and resources to make a real and lasting difference to prostate cancer patients and their families on both sides of the Atlantic,” commented the ICS’s head of research, Dr Robert O’Connor.

Meanwhile, according to Dr Philip Kantoff of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, this collaboration ‘will train bright young investigators in Ireland and Boston with a view to creating a pool of talented and internationally networked researchers’.

“It is through exciting collaborations such as this that leading US and Irish researchers can exchange knowledge which will ultimately lead to significant prostate cancer breakthroughs,” he added.

The announcement about the collaboration was made at the inaugural John Fitzpatrick Irish Prostate Cancer Conference, which took place recently in Dublin in memory of Prof Fitzpatrick, the first head of research at the ICS.

Have scientists found a way to ‘switch off hunger panks’?

  • A team of researchers have identified the brain cells which cause hunger pangs

    

Feeling hungry? It’s all to do with a select set of brain cells, apparently

We all know what it’s like to try and lose weight, only to find ourselves gorging on chocolate once the hunger pangs strike.

There could be hope for dieters however, after scientists identified the brain cells which create the sensation of hunger – findings that they say create “a promising new target for the development of weight-loss drugs”.

Resarchers from Harvard Medical School and Edinburgh University found that a brain circuit known as melanoncortin 4 receptor-regulated (MC4R) is the set of cells which controls the desire to eat.

By switching off the cells in a group of mice, the scientists increased hunger, while switching them on stopped the hunger pangs.

“Our results show that the artificial activation of this particular brain circuit is pleasurable and can reduce feeding in mice, essentially resulting in the same outcome as dieting but without the chronic feeling of hunger,” explained the study’s co-senior author Bradford Low, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an investigator at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for Nutrition and Metabolism.

The scientists managed to activate and switch off the brain cells by exposing the mice to blue laser light, via an optical fibre that was implanted in the animals’ brains.

New dinosaur poses evolutionary puzzle

Paleontologists have unearthed a strange new species of dinosaur that is unlike anything ever seen before.

  

  • Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, a vegetarian dinosaur despite being a close relative of famous meat-eaters like Tyrannosaurus rex.

It was given the name Chilesaurus because it was found in Chile. The “diegosuarezi” part of its name is a tribute to Diego Suarez, who found the first Chilesaurus fossil in 2005 when he was just 7 years old.Suarez was in the region with his geologist parents who were there to study rock formations. He was hunting for stones when he found his first fossil, which belonged to this strange, never-before-seen dinosaur.

It also mixes a bizarre range of characteristics from unrelated dinosaur species, leading palaeontologists to describe it as a platypus dinosaur.

Most families have one, the odd one out who doesn’t seem to look like the rest of the group. The Chilesaurus diegosuarezi takes this to the extreme, and not just in its preference for leaves and plants over a Stegosaurus steak or a Brontoburger.

All dinosaurs had feathers at one time, researchers say

Most of the dozen Chilesaurus specimens excavated so far are about the size of a modern-day turkey, but larger bones suggest the big ones could have been three-metres long.

It is related to tough guys such as the Velociraptor and Carnotaurus, but has a proportionally smaller head and feet that are more like those of the long-neck dinosaurs, according to the authors of a study of the species published in Nature.

Chilesaurus is probably the descendant of meat-eating theropods and eventually evolved to become an herbivore, the researchers conclude. It had plant-chomping teeth like those of primitive long-necked dinosaurs, Plant-eating theropods have been found before, but this was the first one to be seen in South America.

A previously unknown species?

Experts are excited, not just because it was a previously unknown species that dates back to 145 million years ago.

Its admixture of unique anatomical traits makes it one of the most extreme cases of what is known as “mosaic convergent evolution” recorded in the history of life.

This happens when one organism has characteristics from other unrelated species due to a similar mode of life, explains Dr Martin Ezcurra of the University of Birmingham.

In effect, it borrows useful traits from other species because they suit the animal’s particular lifestyle.

Its discovery is a story in itself. Diego Suarez (7) found the fossilised bones while searching for decorative stones with his sister Macarena. They were with their geologist parents who were studying rocks in Chilean Patagonia.

The species must have been very successful despite its oddities, given it came to be “by far the most abundant dinosaur in southwest Patagonia”, lead researcher Dr Fernando Novas, of Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum in Argentina, said.