Tag Archives: HSE

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 4th May 2017

‘More information now needed’ over Garda training college finances?

A Garda graduation ceremony at Templemore, Tipperary

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A Garda boss has said it is “too early to say” if crimes were committed amid financial irregularities at the force’s training college.

John Barrett, Garda human resources director, told a parliamentary committee he was “alarmed” when he learned about the use and transfer of public money at the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary.

An internal audit by the force uncovered a five million euro surplus in bank accounts and investment policies related to the college.

Concerns were flagged over the leasing out of land and some of the money being spent on entertaining and retirement gifts.

An internal investigation by an assistant commissioner as well as an audit by in-house officials into the findings is ongoing.

Before the Public Accounts Committee, Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan said no criminality had been detected to date in the ongoing investigations.

However, when a group of senior Garda managers flanking her were asked if they agreed, Mr Barrett insisted there remained “open issues” that needed to be resolved before criminality could be ruled out.

“I think it is too early to say on several fronts,” he said.

“The audit took in total 10 weeks, the matters being dealt with went back some considerable years.

“There are several matters that are now going to be followed up.

“I think we will be in a better position to report at that point.”

Mr Barrett said he was “neither agreeing or disagreeing” with Ms O’Sullivan, and added: “I’m saying there is more information required.”

The former US multinationals human resources boss said he discovered two internal reports, from 2008 and 2010, into the financial irregularities in June 2015.

He then drew up a summary of both reports and began asking questions about the control of the Garda college.

“I was alarmed,” he said, adding that in his experience such governance and “fundamental accounting” issues would have been dealt with much quicker in the private sector.

Mr Barrett said the answers he received were unsatisfactory.

Irish managers not up to speed with our digital revolution

Kingram Red Digital Transformation report finds businesses lack vision for digital future

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The KingramRed report on the state of digital transformation in Ireland 2017 found a majority of the participants still believed responsibility for going digital lay below CEO level with IT departments.  to LinkedIn

Businesses in Ireland are “struggling to transform to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital revolution”. That’s according to the 2017 KingramRed Digital Transformation Report. In the second report of its kind by the digital management consultancy, which included a wide range of Irish organisations across a variety of sectors, it was found “boards and senior management are not developing a vision of their digital future [and] leadership capabilities and awareness are not sufficiently developed in this area to drive direction and mitigate risks”.

Less than half of the organisations surveyed had established any formal vision for the future in terms of maintaining competitiveness in a digital world.

Only 53% even recognised there was any urgency to change.

Going digital?

The biggest take-home from the report, however, was that a significant majority of participants still believed responsibility for going digital lay below CEO level with IT departments. Over 60 per cent of those surveyed on management and board levels believed it was not a priority issue for the top levels – an oversight which has resulted in efforts to prepare for the looming digital transformation frequently becoming “dissipated in silos across organisations”.

The shortage of resources and skills is a serious challenge to driving forward with change

The report, which included input from Irish organisations working in finance, logistics, agriculture, food and beverage, measured companies’ awareness/use of current and emerging technologies such as AI, data analytics, robotics, algorithms and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Big data and analytics were far and away the most predominant technology already in use by organisations in Ireland, with “65 per cent already engaged and a further 20 per cent expecting to take advantage within two years”.

An early adoption plan

Robotics was one of the lowest technologies in terms of early adoption by firms, with “almost 30% per cent of organisations either actively investigating or imminently planning to assess robotic solutions”.

There was broad agreement in one area, though. Almost across the board, Irish businesses recognised the major challenge that insufficient digital skills and resources presented and identified the “shortage of skills and resources” as the greatest challenge to pursuing digital transformation.

According to the report, “the shortage of resources and skills is a serious challenge to driving forward with change. This tallies with the responses that, despite the fact that 72 per cent are investing in digital skills, only half of organisations believe that they have the skills and resources (both internally and externally) that they need to manage their digital initiatives.”

Irish Life report 44% increase in profits for Q1 2017

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Irish Life has reported a 44% increase in profits for the first quarter of 2017, contributing €54m to Canadian parent Great West Lifeco’s earnings in the quarter.

Profit in the first three months of this year was up from €37.5m in the same quarter in 2016.

The business was nationalised during the crash and sold on by the Government to Great West for €1.3bn in 2013.

Since then the business has seen continues growth, and paid up more than €210m in dividends to the new owners.

Last year Irish Life expanded into the health insurance market, it bought Aviva Health and took full control of GloHealth, where it had previously held a 49% stake.

David Harney, Chief Executive of Irish Life Group, said that Irish Life’s strong performance was due, in part, to the inclusion of Irish Life Health’s contribution for the first time in the quarter, and the continued success of the company’s multi-asset investment strategies (MAPS).

“We have seen increased investment across Irish Life’s pension, investment and savings plans as investors return to the market.

There is now over €9bn invested in our multi asset strategies including €2.5bn by retail investors. Over the last 12 months the number of individual investors has grown by over 40% to 46,000 and the total value invested in Irish Life MAPS has increased by 70%,” he said.

Brendan Drumm former HSE boss questions nuns’ ownership of maternity hospital

Former HSE boss asks why Hiqa are ‘allowing a bizarre governance structure’

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Brendan Drumm, former chief executive of the HSE.

The former chief executive of the HSE Brendan Drumm has said there is no reason why nuns should want to own the planned new National Maternity Hospital.

The announcement that the new €300 million maternity hospital would be given to a Sisters of Charity-owned healthcare group met with public protest last month, and the resignation of Dr Peter Boylan from the board of Holles Street hospital.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the planned new hospital at the St Vincent’s Hospital campus in south Dublin would have full clinical independence.

“In terms of ownership of hospitals, I can see no reason whatsoever why the nuns would want to own a hospital,” Mr Drumm said. “Hospitals that are invested in by the public should be owned either by a nonprofit organisation or by the public itself.”

Mr Drumm also questioned the management structure at St Vincent’s Hospital. “How can we have two boards or two management structures responsible for the care given to a woman undergoing vaginal surgery in St Vincent Hospital? I don’t believe there’s any governance structure in the world that would say that’s optimal in terms of the care,” he said.

“I believe the women of Ireland should be marching in the streets asking why Hiqa and other agencies, who have very strong governance, seem to be allowing what is a bizarre governance structure that will have two boards running what is essentially a single hospital,” he said.

Mr Drumm was speaking at the launch of Managing the Myths of Healthcare: Bridging the Separations Between Care, Control and Community by Prof Henry Mintzberg at UCD Business School on Thursday night.

Parents this is how to tell your children you’re dealing with depression and anxiety?

 Image result for Parents, this is how to tell your children you’re dealing with depression and anxiety  Image result for Parents, this is how to tell your children you’re dealing with depression and anxiety  Image result for Parents, this is how to tell your children you’re dealing with depression and anxiety

Tracey Starr (Above centre picture) is a Canadian editor and writer, but first and foremost, she’s a mom to her five-year-old daughter.

When it comes to parents revealing to their children they’re dealing with depression and/or anxiety, it’s best to keep in mind the age of the child.

Tracey Starr is a Canadian editor and writer, but first and foremost, she’s a mom to her five-year-old daughter. Starr is also a parent who suffers from depression and anxiety, and chooses to openly share with her daughter what she’s going through.

To Starr, her mental illness is something she lives with every day. She told Global News in a telephone interview that she first suffered from depression as a teenager in high school and was diagnosed with anxiety in her 30s.

“I put on a brave face every day since I could remember,” said Starr. “If I were to walk around crying or have a panic attack — those aren’t things that are well accepted or understood… a lot of people don’t even know, or wouldn’t even know, that I suffer depression or anxiety.”

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), 20 per cent of Canadians will experience some sort of mental illness in their lifetime.

In a recent Ipsos poll, 41 per cent of Canadians born between the years of 1961 to 1981, also known as Generation X, are at “high risk” when it comes to their mental health, while 24 per cent of Baby Boomers — those born between the years of 1946 to 1964 — are at high risk.

Depression and anxiety are also things that Starr talks to her daughter about, in order to not only be honest and open with her, but most importantly, to create a dialogue when it comes to mental illness.

“If she sees me sad, she’ll ask why I’m crying,” said Starr. “And I’ll say, ‘Sometimes it’s hard for mommy to relax and put a smile on my face but I’m doing my best like I ask for you to do your best.’”

Starr also said when she talks to her five-year-old about her mental illness, she doesn’t use the word “depression” to explain what she has.

“It’s not that I don’t want to or that I’m afraid. It’s not about shame because I never ever want her to feel shame about anything. It’s more about saying it in a narrative that she’ll understand so she won’t feel frightened.”

This method Starr chooses to use to talk to her daughter about anxiety and depression is one doctors agree is the best way for parents to approach their children about the situation.

Dr. Jillian Roberts, a registered psychologist who specializes in children and adolescents, said the age of the child and their circumstances should play a big factor into how parents tell their child what they’re going through.

“A mature child who doesn’t have any major stresses could handle more information than a child who is slow to develop when it comes to maturity, or going through a crisis of their own,” said Roberts.

Roberts also says that the younger the child is, the less a parent should share. For example, a child who is in preschool or younger, wouldn’t often need to know the condition the parent is going through.

“This is a time to shelter stress, as much as possible, from your child. Parents must seek treatment and surround themselves with as much support as they possibly can,” said Roberts.

Whereas, if your child is in the middle of elementary school, they could handle a bit more information.

“You could explain that you do not ‘feel well in your mind’ or ‘in your heart.’ It will still be very important to reassure your children, stress that this is not their fault in any whatsoever, and explain that you are getting the best help available.”

Reassuring her child, said Starr, is something she does.

“I say, ‘Mommy loves you, mommy is fine. Mommy just needs a moment but everything will be ok,” said Starr. “I say that to make sure she knows everything will be ok; I need to be her example. I don’t want to frighten her — I want to educate her.”

Dr. Shimi Kang, an adult and youth psychiatrist as well as a parenting author, said using an analogy of a physical illness is also another great method to explain to children about mental illness.

For example, you could tell your child that Johnny’s asthma gets worse in the wintertime, just like how mommy and/or daddy feels better or worse during certain circumstances.

“Kids are very in tune with their parents,” said Kang to Global News. “With older kids, they may see something is wrong and have concerns. Give children some power and talk about what they’ve noticed themselves.

“[The child might say] they’ve noticed you crying a lot more or that you’re angry, and then you can say, ‘Wow, you’re right. I’ve been diagnosed with depression.’”

Kang also said it’s very important for parents to try and be confident in themselves.

“You’re the parent: it’s your job to teach your kids. If they don’t understand, don’t take it personally. Just teach them. Just like math — teach them about it.”

Dr. Oren Amitay, a Toronto-based registered psychologist, said another way to talk to your children is by using celebrities — someone kids may idolize or look up to.

“You could say, ‘So and so’ had it as well. Show them powerful people have it as well.”

Amitay also said it’s a great way for parents to be a role model to their children.

“This is a great life lesson: when you’re knocked down, show them you’re going to get back up somehow,” said Amitay. “Too many parents try to shield it. But kids internalize most things. If mommy can’t get out of bed, or daddy doesn’t smile, then the kids are going to say, ‘What’s wrong with me?’”

Amitay stressed it’s important for parents to remind their child that mental illness isn’t happening because of them.

“Reassure the child so they don’t take it upon themselves.”

In all cases, Roberts, Kang and Amitay spoke about mental illness being just as important as a physical illness, and that parents should seek support, whether from family, friends or their community, about what they’re dealing with in order to get the help they need, and to de-stigmatize mental illness.

“There needs to be more medical services,” said Roberts. “There’s a long wait list to see a specialist and sometimes, parents might be in a crisis — they can’t wait eight months to see someone.”

Starr said her advice to parents is just taking it one day at a time.

“I know it sounds silly but I always say, ‘Take baby steps. Be kind and gentle with yourself,’” said Starr. “I make sure my daughter is safe, happy, loved and surrounded by positivity and happiness. She’s my priority.”

SpaceX is to launch first homegrown satellite this year, and plans broadband network in 2019

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SpaceX plans to launch its own satellites on Falcon 9 rockets, like the one shown here lifting off from NASA’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida.

SpaceX has laid out its latest schedule for the satellite broadband service it’s developing in the Seattle area, starting with the launch of a prototype satellite by the end of this year.

The ambitious plan foresees beginning the launch of operational satellites into low Earth orbit aboard Falcon 9 rockets in 2019, with the constellation reaching its full complement of 4,425 satellites by 2024.

That constellation would provide high-speed internet access to billions of people around the globe, beaming data via the Ku and Ka transmission bands to SpaceX’s laptop-sized user terminals. Another 7,500 satellites operating in the V-band could be added later to boost the network’s capabilities.

This week’s update came in testimony provided to the Senate Commerce Committee by Patricia Cooper, SpaceX’s vice president for satellite government affairs.

“SpaceX plans to bring high-speed, reliable and affordable broadband service to consumers in the U.S. and around the world, including areas underserved or currently unserved by existing networks,” Cooper said in her written testimony.

SpaceX’s Redmond office is the center for its satellite operations. (GeekWire photo by Kevin Lisota)

Her statement signals that SpaceX’s satellite development center in Redmond, Wash., is likely to be ramping up in the months ahead – which meshes with the company’s expansion of its Redmond facilities.

Although SpaceX hasn’t provided employment figures for the Redmond operation, the company’s billionaire founder, Elon Musk, has said the figure could eventually rise to 1,000. SpaceX’s website currently lists more than 60 open positions in Redmond.

Cooper said this year’s first launch of a prototype satellite would be followed early next year with a second prototype launch, followed by a demonstration period before the start of the operational launch campaign in 2019.

