Tag Archives: Farmers

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 28th May 2016

LÉ Róisín helps and saves more lives in rescue of 688 migrants off Libyan coast


The LÉ Róisín rescues 123 migrants off the coast of Libya.

Some 668 migrants were saved from boats in distress in the Mediterranean off Libya on Saturday, officials say.

They were rescued by Italian coast guard and navy ships, aided by Irish and German vessels and humanitarian organisations, Italian and Irish officials said.

The rescues are the latest by a multi-national patrol south of Sicily that has saved thousands this week.

The Defence Forces said the vessel Le Roisin, deployed earlier this month in the humanitarian search and rescue mission, saved 123 migrants from a 12-metre-long dinghy and recovered a male body.

Immediately afterwards, the LÉ Róisín was re-tasked to rendez-vous with an Italian ship, ‘Bettica’, and a further 101 migrants were transferred it to the LÉ Róisín.

Then the German ship ‘Karlsruhe’ asked the LÉ Róisín to transfer a further 123 migrants onboard the LÉ Róisín.

A spokesperson said all three taskings have now been completed and the LÉ Róisín currently has 347 migrants on-board.

The LÉ Róisín left Haulbowline, Cork on May 2 to help the Italian Authorities with humanitarian search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

A German ship, part of the EU Navfor Med deployment on patrol for migrant smugglers’ boats, was also involved in what was a total of four separate rescue operations, the Italian coast guard said.

Meanwhile, with migrant shelters filling up in Sicily, the Italian navy vessel Vega headed toward Reggio Calabria, a southern Italian mainland port, taking 135 survivors, along with 45 bodies, from a rescue a day earlier. The Vega was due to dock on Sunday.

Under a European Union deal, tens of thousands of those rescued at sea and seeking asylum were supposed to be relocated to other EU nations from Italy and Greece, whose shores have received most of the migrants in recent years. But with resentment building in some European countries about taking in migrants, the plan never really took off, and only a small percentage have actually been moved.

At the Vatican on Saturday, Pope Francis told several hundred children, among them many migrants, who came from the Italian south to see him, that migrants “aren’t a danger but they are in danger”.

The pontiff held a red life vest, given to him recently by a volunteer, and told the children it was the vest used by a Syrian girl who died while trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos. “She’s in heaven, she’s watching us,” Francis told his young audience.

Among those in the audience was a Nigerian youth, who lost his parents in 2014 as the family tried to reach Italy by sea. Francis has repeatedly expressed dismay that some European nations have refused to accept migrants fleeing poverty or war, and have even thrown up fences and other barriers to thwart the arrivals from journeying northward after reaching the continent’s southern shores.

Electricity prices In Ireland way above the EU average “So says Eurostat”


Electric Ireland reduced its standard rates by 6% from this month after its parent company, ESB, made operating profits of €630m last year.

Householders here pay the third highest electricity prices in the European Union, despite having seven suppliers in the market.

And new figures from Eurostat also show that domestic electricity charges here are the second highest in the EU, once taxes and levies are stripped out.

The European Union’s statistics agency found that prices here were way higher than the average across 28 countries.

A statement from the European Commission office in Dublin confirmed the new figures show that Irish households pay more for their electricity than anywhere else in the EU except Germany and Denmark.

When taxes are excluded, Irish households pay more than anywhere in Europe, except the UK.

The EC spokeswoman said: “The picture is somewhat better for gas, with Irish households coming in ninth place in the rankings.

“When taxes are discounted, domestic Irish gas prices are the sixth highest in the EU.”

However, the figures for the second half of 2015 show that domestic energy prices here fell in contrast to many EU countries.

Electricity prices fell by 3.2% in the second half of last year compared with the same six months in 2014. Gas prices were down 2.8%.

Energy companies have been heavily criticised for failing to cut prices more at a time when wholesale gas prices, the main input here, have fallen by half.

Electric Ireland reduced its standard rates by 6% from this month, in a move that will save the average household €58 a year. It came after its parent company, ESB, made operating profits of €630m last year.

But the other six suppliers have yet to announce price cuts.

Mark Whelan of price comparison site Bonkers said: “This news will undoubtedly lead to more calls for suppliers to cut their prices. However, suppliers will likely point to the statistic that Ireland actually had the third largest decrease in electricity prices in 2015, at 3.2%.”

He said householders can save €235 by switching electricity suppliers, but 1.9 million electricity customers didn’t do so.

Former Tánaiste Ray MacSharry defends Irish politicians’ pensions

The ex- FF minister says he is in receipt of ‘quite a number’ of payments in a new interview


The former Fianna Fáil tánaiste Ray MacSharry has said he has “quite a number” of pensions and he does not begrudge retired politicians the money they are paid.

Mr MacSharry, who served as a minister for finance and an EU commissioner during a 30-year career in politics, was in receipt of a State pension just in excess of €41,000 as of 2014.

He also has a separate “small” income from Europe.

In an interview on Saturday, he was asked how many pensions he was currently receiving.

“Oh quite a number. I am doing fine. I am very happy,” he said.

“But I can say this. I would not begrudge the Taoiseach, the Ministers, or all the TDs and Senators the monies they are getting because let’s face facts.

“The fact is that every TD . . . there is something going on in all the parishes in his or her constituency, the first person asked to support the £100 raffle or the £50 raffle is the TD.”

Speaking on the Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio 1, Mr MacSharry said politicians paid taxes on their salaries.

“And what they have left, they have to live,” he said.

Mr MacSharry was also questioned on the issue of the Ansbacher accounts?

Mr MacSharry was named as an Ansbacher account holder under Dáil privilege by Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald in 2015, following claims in the disputed “Ansbacher dossier” that former ministers had used offshore accounts to evade tax.

Mr MacSharry had subsequently instructed his lawyers to write to the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) seeking access to the dossier in question.

“I didn’t know ever about Ansbacher accounts. I don’t know really where theCayman Islands are,” he said.

“I can say from my point of view it was rubbish and untrue. And I’ll say to Deputy Mary Lou MacDonald or anybody else that if they can find an account associated in any way with me, anywhere in the world, I’ll gladly give it to charity,” he said. “I know it doesn’t exist.”


Mr MacSharry said there was a broader issue of innuendo and falsities being applied to those in public life.

“Obviously there are always people running around making up stories and rumour and gossip and innuendo becomes established as fact . . . particularly in relation to public figures,” he said.

“Those who know the people concerned know that most of that rumour, gossip and innuendo is not fact, it’s nothing but lies.”

