Tag Archives: Climate change

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 1st January 2017

Happy 15th birthday to the euro but where will you be at 30?

The European single currency now 15 years old on January the 1st.

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As the chimes of midnight struck on January 1st, 2002, almost 20,000 people gathered in the freezing cold close to the European Union institutions in Brussels to watch a spectacular fireworks display. They were celebrating the introduction of euro notes and coins in 12 European countries, an event many saw as a momentous step on the path towards Europe’s political integration.

“The euro is a victory for Europe. After a century of being torn apart, of wars and tribulations, our continent is finally affirming its identity and power in peace, unity and stability,” French president Jacques Chirac declared.

Fifteen years later, the EU has witnessed its first act of disintegration, with Britain’s vote in June to leave the organisation. And the euro, once heralded as a powerful binding agent for Europe’s nations, is now increasingly derided as corrosive to the principle of solidarity which underlies the European project.

The single currency remains popular in the countries that use it, according to the latest Euro-barometer report, although it is viewed negatively outside the euro area. The euro is especially popular in Ireland, with support for the single currency at 85%, second only to Luxembourg.

Support for the EU itself is in decline among Europeans, however, as is the number of EU citizens who say they are optimistic about the union’s future, down from 70% a decade ago to just half today.

This lack of confidence is reflected in the withering of ambition within the European institutions, where few now expect significant further political integration. In Brussels, power has shifted from the European Commission to the European Council, where national leaders pursue an intergovernmental agenda.

A loss of confidence.

Much of this loss of confidence is the result of the multiple crises that have shaken the euro zone in recent years, with the erosion of solidarity in one policy area seeping into others, making a common approach to issues such as the migration crisis more difficult to achieve.

There is a cruel irony here, as the euro was conceived by the previous generation of European leaders as a great political project as much as an economic one. When they started the process of economic and monetary union at Maastricht in 1991, it was partly in response to German unification the previous year.

France was determined that a bigger Germany should lose its dominant economic position in Europe and that the Bundesbank should no longer be in a position to determine the monetary policy of the entire continent. The historian Emmanuel Todd, who advised both Chirac and his predecessor, François Mitterand, summed up the French attitude to the euro succinctly: “Behind the euro euphoria lay a wish to make Germany disappear as a financial big power, to resolve the German question once and for all.”

Like the Schengen Agreement, which abolished border controls between most EU states, the euro was seen as a practical manifestation of the usefulness of European integration. It was hoped that it could serve as an antidote to the remoteness of European institutions, while reassuring European citizens that they could take an important step towards sharing responsibility without losing their national identities.

‘The euro must speak German’

France’s masterplan went awry from the start, with Theo Waigel, Germany’s finance minister throughout most of the 1990s, summing up his country’s determination to put its stamp on the new currency with the words “Der Euro muss Deutsch sprechen” (“the euro must speak German”).

The European Central Bank (ECB) was designed in the image of the Bundesbank, independent of political influence and with a narrow mandate focused on price stability. Other major central banks, such as the Federal Reserve in the US, must also take unemployment and economic growth into account when they make monetary policy decisions.

The impression that the currency served the interests of the EU’s more powerful members was reinforced when the euro zone’s two biggest countries, Germany and France, became the first to flout its fiscal rules, and received only the gentlest reprimand from Brussels.

But the low interest rates Germany needed to boost its economy in the early years of this century helped to fuel a massive construction boom in southern European countries and in Ireland, helping to overheat their economies.

With few political tools to influence national policies, Brussels and Frankfurt could do little more than sit back and watch the gathering storm, issuing regular warnings which were universally ignored.

Austerity doctrine

But if the ECB’s monetary policy helped fuel the spending boom and the debt crisis which succeeded it, the one-size-fits-all austerity doctrine imposed by euro-zone governments in response to the crisis helped to alienate citizens from Brussels and from their own governments.

Wielding the whip hand of the creditor, the Eurogroup of finance ministers has forced one government after another to bend the knee, obliging many to break the promises they had made to voters. The consequences of this approach can be seen in the erosion of the political centre throughout Europe, as a growing number of voters conclude that electing a new government will change little unless the entire system is upended.

As the euro enters 2017, the currency has survived its various crises and confounded predictions that it would collapse or disintegrate. ECB president Mario Draghi’s creative approach to the rules has helped to keep the euro zone together and fewer than one in three euro-zone citizens would like to return to national currencies.

But if the euro is likely to survive, its design flaws and the reckless policies pursued by the politicians charged with defending it continue to have serious repercussions for the EU itself and for public confidence in its institutions.

Policing Authority takes responsibility for senior Garda appointments

Minister says selection of candidates to senior Garda roles ‘an onerous responsibility’

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Josaphine Feehily, chairperson of the Policing Authority.

The Policing Authority will assume responsibility for the appointment of senior gardaí from tomorrow, taking over this function from the Government.

All appointments to the rank of assistant Garda commissioner, chief superintendent and superintendent will be managed by the authority.

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said with the assumption of this responsibility on January 1st, the authority had, within 12 months of its formation, assumed all of its intended functions.

The Policing Authority is an independent body which has been set up to provide oversight of the provision of policing in Ireland by the Garda Síochána.

Ms Fitzgerald said the selection and appointment of candidates to senior Garda roles was “an onerous responsibility and I want to wish the authority every success with this very important work”.

Also from tomorrow, inspectors and superintendents in both An Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland are eligible to apply for appointment to the assistant commissioner and chief superintendent ranks.

Before Christmas the Cabinet filled senior Garda vacancies shortly after Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan warned “critical” roles within the force needed to be filled.

Ms O’Sullivan had said eight of the 17 senior Garda officers currently listed for promotion must be appointed immediately to fill “critical” roles.

As well as making the eight promotions requested by Ms O’Sullivan, Ms Fitzgerald said an additional three appointments were also approved by Cabinet.

The appointments included one to the position of assistant commissioner, three chief superintendents, and seven superintendents. They will be made at national, divisional and district level.

“The Government is determined that there is no undue delay filling critical Garda vacancies and is determined to ensure that An Garda Síochána has a leadership team that can address the serious challenges it faces every day in maintaining law and order,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

Burglary conviction rate may be just 7% so CSO figures suggest

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Gardai say that as well as burglary, theft, particularly of mobile phones, is also vastly under-reported.

Just over 2,000 convictions resulted from the investigation of 27,653 ‘recorded’ burglaries in 2014, according to new data from the Central Statistics Office.

The CSO has, for the first time, included court proceedings and outcomes with figures alongside the ‘recorded’ cases of burglary.

The figures appear to uphold the long-held view of both gardai and victims of crime that there has been systematic manipulation of figures for years to suggest a higher ‘detection’ rate of crime such as burglary and theft.

Gardai say that as well as burglary, theft, particularly of mobile phones, is also vastly under-reported. Most mobile phone thefts are still recorded as ‘lost property’ even though thousands of phones are stolen annually by organised crime gangs, often from outside the State.

The change in the way the CSO records crime statistics came about in 2014 after an investigation by the independent watchdog body, the Garda Inspectorate, uncovered widespread manipulation of crime figures caused by the ‘recategorising’ of offences such as burglary to less serious offences or none at all.

For decades, Ministers for Justice have annually congratulated the Garda for falls in crime figures and this year was no different. Just before Christmas, the Tanaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, congratulated the Garda for their “impressive results in their sustained drive against burglars”. She was referring to a drop of “31pc in the level of burglary crime, continuing the positive trend shown in CSO figures for the first half of 2016”.

The Tanaiste said: “An Garda Siochana continue to achieve impressive results in their sustained drive against burglars under Operation Thor, which is powered by increased resources provided by the Government and supported by new legislation which I introduced this time last year, targeting repeat burglary offenders. The Government remains absolutely committed to supporting Garda efforts to combat crime including Operation Thor. It is encouraging that the regional breakdown of the CSO figures shows that Operation Thor is benefiting communities right across the country.

“Burglary is a terrible and invasive crime and we will continue this crackdown to ensure the safety and security of people in their homes all over Ireland.”

However, the CSO has warned that figures supplied to it by the Garda after years of inaction over an agreed system for accurately recording crime alongside court outcomes may not be accurate. For the first time, the CSO has compiled figures from the Garda and the Courts Service.

This resulted in the first record of the “number of crime incidents recorded, detected with relevant proceedings and court outcomes’ for 2014”, published in early December.

This table shows 27,653 ‘recorded’ burglaries with another Garda figure of 4,883 burglaries detected and 3,369 in which ‘proceedings were commenced’.

However, when the Garda figures are placed alongside the Courts Service records, it shows there were only 2,002 convictions, 672 acquittals and 620 appeals against conviction. This would suggest a conviction rate – rather than the ambiguous ‘detection’ rate – of 7pc or less.

The CSO states on its website that it is incumbent upon all agencies, including the Garda and private industry, to accurately supply it with data. It is an offence to provide the CSO with false data.

Commenting on the efforts made over a decade to try and establish an accurate classification system for crime, the CSO said: “It is possible to speculate that the task of providing these foundations fell between many stools and did not become the responsibility of any agency/department in particular

“There is a clear need to improve the coherence between sources of information in the criminal justice area and the introduction of a robust classification system is a fundamental step in this direction

“Ireland has one police force with one set of laws and therefore uniformity is more easily attainable.”

The figures cited by the minister show a ’31pc drop’ over 2015. This would mark the biggest annual decline in almost any crime category in the history of the force. Normally statistics supplied by the Garda show only small percentage changes.

Homeless activists take over a disused (Nama?) office building in Sligo town

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Activists in Sligo town have occupied an empty office building there.

The building, which is believed to be owned by Nama, has been taken over by homeless activists in a similar way to the occupation of Apollo House in Dublin by Home Sweet Home activists recently.

A local source has described the occupation as “along the same lines” as Apollo House, saying: “It’s just an old, disused Nama building, although the people involved could leave or they could stay, it’s hard to tell.”

The building’s location is being kept secret for the time being, but there is said to be fewer than 10 homeless people present in the disused offices which have no water or electricity.

However, the occupants do have mattresses and food and the conditions have been described as warm.

It is being reported by the Journal.ie that the owners of the building have not taken any action yet to take it back from the occupiers.

Breakingnews.ie have contacted the Gardaí and are awaiting confirmation from them about the occupation.

The Peter McVerry Trust says there needs to be a focus on long-term solutions for homelessness.

Staff from the homeless charity will visit Apollo House in Dublin today where occupants have until January 11 to vacate the building.

The Trust is opening up a further 25 beds in Ellis Quay tonight, where 70 people will be able to stay over Christmas, and into the summer.

CEO Pat Doyle says the Home Sweet Home campaign is doing a great job at highlighting the issue, but he fears for the residents of Apollo House.

Mr Doyle said: “I know our population of homeless people, I’ve worked with them all my life and we’ve worked with around 4,500 of them this year.

“Some people who are homeless just need a house, but some people have other issues, complex issues, and so obviously, I would have concerns for their wellbeing.

“That’s not to put any judgement on those who are running Apollo House.”

New IT Sligo research aims to help transform Stroke recovery

RESEARCHERS LOOKING FOR STROKE PATIENTS TO PARTICIPATE IN CLINICAL TRIALS

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IT Sligo Stroke Research Group member & PhD student Daniel Simpson receives his research bursary from Ed Blake of the North West Stroke Group. Back Row L-R: Dr Kenneth Monaghan (Stroke Research Group

An established Stroke Research Group within the Clinical Health and Nutrition Centre (CHANCE) at IT Sligo is working on new ways to help patients recover from Stroke.

Daniel Simpson from the Stroke Research Group, which is headquartered in IT Sligo’s School of Science, is currently carrying out clinical trials into new and exciting rehabilitation treatments for home-based stroke patients.

The PhD student, who is originally from Wales, has received a bursary worth €6000 from the North West Stroke Group Ltd towards continuing research into innovative rehabilitation techniques.

The treatments will use simple mirrors and innovative strength training techniques, to allow stroke patients to carry out therapy with minimal assistance at home or in a therapy setting. The therapy is already showing huge potential.

The stroke research group, is also carrying out home based clinical trials using a simple treadmill with mirrors, and has established a strong network with the Health Service Executive and the Stroke Unit in Sligo University Hospital, and their Consultant Geriatrician Dr Paula Hickey.

‘We know that there are over 30,000 people living in Ireland with disability due to stroke,” explains Dr Hickey.

“Through our collaboration with this research group, we are seeing substantial benefits in a group of patients that traditionally might have been viewed as having ‘finished’ their treatment and even felt to be beyond help. Not only does this help the stroke victims themselves but it has a broader benefit to their families and healthcare workers and students.”

The stroke group also works closely with both University College Dublin (UCD), and Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI).

With stroke patients allowed to carry out four-week innovative exercise programmes in their own home, in a tailored fashion, the clinical trials have been attracting increased interest in the North West stroke community.

Laurence Cassells, Secretary for the North West Stroke Group describes the potential benefits of this research as exciting. “We are donating this money because we genuinely believe that there is huge potential to improve the lives of our members,” he says.

“It is amazing to see improvements in people who had their stroke many years ago and felt that they had no chance of further recovery.”

It is expected that these new innovative rehabilitation treatments will be used within rehabilitation settings, and also within the patient’s own home in the future.

The Stroke Research Group, was founded by Dr Kenneth Monaghan, Mr Patrick Broderick, Mr Daniel Simpson, and Ms Monika Ehrensberger, in 2014. This Group is supported by IT Sligo and is currently looking for more stroke patients to participate in clinical trials in their own home.

For more information or to volunteer for clinical trials, please contact  Daniel Simpson on 087-0531507 or email Daniel.simpson@mail.itsligo.ie .

The Sun is not the key driver of climate change new studies show

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Climate change has not been strongly influenced by variations in heat from the sun, a new scientific study shows.

The findings overturn a widely held scientific view that lengthy periods of warm and cold weather in the past might have been caused by periodic fluctuations in solar activity.

Research examining the causes of climate change in the northern hemisphere over the past 1,000 years has shown that until the year 1800, the key driver of periodic changes in climate was volcanic eruptions.

These tend to prevent sunlight reaching the Earth, causing cool, drier weather. Since 1900, greenhouse gases have been the primary cause of climate change.

The findings show that periods of low sun activity should not be expected to have a large impact on temperatures on Earth, and are expected to improve scientists’ understanding and help climate forecasting.

Historical data
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh carried out the study using records of past temperatures constructed with data from tree rings and other historical sources.

They compared this data record with computer-based models of past climate, featuring both significant and minor changes in the sun.

They found that their model of weak changes in the sun gave the best correlation with temperature records, indicating that solar activity has had a minimal impact on temperature in the past millennium.

The study, published in Nature GeoScience, was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council.

“Until now, the influence of the sun on past climate has been poorly understood,” says Dr Andrew SchurerSchool of GeoSciences.

“We hope that our new discoveries will help improve our understanding of how temperatures have changed over the past few centuries, and improve predictions for how they might develop in future. Links between the sun and anomalously cold winters in the UK are still being explored.

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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 26th May 2016

Fianna Fáil must explain decision to side with the Government on Irish Water, says Sinn Fein

     

Sinn Féin TD Eoin O’Broin said Fianna Fáil has broken its promise to abolish Irish Water.

Sinn Fein has accused Fianna Fail of acting in coalition with Fine Gael by abstaining in a motion to scrap water charges.

This gave Fine Gael a comfortable winning margin to push through the deal reached with Fianna Fáil during negotiations to form a new minority government.

Under this deal – water charges will be suspend for the moment, to allow for the establishment of an independent commission.

“They’re supporting the Government and they’re supporting this Government’s policy, and they are supporting the continuation of Irish Water, despite clear election promises to the contrary,” he said.

“And they’re supporting a motion that leaves the door open to water charges in the future, so Fianna Fáil have to explain to their electorate why they promised to abolish Irish Water and water charges before the election and now are siding with the Government on these issues after the election.”

Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins defended the decision not to vote against the abolition of Irish Water., saying his party plans to support future legislation to abolish water charges.

“There will be, through legislation, a suspension of water charges and a commission to look into the whole issue of water in this country,” he said.

“So we’ve played a progressive part in this, unlike other political parties, and what we saw in the Dáil, spearheaded by Sinn Féin, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and indeed the People Before Profit was just simply petty politics.”

Leo Varadkar does a U-turn on child benefit

     

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has ruled out any linking of the payment of child benefit to school attendance, despite a commitment in the programme for government to do so.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Varadkar said while there is a requirement to disclose attendance records for children over the age of 16, at present there is no such requirement for those younger than that under current legislation.

He said the monitoring of children is beyond his remit and is a matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

The programme for government states that monitoring of child benefit will be reformed by amalgamating two existing monitoring systems, to address poor attendance within some families.

This initiative has been spearheaded by Communications Minister Denis Naughten. However, Mr Varadkar yesterday ruled out any move to link the payment to attendance.

“Child benefit is a payment that is not means tested nor is it taxed and I have no intention of changing that. For those under 16 it is not linked to school attendance,” he said.

“I had some discussions with [Children’s Minister Katherine] Zappone and [Education Minister Richard] Bruton and our view is that those involved in monitoring truancy do not believe the further tool to enforce attendance would be useful. I see no reason in changing the law.”

Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea said concern had been raised following media reports about the inclusion of the measure in the programme for government, but that he welcomed Mr Varadkar’s ruling it out. “We are happy with that and I thank the minister,” he said.

Mr Varadkar was also pressed about the €2.5m cost to the taxpayer in meeting the statutory redundancies at Clerys in Dublin.

He said legal action could be instigated in order to reclaim the monies from the company, which was folded in controversial circumstances last year.

He said the redundancies were paid out of the Social Insurance Fund from PRSI contributions to 134 former employees at Clerys.

He said: “Arising from the Clerys liquidation, the Department of Jobs examined protection law for employees and unsecured creditors to see that limited liability or company restructuring is not used to avoid obligations to employees or creditors.

“It is my firm view that companies should stay true to the spirit and letter of company law. My department is now examining how the monies can be recouped.”

Mr Varadkar said legal action would have to take into account any burden of proof involved, the cost of taking such an action, and the level of assets in the company.

Labour TD Willie Penrose criticised the response, saying it reflects the conservative nature of bureaucracy. He called for Mr Varadkar to make the most of existing law to recoup monies for the taxpayer.

Mr Varadkar was also asked about his decision to scrap the Job-Bridge scheme. He told the Dáil he felt the scheme was now “out of date”.

