Tag Archives: Heart disease

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 7th November 2016

President Higgins starts eight-day visit to Vietnam and Laos

Higgins says Irish impressed by Vietnam’s defeat of several imperialist aggressors.

   Image result for President Michael D Higgins on an eight-day visit to Vietnam and Laos will focus on trade, investment, development, education and training

President Michael D. Higgins and his wife were welcomed at Noi Bai International Airport.

President Michael D Higgins: “I think one of the great challenges facing both countries, here in Ireland and in Vietnam, is to get an economic model that will benefit all the people.”

President Michael D Higgins has begun an eight-day visit to Vietnam and Laos that will focus on boosting bilateral ties, especially in trade, investment, development, education and training.

Mr Higgins is due to meet Vietnamese president Tran Dai Quang at the presidential palace on Monday and later in the day he will also meet Nguyen Thim Kim Ngan, chair of the National Assembly.

A strong focus of the trip will be Irish Aid projects in Vietnam and Laos, and on Tuesday President Higgins will give a keynote address to the country’s oldest university, the Vietnam National University. He will be accompanied by Sabina Higgins, as well as Minister for Foreign Affairs Charles Flanagan

A significant part of the visit will be focused on aid. Vietnam is the only Irish Aid Key Partner country outside Sub-Saharan Africa, and while it continues to have significant development challenges, Vietnam has made major progress in recent years.


In an interview with Vietnam News, Mr Higgins said Ireland and Vietnam shared a struggle for independence, and he said Irish people were impressed by how the Vietnamese people had to defeat not one but several imperialist aggressors.

“I think one of the great challenges facing both countries, here in Ireland and in Vietnam, is to get an economic model that will benefit all the people, when all the citizens have an opportunity to get an education, get housing, etc,” he said.

“In this context, the reduction of poverty from 70 per cent to less than 23 per cent is a very significant achievement,” the president said.

Vietnam is four times bigger than Ireland and has a population of over 88 million. Ireland gave $150 million (€134.88 million) in non-refundable aid to Vietnam between 2007 and 2016, focusing on poverty reduction, support for vulnerable groups, and improving economic management.

Ireland has provided €1.54 million for research into the climate impacts on the Lower Mekong Basin work through the EU-led Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) from 2012 to 2015.

Climate-sensitive development

Ireland provides support to civil society organisations (CSOs) working to pilot and scale up new models in community-based climate-sensitive development. Of the total funding under the bilateral development co-operation programme in Vietnam, administered and co-ordinated by the Irish Embassy in Hanoi, €3.33 million relates to climate finance.

The state visit marks 20 years of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Vietnam.

Bilateral trade reached $402 million (€360.55 million) in 2015, up 28 per cent from the previous year. Ireland currently has 17 investment projects with combined capital of $20.7 million (€18.7 million) in Vietnam, ranking 67th among 115 countries and territories investing here.

Pepper Money sells out new mortgage’s with geographic criteria

Australian financial firm selling mortgages that exclude certain Irish counties

Image result for Pepper Money sells out new mortgage with geographic criteria  Image result for Pepper Money sells out new mortgage with geographic criteria

Pepper Money will provide mortgages for both residential and buy-to-let customers, and it specialises in areas including refinancers, buy-to-let, the self-employed and people with historic credit issues.

Pepper, the Irish subsidiary of the Australian-listed financial services group, is to start selling mortgages directly to Irish customers for the first time through the launch of a new direct-to-consumer platform .

Pepper Money will provide mortgages for both residential and buy-to-let customers, and it specialises in a number of areas including refinancers, buy-to-let, the self-employed and people with historic credit issues.

Customers can apply for a mortgage with the lender via its website (peppermoney.ie) or its customer services team in Shannon. Customers can also still submit an application through Pepper’s panel of approved mortgage brokers. Pepper promises to respond with an approval in principle for customers within 24 hours.

Paul Doddrell, chief executive of Pepper Ireland, said the move was a reflection of the success of its mortgage launch in the Irish market, particularly for groups of consumers with otherwise limited options.

“ Our products are intended to target a broader and more diverse range of customers so we tailor our loans based on people’s needs; for example, our Advantage mortgage is really unique and fit-for-purpose in this market because it gives people with a legacy credit event an option they probably won’t find elsewhere.”


Pepper became the first new mortgage lender in the Irish market since the banking crash in late 2008 and the first non-bank group to offer home loans, when it started offering mortgages last February through a small group of brokers. Now it’s ramping up its presence.

Pepper Money is the new consumer-facing brand launched globally by Pepper Group, and it offers a range of consumer finance products including mortgages, personal and car loans, equipment finance and credit cards. It is expected that the group will roll out some of these additional products, such as car loans, in Ireland too.

“The new Pepper Money brand will support our ambition to expand our finance products into areas such as auto and personal loans, as we look to grow the business,” Mr Doddrell said.

Three products

Pepper offers three mortgage products, with specific products available for self-employed professionals or those with non-standard employment types, as well as those with legacy credit issues that may hinder their ability to borrow. Rates start from 3.1 per cent or 3.23 per cent APR for borrowers with a loan to value of less than 50 per cent, or from 3.85 per cent (4.01) for those with credit issues. For investors, Pepper has buy-to-let rates starting at 4.4 per cent. However, there are restrictions in where it will lend; on its website Pepper says it will only lend in Dublin and surrounding counties (Louth, Meath, Kildare, Wicklow); Cork city; Galway city; Limerick city; Ennis; Shannon; and Kilkenny. However, according to Pepper, while its initial focus is on the main geographic regions and commuter belts, it will look to expand to new locations over time, and recently added Kilkenny to its approved locations.

Pepper first came to Ireland in 2012 and it now employs more than 400 people in Shannon and Dublin, where its offices are located. It has over €16 billion of assets under management.

Ireland’s new home buyers are using big deposits to buy their properties

Image result for Ireland's new home buyers are using big deposits to buy their properties  Image result for Ireland's new home buyers are using big deposits to buy their properties  Image result for Ireland's new home buyers are using big deposits to buy their properties

New home buyers are using big deposits to buy properties, a new research shows.

The findings come just weeks before of the Central Bank is due to announce a review of its mortgage lending restrictions.

These rules set out that first and second-time buyers have to have big deposits when buying, and limit lending based on income.

Now economists working for the Central Bank have looked at most mortgages issued this year and found that the average first-time buyer has a deposit of €64,000.

This represents 26% of the value of the home, new research carried out by Central Bank economists shows.

The average income for these borrowers was €66,000.

Small numbers of borrowers can get exemptions from the limits, but these tend to be Dublin-based, with high income.

When those getting an exemption are excluded, the average deposit size for a first-time buyer works out at 21% of the property’s value, economists Christina Kinghan, Paul Lyons and Yvonne McCarthy found.

The findings come ahead of a review of Central Bank lending restrictions, the outcome of which is expected to be announced before the end of this month.

The lending limits have proved hugely controversial, with estate agents and mortgage brokers claiming they are slowing down the home-buying market. They were introduced in February 2015.

The Government’s new help-to-buy scheme is seen as an attempt to circumvent the rules.

Under the regulations first-time buyers can borrow with a deposit of at least 10% for the first €220,000, and need a 20% deposit for all amounts over this. They are limited to borrowing only three and a half times their income.

Second-time buyers need a deposit of at least 20%, and have the same income limit on borrowing. There are some exemptions.

The average second-time buyers have equity of €170,000 when moving home, the research shows.

Those not getting an exemption have equity of 34% on average when moving.

Why it’s no surprise that hypochondriacs get more heart disease

Image result for Why it’s no surprise that hypochondriacs get more heart disease Image result for Why it’s no surprise that hypochondriacs get more heart disease Image result for Why it’s no surprise that hypochondriacs get more heart disease

Hypochondriacs are more likely to develop heart disease, according to research at the University of Bergen in Norway.

The ‘worried well’ were 73% more likely to develop heart disease than those who are not anxious about their health.

The link may be explained by the fact that stress of any kind has long been recognised as a risk factor for the disease.

During the study, published in the journal BMJ Open, the researchers examined health data from more than 7,000 people born in Norway in the 1950s. The participants’ heart health was tracked using national data on hospital treatment for heart conditions. Their anxiety was measured using a standard scale.

By 2009, 234 people in the group had experienced acute angina or myocardial infarction (a heart attack). The researchers said they were unable to establish a causal relationship between anxiety and heart disease, and that people with anxiety were more likely to have other mental health problems which could contribute to poor health.

The researchers wrote: ‘These findings illustrate the dilemma for clinicians between reassuring the patient that current physical symptoms of anxiety do not represent heart disease, contrasted against the emerging knowledge on how anxiety, over time, may be causally associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease.

‘Our research indicates that characteristic behaviour among persons with health anxiety, such as monitoring and frequent check-ups of symptoms, does not reduce the risk of coronary heart disease events.’

This study was a prospective cohort study examining the relationship between health anxiety (determined by validated questionnaire) and the development of coronary heart disease (defined as heart disease leading to angina or a heart attack). Studies like this do not establish causation but usually highlight correlation.

During the seven-year follow-up period, double the number of people with health anxiety experienced a cardiac event compared to those without (6.1% versus 3%). After analysis, men and women with anxiety were almost twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease, with the effect more pronounced in men, even after adjusting for risk factors.

The results are consistent with previous data suggesting stress is an important risk factor for heart disease; anxiety about health is also a form of stress, and so it should come as no surprise that this relationship was found.

What would have been interesting is if the activities of those patients most at risk had been tracked. Did their health anxiety translate into ‘heart-healthy’ activities? Did they attempt to make positive lifestyle changes in order to alleviate risk?

Take-home message: mental health is as important as physical health.

Things you need to be doing to get a good night’s sleep

Image result for Things you need to be doing to get a good night’s sleep  Image result for Things you need to be doing to get a good night’s sleep  Image result for Things you need to be doing to get a good night’s sleep

According to various researches, it has been found out that there are a myriad of habits and practices that can help you have a good night’s sleep. This is also called “Sleep Hygiene”. By following these habits, you can be benefited even if you’re suffering from insomnia.

These habits when practised regularly will help you have a peaceful sleep. Sleep is the most important thing that each one of us require on a daily basis. Ideally, 7-8 hours of sleep time is a must to rejuvenate your body and also have a calm, peaceful mind. Here are some things you need to do for a good sleep.

Things you need to do for a good sleep are:

1.Hit the sack when you feel tired: There is no need to struggle to fall asleep. If you don’t have a busy schedule, try to keep yourself engaged with various other activities like gym, cycling, grocery shopping, cooking, reading, etc. After a totally busy day, you will automatically feel tired enough to doze off in no time. This is one of the simplest tips for a healthy sleep.
2.Say Goodbye To Alcohol, Caffeine, Nicotine, etc: If you want to have a good quality sleep, you must avoid all the caffeinated stuff because they contain caffeine, which is a stimulant that keeps you active and awake. Stay away from coffee, cola, chocolate, tea, etc, for at least 4-5 hours before your bedtime. If you’re addicted to smoking, you should avoid cigarette just before hitting the bed.
3.Exercise Is A Must: Exercise stimulates your body to secrete the “cortisol” (stress-related hormone) which helps to trigger the alerting mechanism in your brain. Exercise also promotes a good night’s sleep if it is done at the right time. One of the simplest tips for a healthy sleep is to work out early in the morning and avoid exercising when you are too close to your bedtime.
4.Always Keep Your Sleep Schedule Constant: Always keep your wake-up time and your bedtime same, even on your weekends. This will help to control your body’s clock and will help you fall asleep every night at the same time.
5.Avoid the afternoon naps: If you have the habit of taking naps during the daytime, then this can keep you awake till late night. Thus, avoid napping, especially in the afternoon, to get a better and sound sleep throughout the night.
6.Have a light Dinner: Having rich foods, very close to your bedtime, can trigger indigestion which can disrupt your sleep. Take a light dinner that includes the necessary nutrients and try to finish your dinner a few hours before hitting the bed. This is what you need to do for a good sleep.
7.Take a balanced intake of fluids: Hydrate yourself enough before going to bed, so that you do not wake up feeling thirsty during the night. However, make sure you do this a couple of hours before hitting the bed, so that you don’t have to wake up to go to the bathroom in the night.
8.Make your room devoid of all the disruptions: One of the simplest tips for a healthy sleep is to slumber in a tranquil and cool room. Make sure the room is dark while you sleep and there should also be no noises or any other disturbances during your bedtime.
9.Make your bed comfortable: Make sure that your mattress and pillows are soft and comfy. If you have been using the same mattress for more than 9-10 years now, then it is time you got a new one. Keep beautiful and comfortable pillows on your bed that invite you for sleep.

They are the things you need to do for a good night’s sleep.

Ireland ratifies Paris Agreement on global climate change

Minister for Communications to participate in UN climate talks in Morocco next week

Image result for Ireland ratifies Paris Agreement on global climate change  Image result for Ireland ratifies Paris Agreement on global climate change  Image result for Ireland ratifies Paris Agreement on global climate change

UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa (above) said no one can doubt that the world is determined to shift towards a “low-emission, resilient society”.

Ireland has formally ratified the Paris Agreement on global climate change, it was announced on Monday.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten completed the process last Friday, the day the deal came into force.

A spokeswoman for Mr Naughten said Ireland had “deposited the instrument of ratification” with the United Nations last week.

The confirmation came as leaders from almost 200 countries met in Marrakesh, Morocco, for the annual United Nations climate talks.

UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa told delegates “no politician or citizen, no business manager or investor” can doubt that the world is determined to shift towards a “low-emission, resilient society”.

The agreement marks the first time all countries have pledged to fight global warming by curbing the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, primarily carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.

Ms Espinosa said: “Achieving the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement is not a given. The peaking of global emissions is urgent, as is attaining far more climate-resilient societies.”

Mr Naughten is expected to travel to Morocco next week to participate in the discussions.

Delegates will meet for two weeks to work on the rules for implementing the deal, including how to measure and report emissions so that countries can be held accountable.

The goal of the agreement is to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial times.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 14th August 2016

Ireland’s mortgage rates still the highest in Europe


Irish homeowners continue to pay the highest costs in Europe for their loans, while savers here get some of the worst rates, according to official figures.

The latest Central Bank survey showed the average rate Irish banks charge new customers for all types of floating rate mortgages stood at 3.22% in June.

The rate rises to 3.56% when the large amount of so-called renegotiated or restructured home loans are excluded.

The mortgage rate in the Republic compares with an average 1.81% banks charge new business customers across the Eurozone.

In Ireland, mortgage rates for new customers, including renegotiated loans, has fallen by a meagre 9 basis points in the past 12 months. The decline stands at 30 basis points once renegotiated loans are excluded.

Rates for variable rate mortgages fell 53 basis points to an average of 3.60%. Fixed rates for one to three years fell here by 26 basis points.

On deposits, the rates banks pay customers for their savings have shrunk in Ireland and the eurozone. However, banks here pay savers 0.13%, compared with an average rate of 0.58% across the whole of the eurozone.

Most Irish lenders this year have encouraged borrowers to switch to fixed rate mortgages from standard variable rates.

Irish banks also say that around half of all mortgage borrowers here pay tacker mortgage rates of around 1% or less.

Critics, however, say some banks persist in charging existing borrowers higher rates than those offered to new customers.

“The reductions in the ECB rates have been passed onto depositors, but mortgage holders have not benefited to any significant degree,” said Brendan Burgess of the Fair Mortgage Rates Campaign.

Rachel McGovern, chief operations officer at the industry group Professional Insurance Brokers Association, urged banks to offer “good” long-term rates of up to 20 years.

The figures show “two thirds of all new mortgages issued in the year to June were standard variable rate arrangements points to a lack of proper long-term fixed rates in the market and shows how out-of-step Ireland is with its European counterparts, she said.

The Central Bank said that banks sold new mortgage agreements of €417m in June and €4.5bn over the past year.

The new business excludes renegotiated mortgage arrangements struck between customers and banks.

There was €300m worth of home loans renegotiated in June.

The average rate paid by homeowners for their renegotiated mortgages stands at 3.03%, the figures show.

Crimes against small businesses in Ireland cost €1.8bn annually

A wide ranging survey reveals shops most affected, through theft and vandalism


Isme is calling for greater CCTV surveillance and more Gardaí.

A survey of small and medium-sized businesses has estimated that crimes against business cost them €1.83 billion annually.

The study by the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme), found that 31% of Ireland’s 245,000 SMEs were affected by crime in the last year, with an average direct cost of €6,570, a total of €499 million.

