Tag Archives: HSE West

News Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Thursday 17th October 2013

Budget farce as James Reilly doubts medical card €113m HSE savings


Plans for massive cuts to the medical card scheme have descended into farce after the health minister cast doubt over the target figure outlined in the budget and the HSE said it will have to be independently verified.

The target of €113m through medical card “probity” was foisted on Health Minister James Reilly on Sunday, without any verification or assessment of how it could be achieved.

The embattled minister told the Oireachtas health committee yesterday the figure was “allocated” by Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin.

  “I am speaking frankly and I am concerned about what can be achieved here,” said Dr Reilly. 

He said the figure was based on Mr Howlin’s “deliberations” of a consultancy report by Price Waterhouse Cooper that said €60m to €200m could be achieved through identifying waste from ineligible cards.

“That report is from 18 months ago and obviously a lot of action has been taken since then,” said Dr Reilly.

He has asked the departments of the Taoiseach and public expenditure to carry out a validation of the figure and the impact it would have on the health service.

Tony O’Brien, head of the HSE, said the executive is carrying out an “independent verification process” before the figures are included in its service plan for 2014.

He said if the savings could not be made through probity — or flushing out dud cases — then cuts will hit other health services.

Fianna Fáil has estimated that about 100,000 medical cards would have to be withdrawn in order to reach the €113m figure.

Mr. O’Brien insisted there would be no change to people’s entitlement or the way medical cards are assessed, as a result of the target.

“Therefore, if that €113m cannot reasonably be achieved through probity measures, then an alternative way of meeting that shortfall will have to be found.”

Sources close to Dr James Reilly said €113m was imposed “from the top down” rather than than from the “bottom up” approach of identifying the waste, and then determining what could be saved from its elimination.

They said that James Reilly was given the figure and told to find the savings within it.

The Irish Examiner can also reveal that the HSE raised concerns 18 months ago about the accuracy of the potential savings in the PWC report. A disclaimer by the report’s authors said the savings were “indicative only and cannot be relied on for any purpose other than providing a broad understanding” of the issue.

A further €25m in health savings will be reached by removing medical cards from 35,000 over-70s. The Irish Senior Citizens Parliament who are organising a protest march next Tuesday against the budget “attacks” on Irish elderly people.

Mr O’Brien also raised concerns about changes to tax reliefs for private health insurance in the budget.

The HSE depends on income provided by private patients in public hospital beds, he said. “If there were to be a significant impact on the number of insured patients, that would have a knock-on impact on the funding of the health servicesnext year,” he said.

HSE West group meets over HIQA report on death of Savita Halappanavar


A special board meeting of the HSE West/North West Hospital Group has ended after four hours of talks at Galway University Hospital.

The 12-member board considered the findings and recommendations from three reports following the death of Savita Halappanavar last October.

The findings from the inquest into her death and the recommendations that emerged from the Coroner’s Court were discussed, along with the HSE Clinical Review into the treatment she received and last week’s HIQA report into issues relating to her care at GUH.

The board is not releasing details about decisions made at the meeting until it has communicated with the staff involved tomorrow morning.

It is expected the measures to be taken will then be made public.

Mrs Halappanavar died from an infection caused by sepsis almost a week after she was admitted to hospital on 21 October 2012.

The special board meeting was called following the publication of third report into her care last week.

The master storyteller that was the great cyclist Lance Armstrong


To his millions of fans, American cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong was more than just a great sportsman, he was an inspiration. To the film-maker who documented his spectacular fall from grace, he was a master storyteller. But were his supporters too ready to believe the fairytale?

The story of the charismatic Texan cyclist who recovered from life-threatening cancer and went on to win the Tour de France a record seven successive times was one of the greatest tales in sporting history.

In 2009, Lance Armstrong attempted to write another chapter into the legend by coming out of professional retirement to compete in the Tour again at the age of 37. He granted Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney rare access to his inner circle to chronicle the comeback.

For Gibney, the experience was akin to being embedded with the military in a warzone.