Each 850-pound satellite would measure about 13 by 6 by 4 feet, with 19-foot-long solar arrays, according to SpaceX’s filing with the Federal Communications Commission. Operating lifetime is estimated at five to seven years per satellite.

The relatively low orbits designated for the satellite constellation – ranging from 690 to 823 miles in altitude – would provide relatively low latency for the flow of data, which has been a significant drawback for satellite broadband.

In her testimony, Cooper urged the senators to support the FCC’s efforts to modernize its regulations for satellite systems.

For example, she noted that current FCC rules require a licensee to launch all the satellites in its constellation within six years of receiving a license. “These systems should be allowed to grow more like cellular networks, where additional assets and updated technology are deployed over time to meet increased demand,” Cooper said.

Cooper also said next-generation satellite systems should be included in any legislation aimed at beefing up the nation’s infrastructure. The Trump administration has called for a $1 trillion public-private infrastructure initiative.

SpaceX isn’t the only venture planning to put satellites in low Earth orbit to provide widescale high-speed internet access. OneWeb, a consortium with backing from Airbus, Virgin Galactic and other partners, aims to start launching satellites within the next two years.

Blue Origin, the space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, said in March that it would send up OneWeb’s satellites on its yet-to-be-built New Glenn rocket starting in 2021.

The Boeing Co. has also drawn up plans for a satellite internet system, and last month Bloomberg reported that Boeing has discussed the project with Apple. TMF Associates’ Tim Farrar went further, quoting insiders as saying that Apple was funding Boeing’s V-band satellite development effort.

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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 6th February 2016

Irish Government Ministers divided over inviting Donald Trump to Ireland?

Kenny to go ahead with White House trip but declines to clarify if he will invite Trump here

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US president Donald Trump: Ministers are at odds over whether Taoiseach Enda Kenny should invite the US president to Ireland.

Government Ministers are divided over whether Taoiseach Enda Kenny should invite US president Donald Trump to visit Ireland.

Mr Kenny has confirmed he will proceed with his trip to the White House on St Patrick’s Day despite protest from Opposition parties.

However, the Taoiseach has declined to clarify whether he will issue an invitation to Mr Trump to come here.

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar and Minister of State at the Department of Health Finian McGrath have both said they would not support such a proposal being made.

“I’m not sure what purpose it would serve,” Mr Varadkar said. “An invite will be the Taoiseach’s decision. I wouldn’t invite him.”

Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan have indicated they would back a visit from the president.

  • Ministers at odds over inviting Donald Trump to Ireland
  • Diarmaid Ferriter: Supine pragmatism will define Irish dealings with Trump
  • Hundreds attend protest against Trump at US embassy

‘Appalling policies’

Mr McGrath, an Independent Alliance Minister, told The Irish Times: “I do not think we should invite him. His statements and policies are appalling and have to be rejected.”

Mr Varadkar questioned what purpose a visit would have, insisting he would not issue such a request.

Speaking last week, the Taoiseach declined to rule out an invitation to Mr Trump, saying that he would consider the question of an invitation when he was in Washington for St Patrick’s Day.

However, newspaper reports on Sunday said Mr Kenny had decided not to invite Mr Trump.

A Government spokesman then followed up stressing that Mr Kenny’s remarks still stood, but that the Taoiseach would be concentrating on raising the plight of illegal Irish immigrants in the United States when he meets Mr Trump.

Government sources stressed the importance of the meeting with the US president went beyond the occupant of the White House at any one time.

The Minister for Finance said an invitation should not be ruled out but insisted the timing must be right. Mr Noonan was strongly criticised when he welcomed Mr Trump to Ireland previously.

Strong links

While Ms O’Connor claimed Ireland needed to actively work to maintain the strong links with the United States. She said she fully supported Mr Kenny in his decision to travel to meet Mr Trump.

“There are over 150,000 Irish people employed in US companies here in Ireland and I would like to make sure that there is US investment into the country,” Ms O’Connor said.

“I want to see US investment so I want to see a good collaborative environment and a good collaborative relationship between Ireland and the US.”

Mr Trump had planned a visit to Ireland during the election campaign but it did not proceed.

Brexit already hitting English businesses, A UK survey finds

Up to 58% of respondents from Britain’s biggest firms see negative impact

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“Business in this country is already feeling the pain of the economic upheaval of leaving the EU,” said Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos Mori.

Business is already suffering from Brexit, according to some of Britain’s biggest companies, lending weight to a cross-party effort by MPs this week to avert the risk of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Despite a stream of positive economic data, an Ipsos Mori survey of senior executives from more than 100 of the largest 500 companies found 58 per cent felt last year’s vote was already having a negative effect on their business.

Just 11 per cent found the Brexit decision had meant a positive impact while nearly a third – 31 per cent – thought it had made no difference to their company.

“Business in this country is already feeling the pain of the economic upheaval of leaving the EU,” said Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos Mori. “There is no sign that this is likely to ease this year.”

Company bosses have voiced concern about losing competitive advantage against European rivals if tariffs rise after Brexit, adding to the cost of producing and exporting goods.

Investors also appear to be waiting for greater clarity about the outcome of Brexit negotiations before committing funds to longer-term projects.

Theresa May will this week face a rebellion by pro-European Tory MPs who fear that she could walk away from the negotiating table in Brussels without a deal, with potentially serious effects for business.

The prime minister has said she would prefer “no deal to a bad deal”, raising the prospect of Britain leaving the EU to fall back on World Trade Organization rules, including tariffs.

Steve Baker, a Tory Eurosceptic MP, said up to 27 Tory MPs could this week back a “wrecking amendment” in the committee stage of the bill authorising Mrs May to invoke Article 50 and trigger Brexit.

The amendment would give parliament a say if Mrs May concluded that no deal was possible, in effect requiring her to go back to Brussels to seek better terms. She will order Tory MPs to oppose the measure.

For Labour, the agony over Brexit continues, with Jeremy Corbyn facing the prospect of losing two of his closest allies – Diane Abbott and Clive Lewis – if they defy him and vote against the Article 50 bill on its third reading on Wednesday.

Mr Corbyn said he had yet to decide whether to impose a three-line whip requiring Labour MPs to back Brexit, but hinted that he would show clemency to rebels in any event: “I am a very lenient person,” he told Radio 4’s The World this Weekend.

The Commons battles over Brexit have been played out against a benign economic backdrop, confounding those who predicted a downturn after a Leave vote.

The Office for National Statistics reported last month that the UK was the fastest growing economy in the G7 last year, and was not yet showing any signs of the slowdown that many economists predicted would follow the vote to leave the EU in June.

But the less rosy sentiment from business is supported by economic forecasters, with Sir Charlie Bean of the Office for Budget Responsibility and former deputy governor of the Bank of England saying last week that the strong consumer spending seen after the Brexit vote in June was likely to fall away in coming months.

Bank of England figures show that consumer borrowing growth in December slowed to its lowest in more than two years, while consumer confidence has also dipped.

Two-thirds of the 114 FTSE 500 business leaders surveyed believe the business environment will become more negative over the next 12 months, while only 13 per cent believed the opposite.

A large majority – 84 per cent – said that it was “vital” to their business that the government handled Brexit negotiations well. But half said they were not confident in the government’s ability to negotiate the “best deal possible” with the EU for UK companies.

An even larger majority – 96 per cent – was confident their business could adapt to the consequences of leaving the EU, and more than two-thirds had already taken action in response to the referendum result. A tenth were moving business outside the UK.

In terms of their priorities for the forthcoming negotiations, the business leaders said movement of labour and access to skilled labour came the highest, followed by securing free trade or retaining the single market with the EU and passporting rights.

Nurses’ union talks break down & are now likely to give notice of industrial action

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Talks between the HSE and nurses’ unions that have been ongoing for three weeks ended this evening without agreement.

Now, unions will meet to discuss potential industrial action.

The INMO told Health Service management that proposals have to be “radically improved” before any further discussion can take place.

The talks were focused on staffing, recruitment and retention.

They were aimed at restoring the current nursing/midwifery workforce to “at least 2007 levels”.

  1. In a statement issued to the media, the INMO said HSE management,
  2. “Refused to allow Directors of Nursing and Midwifery fill all posts which become vacant during 2017;
  3. Refused to guarantee that sufficient funding would be made available to allow the permanent employment of all Irish trained nurses and midwives graduating in 2016/17; and,
  4. Refused to guarantee replacement of maternity leave vacancies on a one for one basis.”

A 17% rise in complaints to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland

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A live insect in a dessert, a human nail in a takeaway meal, and a cigarette butt in a bag of chips were among thousands of complaints made by the public to the Food Safety Authority.

New figures from the FSAI show its advice phoneline received 3,202 complaints by consumers relating to food, food premises, and food labelling last year. That was an increase of 17% on the 2015 figure of 2,739.

Meanwhile, the number of complaints about food poisoning jumped by 45% last year compared to 2015.

A total of 1,126 complaints were made relating to unfit food, 864 to hygiene standards, 741 to suspect food poisoning, 221 to incorrect information on food labelling, and 60 related to non-display of allergen information.

Grievances about poor hygiene standards were up 34% on the previous year, while complaints about incorrect information on food labelling were up 15% and those on unfit food was up 7%.

Edel Smyth, FSAI’s information manager, said Irish people are far more likely to complain about hygiene standards than they may have been in the past.

“The statistics from our advice line service continue to show an upward trend, with consumers expressing much more concern and being more conscious about the food they consume, and are being increasingly vigilant about food safety issues,” she said.

“There is a culture developing among consumers, which indicates zero tolerance towards poor hygiene standards and, in particular, food that is unfit to eat.”

The FSAI report says contamination of food with foreign objects was also frequently reported by consumers.

In 2016, reports included allegations of food contaminated with insects and glass, as well as other foreign objects.

Examples included a live insect found in a packaged dessert, a long black hair in garlic sauce, a human nail in a takeaway meal, glass in a dessert, plastic rope in a takeaway meal, and a cigarette butt in a bag of chips.

Other complaints in relation to poor hygiene standards referred to dirty customer toilets, rats observed on the premises, and dirty tables and floors.

In one case, a consumer complained about a staff member at a deli sneezing into their hands and then preparing sandwiches without washing their hands.

All complaints received by the FSAI were followed up and investigated by its enforcement officers throughout the country.

Its advice line received a total of 10,497 queries in 2016 from not only consumers but people working in the food service sector, such as manufacturers, retailers, researchers, and consultants.

The most popular queries were regarding legislation on food labelling requirements, allergens, and additives, as well as requests for FSAI publications.

FSAI chief executive Pamela Byrne said the advice line, as well as the agency’s website are important resources for the food industry where its experts are available to assist food business owners and managers to fully understand their legal requirements.

Proposed plan to open injection facility in Dublin for drug users

Laws would exempt drug users from prosecution if found with certain drugs at centre

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The proposed injection centre would open for 12 hours a day, seven days a week and would cost between €1.5 million and €1.8 million per year.

The Government will on Tuesday discuss legislation which would exempt drug users from prosecution if found with certain illegal drugs in a supervised injection facility.

Minister for Drugs Catherine Byrne will seek approval to proceed with plans which would open such a facility in Dublin’s city centre.

The centre would open for 12 hours a day, seven days a week and would cost between €1.5 million and €1.8 million per year.

Government sources stressed the Misuse of Drugs Act, which controls the possession of substances, will still apply.

Exemption from prosecution will only be applicable to authorised users when on the premises and injecting with the licence holder’s permission.

A Government source stressed: “In all other circumstances, inside and outside a supervised injecting facility, the offence of possession of a controlled drug still applies.

“The possession of a drug for the purpose of selling and supplying it to another is unaffected and remains a crime.”

A concern?

Gardaí will be able to enter the premises without a warrant but they will not be able to arrest those inside.

There has been some concern that Gardaí may be unable to adequately enforce the law while reflecting the Government policy.

Ministers have said the law must be clear and insisted there can be no ambiguity which would affect the powers of the Gardaí.

The legislation will also provide an exemption for licence holders to allow them to possess or prepare a controlled substance on the premises.

The initiative, which was first proposed by the former Labour Party minister of state Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, has caused some concern.

However, Ms Byrne will stress the facility will not become a free-for-all for those who want to inject drugs.

Government sources say the aim is to minimise the harm associated with injecting drugs by providing a controlled environment.

The Health Service Executive will be asked to run the facility and will consult with An Garda Síochána and community groups before its establishment.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton has requested that the centres do not open near schools.

Debated

Mr Bruton has asked that proximity to children must be considered as part of the discussion on location and called for schools to be consulted ahead of any decision being made.

The legislation proposed by Ms Byrne is not prescriptive in terms of location but sets out policies which should be considered.

The level and the nature of drug use, paraphernalia and incidents of overdose or death should be factors, according to the Minister.

The legislation, if passed by Cabinet, will be debated in the Dáil and the Seanad.

It is expected the facility may be open by September. It will not be a new building but one that is unused at present.

If the pilot project is successful, it is envisaged a number of others will be opened across the country.

However, funding has only been set aside for one facility and the Department of Health has been advised any additional spend must come from within expenditure allocations.

The moon will smash Earth and turn our planet’s surface into a sea of fire, scientists warn

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Stargazers set out the grim destiny of our planet’s satellite, which will plough into humanity’s home world in the very distant future

The moon is locked into a death spiral which will eventually cause it to smash into Planet Earth, an astronomer has warned.

This apocalyptic event is likely to be so devastating that it will turn the surface of our home world into a seething pit of red hot lava.

The moon will plunge into Earth, although humans may not be around to see it

“The final end-state of tidal evolution in the Earth-Moon system will indeed be the inspiral of the Moon and its subsequent collision… onto Earth,” Jason Barnes, a planetary scientist at the University of Idaho, told Forbes.