Each of the 245,000 businesses, it found, spends an average of €5,428 on crime prevention measures, a total of €1.33 billion.

The number of businesses directly affected by crime is down 5% when compared with the previous year’s survey, Isme said. Almost half of businesses in Dublin city reported crime, with 36% in Dublin county and 19% in Munster. Of those affected, 45% experienced more than two crimes.

Retail businesses were most affected, followed by construction and distribution businesses. Almost a third of incidents were theft by outsiders, with 27% of incidents related to vandalism. About 62% of respondents were not covered by insurance, with about a fifth of businesses electing not to report incidents to An Garda Síochána.

The survey indicated a low take-up of services provided by the Crime Prevention Office, with Dublin businesses most likely to use it.

National forum on crime?

Isme has made 11 recommendations for reducing the level of crimes against businesses, including measures to properly categorise and define incidents, so trends can be better measured and analysed. The group also suggested a national forum on crime to propose solutions and share information, comprising members from the Garda, politicians and the business community. The association also called for greater closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance and increased numbers of Gardaí. It also called for changes to data protection rules to allow businesses share CCTV.

“The reduction of business crime is fundamental to business prosperity and is not being prioritised by government,” said Mark Fielding, the chief executive of Isme. He also claimed businesses have a “total lack of faith” in the criminal justice system.

“Crime against business is often seen as victimless but it has a very real impact on SMEs and their employees. SMEs are particularly vulnerable to business crime as they lack scale and therefore they experience greater difficulty in absorbing the direct and indirect costs of crime,” he said.

Allianz Insurer makes premium Advt ‘Dare To’ take a positive step? 


A scene from the Allianz ‘dare to’ campaign

With the rising cost of insurance making headlines all this year, Allianz – one of the largest multi-line insurers in the Irish market – has launched its latest brand campaign called ‘Dare To’.

Allianz Ireland has a turnover in excess of €450m and employs 1,450 people and is owned by the German-headquartered Allianz SE Group.

Created by Rapport Marketing Communications and produced by production company Hot Sauce, the campaign aims to convey the positivity of the Irish economy and the people and businesses that ‘dare to’ make it tick over while at the same time demonstrating the peace of mind the company’s customers enjoy, allowing them to live life to the full.

Second Garda denies a Mary Boyle cover-up?

Retired sergeant alleges his comments in a documentary were taken out of context


Mary Boyle went missing in 1977.

A second Garda officer who contributed to a documentary about the disappearance of Mary Boyle has denied claims of political interference in the investigation of the case.

Retired detective sergeant Aidan Murray, who featured in Mary Boyle: The Untold Story, has claimed the programme was “selective” and “misleading” in how it presented his interview.

The documentary includes allegations of political interference and a cover-up in the original Garda investigation into the disappearance of the six-year-old child near her grandparents’ home in Ballyshannon in 1977.

In a sworn statement to a solicitor, Mr Murray said that at no stage during his investigation into the disappearance of the little girl in Donegal was he subjected to “interference” or “pressure”.

He said his two senior officers, a superintendent and an inspector, were “honourable and professional men” and “at no point attempted to influence” him in the conduct of the investigation. He alleged that the documentary had “taken a number of my comments out of context and creates the wrong impression”.

Mr Murray’s comments echo those of his former colleague, retired sergeant Martin Collins, who also featured in the documentary, Mary Boyle: The Untold Story.

Speaking to his local newspaper in Donegal, Mr Collins also denied any political interference.

Both retired gardai investigated the disappearance of Mary, who was last seen walking across fields near her grandparents’ home. Both Gardai were interviewed for the documentary on Mary’s disappearance, made by the journalist, Gemma O’Doherty, who campaigned for an inquest and independent inquiry into the child’s disappearance.

Read more: Sean McEniff says he is not politician at the centre of Mary Boyle documentary

In their interviews, both retired gardai referred to a phone call allegedly made to Ballyshannon Garda Station.

Mr Murray told the documentary: “The result of that phone call is that certain people weren’t allowed to be interviewed and it was all hands off. The sting went out of the whole investigation after that.”

He also said he got a “nudge” from the inspector at the time to “ease off” when he was interviewing the chief suspect.

In his interview for the documentary, Mr Collins said: “The gist of it [the phone call] was that none of a particular family should be made suspect for Mary’s disappearance.”

In the statement, which he made last week, Mr Murray said: “I was not aware of any alleged phone call at the time and I subsequently heard the rumour many months later at a garda conference.”

He said: “The reason Inspector Daly asked me to pause the interview was because of his genuine concern for the mental health of the person being interviewed. It was not for any other reason.”

Mr Murray alleged that the Mary Boyle documentary was “selectively edited to suggest that this was because of political interference. This is absolutely incorrect.”

The Mary Boyle documentary has had more than 140,000 views since it was broadcast on YouTube last month.

Two politicians have publicly denied making the phone call to Ballyshannon Garda Station. The Garda Commissioner has now asked the Serious Crime Review Team to re-examine the child’s disappearance.

Documentary-maker Gemma O’Doherty did not provide a comment for publication, when contacted. She has assisted Mary’s twin sister, Ann Doherty, and country singer Margo O’Donnell, who is a distant relative of the family, in their campaign for justice for Mary Boyle. Ann Doherty wants an inquest and is preparing a legal action to take to the European Convention on Human Rights, alleging malpractice by An Garda Siochana and the Government.

The issue of alleged political interference in the case was raised in the European Parliament by Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan and has been the subject of a number of statements by the party in recent months.

Cancer overtakes heart disease as the main cause of death in 12 European countries


Although diseases of the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease, CVD) kill more people worldwide than anything else, with 17.3 million deaths globally, cancer has now overtaken CVD as the main cause of death in 12 European countries.

New data on the burden of CVD in Europe for 2016, which are published today (Monday) in the European Heart Journal [1], show that in the European region (defined as the 53 member states of the World Health Organisation) CVD caused more than four million deaths each year, 45% of all deaths. However, success in preventing and treating the disease has led to large decreases in CVD in a number of countries.

Despite cancer accounting for less than half the number of deaths than CVD in Europe as a whole, in nine of the 15 countries which were members of the European Union before 2004 (EU-15) and in another country that was among those that joined the EU afterwards (EU-28), more men now die from cancer than CVD. These countries are: Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and the UK. This was also the case in Norway and Israel (which are not members of the EU). Among women, more die from cancer than CVD in Denmark and Israel.

Dr Nick Townsend, senior researcher at the BHF Centre on Population Approaches for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention at the University of Oxford (UK), who led the research, said: “These figures highlight the wide inequalities between European countries in deaths from CVD. The 12 countries in which cancer has overtaken CVD as the main cause of death are all found in Western Europe, with nine of them having been members of the EU before 2004. The highest numbers of deaths from CVD tend to be seen in Eastern European countries.”

In France, where cancer was first seen to overtake CVD as the main cause of death in men, figures from the most recent year available (2011) show that 92,375 men died from cancer and 64,659 died from CVD. In Spain, the next country in which cancer overtook CVD, 67,711 men died from cancer and 53,487 died from CVD in 2013 (the year with the most recent data). In the UK in 2013, 87,511 men died from cancer and 79,935 from CVD.

“Although we have seen progress across Europe in the prevention and treatment of CVD, leading to decreases in mortality from it, it is clear that such progress is not consistent across the continent. With higher mortality from CVD still found in Eastern Europe and non-EU countries, it is clear that the progress that has been made in Western Europe and most EU countries is yet to be achieved equally throughout the region,” said Dr Townsend.

Inequalities between European countries can be seen in the percentage of deaths from CVD and age standardised death rates (ASDR) – where the death rates per 100,000 of the population have been adjusted according to the proportions of people in different age groups in the population. Out of a total of 3.8 million deaths in the EU-15 countries, 33% of these were caused by CVD (1.3 million), compared to 38% of deaths in the EU-28 countries (1.9 million) and 54% of deaths in non-EU member countries (2.1 million).

ASDRs from CVD ranged from 275 per 100,000 men and 174 per 100,000 women in France, to 1,444 per 100,000 men and 1,087 per 100,000 women in Kyrgyzstan. In the UK, the figures were 334 men and 228 women per 100,000.

Similar inequalities exist for premature deaths (deaths in people younger than 75). In the EU-15 countries, 21.4% of premature deaths were from CVD (0.25 million); in the EU-28 countries, 26% were from CVD (0.45 million); and in non-EU countries, 35.8% were from CVD (1.3 million).

For the first time, the researchers also report the number of years of life lost to deaths from CVD or years lived with disability due to the condition, a measurement known as disability-adjusted life years (DALYS). One DALY is equivalent to one year of healthy life lost. These also underlined the inequalities between different parts of Europe.

The number of DALYS lost to CVD in 2012 were highest in Ukraine (194 per 1000 of the population), Russian Federation (181 per 1000), Bulgaria (167 per 1000), Belarus (163 per 1000), and Latvia (153 per 1000). They were lowest in Luxembourg (39 per 1000), Cyprus (37 per 1000), Ireland (35 per 1000), Iceland (32 per 1000), and Israel (26 per 1000).

Dr Townsend said: “There were higher rates of years lost to death or disability due to CVD in Eastern Europe, although some differences may be due to different population distributions between countries as these rates were not standardised for age or sex.”

The authors of the study call for monitoring and surveillance of CVD in order to help countries in Europe work towards reducing the inequalities seen across the continent.

“We need more research into why some countries are showing improved outcomes, while others are not,” said Dr Townsend. “Improved data need to be collected in all countries in order to make comparisons on deaths and suffering from CVD between countries so that health professionals and national governments can target interventions more effectively to reduce inequalities.

“In particular, we need better figures on the numbers of new cases and the numbers of people living with CVD across Europe, as well as better data on the hidden burden of CVD – CVD that has not been identified by health services or included in national statistics. This would be invaluable to people working in public health, to help us identify problem areas and design better prevention and treatment strategies.”

The authors of the study point out that their research cannot explain the reasons for the patterns in CVD seen in Europe, because it is a description of the data on CVD in order to provide an overview of the burden of the disease in Europe.

This study is the authors’ fourth consecutive report on CVD in Europe. Any comparisons with death rates in the reports prior to the one in 2015 should be made with caution as, for the 2015 and 2016 reports, the authors used the new European Standard Population (ESP) based on 2013 population data, which reflect the increase in the elderly population. Previous reports were based on the 1976 ESP.

The most expensive fighter jet in the world was grounded by honey bees


Fighter Wing Aircraft Maintainers were bemused when they found a swarm of honey bees hanging from the exhaust nozzle of an F-22 Raptor engine following flight operations at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia on June 11, 2016.

Initially, everyone’s reaction was to run and find someone who could “get rid” of the bees, but Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Baskin, 192nd Maintenance Squadron crew chief, knew that these honey bees were too important to exterminate.

“I was shocked like everyone else because it looked like a cloud of thousands of bees, but I knew they wouldn’t sting anyone and were just looking for a new place to live,” said Baskin. “My neighbour maintains two colonies of honey bees and I knew they were at risk for extinction, I figured we might want to get a honey bee expert out to collect them.”

Maintainers notified Capt. Katie Chiarantona, 192nd Aircraft Maintenance Officer about the honey bee swarm. Since this had never happened on the flight line before, Chiarantona initially called the on-base entomologist to assess the situation. The entomologist immediately knew that he did not have the means to relocate the bees, so he referred Chiarantona to a local honey beekeeper in Hampton, Virginia.

Andy Westrich, U.S. Navy retired and local bee keeper, arrived on base with the needed materials and supplies. According to Chiarantona, Westrich said the swarm was one of the largest he had ever seen. He was escorted to the aircraft and used vacuum hoses to safely corral the honey bees off of the aircraft into large buckets. He then took the bee’s home and found that, as a hive, they weighed eight pounds which calculates to almost 20,000 bees!

“The honey bees most likely came from a much larger bee hive somewhere else on base,” said Chief Master Sergeant Gregg Allen, 192nd Maintenance Group Quality Assurance chief, who also happens to be a beekeeper. “Bee hives are constantly growing and they eventually become overcrowded. Around springtime, the bees will make a new queen, scout for a new location and take half of the hive with them to that location.”

Westrich suspected that the swarm of bees were on their way to a new location to build a hive for their queen. Queen bees typically fly with eggs to lay at the new hive and do not eat for up to 10 days before leaving to start a new colony. As a result, the queen is often malnourished for the journey. Westrich believes she landed on the F-22 to rest. Honey bees do not leave the queen, so they swarmed around the F-22 and eventually landed there.

According to Chiarantona, “[Westrich] said that one out of two things could have happened, the queen would have rested and gained energy and the swarm would’ve left in the morning, or they would have decided that the jet engine would be a great place to build a hive.”

Westrich was able to safely relocate the colony to a local beer producer where they will maintain the honey bee colony and use the honey for their production facility.

“Every bee is important to our food source; lots of things would die without bees,” said Baskin. “Most of our crops depend on bees, and our bees need to pollinate. This is why I knew we needed to save them instead of [exterminate] them.”

News Irelanddaily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 22nd May 2016

Ireland’s wounded bank structure will need more than a few quick small patch-ups

It must be acknowledged that high variable rates are a symptom of deeper problems in the system,


Micheal Martin with his front bench colleagues outside Leinster house. The FF Bill empowering the Central Bank to cap certain mortgage lending rates will please mortgage borrowers but will hardly appeal to the Central Bank, which has not sought these powers.

Ireland’s retail banking system comprises the patched-up remnants of the dysfunctional and swollen structure which arose during the bubble. There were spectacular collapses, every single bank had to be rescued, some remain in majority public ownership, several disappeared and a well-functioning system has yet to re-emerge. As is true in many countries, the banks remain burdened with non-performing loans and there are reservations about balance sheet quality. Customers complain about credit availability and cost and there is an evident lack of competition. There continues to be an over-concentration on housing finance.

The Fianna Fail Bill empowering the Central Bank to cap certain mortgage lending rates is an understandable response to borrower concerns and may succeed in reaching the statute book. It will please mortgage borrowers but will hardly appeal to the Central Bank which has not sought these powers, may decline to exercise them and cannot be forced to do so.

Variable rates on mortgage loans in Ireland are about 1.5% higher than the average in Eurozone countries, and in some cases the excess is even greater. Banks which owe their survival to the taxpayer are reporting profits, promising to resume dividends and able to afford pay increases and pension fund top-ups. Borrower discontent is hardly a surprise.

The problem with variable rates reflects the structure of the banking system which emerged after the crash and rescue. The survivor banks have scrambled to rebuild net interest margin, the excess of what borrowers pay over the cost of bank funding. A highly competitive, indeed excessively competitive, mortgage market has been replaced by a small handful of lenders willing to offer mortgages and in a position to expand margins at the expense of captive legacy borrowers.

There are just five active mortgage lenders, AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB, Ulster and KBC. The latter is reviewing its involvement and could exit, following the departures of National Irish, Bank of Scotland (Ireland), Irish Nationwide, Educational and others. Just over half of the performing Irish mortgage loans are at variable rates, ranging from 3.5% to 4.5% and even higher, but the remainder are trackers charging 1% or thereabouts and they lose money for the banks. Trackers, which locked the banks into long-term lending at tight margins, are no longer profitable and are no longer offered.

The banks cannot borrow cheaply enough, even with deposit rates near zero.

The lending rate on trackers was set at a modest margin, around 1pc in most cases, over the ECB’s main lending rate at a time when banks could borrow wholesale funds at roughly the ECB’s figure. This rate has been reduced steadily through the crisis and is now zero.

But the Irish banks have been paying well above the ECB’s rate for wholesale funds and are stuck (the margin on trackers is contractually fixed) with the huge book of tracker mortgages issued in the years 2004 to 2008. They made an unhedged bet on the indefinite availability of cheap financing and they lost (or rather, the taxpayers lost).

The resulting hole in their annual revenue has been filled through their ability to expand margins at the expense of captive borrowers, principally variable-rate mortgage borrowers. The ability to expand margins reflects the weakness of competition in the post-crash marketplace.

Irish banks are not substantial lenders to small business – their principal activity consists of mortgage lending and lending to housebuilders and holders of residential land. For AIB and Bank of Ireland, about two-thirds of lending activity is related to housing, for Permanent TSB an even greater portion. Some of this (the trackers) is unavoidably loss-making. Margins on lending to farmers and SMEs have also been edged upwards but the expansion in spreads on variable-rate mortgages is the principal driver of the profit recovery, more than compensating for the losses on trackers.