“When you’re with a group of soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan you’re going to end up feeling part of their unit,” he told me.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong. The trick is how to come out of that with some broader perspective – but it’s intoxicating while you’re in the middle of it.”

Gibney admits the “them and us” mentality inside Lance Armstrong’s Astana cycling team encouraged a kind of Stockholm syndrome. Anyone who questioned his repeated denials that he had used performance-enhancing drugs came to be viewed as the enemy.

“I did begin to feel that some people on the outside were a bit fanatical about the subject of whether Lance had doped,” he says. “You can’thelp but take on the vibe of the team.”

Through the media and in the courts, Armstrong aggressively pursued critics who continued to question whether he was riding clean. Alex Gibney watched as his subject attempted to maintain control over the powerful and lucrative myth he had constructed.

“I think the truth in the mind of someone who is a master storyteller does become elastic,” he suggests.

“There’s a moment in the film when Lance loses in Verbier to Alberto Contador (on stage 15 of the 2009 Tour de France) and he says to me ‘I’m sorry I screwed up your documentary.’

“I don’t think that was just banter. I think that was Lance’s way of saying ‘you came to me to deliver the fairytale that everyone’s come to believe that I can deliver and I failed. I’m not going to win. I’m not going to be first and I’m sorry.'”

Armstrong behind eventual 2009 Tour winner Alberto Contador

After Armstrong’s 2009 comeback, in which he finished third, the myth began to disintegrate.

  • Tour de France victories: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 (22 individual stage wins)
  • Battle with cancer: Diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996. The disease spreads through his body. Launches Lance Armstrong Foundation for Cancer. Declared cancer-free in 1997 after brain surgery and chemotherapy
  • Retirement: Announces he will retire after the 2005 Tour de France. Angered by drug allegations against him, he returns to professional cycling in 2009. He finishes third. His accident-filled 2010 Tour is his last

Former teammates went public with allegations of drug use. The US Anti-Doping Agency accused Armstrong of running the most sophisticated and extensive doping scheme in professional sports history.

He finally came clean in an interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey last January, in which he admitted taking banned substances and undergoing prohibited blood transfusions during all of his victorious Tour de France campaigns.

In earlier films such as Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side and Mea Maxima Culpa, Alex Gibney has explored the abuse of power by big businesses, the military and the Catholic Church.

In his latest film, it’s Armstrong’s rewriting of his own personal life story, a story that inspired and gave hope to cancer patients around the world, that Gibney finds particularly difficult to accept.

“It’s an abuse of storytelling power,” he says. “He told a story that everyone wanted to believe in too much. He knew how much everybody wanted to believe in it.

“He made the lie so enormous, so all-encompassing, that he couldn’t dial it back. His only choice was to go forward and make it even bigger.” So he carried on cheating, winning Tour after Tour.

Armstrong was engaged to musician Sheryl Crow and travelled by private jet

Stripped of those seven titles, pursued by lawyers seeking to reclaim prize and sponsorship money, Lance Armstrong’s reputation as a sportsman is now in ruins. He has been banned from competitive cycling for life.

Alex Gibney, director of The Armstrong Lie

For Alex Gibney, Lance Armstrong’s epic downfall should serve as a cautionary tale. Even heroes, he argues, need to accept their flaws. “There can be inspirational stories that are messy,” he says.

“Spiderman to me is a more intriguing tale than Superman because you reckon with Peter Parker’s dark past and to some extent his deep-seated anger rather than the pure hero that Superman is.

“When we’re told stories that seem too good to be true we should say to ourselves, ‘Hey, maybe this is too good to be true.'”

Life style changes for humans can save millions from diabetes


MILLIONS of people at risk of developing diabetes could avoid the disease with simple lifestyle changes, say researchers diabetes is preventable with simple lifestyle changes.

A major review of scientific evidence concluded that diet and exercise are vital for staving off the illness, which affects 3.8 million people in Britain.