“The energy released in the merging would re-melt the Earth into a magma ocean.”

Sadly, humans won’t be around to see this disaster – because they will probably have been wiped out in another one like?

According to the Global Catastrophic Risks 2016 report, the biggest threats humanity should prepare for are climate change-related catastrophes, natural pandemics and nuclear war.

These were all listed as high priority and had the highest likelihood of occurring in the next five years.

However, other threats to look out for include pandemics from man-made pathogens, failure of geo-engineering projects, and catastrophic disruption from artificial intelligence.

In terms of mitigating risks, the report draws comparisons with fatal car accidents, where governments have mandated basic safety features, such as seatbelts and air bags.

It states that while the risk of human extinction is small, at 0.1% each year, it means that a person is five times more likely to die in an extinction event than a car crash.

Catastrophic climate change poses such a high risk due to the cumulative effects of rising carbon dioxide levels, feedback loops in the carbon cycle, and lack of action and financial investment.

The report states of the need for the international community to take strong action to avoid the upper limits of global temperature change, which could have devastating impacts on food security and human life.

The sun will one day swell to a huge size and fry everything on Earth

The moon will crash into Earth in about 65 billion years, which is about 59 billion years after everything in our planet has been burned alive in the death throes of the sun.

If our species manages to avoid being wiped out by nuclear war, doomsday space rocks or apocalyptic epidemics, we may live to see the day our closest star swallows up much of the solar system.

“Five billion years from now, the Sun will have grown into a red giant star, more than a hundred times larger than its current size,” Professor Leen Decin from the KU Leuven Institute of Astronomy said last year.NASA astronaut Eugene Cernan, last man to walk on the moon, dead at 82

Earth will be hit by an asteroid that will wipe out life as we know it today… but not for a million years, say boffins

 

“It will also experience an intense mass loss through a very strong stellar wind. The end product of its evolution, 7 billion years from now, will be a tiny white dwarf star.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 3rd January 2017

Employment in IDA Irish backed firms reaches a record high

Almost 200,000 employed in multinationals but IDA warns of political uncertainty

Image result for Employment in IDA Irish backed firms reaches a record high  Image result for The IDA   Image result for Employment in IDA backed firms reaches a record high

Martin Shanahan, chief executive of IDA Ireland, with Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor: “That companies have continued to invest in Ireland is testament to the quality of the offering we have here,” he said.

IDA Ireland says the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Ireland will remain strong in coming months after a record 2016, although the State enterprise agency warned against “complacency” over cost-competitiveness and potential threats in the global economy.

Employment in foreign multinationals backed by IDA reached a record high of almost 200,000 in 2016, with 244 investments during the year. This is up from a previous high of 213 in 2016.

At the publication of its annual statement on Tuesday, IDA said the number of investments from companies new to the Irish market went to 99 from 94 in 2016, with 11,842 additional jobs (net) created. Job losses were at their lowest level in 19 years.

In 2016, more than half (52%) of all jobs created by IDA clients were based outside Dublin. The mid-west experienced the fastest growth rate, of 10%, with some 1,500 jobs created during the year. The midlands fared the worst, with just 58 jobs created during the year.

Martin Shanahan, chief executive of the IDA, said he expected some US companies to delay investment announcements until details emerged of US president-elect Donald Trump’s trade policies.

He also said some London-based banks were close to choosing alternative locations, as Dublin fights to pick up business amid post-Brexit vote uncertainty.

Success

Mr Shanahan said: “That companies have continued to invest in Ireland is testament to the quality of the offering we have here. That being said – we absolutely cannot be complacent about this success. We have to keep an eye on our competitiveness including costs.

“The contribution of the FDI sector has always been important to Ireland, but the 2016 results show that the contribution has never been greater. It is particularly welcome to see such a broad-based performance and all regions growing. International services, pharmaceuticals and medical devices and financial services all showed significant employment increases in 2016.”

On Brexit, the IDA said the UK’s planned departure from the European Union has led to “a significant volume of specific queries” to IDA offices from across the world, with Ireland among a small number of locations in Europe being considered. However the IDA also noted that Brexit brings with it some “adverse impacts”.

Access.

“FDI companies that depend heavily on the UK market have already been impacted by exchange rates and they may also need to consider their future access to the UK market in a post-Brexit environment.”

Looking ahead, Mr Shanahan said that “ongoing global political and economic uncertainty will continue to affect investor confidence in 2017”, while competition from other jurisdictions for FDI has “never been as strong”.

However, the outlook is still “promising”. “While there is significant uncertainty, the jobs pipeline for the first quarter of 2017 looks promising. In 2016, job losses within IDA client companies were at their lowest level since 1997. Given market turmoil, Brexit impacts and cost-competitiveness pressure, IDA does not expect this trend to continue,” Mr Shanahan said.

Irish property prices to rise by at least 8% this year 2017

Help-to-buy scheme will add ‘fuel to the fire’ and drive price rises, myhome.ie reports

Image result for Irish property prices to rise by at least 8% this year 2017  Image result for Irish property prices to rise by at least 8% this year 2017   Image result for Irish property prices to rise by at least 8% this year 2017

Irish property prices are set to rise by at least 8% in 2017, with double-digit growth a ‘distinct possibility’.

Property prices are set to rise by at least 8% in 2017, with double-digit growth a “distinct possibility”, as today’s launch of the new help-to-buy scheme, plus looser mortgage lending rules and constrained supply drive price growth across the country.

The prediction comes in a report from myhome.ie, the property website, and Davy, the stockbroking firm, which says the help-to-buy scheme will add “fuel to the fire” in driving price growth.

The scheme, which opens for applications today (January 3rd), will give first-time buyers of new homes 5 per cent back on the cost of their property.

According to the Central Statistics Office, property prices rose by 7.1% in the year to October, while full-year calculations from estate agent Sherry FitzGerald, also published today, estimate that prices rose by 5.2% for 2016 as a whole, a moderate increase on the 4% recorded in 2015.

Prices in Dublin increased by 3.7% in 2016, compared to 1.4% in 2015, according to Sherry FitzGerald with growth of 7.4%, 10.1% and 6.9% respectively in Cork, Galway and Limerick.

Despite recent price growth, however, average values are still about 40% off peak 2006 levels.

Big fall in supply?

Predictions of an acceleration in house-price growth next year comes as the number of properties for sale across the country has fallen to a 10-year low.

New figures from Daft.ie, also published today, show just 21,700 properties for sale nationwide on the property portal in December 2016, the lowest since January 2007.

Myhome.ie reports a similar picture, with just 20,875 properties listed for sale on the site, down 7.7% from last year.

This suggests that just 1% of the Irish housing stock is currently listed for sale – a normally functioning market would typically boast turnover levels of 4%.

“The lack of liquidity is particularly acute in Dublin where there are just 3,619 properties listed for sale.

“This is down 20% on last year and means just 0.7% of Dublin’s housing stock of 535,000 properties is currently listed for sale,” says Angela Keegan, managing director of myhome.ie.

Trinity College Dublin economist and author of the Daft.ie report Ronan Lyons warns that demographic trends, housing obsolescence and migration means that close to 50,000 new properties are needed each year but just about 14,000 were built in 2016.

“Without this kind of supply, we will all have to spend more and more of our income just to have a home,” he warns.

With fewer homes for sale, transaction levels are also slumping. While the full figures for Q4 are not yet available from the property register, early returns suggest a sharp fall in transactions in the final quarter of 2016, with sales down by 12% on the year, according to Daft.ie.

But the decline may also be due to the imminent arrival of the new help-to-buy scheme, as prospective purchasers postponed their decisions.

Asking prices rise.

The latest survey from Daft.ie for the fourth quarter of 2016 shows that asking prices across the country rose by 8% in the year, with prices continuing to rise at a faster rate outside the capital.

Asking prices in Dublin were 5% higher than in 2015, but in Cork, Galway and Kilkenny, inflation exceeded 10%, although the rate of growth has fallen since 2014.

The figures mean that the average national asking price has risen 34.3% or just over € 56,000 – since the property market reached its nadir in the third quarter of 2013.

In Dublin, however, the bottom was reached in the second quarter of 2012 and prices have risen by an average of 46.2% or €101,850 since that time.

In Limerick, prices have risen by 39% in the city (and by 19% in the county) since its low in 2014.

According to myhome.ie, while asking prices on new instructions fell by more than 2% in the fourth quarter, bringing the mix adjusted asking price for new sales nationally to €227,000 – prices on their site are still up 5.5% year on year.

In Dublin, the average asking prices for a newly listed property remained unchanged at €328,000, but this is still up 4.9% year on year, according to myhome.ie.

Flu, respiratory illness, and the winter vomiting bug on the rise in Ireland

Ireland is under the weather at the moment

Image result for Flu, respiratory illness, and the winter vomiting bug on the rise in Ireland  Image result for Flu, respiratory illness, and the winter vomiting bug on the rise in Ireland

HSE Hospitals across IRELAND have reported a significant increase in the number of cases of winter-related illnesses, including influenza, respiratory illness and the winter vomiting bug.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HSPC), which monitors the spread of infectious diseases, says that there has been a tripling in the numbers of people with norovirus (winter vomiting bug) over the past five weeks.

The HSPC also warned that this escalation is expected to continue until at least the end of February.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has described the outbreak of the infections as “a very challenging period of time” for Ireland’s health service.

The HSE has asked people with symptoms of the winter vomiting bug not to visit or attend hospitals or GP surgeries.

“This bug, while often unpleasant, rarely causes serious problems for otherwise healthy children and adults,” the HSE said in a statement.

It can, however, “be a serious problem in hospitals and residential facilities where it can lead to ward closures, postponed operations, and worryingly, can result in very serious illness for patients in hospital who are already weakened by other medical conditions.”

The comments were echoed by Minister Harris, who warned against spreading the flu:

We all as citizens have a role to play in terms of doing everything we possibly can to minimise the spread of what is a very significant outbreak of flu.

The HSE confirmed that there have been 21 outbreaks of flu and respiratory infections in healthcare settings such as hospitals, residential centres and nursing homes so far, this season, and a significant increase in people aged 75 and older seeking treatment.

All hospitals around the country have put in place contingency measures to manage the increased number of patients coming to Emergency Departments, with the HSE saying that the spike in demand is expected to continue over the coming weeks.

The HSE has urged at-risk people to get the flu vaccination as soon as possible.

“The winter tends to be a difficult period for the health service, and that is why we have put significant resources [into dealing with it] but the particular challenges we’re experiencing now are not just the challenges of a normal winter,”Minister Harris said at a press conference this afternoon.

The minister said that there has been almost a 20% increase in the number of people over the age of 75 attending Emergency Departments over this Christmas period compared to last year.

The HSPC said the increase in the winter vomiting bug has been due to new strains of the infection being reported in Ireland, which the population is not immune to.

The HSE’s ‘Winter Initiative’ has seen at least €15 million spent in recent months to deal with the increased demand for the health service, particularly in ensuring that people are discharged from beds once they have recovered from their illness.

Irish Scientists identify a new organ in Humans & it’s official

Image result for Irish Scientists identify a new organ in Humans  Image result for Irish Scientists identify a new organ in Humans

Dr. J. Calvin Coffey above right pic, a professor of surgery at the University of Limerick in Ireland, has concluded that the mesentery, which is a membrane found in the gut, is in its own an organ.

A mighty membrane that twists and turns through the gut is starting the new year with a new classification: the structure, called the mesentery, has been upgraded to an organ.

Scientists have known about the structure, which connects a person’s small and large intestines to the abdominal wall and anchors them in place, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, until now, it was thought of as a number of distinct membranes by most scientists. Interestingly, in one of its earliest descriptions, none other than Leonardo da Vinci identified the membranes as a single structure, according to a recent review.

In the review, lead author Dr. Calvin Coffey, a professor of surgery at the University of Limerick’s Graduate Entry Medical School in Ireland, and colleagues looked at past studies and literature on the mesentery. Coffey noted that throughout the 20th century, anatomy books have described the mesentery as a series of fragmented membranes; in other words, different mesenteries were associated with different parts of the intestines. [6 Strange Things the Government Knows About Your Body]

More recent studies looking at the mesentery in patients undergoing colorectal surgery and in cadavers led Coffey’s team to conclude that the membrane is its own, continuous organ, according to the review, which was published in November in the journal The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

What’s in a name?

The reclassification of the mesentery as an organ “is relevant universally as it affects all of us,” Coffey said in a statement.

By recognizing the anatomy and the structure of the mesentery, scientists can now focus on learning more about how the organ functions, Coffey said. In addition, they can also learn about diseases associated with the mesentery, he added.

“If you understand the function, you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease,” Coffey said.

The continuous nature of the mesentery, for example, may serve as a means for disease to spread from one part of the abdomen to another, according to the review.

In addition to studying disease, researchers may also look to the mesentery for new approaches to surgery, the authors said in the review.

More questions need answers

The authors noted in the review that many anatomical and other features of the mesentery still need to be described.

For instance, what body system should the mesentery be classified in? “Whether the mesentery should be viewed as part of the intestinal, vascular, endocrine, cardiovascular or immunological systems is so far unclear, as it has important roles in all of them,” the authors wrote.

While many organs have distinct functions in the body, the mesentery’s distinct function is still unknown, according to the review.

Venus is looking stunningly bright next to the moon right now and here’s why

Image result for Venus is looking stunningly bright next to the moon right now and here's why Image result for Venus is looking stunningly bright next to the moon right now and here's why Image result for Venus is looking stunningly bright next to the moon right now and here's why

The second rock from the sun has been even brighter than normal and it’s not too late to catch a glimpse.

