Tag Archives: Healthy hearts

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 29th April 2015

Troika to meet Irish officials for third post-bailout review of our economy


  1. State’s ‘unquestionable’ ability to repay loans is only assessment issue, say Irish officials

Under the terms of Ireland’s bailout, officials will undertake two post-programme surveillance missions each year until 75 per cent of Ireland’s bailout loans are repaid.

Troika officials are due to meet officials from theDepartment of Finance and the Central Bank over the coming days as part of the third post-bailout programme review of the Irish economy.

Representatives from Ireland’s three main lenders during its bailout – the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – arrived in Dublin on Monday as part of a week-long mission to assess Ireland’s adherence to its commitments under its bailout programme, which ended in December 2013.

Under the terms of Ireland’s bailout, officials will undertake two post-programme surveillance missions each year until 75 per cent of Ireland’s bailout loans are repaid.

Officials are expected to complete their mission by Thursday. As it stands, representatives of the troika are not scheduled to meet Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, although an informal meeting is possible.

Fiscal consolidation

“The mission will take stock of Ireland’s fiscal consolidation and financial repair, as sustained financing conditions are essential for the full recovery of the Irish economy,” a spokeswoman for the commission said today.

“To this end, programme partners’ staff are discussing with the Irish authorities the latest developments in the financial sector, the fiscal and macroeconomic outlook and progress on the structural reforms agreed under the programme.”

Government officials played down the significance of the timing of the visit on the week the government unveiled its inaugural spring economic statement. “The representatives of the troika are completing a post-programme surveillance visit which is part of the post-bailout process. In terms of assessment, the only issue is Ireland’s ability to repay its loans. This is unquestionable,” a Department of Finance spokesman said.

In addition to the three main lenders, a representative of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) is also participating in the mission. ESM director Klaus Reglinghas consistently argued that the ESM – which manages the euro area’s bailout fund – has an obligation to ensure its members are fully repaid.

The ESM manages the eurogroup’s loans that were offered to Ireland and other bailout countries during the financial crisis.

The Government successfully secured a commitment by the commission to reassess the formulae used to calculate Ireland’s growth projections, in advance of this week’s spring statement.

Mr Noonan raised the issue at a March 9th eurogroup meeting in Brussels at which ministers agreed to grant France, Italy and Belgium greater leeway on reaching budget targets.

Mr. Noonan is understood to have been supported in his call for flexibility for all member states by a number of smaller EU member states, including Portugal.

Heart disease is Ireland’s biggest killer with 27 dying every day,

  • new figures reveal


More people losing their lives to it than from cancer or alcohol-related illnesses.

Heart disease is Ireland’s biggest killer with 27 dying every day, new figures have revealed.

More people losing their lives to it than from cancer or alcohol-related illnesses.

The Irish Heart Foundation released a fact sheet about the dreaded disease yesterday (WED) ahead of their annual Happy Heart Appeal next week.

The IHF said many people don’t realise stroke and premature heart attacks are both cardiovascular diseases, which are caused by a build-up of fatty deposits in our arteries.

IHF Medical Director Caroline Cullen commented: “It is well known by medical professionals that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and disability in Ireland.

“Coronary disease can be treated more easily now than in the past with medication and stenting so fewer individuals require bypass grafting, there is a perception by the general public that it’s not so bad.

“But it’s important to remember that a stroke can have severe consequences leading to high levels of disability and a heart attack can lead to development of heart failure, a chronic condition which also has high levels of mortality and morbidity.”

Ms Cullen added: “Prevention is crucial and we strongly advocate healthier lifestyles and a less toxic environment.”

Cardiovascular disease begins at birth, when our body starts collecting these lumps. The effect they have on our arteries is influenced by factors such as genetics, age, gender and lifestyle.

The IHF warned that 20% of people will have a stroke.

They debunked the myth that stroke is an older person’s illness, saying it can strike at any age, with children as young as two being affected.

Women are also seven times more likely to die from heart disease and stroke than from breast cancer.

There is good news though, as the IHF said 80% of premature heart disease and stroke is preventable.

They are encouraging us to make lifestyle changes- such as eating healthily, not smoking, being active and keeping an eye on our cholesterol and blood pressure- to avoid getting these diseases young.

Furthermore, we should regularly monitor our blood pressure, as high levels can be deadly.

The top thing we can do to improve our heart health is to quit smoking.

It has been proven that a year after stubbing out, the risk of having a heart of stroke is slashed to half of that of a smoker.