  Combined with stopping smoking and regular checks on blood pressure and glucose levels, Type 2 diabetes can be prevented altogether, the team from the University of Alberta, Canada, said.

Last month, Diabetes UK said losing weight, eating more fruit and vegetables and taking regular exercise is all people need to do to significantly slash their chance of developing Type 2.

It’s particularly important for people who are already at high risk to talk to their GP to make the diet and lifestyle changes that can help

Dr Matthew Hobbs, Diabetes UK’s head of research

But chief executive Barbara Young said people were not taking the risks seriously and that the country was “sleepwalking towards a public health disaster”.

Dr Matthew Hobbs, the charity’s head of research, said of the findings: “This shows again that it’s particularly important for people who are already at high risk to talk to their GP to make the diet and lifestyle changes that can help.”

Children are drawn to our colourful cigarette packets, A study shows


Children find colourful cigarette packets appealing but are repelled by products that have plain packaging.

The Irish Cancer Society studied pupils from third class in Scoil Aonghusa primary school in Tallaght, Dublin, who were shown branded cigarette packs and asked what they thought of them.

“The children found the packs appealing and were particularly positive about the bright colours and rainbow-coloured effects used on some packs,” it found.

“They felt that the pink slimline packs would appeal to young girls. They also liked the ‘fancy writing’ used on the packs.”

The findings are featured on a new video on YouTube from the Irish Cancer Society.

“Young people are a key target market for the tobacco industry, which needs to recruit 50 new smokers a day to replace those who have either died or quit, in order to keep making profits. Most of these new smokers are children.

“Around 80pc of smokers start before the age of 18 and children in Ireland began smoking at an earlier age than in any other country in Europe,” said a spokeswoman.

The children who were shown examples of what plain packaging may look like responded negatively and called them “disgusting and gross”.

“One of the boys remarked that he did not know how people could buy the cigarettes in plain packs. They felt that plain packs show what it (smoking) does to you and were shocked by the images of the health effects of smoking used on the plain packs.”

Health Minister James Reilly has secured the agreement of the Cabinet to introduce standardised packaging for tobacco products in Ireland, and he welcomed the video.

Drought in East Africa dictated how the brain changed the evolution of human intelligence


Scientists show shifts from dry to wet and back in East Africa’s Rift Valley caused the development of the human brain

Humans evolved their very large brains in response to the dramatic shifts in the climate of East Africa, the cradle of humanity where man’s ancestors are thought to have originated about two million years ago, a study has suggested.

Scientists have matched exceptionally wet periods and very dry periods in the East African Rift Valley to sudden spurts in the evolution of the hominid ancestors of Homo sapiens, which resulted in the evolution of the modern human brain.

Academics have long argued about what led to the unusually large brain of humans with its capacity for language, abstract thought and consciousness. The latest theory suggests it was triggered by the need to adapt to dramatic changes in the local environment of early man.

“It seems modern humans were born from climate change, as they had to deal with rapid switching from famine to feast – and back again – which drove the appearance of new species with bigger brains and also pushed them out of East Africa into Eurasia and South Africa,” said Professor Mark Maslin of University College London, the co-author of the study published in the on-line journal Plos-One.

The Rift Valley is an extensive geological fault marked by mountains, lakes and fertile valleys. Many of the most important fossil remains of early humans have been unearthed in the region, leading to suggestions that it was the most important place for the early origins of man.

The study looked at climate change over the past 5 million years, where there have been large fluctuations between wet periods where lakes were far higher than they are today and dry periods where sand dunes formed in former lake beds.

The scientists found that there were relatively short periods lasting about 200,000 years when East Africa became very sensitive to the cyclical changes in the Earth’s orbit around the Sun – known as Milankovitch cycles – which lead to global-scale changes to the climate, such as ice ages.

In East Africa, these orbital changes to the Earth led to rapid shifts between very dry and very wet periods of about 20,000 years, when typically the lake valleys repeatedly filled up with freshwater and then dried out several times, forcing the human inhabitants to move north or south.

