Tag Archives: Crisis

News Ireland daily BLOG as told by Donie

Sunday 19th March 2017.

Enda Kenny to stay ‘until North crisis is resolved’

Image result for Enda Kenny to stay ‘until North crisis is resolved’ Image result for Northern ireland crisis is resolved’ Image result for Enda Kenny to stay ‘until North crisis is resolved’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has risked deepening the increasingly bitter Fine Gael war over when he will step down by saying he has no intention of leaving until the Northern Ireland political crisis is resolved.

Speaking after the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York City, Mr Kenny said the Northern Ireland issue “takes precedence over everything else”, effectively delaying his departure until at least the summer.

In the aftermath of a tentative coup against Mr Kenny last month, the Taoiseach told the parliamentary party he would address the leadership issue conclusively on his return from his week-long US visit.

However, while the position was widely seen to indicate he would step down later this month or in early April, no definitive timeline was given.

In recent weeks, Mr Kenny has caused concern among Fine Gael dissenters that he will not leave due to his repeated references to the need for stability during the Brexit negotiations next month and last Thursday’s meeting with US president Donald Trump.

However, while those close to Mr Kenny have sought to downplay such fears, the Taoiseach poured further fuel on the flames yesterday by saying the Northern Ireland political crisis is now another reason for why he should not step down.

Asked about when he will resign after walking past cheering crowds at the New York City St Patrick’s Day parade, Mr Kenny said he continues to have “a number of priorities” that must be resolved.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Taoiseach Enda Kenny march in the St Patrick’s Day parade on 5th Avenue.

He said the political impasse in the North caused by last month’s Stormont elections, and the fact Sinn Féin and DUP now have just three weeks to form a government or be forced into another election in May, was a new addition to these “priorities”, and stoked backbench anger by saying Ireland must provide “stable” leadership.

“What I’ve always said is I need to deal with a number of priorities here, the first priority is to put in place an executive in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Kenny.

“We have no government, no devolved authority, in Northern Ireland now. I hope the parties who are elected will accept the responsibility of putting together a government within the three-week period.

“What I did say to my party is that I would deal with this effectively and conclusively on my return, that’s my intention. But I think these are priorities that take precedence over everything else.”

Asked directly when he is “going to deal with it [the leadership question]”, Mr Kenny said: “I’m not going to answer that for you. Do you not think it’s appropriate that the immediate priority is to have an executive functioning in Northern Ireland, do you not think it’s appropriate that all the work we put together we should have an agreed negotiating stance for the EU that’s going to affect everybody in our country?

“I intend to follow through on those [priorities] very, very diligently.”

A number of Fine Gael backbenchers known to want Mr Kenny to step down as soon as possible last night declined to comment publicly, but said it has already been made clear to the Taoiseach he cannot continue to ignore the leadership issue.

Mr Kenny’s New York comments came 48 hours after a draft version of his speech to the American- Ireland Fund Gala in Washington DC said this would be his last St Patrick’s Day as Taoiseach before it was deleted from the script.

Asked about the change to the otherwise untouched 1,500-word speech on Wednesday, Mr Kenny simply said it was removed “because it shouldn’t have been in there”.

The McEvaddy brothers get Dubai backing for €2bn airport terminal

 Image result for The McEvaddy brothers get Dubai backing for €2bn airport terminal  Image result for €2 billion terminal scheme at Dublin Airport

The Marker Hotel in Dublin’s Grand Canal Square will have 30 bedrooms on the new floor, and the main restaurant will be moved to the rooftop.

Businessmen Ulick (above pic) and Des McEvaddy have secured the financial backing of a Dubai-based investment group to build a proposed €2 billion terminal scheme at Dublin Airport, according to the media.

Omega Air boss Ulick McEvaddy and his brother Des have been attempting for more than 20 years to develop a third independent terminal on 130 acres of land they own adjacent to the airport. They now have the support of Dubai-based Tricap Investments, an investment fund with a diversified portfolio that spans real estate, energy and aerospace in the Middle East, the US, Asia and Africa.

The Marker Hotel in Dublin’s Grand Canal Square will  have 30 bedrooms on the new floor, and the main restaurant will be moved to the rooftop. Photograph: Cyril Byrne   Brehon to add new floor to Marker hotel in €10m upgrade

Brehon Capital Partners, the owners of the Marker hotel, in Dublin’s Grand Canal Square, is planning a €10 million investment that will add a new floor and upgraded roof bar to the property.

The expansion will include about 30 bedrooms on the new floor, bringing the hotel up to 217 rooms, while it also involves moving the main restaurant to the rooftop. The roof would be about two-thirds enclosed, with a small, open terrace, allowing it to be used all year round.

JP Morgan may double its Irish workforce.

US investment bank JP Morgan may add up to 500 people to its operations in Ireland, which would more than double its workforce here, the Sunday Business Post suggests. The bank is among those to have instructed property agents to find additional office space in Dublin, it reports.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said on St Patrick’s Day that more than 120 overseas banks, insurers and other financial companies are currently in talks to move operations to Ireland as a result of the UK’s decision to quit the European Union.

Mr Noonan made the comments on Friday at an event in Singapore.

Aryzta sets four-year target to cut debts by €1bn.

Aryzta chairman Gary McGann has told analysts that he plans to cut debt levels at the troubled frozen baked goods company by €1 billion within four years, according to the Sunday Times.

Mr McGann, in his first public outing as chairman of Aryzta, said the company would undertake an overhaul of the board and a review of its business model. He also said he had received “very, very clear feedback” from shareholders that they did not see “the strategic fit” between Aryzta and Picard, its French frozen-food retailing associate.

Unilever may sell off its margarine division for €6bn.

Consumer goods giant Unilever is eyeing the £6 billion sale of its margarine division, which produces Flora and Stork, says the Sunday Telegraph. The FTSE 100-listed manufacturer has been forced into a strategic review of its operations after an audacious £115 billion takeover approach from Kraft Heinz, it reports.

The newspaper understands that rather than opt for a defensive bid for a rival such as Colgate-Palmolive, or a spin-off of its entire food arm, Unilever is leaning towards a sale of the margarine business, which controls just under a third of the entire global margarine market.

Eight men rescued off the Sligo coast after dive boat capsizes

Two men taken to hospital following the incident east of Sligo town

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Rescue 118 was called off from its search at Blacksod Bay, Co Mayo to assist with the operation.

Eight men have been rescued from the sea off the coast of Co Sligo after a dive boat capsized.

Two of the men were taken to hospital following the incident which occured off Aughris Pier, east of Sligo town.

A mayday call was received by Malin Head Coast Guard at 11.24am on Sunday. Fortunately, the Sligo Bay RNLI lifeboat crew were on a training exercise in the area and arrived at the scene of the incident at 11.43am.

The lifeboat crew rescued all eight people from the water and one man was airlifted to hospital by the Irish Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue 118. He suffered a head injury when the boat capsized in heavy seas.

The remaining seven men were taken to Aughris Pier where one person was taken by ambulance to hospital. Following the rescue, the lifeboat crew returned to the scene to tow the vessel back to the pier.

Rescue 118 was called off from the search at Blacksod Bay, Co Mayo for the missing crew members of Rescue 116, the Sikorsky helicopter which crashed into the sea on Tuesday morning.

Sligo Bay RNLI lifeboat operations manager Willie Murphy said the incident happened at the end of a difficult week for the rescue services following the loss of Rescue 116.

He said: “This morning’s callout shows that the professionalism and dedication of the search and rescue community remains unchanged.

“The RNLI crew at Sligo Bay along with their colleagues at Rescue 118 were on scene minutes after the call for help was raised and rescued eight people from the water. Our thoughts are with the man who was airlifted to hospital and with our colleagues still searching in Blacksod Bay for the three missing crew members of Rescue 116.

Cancer the dreaded disease of women

Image result for Cancer the dreaded disease of women  Image result for Cancer the dreaded disease of women  Image result for Cancer the dreaded disease of women

Cancer is a dreaded disease, and rightly so because hitherto treatment was vague and patients were generally doomed to die of it. Advances in surgical technique and adjuvant treatment have now made cancer a treatable and possibly curable disease in early stages.

Women suffer nearly half the burden of cancer even though they are not pre-disposed to the conventional causative factors like tobacco and alcohol. The causal factors in women are generally age, lifestyle, hereditary, infections and environmental factors.

Social factors, especially inequalities, are major determinants of cancer burden in females, with poorer females more likely to die of their disease than affluent ones. Cancer can have profound social and economic consequences for the people of India, often leading to family impoverishment and societal inequality.

Common cancers and their screening?

Females generally postpone their first contact with a health facility, leading to a delayed diagnosis in an advanced stage. Unfortunately, the four most common cancers afflicting females can be screened and diagnosed at an early stage.

  1. Firstly, Breast cancer, can be screened by monthly self-breast examination, annual clinical examination and mammograms after the age of 50 years.
  2. Second, cervical cancer, a sexually active female should undergo a pap smear every three years from the age of 21 years and co-testing with HPV after the age of 30 years.
  3. Third, ovarian cancer, can be diagnosed by having a high clinical index of suspicion in a female presenting with vague abdominal symptoms, early satiety and a timely investigation by tumour markers and an ultrasound examination.
  4. Fourth, uterine cancer, presents as inter-menstrual or postmenopausal bleeding usually in an obese elderly female. The sad common denominator in all these cancers is that they can all be diagnosed early with minimal effort and cured by surgery.

How is cancer treated?

Once a patient is suspected of having symptoms of cancer, a general evaluation followed by a staging workup including a tissue biopsy is done. Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, treatment options are discussed and if possible an appropriate radical surgery is planned. Radical surgery for cancer is the only curative treatment modality for solid organ cancers. Radical cancer surgeries require a centre where trained surgical oncologist interact with their medical and radiation oncology colleagues and have adequate post -operative ICU care  to obtain best results.

The first attempt at treatment is generally the best chance of cure as recurrence is resistant to most forms of treatment. After surgery the patients are followed up by designated protocol and undergo adjuvant therapy (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy) as needed.

The role of women in cancer is prevention?

Women have a central role in the fight against cancer, not only can they encourage their family members to change to a healthy lifestyle (abstinence from smoking/alcohol, healthier food habits, exercise) leading to cancer prevention, they can also be an observant family member who encourages an early medical consultation for a possible cancer symptom leading to early detection and cure. We must therefore, empower women with knowledge and use them as our sentinels in the war on cancer.

Scientists say the ‘five second’ rule is correct when dropping food on the floor

Image result for Scientists say the 'five second' rule is correct when dropping food on the floor  Image result for Scientists say the 'five second' rule is correct when dropping food on the floor  Image result for Scientists say the 'five second' rule is correct when dropping food on the floor

What do you do when you drop some food on the floor? Does it go straight in the bin or do you adhere to the widely-used ‘five second’ rule and eat it?

A study, undertaken by scientists at The Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, shows that four out of five people or 79 per cent of us admit to popping fallen food in our mouths.

Of course most people think their own floors are cleaner and thus it’s more acceptable to eat food off – 56 per cent of them in fact – but that figure drops considerably to just 17 per cent if eating off another’s floor.

The research also shows people are just as likely to serve food that’s fallen on the floor to their dog (18 per cent) as they are their partner (17 per cent).

The most radical examples of ‘hoovers’ include people eating snacks off the floor of the cinema (2 per cent) or public transport (1 per cent).

But when asked to justify why they would do thus, a fifth of people admitted to following ‘five-second rule’, which scientists have now revealed as legitimate and safe in most cases.

Germ expert, Professor Anthony Hilton from Aston University, told the Birmingham Mail: “Eating food that has spent a few moments on the floor can never be entirely risk free.

“Obviously, food covered in visible dirt shouldn’t be eaten, but as long as it’s not obviously contaminated, the science shows that food is unlikely to have picked up harmful bacteria from a few seconds spent on an indoor floor.

“That is not to say that germs can’t transfer from the floor to the food.

“Our research has shown that the nature of the floor surface, the type of food dropped on the floor and the length of time it spends on the floor can all have an impact on the number that can transfer.”

Supermarket soups can be laced with up to seven spoons of sugar

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Some “healthy” commercial soups contain a staggering seven teaspoons of sugar, a top chef has revealed.

Hilary O’Hagan-Brennan said one spiced chicken soup was made with 28 grams of sugar per tub. The World Health Organisation recommends people take no more than 24 grams a day.

Ms O’Hagan-Brennan said on the RTE’s What Are You Eating? programme that even a root vegetable soup, which people might assume was healthy, contained 16 grams of sugar, or four teaspoons.

She says “There is no place for added sugar in soup”?

And sugar wasn’t the only hidden ingredient in our convenience foods, presenter Philip Boucher-Hayes discovered when he investigated.

He found that one third of us believe wraps are more healthy than traditional sandwiches.

But a large wrap can be equal to two slices of bread. And commercial tortillas are made with glycerol – a form of sugar – to keep them moist, and emulsifier to bind the ingredients together and extend their shelf life.

“Some chicken wraps have as many calories as a 12-inch pizza,” he discovers.

Consultant dietitian Aveen Bannon reveals that while salads are good for you, the benefits are often undone by large amounts of dressing. An average tablespoon of mayonnaise contains 94 calories – and people often use two or three spoons with a salad.

What would happen if the Earth’s rotation change direction or stop

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The Earth, is the only planet in our solar system, that as long as we know it has life, and moves with a certain pattern, which we assume. Our planet rotates around its axis, a drive that takes about 24 hours, which seems to be from east to west at a speed of about 30 km per second.