Bank profits would fall substantially, or in some cases disappear, if variable rates were cut severely. The banks have been rescued through a huge, once-off bailout by taxpayers. They are being rescued every day through a further and continuing subsidisation of their loss-making tracker loans by other borrowers, notably those on variable rates.

A well-functioning market competition, or the threat of competitive entry, would discipline the lenders against overdoing it, since borrowers can switch. But there is limited competition and the weakness of, in particular, the UK banking system has dissuaded potential entrants. The Central Bank is caught in a dilemma and the Government in a conflict of interest.

The Central Bank is doubtless pleased to see the banks restored to profitability, since profits (unless dissipated in dividends) help to rebuild capital. Healthier banks are able to borrow on better terms and are less likely to go wallop again. But the Central Bank has responsibilities to bank customers, too, and cannot be unaware of the cross-subsidisation going on in the mortgage market.

The Government owns a large slice of the banking system and hopes to recover some of the bailout costs through selling off bank shares. Profitable banks able to pay dividends are reassuring for shareholders, and the Government is the biggest shareholder. Awkwardly, the variable-rate borrowers are voters, and their interests diverge from those of the Government as shareholder. It is hardly an accident that the highest variable rate is charged by the bank in which the Government has the smallest stake.

There is a second conflict of interest for the political system. Mortgages are secured loans, collateralised through the lender’s right to repossession. Without this security, housing finance would be much more expensive – check out the interest rate on personal or small business loans to see the difference! Politicians of all parties are sympathetic to the plight of underwater mortgage borrowers, and have been chipping away at the entitlement of banks to repossess.

As a matter of social policy this is perfectly understandable, but it has consequences. One consequence is that the appropriate lending rate goes up, not down, when the collateral value of the loan security is diminished. A draconian regime of instant eviction for non-payment with no sensitivity shown for delinquent borrowers is the one likely to offer the lowest borrowing rates.

It would be nice to have a competitive, profitable, well-capitalised banking system charging low rates to borrowers, paying decent returns to savers, slow to realise collateral from defaulters, yielding generous dividends and offering high returns to departing shareholders. We had a banking system which looked like this for a while and you know what happened next. It is not possible to whistle up these conflicting features by political fiat in the wounded structure of post-crash Irish banking.

The Fianna Fail Bill will now go through a deliberative process in the Oireachtas, presumably the first task of a new committee on banking and finance. This committee will need to acknowledge that high variable rates are a symptom of deeper problems in Irish banking and to address the longer-term structural issues.

Brendan Walsh, formerly the chairman of UCD’s economics department, passed away suddenly last Thursday at the age of 76. Brendan was the outstanding Irish economist of his generation, a gifted teacher, prolific researcher and contributor to public policy, and a wonderful colleague. Ni fheicimid a leitheid aris

Irish Government now to replace jobBridge internship scheme, says Leo Varadkar

The Minister for Social Protection says a more targeted scheme needs to be introduced

  Gone? >

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar said he would replace JobBridge with a scheme more suited to the current job market and will be replaced by another that is more fit for purpose. This will not be before the end of September however.

The JobBridge scheme, which provided internships for unemployed graduates, is to be replaced with a more targeted scheme, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has said.

The Minister said the scheme, introduced in 2011 by then minister for social protection Joan Burton to provide work experience to graduates, had served its purpose. He said he would introduce a new scheme more suited to the current job market.

Under JobBridge, interns work for between six and nine months, 30-40 hours per week, for an additional €52.50 on top of unemployment allowances. About a third of the 46,500 people who signed up to the scheme have gone on to secure full-time employment.

Since its inception, the scheme has attracted criticism from politicians, trade unions and other bodies, including the National Youth Council of Ireland.

In April this year, trade union Impact called for the scheme’s abolition following reports it had been used to fill hundreds of positions for State agencies and multinational corporations.

Recurring exploitation?

Deputy general secretary of the union Kevin Callinan said many of those who welcomed the scheme in 2011 have been troubled by the recurring reports of abuse and exploitation, “which have dogged its reputation and greatly undermined its many positive outcomes”.

“While the scheme undoubtedly served a useful purpose when youth unemployment and emigration was rocketing at the height of the economic crash, it’s now time to move on,” he said.

The most frequent user of the scheme has been the HSE, which took on 399 JobBridge interns over five years, followed by the GAA with 249 interns. Global IT firm Hewlett-Packard brought in 176 JobBridge interns.

Last week, Minister of State for Training and Skills John Halligan, also spoke against the scheme and said it should be scrapped.

Last week, the Department of Social Protection said decisions on the future of the scheme would only be made after the publication of a review, being undertaken by consultancy Indecon. The report was expected to be ready in September.

Welcoming Mr Varadkar’s announcement, Fine Gael TD for Dublin North-West Noel Rock said there was ample evidence to suggest that the abuses of the JobBridge scheme were outweighing any good that it did.

“As the economic recovery widens and deepens through all sectors, we are thankfully seeing the rate of youth unemployment fall,” he said.

“As such, the JobBridge scheme is now past its sell-by date. I welcome the speed with which Minister Varadkar has recognised this fact, and look forward to further reforms.”

Independent TD Dr. Harty denies his support for new Government is guaranteed 


The Clare TD Dr Michael Harty.

The future of the new Government has been thrown into doubt this weekend after an Independent TD warned he may not support Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s administration on crucial votes.

Clare TD Dr Michael Harty has insisted he will approach any future votes on a strictly case-by-case basis in a move that suggests his support is far from guaranteed.

But Dr Harty, who is one of eight Independent TDs who is voted for Kr Kenny, rowed back on remarks that suggested his support had been pulled.

Dr Harty said today he was not part of the Government and said he will approach all votes including any motions of no confidence in either the Taoiseach or his ministers on a strictly case-by-case basis.

The TD said he backed Enda Kenny as Taoiseach because he believed the country did not want to go back to the polls but insisted he never committed to full-time support of the Government.

However, he rowed back on his statement when his stance came under the media spotlight.

The Clare deputy said he will now back Mr Kenny on motions of no confidence and budget votes.

“When I said on case-by-case basis I meant votes in the Dail and not votes which could bring down the Government,” he said.

Dr Harty also insisted he is a “wholly Independent TD” despite pledging to back Mr Kenny in crucial votes.

When the contradiction in this statement was pointed out, Dr Harty said: “Obviously, if the vote (of confidence) on cataclysmic, unforeseen event it will depend on the issue at hand.”

The doctor said he never sought a position in government from Fine Gael and insisted he is not “throwing his toys out of the pram” because he was not appointed as junior minister.

There is now speculation that Fine Gael may seek to back Dr Harty as chairman of a powerful new Oireachtas health committee.

A Fianna Fail source said last night that Dr Harty’s decision leaves the Government in a “very tenuous” position.

“Our aim is not to pull it down unless we are adamantly against something, but if he loses another vote things will become very volatile and Kenny will have to watch every vote,” the source said.

Last week, former Independent Alliance member Michael Fitzmaurice also ruled out supporting the Government, despite the rest of his political grouping backing Mr Kenny.

Each member of the Independent Alliance has been given a ministry, as was Denis Naughten, who was part of the so-called Rural Five along with Dr Harty.

Another Independent TD, Katherine Zappone, was given a senior Cabinet position.

The only other Independent TD who supported Mr Kenny for Taoiseach and was not given a position is Tipperary deputy Michael Lowry.

Fine Gael has sought to distance itself from Mr Lowry, but now his support is more essential than ever.

He has claimed he has an understanding with Fine Gael in return for his support, but the party has denied any such arrangement is in place.

Low-salt diets may not be beneficial for everybody, a study suggests

Salt reduction only important in some people with high blood pressure


A large worldwide study has found that, contrary to popular thought, low-salt diets may not be beneficial and may actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death compared to average salt consumption. The study suggests that the only people who need to worry about reducing sodium in their diet are those with hypertension (high blood pressure) and have high salt consumption.

Risks associated with low-sodium intake — less than three grams per day — are consistent regardless of a patient’s hypertension status.

A large worldwide study has found that, contrary to popular thought, low-salt diets may not be beneficial and may actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death compared to average salt consumption.

In fact, the study suggests that the only people who need to worry about reducing sodium in their diet are those with hypertension (high blood pressure) and have high salt consumption.

The study, involving more than 130,000 people from 49 countries, was led by investigators of the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences.

They looked specifically at whether the relationship between sodium (salt) intake and death, heart disease and stroke differs in people with high blood pressure compared to those with normal blood pressure.

The researchers showed that regardless of whether people have high blood pressure, low-sodium intake is associated with more heart attacks, strokes, and deaths compared to average intake.

“These are extremely important findings for those who are suffering from high blood pressure,” said Andrew Mente, lead author of the study, a principal investigator of PHRI and an associate professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

“While our data highlights the importance of reducing high salt intake in people with hypertension, it does not support reducing salt intake to low levels.

“Our findings are important because they show that lowering sodium is best targeted at those with hypertension who also consume high sodium diets.”

Current intake of sodium in Canada is typically between 3.5 and 4 grams per day and some guidelines have recommended that the entire population lower sodium intake to below 2.3 grams per day, a level that fewer than five per cent of Canadians and people around the world consume.

Previous studies have shown that low-sodium, compared to average sodium intake, is related to increased cardiovascular risk and mortality, even though low sodium intake is associated with lower blood pressure.

This new study shows that the risks associated with low-sodium intake — less than three grams per day — are consistent regardless of a patient’s hypertension status.

Further, the findings show that while there is a limit below which sodium intake may be unsafe, the harm associated with high sodium consumption appears to be confined to only those with hypertension.

Only about 10 per cent of the population in the global study had both hypertension and high sodium consumption (greater than 6 grams per day).

Mente said that this suggests that the majority of individuals in Canada and most countries are consuming the right amount of salt.

He added that targeted salt reduction in those who are most susceptible because of hypertension and high salt consumption may be preferable to a population-wide approach to reducing sodium intake in most countries except those where the average sodium intake is very high, such as parts of central Asia or China.

He added that what is now generally recommended as a healthy daily ceiling for sodium consumption appears to be set too low, regardless of a person’s blood pressure level.

“Low sodium intake reduces blood pressure modestly, compared to average intake, but low sodium intake also has other effects, including adverse elevations of certain hormones which may outweigh any benefits. The key question is not whether blood pressure is lower with very low salt intake, instead it is whether it improves health,” Mente said

Dr. Martin O’Donnell, a co-author on the study and an associate clinical professor at McMaster University and National University of Ireland Galway, said: “This study adds to our understanding of the relationship between salt intake and health, and questions the appropriateness of current guidelines that recommend low sodium intake in the entire population.”

“An approach that recommends salt in moderation, particularly focused on those with hypertension, appears more in-line with current evidence.” The study was funded from more than 50 sources, including the PHRI, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.



The Blue Marble    

Conspiracy theorists claim to have stumbled upon NASA images that prove the controversial Hollow Earth theory. The Hollow Earth theory claims that the Earth is hollow and consists of an “inner Earth” populated by people and animals.

The inner Earth, according to Hollow Earth theorists, has a Sun and a technologically advanced civilization.

Hollow Earth conspiracy theorists claim there is a hole at the North Pole, as well as at the South Pole, through which the inner Earth can be accessed.

Conspiracy theorists also claim that the government and NASA are aware of the presence of a gaping black hole at the poles, but have tried to cover up the evidence by obscuring the hole in satellite images of the poles. Thus, most satellite images of the North Pole have a “dark zone or blackout region where no information is available.”

But according to the YouTube alien and UFO hunters Secureteam10, in a video uploaded online on May 20, 2016, titled, “NASA Caught Hiding Something At North Pole! Hollow Earth?” new, uncensored and never-before-seen satellite images of the North Pole allegedly prove that NASA and the government have been hiding evidence that there is a hole at the North Pole that leads into the “inner Earth.”

“Every single satellite image that we have of the North Pole shows a massive hole or a blackout hole put there to hide whatever’s underneath,” according to Secureteam10.

NASA, according to conspiracy theorists, quickly delete from their websites all images showing a massive hole at the North Pole when, occasionally, they are uploaded unintentionally. Thus, the only images of the North Pole available to the public are those showing a “blackout” region at the North Pole designed to hide from the public the fact that there is a gaping hole at the North Pole.

Images of the South Pole are also obscured to hide the hole there.

Hollow Earth conspiracy theorists claim that testimony by the few people who have seen the hole at the North Pole and entered the inner Earth are being suppressed by government.

It is claimed that the polar explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd, found the hole and traveled into the inner Earth. His missing diaries from the late 1940s, according to conspiracy theorists, contain an account of his journey in the inner Earth covering about 1, 700 miles, during which he saw lush vegetation, lakes, mountains and animals, such as woolly mammoth.

He also encountered advanced civilizations.

A German sailor, Karl Unger, also allegedly entered the inner Earth in 1943, during a U-boat expedition to the South Pole. Unger encountered an advanced civilization on an island called “Rainbow Island.”

Adolf Hitler is also rumored to have escaped to the inner Earth.

One of the earliest known proponents of the Hollow Earth theory was John Symmes, who proposed a “theory of concentric spheres and polar void.”

According to Symmes, the Earth is “hollow and habitable within, containing a number of solid concentric spheres, one within the other, and that it is open at the poles 12 or 16 degrees.”

Symmes toured the U.S. in the 1820s, campaigning for support to equip an expedition to “explore the hollow.” He petitioned the U.S. government to finance an expedition to find the hole at the North Pole.

According to the Telegraph, on March 7, 1822, Senator Richard Thompson proposed a bill in Congress to provide Symmes “with the equipment of two vessels of 250 to 300 tons for the expedition, and the granting of such other aid as Government may deem requisite.”

But the bill failed after a long debate.

Symmes died in May 1829 without achieving his life-long ambition. Rodney M. Cluff is regard widely as Symmes’ successor in the quest for the entrance to the inner Earth. The author of the World Top Secret: Our Earth Is Hollow! claimed to have been introduced to the idea as a teenager while employed at a farm in New Mexico.

After reading “the Scriptures, history and science,” Cluff became convinced that the Earth “as well as all the planets and the moons and even asteroids” are hollow.

In 1981, he traveled with his family to Alaska to “find the way to the Hollow Earth.”

But after the initial attempt in 1981 failed, he tried again in 2003 in partnership with Steve Curry, who managed a travel firm. But after setting up a plan to charter a Russian nuclear ice breaker and a plane to fly over the pole to locate the legendary hole, Steve Curry, leader of the expedition, died before the date selected to start the journey.

The team appointed a new leader, Dr Brooks Agnew, and chose the summer of 2014 to start the journey. But Agnew resigned before the date due to business issues.

And after another member of the team died in a plane crash, Cluff begin to fear that supernatural forces were trying to scuttle the planned expedition.

More recently in 2002, Dallas Thompson, from Bakersfield, California, became convinced, after a car accident in which he nearly lost his life, that the Earth is hollow and that there is a hole in the North Pole that leads to the inner Earth.

His car had plunged down a ravine but he survived miraculously. During the near-death ordeal, he received insights about the inner Earth and the opening in the North Pole.

He appeared on Coast to Coast on October 4, 2002, to discuss his plan to find the hole.

He told Coast to Coast’s Art Bell that the hollow Earth has “cavern systems and caves that traverse the whole mantel.”

He claimed there were huge herds of mammoth and a civilization in the inner Earth. But he couldn’t explain how he came about the knowledge.

Thompson claimed he had secured funding to find the hole. He revealed a bizarre plan to descend into the hole using a helicopter backpack and said he planned to depart on May 24, 2003.

News about the planned expedition spread and soon his book, Cosmic Manuscript, in which he described his Hollow Earth theory, became a bestseller.

But suddenly, and inexplicably, Thompson disappeared after posting to his Yahoo Group on January 11, 2003.

It is claimed that he went into hiding to avoid lawsuit following an allegation that the material in his book Cosmic Manuscript, was plagiarized.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 20th April 2016.

Ireland’s budget deficit higher than the Government’s official forecast

Eurostat ruling means State recorded deficit of 2.3% of GDP


The Government was obliged to comply with a 2010 European recommendation to bring the deficit to a maximum of 2.9% by the end of 2015. 

Ireland’s year end budget deficit came in higher than the outgoing Government’s official forecast due to an unexpected ruling by Eurostat, the EU statistical agency.

The 2015 figure was still low enough to ensure Dublin will no longer be subjected to stringent fiscal oversight from Brussels for running an excessive deficit.

However, Eurostat’s ruling led to the State recording a general government deficit of 2.3% of GDP. The figure was almost 1 percentage point higher than foreseen by the Government, which was proceeding on the basis that the surge a surge in tax receipts and GDP growth last year would bring the deficit to 1.3%.