“Due to these changes in orbit, the climate of East Africa seems to go through extreme oscillations from having huge deep freshwater lakes surrounded by rich, lush vegetation to extremely arid conditions, like today, with sand dunes in the floor of the Rift Valley,” Professor Maslin said.

“These changes resulted in the evolution of a new species with bigger brains, and also forced early humans to disperse out of East Africa,” he said.

The study found that there were three time periods in particular when this kind of climate change corresponded to important stages in human evolution.

The first occurred about 2.6 million years ago when the Rift Valley dwellers were pushed into southern Africa and a new species called Homo habilis emerged. The second happened about 1.9 million years ago when an important species called Homo erectus emerged from Africa to colonise much of Asia, while the third occurred about 1 million years ago when Homo heidelbergensis emerged.

Professor Maslin said that the technique is not accurate enough to deal with the past 150,000 years, when Homo sapiens first evolved, but that it nevertheless could explain the earlier evolutionary transition leading to Homo erectus, which is the first large-brained hominid with truly human-like skeleton showing a distinctive adolescent growth-spurt.

Susanne Shultz of Manchester University, the co-author of the study, said that climate change can be linked directly to the evolution of this important human species at a time when there were several species occupying the same geographic region at about the same time.

“We found that around 1.9 million years ago a number of new species appeared, which we believe is directly related to new ecological conditions in the East African Rift Valley, in particular the appearance of deep freshwater lakes,” Professor Shultz said.

“Among these species was early Homo erectus with a brain 80 per cent bigger than its predecessor,” she added.

The present-day lakes of the Rift Valley are much smaller than they would have been at the height of a wet period. Lake Logipi at the northern end of the Kenyan rift valley, for instance, once occupied the entire Suguta Valley, which is presently littered in sand dunes, and was about 300 metres deeper than it is today.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 30th May 2013

HSE West claims the reorganisation of public hospitals will result in improved patient outcomes?


The HSE West stressed this week that the reorganisation of public hospitals into hospital groups will result in greater efficiency, accountability and improved outcomes for patients. The groups come as a transition to independent hospital trusts.

The Minister for Health’s decision will mean that the west/north west group will consist of University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park Hospital, Sligo Regional, Letterkenny General, Mayo General, Portiuncula and Roscommon County Hospital. NUI Galway will be the academic partner for this group.

The rationale behind the formation of the groups was the large number and range of acute hospitals operating in relative isolation, the duplication and fragmentation of resources, and the difficulty in recruiting and retaining key staff. The inequitable distribution of workloads and resources was another reason for setting them up, a meeting of the HSE West’s regional health forum was told this week.

Bill Maher, the chief executive of the Galway and Roscommon University Hospitals Group, said the new hospital groups have been described by the health minister as the “most fundamental reform of the Irish acute hospital system in decades”. It is recommended there should be six such groups in Ireland.

He outlined the group has more autonomy to manage resources, both funding and staffing, in a way that is appropriate to the needs of patients.

“We have already started developing our strategic plan, working to national standards of quality and care. This will outline how we will play to the strengths of each of the hospitals in the group so that they will develop services that meet the needs of their patients and of which their locality will be proud.

Steering group

“In addition we have plans in place for a steering group to progress integration and prepare for our transition to a trust. It is our intention to become the first hospital trust in the country.”

The HSE West has already had a head start with part of the group already up and running for more than a year now.

“We have developed effective corporate and clinical governance structures along with quality and safety systems for patient care. This will make it easier to integrate all the hospitals into a common governance arrangement and put structures in place to bring the seven hospitals to the next level of performance and accountability.”

Mr Maher outlined that the Minister had approved the appointment of five non-executive directors to the group.

‘The board has met four times this year including meetings in Roscommon and Portiuncula. Our next board meeting will take place in Galway on 18 June and will be held in public. This is the first of two public board meetings planned for this year which will provide real local accountability to the public we serve.”

