Tag Archives: Greenhouse gases

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 12th July 2016

Irish charities regulator to examine trusts set up towards tax avoidance claims

Stephen Donnelly tells the Dáil that debt buyer paid €250 corporation tax on €300m profit?


Social Democrat TDs Stephen Donnelly, Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall at the launch of the Social Democrats private member’s motion regarding regulation in the charity sector.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald will ask the charities regulator to examine the issue of charitable trusts, a number of which a TD claimed, had been set up specifically to avoid paying tax in Ireland.

Ms Fitzgerald was responding to Social Democrats TD Stephen Donnelly who highlighted the case of companies using charities to allow the firms avoid paying tax.

Mr Donnelly for the second time in a week in the Dáil had raised the case of Oaktree Capital, which deals in distressed mortgages and uses another firm to invest those funds.

He said Oaktree had paid €80 million for distressed mortgages in Ireland and expected to make a profit of between €300 million and €320 million.

Last year it had income of €14 million but paid corporation tax of just €250.

He said profits “should rightly be taxed in this country with the benefit going to the exchequer”.

He said the firm had three shares, each in the ownership of a charitable trust. “All three are controlled by one of Ireland’s top law firms, Matheson, ” he said.

He said charitable status should not be available to hedge funds, debt collectors, “to companies operating in the shadow banking sector in Ireland with the specific aim of avoiding paying taxes in this country”.

The Wicklow TD said it deprived the State of very valuable taxes “that it could be using to provide the public services that the real charities have stepped in to provide”.

Ms Fitzgerald said she would bring the issues to the charities regulator, adding that Mr Donnelly had raised relevant points about charitable status.

Anti-corruption agency

Both were speaking in a debate on a Social Democrats private member’s motion calling for the establishment of an anti-corruption agency, and for a critical review of the HSE’s 2014 revised framework for all organisations it funds.

The debate follows the controversies involving financial irregularities at the suicide charity Console and pay and pensions top-ups to senior executives at the St John of God organisation.

Introducing the debate, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said “we tend to deal with the scandal rather than prevent its occurrence in the first place.”

She said there was only a very small number of dysfunctional charities “but they bring the whole sector into disrepute”.

Ms Murphy said 50 per cent of the sector’s income came from statutory grants.

“One has to question the effectiveness of a lot of the funding and one has to question whether it would be better utilised in a more streamlined sector where it could be more accurately targeted.”

She pointed out that there were more than 200 suicide charities and as a result funding was fragmented and disjointed. “An amalgamation or an umbrella of those charities would be very welcome,” she believed and it was the same with housing and animal-welfare charities.

The Tánaiste said “the public must have confidence that the money they donate to charity will be managed and used correctly at all times. Anything less is a betrayal of the goodwill of thousands of people around the country and of the taxpayer.”

She said one of the key roles of the charities regulator was to safeguard the future of the charity sector and there had been significant progress.

Ms Fitzgerald said the regulator was engaged with more than 12,500 charitable organisations.

“It has received approximately 300 concerns raised against 132 entities, the majority of which were charities. These concerns ranged from issues to do with an organisation’s purpose to the quality of services provided.” The Minister said the number represented about 1 per cent of all charities.

Referring to the Social Democrats’ call for the establishment of an anti-corruption agency, Ms Fitzgerald acknowledged they were “motivated by a concern to enhance the way in which a broad range of wrongdoing is addressed”.

But she said it was not clear how the amalgamation of the functions of a wide range of agencies with widely varying functions would, of itself, enhance the capacity of the State to fight corruption.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said serious allegations of misappropriation of funds were matters for An Garda Síochána.

“Any misappropriation from funds of charities is theft and should be treated in same way as any other theft,” he insisted.

Mr O’Callaghan added that had the charities regulator been fully implemented when it was passed a number of years ago, inspectors would have been in place and the dysfunction that occurred might have been prevented.

Irish off-licences seek ban on below-cost selling of alcohol

National Off-Licence Association also calls for cut to excise duty


        Off=Licences                            Supermarkets

The umbrella group for off-licences is calling on Government to reduce excise duty and ban below cost selling of alcohol.

The umbrella group for off-licences is calling on Government to reduce excise duty and ban below-cost selling of alcohol.

In a pre-budget submission, the National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA) said Ireland had the highest excise on wine in the EU and the third highest tax on beer and spirits.

It claimed the budgetary hikes on excise made during the financial crisis have pushed many off-licences to the brink of commercial failure.

Retailers and suppliers have to raise and pay an extra €17,958 per 1,000 cases of wine in excise and Vat due to increases in Budget 2013 and 2014.

The sector’s difficulties are exacerbated by competition from mixed traders, mainly supermarkets, which now control about 80% of alcohol sales in the Republic.

The group claimed supermarkets typically absorb tax increases on popular products – by as much as 68% to keep alcohol prices low and maintain footfall.

The group, which represents about 300 businesses – employing 5,900 people in the Republic, wants the Government to reintroduce a ban on the below cost selling of alcohol.

Alcohol Bill

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which is before the Dáil, contains provisions for the establishment of minimum unit pricing measures to prevent below-cost selling.

A potential obstacle comes in the form of a recent European Court of Justice ruling, which found similar legislation in Scotland contravened EU law.

As part of the submission, NOffLA released the results of its 2016-member survey which indicated that 55% of off-licences would struggle to remain open if the current level of excise is increased in Budget 2017, jeopardising thousands of jobs.

Conversely, the survey suggested if the current level is excise is reduced 81% of respondents would re-invest in their business.

“We are calling on the new Government to take positive and decisive action that will safeguard jobs, encourage local investment and ultimately contribute to the development of local communities,” Noffla’s government affairs director, Evelyn Jones, said.

“A reversal of the punitive Budget 2014 excise increase on alcohol combined with a reduction of the tax on wine, which is significantly higher than that of cider and beer, would facilitate business and indeed consumer choice,” she said.

“Finally, we believe tighter controls on out-of-state online retailers should be introduced to promote higher levels of responsible retailing thus protecting the general public, alcohol consumers and retailers,” she added.

As much as 44% of working adults think their work impacts on their health?

Most say their workplace is supportive of actions to improve their health

Workplace Poll chart   

A new NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll finds that more than four in ten ie. 4 in 10 of working adults (44%) say their current job has an impact on their overall health, and one in four (28%) say that impact is positive.

However, in the survey of more than 1,600 workers in the U.S., one in six workers (16%) report that their current job has a negative impact on their health. Workers most likely to say their job has a negative impact on their overall health include those with disabilities (35%), those in dangerous jobs (27%), those in low-paying jobs (26%), those working 50+ hours per week (25%), and those working in the retail sector (26%).

