Tag Archives: Cancer’s

News Ireland daily BLOG as told byDonie

Sunday 5th March 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talks suspended?

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

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

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

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

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

A staff reduction?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Parkinson’s treatment app founder named as "Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur"  Image result for Parkinson’s treatment app founder named as "Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U2 at the top of Irelands rich list chart

Image result for U2 at the top of Irelands rich list chart  Image result for Niall Horan, Colin Farrell, Graham Norton, Michael Flatley, Daniel O’Donnell, and Enya on Irelands rich list chart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Threat to Sligo vet lab against rural policy says marian Harkin  Image result for Threat to Sligo vet lab is against Irish rural policy says Marian Harkin

The Independent MEP Marian Harkin.

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

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

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

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

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

A six-hundred kilometre round-trip?

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

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

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

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

Saving the lab petition.

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

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

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

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

Image result for Obesity now linked to 11 types of cancer as our overweight population grows  Image result for Obesity now linked to 11 types of cancer as our overweight population grows  Related image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 25th August 2016

Universal Social Charge the best we can hope for is a very long goodbye

Replacing universal social charge would require big tax hikes elsewhere

Image result for Universal Social Charge the best we can hope for is a very long goodbye  Image result for universal social charge budget 2016

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has acted to freeze property tax bills until 2019.

The Department of Finance quite likes the universal social charge – or so you might conclude from various communications from senior officials to the Minister. The latest, released in a freedom-of-information request to Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty, outlines what would be needed to replace the €4 billion revenue if the USC was abolished.

Needless to say, all the options are horrific. The USC accounts for not far off €1 in every €10 raised in tax each year (9.1%), to be precise). And so, were it to be abolished in one fell swoop, replacing it would require big tax hikes elsewhere – for example, a sixfold increase in the property tax combined with a range of other hikes in capital taxes, or a rise in the two main income tax rates by five points each to 25% and 45%.

Everyone knows that this is not going to happen. We are never going to be able to afford to abolish the USC in a year or two, even if the tone of the general election debate might have suggested otherwise. The documents, drawn up as briefing notes for a new Minister for Finance – in the event,Michael Noonan was reappointed – look designed to drive home the point that progress in cutting the USC was going to have to be slow.

Gradual phasing out process? 

The department said the notes predate the programme for government and the plan was for the “gradual phasing out” of the USC to continue. The plan was never to abolish it in one go.

  • Property tax may need to be increased by 600% if USC scrapped
  • Department says USC advice predates Programme for Government

The statement added: “While scope is limited in this year’s budget there will be a further move to curb USC, especially for mid- to low-income earners”. The statement also noted that there was “absolutely no intention” to increase property tax in the forthcoming budget. In fact, Noonan has acted to freeze property tax bills until 2019, a move which will introduce so many anomalies that the tax could yet be wide open to legal challenge.

What we will see in the budget is some limited further relief for USC. It would be a surprise if the main rate – cut from 7% to 5.5% in the last budget – was not cut again. But the room for manoeuvre on budget day will be limited – about €330 million will be available to reduce taxes, compared with €750 million last year. A bit more may be available in subsequent years, but that depends on the ability of the economy to continue to grow at 3% plus a year, post-Brexit.

The plan of the Government – if it lasts – is to continue to use the spare resources in the budget to cut the USC year by year. This is because the alternative route to phasing out the USC – raising significant money elsewhere – is seen as unpalatable. Cash will be raised from a new tax on sugary drinks in the next few years. And it is likely that income tax credits and the standard-rate band will not be adjusted for wage inflation – effectively a sneaky tax increase on people getting wage rises, which will offset some of the gains of USC cuts. But there is no way the Government will take the potential political hit of raising a large sum elsewhere after the water charges debacle.

But there will be no big move to , say, hike property taxes or indirect taxes. And the scale of the revenue raised by the charge mean we will all be living with it for years yet. We are talking, at best, about a decade-long phase-out of the charge, if that is the route successive governments chose to take.

Political capital

Sinn Féin, whose plans were more modest in terms of USC reduction than those of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, will seek to make some political capital out of this in the run-up to the budget. Fine Gael, meanwhile, by refusing to give way on its plans to phase out the charge, will struggle to make the case that this is achievable in a reasonable time frame.

Calculations presented by the department in prebudget tax documents set out a programme which could see the USC roughtly halved by 2020. It would require all the estimated room for tax cuts to be allocated to USC reductions – and in fact for new revenue to come on stream to meet some of the cost after 2018. And remember that for the room to manoeuvre to emerge we need economic growth to continue.

So the painful USC charge on our payslips is here to stay for quite some time yet. The best we can hope for is a very long goodbye.

The number of complaints against doctors in Ireland has increased “with many blamed for poor communication”

Image result for complaints against doctors in Ireland has increased Image result for complaints against doctors in Ireland has increased Image result for complaints against doctors in Ireland has increased

The number of complaints against doctors rose last year with many patients accusing medics of poor communication.

The annual report of the Medical Council, the regulatory body for doctors, said it received 369 complaints about the profession in 2015, compared to 308 in 2014.

The number of complaints about poor communication rose by 40%..

The majority of grievances came from the public, but 25 were lodged by other health professionals and two by the HSE.

Other causes of allegations related to misdiagnosis, clinical investigations and examinations, professional skills, lack of dignity when treating patients and poor follow-up care.

There were 35 fitness to practise inquiries into serious allegations against doctors during the year, half of which were held in public.

Chief executive Bill Prasifka said the number of doctors registered here topped a record 20,473.

There were 1,200 doctors exiting the register during the year.

He said: ”I found it particularly interesting that although males continue to dominate the medical profession as a whole, since we began collating this data, there have been more Irish female graduates entering the medical profession than their male counterparts.

“The majority of those on the register between the ages of 30 – 44 are female; however from 44 years and on the number of females on the register begins to decrease.

“Data from our Your Training Counts report also found that 40% of female trainees – or tomorrow’s specialists – want to work less than full-time and this  definitely poses some questions for the health sector and all of those involved in the future planning of Ireland’s healthcare service.”

Medical Council President, Prof Freddie Wood said: “It is great to see that the number of specialists on the register has increased significantly this year as we are all too aware of the doctor shortages we have experienced in recent months and years and with this valuable data we have the power to share workforce intelligence with our stakeholders involved in healthcare planning in order to address these issues and deficiencies that have hindered our health system for too long”

The findings show:

• Exit rates of doctors have increased slightly on last year – from 5.6% in 2014 to 6.4% in 2015;

• The number of specialists on the register in 2015 increased by almost 7%;

• Reliance on international medical graduates is among the highest in the OECD with almost 38% of the workforce an international medical graduate

Excess body fat now linked to 13 different types of cancer

Excess body fat now linked to 13 different types of cancer      Image result for Excess body fat now linked to 13 different types of cancer   

Excess fat increases the risk of cell abnormalities.

“Experts have linked eight more cancers to being overweight or obese, nearly tripling the list from five to 13,

This is the latest finding of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a group of cancer experts from around the world that look at risk factors for cancer.

What is the basis for these reports?

The headlines are based on a report published in the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine.

The report is not exactly new research, but a review of previously published studies that looked at the link between weight and cancers.

It is the result of a working group of international cancer researchers who met to review the evidence in April this year.

What’s the link between fat and cancer?

The IARC looked at research into the reasons why being overweight may cause cancer.

They found strong evidence that sex hormones and inflammation – both of which are affected by weight – are involved in cancer formation.

They also reviewed evidence from experiments on rats, which found animals fed a calorie-restricted diet were less likely to develop a range of cancers, and obese animals were more likely to get cancer.

They reviewed studies in humans, animals and basic science to see whether the group’s previous conclusions, published in 2002, needed to be updated.

The group’s new report concludes that, “the absence of excess body fatness lowers the risk of most cancers”, also saying that losing weight intentionally may help prevent cancer.

They list 13 cancers where they say there is “sufficient” evidence to conclude that being a healthy weight reduces the risk of cancer, three where there is “limited” evidence, and eight where the evidence is “inadequate”.

The cancers they identify as having sufficient evidence to link them to weight are:

  • oesophageal cancer
  • gastric cardia – a type ofstomach cancer
  • bowel cancer
  • liver cancer
  • gallbladder cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • breast cancer in postmenopausal women
  • womb cancer
  • ovarian cancer
  • kidney cancer
  • meningioma – a type of brain tumour
  • thyroid cancer
  • multiple myeloma – cancer of the white blood cells

The degree of increased risk ranged from an almost fivefold increase for oesophageal cancer in the highest BMI category compared with people with a normal weight (relative risk [RR] 4.8; 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.0 to 7.7), to a 10% increased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer (RR 1.1, 95% CI 1.1 to 1.2).

What is the link between cancer and weight?

Scientists have known for some time that people who are overweight have an increased risk of certain cancers compared with people of a healthy weight.

A healthy weight is usually defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9. People are classed as overweight if their BMI is 25 to 29.9 and obese if their BMI is 30 or over. BMI is calculated from weight and height.

Almost all of the evidence linking being overweight and cancer is from epidemiological studies, which look at large groups of people and then calculate how likely people of different weights are to have been diagnosed with cancer, compared with people of a healthy weight.

Many of these studies also try to take account of other factors that can affect cancer risk, such as whether people smoke, whether they exercise, and how healthy their diet is.

But it’s hard to account for all other factors, so individual studies can’t really show whether being overweight causes cancer.

When reviewed together, however, and when studies show that the more overweight someone is, the more likely they are to get cancer, the chances are higher that the research is showing that weight has a causal effect.

A report by the IARC in 2002 said there was enough evidence to say being overweight increased the risk of eight cancers, all of which are included in the new list of 13.

Since then other studies have strengthened the evidence, so the IARC now feels it has enough evidence to list these 13 cancers.

How does weight and cancer affect you?

Carrying excess body weight has a number of health risks, including a greater chance of having a heart attack or stroke, as well as being linked to a raised risk of the cancers listed above.

The easiest way to keep to a healthy weight is to avoid putting weight on, but if you already weigh more than you like, diet and exercise can help you achieve a healthier weight.

Talk to your GP or see our 12-week plan to lose weight through healthy eating and physical activity.

Weight is not the only factor that affects the risk of cancer. Although there’s no proven way to avoid cancer altogether?

You can lower your risk of getting cancer if you:-

  • eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • stay physically active
  • drink less alcohol
  • stop smoking
  • protect your skin from sun damage

Your daily coffee habit could be part of your genetics?

A new study now suggests

Image result for Your daily coffee habit could be part of your genetics?   Image result for Your daily coffee habit could be part of your genetics?  Image result for Your daily coffee habit could be part of your genetics?

Scientists have found a gene that appears to have an influence over the amount of coffee people drink, and how the body processes caffeine

The gene variant appears slowing the breakdown of caffeine in the body, meaning the stimulant lingers in the blood for longer and gives people a more enduring “hit” for every cup.

A gene that appears to wield influence over the amount of coffee people drink has been found by scientists who believe the section of DNA alters how caffeine is broken down in the body.

Italians villagers who carry a specific variant of the PDSS2 gene consume about one less cup of coffee per day compared with non-carriers, according to researchers at Edinburgh University.

The gene variant appears to affect people’s coffee intake by slowing the metabolism of caffeine in the body. When caffeine is broken down more slowly, the stimulant lingers in the blood for longer and gives people a more enduring “hit” for every cup.

Why drinking coffee can give you jet lag – and help you get over it.

Nicola Pirastu, a geneticist who led the study, said the discovery reinforces the idea that caffeine is one of the main drivers for drinking coffee. But he added that larger studies are needed to confirm the biological mechanism that links the PDSS2 gene to coffee drinking.

Previous searches for genes linked to coffee consumption have already thrown up more than half a dozen variants that hold sway over the metabolism and rewarding effects of caffeine. In teasing out the genetics of coffee drinking, scientists hope to learn more about the unexplained effects of the drink. “Coffee is protective against some types of cancers, cardiovascular diseases and Parkinson’s,” said Pirastu. “Understanding what is driving its consumption may help us understand what the effects on these diseases are, and so open new lines of research.”

In the study, researchers analysed the genetic makeup of 370 people living Puglia in southern Italy and a further 843 from six villages in the Friuli Venezia region in the north east. All were asked to complete a survey, which included a question about how many cups of coffee they drank each day.

The researchers found that people with a specific variant of the PDSS2 gene tended to drink fewer cups of coffee than those who carried other variations of the gene. To check the result, the researchers went to 1731 people in the Netherlands and found a similar effect, though the gene’s apparent influence over coffee consumption was weaker there.

Can drinking too much coffee kill you?

 One explanation could be that national preferences for coffee differ in Italy and the Netherlands. While moka and espresso are popular in Italy, the Dutch favour more filter coffee. And even though the concentrations of caffeine in the drinks are much the same, the difference in cup sizes means the Dutch imbibe nearly three times as much caffeine per cup as the Italians.

Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the study drew on researchers from Edinburgh, Trieste and the Netherlands. The Italian coffee company Illy participated in the project, but did not fund the work.

Many of the genes that have a role in the breakdown of caffeine also metabolise certain medicines. So unravelling the genes could help scientists understand why some patients respond differently to their drugs than others, and so help doctors to personalise their treatments, Pirastu said.

Kitten size extinct ‘lion’ named after Sir David Attenborough

Image result for Kitten size extinct 'lion' named after Sir David Attenborough Sir David Attenborough Image result for Kitten size extinct 'lion' named after Sir David Attenborough

Microleo attenboroughi was small enough to fit inside a handbag, according to Australian scientists

A miniature marsupial lion, extinct for at least 18 million year, has been named after Sir David Attenborough after its fossilised remains were found in a remote part of Australia.

Teeth and bone fragments from the kitten-sized predator, named Microleo attenboroughi, were found in limestone deposits at the Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil site in north-western Queensland.

The researchers named the new species after the British broadcasting legend because of his work promoting the famous fossil site, which provides a record of nearly 25 million years of Australia’s natural history.

When Microleo was still prowling around, in the early Miocene era (roughly 19 million years ago), the arid, outback ecosystem was a lush rainforest.

“It likely ran through the treetops, gobbling up birds, frogs, lizards and insects,” says Dr Anna Gillespie, a palaeontologist at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

Ms Gillespie, who has been working at Riversleigh and preparing fossils for 20 years, helped recover fragments of the animal’s skull and several teeth.

The relatively tiny tooth row of Microleo attenboroughi (top), compared with the tooth row of its Pleistocene relative, the lion-sized Thylacoleo carnifex

It’s far from a complete skeleton, but it’s an important part of the puzzle.”Crucially, we have got the third premolar, which is an elongated tooth that looks like a blade,” she told the BBC.

The razor-sharp tooth, used to tear up prey, is a common feature found in all known members of the family.

“It immediately tells us it’s a marsupial lion,” she says.

A pocket-sized predator? But the tooth is by far the smallest of its kind ever recovered.

It’s about one-tenth the size of the 3cm-long “bolt-crunching” teeth belonging to the largest and last surviving marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex, which went extinct about 100,000 years ago.

Thylacoleo weighed about 130kg (286lbs) and was Australia’s largest carnivorous mammal. It was a fearsome predator about the size of an African lion, with the bite strength to match, and hunted megafauna such as giant kangaroo and diprotodon.

In sharp contrast, Ms Gillespie and her team estimate that their “little guy” weighed only 600g, and was about the size of a kitten.

“We weren’t expecting to find a marsupial lion of this small size,” she says. “It might have been a bit too big to fit in your pocket, but it would have fit quite comfortably in a handbag. It would have been very cute.”

Image result for Kitten size extinct 'lion' named after Sir David Attenborough The Neville’s Garden site is renowned for the rich diversity of fossils that have been discovered there over many years

The team has ruled out the possibility that the fossils belonged to a juvenile, or a malformed member of a related species. This is due to their distinctive shape, the fact that all the molars have erupted and the presence of “very clear wear patterns”.

“This animal has been running around hunting things for quite a while. So it’s definitely an adult,” says Dr Gillespie.

The team from UNSW has described the new species in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica.

Unmatched diversity?

With this find, the researchers have determined that at least three different marsupial lions were co-existing in the ancient Riversleigh rainforest.

“This level of diversity is unmatched for the family at any other time in their evolutionary history,” the researchers note.

Sir David Attenborough has long promoted Australia’s Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil site

One marsupial lion (Priscileo) weighed about 1.8kg, and was about the size of a cat. Another yet-to-be described species (Wakaleo) weighed around 30kg, about the size of a small Labrador dog, says Ms Gillespie.

She says it indicates that they may have been co-operating, dividing up the food resources to reduce competition between themselves.

The fossil was found in a location at Riversleigh known as Neville’s Garden, which has become renowned for its rich diversity of animals.

Caption Microleo was tiny compared to other members of the marsupial lion family, which included the enormous and fierce Thylacoleo

It’s yielded bandicoots, possums, kangaroos, toothed platypuses, small koalas, thousands of bats, fish, turtles, lizards, pythons and a range of rainforest birds.

