Tag Archives: financial crisis

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 5th November 2016

Irish Patients suffer as our hospital queues grow longer & reach a record high

Image result for Irish Patients suffer as our hospital queues grow longer & reach a record high   Image result for people waiting to see a specialist, a rise of 700   Image result for Hospital waiting lists have reached yet another all-time high

Minister Simon Harris

Hospital waiting lists have reached yet another all-time high with more than 535,000 public patients now in a queue for treatment or awaiting investigation for a potentially serious illness.

Despite months of promises from the Government to tackle waiting lists, the suffering goes on for many very ill patients.

Many of these desperately need an operation, diagnostic procedure or appointment with a specialist.

Newly released figures for October reveal the extent of the crisis and show that nearly 27,000 more patients are now on hospital waiting lists since Health Minister Simon Harris took office.

The HSE said yesterday that 416,000 people who had appointments to see a specialist last year did not turn up.

But it failed to say how many of these patients, whose condition was serious enough to be referred by their GP, died while they were waiting or had to pay for a private appointment and even though they may have had to get into debt to do so.

The latest figures show 78,621 are waiting for an operation, up by 1,000 compared to September.

While there was a fall of around 3,000 in patients in this surgical queue for more than a year, the longest waiters – those waiting beyond the target time of 15 months – actually grew.

There is now a record 438,931 people waiting to see a specialist, a rise of 700 compared to September. In another worrying trend, the number of patients waiting longest for one of these appointments past 15 months jumped by 2,000.

Despite funding being targeted at reducing the queue of people needing an endoscopy procedure, an invasive test for conditions including cancer, the drop of 700 was marginal.

It still leaves a staggering 17,984 waiting to find out if they have a serious illness.

There was no statement on the figures from Mr Harris, but the HSE again pointed to the growing influx of patients who are attending hospitals.

Hospitals increased the number of inpatient and day case surgery by 4% this year but they cannot keep pace with demand, while emergency departments are seeing a 5% rise in patients compared to last year.

It said progress is being made in reducing the numbers of patients waiting more than 18 months for surgery.

It is now recruiting what it termed “improvement leads” which will involve putting some existing consultants in a HSE-funded post to drive the campaign to try to bring the waiting lists under control.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund is to get €20m in 2017 to outsource some patients who have been waiting longest to hospitals with spare capacity. But this is unlikely to mean any dramatic improvement.


More trouble as Junior doctors are the latest group to threaten strike action

It’s part of a dispute over a ‘living out allowance’.

Image result for Irelands HSE Junior doctors are the latest group to threaten strike action Image result for Irelands HSE Junior doctors are the latest group to threaten strike action   Image result for Irelands HSE Junior doctors are the latest group to threaten strike action

Junior doctors are the latest public sector pay workers to threaten industrial action in a dispute over a ‘living out allowance’.

Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors have been in an ongoing dispute with the government over the withdrawal of the €60-a-week payment in 2012.

The Irish Medical Organisation represents the junior doctors and claims that the living out allowance was not paid despite it being part of a contract with employers.

A High Court case against the government is pending over the dispute and negotiations are set to resume next week.

Despite this, the IMO has come out to say that it will support junior doctors should they decided to go on strike over the dispute.

Speaking this evening, IMO president Dr John Duddy says that the government’s pay policies are already leading to a shortage of doctors.

“We already have too few doctors in this country to deliver adequate services to patients yet government have consistently ignored the fact that if you breach contracts and deliberately create a policy that disrespects and devalues doctors they will simply choose to work for countries that value them,” he says.

Financial crisis threatens Ireland’s Institutes of Technology

Image result for Financial crisis threatens letterkennys Institutes of Technology  Image result for letterkenny Institute of Technology

The viable future of up to 10 of the 14 Institutes of Technology across Ireland is being questioned in a review by the Higher Education Authority.

A financial review of the Institutes of Technology (ITs) across Ireland has pointed to significant financial deficiencies.

It describes six of the ITs – Letterkenny, Tralee, Galway-Mayo, Waterford, Dundalk and Cork – as vulnerable.

The review also points to risks facing the ITs in Athlone, Limerick, Tallaght and Dublin, particularly in relation to financial reserves and projected deficits.

‘The increase in Ireland’s young population is the envy of other countries – new energy, new ideas and a critical mass of educated young people will give Ireland a social, cultural and competitive edge’

Across Ireland, there are more than 87,000 students studying at the various ITs. This includes over 66,000 full-time undergraduates, 13,000 part-time undergraduates, 1,400 remote undergraduates and 3,000 full-time postgraduates.