A number of working adults also report that their job has a negative impact on their levels of stress (43%), eating habits (28%), sleeping habits (27%), and weight (22%). “The takeaway here is that job number one for U.S. employers is to reduce stress in the workplace,” said Robert J. Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who directed the survey.

Note: View the soon to be posted on-demand recording of Harvard Chan School’s July 11, 2016 Forum webcast, Health in the American Workplace: Are We Doing Enough?, for more perspectives on the topic: https://theforum.sph.harvard.edu/events/health-in-the-american-workplace-are-we-doing-enough/

A summer-long series on the topic began airing July 11, 2016 on NPR.

View the complete poll findings.

The key Findings are:-

Figure 1. Do you think your current job is good or bad for your [INSERT ITEM], or does it not have an impact one way or another?

Responses: Stress Level: bad impact, 43%, no impact, 39%, good impact, 16%;

Eating Habits: bad impact, 28%, no impact, 56%, good impact, 15%;

Sleeping Habits: bad impact, 27%, no impact, 55%, good impact, 17%;

Weight: bad impact, 22%, no impact, 57%, good impact, 19%

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% because Don’t Know/Refused responses are not shown.

Chemicals and contaminants top list of biggest health concerns in the workplace

About one in five working adults (22%) say that something at their job may be harmful to their health, including 43% of construction or outdoor workers and 34% of workers in medical jobs.

Among workers with any health concerns about their workplace, the most frequently cited health concerns mentioned are chemicals and other contaminants (30%), unhealthy air (13%), accidents or injuries (12%), and stress (11%).

About one in four workers rate their workplace as fair or poor in providing a healthy work environment; about half are offered wellness or health improvement programs

About one in four workers (24%) rate their workplace as only fair or poor in providing a healthy work environment; however, 34% give their workplace a rating of excellent. About half (51%) say their workplace offers any formal wellness or health improvement programs to help keep themselves healthy.

“Every year, U.S. businesses lose more than $225 billion because of sick and absent workers,” said Robert Wood Johnson President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. “But I believe that business drives culture change and with them on board we can succeed in building a Culture of Health in America. It’s not a hard connection to make. In many companies as much as 50 percent of profits are eaten up by health care costs.”

Nearly half of all workers (45%) rate their workplace as only fair or poor in providing healthy food options. Over half of workers in factory or manufacturing jobs (55%), medical jobs (52%), retail outlets (52%), and construction or outdoor jobs (51%) give their workplace a fair or poor rating at providing healthy food options.

A majority of ‘workaholics’ say they work longer hours because it is important to their career; half say they enjoy working longer hours.

About one in five working adults (19%) say they work 50 or more hours per week in their main job; these workers are called ‘workaholics’ in this study. When given a list of possible reasons why they work 50+ hours per week, a majority of these workers (56%) say they do so because it’s important for their career to work longer hours, 50% say they enjoy doing so, and just 37% say they do it because they need the money.

A majority of working adults say they still go to work when they are sick

A majority (55%) of working adults say they still go to work always or most of the time when they have a cold or the flu, including more than half (60%) of those who work in medical jobs and half (50%) of restaurant workers.

Types of workers who are most likely to still go to work always or most of the time when they are sick include those working 50+ hours per week in their main job (70%), those working two or more jobs (68%), workers in low-paying jobs (65%), and younger workers ages 18-29 (60%).

Low-wage workers often face worse conditions than high-wage workers.

Working adults in self-reported low-paying jobs often report worse working conditions than those in high-paying jobs. For instance, more than four in ten workers in low-paying jobs report facing potentially dangerous situations at work (45% vs. 33% in high-paying jobs), and almost two-thirds (65% vs. 48% in high-paying jobs) say they still go to work always or most of the time when they are sick.

One in four workers in low-paying jobs (26%) say their job has a negative impact on their overall health, compared to just 14% of those in high-paying jobs. “In an era of concern about low-wage workers, it’s clear they face more negative health impacts from their jobs compared to those who are paid substantially more,” said Blendon.

Methodology of report?

This poll is part of an ongoing series of surveys developed by researchers at the Harvard Opinion Research Program (HORP) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NPR. The research team consists of the following members at each institution.

  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Robert J. Blendon, Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis and Executive Director of HORP; John M. Benson, Research Scientist and Managing Director of HORP; Justin M. Sayde, Administrative and Research Manager; and Mary T. Gorski, Research Fellow.
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Fred Mann, Vice President, Communications; Carolyn Miller, Senior Program Officer, Research and Evaluation; and Joe Costello, Director of Marketing.
  • NPR: Anne Gudenkauf, Senior Supervising Editor, Science Desk; and Joe Neel, Deputy Senior Supervising Editor, Science Desk.

Interviews were conducted by SSRS of Media (PA) via telephone (including both landline and cell phone) using random-digit dialing, January 6 – February 7, 2016, among a nationally representative probability sample of 1,601 workers in the U.S. In this survey, “workers” are defined as adults working full- or part-time who are either employers or work for someone else in their main job (not self-employed), and who work for 20 hours or more hours per week in their main job. The interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. The margin of error for total respondents is +/- 2.9 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Possible sources of non-sampling error include non-response bias, as well as question wording and ordering effects. Non-response in telephone surveys produces some known biases in survey-derived estimates because participation tends to vary for different subgroups of the population. To compensate for these known biases and for variations in probability of selection within and across households, sample data are weighted by cell phone/landline use and demographics (sex, age, race/ethnicity, education, and number of adults in household) to reflect the true population. Other techniques, including random-digit dialing, replicate subsamples, and systematic respondent selection within households, are used to ensure that the sample is representative.

People with disabilities have right to a proper professional service,

Says Junior Minister McGrath


The Minister of State for Disabilities Finian McGrath has said that people with disabilities have a right to “proper professional service”.

His comments come after HSE took control of three centres run by the Irish Society for Autism.

A total of 47 adult residents with autism were living in the three farm-based centres at Cluain Farm in Westmeath, Dunfirth Farm in Kildare, and Sarshill House in Co Wexford

“We need to be able to ensure that these people get a proper, professional service,” said Mr McGrath.

“And we also need to change the mindset as well in relation to the whole idea of people with disabilities in charities – as far as I’m concerned, people with disabilities have rights [including] their right to proper services.”

Investigations by the healthcare watchdog HIQA last year revealed that drugs were used to chemically restrain patients, while others left the premises unnoticed or engaged in self-harm.