“My colleagues have been working at Riversleigh for 40 years,” says Ms Gillespie.

“In that time we have processed tonnes of limestone, and got thousands and thousands of fossils back, but this is the only specimen from this animal.

“So it’s rather enigmatic in this way,” she says. “It might have been a rare species in that ecosystem, but we still have to hunt for more.”

‘Freakishly productive’

Stephen Wroe, an associate professor of zoology and palaeontology at the University of New England in NSW, who was not involved in the study, says the discovery raises new questions about the origin of the marsupial lion family.

“Until quite recently there were only a few marsupial lion species known. Over the last decade or two evidence from Riversleigh has seen this jump to 11 subspecies,” he says.

“This most recent find doesn’t just increase the known diversity in terms of species numbers – it greatly expands the diversity of known morphologies.”

Mr Wroe says the team has done a good job estimating the body size: “No matter how you wash it, this little guy was tiny relative to other members of the family.”

He says its diminutive size may explain why only a single specimen has been found.

“In general Australia’s fossil record is very poor over this time period,” he says. “Riversleigh is a freakishly productive area in this respect.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 8th July 2016

As much as 48 charities are directly involved with suicide care in Ireland

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Ireland has some 48 non-profit organisations which are directly involved in some form of suicide care including counselling, prevention and information.

Of these, 31 are registered, and have a reported 153 staff.

One of these organisations is Console – which will be closed down shortly following revelations of financial irregularities.

Nearly half the charities are based in Dublin, with significant numbers also in Cork and Kerry.

Financial data was available for 29 of the suicide charities after the filing of accounts with the Companies Registration Office in 2014.

Pieta House had the largest turnover in 2014 with a reported income of €5.4m.

Six reported an income of €500,000 in 2014.

Public funding for several of the suicide organisations comes from a range of sources including the HSE, the National Lottery, Tusla the child and family agency, county councils and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

HSE Grants

Other funding was given by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of the Environment.

The HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention spent €4.4m in 2014 with the largest grant given to the National Suicide Research Foundation.

It gave €582,998 to the Samaritans, €548,000 to Console and €503,000 to Pieta House.

Shine received a grant of €303,506.

Ivan Cooper, director of advocacy at The Wheel, which supports charities, said: “The charity sector cannot continue to lurch from controversy to controversy – the work of the sector is much too important for that.

“It is the people and communities supported by charities that suffer every time a controversy occurs. We must end this cycle.

“Charities embody an immensely positive social value in Ireland.

“They result from a culture where people take initiatives to address social issues in their communities, and this approach is supported by the public and State entities.

“This vital work must be placed on firm footing, one that provides the necessary transparency and accountability for the public while supporting the trustees, staff and volunteers of charities to do their work.

“In short, we need a coherent policy framework for charities to operate in. We need effective and proportionate reporting for charities.”

Sick leave rates still very high in parts of the Irish public service

Reforms of sick leave arrangements see costs fall by more than €104m to €317.9m


Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said the number of days lost to sick leave per full-time equivalent jobs across the public service had fallen by 1.0 days to 8.5 days.

Rates of sick leave in parts of the public service remain high, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe has said.

However, reforms to sick leave arrangements introduced in 2014 had generated significant savings for the exchequer, he added.

New figures released on Friday by the Department of Public Expenditure showed that, overall, the level of sick leave across the public service has fallen below 4 per cent for the first time.

The figures published by the department revealed that, on average, 10.2 working days per full-time employee were lost in the Civil Service in 2015.

However, the department figures showed that within the Civil Service, areas such as the Irish Prison Service, the Department of Social Protection, theNational Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the Revenue Commissioners all reported higher levels than the average.

A spokeswoman for the Minister said that across the wider public service “areas such as the health sector and the Civil Service have higher average rates of days lost, but management in all areas will be working to further reduce rates of sick leave and absenteeism through the development of targeted strategies”.

Significant savings

Significant savings have also been achieved through changes. The department said that since reforms to sick leave arrangements were introduced in 2014 – which effectively halved entitlements – the cost to the State had fallen by more than €104 million to €317.9 million.

The department said the number of days lost to sick leave per full-time equivalent jobs across the public service had fallen by 1.0 days to 8.5 days.

The new figures cover about 250,000 full-time equivalent personnel across the public service, including the Civil Service, education, health, justice, local government and defence sectors.

In a statement, Mr Donohoe said: “While there has been a significant improvement since the reform, the rates of sick leave in areas of the public service remain high and need to be reduced further.

“To achieve this, management in each of the sectors must focus on the proactive management of absenteeism, and policies designed to assist employers in managing cases of prolonged or frequent absence proactively will be required.

“This will be a key recommendation in the review of the operation of the sick leave scheme, which is being undertaken by the department.”

He said his department would be establishing a public service sick leave management forum “to provide ongoing support for each of the sectors in managing sick leave in their respective sectors, including the identification of the underlying causes of sick leave and the development of targeted strategies aimed at further reducing sick leave absences.”

He said a target for the rate of sick leave would be set within each of the sectors and this would be monitored on an annual basis.

“It is also intended for the sectors of the public service to publish sick leave absence rates on an organisational/regional basis, where figures are available,” he added.

The number of new cars licensed in Ireland up 23.9% in first half of 2016

Volkswagen was the most popular make of new car licensed with 10.9% market share


Volkswagen was the most popular make of new car licensed in the first half of 2016, with 10.9% market share.

The number of new cars licensed for the first time rose by 23.9% in the first six months of the year, figures show.

Data from the Central Statistics Office indicates 97,490 new cars received licenses in the period January to June.

The number of used imported cars rose by 25% compared to the same period last year.

A total of 4,143 new private cars were licensed for the first time last month, an increase of 5.6% compared with June 2015.

A total of 5,459 used cars were licensed, representing an increase of 45% on the same month last year.

Volkswagen was the most popular make of new car licensed in the first half of 2016, with 10.9% market share.

Toyota was the second most popular car make with 10,384 new private cars licensed and a 10.7% market share, followed by Hyundai, Ford and Nissan.

In the first half of 2016, seven out of every ten (70.3%) new private cars licensed were diesel fuelled.

Statins may cut the risk of dying from four common cancers, scientists now believe?


Statins may significantly cut the risk of dying from four of the most common cancers, evidence suggests.

Scientists found “striking” reductions in death rate among cancer patients diagnosed with high cholesterol.

Treatment with the cholesterol-lowering drugs taken by millions of people in the UK is the most likely explanation, they believe.

A high cholesterol diagnosis was associated with a 43% lower risk of dying from breast cancer, 47% from prostate cancer, 30% from bowel cancer and 22% from lung cancer.

The findings support previous research indicating that statins may offer protection to cancer patients.

A study published last month in the journal Breast Cancer Research showed that breast cancers can manufacture a tumour-boosting molecule from cholesterol.

Dr Paul Carter, from Aston University in Birmingham, UK, who presented the new findings at a meeting of heart experts in Florence, Italy, said: “Our research suggests that there’s something about having a high cholesterol diagnosis that improves survival and the extent to which it did that was quite striking in the four cancers studied.

“Based on previous research we think there’s a very strong possibility that statins are producing this effect.”

He added: “These findings are likely to be seen in other cancers as well but this is only speculation and would need to be confirmed by studies in different types of cancer.”

The scientists analysed the health records of almost a million cancer patients admitted to UK hospitals over a 14-year period between January 2000 and March 2013.

Clinical information was compared with mortality data obtained from the Office for National Statistics.

Out of a total of 929,552 patients, 7,997 had lung cancer, 5,481 breast cancer, 4,629 prostate cancer, and 4,570 bowel cancer.

After adjusting for factors which might influence life span, including age, gender, ethnicity, and the ten most common causes of death, the scientists found that patients were less likely to die if they had a diagnosis of high cholesterol as well as cancer.

The new research was presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology meeting in Florence.

Curiosity finds unique ripples in Mars Planet dunes


Though both Mars and Earth possess wind-blown sand dunes with very similar characteristics, it seems Martian dunes have a little something extra.

Mars is a planet shaped by aeolian — or “wind-driven” — processes. So it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to know the Red Planet also sports some pretty big sand dunes.

From afar, these dunes strongly resemble the dunes we have on our planet. But in a new study carried out by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, an active dune field on Mars has revealed that, though many of the processes that shape Martian dunes are the same processes that shape terrestrial dunes, there’s an extra ripple that can only form in Mars’ atmosphere.

“Earth and Mars both have big sand dunes and small sand ripples, but on Mars, there’s something in between that we don’t have on Earth,” said graduate student Mathieu Lapotre, of Caltech in Pasadena, Calif., in a NASA statement.

On both Earth and Mars dunes can be as large as a football field and consist of a gently-sloping upwind face and a steep downwind face that is shaped by continuous sand avalanches as the prevailing wind keeps pushing material over the apex of the dune. Classical arc-shaped barchan dunes can often result on both planets and Mars satellites have captured some stunning observations of these types of dunes from orbit. Just look at them, they’re amazing.

On Earth, the surfaces of these dunes are often rippled with peaks and troughs spaced around 30 centimeters (12 inches) apart. These rows of ripples are created by wind-carried grains of sand colliding with stationary grains, eventually creating a corrugated texture on dunes covering sandy deserts and beaches.

Until Curiosity started its approach to the active dark Bagnold Dunes six months ago on the northwestern slopes of Mount Sharp, scientists didn’t know whether these small-scale “impact ripples” existed. From orbit, larger ripples measuring around three meters (10 feet)from peak to peak could be seen and it was generally assumed that these larger-scale ripples were equivalent to Earth’s impact ripples, only much larger owing to the thin Martian atmosphere and lower gravity.

But when Curiosity arrived at Bagnold, the rover didn’t only see the 10 feet-wide ripples, but it also saw the small-scale ripples just like Earth’s impact ripples.

“As Curiosity was approaching the Bagnold Dunes, we started seeing that the crest lines of the meter-scale ripples are sinuous,” said Lapotre, who’s also science team collaborator for the Curiosity mission. “That is not like impact ripples, but it is just like sand ripples that form under moving water on Earth. And we saw that superimposed on the surfaces of these larger ripples were ripples the same size and shape as impact ripples on Earth.”

So it turns out that Mars dunes have an added complexity that could only be proven by rolling up close and taking photos. Mars dunes have the small impact ripples, plus medium-sized “sinuous ripples” that can be resolved from space.

Interestingly, though Earth’s dunes don’t possess sinuous ripples, they can form underwater — on a riverbed, for example. Rather than particles colliding, these sinuous ripples are created as flowing water drags particles, causing them to settle in a rippled pattern.

Lapotre, who is lead author of a study that was published on July 1 in the journal Science, thinks that the Martian sinuous ripples are being driven in a similar way, but it’s the Red Planet’s thin atmosphere that’s dragging the particles to form the medium-sized ripples on the sand dunes. Lapotre’s team have nicknamed them “wind-drag ripples.”

“The size of these ripples is related to the density of the fluid moving the grains, and that fluid is the Martian atmosphere,” he said. “We think Mars had a thicker atmosphere in the past that might have formed smaller wind-drag ripples or even have prevented their formation altogether. Thus, the size of preserved wind-drag ripples, where found in Martian sandstones, may have recorded the thinning of the atmosphere.”

But after studying observations (carried out by Curiosity and NASA’s veteran rover Opportunity) of Mars’ sandstone dating back to 3 billion years ago, the researchers found evidence of these wind-drag ripples preserved in the material of the approximate same size as the ripples that exist in today’s Martian dunes. This means the planet lost most of its atmosphere early in its geological history and for the past 3 billion years the atmospheric pressure has remained fairly constant — a finding that fits with other Mars atmosphere evolution models.

“During our visit to the active Bagnold Dunes, you might almost forget you’re on Mars, given how similar the sand behaves in spite of the different gravity and atmosphere. But these mid-sized ripples are a reminder that those differences can surprise us,” said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

It’s pretty amazing to think that a fairly simple observation of an active sand dune on Mars can reveal so much about Mars’ current and ancient atmospheric conditions. But as the sophisticated wheeled robot continues its quest to seek out past and present habitable environments, and this is all in a day’s work.

Mars plays host to a huge number of dune fields — regions where fine wind-blown material gets deposited to form arguably some of the most beautiful dunes that can be found on any planetary body in the solar system. Using the powerful High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, planetary scientists have an orbital view on these features that aid our understanding of aeolian (wind-formed) processes and Martian geology. Here are some of our favorite Mars dunes as seen by HiRISE. Pictured here are shell-like “barchan dunes” in the ancient Noachis Terra region of Mars.

Dunes of many shapes, sizes and formation processes can be found on the Red Planet. Shown here are elegant “linear dunes” with deposits of larger rocks and possibly ices in their troughs.

These slug-like dark dunes are striking examples of “dome dunes” — elliptical accumulations of fine material with no-slip surfaces. These domes contrast greatly with the often jagged appearance of barchan dunes. Found at the bottom of Proctor Crater, they are darker than the surrounding crater floor as they are composed of dark basaltic sand that was transported by the wind.

Looking like a wind-blown silk sheet, this field of “star dunes” overlays a plain of small ripples, another aeolian feature. The ripples move more slowly across the bottom of Proctor Crater, so the large dune field will travel over the smaller ripples. Dunes are continuously evolving and moving with the wind, ensuring that the Martian surface is never static.

These “transverse dunes” are undergoing seasonal changes. Likely entering Mars summer, this region of dunes is stained with pockets of subliming ices — likely carbon dioxide. As the ices turn from solid to vapor, dune material slumps, revealing dark, sandy material underneath.

Resembling the mouths of a shoal of feeding fish, this is a group of barchan dunes in Mars’ North Polar region. Barchan dunes betray the prevailing wind direction. In this case, the prevailing wind is traveling from bottom right to top left; the steep slope of material (plus dune “horns”) point to the downwind direction. The HiRISE camera monitors barchans to see if they move between observing opportunities, thereby revealing their speed of motion across the Martian plains.

This is the same barchan dune field, zoomed out, a “swarm” of dunes covering the plains.

Not all barchan dunes “behave” and form neat “horny” shapes. They can become muddled and overlapping, creating “barchanoid dunes,” as shown here.

This very fluid-looking collection of barchans is accompanied by a wind-blown ridge in the Hellespontus region of Mars but…

…only when zoomed out does the true nature of this fascinating region become clear. The prevailing wind is eroding the mesas (small hills) to the right of the image, carrying fine material downwind (from right to left), creating a startling pattern of barchans and a viscous-looking trail of sandy ridges across the plains.

The band Train sang about the “Drops of Jupiter” — what about the “Drops of Mars”? Sure, they’re not made of any kind of fluid, but they do make for incredibly-shaped dunes. These raindrop-shaped dunes are found in Copernicus Crater and are known to be rich in the mineral olivine, a mineral that formed during the wet history of Mars’ evolution.

These craggy-looking dunes are old barchanoids eroding away through seasonal processes (sublimation of sub-surface ices) and the persistent Martian wind.

These linking barchan dunes are at the leading edge of a dune field — grains of dust have been blown across a plain, deposited and left to accumulate in elongated arrow shapes.

Dome-shaped dunes and barchans seem to “reach out” and touch their downwind partners with slumped material.

Barchan dunes inside Arkhangelsky Crater in the southern hemisphere of Mars reveal a wind direction from top left to bottom right. Note the tracks of Martian dust devils over the dune slopes.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 26th April 2016

Water deal to pave way for a new Fine Gael minority Irish government

Enda Kenny tells Ministers they have held their final Cabinet meeting


Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the party has indicated it is willing to consider the principle of charging for water at some stage in the future if water charges are suspended for a number of years.

A deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil on the contentious issue of water charges may be finally in the offing, paving the way for a Fine Gael led minority government.

As the negotiating teams of both parties continued to meet on Tuesday night, acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny and senior Fine Gael Ministers were preparing their TDs to accept a possible compromise on issue water charges.

It is understood they informed backbenchers that the only prospect of saving Irish Water as an entity is to reach a compromise with Fianna Fáil on the charging regime.

In another indication of progress in the talks some 61 days after the general election – Mr Kenny told the outgoing Fine Gael-Labour Minister that Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting was their last, and thanked them for their work.

While Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil he is not afraid to go to the country in an election over water charges, senior figures in his party said a deal will be done within 48 hours because both sides were losing credibility.

On Wednesday, the Dáil will hear statements on water, but there will be no vote on the issue. Sources suggested the water deal will centre on the suspension of charges for a period of time. This period has yet to be finally agreed between Mr Kenny and Mr Martin but it will not be linked to the length of time of any arrangement Fianna Fáil will enter into to support a Fine Gael led minority government.

While initially hostile to a compromise that involved a lengthy suspension of charges, Fine Gael backbenchers have softened their positions as many realised a failure to reach a deal would cause an election.