We might think that these rules are insignificant and do not affect our existence. Only if our planet “rebels” and change course or reduce speed, then nothing will be the same.

According to the BBC, if the Earth began to move east, the climate in most regions would change drastically. The Sahara would be more rainy and desert will be turned into a jungle. Another case is that of anhydrous California which will also have more rain, as opposed to Florida we would see the swamps to dry up.

If again our planet began to move very slowly, then life on the planet would not survive as well, cause the side that would strike the sun would burn, and the “dark” side would freeze. In just one day we would have a transition from the Ice Age … the planet Venus. It’s a fact that the Earth actually reduces its speed, but it will spend trillions of years until it stops completely.

But here is a summary of the question answers.?

  1. The Earth would become an even more imperfect sphere and this would reduce the acceleration due to gravity; it would decrease at the equator and increase at the poles. Also, the days would shorten.
    2. Since the effect of gravity has decreased near the equator, we would observe tides much higher than usual in these areas, much more land would go underwater during high tides. I assume Venice would cease to remain habitable.
    3. The precession of the Earth’s axis would change. As the Earth becomes an even more Oblate Spheroid, the gravitational differences (of the Sun on Earth) would be larger on different parts of the Earth, this would make the axis precess even faster. The current cycle is 26,000 years long for one complete precession, this would shorten depending on the increase in rotational velocity. Axial precession

    4. North Star would change faster. Currently the North Star is Polaris which is set to be replaced by Deneb in 8,000 years. Due to the above reasons, it would occur faster.

    5. It is also possible that the axial tilt of the Earth would increase. This would mean that winters would be colder and summers would be hotter.

    6. Since the Earth now rotates faster and the Coriolis effect depends on the rotation of the Earth, the impact of Coriolis effect would increase and we would experience faster wind speeds. Coriolis force

    7. This would be a boon for geostationary satellites as the operational altitude would reduce due to Earth’s increased rotational velocity. Geostationary orbit

    8. Since the Sidereal day (Sidereal time) would now be shorter, we would have to redefine our present units of time.

    9. Since we would have to redefine our units of time and also the orbit of our satellites, it would be a disaster for the GPS system, I can safely say that it would be unusable for at least a few years until all the corrections have been made.

    10. Since the Coriolis Effect would alter the wind speeds, and the rotational velocity of Earth has increased, the travel time of aeroplanes would change.

 

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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 3rd December 2016

Irish Tax trends show VAT is now the weakest link

Image result for Irish Tax trends show VAT is now the weakest link Image result for The latest Irish tax returns showed strong growth in tax revenues, led by better than expected corporation tax.

The latest Irish tax returns showed strong growth in tax revenues, led by better than expected corporation tax.

The latest Exchequer returns for November show the State is well on track to hit its deficit forecast for the year, but with signs Brexit and sterling may be starting to have an impact.

VAT income in particular was coming in less strongly than expected.

As has been the trend, the latest returns showed strong growth in tax revenues, led by better than expected corporation tax. Total revenues this year were now €777m higher than profile, or expectations. Spending was coming in €784m below profile.

That leaves the Exchequer better off, with an excess of spending over income of €407m compared to €1.7bn last year.

Exchequer Returns to the end of November showed more tax had been paid this year than at the same time in 2015 across all four of the main areas.

As well as corporation tax coming in ahead, income tax ended November 5.9pc, or €978m, higher than at the same time last year.

However, VAT receipts closed November 6.6pc or €128m behind expectations. The Department of Finance said that was mainly accounted for by larger than expected repayments.

VAT receipts were now €413m below profile for the year to date, though in absolute terms up from last year. Excise duties recorded an expected shortfall of €24m in November, but were running just ahead of profile for the year.

“The trend in VAT receipts is a little concerning: these were 6.6pc behind profile in November, the final ‘due’ month of the year. VAT receipts are now €413m (-3.2pc) behind profile year-to-date, which might reflect the softer retail sales data in recent months,” David McNamara of Davy Stockbrokers said.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has said Ireland’s economic prospects remain bright, but warned of “clouds” on the horizon. The warning came following the conclusion of the sixth post-programme surveillance mission. The statement by the commission said: “GDP is expected to continue to grow, the future evolution of the activities of multinational enterprises remains uncertain and the external environment has become increasingly unpredictable, especially after the UK ‘leave’ vote.”

Ireland’s Central Bank denies turning away UK businesses

Image result for Ireland's Central Bank denies turning away UK businesses  Central Bank Governor Philip Lane has tweaked one of the levers of mortgage lending. Photo: Gareth Chaney / Collins

Cyril Roux, deputy governor & the Governor Philip Lane of the Central Bank of Ireland .

The Republic of Ireland’s Central Bank has not tried to turn any UK banks or firms off setting up in Ireland in the wake of the Brexit vote, its deputy head said yesterday.

Cyril Roux, the deputy governor of the Central Bank, insisted that the regulator had not discouraged investment banking or trading in Dublin, contrary to recent reports.

The statement contradicts claims that Irish authorities had discouraged UK companies from relocating in the Irish Republic after Brexit because of regulatory concerns about how they would be policed.

But Mr Roux was adamant this was not the case. “I want to be clear… we do not have such a position,” he said.

“We have not sought to dissuade any such entities from seeking authorisation, nor are we planning to do so.”

However, he reiterated that the Republic’s Central Bank  would only allow new businesses into Ireland that have a “substantive presence” in the country. Mr Roux said the bank was not concerned about the arrival of major firms, but that smaller financial institutions may attempt to use Ireland as a convenient base within Europe, while the companies retain their real operations in the UK.

“The flagship firms are not a problem,” he added. “They don’t expect to bring a big balance sheet here and have a handful of people.

“There are some other firms of a different nature who believe you can just come here and nail a brass plate and rent a room and keep on doing everything from the UK. We have to tell them it’s not going to happen.

“The Irish financial sector is set to grow, and quite possible to a significant extent.

“The bank is committed to meeting the challenge.”

Ireland fifth in Europe for non-performing bank loans

Ratio affects bank stress tests performances, with SME sector highest at 30%

Image result for Ireland fifth in Europe for non-performing bank loans  

The CEO of AIB Bernard Byrne (above left) said the bank’s NPL ratio was about 17.5%.

Ireland has ranked fifth among European states in terms of the ratio of non-performing loans (NPLs) held by its banks, according to a report by the European Banking Authority in London.

The analysis shows Ireland with an NPL ratio of just more than 20%, ranking fifth behind Cyprus, Greece, Portugal and Slovenia.

Across the board, the rate was 5.4% with Luxembourg the best in class with a figure of about 1.5%.

In Ireland, the ratio was worst for the SME sector at 30%, with large corporates at about 13% and households at 15%.

Ireland’s poor performance is clearly a factor of the crash of both the economy and property market from late 2008 onwards. The concentration of NPLs was one of the reasons why AIB and Bank of Ireland fared so badly in recent bank stress tests under the adverse scenario, in spite of both being back in profit and generating capital.

Potential improvements

The EBA said that while there are signs of potential improvements across Europe in terms of dealing with NPLs, asset quality is still weak compared to historical figures and other regions.

In its report, the EBA said action on NPLs was needed, including supervisory actions, structural reforms and development of secondary markets.

AIB chief executive Bernard Byrne told the Oireachtas finance committee last week that NPLs were a major focus of its regulators at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. He said AIB’s ratio was about 17.5%.

The EBA also found that cyber attacks were on the rise and that banks are “struggling to demonstrate their ability to cope”.

“In this context, supervisory are focusing on IT-related risks including measures to fix rigid and outdated legacy IT systems, IT resilience, and governance and outsourcing,” it said.

As much as 9,300 plus patients on hospital trolleys last month in Ireland

Worst November figures on record?

Image result for A lot of patients on hospital trolleys in Ireland  Image result for A lot of patients on hospital trolleys in Ireland

Over 9,300 patients were left waiting on Ireland’s hospital trolleys last month? The worst November figures ever recorded, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has said.

Last month’s figures represent a staggering 99% increase when compared to November 2006, when 4,671 people were left waiting on trolleys. It is also a jump of 26% when compared to the same period last year, when 7,407 people were left on trolleys.

The worst affected hospitals last month included University Hospital Limerick (789), South Tipperary General Hospital (680), Cork University Hospital (648), Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda (607) and University Hospital Galway (594).

However, the news was not all bad. The overall trolley figures from January to November 2016, show a small reduction of 1% when compared to the same period last year. This is the first year a reduction during this period has been recorded since 2006.

Altogether, 85,731 patients were left waiting on trolleys in the first 11 months of this year, compared to 86,864 during the same period last year.

The waiting figures in the east reduced by 21%, with Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown recording a 48% fall in its trolley waiting figures. However, many hospitals outside of Dublin recorded an increase, with the biggest jump – 162% – recorded in South Tipperary General Hospital.

The INMO said that overall, these figures are ‘very disappointing’, as they confirm that all of the measures taken to date to tackle this issue have failed to work.

“These figures are hugely disappointing, if not surprising, and confirm yet again that our health service cannot cope with the demands being placed upon it. The figures for November are particularly alarming as we enter the peak winter period, with the inevitable increased demand that takes place every year over the next three to four months,” commented INMO general secretary, Liam Doran.

Garda warning after gang target Donegal retailers in credit card scam

Image result for Garda warning after gang target Donegal retailers in credit card scam   Image result for credit card scams in ireland

Gardaí are warning retailers to be especially vigilant after a Dublin based gang used false credit cards at a number of stores in Letterkenny.

Crime Prevention Officer Sgt Paul Wallace told the Democrat today that the gang made off with thousands of euros worth of high end goods and cash in the scam yesterday evening.

“They used false credit cards to buy high value goods such as phones, laptops, tablets, designer watches and fragrances at a number of shops in Letterkenny on Friday evening. Another tactic they used was to ask for cashback,” he said.

Prevention is the key

Sgt Wallace appealed to shop owners to take a few minutes at the start of the day to ensure all their staff are familiar with the security protocols.

“The criminals are aware that many towns and villages are in the midst of their Christmas promotions. Shops are busy and there are a lot of inexperienced, seasonal staff doing their best.

“Taking ten minutes at the start of the day to go through all the security protocols can save a lot of anguish,” he advised.

Tips for debit and credit card security can be found at http://www.safecard.ie

Owners and staff are also advised to be extra wary if a customer they don’t know immediately asks to see the most expensive range of goods on offer, especially something that could be sold on very easily, or looks for a lot of cash back in addition to their card transactions.

Counterfeit notes in circulation.

In addition, Sgt Wallace warned that false notes, especially €50 and €20 notes, are in circulation.

Again, he said, there are some simple safety measures that can prevent a business being caught out.

“Go to the Central Bank website for guidelines on how to tell the difference between real notes and counterfeits, and ensure that your staff are familiar with these.

“We also recommend using a security light for cards and notes, as that’s the best way to reveal whether important security features are missing.

“There is a lot of helpful information easily available on how to prevent crimes such as these,” Sgt Wallace said. “They key thing is to ensure that you and your staff know about them and can spot such scams as they happen.”

‘We are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity’

So says, Stephen Hawking warns we are at risk of destroying Earth

Image result for 'We are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity'  Image result for dangerous moment in the development of humanity

  • Professor Hawking said people need to work together to tackle the issues
  • These include environmental threats like climate change and diseases
  • He also mentioned the dangers of people losing jobs to AI and robots
  • The physicist said we have technology capable of destroying the planet

We are living through the most dangerous time in the history of the human race, according to Professor Stephen Hawking.

The Cambridge University physics professor named overpopulation, climate change and diseases as just some of the threats facing our planet.

He said we have developed technology that could destroy Earth, and we must ‘retrain’ for a new world where robots have replaced many everyday jobs.

We are living through the most dangerous time in the history of the human race, according to Professor Stephen Hawking. The Cambridge University physics professor named overpopulation, climate change and diseases as just some of the threats facing our planet

Writing in a comment article in The Guardian, Professor Hawking explained what worries him about the future of our planet.

‘For me, the really concerning aspect of this is that now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together,’ he said.

‘We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans.

‘Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity.

‘We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it.’

‘Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it.’

The world-famous physicist has previously issued warnings to the world that robots could wipe out humanity and that leaving Earth is our only hope, and that our days on Earth are numbered,

Professor Hawking said life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers

In September the physicist warned our planet is becoming a dangerous place because of the threat of war or disease.

Our desire to create helpful digital assistants and self-driving vehicles could bring about our demise.

Professor Stephen Hawking warned that humanity faces an uncertain future as technology learns to think for itself and adapt to its environment.

Speaking at an event in London earlier this year, the physicist told the BBC: ‘The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.’

This echoes claims he made earlier in the year when he said success in creating AI ‘would be the biggest event in human history, [but] unfortunately, it might also be the last.’

He argues that developments in digital personal assistants Siri, Google Now and Cortana are merely symptoms of an IT arms race which ‘pale against what the coming decades will bring.’

But Professor Hawking noted other potential benefits of this technology could also be significant, with the potential to eradicate, war, disease and poverty.

‘Looking further ahead, there are no fundamental limits to what can be achieved,’ continued Professor Hawking.

‘There is no physical law precluding particles from being organised in ways that perform even more advanced computations than the arrangements of particles in human brains.’

‘I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers,’ he said.