Ten times more cyclists treated in Irish hospitals after crashes than official figures show

    

Today’s findings also showed far more people were hurt in road accidents

Ten times more cyclists are injured and treated in hospital than official figures show, it has been revealed.

Today’s findings also showed far more people were hurt in road accidents.

Researcher Brian Caulfield said: “New injury indicators are clearly needed since the existing data do not capture the gravity and extent of the problem.”

A team from Trinity College Dublin’s School of Engineering combined data from the Road Safety Authority, hospital records and the Irish Injuries Board.

The study into figures from 2005 to 2011 found there were 88,000 traffic injuries. Hospital figures reveal RSA data only includes around 30% of an overlap with patients admitted for road crashes.

The researchers said: “The evidence the numbers are far greater than the official data indicate implies that reducing injuries needs to play a more important role in road safety strategy.

“Policy measures under consideration to reduce fatalities could obviously also contribute to reducing injuries. Among these are helmets for cyclists, lower urban speed limits, stronger measures to protect pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.”

A spokesman for the RSA said its figures relating to collisions and injuries come from gardai and not hospitals or the IIB.

The lack of one comprehensive dataset has previously made it difficult to assess the extent of the problems in Ireland.

But the Trinity researchers got around this problem by linking figures from three separate sources.

Dr Jack Short, ex-secretary general of the International Transport Forum at OECD, said: “The total social costs of road traffic injuries are greater than the cost of fatalities, so this subject merits increased policy attention and a higher priority in the Irish Road Safety Strategy.”

€500,000 fintech start-up fund announced by Enterprise Ireland

L-R: Geraldine Gibson, Managing Director, AQ Metrics; Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Leo McAdams, Divisional Manager ICT & International Services, Enterprise Ireland; Brett Meyers, CEO, Currency Fair  

Enterprise Ireland has created a new €500,000 fund for fintech start-ups, with ten spots to be filled as part of the IFS-2020 strategy.

Announcing a new start-up fund for fintech start-ups today, Minister for Jobs, Mary Mitchell O’Connor claimed the support was a “key part” of the current government’s push to help key sectors.

Providing €50,000 in equity to ten selected start-ups in the fintech area, applications open at the start of June, closing after just two weeks.

Open to early stage companies that can either be providing technology into the financial services industry, or consumer end-market solutions, blockchain, IoT, AI and ‘data intelligence’ are area encouraged.

Aside from the equity fund on offer, successful applicants will also receive membership to Dogpatch Labs, access to the Ulster Bank Innovation Solutions team, as well as talks from members of the FinTech and Payments Association of Ireland (FPAI).

“By introducing a specific start-up fund targeting the fintech sector,” said Enterprise Ireland’s Leo McAdams, “[we are] leveraging our strong international financial services reputation and our world-class start-up ecosystem to allow ambitious entrepreneurs to start, scale and succeed – providing valuable jobs here into the future”.

Enterprise Ireland has been fairly active of late, pouring €2.5m into ArcLabs at Waterford Institute of Technology in a move that will double the capacity of the incubation hub.

The expansion is hoped to help achieve the goal of a 30pc increase in the number of start-ups in the south-east.

Meanwhile last November a €500,000 specifically aimed at female-led start-ups was created.

Mars is emerging from an ice age that ended about 400,000 years ago

Climate change affects the Red Planet as well as us on earth?

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Mars is emerging from an ice age, according to a new study. Studying the Martian climate and how it changes over time can help scientists better plan future missions to Mars and even understand climate change here on Earth, the study authors goes on to say.

Models had already predicted that Mars underwent several rounds of ice ages in the past, but little physical measurements ever confirmed those predictions. Today’s study, published in the journal Science, is the first to map the ice deposits on the north and south pole and confirm that Mars is emerging from an ice age, in a retreat that began almost 400,000 years ago. The researchers also calculated just how much ice accumulated over the poles; the amount is so big that if it were spread throughout Mars, the entire planet would be covered by a 2-foot thick layer of ice.

STUDYING CLIMATE CHANGE ON MARS IS IMPORTANT FOR MULTIPLE REASONS?

Studying climate change on Mars is important for multiple reasons, says study co-author Isaac Smith, who studies sedimentary systems on Mars at Southwest Research Institute. By understanding ice ages, we can get a better understanding of how ice — and water — behaved through time on the Red Planet. It can help us figure out how Mars went from being a wet world to the barren, frigid land it is today. And it can tell us where ice deposits can be found. That’s key if we plan to send humans on Mars. “We want to know the history of water,” Smith says. “At some point, we’re going to have some people there and we’d like to know where the water is. So there’s a big search for that.”

The Martian climate can also inform scientists about climate change here on Earth, Smith says. Mars is the most similar planet to Earth in the Solar System and it provides a good testing ground for climate research, because there are no people burning fossil fuels and pumping global warming pollutants into the atmosphere. “Mars is a very good laboratory for what happens on Earth,” Smith says. “Climate science actually has a very simple but perfect laboratory in Mars, where we can learn about the physics of climate change and then apply what we learn to Earth.”

Ali Bramson, a planetary scientist and PhD candidate at the University of Arizona, who did not work on the study, agrees. “I think it’s a really great study and I think it’s very timely,” she says. “I was really excited to see it. … Climate change is obviously a very salient topic on Earth, but understanding the distribution of water-ice on Mars is also something that’s of great interest because there’s a lot of interest in sending humans one day to Mars. So if we know where there are reservoirs of water-ice, that could potentially be useful for future human exploration.”

MARS “IS NOT A DEAD, STATIC WORLD. THINGS ARE GOING ON AND CHANGING.”

Just like Earth, Mars undergoes cycles of climate change and ice ages. But unlike Earth, climate change on Mars is affected primarily by how “tilted” the planet is. Every planet has an axis around which the planet rotates. Earth’s axis is tilted 23.5 degrees and it’s pretty stable, varying only a couple of degrees over time. Mars’ axis is currently tilted 25 degrees, but it wobbles between from 10 to 40 degrees. That happens for two reasons: first, Mars doesn’t have a moon as big as ours to stabilize its orbit; second, it’s much closer to Jupiter, and Jupiter’s gravity affects Mars’ rotation. When the Red Planet’s axis is more tilted, the poles receive more sunlight and get warm — so the ice to redistributes to the mid-latitudes, just above the tropic. That’s when Mars undergoes an ice age. “The impact is pretty dramatic,” says Peter Read, a physics professor at the University of Oxford.

Today’s study was based on predictions that 400,000 years ago such a shift in the planet’s axis took place. The researchers used radar instruments onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a NASA spacecraft that’s orbiting Mars. They analyzed the radar images of the ice deposits within the planet’s polar ice caps, looking out for signs of erosion and other features, like so-called spiral troughs that are created by the wind. Tracing these features can reveal how ice accumulated and retreated through time. The researchers confirmed that around 400,000 years ago an ice age ended. Since the end of that ice age, about 87,000 cubic kilometers of ice accumulated at the poles, especially in the north pole. That’s exciting, because 400,000 years is pretty recent when talking about planets in the Solar System.

The study is “another bit of evidence that climate is still actively changing on Mars,” says Stephen Lewis, a senior lecturer at the Open University, who didn’t work on the study. Mars “is not a dead, static world. Things are going on and changing.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by donie

Monday 22nd February 2016

Not much space left for long-term capital investment vision in 2016 election promises

   

Electioneering is all about snappy promises and clever sound bites. There is little space for setting out a long-term vision. There are few votes in talking about sewers, drains or reservoirs, yet our capital investment spending is likely to determine the country’s prosperity 10 or 20 years down the line.

Spending on infrastructure all but collapsed after the 2008 crash.

This, in turn, delayed the roll-out of flood-relief programmes, the consequences of which have been there for all to see in recent months.

The housing crisis is another consequence of years of capital starvation at local government level.

This Government has been playing catch-up.

The economic recovery has resulted in much heavier demands on existing capital resources and in extra funds becoming available.

Late last year, the Government unveiled a €27bn capital investment programme, covering the six-year period to the end of 2021.

The plan looks good on paper, but it has been criticised for lacking ambition.

Economist Paul Sweeney, of Tasc, says the State should be spending an additional €15bn, to take advantage of historically low borrowing rates. Last December, he suggested that funds could come, in part, from the proceeds of a privatisation of Irish banks.

However, the recent collapse in bank shares has hit the prospect of any bank flotation in the short term.

The pensions industry could play a greater part in funding a roll-out of infrastructure. This is a natural fit. The funds invest for the long term and seek security, as opposed to stellar short-run returns.

But the industry needs to tackle its own conservatism, which is a product, in part, of law, with tight restrictions or duties of care imposed on trustees.

If the funds were to flow, we could begin to take the chance on a low-interest rate environment to start tackling gaps in our capital network.

Engineers Ireland, which represents 24,000 engineers, is critical of the neglect of key areas of infrastructure. It is seeking a doubling in investment, to 4% of national output.

Its director, Caroline Spillane, points to Ireland’s relatively low ranking, of 27th place, on infrastructure in the Global Competitiveness Index.

In its ‘State of Ireland’ report, last year, it awarded low grades, Ds, to the rail network, to non-primary roads, and under the heading of ‘sustainable transport’.

The country’s water and waste services received a ‘C’ grade, along with flood defences. The energy sector, and our airports, received a ‘B’, along with the communications network (a surprising accolade, given the state of our rural broadband).

In its upcoming report, the body is likely to focus on investment in energy (with flooding, presumably, also getting more attention).

Boosting the spend will be of little use if the funds are scattered like confetti.

The punters will be looking for cash for sexy local projects (such as football stadia).

Those demands must be resisted. Priorities must be established, such as motorways connecting provincial cities, decent nationwide broadband, water, and flood relief.

In Britain, a new Infrastructure Commission has been set up to ensure proper, long-term planning and resource allocation.

Tasc favours this approach, while Engineers Ireland goes further, seeking a super junior ministry for infrastructure.

British expert, John Armitt, believes that inter-agency co-operation is vital, saying that this approach explains the success of the London Olympics.

A change in political culture is required. Under General Charles de Gaulle, 1960s France led the way in the development of capital projects.

There was real direction at the top. The continent of Europe, in the post-war period, had no choice but to invest to rebuild.

As a result, it stole a march on a UK that was obsessed by a succession of balance-of-payments crises.

Britain fell behind, while impoverished Ireland languished in the slow lane, with a road network largely geared to the horse and cart.

However, we did find the resources to fund TB hospitals and an ambitious programme of public housing.

The bureaucracy has lost much managerial expertise in recent years.

Rebuilding this will take time. Our planning system is also in need of overhaul. While citizens must retain a role in decision-making, the ability of individuals to hold up projects appears to be excessive.

Engineers Ireland favours the creation of a national infrastructure unit within the Department of the Taoiseach.

A similar approach worked well in the late 1980s, at the time of the launch of the IFSC financial centre.

The unit would attract senior officials from key spending departments and from the Department of Finance.

Locating it in the Taoiseach’s department would ensure that Merrion Street — while having a guardianship role — would not be allowed to smother project proposals at birth.

Correctly, Engineers Ireland believes that projects should be independently assessed by an expert (who would, presumably, operate at arm’s length from the well-financed special interests pushing their pet projects).

Britain’s Andrew Adonis, a member of the House of Lords, has led the way in pressing for new approaches to capital projects. He talks about the science of delivery of public projects.

Such a delivery unit was set up by the Blair government, with a tight focus on well-designated targets.

The recession there caused public net investment to crash to just 1.5% of GDP. Among the results of this: crowded trains and congested highways.

However, John Armitt believes — somewhat controversially — that it would all be a lot worse had not Britain’s railways been privatised.

As a result, vital investment, not otherwise available, was attracted in.

A key problem, in the past, has been that people have not been able to invest in long-term projects with the assurance that the rules would not be changed halfway through the game, by an incoming government or cabinet minister.

Armitt singles out Chancellor George Osborne’s recent crackdown on the solar industry for criticism.

Two-thirds of the funds for capital projects in the UK come from private finance. Investors require a climate of confidence.

They need to be able to take a 20-30-year view on their investments, not a two-three year one. Ireland, too, will require private finance, but the taxpayer will have to stump up, at the same time.

This message needs to be spelled out.

We simply cannot get proper infrastructure on the cheap, whatever certain politicians might have one believe.

Beware of slick promoters promising the sun, moon and stars, but slipping-in the small detail with some long-lasting financial stings.

Ireland’s home repossessions increased by a massive 80% for 2015

     

Home repossessions rose by a massive 80% last year with an extra 1,500 people declaring themselves homeless.

Some 758 repossession orders were granted by the Irish court service for the first nine months of 2015.

And there was a total of 1,088 repossessions occurring over the same period.

The Peter McVerry Trust say Dublin had the second highest number of ‘primary’ home repossessions – 86 homes in the capital were repossessed.

Reacting to the figures CEO of the Trust, Pat Doyle, told the Irish Independent that there is no chance of long-term homelessness being eliminated in 2016, with yesterday being three years to the day since the homelessness policy statement.

“Mortgage arrears is an issue that has been regularly highlighted,” said Mr Doyle.

“The signs are there to suggest that repossessions by financial institutions are leading to increasing numbers of sitting tenants being evicted into homelessness.

“The repossessed homes and rental units are then left empty until such time as the financial institutions see fit to make use of them.

“This practice goes unchallenged, despite the most acute housing shortage on record and ever increasing homelessness.”

“The overall homeless figure continues to rise despite a record number of people leaving homelessness in 2015.

“even though an estimated 2,000 people left homelessness last year, there were still 5,400 people homeless at the year end – a net increase of 1,500 people,” Mr Doyle said.

Ireland’s student nurses and midwives to receive a pay rise from March 1st this year

INMO general secretary Liam Doran welcomes the pay rise, which arises from the Lansdowne Road Agreement

   

INMO general secretary Liam Doran (above left) said pay restoration for student nurses and midwives went “some way” to correct a serious wrong done to young nurses and midwives in 2011/12. 

Pay rates for student nurses are to be increased from the beginning of March under a new deal agreed between the Government and the nursing unions.

About 1,400 student nurses and midwives a year will benefit from the pay rise, which arises from the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

Pay for student nurses during their final-year placement is being increased from 55% of the first point of the staff nurse salary scale to 70%. As a result, pay for student nurses will rise from between €6.49 per hour and €7.79 per hour at present to €9.49 for the period they spend working in hospitals or a clinical setting.

In future, the 36 weeks that student nurses work in hospitals will also be recognised officially as they move along the incremental scale. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said this would result in a new graduate moving to the second point of the scale, worth over €2,000, after 16 weeks.

The position of those who graduated since 2011 will be considered in a further review. The union said it would pursue retrospective incremental credit for the graduate classes in 2011 and 2015.

INMO general secretary Liam Doran welcomed the pay restoration and said it went “some way” to correct a serious wrong done to young nurses and midwives in 2011/12.

“We also acknowledge the recognition, by Ministers Kathleen Lynch, Brendan Howlin and Leo Varadkar, that this issue had to be addressed and that paying young nurses/midwives less than the minimum wage was wrong and could not be continued.”

“The INMO will continue to pursue the outstanding issue of granting incremental credit to recent graduates. We believe that this is necessary in our continuing effort to recruit, and retain, young graduate nurses/midwives to our health service which remains severely understaffed”.

The Union of Students in Ireland also welcome the announcement and said it hoped few young nurses and midwives would emigrate as a result.

An improving economy?

Ministers Lynch and Varadkar said it was a reflection of the improving economic circumstances that the health service was now in a position to improve the rate of pay for students and to restore recognition of the duration of the placement for incremental credit purposes into the future.

This is the fifth measure introduced in recent months to boost recruitment and retention of nurses, they said. Other measures include: a first stage of pay restoration; a cut in the Universal Service Charge; a €1,500 vouched education bursary for new recruits;, more permanent contracts and relocation payments, and payments for taking on duties from doctors.

The number of nurses employed by the HSE since last year has increased by 900, according to the Department.

More than 200 jobs to go as Brinks ceases operations in Ireland

      

A spokesperson for Brinks today said that the Irish cash-in-transit market has not been profitable in recent years

More than 200 jobs are to be lost after cash-in-transit firm Brinks confirmed that it is to cease its operations in Ireland.

Trade union Siptu said it is very angry with the decision after reaching a major restructuring deal with the company as recently as last month to safeguard Brinks’ future.

However, a spokesperson for Brinks today said that the Irish cash-in-transit market has not been profitable in recent years, and they do not see opportunities for growth going forward.

The job losses will affect staff in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Siptu Organiser Brendan Carr said staff at the firm are extremely disappointed.

“Unfortunately, despite the sacrifices of its workforce and their willingness to adapt to the company’s demands it has still decided to end its operations,” said Mr Carr.

“These jobs have been endangered, in part, due to the operation of low cost employers in the security industry.

“The workers are extremely disappointed by this announcement.”

Mr Carr said he hoped the staff would be able to find new employment but he criticised Brinks one month after it reached a deal with staff to secure their jobs.

“These workers are licensed to work in the cash in transit industry and where possible it is hoped that they can transfer to a new employer along with the contracts that are currently being serviced by Brinks Ireland.

“Only last month, union representatives finalised an agreement with management on a major restructuring deal which we were ensured would safeguard the company’s future in Ireland.

“These companies do not adhere to the established terms and conditions of employment in the cash in transit sector.”

Global sea levels could rise to up to four feet by year 2100?

      

Global sea levels rose faster in the 20th century than at any time in the previous 2,700 years, research has shown. And scientists believe that without global warming sea levels might actually have fallen in the last 100 years.

Instead they are said to have increased by an average 14 centimetres (5.5in) between 1900 and 2000.

Without a rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, worldwide sea levels are on course to rise by between one and four feet by the end of this century, it is claimed.

Conservative estimates say seas off the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida will rise five to eight inches by the 2050s – but that could become 21 to 24 inches if ice sheets continue melting at current rates (AP)Even if the ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement to manage climate change are adopted, sea levels are still projected to rise by as much as two feet.

The evidence is contained in two separate US and German research papers published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Both used new statistical approaches to assess sea level trends.

For the first, a US team led by Dr Robert Kopp, from Rutgers University, analysed data from a host of geological indicators spanning almost 3,000 years. The database included records from marshes, coral atolls and archaeological sites from 24 locations around the world.

The results showed that global sea levels fell by about three inches between the years 1000 and 1400, which coincided with a planetary cooling of around 0.2C.