Fears among TDs of an immediate election reached their height on Monday night, when talks between the two parties ended badly.

The emerging deal will see a commission of experts established to examine issues surrounding water charges, such as alternative charging systems. Irish Water, as an entity, will not be referred to the commission. It was estimated last night that the work of the commission could take a year.

The outcome of the commission would then be referred to an Oireachtas committee. The committee’s findings would then be voted on by the Dáil, as had been proposed by Fianna Fáil, meaning the future of charges will have to be decided on the floor of the House.

Mr Martin has argued that the majority of TDs in the current Dáil favour the abolition or suspension of water charges.

Fianna Fáil has indicated it is willing to consider the principle of charging for water at the end of that process if water charges are suspended for a number of years. But no firm commitment has been given to support re-introducing water charges, as had been sought by Fine Gael.

“We have said we could take part in a committee as constructively as possible,” said a Fianna Fáil source. “With Labour, the Social Democrats, the Greens and Independent Alliance all pro charges, it’s not impossible, once consensus is built.”

How to deal with those who have already paid water charges, and those who haven’t, has also been identified as a key issue by Fine Gael. Party sources said that if water charges are re-introduced, those who have already paid will have to be given future credits, with refunds in the event of charges being abolished entirely.

Group schemes

It is understood another outstanding issue is how to deal with those who are on group water schemes and those whom use wells. Fine Gael sources said a final position on charges would have decided by Budget 2018, due to be delivered in October 2017. Fianna Fáil will want to push it out for longer.

Fine Gael had offered the suspension of water charges for a period of six to nine months, with an expert commission to examine a new charging regime. The party had said that if new charges are not accepted, then the existing regime would remain in place – which was rejected by Fianna Fáil.

Fianna Fáil sources said this position from Fine Gael forced the pace of negotiations, while maintaining the existing charging regime had been rejected by voters at the least election and must not continue.

Ireland’s National Broadband Plan will not be completed until year 2022

Some ten years after its launch?


The setback means that completion of the roll-out plan may not happen until 2022 or later

The government has confirmed that the National Broadband Plan, which promised subsidised modern internet to 750,000 non-urban homes and businesses by 2020, will not start this year as planned.

The setback means that completion of the rollout plan may not happen until 2022 or later, 10 years after the scheme was first launched.

A spokesman for the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources said today that the rollout has been put off due to the postponement of negotiations with shortlisted bidders for the process.

The news will be greeted with dismay by over a million people living outside cities and large towns in Ireland. With the process expected to take up to five years, the setback means that many rural homes may be left without adequate broadband until 2022, two years after the government’s promised delivery date and a decade after the government first launched the plan.

The contract to build the network out to 750,000 rural homes and businesses could be worth upwards of €500m of state funding, with the government seeking an unspecified amount of matching investment from winning contract bidders.

10 telecoms companies had expressed an interest in discussing the National Broadband Plan rollout with the government. Eir and Siro, the joint fibre venture betweenVodafone and the ESB, are considered to be front runners to contend for the state contract. Enet, the company that manages metropolitan area networks in 94 towns around the country, has also indicated that it intends to compete for the state broadband tender.

Other companies to have expressed an interest include French-based Bouyges subsidiary Axione and Gigabit Fibre, which is fronted by the former O2 Ireland boss Danuta Gray.

Virgin Media, formerly UPC, will not compete for the National Broadband Plan tender according to its chief executive, Tony Hanway.

The number of homes and businesses under the tender could shrink, according to officials in the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. The officials say that if Eir proceeds with plans to build out fibre infrastructure to 300,000 of the identified 750,000 rural premises, those 300,000 premises will be withdrawn from the National Broadband Plan. Under EU competition rules, state bodies cannot intervene with services where there are viable commercial alternatives.

A spokesman for Eir said that the company regretted the postponement of the plan’s rollout.

“Eir notes the confirmation today by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources that it will not now be in a position to commence negotiations with shortlisted bidders as planned this year or to award the NBP contract to the winning bidder or bidders until 2017, several months later than originally planned,” said the spokesman.

“Eir confirms that it will continue to rollout high speed broadband at pace. Today, 1.4 million homes and businesses across Ireland, can access high speed broadband. This will rise to 1.6 million, or 70pc of the country by June of this year, and will reach 1.9 million premises as soon as possible thereafter.”

Ability to pay can be difference between life and death, cancer charity says


The Irish Cancer Society said early diagnosis is often crucial to the patient’s chances of survival, Cancer sufferers in Ireland can live or die depending on how much money they have, the country’s leading cancer charity has warned.

In a bleak rebuke of the “two-tier” health system, a new study by the Irish Cancer Society reveals the less wealthy can be forced to wait up to 20 times longer for potentially life-saving tests.

The charity said early diagnosis of cancer is often crucial to the patient’s chances of survival.

Donal Buggy, head of services with the Irish Cancer Society, said the majority of Irish people do not have private healthcare and are denied early tests for the disease.

“The grim reality of our healthcare system is that the difference between life and death can come down to your ability to pay for healthcare,” he said.

“This situation is striking in its unjustness but has been the modus operandi which has defined our health services for decades.”

The Irish College of General Practitioners carried out a survey of GPs around the country to gauge access to testing for suspected cancers.

The findings confirm a “stark divide” between those who can afford private health insurance and those who cannot, says the Irish Cancer Society.

Public patients are forced to wait up to 480 days – or 96 working weeks – for critical tests such as abdominal cancer diagnosis. Private patients have to wait just five days on average.

Waiting-times for brain scans are 20 times higher in the public health system than for those who can afford private care.

Nine out of every ten GPs surveyed for the study agreed that a patient’s ability to pay played a role in their treatment.

They complained about “unacceptable delays” in getting several cancer tests and warned diagnosis for gynaecological, neurological, urological and head and neck cancers was “particularly problematic”.

About 46% of the population has private health insurance?

“We know from the many cancer patients and survivors who have shared their stories with us that our two-tier system of healthcare leads to huge differences in outcomes based on whether you can afford to pay for private health insurance or not,” said Mr Buggy.

“This report makes clear that GPs working right across the country and in all socioeconomic areas face a struggle in securing timely tests to diagnose public patients”.

One in three people in Ireland will develop cancer at some stage, with an average 30,000 new cases diagnosed every year. That number is expected to rise to 40,000 within the next four years.

The Irish Cancer Society has demanded public access to cancer tests within 28 days around the country.

“Early diagnosis often means a cancer is more likely to be treated successfully, intervention will be less complicated and chances of survival may be higher,” said Mr Buggy.

“However, for the majority of the population without access to the private system, they may have to face lengthy waits that deprive them of early access to either a diagnosis or peace of mind.”

Sinn Fein’s health spokesman Caoimhghin O Caolain said the findings expose an “immoral” lack of fairness in health care.

“This is not acceptable,” he said. “Inability to pay should not deny anyone the opportunity to lead a full, long, healthy life.

“The extreme depth of inequality in our health services is immoral and cries out for urgent address.”

Loneliness linked to heightened stroke risk


Loneliness and social isolation are linked to around a 30% increased risk of having a stroke or developing coronary artery disease (CAD) — the two leading causes of illness and death in high-income countries.

The size of the effect is comparable to that of other recognised risk factors, such as anxiety and a stressful job, the findings of an analysis of the available evidence, published online in the journal Heart, indicate.

Loneliness has already been linked to a compromised immune system, high blood pressure, and ultimately, premature death, but it’s not clear what impact it might have on heart disease and stroke risk.

The researchers trawled 16 research databases for relevant studies, published up to May 2015, and found 23 that were eligible. These studies, which involved more than 181,000 adults, included 4,628 coronary heart disease ‘events’ (heart attacks, angina attacks, death) and 3,002 strokes recorded during monitoring periods, ranging from three to 21 years.

Analysis of the pooled data showed that loneliness/social isolation was associated with a 29 per cent increased risk of a heart or angina attack and a 32% heightened risk of having a stroke.

The effect size was comparable to that of other recognised psychosocial risk factors, such as anxiety and job strain, the analysis indicated.

This is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, added to which the researchers point out that it wasn’t possible to exclude the potential impact of other unmeasured factors or reverse causation — whereby those with undiagnosed disease were less sociable, so inflating the findings.

Nevertheless, the findings back public health concerns about the importance of social contacts for health and well-being, say the researchers.

“Our work suggests that addressing loneliness and social isolation may have an important role in the prevention of two of the leading causes of morbidity in high income countries,” they write.

In a linked editorial, Drs Julianne Holt-Lunstad and Timothy Smith of Brigham Young University, Utah, agree, pointing out that social factors should be included in medical education, individual risk assessment, and in guidelines and policies applied to populations and the delivery of health services.

However, one of the greatest challenges will be how to design effective interventions to boost social connections, taking account of technology, they say. “Does interacting socially via technology reduce or replace face to face social interaction and/or alter social skills?” they ask.

As much as a 20% rise in 18-month surgery waiting lists in Irish hospitals


Pressures on hospitals are reflected in longer waiting times, with today’s cancelled operations potentially tomorrow’s emergency medical presentations.

At Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda there were 74 inpatient/ day cases waiting for longer than a year and a half last month, down from 126 in February, while at Letterkenny General the figure was 13, compared to just six people waiting for over 18 months in February.

At Sligo Regional there were seven patients waiting over a year and a half, while at Cork University Hospital the total was 28 compared to 26 in February, and at the Mercy University Hospital it was 25, compared to 32 the previous month.

It is important to balance both planned and emergency care needs to prevent delays in diagnosing or treating illness, which could result in greater need in future for emergency interventions.

The total number of inpatient/ day cases waiting longer than 18 months in March totalled 1,214 — nearly a 20% rise compared to February’s figure of 1,015, new NTPF data reveals.

Firstly demographic pressures are responsible for this rise, as the growing and ageing population is causing a small but relentless increase in demand year-on-year, the HSE has said.

Emergency Department (ED) admission rates vary widely from hospital to hospital. At some hospitals, patients are twice as like to be admitted as in others. This can be cultural or it can be down to the fact that a particular doctor will admit more patients than is necessary.

Less experienced doctors and locums may be more likely to admit than experienced and more senior physicians, the HSE’s National Director for Acute Care Liam Woods has said.

There is also the issue of elective admissions — involving patients being brought straight in for surgery, or from a clinic, into a hospital bed rather than through ED. Some hospitals manage this better than others by taking more people in when trolleys are low and restricting them when trolleys are high. Others manage things less effectively, the Minister for Health, Dr Leo Varadkar, has said.

In all, there were 399,086 people on the outpatients waiting list in March, a further 72,881 on the inpatients/day case waiting list, and 18,579 on the GI endoscopy waiting list. This makes a total of 490,546 waiting. The numbers of day cases waiting rose from 47,294 at the start of the year to 50,802 at the start of March. The number of inpatient waiters grew from 20,792 to 22,579 in the same period.

Average length of stay is also an issue. Some hospitals can deal with the average patient in four days, while others might take a week, thereby using twice as many beds to do the same work. This is often linked to delays in getting tests and scans carried out or skeletal services at weekends, or slow decision-making due to infrequent senior clinician-led ward rounds. Beaumont had the highest number of long waiters in March at 402, compared to 361 the previous month, followed by Galway University Hospital, which recorded a total of 351, up from 253 the previous month.


Regarding care provided on an outpatient basis and the operation of acute medical assessment units, some hospitals are able to complete tests in a single day, so the patient does not need to be admitted. Others have to admit a patient, which then requires a bed to be allocated. Then there is simple bed capacity, with some hospitals just not having enough beds, Minister Varadkar has said.

Another area where capacity could be a problem was in the delayed discharge of patients from hospitals. Some areas don’t have enough nursing home capacity or home care packages, which means that patients are delayed leaving hospital, while some hospitals are more active than others in getting patients to go home or on to step-down facilities.

At the South Infirmary there was just one very long waiter in March (over 18 months), yet Waterford clocked up a total of 20 waiting for over 18 months.

While the Children’s University Hospital Temple Street had zero patients waiting for longer than 18 months, the figure at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin was 28, a rise from 15 in February. Tallaght Children’s Hospital also recorded a zero figure. However, at Tallaght Hospital long waiters totalled 114, a rise from 98 a month earlier.

Other major academic teaching hospitals had the following totals waiting longer than 18 months: St Vincent’s (49), St James’s (20), Connolly (7), the Mater (26), and UHL (3).

The National Waiting List Management Policy is a standardised approach to managing scheduled care treatment for inpatient, day case and planned procedures and has been developed to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care. This policy, which has been adopted by the HSE, sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists.

Hours can be lost getting a patient’s discharge paperwork done, prescriptions written and the bed cleaned for the next patient. This could be done in an hour. But sometimes it can take as long as five hours.

Another cause is bed closures, which can occur for a number of reasons — staff shortages, renovations, or infection control.

The number of outpatients waiting more than 18 months at the end of March totalled 6,114 nationally. The number waiting at Beaumont was 1,349, compared to 1,130 in April. At Galway, there were 1,044 compared to 980 a month earlier and at Letterkenny there were 669, compared to 527 in February.

At Tallaght, meanwhile, there were 597 (588 in February) at CUH 391 (457 Feb), at the Mercy 385 (108), at Connolly there were 382 (317), and at St James’s there were 19 (12). There was just one outpatient at both the Mater and St Vincent’s waiting longer than 18 months.

The Beagle 2’s most detailed images yet of lost Mars lander revealed

New pictures are most detailed images of Mars ever achieved from an orbiting spacecraft and seem to add weight to theory on Beagle 2’s final resting place


An artist’s impression of the Beagle 2 lander, which landed on Mars in 2003 but failed to fully unfurl its solar panels, causing it to lose contact with Earth.

Astronomers have revealed the most detailed images yet of what is thought to be the landing site of the ill-fated Mars lander, Beagle 2, offering further evidence that the British spacecraft failed to phone-home because of problems following touchdown.

Showing a bright blip in dusty terrain, the new picture is four times the resolution of previous images. The image adds weight to the theory that the diminutive spacecraft – just under a metre in diameter – landed as planned on Mars in 2003, but failed to fully unfurl its solar panels. “Given the size of Beagle 2, even with super-resolution images you are not likely to see more than a series of blobs because it is so small,” said Mark Sims, of the University of Leicester and former mission manager for Beagle 2. “What it does show is that it is on the surface and it is at least partially deployed.”

Launched on board the European Space Agency’s Mars Express Orbiter, the Beagle 2 spacecraft was due to touchdown on Mars on Christmas Day in 2003. But after leaving the mother craft it failed to make contact with Earth, leading to speculation that the lander had crashed.

But a series of clues have since indicated that the hitch likely occurred after it landed correctly on the planet’s surface. Last year Sims and colleagues including John Bridges, also at Leicester University, revealed an image from Nasa’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, that showed a trio of specks on the planet’s surface, thought to be Beagle 2, its parachute and rear cover.

The top image is one of the original HiRISE images. Below is the newly-created SRR image. The bright dot at approximately 91º47’28.5”, 11º 31’ 37” is thought to be the Beagle 2 lander. Photograph: Nasa/UCL/University of Leicester

Now researchers at University College, London, have improved the resolution of the HiRISE images, to produce the most detailed pictures of Mars ever achieved from an orbiting spacecraft. The technique, known as Super-Resolution Restoration (SRR), involved stacking and matching up to eight HiRISE images of the same area – the first results of which were revealed by the team in February. “Each of the images are taken from a slightly different angle,” said Muller.

While each HiRISE image has a resolution of around 25cm, the technique allowed the team to produce images of the Martian landscape with a resolution of just 5cm, allowing much finer detail to be observed than ever before. In the case of the Beagle-2 landing site, five images were compiled resulting in a four-fold improvement in resolution. But it’s a lengthy process. “It takes three days on our fastest computers to do a small scene of 2,000 by 1,000 pixels,” said Jan-Peter Muller, from University College, London who led the work. “We can’t yet do an entire scene.”

When researchers zoomed in on the ‘bright dot’ seen in the picture above, and then applied the new SRR system, the outline of what seems to be Beagle 2 became clearer.

The results, they say, confirm the idea that Beagle 2 did indeed make it to the red planet. “Intriguingly it isn’t a single white blob which is how it was represented last time around,” said Muller,. “We can now actually see a y-shape on the left hand side and some distortions as well on the right.”

But understanding what happened to Beagle 2, says Sims, isn’t just about unpicking the past – it could also help with future missions. “It’s important to tease the mystery apart because you want to know why it didn’t fully deploy,” he said. “You need to have some idea of how far you got, what might have been the good parts of your design, what might have been the parts which you would improve at a later date.”

While the new shot of the Beagle 2 site appears, to the untrained eye, to show little more than a y-shaped blob, Muller believes the technique has the potential to yield even greater detail. “We have provided the highest ever resolution pictures of the surface and we are going to keep going – the more pictures we get the better the resolution,” he said. “There is no theoretical limit at this point in time to what we can achieve.”