Irish farmers paid the sixth highest R3 heifer price in Europe


Irish farmers were paid the sixth highest R3 heifer price in Europe last week, according to figures from the European Commission.

During the week ending May 22, Irish R3 heifers made 406c/kg, almost €1/kg cheaper than the highest priced market.

Swedish beef farmers were paid 504c/kg for R3 heifers last week, while R3 heifers in Greece made 442.9c/kg.

However, when compared to the lowest priced market, Latvia, Irish farmers where paid 221c/kg more for R3 heifers than farmers in the eastern European state.

Gap Widens Between Irish And UK Heifers

The price gap between Irish and UK R3 heifers widened last week, figures from the European Commission show.

Last week, an Irish R3 heifer traded at 406.9c/kg, while UK farmers received 416.3c/kg for the same heifer.

Over the past month, UK heifers were cheaper than Irish heifers on a number of occasions,mainly due to a weaker Sterling and lower UK beef prices.

But, there are some signs that the UK market is starting to stabilise, with European Commission figures showing a 11.4c/kg price increase last week.

Northern Irish Heifer Price

The price gap between Northern Irish and Irish heifers narrowed last week.

The narrowing of the beef price has occurred as Northern Irish farmers seen the price paid for R3 heifers jump by 9.41c/kg last week.

During the week ending May 22, Irish R3 heifers made 9.4c/kg more than Northern Irish heifers, on a 280kg heifer carcass this is a price difference of €26.

However, back in the last week of April a 280kg Irish heifer carcass was €42 dearer than a Northern Irish heifer carcass.

Some Movement On The Continent

There has been some movement in the main European beef markets in terms of R3 heifer price, with German and Italian R3 heifers falling by 2.8c/kg and 3.5c/kg respectively.

But there was little movement in the Spanish R3 heifer markets with prices unchanged, while prices in Poland declined by 0.1c/kg.

Contradictory nutritional advice gives consumers food for thought


It appears that the best approach to being the perfect home maker in this modern age is to complete a doctorate in food nutrition.

How else to responsibly nourish yourself and your family given the masses of conflicting advice that exists, varying almost from day to day, and added to this week by a UK report which appeared to turn much of what we have previously been told over decades on it’s head.

Fat is now actually your friend apparently. The old advice to stick to a low fat diet in order to lower your cholestrol is “flawed science” and has resulted in “disastrous health consequences” according to the report from the National Obesity Forum (NOF) and the Public Health Collaboration. Rather than the desired result this advice, the report argued, had actually seen an increase in the amount of carbohydrates and junk food consumed.

Our fridges and cupboards should be stocked with “whole foods” such as fish, meat, and dairy, as well as healthy, high fat foods like avocados. In further contradiction of the advice that has been shoved down out throats for years we were told that saturated fat does not in fact cause heart disease, while full fat dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, and cheese, can actually protect the heart. Recommendations, they rather appealingly suggest, should focus on the health benefits of eating food in its natural form. This was no sooner in the public space than it was massively contradicted.

There was the sound of crashing plates as nutritionists, scientists, doctors, and other experts had a highly serious disagreement. Public Health England thundered that the advice in the report was “irresponsible and misleads the public” and most of the public health establishment agreed with that. The public as ever was left in a state of confusion, even for something as basic as whether we should now be opting for full butter on our morning toast, or a low fat spread?

There is a pattern here. Who will forget the shambolic manner in which the World Health Organisation last October announced the cancer risks from eating processed meats and red meat? The combination of poor communication and a media looking to hype dangers meant we saw headlines equating the risk of eating two rashers a day with smoking.

On top of all of that was the news this week that we are not apparently eating enough salt. In our house the salt cellar is kept on the top shelf, but it turns out this may now actually be poor parenting. A study published in the Lancet, which was co authored by Prof Martin O’Donnell of NUI Galway, is a further example of traditional advice being turned on its head. it suggests that most people are actually consuming the right amount of salt and actually warns against the dangers of low salt diets saying they may increase the risk of heart disease and death.

On the same day I saw the Professor of Food and Health at UCD, Mike Gibney argue that a tax on fizzy drinks is a waste of time in terms of curbing obesity. If you look at the data around national food intake, he says, you see that in terms of foods with added sugar it is the contribution of table sugar and jams that is usually the main culprit in driving high intakes.

The quantity contributed by carbonated sugary beverages shows little variation as a proportion, no matter how great or small a person’s sweet tooth, he argued. “So where is the risk-assessment report that looks at all sources of added sugars and, taking everything into account, opts to focus solely on sugar-sweetened beverages for taxation? None exists.”

We are planning on introducing such a tax here, says Prof Gibney, simply because it is a global fashion built on dubious science and popular prejudice. Mexico did introduce such a sugar tax but according to The Wall Street Journal just 18 months later faced a return to pre-tax soda intakes.

Prof Gibney expressed his concern about public health nutrition credibility being set back decades by a sugar tax. He makes a strong and cogent argument. But the problem here for the punters, who feel powerless in the face of all of this conflicting information, is just who to believe and exactly what to put in our mouths.

Prof Gibney also touched on an aspect of all this which really shocked me when I first read of it elsewhere earlier this month.

It is the fact that the body defends its prevailing weight vigorously, which is why conscious weight loss through dieting is so hard to maintain. It turns out that the problem is not our will power, or lack of it, but in fact it is down to neuroscience.

A study released in the US earlier this month, concentrating on the contestants on the reality TV show Biggest Loser, over a six year period, added futher to the evidence that in the long run dieting is rarely effective. It is frightening to see the manner in which the body battles against weight loss. The brain uses metabolic suppression to keep the body within a certain weight range, called the set point. That range is determined by genes and life experience. If you drop below that weight not only do you burn fewer calories but you also produce more hunger inducing hormones and want to eat more.

In their contentious report the chairman of The National Obesity Forum Professor David Haslam pointed out that current efforts to reduce and prevent obesity have failed and the proof of that is obesity levels are higher than they have ever been, and show no chance of reducing despite the best efforts of government and scientists. But it is also fair to point out that maybe the current guidelines are failing because not enough people are following them.

The controversial UK report also touches on how vested interests have been responsible for the spreading of poor dietary advice. The food lobby internationally is massively powerful, as is the diet industry which would go out of existence if we were all at our ideal weight.

Even the introduction of something like a traffic light system which would make it easier for us shoppers to tell at a glance which foods on the supermarket shelves are healthiest are blocked.