Sea levels aren’t falling around the island village of Kivalina, an Alaska Native community of 400 people already receding into the ocean (Andrew Harnik/AP)In contrast, today’s global temperature is about 1C higher than it was in the late 19th century.

Without global warming, it is likely that sea level change during the last century would have ranged between a fall of 1.2 inches and a rise of 2.8 inches.

Dr Kopp said: “The 20th century rise was extraordinary in the context of the last three millennia – and the rise over the last two decades has been even faster.”

What does the future hold for coastal cities and towns? (John Minchillo/AP)The German study used a new prediction model that combined physics-based calculations of changes, such as ice sheet melting and heat-induced expansion of sea water, and recorded data from observations made during the last century.

Feeding the information into simulations for three greenhouse gas scenarios proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change revealed a rise in sea levels of between one and four feet by the year 2100.

This was broadly in line with the US study, which forecast a rise of between 1.7 and 4.3 feet if the world continues to rely heavily on fossil fuels.

The World Bank says Sri Lanka is one of the South Asian countries likely to be hit hard by rising sea levels (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)Lead scientist Dr Anders Levermann, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: “With all the greenhouse gases we already emitted, we cannot stop the seas from rising altogether, but we can substantially limit the rate of the rise by ending the use of fossil fuels.

“If the world wants to avoid the greatest losses and damages, it now has to rapidly follow the path laid out by the UN climate summit in Paris a few weeks ago.”

More than 600 million people live in vulnerable coastal areas less than 10 metres (32 feet) above sea level. Two thirds of cities with populations of more than five million are located in these high-risk areas.

The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 26,000 square kilometres (10,000 square miles) of land would be lost if global sea levels rise by two feet.

Donie’s Ireland daily news BLOG

Sunday 21st February 2016.

Michael Collins would be very ‘p****d off’ with the current crop of Irish politicians?

Aidan Quinn (Actor) RIP right below might claim? who died last month after a battle with cancer at the age of 69

  V 

Michael Collins might not be very pleased with the current crop of Irish politicians, according a star of the 1996 hit film that tells his story.

Irish-American actor Aidan Quinn RIP, who was raised in both Dublin and Offaly, said the Irish icon would have split feelings when it comes to modern politicians.

“A part of him would be proud and part of him would be dismayed and pissed off, like the rest of us,” he said.

The ‘Elementary’ star admitted he’s not as familiar with Irish politics as he used to be, since he spends most of his time living and working in America.

Quinn joined a variety of cast and crew members from ‘Michael Collins’ to mark 20 years since the film debuted, as part of the part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival.

Director Neil Jordan was among the crowd celebrating the film’s anniversary and agreed that Collins would be no fan of contemporary politicians.

“I think it’s lucky he’s not around actually. The landscape has changed so much really,” he said.

The Sligo native said he was fond of People Before Profit Alliance candidate Richard Boyd Barrett. “He’s not Michael Collins either,” he added.

The movie, which will be released on Blu Ray for the first time next month, also starred Alan Rickman, who died last month after a battle with cancer at the age of 69.

The English actor, who played Eamon DeValera, made his final public appearance in Ireland at last year’s film festival. Quinn, who played republican politician Harry Boland, said Rickman’s Irish roots were very important to him.

“Year’s after filming, I met [Alan] in Whelan’s at a concert and I realised he had a huge affinity for all things Irish that he loved.

“He was a lovely man and an incredible talent and he’ll be missed.”

Jordan, who also directed ‘Interview With The Vampire’ and ‘Crying Game’ said both the film and playing DeValera on screen were very important to Rickman.

The Audi Dublin International Film Festival runs until the 28 February.

Independents soar in the latest poll’s state of the parties

Figures indicate Fine Gael and Labour to fall far short of required 80 seats for government

  

Unless there is a dramatic shift in opinion in the final days of the campaign the country is heading for a period of political instability after the general election.

The final Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll of the campaign, conducted on Friday and Saturday, showed little change for the Government parties since the first poll of the campaign.

On the basis of the figures Fine Gael and Labour will fall far short of the 80 seats needed to form a majority government.

They will also be well short of the number they require to put together a stable administration backed by Independents.

Fianna Fáil has gained support since the campaign began and has closed the gap with Fine Gael to five points, but it is hard to see how the party can win the number of seats required to lead a government.

The only way this could come about would be if Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and a majority of Independents combined to form a coalition but, given the wide range of views across the Independents and smaller parties, it is hard to see this happening.

In any case Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has been unequivocal about not going into coalition with Sinn Féin, and if his party does well he will be in a position to impose his will on the elements in the party who do not share his views.

Unstoppable march

The apparently unstoppable march of the Independents and smaller parties is the standout feature of the poll.

At 28% nationally, the category is level with Fine Gael and in Dublin they far outstrip every other party with an astonishing 41% of the vote.

This 41% breaks down into a number of categories, with pure Independents on 9% in the capital, closely followed by the Social Democrats and the AAA/PBP on 7% each, Shane Ross’s Independent Alliance on 6%, the Greens on 4%, Renua on 3%, and other groupings on 3%. A final 3% are not sure which of the Independent categories they support.

The poll indicates that the election counts in all the Dublin constituencies could provide unexpected results if the Independents and smaller parties transfer to each other in any significant fashion.

The Independent brand is not as strong outside Dublin but they still poll a significant share of the vote right across the country.

The disparate nature of the Independent/Others vote could be a lifeline for Fine Gael as a very broken field could allow the candidates of the main government party to stay in the race as various Independents go out.

In Dublin, Fine Gael is in second place, well behind Independents/Others, on 22 per cent. The party gets 26 per cent in Connacht/ Ulster, 30 per cent in the rest of Leinster and 33 per cent in Munster.

Fine Gael’s strongest support is among middle-class AB and C1 voters, where it gets 35 per cent and 33 per cent respectively. It drops back among C2 and DE categories but jumps to almost 50 per cent among farmers.

The party also has a reasonable spread across the age categories, peaking at 37 per cent among the over-65s and dropping off significantly among those aged under 34.

Labour struggling

The news for Labour is grim on all fronts. Its national level of support, at 6 per cent, is about a third of what it won at the last election and almost all of its seats are in danger.

The party does best in Dublin where it is on 9 per cent. Its next best region is Munster where it hits 6 per cent, but it is at only 4 per cent in the rest of Leinster and Connacht/Ulster.

In class terms, Labour is strongest among the AB group but struggling among the other social categories.

The poll is very good news for Fianna Fáil, with the party making gains at precisely the right moment. It can now have serious hopes of emulating its local election performance when it hit 25 per cent of the national vote.

What will encourage the party is that it has extended its lead over Sinn Féin to eight points with the election finish line in sight.

However, one point of concern for Fianna Fáil is that its vote in Dublin remains at just 13 per cent. The party has no seats in the capital at present and, on that share of votes, will be lucky to win a handful.

Strong in Leinster

In the rest of the country the picture is better. Fianna Fáil’s strongest region is the rest of Leinster where at 31 per cent it is marginally ahead of Fine Gael.

It is the same story in Connacht/ Ulster, but in Munster the party is well behind Fine Gael.

In class terms Fianna Fáil is strongest among the least well off C2 and DE categories and weakest among the better off.

In age terms it has pulled ahead of Fine Gael among the under-34s but is behind among the older age groups, particularly the over-65s.

It seems Micheál Martin’s positioning of Fianna Fáil as a slightly left-wing party has gained traction with poorer and younger voters and that has helped it eat into the Sinn Féin vote.

Support for Sinn Féin has dropped back significantly to 15 per cent with the party’s vote in Dublin under pressure from the rise of AAA/PBP as well as Fianna Fáil, while in Munster it has dropped back in tandem with the rise of Independents.

Sinn Féin is now on 14 per cent in Dublin and Munster and 17 per cent in the rest of Leinster and Connacht/ Ulster.

The Sinn Féin vote is massively concentrated among the poorest C2 and DE social categories and among people aged under 34.

Ex Fianna Fáil Minister Mary says voters should not be expecting election promises to be fulfilled

    

A former Fianna Fáil Minister has warned voters that no political party will be able to keep all their election promises.

Mary O’Rourke has said there is too much emphasis on candidates’ ability to make changes, if voted into power.

She also has said no one can keep the economic recovery going at the current rate.

With less than a week for people to decide who they want to vote for, Mary O’Rourke is reminding us to be realistic: “I think there has been an overemphasis on promises, on the green fields beyond when life is going to be very good, it isn’t.

“All the promises will never be fulfilled, never ever, because the growth rate is not going to continue at 3.1/2% for five years.”

Facebook launches a new feature of preventing suicide tool in the UK

    

Facebook has launched a new feature in the UK to offer support to users who may be considering suicide.

The Suicide Prevention tool has been developed with support from charity Samaritans, and works by asking users to flag and report posts from friends that cause concern. These posts will then be reviewed by a special team at the social network, with help options sent to those the reviewers deem to be struggling.

A message appears when the person in question next logs in that reads: “Hi, a friend thinks you might be going through something difficult and asked us to look at your recent post.”

Talk-talk-talk options

The user can then choose to talk to someone – either a friend or helpline worker, or be sent tips and support directly. There is also an option to ignore the offers altogether.

Facebook’s safety policy manager in the UK Julie de Bailliencourt said: “Keeping the Facebook community safe is our most important responsibility. We worked with organisations including Samaritans to develop these tools, and one of the first things they told us was how much connecting with people who care can help those who are struggling to cope – whether offline or online.

“People use Facebook to connect with friends and family, and that’s why we’re evolving the support, resources and advice available to people who are in distress and their concerned friends and family members.”

A powerful resource tool?

According to the social network, more than half the UK’s population is on Facebook (36 million) and this resource makes it a powerful tool to connect with those most at risk.

Samaritans chief executive Ruth Sutherland said: “Social media is a great thing, it provides an outlet for many people and it’s a great source of information and support. It’s a way that we connect with our friends, a way of communication. Samaritans welcomes Facebook’s commitment to keeping their users safe in this environment.”

‘Ireland well placed to be a world leader in addressing climate change issues’

    

Ireland is well placed to be a world leader in addressing climate change, according to John Muldowney, Agricultural Inspector with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Speaking at the Agricultural Science Association’s (ASA) Climate Change Forum in Tipperary recently, eh said that “by 2050, the planet will need to produce 70% more food with less land, water and energy while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” and that he believes “Ireland is well placed to continue showing leadership in the creation of innovative solutions where climate action is at the centre of sustainable food production”.

Muldowney was joined by Oisín Coghlan, Director of Friends of The Earth; Paul Nolan, Computational Scientist at the Irish Centre for High-End Computing; and Pat Murphy, Head of Environmental Knowledge Transfer at Teagasc along with more than 70 delegates.

The forum background:-

The forum was held against the backdrop of the unanimous agreement among the 195 nations represented at COP 21 about the urgent need to address climate change with specific targets to keep global warming well below a +2°C rise in temperature compared to pre-industrial times and pursuing efforts to limit this increase to +1.5°C.

As part of this agreement, the EU has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 40% by 2030 and Ireland, as part of the EU, will have its own GHG emissions target to achieve.

Irish agriculture represents one-third of total Irish GHG emissions and, with its ambitious Food Wise 2025 objectives, climate change target compliance is a key consideration for the sector.

Friends of the earth focus.

Oisín Coghlan, Director of Friends of The Earth focused on COP 21 and the importance of addressing the climate change challenge in all sectors.

He said that the Paris Agreement increases the pressure on Ireland to come up with a credible plan to cut emissions, and as we now face into EU negotiations about how to divide up the emissions budget across the EU, the question is whether the Irish Government will continue to seek exemptions for Irish agriculture placing a heavier burden on other sectors to reduce their emissions, and whether the Commission or other Member States will be in any mood to reward Irish inaction, especially now that we are the fastest growing economy in Europe”.

The impact of climate change?

Computational scientist Dr. Paul Nolan from the Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC) presented the results from a recently released climate change impact study Ensemble of regional climate model projections for Ireland funded under the EPA research programme and carried out at ICHEC and UCD in conjunction with Met Éireann.

It analyses the impacts of global climate change on the mid-21st-century climate of Ireland and he discussed data of future rainfall, temperature, frequency of storms and growing season length as part of his presentation.

“It is our intention in the near future to set up collaborations with agricultural policy makers and researchers in order to provide more detailed projections on the effects of climate change on the Irish agricultural sector.”

The advisors

Speaking about up-skilling advisors on environmental needs to help them better inform and prepare farmers to be more climate change aware, Head of Environmental Knowledge Transfer at Teagasc Pat Murphy said: “The success in reducing Irish agriculture emissions will be largely determined by the degree to which agricultural advisors of all types manage to engage farmers to address the problem.

“Therefore, reducing the carbon footprint of Irish Agriculture can only be achieved through an effective combination of increased efficiency at farm level, supportive policy to incentivise mitigation and regulation. The agricultural advisor/consultant has a key role in improving the effectiveness of all three approaches and their efforts will be critical in reducing agricultural emissions.”

ASA (Agricultural Science Association’s)

According to ASA vice-president Mary Delaney, the purpose of the event was to provide a platform for information sharing and meaningful debate around what is a very important issue for Irish agriculture. “Climate change will have far-reaching, long-term consequences for the Irish agri-food industry,” she said.

“Today provided us with an opportunity to hear four different perspectives on climate change, investigate current research and explore how knowledge transfer can help instigate action. All of the presentations and resulting discussions were centred on hard-hitting facts and projections that affect the industry as a whole as it strives to increase production in line with Food Wise 2025 objectives.

“Changes in weather patterns and pressures to reduce our GHG emissions will have significant implications for our agri-food sector and agricultural science will play an increasingly important role in finding practical solutions to this challenge.”

Before the dinosaurs an ‘Ugly reptile named pareiasaurs’ in China once roamed the earth

     

Hefty herbivores called pareiasaurs ruled the Earth 260 million years ago; Have been described as the ‘ugliest fossil reptiles’ thanks to knobbly skin

Long before the dinosaurs, hefty herbivores called pareiasaurs ruled the Earth. Now, for the first time, a detailed investigation of all Chinese specimens of these creatures – often described as the ‘ugliest fossil reptiles’.

Pareiasaurs have been reported from South Africa, Europe (Russia, Scotland, Germany), Asia (China), and South America, but it is not known whether there were distinct groups on each of these continents.

In a new study published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, Professor Mike Benton of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences shows there are close similarities between Chinese fossils and those found in Russia and South Africa, indicating that the huge herbivores were able to travel around the world despite their lumbering movement.

Professor Benton said: “Up to now, six species of pareiasaurs had been described from China, mainly from Permian rocks along the banks of the Yellow River between Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces. I was able to study all of these specimens in museums in Beijing, and then visit the original localities. It seems clear there were three species and these lived over a span of one to two million years.”

Pareiasaurs were hefty animals, two to three metres long, with massive, barrel-shaped bodies, short, stocky arms and legs, and tiny head with small teeth. Their faces and bodies were covered with bony knobs.

It is likely the pareiasaurs lived in damp, lowland areas, feeding on huge amounts of low-nutrition vegetation. No stomach contents or fossilized faeces from pareiasaurs are known to exist, but in Russia, pareiasaurs have been found with evidence they had made wallows in the soft mud probably to cool off or coat themselves in mud to ward off parasites.

The new study confirms that the three Chinese pareiasaur species differed from each other in body size and in the shapes of their teeth.

Professor Benton added: “My study of the evolution of pareiasaurs shows that the Chinese species are closely related to relatives from Russia and South Africa. Despite their size and probably slow-moving habits, they could walk all over the world. We see the same sequence of two or three forms worldwide, and there is no evidence that China, or any other region, was isolated at that time.”

Pareiasaurs were the first truly large herbivores on Earth, and yet their tenure was short.

As in other parts of the world, the species in China were wiped out as part of the devastation of the end-Permian mass extinction 252 million years ago, when 90 per cent of species were killed by the acid rain and global warming caused by massive volcanic eruptions in Russia.

Without forests, landscapes were denuded of soils which washed into the seas. Shock heating of the atmosphere and oceans as a result of the massive release of carbon dioxide and methane also killed much of life. The end-Permian mass extinction killed off the pareiasaurs after they had been on Earth for only 10 million years.

Saturday 13th February 2016

Garda may be issued with new weapons after Dublin killings

Heightened Garda presence in city as first of two funerals takes place on Monday

  

Armed detectives and specialist units including the ERU will form part of the operation to deter any further attacks around the funerals.

Members of the specialist Garda unit leading the response to armed crime gangs are seeking new weapons that would give it some of the capabilities of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and Regional Support Unit (RSU).

Members of the Garda Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau are concerned they are not properly equipped to deal with the volatile criminals they encounter during searches and other anti-gang operations.

And after two significant factions launched separate gun attacks over the last eight days that left four men wounded, two of them fatally, sources said members of the bureau want “immediate progress” on their demands.

They are requesting taser stun guns and MP7 high velocity personal defence weapons.

In a statement issued through Garda headquarters, the force said its firearms capability was being considered.

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“As part of a wider programme An Garda Síochána is currently reviewing its armed capacity and response capability,” the statement said.

Powerful firearms. 

While the MP7s are powerful firearms that can pierce armour. Sources say the stun guns – used to subdue violent criminals – were likely to be used more often. Members of the bureau have already been trained to use tasers but have not been provided with them, unlike the ERU and RSU.

Gardaí are to begin mounting a heightened security operation this evening in a bid to minimise the risk of further gun attacks around the funerals of David Byrne and Eddie Hutch.

Father-of-two David Byrne, who was killed at the Regency Hotel, Drumcondra, eight days ago is to be waked and his parents’ home in Crumlin tomorrow evening ahead of his funeral on Monday.

Garda sources said a security operation would need to be put in place in the south inner city on Monday morning and into the afternoon, when Mr Byrne’s funeral mass takes place at St Nicholas of Myra Church, Francis Street, before burial at Mount Jerome Cemetery, Harold’s Cross.

There was concern in Garda circles last night that social occasions around the funeral may give rise to more violence.

A high-visibility presence of unarmed uniformed gardaí along with armed detectives and specialist units including the ERU will form part of the operation to deter any further attacks. The Public Order Unit, or riot squad, was also expected to be on standby.

The boxing weigh-in?

Mr Byrne (33) was shot dead when a group of armed men, some dressed in Garda special operations-style uniforms and carrying AK 47s, burst into a boxing tournament weigh-in the Regency Hotel last Friday, February 4th.