The Beagle 2 site isn’t the only super-resolution image to be released by the team. Among the pictures produced with the SRR technique are views of the planet’s ancient lake beds, showing their craggy forms in breathtaking detail. Also visible are the erratic tracks of Nasa’s Spirit rover which roamed Mars from 2004, sending its last communication in 2010.

Two of the original HiRISE images are shown on the top line. Below, the new SRR images reveal a rock filed (left) and the tracks of Nasa’s Spirit rover (right). Photograph: Nasa/UCL/University of Leicester

Scientists believe such high-res images could be a boon when it comes to choosing the landing site of future missions including the European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission which will see a lander touch down in October this year, followed by a rover in 2018 that will search for life on the planet.

The SRR technique, Muller adds, could also shed light on a number of mysteries in the Martian landscape, including the suggestion that there is flowing water onthe planet. “We are creating images which allow us to see the same features what we would in a rover from 5 metres away,” he said, adding that it isn’t just Mars, but bodies as distant as the moons of Jupiter that could be revealed in stunning details. “We could do this for the Moon and we can do this in the future for Europa and Ganymede,” he said. “It opens up a new way of being able to see features that we would see if we were walking on the surface.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 13th April 2016

Martin urges the Independents to show their hand and declare one way or the other?

Move comes after scheduled talks between FG and FF are cancelled.


Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin contacted Independent TDs and urged them to vote for either a Fine Gael or a Fianna Fáil-led Government.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has told Independent TDs the time has come for them to declare their support for either him or Enda Kenny as Taoiseach.

Mr Martin contacted all 15 Independents in talks with both parties Wednesday evening and urged them to vote for either a Fine Gael or a Fianna Fáil-led Government.

His move came after a scheduled discussion on policy between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil was cancelled.

It is understood, however, both parties are still open to further negotiations.

No further meetings have been planned but it is anticipated contact will be made between the two parties on Thursday.

Mr Martin has told Independents that, in the absence of a commitment from Fine Gael that it will support a Fianna Fáil-led minority government, he is not willing to continue in discussions with non-party deputies.

A Fianna Fáil source said Mr Martin will give up on pursuing a Fianna Fáil minority government if he does not secure an additional seven or eight TDs in the vote on Thursday.

Similarily, a significant shift to Mr Kenny would allow Fianna Fáil to acknowledge Fine Gael can form a minority government which Mr Martin will facilitate from the opposition.

Sources in both parties said the process of forming a government had dragged on for too long and needed to come to a swift conclusion.

The possibility of a second election in the absence of enough Independent TDs declaring for Mr Martin or Mr Kenny was being speculated upon in Leinster House.

A Fianna Fáil source said: “It would require a significant number of Independents to vote for Micheal Martin as taoiseach. One or two will not be enough.

“If they want to support a fine Gael minority government that is their choice but we need to know. We are on a roundabout with no exits so the time has come. This is their final opportunity.”

A Fine Gael source said the talks with Fianna Fáil would resume after the vote for Taoiseach on Thursday.

“Fianna Fáil want to allow any Independnets who want to jump in their favour one last chance to do so,” the source said.

The Independent Alliance will meet on Thursday at 11.30 am to decide whether to vote for Mr Kenny or Mr Martin.

However, members of the group said they saw no reason to declare for either party and are likely to abstain in the vote.

Waterford TD John Halligan has opted out of the discussions with both parties.

The five rural TDs of Denis Naughten, Mattie McGrath, Michael Harty, Michael Collins and Noel Grealish will also meet on Thursday to discuss what they should do.

It is expected they will vote against both candidates as will Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae.

Mr Kenny had been hopeful the vote on Taoiseach could be deferred but he needed the support of Fianna Fáil and said this was not forthcoming.

The two parties only met for an hour on Wednesday to discuss the mechanics of a minority government with a meeting scheduled for 8pm to exchange policy papers.

However, it was cancelled at short notice by Fianna Fáil in a move described as frustrating and disappointing by Fine Gael.

The Fine Gael parliamentary party had earlier passed a motion urging the leadership not to compromise on Irish Water in discussions with Fianna Fáil.

It is understood legislation prepared by Fianna Fáil to abolish Irish Water has been agreed by the party and is expected to be handed to Fine Gael within days.

The proposed legislation will suspend the charges for five years and abolish the utility in favour of a slimmed down firm.

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan met with senior figures in the Labour party on Tuesday to secure their support for a Fine Gael minority Government.

The meeting, which was attended by Tánaiste Joan Burton, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin and Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly, took place in Government Buildings.

It is understood Mr Kenny and Mr Noonan encouraged Labour to re-enter Government but the Labour figures rejected the proposal.

Fine Gael also requested the party support them from the opposition benches.

The three Labour Ministers insisted they could make no decision until the outcome of discussions between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail were known.

International Tax officials plan to take action following the Panama Papers?

International representatives meet at OECD to discuss response to controversy


An activist clutching a suitcase stuffed with fake money demands greater transparency in new legislation following the Panama Papers in Berlin, Germany.

Senior international tax officials met at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Wednesday to discuss responses to the Panama Papers.

Tax authorities are notoriously reluctant to share information, but the sheer scale of the Panama Papers – 11.5 million documents covering 210,000 companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions – has forced them to co-operate.

Nearly everything about the meeting was secret. The OECD would not reveal the number of participants, though press reports estimated that there were 28 officials in attendance.

The Irish Revenue Commissioners sent one or more representatives, but would not divulge numbers or identities.

“Some of the countries coming here do not even want their presence known,” said an informed source.

“If you’re doing an investigation, maybe there’s a big fish in a given country who feels personally threatened or at risk.

“You wouldn’t want to say, ‘Hey, we’re at the OECD getting the Panama Papers information.’”

The meeting was organised by the Joint International Tax Shelter Information and Collaboration (Jitsic) network.

The 46 countries who belong to the OECD’s Forum on Tax Administration are potential members of any Jitsic “project”.

They include the 34 members of the OECD, plus members of the G20 who are not in the club for the world’s most developed countries.

The number of participants in a given Jitsic “project” can range from two to 46.

“We are only aware of what has been reported in the press,” the OECD said, denying it had access to the Panama Papers.

Revenue authorities from at least 10 countries, including the State, have reportedly approached members of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in relation to the papers but were told: “The ICIJ is not an arm of law enforcement and is not an agent of the government.”

However, a source at the OECD insisted data-sharing had motivated the meeting.

“Somebody has the data. That’s the whole reason they had the meeting,” the source said.

The OECD’s one-page, post-meeting statement said it discussed “opportunites for obtaining data, co-operation and information-sharing.”

An G20 mandate?

The G20 gave the OECD a mandate to fight tax evasion in 2009.

It was subsequently invested with another mission, to thwart corporations shifting profits to avoid tax.

But the OECD is not privy to taxpayer specific information.

“If one of the Jitsic countries says, ‘Let me show you what we’ve got so far,’ that’s when OECD officials leave the room,” an OECD source explained.

Jitsic is headed by Chris Jordan, commissioner for the Australian tax office.

He says Jitsic members share “a global mindset for tackling tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance”.

Mark Konza, head of international tax in Australia, chaired Wednesday’s meeting.

Mr Jordan told the Australian Financial Review that the objective of the meeting was “to get the bigger picture . . . A number of countries have got slices or pieces of the data and that’s been very useful, but really, the start of the conversation is to work out who’s got what, how we can pool that information and start to work together”.

The OECD said follow-up action will be ensured by national tax administrations.

“It will be devolved to more operational people in the Jitsic network,” Mr Jordan said. “It’s data analytics people we need.”

Meanwhile, the French finance minister Michel Sapin told a press conference the Panama Papers have prompted “a burst of generosity” amongst tax evaders, who are coming forward to the STDR, the service set up nearly three years ago by the French to encourage those with offshore accounts to confess and negotiate settlements.

A spokesperson at the Revenue Commissioners said it was not yet clear whether the Panama Papers will have a similar effect in the State.

“Our message is: ‘Come to us before we come to you, because we will,’” she said.

Acting Tánaiste Joan Burton wants to stay on as Labour Party leader

Acting Tánaiste may face party’s deputy leader Alan Kelly in a leadership contest


The demise of Joan as depicted above?

The Tánaiste Joan Burton has told senior Labour Party figures she wants to stay on as party leader and has discussed a campaign to retain the leadership, even though many in the party believed she would step down.

Labour’s rules require a leadership election after an unsuccessful election and Ms Burton – who remains acting Tánaiste – said she would announce her intention after a government is formed.

The Irish Times has been told by usually reliable sources that they believe that Ms Burton and deputy leader Alan Kelly would both seek the post.

Extraordinarily, it is also suggested that Ms Burton and Mr Kelly may second each other’s nomination for the leadership, as neither is certain of attracting a seconder from the parliamentary party, as party rules require.

Several high-ranking party sources confirmed the prospect had been raised internally in recent days, though some played down the likelihood of an exchange of nomination papers. All expressed unhappiness at the idea.

Mr Kelly, Minister for the Environment, is thought certain to stand.

But if Ms Burton stood for the leadership it would take the party by surprise.

One nominee

Some senior Labour figures, including some members of the parliamentary party, favoured an agreement to have just one nominee with acting Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin going for the leadership, avoiding a protracted and potentially divisive election.

Ms Burton and Mr Kelly are thought to be vehemently opposed to a coronation for Mr Howlin.

A spokesman for Ms Burton said she had “consistently made clear that government formation remains the most important issue” and that all other issues “can be addressed once a new government is in place”.

New UK scanning project could lead to breakthroughs in spotting risk factors for most diseases


An “exciting” new UK study could unlock information on risk factors for diseases, detect the earliest signs of illnesses, and help develop new kinds of treatments, experts have said.

Scientists in Britain are hoping to create the world’s biggest collection of scans of internal organs.

Experts said the project will see 100,000 people scanned by MRI machines and other state-of-the-art imaging methods. And it could lead to “new breakthroughs faster”.

100,000 people will be scanned in machines like this MRI one (Bruce Adams/Daily Mail/PA)It’s hoped the research study could lead to findings on a par with the study that first linked smoking to lung cancer.

Studies using scans have in the past only used hundreds of participants. Having a new large database will expand the “scope and quality” of research, the chairman of the UK Biobank Imaging Expert Working Group said.

Professor Paul Matthews also said the “exciting” project will help scientists “view health holistically”.

Discovering a link between smoking and lung cancer was a huge breakthrough (Gareth Fuller/PA)He added: “This imaging is going to help us understand risk factors that could help prevent future diseases, just as the discovery between smoking and the link to lung cancers helped to change the entire prevalence of that disease in this country.

“We may also find out the earliest changes in diseases, discovering for example, markers for diseases like Alzheimer’s years before they ever happen to allow doctors in the future to think about treating people before the disease really starts to express itself.

“And maybe this kind of imaging could help us find new kinds of treatments.”

A radiographer views images on a computer from a new MRI scanner (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)Officials said the UK Biobank project – funded by the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust, and the British Heart Foundation – could transform the way scientists study a wide range of diseases. These include dementia, arthritis, cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

Experts will image the brain, heart, bones, carotid arteries and abdominal fat of 100,000 people who are current participants of UK Biobank – a research resource tracking half a million people across the UK.

The participants already provide detailed information on themselves, including their lifestyle, weight, height, diet, physical activity and cognitive function.

Inky the Octopus slips out of aquarium tank, crawls across floor and escapes down a pipe to his home in the Pacific ocean


Inky the octopus, the escapee from New Zealand’s National Aquarium. Inky the octopus didn’t even try to cover his tracks.

By the time the staff at New Zealand’s National Aquarium noticed that he was missing, tell tale suction cup prints were the main clue to an easily solved mystery.

Inky had said see ya to his tank-mate, slipped through a gap left by maintenance workers at the top of his enclosure and, as evidenced by the tracks, made his way across the floor to a six-inch-wide drain. He squeezed his football-sized body in — octopuses are very malleable, aquarium manager Rob Yarrall told the New Zealand website Stuff — and made a break for the Pacific.

“He managed to make his way to one of the drain holes that go back to the ocean. And off he went,” Yarrall told Radio New Zealand. “And he didn’t even leave us a message.”

The cephalopod version of “Shawshank Redemption” took place three months ago, but it only became public Tuesday. Inky, who already had some local renown in the coastal city of Napier, quickly became a global celebrity cheered on by strangers.

Inky had resided at the aquarium since 2014, when he was taken in after being caught in a crayfish pot, his body scarred and his arms injured. The octopus’s name was chosen from nominations submitted to a contest run by the Napier City Council.

Kerry Hewitt, the aquarium’s curator of exhibits, said at the time that Inky was “getting used to being at the aquarium” but added that staff would “have to keep Inky amused or he will get bored.”

Guess that happened.

This isn’t the first time a captive octopus decided to take matters into its own hands — er, tentacles. In 2009, after a two-spotted octopus at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium in California took apart a water recycling valve, directed a tube to shoot water out of the tank for 10 hours and caused a massive flood, Scientific American asked octopus expert Jennifer Mather about the animals’ intelligence and previous such hijinks at aquariums.

“They are very strong, and it is practically impossible to keep an octopus in a tank unless you are very lucky. … Octopuses simply take things apart,” Mather said. “I recall reading about someone who had built a robot submarine to putter around in a large aquarium tank. The octopus got a hold of it and took it apart piece by piece. There’s a famous story from the Brighton Aquarium in England 100 years ago that an octopus there got out of its tank at night when no one was watching, went to the tank next door and ate one of the lumpfish and went back to his own tank and was sitting there the next morning.”

Yarrall said the aquarium has no plans to replace Inky, but it does intend to better secure the tank where now just one octopus remains.

“They are always exploring and they are great escape artists,” Yarrall said, according to Hawke’s Bay Today. “We’ll be watching the other one.”

News Ireland daily BLOG byDonie

Sunday 15th November 2015

Obama and Putin’s see as one at G20 Summit following months of tensions between US and Russia


* Obama, Putin agree need for transition in Syria
* U.S. vows redoubled effort against Islamic State
* France and allies set to intensify air strikes
* G20 set to agree that migration is a global problem

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and U.S. security advisor Susan Rice (2nd L) prior to the opening session of the Group of 20 (G20) Leaders summit summit in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya, Turkey November 15, 2015. Man at 2nd R is unidentified.

The U.S. President Barack Obama has vowed to step up efforts to eliminate Islamic State and prevent more attacks like those in Paris, while urging Russia’s Vladimir Putin to focus on combating the jihadist group in Syria.

A White House official said Obama and Putin agreed during a 35-minute meeting on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Turkey on the need for a political transition in Syria, saying events in Paris had made it all the more urgent.

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, right prior to the opening session of the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 15 2015. The 2015 G-20 Leaders Summit is held near the Turkish Mediterranean coastal city of Antalya on Nov. 15-16, 2015. (Cem Oksuz/Anadolu Agency via AP, Pool)

The two-day summit brings Obama and fellow world leaders just 500 km (310 miles) from Syria, whose 4-1/2-year conflict has transformed Islamic State into a global security threat and spawned Europe’s largest migration flows since World War Two.

Obama described Friday’s killing of more than 120 people in Paris, claimed by the radical Sunni militant group, as an attack on the civilised world and said the United States would work with France to hunt down those responsible.

“The skies have been darkened by the horrific attacks that took place in Paris just a day and a half ago,” Obama said.

“We will redouble our efforts, working with other members of the coalition, to bring about a peaceful transition in Syria and to eliminate Daesh as a force that can create so much pain and suffering for people in Paris, in Ankara, and in other parts of the globe,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

5U.S. President Barack Obama, left, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, prior to the opening session of the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 15 2015. The 2015 G-20 Leaders Summit is held near the Turkish Mediterranean coastal city of Antalya on Nov. 15-16, 2015. (RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

U.S.-led efforts to combat Islamic State were complicated when Russia joined the conflict a month and a half ago, targeting what the West says are mainly areas where foreign-backed fighters are battling Assad, Moscow’s ally, rather than Islamic State.

The United States, Turkey and their allies want Assad out.

Obama huddled with Putin during a working lunch and the two agreed on the need for a Syrian-led transition including U.N.-mediated talks, the White House official said.

Putin and Obama talked “extensively”, Russian news agencies cited top Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov as saying.

“Strategic objectives relating to the fight against the Islamic State are, in principle, very similar, but there are differences on the tactics side,” he said.

Their meeting builds on progress in Vienna, where foreign ministers on Saturday outlined a plan for a political process in Syria leading to elections within two years, although differences over Assad’s role remain.


The Paris attacks again demonstrated how Islamic State poses a threat far beyond its strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

Washington already expects France to retaliate by taking on a larger role in the U.S.-led coalition’s bombing campaign against Islamic State (ISIL).