The charity admitted it has been experiencing “some difficulty in achieving regulation with HIQA”.

It added: “These have been very challenging times for all concerned including our residents and staff, many of whom have been with us for a long time.”

Despite initial objections to two of the takeovers, which were later dropped, the charity said: “We are a small organisation and we believe that, in the long term, this decision is in the best interest of our residents.”

A new MRI technique shows what drinking water does for your appetite, stomach and brain?


Stomach MRI images combined with functional fMRI of the brain activity have provided scientists new insight into how the brain listens to the stomach during eating. Researchers show — for the first time — real time data of the brain, the stomach, and people’s feelings of satiety measured simultaneously during a meal.

Activation in the insula is increased when the stomach is distended more.

Stomach MRI images combined with functional fMRI of the brain activity have provided scientists new insight into how the brain listens to the stomach during eating. Research from Wageningen University in the Netherlands shows and for the first time an real time data of the brain, the stomach, and people’s feelings of satiety measured simultaneously during a meal, in a study to be reported this week at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior, held in Porto, Portugal.

The researchers collected data from 19 participants during two separate sessions with different consumption procedures and found that a simple change like drinking more water can alter messages from the stomach interpreted as fullness by the brain. This new research approach can be used to investigate the interplay between satiety feelings, volume of the stomach and activity in the brain.

In the experiment, participants drank a milk-shake on an empty stomach, which was followed by a small (50 mL) or large glass of water (350 mL). MRI images were used to see how the different amounts of water affected stretching of the stomach: the large glass of water doubled the stomach content compared to the small glass. Together with this larger volume subjects reported to have less hunger and felt fuller.

This novel approach — combining information obtained simultaneously from MRI images of the stomach, feelings reported by the subjects, and brain scans — can offer new insights which would otherwise have been unknown, for example that activation in a brain area called the mid-temporal gyrus seems is in some way influenced by the increased water load in this experiment. The Wageningen University scientists developed the combined MRI method as part of the European Nudge-it research project, which seeks to discover simple changes that promote healthier eating. They will use it to search for a brain signature that leads people to decide to stop eating, to determine how strategies like water with a meal can be effective at feeling fuller sooner.

“Combining these types of measurements is difficult, because MRI scanners are usually set-up to perform only one type of scan. We’ve been able to very quickly switch the scanner from one functionality to another to do this type of research” says Guido Camps, lead author of the study. “In conclusion, we’ve found that simply adding water increases stomach distension, curbs appetite in the short term and increases regional brain activity.”

Global warming is shifting the Earth’s clouds, A new study shows

The warming of the planet over the past few decades has shifted a key band of clouds poleward and increased the heights of clouds tops 


Clouds are a key component of the Earth’s climate system.

The reaction of clouds to a warming atmosphere has been one of the major sources of uncertainty in estimating exactly how much the world will heat up from the accumulation of greenhouse gases, as some changes would enhance warming, while others would counteract it.

The study, detailed Monday in the journal Nature, overcomes problems with the satellite record and shows that observations support projections from climate models. But the work is only a first step in understanding the relationship between climate change and clouds, with many uncertainties still to untangle, scientists not involved with the research said.

While clouds are a key component of the climate system, helping to regulate theplanet’s temperature, their small scale makes them difficult to accurately represent in climate models.

Using satellite observations to look for trends is also problematic because they come solely from weather satellites, which aren’t geared to producing consistent, long-term records. In addition, some satellites have been replaced over time, have changed orbit, or seen degradation of their sensors, introducing false trends.

Joel Norris of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and his colleagues had previously figured out a way to remove those artifacts in the satellite data to reveal actual trends since the early 1980s. They focused on looking for those patterns that showed up in different climate models and that our physical understanding of the atmosphere supports.

Namely, the observations showed that the main area of storm tracks in the middle latitudes of both hemispheres shifted poleward, expanding the area of dryness in the subtropics, and that the height of the highest cloud tops had increased.

Such changes reinforce global warming: There is less solar radiation at the high latitudes near the poles, so as clouds shift that way, they have less radiation to reflect back to space. High cloud tops mean that more of the radiation that is absorbed and re-emitted by Earth’s surface is trapped by the clouds (akin to the greenhouse effect).

To investigate whether these changes in cloud patterns could be chalked up to the natural variation of the climate system, Norris and his team compared climate models that included external influences like rising greenhouse gases and volcanic eruptions with those that did not. The former showed the same trends as the observations, while the latter didn’t.

“The pattern of cloud change we see is the pattern associated with global warming,” Norris said.

Kate Marvel, a climate researcher with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, agreed but cautioned that the cloud shifts are also consistent with what would be expected during recovery from major volcano eruptions, of which there were two at the beginning of the study period.

“More work is needed to tease out the relative roles of greenhouse gas emissions and volcanic eruptions,” she said in an email.

Norris plans to tackle this question in future work, as well estimating exactly how much clouds have changed.

The study also doesn’t deal with some of the cloud changes that are expected to be most important, namely those to low clouds in the subtropics, Bjorn Stevens, of the Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology, said in an email. Stevens is the lead author of the chapter on clouds and aerosols in the most recentIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

Monday’s study is a step toward better understanding how clouds will change along with the climate, and lays bare the limitations of the satellite record and the need for better long-term observations, said Stevens, who was not involved with the research.

“This study reminds us how poorly prepared we are for detecting signals that might portend more extreme (both large and small) climate changes than are presently anticipated,” he said.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 23rd December 2013

€13m spent on Gathering yields a revenue of €170m for Irish economy


TOURISM Minister Leo Varadkar has said the €170m in revenue from the €13m outlay for The Gathering was a good return, but denied it was a “shakedown” of tourists.

The Gathering promotion brought 275,000 extra visitors to Ireland this year

Following on from the success, a week-long €585,000 campaign aimed at getting American tourists to visit Ireland next year has been launched.

Mr Varadkar said he was confident that next year would be another good one for tourism judging by early indications from bookings at tour operators and hotels.

Airlines are also putting on extra services.

SCAM: The enormous success of the drive to encourage the Irish diaspora to come home came despite actor Gabriel Byrne dismissing the promotion as “a scam to shake-down the diaspora for money”.

His comments sparked controversy, with President Michael D Higgins subsequently stepping in to defend him.

Byrne later said his comments may have been “a bit strong”.

Speaking on RTE radio, Mr Varadkar said: “It wasn’t a shake-down. We never pretended that it wasn’t about tourism.

“Tourism was key to this and it did bring in around €170m in revenue for an investment of €13m and that was a pretty good return on that investment.”

He added that there are 20,000 more people working in tourism than two years ago.