At issue in Eurostat’s ruling was its formal classification of a one-off share transaction in the nationalised Allied Irish Banks.

Contrary to expectations in Dublin, the Luxembourg-based organisation designated the conversion last year of AIB preference shares to ordinary shares as a general government expenditure. The redemption of the preference shares by AIB yielded €1.6 billion for the State.

The year-end debt-to-GDP ratio came in lower than anticipated at 94%, down from 107.5% in 2014.

“The outturn data and future forecasts demonstrate that the excessive deficit has been corrected in a durable manner,” said the Department of Finance.

“ This performance together with the forecast reduction in the deficit in 2016 to 1.1% of GDP means that Ireland should exit the Excessive Deficit Procedure as expected.”

The Government was obliged to comply with a 2010 European recommendation no bring the deficit to a maximum of 2.9% by the end of 2015. The 2.4% of deficit means this condition was met on time, clearing the way for Ireland to exit Europe’s “excessive deficit procedure” in coming weeks.

Member state which are subject to procedure face a tougher form of fiscal scrutiny by the authorities in Brussels, so one particular set of oversight rules will no longer apply to Ireland. Still, the strengthening of the euro zone rulebook during the sovereign debt crisis means Dublin will be obliged to comply with another set of onerous targets.

“The underlying general government deficit of 1.3% of GDP and the reduction in the debt to GDP ratio to under 94% demonstrates strongly the continued improvement in Ireland‘s public finances,” said Minister for Finance Michael Noonan.

“Indeed, the strength of the performance is such that impact of the treatment of the AIB preference share transaction by Eurostat leaves the headline deficit at 2.3%,” he added.

“This is still well within the excessive deficit procedure limit of 2.9% that Ireland had to achieve last year. The one-off nature of the transaction affecting the 2015 figures has no further implications and my Department is forecasting a deficit of 1.1% of GDP for 2016.”

The Department said the end-2015 debt figure was in line with the euro zone average, adding that the forecast for 2016 was a “further reduction” in the ratio to just under 89% of GDP.

This figures and the projection of 1.1% deficit reflects a “provisional forecast” by the Department. The forecast will be updated in the “stability programme update”, which is a formal submission the State must make to Brussels by the end of this month.

The document typically embraces an update on the fiscal situation six months since the budget, as well a new economic forecast for the current year and an initial forecast for the following year. However, the filing is likely to be delayed due to prolonged political wrangling over the formation of the next government.

‘I know Irish people are frustrated with Government talks’  Say’s Varadkar


Leo Varadkar left photo.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he understood people were “frustrated” as his party’s talks with Fianna Fail ended without agreement tonight.

Negotiations to facilitate a minority Fine Gael Government will continue tomorrow again in Trinity College – a neutral venue for both sides.

“The process is slow and we have to refer back to our party leaders. But I think it is fair to say we have made progress today,” Mr Varadkar said.

“It’s almost two months since the election and I know members of the public as well as politicians are frustrated but I think it’s moving in the right direction.”

Discussions finished yesterday on Irish Water – an issue both sides disagreed on.

However, Fianna Fail’s Michael McGrath said progress had been made on the issue this evening after an hour and half in discussion.

“(Negotiations) continued across a range of areas and we continued to make progress across the main policy areas such as housing, homelessness,” said Mr McGrath.

“We’re very focused on supporting families, people with cost of living issues and of course Irish Water.”

Cut sitting time in office by 71 minutes to live longer


Office goers should take note! Reducing sitting time at workplace by 71 minutes per day may lower the risk of heart diseases, diabetes and all-cause mortality, a new study has claimed.

Researchers conducted a multi-component work-based intervention to reduce sitting time and prolonged sitting periods.

The results, which were followed up at one month and three months, showed a reduction of 0.61 percentage points in body fat percentage. This was as a result of 71 minutes shorter sitting time during working hours after one month.

“A reduction in sitting time by 71 minutes per day and increases in interruptions could have positive effects and, in the long run, could be associated with reduced risk of heart diseases, diabetes and all-cause mortality, especially among those who are inactive in their leisure time,” said Janne Tolstrup from University of Southern Denmark.

As many as 317 office workers in 19 offices across Denmark and Greenland were randomly put into the intervention or control groups. The intervention included environmental office changes and a lecture and workshop, where workers were encouraged to use their sit-stand desks.

By wearing an accelerometer device, researchers were able to measure results across a five day working week.

After one month, participants in the intervention group sat down for 71 minutes less in an 8 hour work day than the control group. This reduced to 48 minutes after three months.

The number of steps per workday hour was seven per cent higher at one month and eight per cent higher at three months, researchers said.

Relatively few people complained of any pain as a result of standing more, with less than six per cent of people reporting negative consequences, they said.

The findings were published in the journal International Journal of Epidemiology.

With Parkinson’s disease ‘Many patients hide their symptom’s


More than a third of people in the UK with Parkinson’s disease feel the need to hide their symptoms or lie about having the condition, a survey for a charity suggests.

They feel the symptoms are not socially acceptable and may embarrass those close to them, Parkinson’s UK said.

It added it was concerned that too many people were struggling alone with their diagnosis, affecting emotional health.

The disease affects 127,000 people in the UK – about one in 500 people.

The main symptoms are tremor, slowness of movement and rigidity.

The charity surveyed 1,868 people with the disease to find out how they dealt with their diagnosis.

The fear of stigma?

One in three with the condition said they had delayed telling friends and family about their diagnosis with some of the main reasons including the fear of being stigmatised.

The charity said the findings also revealed a worrying level of emotional repercussions for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Younger people reported being hardest hit by the diagnosis to the extent that many said they felt “like their world had ended” and said “they didn’t know who to turn to”.

Steve Ford, chief executive at Parkinson’s UK, said not getting help for the degenerative neurological condition was having a devastating impact on people’s emotional health.

“We are determined that each and every person with Parkinson’s is aware of the support available so they can feel equipped to have these difficult conversations.

“We know that the right support, whether through family, friends or Parkinson’s UK, is vital for those with the condition, to help them come to terms with their diagnosis and know that they’re not alone.”

He added: “We are here to help people find the support they need, when they need it.”

800,000 get drinking water from inadequate plants Says EPA

Cork city and south county Dublin among places on agency’s remedial list


Water supplies to 800,000 people were affected by issues such as inadequate treatment for cryptosporidium, inadequate disinfection, and poor control of trihalomethanes.

The number of people getting their drinking water from inadequate water treatment plants has grown to 800,000, according to the latest report from the Environmental Protection Agency published on Wednesday afternoon.

Water supplies to 800,000 people were affected by issues such as inadequate treatment for cryptosporidium, inadequate disinfection, and poor control of trihalomethanes – the chemical compounds which have been linked to cancers.

The figure applies to the first three months of 2016, up 21,000 from the last three months of 2015.

On the remedial action list are large scale supplies such as that serving a population of 106,000 people in Cork city and a supply serving more than 21,000 people in central Kerry. In Dublin the Ballyboden reservoir which serves south county Dublin is on the list, requiring the reservoir to be covered by 2017.

The remedial action list is used by the EPA to prioritise the most serious deficiencies in public water supplies. It is compiled form audits and audits and investigations of drinking water quality failures.

Inclusion on the list does not necessarily mean the drinking water is unfit for consumption, but that the infrastructure is not adequate to prevent such an occurrence.

The primary issues identified by the EPA include: effective disinfection, ineffective barriers to cryptosporidium, and inadequate control of trihalomethanes.

A spokesman for the EPA said the “continuing high numbers of people getting their drinking water from schemes listed on the EPA remedial action list highlights the need for a sustained increase in investment in our water services. Without this investment the risk of new water restrictions and boil water notices continues”.

Scientists say 93% of the Great Barrier Reef is now bleached


Footage taken at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef shows what authorities are calling the worst coral bleaching in 15 years.

The conclusions are in from a series of scientific surveys of the Great Barrier Reef bleaching event — an environmental assault on the largest coral ecosystem on Earth — and scientists aren’t holding back about how devastating they find them.

Australia’s National Coral Bleaching Task Force has surveyed 911 coral reefs by air, and found at least some bleaching on 93 percent of them. The amount of damage varies from severe to light, but the bleaching was the worst in the reef’s remote northern sector — where virtually no reefs escaped it.

“Between 60 and 100% of corals are severely bleached on 316 reefs, nearly all in the northern half of the Reef,” Prof. Terry Hughes, head of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, said in a statement to the news media. He led the research.

Severe bleaching means that corals could die, depending on how long they are subject to these conditions. The scientists also reported that based on diving surveys of the northern reef, they already are seeing nearly 50 percent coral death.

“The fact that the most severely affected regions are those that are remote and hence otherwise in good shape, means that a lot of prime reef is being devastated,” said Nancy Knowlton, Sant Chair for Marine Science at the Smithsonian Institution, in an email in response to the bleaching announcement. “One has to hope that these protected reefs are more resilient and better able to [recover], but it will be a lengthy process even so.”

Knowlton added that Hughes, who led the research, is “NOT an alarmist.”

  Here’s a map that the group released when announcing the results, showing clearly that bleaching hit the northern parts of the reef the worst:

Hughes tweeted about the map, writing, “I showed the results of aerial surveys of #bleaching on the #GreatBarrierReef to my students, And then we wept.”

“This is, by far, the worst bleaching they’ve seen on the Great Barrier Reef,” said Mark Eakin, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch, which partners with the Australian National Coral Bleaching Taskforce. “Our climate model-based Four Month Bleaching Outlook was predicting that severe bleaching was likely for the [Great Barrier Reef] back in December. Unfortunately, we were right and much of the reef has bleached, especially in the north.”

Responding to the news Wednesday, the Australian government’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority put out a statement from its chairman Russell Reichelt. “While the data is incomplete, it is clear there will be an impact on coral abundance because of bleaching-induced mortality, mainly in the far north,” the statement said in part.

Coral bleaching occurs when corals are stressed by unusually high water temperatures, or from other causes. When this happens, symbiotic algae, called zooxanthellae, leave the corals’ bodies. This changes their color to white and can also in effect starve them of nutrients. If bleaching continues for too long, corals die.

There already have been reports of mass coral death around the Pacific atoll of Kiribati this year — and widespread coral bleaching worldwide, a phenomenon that scientists attribute to a strong El Niño event surfing atop a general climate warming trend.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 13th March 2016

Fianna Fáil TDs back grand coalition or a Fine Gael minority Government?


Ten Fianna Fáil TDs have broken ranks to declare a grand coalition with Fine Gael or the backing of a Fine Gael-led minority government cannot be ruled out.

However, many of the party’s 44 TDs contacted were opposed to any deal with their long-time rivals, insisting the option of a Fianna Fáil-led minority government excluding Fine Gael is the only way to prevent a second election.

Speaking after the Taoiseach nomination stalemate, John McGuinness, Marc MacSharry, Darragh O’Brien, Declan Breathnach, and a fifth TD, who asked not to be named, all said that the grand coalition option cannot be completely ignored at this stage.

Six TDs, including James Lawless, Jim O’Callaghan, Mr Breathnach, and three colleagues who spoke on condition that they are not identified, added that while it is far from their first preference, they would consider supporting a minority Fine Gael government.

Sligo-Leitrim TD Mr MacSharry said his first choice remains the Fianna Fáil-led minority government repeatedly raised by party leader Micheál Martin since the election result, and that he will not back a Fine Gael-led minority government.

  New TD Marc MacSharry.

However, while saying he will ultimately support Fianna Fáil’s “collective position”, the TD said a “national government” between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael should be considered in order to prevent the need for a second election if the minority options does not have sufficient support.

“A national government of partnership could be possible for a four-year period with a rotating Taoiseach between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, and only if both are in agreement, being able to dissolve the Dáil to avoid distrust on that issue.

“One independent TD could also be appointed to a senior, but uncontentious ministry like foreign affairs, where there is a very prescribed schedule of expenditure and little or no legislation. This could underpin and further validate the ‘national government’ nature to the new government.

“The cost of €10 to 13m [for a second election] could not be justified, but the cost in loss of focus on the real challenges facing our country is incalculable without any certainty that the outcome would be decisively different,” he said.

The same view was expressed by outgoing PAC chair and Carlow-Kilkenny TD John McGuinness, who said “the most stable option is a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael coalition” which has to be “policy driven and in my mind, centre left”.

  TD John McGuinness

Asked about Mr Martin’s idea of a Fianna Fáil-led minority government excluding Fine Gael, Mr McGuinness said: “I can’t see it being a runner, there is inherent instability in that” and equally said a Fine Gael-led minority option “again has instability, I don’t think it would last five years”.

Newly-elected Dublin-Fingal TD Darragh O Brien said while a grand coalition is “personally not something I support”, he believes that “to rule anything out is the wrong approach”.

Despite stressing “there isn’t a need for a crazy hurry on this, a bit of space is needed” and that “Dáil reform

Louth TD Declan Breathnach said while he strongly favours a Fianna Fáil-led minority government, no options can be ruled out — including either a grand coalition or backing a Fine Gael minority government.

“I think you can take it that you cant rule anything out. There should be enough wise heads to realise that it would be in the best interests of the country to get stability,” he said, adding that going into a coalition or supporting any minority coalition would ultimately come down to the party members.

A fifth TD, who asked not to be named, said there should be “a national government, take out the word ‘coalition’, of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Independents”.

The same TD would support a Fine Gael minority government, and said a Fianna Fáil-led minority government excluding Fine Gael could only work if the party had the numbers “but it doesn’t look like we do”.

Mr Breathnach and five other TDs, three of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, said they would consider backing a Fine Gael-led minority government if there was no other option to preventing a second election.

They include Kildare North TD John Lawless and Dublin Bay South TD Jim O’Callaghan, who said while his first preference is a Fianna Fáil-led minority government excluding Fine Gael, supporting a Fine Gael-led version would be his “second option” as his party will “behave responsibly” in the current stalemate.

Mr Lawless similarly said his preference would be for a Fianna Fáil minority government. However, he added: “If the numbers don’t add up I would not rule out a Fine Gael minority government. I don’t think anybody wants another election.”

The comments contradict the official Fianna Fáil stance that the party will not cut any deal with Fine Gael, a point re-emphasised by Mr Martin on Thursday and which was echoed by the majority of TDs who spoke to this newspaper.

Party transport spokesperson Timmy Dooley, environment spokesperson Barry Cowen, children’s spokesperson Robert Troy, jobs spokesperson Dara Calleary, Thomas Byrne, Anne Rabbitte, Lisa Chambers, John Brassil, James Browne, and Shane Cassels all ruled out any option other than a Fianna Fáil-led minority government, excluding Fine Gael.

Mr Troy said: “I believe Micheál Martin can lead an alternative minority government with fairness at its very core.”

Mr Dooley said a Fianna Fáil minority government is “the obvious one to me, the others don’t make sense for us”, while Ms Chambers said a deal with Fine Gael would most likely not be backed by Fianna Fáil’s grass-roots.

TDs who have previously outright rejected any deal with Fine Gael, including Willie O’Dea, Niall Collins, and Billy Kelleher, did not respond to requests for comment. Of the 20-plus TDs who responded to the survey phone calls, none want a second election, saying it is unlikely to have a different result.


Michael D Higgins could play key role in forming a government stalemate

Influence of President limited to getting parties to try harder by refusing to dissolve Dáil


The president has the discretion to refuse to dissolve the Dáil where the Taoiseach has ceased to retain the support of a majority.

Being president of Ireland is an unusual job. Candidates need to be political animals – it would be rather difficult to be elected to the office otherwise – but, once elected, they are expected to remain aloof from party politics. President Michael D Higgins notably resigned his 43-year membership of the Labour Party upon his election in 2011.

Nonetheless, there are occasions where this combination of political experience and political neutrality is just what the situation demands. The current impasse over the formation of the next government is just one such situation.

The president has a relatively modest range of functions and, of these, the majority are to be performed “on the advice of the government”. However, there are two functions in which the president has absolute discretion: the power to refer laws to the Supreme Court to test their constitutionality, and the discretion to refuse to dissolve the Dáil where the taoiseach has ceased to retain the support of a majority.

Referring Bills to the Supreme Court is a primarily legal matter – Mr Higgins has twice convened the Council of State to consider whether he should make such a reference, but he has yet to actually refer a Bill.

By contrast, the president’s discretion to refuse to dissolve the Dáil requires the president to read the political tea leaves. There is no point in refusing a dissolution unless there is a realistic prospect of an alternative government being formed. Thus, the president needs to exercise political judgment; but he also needs to avoid being seen to favour any particular party.