‘I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go to space.’

Professor Hawking made similar comments earlier this year while recording the BBC’s annual Reith Lectures on January 7.

The lecture explored research into black holes, and his warning was made during questions fielded by audience members.

When asked how the world will end, Hawking said that increasingly, most of the threats humanity faces come from progress in technology.

The scientist, who turned 74 this year, said the threats include nuclear war, catastrophic global warming and genetically engineered viruses.

‘We are not going to stop making progress, or reverse it, so we must recognise the dangers and control them,’ he said, speaking to Radio Times ahead of the lecture.

To get away from these threats, humankind will have to colonise other planets, which Hawking believes will take more than a century.

‘We will not establish self-sustaining colonies in space for at least the next hundred years, so we have to be very careful in this period,’ Hawking said.

In July, Professor Hawking and Tesla founder Elon Musk led 1,000 robotics experts in an open letter warning that ‘Autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow’

‘The probable life span of human civilization is much greater if we’re a multi-planet species as opposed to a single-planet species,’ Elon Musk said last year.

‘If we’re a single planet species, then eventually there will be some extinction event,’ Mr Musk said.

His company SpaceX is working to send humans to space.

Last week the firm test fired one of its new Raptor ‘interplanetary transport engines’ which the company will use to carry astronauts to Mars.

This week the US Senate introduced a bipartisan bill that authorizes a new $19.5 billion (£15 billion) budget for Nasa to send a crew to the red planet, but mandated it must happen within the next 25 years

The rocket engine is three times more powerful than the one on the Falcon 9 rockets. It will ultimately be used to launch SpaceX’s manned spacecraft off our planet.

Mr Musk, chief executive of SpaceX, said the rocket will be ultimately capable of producing thrust of 690,000lbs over 382 seconds.

The engine is powered using liquid methane and liquid oxygen rather than the kerosene used in the Merlin engines of its Falcon 9 rockets.

News Ireland daily BLOG by donie

Tuesday 14th June 2016

€200m fund will help build 20,000 homes, says Coveney

But the building fund will not be available until 2017 and the scheme will apply over three years.

     

The Minister for Housing Simon Coveney claims the building fund would allow developers “bring forward their plans for timetabling” developments and bring about “real movement” in the construction industry.

A fund established by the Government to help to build small infrastructural projects will speed up the construction of some homes by two years, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has said.

Mr Coveney and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said the new €200 million “local infrastructure fund” would help build between 15,000 and 20,000 new houses or apartments.

Councils will be able to avail of the fund to build small infrastructural projects, such as access roads, bridges, amenities, and surface water management facilities. This would help speed up the development of sites for houses and apartments by removing the financial burden of such projects from developers.

Mr Coveney claimed it would allow developers “bring forward their plans for timetabling” developments and bring about “real movement” in the construction industry.

Not available until next year?

The move was welcomed by organisations including Engineers Ireland and the Construction Industry Federation.

The funding will not come into effect until next year, however, and the scheme will apply over three years. The Ministers said the money available, which will be awarded on a competitive basis, will be frontloaded.

“We are trying to ensure that projects that otherwise would be going ahead in 2019 or 2020, when local authorities find a way of affording infrastructure, that actually those projects can go ahead in 2017 or 2018,” Mr Coveney said.

“When Paschal talks about this fund being spread over three years, the vast majority of it will be spent over the first two years. Only €30 million of the €200 million is earmarked for the third year.”

Mr Donohoe said the fund could be used for infrastructure such as “a road . . . a connection to an ESB station, it could be a connection to a gas mains”.

It will help with urban housing shortages in Dublin and Cork in particular, Mr Coveney said. He said the average cost of building a house in Dublin is €330,000, with €57,000 linked to construction costs.

More than 7,000 Irish jobs could come from solar power “says a new report”

A new study shows huge potential for job creation from renewable energy?

     

Solar power could create up to 7,300 jobs while meeting 7% of electricity demand, according to report published by the industry on Tuesday.

The Irish Solar Energy Association is lobbying the Government for supports similar those given to wind and other renewables, which will cost consumers and businesses €181 million this year.

On Tuesday, the body said that a report it commissioned from accountants KPMG shows that solar has the potential to create 7,300 jobs in building and operating generating plants.

The association added that results from commercial rooftop solar panels installed in the south east over the first two weeks of June indicate that an established industry could meet 7 per cent of Irish electricity demand.

Chairman David Maguire said on Tuesday that solar is the only form of renewable energy that does not receive some form of subsidy to aid its development.

He explained that the group favours an auction system rather the system of guarranteed prices given to wind farms, which are funded through a levy on electricity bills known as the public service obligation.

Using the auction approach, the Single Electricity Market Operator could decide in advance that solar generators should supply a set amount of the country’s total electricity demand.

It would then invite the industry to bid for that and award contracts to the cheapest suppliers. “They would have to have land, planning permission and grid connections to qualify, and they would have to pay a deposit to take part,”Mr Magure said.

He added that any operator who fails to fulfill their contract could be sanctioned. “We believe that this would give the industry and consumers the best value ,” Mr Maguire said.

The Government is to decide on a replacement for the current round of supports, dubbed Renewable Energy Feed in Taruiff (Refit), this year. Householders and businesses pay for this through the public service charge on their bills.

Over the 12 months to next October, they will have paid €181 million to the renewable energy industry, which is largely made up wind generators.

The cash collected from consumers and businesses bridges the gap between the wholesale market price of electricity and prices guaranteed to the wind farm owners under the Refit scheme.

Despite the supports, Mr Maguire warned that the Republic is likely to fall short on renewable energy targets agreed with the EU, which require 40 per cent of all electricity to be generated from green sources by 2020.

This could result in the State paying fines of more than €300 million a-year to Brussels for failing to keep to this committment.

“It is clear the country is facing a real challenge to meet these targets and avoid significant fines,” Mr Maguire said.

“Despite the successful deployment of wind energy in Ireland, which enjoyed considerable state support, wind alone will not ensure that we reach that goal.”

He argued that solar, which contributes significantly to power generation in other European countries, but is still undeveloped here, could aid the Republic in meeting its targets with the right level of support.

He also pointed out that Germany, which is on a similar latitude to Ireland, gets 7% of its power from solar.

Mr Maguire’s association has more than 100 members, including his own company, BNRG.

Confused messages from Ireland’s banks on mortgage rates

Central Bank’s monthly mortgage figures confusingly based on a mix of loan types

     

Amid the persistent heightened attention in recent weeks on mortgage rates that Irish banks are charging their customers, there is one curious anomaly which continues to persist: the Central Bank’s publication of mortgage interest rates.

Last week, the bank indicated the rate on new variable rate mortgages was just 3.08% as of end-April. But how can this be when the lowest rate available to a property purchaser today is actually greater than this, at 3.1% from KBC Bank? And that rate is only available to people who have a deposit of at least 50% of the purchase price.

The reason apparently is that the 3.08% rate mentioned in the Central Bank’s report is drawn from the ECB’s Monetary Financial Institution Interest Rate (MIR) framework. So, despite the name of the data, “Interest Rates on new floating rate loan agreements to households for house purchase”, the figure published in the Central Bank’s monthly statistics is actually based on a mix of fixed and variable contracts – and in addition to mortgages also includes home improvement loans.

It’s a metric that allows the ECB to compare rates on a level footing in the euro zone, which is fair enough. But for those looking for a “fix” on Irish mortgage rates, the data can be confusing. Indeed in April the Central Bank itself published an article which acknowledged the MIR figure “is often mistaken to represent new mortgages with a standard variable rate”.

So why does the Central Bank persist in using this data in its monthly bulletins and not in conjunction with its own data on mortgage rates, which it publishes on a quarterly basis, and which it says itself, are “more suited to domestic analysis”?

The Central Bank says it is bound by an ECB regulation to continue publishing the MIR data, but to avoid confusion it would be useful if it could publish its new business rates each time it publishes the MIR data – or at least explain the difference between the two.

Experts now suggest a diet of whole-grains could be the secret to a longer life

     

A large bowl of porridge every day could protect against cancer and keep the doctor away?

A large bowl of porridge every day could protect against death from cancer, the biggest analysis of the benefits of whole grains has shown.

Oats have long been considered a superfood, staving off illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

But now a review by Harvard University has found that whole grains also appear to prevent early death and lower the chance of dying from cancer.

A meta-analysis of 12 studies involving nearly 800,000 people found that eating 70 grams of whole grains a day – the equivalent of a large bowl of porridge – lowers the risk of all-cause death by 22pc and death from cancer by 20%. It also reduces the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 20%.

Scientists believe that whole grains help lower cholesterol and help regulate blood sugar, as well as making people feel full for longer, preventing them from snacking on unhealthy foods. The same effect could be gained from eating bran, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, or a mix of grains.

Whole grains, where the bran and germ remain, contain 25% more protein than refined grains, such as those used to make white flour, pasta and white rice.

Previous studies have shown that whole grains can boost bone mineral density, lower blood pressure, promote healthy gut bacteria and reduce the risk of diabetes.

One particular fibre found only in oats – called beta-glucan – has been found to lower cholesterol which can help to protect against heart disease.

Whole grains are recommended in many dietary guidelines because they contain high levels of nutrients such as zinc, copper, manganese, iron and thiamine. They are also believed to boost levels of antioxidants, which combat free-radicals linked to cancer.

Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Eating more whole grains is a simple change we can make to improve our diet and help lower our risk of heart and circulatory disease. Choosing brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, wholemeal or granary bread instead of white and swapping to whole-grain breakfast cereals such as porridge are all simple ways to help us up our fibre and whole-grain intake.”

The researchers said a 16-gram serving of whole grains lowered the risk of total death by 7%, and cancer by 5%.

Jack Conway shows a 2000-year-old edible lump of butter pulled from Irish bog

   

A huge lump of ‘bog’ butter discovered by an Irish turf cutter.

Finding buried treasure is a dream as old as stories themselves. Treasure chests overflowing with gold doubloons, shiny lamps containing genies, gargantuan lumps of thousand-year-old butter.

OK, maybe most don’t dream of unearthing enormous chunks of butter, but that’s exactly what Jack Conway discovered in the Emlagh bog in County Meath, Ireland, at the beginning of June, Atlas Obscura reported.

Conway is a turf cutter, meaning he harvests “turf” or peat – it’s similar to moss – from a bog to later burn for warmth during the cold winter months. He was chopping turf at the bog when he came across a 9.97kg chunk of butter, The Irish Times reported.

Researchers at the Cavan Museum estimated it to be more than 2000 years old.

Bog butter is just that: butter made from cow’s milk that’s been buried in a bog, though, after thousands of years, it often has the consistency of cheese.

It’s actually not that uncommon of a find for turf cutters in Ireland, either. As Smithsonian magazine noted, a 3000-year-old, one-metre wide barrel stuffed with 35kg of bog butter was found in 2009. Even more shocking, turf cutters found a 5000-year-old wooden “keg” containing 45kg of the butter in 2013.

People have actually been stumbling upon bog butter for at least two centuries. In the 1892 edition of The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Reverend James O’Laverty recounts finding a lump “which still retains the marks of the hand and fingers of the ancient dame who pressed it into its present shape,” and which he noted “tastes somewhat like cheese.”

In her article “Bog Butter: A Two Thousand Year History” in The Journal of Irish Archaeology, Caroline Earwood wrote, “It is usually found as a whitish, solid mass of fatty material with a distinctive, pungent and slightly offensive smell. It is found either as a lump, or in containers which are most often made of wood but include baskets and skins.”

The earliest discoveries of bog butter date back to the Iron Age, but she wrote that it may have existed earlier.

No one is sure exactly why the butter was buried in bogs – some think it was sometimes an offering to the gods – but evidence strongly suggests it was a method of preservation.

Most bog butter doesn’t contain salt, which was often used as a means of preserving food before modern refrigeration. The bogs, which are essentially cold-water swamps, and their native peat do a fine job keeping food fresh.

A University of Michigan researcher found that meat left in a bog for two years was just as preserved as meat kept in his freezer, the University Record reported in 1995.

Peat is compressed plant matter, which Nature reported is both cool and contains little oxygen while remaining highly acidic, allowing it can act as a sort of refrigerator. It seems to work – Savina Donohoe, Curator of Cavan County Museum who sent Conway’s butter lump to the National Museum of Ireland, said it smelled just like, well, butter.

“It did smell like butter, after I had held it in my hands, my hands really did smell of butter,” Mr Donohoe said recently. “There was even a smell of butter in the room it was in.”

In fact, peat bogs are such wonderful environments for preserving organic matter, they’ve been known to almost perfectly mummify corpses.

Hundreds of “bog bodies” have been found during the past two centuries, according to USA Today. The oldest one ever unearthed is a preserved skeleton that’s been named the Koelbjerg Woman, which dates back more than 10,000 years to around 8000 BC.

Other bodies, though, retain their skin and internal organs. The Tollund Man, for example, still had his leathery skin intact when he was found in the Bjaeldskovdal bog in Denmark and is considered by some to be the most well-preserved body ever found from prehistoric times. He was so well-persevered that the men who found him thought they had stumbled upon a modern murder scene, PBS reported. He was actually about 2400 years old.

Given that level of preservation, most of the butter is actually edible.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Thornton, who owns the Michelin-starred Thornton’s Restaurant in Dublin, claimed to have tasted a 4000-year-old sample of bog butter.