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he welcomed the renewed sense of urgency to find a solution to the war in Syria after the Paris attacks, adding the world had a “rare moment” of diplomatic opportunity to end the violence.

Obama wants to coax other European and Middle Eastern countries into more tangible steps to show their military commitment. He met Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, discussing the need to support the moderate Syrian opposition and the Iraqi government in the fight against Islamic State.

Obama said he also discussed in a meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan coordinating efforts to fortify the border with Syria, which Islamic State has used to smuggle supplies and foreign fighters.


The coordinated attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris on Friday put Obama and other leaders of the world’s major economies under increased pressure to find common cause.

It remains to be seen, however, whether Washington itself has an appetite for much deeper involvement after already stepping up air strikes and committing small numbers of special operations troops to northern Syria to advise opposition forces in the fight against Islamic State.

The Paris carnage, in which 129 people were killed in attacks on a concert hall, restaurants, bars and a sports stadium, also poses a major challenge for Europe, with populist leaders rushing to demand an end to an influx of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

In a diplomatic coup for Europe and for Turkey, the G20 leaders will agree that migration is a global problem that must be addressed in a coordinated way, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters, although it has yet to be accepted by all and is due to be published on Monday.

Europe and Turkey, the most heavily hit by the crisis, had been pushing for the G20 to recognise the issue as a global problem and help to deal with it financially, despite opposition from China, India and Russia. A million migrants from the Middle East and Africa are expected to come to Europe this year alone.

According to a separate draft statement, they also agreed to step up border controls and aviation security in the wake of the Paris attacks, which they condemned as “heinous”.

Crunchy toast could give you cancer, FSA warns

New study finds high level of cancer-causing chemical in home cooked roast potatoes, chips and toast

A new study has warned that eating crunchy toast could increase your cancer risk.

Beware the crispy roast potato and the crunchy slice of toast. Both contain worryingly high levels of a cancer-causing chemical.

A new study by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Government’s food safety watchdog, measured the amount of acrylamide – a cancer-causing toxin – in roast potatoes, chips and toast cooked in the home.

The FSA’s chief scientific adviser said the new research showed the need for roast potatoes and chips to be cooked to only “a light golden colour” and that bread should be toasted to “the lightest colour acceptable”.

Researchers with the FSA discovered that the crispier the roast potato or chip, the higher the levels of acrylamide they contained. The same went for toast.

The chemical, which is a proven carcinogen, is formed from a reaction between amino acids and the sugars and water found in potatoes and bread when they are subjected to temperatures above 120C.

The problem is the roast potatoes and chips that appeared the most mouth-watering – which were darkest in colour and crispiest in texture – contained the highest levels of acrylamide.

The official research, published last week, showed huge variations in levels of acrylamide depending on how long the potatoes or bread was cooked for.

In a batch of chips cooked for longest, scientists recorded 1,052 microgrammes of acrylamide per kilogramme – 50 times higher than in the batch with the lowest levels of the chemical.

In roast potatoes, the FSA recorded 490 micro grammes of acrylamide per kg in the crispiest and most cooked batch – 80 times higher than the levels contained in the palest batch of roast potatoes cooked.

The same was true of toast. The palest, least cooked toast contained just 9 microgrammes per kg while the crispiest toast contained 167 microgrammes – almost 19 times more.

Professor Guy Poppy, the FSA’s Chief Scientific Adviser, said in a report accompanying the study: “The risk assessment indicates that at the levels we are exposed to from food, acrylamide could be increasing the risk of cancer.”

Prof Poppy added: “We do not advise people to stop eating particular foods but… when making chips at home, they are cooked to a light golden colour.”

He said that “bread should be toasted to the lightest colour acceptable”.

Scientists are still unclear about what constitutes a safe level of acrylamide and the European Commission is currently considering introducing maximum levels.

There is a regulatory limit of just 0.1 microgrammes per litre for the amount of acrylamide that can be present in drinking water in the EU – a quantity far lower than found in cooked potatoes, toast or other substances including coffee.

The FSA study took samples of cooked potatoes and toast from 50 households, bagging up the samples and then measuring the levels of acrylamide in the laboratory.

Researchers found that none of the householders were aware of the possible dangers of acrylamide lurking in cooked potatoes or toast – and had no idea that prolonged cooking caused the chemical to be produced in higher volumes.

The researchers gave a series of tips on how to reduce the amount of acrylamide in roast potatoes and chips.

Researchers recommended:

  1. Parboiling potatoes first before roasting them – considered the best method for producing crispy ‘roasties’ anyway – because the process reduces the free sugars that generate acrylamides
  2. Storing potatoes in a cupboard rather than fridge. Low temperatures can increase the amount of sugar and sweetness in the potato , leading to more acrylamide when cooked
  3. Cooks should not ‘fluff up’ parboiled potatoes before roasting them because in doing so it increases the surface area which in turn increases levels of acrylamide.

The official recommendation to avoid ‘fluffing’ up parboiled potatoes – usually by shaking them in the pan before roasting – will appal professional and amateur cooks alike.

It is widely recognised that the best roast potatoes involve ‘fluffing’ before roasting.

But the report states: “For roast potatoes, the deliberate fluffing up (shaking parboiled potatoes in a pan) that was witnessed on a few occasions is a deliberate attempt to increase surface area. Participants’ aim for this process is for cooked potatoes to be crispier (i.e. through more oil or fat being absorbed). The increased surface area may lead to greater acrylamide generation.”

Nine of the biggest diabetes myths debunked by an expert


Millions of people have diabetes, but do we actually know what the condition is or why it developed? To mark World Diabetes Day we asked Pav Kalsi, a senior clinical adviser at Diabetes UK, to clear up a few of the most common myths about the disease.

1. Diabetes is caused by an unhealthy diet

We’re often told that binging on burgers and chips will cause diabetes, but this statement completely ignores the difference between Type 1 and Type 2. This is probably because 90% of diabetes sufferers have Type 2, which is caused by being overweight, leading a sedentary lifestyle and eating an unhealthy diet.

However, Type 1 has nothing to do with these factors. “Type 1 diabetes isn’t linked to diet,” explains Pav. “No one knows what exactly causes it but it’s not to do with being overweight. It usually affects children or young adults, starting suddenly and getting worse very quickly.”

She adds: “Too often Type 1 diabetes, which is not linked to lifestyle, is mistaken for Type 2, which can be caused by being overweight, but it is important that the distinctions between the two types are clearly understood.”

2. All overweight people will develop diabetes

Not all overweight people are going to get diabetes – although the majority of people with Type 2 diabetes do have an unhealthily high BMI. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) reports that worldwide 80% of people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese at the time of diagnosis.

However, Pav says: “Being overweight or obese can significantly increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes but it is not guaranteed that everyone who is overweight will develop it.”

You’re also at higher risk if you are African-Caribbean, Black African, Chinese or South Asian, aged over 40 years of age (or over 25 if you are South Asian) or if you have a relative with the disease. You can check your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes here.

3. Anyone who has diabetes will know that they have it, this depends on the type of diabetes.

“It is hard to ignore the signs of Type 1 diabetes because symptoms can often appear quite quickly,” says Pav, adding that “leaving it untreated can lead to serious health problems, including diabetic ketoacidosis, which can result in a potentially fatal coma”.

“The symptoms include going to the toilet a lot, bed wetting by a previously dry child or heavier nappies in babies, being really thirsty and not being able to quench the thirst, feeling more tired than usual and sudden weight loss or looking thinner than usual.”

However Type 2 diabetes can be easier to miss as the symptoms develop slowly, especially in the early stages. This is problematic, as some people don’t get diagnosed until they have suffered from the disease for several years, so ask your doctor if you have any concerns.

4. People with diabetes can only eat really small portions of stodgy foods like pasta, or should avoid them completely

Nope! According to Pav, the best way to manage diabetes is to eat a balanced diet, consisting of fruit and vegetables, starchy carbohydrate foods (such as pasta), non-dairy sources of protein and dairy.

“All people, including people with diabetes, should include some starchy carbohydrates in their diet,” explains Pav. “The amount of carbs you need depends on a number of factors – including how physically active you are, your weight and nutritional goals.”

She continues: “Since the amount of carbohydrates you eat has an effect on your blood glucose levels and your weight, it’s good to be aware of your portion sizes.”

5. Diabetes sufferers have to snack constantly instead of eating large meals

Wrong again. People with diabetes do not have set meal plans, but they are advised to spread their meals out over the day.

So what does our clinical adviser suggest diabetes sufferers do? “Avoid skipping meals and space your breakfast, lunch and evening meal out over the day,” she says. “This will help control your appetite and blood glucose levels – especially if you are on twice-daily insulin. Working a long shift? Take a healthy packed lunch and healthy snacks with you.

“It is recommended that people who take medication for their diabetes – which includes all people with Type 1 – always have access to snacks for when their blood sugar level drops, as well as to regulate their blood sugar between meals.”

However, that is not the case for people with Type 2 diabetes. “People with Type 2 diabetes who aren’t taking medication don’t need extra snacks,” Pav explains, “and if they are also overweight they need to plan carefully what snacks they eat outside of regular mealtimes.”

6. If you have diabetes, your immune system is weaker and you’ll get colds a lot

Pav says: “If you have diabetes, your immune system is not weaker compared to someone without diabetes.

“However, as the body responds to illness and infection by increasing blood glucose levels, day-to-day blood glucose management becomes more complicated. All people with diabetes should get the flu vaccine, regardless of type, as they are more at risk of potentially serious flu complications, such as pneumonia.”

7. Everybody with diabetes has to take insulin

Not EVERYBODY who has diabetes needs insulin to stay alive, although the condition is progressive and many people eventually may need it.

Everyone who has Type 1 does need to take it as their pancreas doesn’t produce any of the hormone. Insulin can either be injected once a day or administered through a pump to release the hormone in a steady flow throughout the day.

8. If you’re a diabetic, you can’t drink any alcohol

There is no need for diabetics to go teetotal, but drinking alcohol does make hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels) more likely to occur, especially if diabetes is treated with insulin or certain tablets.

Pav says: “To reduce the chance of a hypo, it is important not to drink alcohol on an empty stomach. A hypo can be confused with drunkenness when there is the smell of alcohol on your breath, so it is really important to tell people you are with that you have diabetes and what help you might need if you have a hypo. Also, make sure you carry some ID to let others know you have diabetes, such as an ID card, medical necklace or bracelet.

“If you drink more than a few units during an evening, you will have an increased risk of hypos all night and into the next day too. Always snack on a starchy snack, such as cereal or toast, before bed to minimise this risk.”

9. You can’t do anything to prevent developing diabetes

This varies between the two different types. As Type 1 is not linked to lifestyle, it cannot be prevented as it develops when the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas have been destroyed. Pav explains: “No one knows for certain why these cells have been damaged, but the most likely cause is the body having an abnormal reaction to the cells. This may be triggered by a viral or other infection.”

However, being overweight can put you at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, so there are some things people can do to prevent or delay the onset. Pav says: “Maintaining a healthy weight by doing regular physical activity and eating a healthy balanced diet is extremely important to reducing risk of Type 2 diabetes.”

WHO warns against diabetes epidemic


Stating that immediate action has to be taken to control the onslaught of diabetes, Poonam Khetrapal Singh, World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for South-East Asia, said on the World Diabetes on (November 14) that diabetes is a global epidemic which kills one person every six seconds and over five million every year.

Diabetes makes people prone to heart disease, kidney failure and infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS, among others, leading to premature death.

“The number of people with diabetes is projected to increase alarmingly from 457 million in 2014 to 592 million by 2035 if we do not act now to arrest this trend,” noted Ms. Khetrapal.

Diabetes can be prevented and treated. World Diabetes Day, created in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation and WHO, is focusing on “Healthy Living and Diabetes” as the theme for 2014 to 2016, and the importance of prevention in diabetes.

To put the spotlight on the urgent need to act against diabetes, WHO has selected diabetes, as the theme for the World Health Day 2016. WHO South-East Asia Region is home to an estimated 91 million people affected by diabetes. Of these, nearly half go undiagnosed. WHO is supporting countries by advocating for and catalysing multi-sectoral policies for health promotion and strengthening national health systems for early detection and treatment of diabetes.

These include training health workforce, developing treatment norms and increasing the availability of basic diagnostics and essential medicines at primary health care centres.

“We need to work collaboratively with governments, civil society, private sectors, schools, workplaces, media and other local partners. We all have a role to play to ensure healthier environment for a healthy living. However, the key role is of an individual to make lifelong healthy choices for a healthier future,’’ noted a statement issued by WHO- South-East Asia Region.

According to WHO, the number of people with diabetes is projected to increase from 457 million in 2014 to 592 million by 2035

A massive icy cloud formation on Titan


NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is near the end of its moon that started more than a decade ago. It has supplied humans with amazing images and data about Saturn and its moons. And just recently, it sent a photo showing a massive gas cloud forming around the southern polar region of one of Saturn’s moon, Titan.

The image of the icy formation on Titan was taken a few months back by the Cassini probe and was only released a few days ago by NASA. The agency performed extended investigation in the unusual seasons happening on Titan and also on the observed atmospheric changes.

Cassini’s Composite Infrared Spectrometer (CIRS) captured the incredible photo of the ice cloud floating in the mid to low stratosphere on the moon. The formation was estimated to be at an altitude of 124 miles with temperature of -238 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prior to this icy formation, Cassini was busy sending information regarding the season transitions on Titan. There was a same massive cloud seen above the south pole of the moon back in 2012 with an altitude of 186 miles. The formation of the newly seen giant ice cloud marked winter on the surface of the moon. CIRS enabled mission scientists to observe the season changes on the moon, with the ability to record shifts in thermal wavelengths.

NASA is expecting another follow data when winter is happening or if a new season will develop on the moon. Seasons on Titan lasts for 7.5 years on Earth, so the moon is still on winter when the Cassini mission ends by 2017.

Carrie Anderson of Goddard Space Flight Center at NASA said that the massive ice cloud captured at the south pole of the moon is indeed an unexpected, but exciting finding for the team.

Mission scientists chose to present this subject of icy formation being suddenly visible on Titan at the Meeting of Division of Planetary Sciences of American Astronomical Society last November 11.

In addition, mission scientists studying the seasonal transitions on Titan noted that there is a gas cloud formation on the troposphere of Titan that has a similar rain cloud formation pattern on the troposphere of Earth.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 1st. May 2015

Irish central Bank governor Patrick Honohan steps down

  1. ‘at a very good time’
  2. The governor says economy is well on way to repair but he is still concerned over our debt.


Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan yesterday: ‘We’re very much now into a phase of repair and consolidation.’

Patrick Honohan was in upbeat mode as he held court at the top floor of the Central Bank. All smiles as he declared he will leave Dame Street a few months early near the end of the year, he was asked which qualities should be sought in his successor. “A beard, I think, is essential – or a skirt,” he said.

Mr Honohan turns 66 years of age in October. He anticipated revealing his plan yesterday “in an off-hand manner” but was rumbled by reporters on Thursday. He told Minister for Finance Michael Noonan of his intentions early in April.

So how did Noonan take the news? “He was surprised. I said ‘you’re not going to be impressed by this but I’ll be 66’. He said he wasn’t impressed. But he was understanding about it.”

Asked if there was any row or any personal issues behind his early exit, Honohan said no there weren’t. Although he does not plan to take up a new job, he didn’t rule out writing a book on his experience as governor or to write on other subjects.

“I’ve long been asking myself when the best moment is. I’m not getting any younger . . . This is actually a very good time, because it’s a time of change, a time of transition anyway,” he said.

Crisis management phase over.

“We’re moving now from the crisis management phase, the crisis management phase is over. If there’s another crisis management phase it’ll be in another crisis and we’re very much now into a phase of repair and consolidation. That’s a different type of activity so it’s a change of gear.”

The Central Bank annual report showed that the institution realised a €2.1 billion profit last year, €1.7 billion of which is being paid to the exchequer. It was a mark of the extraordinary interventions made since the crash that the Central Bank realised profits totalling €8 billion in six years under Mr Honohan’s watch.

After former European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet offered a resolute defence in Dublin of ECB actions in the Irish debacle, Honohan said it had been a great day for Irish democracy.

“One thing that probably came home to people – but certainly has been my constant view of him – that he is has always been a friend of Ireland. He has been a bit demonised in blogs and stuff,” he said of Mr Trichet.

“Now that doesn’t mean I agreed at every step with all of the things that he said. Of course I didn’t. But he did do very much in the best interest of Ireland and the best interest of Europe. I think when he says that, he is completely sincere. He was never in the position of saying I don’t care about this country or that country.”

The bailout, he said, was a once-in-a-century event in Ireland’s relations with Europe. Asked if he took issue with Mr Trichet’s account, Honohan said he didn’t.

“I’m not disagreeing with anything he said. No, no. Absolutely not.”

