Sunday 23rd August 2015
“Coalition Government” working yet Irish voters want rid of them
Despite presiding over Europe’s fastest-growing economy, everything in the garden is not rosy for Enda Kenny and his inner circle,
‘For Enda Kenny and Fine Gael, being replaced as the leading party would feel like the equivalent of taking over as manager of a team that has just been relegated, winning promotion, and then being sacked the following year’
The Central Statistics Office recently confirmed that economic output in Ireland grew by a spectacular 6.5% in the first quarter of 2015, from a year earlier, as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), making it by far and away the fastest-growing economy in Europe.
However, Eurostat’s ruling (issued one day before the CSO’s news) that Irish Water will have to remain on the State’s balance sheet, allied to concerns raised about the new utillity’s commercial status, stole the limelight – something that has become a feature of the current Government.
Positive developments at a macro level, the big-picture view of the economy over the last four years (resurgent economic growth, reduced unemployment, record low borrowing costs etc) have been continuously overshadowed by government mismanagement at a micro level on the provision of social services and the growing sense of inequality. The haphazard implementation of Irish Water is the classic example – a stream of negative headlines, distraction after distraction, all of which could have been avoided.
Irish Water was doomed from the outset when water charges were linked to the bailout deal with the Troika. In this context, instead of being viewed as a payment for the provision of public water and waste-water services, it came to be seen as a payment to bail out the bankers, the bondholders and the elite.
Of course, it was made worse by the Government’s lack of strategic direction and reports of excess when the utility was being set up. Hence, they were never going to be able to change opinion on the true agenda behind Irish Water, as much as a proper functioning national water utility makes sense.
I have no political bias, nor am I inspired by many of our political leaders. But it is worth remembering that when the Fine Gael-Labour coalition Government came to power in 2011, the economy was on the rocks, almost every economic indicator was flashing red and the outlook looked bleak. We were effectively on financial life support from the Troika.
After serving as Fine Gael leader since 2002, it is clear that handing Enda Kenny his debut as Taoiseach was not so much a reflection of the people’s confidence in his leadership skills, rather it was an indictment of the previous government’s failings. People had just had enough of Fianna Fáil.
Four years on, presiding over the fastest-growing economy in Europe, with GDP surpassing the pre-crisis peak, one could be forgiven for thinking the Government should be riding high.
The recovery we have seen in Dublin has not reached all parts of the country in the same way yet – but rebalancing an economy so skewed to the construction sector prior to the crash was always going to take time.
Of course, GDP has its flaws in measuring the health of an economy, but it is difficult to find one economic indicator that can encompass the inner complexities of all its stakeholders.
Looking from outside the country, the perception of Ireland as a place for doing business continues to be strong based on our ability to continue to attract multinational companies, albeit helped by our favourable corporate tax rate.
Certainly, the approval ratings from the international bond markets are high. The rate at which the State can borrow at over 10 years has fallen from near 15% in 2011 to 1.26%. The ECB has played its part – but as we saw in Greece, yields can rise sharply when a member state’s financial position deteriorates, even in an ECB-inspired low-rate environment.
Yet many people can’t wait to get rid of the current Government. What explains this disconnect between approval ratings at home and abroad? Domestically, the issue is the same issue that plagues all governments – their failure to efficiently allocate tax revenue for the provision of a sustainable and high-standard public service.
Pension levies, income levies, property taxes – and people are still wondering what is there to show for it. The healthcare system is still sub-standard, health insurance costs are soaring and public waiting lists are longer.
Private pensions were raided while our tax revenue is being used to fund massive public service pensions. Perhaps most galling of all was the recent announcement of pension increases for the likes of Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern – the political leaders who failed in their duties leading up to the crisis.
Irish Water was just the tipping point. The explicit non-payment of water charges is simply the means by which the people of Ireland are expressing their loss of faith in the political establishment. It is not about paying for water. There is a feeling that not much has really changed under the current Government, the same old politics reign supreme: a system that bails out the banks and wealthy elite and where money and power are intertwined.
Economic utopia does not exist, but the current Government has missed a massive opportunity to set a new standard in terms of how the country is run. Can politics change? I am not convinced.
Still, if Fine Gael and Labour can shift the focus to the big picture, the improvement in the broad economy and away from the usual political shenanigans and the likes of Irish Water, they have a strong case for being given an opportunity to lead what should hopefully be the next stage of recovery.
For Enda Kenny and Fine Gael, being replaced as the leading party would feel like the equivalent of taking over as manager of a team that has just been relegated, winning promotion, and then being sacked the following year.
Think of Chris Hughton. He took over as caretaker manager of Newcastle United in 2009 following relegation, gained promotion to the Premier League by winning the Championship and was sacked the following December with the team sitting in 12th place.
However, in the case of Fine Gael, the leading replacement is Fianna Fáil – the party that led us into relegation.