Deadlock before agreement of Taoiseach?

No president has yet exercised this discretion. Because there is no clear precedent, there can be some confusion in the public mind as to what exactly the role of the president is in situations where the Dáil is deadlocked on the nomination of a taoiseach.

The leading textbook on Irish constitutional law observes that the notion that the president can “send for” a deputy and ask him or her to form a government “appears to have infiltrated the political and journalistic subconscious, having been suggested by observation of British practice”.

However, under the Constitution, the president’s role is passive rather than active. The president has discretion to refuse to grant a dissolution when requested; but beyond that, there is no role for the president to reach out to political leaders, mediate in negotiations, or cajole them into agreement.

In 1967, the report of the committee on the Constitution considered the possibility of amending the Constitution to give the president the discretion to designate the member of the Dáil whom he considered most likely to secure the confidence of the House and appoint ministers on his nomination, with these appointments remaining effective until there is a vote of no confidence in the Dáil.

The ever changing nature?

The committee cautioned, however, that such a reform “might be seen as involving the president directly in party politics and thus changing the nature of his office entirely”.

In a 1989 article in the Irish Jurist, Gerard Hogan (now a judge in the Court of Appeal) argued that “public and political consensus is now in favour of an ‘active’ presidency”, and that this was an argument in favour of adopting the suggestion of the 1967 committee.

However, these recommendations have never been implemented. Some (perhaps many) people might like to see the President get more involved in salvaging a government from the wreckage of an inconclusive election but, as things stand, the Constitution does not envisage such a role.

The late Dr Garret Fitzgerald revealed in his memoir that following the 1987 general election, he had spoken to president Patrick Hillery in advance of the vote on nominations for taoiseach. Mr Hillery apparently indicated that if the Dáil was deadlocked, he would refuse a request for dissolution in the hope that the mounting pressure would force a resolution. In the event, no deadlock arose as Charles Haughey was elected taoiseach.

As against this, Mr Hillery granted dissolutions on two occasions (1982 and 1989) when a refusal to do so might have avoided an election. Therefore, the 1987 episode, and the discussions between taoiseach and president in particular, must be seen as something of an outlier.

In summary, Mr Higgins has no constitutional role in the efforts to form a government; at most, he might suggest to the parties that they try a little harder by refusing a dissolution.

Savita Halappanavar 2012 miscarriage case settled for some six figures

Agreement closes case on death of pregnant dentist from septic shock


Savita Halappanavar died of blood poisoning while suffering a miscarriage at Galway University Hospital in 2012

The State will pay a six-figure sum to the widower of Savita Halappanavar, who sued for damages over his wife’s death three years ago, according to informed sources.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) reached an out-of-court settlement with Praveen Halappanavar on Thursday.

Informed sources said the settlement is a six-figure sum and could “approach €1m”.

The agreement brings an end to the protracted legal actions and inquiries launched into Ms Halappanavar’s death from blood poisoning, while she was suffering a miscarriage in Galway University Hospital in 2012.

Her death shocked Ireland and led to a change in Ireland’s abortion laws, and the HSE later apologised for her death.

Praveen Halappanavar’s personal injury action against the HSE and the consultant, Dr Katherine Astbury, the consultant obstetrician responsible for Ms Halappanavar’s care, was due to open in the High Court last week.

Mr Halappanavar, who now lives in the US, was expected to return to Ireland to testify. He was not in the High Court on Thursday when the judge was told that the claim had been settled.

In 2013, the HSE issued an “unreserved apology” for Ms Halappanavar’s death, after a report found serious failings in her care.

Praveen Halappanavar’s claim against the HSE listed more than 30 grounds of alleged negligence and that his wife’s constitutional right to life was breached. The case was managed by the State Claims Agency on behalf of the HSE and Dr Astbury.

Ms Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist, was admitted to Galway University Hospital when she was 17 weeks pregnant. She was suffering a miscarriage, but a developing infection went undetected. She was repeatedly refused a termination because the foetal heartbeat was present. Days later, she went into septic shock and died.

An inquest into her death found that she died of medical misadventure. The inquest heard that Ms Halappanavar asked for a termination on several occasions but was told an abortion could not be carried out under Irish law as her life did not appear to be in danger at that time.

In his personal injury action, Mr Halappanavar alleged that the HSE paid too much emphasis on the presence of the foetal heartbeat and ignored his wife’s right to life and her right to appropriate medical treatment. Her death caused great suffering, mental distress and hurt to her family. Mr Halappanavar sought aggravated, punitive and exemplary damages from the HSE.

The HSE is also reported to have made an out-of-court settlement with Ms Halappanavar’s parents, Akkamahadevi and Andanappa Yalagi, and her two older brothers.

A later investigation by the health watchdog, Hiqa, criticised her medical team and said there were “many missed opportunities” which, if acted on, could have changed the outcome for Ms Halappanavar.

Galway University Hospital has said that nine of the 30 medical staff who treated Savita were disciplined. The remaining 21 staff had no case to answer. Some staff received counselling, mentoring and training, others received written warnings.

It emerged last year that the Medical Council will take no action against Dr Katherine Astbury.

The Lord Mayor of Galway, Padraig Conneely, lodged a complaint about Dr Astbury, but the Medical Council informed him that no action would be taken.

New research suggests Blueberries ‘could help prevent Alzheimer’s’


Blueberries are the king of the berries. Packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, they are also high in potassium and vitamin C. These berries are anti-inflammatory and can they lower your risk of heart disease and cancer.

The “superfruit” famed for its health giving properties may protect ageing brains and help prevent Alzheimer’s, new research suggests.

Blueberries, given in the form of a powder, were found to improve the thinking performance of 47 adults aged 68 and older who already had mild cognitive impairment, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

A similar effect was not seen when volunteers were treated with a “dummy” placebo powder that was inactive.

Scientists plan to follow up the small preliminary study with a younger group of participants, including some considered to be at increased risk of the condition.

Lead researcher Dr Robert Krikorian, from the University of Cincinnati in the US, said: “There was improvement in cognitive performance and brain function in those who had the blueberry powder compared with those who took the placebo.

“The blueberry group demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts.”

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans also showed increased brain activity in participants who had the blueberry powder.

The results were presented at the 251st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society in San Diego, California.

Blueberries are packed with antioxidants and may lower the risk of heart disease and cell damage linked to cancer, it is claimed.

A second study included 94 people aged 62 to 80 who did not have measurable cognitive decline but reported experiencing memory loss. They were tested with blueberry powder, fish oil, and a placebo.

The results showed some thinking improvement for those given blueberry powder or fish oil, but little effect on memory.

One explanation might be that these participants had less severe issues than those in the first study, said Dr Krikorian.

The future research will involve people aged 50 to 65 including individuals who are obese, or have high blood pressure or cholesterol and considered at higher risk of dementia.

Scientists create ‘good cholesterol’ nanoparticles in their labs to help fight heart disease


A first step towards treating heart disease with microscopic particles that clear clogged arteries has been taken by scientists.

Researchers created an artificial version of the “good” cholesterol molecule, high density lipoprotein (HDL), that is known to protect against heart disease.

The molecule has a dual function – both “lighting up” hard deposits on artery walls so they can be seen in scans, and helping to remove them.

Scientists hope that their synthetic molecule could help spot hard deposits on artery walls.

Arterial wall deposits, called atherosclerotic plaques, are made from fatty material, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances.

Over time they cause blood vessels to narrow, restricting blood flow to heart muscle or the brain which can lead to heat attacks and strokes.

HDL plucks “bad cholesterol”, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), from the plaques and transports them to the liver, where they are eliminated from the body.

Lead scientist Dr Shanta Dhar, from the University of Georgia in the US, said: “Other researchers have shown that if you isolate HDL components from donated blood, reconstitute them and inject them into animals, there seems to be a therapeutic effect.

“However, with donors’ blood, there is the chance of immunological rejection. This technology also suffers scale-up challenges.

“Our motivation was to avoid immunogenic factors by making a synthetic nanoparticle which can functionally mimic HDL. At the same time, we wanted a way to locate the synthetic particles.”

The molecules contain iron oxide which acts as a “contrast agent” that shows up in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Researchers say the HDL takes out the “bad cholesterol” from the plaques within the arteries to transport them to liver for elimination

This allows them to “light up” the atherosclerotic plaques they cling to so their location in the body can be pinpointed.

So far the research has involved tests on cells, but the scientists plan to move onto clinical trial within two years.

The findings were presented at the 251st national meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego, California.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday/Thursday 19th & 20th August 2015

Irish household debt falls by 2.3% on 1st quarter & most in five years

Central Bank figures show total household debt fell to €154.6 billion or €33,530 per capita


Irish household debt fell by the most in five years during the first quarter of 2015, according to the Central Bank.

Its latest Quarterly Financial Accounts show debt total household debt fell to €154.6 billion or €33,530 per capita during the period, representing a fall of €3.7 billion or 2.3% on the previous quarter.

This was the largest decline in debt since the second quarter of 2010.

Though Irish household debt has decreased significantly in recent years in tandem with recovery elsewhere in the economy, it still remains high relative to other countries, the Central Bank said.

It noted that only Denmark and the Netherlands had higher household debt relative to disposable income during the first quarter of 2015.

The figures also indicated that non-financial corporation debt as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) fell from 205 per cent in the final quarter of 2014 to 194 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

“However, the decline reflected both an increase in the value of annualised GDP, as well as, a €10.4 billion fall in the stock of debt.

New Irish mobile operator iD launches today


iD, Ireland’s newest mobile operator, goes live across Ireland today.

Irish customers will be able to build their own plans, picking and choosing elements that suit their needs. Customers can choose anywhere from 100 to 5,000 minutes, 100 to 5,000 texts, and a data cap of 125MB to 20GB. 4G is included in all plans by default.

There will be no roaming packages initially. iD says that its roaming prices will be competitive with the market.

Not only will customers be able to tailor a plan to suit themselves, but they’ll also be able to decide how much to pay for a new phone upfront and how long to pay the handset off for.

These costs are separate, so once a customer pays off the phone their monthly bill will be cheaper.

iD will offer 20 handsets initially, the majority of which will be 4G-enabled. Apple fans will have to wait to make the move to this new operator; the iPhone is not being offered at launch.

The average SIM-only plan will cost €20.81 per month. Analysts expect that iD’s launch will lead to price reductions across the board as other mobile operators react to lower prices.

iD is operated by Dixon’s Carphone and is piggybacking on Three Ireland’s network. The new mobile operator is aiming to secure around 6% of the Irish market within five years.

AIB’s credit card redress bill likely to be small


AIB yesterday launched a redress scheme for 110,000 credit card customers who paid for insurance they didn’t need.

However, it is likely the Government-owned bank will pay less than half of the estimated bill of up to €7m owing to affected users.

The Central Bank said it had been working with AIB for the lender to pay back insurance to credit card customers who had bought credit card protection insurance from Pinnacle Insurance because the card holders were already covered for parts of any losses.

AIB had been selling the insurance cover at an annual premium of €16 since August 2006, and repayments will therefore be calculated on the number of years customers have paid out for the insurance cover.

It believes the average payment per customer will be €66 and the total cost, if every customer were to apply, would reach over €6.6m.

AIB says it will be contacting affected customers and explaining to them how they can apply to get their money back under the redress scheme.

But experience of other redress schemes involving excessive credit card insurance payments show that at most 40% of affected customers will end up applying.

In recent months, the Central Bank had issued guidance to 161,000 customers affected by a separate redress scheme for credit card customers at Bank of Ireland, MBNA, and Ulster Bank.

Affected customers at these banks had been sold insurance cover through Homecare Insurance Ltd (HIL), but again parts of the insurance were already covered by the card providers.

Only €9m was claimed under the three banks’ redress scheme, meaning that around €10m was left unclaimed by card users.

It is believed that the Central Bank will continue to urge customers of the three banks to seek compensation even though the deadline for applying under the redress scheme has officially passed.

“We require all firms to make full disclosure to consumers of all relevant material information when selling any financial product,” said Bernard Sheridan, director of consumer protection at the Central Bank.

“It is important that consumers can have confidence that firms are acting in their best interests and that they are not sold any cover which they do not need,” he said.

“Where this has occurred it is our priority to ensure that consumers receive full redress. We encourage all affected consumers to make a claim.”

An AIB spokeswoman said that it was following procedures used in earlier schemes to compensate customers.

Study shows prolonged sitting as bad as smoking for health


Researchers find sitting for long periods linked to an increased risk of heart disease and early death

Sitting for long periods of time is just as dangerous for your health as smoking, according to researchers at Queen’s University Belfast.

Sitting for long periods of time is just as dangerous for your health as smoking, according to researchers at Queen’s University Belfast.

Researchers from the university found prolonged sitting was linked to an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and an early death.

They said it was as big a threat to public health as smoking.

Dr Mark Tully, from the UKCRC Centre of Excellence for Public Health at Queen’s, said most people sit for an “inordinate” amount of time at work, driving or at home watching television.

“One of the biggest threats to health is the amount of time spent sitting. On average people spend over nine hours, or up to 80 per cent of their waking day, sitting down,” he said.

Dr Tully said levels of sedentary behaviour increased as peopled aged.

“Public health scientists have recognised the need to develop effective interventions to address the high levels of inactivity across ages, with sitting regarded as ‘the new smoking’,” he said.

The four-year-study, which is being carried out in conjunction with researchers in Scotland, Germany,France, Denmark and Spain, is looking at developing new ways to help older adults be more active and will test the new methods on 1,300 people in Europe.

Carbon nano-fibres made from CO2 in the air


Out of thin air we get carbon nanofibres

Scientists in the US have found a way to take carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and make carbon nano-fibres, a valuable manufacturing material.

Their solar-powered system runs just a few volts of electricity through a vat full of a hot, molten salt; CO2 is absorbed and the nano-fibres gradually assemble at one of the electrodes.

It currently produces 10g in an hour.

The team suggests it could be scaled up and make an impact on CO2 emissions, but other researchers are unsure.

Nonetheless, it could offer a cheaper way of making carbon nano-fibres than existing methods.

“Until now, carbon nano-fibres have been too expensive for many applications,” said Prof Stuart Licht of George Washington University. He was speaking at the autumn meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.

Carbon nano-fibres are already used in high-end applications such as electronic components and batteries, and if costs came down they could be used more extensively – improving the strong, lightweight carbon composites used in aircraft and car components, for example.

The question is whether the “one-pot” reaction demonstrated by Prof Licht and his team could help to drop that cost.

At the moment 10g of nano-fibres – like this sample Dr Licht brought to the conference – can be made per hour

The idea of turning CO2 from the air into useful products is a popular one, and the field is strewn with many more unfulfilled promises than success stories.

But Prof Licht is confident his design can succeed. “It scales up very easily – the entire process is quite low energy.”

He also suggested that the system could provide “a reasonable path to bring down CO2 levels in the atmosphere”.

This would involve adopting the reactors on a colossal scale and the idea has raised some eyebrows.

Dr Katy Armstrong, a chemical engineer at the University of Sheffield, said the process was “promising and very interesting on a lab scale” but that Prof Licht’s bigger vision might be problematic.

“As they are capturing CO2 from the air, the process will need to deal with huge volumes of gas to collect the required amount of carbon, which could increase process costs when scaled up,” she told the BBC.

Dr Paul Fennell, a chemical engineer and clean energy researcher at Imperial College London, said: “If they can make carbon nano-fibres, that is a laudable aim and they’re a worthwhile product to have.

“But if your idea is to take CO2 out of the atmosphere and produce so many carbon nano-fibres that you make a difference to climate change – I’d be extremely surprised if you could do that.” Prof Licht insists it is worth trying.

“There aren’t any catches; there’s a necessity to work together, to test this on a larger scale, to apply some societal resources to do that.”

Meanwhile, other chemists were impressed by the simple fact that Prof Licht’s team had produced nano-fibres from atmospheric carbon.

The carbon nano-fibres gradually build up on one of the device’s electrodes

Dr Dario Corradini was also at the American Chemical Society meeting, presenting his theoretical work on absorbing CO2 with a similar type of electrochemical cell.

“These cells are relatively inexpensive in terms of energy consumption – it’s definitely a realistic approach to producing the nano-fibres,” he said.

Humans would have had chicken brains (literally) if it weren’t for one tiny molecular change


Scientists may have finally uncovered the reason why us humans aren’t birdbrains (literally!).

We kid you not, researchers believe the reason why the human brain is much more powerful than a chicken is all down to a single molecular event.