“I was really excited about it. We tasted it,” he told the Irish Independent in 2014. “There’s fermentation but it’s not fermentation because it’s gone way beyond that. Then you get this taste coming down or right up through your nose.”

Andy Halpin, assistant keeper in the Cavan Museum’s Irish Antiquities Division, said one could probably eat the butter, though he’s not sure why one would.

“Theoretically the stuff is still edible, but we wouldn’t say it’s advisable,” Halpin told the Irish Times.

Curious what it might taste like, Ben Reade, head of Culinary Research and Development at Nordic Food Lab created his own bog butter, albeit one aged for a bit less time than the aforementioned.

Echoing the lines from James Farewell’s 1689 poem The Irish Hudibras – “butter to eat with their hog, was seven years buried in a bog” – they buried one large birch barrel of butter in the ground, where it will remain for seven years. The other only remained in the ground for three months, before it was tasted at the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen and the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2012 in Oxford, England.

He wrote of the flavours:

“In its time underground the butter did not go rancid, as one would expect butter of the same quality to do in a fridge over the same time. The organoleptic qualities of this product were too many surprising, causing disgust in some and enjoyment in others. The fat absorbs a considerable amount of flavour from its surroundings, gaining flavour notes which were described primarily as “animal” or “gamey,” “moss,” “funky,” “pungent,” and “salami.” These characteristics are certainly far-flung from the creamy acidity of a freshly made cultured butter, but have been found useful in the kitchen especially with strong and pungent dishes, in a similar manner to aged ghee.”

Even so, if you happen to find a lump of butter buried in the back yard, it might be best to forgo it for the store-bought variety.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 6th April 2016.

Enda Kenny offers Micheál Martin full and equal partnership in Government

FG leader makes formal offer for government including FF and Independents.

    

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he had invited Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to “have a conversation”.

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny has offered Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin a full and equal partnership in government.

Mr Kenny met Mr Martin in Leinster House at 8.30pm on Wednesday evening to discuss the formation of government.

A Fine Gael statement said Mr Kenny and Mr Martin had a constructive meeting at which Mr Kenny made a formal offer for the formation of a full partnership government including Fine Gael, Independents and Fianna Fáil which would have the potential to provide a stable and lasting government.

The meeting was attended by Mr Martin, Mr Kenny and a note taker.

The offer was tabled as part of the first discussions between the two party leaders.

They are due to meet again on Thursday morning ahead of a Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting at 11am.

It is understood Mr Martin is to bring any proposal to the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting on Thursday.

Earlier, Mr Kenny told the Dáil he had invited Mr Martin to have “a conversation”.

“I expect Deputy Martin will oblige in that regard, as to how we might have an initial discussion,” he said.

Speaking after the votes for taoiseach, Mr Kenny said he made no apology for spending considerable time engaging with the Independents. Ireland faced important challenges, not just here at home with housing, homeless and other issues, but internationally.

He added: “I want to say to Deputy Martin, whom I know for very many years, I want to be as flexible and as generous as possible in this regard.”

Mr Kenny said it was not just about numbers; it was also about stability and building a relationship of trust.

‘No contact’

The Fianna Fáil leader said the electorate had rejected the “constant hype and spin” and there had been endless unattributed comment, which he warned the Taoiseach “has to stop”.

Earlier on Wednesday, he said to Mr Kenny: “I would even say Taoiseach, that in terms of meeting I have no difficulty in meeting you at all but I don’t have to read about it at 7 in the morning that apparently I’m meeting you at 7pm.

“There was no contact at all and that’s the kind of endless spinning and manoeuvring that we could do without.”

He said he had met Tánaiste Joan Burton last week and “we had a very cordial exchange which was much different to the presentation today”, he said of Ms Burton’s criticism of the Fianna Fáil leader and party.

He warned that “it would be important for the conduct of discussions into the future that “the briefings have to stop Taoiseach. The briefings and manipulation of opinion has to stop if there’s to be any reasonable prospect of moving things forward.”

He added that there had to be “parity of esteem and respect” for everyone in the Dáil.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said she believed the process of creating a government could be completed in days rather than weeks, with the right approach and she said most people would welcome the language that people would put the interests of the country rather than the party first.

Fine Gael is also to hold a parliamentary party meeting today at 11am to discuss the proposals.

Joan Burton hopes to do a deal with the Social Democrats and the Greens?

Labour wants to align with the SocDems and the Greens in the new Dáil.

    

The Labour party is proposing a Dáil alliance with the Social Democrats and the Green Party, with the idea put forward by leader Joan Burton today Wednesday.

Despite pressure for Burton to step down and facilitate either a leadership election or the ascension of Brendan Howlin to the role, the acting Tánaiste today proposed an alliance with the SocDems and the Greens during a Labour parliamentary party meeting.

There is said to have been broad agreement that the idea should be pursued.

Under the new Dáil standing orders, the potential alliance would be made up of the 7 Labour TDs, 3 SocDems and 2 Greens, giving the 12 deputies significant speaking rights and better access to private members’ business.

“If we are a big part of a medium-sized grouping we would do better out of it and the SocDems and Greens would too,” a party source said this evening.

They said the three parties would “broadly” be in line in terms of policy priorities citing issues including the minimum wage, the Eighth Amendment, the cost of childcare, and environmental issues. They added:

We’re talking about them because they would have a fairly good, pragmatic and responsible approach to politics in the Dáil.

It’s not yet clear if Labour has formally approached either the SocDems or the Greens about forming a Dáil alliance.

There was no immediate response the Social Democrats this evening.

Speaking in the Dáil, Green leader Eamon Ryan said that small parties and like-minded independents should meet to consider their options.

He later told TheJournal.ie that the Greens are open to seeing what such an alliance “with like-minded independents” might be able to achieve.

I think it might be one way of unblocking the log jam around government formation if a much wider rainbow coalition proved possible.

There has been speculation in recent days that Labour could form part of the next government with some party figures believing, as one senior source put it, that there is a need for “progress and liberal forces to have influence on the next government”.

However, many in the parliamentary party do not favour such a move.

One senior TD said they would “doubt very much” that Labour would go into government. Howlin is also understood to have voiced opposition to the idea.

Burton has held talks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in recent days including prior to today’s cabinet meeting.

However, Labour today abstained on the vote to elect Kenny as Taoiseach.

Ivan Yates to shelve media work and leave Ireland

The Newstalk broadcaster has denied the move prompted by family’s legal battle with AIB.

   

Ivan Yates with his wife Deirdre and daughters Ciara and Sarah at the launch of ‘Full On’ at the Marker Hotel, Dublin.

Ivan and Deirdre Yates: The High Court ruled in February that AIB was entitled to a judgment of €1.6m against Ms Yates. It demanded repayment from her, a primary school teacher, in June 2014.

Broadcaster and former minister Ivan Yates is to resign from his media commitments and is to leave Ireland for a second time. He has denied that the move was prompted by his family’s legal battle with AIB.

Mr Yates will depart his role as co-presenter of Newstalk Breakfast on July 1st. He will also step down as host of TV3’s Sunday AM and stop writing a column for the Irish Independent, it is understood.

A statement on behalf of Mr Yates said he had informed Newstalk of his decision to leave in March 2015, more than a year ago. He denied suggestions that he was returning to live in Wales. “It is not true that myself or Deirdre are going to Wales. We are taking a year’s sabbatical. Our plans after that are unclear at this point,” it said.

AIB pursued his wife for monies arising from guarantees she signed on loans used to expand the Celtic Bookmakers chain, which was run by Mr Yates and collapsed in 2011.

The High Court ruled in February that AIB was entitled to a judgment of €1.6 million against Ms Yates. The bank demanded the repayment from Ms Yates, a primary school teacher, in June 2014.

Mr Yates previously moved to Swansea in Wales without his wife in 2012 in a case of so-called bankruptcy tourism.

He was declared bankrupt by a Welsh court in August 2012, qualifying for Britain’s more relaxed bankruptcy laws.

He emerged from bankruptcy in August 2013 and returned to Ireland where he resumed his role on Newstalk Breakfast that September. The show now has 171,000 listeners, making it the station’s most popular show.

Newstalk said it wanted to wish Mr Yates “the very best” and thank him for his contribution to the station.

Veteran RTE journalist Tommie and broadcaster reflects on the intense emotion of Buncrana tragedy

“THE WONDERFUL SENSE OF COMMUNITY IN BOTH DONEGAL AND DERRY CAN NOT BE OVERLOOKED

     

The terrible tragedy that enveloped Buncrana when five people lost their lives two weeks ago was recalled by one of the country’s best known broadcasters when he appeared on Friday night’s Late Late Show.

Tommie Gorman, who hails from Sligo, was celebrating his 60th Birthday on Friday night and has covered news stories that reflect the Ireland of today –  the good news, bad news and often the tragedy that lies below the surface.

As RTE’s man in Belfast he has probably witnessed some of the worst imaginable scenes. On Friday night he told Ryan Tubridy the tragedy in Buncrana was one of the most intensely emotional situation that he had dealt with.

Speaking to a hushed audience Gorman said, “This simply broke the hearts of a nation. It was all such an ordinary activity. A mother away for a well deserved weekend with the father minding the kids and taking them off to Buncrana for the afternoon. A thing that many Derry people do.

The bravery of Davitt Walsh

“As they watched the sun setting, the tragedy that we are no all too familiar with struck. We saw the most intense of emotions where the father had to make the most terrible decisions imaginable. And then the bravery of Davitt Walsh and the many others who tried in every way to help.”

Gorman continued, “In the days afterwards we saw the sheer dignity of the mother at the funeral and then later when she returned to Buncrana to thank the people – where she found the strength I just don’t know. She is a wonderful woman.”

Speaking of Davitt Walsh Tommie added, “In the aftermath Davitt came down to us in Letterkenny for an interview. He brought along his girlfriend Stephanie, his mother and two sisters. This was not just an interview; it was clear that Davitt wanted to talk about this, he needed to talk about it, all we had to do was listen.

“He was recalling all those minutes in the water when it emerged that Stephanie had encouraged him, and indeed as soon as the little baby was brought back on to shore, she huddled her away into the car to get some heat.”

He added: “This is such a human story –  tragedy, intensity, emotion but it also shows the great sense of community in both Donegal and Derry. Everybody just reached out to each other and did what they could. Unfortunately even in situations like this there are still bills to be paid, but the people of Buncrana have already set up a fund in the Credit Union in Buncrana for the family which just highlights this close bond in the community.”

Sligo consultant warns hospital emergency departments all over Ireland are in crisis

INMO says March one of worst months on record for overcrowding.

     

The Irish Association of Emergency Medicine has warned the health service is in a state of crisis and does not have enough beds or staff.

Sligo consultant Fergal Hickey, spokesman for the association, said emergency departments all over the country are losing nurses and consultant positions cannot be filled.

Middle grade doctors will not work in emergency departments because of the intolerable conditions, he said on RTE’s Morning Ireland.

“The overcrowding problem is only going to be tackled when there is a stable government prepared to do what is necessary?

“It is a consistent, persistent problem that nobody has tackled to date.

“Rather than their posturing and game playing, this courtship ritual that seems to be afoot, they should be dealing with the serious crises in this country – the health service is not the only one. It is only going to be tackled when you have a stable government ready to do what is necessary, and that means investment.

“You cannot create hospital bed capacity without investment in facilities, investment in staff and support.”

Mr Hickey said that last night in Sligo Regional Hospital there were five ambulances in a queue waiting to get their patients onto trolleys, patients on corridors. Staff had to move trolleys to get to patients.

“There is incontrovertible evidence that if you have patients over 75 detained on a trolley for over 12 hours you will have bad outcomes.

“Until someone faces up and does something about it people are going to continue to die who shouldn’t die.”

Mr Hickey’s comment on staffing levels contradicts a claim by Robert Watt, the secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and reform who maintains the levels of pay on offer to people entering the public service is not hampering the State’s ability to recruit high-calibre staff.

Meanwhile, March was one of the worst months on record for overcrowding in Ireland’s hospitals, a major union has warned.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said analysis of its daily reports from accident and emergency units showed 9,381 patients spent time waiting on trolleys for a bed in a ward.

The union said it was a 5 per cent increase on the same month last year, and the figures also showed a 100 per cent increase in overcrowding in hospitals compared with March 2008 when 4,701 patients waited on trolleys.

The Department of Health said that January is traditionally the worst month of the year for trolley waits and overcrowding due to a number of factors including fractures caused by falls on icy ground, winter bugs such as the norovirus, flu and delays in discharging patients.

Of those waiting, 539 were waiting for a bed at University Hospital Galway.

However, the figure for UHG has dropped by 15 per cent, when compared to the figure for March of last year.

All non-urgent surgeries were cancelled at the hospital on Tuesday for the second time in five days as a result of overcrowding.

The INMO said the numbers are startling and added that the health service continues to face intolerable levels of overcrowding because of a lack of beds and staff despite other initiatives.

INMO general secretary Liam Doran said the overcrowding is worsening against a backdrop of steep increase in demand, a lack of beds and a severe shortage of nurses.

“Notwithstanding this period of political inertia, nothing must get in the way of whatever special measures are necessary to lessen the current environment facing patients and frontline staff,” he said.

Mr Doran has called for an immediate meeting of the emergency department implementation group, set up to try to resolve the crisis last year.