Only five out of 13 homeless charities have applied for funding, says agency
Hundreds of millions of euros are lying unclaimed by homeless charities.
The Government’s Housing Finance Agency (HFA) claims that just five out of 13 charities registered as approved housing bodies, have applied to it for funding.
The current homeless problem has been labeled as a “national emergency” by Focus Ireland, but according to today’s Sunday Times the charity still has not sought funding from the HFA, despite qualifying as an applicant earlier this year.
Chair of the Housing Finance Agency Michelle Norris, said: “Some of the subsidies they get from Government are a bit too complicated and the Government have moved to address that.
“The rest of the problem is that some of the organisations are very go-ahead and entrepreneurial and keen to use new sources of funding. Questions need to be raised with the organisations that are not drawing down the source of funding, about what they are planning to do.
“We need a really pro-active approach and we need to ask hard questions.”
Ireland is becoming a haven of talent for Silicon Valley giants
As more and more of Silicon Valley’s tech giants open European operations in Ireland, one thing becomes more and more clear that Ireland is becoming a haven for tech talent.
Just last week, it was announced that Ireland is experiencing a huge surge in inbound tech talent.
And that talent is most definitely needed. In July alone, more than 2,200 tech jobs were announced, and the fact remains that there are more job vacancies than people to fill them.
It stands to reason, therefore, that Ireland would become a destination for tech talent seeking opportunities on new shores.
A vast number of those moving to Ireland for tech jobs are from countries in Eastern Europe.
And they clearly like it here.
Over the last few years, Siliconrepublic.com has been speaking to people who have moved to Ireland for work.
In those conversations, we have heard people from Eastern Europe describe Ireland as “the easiest country to emigrate to and still feel part of the community”, “a small cosy country with great opportunities”, and a country full of “charm and spirit”.
Others say “life is more simple here”, that it is full of warmth, and strangers who will greet you on the street, and that the Irish people are good and genuine.
Though there are some naysayers, if the worst that can be said about Ireland is that no one here distils their own whiskey (not publicly, at least), then maybe it’s not such a bad place.
Sweet chestnut tree leaves could be used to ‘disarm’ the MRSA superbug
Scientists are excited about the range of potential applications for the compound, and have already filed a patent.
As bacteria become more and more resistant to drugs, scientists are increasingly looking towards traditional remedies to help cure infections. Sweet chestnut tree leaves, traditionally used by rural people in southern Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean to treat skin infections, have been found to contain chemicals capable of taming the MRSA superbug.
The compounds “disarm” Staphylococcus aureus bacteria and stop them producing harmful toxins, say scientists – yet they do not appear to boost levels of drug resistance.
Traditional folk remedies based on chestnut leaves inspired the US team at Emory University.
Lead researcher Dr Cassandra Quave said: “We’ve identified a family of compounds from this plant that have an interesting medicinal mechanism.
“Rather than killing staph, this botanical extract works by taking away staph’s weapons, essentially shutting off the ability of the bacteria to create toxins that cause tissue damage. In other words, it takes the teeth out of the bacteria’s bite.”
The chestnut extract was even effective against the superbug Staphylococcus strain MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), healing mice with serious skin infections.
For years the Emory team had investigated the traditional remedies of rural people in southern Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean.
Detective work by the researchers led them to the European sweet chestnut tree, Castanea sativa.
“Local people and healers repeatedly told us how they would make a tea from the leaves of the chestnut tree and wash their skin with it to treat skin infections and inflammations,” said Dr Quave.
In the laboratory, the scientists steeped chestnut leaves in solvents to extract 94 chemicals including the anti-bacterial ursene and oleanene compounds.
A single 50 microgram dose of the extract cleared up MRSA skin infections in laboratory mice, halting damage to tissue and red blood cells.
Lab dish tests showed that the compounds did not harm skin cells or bacteria that live harmlessly on the skin, the researchers reported in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.
The university’s Office of Technology Transfer has filed a patent on the extract’s unique properties. The scientists are now looking at its individual components to see if they work best in combination or alone.
Potential applications include a protective spray for athletic equipment, coatings for medical devices and personal products such as tampons, and as a treatment for MRSA.
Dr Quave said: “Many pharmaceutical companies are working on the development of monoclonal antibodies that target just one toxin. This is more exciting because we’ve shown that with this extract, we can turn off an entire cascade responsible for producing a variety of different toxins.
“It’s easy to dismiss traditional remedies as old wives’ tales, just because they don’t attack and kill pathogens, but there are many more ways to help cure infections, and we need to focus on them in the era of drug-resistant bacteria.”
It is now official as US confirms marijuana or cannabis does kill cancer cells
After a series of laboratory tests and speculations, scientists from the National Cancer Institute (US Department of Health) have confirmed that cannabis, or marijuana, does kill cancer cells.