Losing a tiny fragment of protein is thought to have spurred the evolution of the complex mammalian central nervous system, and without that change we could all literally be birdbrains.

A tiny fragment of protein (a lack of it, to be precise) is the reason why our brains aren’t like those of chickens.

The reason why mammals are so brainy compared with other vertebrates such as birds, lizards and frogs is a mystery since all these groups share similar genes.

The answer could lie in a biological process called alternative splicing (AS), part of the assembly system that attaches together the building blocks of proteins from genetic instructions.

During AS in mammals, a small fragment of a protein found in all vertebrates called PTBP1 is left off – like a single brick omitted from a Lego model.

Scientists believe that a biological process called alternative splicing is the reason why the human brain evolved.

Scientists found that in mammalian cells, the new shorter version of PTBP1 unleashed a cascade of events leading to the generation of neurons.

When chicken cells were genetically engineered to produce the mammalian form of PTBP1, similar events were triggered.

When scientists genetically engineered chicken cells to produce the mammalian form of PTBP1, they noticed a more complex brain development.

“One interesting implication of our work is that this particular switch between the two versions of PTBP1 could have affected the timing of when neurons are made in the embryo in a way that creates differences in morphological complexity and brain size,” said Professor Benjamin Blencowe, lead scientist from the University of Toronto in Canada.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 10th July 2015

Airline shares jump as Ryanair agrees to sell Aer Lingus 30% stake 


Shares in airlines have jumped after Ryanair voted to accept International Airlines Group’s (IAG) offer for its 29.8% stake in Aer Lingus.

Ryanair and IAG shares were up almost 3%, while Aer Lingus was up 1.8%.

The formal acceptance paves the way for the €1.3bn (£940m) bid by BA and Iberia owner IAG for Aer Lingus to go ahead.

It is subject to backing by competition authorities. European Union approval is now the last remaining hurdle to the tie-up.

IAG’s plans include building a new transatlantic hub at Dublin airport.

Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary said in a statement: “We believe the IAG offer for Aer Lingus is a reasonable one in the current market and we plan to accept it, in the best interests of Ryanair shareholders.

“The price means that Ryanair will make a small profit on its investment in Aer Lingus over the past nine years.”

Ryanair has attempted to buy Aer Lingus three times. Its takeover quest began in 2006, just after Aer Lingus was floated on the stock market by the Irish government.

Ryanair’s initial bid illustrates the wild swings in Aer Lingus’s value since then. Its first offer was €2.80 a share. The second, two years later, was half that and its most recent offer in 2012 was €1.30 a share.

The Irish government, which sold its 25% stake in Aer Lingus to IAG in May, recommended that Ryanair accept IAG’s offer.

The deal values Aer Lingus shares at around €2.50 (£1.87) per share.

Aer Lingus is Heathrow Airport’s fourth busiest operator, behind BA, Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic.

If the deal is approved, IAG would gain more take-off and landing slots at Heathrow Airport, allowing it to operate more flights.

Ryanair said it had planned to use Aer Lingus to gain slots at mainstream airports.

Travellers have been surprised in the past by the distance of some of Ryanair’s airports from the city they thought they were flying to.

Michael O’Leary said Ryanair did not need Aer Lingus now: “Our original strategy for Aer Lingus (to use it as a mid-priced brand to offer competition to flag carriers at primary airports) has been overtaken by the successful rollout – since Sept 2013 – of Ryanair’s “Always Getting Better” strategy, which has seen the Ryanair brand successfully enter many of Europe’s primary airports.”

Irish Navy ship heading for 2nd Mediterranean rescue operation


The Irish Naval vessel LE Niamh will join up with operations to rescue migrants

An Irish Navy ship has been tasked to the Mediterranean to renew efforts to rescue migrants.

The LE Niamh is replacing the LE Eithne which berthed in Malta during the week after saving 3,377 men, women and children from waters between Libya and Sicily over the last eight weeks.

The decision to send the Irish Navy was taken earlier this year in response to the huge numbers of migrants dying as they fled war, persecution and crippled economies and attempted to make it to Europe.

But documents have exposed the Irish Government’s reluctance to join an international humanitarian missions over the previous two years as officials advised a “low profile” during discussions and warned increasing rescue missions could encourage life-threatening migration.

Simon Coveney, Defence Minister, met the crew of the LE Eithne as their mission ended.

“I conveyed to the personnel our deep appreciation for the outstanding manner in which they performed their duties on overseas service on behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland. I am pleased to be here today to convey my appreciation to you, in advance of your deployment,” he said.

The LE Niamh under the command of Lieutenant Commander Daniel Wall is travelling from Haulbowline, Cork tonight and is expected to remain in the Mediterranean until September.

It has 55 sailors and two medics from the Army Medical Corps on board.

Mr Coveney added: “I want to wish Lieutenant Commander Daniel Wall and the crew of LE Niamh a safe and successful mission. You are travelling to the Mediterranean with my best wishes and with those of the rest of the nation.”

Working parents in Ireland to get six months off after a new child


Working parents will get six months’ paid leave in the first year after their child is born, under new plans being considered by the Coalition.

Squeezed middle-income working families with small children are set to benefit from a range of measures being recommended in a Government report on childcare, obtained by the Irish Independent.

The report also finds that just over one in four children under school-going age is in formal childcare and the existing free year of childcare is too short in terms of hours each day and number of weeks a year.

Six months’ paid parental leave – to be shared between the parents and in addition to maternity leave – is the big-ticket item in the report compiled by a high-powered committee.

The measure would take a decade to implement in full but would build up gradually from a month to a full six months.

“The proposal is to increase parental choice to remain as the primary care-giver of their child in the first year of life and to provide as much support as possible to the developing relationship between the parents and the child,” the childcare report says.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Michael Noonan says he will cut the Universal Social Charge by 1pc in October’s Budget.

“I’m going to cut the USC by at least 1% and maybe a bit more,” he said.

Walking briskly can help us to prevent heart failure


Picking up the pace and cutting down on smoking and drinking can prevent heart failure, say health experts

Walking briskly at two miles per hour, exercising away 845 calories a week and limiting alcohol to two drinks a night can halve the risk of heart failure scientists have found.

Adults who walked briskly, were moderately active in their leisure time, drank moderately, did not smoke and avoided obesity were far less likely to develop heart problems.

Researchers in the US studied the lifestyles of 4,500 adults for two decades tracking their diet, walking habits, leisure activity, exercise, alcohol use, smoking status, weight, height, waist circumference and heart health through questionnaires and physical exams.

Researchers found that adults who walked at a pace 2 miles per hour or faster had a lower risk of developing heart failure.

Participating in leisure activities that burned more than 845 or more calories a week, not smoking, modest alcohol intake of one drink or more a week (but not more than 1-2 drinks/day), and avoiding obesity were also associated with reduced rates of heart failure.

Time to cut back? A modest intake of alcohol can also help prevent heart failure

Intriguingly diet did not seem to make much difference to heart health.

“It’s encouraging to learn that older adults can make simple changes to reduce their heart failure risk, like engaging in moderate physical activity, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight,” said lead thor Dr Liana Del Gobbo, of Tufts University, Boston.

“Although dietary patterns were not related to heart failure risk in this study, eating a healthy diet is of critical importance for preventing other cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases” said lead author Liana Del Gobbo, PhD, research fellow at Tufts University.

Heart failure is a condition where the heart fails to pump as much blood as the body needs when the muscle becomes too weak or stiff to work properly. It leads to breathlessness, feeling very tired and ankle swelling.

It usually occurs following a heart attack and in its severest form heart failure has a life expectancy worse than many cancers.

More than 500,000 people in Britain suffer from the conditon, and almost as many have damaged hearts but, as yet, have no symptoms. Hundreds of patients require new hearts and 200 transplants take place in the UK each year. But two out of 10 people will die waiting for an organ due to a severe shortage of donors.

Charities said the study showed that living a healthy lifestyle was crucial to preventing heart failure.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “More than half a million people across the UK have been diagnosed with heart failure, an incurable condition where your heart has been permanently damaged, often following a heart attack.

“This research shows that not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting plenty of exercise are associated with a significantly reduced risk of heart failure, a really debilitating disease.

“We know that even small changes can make a big difference to your heart health, and it’s never too late to start.

“Recent advances in regenerative medicine have made mending damaged hearts a realistic goal, but we must fund more research to make this happen.”

2014 was a bumper year for Irish birth rate’s


Ireland had the highest birth rate in the EU last year at 14.4 per one thousand residents.

That is compared to the EU average of 10.1.

According to EU population estimates from Eurostat, Ireland now has a population of 4.6 million – just 0.9% of the EU population.

With 16% of the total EU population, Germany continues to be the most populated EU country, ahead of France at just over 13%, and the UK at 12.9%.

Smoking is linked to Schizophrenia

A study says?


People with schizophrenia are three times more likely to smoke than those who don’t have the mental health condition, a study published in Lancet Psychiatry says.

Experts at King’s College London say that although links have been noted before between tobacco use and psychosis, there’s been little research into the possibility that smoking can cause schizophrenia.

Past studies have looked at why people with psychotic conditions smoke. Explanations have included relief from boredom or distress and a desire to self-medicate.

Reviewing the Evidence

To explore the subject further, researchers reviewed 61 studies that included nearly 15,000 tobacco users and 273,000 non-users. They found that 57% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia for the first time were smokers.

Also, people who were diagnosed for the first time were three times more likely to smoke than those who hadn’t had schizophrenia.

A possible explanation is that heavy cigarette smoking increases the ability to make the chemical dopamine in part of the brain. Dopamine is thought to play an important role in the development of schizophrenia.

The Role of Dopamine

“Excess dopamine is the best biological explanation we have for psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia,” says Robin Murray, professor of psychiatric research at King’s College London, in a statement. “It is possible that nicotine exposure, by increasing the release of dopamine, causes psychosis to develop.”

The authors say it’s hard to prove from available research that smoking tobacco actually causes schizophrenia. For instance, they were unable to filter out the effects of other substances, such as marijuana.

Still, as a precaution, co-author Sameer Jauhar urges people working with schizophrenia patients to try to get them to take part in smoking cessation programs.

“Regardless of these findings, there is overwhelming evidence that nicotine use through tobacco smoking is one of the most dangerous drug problems in the world,” says Michael Bloomfield, MD, clinical lecturer in psychiatry at University College London. “Anyone who needs help in stopping smoking should speak with their doctor.”

‘Legendary’ beetle found on Wimbledon Common


The single specimen of the False Click Beetle, Eucnemis capucina, discovered on the 1,140-acre Wimbledon Common in south-west London

It was famously home to the Wombles, but Wimbledon Common now has an even more unusual resident, scientists have discovered.

A single specimen of the globally rare False Click Beetle has been discovered in the 1,140-acre green space in south-west London, the first ever seen in the capital.

And like the pointy-nosed “wombling free” creatures that starred in the cult 1970s children’s TV series, the insect is known for its environmental credentials.

The Wombles’ goal in life was to keep Wimbledon Common tidy by clearing up and recycling rubbish. Similarly, the False Click Beetle, Eucnemis capucina, is associated with unspoiled natural environments.

A member of staff at London’s Natural History Museum made the surprise find during a recent insect survey conducted with the Conservators of Wimbledon Common.

Dr Max Barclay, manager of the museum’s 10 million strong beetle collection, said: “Sampling beetles is like taking a blood test, it gives you quick idea of a whole ecosystem’s health. This beetle is associated with only the best and oldest woodlands, and previously was known only from the New Forest and Windsor Forest.

“To find such a species at Wimbledon Common shows that the conservators are taking good care of the site, and managing it for wildlife, and that there are old important trees there that can support populations of rare insects.

“Insects are the bottom of the animal food chain, so if insect populations are healthy it bodes well for bats, birds and other animals.”

He added: “Eucnemis is a kind of legendary beetle. No-one I know has ever seen it, and the newest specimens in Natural History Museum are from the 1930s. Finds such as these are a perfect example of how our research and collections show the diversity of life on our planet.”

The beetle is considered a “Grade One” indicator of good quality ancient woodland.

Keita Matsumoto, who found the insect, said: “It was a lucky shot. I’m pleased I was swinging my insect net that afternoon instead of my tennis racquet.”

In total the survey recorded more than 100 species of beetle, many of which had not been reported in the area before.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 1st June 2015

Secret police files relating to Easter Rising released


Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) obsessively monitored future rebels.

A screenshot from the National Archives web site which details the extent of surveillance on the leaders of the Easter Rising.

Secret police files detailing the extent of surveillance on the leaders of the Easter Rising have been made available to the public for the first time.

The daily files were compiled by the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) which went to great lengths to monitor the movements of men including future Proclamation signatories Thomas Clarke, Seán Mac Diarmada and Thomas MacDonagh, Professor Eoin MacNeill and Bulmer Hobson among 230 people who they targeted.

The files have been in the National Archives for the past century and have only been available on request to specialist scholars. Now they have been digitised and released on the internet for the first time from Monday, June 1st.

They were compiled for the chief secretary’s office crime branch and the dispatches were entitled – “movement of extremists”.

The police were obsessive in monitoring the comings and goings of those they suspected of plotting sedition. “J.J Walsh left 37 Haddington Road at 11.30am and proceeded to McArthurs House Agents, 79 Talbot Street where he remained for 20 minutes. He afterwards inspected a vacant shop at 20 Blessinggton Street,” went one report which detailed all Walsh’s movements on June 1st, 1915.

The files will be released in chronological order according to what happened on each day 100 years ago.

The file for June 1st, 1915 notes that Prof MacNeill, the founder of the Irish Volunteers and the man who countermanded the order for the Rising on Easter Sunday, was seen visiting Thomas Clarke at his shop in 75 Parnell Street. Others observed entering Clarke’s shop included the future President of Ireland Sean T O’Ceallaigh (then known as John T Kelly) and Frank Fahy who was sentenced to death for his part in the Easter Rising. It was commuted to 10 years in jail.

The files observed that Ernest Blythe, the future Minister for Finance and managing director of the Abbey Theatre, returned to Killarney from Dublin that evening. It concluded: “R.I.C informed”.

Bulmer Hobson, a leading figure in the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), is also listed in the files entering the Irish Volunteer office in Dawson Street between 4pm and 5pm.

Despite all the surveillance by the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), the Rising, when it happened, was regarded as a massive failure of intelligence.

As a result the long-serving chief secretary to IrelandAugustine Burrell resigned in the weeks after the Rising having been blamed for not foreseeing the rebellion.

The DMP had a particular interest in Clarke, the veteran republican who had served time in jail in England and who was the main instigator of the Rising through the IRB. He crops up in nearly every report.

Major events which took place in 1915 and 1916 were also under close surveillance. The files include references to the funeral of veteran Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa in August 1915 when Padraig Pearse made his famous “the fools, the fools, the fools” speech and the annual convention of the Irish Volunteers. Anti-recruitment and conscription rallies were also carefully monitored.

The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys said the release of the files is part of a number of digitisation projects taking place as part of Ireland 2016, the Government’s commemoration programme for the Easter Rising centenary.

Director of the National Archives John McDonough said the chronological release of material will allow visitors to the national archives website to track the movements of those involved in the Rising in the months leading up April 1916. “People will be able to read how key players were identified, followed, and put under surveillance, and read the thoughts of the detectives tracking them.”

Cholesterol drugs ‘can cut heart bypass deaths’


A study has found that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs can significantly reduce the risk of dying during a heart bypass operation

Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs can reduce the risk of dying during a heart bypass operation by as much as two-thirds, a study has found.

Researchers made the discovery after analysing data on more than 16,000 British patients aged 40 and over who underwent a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG).

The procedure diverts blood around blocked or narrowed arteries to improve the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart.

Patients who took statins – who made up 85% of the total – had a 67% reduced risk of death around the time of the surgery compared to the average risk associated with the procedure.

Other medications, including beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and alpha-2 agonists, were not associated with the same effect.

Simvastatin, the most commonly prescribed statin, lowered the risk of death by 77%, the study showed.

Findings from the research were presented at the European Society of Anaesthesiology’s Euroanaesthesia meeting in Berlin, Germany.

The authors, led Dr Robert Sanders from the University of Wisconsin in the US, wrote: “Statins were associated with a significant protective effect on peri-operative mortality from CABG surgery.”

A new era in Melanoma cancer treatment?


Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, kills more than 2,000 people a year in Britain

When it comes to reporting medical science, “breakthrough” is a very overused word, and one I usually try to avoid.

When dealing with cancer, I also prefer not to talk about cure – it’s a hostage to fortune, given that the disease can lie dormant for long periods only to emerge many years later.