However, Cllr Padraig Conneely, the chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum, expressed concern about the geographical spread of the new hospital group. He feared there would be a return to the “bad, old days of the HSE” with a “very huge geographical spread and fragmented accountability”. Sligo and Donegal were a long way away from a management perspective, he felt.

He said Mr Maher was doing a “good job” but wondered if he would be able to control such a large group. He feared the new group with its seven hospitals would be “awkward” and “hard to control”.

A number of other forum members from outside Galway voiced similar concerns saying the hospitals within Mr Maher’s remit had now gone from four to seven.

Mayo Fine Gael councillor Seamus Weir said Galway to Letterkenny was a long way and he feared the hospitals in between would not just be “squeezed” but “pulled apart”.

Letterkenny Fianna Fail councillor Ciaran Brogan feared Donegal would become the “poor relation”.

Bill Maher said he was confident the HSE will build on the success of the local hospital group. He said he recognised the geographical aspect of it and while it did concern him he said the HSE had a “very good way” of doing things and with support these new bodies will be successful.

Irish consumer sentiment hits a four-month high for May 2013


Irish consumer sentiment registered its strongest rise in four months in May though confidence in the country’s economic prospects remained fragile, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The KBC Bank Ireland/ESRI Consumer Sentiment Index improved to 61.2 in May from 58.9 a month earlier, to hit its highest level since January.

Only 10% of around 800 consumers surveyed expected to see an improvement in their personal financial situation in the coming year compared to 56 percent who see a further weakening.

“A broadly stable sentiment reading for May suggests Irish consumers remain cautious,

” Austin Hughes, economist at KBC Bank Ireland, said.

“While they may read or hear of an improvement in some economic indicators, this hasn’t translated into more meaningful measures such as their own financial situation,” he said.

The survey’s authors said that low inflation and a cut in European Central Bank interest rates may have helped sentiment, but this fell short of the feelgood factor evident in recent German and U.S. consumer sentiment data.

The May reading will likely add to calls for the government to ease its programme of spending cuts and tax hikes in the 2014 budget from the 3 billion euros ($3.9 billion) planned, Hughes said.

“A slightly smaller adjustment than previously envisaged might reduce downside risks to sentiment and spending later in 2013 and into next year,” he said.

The survey’s sub-index to measures consumers’ perceptions of their future financial situation rebounded to 51.3 following three monthly declines.

The index of current economic conditions increased by 0.6 to 76.0.

Irish drinkers consuming over the recommended units of alcohol a day are risking cancer


Irish people are consuming more than 700 times the recommended safe level of alcohol needed to prevent drink-related cancers, a major European conference has been told.

Overall, the risk of developing cancer is smaller if you stick within the guideline amounts, which are around:

  • One standard drink a day for women e.g. a glass (175ml) of wine or a pint of beer or cider.
  • Two standard drinks a day for men e.g. 2 glasses (175ml) of wine or 2 pints of beer or cider.

We don’t yet fully understand the link between alcohol and cancer, but research has proven two things:

  1. Alcohol damages your DNA, which is a risk in itself
  2. Alcoholic drinks have a lot of calories; being overweight also increases your risk of cancer

Alcohol is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) and is responsible for one in 10 male cancers and one in 33 female cancers in Ireland. This amounts to around 900 cases of cancer every year.

Alcohol can increase the risk of a number of types of cancer, including liver, breast, colon and mouth cancer.

Speaking at the official conference of European Week Against Cancer, which is being hosted by the Irish Cancer Society (ICS), Prof Peter Anderson, of the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University in the UK, explained that the average Irish person who drinks alcohol and consumes around 37g per day. This is over 700 times the recommended exposure level set by the European Food Safety Authority to prevent food and drink-related cancers.

“The guidelines for alcohol consumption are not strong enough, particularly when considering it as a carcinogenic. By comparison, there are more stringent guidelines in place for restricting the use of pesticides on fruit than there are for controlling alcohol consumption in humans,” he pointed out.

He told the conference that from a public health perspective, the government should ban all alcohol advertising and sponsorship, as it has done for tobacco products.