The Australian Government censored a Global Climate report


It’s no secret that the Great Barrier Reef is in the midst of a mass die-off, nor that scientists believe the coral bleaching event is related to climate change. But apparently, Australia could not bear the thought of putting these inconvenient facts together on paper. The country’s Department of Environment censored a major global climate report just before publication this week.

The report, “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate” was a joint collaboration between Unesco, the UN environment program, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Given that Australia is home to some of the most celebrated World Heritage sites on the planet—including the Great Barrier Reef and Tasmania’s old growth rainforests—you might expect some mention of how these ecosystems are faring in a changing climate. Oddly enough, Australia is mentioned nowhere in the entire document.

But when the Australian Department of Environment saw a draft of the report, it objected, and every mention of Australia was removed by Unesco. Will Steffen, one of the scientific reviewers of the axed section on the reef, said Australia’s move was reminiscent of “the old Soviet Union”.

No sections about any other country were removed from the report. The removals left Australia as the only inhabited continent on the planet with no mentions.

Explaining the decision to object to the report, a spokesperson for the environment department told Guardian Australia: “Recent experience in Australia had shown that negative commentary about the status of world heritage properties impacted on tourism.”

Ah, okay! So Australia was concerned that people might not be so keen to go scuba diving if they knew that a post-apocalyptic scene awaited their eyes.

A Nightmare Is Unfolding in the Great Barrier Reef

If scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef is on your bucket list, you might want to book tickets…Read more

The thing is, it takes a special kind of willful ignorance to pretend that your land isn’t on fire when people can see the smoke from a thousand miles away. Gizmodo and many other outlets reported on fires that devastated Tasmania’s World Heritage Forests earlier this year, which most scientists agree were made more likely by climate change. About a month later, the worst global coral bleaching event on record hit the Great Barrier Reef, causing more than 90 percent of the northern reef to turn a ghostly white. Much of the reef isgoing to have difficulty recovering. This news, too, has been broadcast far and wide.

But sadly, Australia’s latest actions are far from an isolated event: less than a year ago, the government lobbied Unesco not to list the Great Barrier Reef as a “World Heritage Site in Danger,” perhaps so that it could proceed with a plan to turn the reef into a shipping lane for one of the world’s largest coal mineswithout the international community raising eyebrows.

If you were hoping to read the censored section of the report on the Great Barrier Reef, Guardian Australia obtained a copy of it late yesterday.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 6th April 2015

Austerity and the Verdict of the Squeezed Middle people of Ireland

Angry voters want their money back and tell Noonan to slash taxes USC now toxic as hated water charges.


Angry voters are demanding their money back after eight years of hard austerity,

The recent Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll has found.

The economic recovery has so far failed to clearly boost the Government’s standing with the electorate, according to the poll.

Dissatisfaction with the Coalition has actually increased a little at a time of higher than expected economic growth.

Exchequer returns for the last three months show €545m more tax than anticipated has been collected.

Now voters are demanding a financial dividend after almost a decade of increased taxes and charges.

With the economic recovery taking hold, a clear message in the poll is that people want more money in their pockets.

The Government’s performance has satisfied one-in-four, a three-point increase drawn from the undecided, but the level of dissatisfaction has also increased a point to 69%.

The poll was conducted in 971 interviews between March 24 and April 2. Among the key findings are that the Universal Social Charge (USC) is hated as much as water charges.

Voters want austerity taxes and charges, such as the USC and water charges, to be cut first ahead of the Coalition’s preferred option to reduce income tax. The poll has also found demand for pay hikes has increased, with a reversal of wage cuts in the private sector being favoured over the public sector.

After undecided voters (20%) are excluded, the state of the parties is: Fine Gael (25%) unchanged; Sinn Fein (24%) down two points; Fianna Fail (19%) unchanged; Labour (8%) up two points; Greens (3%) up two points; Independents/others (20%) down three points. Sinn Fein’s fall in support confirms findings in other polls and shows the party has been damaged by recent scandals related to child sex abuse.

The level of public disillusionment in general is illustrated by an increased level of dissatisfaction with all party leaders.

Although satisfaction with the Government (26%) has improved somewhat, the level of dissatisfaction has also increased, up a point to 69%, the same level as a year ago and within the margin of error from two years.

Today’s poll will add to the pressure on Finance Minister Michael Noonan after a week which saw a surge in anger at the banks’ imposition of high mortgage variable interest rates and industrial action on zero-hour contracts.

The average variable mortgage rate for new customers in Ireland is 4.2%, compared with a rate of 2.09% in the rest of the Eurozone.

This means the holder of a €200,000 mortgage here is paying €350 a month more than mortgage holders in Europe. The Coalition’s economic Spring Statement was initially scheduled for April 21, but is to be delivered on April 28 instead at the insistence of Labour, which wants to concentrate on the mortgage arrears crisis first.

The Coalition intends to use the statement to outline a five-year tax reform plan to secure a second term after the Budget in October.

However, today’s poll illustrates the level of voter expectation with which the Coalition must now contend.

The poll finds support for wage hikes has increased for both the private and public sectors but that voters still believe the public sector may have to wait.

Asked if there had been sufficient economic improvement to merit wage increases in the private sector, 45% said no (up one point) but 43% said yes (up five points) while 12% did not know (down six points).

Half of voters (50%), down one point, did not believe there should be public sector pay increases, while 37% (up six points) believed there should and 12% (down six points) did not know.

If exchequer money is to be given back, 61% said water charges should be reduced; 60pc said USC should be cut; 54% said reduce income tax; 47% want a cut to property tax; and 38% wanted PRSI reduced.

Dissatisfaction with all the party leaders has also increased: Enda Kenny (67%) up three points; Joan Burton (65%) up four points; Micheal Martin (57%) up eight points; Gerry Adams (56%) up six points.

Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton has recorded a satisfaction rating of 20% and dissatisfaction of 44%; while 36% said they did not know.

The government might cap the Property Tax


The Tánaiste says that there has to be a reaction to rising property prices.

The Irish Government could consider capping the amount payable in Property Tax.

Speaking at a 1916 commemoration today, Tánaiste Joan Burton said that the government was “aware that house valuations are rising steeply” in parts of the country.

She said that the government is awaiting a new report and will act on it.

The tax is currently based on property valuations as of 1 May 2013, but that will be recalculated next May, with some householders potentially hit for €180 or €270 more from 2017 on.

Today’s Sunday Times reports that Finance Minister Michael Noonan told the Fine Gael party that it would be “absolute madness” to allow those whose property prices were inflating to be hit for bigger bills.