The purpose of the review by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) was to assess the financial health of the ITs across Ireland, and involved site visits to the 14 campuses.

The HEA noted a reduction of 34pc in support for the education sector between 2008 and 2015, as well as an increase of 24pc in student numbers, which has led to an existential crisis for the educational institutes.

HEA review paints a bleak picture

The overall reserves held by the ITs fell from €132.5m to €78.7m over the period, wiping out 40% of the finance available to underpin ongoing sustainability and future development.

The cash flow position across the sector is a major concern, with a decline in the cash balances held by ITs, from €218.1m in August 2013 to €147m in August 2016. A further fall is anticipated, to €116m by August 2017.

At an aggregate level, the sector is in deficit and this trend is projected to continue over the next five years.

Pay costs still account for between 72.5% and 80% of total IT expenditure, despite core staffing levels falling by 12% between 2008 and 2014. The absence of flexibility to redeploy staff or introduce new work arrangements (for part-time or online study, for example) is a significant factor in financial performance.

The campus environment has been adversely impacted, as there has been no funding available for capital investment.

The HEA said that while growth in science and ICT education provision is encouraging, it is constrained by existing capacity. Targeted capital investment, aimed at reinforcing the technological mission of the sector, has the potential to generate a significant impact.

The remedy is in sight but needs to be acted upon

“The announcement of increased funding for higher education in Budget 2017 and a three-year commitment to further investment marks an important turning point for the sector, but this review demonstrates the scale of the challenge that remains,” said Dr Anne Looney, (below picture) interim CEO of the HEA.

Image result for Anne Looney, interim CEO of the HEA.  “We now have comprehensive evidence of the current financial challenges being faced by many ITs, and the capacity constraints which will limit their ability to meet the expected growth in student demand in coming years.

“While it is a review of the impact of past cuts, it’s a report with an eye to the future, and the provision of higher education across the country for young people still in school who will expect to go to college in the next decade.

“The increase in Ireland’s young population is the envy of other countries – new energy, new ideas and a critical mass of educated young people will give Ireland a social, cultural and competitive edge. The Institute of Technology sector has its origins in the 1962 report, Investment in Education, and since the first doors opened in 1970, [it has] been critical to Ireland’s economic and social development.

“If they are to continue to do this, we have work to do to put them on a sustainable footing.

“The HEA has set out a clear action plan to address the issues, both financial and otherwise, identified in the report, while it is also about to embark on a comprehensive review of the funding approach for higher education institutions, which will also take into account the findings,” Looney said.

LIT president urges immediate action

“It must be said that there is a stark reality at the heart of this review,” said the president of Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT), Prof Vincent Cunnane.

“It clearly demonstrates serious underfunding of higher education in Ireland, and points to a set of actions which must be undertaken to address the situation.”

Cunnane said that despite the ingenuity and commitment demonstrated by the ITs during the financial crisis that engulfed Ireland, the inescapable conclusion is that prompt action is needed if Ireland is to field the skilled graduates needed to sustain the growth in jobs recently seen in the past year.

“LIT has invested in our capital infrastructure, our stock of industry-standard equipment and facilities to ensure that our graduates have practical experience at the cutting edge,” Cunnane said.

“This was challenging in times when state investment in higher education has dried up completely.

“Nonetheless, we invested our own resources sensibly in targeted areas such as precision engineering, which will provide the optimum benefit to the economy and the optimum job prospects to our graduates.

“We have also been able to navigate many of the challenges facing higher education in Ireland by prudent management of our finances over the last number of years.

“This has meant that we are not now subject to the severe financial difficulties besetting some areas of the higher education sector in Ireland.  However, the longer this funding situation remains unresolved, the less able the Irish higher education system will be to cater for the state’s needs, including the demands of our population to progress to higher education.

“The reality is that the core challenges identified in the report are the same as those identified in the Cassells report last July, among others.

“It is fair to say that the diagnosis of the issues facing higher education in Ireland is now done, and we must move without delay to implementing the remedy,” Cunnane warned.

Ireland’s win against the All Blacks after a historic 111 year wait.

Ireland 40-29 New Zealand

Image result for Ireland's win against the All Blacks after a historic 111 year wait.  Image result for Ireland's win against the All Blacks after a historic 111 year wait.  Image result for Ireland's win against the All Blacks after a historic 111 year wait.