As two Independent News & Media journalists remained away from their homes under threat from one of the feuding gangs, NewsBrands Ireland, representing 16 national newspaper titles, said it “vigorously condemned” the threats.

It said journalists “perform a hugely important function in helping society to value truth . . . It is vital that all journalists working for a free press are enabled to carry out their duties without fear and intimidation.”

A Cork Bishop urges voters to question candidates on Eight Amendment

Some using life limiting conditions to push for abortion on wider grounds, cleric warns

 

The Bishop of Cork and Ross John Buckley.

A Catholic bishop has urged voters to question all general election candidates about their views and voting intentions on repealing the Eighth Amendment to allow for abortion in certain circumstances such as fatal foetal abnormality.

Bishop of Cork and Ross Dr John Buckley said it was sad that a child’s life-limiting condition was being used by some candidates in the forthcoming general election to promote an agenda of those who seek to legalise abortion on much wider grounds.

In the first intervention by a Catholic bishop in the general election campaign, Bishop Buckley said that “candidates in the election should be questioned politely but firmly not just on their future intentions but on their past record.”

Bishop Buckley said there would be frequent references in the debate to “fatal foetal abnormalities” but the word “fatal” was misleading since there was “no medical evidence where a doctor can predict, with certainty, the lifespan of babies before they are born.”

“The term ‘incompatible with life’, which is also used, is a hurtful phrase since it implies that a baby’s life is worthless… parents often say that the time they have with their baby, however short, is very precious,” he said.

Bishop Buckley said the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act (2013) introduced by the Fine Gael/Labour coalition “directly targeted the life of the unborn child and did so in the full knowledge that abortion is not a treatment for suicidal feelings”.

In the context of abortion, the Catholic Church teaches it is wrong to confuse the necessary medical treatment to save the life of a mother and which does not intend to harm the baby with abortion which deliberately takes the life of a child, he said.

Late last year, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he would convene a constitutional convention to examine repealing the Eighth Amendment, which would give equal right to life to a mother and her unborn child, and would allow a free vote if the convention proposed repeal.

Meanwhile, Labour has included repeal of the Eighth Amendment as part of its election manifesto even though last May it voted against a bill proposed byRuth Coppinger of the Socialist Party calling for the deletion of the Eighth Amendment to allow legislation on abortion.

Last November, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik enunciated Labour’s policy, explaining that the party’s proposals would allow for abortion under four medically certified grounds -risk to life, risk to health, cases of rape and case of fatal foetal abnormality.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin recently said that his party would not be initiating the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

He said it was a sensitive issue and he would favour the setting up of an all party committee to “tease out the various issues”.

Sinn Féin voted at its Ard Fheis in March 2015 in favour of allowing abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities and voted for the deletion of the Eighth Amendment when proposed by Ruth Coppinger in the Dáil last May.

Renua, whose leader Lucinda Creighton resigned as a Fine Gael minister of state when she opposed the suicide clause in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in 2013, has said it is open to a referendum on abortion.

Meanwhile, a number of individual Fine Gael TDs including both the former and current Ministers for Health James Reilly and Leo Varadkar have both indicated that they would favour repeal of the Eighth Amendment .

Fianna Fáil spokesman on health Billy Kelleher said he would be happy if the Eighth Amendment was deleted and replaced with legislation outside of the constitution as long as the new law was strict and allowed abortion in only limited circumstances.

Irish Life’s profits up by 11% last year to €204 million

Pension and investment firm contributed €204m to its Canadian parent last year

   

Bill Kyle, Chief Executive, Irish Life Group: “(33%) one in three Irish adults has some savings with us and we manage 15% of personal assets in Ireland.”

Irish Life contributed €204 million in profit last year to its Canadian parent company, Great-West Lifeco, according to full year results just published. This was an increase of 11% on 2014.

For the three months to the end of December, Irish Life produced a profit of €77 million, a year-on-year increase of 57%.

Commenting on the results, Bill Kyle, Irish Life’s chief executive, said: “Our business continues to grow. Irish Life now has €64 billion of assets under management, more than one million customers and 2,300 employees.

“One in three Irish adults has some savings with us and we manage 15% of personal assets in Ireland.”

Mr Kyle said a highlight of the fourth-quarter performance was the success of Irish Life’s Empower pension programme for corporate businesses. It signed up five new large clients representing more than 7,000 members, €500 million in assets and €50 million in annual premium flow.

On January 27th, ratings agency Fitch upgraded Irish Life’s to ‘AA’ from ‘AA-’. This upgrade reflected Fitch’s view that Irish Life has become “core” to its Canadian parent.

“We are particularly pleased that Fitch noted that Great-West Lifeco’s acquisition of Irish Life has been well managed and has provided the company with critical scale in the Irish market as well as operational synergies and expense savings,” Mr Kyle said.

Looking for a healthy way to lose some weight? Then eat some breakfast

 V  V 

Eating breakfast may not only make people, especially obese, lose weight but can also make them more physically active and reduce food intake later in the day, reveals a study.
According to the team, increasing activity can improve health in sedentary people making them more active by controlling their blood sugar levels.

“Despite many people offering opinions about whether or not you should eat breakfast, to date, there has been a lack of rigorous scientific evidence showing  ..
or whether, breakfast might cause changes in our health,” said lead researcher James Betts from the University of Bath in Britain.

The results highlight some of these impacts, but “how important” breakfast is still really depends on the individual and their own personal goals, Betts added.

The team wanted to study the possible links between breakfast, body weight and health.

In the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers split obese  ..
The “breakfasting” group was asked to eat at least 700 calories by 11 a.m., which the first half of the group consumed within at least two hours of waking up. The fasting group was allowed only water until noon.

“For example, if weight loss is the key, there is little to suggest that just having breakfast or skipping it will matter. However, based on other markers of a healthy lifestyle like being more active or controlling blood sugar levels, then there is evidence that breakfast may help,” Betts noted.
It is important to bear in mind that not everybody responds in the same way to breakfast and that not all breakfasts are equal.

“The effects of a sugary cereal compared to a high-protein breakfast are likely to be quite different,” said Enhad Chowdhury, another researcher.

Some 150,000 penguins perish after a giant iceberg traps Antarctica colony

    

  • 150,000 penguins have died after an iceberg ran aground in Antarctica

  • The massive iceberg collided into the bay in 2010

About 150,000 penguins have died since being stranded by a vast iceberg that became lodged off the coast of Antarctica six years ago, according to the journal Antarctic Science.

Combined with expanding ice, the B09B iceberg, which at 1,120 square miles is almost the size of Rhode Island, has cut off the Adelie penguins’ food supply and changed the landscape of their home, according to a February report in the peer-reviewed journal published by Cambridge University Press.

The towering mass of water ice first ran aground into the penguins’ habitat of Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay in 2010. Before that it was floating along the coast for nearly 20 years before colliding into the bay. The iceberg essentially has landlocked the penguins, forcing the animals to trek across a desolate stretch of nearly 40 miles to find food.

Strength in numbers – Adelies are one of the most abundant of the penguin species. They can be found in large colonies and on icebergs and coastal areas in Antarctica waters.

Reduced habitat – Adelie penguins face the same climate change dangers as emperors, such as reduced habitat and a diminishing food supply. However, due to their larger population, they’re currently less at risk.

South polar skua – The south polar skua is the Adelie’s only land predator. It will attempt to steal penguin eggs and attack young chicks. Penguins work together to fight off the vicious skuas.

African penguin – The warmer climes of coastal South Africa and Namibia are home to the African or jackass penguin. Boulders Beach near Cape Town, South Africa, is a popular destination for penguin spotting.

Homebodies – Unlike the highly mobile penguins in Antarctica, African penguins breed, nest and feed in the same area instead of traveling hundreds of miles between sites. They build nests under boulders or bushes or burrows dug from their own guano.

Endangered species – African penguins are listed as an endangered species. Their decreasing population is spurred by loss of nesting grounds due to guano removal by humans, as well as a decreasing food supply as a result of overfishing.

Little penguins – The little penguin, also known as the fairy or blue penguin, can be found on the coasts of New Zealand and southern Australia. They’re the smallest of all penguins, weighing just a kilo or two and topping out at just over 30 centimeters tall.

Penguin Awareness – Around the globe, penguins are at risk of extinction due to overfishing and man-made changes to their breeding grounds.

Emperor penguins – There are 17 species of penguin, with emperor penguins being the largest. They weigh up to 45 kilos (100 pounds) and grow to 120 centimeters (48 inches) tall. These three are pictured on sea ice at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica.

Where to spot them – Emperors can be seen along the coast of Antarctica. Breeding colonies are often the destination for cruises and scenic flights. Penguin species can also be spotted in South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.

Climate change – As with most polar species, penguins are feeling the effects of climate change. Ice melt is changing their breeding grounds and overfishing and ocean acidification is affecting their food sources of fish, squid and krill.

That waddle – Emperors have an awkward, waddling gait on land, but are graceful in the water. These birds can dive more than 550 meters (1,800 feet) and stay under for up to 20 minutes.

Adelie penguins – Less than half the size of an emperor penguin, Adelie penguins are one of the smallest of the Antarctic penguin species. Each October, they build nests of rocks on land near open water.

Strength in numbers – Adelies are one of the most abundant of the penguin species. They can be found in large colonies and on icebergs and coastal areas in Antarctica waters.

Reduced habitat – Adelie penguins face the same climate change dangers as emperors, such as reduced habitat and a diminishing food supply. However, due to their larger population, they’re currently less at risk.

South polar skua – The south polar skua is the Adelie’s only land predator. It will attempt to steal penguin eggs and attack young chicks. Penguins work together to fight off the vicious skuas.

African penguin – The warmer climes of coastal South Africa and Namibia are home to the African or jackass penguin. Boulders Beach near Cape Town, South Africa, is a popular destination for penguin spotting.

Homebodies – Unlike the highly mobile penguins in Antarctica, African penguins breed, nest and feed in the same area instead of traveling hundreds of miles between sites. They build nests under boulders or bushes or burrows dug from their own guano.

Endangered species – African penguins are listed as an endangered species. Their decreasing population is spurred by loss of nesting grounds due to guano removal by humans, as well as a decreasing food supply as a result of overfishing.

Little penguins – The little penguin, also known as the fairy or blue penguin, can be found on the coasts of New Zealand and southern Australia. They’re the smallest of all penguins, weighing just a kilo or two and topping out at just over 30 centimeters tall.

Penguin Awareness – Around the globe, penguins are at risk of extinction due to overfishing and man-made changes to their breeding grounds.

Emperor penguins – There are 17 species of penguin, with emperor penguins being the largest. They weigh up to 45 kilos (100 pounds) and grow to 120 centimeters (48 inches) tall. These three are pictured on sea ice at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica.

Where to spot them – Emperors can be seen along the coast of Antarctica. Breeding colonies are often the destination for cruises and scenic flights. Penguin species can also be spotted in South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.

Climate change – As with most polar species, penguins are feeling the effects of climate change. Ice melt is changing their breeding grounds and overfishing and ocean acidification is affecting their food sources of fish, squid and krill.

That waddle – Emperors have an awkward, waddling gait on land, but are graceful in the water. These birds can dive more than 550 meters (1,800 feet) and stay under for up to 20 minutes.

Adelie penguins – Less than half the size of an emperor penguin, Adelie penguins are one of the smallest of the Antarctic penguin species. Each October, they build nests of rocks on land near open water.

Strength in numbers – Adelies are one of the most abundant of the penguin species. They can be found in large colonies and on icebergs and coastal areas in Antarctica waters.

The once 160,000-strong colony has now dwindled to 10,000 penguins.

“The arrival of iceberg B09B in Commonwealth Bay, East Antarctica… has dramatically increased the distance Adélie penguins breeding at Cape Denison must travel in search of food,” said researchers in the report.

Since 2011, the colony’s population has fallen dramatically, according to the Climate Change Research Center at Australia’s University of New South Wales.

The outlook for the Cape Denison Adelie penguins remains dire. Unless the colossal iceberg is broken up by sea ice, scientists predict the colony will disappear in 20 years.

About 5,500 pairs are still breeding in the area, but there has been a significant decline in their population compared with a century ago, according to estimates based on satellite images and a census in 1997.

However, it isn’t the end for all Adelie penguins. About five miles from the Commonwealth Bay, another colony is thriving, which leaves scientists to conclude that the iceberg has had a direct impact of the species that is now landlocked. About 30% of the Adelie penguin population lives in East Antarctica.

Research on the iceberg’s impact on the Adelie penguins can give scientists insight into the wider implications on the effects of increasing sea ice in the area.

Long-term environmental changes are projected for the Southern Ocean, which will likely affect marine predators, according to a 2015 report published the peer-reviewed journal BMC Evolutionary Biology. Environmental shifts because of climate change could also affect the breeding habitats of land creatures, finding food in a marine environment and the availability of prey for larger predators

Deglaciation, the gradual melting of glaciers, is a key driver in the Adelie penguins’ population over a millennium, according to scientists. But while changes in sea ice can directly affect the species, scientists say it’s important to keep perspective on the penguins’ population over a larger time frame.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 16th December 2015

Irish State coffers in balance for first time in decade

   
A €1.64bn sale of AIB preference shares coupled with better than expected exchequer returns means that the exchequer will be close to balance for the first time since 2007.

AIB will today pay the state €1.64bn in cash from the total bailout funds it received since the financial crash.Finance Minister Michael Noonan is expected to signal today that by the end of the month Ireland will be taking in more than it is spending for the first time in a decade.

Its major capital reorganisation plus the surge in €3bn more than expected in tax receipts so far this year will be added to by the end of year figures.

The increased revenue intake means that Ireland’s borrowing costs will also be reduced while Ireland’s debt ratio will be cut by almost 1% of GDP in 2016.

It is understood the Cabinet discussed the expected end of year returns at its meeting this week.

The AIB transaction marks its first meaningful return of funds to the state after €21bn was pumped into the bank.

Irish taxpayers will still retain 99.8% of the shares in AIB, an investment with a value currently estimated at €11.7bn.

At the beginning of this month, the Government had collected just below €42bn in taxes, almost €3bn more than it expected to collect at the start of the year.

The further income for the exchequer that is expected to be collected by the end of this month will leave the exchequer close to balance —for the first time since the end of the boom in 2007.

Ireland’s debt is now also forecast to fall to 92% of GDP, in line with the euro area average.

AIB to repay Irish State €1.87bn after approval for reorganisation

Bank says it has already paid €3bn to the Government in various fees so far.

   

AIB chairman Richard Pym told shareholders the bank has paid about €3 billion to the State in fees related to the Government’s guarantees.

AIB will pay the State €1.866 billion tomorrow after receiving shareholder approval for a major capital reorganisation that also puts it on the path back to private sector ownership.

This will mark the first repayment by AIB of the €20.8 billion in bailout funds that it received from the State following the global financial crash in 2008.

AIB will pay the Government €1.7 billion in to redeem 1.36 billion of the 3.5 billion preference shares held by the State. It will also pay a dividend of €166.4 million relating to these shares.

In addition, the balance of preference shares will be converted to ordinary stock for the State and will be admitted for trading on the junior ESM market in Dublin on December 18th.

AIB will also press ahead with a consolidation of its share base, issuing one new share for every 250 held by investors. This will have the effect of reducing the number of shares in issue to 2.7 billion. The new shares will begin trading at 8am on December 21st.

AIB has agreed to the potential issue of warrants of up to 9.99% of the bank’s issued ordinary share capital to the minister for finance at the time of any re-admission of its ordinary shares to a regulated market. And the minister has agreed to redeem the EBS promissory note.

With the State owning 99.8 per cent of the bank, approval for the capital reorganisation was never in doubt but AIB was required to hold an extraordinary general meeting in Dublin to put 12 resolutions to all shareholders.

At the meeting in the RDS, AIB’s chairman Richard Pym said the capital reorganisation would “both strengthen and simplify” its capital structure and position the bank to transition from State to private sector ownership.

Mr Pym told shareholders that since the global financial crash in 2008 and its bailout by taxpayers, AIB has paid about €3 billion to the State in fees related to the Government’s guarantees, and coupon payments on the preference shares and contingent capital notes held by the State.

“Today marks the start of our repayment of the capital and we remain grateful to the Government and taxpayers for their continued support,” Mr Pym said.

Mr Pym told shareholders that he intended to take a poll on each resolution at the end of the EGM, even though the proposals were supported by the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, who holds 99.8 per cent of the shares.

AIB received a bailout of €20.8 billion from the State post the crash in 2008. In response to a question from a shareholder, AIB chief executive Bernard Byrne said he expects the bank would repay “all of its money (to the State) in a reasonable timeframe”.

Mr Byrne indicated to media after the meeting that this could be a period of five to 10 years.

Mr Pym said the resolutions being voted on at the EGM would give the company a “market-standard capital structure” and would prepare the bank for a main stock market listing.

He said that the timing of an IPO would be subject to market conditions but he expects “very strong investor appetite for the stock” whenever it is brought to the stock exchange, highlighting how two recent debt issuances by the bank were oversubscribed.

Mr Byrne rejected criticism from investment adviser Brendan Burgess that AIB was overcharging its non-tracker mortgage customers. Mr Burgess argued that average mortgage rates across the EU amounts to about 2 per cent while AIB’s average rate is closer to 3.5%.

He said that whenever competition comes back into the Irish market, AIB’s profits would be hit. Mr Byrne responded by saying the bank, unlike its rivals, had reduced its standard variable rate three times over the past 12 months.

Mr Pym rejected a suggestion from TD Shane Ross that AIB should suspend its shares as they were “grossly overvalued” and people who have bought the shares recently stand to lose a lot of money when the capital reorganisation is completed.

The shares are currently trading at about 3.5% while the bank is proposing to convert some of the preference shares held by the State to ordinary shares for 1.7% each as part of the capital reorganisation being voted on at the EGM. This effectively puts a new floor on the bank’s share price.

Mr Pym said the company had repeatedly warned investors that the shares were overpriced and, as such, there is no more information that it can place in the market.

He said the bank would not be seeking a suspension of its shares as it would “mean that no-one in this room could deal in the shares if they wanted to” and “I don’t think it’s up to the company to deny you that opportunity to sell your shares”.

Irish developers slow to build so they can boost their profits

Developers can earn some €20,000 on newly built home that sells for €300,000?