When it comes to warning signs of a heart attack, chest pains are not the only one to look out for.

Men should be aware of indigestion, jaw or neck pain, while women may experience nausea, sweating and vomiting.

There are 90,000 people living with heart failure in Ireland right now and 50,000 who have been left with a disability after a stroke.

The IHF is urging the public to get behind their Happy Heart Appeal, which runs from May 7-9.

Pin badges will be available for E2 from street volunteers and Shaws and Supervalu branches.

All money raised will go towards helping fight heart disease and stroke, through care, prevention and research.

Having a challenging job could protect your brain in later life,

  • A study says


  • Jobs that require more speaking, and even arguing with colleagues are key
  • Can protect against memory and thinking decline in old age

Having a tough job could protect your brain in later life, researchers have found.

They say professionals whose jobs require more speaking, and even arguing with colleagues, could be better off.

Having managerial reponsibilities may even give you better protection against memory and thinking decline in old age than co-workers.

Professionals whose jobs require more speaking, and even arguing with colleagues, could be better off.


Examples of executive tasks are scheduling work and activities, developing strategies and resolving conflicts.

Examples of verbal tasks are evaluating and interpreting information and fluid tasks were considered to be those which included selective attention and analyzing data.

Memory and thinking abilities were also studied.

‘Our study is important because it suggests that the type of work you do throughout your career may have even more significance on your brain health than your education does,’ said study author Francisca S. Then, PhD, with the University of Leipzig in Germany.

The new study published in the April 29, 2015, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology

‘Education is a well-known factor that influences dementia risk.’

For the study, 1,054 people over the age of 75 were given tests that measured their memory and thinking abilities every one-and-a-half years for eight years.

The researchers also asked the participants about their work history and categorized the tasks they completed into three groups: executive, verbal and fluid.


Dublin Zoo announces birth of baby monkey


Dublin Zoo is delighted to announce the birth of a Goeldi’s monkey baby to the South American House, proudly sponsored by Kellogg’s Coco Pops.

The new arrival was born on the 3rd March and weighs approximately 30 grams.

The baby joins its parents and older sister, Yari, who is 10 months old.

Commenting on the new arrival zookeeper Susan O’Brien said, “We’re delighted with the new addition. Inca, the mother, arrived to Dublin Zoo in 2012 from Banham Zoo in the UK and is a fantastic mother.

She is keeping the newborn very close to her at the moment and swinging around the habitat with her new baby on her back.”

“The baby is feeding very well on a diet of crickets, mealworms and waxworms.

This may not sound so tasty to us humans, but the insects are fed a high-vitamin diet which in-turn gets passed onto the Goeldi – a perfect diet for a newborn.”

“In a couple of weeks we should be able to get close enough to determine the gender but for now we are happy for the family to bond and get to know each other.

Goeldi’s monkeys blend into the forest so well that they were only first described in 1904.

These dark-haired monkeys, from western regions of South America’s tropical rainforests, mainly feed on fruit, vegetables, insects and bird eggs.

Don’t miss this week’s episode of The Zoo, which will be aired at 7pm on Thursday April 30th on RTÉ One, where footage of the Goeldi’s monkey baby can be seen!

Tesco to play the green card as it seeks to win back its crown

  • Retailer named as biggest buyer of Irish food and drink as it launches Tastebud initiative


SuperValu, which recently deposed Tesco Ireland as the largest grocer in the State by market share, makes much in its marketing of its relationship with local food suppliers. It sounds as if Tesco is not yet prepared to cede this turf to its rival.

Tesco on Wednesday launched its annual Tastebud initiative in conjunction with Bord Bia. This is a mentoring programme with the ultimate aim of getting Irish suppliers listed with Tesco.

The supermarket giant also launched a detailed report by Indecon economic consultants on its contribution to the Irish food industry.

The Indecon report concludes that the wider Tesco group is the largest buyer of Irish food and drink in the world, with purchases of €1.57 billion. This puts it well ahead of other big buyers of Irish food products, such as McDonalds, which sources beef here.

Alan Gray of Indecon says that Tesco Ireland accounts for close to €600 million of the purchases. Referencing the remaining €980 million sold to Tesco stores abroad, Gray reckons Tesco accounts for more than 11 per cent of all Irish food and drink exports.

Tesco Ireland’s commercial director, John Paul O’Reilly, insisted that the local operation of the group acts as a promoter of Irish food and drink exports to its sister operations in other countries, predominantly the UK.

With the relative weakness of the euro against sterling, the attractiveness of Irish products to Tesco’s buyers in Britain is likely to increase for as long as the currency remains undervalued versus the pound.