The Gathering is being credited with delivering record visitor numbers across Ireland’s main tourist attractions including the Cliffs of Moher, the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Zoo, Fota Wildlife Park, Blarney Castle, the Lakes of Killarney and the Rock of Cashel.

Some attractions reported unprecedented visitor numbers, with several saying they were up almost 19pc.

A new promotion designed by Tourism Ireland involves an extensive TV advertising campaign which will be seen by millions of Americans.

It has been scheduled to begin on Christmas Day and run until New Year’s Eve.

The tourism agency has paid for ads to appear on a number of popular stations, including National Geographic and Ovation.

Ads have also been taken out on TV networks in New York, Boston and Chicago – all important cities for Irish tourism.

The campaign includes a brand new 30-second ad for the coastal attraction, the Wild Atlantic Way.

AUDIENCES: It will air for the first time during the Michael Buble Special on Christmas Night.

It will also be seen during other prime-time shows with large audiences over the holiday period, including various New Year’s Eve countdown programmes.

The US accounts for 40 million of the 70 million people worldwide who claim Irish ancestry.

Taken across all of Ireland’s overseas visitor markets, The Gathering helped drive overall tourist numbers up this year by 7.3pc (to October).

We’ll drink enough to fill 24 Olympic swimming pools this Christmas

A survey tells us


Reading this is enough to give you a hangover.

The Irish public will consume enough alcohol over Christmas to fill over 24 Olympic size swimming pools.

And we will drink enough wine to make up over 432 ice rinks.

When it comes to food we will make our way through enough chocolate, the calories of which if converted to energy, would generate electricity to power 860,000 houses on Christmas Day.

That’s according to a new survey from waste regulation company Repak, who are urging people to think green over the festive period.

Repak predicts that each household will generate around 74,000 tons of used |packaging in total this Christmas. This includes nearly five million boxes of chocolate and 48 million beer bottles – enough beer bottles to get from Dublin to Lapland and back over five times.

With pubs and clubs as well as house parties a must for many people catching up with friends over Christmas, over 22 million wine bottles and 60 million litres of alcohol will be polished off.

Consumers: We will get through over 28,000 tons of cardboard and paper packaging – enough to fill 647 articulated trucks, which placed end to end would stretch over 6.6 miles.

Irish consumers will spend on average €894 this Christmas, with an average of €485 spent on gifts, €259 spent on food and €150 spent on socialising.

With such an increase in consumption, Repak says that being conscious of waste disposal is now more important than ever.

The company is hoping to collect and recycle between 55 to 60pc of the household used packaging generated over the Christmas holidays

This equals 44,000 tons of recycled packaging in total.

With excessive amounts of food and drink to be consumed over the next few weeks, Repak is urging everyone to be more thoughtful about how they dispose of bottles, packaging and waste.

The waste disposal company says that Ireland has come along way since 2001 when we were only recycling 31,000 tons of used household packaging in a full year.

‘Man flu’ the truth that women don’t want to hear


New study suggests that men may actually suffer more when they have influenza because high levels of testosterone can weaken immune response

For years women have cried “man flu” when men make a fuss over a few sniffles.

But a new study suggests that men may actually suffer more when they are struck down with flu – because high levels of testosterone can weaken their immune response.

The study by Stanford University School of Medicine, examined the reactions of men and women to vaccination against flu.

It found women generally had a stronger antibody response to the jab than men, giving them better protection against the virus.

Men with lower testosterone levels also had a better immune response, more or less equivalent to that of women.

It has long been suggested that men might be more susceptible to bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infection than women are.

The study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found women had higher blood levels of signaling proteins that immune cells pass back and forth, when the body is under threat.

Previous research has found that testosterone has anti-inflammatory properties, suggesting a possible interaction between the male sex hormone and immune response.

Professor of microbiology and immunology Mark Davis said: “This is the first study to show an explicit correlation between testosterone levels, gene expression and immune responsiveness in humans.

“It could be food for thought to all the testosterone-supplement takers out there.”

Scientists said they were left perplexed as why evolution would designed a hormone that enhances classic male sexual characteristics – such as muscle strength, beard growth and risk-taking propensity – yet left them with a weaker immune system.

Previous studies have found that while women may accuse men of exaggerating when they have flu, females who are more likely to admit to having sniffles and sneezes.

The research, carried out by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine last winter, shows that women are are 16 per cent more likely to say they are ill.

Twins born 87 days apart to celebrate first ‘real’ Christmas


A happy family: Chris and Maria with their children Jack, Olivia and twins Amy and Katie

THE twins born 87 days apart are preparing to spend their first Christmas together.

The proud parents of miracle babies Amy and Katie Jones-Elliott cannot wait to enjoy their “first real Christmas” with their precious daughters.

The sisters made international headlines last summer when they were born almost three months apart.

Amy arrived 24 weeks before she was due on June 1, 2012, weighing just 1lb 3oz.

Katie arrived on August 27, after weeks of round the clock supervision in Waterford Regional Hospital, at a healthier 5lb 10oz.

Their mother Maria said that she is excited about this Christmas, as last year they had their Kilkenny home on “lockdown”.

“Last year we had the place on total lockdown because they might have gotten sick, so I don’t remember a lot about it believe or not,” Maria told the Herald.

The family were then forced to protect their little girls from any risk of infection, as Amy was born so early.

“It was just ourselves here last Christmas. My husband was on nights, so he was in bed, so it was just ourselves here.

UNDERSTAND: “This year, we are going to have our dinner by ourselves, but then we will go and visit their grandparents,” Maria said.

The twins are now almost 19 and 16 months old, and have older siblings Olivia (14) and Jack (12). They made their first visit to Santa last week.

Their mother feels they are still too young to understand fully what is going on, but that they enjoy saying “ho, ho, ho”.

“They are getting a learning activity centre from Santa. Amy was recently diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder, so this will help with her hand-eye coordination,” she added.

The twins are now beginning to develop their own strong personalities, and it seems that Katie is the confident one.

“They know when the other is in a bad mood or whatever, but at the same time, if Amy has something nice in her hand – like a biscuit or something – Katie has no problem taking it off of her.”

Maria is now encouraging parents of premature babies to visit the Foundation of Irish Premature Babies website, as she feels it has lots of useful support and advice for parents.

“It is a very hard time of year for parents if they have a premature baby in the hospital. It’s a very good website for support.”

Irish people need more Engagement with sport for health’s sake


Next week will bring the New Year and many people’s minds will turn to new possibilities. Hopefully, last week’s publication of a major report commissioned by the Irish Sports Council will still be echoing after the Christmas festivities and will encourage more people to think again about the well-proven benefits of taking exercise.