Already, over 7,000 properties have had their tax revised upwards.

It’s now time for a new Proclamation?


As the Centenary of the 1916 Rising draws near, we invite six people – a journalist, an artist, activists and economists – to write a new Proclamation for today’s Ireland

The Proclamation of 1916 is among Ireland’s best known historical documents. Almost 100 years after its publication, it continues to exercise a profound effect on the Irish imagination. In some ways it has not dated but, 99 years on, does it work for 21st-century Ireland?

The Irish Times has asked six people – journalist Fintan O’Toole; disability activist Joanne O’Riordan;  theatre maker Grace Dyas, environmentalist Oisin Coghlan; economist Constantin Gurdgiev; and author Gerard O’Neill – to compose new proclamations for today’s Ireland.

We’ve borrowed the idea from the official State Centenary Programme for 2016, launched this week. Its “Proclamation for a New Generation” project begins in schools in the next academic year, and will invite primary and secondary students to write a new proclamation that reflects the “values and aspirations of the generation of 2016”.

Seriously ill man travelled on an icebreaker and through rough seas for help


The Aurora Australis at anchor at Davis station

A seriously ill man reached an Australian hospital more than two weeks after he suffered a medical emergency at a remote Antarctic base.

The patient was admitted to hospital in Hobart, Australia’s mostly southerly city.

He had travelled aboard an icebreaker 3,000 miles through rough and ice-jammed seas from Australia’s Davis Station on the coast of Princess Elizabeth Land.

The Australian Antarctic Division’s chief medical officer Jeff Ayton said the patient was transferred by ambulance from the icebreaker, Aurora Australis, to the Royal Hobart Hospital where he remained in serious but stable condition.

“He will require ongoing medical treatment, but we are very pleased he has travelled well over the past couple of weeks and his condition has not deteriorated,” Mr Ayton said.

The authorities have released no personal details about the man, who is a tradesman. They have not revealed the nature of his medical emergency, other than to say it was not the result of an accident.

The man arrived at the Australian base in November and was supposed to spend the approaching southern winter there.

He became ill on March 18 only days after the Aurora Australis had resupplied the station and begun its voyage back to Hobart.

When the icebreaker returned to the station, officials had to wait for a break in snow showers so that the patient could be flown across sea ice on March 22.

The icebreaker rolled heavily in swells up to 23ft and winds gusting at 70mph while navigating the treacherous Antarctic Ocean toward Hobart.

The patient was cared for by the ship’s doctor with the help of distant specialists using telecommunications equipment designed for remote medical examinations.

Small farmers under threat from falling food prices & Euro red tape



Traditional British farming will soon be replaced by international investors and creation of mega farms to feed China


Centuries of traditional small family farming in Britain is under threat from a collapse in the price of food and European red tape, industry leaders have warned.

David Handley, chairman of the lobby group Farmers for Action said: “If you look at the exodus now from the industry, the small British tenant farmer is under threat. Tenant dairy farmers like ourselves are being crucified at the moment.”

Dairy prices in the UK have hit multi-year lows as China’s softening demand for milk and a Russian embargo on European imports sends shock waves through the British farming industry.

According to Mr Handley, the collapse in prices has left many farmers who were already operating on tight margins in financial difficulty.

He claims that for many farmers, a litre of milk is now costing more to produce than it is to sell to a commercial buyer. International milk prices as measured by the GlobalDairyTrade index fell by 48% and the market has shown little sign of recovery since.

Milk is now cheaper to buy than bottled water due to a fierce supermarket price war, recent figures showed.

When bought in a four-pint bottle, the price per litre of milk has dipped to 43p, compared with 44p for bottled still water.

In January, Asda cut the price of four pints of own- Label milk from £1 to 89p.

A collapse in profits could see many small farmers giving up the occupation altogether, either selling their farms or handing the keys back to landowners in a shift that could end centuries of tradition in the countryside.

There are around 10,000 dairy farmers left in England and Wales, half the number they were in 2002. That could fall to 5,000 in the next 10 years, the National Farmers Union (NFU) has warned.

Many experts expect traditional, small family-run British farms to be replaced by bigger operations owned and managed by large investors. “It’s part of a process of continuing evolution in the agricultural industry,” said Phil Bicknell, head of food and farming at the NFU.

“The trend is for farms to get bigger. If you want to make more you have got to farm a bigger area.”

Last month, the NFU warned that Britain’s food security was in danger and that just 53pc of the nation’s food needs will be produced from domestic farms by 2040.

Farming continues to make an important contribution to the UK economy, bringing in more than £8bn last year. Although George Osborne, the Chancellor, offered British farmers some relief in the Budget, Mr Bicknell said that the UK lacks a clear “vision for agriculture”.

Farmers will now be able to average profits for tax purposes over five years, up from the current two years, to counter volatile commodity markets.

Allan Wilkinson, HSBC Bank’s head of agriculture, has also warned that average farm incomes in the UK will drop this year amid a global oversupply of food and softer demand in Asia. British farmers have been hit by falling international food prices and the ban on dairy, meat and fish exports to Russia, which came into force last year.

“Incomes will fall this year,” said Mr Wilkinson. “The impact of the struggling pound is a bigger challenge than Russia because so much of UK farming revenues are from Europe.”

Last week, the European Milk Board (EMB) warned that dairy farmers can expect a severe loss in market power, plus chronic milk price slumps as the European milk quota system came to an end last Tuesday.

The EMB said that dairy farmers across the EU will step up production, driving down prices as producers look to offload their supplies.

Farm gate food prices have fallen to the lowest level recorded in the past five years according to the United Nations (UN), while the pound has appreciated by more than 12% against the euro over the past year.



A leading genetecist claims a towering woman named Zana (artist’s representation) who lived in 19th Century Russia – and appeared to be ‘half human, half ape’ – could have been the fabled yeti

Over the centuries the legend of North America’s Bigfoot and the Hemolayan Yeti have continued to crop up.

Here in Canada, there are still many Bigfoot sightings each year. Now, scientists may finally be able to say that the giant creature was not a myth.

Bryan Sykes, emeritus ¬professor of human genetics at the University of Oxford, has identified a strain of west African DNA on the Georgian-Russian border that he believes could ¬belong to a sub-species of modern humans.

Sykes claims to have found the best evidence that a woman who lived in 19th century Russia could have been a yeti.

According to accounts, she was described as resembling a wild beast, and “the most frightening feature of which was her expression which was pure animal”, one zoologist wrote.