“Alcohol advertising helps foster more favourable drinking experiences and promotes social approval for consumption. It will not be possible for Irish society to develop a healthier relationship with alcohol if alcohol continues to be marketed in such an aggressive fashion,” he insisted.

Meanwhile, according to ICS head of advocacy, Kathleen O’Meara, Ireland has one of the highest rates of cancer in the world and the role of alcohol can no longer be ignored.

“We now know that one in 10 cancers in men and one in 33 in women are caused by drinking. When people smoke as well as drink, the two work in combination to substantially increase the risk of cancer. Alcohol and tobacco are estimated to account for about three-quarters of oral cancer cases in Europe,” she explained.

She said that reducing the number of people who develop cancer ‘will require all decision-makers to make this a priority issue and work together to develop solutions’.

The conference was told that even heavy drinkers can reduce their risk of cancer. For example, research has shown that the risk of developing cancer of the mouth throat and oesophagus falls over time if a person stops drinking.

“Alcohol is one of the key determinants not only for cancer but also of other chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It is crucial that we work together to make the European public aware of the risks of drinking too much alcohol,” added Prof Maja Primiz-Zakelj, president of the Association of European Cancer Leagues.

Avatar therapy helps schizophrenia patients silence their tormenting voices

A pilot study shows this?


Psychiatrists are developing a system that can help people with schizophrenia control and sometimes silence the tormenting voices in their heads by confronting a computer avatar of them.

In a pilot study of 16 patients who underwent the British experimental treatment, known as “avatar therapy”, doctors found almost all of them reported a reduction in how often they heard voices and how severe the distress caused by them was.

The first stage in the therapy is for the patient to create a computer-based avatar by choosing a face and a voice for the entity they believe is talking to them.

The system then synchronises the avatar’s lips with its speech, enabling a therapist to speak to the patient through the avatar in real time. The therapist encourages the patient to oppose the voice and gradually teaches them to take control of their hallucinations.

“Even though patients interact with the avatar as though it was a real person, because they have created it they know that it cannot harm them, as opposed to the voices, which often threaten to kill or harm them and their family,” Professor Julian Leff, who developed the therapy, told reporters.

“The therapy helps patients gain the confidence and courage to confront the avatar, and their persecutor.”

Schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder that affects around one in 100 people worldwide. Its most common symptoms are delusions and auditory hallucinations, or hearing voices.

Leff said patients often told him the voices were the worst feature of their condition. “They can’t think properly, they can’t concentrate, they can’t work and they can’t sustain social relationships,” the professor of mental health sciences at University College London told the briefing.

In the pilot study, three of the patients, who until the trial had been tormented by voices for between 3-1/2 and 16 years, stopped hearing them completely after working with the avatar system.

Each therapy session was also recorded and given to the patient on an MP3 player “so that the patient essentially has a therapist in their pocket which they can listen to at any time when harassed by the voices”, Leff said.

As a result of the early success, the medical charity The Wellcome Trust has given Leff’s team 1.3 million pounds ($2 million) to test the therapy in a larger group of patients.

Thomas Craig, a psychiatrist who will lead the larger trial at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, said auditory hallucinations were particularly disturbing for patients and can be extremely difficult to treat successfully.

“The beauty of the (avatar) therapy is its simplicity and brevity,” he said. “Most other psychological therapies for these conditions are costly and take many months to deliver.”

He added that if the larger trial proved successful, avatar therapy could be widely available within a few years, since the technology is relatively simple and many mental health professionals already have the skills needed to deliver it.

Scientists find the oldest feathered dinosaur yet in China


Scientists say this 160-million-year-old fossil, found in northeastern China, indicates that dinosaurs began evolving into birds earlier than previously thought

An on-line survey result below shows that Scientists outside of China should examine the fossil?

Yes      No

94%     6%

When did birds first emerge from among the dinosaurs? It’s an argument that has plagued paleontologists and cast a shadow over the reputation of Archaeopteryx, a feathered dinosaur that has long been considered the earliest known bird.