Headline writers like both terms – they form a neat shorthand to advertise many stories of medical advance.

“Breakthrough” does seem justified, whereas “cure” does not, when referring to a slew of results from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) concerning a new generation of cancer treatments.

The main excitement from ASCO was prompted by a form of treatment known as immunotherapy – using drugs which unmask the ability of cancer to switch off the immune system and so hide from the body’s natural killer cells.

In a key trial, nearly six in ten patients with advanced melanoma saw their disease halted for almost a year when treated with a combination of ipilimumab and a new immunotherapy drug, nivolumab.

Until recently survival time for patients with melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, was just a few months.

For the BBC’s Panorama, I followed one patient, Vicky Brown, 61, from Cardiff, who was part of the major trial led by London’s Royal Marsden Hospital and Institute of Cancer Research.

Her melanoma had spread to her breast, lungs and neck and she initially thought she had months to live.

Instead the combination therapy shrank her tumours and left her apparently disease-free for two years.


Although there were severe but temporary side-effects on her liver, Vicky says the treatment gave her her life back.

Vicky has recently been diagnosed with another tumour in her lung, so will need follow-up treatment.

That is why it is premature to talk about curing advanced cancer, which has spread through the body.

Nonetheless, given the grim outlook that used to exist for advanced melanoma, it’s easy to see why cancer specialists have been using terms such as “game-changing” and “paradigm shift”.

Not least because immunotherapy treatments are also showing promise with several other forms of cancer.

But these new drugs come at a price.

They cost hundreds of millions of pounds to develop – many treatments that go through trials end up in costly failure.

So the drug companies want to make a return on investment – and a profit for shareholders – while the drugs are still on patent, before cheaper generic versions are available.

Ipilimumab, one of the combination immunotherapy drugs in the trial, costs around £75,000 per patient.

The other drug in the melanoma trial, nivolumab, is not yet licensed in Europe. It has also been shown to extend life expectancy in lung cancer – the biggest of all cancer killers.

It is licensed in Japan at a reported cost of nearly £100,000 a patient, although once approved in the UK there would be a confidential NHS agreed price, as with other new drugs.

Genetic switches

Several pharma companies have immunotherapy drugs undergoing trials, with promising results against melanoma, lung, liver, bowel, head and neck cancers.

There is also plenty of excitement about a new range of cancer drugs which target genetic weaknesses in tumours.

These are the result of our far greater understanding of the biology of cancer, and the genetic switches which drive the disease.

Increasingly doctors will classify cancer, not by the organ of origin, but by its genetic make-up.

Some men with prostate cancer have been shown to benefit from a drug originally intended for women with inherited genetic defects leading to breast and ovarian cancer.

The drug, olaparib, was recently licensed for ovarian cancer, but has just been rejected by the drug watchdog NICE, on grounds – at £4,000 a month – of cost.

The regulator said it had not yet shown it extended life expectancy beyond existing drugs.

Such data may take years to emerge. The trials do show that the drug is often better tolerated, with fewer side-effects, than conventional chemotherapy.

The decision has dismayed British cancer researchers, who spent 20 years developing the drug and say around 450 women a year will be denied access.

Expect many more difficult decisions on cancer drugs. There are potentially dozens of new treatments coming through in the next few years.

With a finite health budget and competing demands from dementia, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and more, the NHS will have to make some challenging decisions on what price it puts on extending the lives of cancer patients.

Fisherman’s body is found in Donegal


The body of a fisherman who went missing in Donegal this morning has been recovered from the water.

It is understood that the man was working on a Spanish trawler that went overboard last night and was reported missing this morning.

Malin Head Coastguard and the Killybegs Coastguard Unit carried out extensive searches for the man.

His body was recovered in Killybegs harbour shortly after lunchtime. His remains were taken to Letterkenny hospital where a post-mortem will be carried out. The nationality of the dead man is not known at this stage.

Sawfish escape extinction through ‘virgin births’, scientists discover

A routine DNA study has revealed surprising results which suggest that female sawfish in Florida are reproducing without mating with males


A juvenile smalltooth sawfish. The DNA study revealed that female-only reproduction accounted for 3% of one population in Florida. Photograph: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

A virgin birth is normally taken as a sign of divine intervention, but the phenomenon may be more common than we thought – at least in certain fish species.

Scientists have discovered that female sawfish appear to be routinely reproducing without any male input through an alternative form of reproduction known as parthenogenesis.

Asexual reproduction had been observed previously in various sharks, snakes and fish in captivity, when zookeepers were surprised to discover pregnant females that had not had any recent contact with males. But until now so-called “virgin births” were assumed to be incredibly rare and had never been observed in vertebrates in the wild.

Gregg Poulakis of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who led the fieldwork in the study, said: “There was a general feeling that vertebrate parthenogenesis was a curiosity that didn’t usually lead to viable offspring.”

In the latest study, DNA fingerprinting showed that about 3% of a sawfish population in Florida appeared to have been created through female-only reproduction, suggesting that parthenogenesis may play an important role in the survival of certain critically endangered species.

Although reproducing in this way depletes the genetic diversity of a population, it could help maintain numbers during critical periods, perhaps serving as a “bridging” strategy to get through a population bottleneck.

The smalltooth sawfish is a member of the ray family, distinguished by its studded saw-shaped nose-extension, which it uses to attack smaller fish. The fish, which grow to several metres in length, are found in southern Florida and have been driven close to extinction due to overfishing and habitat loss. The global population is thought to be around 1% of its level in 1900.

“We were conducting routine DNA fingerprinting of the sawfish found in this area in order to see if relatives were often reproducing with relatives due to their small population size,” said Andrew Fields, who led the study at Stony Brook University in New York. “What the DNA fingerprints told us was altogether more surprising: female sawfish are sometimes reproducing without even mating.”

During normal reproduction, the female egg cell matures and ejects half its chromosomes through a series of cell divisions, leaving a single set of chromosomes to combine with the single set that the sperm brings along. The resultant offspring end up with two sets of chromosomes in each of their cells, with half the genetic material coming from each parent.

Sawfish are close to extinction due to overfishing and habitat loss. It is thought that the ‘virgin births’ may be a survival strategy. Photograph: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)

In parthenogenesis, however, the mature egg is fertilised by a sister cell, known as a polar body, that contains an identical set of chromosomes. This means that while the resultant offspring will still have two sets chromosomes in each cell, the genes on each will be exactly the same.

In the study, published in Current Biology, the researchers captured 190 sawfish and in each case analysed 16 sites on the genome that were known to contain short sequences that are repeated multiple times in succession.

The same technique, known as Short Tandem Repeats, is used in human paternity testing: since half your genetic material comes from your father, the number of repeats on half of your chromosomes should match up with the number of repeats seen on his.

When applied to the sawfish, the paternity-style test revealed that some of the fish lacked a biological father altogether.

In these cases, the number of repeats on each chromosome was identical at each of the 16 sites, which could only be explained if they had inherited the entirety of their genetic material from their mother.

The survey identified two fish with different mothers, which both appeared to have been born through parthenogenesis, and a further five fish, which all shared the same mother.

Until now, scientists assumed that having two mirror image sets of genes would normally lead to serious health problems or be fatal, since it leaves individuals without any backup in the case of genetic flaws. Surprisingly, though, the seven parthenogens appeared to be in perfect health.

Dr Warren Booth, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Tulsa, who previously discovered an instance of parthenogenesis in snakes, said: “This is basically a very extreme form of inbreeding. Most people think of inbreeding as bad, but it could be helpful in purging deleterious mutations from a population.”

However, he added that it would also lead to populations losing genetic diversity, which is essential for a species to remain resilient to new threats.

All of the “virgin birth” fish were female, and the scientists believe that only female fish could be produced through this method since sawfish sex is determined through an XX/XY chromosome system similar to that of humans. Despite this, the population appeared to have a roughly 50:50 balance of male and female fish.

The researchers have not yet established whether the offspring were fertile themselves, but are tracking the population to investigate further. “It takes a very long time for sawfish to reach sexual maturity, so it could be up to ten years until we find out,” said Fields.

The authors are now trawling through publicly available genetic databases of other species to investigate whether parthenogenesis may be happening more widely.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 31st May 2015

Plans for new Dublin Airport runway ready for take-off


Plans for a €300m second runway at Dublin Airport have gained dramatic new impetus following the IAG takeover of Aer Lingus which includes plans to use Dublin airport to feed traffic from Europe to North America.

Over the next five years IAG plan to boost Aer Lingus feeder traffic through Dublin by an extra 2.4m passengers a year.

But even before the IAG bid for Aer Lingus emerged earlier this year the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) had reignited plans for a new runway on the 2,500 acre site at Collinstown.

New research released last week by the respected aviation website anna aero shows that Dublin is the fastest growing airport in Europe for long-haul traffic this year

Now plans for the construction of a second runway, which first emerged more than 30 years ago, look set to be fast tracked.

Planning permission for a new east-west runway, 1.6 kilometres to the north and parallel to the existing main runway was granted back in 2007 and remains valid for the next two years.

But air industry sources suggest a new planning application may have to be lodged because the original permission contained 31 restrictive conditions including a requirement that no flights operate from the second runway between 11pm and 7am.

The hour between 6am and 7am remains the airport’s busiest time and a ban on flights leaving a new second runway before 7am is considered impractical. Passenger numbers travelling through Dublin leapt by 8% to 21.7 million last year and are already 15% up on that figure in the first four months of 2015.

A DAA spokesperson said “We are currently examining the various options regarding the delivery of a second parallel runway at Dublin Airport, but have not yet made a final decision in relation to this issue.”

“A second parallel runway has been part of the overall development plan for Dublin Airport for several decades and we’re fortunate that land was earmarked for this project many years ago within the overall Dublin Airport campus.”

“The various options relating to its development will be carefully considered before the company makes a final decision on the best way forward and a second runway remains a central element of Dublin Airport’s long-term plans,” the DAA spokesman confirmed

Dublin Airport now has two flights per day to Dubai and Abu Dhabi with Emirates and Etihad both flying twice a day since last year.

Passenger numbers to the Middle East and North Africa doubled between 2011 and 2013.

The Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR) has ruled that Dublin Airport will not be allowed to pass on any of the costs associated with the development of a second runway until passenger numbers pass 25 million in a 12 month period.

Between 2010 and 2014, Dublin Airport increased its transatlantic passenger numbers by 42% with seven new transatlantic services during the same period.

This summer, Dublin Airport will be the sixth largest airport in Europe for services to North America with 318 flights per week (159 weekly departures) between Dublin and 15 separate destinations in the United States and Canada.

Fianna Fáil want new law to allow Irish Central Bank to lower mortgage rates


Fianna Fáil has said legislation is needed to force banks to lower their variable mortgage rates.

It comes as Bank of Ireland yesterday announced that it is reducing its fixed-rate mortgages by 0.3%.

It has made no announcement on its variable rate however, which stands at 4.5%.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan recently met with financial institutions to ask that they reduce variable rates in line with falling ECB rates.

Fianna Fáil Finance Spokesperson Michael McGrath said that legislation might be the only way to deal with this problem.

“I firmly believe that legislation is going to be required in the Oireachtas to give the Central Bank power to intervene where a market failure has occurred – and one has occurred in the Irish mortgage market – and to put a cap on the level of rates that the banks are charging variable rate customers,” he said.

“This issue is simply not going to go away.

“The Minister met with the banks a couple of weeks ago and, judging by this reaction from Bank of Ireland, those meetings have simply failed.”

Meanwhile back at the bank of money:

Irish Central Bank spends €55,000 on biscuits last year 2014?

The Irish Central Bank spent €55,000 on biscuits last year?


It looks like bankers have a very sweet tooth judging by figures released of the Central Bank’s food bill for 2014.

The bill was published in The Sunday Business Post today and shows that €55,000 was spent on biscuits alone last year.

The total is part of a sweet deal for staff which sees their food, tea, coffee and refreshments subsidised to the tune of over €1 million.

Banks bosses said the treats are also snapped up at seminars and meetings as well as press conferences and briefings.

Kidney Health could be a better way to predict heart disease risk


Kidney function could be a better gauge of heart attack risk than cholesterol levels and blood pressure, according to a recently conducted study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

According to a JHSPH news release, the researchers reviewed data collected from 637,000 patients in 24 studies who had no history of heart disease and found that results from common kidney function tests, which are used to assess levels creatine in the blood and the amount of albumin leaking out of the kidney into urine, improved the successful prediction rate of heart problems.

The amount of creatinine in the blood reflects how well the kidneys are filtering out waste.  Higher amounts of albumin indicate the presence of kidney damage.  In the study’s participants, the levels of creatinine and albuminuria predicted cardiovascular disease in general, particularly heart failure, heart attack and stroke.

Albuminuria was found to be the strongest predictor, outperforming cholesterol levels and blood pressure as a risk assessor for heart failure and death from heart attack or stroke. The study’s lead author Kunihiro Matsushita, MD, PhD, an assistant scientist at Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology, believes that the study’s findings show that health care providers can use data on kidney damage and kidney function to better understand a patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

Cholesterol levels and blood pressure tests are good indicators of cardiovascular risk, but they are not perfect.  This study tells us we could do even better with information that often times we are already collecting. People with chronic kidney disease are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as those with healthy kidneys and roughly half of them die from it before they reach kidney failure

While the biological mechanisms linking kidney disease to cardiovascular disease aren’t well understood, Matsushita says that poorly functioning kidneys can lead to a fluid overload that may result in heart failure.

The results of the study were published in The Lancet’s journal Diabetes and Endocrinology on May 29. In other news about heart disease here at Immortal News, treating depression with antidepressants has been shown to lowers rates of death, coronary artery disease and stroke.

ICSA calls for standalone hen harrier compensation scheme


The ICSA has called for a standalone scheme to provide proper compensation for farmers with hen harrier designation

ICSA Rural Development Chairman Billy Gray said that while there is some provision for hen harrier designation in GLAS, this covers a maximum of 19ha and is unsuitable for many farmers with larger designated areas.

“ICSA is adamant that there should be no designation without compensation – farmers must be compensated fully and equally for every designated hectare of their land,” Gray said.

The ICSA Rural Development Chairman was speaking after a meeting in Templeglantine, Co. Limerick recently.

Gray also suggested that it was time to revisit the blanket ban on new afforestation on designated ground.

“The scientific basis for this ban is far from categorical. For example, it is now accepted that the first 12 years of a forestry plantation provide ideal cover for the hen harrier.

“As modern sitka spruce plantations can be brought to clearfell in as little as 25 years, and Christmas trees in a far shorter time.

It is clear that there is at the very minimum scope for staggered plantation mixed in with some open ground.

He said that this is especially pertinent to farmers with large designations in excess of 20ha.

The Rural Development Chairman said that while a more flexible approach to forestry would certainly be helpful, there is no getting away from the fact that there must be a stand-alone scheme covering every hectare of ground affected by hen harrier designation.

“Now that the Government is loosening the purse strings to provide substantial amounts of money for public sector pay rises, there is no good reason why a relatively small amount of money could not be set aside for such a scheme,”

Top gynaecologist warns women to have babies by age thirty.

To avoid the ‘devastation and regret’ of infertility


A new mother holding a sleeping newborn infant in hospital

A top UK fertility specialist has said that women who have children after thirty are placing a huge pressure on the British health system and warned them to start having children in their twenties.

Consultant gynaecologist Professor Geeta Nargund believes the UK faces a ‘fertility time-bomb’ as the average age a woman has her first child continues to rise.

The lead consultant for reproductive medicine at St George’s Hospital in London claims that fertility issues encountered by women who begin trying for a baby in their thirties place “costly and largely unnecessary burden on the NHS” as they opt for IVF and other means of conceiving.

In a letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan obtained by The Sunday Mail, Professor Nargund wrote: “I have witnessed all too often the shock and agony on the faces of women who realise they have left it too late to start a family.

“For so many, this news comes as a genuine surprise and the sense of devastation and regret can be overwhelming.

“And so often the cry will be “Why did no one warn me about this?”’

Professor Nargund believes that children should be given ‘age appropriate’ information from primary school to university to highlight the importance of having children when they are at an optimum age.

“Information is power and the best way to empower people to take control of their fertility is through education.”

“Ideally, if a woman is ready for a child, she should start trying by the time she is 30. She should consider having a child early because as a woman gets older, her fertility declines sharply.”

“As women get older, they experience more complex fertility problems, so treatment tends to be less successful and more expensive.