Those with their eyes on the skies have been noticing that Venus, the second rock from the sun, has been even more stunning than normal recently.

Venus is always one of the brightest lights in our night skies but in recent days it has been especially luminous.

All over the country, people have been posting pictures on social media of Venus below the crescent moon. Particularly sharp-eyed observers could also see a ruddy red Mars close to the moon.

We answer some questions that people have been asking.

Have I missed it?

Not necessarily. Like yesterday, Venus will remain very bright tonight but unfortunately it could be obscured by cloud cover.

If there is a break in the cloud, the best time to see it will be in the hours just after sunset as Venus sets about four hours after the Sun this month.

Early January 2017 is a great time to see Venus. According to the Beckstrom Observatory, it will reach its peak height above the horizon this month.

It will also see the distance between Venus and Mars get smaller as Venus gets higher each night.

Why is Venus so bright?

Venus is the brightest of all the planets visible in the skies above Earth due to a highly reflective acidic atmosphere.

Over the last billion years Venus’ atmosphere has become incredibly thick. Scientists believe that this is because of a runaway greenhouse effect.

And with the atmosphere being so dense, it reflects 70 per cent of the sunlight that reaches it.

In comparison, the moon only reflects 10 per cent of the light that hits it. However, due to its close proximity to earth, the moon appears brighter than Venus to us.

Can I see Mars?

Yes! Mars was bright red in the sky in May and June last year but is no longer as bright. However, you can still see it with the naked eye, with it appearing a ruddy red colour.

As the Red Planet is not as bright as Venus you need to wait until total nightfall to see it. Bear in mind it won’t be visible immediately after sunset.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 11th December 2016

Irish Water spends a hefty €5m on expert advice

Hefty bill run up in the six months since controversial charges were dropped

Image result for Irish Water spends a hefty €5m on expert advice   Image result for business strategists, lawyers, computer experts

Irish Water has spent €5m on outside business strategists, lawyers, computer experts, public relations and finance specialists in the six months after the Government formally suspended the controversial charges.

The revelation that the embattled utility has paid over €826,000 a month on consultants since May 1 – when it was effectively placed in limbo by the Government – will infuriate nearly one million people who have handed over €144m in water charges last year.

Those who paid their bills still have no idea if they will get that money back if charges are ultimately abolished.

Last night Fianna Fail’s environment spokesperson Barry Cowen said legislation was urgently needed to ensure the utility was fully accountable for all money it spent.

The list of lucrative contracts includes an average monthly bill of nearly €3,000 for public relations services at a time when a major question mark hangs over the future funding of the company.

Documents reveal nearly €5m was spent on ‘third-party’ services from May 1 to the end of October this year. This includes €775,141 on ‘business change’ support services.

Ernst & Young was paid €406,268 for its expertise, while official records show accounting and consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers received €123,570.

Efforts to improve customer services supports also came with a hefty price tag, costing €774,848. It is estimated €32,285 is being spent every week to help improve and streamline customer services.

Ernst & Young also emerged a big winner, earning almost €486,000 for its expertise in the area.

Official records also show that hiring in legal expertise remains a major drain on resources – costing on average €56,800 a month.

In total, €340,830 was ring-fenced to cover costs in this area over a six-month period. Dublin-based legal firm McCann Fitzgerald was paid a total of €79,071 since the beginning of May. The next highest earner was Philip Lee, a specialist commercial law firm, who received payment of €71,438. Invoices for the services provided another law firm, Arthur Cox and Company totalled €45,410. Some €55,700 was allocated to covering the fees of a ‘senior counsel’, although records do not specify the reason for the expenditure.

PricewaterhouseCoopers received another separate payment of €68,000 for its “support on specific technical investment and engineering projects”. A further €113,277 was spent to ensure the “highest standards of governance” in areas like business analysis, information security and data protection. And Murray Consultants, one of Ireland’s biggest public relations agencies, was paid €16,866.

The expenditure comes against a backdrop of continuing uncertainty as to what approach will be adopted with customers who have already paid their water bills.

In a statement, Irish Water said it can require technical assistance and third-party support at any given time. Such expertise was not required on a permanent basis and therefore it was considered more “cost effective” to employ third-party specialists “as they are required”.

A spokesperson said the use of third-party external service providers represents just over 1pc of its annual operational costs. A company spokesman said the relevant data covers the period of May 1 to October 31 this year.

This was on the basis the clause facilitating the suspension of water charges was contained in the confidence and supply arrangement – put in place at the beginning of May on formation of the Government.

Fianna Fail’s environment spokesperson Barry Cowen said legislation was urgently needed to ensure the utility was fully accountable for all monies it spent.

He pointed out that the confidence and supply arrangement Fianna Fail has agreed with Fine Gael commits to retaining Irish Water as a national utility in public ownership. He said the agreement meant the company must be answerable to the Dail under a number of headings.

“We would have hoped that process would be complete by now, but it’s obviously not, and it’s something we’ll be taking up with the minister, with a view to bringing forward relevant legislation to give effect to that.”

He believes this would result in greater “transparency” in the operations of the utility.

The commission established to examine its future operations recommended that funding for the country’s water infrastructure should come through general taxation – but that there should be charges for wasteful use.

A special Oireachtas committee will now also decide if those who did not pay previous water charges should be prosecuted.

Deputy Cowen says the party is keeping an “open mind” on whether those who use excessive amounts of water should be liable for some financial payment.

“The main thrust of the recommendation is that it is paid for out of general taxation, and we agreed with that analysis.

“But there are many questions outstanding,” he said.

In a statement, Irish Water said “significant progress” had been made since the suspension of charges.

This includes “continuing the development of a single way of working for Irish Water as a public utility, to allow for a full transformation of services to the utility from local authorities.

“This is an enormous undertaking.

“We have developed new systems for local authorities to report vital information on operations, leakage, water and waste water quality to us electronically and in real time in a standardised and consistent way”.

These and other projects had required “specialist support”, but would have a “lasting significant value” for Irish Water as a utility.

As much as 112,000 additional jobs in construction will be created over the next three years here,

Say construction industry chiefs?

Image result for As much as 112,000 Irish additional jobs in construction will be created over the next three years here  Image result for As much as 112,000 Irish additional jobs in construction will be created over the next three years here

A report on the sector found carpenters and joiners will be in most demand.

Construction chiefs have claimed there will be 112,000 additional jobs in the industry over the next three years. A report on the sector found carpenters and joiners will be in most demand followed by general labourers, operatives and electricians.

The Construction Industry Federation has launched a new website, cifjobs.ie, to target workers who emigrated in the 10 years since the property bubble burst and the economy collapsed.

A report on the future of the sector by DKM consultants revealed the industry is set to grow by 9% a year up to 2020 and said that it can sustain more than 100,000 additional jobs.

It said there will be a need for 30,800 carpenters and joiners, 27,600 general labourers, 18,100 operatives, 15,200 electricians, 13,900 plasterers and tilers, 11,800 plumbers, 9,600 managers, 9,400 painters and decorators and 7,800 bricklayers.

CIF director general Tom Parlon said emigrants should consider coming home. ” There is sufficient work in the pipeline to require about another 112,000 jobs up to 2020 and beyond.

“The CIF is attempting to ensure there are sufficient skilled employees by engaging in several initiatives. We’re working with the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) to upskill those on the live register with construction experience. We’re attracting young people into the industry by highlighting the modern globalised careers available. Finally, we’re trying to get the positive news about the industry and Ireland in general to those in the diaspora to attract them back.”

The website will highlight jobs available in the lobby group’s member companies and allow potential candidates to engage directly with them.

Orkambi makers to meet HSE for CF drug pricing cost talks

Asking price for medicine that acts on lung function €160,000 per patient annually

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The HSE has indicted it is willing to pay €75m annually, but not the existing €400m bill across five years.

The Health Service Executive and US makers of cystic fibrosis drug Orkambi, Vertex, are to meet on Wednesday, December 15th, to discuss the cost of the medicine.

Orkambi, which improves lung function and reduces hospitalisation for CF patients, would cost €160,000 per patient annually, or €400 million for the health service over five years, according to its initial price.

Agreed approach

The HSE is willing to pay €75 million which would make it the sixth most expensive drug used by the Irish health system.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said he has sought to collaborate with other countries on an agreed approach to negotiations on Orkambi and the HSE has cautioned Vertex it must ask a more affordable price.

The HSE and Vertex said they are committed to finding a definitive solution.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals said this week it will only re-enter price talks on Orkambi if Government representatives with the power to make decisions are at the table.

Vertex asked the HSE to commit to having Mr Harris, HSE director general Tony O’Brien and Department of Health Secretary general Jim Breslin at the talks.

Speaking in the Seanad earlier this week, Mr Harris said this was a “complete misrepresentation”.

“The law of this land, passed by this House and the Dáil in 2013, makes clear that the HSE is the body with statutory responsibility for decisions on pricing and reimbursement of medicines.”

Thousands of people protested outside the Dáil this week about the issue.

The bottom line, says Fitch, is that a monkey’s speech limitations stem from the way its brain is organized.

“As soon as you had a brain that was ready to control the vocal tract,” Fitch says, “the vocal tract of a monkey or nonhuman primate would be perfectly fine for producing lots and lots of words.”

The real issue is that monkeys’ brains do not have direct connections down to the neurons that control the larynx and the tongue, he says. What’s more, monkeys don’t have critical connections within the brain itself, between the auditory cortex and motor cortex, which makes them incapable of imitating what they hear in the way that humans do.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a science fiction movie from 2011, actually has the right idea, notes Fitch. In that film, after a lab chimp named Caesar undergoes brain changes, he eventually is able to speak words such as “No.”

“The new Planet of the Apes is a pretty accurate representation of what we think is going on,” says Fitch.

Irish taxpayers warned to be careful with scam phone calls claiming to be Tax Revenue staff ?????

Image result for Irish taxpayers warned to be careful with scam phone calls claiming to be Tax Revenue staff  Image result for Irish taxpayers warned to be careful with scam phone calls claiming to be Tax Revenue staff  Image result for Irish taxpayers warned to be careful with scam phone calls claiming to be Tax Revenue staff

The Revenue Commissioners is warning against a slick phone scam intended to scare people into paying off a bogus tax collector.

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Revenue Commissioners said a “small” number of people had contacted the office after receiving random telephone calls over the past week.

The calls are purportedly from a local tax inspector looking for so-called tax defaulters to make a payment and/or disclose their PPS numbers.

In one case, a taxpayer received a call from “Revenue Ireland” in which an automated recording told him to contact the “Revenue” urgently.

The suspicious taxpayer rang a Dublin number that was answered by a man who did not have an Irish accent claiming to be “Officer Ray Miller of Revenue Ireland”.

The taxpayer’s suspicions were confirmed when he began speaking in Irish and the bogus Revenue official couldn’t understand him or refer him to someone who could speak Irish, so he told ‘Officer Miller’ it was an obvious scam and he hung up.

Revenue spokeswoman Clare O’Melia said she was not aware of anyone being taken in by the scam. But she urged anyone who may have responded to a request for “an immediate payment of a tax bill over the phone” or provided the caller with their PPS number, bank account or credit card information to contact gardaí and their bank.

“Anyone who receives a telephone call purporting to be from Revenue about which they have any doubts, particularly if the call is out of the blue, should contact their local Revenue office or the Collector General’s Division at 1890 20 30 70,” she said.

“It’s Christmas and there are a lot of scams out there.” Gardaí have now also issued a statement.

“An Garda Síochána would like to remind the public to be wary of any contact from an unsolicited source, whether it is by telephone or email.

“Do not under any circumstances give out your credit/debit card, bank account, or PPS Number to anyone who makes contact with you over the phone.  An Garda Síochána, Revenue, nor any Financial Institution will ever call you and ask for your PPS number or bank account details.”

Majella O’Donnell hits out at Ireland’s mental health services

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Majella O’Donnell has hit out at Ireland’s mental health services, after her friend was denied immediate help despite being severely depressed.

The 56-year-old wife of Donegal crooner Daniel O’Donnell has previously opened up about her own battle with depression, and how she once considered taking her own life.

Taking to Facebook, Majella decided to use her voice and revealed how she felt “angry and disgusted” after her friend with mental health issues was told she wouldn’t be seen to until next year.

“My friend Anne is a young mother who has been feeling anxious, unmotivated, irritated and generally depressed. She is aware of it and has been on antidepressants in the past,” she wrote.

“She is also aware of the fact that it is negatively affecting her relationship with her partner and putting a huge strain on them. She wanted to get to the bottom of why she feels this way. She phoned a psychiatrist to see if she could talk to someone professional and was told that a) She would have to be referred by her GP; b) She wouldn’t be seen until at least February, and c) It would cost her €300 an hour for the psychiatrist.

“What the f*** is that all about? I get so bloody angry at this kind of thing. Here is a young woman realising that she has a problem and trying to do something positive about it and this is what the outcome is! She went back to her GP who once again prescribed antidepressants, a stronger one this time – and that’s it.

“She doesn’t really want to take them as she would like to understand why she feels the way she does but she feels she has no choice,” she said.

Speaking up: Majella has suffered from depression in the past.

Majella then hit out at the outrageous fees psychiatrists are charging patients, as her friend received a quote for €300 per hour.

“I can accept that a GP needs to refer you, but what really p***** me off is the fact that no one could see her until at least February – but that doesn’t really matter because she could never afford the €300 per hour fee that is being charged. €300 per hour! What the f*** is that all about? It is shameful.

“How dare anyone charge that kind of money to help another human being who is in a desperate situation. That sort of fee cannot be justified! We have wonderful support groups around the country – like Pieta House, Aware, Mental Health Ireland, Grow and lots more – doing their best to help people with their mental wellbeing, but when someone tries to help themselves before things have reached the point of no return, this is what happens.