It’s another opportunity for Ireland Food Corporation?

O’Reilly suggested that Tesco plans to make more noise about its contribution to the Irish food and drink industry.

“We’re going to talk to our customers more about this, and about the Indecon report,” he said.

Tesco, which is beginning to find its feet at a corporate level after an annus horribilis due to an accounting scandal and lost market share, was never likely to take its toppling by Super-Valu in Ireland lying down.

As one of the planks of its strategy, shouting that “we are the biggest buyer of Irish food and drink in the world” isn’t a bad option.

Progress M-27M Russian space cargo ship could crash to Earth


Russia’s Mission Control has failed to stabilise a cargo ship spinning out of control in orbit and it is plunging back to Earth.

However, Mission Control says it has not yet given up on saving the unmanned spacecraft. The Progress M-27M was launched on Tuesday and was scheduled to dock at the International Space Station six hours later to deliver 2.5 tons of supplies, including food and fuel.

However, flight controllers were unable to receive data from the spacecraft, which had entered the wrong orbit. Mission Control spokesman Sergei Talalasov told the Interfax news agency that flight controllers were still trying to restore communication with the Progress.

However, an official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the AFP news agency that the cargo ship will plunge back to earth. “It has started descending. It has nowhere else to go,” the official said. “It is clear that absolutely uncontrollable reactions have begun.”

“We have scheduled two more communication sessions to soothe our conscience,” said the official. The vessel would fall back to Earth anytime over the next week. Mark Matney, a scientist in the Orbital Debris Program Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, said the odds that any of the 7 billion people on Earth will be struck by a piece that makes it back through the atmosphere is 1 in 3,200.

“The odds you will be hit are 1 in several trillion,” Matney said. TASS news agency quoted an unnamed space official as saying the Progress, carrying supplies such as food and fuel, had missed its intended orbit and could be lost if it is not corrected.

Other officials told Russian news agencies there had been a problem opening two antennae on the craft.

Space exploration is a subject of national pride in Russia, rooted in the Cold War space race with the US, but the collapse of the Soviet Union starved the space programme of funds and it has been beset by problems in recent years.

The current crew on the International Space Station is made up of Americans Terry Virts and Scott Kelly, Russians Anton Shkaplerov, Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Korniyenko and Italian Samantha Cristoforetti.

NASA said none of the equipment on board was critical for the US section of the ISS, and that the astronauts have enough provisions for months.


News Ireland daily BLOG update

Wednesday 3rd December 2014

Five various former politicians deny offshore accounts claims


The names of former politicians investigated for alleged tax evasion read into Dáil record

Names in a dossier of former politicians who allegedly held offshore accounts have been read into the Dál record by Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Former European commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, former Progressive Democrat and Fianna Fáil minister Des O’Malley, former Fianna Fáil ministers Ray MacSharry and Gerard Collins, and former Fine Gael minister Richie Ryan have all denied ever having Ansbacher accounts.

M/s McDonald today read the names of Mr O’Malley, Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, Mr MacSharry, Mr Collins, “an S Barrett’’, Mr Ryan as well as “others” whom she did not identify into the Dáil record as allegedly having held offshore accounts.

She said they featured in a dossier compiled by a public servant who investigated tax evasion claims as part of his work in the Department of Enterprise.

Ms McDonald said it was not a case of her making allegations, “and I emphasise these are allegations’, but they had come from a very credible source.

Ansbacher accounts were funds lodged inIreland by the Cayman Islands bank, Ansbacher (Cayman) Ltd. They were at the core of an unauthorised financial service run in secret by the late Des Traynor. They allowed account-holders to lodge money with Guinness Mahon Bank in College Green which was then held offshore. The money would be accessed through Mr Traynor in Dublin. They ran from 1971 and the Irish operation was finally wound up in the mid-1990s.

Mr MacSharry, a former minister for finance, described the allegations as “absolutely outrageous”.

“I have never had an Ansbacher account, I was never was the beneficiary of one,” he said, adding he never had a Guinness and Mahon account either.

Mr MacSharry said he would be consulting his legal representatives to see what recourse he has, both against Gerry Ryan, the whistleblower, as well as Ms McDonald to see whether they “have the protection” they think they have.

“None of these wildcats should be able to sully my good name,” he said.

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, a former Fianna Fáil minister, said in a statement: “I have never had an Ansbacher account. Neither have I had an account with Guinness Mahon Bank”.