Tries: Murphy, Stander, Murray, Zebo, Henshaw Cons: Sexton 2, Carbery Pens: Sexton 2, Murray 1

Tries: Moala, Perenara, B Smith, S Barrett Cons: B Barrett 3 Pen: B Barrett

Ireland produced a stunning display to record a first ever win over New Zealand at the 29th attempt and end the All Blacks’ run of 18 straight wins.

Tries from Jordi Murphy, CJ Stander and Conor Murray helped the Irish to a 25-8 half-time lead, then Simon Zebo scored his side’s fourth try in the corner.

The world champions fought back to move to within four points but Robbie Henshaw’s late try ensured the victory.

The sides will meet in another Test match in Dublin in two weeks’ time.

This was Ireland’s first success over the Kiwis in 111 years and it came about in sensational fashion as Joe Schmidt’s men repelled a stirring second-half comeback by Steve Hansen’s side.

TJ Perenara, Ben Smith and Scott Barrett added to George Mola’s first-half try for the New Zealanders but despite some sustained late pressure, they fell short for the first time in their past 19 encounters with top-tier nations.

The match was the first of four autumn internationals for both sides, played in front of a capacity crowd of 60,000 at Soldier Field in Chicago, a venue chosen in an attempt to increase the exposure of the sport.

The teams will meet again at the Aviva Stadium in a fortnight after Ireland host Canada next Saturday and Steve Hansen’s side face Italy in Rome on the same day.

Ireland fired by the Anthony Foley memory.

From the start, the Irish effort appeared to be fuelled by the memory of former international and Munster head coach Anthony Foley, who died suddenly last month.

Image result for The number 8 Anthony Foley rugby shirt Prior to kick-off Ireland lined up in the shape of a number eight, the jersey worn with distinction by Foley for many years, while their opponents performed their traditional pre-match haka.

Ireland made light of the aura of invincibility surrounding the three-time world champions in a first half which they mostly dominated to go in 17 points to the good at the break.

Schmidt’s side produced a performance of accuracy, purpose, pace and skill as they denied the All Blacks quality possession and repeatedly frustrated their efforts to win their own line-outs.

The Irish display bore echoes of the Test between the sides in Dublin in November 2013 when they built up a 19-0 lead, before ultimately losing 24-22 after conceding a last-gasp converted try, but there was to be no repeat of that outcome this time.

New Zealand prop Joe Moody was sent to the sin-bin for a tip tackle

Moala raced through for a fifth-minute try after Waisake Naholo had carved a way through the Ireland defences but the turning point of the opening period came when front-rower Joe Moody was yellow-carded for a tip tackle on Robbie Henshaw.

Ireland made good use of the prop’s 10-minute absence as Murphy rumbled over after a rolling maul and then fellow flanker Stander surged over the line following a break by Rob Kearney.

Murphy was subsequently carried off after turning his knee in a freak incident but seven minutes before the interval Murray produced a moment of magic, darting through a gap in the New Zealanders’ defence to run in his third try in five Tests against the Rugby Championship winners.

The All Blacks’ half-time deficit equalled their biggest ever at that stage of an international match and Ireland held out in a thrilling second half.

The Irish momentum continued on the resumption, their relentless defensive efforts thwarting the normally ruthlessly efficient All Blacks, and Zebo increasing the advantage by touching down in the corner.

Replacement Perenara reduced the arrears by diving over near the posts and then full-back Smith managed to ground the ball beside the flag before being tackled into touch by Andrew Trimble.

Scott Barrett took advantage of some poor Ireland tackling to score on his international debut and when brother Beauden knocked over his third conversion of the game, the All Blacks trailed by just four.

Ireland continued to defend heroically however, forcing their opponents into a series of uncharacteristic errors, and a historic triumph was assured when Henshaw showed raw strength to score under the posts after Jamie Heaslip broke clear.

The teams that lined up .

Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster); A Trimble (Ulster), J Payne (Ulster), R Henshaw (Leinster), S Zebo (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); J McGrath (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), T Furlong (Leinster); D Toner (Leinster), D Ryan (Munster); CJ Stander (Munster), J Murphy (Leinster), J Heaslip (Leinster).

Replacements: S Cronin (Leinster), C Healy (Leinster), F Bealham (Connacht), U Dillane (Connacht), J van der Flier (Leinster), K Marmion (Connacht), J Carbery (Leinster), G Ringrose (Leinster).