Make a change: Majella is disgusted with Ireland’s mental health services.

“We need, as a country, to sort this problem with accessing psychiatrists and if there is a shortage, then we need to actively start incentivising medical students to look at psychiatry as their speciality.

“Why do we have to wait until a person is so desperate for help that they are considering taking their own lives before we are willing to do something about it,’ she said.

“We need to start being pro-active about mental health instead of being reactive. There, that’s my rant over. I may be a little unreasonable about the whole subject, but it is one that I am so passionate about,” she added.

Graphene Putty could be the future of medical equipment sensors

 Image result for Graphene Putty could be the future of medical equipment sensors   Image result for Graphene Putty could be the future of medical equipment sensors

The internet of things could be about to get a bit more playful as the AMBER centre showcases a new type of graphene sensor made using the kids’ toy, Silly Putty.

As an atom-thick wonder material, graphene has been prophesised for years now as the next big thing in material science.

But now, an interesting breakthrough made by the AMBER centre in Trinity College Dublin could be about to take us into the sillier side of science, or at least Silly Putty.

Led by Prof Jonathan Coleman, a research team within the centre has been looking at how a melding of graphene and the kids’ toy Silly Putty could be a match made in heaven.

Realising graphene’s unique conductive properties and Silly Putty’s ability to mould into almost any shape, the team wanted to see could they be combined to create a mouldable sensor.

Sure enough, Coleman and his team found that that the electrical resistance of putty infused with graphene – that it is calling ‘G-putty’ – was extremely sensitive to the slightest deformation or impact.

Can detect the footprint of the smallest spider

To test its effectiveness, the team mounted the G-putty onto the chest and neck of human subjects and used it to measure breathing, pulse and even blood pressure.

To the team’s amazement, it showed unprecedented sensitivity as a sensor for strain and pressure, hundreds of times more sensitive than normal sensors, offering hope for future use in medical devices.

It could also be used as a precise impact measurement device capable of detecting the footprints of the smallest spiders.

Speaking of its potential, Coleman said: “While a common application has been to add graphene to plastics in order to improve the electrical, mechanical, thermal or barrier properties, the resultant composites have generally performed as expected without any great surprises.

“The behaviour we found with G-putty has not been found in any other composite material. This unique discovery will open up major possibilities in sensor manufacturing worldwide.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 16th November 2016

Martin McGuinness says he was ‘in the dark’ over Project Eagle

Sinn Féin Minister to tell PAC that the Nama sale raises ‘serious’ questions

Image result for Martin McGuinness says he was ‘in the dark’ over Project Eagle   Image result for Martin McGuinness says he was ‘in the dark’ over Project Eagle

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will tell the Dáil’s inquiry into Nama on Wednesday that he was effectively kept in the dark about the sale of the Project Eagle properties and that there are “very serious” questions about the sale which need to be answered.

Mr McGuinness, who is also Sinn Féin’s leader at Stormont, has said he had no knowledge of, and did not approve, contacts between the Stormont administration, Nama and US company, Cerberus – the purchasers of Nama’s Northern loans, known as Project Eagle.

Nama sold the loans to Cerberus in April 2014 for €1.6 billion.

Claims that Belfast business and political figures were to benefit from the deal have led to investigations by the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the UK’s National Crime Agency.

A statement?

According to a statement that Mr McGuinness will make to the PAC on Wednesday, he was concerned when he learned of the extent of the contacts between potential purchasers of the portfolio and the office of the First Minister, then occupied by Peter Robinson.

Mr McGuinness will say that a meeting between Mr Robinson and the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, in September 2013, took place without his knowledge.

Nama had decided that month to sell the loans through an open auction, following an approach from another US company, Pimco.

Similarly, Mr McGuinness will say that a meeting involving Pimco, Mr Robinson and then Northern finance minister Sammy Wilson, earlier in 2013, “happened without my knowledge or approval”.

Former Nama advisor Frank Cushnahan and Belfast solicitor Ian Coulter also attended that meeting.

Pimco chief legal officer Tom Rice wrote to the PAC last week confirming that the company left the Project Eagle auction in March 2014, after US lawyers, Brown Rudnick, sought a £15 million fee.

That money was to be split equally with Mr Cushnahan and Mr Coulter, it was claimed.

Personal guarantees

Mr McGuinness will also tell the inquiry that a memorandum of understanding which was sent to Nama by Mr Robinson’s office, in January 2014, “did not have my consent or approval”.

The memo included a commitment by Pimco to cancel personal guarantees given by property developers in the North that they would repay the loans and write-off some debts – in return for the borrowers’ co-operation.

It did not represent the Northern Ireland Executive’s position, Mr McGuinness will say.

“It has no status and is, frankly, not worth the paper it was written on. It is my view that all of these contacts certainly raise legitimate questions about how Michael Noonan, Nama and others were handling the situation,” Mr McGuinness will tell TDs.

Mr McGuinness was present at a phone call between Mr Robinson and Mr Noonan in January 2014, during which Pimco’s commitments were discussed.

The then first minister stressed at the time that he was not aligned to any buyer of Nama’s Northern Ireland loans.

Cerberus made similar commitments in a letter written to Mr Robinson on March 24th, shortly before its bid for Project Eagle succeeded.

Not enough being spent’ on State’s €30bn motorway network

Transport Infrastructure Ireland: Planned Cork-Limerick road at least 10 years away

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The State’s motorways are not receiving enough investment to maintain them, according to the TII.

The State’s new motorway network, worth an estimated €30 billion, is on a deteriorating spiral with not enough money being spent to keep it on “steady state” maintenance, according to Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII).

In addition, the authority said the proposed M20 Cork to Limerick motorway – which has been identified as crucial to achieving a government target of 300,000 jobs for the southern region, is at least 10 years away – and that is if money is allocated under the Governments mid-term review of capital spending.

In Northern Ireland, where the State is committed to spending on cross-border routes, neither TII nor Monaghan County Council is actively engaged with Transport Northern Ireland on the A5 /N3 link up.

The gloomy outlook for the State’s roads was delivered by TII chief executive Michael Nolan and Department of Transport assistant secretary general Ray O’Leary on Wednesday.

Mr Nolan was the second chief executive of a major State transport operator this week to tell the Government it had insufficient money to fulfil its objectives.

He followed David Franks of Iarnród Éireann who said some railway routes may have to close unless there is major investment.

Mr Nolan and Mr O’Leary told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport future costs for bringing the road network back up to standard could be well in excess of the cost of maintenance.

Mr Nolan told the committee the damage being done to the roads by lack of adequate spending in the longer term would see the costs remediation being “double” the cost of maintenance.

He said current levels of investment in “pavement” renewals was less than a third of that required.

‘Shovel ready’

In relation to minor works on national roads, Mr Nolan said “the current construction programme of realignments will end shortly. While there are some 50 other such schemes at various stages of planning, none of these schemes can proceed to construction in the short term”, as they are not “shovel ready”.

The Government’s current capital investment plan provides for the construction of eight major national road projects.

The plan identifies five other projects to be progressed to construction, subject to planning. The total investment is €730m with 90 per cent of this spread over the last three years of a seven-year plan.

Most are due start construction after 2019, with the exception of the widening of the M7 at Naas, which is expected to be sooner.

Under the State’s public private partnership programme, three new roads are being delivered. These are the M17/18 Gort to Tuam motorway, the N25 New Ross bypass and the M11 Gorey to Enniscorthy motorway.

Mr Nolan said should additional funding be allocated following the mid-term review of the capital expenditure plan, TII would look at the potential to accelerate some projects, the construction of additional projects and the planning of others, including the upgrade of a strategic M20 connection between Cork and Limerick.

However he said it could take up to 10 years for the M20 to be realised, divided between design, planning and construction, and that was not counting the possibility of a court challenge.

But he said failure to respond to future needs would lead to increased congestion, longer and less reliable journey times, less safe roads, higher costs and suppressed economic activity.

In relation to the Government’s commitments to contributing to cross-Border road schemes, Mr Nolan said the only cross-Border national route planned at the moment is the link crossing the River Foyle between Lifford and Strabane. The construction of this link is conditional on the construction of the A5.

At the southern end of the A5, he said there would be a need to agree details where the new A5 meets the N2.

“As that section of the A5 will not be built for some years, neither Monaghan County Council nor TII are actively engaged with Transport NI on the crossing” he said.

Mr O’Leary told the committee the Department of Transport had made a submission to Government for additional funding in the mid-term review of capital expenditure.

33% of Garda cars now have a licence plate recognition facility

Tommy Broughan highlights rise in road deaths, decline in Garda traffic personnel

Image result for a third of Garda cars now have a licence plate recognition facility  Image result for licence plate recognition facility

One third of Garda cars are fitted with automatic number plate recognition technology.

Just under one third of Garda traffic corps vehicles are fitted with automatic licence plate recognition technology, it has emerged.

There are 289 vehicles “assigned for use” by the traffic corps, according to Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald. There are 103 official Garda vehicles fitted with the technology of which 91 are in the Traffic Corps.

The technology can automatically identify vehicle owners from their licence plates and allows gardaí to do this directly.

Ms Fitzgerald told Independent TD Tommy Broughan in a written reply to a parliamentary question that she had been informed that the technology “is in use in all Garda divisions and districts nationwide and that the use of this technology is kept under constant review by Garda management”.

Mr Broughan said that in comparison with the North, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) “seems to have that technology available across the service for a long time and we don’t seem to have the same invigilation”.

The Dublin Bay North TD said the Traffic Corps was now down to under 700 gardaí and figures for those killed in road collisions was already higher than last year.

A total of 162 people died on Irish roads last year and this year there have already been 163 fatalities, Mr Broughan said, 33 more than at the same time last year.

The Tánaiste stressed that decisions on the provision and allocation of resources was a matter for the Garda Commission and she had no direct role in the matter.

But she pointed to the five-year Garda strategy that runs until 2021 – the Garda Síochána Modernisation and Renewal Programme – which aims to make greater use of licence plate recognition technology.

Ms Fitzgerald said the programme aimed to expand the number of units with the technology and “all units being 3G-enabled to give gardaí real-time information on suspect vehicles”.

The strategy also “envisages that An Garda Síochána will examine the introduction of fixed ANPR (Automatic Name Plate Recognition) sites at strategic locations across the road network” as well as the patrolling units.

The HSE has been offered an additional 1,000 beds this winter by (NHI)

The offer has been made by Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI).

Image result for chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland Tadhg Daly.   Image result for The HSE offered an additional 1,000 beds this winter   Image result for The HSE offered an additional 1,000 beds this winter

The HSE has been offered an additional 1,000 beds in Irish nursing homes this winter to alleviate overcrowding in state hospitals. The suggestion has been put forward by chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland Tadhg Daly (above left).

In a statement the organisation said it has today “offered partnership to the Department of Health, HSE and Emergency Department Taskforce in planning for the winter pressures… in acute hospitals”.

It’s understood that the NHI beds have not been included in the HSE’s planning for the winter months to come.

The NHI is today holding its annual conference at the City-west Hotel in west Dublin.

Kelly this morning expressed his “disappointment” that Minister for Health Simon Harris will not be appearing at that conference having cited “government business”.

“Back in July, the Department of Health and Minister Harris’s office committed to engage with the NHI ‘in a timely manner’ as part of its winter planning process. We are now in November, winter is upon us and there is no sign of the engagement committed to,” Daly said.

A survey we undertook at the start of the month has informed nursing homes have capacity this winter of up to 1,000 vacant beds. This is the equivalent of creating capacity of four good-sized hospitals and could play a lead role in facilitating Government’s stated objective of providing care in the community.

Nursing homes have the capacity and expertise to provide convalescent, rehabilitative and respite care removed from hospitals and in our communities. Yet here we are approaching into the winter period of high numbers of persons lying on trolleys within our hospital corridors and wards and engagement with the majority providers of long-term nursing care is absent.

Daly added that he finds it “disappointing” that a “parochial attitude” has been taken by stakeholders with regard to the issue.

Health survey depicts Ireland as a nation of overweight drinkers

Image result for Health survey depicts Ireland as a nation of overweight drinkers   Image result for Health survey depicts Ireland as a nation of overweight drinkers   Image result for Health survey depicts Ireland as a nation of overweight drinkers

The Irish Health Survey looked at the state of the nation’s wellbeing

Ireland is a nation of overweight drinkers with back problems, high blood pressure and allergies, suggests the first survey of its kind.

Almost a 10th of the population is depressed while one in 10 youngsters has seen a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist over the past year.

The stark findings are revealed in the Irish Health Survey, a state-of-the-nation study under a wider European project which polled more than 10,000 households across the country.

It found more than half (53%) of Irish people are overweight or obese.

More than a fifth (22%) smoke, with people living in poorer areas more likely to have a tobacco habit.

Eight in 10 (81%) people regularly drink alcohol – with a sixth (16%) of the population saying they “binge drink” more than once a week.

The survey found:

:: Almost a 10th (8%) of the population said they are at least moderately depressed.

:: One in 10 of those aged 15 to 24 said they have visited a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist over the past year.

:: Chronic back pain is the most common condition, affecting almost a fifth (19%) of the population; followed by high blood pressure (16%); and allergies such as rhinitis, eye inflammation, dermatitis and food allergies (14%).

Despite this, the vast majority of people questioned (83%) said they believe their health to be good or very good.

But almost a third (32%) said they have a long standing illness or health condition.

Damien Lenihan, of the Central Statistics Office which released the report, said the findings give a good overview of the state of the nation’s health.

“This first release of the Irish Health Survey provides a comprehensive picture of self-reported health in Ireland,” he said.