In its website, the institute wrote, “cannabis and cannabinoids may have benefits in treating the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of cancer therapies” and also that “cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory.”
The website also records that “cannabis and cannabinoids have been studied in the laboratory and the clinic for relief of pain, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, and loss of appetite.”
Having said that, the researchers also stressed that marijuana has only shown these effects on mice, and are not yet ready to recommend the drug for human use in fighting cancer.
Although Cancer Research pointed out that there is not yet enough evidence to determine whether cannabis can be effectively used for cancer treatment, but this could be a big moment in the battle against the disease.
This new development could also pave the path for a nationwide legalisation of marijuana!
Doomsday not near as NASA denies Asteroid impact with Earth report
NASA makes it absolutely clear that the world ending Asteroid impact will NOT take place next month
Recently various web postings as well as blogs were claiming that a huge asteroid will impact Earth somewhere around 15 till 28 September 2015.
The predictions had originated from the prophesy of the much famous Reverend Efrain Rodriguez, who also claimed that on the doomsday, the impact will take place near Puerto Rico which will result in causing “wanton destruction to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States and Mexico, as well as Central and South America”.
Some blogs even blamed the U.S. government for covering up the news with an aim to prevent unnecessary panic in public.
Mid of this week, the U.S. space agency, NASA, was forced to make a statement denying the rumors that went viral on the social media predicting the occurrence of world-ending asteroid impact in September.
NASA made it quite clear that the rumors are totally baseless and they convinced public that there will NOT be any such occurrence of the world-ending asteroid impact next month. In addition NASA also provided some vital facts that supported the denial.
NASA said: “There is no scientific basis — not one shred of evidence — that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates,” said Paul Chodas, manager of Nasa’s Near-Earth Object office, in an official statement which seemed to be somewhat in anger.
He continued: “In fact, not a single one of the known objects has any credible chance of hitting our planet over the next century.”
NASA, accepted that asteroid impacts is a common thing; however it also noted that all the “Potentially Hazardous” rocks which are known to NASA have been classed and at least till next century there are rarest chances, mere 0.01 percent, that Earth should be hit by some such asteroid which would result in a ‘Doomsday’.
Chodas added: “If there were any object large enough to do that type of destruction in September, we would have seen something of it by now.”
He continued: “Again, there is no existing evidence that an asteroid or any other celestial object is on a trajectory that will impact Earth. In fact, not a single one of the known objects has any credible chance of hitting our planet over the next century.”
This is not the first time that NASA was forced to deny some such absurd rumor that indicated the “end of the world situation” which has gone viral in the world of social media. In its official website, NASA said that ‘Doomsday theorists’ had made similar predictions earlier also which were not backed by scientific facts and we can see that none of them turned out to be true.
Way back in 2011, there were rumors that Comet Elenin was going to hit Earth and NASA had to intervene and make a statement to deny this prediction.
Next, in 2012, there were various prophetic conspiracies for which NASA had to issue multiple denials and to be very frank, none of these prophesies occurred in reality including the Mayan calendar!
Chodas said: “Again, there is no existing evidence that an asteroid or any other celestial object is on a trajectory that will impact Earth.”
Some facts about asteroids:
Currently, NASA and other space agencies have confirmed that there are no such huge asteroids detected yet; however it is also a fact that the current methods and techniques which our present space agencies use to identify and track any such potentially dangerous objects in space is not enough.
It is a fact that the Nasa’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program (‘Spaceguard’) is able to track and detect the asteroids which are only within 30 million miles. Other agencies including ESA too have similar projects.
On the other hand, as per the ‘Asteroid Day project’, which was set up with an aim to increase the awareness of asteroid impacts, one can find huge asteroids which measure around one kilometer in their diameter, lying in the Asteroid Belt that falls between Jupiter and Mars. Besides, this belt also comprises of more than millions of smaller rocks and pieces of debris.
It has been estimated that there are around 1,00,000 asteroids which are large enough to cause the impact and destroy Earth on the scale of the Tunguska event.
Tunguska event is the 10-15 megaton explosion that occurred in Siberia in 1908 and destroyed the entire city. It seems with the current equipment available the space agencies all over the world can detect and track only 10,000 asteroids, so what about the rest 90,000 asteroids……is definitely a very BIG question!
It is also a fact that the 2013 major impact, which occurred above Chelyabinsk in Russia, which was accompanied with severe explosion with a kinetic force of 500 kilotons of TNT and injured about 1,500 was noticed only after it took place!
Right now, none of our space agencies have any methods to either deflect or destroy the hazardous asteroid which is coming towards Earth, nor are there any fool proof methods to track them.
For now, NASA has ensured the public that there will be NO asteroid impact between the specified dates next month. Well, that means for now people can definitely chalk out their plans for October and even beyond, smartphone lovers can wait the next release of their most favorite high tech phone while the Earth continues its existence?