New Zealand: B Smith; W Naholo, G Moala, R Crotty, J Savea; B Barrett, A Smith; J Moody, D Coles, O Franks; P Tuipulotu, J Kaino; L Squire, S Cane, K Read (capt).

Replacements: C Taylor, O Tu’ungafasi, C Faumuina, S Barrett, A Savea, TJ Perenara, A Cruden, M Fekitoa

Ireland’s remaining 2016 autumn internationals

12 November v Canada        Aviva Stadium, Dublin       19:15 GMT

19 November v New Zealand          Aviva Stadium, Dublin       17:30 GMT

26 November v Australia    Aviva Stadium, Dublin       17:30 GMT

Canada investigates mysterious ‘pinging’ sound in a canal of water on sea floor

Hunters in the remote Canadian Arctic concerned about sound that is scaring animals away

Image result for Canada investigates mysterious ‘pinging’ sound in a canal of water on sea floor  Image result for Canada investigates mysterious ‘pinging’ sound in a canal of water on sea floor  The sound has been heard in Fury and Hecla Strait, around 75 miles (120 kilometres) northwest of the hamlet of Igloolik

(Left) The sea ice in the Northwest Passage near Nunavut in the Canadian Arctic.

The Canadian armed forces have sent a crew to investigate reports of a mysterious “pinging” sound that seemed to be coming from the sea floor.

Hunters in a remote community in the Canadian Arctic have become concerned about a pinging or beeping sound they say they’ve been hearing in the Fury and Hecla Strait, a channel of water that’s 120 km north-west of the Inuit hamlet Igloolik.

Paul Quassa, a local politician, told CBC that the sound seems to be coming from the sea floor, and is scaring animals away from a popular hunting area of open water surrounded by ice that is usually abundant with sea mammals.

“And this time around, this summer, there were hardly any. And this became a suspicious thing,” he said.

Several reports were passed to the military, which sent a CP-140 Aurora patrol aircraft to investigate on Tuesday under the mandate of Operation Limpid, a domestic surveillance programme designed to “detect, deter, prevent, pre-empt and defeat threats aimed at Canada or Canadian interests”.

In a statement, Department of National Defence spokeswoman Ashley Lemire said: “The Canadian armed forces are aware of allegations of unusual sounds emanating from the seabed in the Fury and Hecla Strait in Nunavut. The air crew performed various multi-sensor searches in the area, including an acoustic search for 1.5 hours, without detecting any acoustic anomalies. The crew did not detect any surface or subsurface contacts.

“The crew did observe two pods of whales and six walruses in the area of interest.

“At this time the Department of National Defence does not intend to do any further investigations.”

That hasn’t stopped people from theorising about the source of the sounds, which have been variously attributed to the sonar surveys of local mining operations or to Greenpeace activists.

Sonar is used by mining companies to make detailed maps of the sea floor in their search for offshore oil and gas. The sonar is known to disturb marine mammals such as whales and dolphin.s

However, the Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation, which has conducted sonar surveys nearby, told CBC it has no equipment in the water at this time.

Others believe that Greenpeace is creating the sound on purpose to scare wildlife away from Inuit hunters – an allegation Greenpeace denies.

Mysterious sounds have a tendency to send people’s imaginations into overdrive. Earlier this year a high-pitched flute-like noise kept people in Portland, Oregon, awake. The steady whistling noise had also been heard by residents several decades previously.

Meanwhile in Ontario, a low rumbling sound known as the “Windsor Hum” has confounded residents for six years, with some describing it as like thunder or a subwoofer that can rattle windows.

The sound appears to come from an island surrounded by fences that’s home to a steel plant. The secrecy surrounding the plant has led to wild and unfounded speculation that the sound comes from an alien aircraft or from the construction of an underground tunnel by a billionaire.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday/Saturday 11th & 12th October 2013

Our financial crisis was caused by greed says Central Bank Chief


“Greed, disregard for risk” and “gross mismanagement” helped cause the banking crisis, according to the new deputy head of the Central Bank.

In his first public address since being appointed the deputy governor of the Central Bank, Cyril Roux questioned whether an ever-increasing amount of rules and directives is the best way to regulate the banking industry, or if there needs to be a switch to a so-called principles-based framework.


In a hard-hitting speech, he hinted at a shift in focus for regulators, away from a focus on what banks do and instead focusing on bankers themselves.