      

Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh (pictured above left) says that many of the developers are “not satisfied” with a profit of €20,000 per house and want to wait until prices rise to the point where it reaches €50,000 or more?

Developers are stalling on building new houses so that they can boost potential profits, National Asset Management Agency (Nama) chief executive Brendan McDonagh told TDs and Senators on Wednesday.

Responding to questions from an Oireachtas committee on Nama’s role in tackling the housing shortage, Mr McDonagh said that developers can now expect to earn a profit of €20,000 on a newly built home that sells for €300,000.

However, he said that many of them are “not satisfied” with a profit of €20,000 per house and want to wait until prices rise to the point where it reaches €50,000 or more.

“It’s profitable to build houses,” Mr McDonagh said. “It’s a question of how much profit people want to make.”

Commercial return

The Government wants Nama to fund the construction of 20,000 new homes between now and 2020, but the legislation establishing the agency demands that it must earn a commercial return from this.

Mr McDonagh said that it has taken a 35 per cent rise in property prices since 2013 to make residential construction viable again. A three-bed home in Dublin, which sells for €300,000, costs €260,000 to €280,000 to build.Central Statistics Office figures show that, as recently as April 2014, the same house would have sold for about €240,000, well short of break-even. Nama chairman, Frank Daly, stressed that the agency could not fund residential building on that basis, as it would not have been confident of getting a commercial return.

A Nama review of its borrowers’ residential sites showed that it can now develop 13,200 new homes on a number of them. It can provide the remaining 6,200 once it gets other sites serviced.

Nama expects to earn more than €1 billion in profits this year, more than double the €473 million it generated in 2014. Mr Daly told the Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform that it expects to pay a €2 billion surplus to the State once its work is finished in 2020.

Second letter to Cushnahan

Mr Daly also confirmed that he has written a second letter to former adviserFrank Cushnahan, one of those at the centre of the row over Nama’s sale of its Northern Ireland loans to US company Cerberus for €1.6 billion last year.

The chairman wrote to Mr Cushnahan last month, asking why he did not declare that he, former Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson and lawyer Ian Coulter met a potential bidder for the Northern loans, US fund Pimco, in May 2013, while he was still a member of Nama’s Northern Ireland Advisory Committee.

Mr Daly said that Mr Cushnahan has yet to reply to his first letter and added that he wrote to him again this week.

FF leader criticises lack of funding for drug treatment

Micheál Martin says cystic fibrosis patients will need help to pay for the new drug Orkambi.

    

The Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin’s bottom line was there was no extra provision for a high-tech drug scheme.

Decisions on the reimbursement of the cost of medicines were neither political nor ministerial, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

He said they were made on objective, scientific and economic grounds by the Health Service Executive on the advice of the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE).

Mr Kenny was replying to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who said a ground-breaking drug, Orkambi, had arrived on the market to treat cystic fibrosis (CF).

“The response of the authorities in the health service plan, and that of the Government, is that no funding will be made available in 2016 to provide the drug for patients,” Mr Martin said. “The HSE is clear that if the Government wants to fund it, it will have to provide it with additional money.”

Mr Kenny said last month the manufacturer of the drug had submitted a rapid review application to the NCPE as the first step in a pricing and reimbursement application.

The HSE estimated the cost could be about €90 million annually, he said.

“Given the significant budgetary impact, the NCPE is likely to require a full technology assessment of the drug to be carried out before making any recommendation to the HSE on reimbursement, in keeping with the normal procedure.”

Mr Kenny said the Department of Health and the HSE had made significant improvements to the facilities for CF sufferers around the country, particularly isolation units.

“This matter is part of the application process which has a journey to travel,” he said.

Mr Martin said the bottom line was there was no extra provision for the high-tech drug scheme next year, despite the escalating cost of treatment.

Tourist visits to Ireland in 2015 rise to a new record

Tourism Ireland plans to capitalise on the popularity of Star Wars The Force Awakens

    

Tourism Ireland is basing its new publicity campaign around the filming of part of the new Star Wars on Skellig Island.

It’s official – 2015 has seen a record number of people visiting the country.

At an end-of-year review this morning Tourism Ireland estimated that by December 31st, 7.9 million people will have visited Ireland during the year – beating a previous record set in 2007.

Minister for Tourism Paschal Donohoe said he wants to add another 50,000 jobs in the industry by 2025.

Mr Donohoe said he was particularly pleased with this week’s release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens which features scenes shot on Skellig Michael in Co Kerry.

Mr Donohoe, a keen sci-fi fan and collector of Star Wars and other sci-fi figurines, is anticipating further growth next year on the back of the movie.

Tourism Ireland will launch the first phase of its Star Wars campaign on Thursday which aims to encourage fans of the science fiction franchise to visit Ireland.

Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said: “A hugely popular name like Star Wars filming here will bring the magnificent scenery of Skellig Michael and the Wild Atlantic Way to the attention of millions of people around the world.

“It’s a really effective way to reach mass audiences, helping to significantly boost awareness of the Skelligs, the South West and Ireland in general, providing a global platform for Ireland as a holiday destination and whetting peoples’ appetites to come and visit.”

Mr Gibbons said the all-island body was also buoyed value for money indicators which showed holidaymakers’ spending had increased by 29 per cent since the recession.

He also said whereas 43% of visitors from Britain had viewed Ireland as offering poor value for money in 2009, that figure was now around 10 per cent.

Over the period the euro has become weaker against sterling.

“Beyond the negative the figures show most people think Ireland is good value for money”, he said. The second phase of Tourism Ireland’s Star Wars campaign will be unveiled in early 2016.

Dog has been man’s best friend for some 33,000 years, An DNA study finds

First domesticated dogs came about 33,000 years ago and migrated to Europe from south east Asia, rather than descending from domesticated European wolves 10,000 years ago as had previously been thought

   
Man’s best friend came about after generations of wolves scavenged alongside humans more than 33,000 years ago in south east Asia, according to new research.A new study finds Dog has been man’s best friend for over 30,000 years.

Dogs became self-domesticated as they slowly evolved from wolves who joined humans in the hunt, according to the first study of dog genomes.

And it shows that the first domesticated dogs came about 33,000 years ago and migrated to Europe, rather than descending from domesticated European wolves 10,000 years ago as had previously been thought.

Scientists have long puzzled over how man’s best friend came into existence but there is conflicting evidence on when and where wild wolves were first tamed.

First domesticated dogs came about 33,000 years ago and migrated to Europe from south east Asia.

So in one of the largest studies of its kind Professor Peter Savolainen and colleagues sequenced the genomes of 58 members of the dog family including grey wolves, indigenous dogs from south-east and north-east Asia, village dogs from Nigeria, and a collection of breeds from the rest of the world, such as the Afghan Hound and Siberian Husky.

The DNA analysis published in Cell Research found those from south-east Asia had a higher degree of genetic diversity, and were most closely related to grey wolves from which domestic dogs evolved.

Prof Savolainen, of the Royal Institute of Technology, Solna, Sweden, said this indicates “an ancient origin of domestic dogs in southern East Asia 33,000 years ago.”

It is possible an “ecological niche unique in southern East Asia” provided an refuge for both humans and the ancestors of dogs during the last glacial period, with a peak between 26,500 and 19,000 years ago.

Prof Savolainen said: “The mild population bottleneck in dogs suggests dog domestication may have been a long process that started from a group of wolves that became loosely associated and scavenged with humans, before experiencing waves of selection for phenotypes (mutations) that gradually favoured stronger bonding with humans, a process called self-domestication.”

So the history of dogs may involve three major stages including loosely engaged pre-domesticated scavengers, domesticated non-breed dogs with close human-dog interactions, and breed formation following intense human selection for diverse sets of traits.

Prof Savolainen said: “The study of Chinese indigenous dogs thus provide missing links that connect these three major stages.”

The researchers said around 15,000 years ago, a subset of ancestors began migrating towards the Middle East and Africa, reaching Europe around 10,000 years ago.

Although this dispersal is believed to have been associated with the movement of humans, the first movement of man’s best friend out of south-east Asia may have been self-initiated.

This may have been owing to environmental factors, such as the retreat of glaciers, which started about 19,000 years ago.

Dogs from one of these groups then travelled back towards northern China, where they encountered Asian dogs that had migrated from south-east Asia. These two groups interbred, before spreading to the Americas.

Prof Savolainen said the domestic dog, one of our closest companions in the animal kingdom, has followed us to every continent of the world and, as a single species, embodies one of the largest collections of DNA diversity for any on earth.

He said due to their cognitive and behavioural abilities, it has been selected to fulfil a wide variety of tasks including hunting, herding and companionship with the genetic and historical basis of these gene changes intriguing the scientific community, including Darwin.

But despite many efforts studying dog evolution, several basic aspects about the origin and evolution of the domestic dog are still in dispute including several different geographical regions as the proposed birthplace of domestic dogs, and estimations of the date of divergence between wolves and dogs of between 32,000 and 10,000 years ago.

The researchers said around 15,000 years ago, a subset group began migrating towards the Middle East and Africa.

His team analysed the complete DNA of 12 grey wolves, 27 primitive dogs from Asia and Africa and a collection of 19 diverse breeds from across the world to show south east Asian dogs “have significantly higher genetic diversity compared to other populations.”

Prof Savolainen said: “Our study, for the first time, reveals the extraordinary journey the domestic dog has travelled on this planet during the past 33,000 years.”

Chinese indigenous dogs live in the countryside and were sampled across rural China, including many remote regions in Yunnan and Guizhou in southern China.

The breeds include dogs from Central Asia (Afghan Hound) and North Africa (Sloughi), Europe (eight different breeds), the Arctic and Siberia (Greenland dog, Alaska Malamute, Samoyed, Siberian Husky, and East Siberian Laika), the New World (Chihuahua, Mexican and Peruvian naked dog) as well as the Tibetan Plateau (Tibetan Mastiff). These dogs were chosen to cover as many major geographic regions as possible.

Earlier studies have suggested wolves may have been domesticated by the first farmers about 10,000 years ago in the Middle East or Asia, possibly to guard livestock.

But the latest study has found it began much earlier, long before the development of agriculture.

 

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 12th December 2015

Councillors involved in RTÉ sting programme leave local authority body

Cllr John O’Donnell’s membership of LAMA terminated after he refused to resign.

     

Cllr John O’Donnell from Donegal filmed in a meeting with an undercover RTÉ reporter. Mr O’Donnell ’s membership of the LAMA has been ‘terminated with immediate effect,’ after he refused to resign. 

Two of the councillors who featured in the RTÉ Investigates programme on Monday night have resigned from Local Authority Members Association (LAMA), the councillors’ representative body.

The membership of a third councillor who featured in the programme, Cllr John O’Donnell, has been “terminated with immediate effect,” after he refused to resign, an emergency meeting of LAMA held in Tralee on Saturday has been told.

The Independent politician appeared in an RTÉ Investigates programme earlier this week which alleged he had asked for payment in return for helping a fictitious wind farm company to set up in Donegal.

Each county council is represented on the LAMA and 28 of the 31 members attended this morning’s meeting at the county council building in Tralee.

The meeting was called at short notice “in light of recent revelations into the standards of public office RTE Investigates programme,” it said in a statement issued after the meeting.

“The executive of LAMA are shattered and saddened by these revelations as we believe all of our members are throughout the country,” LAMA general secretary former Mayor of Kerry, Cllr Bobby O’Connell, ( FG) who is currently mayor of Killarney, said on behalf of the body.

“The LAMA executive, at its emergency meeting on Saturday December 12th has received resignations from Cllr Hugh McElvaney, Monaghan County Counciland from Cllr Joe Queenan, Sligo County Council.

“These resignations have been accepted by the executive, unanimously. Cllr McElvaney who represents his county council on LAMA and had been an ex officio member of the board of LAMA attended the meeting in Tralee and tendered his resignation.

“Cllr John O’Donnell, Donegal county council, has indicated he will not resign his membership from LAMA. The executive decided at its meeting on December 12th to terminate Cllr John O’Donnell membership with immediate effect,” according to the statement issued after the meeting.

“LAMA remains committed and determined to represent and promote the highest standards which is expected and shared by our members,” Cllr. Mags Murray Chairperson LAMA said.

On Friday a special meeting of Donegal County Council passed a motion calling for the resignation of Mr O’Donnell.

Despite being filmed asking for a payment to be made to a third party, Mr O’Donnell (34) claims he was “entrapped” by the national broadcaster.

He said his only interest when meeting the company was to secure investment and jobs for Donegal.

A large group of protesters with posters calling for Cllr O’Donnell’s resignation gathered in the council chamber for the meeting, which lasted almost three hours.

Commemorative €2 coin to mark the centenary of Easter Rising

The 1916 centenary coin will be released into circulation by the Central Bank in January

   

A commemorative €2 coin to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising is to go into circulation in the New Year, the Central Bank has announced.

The coin features a depiction of the statue of Hibernia, the historic personification of Ireland, on the roof of the General Post Office (GPO) in Dublin.

The designer of the coin, Emmet Mullins, said the statue of Hibernia “witnessed the events of 1916 and watched the growth of a nation since the Rising”.

This will be the first time that Ireland has issued its own commemorative €2 coin.

Previous commemorative €2 coins issued by Ireland were part of a European Union initiative.

This €2 coin will be available to purchase in a proof set, and an annual mint set, in January.

The Central Bank announced news of the new €2 coin on its official Twitter account. It said €4.5m worth of the coins will be released into circulation in January.

It added that it will also release silver and gold proof commemorative coins to mark the 100th anniversary of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

New hard-hitting one pint drink driving campaign highlights the dangers of sinking the one

   

New hard-hitting drink drive campaign highlights the dangers of ‘sinking’ one pint

A new hard-hitting drink-drive campaign has highlighted the dangers of having just the one drink before getting in a car.

The television advert shows a young man on a night out with his mates having “just the one” while they all enjoy themselves.

Then, as he is making his way home, a moment of lapsed concentration leads to tragedy.

The new campaign, aimed at 18-24-year-old men, reinforces the message to never drink and drive.

Launching the campaign, Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan said that in the past 15 years there had been 2,000 deaths and serious injuries caused by drink driving.

“That’s 2,000 devastated families,” he said.

“This new road safety campaign reinforces the need for motorists to ‘Never Ever Drink and Drive’.

“It stresses the impairing effects of alcohol on driving, even from the first drink. The message is designed to increase further the unacceptability of driving even after one drink, especially for younger males.”

The two-and-a-half-minute advert will also be shown on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Last year there were 16 deaths and 62 seriously injured casualties due to drink/drug related driving. This means that last year alone, alcohol and/or drugs accounted for over 20% of all road deaths.

Research has shown impairment begins well below the current drink drive limit of 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

The skills most critical for driving – the brain’s ability to observe, interpret and process information from the eyes and other senses – are impaired by alcohol even at the lowest levels.

The new campaign spells out the legal consequences of being caught drink driving from imprisonment, to losing your licence and having to re-take your test. It also tells the story of ordinary young men enjoying a night out and have their lives destroyed due to a delayed reaction.

Mr Durkan added: “PSNI statistics show that 17-24 year old males are most at risk of causing death and serious injury by drink and driving, either to themselves and other innocent road user. Our campaign is heavily targeted towards them with intense use of social media.

“All drivers though who buy and consume a pint or any other alcoholic drink should realise it could be the most expensive one they ever had, ultimately costing them or other road users their lives.”

The SDLP minister continued: “The tragedy of these deaths and injuries is sorely felt not only by the bereaved families but by friends, colleagues and the wider community.

“This is a tragedy that could be avoided by taking the simple decision not to drive after having a drink.

“As road users and drivers we all make choices and we all have influence.

“This is as critical a message all year round but particularly at Christmas. People need to realise you can’t take chances by having one beer, a glass of wine in a bar, or a shot of vodka at a party and then getting behind the steering wheel.

“If you are with a driver who is drinking alcohol, persuade them to take a taxi home or get a lift from someone who isn’t drinking. Don’t put your own life at risk.”

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd added: “As this new advertisement illustrates, there is no safe limit, so never drink and drive.

“Nobody should ever find themselves ever asking the question, I wonder if I’m ok to drive? Or trying to calculate if they are under the drink drive limit, be it after one drink, or the morning after a night out.

“Do not take the risk. The consequences, as police officers and our emergency service colleagues witness first hand, can be catastrophic.

“As I said when we launched our winter anti-drink drive operation a fortnight ago, I want all motorists to think about the consequences to yourself and your family of being involved in a serious collision.

“How would you feel if your actions resulted in you or one of your family being paralysed? How would you feel if some innocent person was killed? Consider too the impact of losing your driving license and gaining a criminal conviction. Would you also lose your job? Your home?

“I do not want police officers knocking on doors at any time of the year, but especially over Christmas and the New Year, to tell families that a loved one has been killed on the roads. If everyone slowed down, did not drive after drinking or taking drugs, wore a seatbelt and drove with greater care and attention then together we can reduce this preventable carnage on our roads.”

The new advert will be shown on TV for the first time on the X Factor at 9.40pm on Sunday just before the winner of the talent show is announced.

Pear eaters are less likely to be obese

       

The old saying goes, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but a different fruit may provide the same, if not more, benefits: the pear, the Medical Daily has reported.
Research has shown eating just one can fills us with high levels of vitamin C and fiber at just under 100 calories.
Eating a pear or drinking its juice may also help stave off a hangover and reduce risk of stroke.
Now, a study from Louisiana State University has found people who eat pears are less likely to be obese.
The study, published in Nutrition and Food Science, revealed people who ate pears had a lower body weight and were 35 percent less likely to be obese than their pear-abstaining counterparts.
The researchers also investigated the effects eating fresh pears had on nutrient intake, diet quality, cardiovascular risk factors.

Using nine years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which involved 24,808 participants aged 19 and up, the researchers found on top of lower body weight and less obesity risk, pear consumers were generally older, consumed less alcohol, and smoked fewer cigarettes than those who didn’t eat pears.
Pear eaters also had a higher quality diet, characterized by higher levels of fiber and overall vitamins, and less fat and added sugar.
This was despite both pear eaters and non-eaters consuming the same amount of calories.

To determine what specifically the pear eaters were doing to maintain a healthy diet, the researchers looked at the Healthy Eating Index, “a measure of diet quality that assesses conformance to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” according to the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
They found pear eaters consumed more whole fruits and grains, and plant and seafood-based proteins, while limiting their sodium and empty calorie intake.