In a statement, Mr Collins, a former Fianna Fail minister for justice, said: “I have never had or held an Ansbacher Account or Guinness and Mahon Bank Account and I would welcome any investigation into this matter.”

Mr Ryan, a former finance minister, told RTÉ he “emphatically denied” ever having an Ansbacher account or an account with Guinness and Mahon. He said he was “a total stranger” to the allegations.

Mr O’Malley said the reason for his being on the list was because he had “a particular form of account with Guinness Mahon Bank” which at the time was viewed as “a perfectly respectable bank”.

“The list, and allegations of tax evasion have been extensively investigated already by the Revenue Commissioners, the Gardai and the Moriarty Tribunal several years ago. Despite this it is being raised again,” he said in a statement.

Mr O’Malley said that on his appointment as minister for industry and commerce in 1977 he was aware that he had a share in some of the companies he would be dealing with.

“In order to avoid a conflict of interest and allegations of acting in my capacity as Minister for personal benefit, I followed a practice that is standard in other countries and put my assets into a blind trust. I was advised at the time that Guinness Mahon Bank had experience of operating such trusts,” he said.

Mr O’Malley said the nature of such a trust was for the owner of the assets in trust giving power of attorney for control of his relevant assets to trustees and that as the beneficiary he had no knowledge of the stocks and shares bought on his behalf.

“I received dividends annually through Guinness Mahon Bank and I paid tax on these in Ireland,” he added. “My tax affairs remain in full compliance with the Revenue Commissioners. I have never availed of a tax amnesty and indeed opposed it when the Fianna Fail/Labourgovernment introduced one in 1993.”

He said he had never had any dealings with Mr Traynor or held an Ansbacher account, adding that he believed “that such an account would have been a breach of trust by the bank in its dealings with me”.

Alan Kelly defends the €100m increase in estimated cost of the water meters


Sinn Féin Brian Stanley queries jump from €431m to €539m in cost and why the costs have increased

The initial estimated cost of €431 million for water metering was based on the best available information at the time, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly told the Dáil.

He was replying to Sinn Féin spokesman Brian Stanley, who asked why the cost had increased to €539 million.

Mr Kelly said the initial estimate was based on data relating to non-domestic usage.

“It is not entirely accurate to suggest there was a big jump from €431 million to €539 million in a short period. While that figure was cited a number of times in the months prior to completion of the tendering process, it was the last estimate available.’’

Mr Stanley said the estimated cost of installing meters had increased by 20 per cent. That represented a huge proportion of the taxpayer and public money that had been soaked up thus far by Irish Water for the metering programme. “I must assume that the consultants who came up with this estimate were the same people who were paid €85 million last year. There is considerable anger about that.’’

He said a survey by local authorities, which would have been more accurate, came up with a figure of €539 million.

He asked whether Mr Kelly found it “unusual’’ that the figure happened to correspond with the estimated cost of the contracts for installing the meters arrived at six months earlier. Mr Kelly repeated that the initial figure was an estimate arrived at a long time before the tendering process.

Green vegetables are always good for the heart


Researchers confirm that green vegetables are good for the heart.

UK researchers have found that eating green vegetables may help the heart pump more efficiently.

Scientists say eating nitrate-rich leafy green vegetables will help protect against dangerous clots, heart attacks and strokes.

Eating up your greens may help the heart pump more efficiently and reduce the risk of obesity and heart attacks, UK research has recently shown.

Scientists say nitrate, found in leafy green vegetables, prevents the blood thickening, improves circulation, and protects against dangerous clots, heart attacks and strokes.

Nitrate can also help blood vessels to widen and change harmful white fat cells into brown calorie-burning fat cells that may combat obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Dr Andrew Murray, from Cambridge University, says they have shown that nitrate from the diet can help regulate the delivery of oxygen to cells and tissues and its use, matching oxygen supply and demand.

“This ensures cells and tissues in the body have enough oxygen to function without needing to over produce red blood cells, which can make the blood too thick and compromise health,” Murray said.

“Lowering the blood’s thickness without compromising oxygen delivery may also help prevent blood clots, reducing the risk of a stroke or heart attack.”

The team, whose findings are published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, found that eating more nitrate-rich vegetables like spinach reduces levels of a hormone made in the liver that helps control blood thickness.

Co-author Professor Martin Feelisch, from the University of Southampton, says the findings suggest simple dietary changes may offer treatments for people suffering from heart and blood vessel diseases that cause too many red blood cells to be produced.