The INMO figures included reports on the worst affected hospitals:

– Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore, had trolley waits up from 204 to 568 in the last year

– South Tipperary General Hospital was up from 233 to 552

-University Hospital Limerick was up from 558 to 710

– Cork University Hospital was up from 412 to 550

– Bantry General Hospital was up from 39 to 146

The agreement involving the INMO, the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health to resolve the overcrowding is to be reassessed on Friday April 15th.

Insects are capable of repairing their ‘Bones’ just like Humans?

   

Locusts are found to have internal bandages to help repair their broken limbs.

Researchers from the Trinity College Dublin just made an interesting breakthrough regarding insects and how they have internal bandages to repair their broken “bones.”

According to Phys.org, insects have a sort of DIY cuticle repair kit that allows them to go on about their daily lives even when they are injured. For instance, when an insect cuts one of its legs, it repairs itself by having a patch of cuticle laid down underneath its affected area. This then seals the wound and provides the necessary structural strength to heal the animal.

The study was published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, and is said to be the first research to discuss the biomechanic abilities of arthropods in repairing themselves.

The lead author of the study, David Taylor, said that insects, unlike humans, are not capable of completely repairing their “bones” but their own way of healing themselves via their cuticle bandages is a pretty good alternative. The insects are able to restore most of their strength, so they can still use their limbs for other activities to go about their days.

One of the team members, Eoin Parle noted that even though people already know that insects also had the ability to bleed when cut, nobody really looked into how well their blood clotting abilities are able to repair their bodies – until now.

Among the insects that the team studied are the locusts. During their study, the team found that adult desert locusts are able to repair their limbs to approximately two-thirds of their original strength – enough to help them survive in the wild.

The locust cuticle was also found to be one of the toughest natural materials. This discovery, together with the insects’ interesting exoskeletons and amazing abilities to walk on different kinds of surfaces, co-writer Jan-Henning Dirks also said in his website that this discovery may lead to new technology.

How long do you think until Locust-Man arrives in the next Marvel movie?

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday/Sunday 24th & 25th October 2015

Housing rights protesters call for Nama funds to be used to resolve the housing crisis

      

Housing rights campaigners have staged a protest at a new housing development in Dublin.

Homeless people, cash strapped tenants and anti austerity activists have picketed a show house at the plush Belltree estate in Clongriffin in a row over rising waiting lists.

They are calling for resources from the so-called bad bank Nama (National Asset Management Agency) to be used to resolve the growing housing crisis.

Erica Fleming from Coolock, who has been homeless since July, said: “The housing crisis gets worse by the week and will continue to worsen if we stay on the course this government has set of leaving it to private developers and landlords to meet the need that’s out there when clearly they are only in it for the profit.

“They are part of the problem and not the solution.”

Rachel Kenny, a mother of two living in private rented accommodation in Clongriffin, said price hikes were crippling.

She said: “My rent last year went from €950 to €1300 leaving me having to get a top up on my rent supplement via Threshold. I absolutely dread the possibility of a further hike next month when the lease is up for renewal and like thousands of others in my position the fear of becoming homeless really bears down on me.

“The Government constantly claim that Nama’s responsibility is to get the best deal possible for the taxpayer. Can they for one moment try calculate the emotional cost on the homeless, the overcrowded and the thousands more who see only massive obstacles in front of them when it comes to starting a home? It can’t be put in money terms yet the resources are there solve the crisis.”

Some of the semi detached properties in the new Belltree development are on sale for over €300,000.

Anti-Austerity Alliance councillor Michael O’Brien said Nama monies should be used to for social and affordable housing. The protest action was “essential” to highlight the Government’s “unforgivable” response to the current crisis, he said.

Tánaiste Burton proposes a body to regulate the housing rental sector

Joan Burton wants body with specific powers to control rent prices

   

The Tánaiste Joan Burton has proposed the establishment of a rent regulator as part of the Government’s housing package.

Tánaiste Joan Burton has proposed the establishment of a rent regulator as part of the Government’s housing package.

The two Coalition parties are at odds over proposals to solve the housing crisis, with rent certainty measures proving to be the most difficult aspect. The Tánaiste has now proposed a body which would be given specific powers to control rent prices.

The initiative was raised with Minister for the EnvironmentAlan Kelly and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, who are tasked with preparing a package on the housing crisis.

PRTB

It is unknown whether this new body would replace the Private Residential Tenancy Board (PRTB) or if it would be simply giving the body more powers. The PRTB currently has statutory powers to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords.

The agency has the power only to advise the Government on issues relating to the rental market and cannot interfere to tackle rising rents.

A Government source said: “This is at the very early stages and the finer details will need to be worked out.”

The proposal will be considered at a Cabinet subcommittee on housing with the Taoiseach next week.

Consumer price index

It further casts doubts over Mr Kelly’s proposals to link rent to the consumer price index. This has been at the centre of a dispute between Mr Noonan and Mr Kelly. Mr Noonan is concerned it would discourage investment in the sector.

At a parliamentary party meeting this week, Labour politicians rallied around Mr Kelly, the party’s deputy leader. A Labour source said party members were strongly supportive of Mr Kelly’s proposals on the subject.

However, one added: “Alan needs to start making some friends now. We need this to be sorted and it won’t be if the two Ministers refuse to budge.

Irish motorists penalty point offenders to escape being named & shamed

Only motorists disqualified by courts to be published on an online database

  

On the way: names of drivers disqualified by the courts will be published on an online central database.

Thousands of motorists disqualified from driving will escape being named and shamed because of the State’s concern around invading their privacy.

The Road Safety Authority has confirmed it has been in talks with a number of stakeholders around publishing a database of drivers currently disqualified.

It is envisaged the scheme would be in place early next year, though a launch date is not yet fixed. Consultations between the RSA and the Garda, Irish Courts Service, Data Protection Commissioner and Department of Transport are ongoing around the detail of the new scheme.

The names of all drivers disqualified by the courts would be published on a central database available online. The names of the drivers would remain on the list for the duration of their disqualification.

RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock said the names of tax defaulters, banned company directors and disqualified taxi drivers were already published by the relevant State agencies.

She believed publishing the names of disqualified motorists would reduce the scope for them to openly flout their bans and continue to drive.

The Irish Times reported earlier this week that more than 500 disqualified drivers were involved in collisions causing serious injury or death in recent years.

While 1,400 people were prosecuted for driving while disqualified last year, the numbers continuing to drive and who go undetected is believed to be much higher. The number of motorists being disqualified – after court cases or by accruing 12 penalty points – has been about 13,000 per year for the last three years, according to Minister for TransportPaschal Donohoe.

“It’s already a matter of public record,” Ms Murdock said of the names and addresses of those disqualified by the courts. “We are now considering formalising that in a list so that peer pressure, community pressure and society will ensure that people who have been disqualified do not continue to drive and pose a risk to other road users as well as themselves.”

However, motorists who incur repeated penalty points and other offences can accept the points and accompanying fines without challenge, thus negating the need to appear in court. Repeat offenders can amass the 12 points needed to be disqualified without ever having to appear in court, even at the point of their eventual disqualification. It is that group whose names are set to remain private despite the names of those banned in court being named from early next year.

The RSA said the legal and right to privacy status of both groups of disqualified drivers was different under the naming and shaming plans.

“Penalty points are seen as personal to the individual concerned – inherent in the concept of penalty points and avoidance of court appearance – and can only be accessed by the recipients themselves or by others with legal authority such as motor insurers,” it said in response to queries from the Irish media.

The great Irish whiskey growth and challenges

 

There are 28 new Irish whiskey distilleries either proposed or already underway. Insiders estimate half of them won’t make it to fruition. So is craft whiskey Ireland’s next bubble?

Sarah McCabe spoke to Jack Teeling, David Raethorn and Mark Reynier – three distillers who are making it work – about one of the world’s oldest and most complicated businesses and the challenges facing the Irish industry’s newcomers.

Whiskey distilleries are popping up around the country like mushrooms after rain.

Ten years ago the country had no craft industry to speak of; now there are 28 new distilleries under way.

Forget house prices or Bitcoin. Are whiskey start-ups Ireland’s newest bubble? The Irish Whiskey Association doesn’t think so.

“The potential is massive when we compare Ireland to Scotland, with over 130 Scottish distilleries in operation, bringing investment and employment into rural areas,” says Irish Whiskey Association chief executive Miriam Mooney. Exports sales will double by 2020 and double again by 2030, the organisation predicts.

Insiders warn the road is rockier than it seems.

“It is an easy business to romanticise – old product, old methods, old buildings – but the reality is that you are dealing with high entry level costs, a difficult route to market, cash flow challenges, and not enough domestic demand. This whiskey won’t be soaked up by Ireland,” says Mark Reynier. “I can understand the cheerleading – but we need to be more realistic.”

Reynier is one of Scotch whisky’s most successful exports. Scotland’s industry is the envy of the world, far outselling its Irish neighbour. Reynier is the former chief executive of Bruichladdich, which was bought by Remy Cointreau for £58m in 2012.

Last year he made the move to Ireland, buying the old Guinness brewery in Waterford. He is turning it into a whiskey distillery. It will produce small-batch whiskeys brewed from barley that can be traced back to individual farms. Ireland has the finest barley in the world, Reynier says. Trials will begin at the end of November, a year after he bought the site.

“The activity and support for the sector is very encouraging,” he says. “But this sudden perception that Ireland has a very successful whiskey industry? It is a fallacy. You still have three companies producing most of the product.”

Jack Teeling says much the same. He and brother Stephen are the founders of the eponymous Teeling Whiskey Company – the success story that many of the other distilleries in the works today seek to emulate.

Of the 28 new distilleries in the works, Jack estimates that half will actually make it into production.”Looking back at the projects that were all being announced when we got started in 2013, a lot of them were not completed… I’m not sure how a lot of guys are going to scale.

It costs a minimum of between €5m and €10m to build a distillery and a new brand, he estimates. “Building out your stocks is so capital intensive”.

Whiskey is in Jack’s blood; in 1987 his father John founded Cooley, the first independent Irish distiller in 100 years, breaking apart an industry monopolised by Irish Distillers.

The brothers helped to build up Cooley up before its sale to Beam for €70m. They founded Teeling in 2013, based at a state-of-the-art new distillery in Dublin 8. Their whiskey has won more than 60 international awards, is sold around Ireland and in 40 export markets.

Their father stayed in the game after Cooley too; John now operates the biggest industrial producer in the country, supplying unbranded stocks to other companies.

The Irish whiskey business is long and distinguished. The spirit has been distilled here since the sixth century. It developed a reputation as a superior product and by the 17th century was in demand around the globe.

By 1800, James Power had already founded John’s Lane Distillery and John Jameson had bought into the Bow Street Distillery, both situated in Dublin.

At the industry’s height in the mid-19th century there were 88 licensed distilleries – and hundreds more unlicensed facilities – producing 12m nine-litre cases annually, making Irish whiskey the largest selling spirits category in the world at that time.

Decline began in the early 1900s. The industry was hit with the War of Independence, Prohibition in the US (its largest export market) and a Commonwealth taxation policy that locked it out of those markets.

Meanwhile, Scotch whisky was on the march. Distillers such as Johnnie Walker and Teachers were employing new blending techniques that appealed to the palates of the day and embracing the use of Coffey stills (a process which allows for a continuous uninterrupted distillation process).

Scottish distillers were also not afraid to use bootleggers to get their product into America.

The number of Irish distilleries had dwindled to just five by the mid 1950s. In order to survive, the remaining distillers in the Republic (Jameson, Powers and the Cork Distilleries Company) merged in 1966 to form Irish Distillers. Jameson Blended Irish Whiskey became the flagship brand and the group slowly began to rebuild export sales. For more than 30 years Jameson enjoyed almost a complete monopoly in the category.

Then in 1987 businessman John Teeling purchased Ceimici Teo (which produced potato alcohol) and converted it into Cooley. This first independent distillery in a century – which revived many historic Irish brands and distilling techniques and was soon winning awards – was founded in the same year that Irish Distillers was purchased by Pernod Ricard.

The French alcohol giant had seen the potential of the resurgent Irish category and opened up distribution opportunities for Jameson around the world. Growth began in earnest.

Ireland’s trademark is pot still whiskey, made from a mixed mash containing both malted and unmalted barley, because historically the government levied higher taxes on malted whiskeys than on unmalted. It is traditionally distilled three times, whereas Scotch whisky is only distilled twice.

At each stage of distillation, the output from the first and last hour are discarded because the best tasting product happens midway through the process.

Very luxury brands, like Macallan, only use 16pc of the product produced by the distillation process; in theory, the smaller the cut, the smoother the whiskey.

One of the main contributors to the expense of distilling Irish whiskey is the fact that it has protected geographical status, like Greek feta or Parma ham, meaning it is highly regulated. The product must be aged for a minimum of three years before it can be sold. Many new brands, like Teelings, bought in stock from other producers and put their own stamp on the blend to get the brand going while waiting for their own whiskey to mature.

It is also closely watched from a tax point of view – excise duty must be paid even on stock that is stolen.

“My worry is that the sector could become over-regulated” says Teeling.

“The most interesting things in whiskey are happening in the US where the sector is less regulated; there is no three-year ageing requirement, for example. People there are trying new things – rye whiskey, craft stuff, new techniques.”

As it matures, whiskey literally disappears into thin air – because it is aged in porous wood barrels. “After 10 years you have lost a quarter of your volume, literally into thin air,” explains David Raethorne. “A barrel of 30-year-old whiskey contains only a fraction of what it started out with – that is why it is so expensive.”