Analysis of her DNA showed that while she was “100% African”, she bore little physical or genetic resemblance to any modern African group.

Experts believe the wandering ‘Wild Woman’ was found lurking in the remote region of Ochamchir in the Republic of Abkhazia.

According to Yahoo News, her resemblance has been described as that of a wild beast, and “‘the most frightening feature of which was her expression which was pure animal”, one Russian zoologist wrote in 1996 according to a report in the Times.

The man who organised various eyewitness accounts of Zana wrote: “Her athletic power was enormous.

“She would outrun a horse and swim across the Moskva river, even when it rose in violent high tide.’”

Zana was eventually “tamed” by the nobleman who bought her as a servant and kept her on his estate in Tkhina in the Republic of Abkhazia, according to local accounts.

Some of the professor’s colleagues remain doubtful given his previous findings – which include a claim that an unknown species of bear might account for yeti sightings in Bhutan.

Sykes has been involved in a number of high-profile cases dealing with ancient DNA, including those of Ötzi the Iceman and Cheddar Man, and others concerning people claiming to be members of the Romanovs, the Russian royal family. His work also suggested a Florida accountant by the name of Tom Robinson was a direct descendant of Genghis Khan, a claim that was subsequently disproved

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 5th February 2015

Irish State retains its crown as Europe’s fastest growing economy


Brussels predicts GDP growth in Ireland will reach 3.5% in 2015, down from 2014’s 4.8% high but still ahead of Britain and Germany

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who has described Ireland’s economic recovery as ‘fragile’.

Ireland’s tiger economy roared back to life last year and will retain its crown in 2015 as the fastest growing in the EU, according to Brussels’ latest forecasts.

An export boom has put Dublin at the top of the growth league while the bulk of the EU continues to pay the price of internal wrangling over Greece and the after-effects of strict austerity measures.

The pace of GDP growth in Ireland will dip to 3.5% in 2015 after reaching 4.8% in 2014, but remains ahead of Britain’s 2.4% and Germany’s 1.5%, the European commission said in its winter 2015 forecast.

Ireland’s debt-to-GDP ratio remains one of the highest in the EU at 115%, unemployment is in double digits and prime minister Enda Kenny has described the recovery as fragile in recent speeches.

The review of Ireland’s economy also warned it was subject to volatility – demonstrated by the strong growth in the first nine months of 2014 and a flat performance in the last three months. But the commission said the strong rate of expansion will continue into 2016 when the GDP measure of economic activity, which includes Ireland’s multinational sector, will grow by 3.5%.

On unemployment, the commission report said the jobless rate will drop from 11.1% for 2014, to 9.6% in 2015 and 8.8% in 2016, bringing Ireland below the EU average this year and next year.

For the EU as a whole, Brussels said growth this year is forecast to rise to 1.7% and to 1.3% for the euro area.

Like most EU countries, Ireland will benefit from the fall in oil prices, which will not only bring down inflation and increase disposable incomes, but make it cheaper for exporters to ship goods abroad. A sharp decline in the value of the euro will also support the export sector. The euro has fallen by more than 10% against a basket of currencies in the past six months and by almost 20% against the dollar.

Irish consumers have already renewed their appetite for spending, according to the latest KBC Bank Ireland/ESRI Consumer Sentiment Index, which hit a nine-year high in January. It was the fourth-largest monthly increase since the survey began 19 years ago.

The survey’s compilers said rising property prices, low to negative inflation and recent tax cuts had probably lifted confidence, good news for the government before parliamentary elections in just over a year.

“The January survey shows that for the first time since mid-2007 more consumers expect their household finances to improve rather than worsen in the year ahead,” said KBC chief economist Austin Hughes. “This marks a notable change in thinking.”

Spain was congratulated by the commission for accelerating its rate of growth in the latter stages of 2014 and going into 2015 as the fastest-growing of the major EU economies.

Madrid’s rightwing government has distanced itself from Greece’s calls for debt writeoffs and bridging loans. It’s economy is predicted to grow by 2.3% in 2015, up from 1.7% in the previous forecast.

The situation in France and Germany, which account for the bulk of EU output, will continue to improve, though only slowly. French GDP will rise from 0.4% in 2014 to 1% in 2015 while Germany will match 2014’s 1.5% rise in GDP over the coming year.

The improving picture painted by the commission was offset by a warning that the EU faced a widening gap between wealthy nations and those worst hit by the crisis. The report said that although many debtor nations had implemented painful changes, especially to labour markets by cutting wages and benefits, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark had done little to boost demand. Instead they continued to run large trade surpluses with southernEurope that made it harder for them to expand.

Doctors must tell patients in Ireland of errors, under a new Varadkar law


Like a motoring ‘hit and run’ for doctors to fail to make such disclosures, says the Minister.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar claimed the health service is now in a more stable financial position than it has been for many years.

Doctors and health professionals will be obliged by law to tell patients where mistakes or accidents take place in their treatment, the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children has heard.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said it was the equivalent of a motoring “hit and run” for doctors and health professionals to fail to make such disclosures and to live up to their duty of candour.

“I find that [behaviour] really appalling and it is not the type of medicine I was trained in.”

Mr Varadkar told the committee if doctors did adhere to their duty of candour and open disclosure, and informed patients when they had made a medical mistake, “a lot fewer people would sue”.

The Minister said he now intended to legislate to make open disclosure a legal requirement.

Mr Varadkar also told the committee that pharmaceutical companies had the State “over a barrel, quite frankly” when there was only one particular drug to deal with a certain condition – an “orphan medicine”.

Speaking of the decision by the HSE to make the drug Soliris available for patients with rare blood diseases, at a cost of about €430,000 annually, he said it was still not considered cost effective at that price.

Discussing spending plans for this year, Mr Varadkar told the committee the health service had insufficient funding to address all areas of concern immediately.

However he said the budget available would allow for a start to stabilising health service funding.

He maintained the health service was now in a more stable financial position than it had been for many years.

There was “undoubtedly a strong case for increased health funding in the years ahead”, he said.

However, increased spending without reform would not resolve the difficulties which the health service faced.

The Minster said it was hoped that the plan for free GP care for children under six would be introduced by mid-year although talks were still underway with doctors on the plan.

He denied healthy children under six of well-off parents would get free GP care under the plan while sick children outside this age group were not being given medical cards.

He said his initiative was the first step towards free GP care for all. He argued the main beneficiaries would be low- and middle-income earners – “people who get nothing from the State other than education”.

Mr Varadkar said that the free GP service for children under sixes would include the management of asthma and a health check for obesity.