At the level of personal health, regular moderate exercise prevents the development of cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression and dementia.

And for those with chronic illness, regular exercise can have both a treatment and secondary preventive role. In addition, structured participation in sport offers a broad range of societal benefits.

The publication of the largest study of participation in sport and exercise ever conducted in Ireland provides valuable information to help inform policy. Keeping Them in the Game provides evidence from three large, nationally representative surveys covering all age-groups from primary school children to older adults.

In order to improve participation levels, either more children and young adults must become involved in sport or the level of dropout from regular exercise among adults must be reversed.

This latest research suggests remedial action be focused on post primary schoolchildren and adults. It found that second level students participate less in exam years and this has a lasting effect on whether they are active later in life.

The research also found adult activity is linked with life events; issues such as work commitments and family responsibilities force sporting activity down many adults list of priorities. And a marked deprivation factor emerged with those in lower socio-economic groups less likely to re-engage with sports as adults.

The report makes a number of policy recommendations, including a refocusing of public money towards formal participation programmes with less spent on sports facilities.These programmes should be designed to exploit social networks as well as tackling time constraints.

The Irish Sports Council along with the Ministers for Health, Sport and Children must now come together to ensure these valuable scientifically backed recommendations are implemented.

In the meantime, as a much more modest personal initiative, people might consider participating over the coming days in the Goal mile, an event which has become part of the Irish Christmas over more than three decades. There are runs in more than 100 locations in Ireland and the event has spread abroad as far as Melbourne.

A s well as enjoying the camaraderie and contributing to a very good cause, the benefits of exercise are thrown in too.

Greenhouse gases, not Sun, the key driver of climate change


Variations in heat from the Sun have not strongly influenced climate change, a new study shows, contradicting the belief that long warm and cold periods in the Earth’s dynamic past were caused by solar activity. 

Research examining the causes of climate change in the northern hemisphere over the past 1000 years has shown that until the year 1800, the key driver of periodic changes in climate was volcanic eruptions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Until now, the influence of the Sun on past climate has been poorly understood,” Dr Andrew Schurer, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said.

“We hope that our new discoveries will help improve our understanding of how temperatures have changed over the past few centuries, and improve predictions for how they might develop in future,” said Schurer.

News Ireland daily news BLOG

Thursday 12th December 2013

Three quarters of Irish mortgages in arrears are still not restructured


Data also shows marginal rise in buy-to-let mortgages slipping into arrears

The most popular mortgage restructure methods for lenders in difficulty include a term extension of a mortgage, going interest only, and arrears capitalisation.

An additional 3,855 residential mortgage accounts were restructured in October, while the number of mortgages in arrears of more than 90 days fell by 302 accounts during th emonth, the Department of Finance said today. However, more than three quarters (75%) of mortgages in arrears of more than 90 days, have still not been restructured.

Based on information from the six main banks – AIB, Bank of Ireland, PTSB, ACC, KBC Ireland and Ulster Bank –engagement between consumers and lenders has led to 49,032 permanent mortgage restructures, an increase of 3,855 accounts in October.

Total mortgage accounts in arrears (all arrears 1 day past due) fell during October by 727 accounts, while the number of mortgage accounts in arrears of greater than 90 days decreased from 81,156 to 80,854, a drop of 302 accounts.

Temporary restructures continue to fall, “indicating a move towards a greater utilisation of permanent restructures” the Department said.

The most popular mortgage restructure methods involve a term extension of a mortgage (14,804 accounts); interest only (13,682); and arrears capitalisation (13,093).

With regards to buy-to-let (BTL) mortgages, among the six main banks total mortgage accounts in arrears past one day increased marginally this month, up from 34,192 to 34,237. There was also a slight increase in the number of mortgage accounts in arrears greater than 90 days, up to 26,489.

For BTL mortgages the number of permanent restructures increased by 214 on September, up to 10,020, while restructures of accounts in arrears greater than 90 days, increased marginally, up to 5,391. The predominant restructure type for BTL arrears is temporary interest only, with 8,004 accounts in this category, followed by arrears capitalisation (3,481).

Meanwhile a survey from PIBA, the country’s largest group of financial brokers and covering the third quarter of 2013, showed that interest only arrangements remain the most prevalent option for lenders in coming to an arrangement with mortgage holders, at over 65 per cent. The second most popular resolution was a split mortgage (37.7%), followed by repayment break (15.9%) and debt forgiveness (14.5%).

Rachel Doyle, chief operations officer at PIBA, said that the situation is “still far from desirable”.

“We are a long way off what is required. Our brokers are reporting that the interest only arrangements favoured by lenders are not long term solutions for many of those in difficulty. We need to see lenders facing up to the reality that write downs of part of the borrowings is the only suitable arrangement for many who will never be in a position to repay in full,” she said.

If breast cancer spreads, surgery does not help


Surgery and radiotherapy do not necessarily ensure longer survival for women with Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) — cancer that has spread to other vital organs in the body.

Chemotherapy and hormonal treatment can achieve almost similar benefits, a landmark study by the Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH) has established.

The study presented in the ongoing San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in US could alter the way MBC is managed and save many patients from needless surgery or exposure to radiation.

It also solves the dilemma most cancer surgeons face when presented with MBC. In 5-20% of breast cancer patients, the cancer has already attacked other vital organs by the time of their first visit to a doctor. In India, where there’s a dearth of preventive screening programmes, a significant majority of women get diagnosed for breast cancer long after the cancer has spread.

The trial involving 350 women was carried out between February 2005 and May 2013, where they were divided into two groups. One group had 173 women who underwent surgery and radiotherapy while another group of 177 women were spared these. Both groups had undergone six successful rounds of chemotherapy before their recruitment into the trial. Women who underwent surgery had the primary breast tumour, where the cancer had originated, and lymph nodes removed, followed by several weeks of radiation.

The average survival rate for both groups was found to be between 18 to 20 months. “We found there was no difference in overall survival between those who received loco-regional treatment (surgery and radiation) and those who did not,” said Dr Rajendra Badwe, director of TMH in a statement.

“A lot of oncologists who believe in conventional wisdom and don’t provide loco-regional treatment will feel a lot more comfortable looking at the results,” he added. There was an insignificant 7% excess death rate noted in patients who underwent surgery and radiotherapy.

The findings could change the way MBC is handled the world over. At least 30-50% of patients are given the surgical option. “The efficacy of surgery and radiation was always a debated area as most studies were retrospective and gave conflicting results,” said Dr Sudeep Gupta, TMH professor of medical oncology.