“This is due to the breadth of the survey, examining aspects of health such as health status, health care usage, and health determinants.”

The average Irish person visits the GP six times a year, the poll found.

A quarter of the population reported taking at least one day off work over the past year because of a health-related problem.

The survey also revealed one in 10 looks after someone with a chronic health condition or infirmity due to old age.

In most cases the person being cared for is a family member.

The average number of hours spent providing care is almost 45 hours every week.

Rachel Clark, health promotion manager at the World Cancer Research Fund, said the report is incredibly worrying as being overweight or obese and drinking too much alcohol significantly increases the risk of many common cancers.

“After not smoking, being a healthy weight and avoiding alcohol are the most important things you can do to reduce your cancer risk,” she said.

“We urgently need to increase awareness across Ireland of the dangers of drinking alcohol and being overweight.”

Cockatoo filmed making tools from twigs, wood and cardboard to reach a nut

Image result for Cockatoo filmed making tools from twigs, wood and cardboard to reach nut Image result for Cockatoo filmed making tools from twigs, wood and cardboard to reach nut  Image result for Cockatoo filmed making tools from twigs, wood and cardboard to reach nut

The cockatoo perforated the cardboard with bites then tore off the strip to be used as a tool to knock the nut off the perch. A nut was placed out of reach and the birds had to solve the problem of how to reach it (as above pictures show)

Cockatoos clearly have a design in mind when they begin fashioning tools?

Cockatoos have been filmed making the same tool from three different kinds of material, proving for the first time that they have a design in mind and are anticipating how it can be used.

Tool manufacture was once thought to be unique to humans, but in recent years many animals such as chimps, crows, finches and vultures have been seen to make their own tools.

The Goffin’s cockatoo, which his native to Indonesia, is not known to use tools in the wild, but have learned in captivity.

One bird, called Figaro, who lives at the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, previously displayed the ability to spontaneously make tools by biting long splinters out of the wooden beams of its cage, which he then used to rake pieces of food that were otherwise out of reach.

Three others have since followed, showing that making such tools is within the capacity of the species.

However scientists could not tell if the birds intended to make the shape, because the wood would naturally splinter into a long shape anyway.

To test if the birds were aiming to make elongated tools that could bridge a particular distance, the researchers in Vienna and Oxford University gave them the problem of reaching a piece of food placed a few centimetres beyond a circular hole in the transparent wall of a box.

They were given four different materials that required different manipulations to produce suitable tools: larch wood, leafy beech twigs , cardboard and beeswax.

“While none of the birds succeeded in making tools out of beeswax, we found that at least some of them could make suitable tools from the three remaining materials,” said Dr Alice Auersperg, who heads the Goffin Laboratory at the University of Veterinary Medicine.

The successful parrots made well-shaped tools, even though each material required different manipulation techniques.

To make tools out of larch wood, they bit the material once or twice and tore off the resulting splinter. To use the leafy twigs, they snapped off redundant leaves and side branches until what was left was usable. Finally, to make cardboard tools, they simply cut what was necessary from the edge of the sheet provided.

‘To us, the tools made from cardboard were the most interesting ones, as this material was not pre-structured and required the birds to shape their tools more actively,” added Dr Auersperg.

” They succeeded by placing a large number of parallel bite marks along the edge of the material like a hole punch, using their curved upper beak to cut the elongated piece out of the cardboard block after reaching a certain length.

“Interestingly, this length was usually just above or very close to the minimum length required to reach the food reward placed behind the barrier.”

Co-author Professor Alex Kacelnik, from the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, said: ‘Ultimately, we want to understand how animals think – namely, to produce the equivalent of explicit computer programs capable of doing what the birds do.

“We really don’t know if the birds can picture in their minds an object that doesn’t yet exist and follow this image as a template to build something new, or how their brains elicit the appropriate set of movements to organise their response to novel problems, but this is what we are trying to find out.”

The research was published in the journal Biology Letters.

 

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 5th November 2016

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

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

Minister Simon Harris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financial crisis threatens Ireland’s Institutes of Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HEA review paints a bleak picture

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

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

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

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

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

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

The remedy is in sight but needs to be acted upon

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

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

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

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

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

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

LIT president urges immediate action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ireland 40-29 New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ireland fired by the Anthony Foley memory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The teams that lined up .

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

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

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

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

Ireland’s remaining 2016 autumn internationals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 20th October 2016

New Finance Bill sets mortgage threshold for help-to-buy scheme

Threshold for first-time-buyer scheme reduced to 70% of property’s value

Image result for New Finance Bill sets mortgage threshold for help-to-buy scheme   Image result for New Finance Bill sets mortgage threshold for help-to-buy scheme

Even with a maximum rebate, a couple buying a €400,000 home will need to find €38,000 for their deposit.

The mortgage threshold for first-time buyers looking to apply for a rebate under the new help-to-buy scheme has been reduced to 70% of the value of the home in the Finance Bill.

The Government reduced the figure from the 80% announced in the budget last week after intervention by the Central Bank, which was concerned that it would encourage young homebuyers to take on excessive debt.

There has been no change as yet in other elements of the rebate scheme. However, it is expected that the Government will introduce an amendment to the Bill as it passes through the Oireachtas lowering the €600,000 upper limit on the value of homes eligible under the scheme.

Rebate. 

As it stands, first-time buyers can apply for a rebate of income tax paid over the four completed tax years prior to purchase up to 5% of the value of the home, or €20,000, whichever is the lesser.

That effectively limits the 5% rebate to properties worth €400,000 or less. Homebuyers can still avail of the relief on properties worth more than that but get no further relief. If the property is worth more than €600,000 – or whatever lower limit is eventually agreed – no relief is available.

The properties bought must either be newly built or self-built by the first-time buyer, and the buyers must have signed a contract on or after July 19th last, or, in the case of self-builds, drawn down the first tranche of their mortgage on or after that date.

A couple buying a €400,000 home require a deposit of €58,000 – 10% on the first €220,000 of value and 20% on the balance. Even with a maximum rebate, they will need to find €38,000 for their deposit.

Applications for the rebate will require the filing of tax returns for the years in question even for PAYE earners who might not, until now, have filed such returns. Revenue will start accepting applications on January 1st, 2017, and will outline the application details required before then.

There will also be a clawback arrangement, blocking homeowners from vacating the property for at least five years after the purchase – for instance to rent it. However, they can avail of the potential €14,000 a year available under the rent-a-room scheme.

Garda strikes would halt criminal court cases, lawyers now say

Applications to have new cases struck out will be made, a solicitor warns

Image result for Garda strikes would halt criminal court cases, lawyers now say   Image result for Garda strikes would halt criminal court cases, lawyers now say

Lawyers say criminal cases at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin, pictured, and throughout the country would be halted by the proposed strikes by Gardaí.

It will be practically impossible for criminal cases to proceed if the strikes planned by Gardaí go ahead, lawyers have warned.

Civil cases, particularly at the Four Courts, where a private security company operates, are likely to proceed, though Gardaí do provide a level of security in many other civil courts. There may be issues with family courts, where a Garda presence, particularly at district level, is often required as a peacekeeping influence.

Two Garda unions have voted to take industrial action and 10,500 rank-and-file Gardaí and an estimated 2,000 sergeants and inspectors will refuse to work for 24 hours from 7am on the four Fridays beginning on November 4th.

Their court role?

Gardaí play an integral part in criminal court cases. Their roles include giving evidence as witnesses, liaising with other witnesses and ensuring they attend court, and liaising with victims and their families. Exhibits officers also control all of the physical evidence in cases.

At District Court level, Gardaí bring prosecutions in minor cases and sergeants or inspectors act as court presenters, bringing forward cases in court instead of requiring a large number of individual gardaí to attend.

Senior counsel Vincent Heneghan said he expected the overall effect of the strike, if it goes ahead, will be that the courts will lose four days out of 20 in November.

“That is hugely significant,” he said. “There will also be cases adjourned and new cases coming into the system could be substantially delayed. The strike could create a clogging effect at the District Court.”

Another senior counsel said Gardaí giving evidence in trials are summonsed to appear in court, like any other witness, and so would be required to appear, even on strike days. But given that other elements of Garda work would not be in place, it remains to be seen whether this will be an issue.

Hospital patients nutrition levels are not being assessed adequately says HIQA

The health watchdog released new reports into care at Tallaght, Limerick and Beaumont Hospitals

Image result for Hospital patients nutrition levels are not being assessed adequately says HIQA v Image result for Hospital patients nutrition levels are not being assessed adequately says HIQA Image result for Hospital patients nutrition levels are not being assessed adequately says HIQA

Health watchdog HIQA is reporting that some hospitals are not adequately assessing patient’s nutrition levels.

Ad hoc systems are implemented when it comes to ensuring patients are properly nourished and hydrated, the reports find.

Concern has also been raised about communication with patients on their food requirements during their time under medical care.

An unannounced inspection in Tallaght Hospital was carried in August this year. Inspectors found that patients on these wards were not always screened for their risk of malnutrition on admission, nor were they re-screened weekly.

Patients offered mixed views on the quality of meals. In addition, a small number of patients reported that they had not always received what they had ordered.

During an unannounced inspection at Beaumount Hospital, it was found that patients were routinely screened for the risk of malnutrition on admission on some of the wards. However, inspectors found that screening was not always carried out for patients in a timely manner.

Most patients were positive about the meals offered, other patients offered mixed views on the meals. A small number of patients reported that they had not always received what they had ordered.

Findings from their inspection at University Hospital Limerick show that the hospital routinely screened patients on all wards for their risk of malnutrition within 24 hours of admission to hospital. However, weekly re-screening was not always carried out.

While the majority of patients spoken with by inspectors were complimentary about the choice, taste and temperature of food and drinks available in the hospital, some patients told inspectors that meal times, especially the evening meal, was too early.

Results also show that not all patients who required assistance were offered it in a prompt manner and there was no system in place to alert catering staff as to which patients needed assistance with meals.

David McGowan adds vintage train to quirky collection in Glamping village Enniscrone Co Sligo

Image result for David McGowan adds vintage train to quirky collection in Glamping village Enniscrone Co Sligo  Image result for David McGowan adds vintage train to quirky collection in Glamping village Enniscrone Co Sligo  Image result for Train carriages transported to the glamping site in Sligo

Train carriages transported to the glamping site in Sligo.

David McGowan oversaw the arrival of a three-carriage train to Enniscrone in Sligo from London on Monday.

A funeral director has told how he wants to bring a “bit of life” back into his area with a quirky glamping village where guests can sleep in a vintage train.

Image result for David McGowan adds vintage train to quirky collection in Glamping village Enniscrone Co Sligo  David McGowan oversaw the arrival of a three-carriage train to Enniscrone in Sligo from London on Monday – just months after bringing a Boeing 767 to the seaside town.

The 56-year-old businessman, who is from nearby Ballina, Co Mayo, became a local celebrity in May when he transported the aircraft north from Co Clare by sea on a barge.

And he was delighted with his latest arrival at 7am on Monday, confident his unique collection of a plane, train, yacht and helicopter can make his glamping site a must-see for thousands of visitors.

The dad of three said: “There’s great support for it and there’s a great social impact as well.

“It’s putting Sligo on the world map and there’s two towns there, Ballina and Enniscrone, and it’s bringing a bit of life about the place.”

The train was bought from a preserved railway in North London and the huge task of bringing it to the West of Ireland took almost four days – and was only permitted to take place in Ireland at night.

The carriages, which were used on the London rail network for many years, cost €20,000 with transport costs likely to add up to a further €20,000.

A Boeing 767 airplane arrives at Enniscrone estuary after being tugged from Shannon airport out to sea around the west coast of Ireland, May 7, 2016.

The train was brought by truck from London to Heysham before being transported by ferry to Dublin Port.

The mammoth delivery was then taken through the capital and across Ireland to Sligo with 10 voluntary bike marshalls driving alongside the unique consignment.

However, while David said it was a challenge, he added it was not as difficult as transporting the Boeing 767 in May.

He said: “I was after moving a plane so nothing could be bigger than that. And I was better prepared this time, I wasn’t prepared for the plane. I was a lot cuter this time.”

David added they have had 40,000 visitors in Enniscrone since the Boeing 767 arrived and he is eager to build on the interest and increase tourism in the area.

He also told how they streamed the transportation of the train live online.

David said: “There was 1,000 people at the quays when we arrived.”

Monkey toolmakers smash some long-held beliefs

Capuchin monkeys make sharp stone flakes similar to those made by ancient humans

Image result for Monkey toolmakers smash some long-held beliefs  Image result for Monkey toolmakers smash some long-held beliefs  Image result for Monkey toolmakers smash some long-held beliefs

A capuchin monkey above pic breaks its hammerstone as it strikes an embedded cobble in the Serra da Capivara National Park, Brazil. The monkeys preferred to lick off the stone dust and then throw the flakes away.

A troop of monkeys in Brazil has smashed a long-held belief that only humans were smart enough to manufacture tools.

The capuchin monkeys were videoed happily banging one stone against another, chipping off sharp-edged rock flakes in the process.

These flakes look identical to the stone flake tools made by early humans.

But while our ancestors used the sharp edges for cutting and scraping objects, the monkeys preferred to lick off the stone dust and then throw the flakes away.

Prof Tomos Proffitt of Oxford University and colleagues travelled to South America to video the capuchins as they bashed stones together.

The monkeys very deliberately smashed the stones to break them apart but the resultant sharp flakes were an unintentional result of their efforts, the scientists write on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The discovery is hugely important, however. The team collected stone fragments immediately after they were produced and these are virtually indistinguishable from the flakes produced intentionally by early humans.