He said: “Few would dispute that some of the most galling failures have had very little to do with capital requirements and everything to do with greed coupled with disregard for the risks, or gross misjudgment about them.”

The focus of banking regulation tends to be on guarding against the risk of damaging bank runs, he said.

In contrast, supervision of the securities industry – including bond and share dealing – grew out of the need to protect investors, he said.


Mr Roux was speaking at a conference on regulation held by the Central Bank in Dublin yesterday.

Five years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the start of the financial crisis, he asked whether “we have fully seized the opportunity” of the crisis to tackle the issue of how best to regulate the sector.

Financial regulation is ultimately a product of the political process, he said.

Figuring out how best to resolve the “conundrums” involved will be achieved through democratic dialogue.

French-born Mr Roux replaces Matthew Elderfield who left the bank in the summer to work for Lloyds Bank in London.

Small businesses in Ireland upbeat about the next 12 months   

Ireland’s small business community is upbeat about its prospects for the next 12 months, with most respondents to a survey saying they expect further improvements in trading conditions in the coming year.

The latest quarterly SME Business Trends survey, covering the third quarter of the year, from sectoral lobby group ISME details positive movement in 11 of the 12 confidence indicators. A reading of 15% — up from 5% in the previous quarter — of firms expecting to increase employment in the next year marks the best figure in this regard since the end of 2007.

ISME chief Mark Fielding said: “It is imperative that the budget next Tuesday does nothing to stifle the positive sentiment and trends in the indigenous SME sector. While the majority of SMEs continue to battle out of recession, the mindset is positive and cautiously expansionary. The main focus must remain on cost curtailment, and any government budgetary intervention must not interfere with the turnaround.”

The last quarter saw a fall in the percentage of SMEs exporting goods — from 29% to 22% — but this was the only indicator to show a decline. Profitability expectations went from 0% in the second quarter to 14% at the end of September, putting the rating in positive mode for the first time since the beginning of the economic downturn.

The survey also shows SMEs have increased appetite for investment — the level of firms investing in their business is up from 16% to 26% on a quarter-by-quarter basis, with the level of firms planning future investment up from 20% to 23%.

Over half of young Irish people suffer a mental health problem by age 24


Young Irish people have a higher rate of mental health difficulties than their peers in Europe and the USA, with more than half suffering a significant problem by the age of 24.

The mental disorder could involve a young person experiencing a behavioural or psychological problem either causing them distress or anxiety, such as a bereavement.

More seriously, it could see the young person suffering from a mood disorder such as depression, experiencing psychosis, or having suicidal thoughts.

By their mid-20s, nearly 75pc have engaged in binge drinking, with one in five meeting the criteria for mental health problems linked to this behaviour at some time in their lives.

The findings from research by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) showed one in five young Irish adults aged 19-24 and one in six young people aged 11-13 are experiencing mental disorder.

The ‘Mental Health Of Young People in Ireland’ report pointed out that suffering psychological stress in early life leaves young people at increased risk during their adult years.

Professor Mary Cannon of the RCSI said: “Our research shows that high numbers of teenagers and young adults in Ireland are experiencing mental ill-health at any given time.

“For the first time in Ireland, we have evidence. . . that young people who experience mental ill-health during adolescence have higher rates of mental disorders and substance misuse during their young adult years.”

High numbers of young adults aged 19-24 engaged in the misuse of alcohol and drugs, according to the findings of the RCSI Psychiatric Epidemiology Research across the Lifespan (PERL) Group.

“Of particular concern is that three out of four young adults met lifetime criteria for binge drinking. The research also reveals that almost one in five (19pc) had thought about suicide,” said Prof Cannon.

The research involved surveying and interviewing more than 400 people between the ages of 11 and 24. It is the first time such comprehensive data about disorders among young people in Ireland was published.

“Our research points to high levels of self-injurious behaviour and suicidal thoughts among Irish youth,” she said.

“For young adults, just under one in 10 had engaged in deliberate self-harm and one in five experienced suicidal thoughts.

“Both of our studies (found) many of the young people who were experiencing mental health difficulties had not sought help,” Prof Cannon added.

‘DISCORD’ “We found that experiences of family discord, intimate relationship abuse and stress related to death, health, work and relationships were implicated in young people’s risk of experiencing a mental disorder.

“We also found that being of a minority sexual orientation was associated with mental ill-health among young adults.”