“The association between pears and lower body weight is very exciting,” lead author Dr.
Carol O’Neil, of the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, said in a press release.
“We believe fiber intake may have driven the lower body weights that were seen in this study because there was no difference in energy intake or level of physical activity found between the fresh pear consumers and non-consumers.

Fiber is important to our daily diets for a number of reasons – it helps with digestion and keeps us feeling fuller longer.
This in turn helps to stave off food cravings, which helps with weight loss.
Studies have also shown fiber may help reduce risk of heart disease, type 2-diabetes, and cancer.
Aside from pears, fiber can be found in raspberries, lentils, artichokes, and various whole grains.
Mixing up the types of fibrous foods you eat will be best for your health.
Despite the benefits, the researchers found only 2 percent of Americans ate a single, medium-sized pear – this alone accounts for half of the recommended daily fruit intake, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
In concluding their study, the researchers wrote “consumption of fresh pears should be encouraged as part of an overall healthy diet, since pears are nutrient-dense and can help individuals meet the fruit recommendation.

Paris climate change deal “As ministers adopt a historic agreement”

To keep global warming “well below” 2C

    

A standing ovation as 195 countries adopt historic deal to keep global warming “well below” 2C and “signal the end of fossil fuels”

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The world last night agreed the first universal, legally binding deal to tackle global warming, in a move that David Cameron said marked “a huge step forward in helping to secure the future of our planet”. The deal, agreed at UN talks in Paris, commits countries to try to keep global temperature rises “well below” 2C, the level that is likely to herald the worst effects of climate change.

It also commits them to “pursue efforts” to limit warming to 1.5C – a highly ambitious goal that could require the UK to take even more radical action than under its existing Climate Change Act.

Amber Rudd, the Energy Secretary, admitted that the world did not “have the answers yet” as to how it would meet the long-term goals of the Paris deal, which would require carbon to be extracted from the atmosphere by the second half of this century.

President François Hollande, the summit host, last night welcomed “the most beautiful and peaceful revolution” and said the deal was a “major leap for mankind”.

The Prime Minister said: “Britain is already leading the way in work to cut emissions and help less developed countries cut theirs and this global deal now means that the whole world has signed to play its part in halting climate change.” Last night’s deal requires countries to set increasingly ambitious targets for cutting their national emissions and to report on their progress – but, crucially, leaves the actual targets, which are not legally binding, for countries to decide for themselves.

Paris climate change deal: Moment agreement announced  Photo: COP21, Paris, Host Broadcaster

The deal also requires developed nations to continue to provide funding to help poorer countries cut their carbon emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change – but does not set a legally binding level of money.

An accompanying, non-binding agreement requires developed countries to continue a goal of “mobilising” $100 billion (£65.9 billion) of public and private finance for developing countries each year after 2020.

It also calls on them to pledge a higher sum by 2025 – potentially pressuring the UK to increase its contribution beyond the £5.8 billion it has pledged over the next five years.

The UK’s Climate Change Act already legally commits it to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050. This – and interim targets set by the Government’s official advisers, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) – are designed to be compatible with a goal of no more than 2C warming, and it is estimated will require £10 billion a year in green energy subsidies by 2030.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 10th December 2015

Irish economic growth hits 7% as recovery outstrips targets

Latest GDP numbers reflect increasing output in ‘all business sectors’, says the CSO

   

While CSO numbers reflect increasing domestic demand, they also point to a decline in net exports in the same period.

Ireland’s economy grew by 7% in the third quarter of 2015 compared with the same period in 2014, new figures reveal.

The rate of gross domestic product (GDP) growth in July-September – up 7% year-on-year, and up 7% in the year to date – suggests growth for the year will beat Government targets.

Budget 2016, unveiled by the Coalition in mid-October, was predicated on the achievement of 6.2% GDP growth this year and 4.3% growth in 2016.

On Wednesday, however, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlinraised the prospect of a growth rate this year in excess of 7%.

The new quarterly national accounts, published this morning in Dublin by the Central Statistics Office, reflect increasing output in “all business sectors” in the three months to September compared with the previous quarter.

However, the data also shows that the pace of quarter-on-quarter growth eased in summer and early autumn.

The figures point to 1.4% GDP growth in the three months to September, following 1.9% growth in the three months to June and 2.1% growth in the three months to March.

While the figures reflect increasing domestic demand on a quarterly basis, they also point to a decline in net exports in the same period.

Investment activity increased by 4.9% compared with the second quarter and personal consumption, the largest component of domestic demand, rose 0.7%. Quarterly export growth of 2.2% was outpaced by 5.4% growth in imports.

The volume of activity in the industrial sector rose 2.5% quarter on quarter, a rise which includes a 1.2% increase in construction activity.

The volume of activity in “other services”, which includes the financial and insurance sectors as well as health and education, rose 1.4% and activity in the distribution, transport, software communications sector advanced by 1.3%. Agriculture, forestry and fishing activity rose 11.4%.

Measured on a gross national product (GNP) basis, which strips out the impact of multinational profit flows, the economy contracted by 0.8% in the third quarter. This compares with 1.9% GNP growth in the second quarter.

While it is GDP figures which form the basis for key budgetary calculations, the data shows that annual GNP growth in the three months to September reached 3.2%. GNP growth in the year to date reached 5.6%.

Government introduces tough drink law will not spoil Christmas

     

‘Happy hour’ Alas cheap drink’s promotions will be banned and shops will no longer be able to display bottles of alcohol behind check-outs under radical new proposals revealed yesterday.

A can of beer cannot be sold for less than €1.97 and a bottle of wine with 12.5% alcohol content must be no cheaper than €7.40 under the proposed legislation.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who said he hopes to get the legislation through one of the Houses of the Oireachtas before the general election, insisted he was not “cancelling Christmas” with the wide-ranging Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

But the draconian measures are necessary to reduce the nation’s levels of heavy drinking which are causing death, illness and other social misery, he warned.

“The evidence about Ireland’s drinking habits is shocking,” he insisted. He said the minimum pricing to stop cheap alcohol being sold in shops will be set at 10c per gram of alcohol.

Although Scotland’s bid to introduce the same measure is being challenged in Europe, he said he expects the court ruling later this month will allow it through as long as it can be shown to be more effective than other actions.

Irish officials are already preparing a case to support this and while ideally he wants minimum pricing to be introduced here and in Northern Ireland at the same time, he said the Republic cannot wait.

The measures include:

– Confining the sale of alcohol to an area in a shop that customers will not pass through. Alcohol must be in a separate section.

– Alcohol ads will be restricted to giving information about the product. They cannot glamorise alcohol. In cinemas, the ads will restricted to when over-18 films are being shown.

Television ads such as the Guinness commercial featuring rugby players Gareth Thomas will not be allowed because it is linking drink with courage.

– Alcohol-related ads cannot be found within 200 metres of creches, playgrounds or schools.

– Breaches of the code will be a criminal offence with fines of between €5,000 and €250,000 or jail terms of up to three years.

Some of the measures will be phased in over three years.

Responding to the Bill, Alcohol Action Ireland said it was a landmark piece of legislation. Prof Frank Murray of the Royal College of Physicians also called it an “important first step.”

“Every day doctors see the awful carnage as teenagers and men and women of all ages come to our hospitals as a result of road accidents, fights, falls and other incidents.”

Padraig Cummins of the Vintners Federation of Ireland said they welcomed the introduction of minimum pricing.

Crucial

The legislation addresses the issues of “availability, price, information and display all of which are crucial,” he added.

However, Ibec, the group representing Irish business, said the new legislation ” fails to provide effective measures to tackle the serious problem of alcohol misuse.”

Chief executive Danny McCoy said that “instead it penalises responsible consumers and a sector that provides valuable employment across the country.

“It is yet another example of government regulation being introduced without any effort being made to establish the wider economic cost.

“Alcohol misuse is a serious problem that demands a coordinated, effective response.”

The empowerment of women is vital to climate change action?

COP21: Women farmers account for up to 80% of food production in developing states

     

The Gender Day symposium was attended by Mary Robinson (above), appearing on a panel hosted by France’s Ségolène Royal.

The empowerment of women is essential in tackling climate change, according to Irish climate change expert Prof John Sweeney.

Prof Sweeney, in Paris for COP21, said a majority of the world’s farmers were women, who currently account for up to 80% of food production in developing countries.

Women farmers also account for more than 90% of the female labour force in many African countries, with some 40 billion hours per year spent by African women merely collecting water.

This week the COP21 conference featured a symposium to recognise Gender Day, and a number of events were held to emphasise the importance of a gender statement appearing in the final agreement.

Mary Robinson

The Gender Day symposium was attended by Mary Robinson, appearing on a panel hosted by France’s Ségolène Royal.

Dr Robinson encouraged young women to challenge the status quo, where the reins of power were largely held by men.

Also speaking at the conference was former US vice-president Al Gore, who received a standing ovation after an hour-long illustrated talk on climate change including the floods associated with Storm Desmond.

Storm Desmond produced a new record UK daily rainfall total, in Cumbria, of over 340mm. This, for instance, compares to a rainfall figure for Glasnevin in 1887 which recorded 356mm in the whole year.

Extreme events

Prof Sweeney said changes in the frequency of extreme events – “often with catastrophic human consequences in countries not significantly complicit in causing global warming” – were being experienced widely across the world as the climate alters.

“Climate justice is the driving force for an agreement, now that the science of climate change is largely settled,” said Prof Sweeney.

Central Bank whistle-blower told to remove critical findings

Sinn Féin’s McDonald has submitted details of case to Comptroller and Auditor General.

  The purpose of whistleblower legislation is to encourage employees to “raise genuine and reasonably-held concerns about matters of public interest” free of any threat of sanction   Related image

A Central Bank whistle-blower is claiming he was told to remove critical findings from an internal audit report about the bank.

The former employee, who alleges his contract with the bank was terminated after he complained, has made a protective disclosure to Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Ms McDonald has submitted details of the case and the report, written in October of 2014, to the Comptroller and Auditor General and plans to raise the matter at the Public Accounts Committee.

She said she was “very concerned” that a high-ranking auditor within the Central Bank would be asked to remove or delete findings from a report.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, Ms McDonald said the report reflected the bank’s “partial or non-compliance” with the code of governance set out for State bodies.

Up to 70 to be given access to Oireachtas banking inquiry report

She said the original report found the bank was partially compliant on the issue of staff pay.

The Central Bank has been in the spotlight over the payment of retention bonuses to some staff, which unions claim may have breached financial emergency legislation on public-sector pay.

The Central Bank hired consultants Deloitte to examine the issues raised by the individual. Deloitte later found in favour of the Central Bank’s management.

In a statement, the Central Bank said it was not in a position to comment on issue as it is currently before the Workplace Relations Commission.

“However, the Central Bank can confirm that issues raised about Internal Audit (IA) in the Bank were thoroughly investigated last year following challenges raised by a team member,” a spokeswoman said.

“ Because the matter related to the IA function, the Central Bank appointed an independent external party to fully investigate. The independent external party did not uphold the complaints,” she added.

“ The Central Bank has a confidential disclosures (‘whistleblowing’) policy in place, and places great importance of staff ‘speaking up’ when appropriate. The Central Bank is satisfied that its actions in relation to this issue have been appropriate,” she said.

The employee is understood to have detailed his concerns to the then governor of the Central Bank, Patrick Honohan, through an internal mechanism for whistleblowers.

However, Ms McDonald said she had concerns about whether the individual was treated correctly as a whistleblower.

Being happy does not always make you live longer?

A 10-year study of one million women found people’s emotional state of well-being had no direct effect on mortality.

      
Happiness may make the world go round but it does not make you live longer, according to new research ending the mistaken belief that being sad or stressed leads to ill-health.“Happiness and unhappiness do not themselves have any direct effect on death rates,” the study’s Co-author said Corbis

A 10-year study of one million women found people’s emotional state of well-being had no direct effect on mortality and that previous research simply confused cause and effect.

Life-threatening poor health can obviously cause unhappiness, which is why unhappiness is associated with increased mortality the researchers said.

The study is so large that it rules out unhappiness being a direct cause of any material increase in overall mortality in women. This was true for overall mortality, for cancer mortality, and for heart disease mortality, and it was true for stress as well as for unhappiness.

Smoking usually made people unhappier than non-smokers, researchers found. However, after taking account of previous ill health, smoking, and other lifestyle and socio-economic factors, they found that unhappiness itself was no longer associated with increased mortality.

Co-author Professor Sir Richard Peto, of the University of Oxford, said: “Many still believe that stress or unhappiness can directly cause disease, but they are simply confusing cause and effect. Of course people who are ill tend to be unhappier than those who are well, but the UK Million Women Study shows that happiness and unhappiness do not themselves have any direct effect on death rates.”

The investigation, published in The Lancet today/on Thursday was carried out within the Million Women Study – a national study of women’s health, involving more than one million UK women aged 50 and over, and a collaborative project between Cancer Research UK and the NHS.

Three years after joining the study, women were sent a questionnaire asking them to self-rate their health, happiness, stress, feelings of control, and whether they felt relaxed. Five out of six of the women said they were generally happy, but one in six said they were generally unhappy.

Unhappiness was associated with deprivation, smoking, lack of exercise, and not living with a partner. The strongest associations, however, were that the women who were already in poor health tended to say that they were unhappy, stressed, not in control, and not relaxed.

The main analyses included 700,000 women with an average age of 59. During the next 10 years these women were followed by electronic record linkage for mortality, during which time 30,000 of them died.

The scientists said after allowing for any differences already present in health and lifestyle, the overall death rate among those who were unhappy was the same as the death rate among those who were generally happy.

Lead author, Dr Bette Liu, now at the University of New South Wales, Australia said: “Illness makes you unhappy, but unhappiness itself doesn’t make you ill. We found no direct effect of unhappiness or stress on mortality, even in a ten-year study of a million women.”

Previous reports of reduced mortality being associated with happiness, with being in control, with being relaxed, or with related measures of wellbeing had not allowed properly for the strong effect of ill health on unhappiness and on stress.

The effects of happiness and wellbeing on society are becoming increasingly measured and studied. David Cameron introduced The Happiness Index in 2012, measuring national well-being, while a West Midlands school became the first in the country to introduce lessons in happiness this week. All pupils at Sacred Heart Primary School in Tipton, from nursery to Year 6, will study the new subject alongside maths and English following positive responses to a training day for staff in November.

Headteacher Melanie Gee said she had been exploring a variety of ideas to make sure children’s well-being and mental health needs were being met.

Donegal Irishman William Campbell collects his Nobel prize

The path to the awarding of the Nobel Prize in medicine tonight stretches to curiosity sparked in TCD in the 1950s

     

William C. Campbell at his home in North Andover, Massachusettsafter the announcement that he won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

This evening I’ll be celebrating the achievement of William C Campbellwhen he receives his Nobel Prize in Stockholm. Short of being awarded oneself, it doesn’t get much better for a university president than seeing a graduate receive the greatest honour in his or her field.

Campbell’s story has touched, and resonated with, people around the world, because the work for which he has been awarded – eradicating river blindness – is particularly inspirational and altruistic, and because so many places and institutions can claim him.

Born in Ramelton, Co Donegal, he was a Trinity undergraduate before doing his PhD at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, and joining Merck Research Laboratories, where he made the discovery, with Japanese scientist, Satoshi Omura, that the avermectin family of compounds kill the parasitic worms that cause river blindness and other diseases. He’s now an American and an Irish citizen with a Boston-Donegal accent.

He exemplifies, in fact, the contemporary high-flying academic who, in the course of a career, typically crosses countries and institutions, building networks of valuable contacts. He has said that in Trinity his professor,Desmond Smyth “changed my life by developing my interest in this particular field – parasitic worms”.

This graceful acknowledgement is characteristic of Dr Campbell – he acknowledges everyone who helped him on his path – and it’s also striking to realise just how long a ‘gestation’ he had for his research. He was a Trinity undergraduate getting interested in parasitic worms in the early 1950s; he made his discovery, with Omura, of avermectin in the late 1970s; he helped persuade Merck to distribute the drug free of charge in 1987, and he received the Nobel in 2015 – 65 years after he first started researching parasitic worms.

This is important to emphasise. We all like to see research applied – translated from the laboratory into products and services that benefit humankind; commercialisation, the link-up between academics and industry, is increasingly important. But we shouldn’t necessarily collate “application”, “translation” and “commercialisation” with speed.

Yes, if research can be applied quickly, that’s great, and if we can help speed things up by investing further, then we should – but excellent research needs time and we have to respect that. Frequently the researcher has no idea, when he or she commences, of where the research is going. You start with an idea and a passion for discovery, and you follow where it leads. Ground-breaking research doesn’t tend to arise from a prescriptive or directive start.

Quaternions In fact Dr Campbell wasn’t that slow to apply his research, at least compared with

others. Take William Rowan Hamilton, the 19th century Trinity mathematician and scientist, who discovered quaternions, a complex number system in three- dimensional space. He memorably described his discovery: on October 16th, 1843, he was walking from Dunsink into Dublin when “I then and there felt the galvanic circuit of thought close; and the sparks which fell from it were the fundamental equations between i, j, k . . . I felt a problem to have been at that moment solved – an intellectual want relieved – which had haunted me for at least 15 years before”. He could not resist “the impulse – unphilosophical as it may have been – to cut with a knife on a stone of Brougham Bridge, as we passed it, the fundamental formula”. The equation is now commemorated on a stone plaque at Brougham, or Broome, bridge on the Royal Canal at Cabra.

Fifteen years is long to be worrying at an intellectual problem. More striking again is that it took another 150 years for Hamilton’s great discovery to be applied. It was recognised as seminal but it had no application until the late 20th century – quaternions are now used in the control of spacecraft and in three-dimensional computer modelling, such as video games. Hamilton’s discoveries in dynamics had the same fate – they didn’t attract much interest until Erwin Schrödinger picked up on them 100 years later and gave the Hamiltonian formulation a central role in his construction of quantum mechanics.

This is how great research happens – ideas and discoveries are refined, from one researcher to another. I don’t like the distinction that has grown up between “basic” and “applied” research – as if one is more useful than the other. It’s impossible to foresee which research will have the greatest ultimate applications. When we rush and harry researchers to come up with a commercial product, we are interfering with the process, and ultimately that’s self-defeating.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 8th December 2015

Exposed ‘political misconduct’ utterly unacceptable says Enda Kenny

   

Enda Kenny said the “kind of behaviour” highlighted by an RTE programme on Monday night last had no place in public life.