“It is also exciting as it may have broader implications in sport science, and could aid recovery of patients in intensive care by helping us understand how oxygen can be delivered to our cells more efficiently.”

Two other papers published in The Journal of Physiology, and Diabetes, showed how consuming nitrate promoted blood vessel dilation and the conversion of white fat cells into the brown version.

All three studies were part-funded by the British Heart Foundation.

‘Why can’t we speak Irish’ say’s Mayo college students?


Mayo students seek answer to the language question.

Language students – Christopher Hunt (left); Paul Flynn and Aaron Hannon

Three students from St Muredach’s College, Ballina – Aaron Hannon, Christopher Hunt and Paul Flynn – have entered a project called, “Why Can’t We Speak Irish?”, for this year’s BT Young Scientist Exhibition. The project aims to find out why the majority of Irish people “do not, and cannot, speak their native language”.

The idea came from the three of them comparing and contrasting their experiences of learning Irish in, for example, Gaeltacht summer colleges. Says Aaron Hannon: “We also found that there were a lot of common beliefs among people about the Irish language which we wished to dispel.”

To that end, the Mayo men have divided their project into five sections: 1) Is there a fear factor in speaking Irish?; 2) Are teaching methods adequate?; 3) What effect do Irish colleges in Gaeltacht areas have?; 4) Is the Irish language just difficult and are we better at learning other languages?; 5) Are we just not bothered? Is it a pride issue?

They are looking for people to complete an online survey to help them answer those questions and complete their project. They need over 1,500 replies for the survey to be accurate. However, says Aaron, it only takes 10 minutes to finish and, he hopes, “It will cast light on the subject and promote the use of our native language”.

The survey is at http://goo.gl/forms/HfIWDWlHCM and the students are also setting up a blog at http://www.whycantwespeakirish.wordpress.com which will also chart their progress.

Kenny visits Panti Bar with friends for Xmas party


Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer, Dr James Reilly and Enda Kenny at the Fine Gael LGBT event in Panti Bar

Taoiseach Enda Kenny dropped into one of the country’s best known gay bars tonight for what was described as a Christmas party.

Mr Kenny was in Panti Bar, run by Miss Panti, the drag queen alter ego of Rory O’Neill.

Mr O’Neill is originally from Ballinrobe in Mr Kenny’s home county of Mayo.

The Taoiseach and Children’s Minister Dr James Reilly attended the Christmas drinks of the Fine Gael Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) group.

The group met in Leinster House and then went on to Pantibar.

Young Fine Gael President Dale McDermott said Mr Kenny was in Pantibar for the Fine Gael LGBT Christmas party.

“That’s a first,” he said.

But Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer said the “get together” was not a party.

The chairman of Fine Gael LGBT said Mr Kenny dropped in to show his support for the group.

Mr Buttimer said the Taoiseach was recognising their work on the gender recognition bill, the family relationship legislation and the gay marriage referendum.

“It wasn’t a party per se,” he said only his his way of acknowledging the work of the group,” he added.

Tissint meteorite could be proof of life on Mars, study claims


An International team of researchers say they have found evidence of biological activity inside a meteorite that fell to Earth from Mars three years ago — in other words, possible evidence that there was once life on the red planet.

But other scientists are not convinced.

The meteorite in question is the “Tissint” specimen, which famously fell on the Moroccan desert on July 18, 2011.

As the team of researchers — including scientists in China, Japan, Germany, and Switzerland — report in a new paper, chemical, microscopic, and isotope analyses show traces of organic carbon within tiny fissures in the space rock, and that the carbon had to have been deposited before the rock left Mars.

“I’m completely open to the possibility that other studies might contradict our findings,” Dr. Philippe Gillet, director of the EPFL Earth and Planetary Sciences Laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland and a co-author of the paper, said in a written statement. “However, our conclusions are such that they will rekindle the debate as to the possible existence of biological activity on Mars — at least in the past.”

And contradiction was not long in coming.

As Dr. Marc Fries, a scientist with NASA’s curation office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston who was not involved in the meteorite research, told The Huffington Post: “The research group claims that this carbonaceous material is evidence of past life on Mars. I do not agree, and it is not the current consensus of the scientific community that their claim is valid.”

NASA Finds Dramatic Crater Blast Zone on Mars

Fries said the meteorite could have been contaminated with carbon from terrestrial sources, even if the carbon did come from Mars.

“A biological origin is not the only possible explanation for the carbon found in Tissint,” he said in the email. “Other possibilities include volcanic and/or hydrothermal activity on Mars which could permeate Tissint with carbon-bearing fluids … Regardless of whether this particular meteorite contains evidence of life, the implications are more complicated than any simple yes or no answer to whether there is or was life on Mars.”