The calorie count plan could have a ‘devastating impact’ on Irish restaurants


The Royal College of Physicians says the mandatory rule is a a step forward in ‘tackling obesity in Ireland’

Government plans to make it mandatory for restaurants to display calorie counts on menus will have a “devastating impact” on the industry, the Restaurant Association of Ireland has warned.

Government plans to make it mandatory for restaurants to display calorie counts on menus will have a “devastating impact” on the industry, the Restaurant Association ofIreland has warned.

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland however welcomed the plans, approved at Cabinet this week, to require calorie counts on all menus from next year as “an incredibly positive step forward in tackling…obesity”.

The requirement that restaurants, take-aways and all food service outlets to post calorie details of all meals on menus should be in place by next year, the Department of Healthsaid. Drafting of calorie posting legislation would start immediately.

All menus

The proposed law will require all menus, including boards, leaflets, digital menus or other forms, to display the amount of calories alongside the price in the same font size and colour. Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said the voluntary approach ,where some food outlets were already displaying calorie content, was insufficient.

“Giving calorie details on menus is a very simple but effective way of encouraging people to choose a healthier option,” he said. “Food options can be deceptive. Some salads contain more calories than a burger meal. But if we make the information clearly available, at the very least people can make an informed choice. It won’t work in every case but it’s a powerful tool which has proved very effective in the US.

He rejected the suggestion from the Restaurants Association, that this was a “nanny State” approach.

A free choice

“People are free to choose what they eat, and that’s only right. But public consultation tells us that 95 per cent of consumers want calories displayed on menus. The current voluntary model is not working. Some of the fast food chains in Ireland have been providing information on calorie content. But with only eight per cent doing so, the time is right to make the healthier choice the easier choice.”

The news was welcomed by the RCPI’s policy group on obesity. The group’s co-chair, Prof Donal O’Shea, said he was thrilled.

“I am thrilled at this incredibly positive step forward in tackling the obesity problem in Ireland. Evidence has shown that making people aware of calorie content can help them to make more informed, healthier decisions about the foods that they eat. Parents will be more aware of calories in the foods that they are giving their children,” he said.

“This measure alone will have a direct impact on obesity levels in Ireland – but more importantly it shows that the Minister for Health will move quickly on areas he is convinced by – and in a condition as complicated as obesity we need actions in many areas.”

An unworkable legislation

The Restaurants Association said the legislation would be unworkable. Association chief executive Adrian Cumminssaid it would impose costs of €5,000 on each restaurant.

“The Nanny State proposals will be an unnecessary burden on the restaurant owners, as the measures will be virtually impossible to monitor. I urge the government to reconsider this Bill in the interest of the restaurant industry and tourism,” he said.

“How does the government propose that this will be monitored? Will inspectors be paid to eat out in all of Ireland’s 22,000 food outlets and check if each menu has calorie counts on them?”

Mr Cummins said any chef would tell you that menus in restaurants vary day-to-day and “therefore calorie counting would be highly inaccurate anyway”.

Up to 116 puppies seized by animal welfare officers at Dublin port


As much as 116 puppies were seized by animal welfare officers on Thursday last.

More than 100 puppies were seized by animal welfare chiefs last night to stop them being illegally smuggled out of Ireland.

The 116 puppies – believed to be between five to eight weeks of age – were discovered in the back of two vans boarding a ferry at Dublin Port for the UK.

The puppies have been taken in to care by the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA), which collected the animals with the assistance of customs officers, gardai and the Department of Agriculture.

No arrests were made at the scene and foster homes will be needed for the pups as investigations continue.

The DSPCA said 32 of the puppies are in veterinary care suffering from diarrhoea, possibly from a virus or being so young and enclosed.

“The breeds of the puppies include a variety of small breeds and were destined for the UK market,” it said.

It is understood the seizure was part of a long-term investigation and focused on one particular vehicle.

It is alleged one of the vehicles was not certified for transporting animals and that the puppies did not have access to fresh water.

None of the puppies had a pet passport, which is required under legislation. However one cannot be issued until a puppy is 15 weeks old.

Gillian Bird, DSPCA spokeswoman, said the puppies were separated in the back of the vans in to breeds, which included Pugs, Huskies, Cockers, Yorkshire Terriers and designer breeds like the Labradoodles and Cavachons, the Bichon Frise and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel cross.

All have since been micro-chipped and each was given a 15 minute veterinary check to examine their eyes, body and overall condition.

Ms Bird said most of the puppies were in fairly good condition, apart from being young, but 32 needed veterinary care.

“This is the first case, involving a large number of companion animals, to be seized under the new Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 which commenced on 6 March 2014,” the DSPCA added

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney met with the DSPCA yesterday along with Eurogroup personnel to discuss welfare issues in general and stressed the need for high welfare standards and strict enforcement of the Animal Welfare Legislation.

“I welcome the action taken last night by the authorities and the DSPCA, we must remain vigilant and maintain the highest welfare standards and ensure strict enforcement of the Animal Welfare Legislation,” he added.

In October 2012, almost 100 puppies were rescued by officials who believed they were also being brought to the UK for sale.

Those interested in fostering the puppies can Email Foster@dspca.ie.

Development of farming lead to crooked teeth


Dietary changes meant humans’ jaws became smaller but teeth stayed the same size.

The crooked teeth and lower jaw of an Early Neolithic farmer

Farming arose 12,000 years ago. It taught us how to grow food instead of having to fight and kill it to feed ourselves, but it also created a need thousands of year later for orthodontists to straighten our misaligned teeth.

This finding comes from detailed studies of 292 archaeological skeletons from individuals who lived between 28,000 and 6,000 years ago. University College Dublin was involved in the research along with the Israel Antiquity Authority, and the State University of New York, Buffalo.

They found a clear difference between the jawbones ofnomadic hunter-gatherers and much later populations of early farmers in the Levant, explains Prof Ron Pinhasi from the School of Archaeology and Earth Institute at UCD.

The hunter-gatherers had a “perfect harmony” between the size of their teeth and the length and shape of their jaws. Everything fit and the teeth were in good alignment.

The early farmers didn’t do as well however. The researchers argue that their change in diet brought about changes in the size and shape of their jaws. Tooth size remained the same but the jaw got smaller and changed shape, causing overcrowding and misalignment, Prof Pinhasi says.

The team puts this down to a changed diet. The hunter-gatherers had to make do with tough foods such as uncooked veg and meat. The early farmers switched however to softer cooked and processed foods such as grains and beans.