The report was launched by Junior Health Minister Kathleen Lynch.

She said: “I would appeal to any young person who thinks they may have a mental health issue not to suffer in silence and to seek help.”

New Alzheimer’s treatment breakthrough as British scientists pave way for a simple pill cure


Historic ‘turning point’ hailed as UK researchers discover how to halt death of brain cells, opening new pathway for future drug treatments

Scientists have hailed an historic “turning point” in the search for a medicine that could beat Alzheimer’s disease, after a drug-like compound was used to halt brain cell death in mice for the first time.

Although the prospect of a pill for Alzheimer’s remains a long way off, the landmark British study provides a major new pathway for future drug treatments.

The compound works by blocking a faulty signal in brains affected by neurodegenerative diseases, which shuts down the production of essential proteins, leading to brain cells being unprotected and dying off.

It was tested in mice with prion disease – the best animal model of human neurodegenerative disorders – but scientists said they were confident the same principles would apply in a human brain with debilitating brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

The study, published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine, was carried out at the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester.

“It’s a real step forward,” team leader Professor Giovanna Mallucci said. “It’s the first time a substance has been given to mice that prevents brain disease. The fact that this is a compound that can be given orally, that gets into the brain and prevents brain disease, is a first in itself… We can go forward and develop better molecules and I can’t see why preventing this process should only be restricted to mice. I think this probably will translate into other mammalian brains.”

In debilitating brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, the production of new proteins in the brain is shut down by a build-up of “misfolded proteins” or amyloids. This build-up leads to an “over-activation” of a natural defence mechanism that stops essential proteins being produced. Without these proteins to protect them, brain cells die off – leading to the symptoms of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The compound used in the study works by inhibiting an enzyme, known as PERK, which plays a key role in activating this defence mechanism. In mice with prion’s disease, it restored proteins to protect brain cells “stopping the disease in its tracks”, restoring some normal behaviours and preventing memory loss.

Although the compound also produced significant side effects in mice, including weight loss and mild diabetes, which was caused by damage to the pancreas, Professor Mallucci said it would “not be impossible” to develop a drug that protected the brain without the side effects and that work towards doing so had been “very promising”.

The breakthrough was greeted with excitement by scientists, who nonetheless cautioned that it remained a significant proof of principle and a possible basis for new treatments, rather than a guarantee of an Alzheimer’s cure in the near future.

 A Computer graphic of a vertical (coronal) slice through the brain of an Alzheimer patient.

Professor Roger Morris, acting head King’s College London’s department of chemistry, said: “This is the first convincing report that a small drug, of the type most conveniently turned into medicines, stops the progressive death of neurons in the brain as found, for instance, in Alzheimer’s disease. True, this study has been done in mice, not man; and it is prion disease, not Alzheimer’s, that has been cured.  However, there is considerable evidence that the way neurons die in both diseases is similar; and lessons learned in mice from prion disease have proved accurate guides to attenuate the progress of Alzheimer’s disease in patients.”

“From finding the first effective drug in a mouse, to having an effective medicine in man, usually takes decades to bring to fruition, in the very few cases in which it is successful. So, a cure for Alzheimer’s is not just around the corner. However, the critical point of principle made by Professor Mallucci’s study is that a drug, given orally, can arrest neuro-degeneration caused by amyloid in the brain.

”This finding, I suspect, will be judged by history as a turning point in the search for medicines to control and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.“

David Allsopp, professor of neuroscience at Lancaster University said that the study had thrown up ”very dramatic and highly encouraging results“, but said that more research was needed to overcome the “problematic side-effects” and to prove the technique would be effective against other disease like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

There are currently 800,000 people in the UK with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause. The number of people living with the condition is set to break one million by 2021, and represents an enormous health burden for the NHS and the social care system. Parkinson’s affect 1 in 500 people and around 127,000 people suffer from the condition.

Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Targeting a mechanism relevant to a number of neurodegenerative diseases could yield a single drug with wide-reaching benefits, but this compound is still at an early stage. It will be important for these findings to be repeated and tested in models of other neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. While Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, other diseases that cause dementia are also characterised by the abnormal build-up of proteins in the brain.

“If this process is also working overtime in these conditions too, targeting it could be a promising avenue for investigation. However, what is true in animals does not always hold true in people and the ultimate test for this compound will be to see whether it is safe and effective in people with these diseases.”