That means deep pockets are required to get it right. Raethorne looks like he’s getting there. The healthcare software entrepreneur is building an ambitious €30m distillery project on the site of an old video cassette factory beside Hazelwood House in Sligo.

The historically significant house is located in the middle of Yeats country (you might recall the Yeats line “I went down to the hazel wood because a fire was in my head.”) It will produce a single malt targeted at the premium end of the market. Raethorne also intends to reopen the house for whiskey tasting and historical tours.

The aristocratic home which dates from 1720 was designed for the Wynn family by Richard Casells, the architect of Leinster House and parts of Trinity College. It was the first building he designed in Ireland.

Art patron Raethorne and his wife Sue have also begun hosting art exhibitions in the cavernous factory.

Raethorne agrees that probably only about half of the distilleries currently in the planning stage will make it into production.

“In some cases they will be used to make other spirits,” he says. “You can make gin, vodka and poitin using the same equipment and sell that the next day. They may not all do whiskey, but I think they’ll do something else.”

But the doing is only the half of it. Once you have produced your liquor, you’ve still got to convince people to start drinking it.

“The hardest part isn’t making the product, it is selling it,” says Teeling. “It is not a case of ‘build it and they will come.’ There are challenges on all fronts.”

Whiskey cannot depend only on domestic demand, he explains.

“The domestic market is important for us – but it is not going to make or break us. There are US cities that drink a lot more Irish whiskey than the whole of Ireland does. But they are damn hard to crack.

“Craft beer, on the other hand, can survive relying solely on domestic business. The product is cheaper to produce and a lot of craft brewers get an excise tax rebate if they are below a certain size.

“The route to market is difficult for whiskey. There are only so many good distributors. I used my Cooley contacts so we have the same distributors in the UK, France, Russia and Australia.

“The distributor is key; you end up effectively co-investing in a new market. My advice is to be cuttingly realistic with your business model. What will justify people buying your whiskey? And you have to be different. We tried samey products at Cooley and it didn’t work.”

There are very few State supports for the industry. Bord Bia makes some contribution but Enterprise Ireland has never funded a whiskey manufacturer.

“In Scotland it’s far easier to get State supports if you are a Scottish SME than if you are a foreign multinational coming to the country. It is the opposite here,” says Teeling.

Reynier disputes this. “At Bruichladdich we didn’t get any help at all – the EU forbade subsidies at that time. I think that has been slightly relaxed since then, they have found ways around it – but to say that the Scottish industry gets lots of help from the government … it doesn’t.

“It is a very hard business to fund – full stop. It requires high-risk investing in a long-term product from sophisticated investors who understand the product. It is not right for corporates and it is not right for crowd-funding.

“That’s not to say there is a shortage of funding … There is a lot of private equity out there, it is just a question of coherently packaging the investment proposition and appeal to long-term investors.”

He also disputes the idea that whiskey distilleries who get into trouble, or who need cash flow at the beginning, can turn to vodka or gin distillation.

“That is not a short cut. Sure, it generates revenue. But it is an error to think of it as the panacea to cash flow. You end up with an expensive white spirit in a market that is already full of expensive white spirits. There is no shortcut to waiting for whiskey to mature.”

He wants more regulation for the Irish whiskey industry, not less.

“Credibility is what is needed. The industry has got to resist the temptation to reduce integrity.”

Life on our Earth emerged 270 million years before we previously thought

  

Life on Earth as we know it now emerged 270 million years before we previously thought?

That is life on other planets “could be more abundant”  New research now shows.

Life may have been on earth for much longer than we thought

Scientists previously thought life first appeared on Earth 3.83 billion years ago but exciting new findings suggest life started an entire 270 million years earlier.

This would also mean it was only 440 million years after the Earth formed – about 4.54 billion years ago.

Life on Earth may have started almost instantaneously says Dr Mark Harrison

Researchers have suggested the rapidity of life springing up on Earth means life in the rest of the universe could be abundant.

The scientists came to their conclusion after analysing more than 10,000 zircons – heavy, durable stones used as imitation diamonds – which had formed from molten rock in Western Australia.

They are known as time capsules because they preserve materials from their environment as they form.Getty

The findings on Earth mean life on other planets is highly likely

Out of the thousands of zircons they studied they found 79 which looked like they might contain graphic, which is made of pure carbon which life depends on.

After studying them all they found a single zircon with graphite in – which turned out to be 4.1 billions years old.

The study’s co-author, Mark Harrison, a geochemist at the University of California (UCLA), told the Live Science website: “It was nerve-wracking to manipulate the sole tiny zircon fragment — about half the width of a hair on your head — containing the graphite inclusions.

“20-years-ago, this would have been heretical; finding evidence of life 3.8 billion years ago was shocking.

Life on Earth may have started almost instantaneously but with the right ingredients, life seems to have formed very quickly.”

The geochemist explained the faster life arises on Earth, the more varied and possibly extreme the conditions are in which it can do so elsewhere and be sustained – meaning life on Mars or other planets is entirely possible.

The study also suggests early Earth may not have been the dry and desolate land it has long-believed to be.UCLA

Dr Mark Harrison (l) and Patrick Boehnke took out the study with Elizabeth Bell at UCLA

Dr Harrison’s findings suggest life existed before the Late Heavy Bombardment – the series of cosmic impacts on the inner solar system which formed giant craters on the moon 3.9 billion years ago.

UCLA geochemist, Patrick Boehnke, the studies co-author, said: “If all life on Earth died during this bombardment, which some scientists have argued, then life must have restarted quickly.”

Dr Harrison added: “Nobody has offered a plausible alternative explanation for graphite of non-biological origin into a zircon.”

The pair, along with lead author Elizabeth Bell, at UCLA, said their next project is to analyse 1,000 ancient zircons all containing carbon, in a bid to further confirm their findings.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 15th September 2015

EU ministers fail to agree relocation scheme for growing numbers of refugees

Germany shifts stance as officials try to cope with large numbers crossing borders

      

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve (left) and German interior minister Thomas de Maziere leave after an European Union interior and justice ministers emergency meeting on the migrants situation in Brussels.

EU immigration policy was in disarray on Monday night after ministers failed to reach agreement on a relocation scheme for refugees and countries began to introduce border checks within the union’s free travel area.

Following a prolonged meeting of justice minister in Brussels, member states failed to back a refugee relocation plan proposed by the European Commission last week. There was significant opposition from a number of central and east European countries to the idea of mandatory quotas.

Ministers will revisit the issue on October 8th but the development is a blow to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s proposal to introduce the quotas, a move expected to set an important precedent for EU asylum policy.

Speaking in Brussels on Monday night after the meeting, Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said she was “disappointed” at the failure to reach agreement but she stressed a majority of ministers did back the plan.

“There is a large majority in favour of the figure of 120,000, and the legal instrument was agreed today for the 40,000 [relocation plan], but there are some member states that are not in a position to commit to that figure today,” she said.

‘Urgent and dramatic’

Luxembourg’s minister for foreign affairs Jean Asselborn, who chaired the meeting, said the situation facing Europe was “urgent and dramatic” but it was”too early” for a decision to be taken as “procedures have to be respected”.

The ministers also considered new proposals to tighten the EU’s external borders, including a plan to detain and potentially tag illegal immigrants in centres in an effort to shore up support from countries opposing relocation measures.

While the justice ministers grappled with the migration crisis in Brussels, the Schengen free-travel zone appeared to be unravelling.

Germany’s decision on Sunday to introduce border checks on its borders with Austria has triggered a wave of similar moves by other EU countries – Austria, Slovakia and the Netherlands have all followed suit.

The European Commission denied that the Schengen convention- the free-movement zone that has been a cornerstone of EU policy for two decades – was under threat, pointing out that existing legislation permits countries to introduce temporary border controls in emergency situations.

Germany saidon Monday it now expects to receive 1 million refugees this year, up from a figure of 800,000 cited last week. Berlin has shifted its stance in recent days as its authorities struggle to cope with the numbers crossing its borders.

While German chancellor Angela Merkel took a lead role in welcoming refugees to the European Union by promising refuge to hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers from Syria, vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has said Germany is “reaching its limits” when it comes to migrants. There have been previous instances of countries introducing border checks within the common travel area, but Germany’s unexpected move is by far the biggest breach of EU free movement rules in its history.

Speaking from Jordan on Monday, British prime minister David Cameron defended his country’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis, as he called on EU member states to increase aid to Syria. “Without British aid, hundreds of thousands more could be risking their lives seeking to get to Europe,” he said.

Meanwhile in Hungary, workers erected the final sections of a 4-metre-high steel fence topped with razor wire on the country’s frontier with Serbia, a centre-piece of prime minister Viktor Orban’s response to the migration crisis.

Police, backed by troops, stopped migrants walking into Hungary along a railway line from Serbia on Monday afternoon as the fence was completed.

From midnight to 4pm on Monday, 7,437 migrants entered Hungary from Serbia – beating a single-day record set on Sunday – and most were quickly put on trains and buses to the border with Austria, where they now face security checks.

A spokesman for the UN refugee agency said each country had the right to protect its borders but warned that it was “very important” that people fleeing war and persecution could find protection; most migrants now arriving in Europe are from conflict zones like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

More than half of Irish homes pay water bills after the second cycle

Compliance with water charges now stands at 51%.

    

The number of homes paying their water charges has passed the 50 per cent mark, as Irish Water nears the end of its second billing cycle.

Initial results released earlier this summer for the first bills sent by the company showed that 43 per cent of homes had paid their water charges.

The figures were seized on by anti-water charges protesters, while Eurostat also cited poor compliance rates as a reason to classify Irish Water on the Government balance sheet earlier this year.

The first billing cycle covered usage for January, February and March and 675,000 households, out of a total of 1.52 million, paid. The second billing cycle applied for usage over April, May and June, with these bills sent from July.

Irish Water has yet to send out all bills for this period.

In a statement to The Irish Times, Irish Water said 100,000 more homes had so far paid their water bills than had initially done for the first three months of billing.

The company said the number of homes now paying bills is “at least” 775,000, which gives a compliance rate of 51 per cent. The company also said some people were paying their first bill at the same time as their second.

Government sources have expressed hope the compliance rate will rise to 60 per cent by the time of the general election.

During the second billing cycle, Irish Water issued reminders for the first time to homes which had not paid their bills. The reminders included letters, text messages and telephone calls.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment Paudie Coffey said the “momentum is building” on compliance. “We won’t have the full cycle until the end of October but the indications are good and as time will pass compliance will grow,” he said. “Obviously nobody likes new charges but there are no alternatives.”

Irish hospitals facing heavy penalty fines for failing to cut waiting lists

Penalties for non-performing hospitals expected to run into millions of euro

   

Heavy fines are to be imposed from this month on low-performing hospitals that fail to meet Minister for Health Leo Varadkar’s targets for cutting waiting lists.

The fines are being levied in respect of almost 8,000 patients who were on waiting lists for over 18 months in August.

Mr Varadkar had previously promised there would be such no long-term waiters from the middle of this year.

As part of a carrot-and-stick approach, the Minister is also releasing €25 million to the HSE so that hospitals can meet his second target of nobody waiting for more than 15 months for appointments or treatment by the end of the year. This is in addition to the €26 million already provided this year to fund the 18-month target.

The level of fines to be imposed is currently being calculated based on the cost of the procedures and appointments involved, but are expected to run into millions of euro.

The money involved will be diverted from non-performing hospitals to other hospitals or clinics where the work can be performed.

Outsourcing

Exceptions will be made for a small number of specialities where the targets could not be met because of a shortage of specialist staff or pre- and post-surgical supports.

Alternatives such as outsourcing to the private sector will be used in these cases.

Among the hospitals likely to be fined are Galway University Hospital, where 2,320 patients are waiting over 18 months, and Tallaght and Cork University hospitals, with 1,000 long-term waiters each. The mechanism for sanctioning hospitals that fail to meet targets was devised during discussions between the HSE and theDepartment of Health over the summer.

It is intended the fines will continue to be levied on a monthly basis until hospitals reach the targets set by the Minister.

Started to rise

The number of long waiters has started to rise again since the Minister’s target date of last June. Figures published by The Irish Times last weekend showed the number of patients waiting over 18 months for an outpatient appointment was up 465 per cent, while the number waiting for inpatient procedures soared by 7,100 per cent.

The fines are being put in place to stop the figures from slipping back.

In September, fines will be imposed in respect of 6,800 outpatients and 1,000 inpatients still on the list after 18 months. Fines are not being imposed where appointments have been made.

Specific action plans are being put in place for some procedures, such as removal of wisdom teeth, varicose veins, urology and some spinal surgeries. Eleven additional scoliosis patients will have been treated by the end of this month in the Blackrock Clinic and another 56 will be treated in Dublin or London by the end of the year.

Hospitals have been told to carry out urgent colonoscopies within the target time of four weeks, with a zero tolerance policy applying to breaches.

Separately, Mr Varadkar will today attend a meeting of the emergency department taskforce dealing with the trolley crisis.

Despite the provision of extra funding, trolley numbers were up 40 per cent last month compared to the previous August.

Archaeologists find bones of man killed about 1,000 years ago

Skeleton of teenager who suffered violent death discovered in tree roots in Co Sligo

  

The man’s lower leg bones in his grave left pic & right the fallen beech tree.

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a young man who suffered a violent death almost a millennium ago at Collooney, Co Sligo.