This means there could be doubts about whether the stone tools found at early stone age sites were produced by humans or monkeys.

Hallmark of earliest human tool development. Image result for Monkey toolmakers smash some long-held beliefs

Scientists use the distinctive characteristics of flaked stone tools to distinguish them from naturally broken stones. The flakes have always been considered a hallmark of human involvement in the earliest stone tool technology, the authors write.

The capuchin’s party piece, a trick perhaps also repeated by its ancestors, undermines the assumption that the making of sharp flakes must have been achieved through human involvement.

The monkeys use two hands to pound a hammer stone against another, the goal being to break the stones open, the authors say. The animals then lick up the dust, perhaps to get at minerals inside or to consume lichens released by all the banging.

They discard the stone flakes once the dust has been licked off and they were never seen using the sharp edges to cut or scrape, the scientists add.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 26th August 2016

Áras Attracta’s services criticised in a draft HSE report

The care home was the controversial subject of an RTÉ Prime Time Investigates programme.

Image result for Áras Attracta’s services criticised in a draft HSE report   Image result for Áras Attracta’s services criticised in a draft HSE report

A draft Health Service Executive (HSE) report on the Áras Attracta care home in Co Mayo is believed to have identified numerous issues including low morale and fraught relations between management and staff.

The home was the controversial subject of an RTÉ Prime Time Investigatesprogramme in 2014, which examined care practices for adults with intellectual disabilities.

According to the broadcaster, a draft report of a review of services, which has been two years in the making and which is due to be published next month, has found failures throughout its management system.

In particular it found low staff morale, ineffective use of staff resources and weak governance, particularly in respect of “bungalow three” which featured in the documentary.

“Staff in Áras Attracta…describe bungalow three as the ‘forgotten bungalow’ where there was a culture of bad practices,” Prime Time Investigates reporter Barry O’Kelly said.

“Management are criticised under a number of different headings. It notes as well there were fraught relations between management and staff in Áras Attracta.

“However it also states that even today there are many relatives of people who are living in Áras Attracta, people with intellectual disabilities, who are happy with the services provided there. It also notes that the HSE has introduced quite sweeping changes since our programme almost two years ago.”

A spokesman for the HSE declined to comment other than to say the completed report would be published in the first week of September.

Minister Flanagan clarifies consular care policy in relation to Pat Hickey in Brazil

IRISH OFFICIALS IN ONGOING CONTACT WITH BRAZILIAN AUTHORITIES

Image result for Minister Flanagan clarifies consular care policy in relation to Pat Hickey in Brazil  Image result for Minister Charlie Flanagan  Image result for Minister Flanagan clarifies consular care policy in relation to Pat Hickey in Brazil

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan has responded to calls from the family of Pat Hickey for the Minister and Government to intervene in issues surrounding his detention in Rio de Janeiro.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the Hickey family called on Minister Flanagan and Minister for Sport, Shane Ross to intervene urgently in addressing “extremely worrying” issues surrounding his arrest and detention and the effect it is having on his health.”

The family said they were “gravely concerned about the effect this degrading and humiliating ordeal has had on their father and grandfather and how it continues to affect his physical and mental health.”

Minister Flanagan responded by saying:-

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides consular care to Irish citizens who have been arrested or detained overseas.

“We are currently assisting two Irish citizens detained in Rio de Janeiro.

“In general it is Department policy not to comment in detail publicly on individual consular cases, of which there have been almost 1,500 already this year.

“Any Irish citizen who requests or avails of consular assistance is entitled to privacy and confidentiality.

“However, I wish to make certain points in response to today’s statement from the Hickey family.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing ongoing consular assistance to Mr. Hickey through the Irish Embassy and Consulate in Brazil.

“My officials are in ongoing contact with the family of this citizen and with legal representative acting on his behalf.

“Senior officials of the Department met with Mr Hickey’s Dublin-based solicitors on Wednesday, 24 August, and discussed the family’s concerns in detail, and explained the Department’s approach to this consular case.

“In general terms, the Department’s focus in cases of arrest or detention of Irish citizens overseas is on a number of specific issues including ensuring that the citizen has access to legal representation, that the citizen is not being discriminated against on the grounds of nationality, and that the host authorities are fulfilling their responsibilities in ensuring the welfare and wellbeing of our detained citizen.

“In this context my officials are in ongoing contact with the Brazilian authorities.

“The Department cannot however provide legal advice or interfere in any way in the judicial processes in another country.

“I have agreed to meet with the Hickey family and arrangements will be made for this meeting to take place in the coming days.

“ In the meantime, my Department is continuing to monitor developments in this consular case closely and is continuing to provide all appropriate consular advice and assistance to Mr. Hickey and his family.”

What are the highest paid jobs in Ireland in 2016?

Image result for What are the highest paid jobs in Ireland in 2016?  Image result for The best paid sector to be in is Information and Communications   NEWS-weekly-wages1.png

The average annual salary rose to just over €37,000 in the first three months of this year, before dipping slightly by the summer, figures now show.

Official data shows that the average weekly wage at the start of the year rose 1.5% on the same period in 2015, to €713.41.

But it dipped fractionally in the three months to the end of June to €703.83, according to the Central Statistics Office.

There were wide variations across sectors.

The best paid sector to be in is Information and Communications, which includes IT companies, publishing houses and telecommunications.

It recorded an average weekly wage of €1,063.39, which means, in theory, these type of firms had an annual average salary of around €55,296.

In close second was the financial, insurance and real estate sector, which had average weekly pay of €1,014.66.

At the bottom of the pack were the accommodation and food services sector, and the arts, entertainment and recreation and other services sector, with average weekly earnings of €331.81 and €467.77 respectively.

Average weekly earnings in the private sector showed an increase of 1.5pc from €635.52 to €644.98 in the year to the end of June.

Average earnings are falling in the public sector, but at €905.97, they’re still healthier than the private sector.

Average weekly earnings increased in nine of the 13 sectors in the economy up to the end of June.

The largest percentage increase was 5% in the professional, scientific and technical activities sector, which includes legal and accounting businesses, management consultants, architectural and engineering firms, and advertising – where average weekly earnings rose from €800.41 to €840.39.

The construction sector saw a near 4% hike in average wages to €734.49, while there was an increase of 2.5% in the financial, insurance and real estate sector.

The public administration and defence sector experienced the largest percentage sectoral decrease, falling from €933.00 to €900.88, a drop of 3.4%. The CSO said this was due to the recruitment of temporary Census field staff, who were on lower-than-average weekly earnings and weekly paid hours.

If you strip those workers out, the sector had average weekly earnings of €928.90, a fall of 0.4%.

In the five years up to June, average weekly earnings rose by 2.1pc, from €689.32 in June 2011 to €708.83 five years later.

Across the public sector, average weekly earnings fell 1.2pc to €905.97, but if you exclude the temporary census staff, the fall is just 0.3%.

Three of the seven public sector sub-sectors had annual increases in average weekly earnings, with Gardaí recording the largest rise of 4.7% from €1,245.30 to €1,304.11 in the year to June. That means, according to the CSO, the average annual Garda pay in June was €67,813.

The CSO said the education sector recorded the highest average hourly earnings in the year of €37.89, while also showing the lowest hours worked of 23.9 hours.

The Gardaí had the next highest earnings, with average hourly earnings of €30.52. But they worked the longest, at 42.7 hours.

First official estimates put overall 2016 Irish cereal harvest down by 15%

Image result for First official estimates put overall 2016 Irish cereal harvest down by 15%   t5

Harvest is approximately 30-50% complete, depending on the area of the country, according to Teagasc’s latest crop report.

It says significant areas are still to be harvested in the midlands, north east and north of the country.

According to Teagasc, larger growers are now being forced into harvesting at higher moistures to reduce the amount to be harvested.

It says yields of winter barley and oilseed rape have been largely disappointing, whereas winter wheat and spring barley harvested so far are reporting good yields and quality.

Overall the tonnes harvested this year is predicted to be 15% lower than last year in its first provisional estimate of harvest 2016.

The decrease is a combination of reduced areas (-7%) and lower yields. The main trends are that yields are mixed with winter barley and winter oilseed rape generally disappointing whereas winter wheat and earlier sown spring barley yields are holding well.

Grain quality has been mixed with low hectolitre weights in many winter barleys and skinning (loss of some of the grain hull) reported in malting barleys.

Prices remain depressed due to supply exceeding demand and high worldwide stocks of small grains and maize.

Teagasc says the poor yield combined with lower prices is resulting in negative margins for many crops this year with poor prospects for an increase in grain price due to an expected very large world harvest.

Faces of murderers could be recreated from DNA left at crime scenes after science breakthrough

Image result for Faces of murderers could be created from DNA left at crime scenes after science breakthrough  Image result for Faces of murderers could be created from DNA left at crime scenes after science breakthrough

Scientists have identified the genes that shape facial features including nose size and face width, according to a new report

New findings may also help researchers to learn how facial birth defects arise

The faces of murderers or rapists could be ‘recreated’ from DNA left at the scene of the crime, according to new research.

Scientists have identified the genes that shape the extraordinary variation in the human face.

Many features, such as nose size and face width, stem from specific mutations, say researchers.

Previous studies have suggested they are controlled by genes , but this is the first to shed light on how variants contribute to the range of different forms we see.

The findings published in PLOS Genetics may also help researchers to learn how facial birth defects arise.

And they could even have applications in forensics, helping police construct more accurate faces of dangerous criminals being hunted for murders, rapes and robberies.

The discovery of the genes that determine human facial shape could provide valuable information about a person’s appearance using just DNA left behind at the scene of a crime.

They are based on a DNA analysis of 20 facial characteristics measured from 3D images of 3,118 healthy volunteers of European ancestry and almost a million mutations, or SNPs (single base pair) variations.

Dr John Shaffer, of the University of Pittsburgh , said: “There is a great deal of evidence genes influence facial appearance.

“This is perhaps most apparent when we look at our own families, since we are more likely to share facial features in common with our close relatives than with unrelated individuals.

“Nevertheless, little is known about how variation in specific regions of the genome relates to the kinds of distinguishing facial characteristics that give us our unique identities, e.g., the size and shape of our nose or how far apart our eyes are spaced.

“In this paper, we investigate this question by examining the association between genetic variants across the whole genome and a set of measurements designed to capture key aspects of facial form.

“We found evidence of genetic associations involving measures of eye, nose, and facial breadth.

“In several cases, implicated regions contained genes known to play roles in embryonic face formation or in syndromes in which the face is affected.

“Our ability to connect specific genetic variants to ubiquitous facial traits can inform our understanding of normal and abnormal craniofacial development, provide potential predictive models of evolutionary changes in human facial features, and improve our ability to create forensic facial reconstructions from DNA.”

Facial width, the distance between the eyes, the size of the nose and the distance between the lips and eyes all had statistically significant associations with certain SNPs.

The researchers also considered results from two similar studies and confirmed certain previous findings.

Until recently, virtually nothing was known about the genes responsible for facial shape in humans.

Added co author Dr Seth Weinberg: “Our analysis identified several genetic associations with facial features not previously described in earlier genome wide studies.

“What is exciting is many of these associations involve chromosomal regions harbouring genes with known craniofacial function.

“Such findings can provide insights into the role genes play in the formation of the face and improve our understanding of the causal factors leading to certain craniofacial birth defects.”

Several of the genetic regions contributing to face shape detected contain genes known to play a role in facial development and abnormalities.

In the future, the scientists hope to identify genetic risk factors that lead to anomalies such as cleft lip and palate.

But they warned it is important to keep in mind these findings likely represent only a small fraction of the genes influencing the size and shape of the human face.

Many of the genes influencing facial features are likely to have small effects, so successfully mapping a large number of these genes will require much greater sample sizes and a more comprehensive approach to quantifying those of interest.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 11th August 2016

Gerry Adams says it is time for a united Ireland

Gerry Adams says all parties should come together to talk about Irish unity.

   

The issue of Irish unity has been absent from official Ireland’s centenary celebrations to mark 1916.

Parades and TV specials were seen, books were written, and reams of newspaper articles published. Songs of the period have been sung and debates held. But the fracture of the island by partition, the abandonment of the 1916 Proclamation as a declaration of freedom and justice for all of Ireland, has been ignored.

The Republic envisaged by the leaders of 1916 and by the Proclamation was to be a rejection of all that was bad, divisive and elitist in British imperialism and colonisation. It was to be an Ireland of equal citizens. A republic for all.

Today those of us who desire that outcome are told by some that we are being divisive. We are told that there will be a united Ireland at some undefined time in the future. But it will not happen through wishful thinking or sitting in a bar singing songs – not that there is anything wrong with singing songs of freedom – or simply talking about it.

It needs a political strategy with clear objectives and actions.

Failure to honour commitments

Those who advocate the wishful thinking approach to Irish unity point to the enhanced relationships between London and Dublin. They praise the ‘special’ relationship between the Irish and British governments as evidence of change. And while it is true that much progress has been made, the reality is that the British government has failed to honour key commitments within the Good Friday and other agreements.

It has unilaterally set aside elements of the various agreements, with barely a whimper of protest, especially from the Irish establishment. It has failed to deliver on a range of important issues, including:

  • A Civic Forum in the north
  • An All-Ireland Civic Forum
  • A Bill of Rights for the North
  • A joint north/south committee of the two Human Rights Commissions
  • An All-Ireland Charter of Rights
  • Honouring its obligations in compliance with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
  • The introduction of Acht na Gaeilge

The British have also obstructed efforts to resolve the legacy of the past by refusing to honour its commitments under the Haass agreement, failing to provide information on the Dublin/Monaghan and Dundalk bombs, and reneging on its Weston Park commitment to hold an inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Pat Finucane.