Of the unresolved and uncertain scene in Greece, Honohan said he was “slightly more optimistic” in recent weeks than previously. Of the spring economic statement, he had “no message” and but did not indicate any particular concern with the package.

“Of course if the Government were going off the rails entirely we wouldn’t be slow to jump up and down in this building.”

A major concern,

While Honohan said Ireland’s economy was well on the road to repair, he had concerns still about high indebtedness. Of his time as governor in the heat of crisis, he said there were “few surprises” as he had seen how things went awry elsewhere. “It was like coming into a real live history book here,” he said.

“I know people complain maybe a bit that I make light of things, but I’m always aware of the fact that in this period of time – in central banking characterisation – that the stakes are enormously high and mistakes could have been enormously costly.

“Thanks to the experience of what can be done and what should be done, we might not have got everything we wanted done right. But we avoided false steps.”

High standards ‘cannot compensate’ for radiologist shortage

RCSI faculty says more consultants needed after X-ray errors


There are five radiologists per 100,000 population in Ireland, compared with 7.8 in Germany and 11.3 in France, says Royal College of Surgeons.

The highest standards of practice cannot compensate for the current shortage of radiologists in Ireland, the faculty of radiologists has said.

The faculty, which is part of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, was commenting after more than 100 patients were recalled over the misreading of X-rays and other scans by three locum radiologists employed by the HSE.

The college’s communications manager, Niamh Walker, said Ireland had a much lower number of radiologists per capita than other European countries.

There are five radiologists per 100,000 population in Ireland compared with 7.8 in Germany and 11.3 in France, she said.

Ms Walker said an IT platform currently being installed in HSE hospitals as part of a wider quality assurance programme would mean examinations recorded by one radiologist would automatically be assigned for review and second reading by another consultant radiologist.

Shortage of consultants

However, she said, “the highest possible standard of radiology practice still cannot compensate for the fact that Ireland has a shortage of consultant radiologists”.

She added: “The clinical demand for radiology services is increasing steadily in Ireland. This has led to high workloads for Irish radiologists when compared with their peers in other countries and partly explains why it can be so difficult for some hospitals to find locum cover.”

Ms Walker said a recent substantial investment by the HSE to develop a national electronic radiology IT system and hospital group structure should be accompanied by “a well-designed expansion in consultant radiologist numbers”.


The Faculty of Radiologists, which along with the HSE and the Medical Council, is the postgraduate training body responsible for standards in radiologist training and professional competence, extended its sympathy to affected patients and their families.

The Irish Times reported on Thursday that thousands of X-rays and scans were reviewed and more than 100 patients recalled after errors were found in the work of three locum radiologists.

The locums, who no longer work in Ireland, were reported to the Medical Council after colleagues raised concerns over their work. They worked in seven hospitals.

Fine Gael Senator Colm Burke said the HSE should prioritise the recruitment of hospital consultants over the use of expensive locum staff.

“The use of locums and agency staff leads to lack of continuity in patient care. Aside from the recent concerns about quality, locum staff are far more expensive than what the health system would be paying permanent staff in similar roles,” he said.

New test can predict cancer up to 13 years before the disease develops


Telomeres could be developed to cause cancer cells to self-destruct without harming healthy cells.

People who develop cancer have shorter telomeres, the caps at the end of chromosomes which protect the DNA

Telomeres sit at the end of chromosomes like the caps on shoelaces to prevent DNA from fraying

Genetic changes can predict cancer up to 13 years in the future, according to new research.

Harvard and Northwestern University discovered that tiny but significant changes are already happening in the body more than a decade before cancer is diagnosed.

They found that the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, which prevent DNA damage, had significantly more wear and tear in people who went on to develop cancer. In fact, in some cases they looked 15 years older.

Those caps, known as telomeres, were much shorter than they should be and continued to get shorter until around four years before the cancer developed, when they suddenly stopped shrinking. All the people with the changes went on to develop cancer.

“Understanding this pattern of telomere growth may mean it can be a predictive biomarker for cancer,” said Dr. Lifang Hou, the lead study author and a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Because we saw a strong relationship in the pattern across a wide variety of cancers, with the right testing these procedures could be used to eventually diagnose a wide variety of cancers.”

Although many people may not want to know that they will develop cancer in the future, it could allow them to make lifestyle changes to lower their risk. Stanford University is also working on a project looking at how telomere’s can be regrown.

However insurance companies warned that such a test could push up policy premiums.

Matt Sanders, in charge of protection insurance products at Go-Compare, said people with such a diagnoses could be priced out of the insurance marker.

“If this test showed 100% probability over a certain number of years then it could affect premiums. It would be the equivalent of living in a high theft area for someone looking for home insurance,” he said.

“Premiums could rise to a point where some people would simply be priced out. However if it was shown that diagnosing earlier could prevent cancer then that could bring down premiums.”

Aviva also said that continually monitored advances in medical sciences ‘ to ensure they are reflected in the premiums paid by our customers, where appropriate.’

Telomeres sit at the end of chromosomes, and protect the tightly bound strands of DNA

In the new study, scientists took multiple measurements of telomeres over a 13-year period in 792 persons, 135 of whom were eventually diagnosed with different types of cancer, including prostate, skin, lung and leukemia.

Initially, scientists discovered telomeres aged much faster, indicated by a more rapid loss of length, in individuals who were developing but not yet diagnosed with cancer.

Telomeres in all the people who went on to develop cancer looked as much as 15 years older than those of people who were not developing the disease.

But then scientists found the accelerated aging process stopped three to four years before the cancer diagnosis.

Telomeres shorten every time a cell divides. The older a person is, the more times each cell has divided, and the shorter their telomeres.

Because cancer cells divide and grow rapidly, scientists would expect the cell would get so short it would self-destruct. But that’s not what happens, scientists discovered.

“We found cancer has hijacked the telomere shortening in order to flourish in the body,” added Dr Hou.

The team is hoping that if it can identify how cancer hijacks the cell, then treatments


Almost 2,500 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in Ireland every year.


Being informed of the early signs and what you can do to reduce the risk is crucial.

So with the help of the Irish Cancer Society, we are delighted to inform you of these essential facts.

If you are unsure of any of the following, please call the Irish Cancer Society National Cancer Helpline 1800 200 700.


Bowel cancer is also known as colon, rectal and colorectal cancer. It affects the digestive system and can occur in both sexes.

  • It happens when cells in the bowel start to grow quickly and form a tumour. If it’s a malignant tumour, it is known as cancer.
  • It is the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland.
  • We can change this by recognising the early signs and reducing the risk.
  • Recognising the signs
  • Knowing the symptoms is essential.

Bowel cancer is extremely treatable once it’s caught early, however almost 50% of bowel cancers are only diagnosed at stage three and four.

As a result, bowel cancer mortality rates remain steady since 2006 at 40%.

If you notice any of the following signs, please get them checked, particularly if they last longer than four weeks.

  1. A change in your normal bowel motion, such as diarrhoea or constipation.
  2. Feeling you have not emptied your bowel fully after a motion.
  3. Pain or discomfort in your abdomen (tummy) or back passage.
  4. Trapped wind or fullness in your tummy.
  5. Weight loss.
  6. Tired and breathless (due to anaemia from blood loss).
  7. Rectal bleeding or blood in stools.

These symptoms can also be due to issues which are not related to bowel cancer.

Cause and prevention

The cause of bowel cancer is unknown, but there are risk factors which can increase the likelihood of someone getting it.

  1. You have a higher chance of getting bowel cancer if
  2. You have had a previous bowel cancer.
  3. You are over 60.
  4. A member of your immediate family (mother, father, brother or sister) or relatives (uncle or aunt) has had bowel cancer.
  5. You have a history of bowel conditions like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
  6. You are obese (overweight).
  7. You eat a diet high in fats and low in fibre.

Research has found that adults who increase their physical activity and have a healthy diet can reduce their risk of developing bowel cancer by 30 to 40%.

Get checked

The Irish Cancer Society is appealing to the public not to be embarrassed about any symptoms they may be experiencing and to remember that early detection saves lives.

Baby tapir at Fota Wildlife Park is asking you for a name

  • Public has track record in naming animals at the park and Fota is requesting help again


The three-week-old male is the first Brazilian Tapir born at the Cork Wildlife Park since 2006. His birth is part of a breeding programme for this vulnerable species

Fota Wildlife Park is seeking public help in naming its latest arrival, a three- week-old male tapir.

He is the first calf of parents Maya and Bazil and the first Brazilian Tapir born at the Cork Wildlife Park since 2006. His birth is part of a breeding programme for this vulnerable species.

The parents have a multi-cultural relationship, with Maya coming from Lodz in Poland and Bazil from Curragh Wildlife Park in the Isle of Man in 2012.

“We are delighted with the birth of this little tapir calf that seems very active already in the few days he has been outside,” said Stephen Ryan of Fota Wildlife Park.

The calf has a striking coat of pale spots and stripes on a reddish brown background to camouflage it in the wild.

To gain public interest in the Brazilian Tapirs whose population has been decreasing in the wild, the park is running a competition to name him.

“We are sure they will come up with another great name following on from the suggestions of Rog the cheetah, Shay Gibbon, Zedward the zebra and Fada the giraffe in the past,” said Mr Ryan.

A relative of the primate horse and rhinoceros, the Brazilian tapir is one of four species of tapir in the world. It can weigh up to 250kg, is 2m long and has a flexible snout that helps collect food.

Tapir comes from the Brazilian word for “thick”, which is a reference to its tough skin. The tapir inhabits the rainforests of South America and lives near water which it uses to escape from predators such as jaguars, pumas and anacondas.

You can suggest a name for the tapir calf via the park’s website. The winning suggestion will win a Wild Experience at the park where they will spend time with the head warden behind the scenes.

All-diabetic Novo Nordisk team to compete in An Post Rás


The Novo team travel to the race on a mission to represent millions of diabetics worldwide via the five type 1 diabetic riders on the team, including Irishman Daragh Campbell, from Drogheda (right picture) arrowed.

The race will total almost 1,200 kilometres in length and will include 21 categorised climbs.

The Team Novo Nordisk development squad and Team Idea have been confirmed for An Post Rás including an Irishman

Team Idea last year notched up a number of placings.

The 2015 An Post Rás will begin in Dunboyne on 17 May and will feature stage finishes in Carlow, Tipperary, Bearna, Newport, Ballina, Ballinamore, Drogheda and Skerries.

It will total almost 1,200 kilometres in length and will include 21 categorised climbs.

Scientists have found a planet the size of Jupiter orbiting a star?


Scientists are at a bit of a loss after finding a giant exoplanet orbiting a small cool star some 500 light years away.

While the discovery itself is exciting, it is now challenging ideas about how planets are made.

The planet is thought to be about the same size as Jupiter – the largest planet in our solar system.

“We have found a small star, with a giant planet the size of Jupiter, orbiting very closely,” said researcher George Zhou from the Research School of Astrophysics and Astronomy at The Australian National University.

“It must have formed further out and migrated in, but our theories can’t explain how this happened.”

In the past two decades more than 1,800 extrasolar planets (or exoplanets) have been discovered outside our solar system orbiting around other stars.

Artist’s impression of the exoplanet around the star Hats-6 (ANU)

To understand what an exoplanet is, imagine you’re sat outside with your back to the Sun. When a cloud goes in front of the sun and it gets a bit darker and cooler you know what’s happening without necessarily having to turn around.

Spotting exoplanets is a bit like this. The scientists are looking at stars and when they see an interruption to its light they know something has passed in front of the star.

The host star of the latest exoplanet, HATS-6, is classed as an M-dwarf. Although they are common, M-dwarf stars are not well understood. Because they are cool they are also dim, making them difficult to study.

The new planet could be the size of Jupiter, seen in this artist’s impression in the distance being orbited by one of its moons, Ganymede (NASA/ESA)

As a comparison, Hats-6 emits only one twentieth of the light of our sun, but the planet was still spotted in the same way.

The give away that the faint star had a planet circling it was a dip in its brightness caused as the planet passed in front of the star. It observed by small robotic telescopes including telescopes at the ANU Siding Spring Observatory.

Follow up observations were made using both the world’s largest telescopes, the Magellan Telescope in Chile while amateur astronomer TG Tan helped out the university from his backyard in Perth.

“The planet has a similar mass to Saturn, but its radius is similar to Jupiter, so it’s quite a puffed up planet. Because its host star is so cool it’s not heating the planet up so much, it’s very different from the planets we have observed so far,” Zhou said.

Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 17th February 2015

Ireland fifth most expensive country in EU,

A CSO report finds

Only Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg dearer in 2013.

A graphic taken from the Measuring Ireland’s Progress 2013 report by the CSO.

Ireland remains one of the most expensive countries of Europe, ranking as the fifth most expensive state in the EU in 2013.

Only Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg are more expensive according to Measuring Ireland’s Progress 2013, a report released by the Central Statistics Office this morning.

This was despite Ireland having the lowest increase in inflation in the EU between 2009 and 2013.

The report, which examines comparative data from across the European Union across 58 indicators; covering population, social cohesion, crime, finance, employment and housing found that prices in Ireland were 20 per cent above the EU average in 2013.

However, it notes this actually represents an improvement on the 2009 figures when price levels in Ireland were the second highest in the EU at 26 % above average.

Ireland had one of the highest public balance deficits in the EU at 5.7% of gross domestic product (GDP), the fifth largest in Europe, but a fraction of the 32.4% deficit recorded in 2010.

The country ranked among the four worst countries for government debt which stood at 123.3% of GDP in 2013, the fourth highest debt to GDP ratio in the EU. Ireland’s government debt was 62.2% in 2009.

Ireland recorded the seventh-highest unemployment rate in the EU in 2013 at 13.9%, above the EU average of 10.8%.

In Austria, where the lowest unemployment rate was recorded, the comparative figure was 4.9% while Greece fared worst in the EU at 27.5%.

The employment rate in Ireland stood at 60.2% in 2013, the tenth lowest in the EU and below the EU average of 64.1%.

The highest employment rate in the EU was in Sweden at 74.4% while the lowest was recorded in Greece at 48.8%.

The level of people in consistent poverty increased between 2012 and 2013 rising from 7.7% to 8.2% of the population.

However, children were more likely than the general population to find themselves in consistent poverty with one in eight children, or 11.7% of under-18s, in consistent poverty in Ireland in 2013 compared to 9.9% a year earlier.

Irish primary school class sizes stood at 24.4% on average in 2013, the second highest in the EU (these figures related to 2012), with only the UK faring worse.

Expenditure per student in Ireland increased over the period between 2004 and 2013 by 10% at primary level and by 6% at secondary level.

However there was a decrease of a fifth at third level in the same time period.

Public expenditure on health care in Ireland averaged at €2,973 per person in 2013, consistent with the 2012 figures, and a 7% increase when compared to 2004.

Life expectancy at birth in Ireland is 83.2 years for women and 78.7 years, both of which are above the EU average.

A 65-year-old man in Ireland can now expect to live a further 16.6 years, while a woman of the same age can expect to live a further 19.8 years.

In 2012 Ireland had the highest fertility rate in the EU at 2.01, far higher than the EU average of 1.58.

In 2013, Ireland had the highest proportion of young people (those aged 14 and under) in the EU, and the second lowest proportion of old people (those aged 65 and over).

The divorce rate in Ireland was 0.6 divorces per 1,000 population in 2012, the lowest rate in the EU.

551 people on hospital trolleys as flu outbreak worsens

A record 55 patients on trolleys awaiting admission in University Hospital Limerick


More than 500 people are awaiting admission to hospital on trolleys in emergency departments around the country.

Overcrowding in some hospitals is at record levels, as the number of patients on trolleys nationally remains high.

University Hospital Limerick (UHL) was the worst hospital in the State for overcrowding, with 55 patients waiting for admission in the emergency department and on wards. This is believed to be the highest figure recorded for the hospital.

Connolly Hospital Blanchardstown had 45 patients waiting for admission, while there were 46 patients on trolleys atBeaumont Hospital in Dublin – which has had a chronic overcrowding problem since the New Year.

The total number of patients waiting for admission was 551 nationally, slightly up on the 543 recorded on Monday and the fifth highest figure recorded since records began a decade ago.

UHL blamed its overcrowding on the older age profile of patients and the complexity of their cases, and a small number of winter vomiting bug cases.

A spokeswoman said an escalation plan was underway and patients were being transferred to Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s hospitals. Non-urgent elective surgery has been cancelled this week and extra rounds put on to identify patients who are fit for discharge.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has attributed the high figures to a big increase in the number of older people requiring admission and the enforced closure of beds in some hospitals because of a flu outbreak.

The Mater Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin,Naas General Hospital, Letterkenny General Hospital and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda all had more than 30 patients waiting for admission to each yesterday. In contrast, the State’s largest hospital, St James’s in Dublin, had just five people on trolleys.

Mr Varadkar has called on people to use minor injury units rather than hospital emergency departments where possible.