Alleged political misconduct exposed by undercover reporters is “utterly unacceptable”, Enda Kenny has told the Dail.

The Taoiseach said the “kind of behaviour” highlighted by an RTE programme on Monday night had “no place in public life”.

In the Standards in Public Life expose a number of councillors were approached by undercover reporters claiming to be from a company developing a wind farm.

Three politicians were filmed allegedly offering to lobby for the company in exchange for money, the promise of a loan or an investment in a private business.

One of the councillors filmed – Sligo’s Fianna Fail councillor Joe Queenan – has resigned from the party in the wake of the documentary.

During leaders’ questions in the Dail, Mr Kenny commented on the content of the TV investigation.

“It is utterly unacceptable for any public representative to use their position for financial and personal gain,” he said.

“There can be no place in public life for the kind of behaviour that was witnessed on the RTE programme last evening.

“Public representatives are required to comply fully with the codes of conduct governing their duties.”

Mr Kenny was responding to a question from Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

Mr Adams highlighted the RTE disclosures as evidence the Government had done little to crack down on misconduct in public life, claiming planned new regulatory measures lacked independence.

“You have had five years to deal with this Taoiseach – five wasted years,” said Mr Adams.

Irish Government plans to establish flood warning system

Simon Coveney says business people affected by flooding facing real financial difficulties

    

(Above let) Rescue teams evacuate people from their homes after Storm Desmond caused flooding in Carlisle, England.

The Cabinet is to announce plans to establish a new flood warning system.

The Minister for the Office of Public Works Simon Harris is to discuss a number of new measures at today’s meeting.

The proposals include allocating 15 members of staff to Met Eireann to establish a new flood warning system at a cost of €2.5 million.

Ireland is the only country not to have such a forecasting system in place.

The Cabinet will also discuss distributing funds to the Irish Red Cross to give to businesses damaged by the floods.

The money, which will be capped, will be given to businesses in towns identified by the OPW as being at risk of flooding.

It is also expected to consider a review of the flood insurance.

Speaking on his way into Government Buildings on Tuesday morning, Minister for Defence and Agriculture Simon Coveney said business people affected by flooding were facing real financial difficulties as Christmas approached.

“The problem in relation to businesses has always been that the legislation actually dealing with humanitarian flood relief doesn’t actually cater for businesses,” he said.

“So we’re looking at whether we can find a way to provide some financial assistance to small businesses who in the build-up to Christmas, most of them retail outlets, have found themselves looking forward to probably the best Christmas in 10 years.”

He said they were now dealing with throwing carpets out on the street and lifting water-damaged wooden floors.

“We’ll try to be as helpful as we can but I don’t want to over-promise until we have a Cabinet discussion on it.”

Mr Coveney said he understood why people affected by flooding were feeling worried, angry and frustrated. He said he understood Department of Social Protection officials were “knocking on doors” telling people how they could avail of financial supports.

Former singer dies in Monagan floods as “Desmond” causes damage over Ireland

70-year-old performed with Plattermen in 1960s and 70s

      

Ivan Vaughan (above left who played with the Platermen under the name Simon Scott) died during a storm at the weekend in Co Monaghan.

The body of a man, believed to have been trapped in his car on a flooded road, has been found in Co Monaghan.

Singer Ivan Vaughan – who performed with the Plattermen under the name Simon Scott in the 1960s and 70s – was driving home from a gig in Glaslough in the county when he’s believe to have become trapped in a dipped part of a flooded road.

Mr Vaughan (70) was reported missing yesterday morning and a post mortem is due to take place in today.

Meanwhile, a number of weather-related fatalies took place over the past few days in Britain.

A body, thought to be that of an elderly man, was discovered in the swollen River Kent in Cumbria.

A 90-year-old man, Ernie Crouch, died after he was apparently blown into the side of a moving bus by strong winds near Finchley Central Tube station in London on Saturday.

Some rivers across the country remain in a “perilous” state following Storm Desmond, and the flood risk may persist for more than a week according to the National Emergency Co-ordination Council.

Local authorities have warned more flooding is probable in the first half of this week, with councils in Westmeath, Limerick and Clare all informing residents of potential risks to property.

  • Emergency fund of €5m allocated to storm victims
  • Dread in Clonmel persists despite success of flood relief measures
  • Galway farmer relives nightmare of ruinous deluge

Houses in the low-lying areas of Athlone such as Deerpark and Carrickobrien/Clonbonny may be susceptible to rising water levels on the river Shannon, according to Westmeath County Council, while a “significant release of water” from Parteen Weir by the ESB could affect properties in southeast Clare and Co Limerick as well as the University of Limerickgrounds.

The ESB has also warned there may be flooding of roads and lands upstream of Cork city over the coming days as it increases discharges from its dams at Inniscarra and Carrigadrohid on the River Lee.

Members of the National Emergency Coordination Council met on Monday afternoon to discuss severe weather events over the weekend. Chairman Seán Hogan said the rivers Shannon and Moy are “particularly on edge” with further flooding expected along the upper Shannon later this week.

Towns such as Ballybofey in Donegal, Crossmolina in Mayo, Ballinasloe inGalway and Bandon in Cork were worst affected as an unprecedented 100mm of rain fell over a 24-hour period across parts of the west on Friday and Saturday.

Some ESB substations, water and wastewater treatment plants were also affected, and boil water notices have been issued in some areas as a precautionary measure.

“We have seen the images of nature in action over the weekend, and despite the warnings and the efforts of all involved, properties were affected by flood waters in Cork, Kerry, Clare, Mayo, Sligo, Donegal and indeed in other areas,” Mr Hogan said.

“This is terrible in the run up to Christmas. For some, this is a repeat of previous experiences of flooding, so they know what the pain is and it’s worse for that.

“Some rivers remain at critical level and the Shannon is still rising. There may well be further episodes of flooding, and experience tells us that waters will not recede for days and indeed for weeks in some parts of the country,” he said.

The country was already saturated following higher than average amounts of rainfall during November, and further inclement weather up until Wednesday may exacerbate the situation and make relief efforts more difficult.

Traders and residents in Bandon are continuing the clean-up effort after about 30 businesses were flooded on Saturday, with many unhappy about delays in implementing a €10 million flood relief scheme for the area.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio on Monday, Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works Simon Harris said “shovels will be in the ground” for the scheme by the middle of 2016.

Elsewhere, 48 elderly residents had to be evacuated from a nursing home in Foxford during a rescue operation which lasted until 3.30am on Monday morning. A similar scene unfolded in Ballytivnan, Co Sligo, where 13 nursing home residents were evacuated amid rising flood waters.

The Civil Defence was called on to help move residents from parts of Athleague where the River Suck burst its banks.

The Irish Farmers’ Association said thousands of acres of farmland have been “devastated” following the weekend’s deluge, and has called on Government ministers to visit the worst-affected areas.

Prostate cancer therapy now linked to Alzheimer’s risk

       

Men taking a treatment for prostate cancer known as androgen deprivation therapy may be almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than men not taking ADT, a study has found.

While the research in the December 7 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology stopped short of showing any definitive cause-and-effect between ADT and Alzheimer’s, scientists said the association raises concern and merits further study.

“We wanted to contribute to the discussion regarding the relative risks and benefits of ADT, and no one had yet looked at the association between ADT and Alzheimer’s disease,” said lead author Kevin Nead, a doctor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Based on the results of our study, an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease is a potential adverse effect of ADT, but further research is needed before considering changes to clinical practice.”

The findings are based on two large sets of medical records, covering about five million patients, of whom 16,888 received a diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Some 2,400 of the prostate cancer patients had received ADT, and had the necessary follow-up records for the data analysis, the study said.

Researchers compared the ADT patients with a control group of non-ADT prostate cancer patients, and found that the ADT group had significantly more Alzheimer’s diagnoses in the years following the initiation of androgen-lowering therapy.

“By the most sophisticated measure, members of the ADT group were about 88 percent more likely to get Alzheimer’s during the follow-up period,” said the study.

The longer patients took ADT, the greater their risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

About a half million men in the United States take ADT, a therapy that suppresses production of the male hormones known as androgens, which can play a key role in stimulating prostate cell growth.

Side-effects of reducing androgen activity can include low testosterone levels, impotence, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and depression.

Previous studies have suggested that low levels of the hormone testosterone may weaken the aging brain’s resistance to Alzheimer’s.

New breakthrough on pain-killing patches with ibuprofen have been developed

   

A photo of the new pain-killing patch

University researchers have helped to devise and patent a “breakthrough” pain-killing patch delivering effective doses of ibuprofen directly through the skin.

The transparent adhesive patch, developed by a partnership between the University of Warwick and Coventry-based spin-out company Medherant, could pave the way for other “long-acting” treatments for back pain and arthritis.

Billed as a world first, the technology contained in the patch is able to deliver a prolonged high dose of ibuprofen at a consistent rate by incorporating the drug into a sticky polymer matrix.

University of Warwick research chemist Professor David Haddleton said: “Many commercial patches surprisingly don’t contain any pain relief agents at all, they simply soothe the body by a warming effect.

“Our technology now means that we can for the first time produce patches that contain effective doses of active ingredients such as ibuprofen for which no patches currently exist.”

The CEO of Medherant, Nigel Davis, believes the patches could lead to economic benefits for the healthcare system by delivering drugs more efficiently.

“Our first products will be over-the-counter pain relief patches and through partnering we would expect to have the first of those products on the market in around two years,

Ireland ranked the 12th best country in world survey on climate challenge

Europe ‘risks falling behind’ as other countries boost invest in renewables

     Delegates walk among poles bearing national flags at entrance to the COP21 world climate change conference. Photograph: EPA/Ian Langsdon

Delegates walk among poles bearing national flags at entrance to the COP21 world climate change conference.

Ireland is ranked in 12th place in a survey of the climate change performance of almost 60 countries worldwide, released by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network (Can) Europe at COP21.

Given that the first three places are vacant, because none of the countries surveyed are said to be doing enough to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, Ireland’s position is effectively in ninth place on the list.

The highest place is still occupied by Denmark for the fifth consecutive year, even though its new conservative government has recently pulled back on the country’s drive to achieve independence from fossil fuels.

Next comes Britain, follow by Sweden, Belgium, France, Cyprus Morocco, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Malta and Latvia. Saudi Arabia, not for the first time, brings up the rear in 61st place.

Lurking down near the bottom of the list — based on data compiled by local NGOs — are Turkey, in 50th place, follow by Estonia, Taiwan, Russia, Iran, Singapore, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Australia and Kazakhstan.

For the first time, in this 11th edition of the Climate Change Performance Index, the authors applaud signs of a slowdown — and even a halt — in the growth of global emissions due to a rapid take-up of renewable energy.

Lead author Jan Burck, of Germanwatch, said: “The years 2013 and 2014 saw for the first time a higher amount of newly installed capacity from renewables than from all other energy sources combined.”

Although European countries still rank high, profiting from their early start in development of climate policies, the EU now “risks falling behind” as other countries “invest in renewable energy on a massive scale”.

The two largest emitters, the US (in 34th place) and China (in 47th), have both improved their rankings as a result of better policy evaluations, big investments in renewable energy and their start to shift away from coal.

One of the winners this year is France. Just in time for its COP21 presidency, the country climbed six places to arrive in the Top 10, mainly due the low level of per-capita emissions and a decreasing emission trend.

News Ireland daily BLOG by DONIE

Sunday 6th December 2015

Ireland’s mortgage arrears crisis can and should be resolved

   

Mortgage arrears crisis can and must be resolved.

The problem is causing untold pain and suffering to huge numbers of people, but it can be addressed.

being asked for advice on the mortgage crisis. Cabinet agrees to rush through changes to the bankruptcy regime before Christmas – changes the Government previously voted against.

Someone in election HQ has obviously run the numbers. Right now, there are over 300,000 men, women and children in Ireland living in homes in mortgage arrears. That is more than the populations of Galway, Limerick, Cork and Waterford cities combined.

Some level of mortgage arrears was inescapable, given our housing market collapse and economic recession. However, other countries facing similar difficulties managed to keep things under control.

A report by Deutsche Bank shows that by the end of 2013, arrears in Ireland were several times higher than in other countries facing similar problems. They were two-and-a-half times higher than in Spain, which had the second-highest arrears. They were four times higher than in Greece, which suffered a far more severe economic crisis.

Total arrears are now falling, but arrears over two years are not. This group represents those most at risk of ending up in court and losing their homes. And because we’re not just dealing with a mortgage crisis – but with a housing crisis and homelessness crisis as well – losing your home can mean there is, literally, nowhere for you and your children to go.

On Tuesday, Cabinet agreed to rush through some changes to the bankruptcy laws. The highlight is a reduction in the bankruptcy period from three years to one. This is welcome, though in reality it’s about one-quarter of what’s needed, four years too late. And even this minimalist approach is flawed in numerous ways.

First, it only partly applies to those already in the bankruptcy process – they will have their terms reduced to one and-a-half years, rather than one – penalising them for no obvious reason.

Second, the total effective bankruptcy time remains high. There are two phases to bankruptcy – the first three years, when a person is declared as bankrupt, and an additional few years, when they still have excess income taken from them to pay creditors. The total period tends to be five years.

The proposal is to reduce it to three, which is welcome, but not quite the headline of reducing it from three years to one. And this only applies if the person is deemed to be ‘fully co-operating’.

Which brings us to the third flaw. The total potential time of bankruptcy is actually being increased to 15 years. This is for cases of serious non-co-operation, where borrowers are found to be hiding their assets. There can be no defence for anyone hiding assets, but the objective at this time should be to destigmatise bankruptcy and remove the psychological barriers to it as a viable final option for those with unsustainable debts.

Famous bankrupts include Walt Disney, Francis Ford Coppola, Meat Loaf and Larry King – all of whom went on to have successful careers afterwards. Talk of rewarding people for fully co-operating or giving them life sentences for serious non-co-operation is not helpful at this time – it has the whiff of the Victorian-era debtors’ prison, with time off for good behaviour.

The proposed changes to bankruptcy could be improved and, if combined with a relatively small number of other policy changes, would see an end to the mortgage crisis much more quickly, efficiently and fairly.

Here are five barriers to be addressed:

  1. Most people who can’t afford to pay their mortgage also can’t afford to pay for financial or legal expertise. This means they don’t know their options, don’t have someone to negotiate with lenders on their behalf and don’t have representation in court. That’s bad for lenders and borrowers alike.
  2. Lenders making genuine efforts to do the right thing are being penalised. This is because other lenders have decided to squeeze every last cent out of those in mortgage arrears and, in many cases, make higher profits from them. So lenders trying to help suffer a competitive disadvantage.
  3. Lenders aren’t obliged to offer particular types of restructures. Again, this penalises lenders who make efforts to work with customers and leads to many people being denied the best solutions for them.
  4. Courts cannot refuse orders for possession, even with a sustainable restructuring proposal on the table. Judges and registrars can delay the process, but ultimately they must still grant possession, except in some new circumstances where there is a formal insolvency process involved.
  5. The mortgage-to-rent scheme is overly complex and requires agreement and participation of the lender, a voluntary housing body, the relevant local authority and the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Just 169 mortgage-to-rent cases have been successfully processed to date.

The solutions? Reduce bankruptcy to one year, with no more than an additional two years of income payments. Establish a one-stop-shop for borrowers providing free financial and legal expertise and representation. Equip the courts to refuse possession orders if there is a sustainable solution available. Mandate lenders to offer, at a minimum, an agreed set of restructuring options (where the borrower qualifies), including split mortgages and mortgage-to-rent.

Simplify the mortgage-to-rent scheme and centralise the administration of it. Pilot a local authority mortgage subsidy scheme, to keep people in their homes who would qualify for housing supports should they lose their homes.

The mortgage crisis continues to cause untold pain, fear and damage in our society – for hundreds of thousands of men, women and children across the country.

The solutions are right there. They’ve been right there for years, and have been steadfastly ignored. They’re simple, cost practically nothing and could be implemented in months. The only missing ingredient is political will – political will that clearly has existed in other countries from day one and must be found here in Ireland.

Stephen Donnelly is the Social Democrats TD for Wicklow and Carlow East.

Tiger gang planned to net €20m in ‘biggest cash robbery in history of State’

    

‘Spooked’ raiders narrowly escaped with ‘only’ €225k from security van.

The gang behind the Dublin Airport heist last week was planning the biggest cash robbery in the history of the State, it can be revealed.

They had hoped to grab up to Stg£14m (€19.4m) in cash that was scheduled to be collected by the security van driver whose family were being held hostage, it emerged last night.

The Sunday Independent can reveal that the cash was to be picked up by the GSLS cash-in-transit driver from a London flight after he delivered €225,000 for ATM machines at the airport.

The huge consignment of sterling was one of the two regular weekly deliveries from the UK which are then distributed to Irish banks for currency exchange.

The driver was due to rendezvous with the crew of a second GSLS van at the airport and collect the money from the plane on the tarmac before being transported to the company’s cash holding centre in Ballymount on the return journey.

It would have been the biggest robbery in the Republic and the second biggest in Irish history – after the IRA’s December 2004 £28m (€38.8m) robbery at the Northern Bank in Belfast.

The elaborate and violent operation by the Dublin gang was abandoned at the last minute when the kidnappers “got spooked” that gardai had been alerted, security sources have now revealed.

Instead they opted to cut their losses and instructed the terrified security worker to hand over the €225,000 to a raider who was waiting close by in a white box-type Ford Transit van in the Corballis Road Business Park at the rear of the airport.

It is understood that gardai have established that the sterling delivery was the intended target of the gang which is headed by a notorious 37-year-old thug who has already masterminded up to a dozen tiger robberies over the past decade.

The discovery has sparked a hunt for a mole who had “rock solid” inside knowledge of the security company’s operation, sources said last night.

It is also understood that there have been a number of major security alerts surrounding the movement of cash to and from the airport in recent years.

A garda intelligence report had warned of a plan to pull off a heist at the airport in the past six months but at the time it was unknown who was behind the plot.

Meanwhile, the terrified security worker has told gardai that the raiders had in-depth knowledge of his personal life, his movements and the deliveries he was rostered to make for the company.

“He was told intimate details of his personal life and even when, and where, he did his shopping … the gang knew everything about his work deliveries which showed that he had been under intensive surveillance probably for months,” a security source said.

“It also clearly points to the fact that the gang have someone working on the inside either at the airport or the security company and that will be a major line of enquiry,” he added.