The study was published online in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science on November 26, 2014.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 19th March 2013

One in three Irish families plan to give up private healthcare


One third of young Irish families plan to drop private health insurance this year, according to new research commissioned by Laya Healthcare.

The study also showed that one in six claim they can no longer afford it, while almost half say they are unhappy about the upcoming increase in the government levy charge which will downgrade their health cover to more basic benefits from 31 March.

Almost 64,000 people dropped their cover in 2012, indicating that increasing prices are having serious affects.

Almost one in nine people are worried about falling ill and having to rely on the public health system, while 74 per cent plan to fast track medical procedures while they have private health insurance in place. For those planning on cancelling or downgrading their cover, 86 per cent said they will delay going to their GP to keep costs down.

Dónal Clancy, Managing Director of Laya Healthcare, who will give the keynote address at the National Healthcare Conference tomorrow said ways need to be found to incentivise people to take up private health cover because the current system is unfair:

The current system is unfair in that the majority of people on more basic plans are cross-subsidising those on the premium top-tier plans with all the frills. This is unjust and is fuelling a record market decline. Applying risk equalisation to a core, standard set of benefits would help stabilise the market and address the issue of fairness.

The majority (76 per cent) of health professionals do not think that Ireland’s health system was designed to protect the people that need it most. In line with this, 100 per cent of health professionals said that Ireland’s health system is in need of urgent reform.

Taoiseach Kenny and other Ministers made representations to James Reilly over the CF drug


HSE group had found cost of Kalydeco was too high to be recommended as treatment

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was one of a number of senior Government figures to write on behalf of Cystic Fibrosis patients to the Minister for Health James Reilly concerning the sanction of the drug, Kalydeco.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show in addition to the Taoiseach, Mr Reilly also received representations from Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn and Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore’s office also made a representation to Mr Reilly’s office on behalf of a CF patient.

The documentation shows Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan made a representation to Minister Reilly on behalf of the drug maker,Vertex Pharmaceutical.

  In his letter to Mr Reilly, Mr Kenny wrote ‘Dear James, I am enclosing correspondence I received from (name redacted) regarding authorisation for the use in Ireland of the drug, Kalydeco as a treatment for cystic fibrosis”.

In the letter dated January 15th 2013 on Office of the Taoiseach notepaper, Mr Kenny wrote: “I would be grateful if you could arrange to have this matter examined and if you could let me know the position.”

On February 1st Mr Reilly gave his approval for Kalydeco for the 120 or so CF patients with the G551D mutation from March 1st last.

In January the HSE National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE)had recommended against the approval of the drug at over €234,000 per patient per annum and a budget of €28 million per annum. The Minister for Health approved the drug after negotiations between HSE and Vertex Pharmaceuticals over the price of the drug.

In a letter to Minister Reilly on January 31st, director general designate of the HSE, Tony O’Brien said the cost of Kalydeco over 10 years will be €220 million

The letter by Mr Kenny to Dr Reilly was prompted by a CF patient writing to Mr Kenny to say: “If I got Kalydeco, I would be a much healthier and happier person and not have to endure all the medication and worries and struggles that go with CF.

Vertex country manager for the UK and Ireland, Simon Lem told Minister Deenihan in a letter dated December 12th last that Vertex has concerns over the cost effectiveness threshold used by the NCPE.

He said: “A number of innovative medicines have recently not been recommended for use by the NCPE as a result and Vertex is working to ensure that CF patients are not similarly disadvantaged.”

Richard Bruton assures Irish savers that there will be no bank tax


Deposit account holders need not fear a Cyprus-style tax on their savings, according to Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton.

Mr Bruton said the detail of the EU’s bailout of Cyprus would be designed to avoid contagion elsewhere in the euro-region. Initially Cypriot resident and non-residents were to be levied 6.75% on bank savings of less than €100,000, and 9.9% above that benchmark. With rates in flux, these levies could move to 3.5% and 12.5% respectively.

“Junior bondholders are clearly in the firing line in this case,” Mr Bruton told RTÉ Radio One yesterday. “The deal has yet to go to the Cypriot parliament. There is an indication of flexibility in relation to the deal, but the detail has yet to be finalised.

“There are different models in different countries. In Ireland, the original bank guarantee gave a blanket protection. We had €64bn in re-capitalisation of the banks, which has a knock-on for citizens, as we know only too well. We had the debate over what burden should bondholders carry.