Hundreds of students queue at Galway pub for Donegal event


Event part of unofficial rag week and not connected to NUIG, says student union president.

Hundreds of students gather outside the Hole in the Wall pub in Galway city for the annual ’Donegal Tuesday’ event.

Hundreds of students queued outside a Galway city pub on Tuesday morning ahead of an annual Donegal themed event.

Donegal Tuesday, held on the second day of the unofficial rag week, was one of the events set up after students at theNational University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) voted to abolish rag week in 2011.

Students, many wearing Donegal GAA jerseys, began queuing near the Hole in the Wall pub in the city centre from early in the morning. Hundreds lined the footpath leading from Eyre Street to Woodquay Street by the time the pub opened its doors at 10.30am.

A large number of students are believed to have travelled from outside Galway to take part.

An Garda Síochána used its Twitter account to call on students to act responsibly during rag week and remind them that local gardaí would be on the streets enforcing the Public Order Act.

A second message posted on the @gardainfo account reminded students in Galway not to be the one that ruins it for everyone and to have fun while being safe.

NUIG students’ union president Declan Higgins said the Donegal Tuesday event was not connected with the university.

“Members of the student body voted in 2011 to discontinue rag week,” said Mr Higgins, adding that many of the former rag week events badly affected the welfare of students in NUIG.

He said an agreement was signed between the university and the student body which brought an end to the annual rag week events in return for a series of concessions from the college.

These concessions included an almost-trebling of the university’s contribution to the student assistance fund from €33,000 to €93,000, and a guarantee that the campus health unit would not introduce charges.

The decision to end the festival and accept the concessions was passed by 95 per cent of the vote in 2011.

A Facebook account set up for the event in 2013 writes that Donegal Tuesday is a chance to celebrate Daniel O’Donnell, Football Special and Jim McGuinness.

It continues: “In honour of our fine county we’re gonna wreck the Hole, wreck Ardara and pull up Brian’s trousers. Pints at the ready and shots on standby. Dust off your finest of the green and gold as the ultimate day of celebration approaches.”

31 new cases of cancer each week in Galway


Jay (6) and Zoe (9) O’Toole from Salthill enjoying Daffodil Day last year.

There are 31 people in Galway diagnosed with cancer every week – as cancer rates have increased by 4% over the past three years.

That is based on cancer incidence figures taken from the National Cancer Registry from 2010-2012, and released this week as the Irish Cancer Society and Dell launched Daffodil Day 2015 in Galway.

Daffodil Day will take place in Galway on Friday, March 27 – marking the 28th running of Ireland’s longest running and biggest fundraising day.

The Society announced a growth in cancer incidence that is sure to have a direct impact on its services – increasing the need for the people in Galway to support Daffodil Day so they can reach their fundraising target of €3.5 million for 2015.

Speaking at the launch of Daffodil Day, John McCormack, Chief Executive Officer, Irish Cancer Society acknowledged that every family in Galway is touched by cancer – and these new figures confirm that cancer rates are growing.

“As cancer is increasing so are our efforts to fight it. As the national cancer charity we are working harder to ensure that every family in need of support in Galway has access to our services. To meet the increased demand for help as more people get and survive cancer we need to raise even more money this year on Daffodil Day,” he said.

Funds raised on Daffodil Day by thousands of volunteers across Ireland go directly to fund the work of the Society across support, prevention, research and advocacy.

Night Nursing is one service funded by Daffodil Day. Last year the Society was able to fulfil 96% of requests for a night nurse.

Three in every four cancer patients wish to die at home surrounded by family – yet only 25% get to do so. The Irish Cancer Society provides the only night time care service for cancer patients in their own homes.

In 2014 the Society’s nurses provided 334 nights of care to 87 patients in Galway and this service is fully funded by the people of Galway who consistently support the work of the Society.

“We won’t give up until every person affected by cancer in Galway has the support they need and we need the support of everyone in Galway to make this possible,” added Mr McCormack.

“We still have some way to go to fully support patients who will die from their cancer. We won’t give up until we reach that future without cancer – and I know the Irish public won’t either,” he said.

Daffodil Day has set an ambitious fundraising target of €3.5 million in order to continue to provide and expand this service and others – and they need public support on Friday, March 27 to achieve that.

Anyone who wishes to volunteer as a collector, organise a Daffodil Day event in the community or workplace or donate directly can do so on CallSave 1850 606060 or by visiting http://www.cancer.ie.

Is climate change spreading infectious disease?


A recent article by Daniel Brooks and Eric Hoberg concluded that climate change could cause viruses such as the West Nile virus and Ebola to mutate or spread to new places and new hosts, be they animals, plants, or humans.

The article’s key observation is that climate change has been driving these species to look for new habitats, which puts them in contact with parasites that they may not be able to fight because they have never been exposed to them, or because the parasites may have mutated to a new form to adapt to the species or to climate change.

Brooks, who is a zoologist with the Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, argued that we are not doing enough to stop the spread of new infectious diseases. He added that, “We’re not anticipating them. We’re not paying attention to their basic biology, where they might come from and the potential for new pathogens to be introduced.”

Brook’s research focuses primarily on parasites in the tropics. Hoberg, who is a zoologist with the U.S. National Parasite Collection of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, has been focusing his research on parasites in the Arctic regions. They both observed that some of their respective areas’ species have left and that some new species have arrived. In an interview last week, Brooks confirmed that “Even though I was in the tropics and he was in the Arctic, we could see something was happening.”

According to Brooks, it is not uncommon for parasites to move from one host to another; Brooks argues that we have seen such occurrences in the past when hunters in Costa Rica targeted capuchin and spider monkeys until these animals disappeared from the area. These animals’ parasites quickly switched hosts and began to live off howler monkeys. In the Canadian arctic, some lungworms have recently migrated north and left their caribou hosts for muskosen. These and other observation led Brooks to conclude that, “Even though a parasite might have a very specialized relationship with one particular host in one particular place, there are other hosts that may be as susceptible.”

These conclusions challenged an century-old assumption by scientists that parasites do not switch habitat quickly from one species to another.

Referring to Michael Crichton’s Andromeda Stain novel, Brooks said that, “It’s not that there’s going to be one ‘Andromeda Strain’ that will wipe everybody out on the planet. There are going to be a lot of localized outbreaks putting pressure on medical and veterinary health systems. It will be the death of a thousand cuts.”

Even with the speed at which parasites can switch hosts, emerging diseases are still rare because of the way hosts adapt to parasites and vice versa. This is the “parasite paradox” that the article discusses while documenting the zoologists’ concerns that we are likely to see more of these emerging diseases because of the above concerns with regards to climate change.

The article calls for doing a detailed analysis of the world wide distribution of harmful pathogens and the way they are migrating across the planet and across species. This analysis would allow public health professionals to devise strategies for reducing the exposure of humans to high risk areas and animals. Such strategies were employed in the past to keep individuals away from mosquitoes that are known to live in certain areas to protect them against malaria and yellow fever.

Brooks and Hoberg’s paper is titled “Evolution in action: climate change, biodiversity dynamics and emerging infectious disease.” It was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society’s B issue on “Climate change and vector- borne diseases of humans.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 29th October 2014

Irish retail sales this September 5.9% higher year-on-year


Excluding the sale of motors, there was a 3.1% increase in the annual figure

The volume of retail sales rose by 5.9% in September, when compared to the same month last year, according to the CSO.

The volume of retail sales rose by 5.9% in September, when compared to the same month last year, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office(CSO).

However, on a monthly basis, the volume of retail sales increased just 0.1% between August and September of this year.

If motor trades are excluded, there was a decrease of 0.6% in the volume of retail sales in September 2014 when compared with August 2014 and there was an increase of 3.1% in the annual figure.

Goodbody Stockbrokers said retail spending failed to benefit from renewed optimism in September, a month when consumer confidence hit an almost eight year high.

“Given the improvement in sentiment, the muted nature of sales in September is somewhat of a surprise. However, concerns about water charges or possible changes in the Budget may have played a role,” Goodbody chief economist Dermot O’Leary said.

The sectors with the largest month on month volume increases included hardware, paints and glass (+4.9%) and fuel (+3.3%).

The sectors with the largest monthly decreases were furniture & lighting (-3.7%), books, newspapers and stationery (-2.5%) and bars (-2.3%).

Ex-PD minister Liz O’Donnell to chair Road Safety Authority


Nomination comes as deaths on Ireland’s roads show increase

Liz O Donnell, former deputy leader of the Progressive Democrats, is to be nominated as chair of the Road Safety Authority, replacing Gay Byrne.

Former Progressive Democrat minister Liz O’Donnell has been nominated as the new head of the Road Safety Authority.

In a statement issued after a Cabinet meeting today, Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe he had appointed Ms O’Donnell as Chairperson Designate of the RSA for a period of five years.

M/s O’Donnell will become the chairman designate pending an appearance before the Oireachtas Committee in Transport to confirm the appointment.

She is filling the position relinquished by Gay Byrne, who stepped down at the beginning of September after eight years in the role.

Byrne completed one full five-year term as chairman and was asked to remain in his position by the then minister for transport, Leo Varadkar, and did so for three years until he reached his eightieth birthday.

He was asked to remain in the position for a further two years but declined.

Mr Donohoe said the appointment was being made “in advance of the introduction of new procedures for State Board appointments, in view of the urgent need to fill the vacant post which is crucial to our efforts to combat road deaths.”

Ms O’Donnell’s appointment comes as the number of children killed on Ireland’s roads more than doubled this year. Mr Donohoe recently said the surge was “incredibly worrying” after years of decreases in child road deaths.

She is seen as being a very strong media performer and also, crucially, has no links to either coalition party and therefore the appointment is unlikely to prompt allegations of cronyism.

During his tenure, Mr Byrne repeatedly criticised the impact of the reduction in Garda resources for the Traffic Corps.

Since the RSA was set up in 2006, road fatalities dropped from 368 to a record low of 162 in 2012. However, fatalities rose to 190 last year and are on course to increase again this year.

Ms O’Donnell provides consultancy, lecturing and advisory services for corporate, educational and various other organisations in the field of government relations and public affairs and is an opinion columnist in the Irish Independent newspaper.

She was born in Dublin, studied at Trinity College Law School, and after graduation embarked on a career as a lawyer. She was first elected to Dublin City Council in 1991 for the Rathmines Ward.

She had earlier been vice chair of the Women’s Political Association and worked on the presidential campaign of Mary Robinson.

She was first elected to the Dáil in 1992 and served as a Progressive Democrats TD for Dublin South from 1992 to 2007.

Her career in the Dáil began as PD spokeswoman on health and social welfare, from 1992-93.

Following the June 1997 general election, she was involved in negotiating the programme for the coalition government between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, along with her then party colleague, Robert Molloy.

In July 1997, she was appointed Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for Overseas Development Assistance and Human Rights.

In this capacity, she had a role in Anglo-Irish relations. She was a member of the government’s negotiating team in the multi-party talks at Stormont, which culminated in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

In 2007, she was promoted to Cabinet as Minister of State to the Government on the retirement of Robert Molloy.

She also served as chief whip and deputy leader of the PDs.

M/s O’Donnell retired from politics following the PD meltdown at the 2007 general election.

Vocal tones with deep voices ‘scare others more’


The vocal patterns of President Francois Hollande of France were among those studied by scientists

If you want to scare others into submission, speak with a deep, dynamic voice that varies widely in pitch.

On the other hand, vocal tones that are higher on average with a narrower pitch range are likely to mark you out as sincere and trustworthy.

While leaders throughout history have instinctively known how to manipulate people with their voices, scientists are now learning the secrets of the dark art.

A twist of fate allowed researchers to study the vocal keys to charisma in one man, the right wing Italian politician Umberto Bossi.

In 2004 Mr Bossi, former leader of the Northern League Party, suffered a severe stroke that permanently altered his speech.

Whereas before he had been perceived as dominant and authoritarian, suddenly the Italian firebrand came over as strangely benevolent.

The reason was that after the stroke his voice became “flat”, varying little in pitch.

Dr Rosario Signorello, from the University of California at Los Angeles, said: “I collected speeches of him before and after the stroke, and I discovered that before the accident, he was perceived as an authoritarian leader, because his voice was characterised by low average of fundamental frequency, normal modulation of the pitch contour, a wide pitch range, a lot of perturbation in voice and a lot of creakiness and harshness.

“The stroke caused him to have a very flat pitch contour, so even if he had the harshness, even if he had the creakiness, his pitch contour was very flat.

“I submitted his voice to the listeners and he was perceived as a benevolent and competent leader, which is very different from the authoritarian perception. In that case, the pitch contour played a very important role.”

Dr Signorello’s team conducted further research using a technique called “delexicalisation” which strips out words from a speech while retaining the speaker’s acoustic properties.

The scientists found that one of the most important charismatic influences was fundamental frequency, or “F0” – the lowest average rate of vocal cord vibration.

Another was the range of frequency variation in a voice.

Comparisons were made between the way the voices of Italian, French and Portuguese politicians – namely Luigi de Magaistris, Francois Hollande and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – were perceived by listeners.

Dr Signorello concluded that someone who speaks with a low average F0 and wide pitch range is seen as dominant and threatening. Conversely, a higher F0 and narrow pitch range conveys the idea of “sincere and reassuring” leadership.

However, the way different people responded to leaders’ voices was also affected by cultural factors.

“The Italians seem to need a low-pitched voice, and the French a high-pitched one, because of cultural reasons,” said Dr Signorello, who presented his findings at the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Indianapolis.

“The Italians seem to want a more dominant leader, and the French a more competent leader.”

He now plans to extend the research to monkeys and apes.

“What we want to do is understand how the use of the F0 helps the non-human primate individuals to emerge and be recognized by the group and understand how these individuals use their voice behaviour to create different patterns and convey leadership,” he said. ” The hypothesis is that the biological function of charismatic voice is also cross-species.”

Laura Whitmore wants her Sisters to Misstache for Movember


Television presenter Laura Whitmore launches Aussie’s Misstache for Movember, a campaign for women to support and raise awareness of the men’s health charity, in central London.

TV presenter Laura Whitmore is encouraging women around the country to “tache up” and join the Misstache Movement to support Movember.

Whitmore wants Irish ladies to pose for the cameras while sporting a makeshift moustache by wrapping a lock of hair under their nose.

Girls can join in with Movember too – Laura Whitmore shows off her ‘Misstache’:00 / 00:33

“Show your support by uploading your picture on social media using the hashtags #Misstache for #Movember,” she said.

“Together with the Mo Bros we can make Movember bigger than ever.”

The campaign is being run in conjunction with Aussie hair products.

Movember, which sees men grow a variety of moustaches over the course of 30 days, was first established in Australia in 2003 to promote men’s health.

Since then, more than four million Mo Bros and Mo Sistas have supported the annual campaign which has raised in excess of €409m since it was first established.

Whether it’s a handlebar, pencil or Fu Manchu, organisers are asking men to ditch the razor for Movember.

Baby birds struggle to survive with noise pollution


It turns out that nestlings, baby birds, could be suffering from noisy environments. Because nestlings depend on their parents for both food and protection, vocal communication is key-something that could be drowned out if the surroundings are too loud.

It turns out that nestlings, baby birds, could be suffering from noisy environments. Because nestlings depend on their parents for both food and protection, vocal communication is key-something that could be drowned out if the surroundings are too loud.

In order to see how ambient noise might impact nestlings and their survival, the researchers presented nestling tree swallows with audio recordings of a parent warning of a predator or announcing a food deliver. Then, the scientists compared the responses that the baby birds had to the sounds when played with recorded background noise or in a quiet environment.

Faced with competition from hungry siblings, nestlings instinctively react quickly to any sign that a parent might have food, vigorously begging to attract attention. Yet this same begging puts them at risk of misidentifying predators as parents.

In the end, the researchers found that the background noise reduced the nestlings’ responsiveness to both feeding calls and alarm calls. They often failed to beg after hearing a feeding call and also failed to fall silent when hearing a warning call. Not only that, but they received little assistance from parents, who did not appear to change their calls in noisier situations.

“This idea had been neglected, perhaps because parents and nestlings are so close to each other when they communicate that you think error wouldn’t be an issue,” said Andy Horn, one of the researchers, in a news release. “We usually associate declines in animal populations with our physical destruction of habitat, but the noise we make is another threat that we can’t ignore.”

The findings reveal the background noise could be impacting bird populations. This, in turn, highlights the need to reduce noise pollution in certain areas, especially when it comes to conservation efforts.

News Ireland daily BLOG Monday

Monday 12th August 2013

TV3 bosses want Pat Kenny to compete in the ratings with Ryan Tubridy


Station chief to approach ‘broadcasting legend’ as Newstalk’s prize catch says he is ‘flattered’

PAT Kenny is set to return to our television screens in the autumn after the new content chief of TV3 confirmed that he is planning to approach the Newstalk presenter about joining the station.