The teenager had two stab wounds to the chest and one to his left hand, presumably from trying to ward off his attacker.

The skeletal remains were found among the roots of a massive beech tree which toppled over after more than 200 years.

The National Monuments Service commissioned a rescue excavation to recover the remains before further damage was caused.

“As excavations go, this was certainly an unusual situation,” said Dr Marion Dowd of Sligo-Leitrim Archaeological Services.

“The upper part of the skeleton was raised into the air trapped within the root system. The lower leg bones, however, remained intact in the ground. Effectively as the tree collapsed, it snapped the skeleton in two.”

Analysis of the bones by osteoarchaeologist Dr Linda Lynch revealed the remains were those of a 17-20 year old man. He was over 5ft 10in in height making him taller than the average medieval person. Mild spinal joint disease suggests he was involved in physical labour from a young age.

Radiocarbon dates indicate the young man died in the 11th or 12th century, between 1030 and 1200 AD.

He was given a Christian burial. While historical records state the presence of a church and graveyard in the area, no above-ground trace survives and no other skeletons were encountered during the excavations.

“This burial gives us an insight into the life and tragic death of a young man in medieval Sligo,” Dr Dowd said.

Emaciated polar bear pictures raise global warming concerns

   

Photographs of underweight polar bears have gone viral on social media and raised concerns about the effects of climate change

Photographs of emaciated polar bears have gone viral on social media, and raised concerns over the effects of global warming.

One, taken by National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen, shows a dead polar bear lying on a pile of rocks in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.

Last summer I traveled with a group of friends to Svalbard, Norway in search of polar bears. We went to my favorite spot where I have always been able to find bears roaming around on sea ice throughout the summer. On this occasion, however, we didn’t find any sea ice and we never found any bears alive. We did find two dead bears in this location and other groups found more dead bears.

These bears were so skinny, they appeared to have died of starvation, as in the absence of sea ice, they were not able to hunt seals. In all of my years of growing up in the Arctic and later, working as a biologist, I had never found a dead polar bear. It is now becoming much more common. Through @sea_legacy and @natgeo we will continue to shine a light on our changing planet to convince the unconvinced. Please follow me on @paulnicklen to learn more about the effects of climate change. #polarbear #nature #wildlife #arctic #seaice @thephotosociety

A photo posted by Paul Nicklen (@paulnicklen) on Sep 6, 2015 at 12:35pm PDT

Mr Nicklen is trained as a biologist and has worked in the Arctic for decades. He says that on a trip to Svalbard last summer he was unable to locate any live bears, but did find two that appeared to have starved to death.

“These bears were so skinny, they appeared to have died of starvation, as in the absence of sea ice, they were not able to hunt seals,” he wrote in an Instagram post accompanying the photograph.

Paul Nicklen, a scientist at the University of Alberta who studies polar bears, agreed with the assessment that the bear had starved to death.

“You can’t say 100 per cent that it starved to death, but that’s probably what happened,” he told Mashable. “It certainly looks to me like it has starved to death.”

Another photograph taken on Svalbard, a Norwegian territory, has raised similar concerns.

It was taken by photographer Kersten Langengerger and shows an unusually thin polar bear floating on ice.

Ms Langenberger said it was just one of several underweight female bears she had spotted on Svalbard.

An estimated 3,000 polar bears live in the Barents Sea, of which many reside on Svalbard and are a primary source of tourism. A British student from Eton College was killed by a polar bear in 2011 in Svalbard.

Polar bear populations are believed to have declined in recent decades due in large part to global warming, though populations are difficult to track due to the bears’ remote habitats.

An assesment from the Norwegian government said that the loss of sea ice was of “great concern” for polar bears in the Berents Sea.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 12th July 2015

Merkel & Co turns the screw on Greece

Intense pressure put on Alexis Tsipras to accept tough reforms and austerity measures

  

Tonight’s talks have been described as a “mental waterboarding” of the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

GREECE has now been presented with the Eurozone’s demands for a new bailout programme, and the proposals on the table would see the Greeks forced to vote through sweeping changes by Wednesday night.

The proposals would see Greece streamlining its VAT procedures, broadening its tax base, and implementing a raft of spending cuts among other demands.

Premier Alexis Tsipras was tonight put through the wringer in a meeting with Donald Tusk, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, where he was left under no illusions that the swift reforms are expected to be implemented this week.

Greek officials are believed to be ‘humiliated’ by today’s events, and highly critical of the hardline stance being taken by German Chancellor Merkel.

Fianna Fáil in panic as Bertie Ahern will defends the Irish boom

Ireland better off even after bust, ex-Taoiseach to claim

    

The former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will this week defiantly claim the Irish people are better off because of his Celtic Tiger policies, even after the worst economic crash in the country’s history

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will this week defiantly claim the Irish people are better off because of his Celtic Tiger policies, even after the worst economic crash in the country’s history.

Mr Ahern is expected to make the controversial claim in evidence when he appears before the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry next Thursday, the Sunday Independent understands.

Senior Fianna Fail sources have said the party is gripped with “alarm” and “deep nervousness” over Mr Ahern’s testimony to the inquiry, fearing it could precipitate a backlash in the opinion polls.

“God knows what he will say, there is certainly a fear he could wipe three or four points off our poll rating if it goes badly,” one senior Fianna Fail party figure said.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, former minister and aunt of the late Brian Lenihan, Mary O’Rourke, said she is “alarmed” at the potential fallout of Mr Ahern’s sworn evidence at the inquiry.

She said: “If he could replicate Brian Cowen, he’d do well. I am a bit afraid of what Bertie Ahern might say.”

His appearance comes as the Sunday Independent has learned that economist and Central Bank director Alan Gray, who was contacted by Mr Cowen on the night of the bank guarantee, is to be called to give evidence, given his central role in events.

Inquiry members have conceded that they had not realised the significance of Mr Gray’s involvement but now consider him to be a key witness.

Following the evidence of his successor Brian Cowen to the inquiry, it is expected that Mr Ahern will tell members that the crash saddened him and that he regrets what happened.

It is expected he will say the crash left him devastated, but it is understood that Mr Ahern will strongly argue that even with the crash, the policies he and his governments pursued have left Ireland a better country and its people better off.

He is likely to state that it would be wrong to say that all of the Celtic Tiger gains were eviscerated by the crash.

Mr Ahern is expected to say that while he did not get everything right during his time in office, he feels he sincerely tried his best to do the right thing by the Irish people.

While Mr Ahern – who was forced to resign from Fianna Fail in 2012 in the wake of the publication of the Mahon Tribunal report – is also expected to express some regret for the crash, he is expected to express his happiness at getting a lot of things right during his tenure.

Mr Ahern is expected to claim in his evidence that his policies and those of his government during the Celtic Tiger years changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people across the country.

The Sunday Independent understands that Mr Ahern will also attempt to spread the blame for the crash onto State and international agencies for failing to diagnose the crash.

He is expected to specifically criticise the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the IMF, it is believed. In spreading the blame, Mr Ahern is expected to point to the economic analysis of a host of international economic agencies, including the IMF, EC and the OECD, as setting the stage for the country’s economic outlook.

It is not the first time Mr Ahern has sought to spread the blame for not spotting the crisis in the Irish banks.

On the day he left the Dail for the last time, Mr Ahern said: “If I have any regrets, it is that I would have loved if somebody somewhere would have told me what was going on in the banks in this country, but no one ever did, we get wise after the event.”

Mr Ahern is also expected to staunchly defend the role and influence of social partnership, saying it helped to broaden the influence beyond the reach of a small group of elites.

He is expected to argue that it is important that access to government is granted to a broad group – rather than a small elite, and that is what social partnership allowed.

But, Mr Ahern’s appearance has raised fears within FF as to the impact of what he might say on the party so close to the general election.

People have pointed to recent utterances where he was critical of former colleagues and fear he could use the inquiry to put pressure on party leader Micheal Martin, whom he has been publicly critical of.

His pointed criticism of the late Brian Lenihan in a TV programme on his legacy raised eyebrows.

“He was unnecessarily sharp, but I would think that. Another part of me would think that is just Bertie,” Ms O’Rourke said yesterday.

Mr Ahern also recently made a point at a recent O’Donovan Rossa commemoration at Glasnvein, that he was “no longer a member of Fianna Fail”.

Leading members of Fianna Fail have expressed their happiness at how well the Brian Cowen hearings went and said that government attempts to use the inquiry to damage Fianna Fail have backfired.

Fianna Fail TD and Public Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness said: “If it was meant to be a stitch up of Fianna Fail it hasn’t worked.

“It has failed to materialise to the extent the government parties had hoped it would.”

Health crisis mud beginning to stick to Leo Varadkar

One year in charge and it’s going wrong for health Minister Varadkar.

    

It was great for a while, wasn’t it? The more Leo Varadkar says he would do nothing about the health system, the more people thought he was deadly.

For months after becoming health minister, Varadkar won plaudit after plaudit for lowering expectations for what he would do before the general election.

But, a year into his reign, King Leo’s crown is beginning to slip, as the murky reality of the worst department of government begins to get the better of him.

It is now a measure of how his first year has gone, one suspects that Taoiseach Enda Kenny would be more than happy to reappoint Leo Varadkar to the quagmire of the Department of Health after the next election.

Varadkar’s move to Hawkins House one year ago was significant on two fronts.

From the Government’s perspective, it put an end to the shambolic era of Dr James Reilly, who, through his Universal Health Insurance plan, placed the financial viability of the State at risk, according to money minister Brendan Howlin.

Three years of over-promising and under-delivering had risked sinking the Coalition on more than one occasion.

Ruairi Quinn, when education minister, famously told his party colleagues at a private meeting that concerns of backbenchers about Dr Reilly were “shared by their Cabinet colleagues”.

But for Varadkar, the move into health would be the greatest test of his political and intellectual skill set, given the myriad of daily crises faced. If Varadkar managed to get to the next election unscathed, then his leadership ambitions or at least his promotion ambitions will not have been dented.

So, on taking office, Varadkar immediately, and very deliberately, set about doing everything differently from Reilly.

From his first press conference on the plinth in Leinster House on the day the reshuffle happened, Varadkar lowered everyone’s expectations as to what he would do.

He had only 18 months, couldn’t fix a health system in that time, he said. Rather he would tinker with a few bits and bobs, put some manners on the budget and hopefully hand the grenade over to someone else.

By immediately saying he wasn’t going to bother to try and transform the system, people couldn’t ask him why he wasn’t transforming the health system.

A short time later, he dumped Reilly’s beloved child of UHI from a height, saying the timescale put forward by his bumbling predecessor was too ambitious. In political speak, this meant it was all but dead.

Being “slapped down” by Kenny at the start of September over UHI appeared to only increase the lusty anticipation of what life under Leo would be like within Fine Gael.

Varadkar also began talking of the need for a “realistic budget” in Health for 2015 in the run-up to the October Budget day, and for the first time since taking office in 2011, Howlin had the capacity to accede to that request. And unlike Reilly, who lost out time and time again, the new minister got the extra funds.

His personal approval rating soared after he became the first openly gay minister to reveal his sexuality earlier this year.

But the last six months have seen a barrage of negative news stories which are beginning to take the gloss off Varadkar’s halo.

We have had the disturbing Prime Time expose into disability care added to a series of negative inspection reports into disability services, deeply alarming stories about the standard of care at the country’s maternity hospitals, record-high numbers of patients waiting on trolleys as well as ever-lengthening waiting times for treatments.

Latest figures show that the number of people waiting more than a year for an outpatient appointment rose to 61,400 at the end of December, with 385,781 in total waiting to be seen.

He was caught on the hop when, in January, he was on his holidays in Miami when the number of patients on trolleys topped 600.

In April, Varadkar got an additional €70m to address hospital overcrowding and to cut waiting times for patients.

Most of the money went on the nursing home support scheme in a bid to remove so-called “bed blockers” out of the system, but critics have branded this as a sticking-plaster solution.

Clinicians have argued that since the 1980s, almost 2,500 acute hospital beds have been removed from the system, and with an ageing population, the shortfall has resulted in the emergency department log jams. They argue the way to resolve the issue is to open more beds.

Varadkar has also come in for criticism from his own friend and former colleague, Lucinda Creighton, after he appeared to suggest UHI was still alive. Creighton has expressed astonishment at the revelation that just five members of staff within the Department of Health are working on the government’s highly touted Universal Health Insurance policy.

Commenting on the skeleton nature of the staff, Ms Creighton said: “The revelation that just five staff are now assigned to the Universal Health Insurance unit within the Department of Health in 2015 is indicative of how far the issue has slipped down the Coalition political priority list.”

But even this week, Varadkar has drawn the ire of Howlin after he suggested he would need another €1bn to safely deliver healthcare.

Howlin, on Wednesday, said: “A billion seems to be the annual figure that ministers for health demand, it’s a nice round figure, and for the four years I’ve been here, it’s the sum looked for.”

Varadkar is clearly a capable politician and a man of real intellect, but the stark realities appear to be getting the better of him.

Water protesters ‘trap a Labour Senator in his car’

    

A Labour senator Denis Landy has revealed how he was trapped inside his car, while bottles and stones were thrown at it, during a water charge protest in Dublin last week.

Senator Denis Landy, aged 53, said that he and a member of his staff were trapped in the car for about 20 minutes by protesters while he tried to get to Leinster House.

The Carrick-on-Suir native said: ”It was extremely unpleasant to be surrounded by people firing implements at your car.