“On average, more [IVF] treatment cycles are required for a successful pregnancy. So educating people about fertility is very important for the public purse, because it will help us to get more babies within the same NHS budget.”

In the UK IVF is funded by the NHS. IVFs success rate remains at just one birth per four cycles of IVF which costs the health system £20,000 (€28,000). In 2013, the NHS funded over 25,500 cycles in England and Wales.

Professor Nargund had her first child at 29 and said: “My biological clock was absolutely on my mind.”

The doctor revealed that many women are badly misinformed about their fertility.

“Educated women are not necessarily educated about their fertility,” she said.

The average age Irish women have their first baby is 30.3.

We are drinking dinosaur pee every day we drink water:


Here’s Why

Do you drink water? If so, how would you react if we told you that all the water you’ve ever drunk and all the water you are ever going to drink in the future comes from the urine of a dinosaur?

The average American drinks four cups of water every day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That is far short of the recommended eight glasses of water every day and is equivalent to around four cups of dinosaur pee.

Whether it is tap, filtered, bottled, sparkling or sourced from the Himalayan glaciers and sparkled with gold dust, you are just actually drinking the liquid wastes of an ancient beast, says science-centric YouTube channel Curious Minds.

A video explaining this theory says a very small percentage of all the water in the world is available for drinking purposes, but it is still a huge amount of water to provide for the needs of every human being that has ever walked on the surface of the Earth for the last 200,000 years.

Every year, around 121,000 cubic miles of water, or about the equivalent of 42 Superior Lakes, falls down on Earth and constantly flows through the rivers, lakes, ground reservoirs and everywhere else it passes through, including inside the guts of people and animals that drink it.

So what do dinosaurs have to do with all this? Unlike humans, who have been on Earth for a tiny fraction of the 186 million years that dinosaurs ruled this planet, the beasts were here far longer than we have ever been. In that long span of time, it is very likely that the dinosaurs have drunk all the water available back then, and all the water available now is simply water that has passed through a dinosaur’s kidneys making its way through the never-ending water cycle.

“Humans consume a lot of water, but our species hasn’t had the numbers or time to process a large portion of the Earth’s water. Dinosaurs on the other hand had a long time to drink water,” the video explains. “The Mesozoic era – the reign of the dinosaurs – lasted for 186 million years.

That gave them time to drink a lot of water. So while most molecules in your eight-ounce glass have never been drunk by another human, almost every single molecule has been drunk by a dinosaur.”

Charles Fisherman, author of “The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water,” says water molecules are extremely resilient, and it’s likely that all water molecules present now were the same water molecules available for billions of years.

“All the water on Earth has been through a dinosaur kidney,” Fishermantells Marketplace.org. “Every bottle of Evian you drink from is Tyrannosaurus Rex pee. All the water on Earth has been here for 4.5 billion years. It’s all toilet-to-tap at some level.”

Believe it or believe it not?

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 16th November 2013

Tánaiste says the data breach is a real wake-up call on cyber crime


Eamon Gilmore Tanaiste says Loyalty-build data breach a timely reminder of the potential costs of cyber crime.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore: told a conference on cyber security organised by the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin yesterday that a number of other countries had already had to respond to similar threats and security incident

The Loyaltybuild data breach was a timely reminder of the potential costs of cyber crime to the individual, to businesses and to Government bodies in terms of financial and reputational damage, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said.

Addressing a conTwo Irish banks have confirmed that there are indications of fraudulent activity on credit cards caught up in the Loyaltybuild breach, while Clerys, Centra, Stena Line andPigsback have joined the list of companies hit by one of Ireland’s biggest cyber attacks to date. Up to 376,000 customers, including more than 80,000 in Ireland, have had financial information stolen.

ference on cyber security organised by the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin yesterday, Mr Gilmore said a number of other countries had already had to respond to similar threats and security incidents, including South Korea.

In March, the hard drives of 30,000 PCs in South Korea were wiped clean, marking the beginning of a co-ordinated cyber attack on six of the country’s banks.

“The lesson from both of these attacks is clear: individuals, businesses and Government must be constantly vigilant and ensure that our systems evolve to meet the ever-growing threat.”

Mr Gilmore said for a highly globalised country such as Ireland, responding to the global implications of cyber security was essential to protect the human rights of citizens and the pursuit of economic interests.

“Managing the risks arising from malicious use of cyberspace will allow us to continue to benefit from the vast opportunities in the digital economy, which currently accounts for almost 100,000 jobs in Ireland.”

However, he said Ireland needed help in fighting sophisticated cyber attacks such as the Loyaltybuild breach.

“We need more European and more international co-operation, as the issues we face are too great for one country or one company to tackle alone.”

He said there was a compelling case for the public and private sectors to work together in responding to these challenges. “Such co-operation in addressing cyber challenges is vital, and also needs the involvement of civil society.”

Mr Gilmore also criticised surveillance measures by certain countries, saying such activity put at risk efforts to keep cyberspace open and free.

“I believe strongly that states should not bug friendly states and I reject out of hand the notion that extra surveillance should take place, just because the technology permits it.”

Richard Bruton leads investment & Jobs mission to India


Minister Bruton on Jobs trip with 42 firms to Bangalore, New Delhi and Mumbai

Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton will today begin five-day investment mission to India along with Enterprise Irelandand the IDA.

Some 42 Irish companies and higher education institutions will target sectors including technology, life sciences, financial services, engineering and education during the trip to Bangalore, New Delhi and Mumbai.

“Central to the Government’s plans for jobs and growth is driving an export-led recovery, and in the past two years we have seen a turnaround in employment in the exporting sectors of the economy,” Mr Bruton said.

“In the three years 2008-2010 Irish and multinational exporting companies lost more than 40,000 jobs, but since 2011 they have added well over 15,000 jobs.”

The Minister said each job added in companies in these sectors led to about one additional job elsewhere in the economy.

Key growth markets such as India were particular targets, he said.

This will be the 17th major trade and investment mission Mr Bruton has led in 32 months since the Government came into office in March 2011.

Ryanair to hire 300 new staff as it opens nine Dublin routes


New pilots, cabin crew, customer service staff and software developers to be recruited next year

Ryanair is to open nine new routes from Dublin and increasing the frequency of eight existing services, creating 300 jobs with the airline and bringing an additional 700,000 passengers through the airport every year.

The new routes will run to Almeria, Bari, Basel, Bucharest, Chania, Comiso, Lisbon, Marrakesh and Prague from April next year, bringing to 85 the number of services that Ryanair operates from the airport. the airline is also increasing the frequency of the Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London Stansted, Madrid, Manchester and Nice routes, bringing the number of flights from 300 to 400.

The company said it plans to recruit new pilots, cabin crew, customer service staff and software developers next year, creating a total of 300 jobs in Ireland. The move is part of Ryanair’s recent pledge to improve its customer service and website, with the extra routes a direct response to the Government’s decision to scrap the €3 travel tax.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary pointed out around half of the 300 new jobs that the airline is creating in Dublin were connected with the expansion announced today and would not have gone elsewhere if the travel tax had not bee cut. “Scrapping the travel tax is key to this growth,” he stressed.

Welcoming the news, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, said the extra one million passengers represented an opportunity for the overall tourist industry.

“I would like to say this to the hospitality sector, you in turn have a real opportunity, with up to one million extra people coming into our country in 2014, you need to engage with those people and the repeat business will follow,” Mr Kenny said.

He also called on other airlines to follow Ryanair and look at expanding their services out of Irish airports.

DAA chief executive, Kevin Toland, said that Dublin Airport is now going through its third successive year of growth, with both long- and short-haul business on the increase.

The number of travellers using the airport to connect to other destinations is up 43 per cent year-on-year, he pointed out.

“What we are seeing is an improvement in European business, which is up 5 per cent to date and the UK is coming back into growth,” he said, adding that Dublin is Europe’s third fastest growing airport.

A daily 90-minute walk can cut stroke risk by a third for men


Walking between one and two hours a day can cut the risk of stroke by a third

Daily 90-minute strolls could cut the risk of a stroke by a third but power walking has little benefit, a study has suggested.

Researchers found the length of time spent walking had a bigger impact than the speed of walking.

They discovered that walking at least one to two hours a day was associated with reduced risk of a stroke.

However strenuous “power walks” did little to lower the likelihood of the disease.

The study, which is published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, examined 3,435 healthy men aged 60 to 80.

Participants were questioned about the distance they walked each week and their usual walking pace.

The research showed that men who walked for eight to 14 hours each week were a third less likely to suffer a stroke than those who spent no more than three hours walking.

For men walking more than 22 hours a week, the risk was two thirds lower.

“If you took 1,000 men who usually walk 8-14 hours per week and followed them for 10 years, on average they would have 55 strokes, compared with 80 for the group who only walk zero to three hours per week,” said lead researcher Dr Barbara Jefferis, from University College London.

“The total time spent walking was more consistently protective against stroke than walking pace; overall it seemed that accumulating more time walking was most beneficial.

“Our findings suggest that regular walking each week could be an important part of stroke prevention strategies in older people.”

Each year in the UK around 152,000 people suffer strokes, which can be fatal or disabling.

Dr Shannon Amoils, from the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the study, said: “Whatever your age it’s important to stay active every day. This research suggests a daily walk could help to reduce stroke risk and is further evidence that regular exercise – even a daily stroll in the park – can be an effective way to keep healthy.”

It comes after a study by Harvard researchers in 2010 found that women who walked for two or more hours a week were 30 per cent less likely to suffer a stroke than those who said they rarely walked very far.

It also found that women who said they normally walk at a fast pace, classified as at least three miles an hour, reduced their risk of stroke by 37 per cent.

Afternoon caffeine consumption can interrupt your nighttime sleep


Caffeine consumption in the afternoon can interrupt nighttime slumber, a small research study says. Even if you ingest caffeine, whether in pill or liquid form, six hours before bedtime, the effects can still rob you of sleep.

The study, published Friday by Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, focused on 12 healthy people with normal sleep habits. The participants took three caffeine pills per day for four days. One pill contained 400 milligrams of caffeine while the other two were placebos. The pills were taken at different times during the evening: six hours before bedtime, three hours before bedtime, and then right before bedtime.

The results showed the effects were pretty much the same no matter how many hours before bedtime caffeine was ingested. At least one hour of sleep can be lost. In fact, the effects of caffeine can be felt as long as 12 hours post ingestion, and can affect getting to sleep and staying asleep.

Your morning caffeine intake, however, is fine, says Dr. Len Horovitz, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. If you’re concerned about your overall caffeine intake, it’s important to limit your caffeine intake eight hours before your bedtime.

Looking for a Natural Pick-me-up?
  • Eat breakfast. This is the most important meal of the day. Your mama was right about that. Focus on protein and fiber as these will fill you up. Oatmeal and whole grain cereals, fruit, yogurt and some nuts are all good choices.
  • Drink water. Most people do not drink enough water on a daily basis and this is an easily overlooked beverage. If you are well hydrated, you won’t feel as sleepy; this is an effect of being well hydrated. If the taste of water bothers you, you can put in a slice of lime or lemon to freshen the flavor.
  • Drink green tea. Aside from having many health benefits, it is caffeine free and you can drink as much as you want although I would suggest drink between 4 and six cups a day.
  • Choose healthy snacks. That means avoiding your favorite candy bars as they would give you an all-too-brief energy boost before your energy level crashes. Snacks such as unsalted nuts, vegetables (carrots, celery, radishes) and hard-boiled eggs are portable.
  • Take a nap! Ten to 15 minutes should suffice. If you nap longer than that, you will feel groggy the rest of the day.

Lastly, and this should be obvious to everyone, make sure you sleep a set amount of hours every night. Poor sleep habits can contribute to a number of health problems such as weight gain and heart disease. The average is six to eight hours a night but whatever the amount you sleep, it’s important to stick to a schedule. If you slept little the prior night, catching up the following night will not be of much help. It is also not beneficial to sleep in on the weekends when your body is used to awakening at the same time every weekday. Create a sleep schedule and stick with it.

Dogs can now detect a low blood sugar for people with Diabetes


It is thought dogs can detect changes in blood sugar levels due to their highly developed sense of smell. As the blood sugar levels go up or down this causes changes to the body’s metabolism which can alter how a person’s sweat or breath smells. For example, diabetic ketoacidosis can cause a person’s breath to smell like nail varnish.

A study of 17 people with diabetes who had been given a dog trained to sniff out and alert them when their blood sugar (glucose) levels were too low reported the dogs had improved their lives and helped with their diabetes. Blood test results confirmed the perception that the dogs could detect glucose levels outside of a desired range in many cases, and that having a dog made the owner more likely to remain in a desired range.

Meanwhile in Canada: Dogs detect low blood sugar

A special class of canines is about to graduate from a new program that trains dogs to detect when their owners are having a dangerously high or low blood sugar.

Four dogs and their owners have completed training at the Lions Foundation of Canada in Oakville and are ready to graduate as official “diabetic alert guide dogs” on Thursday — fittingly world diabetes day.

The dogs are trained to detect sudden changes in their owner’s blood sugar through scent and alert them, so that they can take measures to normalize their levels.

The Lions Foundation of Canada is training dogs to detect low blood-sugar levels in patients with diabetes.

According to the foundation, the guide dog’s ability to detect changes in its owner’s breath can help patients avoid slipping into diabetic comas and other life-threating effects.

The canines can also run and seek help from within an owner’s home and even activate an alert system if needed.

“It’s a gradual realization that dogs can do so much more,” said Ian Ashworth, director of program development at the Lions Foundation of Canada.

The dogs are trained to assist people with Type 1 diabetes who breathe into a special container when they are having a low or high blood sugar episode.

The dogs are then exposed to the smells, learning to respond appropriately by either warning the adult patient or fetching a parent for a sick child.

Jade and Brooke Boardman are 11-year-old twins who are living with Type 1 diabetes. They have been paired with a guide dog named Nettle.

Brooke says she feels Nettle will become a valuable friend by her side.

“She can smell there is something wrong then she goes into my dad’s room and jumps on the bed and warns them and wakes him up,” she explained.

Terry Boardman, Jade and Brooke’s father, said he and his wife often stay up all night checking on their daughters’ blood-sugar levels.

He said having this new canine companion will help give him and his family peace of mind.

“It’s very tough at times. The girls are always at risk so having another tool like Nettle to help with this. I can’t explain it, it just means a lot to us,” he said.

The dogs are bred by the foundation and are offered at no cost by the Lions Foundation to patients who qualify, a relief for many families since similar diabetes alert dogs can cost up to $25,000 in the United States.

“Hopefully we are flooded with applications,” said Ashworth.

Linda Brown, a diabetic who suffered from weekly blackouts when her blood-sugar levels would dip too low, said her new dog Wilf has given her a new sense of independence.

“He offers me a lifeline, giving me a chance to get back to doing what I did before and feeling safe,” Brown said.

There are currently about a dozen patients across the country waiting for the next class of diabetic guide dogs to be trained.

The Sun’s magnetic poles set to ‘flip’ their position


One half of a 22-year cycle on the Sun is about to come to a close that will see the star’s magnetic north and south poles flip their positions. The event is imminent, according to solar physicists from NASA, and could have effects that reach billions of kilometres beyond the orbit of Pluto.

Despite its outwardly unflappable appearance, the plasma inside the Sun responsible for its magnetic field is constantly churning. Every 11 years, it reorganises itself in a little-understood clockwork mechanism, in the process inverting the star’s magnetic polarity.

An important part of this mechanism is thought to be a difference in the rates at which material flows from the equator to the poles and back on the Sun’s surface, as well as the fact that the Sun rotates faster at its poles than at the equator.

“As the polarity moves toward the pole, it erodes the existing opposite polarity,” said Todd Hoeksema, director of the Wilcox Solar Observatory at Stanford University, in a press release. Like a tide, “each little wave brings little more water in, and eventually you get to the full reversal”.

In this period, sunspot activity on the Sun intensifies. There are also more violent ejections of charged particles from its surface as solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These bursts can interact with Earth’s own magnetic field, prompting a surge in the occurrence of auroras, also known as Northern Lights.


Moreover, larger flares “can disturb the ionosphere and disrupt radio communication, damage electronics onboard satellites, cause hazards to airlines flights in polar routes, and even electrical blackouts in regions near the Earth’s magnetic poles,” said Prof. Arnab Rai Choudhuri, a theoretical astrophysicist from the Indian Institute of Science, in an interview to The Hindu in August.

Similarly, one beneficial effect is stronger protection against galactic cosmic rays, an influx of energetic particles originating from outside the Solar System which are also known to cause damage to satellites and astronauts orbiting Earth.