Now, scientists say they found an even older feathered dinosaur – one that reestablishes Archaeopteryx as part of the bird lineage even as it may simultaneously dethrone Archaeopteryx as the earliest known “bird.” The study, published online in the journal Nature, provides a key link in the evolutionary chain of events that led from dinosaurs to birds.

“It pushes [back] the origins of birds — or origin of animals that are very closely related to the bird,” said Luis Chiappe, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles who was not involved in the paper. “And that’s quite exciting.”

But some say the fossil may just represent a bird-like dinosaur, not a true bird — and in any case, could have been altered before scientists had a chance to study it.

The new find, christened Aurornis xui, was discovered in northeastern China in the Liaoning Province. The 20-inch, chicken-sized fossil is estimated to be about 160 million years old, about 10 million years older than Archaeopteryx.

After a thorough examination of the fossil researchers from Europe and China constructed a computer-generated family tree that puts both Aurornis and Archaeopteryx in the Avialae family – the group of dinosaurs whose only living representatives are birds.

“Around the origin of birds 160 million or so years ago, there were many fossils that were experimenting with birdness — getting more and more bird-like,” Chiappe said. “What exactly the line is that made it to birds is not entirely clear … and this is just one candidate.”

The study authors argue that Aurornis represents the earliest known bird, but other scientists say it could be part of a group of bird-like dinosaurs that were developing feathers and bird-like features but never quite got off the ground, evolutionarily speaking.

“You’re looking at an animal that is either a very primitive bird or something very closely related to birds,” Chiappe said. “I tend to think that it’s not a bird, but that it’s one of those true very close ancestors of bird.”

In any case, it’s possible the fossil has been altered because it seemed almost too good to be true – too perfectly preserved, Chiappe said. He noted that as many as 80% of fossils in Chinese museumsare thought to be artificially “enhanced” in some way.

“I’d like to see the animal at some point,” Chiappe said, referring to the fossil.

St Patrick’s daily news Ireland

Sunday 17th March 2013

Celebration events in Ireland and abroad for St Patrick’s Day


Spirits were high in Dublin despite the cold and wet weather yesterday Sunday St. Patrick’s day.

Parades and festivities marking St Patrick’s Day have taken place at home and abroad.
Organisers of the parade in Dublin said 483,000 people attended the event in the city today.
The weather appears to have affected the attendance, which was down on last year.
But there was plenty of colour, music and dance for those who turned out in the cold and rain to watch the parade.
It was preceded by a ‘People’s Parade’, in which thousands of foreign visitors took part.
It was part of the Government’s tourism initiative “The Gathering”.
“Great things happen when we come together” was the theme of this year’s event, which ended just past St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Elsewhere, Mayor of San Francisco Edwin Lee was the Grand Marshall of the Cork city parade, which attracted over 60,000 people.
Over 4,000 participants took part in the parade in Limerick, as the city attempted a new world record.
Over 285 St Patricks of all ages and sizes from right across the city gathered to create a new record for the Guinness Book of Records.
An estimated 40,000 people came out to watch the parade.
The parade in Belfast was smaller than in recent years, but still attracted a good crowd.
Businesses welcomed the large crowds after recent months of falling trade due to the ongoing Union flag protests.
The Union flag was flying over Belfast City Hall today.
Galway hosted its 110th St Patrick’s Day parade with participants of all ages showcasing the city’s history and traditions.
In Kerry, thousands turned out to watch parades in Killarney and Tralee.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has met some of the victims of Hurricane Sandy near New York.
Mr Kenny went to the Breezy Point district to see the progress of the recovery effort following the devastating storm late last year.
He also visited the Freedom Tower in New York, which is replacing the World Trade Center towers that were destroyed on 11 September 2001.
Around the world, almost 70 landmarks have also “gone green” to celebrate the day.

Irish Tax hits wrong people the wrong way at the wrong time    

Self-assessment of property value places too much responsibility on taxpayers,