“We now have full protection for everyone up to €100,000. Where the cost [for Cypus] has to be shared out, a lot of thought has gone into balancing that to make sure there is a fairer [burden] sharing than occurred in the Irish case.”

Mr Bruton said Ireland will not change its corporate tax rate, even though Cyprus is expected to increase its rate as part of the bailout. He said Ireland’s export-led recovery required that a low corporate tax rate be maintained.

Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath said the burning of depositors in Cyprus sets a dangerous precedent across the eurozone and makes a mockery of plans for an EU-wide banking union.

“The imposition of a so called ‘tax’ on deposits sends a clear signal ordinary depositors are now in the firing line. Despite the comments from senior EU officials that Cyprus is a unique case, this move will undermine the confidence of investors in the eurozone and cause alarm to savers across Europe.

“Spanish savers will now ask whether they will have to take losses if billions more euros have to pumped into Spanish banks. Irish depositors will legitimately ask how safe their money is if it transpires that Irish banks need more money to absorb losses on mortgages and business loans.”

EU economics and monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn welcomed the bailout deal, and sought to ease concerns about any contagion. German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble said the plan would help bring financial stability.

How healthy hearts can lower the risk of cancer


Hearts and tumors may actually share more in common than we think.

Following heart-healthy recommendations can also protect you from cancer, according to the latest study from the American Heart Association (AHA). Eating a healthy diet, exercising and maintaining your weight have long been ways to fend off heart disease, but researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago report in the journal Circulation that following the AHA’s Life’s Simple 7 steps to reduce heart disease can also cut cancer risk.

 The Life’s Simple 7 include:

  • Being physically active
  • Keeping a healthy weight
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels
  • Keeping blood pressure down
  • Regulating blood sugar levels
  • Not smoking

  ( Berries Linked to Lower Heart Disease Among Women)

Researchers studied the health records of 13,253 white and African-American men and women who were involved in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, which tracked the seven risk factors and the participants’ health outcomes since 1987. At the beginning of the study, the volunteers were examined and  interviewed about which healthy behaviors they followed.

Twenty years later, the researchers reviewed hospital records and cancer registries and discovered that 2,880 of the participants were diagnosed with cancer of the lung, colon or rectum, prostate and breast. Those who were diagnosed, however, tended to follow fewer of the Life’s Simple 7 behaviors than those who did not develop cancer. People who followed six of the seven health metrics had a 51% lower cancer risk than the participants who did not meet any of the steps. The relationship held even after the scientists accounted for the effect of smoking on cancer risk; when smoking was taken out of the equation, participants who followed five to six of the health steps had a 25% lower cancer risk.

 (For Better Heart Health Exercise Harder, Not Longer)

“This adds to the strong body of research suggesting that it is never late to change, and that if you make changes like quitting smoking and improving your diet, you can reduce your risk for both cardiovascular disease and cancer,” said lead study author Laura J. Rasmussen-Torvik, an assistant professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in a statement.

That’s welcome, and helpful news amid the current sea of conflicting and confusing data about preventing chronic disease. In this case, the message is actually quite simple — certain healthy habits, such as eating foods low in fat, sugar and calories, and exercising regularly, can lower your risk of two of the major killers of American adults. “There are many health messages presented in the popular press and frequent (and sometimes contradictory) reports of novel risk factors for disease,” Rasmussen-Torvik and her colleagues write. “These messages sometimes confuse consumers, leaving them unsure on the most important steps to take for disease prevention. We hope that emphasizing a unified approach from multiple chronic disease advocacy groups, promoting some common steps for disease prevention, will be particularly effective in helping the public to prevent chronic disease.”

Irish School leaders call for collective action on cyber-bullying


Almost a third of parents say they rarely check on their childrens’ Internet activity

Over half of parents check their child’s online activity at least once a week, according to a survey of 293 parents of 10- to 18-year-olds conducted by Amárach Research on behalf of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), the professional body for second level school leaders.

Almost three in 10 parents (29%) reported checking their child’s Internet activity either very infrequently or not at all, according to the survey, which aimed to gauge public attitudes to bullying, particularly cyberbullying.

The survey found that just less than one in five (18%) of parents believed their child had been cyberbullied. Just over seven in 10 (73%) did not believe their child had been cyberbullied and the rest did not know.

When parents were asked whether they believed their child has cyberbullied, 12% said they had while 78% said they had not. The remaining 10%, did not know. The survey found that mothers were more likely than fathers to check what websites their children were visiting. Almost three-fifths of mothers (59%) said they checked their child’s Internet activity at least once a week, compared with 45% of fathers.