Irish greenhouse emissions rise raises fears over our stance on pollution


The 3% rise in agricultural emissions was driven by a surge in animal numbers, particularly cattle and sheep.

Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions rose in 2012 for the first time in six years, according to new research.

The statistics, released yesterday by the state-run Environmental Protection Agency, showed that carbon emissions jumped by 1pc to 57.92 million tonnes last year – breaking a downward trend that started more than half a decade ago.

The unexpected rise raises questions about Ireland’s commitments under the Kyoto Protocol – the international treaty that set binding obligations on industrialised countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Some 192 states have ratified it, including all UN members except Andorra, Canada, South Sudan and the US.

Kyoto research has found that most known reserves of fossil fuels will need to remain unburned to prevent temperatures rising more than 2pc above normal levels.

In Ireland, agriculture shouldered most of the blame last year, accounting for about a third of Irish CO2 emissions, the single largest contributor, followed by energy generation and transport.

The 3% rise in agricultural emissions was driven by a surge in animal numbers, particularly cattle and sheep.

This is partly the result of government plans to expand milk production, and will continue with the removal of milk quotas in 2015.

Sheep stock numbers alone rose by 9pc due to a favourable market.

The 6pc increase in emissions from energy generation was driven by an increase in the use of carbon-intensive coal, which has dropped in price, while the cement industry was mostly to blame for a rise in industrial emissions. CO2 levels generated by cement projects grew by a massive 18pc.

Emissions by some sectors still dropped, helping to mitigate results. Residential emissions dropped 6pc, compared with 2011 levels, after higher-than-average temperatures lowered demand for heat from households.

Transport emissions were also down, a fifth year of decline after significant growth in the run-up to the recession. Tightened consumer spending coupled with increases in motor tax and vehicle registration tax has reduced the number of cars on the roads in recent years. But transport emissions in 2012 were still a massive 113pc higher than in 1990.

Though Ireland should still meet its targets under the Kyoto Protocol, the EPA yesterday said the increase in emissions in 2012 “points to the significant challenges ahead”.

The agency is calling for greater efficiency on farms, less car travel and reduced energy use and energy loss in households.

Why do icicles have their ridges? Science has an answer


Sure, Ruffles have ridges, but why do icicles? Well, it turns out it’s all about the salt.

A team of scientists at the University of Toronto has discovered that the salt in water is responsible for the distinctive ripples seen in the ice stalactites that grow from eaves and on bridges during the winter.

Other contaminants as well probably contribute to the formation of the characteristic bumps, says senior author Stephen Morris, an experimental physicist at the University of Toronto.

“We didn’t expect this, but it turns out that very slightly dirty water — like Toronto tap water — produces nice ripply icicles,” says Morris of the research, which is published this week in New Journal of Physics.

“And pure water, or even just distilled water which is pretty pure but not super pure, produces smooth icicles with no ripples on them.”

His team was trying to figure out why icicles form with ripples.

It may be blue sky research, Morris acknowledges, though it’s completely serious. Figuring out how ice forms and why it takes the shapes it does is important for dealing with ice buildup on planes, ships and bridges, among other things.

“There’s a huge engineering field concerning ice buildup and this is directly connected to ice buildup,” Morris says.

“In fact, the icicle is just about the simplest kind of ice buildup you could ask for. And we don’t understand it. It’s surprising.”

The thinking has been that the ripples are the result of surface water tension effects on the thin water film that flows over the ice as it forms. Surface tension is what allows small insects to dance on the water of a lake, for instance.

It’s known that adding soap to water reduces the surface tension, so Morris’s group added soap to water to see if it affected the shape of icicles. But icicles made from soapy water didn’t form ripples.

As the work progressed, however, the team realized there was a difference between icicles made from distilled water and from regular water from the tap.

“Toronto tap water is very close to pure water and we didn’t believe initially that it would make any difference using tap water or really pure water. But it does,” Morris says.

The effect is noticeable in a picture of three icicles formed in the experiment — a smooth icicle made of distilled water, a moderately ridged one made with distilled water plus a little salt and a carbuncled icicle made from distilled water plus a lot of salt. The image can be seen on a Flickr page Morris set up.

He says it’s not clear why salt has this effect, but it’s worth studying. Morris does other research into why substances that are smooth develop bumps — roads, for instance — and he says the work is all linked.

“Everything is connected in physics. Even the most trivial phenomenon can turn out to be important,” he says.

“Crystal growth — and an icicle is a crystal — is a huge field in engineering.”