Tata Hospital had stopped operating on MBC patients long ago. “Many more women would be spared the anxiety of undergoing a breast removal surgery,” Gupta added.

Ashwini Budrukkar from the hospital’s department of radiation oncology said in cases where patients are advised surgery and radiation the patients easily spend around 2-3 months for surgery and radiation sessions. “We will not only be saving resources but patients too will be relieved of a financial burden,” she said.

Badwe added that treatment options like surgery and radiotherapy should be reserved for palliative reasons.

A study shows Ireland’s older population is set to double over next 20 years


The older population will almost double over the next two decades, new figures have shown.

Ireland’s older population will almost double over the next two decades, new figures have shown.

As life expectancy rates rise with the average woman predicted to live until 87 and the average man until 83 come 2031, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) predicted the population of Dublin alone could rocket by between 96,000 and 286,000.

The projections were based on birth and death levels across the country’s eight regional authorities and the potential of people moving from one area to another between 2016 and 2031.

“The report is not an attempt to predict the future, but rather presents how the population of the various regions will evolve under different scenarios by making assumptions about future trends in migration, both internal and external, and fertility,” the CSO said.

The Greater Dublin population, made up of the capital and the Mid-East regions, is projected to have risen by between 174,000 and 401,000 in 18 years’ time.

This could see an annual population increase in Greater Dublin of up to 20,100 each year.

One scenario considered by the CSO would see the number of over-65s almost double across every region between 2016 and 2031.

The most marked increase would occur in the Mid-East with a hike in pensioners of 136.5%.

The number of over-65s in the Midland region is expected to increase by 95.1%.

Meanwhile, on a national level, men are expected to live an average four and a half years longer by 2031 than they were in 2011, and women by over three and a half years.

As people move from one region to another, some areas will see a population rise that is disproportionate with births.

For example, while the Border region has projected births of 123,000, its population will increase by just 18,000, and while the West has projected births of 97,000, its population is likely to rise by just 15,000.

Elsewhere, one scenario envisaged by the CSO will see the number of young people aged from birth to 14 increasing in the Mid-East by 4.7% between 2011 and 2031, while all other regions will experience a decrease in the population of this age group.

Race is on for recruitment of 300 new Garda jobs


More than 1,000 people applied for up to 300 new Garda posts in the first few hours after they were advertised

More than 1,000 people have already applied for up to 300 new Garda posts in the force’s first recruitment in five years.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he expects 20,000 men and women to apply to be one of the new recruits who will begin entering the Garda College in the middle of next year.

They will undergo eight months of training in Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary, before being assigned to Garda stations with full policing powers.

Mr Shatter said it was an important day for the force.

“It is in the public interest and in the interest of the force itself that new members are recruited to bring their personal skills and insights and a fresh dynamic to the force in the context of it undertaking its very important duties,” he said.

Mr Shatter said 1,000 applications have already been received since the posts went live on publicjobs.ie this morning.

It is the first time trainee gardai have entered Templemore since May 2009, before the recruitment moratorium was put in place.

The new course will cut the time trainees spend in the Garda college to 32 weeks.

When moved to stations they will also undergo a further 72 weeks of on the job learning – bringing force levels back to over 13,000. After two years they will be awarded a BA in Applied Policing.

Mr Shatter said despite the reduction in Garda force numbers because of the financial difficulties in the state, it was important to acknowledge a cut in most crime areas over the last two years.

“Their specialised and targeted approach to a variety of forms of crime has resulted in significant arrests and the gardai securing significant convictions in our courts of those engaged in serious crime,” he said.

“I want to congratulate all members of the force for what they have achieved through their hard work, dedication and expertise.”

The announcement was made as 93 Garda reserves – 71 men and 22 women including Irish, Ukranian and Polish nationals – graduated in Templemore.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said he expects many of the reserves to apply for the new posts, which will boost morale.

There are currently 1,290 Garda reserves, including 1,107 fully attested and 183 in training.

“I think it’s a natural assumption to make that the reserves will have a certain advantage,” he said.

“After all they have received initial training here, they have been working with colleagues on the force.

“I think any interview board will take that in to account when dealing with these people.”

Deputy Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan watched on proudly as her son Ciaran McGowan graduated as a reserve.

The 25-year-old photographer, whose father is Detective Superintendent Jim McGowan, will be based at Clontarf Garda Station.

His mother said she will worry about him the same the same way she worries for all the men and women in the force.

“I think he would love to be one, he would love to join the full time guards,” she said.

“My ambition was always that they would do what they want to do.”

Deputy Commissioner O’Sullivan joined An Garda Siochana in 1981 and is the most senior female in the force.

“It’s a great organisation,” she said.

“It has got much more dynamic, it is much more diverse as well, there is much more of a national and international dimension to it.

“We have always been lucky to have the support of the community but that is one of the most important things we do.”

Baby mangabey joins Dublin Zoo family

White-crowned mangabeys  

The baby is the third addition to Tema and Danso’s family.

Parents Tema and Danso and the staff at Dublin Zoo are celebrating the birth of a female white-crowned mangabey.

The baby was born on November 11 and weighs 400g.

Yet-to-be-named, she is the third addition to Tema and Danso’s family.

Helen Clarke-Bennet, Team Leader at the African Plains, said: “We are very proud of the new mangabey arrival at Dublin Zoo. This is Tema’s third baby and she is a fantastic mum. She takes everything in her stride and Danso is a very protective dad.

“The new arrival will stay close to her mother for about a year but will eventually become more independent.”

Dublin Zoo says: “White-crowned mangabeys are listed as endangered in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list because their population is decreasing rapidly.

“Dublin Zoo is one of 12 zoos in Europe participating in a breeding programme and has a very successful breeding record, with 18 white-crowned mangabeys born at the Zoo in the last 10 years.”

Record cold temperature and growing ice chills towards global warming growing rapidly


These days the big news from Antarctica is the -135.8 degrees Fahrenheit on the planet recorded record cold temperature is the lowest temperature.

It seems to be going unreported , what Antarktikarek cold on the southern ice sheet faster than account for the theory of Global Warming is growing at a rapid pace.

Around Antarctic sea ice in November 17,160,000 square kilometers ( 6.63 million square miles ) average. The average term of içinuz 16:30 November 1981 2010 million square kilometers ( 6.29 million square miles) is . All the arguments seem to camp Climate Change ” Whatever , it still is evidence of Global Warming . ”

Conflicting evidence against the global emerging as record cold temperatures -can you , as proving the hypothesis eşitayn sited really can be called science ? Ice in these events stridently Global Warming as “proof” would be sited ( for the past dozen or more years had yapılıyortahm days ) quickly reduce the Antarktika’daki low temperatures creep upward increasingly been seen . Climate change their supporters will agree contradictory claims with any evidence or event do you have ?