The soft cooked and readily available foods from farming meant there was less requirement for chewing which meant a heavy jaw was not necessary. The jaw shrank, the teeth didn’t and this led to the modern requirement for “train-tracks” to bring the teeth into alignment, the scientists believe.

This kind of dental crowding is commonplace today with one in five people affected in modern-world populations, the authors say.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 23rd April 2014

Irish doctors not happy with new health bill proposals published today


The IMO says it’s “appalled” at some of the proposals.

The Irish Medical organisation has said it’s “appalled” at some details of legislation for the new GP Contract.

Legislative proposals were published today by the Department of Health with the aim of overhauling the contractual relationship between GPs and the HSE.

The IMO said the proposals in the Health Bill 2014 would effectively force GPs to sign up to a new under sixes contract by removing existing medical card patients to the new scheme.

Chairman of the GP Committee of the IMO, Doctor Ray Walley, said “this legislation has nothing to do with GP visit cards for children.

It is nothing less than a unilateral attempt to replace the long-standing GMS Contract with a new, draconian contract which will destroy the very fabric of the GP service in Ireland.

Dr. Walley said that the new legislation would accelerate the departure of GPs from the Irish Health Services.

This legislation will effectively destroy General Practice and should not be enacted. It reflects an arrogant mindset by an arrogant Government that should know better.

New proposals

The IMO says the new contract as proposed would institutionalise the provisions of emergency legislation (FEMPI) in regard to GPs, allowing the Minister to unilaterally reduce, vary and change fees paid for GP services at any time.

The union claims it would force GPs to move to the new contract by removing existing GMS patients to the new scheme.

They also say it would abolish the right of the IMO to negotiate on behalf of its GP members and allow the Minister to vary the fees without any negotiation at any time Dr.Walley continued that,

On the one hand the Minister says he wants to talk to the IMO while on the other publishes legislation that appears to make talks a futile exercise.

The issue of free under-six care is set to dominate the IMO conference that will be held this coming weekend in Kildare.

The Minister for Health James Reilly will not be at this years event but the Minister of State with responsibility for Primary Care Alex White will be attending.

Vaccinations in Ireland at highest level in the State’s history


Childhood vaccinations are at the highest level ever recorded in Ireland.

New figures issued by the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre to mark European Immunisation Week show that more children here are now vaccinated that ever before.

Altogether 92pc of children at 12 months have had the recommended three doses of the six in one vaccine which defends against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, Hib (haemophilius influenza causing meningitis) polio and hepatitis B.

A similar number have been given two doses of the PCV (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine) against 13 common strains of a bug that cause meningitis and septicaemia.


By two years of age 96pc of children are vaccinated with the six in one vaccine and 93pc of children have also had the MMR vaccine.

By between four and five years of age 90pc of children have received the recommended four in one vaccine booster dose for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio and 89pc have received an MMR second dose.

Public Health Medicine specialist with the HPSC, Dr Suzanne Cotter welcomed the high level of vaccination.

But Dr Cotter warned: “It is still important to remind parents that children need to fully complete the childhood immunisation schedule to be protected against a range of serious vaccine preventable diseases.”

Dr Cotter added that some children, teenagers and adults might still be vulnerable to these diseases because they were never vaccinated, incompletely vaccinated or had lost their immunity because of age, illness or the lapse in time since the injections.

“The fact that more children in Ireland are now protected against vaccine preventable diseases than ever before reflects the confidence parents have in vaccination to prevent what used to be the most common infectious diseases of childhood,” she stressed.

Dr Cotter also emphasised the need to identify areas where “there are inadequate levels of vaccination uptake, indicating an increased risk among some to these diseases and outbreaks.

“Reasons for under vaccination should be identified and any measures identified should be taken to address the underlying reasons,” she said.

Gardaí arrest 26 people for drink driving on last Good Friday


Special operation introduced to target drivers on mobile phones

Gardaí said today 153 people were arrested for drink driving over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

Assistant Garda Commissioner John Twomey said 26 people were arrested on Good Friday, a day when “the vast majority of licensed premises are closed”.

Mr Twomey of the Garda National Traffic Bureau also outlined a recent drink driving enforcement operation which targeted ten rural towns and two areas within Dublin city where gardaí set up a series of mandatory alcohol checkpoints.

“We advertised it in advance to let people know we would be doing it. While we didn’t give them the specific locations, we did say that we would be out there targeting particular areas,” he said.

“In that hour between 12.30am and 1.30am, nine people were arrested for drink driving.”

The Assistant Commissioner also spoke about the upcoming special operation this week which will target motorists using mobile phones while driving.

“The risk and the dangers posed by holding and using a mobile phone while driving are such that you put yourself and others at risk,” he said, adding that research shows there is a four-fold increase in the risk of having a collision when using a mobile phone.

“Unfortunately, the use of mobile phone while driving is becoming a real challenge to An Garda Síochána and is now the second-highest offence that has been detected.” The highest is speeding.

Almost 10,000 drivers have been detected holding a mobile phone while driving in the first three months of this year.

In 2013 there were more than 28,000 people detected.

Provisional figures from a national phone operation carried out in March 2014 found there has been a 300 per cent increase in the number of people using their phones while driving.

This week’s operation, which will be conducted by gardaí this Thursday and Friday, will issue fixed charge notices of €60 and penalty points to those caught on their phones while driving.

“Our message is there’s no call or no text that is that important that you should put your own life or the life of other road users at risk,” said Mr Twomey.

“The risks and the dangers are there for everybody to see, we need to become aware and we need to address this.”

“I’m asking all of your listeners to be aware of the dangers and the risks,” he added. “We will be out there enforcing the road traffic act and will continue to work tirelessly to improve road safety,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

EU’s resistance to GMOs is holding Irish farmers back says the IFA


Europe’s resistance to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is holding farmers back, according to the IFA.

Irish farmers must be able to compete on a level playing field and the current EU stance on GMOs does not allow that, IFA General Secretary Pat Smith has said. “It has to be a level playing field in relation to GMOs and hormones. These issues are stifling EU agriculture and our hands are tied. It is costing EU agriculture all the time.” He was speaking at the launch of the IFA’s manifesto for local and european elections.

He said EU policies were ruled by politics, not science. “Politics is superimposed on science in the EU.”

“We are five to 10 years out of date with regard to licensing, as what Europe is legislated to import is not being grown any more.” He said this means EU importers have to choose varieties that are less efficient but are approved by Europe. Countries which have adopted technologies such as GMOs, he said, have seen gains of 2-3% in their agricultural output in the past 10 years.