That raises the mouthwatering prospect of a Friday night chat-show ratings war between Mr Kenny and Ryan Tubridy after Jeff Ford confirmed that TV3 is also considering going up against The Late Late Show.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent yesterday, Mr Kenny said he had not yet been approached by TV3 but admitted that he was “flattered” by their interest.

“This is the first I’ve heard of it. I’m flattered,” he said. “I haven’t ruled out telly, either on RTE or TV3, but even then if they said to me, ‘We want you to start in October’, I wouldn’t be doing it. I want to give everything to Newstalk for the moment.

“The point of my backing off The Late Late Show, which I did for 10 years, and taking on the role with Frontline was because a show like the Late Late is all-consuming and I wanted a bit more time.” He added: “I’ll talk to anyone, but I genuinely have no plans. I cannot deny I will be definitely talking to David MacRedmond, head of TV3.

“Our daughters are classmates and we meet socially for a cup of coffee and so on. But we haven’t had a conversation so far.” In an interview with the Sunday Independent, TV3’s new director of content Jeff Ford issued a “come and talk to us” plea to Mr Kenny.

He said: “I know he is on holiday at the moment but I am certainly going to be talking to him at the first opportunity.

Of course I will. You have got to take these opportunities when you can.

“Pat Kenny is a legend in broadcasting. Any broadcaster would be delighted to have him on board, as would we. He has that something that people can relate to.

“He is highly intelligent and they have a comfort with him, an empathy and a trust.

‘Trust’ is a fantastic word and he has the trust of his audience that he can deliver in the way he does all the time.” Mr Ford also confirmed that the station is considering taking on The Late Late Show again with a big new show if the circumstances are right.

TV3 has tried it before, albeit with disastrous results.

Ironically, it was Mr Kenny who beat the challenge from then TV3 rival Eamon Dunphy.

News of Mr Kenny’s likely television comeback comes as News At One presenter Sean O’Rourke was confirmed as Mr Kenny’s replacement on the Today show, seeing off competition from Miriam O’Callaghan and Ryan Tubridy, who had been tipped for the job.

In a wide-ranging shakeup designed to meet Mr Kenny’s new Newstalk show head on, Claire Byrne is joining the Morning Ireland team, with Richard Crowley and Aine Lawlor moving in the opposite direction to take up the vacant slot on the News At One show.

Miriam O’Callaghan will continue to stand in for John Murray on the 9am slot throughout the autumn.

Mr O’Rourke spoke of his delight at securing the job but played down future rivalry with the former colleague who defected to Newstalk.

“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t see it in terms of rivalry.

We had a pleasant exchange of kind of ‘best wishes’ texts in the last hour,” he told the Sunday Independent.

“He’ll do his job. I’ll do mine. Almost by definition, we can’t be watching each other’s work or listening to each other’s output.” An RTE staffer, Mr O’Rourke earned €208,801 in 2011, compared with €630,000 paid to Mr Kenny.

Mr O’Rourke is now in line for a pay rise, but he is still in talks. He said: “I think it is going to be finalised very quickly between myself and (RTE director general) Noel Curran.” Mr O’Rourke admitted he had been taken aback by Mr Kenny’s decision to quit RTE after 41 years.

He was at the Galway Races when a friend texted him about Mr Kenny’s departure, asking him if he would be stepping up to the plate.

“Yeah, the Galway Plate,” he replied.

Meanwhile, Miriam O’Callaghan has insisted that she was never interested in taking over Mr Kenny’s show.

The golden girl of RTE had been widely tipped to take over the vacant 10am to noon slot.

“It was never in my plan,” the Prime Time presenter told the Sunday Independent.

“The thing is, these things take off and you get people in the shop saying, ‘Oh, I believe you’re going to be doing that.’ “No. It was actually never in my plan. I’m going to be doing the 9 to 10 slot for the autumn and I love that.”

Northern Ireland business activity rises for first time in six years

    Belfast Streets 201009 043

Ulster Bank research suggests NI firms benefited from growth in wider UK market

Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank’s chief economist in Northern Ireland, the bank’s latest purchasing managers’ index report suggests the North may have experienced “something of an economic heatwave” last month.
Business activity in the North rose last month for the first time in nearly six years, delivering a welcome confidence boost for the local economy during July, according to new research from Ulster Bank.

The bank’s latest purchasing managers’ index (PMI) report shows that Northern Ireland firms won substantial new orders last month at a rate not recorded since August 2007 and in turn recruited extra staff to cope.

The Ulster Bank report, which monitors the health of theprivate sector in Northern Ireland, suggests that local firms strongly benefited from substantial growth in the UK market as a whole.

Although the UK market was the key source of growth, some Northern Ireland firms also reported a rise in new business from abroad which signalled the first increase in export orders in five years.

Manufacturing firms netted the highest percentage of new business wins last month but the construction, retail and service sectors also secured important new orders.

Higher workloads
The PMI report shows that as a result of higher workloads, jobs were created in the construction, manufacturing and service sectors, while the retail sector showed a slight reduction in employment levels.

Cost inflation also remained a major issue for local businesses in every sector, particularly in relation to higher fuel and raw materials prices.

According to Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank’s chief economist in Northern Ireland, the report suggests that the North may have experienced “something of an economic heatwave” last month.

A rise in activity
“Almost one-third of firms surveyed reported a rise in activity last month,” Mr Ramsey said. “Local firms saw business activity increase at its fastest rate in 70 months with all sectors of the economy experiencing robust rates of growth.

“The better weather was cited as one factor while improved client confidence across the UK was another. The surge in new business orders in July suggests business activity should remain buoyant in the near term.”

He warned though that like economies elsewhere, Northern Ireland requires a “sustained period of growth” over the months and years ahead.

Shannon Airport records second month of growth for July


July passenger numbers increase by over 9%

Summer 2013 improved again for Shannon Airport in July when it achieved growth for the second successive month, with a 9.4 percent overall increase in passenger numbers compared on the same month last year.

Overall passenger numbers for July were 173,558, up from 158,603 in the same month last year.  The increase built on the 8% hike in month-over-month passenger numbers for June – the first time in five years that the airport experienced growth and just six months after setting out as an independent entity.

Like June, the growth was most telling in the transatlantic market, with overall passenger growth arising from the airport’s five US and one Canadian (Toronto) service increasing from 38,781 in July 2012 to 54,014 last month, a 39 percent increase.

Welcoming the figures for July, Shannon Airport CEO Neil Pakey said: “We are delighted to have achieved a second successive month of growth at Shannon. The figures very much reflect the enhanced level of services delivered at Shannon this year, not least on US destinations thanks to new routes to Philadelphia and Chicago, on top of already having Newark, JFK and Boston services.

“This has been very positive for tourism market here, from Cork right up to the North West as Shannon is the only airport on the entire western seaboard with transatlantic services.

“The increase is all the more encouraging given the anecdotal reports from travel agents here that the good weather caused a lot of people to holiday at home rather than book last minute trips to the sun, which would have pushed our figures up even higher.

“Generally, we have received very positive reports from hoteliers and other accommodation providers across this region on the summer season.  They have done better than they expected from the domestic market because of the good weather but, on top of that, have benefited from the big increase in US visitors coming through Shannon.

“This has really driven growth as US visitor spends a lot more than tourists from any other country so we are delighted to have made this contribution and are focussed on keeping up the momentum.”


The war goes on as Galway turf owners cut bog in violation of EU rules


A crowd of up to 160 have gathered in two Galway bogs this afternoon to cut turf in violation of an EU directive.

Relays of people are cutting the sod by in Barroughter and Clonmoylan, in opposition to the EU directive banning cutting in Special Areas of Conservation.

Spokesperson for Clonmoylan and Barroughter Bogs Action Group, Dermot Moran, told Midlands 103 radio what they hope to achieve by today’s actions.

“Rural people should not be stopped from one of their great traditions of providing fuel for their winter and for their houses and all that as they have always done,” he said.

“At a time when fuel costs are rising dramatically, they should be left alone and let cut their turf and their bogs.”

Dogs can now sniff out cancer with 100% accuracy:

A University of Pennsylvania’s study shows


Woman’s best friend! Researchers have trained dogs to sniff out the signature chemical compound that indicates the presence of ovarian cancer with 100% accuracy. 

Ohlin Frank, a trained chocolate Labrador has been able to detect ovarian cancer tissue a 100% of the time, researchers said.

An early detection device that combines old-fashioned olfactory skills, chemical analysis and modern technology could lead to better survival rates for the disease, which is particularly deadly because it’s often not caught until an advanced stage.

Using blood and tissue samples donated by patients, the University of Pennsylvania’s Working Dog Centre has started training three canines to sniff out the signature compound that indicates the presence of ovarian cancer.

If the animals can isolate the chemical marker, scientists at the nearby Monell Chemical Senses Centre will work to create an electronic sensor to identify the same odorant.

“Because if the dogs can do it, then the question is, Can our analytical instrumentation do it? We think we can,” Monell organic chemist George Preti said.

When ovarian cancer is caught early, women have a five-year survival rate of 90 per cent. But because of its generic symptoms – weight gain, bloating or constipation – the disease is more often caught late.

About 70 per cent of cases are identified after the cancer has spread, said Dr Janos Tanyi, an oncologist whose patients are participating in the study. For those women, the five-year survival rate is less than 40 per cent, he said.

The Philadelphia researchers will build on previous work showing that early stage ovarian cancer alters odorous compounds in the body. Another study in Britain in 2004 demonstrated that dogs could identify bladder cancer patients by smelling their urine.

Dr Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, said while the canine concept has shown promise for several years, there haven’t been any major breakthroughs yet.

“We’re still looking to see whether something could be developed and be useful in routine patient care, and we’re not there yet,” said Dr Lichtenfeld, who is not involved in the study.

Cindy Otto, director of the Working Dog Centre, hopes to change that with the help of McBaine, a springer spaniel; Ohlin, a Labrador retriever; and Tsunami, a German shepherd.

“If we can figure out what those chemicals are, what that fingerprint of ovarian cancer is that’s in the blood – or maybe even eventually in the urine or something like that – then we can have that automated test that will be less expensive and very efficient at screening those samples,” Ms Otto said.

Ovarian cancer patient Marta Drexler, 57, is heartened by the effort. Ms Drexler describes herself as a textbook case of the disease not being detected early enough because she had no symptoms.

After two surgeries and two rounds of chemotherapy, Ms Drexler said she didn’t hesitate when Dr Tanyi, her physician, asked her to donate tissue to the study. Last week, she visited the Working Dog Centre to meet the animals whose work might one day lead to fewer battles like hers.

“To have the opportunity to help with this dreadful disease, to do something about it, even if it’s just a tiny little bit of something, it’s a big thing,” said Ms Drexler, of nearby Lansdowne.

Over 100,000 earthlings want to go to Mars and not return again, A project says


More than 100,000 people are eager to make themselves at home on another planet. They’ve applied for a one-way trip to Mars, hoping to be chosen to spend the rest of their lives on uncharted territory, according to an organization planning the manned missions.

The Mars One project wants to colonize the red planet, beginning in 2022. There are financial and practical questions about this venture that haven’t been clarified. Will there be enough money? Will people really be able to survive on Mars? But these haven’t stopped some 30,000 Americans from signing up.

You can see some of the candidates on the project’s website, but they’re not the only ones who have applied, said Bas Lansdorp, Mars One CEO and co-founder.

“There is also a very large number of people who are still working on their profile, so either they have decided not to pay the application fee, or they are still making their video or they’re still filling out the questionnaire or their resume. So the people that you can see online are only the ones that have finished and who have set their profiles as public,” Lansdorp said.

The entrepreneur did not specify how many have paid the fees, completed their profiles and configured them as private.

The application process
Anyone 18 or older may apply, but the fee depends on a user’s nationality. For Americans, it’s $38; if you’re in Mexico, however, it’s a mere $15.
The company said it sets the price based on the gross domestic product per capita of each nation. “We wanted it to be high enough for people to have to really think about it and low enough for anyone to be able to afford it,” Lansdorp said.

For the first crew, the Mars One mission will cost $6 billion, Lansdorp said. The idea is for it to be funded by sponsors and media that will pay for broadcasting rights of shows and movies documenting everything from the astronauts’ training on Earth to their deployment and colonization of Mars.

Out of the applicants, Mars One said it will select a multicontinental group of 40 astronauts this year. Four of them — two men and twowomen — are set to leave for Mars in September 2022, landing in April 2023.

Another multicontinental group of four will be deployed two years later, according to the Mars One plan. None of them will return to Earth.

The astronauts will undergo a required eight-year training in a secluded location. According to the project site, they will learn how to repair habitat structures, grow vegetables in confined spaces and address “both routine and serious medical issues such as dental upkeep, muscle tears and bone fractures.”

“What we want to do is tell the story to the world,” Lansdorp said, “when humans go to Mars, when they settle on Mars and build a new Earth, a new planet. This is one of the most exciting things that ever happened, and we want to share the story with the entire world.”

How will Mars be colonized?
Each lander that Mars One sends will be able to carry about 5,511 pounds of “useful load” to Mars, he said. After eight missions, more than 44,000 pounds of supplies and people are expected to have arrived. The capsules themselves, whose weight is not included in that number, will become part of the habitat.
Food and solar panels will go in the capsules. Earth won’t be sending much water or oxygen though — those will be manufactured on Mars, Lansdorp said.

Astronauts will filter Martian water from the Martian soil. “We will evaporate it and condense it back into its liquid state,” he said.

“From the water we can make hydrogen and oxygen, and we will use the oxygen for a breathing atmosphere inside the habitat. This will be prepared by the rovers autonomously before the humans arrive.”

It sounds like terraforming, a process in which the conditions of a planet are modified to make it habitable, but Lansdorp said it isn’t.

“We will create an atmosphere that looks like the atmosphere on Earth, so you could say that we are terraforming the habitat. But to terraform the entire planet, that’s a project that will take hundreds and hundreds of years,” he added.

A dangerous mission
In spite of the risks of space travel, the Mars One founder said he is convinced of the viability of the project. However, some space travel experts have said the risks are far too high to carry out these manned missions to Mars, a distance that humans have never traveled.

Radiation is a big concern. NASA does not allow their astronauts to expose themselves to radiation levels that could increase their risk of developing cancer by more than 3%.

To maintain the radiation exposure standards that NASA requires, the maximum time an astronaut can spend in space “is anywhere from about 300 days to about 360 days for the solar minimum activity. For solar maximum, in ranges anywhere from about 275 days to 500 days,” said Eddie Semones, NASA spaceflight radiation officer.

A round-trip journey to Mars could expose astronauts to the maximum amount of radiation allowed in a career under current NASA standards, according to a recent study by scientists at the space agency. Mars One is planning a one-way journey, which doesn’t negate the problem, and being on Mars could expose astronauts to even more radiation, depending on how long they stay and what the shielding conditions are like.

Radiation damages cells’ DNA, which can lead to cell death or permanent changes that may result in cancer. However, “there’s no convincing human evidence for excess abnormalities in offspring of radiation-exposed adults,” Semones said.

While orbiting the Earth, astronauts get exposed to greater concentrations of cosmic background radiation than here on Earth in addition to charged particles trapped in the upper atmosphere and from the sun, said Robert J. Reynolds, epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

As a spacecraft moves into deep space, the people on board would be exposed to even more cosmic radiation and solar particles, which is “fairly dangerous,” Reynolds said.

Interestingly, according to Reynolds, astronauts’ risk of dying of cancer is lower than that of the general public because they tend to be in shape, eat well, don’t smoke and receive careful monitoring from doctors. Of course, none of them have been to Mars.

Semones emphasized that NASA does not study the health effects of Mars colonization and that it’s focusing on shorter recognition missions of the surface of Mars. “We’re not looking at colonization of Mars or anything. We’re not focusing our research on those kinds of questions.”

Can it be done?
Mars One isn’t the only group hoping to make history by sending people to the red planet. The Inspiration Mars Foundation wants to launch two people — a man and a woman — on a 501-day, round-trip journey to Mars and back in 2018 without ever touching down.

At this time there is no technology that can protect astronauts from an excess of space radiation. “The maximum number of days to stay with our standards is on the order of 500 days. So any mission that would exceed 500 days would not be doable,” Semones said.

Reynolds agreed: “At this point it’s completely infeasible to try to send someone to Mars unless we can get there faster or we develop better shielding for a spacecraft.”

NASA is working on engines intended to cut the travel time to Mars by the 2030s, but those systems won’t be ready for many years, Chris Moore, NASA’s deputy director of advanced exploration systems, told CNN this year. In the meantime, Moore said engineers could try to limit travelers’ exposures by designing a spacecraft in such a way that it provides more protection.

But Mars One founder Lansdorp insisted his group will get people landing on Mars by 2023.

“The risks of space travel in general are already very high, so radiation is really not our biggest concern,” he said.

If that all sounds good, you can still sign up.

But remember: You can never go home again.