Recorded in recent years ısınmanınmutlak about the lack questioned , Climate Change camp quietly , reluctantly , one will confess “pause . ” A pause they know warming, this lack just a short one heck of a show is going on any given day , going on now . In doğruiklimgeçmiş they had never , been able to predict what is going to do.

” Greenhouse gases ” considering the economy paralysis had no interest seems to countries like China by the record levels of the atmosphere is pumped to the time of this “pause” , today, is currently taking place ” scientific consensus . ” Maybe, in the Antarctic ice growing and record cold cold Chinese global It is theorized caused warming is a scam .
Works Both Ways ‘ Scientists’ Consensus ‘

Geophysical Review Letters , Science and Nature magazine found in August as a scientific literature analysis , more than 500 science adamımevcut anthropogenic ( man-made) Global Warming theory suggests that conflicting articles have been published . Many of the articles more than a dozen 1500 -year cycle ” Warmings back” is responsible for the connection to the last Ice Age has generated evidence . Whatever man , which had no effect on . History has always been Warmings , just bağlısonu modern warming is primarily to fluctuations of solar radiation much more reasonable.

“These data and science adamlarınınliste a scientific consensus ‘ cause you artışlarının global temperatures since 1850 as a procession of people are blaming the recent allegations ,” Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Dennis Avery, he said. ” All of these researchers would describe themselves as global warming skeptics not ,” Avery said, “but there is no çalışmalarındakanıt to see all their own . ”

Peer review process itself , has come under a lot of scrutiny lately . Traditionally, personal friendships or philosophical differences that may be caused to eliminate potential bias , an editor will review and explanation of yaşıtlarınamakal , then send you want to remove an author’s name . A “double- blind ” peer review process, kept everyone honest .

Unfortunately, billions of dollars in research money to influence policy trillions of dollars in ” climate science ” today’s politically charged , grants hungry world, peer review has become something less than honest . No longer applied ” double-blind ” There is just . Great climate magazine editors all views of yüzdenyorumcu ” in crowd ” rubber stamp , for a life gönderilenbelg they üzerindeyazar names of other newspapers have taken leaving .

This system also ” in crowd ” can be prepared from the appropriate digestion down until the global warming evidence against keeping can work for : Rochester’s David Douglass, University of Climatology International Journal a paper offered time , indicating that a large at high altitudes warm tropical ” enhanced greenhouse effect ” alleged changes hangianaht factor climate only (thus ” global warming ” foretoldıpcc computer models , however, unequivocally , is proving not editördoğr players counterpoint can write much pressure kaldırdıgerçek observed data ) with interest .

Global warming “evidence” seems to overwhelm the data Bütüngözlen . Sea levels increased significantly failed. Storms verilenkorkunç warnings about the dangers of global warming completely contradicts the more frequent and there is light . In fact, only 13 named storms formed in 2013 içinatlantik , only two of them became hurricanes .

Tropical Storm Andreadüny about 70 percent of the post- 1850 warming occurred before 1940, was the only one to make landfall in the United States . This yüzdenpost – WW2 build industry veküresel a safe bet that the economy has nothing to do with it. More importantly , the total net post -1940 “warm up” totals only a tiny 0.2 degrees C

Fifteen years ago , nobody would have dared Global Warming camp a ” growing ice sheet ” or in Antarctica for 2013 ” record cold ” weather . Loudly questioned the sanity of someone saying these things , or at least could have gotten their own identity . Why book with all of these things together have been expected to believe now ?

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.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 23rd September 2013

Eamon Gilmore invites Bono to his office to talk about Irish tax


Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has invited Bono to drop into his constituency office if he wants to discuss the Government’s tax policy.

The U2 frontman has given his most comprehensive defence of the band’s controversial decision to move their business overseas, to legitimately avoid paying tax.

Bono says the band’s stance is in line with the government policy on “tax competitiveness”.

As he lives in Killiney, Bono is a constituent of Mr Gilmore’s in Dun Laoghaire.

When asked if he agreed with his constituent’s views on where his company pays its tax, Mr Gilmore ducked the question.

But he did appear to invite Bono in to talk about tax policy, if he wanted.

“No constituent has come into my constituency clinic to express the views or to put on my table the issue that you have just raised with me.

“And if they did I wouldn’t talk about it in public anyway because it has always been my practice not to talk about the individual tax matters of individual taxpayers and I think that is the view of the Revenue Commissioners.

“If any of my constituents want to take to me about their tax matters or tax matters relating to their company, my constituency address is 47a Patrick Street, Dun Laoghaire, and I don’t believe it’s too far from any of the constituents you might be thinking about,” he said.

Bono’s mansion, Temple Hill, on Vico Road in Killiney is just five kilometres away from Mr Gilmore’s constituency office.



The Department of Finance has said that the new levy on wine has taken in €45m so far this year.

An extra levy of €1 per bottle was imposed on wine in the last Budget.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan says 45 million bottles of wine were sold between January and the end of August.

In total, taxes on alcohol products have brought in €175m in the first eight months of a year.

Research finds more Children reporting high life satisfaction and less children smoking or drinking


The Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly TD, today (23 September), launched the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Ireland Trends Report 1998-2010.

The survey was carried out by the health Promotion Research Centre in NUI Galway.

The HBSC is a cross-sectional study conducted in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe.

 It runs every 4 years and in 2010 there were 43 participating countries and regions collecting data on the health behaviours, health outcomes and contexts of children’s lives.

In terms of risky behaviour, the survey reports that in 2010 12% of Irish children said they were smoking compared to 21% in 1998.  28% reported that they had been drunk compared to 29% in 1998.  8% reported that they had used cannabis compared to 10% in 1998.

In terms of positive behaviour, seat-belt wearing rates have doubled (82%) amongst children since 1998 and 33% reported that their health was excellent compared to 28% in 1998.  High rates of life satisfaction (76%) and reported happiness (91%) continue.

Commenting, the Minister said that: “I am encouraged that the number of children who have smoked tobacco has decreased, similar to the trend in alcohol consumption and use of cannabis. This is a step in the right direction and I hope to see this continue for the good of all our children.  I have been consistent in highlighting the deadly dangers of smoking, in particular, for our children and I will continue that battle.”