Because of this, our competitiveness is becoming an issue. “Science should dictate what is safe and what isn’t safe and that goes for growing GM crops in Ireland too. How can we compete when we can not use technologies others can use?”

He went on to say that Irish farmers are the most efficient producers of food in Europe, yet will have to increase their production levels to meet increasing demand for food. There is also a shortage of protein in Europe, he said, so farmers have to import soybeans which is an issue because of the GMO regulations in Europe. Sourcing non-GMO soybeans, he said, is becoming more and more difficult as less people are growing less of these varieties as they make less economical sense than GM varieties of soybean.

Illegal cigarette smugglers take to the high seas from Africa & Asia


The routes map of Illicit cigarettes that arrive in Ireland on planes and trucks from various countries.

This map shows the major tobacco smuggling routes into Ireland and reveals that cigarettes made in Asia and Africa generally come into the country by sea.

However, from mainland Europe the illicit products mostly arrive here on planes and trucks.

It is a trade that costs Irish retailers €450m a year.

Ireland has one of the highest rates of illegal tobacco trade in Europe, and 25pc of cigarettes smoked here are not taxed, according to figures released by major tobacco manufacturing company JTI.

From the Baltic countries, Russia and Spain, illegal tobacco is arriving by plane.

GANGSTERS: It comes in cargo ships from the Suez Canal and the Canary Islands, while smugglers from mainland Europe favour the main motorways before travelling by ship to the UK and again by sea to Ireland.

Sources say a small number of Irish criminals have made millions of euro from the smuggling of illegal cigarettes into the country.

One of the most prominent Irish gangsters involved in this activity is a veteran Ballyfermot criminal who controls illegal smuggling of cigarettes into Ireland in an operation that is believed to be worth over €10m.

He is now mostly based on Spain’s Costa del Sol, and his son plays an increasingly prominent role in the business.

The gangster – a long-term target of the Criminal Assets Bureau – has made millions from smuggling illegal cigarettes over the past two decades.

He cannot be named here for legal reasons.

“We are committed to fighting this highly damaging and unregulated trade. This is costing retailers and the taxpayer hundreds of millions, and continues to fuel crime in communities across Ireland,” said John Freda, general manager of JTI Ireland.

CHILDREN: “The illegal tobacco trade has huge societal impacts. Criminals and gangs use children to sell products and channel the profits into other illegal activities.

“Cigarettes are at least 50pc cheaper on the streets than the ones sold by legitimate retailers, which encourages minors to buy illegal tobacco in unregulated markets and back alleys.”

The JTI report claimed non-duty-paid tobacco is costing the exchequer more than €250m and the retail trade €450m a year.

How common bacteria found in soil & water talks to each other


Bacteria communicate by sending chemical signals

Common bacteria found in soil and water “talk” to each other using a language in some ways as sophisticated as our own, say scientists.

The bugs display a level of “combinatorial” communication previously thought to be unique to humans and certain other primates.

It involves using two signals together to transmit a message that is distinct from them both.

A human example would be the word “boathouse” which does not invoke separate independent thoughts of a “boat” and a “house”, but something different – a boathouse.

This type of communication has never been observed before in species other than humans and their closest relatives.

Yet the lowly microbe Psuedomonas aeruginosa appears to be capable of it, using chemicals instead of words.

The bugs exchange dual chemical messages to signal when to produce certain proteins vital for their survival.

By blocking one signal and then the other, scientists found that if the signals are sent separately, the effect on protein production is different from when both are sent together.

Lead researcher Thom Scott-Phillips, from the University of Durham, said: “We conducted an experiment on bacterial communication, and found that they communicate in a way that was previously thought to be unique to humans and perhaps some other primates.

“This has serious implications for our understanding of the origins of human communication and language.”

The findings are published in the online journal Public Library Of Science ONE.

Brain size plays a major role in self-control and restraint 


An animal study revealed that brain size plays a major role in displaying self-control and self-restraint, according to a team of University researchers.

This study, conducted on 36 species of mammals ranging from orangutans to zebra finches, is the first large-scale investigation into the evolution of self-control. Study authors found that chimpanzees had more self-control than foxes and squirrels. They also found that brain size has a lot to do with the level of self-control these animals displayed.

The researchers noted that species with larger brain volume had more superior cognitive powers than species with larger body size. Additionally, species that were not particular about what they included in their diet showed better self-restraint.

Findings of the new study debunk previous statements that suggest “relative” brain size is a more accurate predictor of intelligence than “absolute” brain size.

  Species included in the study were bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, olive baboons, stump-tailed macaques, golden snub-nosed monkeys, brown, red-bellied and aye-aye lemurs, coyotes, dogs, gray wolves, Asian elephants, domestic pigeons, orange-winged amazons, Eurasian jays, western scrub jay, zebra finches and swamp sparrows.

One experiment included training big and small creatures to access food inside a cylinder through a side entrance. In the first part of the experiment, researchers placed food items in an opaque cylinder and trained the creatures to gain access to the food by entering the cylinder through a side entrance. Once the creatures grew familiar with how to enter the cylinder, the food was moved to a transparent cylinder.

Researchers wanted to observe whether the animals would directly dash into the cylinder to grab the food or will use the previously learnt technique to enter the cylinder and eat the food.

The results showed that gorillas and other large-brained animals utilized the previously learnt technique to attain the “bait.” The smaller brained animals showed mixed results.

“About half of the squirrels and gerbils did well and inhibited the direct approach in more than seven out of 10 trials,” UC Berkeley doctoral student Mikel Delgado said in a statement. “The rest didn’t do so well.”

Another test included placing three cups (A, B and C) in a row with food in one of the cups (usually cup A). At first the animals were allowed to see which cup the food was placed in. After a while the cups were turned upside-down and the animals were made to identify which cup contained the food. If an animal could tap the correct cup three times, it proceeded to the next round. In the next round, the food was moved from cup A to cup B.

“The question was, would they approach cup A, where they had originally learned the food was placed, or could they update this learned response to get the food from a new location?” Delgado said. “The squirrels and gerbils tended to go to the original place they had been trained to get food, showing a failure to inhibit what they originally learned.”

The study authors went on to highlight a possible explanation as to why species with bigger brains had better self-control. The researchers assume that because bigger brains can accommodate more number of neurons, the brain becomes more modularized, facilitating the development of “new cognitive networks.”

Researchers said that this experiment also delivers a useful message to humans too recommending people should stop and think for a while before making any decisions or snatching a reward.