When Amárach Research asked 1,001 adults whose responsibility it was to deal with cyberbullying, most believed it was shared between schools, parents and victims. However, almost one-fifth (19%) believed other groups such as tthe gardaí, the bullies themselves, victims’ friends, support groups and sports clubs also had a role to play.

“IIn commissioning this research, our objective was to gauge public attitudes to cyberbullying, identify the trends defining the problem, and then help schools, parents and broader society to tackle it,” saif Clive Byrne, NAPD director. “While responsibility for dealing with cyberbullying is shared across society, the victim must remain our central focus. We must empower our children to use the new tools of the information age while at the same time educate them about the terrible harm they can cause if these tools are abused. NAPD will continue to work with principals to devise and implement school-wide policy programmes that monitor cyber risk and take steps to eradicate any risks to the wellbeing of children.”

Mars, the moon and other off-Earth spots for space tourists

Moon trips, human settlements for Mars being planned


NASA has awarded a contact to Bigelow Aerospace to provide NASA with inflatable modules that can be attached to the International Space Station to serve as homes for astronauts. The module can also function as an independent space station

In a recent interview with CBC Radio, entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp spoke of his space project, Mars One, and the search underway for people willing to travel to Mars (with the caveat it would be a one-way ticket).

While trips carrying humans to certain off-Earth destinations may still be years away, space tourism continues to grow as an industry, and a handful of well-heeled private citizens have already taken the journey to the final frontier, or at least as far as the low-orbit International Space Station.

So how close are we to sending people to other planets or moons?


Lansdorp’s Mars One has set its sights on the red planet, with a goal to establish a human settlement there by 2023. Lansdorp believes the technology to get humans to Mars exists, but not to bring them back, meaning these astronauts would effectively be emigrants, travelling there, living there and also dying on Mars.

He said his organization has already received 8,000 emails from people interested in the space trek.

It would cost about $6 billion US to send the first four astronauts, he said, and $4 billion for every crew thereafter. Investors, company sponsorships, donations and future broadcasting rights would help fund the project.

Once these adventurers land on Mars, following a seven-to-eight month journey, they would settle in inflatable components, which contain bedrooms, working areas, a living room and a “plant production unit,” where they would grow greenery.

“They will also be able to shower as normal, prepare fresh food (that they themselves grew and harvested) in the kitchen, wear regular clothes and, in essence, lead typical day-to-day lives,” the Mars One website says.

But Lansdorp isn’t the only player in the going-to-Mars business. Multimillionaire Dennis Tito, the first space tourist to privately fund his trip to the International Space Station in 2001, recently announced the creation of the Inspiration Mars Foundation.

Its plan is to send a man and a woman on a privately funded, 501-day trip to Mars and back in 2018. They would come within 160 kilometres of the surface of Mars, then head back to Earth.

The moon

During the Republican primaries last year, former House speaker Newt Gingrich received some ribbing when he pledged to establish a moon base by 2020 if he became president. Although Gingrich was criticized for being overly optimistic, there are projects in the works to take earthlings to the moon.

The Golden Spike Company said it plans to offer routine exploration expeditions to the surface of the moon. It estimates the cost for a two-person fully automated mission at $1.4 billion, or about $750 million per person, by 2020 . It says it would use existing rockets and raise money by marketing its service to nations, individuals or corporations.

Space Adventures, the space tourism company that offers private citizens trips to the International Space Station, also said it has designed a “circumlunar mission” to the moon.

This image shows an artist's rendition of Space Adventures' proposed Lunar Propulsion and Habitation Module docking with Soyuz.  This image shows an artist’s rendition of Space Adventures’ proposed Lunar Propulsion and Habitation Module docking with Soyuz.

“Our plan is to be able to circumnavigate the moon. It’s not to land on it just yet,” Tom Shelley, president of Space Adventures, told CBC News. “We’re going to take it step by step. So, first of all, we’ll just get mankind close to it, get to about 100 kilometres.”

The three-and-half-day journey to the moon would be made with the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which is currently used to take space tourists to the ISS. Organizors would add an extra habitation module to make it a little more comfortable to live in.

Shelley said there are two seats on the mission for private citizens, at the cool price of $150 million per person. The third seat is taken by the Russian cosmonaut.

Shelley said the company has one client already under contract and expects to have another commitment in another year or so. They hope the mission could be good to go by 2017.