The terrifying ordeal began around 8pm on Wednesday night when up to three armed and masked men burst into the security employee’s home on Gracefield Road in Artane.

The security employee and his partner, both of whom are in their 50s, and an adult daughter were held at gunpoint and told they would not be harmed if they co-operated.

Throughout the night the cash-in-transit driver was given intimate details of his private life to convince him that he had no choice but do what he was instructed to do.

The gang members were “forensically aware” throughout and wiped everything they touched with bleach to avoid leaving any DNA evidence.

At 5 am the man’s wife and daughter were bound and gagged and taken away in a white or silver VW Caddy Van which was eventually discovered by a pedestrian parked in an estate in Dunboyne, Co Meath.

In the meantime the security driver was given a mobile phone and instructed to go to his work as normal.

The man collected the security van, which had been loaded with the cash for the ATMs, and drove to the airport.

However, by the time the security van arrived at the airport security sources said that the gang had become spooked and decided to cut their losses.

Experienced detectives who have been involved in investigating the phenomenon of tiger kidnappings, which first began in the mid-Noughties, say that the modus operandi has all the hallmarks of the prime suspect.

The criminal mastermind, who underwent specialist training in Eastern Europe several years ago, has pulled off up to 12 other similar robberies where security company workers and bank staff were targeted.

The gangster plans the terrifying crimes down to the finest detail and normally uses a network of informants to glean information about his various targets.

In 2010 he was arrested in connection with two tiger raids where the gang got away with €400,000.

At the time gardai discovered that the gangster was using a specially adapted van, with blacked-out windows and specialist surveillance equipment, to stalk his victims.

At the time he told detectives that he had been using the van to watch his wife before they got married to establish if she was having an affair.

However gardai were unable to charge him as there was insufficient evidence to prove that he had used the van for the tiger raids.

In each of the robberies he organised the bank officials and security workers were given mobile phones which were modified so the gang could monitor what their victims were saying.

The tiger gang also gave the victims bags for the cash which were lined with aluminium to prevent any hidden bugs transmitting their whereabouts. The tiger boss was subsequently charged with a robbery and placed in custody for a period of several months. He was subsequently released after being acquitted.

However the pressure from the gardai did force him to maintain a low profile which explains the drop in tiger kidnaps over the past five years.

But his possible re- emergence is a worrying development. In an ironic twist the location where the security employee’s wife and daughter were found is not far from the mastermind’s luxury home. A second major suspect for the kidnapping is the leader of a north-Dublin tiger kidnap gang who has been linked to several such robberies in the past decade.

Several years ago the violent armed robber was known to have been plotting to stage a dramatic robbery at Dublin airport but never progressed the plan. Security companies including GSLS were targeted during the Celtic Tiger era as a means of raising cash for drugs deals.

A fertility tracker developer wins entrepreneur award

James Foody’s company Ayda was also named ‘best-start-up’ at the awards ceremony

   Wearables In Fertility Tracking

Twenty-four-year-old James Foody (above left), whose company has developed a wearable fertility tracker for women, has been named Ireland’s best young entrepreneur.

Twenty-four-year-old James Foody, whose company has developed a wearable fertility tracker for women, has been named Ireland’s best young entrepreneur.

Mr Foody, whose business is based in Cork and San Francisco, takes home a prize of €50,000. His company Ayda was also named “best-start-up” at the awards ceremony held in Google’s European headquarters in Dublin on Sunday.

Then entrepreneur graduated from UCC last year with a master’s degree in biomedical engineering. He then co-founded Ayda with Aoife Crowley, whom he met at a hackathon. The company has created a wearable fertility monitor which can be worn during sleep.

Blaine Doyle of GlowDX in Kilkenny won “best new idea” at the IBYE awards, receiving an investment of €20,000.

GlowDx is a diagnostics company which is setting out to diagnose neglected tropical diseases more cheaply in developing countries.

The “best established business” award and €30,000 investment prize went to James Keogh, whose company Rathwood is based in Tullow, Co Carlow. Rathwood is renowned for its year-round themed events. The retail entertainment company welcomes more than 250,000 visitors every year and employs almost 200 people.

The Google award for “best online promotion of business” went to Isolde Johnson of food business the Cool Bean Company.

The winners were announced by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton following a series of live pitches in front of a judging panel that included Brian Crowley of the TTM Group; Sarah Doyle of Kinesense; Colin Goulding of Google; Tom Hayes of Enterprise Ireland and Christine Charlton of the Local Enterprise Offices.

A total of 1,400 young Irish entrepreneurs, aged between 18 and 30, entered the competition, which is organised through the Local Enterprise Offices and has a €2 million fund available to county winners and overall national winners.

At last year’s inaugural national final, Eamon Keane of Xpreso Software in Dublin was crowned Ireland’s best young entrepreneur; Philip Martin won the best business idea category for the Blanco Nino tortilla-chip factory in Tipperary; and Dean Gammell from Westmeath took the best established business award for GroupBooking.com.

8 ways in which economics can save the world.

   Bard Harstad is a professor of economics at the University of Oslo    

Bard Harstad (above middle pic.) is a professor of economics at the University of Oslo.

As the talks continue in Paris, eight experts tell Christopher Flavelle their solutions to climate change

The best way to curb emissions is to use market-based mechanisms, mixing the lightest touch by government and the maximum amount of liberty. It’s free enterprise innovation that’s going to make clean energy work.

World leaders should consider a carbon tax, paired with cuts to existing income taxes, so that there’s no growth of government.

They should also apply that tax to imports from countries that don’t price carbon, to avoid sacrificing economic competitiveness and to give their trading partners an incentive to introduce similar taxes.

If the fight against climate change incorporated accountable price signals, American conservatives could enter the conversation.

Until now, they’ve felt excluded, as the preferred solutions have involved a growth of government and a loss of liberty. It doesn’t have to be that way.

In fact, while conservative support for a carbon tax may look impossible at the moment, the impossible may become inevitable.

Rather than fickle tax incentives, clumsy government mandates or expensive regulations through cap-and-trade and the Clean Power Plan, energy optimists and climate realists believe a free and entrepreneurial society can deliver on Pope Francis’s leadership and implicit blessing of the “spirit of enterprise”.

Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina, is executive director of republicEn.

Bard Harstad: People like to put things off – take advantage of that

Our leaders should do three things to prevent uncontrolled climate change. First, agree on a ratcheting mechanism of national commitments that is automatic, binding, and legally sanctioned. Future periodic negotiations should deal with modifying these commitments, rather than arguing over how to set them in the first place.

How can that be achieved? By taking advantage of leaders’ desire to push costs into the future. Just as politicians tend to prefer the delayed expense of climate change to cutting emissions today, they may also prefer agreeing to reductions later (even if they ratchet up over time) to cuts today. The challenge is to entrench those commitments in a credible, legally binding way.

Second, agree to ban drilling for oil in the Arctic. Those reserves are the most costly to extract, so they are the first humanity should conserve indefinitely, and the first that become unprofitable if we succeed with emission cuts. A drilling ban will thus have no impact if we succeed with future emission cuts, but it will be our insurance policy if we fail.

Third, pay developing countries to protect, instead of cutting down, their tropical forests, because they can keep huge amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. This may be the most cost-effective climate policy available. But the option is gradually vanishing as those forests decline, making it an urgent issue to find effective ways of paying for their conservation.

Bard Harstad is a professor of economics at the University of Oslo

Christina Back: The future is still nuclear for our energy needs

The largest source of clean, sustainable and reliable energy available is still nuclear power. But to play a bigger role in reducing carbon emissions and air pollution, future advanced reactors must address four core challenges: They must be safer; they have to produce less radioactive waste; they need to pose lower risk of weapons proliferation; and they need to be less expensive.

General Atomics has a new reactor designed to meet each of these concerns, called the Energy Multiplier Module. To enhance safety, it uses ceramic materials that are irradiation-resistant and able to survive temperatures more than twice what current metallic fuel rod materials can withstand. More importantly, these new materials are cooled with inert gas, which means an explosion like the one at Fukushima, caused by the build-up of hydrogen gas, can’t happen.

This reactor also uses fuel more efficiently, producing 80pc less waste. And it only has to be opened and refuelled every 30 years, compared with every 18 months for current plants.

Finally, to address economic competitiveness, this new type of reactor produces 60pc more electricity from the same amount of fission.

In addition, its modular design uses factory-made reactors that can be transported by truck, cutting construction time in half. And it can run on uranium, thorium or even used nuclear fuel. That means lower construction costs and cheaper power.

Christina Back directs fission and inertial fusion programmes for General Atomics.

Howard Herzog: We can trap carbon, but we need to make it cheaper

The most direct way to curb emissions of carbon dioxide, if not necessarily the simplest or least expensive, is to catch it before it enters the atmosphere. That process, called carbon capture and storage (CCS), consists of trapping the carbon produced by the combustion of fossil fuels and then storing it, often in deep geologic formations. The primary targets for CCS are large, stationary sources, chiefly coal and natural gas-fired power plants, as well as industrial facilities including refineries, cement plants and petrochemical facilities.

CCS has three inherent advantages over other approaches. It works with our fossil fuel infrastructure and can avoid stranding hundreds of trillions of dollars of fossil fuel assets. It makes it possible to keep using fossil fuels, which produce constantly dispatchable power, as opposed to intermittent power from solar and wind. Finally, when the source of power is trees or crops, which pull carbon from the air, burning it at a facility that uses CCS can create negative net emissions.

The problem is cost. The technology works, and is getting better. But until there is a financial incentive to adopt CCS, why on Earth would you capture carbon when you can put it into the atmosphere for free?

Wide-scale deployment of CCS requires strong climate policy. That includes technology support policies, such as tax credits.

Howard Herzog is a senior research engineer for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative.

Mark Jacobson: Forget technology. The solution is information

The greatest barrier to dealing with climate change isn’t technology, but information. As policy-makers and the public realise they can get clean, low-cost renewable energy — along with the side benefits of new jobs, stable energy prices, less international conflict and a reduced risk of terrorist attacks on large centralised power plants — they’ll become more likely to change course.

At the Solutions Project, we’ve offered detailed plans for how 50 US states and 139 countries can power their electricity, transportation, manufacturing, agricultural and residential sectors entirely from wind, water and sunlight by 2050 — and get 80pc of the way there by 2030.

The US can get 47pc of its 2050 power from various types of solar power, 31pc from onshore wind turbines and another 18pc from turbines offshore — and cut average per-person electricity costs by $443. India, which is choking on coal yet has resisted committing to lower carbon emissions, can get half of its 2050 electricity needs from utility-scale photovoltaic solar power alone, as well as 17pc from onshore wind and 12pc from concentrated solar plants. Doing so would prevent an estimated 767,000 premature deaths annually by 2050, while creating 1.1 million new long-term jobs in construction and operation. Once people realise how much they can gain from fighting climate change, they’ll demand political action.

Mark Jacobson runs Stanford University’s Atmosphere and Energy Program, and is a co-founder and director at the Solutions Project.

Joyce Penner: Geoengineering can work. Just not by itself

As the world struggles to address global warming, some are proposing geoengineering — intentionally altering the planet’s atmosphere — as a way to lower temperatures.

The most studied technique would work by adding sulphate particles to the stratosphere, which is similar to what happens as a result of large volcanic eruptions. Those particles reflect solar radiation, preventing some of the sun’s rays from warming the Earth.

While this type of solution sounds promising, it must never be considered in isolation. Without agreements in place to significantly decrease carbon dioxide emissions, we would have to continue pumping more and more sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere, perhaps for millennia. We don’t know the consequences of such large and prolonged tampering.

Here’s another problem: Curtailing the injection of sulphur would quickly return the Earth to the high temperatures caused by the continued accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere. Only through a concerted effort to decrease those carbon emissions could we return to the normal skies of a sulphate-free atmosphere.

Geoengineering might be able to keep temperatures from rising two degrees, but only in combination with a reduction in carbon. By itself it’s no solution.

Joyce Penner is a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Michigan and a member of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Richard Branson: Business can’t wait for governments to act

IF A powerful and legally binding global agreement were to be achieved during the current talks in Paris, it would provide an urgently needed lynchpin for all efforts to reduce global warming.

However, business leaders can and should play a crucial role in this process as well — by making bold commitments to transform their respective industries.

There are number of initiatives across the Virgin Group of companies that aspire to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, either through far-reaching emission reductions or through offsets.

And 2014 was the first year in which Virgin Atlantic successfully decoupled its business growth from carbon growth; it achieved an overall 12pc reduction in carbon dioxide or equivalent emissions from aircraft operations between 2007 and 2014.

Elsewhere, Virgin Active is focused on ways to reduce energy consumption in its fitness clubs, with a reduction of 25pc since 2011 and plans to reach 30pc in 2015.

Over the past decade Virgin has also invested more than $150m in renewable energy ventures. Not all have of these worked, but we remain committed to investing our capital in developing the power sources of the future.

I truly believe that businesses can help drive the transition to a thriving zero-emissions economy by 2050.

Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group.

Oren Cass: Staying below two degrees is hopeless (without war)

However compelling the arguments for holding global warming below two degrees, here’s the problem: Doing so is plainly incompatible with the economic aspirations of the developing world. Even if rich nations halted emissions tomorrow, other countries would need to slash emissions by half immediately and hold them there indefinitely.

That course would preclude rapid economic growth, which is why developing nations are refusing to contemplate it. Despite impressive progress, low-carbon technologies remain nowhere near capable of providing affordable power.

Instead, the world is experiencing a “renaissance of coal”. To keep developing nations on board, international negotiations have long since abandoned carbon pricing or even the basic requirement of reducing emissions. The emissions “commitments” of many large developing nations amount to only a continuation of existing trajectories. If the West believed combatting climate change merits hobbling poorer countries against their will, it could coerce emissions cuts with threats of embargo or military force.

Obviously, that should not and will not happen. But without it, dramatic cuts depend on as-yet-unidentified technological breakthroughs that a developing economy might prefer to fossil fuels.

Success is by no means guaranteed, but the best chance will come if focus shifts from today’s wind farms and solar panels to spurring whatever innovations might come next.gas mitigation objectives.

Excitement rises over  gene editing tool, but ethical doubts remain

     

The stuff of life: experts examining a model of a strand of DNA. Scientists have come up with several different gene editing tools.

The era of genetic engineering began in 1973 when scientists in California developed “recombinant DNA” techniques that enabled them to insert new genes into living cells. But until very recently the technology has been hit-and-miss, without a reliable way to direct DNA to exactly the right place in an organism’s genome. As a result researchers usually had to attempt many cellular transformations in order to achieve the desired result.

Now a fast and accurate way of “gene editing” has emerged, which biotechnologists believe is the biggest technical advance in their field so far this century. It promises to accelerate genetic engineering across the board, from microbes and plants to animals and even humans, and make possible the extensive DNA rearrangements involved in the emerging science of “synthetic biology”.

Although scientists have come up with several different gene editing tools over the past three years or so, most of the excitement is about Crispr (pronounced ‘crisper’, short for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”).

This enables researchers to manipulate specific genes, adding, subtracting or changing DNA, far more quickly and precisely than ever before. Gene editing uses molecular machinery that bacteria have evolved to fight viral infection. It has two parts. One (Crispr itself) is a guidance molecule that can be targeted to any stretch of DNA.

The other is an enzyme that cuts the DNA. So far scientists have focused on an enzyme called Cas9 to provide these molecular scissors. In September, however, Professor Feng Zhang and colleagues at Massachusetts Institute of Technology published details of an alternative bacterial enzyme, Cpf1, which works in a slightly different way.

Having cut the target in the right place, researchers can snip out unwanted DNA (such as a disease-causing gene), add DNA (to make a new product) or regulate genetic activity. The cut ends are then joined up again.

The patent position over Crispr remains uncertain, with competing claims from MIT, the University of California, Berkeley, and others, but that has not deterred the hundreds of laboratories in both the private and public sectors worldwide that are currently working with the technology.

For instance AstraZeneca, the UK-based drug company, announced four partnerships early this year “aimed at harnessing the power of Crispr across its entire discovery platform in the company’s key therapeutic areas”. By switching genes on and off in cell lines representing diseases from cancer to autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, the collaborators aim to identify a plethora of new drug targets.

Adding to Crispr’s appeal is the fact that it is easy for researchers to handle, without the need for very sophisticated equipment or training. Indeed, its ease of use raises concerns that bio-hackers may use it for potentially hazardous synthetic biology experiments in unauthorised “garage labs”.

Even in official labs there is much debate about what research should be off limits for gene editing. In April a Chinese team reported an attempt to remove disease genes from a human embryo. Although the embryo chosen was non-viable and could not have developed into a baby, the experiment ignited a storm of controversy over the ethics of editing the human germ line and introducing changes that would pass down the generations.

In official labs there is much debate about what research should be off limits for gene editing

Then in September Kathy Niakan, a stem cell scientist at the Francis Crick Institute in London, applied for permission to undertake gene editing of early human embryos as part of a project to understand better the development of early embryos. Again, there is no intention to grow genetically engineered babies but the application aroused more controversy. These matters were scheduled to be discussed last week at a meeting convened in Washington by the US National Academy of Sciences to examine human gene editing.

Meanwhile scientific papers are beginning to appear on non-human applications of gene editing. Last week, for example, a team at the University of California reported the use of Crispr to make the Asian mosquito Anopheles stephensi, a carrier of malaria, resistant to the parasite that causes the disease. Although the experiment was just a lab demonstration, it could lead the way to field trials of resistant insects designed to supplant wild malaria-transmitting mosquitoes.

Last month scientists at Harvard Medical School used extensive Crispr editing to deactivate 62 sites in the pig genome where porcine viruses were lurking. The project was designed to show that these viruses, an obstacle to the use of pig organs such as hearts and kidneys for human transplantation, could in principle be removed to make xenotransplantation a safer prospect. Again, this was a lab experiment, carried out with pig cells, that will need many years of development to produce live, virus-free animals as a source of transplantable organs.

China, which is making a strong push into animal biotechnology, has started dozens of studies to apply Crispr to agricultural livestock, monkeys, dogs and other mammals. One of the most eye-catching projects is to produce “micropigs” that will not only be studied as models of disease but also sold as pets.rage sustainable land management, afforestation and other forest sector mitigation activities, including forest product uses, that contribute to climate change mitigation and sustainably manage soil carbon stocks.

  1. Seek to move as far along the road to carbon neutrality as it possible in cost-effective terms, while not compromising our capacity for sustainable food production.