Commenting on the findings, Principal Investigator Dr Saoirse Nic Gabhainn of NUI Galway stated “this report is the culmination of many years of work, and brings some good news about the health behaviours of children in Ireland over the years, with a decrease in smoking and in alcohol use for example. Yet still more needs to be done to improve their health, in particular around physical activity. Importantly, the proportion of children reporting high life satisfaction and being happy, fundamental aspects of childhood, has increased over the years, as have health and safety behaviours such as wearing a seatbelt and brushing teeth”

The survey has been carried out by the Health PromotionResearch Centre, NUI Galway since 1998 and brings together all the data (relating to almost 40,000 Irish children) collected over this period to examine the key trends and patterns between 1998 and 2010.

Overall, 12% reported in 2010 that they currently smoke compared to 21% in 1998; 49% reported in 2010 that they had their first cigarette at age 13 or younger, compared to 61% in 1998; 28% reported in 2010 that they ever been drunk compared to 29% in 1998; 8% reported in 2010 that they used cannabis in the last 12 month compared to 10% in 1998.

Positive health behaviour
Overall, 20% reported in 2010 that they consume fruits more than once a day compared to 18% in 1998; 82% reported in 2010 that they always wear seatbelt when they are travelling by car compared to 41% in 1998; 51% of children reported in 2010 that they exercise 4 or more time per week compared to 54% in 1998.

Health and well-being
Overall, 33% of children reported in 2010 that their health is excellent compared to 28% in 2002; 91% of children reported in 2010 that they are happy with their life compared to 89% in 1998; 76% of children reported high life satisfaction in 2010 compared to 75% in 2002.

General findings 
Overall, 67% of children reported in 2010 that they brush their teeth more than once a day compared to 58% in 1998; 37% of children reported in 2010 that they have been injured in the past 12 months compared to 40% in 1998; 52% of children reported in 2010 that they talk to their friends on the phone, via text messages or on the internet every day compared to 31% in 2002.

Mullaghmore, Sligo, named by Lonely Planet as top surfing spot with 15 foot waves


Multiple Irish spots highlighted in new Ultimate Adventures book

Lonely Planet included surfing spot Mullaghmore, Sligo in its new book, 1000 Ultimate Adventures which lists top tens for adventurers. Walking across Ireland was also included in the new book as one of the best coast to coast missions.

  Lonely Planet listed Mullaghmore as one of the Best Spots to Catch a Wave. Last year surfers there rode waves measuring 15 metres high. The Independent quoted Lonely Planet, “High winds, choppy surfaces and blinding rain can present obstacles, but the heavy, long tubes make up for the conditions.”

The boost in publicity augments Ireland’s own efforts to attract adventures. Tourism Minister Michael Ring told the Irish Mirror, “In recent years the Government and the tourism agencies have been working hard to develop Ireland as a strong adventure tourism venue and get the word out across the world. Ireland was once the best kept secret in activity tourism but increasingly, due to the great product we have to offer, the word is getting out.”

Meaning “the great summit,” Mullaghmore has a sandy beach that makes it well suited for swimming, windsurfing and other water sports. The small fishing town also has several good restaurants and bars. It was listed as an easy coastal walk in Sligo Walks.

Mullaghmore and walking the coast were not the only suggested activities to do in Ireland. The book also recommended climbing Croagh Patrick and riding horses at the Castle Leslie estate. Croagh Patrick was on a list alongside the Hajj in Saudi Arabia and the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Castle Leslie was recommended for its historic house, good horses and “a touch of eccentricity.”

Situated near the picturesque town of Westport in Co Mayo, Croagh Patrick is a popular destination for hikers and pilgrims. St. Patrick is said to have fasted for forty days on the mountain and pilgrims climb to the top of the mountain where Mass is celebrated in a modern chapel. The mountain also holds archaeological interest since a hillfort from the pre Christian era is located at the base.

Castle Leslie is a castle turned hotel with miles of green fields for its guests to ride. Lessons and events are offered for riders of all levels including children over the age of five.

Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Adventures lists a hundred different top ten lists for various activities and destinations for adventurers. Hopefully the book will be helpful for tourists visiting Ireland. Failte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn said, “Hiking, cycling, water sports and other activities are all becoming increasingly popular with overseas travellers- particularly Europeans and especially in one of our key markets, Germany.”

Reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions could prevent Premature Deaths

  Balance of suns radioation and reflection

Reducing the flow of the greenhouse gases that spur global warming could prevent up to 3 million premature deaths annually by the year 2100, a new study suggests.

Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide trap heat, helping warm the globe. The surge in carbon dioxide levels due to human activity since the Industrial Revolution is now causing an overall warming of the planet that is having impacts around the globe. And the burning of fuel generates not only carbon dioxide, but also air pollutants that are harmful to human health.

Past studies have analyzed how reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would also improve air quality. [5 Ways Climate Change Affects Your Health]

However, most of this previous work has treated any mortality from air pollution as a near-term and local effect, generally not further analyzing how air pollutants can drift across national borders, long-term changes in human populations or the indirect effects of climate change on air quality, said researcher Jason West, an atmospheric scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Now West and his colleagues have devised a global model to simulate likely future scenarios of the interaction between mortality and air pollutants, such as ozone and particulate matter (tiny particles suspended in the air).

The researchers found that aggressively reducing greenhouse gas emissions could help prevent 300,000 to 700,000 premature deaths annually by the year 2030, two-thirds of which would be in China. By 2050, such reductions would prevent 800,000 to 1.8 million premature deaths annually. By 2100, between 1.4 million and 3 million premature deaths annually could be averted.

“We found reducing greenhouse gases could lead to a pretty striking reduction in air pollutants, and thus a pretty significant impact on lives saved,” West told Live Science

Based on standard cost-benefit analysis that assigns a monetary value to saving lives, the researchers estimated that reducing a ton of carbon dioxide emissions was valued at $50 to $380.

“This is much more than the costs of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, so this can justify reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the point of view of human health,” West said.

   The International Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international body that assesses the current science on climate change, is due to release its next summary on climate science on Sept. 27. The panel will also release further reports on how climate change will impact the world, and how it might be mitigated, in 2014.

“Climate change is an important problem that needs strong action, and our study suggests serious benefits to reducing greenhouse gases in addition to helping slow down climate change,” West said. “Many times, long-term global problems such as climate change are hard to act on, but here we show that reducing greenhouse gas emissions can have near-term, local benefits for health, as well, which might strengthen the arguments for action with governments and citizens.”

In the future, researchers can analyze the impacts of efforts to intentionally improve air quality as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions, West said.

West and his colleagues detailed their findings online Sept. 22 in the journal Nature Climate Change.