“This is our national parliament and we should be allowed to come and go in a democracy without being subject to that type of abuse.”

He said that the protest delayed him by more than three hours.

He added: “I originally wanted to leave at 6pm for a meeting, but eventually left at 7.30pm and again my car was surrounded on Kildare Street so I had no option but to abandon it and leave.”

Higher education could increase your life expectancy

 

Education is pretty important. A new study reveals how less-educated counterparts were more likely to deal with certain health risks.

New findings published in the journal PLOS ONE suggest that getting a college degree could actually reduce the risk of early mortality.

Researchers at the University of Colorado, New York University and the University of North Carolina discovered that going back to high school to finish degrees helped avert as many deaths as smokers who chucked the habit.

The study noted how those who attain higher education–namely a high school diploma or college degree–have a much lower mortality rate due to associated factors such as healthier behavior, enhanced cognitive performance, higher income and overall psychological well being.

During the study, researchers examined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Health Interview Survey and other information, looking at data from 1 million people between the ages of 1986 and 2006. Focusing on those born in 1925, 1935 and 1945, findings revealed that over 145,000 deaths could have potentially been postponed if many of the participants had just received their high school diploma or GED.

Furthermore, the study results showed that close to 110,000 deaths may have been avoided if adults with some college had gone on to attain their bachelor’s degree.

“Broadly, life expectancy is increasing, but those with more education are reaping most of the benefits,” said researchers Virginia Chang, associate professor of public health at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and College of Global Public Health. “In addition to education policy’s obvious relevance for improving learning and economic opportunities, its benefits to health should also be thought of as a key rationale. The bottom line is paying attention to education has the potential to substantively reduce mortality.”

News Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Friday 17th April 2015

Aer Lingus talks to conclude within weeks

  • Says Pascal Donohoe

Claims that IAG and Government close to deal on Heathrow guarantees

  

Shares in Aer Lingus rose 5.5% to €2.42 at lunchtime yesterday in Dublin

Discussions about the takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG should be concluded within coming weeks, the Minister for Transport, Paschal Donohoe has indicated.

In a statement issued on Thursday afternoon, the Minister said that the Government’s steering group on the takeover proposal and its advisers had engaged further over recent weeks and that this engagement had been “useful”.

He said talks had focused on matters previously outlined by him and that IAG had provided further details on “issues of concern” to the Government. In earlier statements on the proposed deal, Mr Donohue has highlighted employment prospects, expansion plans and commitments on the Aer Lingus Heathrow slots as being particularly significant.

“ Discussions are progressing and as I have indicated previously I do not want this process to be drawn out unnecessarily and I expect that it can be brought to a conclusion in the coming weeks,” he said on Thursday.

Shares in Aer Lingus surged in trading on Thursday following reports of a rapprochement between IAG and the Government, which controls 25% of the Irish airline. A deal on the Heathrow slots is seen as being most significant in the talks.

IAG is proposing to pay close to €1.4 billion for Aer Lingus. The stock was up almost 4% at €2.38 on Thursday afternoon, having climbed higher earlier in the day.

Youthful Ireland top country in Europe for stats on young people

     

Ireland is the most youthful country in Europe, according to new figures from Eurostat.

We have the largest proportion of children under the age of 15, at 22%.

France is next on almost 19%, followed by the UK.

Ruth Deasy of the EU office in Dublin, says the number of people in Ireland under the age of 30 is exceptional.

“Ireland stands out in this study as the most youthful country in the EU, where four out of 10 Irish people are aged less than 30 and this is really quite exceptional,” said Deasy.

“We also have the largest proportion of under-16s in the EU and by quite a large margin.

“Ireland’s fertility rate is high, it is the highest in the EU but it is still slightly below replacement level,” said Deasy.

12 months extension granted for charities to register with CRA

 

Only 200 of the estimated 4,000-plus charities in Ireland required to register with the Charities Regulatory Authority (CRA) have registered, despite the threat of stiff fines for non-compliance.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald has announced a 12 month extension to the deadline after discussions with the Charities Regulatory Authority.

The one-year extension of the deadline risks undermining confidence in a sector which has been working to regain public trust after the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC)  scandal 18 months ago.

In a statement Minister Fitzgerald said only 200 charities had registered when the original deadline expired.

NOT AFFECTED

The Minister said the move does not affect 8,500 other charities which have been automatically registered with the authority by virtue of the charitable tax status granted to them by the Revenue Commissioners before mid-October 2014.

The Authority was established by the Government last October almost a year after a series of financial scandals at the CRC involving a gold-plated pension for its retired Chief Executive, Paul Kiely, top-up payments to some executives and cross-directorships with a related company.

This and subsequent revelations about finances at the Rehab organisation led to a significant decline in public donations to most of the Republic’s charities.

A SCANDAL?

Responding to the Minister’s announcement, the Irish Charities Tax Reform group (ICTR) has expressed concern that the announcement of an extension of the registration deadline for certain charities risks undermining confidence in the sector which has been trying to regain public trust after the CRC scandal of 18 months ago.

During that scandal it was revealed that the board of the long-established disability charity had approved the use of charitable donations to help fund a €740,000 annual pension for its former chief executive, Paul Kiely.

OVER-AMBITIOUS

A spokesperson for the ICTR group told RTÉ News it was “over-ambitious” of the 2009 Charities Act to set a deadline of six months for unregistered to register with the new Charities Regulatory Authority, as the law had not been fully enacted until 16 October last year.

The spokesperson for the 160-strong umbrella group, which represents some of the country’s largest charities, said that a shortage of resources in the newly-established Charities Regulator’s office compounded the problem.

The CRA website apologises to readers that “due to the high volume of queries we receive, it may take us some time to respond to your query”.

STAFFING

The ICTR has said that only four new additional full-time staff equivalents were allocated to the regulator last year.

It conceded that the regulator also inherited a further five full-time staff from the Commission for Charity Regulation and Bequests but said they continued to fulfill their established functions.

The group said a crunch meeting is scheduled soon with the Department of Justice and Equality on a request from the Charities Regulatory Authority for additional staff.

It said the Scottish regulator was given 50 staff a decade ago to service a population similar to the Republic of Ireland’s

The group estimates that the Republic of Ireland’s regulator needs approximately 11 extra staff to boost its complement to about 20.

AWARENESS RAISING

Meanwhile, an organisation representing over 1,000 charities, The Wheel, has called for big awareness raising initiative to ensure unregistered charities understand their obligation to register.

Welcoming Minister Fitzgerald’s 12 month extension of the deadline for unregistered charities to make themselves known to the Charities Regulator, The Wheel Director of Advocacy Ivan Cooper, said many of the mostly smaller organisations concerned seem to be unaware of their obligation.

The Wheel also called on the minister to ensure that the CRA is sufficiently resourced to communicate with, educate and support charitable organisations that have yet to apply to it for registration.

Mr Cooper also called on the Department to ensure that the CRA is given enough resources to support the other 9,000 or so registered charities that are currently completing their entry in the CRA’s Register.

He said it will be working closely with the CRA and other partners in the charity sector to raise awareness of the requirements facing unregistered charities.

Applications for inclusion on the Register of Charities can be made through the CRA’s website at the CRA’s website at www.charitiesregulatoryauthority.ie

24,000 Irish people could have un-diagnosed diabetes

   

The largest ever study into diabetes risk and cardiovascular risk, conducted by VHI Healthcare, has revealed that 24,000 people in Ireland could have un-diagnosed diabetes.

The research was conducted in VHI Healthcare’s medical centres in Cork and Dublin.

Almost 30,000 people took part in the study from 2009 to 2013.

Of those, nearly 5,000 people (17%) were found to have abnormal initial fasting blood sugar levels.

Men were up to three times more likely to have undiagnosed diabetes.

Research was conducted in VHI Healthcare’s medical centres in Cork and Dublin.

Those with abnormal blood sugar levels were most likely to be older, men, smokers, with abdominal obesity, higher BMI and higher blood pressure.

Study findings included that the risk of undiagnosed diabetes went up by 89% for every 5kg increase in body mass index.

The author of the report and medical director at VHI Healthcare, Dr Bernadette Carr, said: “The results of our research suggest that the rate of undiagnosed type two diabetes and pre-diabetes is higher in Ireland than in similar European countries such as Britain and Holland.

“THESE RESULTS DEMONSTRATE HOW IMPORTANT IT IS FOR INDIVIDUALS TO UNDERSTAND AND MANAGE THEIR OWN HEALTH RISKS.”

Dr Bernadette Carr, The author of the VHI diabetes report said “By making some very simple lifestyle changes, people can improve their outcomes and, in the case of pre-diabetes, can even delay or prevent progression to diabetes,”

Fitness apps will not improve your health  

And it could be harmful?

 

They are the latest health and fitness ‘revolution’, beloved of the fad dieters and the pilates obsessives and not to mention some of our leading politicians.

But what use, really, are increasingly popular health apps like Fitbit and Jawbone that monitor our activity levels, heart rate and even sleep patterns? None at all, according to one leading GP – and they could even end up doing harm.

Writing in the BMJ, Glasgow GP and health commentator Dr Des Spence warns that the products, which increasingly include wearable devices that link to computers and smartphones, providing 24-hour health monitoring, are “untested and unscientific” and could ignite “extreme anxiety” in a new generation of the “worried well”.

Warning that such apps could soon be “ubiquitous”, Dr Spence said that devices that could offer perpetual health monitoring risked giving rise to ‘over-diagnosis’ of health problems, with people unable to distinguish harmless variation or faulty readings from genuine signs of ill health.

“The truth is that these apps and devices are untested and unscientific, and they will open the door of uncertainty,” he writes. “Make no mistake: diagnostic uncertainty ignites extreme anxiety in people. We must reflect on what we might lose here, rather than what we might gain.”

Thousands of health apps are now available and some are even endorsed by the NHS.

George Osborne raised eyebrows when he was seen wearing one – a Jawbone ‘UP’ wristband – at a committee hearing two years ago. It is unclear whether the device played an important part in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s subsequent weight loss, but he did confirm at the time that former Education Secretary Michael Gove was also using one.

George Osborne sporting the Jawbone wristband
Despite their rising popularity, there is no evidence that smartphone-connected health apps can actually improve health, although two randomised trials of weight loss apps for old-style ‘handheld PC’ devices did show they worked better than paper or web-based fitness programmes.

Not all doctors are convinced health apps are a cause for concern. Also writing in the BMJ, Iltifat Husain, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, USA, said that apps which encouraged more exercise and a better diet could well carry benefits.

He said that while tests of Fitbit and Jawbone devices had not found evidence they could improve health outcomes or exercise compliance, there was also no evidence they could do harm.

“Healthy people may well benefit from using some health apps…but doctors need to be proactive about telling people which metrics matter and which apps they should buy,” he writes.

Daily brisk walking good for prostate cancer survivors

 

Brisk walking a key for prostate cancer survivors.

Brisk walking for about three hours a week is enough to help prostate cancer survivors reduce damaging side effects of their treatment, according to a promising study.

“Non-vigorous walking for three hours per week seems to improve the fatigue, depression and body weight issues that affect many men post-treatment,” said Siobhan Phillips, lead author from the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

“If you walk even more briskly, for only 90 minutes a week, you could also see similar benefits in these areas,” he added.

Phillips used data from the health professionals follow-up Study. She focused on prostate cancer survivors who were diagnosed with non-advanced disease prior to 2008 and responded to a health-related quality of life (HRQOL) questionnaire.

Common HRQOL symptoms included urinary and bowel problems, sexual function issues, fatigue, depression, increased body weight and erectile dysfunction.

The men reported the average time spent during a week walking to work or for exercise as well as time spent jogging, running, cycling, swimming and playing sports.

They also reported their usual outdoor walking pace as easy, average, brisk or very brisk.

The findings indicate that higher duration of brisk walking were associated with better hormone/vitality functioning (affecting fatigue, depression and body weight).

“Those who are able to walk should be encouraged to start an easy walking routine or engage in other non-vigorous activities soon after a prostate cancer diagnosis,” Phillips noted.

The benefits could help manage symptoms such as fatigue, depression and body weight – and improve overall health.

Walking may also potentially increase survival and impact their quality of life by preventing the onset of those other conditions.

The only surviving male northern white rhino is put under armed guard 24 hours a day

  

Rangers in Kenya risking their lives to keep the above 43-year-old rhino safe.

Sudan is the last hope for this Rhino species now on the verge of being wiped out for ever.

But ivory is now fetching as much as £47,000 per kilo as demand grows

Animal sanctuary Ol Pejeta trying to raise money to help pay for guards

The world’s last surviving male northern white rhino – stripped of his horn for his own safety – is now under 24-hour armed guard in a desperate final bid to save the species.

Sudan is guarded day and night by a group of rangers who risk their lives on a daily basis as they try to keep the rhino from poachers lured by the rising price of ivory.

But even without his horn, keepers in the Kenyan reserve of Ol Pojeta in fear for his safety.

Guard: The rangers keep an armed watch around Sudan at all times to deter poachers after his horn

Northern white rhinos at the Ol Pojeta reserve in 2012

The 43-year-old rhino – who could live until his 50s – is the last chance for any future northern white rhino calves.

Sudan was moved, along with two female rhinos, from a zoo in the Czech Republic in December 2009.

The reserve, which specialises in the conservation of rhinos, was chosen because of its successful breeding programme with black rhinos.