Brexit

The real value of the special relationship between the Irish and British governments was demonstrated in the recent Brexit campaign. It is clear the economic interests of the island of Ireland are collateral damage in a fight between factions of the right wing of British politics.

The implications of Brexit are becoming increasingly apparent. It is a real threat to the economy, imposing barriers to trade and a possible EU frontier across Ireland, creating a fundamental crisis in North-South co-operation.

At no time in the Brexit debate was the impact on Ireland, North or South, considered. Our national concerns were dismissed.

The people of the North voted against Brexit. Just as they did in the Good Friday Agreement referendum, all sections of the community, republican and unionist, voted in the best interest of all. They voted to remain in the EU. Yet the British Government say they will impose Brexit on the North against the expressed will of the majority.

The economies north and south are interlinked and interdependent. It has been estimated that 200,000 jobs depend on all-Ireland trade. A recent report on economic modelling of Irish unity demonstrated a dividend and growth in a united Ireland.

The aftermath of the Brexit vote is a clear demonstration of the injustice of partition. It is fundamentally undemocratic and economically wrong. Partition makes no sense. Yet it continues.

Unity

A mechanism exists to end partition and bring about Irish unity, through a border poll.

The vast majority of people across Ireland voted for the Good Friday Agreement. It is worth remembering that 94% of people in the south and 74% of people in the North voted for the agreement.

It included a peaceful and democratic pathway to Irish unity that provided for concurrent referendums north and south. It obliged the two governments to legislate on the basis of referendums for Irish unity.

National unity is in the national interest. Wishful thinking will not bring about unity. We have a mechanism to achieve unity. We need all of those in favour of unity to act together to bring it about.

This is the time to plan and to build the maximum support for unity. The leadership of those parties which support Irish unity, acting together, could be the leadership which delivers it.

Eighteen years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, we should not need to convince the leaders of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael to become persuaders for Irish unity.

The Irish government should have a plan for unity. A first step in the next term of the Oireachtas would be the development of an all-party group to bring forward a green paper for unity.

In addition, we need to develop plans for an all island health service; for public services in a united Ireland, through a united Ireland investment and prosperity plan.

Now is the time

The New Ireland Forum in its time created a space for discussion on constitutional options of change and developed a comprehensive economic options paper on the cost of partition.

It failed because it excluded Sinn Féín and operated at a time of a British veto on change – given voice by Margaret Thatcher with her “out, out, out” rejection. Thatcher is gone and so is the British veto.

Constitutional change is in the hands of the people of Ireland, North and South. The politics of exclusion failed, and Sinn Féin is jointly leading the government in the North.

We have the opportunity to end partition and build support for a new and united Ireland. A new Ireland that is built on equality and which is citizen centred and inclusive. The shape of that new Ireland remains to be drawn.

Now is the time for all parties who support Irish unity to come together to design the pathway to a new and united Ireland.

Big concern over €300,000 reduction in Mental Health services

     

The news that the HSE are looking to cut funding and find savings in Mental Health Services in Sligo Leitrim has caused anger and upset locally.

According to minutes from the May meeting of the HSE’s Sligo Leitrim Mental Health Area, privatisation of a residential service in Mohill is being considered.

The meeting revealed that savings of €30million had to be generated across all services in the Community Health Organisation which covers Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan and Sligo. As a result of this, €300,000 will need to be saved from Sligo Leitrim Mental Health services before the end of 2016.

As well as cost reductions there were proposals to cut down spending. One of the proposals is looking at the future of Ard na Drise in Mohill as well as exploring possibilities for the Garden Centre and Dochas Clubhouse in Sligo.

Fenagh Councillor and HSE Regional Health Forum member Caillian Ellis said, details of these savings had not been mentioned at the June HSE Regional Forum meeting.

He commented “it is a total disgrace that there would be cuts from the most vulnerable people in society.” He said €300,000 is a “huge cutback” to find before the end of the year.

Cllr Ellis stated mental health services need “more funding, especially in rural Leitrim with many people living alone with financial pressures.”

Sinn Féin TD for Sligo-Leitrim Martin Kenny, speaking said that he was horrified to read in the minutes of a HSE meeting, that far from prioritising mental health, the Executive has plans to slash services in order to balance the books. Minutes of the meeting, which took place in May, of the Sligo Leitrim Mental Health Service Area Mental Health Management Team.

Deputy Kenny said, “When I call on behalf of the people I represent for restoration or even maintenance of services, I am told one thing and then I see this report of an internal meeting and find that the HSE’s plan B, is to slash services to the most vulnerable, those with mental health problems. This meeting discusses ways to knock €300,000 off the mental health budget in Sligo Leitrim between now and the end of the year.

“It is a shocking reflection on the HSE that its priorities are based on budgets and not on patients. The list of proposed cuts in horrifying and at a time when every community in Ireland is becoming more aware of the vulnerability of people to taking their lives by suicide, it is nothing short of outrageous.

““I have written to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, for reassurance that this scenario will not be allowed to unfold here in this constituency or anywhere else.”

The Psychiatric Nurses Association in Sligo and Leitrim have since threatened to ballot its members over the prospect of cutbacks. The local spokesperson said the service is already under resourced.

A spokesperson for the HSE told the paper, “All services in Community Health Organisation Area 1 (Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan & Sligo) have been asked to consider potential cost savings and that is what the Sligo Leitrim Mental Health Management Team Minutes reflect.”

The spokesperson stressed, “None of the proposals have been actioned and Sligo Leitrim Mental Health Services is well within budget, year to date in 2016.”

The HSE explained, “Ard na Drise was an Independent Living House, it was a private rental to clients of Sligo Leitrim Mental Health Services, who provided them with support while they waited for Leitrim County Council houses. This was not a HSE facility and is no longer in use. It was a private rental.

“The clients who lived there have now successfully moved to their own council homes.”

The HSE stated, “There has been no change to the clinical care and treatment that the clients are receiving from the HSE. These clients are still being cared for and supported on a daily basis by their clinical team.”

The minutes for the meeting earlier this Summer reported there “was discussion about reducing service capacity to meet potentially more stringent cutbacks in 2017.”

615 points leaving cert Trinity College asylum student wins right to remain in Ireland

     

Tatiana Prochukhan with her daughter Nadezda Nadia and St Mary’s School Principle John Michael Porter, said she loves Ireland

An asylum seeker who received anonymous donations amounting to €20,000 to pay for her first year at Trinity College Dublin has been granted a right to remain in Ireland.

Nadezda (Nadia) Prochukhan, 20, shot to national acclaim in 2014 when she achieved 615 points in her Leaving Certificate.

Anonymous donors enabled her to fulfil her dream of studying chemistry at Trinity College Dublin.

Her case was one of two which helped lead to a change in Irish law last year when ex-education minister Jan O’Sullivan announced that third-level student grants would be available to asylum seekers.

Nadia thanked everyone for their support: “People I never met donated money for me to attend my first year of college and that is why I’ve been able to get where I am today. I am so grateful to everyone.”

Nadia, her mother Tatiana, and her younger sister Maria were sent a letter recently informing them their application for asylum, submitted in September 2011, was finally approved.

Tatiana said the family spent the past five years living with no income due to their asylum-seeker status.

The mother had led a campaign for her daughter to be treated like her Irish peers.

Tatiana said being approved to stay in Ireland was one of the greatest moments in her life. She had feared the family would have to survive indefinitely through donations and support from locals in New Ross and her 78-year-old mother in Russia.

“The letter said we have permission to stay in Ireland for three years so we are entitled to everything an Irish citizen is entitled to, apart from being able to vote.

“We can become Irish citizens in five years which would be amazing. We love New Ross and Ireland and I can’t imagine living in anywhere else. The people are so good here.”

She said her family endured five years of suffering from a constant threat of deportation.

“I have been fighting for my children’s lives. Often there was no bread on the table. All our money was stolen before we arrived here. We had to wait for the decision because the Government changed the law twice. We were another cog in the wheel.

“When we got the letter and saw the words we were overjoyed. We were hugging each other.”

She added: “We have been through hell. We had no work permits and no means to make money.

“Someone stole a lot of money from us but we are strong and we remained positive and the people of New Ross and Ireland were amazing to us.’”

Her daughter Nadia is one of the top performers in her class at Trinity College Dublin, where she completed 10 exams in May in her second year of a four-year course.

The Prochukhans are hopeful Nadia will be awarded a grant for her third and fourth years, as the fees come to €8,000 per year at Trinity.

“We have completed all the forms and we are waiting word from the social welfare office.

“My mother Nina has been paying our rent. She is 78 and works three jobs.”

She said the most difficult thing to witness over recent years was her daughters never felt equal to their Irish peers.

Tatiana moved to Ireland with her daughters Nadia and Maria in 2006, living here until 2009 when they had to return to Russia as her father was very ill.

“They returned in 2011 and several business people and townspeople have been helping them since as they have no income.

“They do now. As a mother all you want to see is your children happy.

“Nadia is an example to everyone. Even though she didn’t have the native language and even through she went through a lot of hardship with no money in her family, she was able to achieve her dream.

“She showed what you get when you fight for your rights. We are really proud of her.”

Younger daughter Maria, meanwhile, completed her Leaving Certificate in June and is hoping to study art at the National University of Galway, where she has been offered free tuition and assistance once she achieves more than 450 points.

Tatiana thanked the people of New Ross for their support.

“Without the kindness of the people of New Ross and the New Ross Standard we would never have won these rights.

“People were so good. One lady put €600 through our door. Nobody forced her to do this, it was her good heart. We also got so many kind words on the street and still do and that keeps you going.

Refilling your drinking water bottle is just as gross as licking your dog’s toy

      

Drinking out of a plastic water bottle that has continuously been refilled can be “many times worse than licking your dog’s toy” when it comes to bacteria exposure, new research has found.

A new study involved the analysis of 12 plastic water bottles, which were each used by an athlete for one week without being washed. The bottles varied in type, from screw-tops, slide-tops, squeeze-tops and straw tops.

Drinking out of a plastic water bottle that has continuously been refilled can be “many times worse than licking your dog’s toy” when it comes to bacteria exposure

The result of the lab tests commissioned by Treadmill Reviews, a US website, found that the top of the water-bottles were crawling in potentially harmful bacteria by the week’s end. More than 300,000 colony-forming units were found on each square centimetre of the bottles on average. The average pet toy has 2,937 CFU.

Gram-positive cocci was found on many of the bottles, which can lead to skin infections, pneumonia and blood poisoning.

The study revealed that drinking from reusable bottles without washing them exposes you to more bacteria than if you ate dinner from your dog’s bowl.

Researchers said: “Drinking from these bottles can still be worse than eating a meal from your pet’s dish.

“Based on the 12 water bottles we tested, we found that reusable drinking containers may be crawling with an alarming number of viable bacteria cells: more than 300,000 colony-forming units per square centimeter (CFU/sq cm).”

The study found that bottles which you have to slide open with your fingers are the worst offenders, followed by squeeze tops.

The researchers suggested investing in a water bottle that can be placed in the dish washer every evening, and to keep an eye out for stainless steel options.

“We know that when it comes to water bottles and bacteria, stainless steel is a better choice than plastic. Additionally, water bottles without crevices and tough-to-clean spots are less likely to host germs.”

A 400 year old Greenland shark is the oldest vertebrate animal

  

Shark, which would have reached sexual maturity at around 150 years, sets new record for longevity as biologists finally develop method to determine age

The oldest Greenland shark found by researchers was most likely around 392 years old, although the range of possible ages stretches from 272 to 512 years.

She was born during the reign of James I, was a youngster when René Descartes set out his rules of thought and the great fire of London raged, saw out her adolescent years as George II ascended the throne, reached adulthood around the time that the American revolution kicked off, and lived through two world wars. Living to an estimated age of nearly 400 years, a female Greenland shark has set a new record for longevity, scientists have revealed.

The discovery places the lifespan of the Greenland shark far ahead of even the oldest elephant in captivity, Lin Wang, who died aged 86. It is also far longer than the official record for humans, held by 122-year-old Frenchwoman Jeanne Louise Calment.

“It kicks off the bowhead whale as the oldest vertebrate animal,” said Julius Nielsen, lead author of the research from the University of Copenhagen, pointing out that bowhead whales have been known to live for 211 years.

But the Greenland shark doesn’t scoop all the gongs – the title of the world’s longest-lived animal is held by Ming, an Icelandic clam known as an ocean quahog, that made it to 507 years before scientists bumped it off.

Grey, plump and growing to lengths of around five metres, the Greenland shark is one of the world’s largest carnivores. With a reported growth rate of less than one centimetre a year, they were already thought to be long-lived creatures, but just how long they lived for was something of a mystery.

“Fish biologists have tried to determine the age and longevity of Greenland sharks for decades, but without success.” said Steven Campana, a shark expert from the University of Iceland. “Given that this shark is the apex predator (king of the food chain) in Arctic waters, it is almost unbelievable that we didn’t know whether the shark lives for 20 years, or for 1000 years.”

The new research, he says, is the first hard evidence of just how long these creatures can live.

“It definitely tells us that this creature is extraordinary and it should be considered among the absolute oldest animals in the world,” said Nielsen.

Writing in the journal Science, Nielsen and an international team of researchers describe how they set about determining the age of 28 female Greenland sharks, collected as by-catch during scientific surveys between 2010 and 2013.

While the ages of many fish can be determined by counting the growth layers of calcium carbonate “stones” found in their ears – in a manner somewhat similar to counting tree rings – sharks do not have such earstones. What’s more, the Greenland shark lacks other calcium-rich tissues suitable for this type of analysis.

Instead the team had to rely on a different approach: scrutiny of the lenses in their eyes.

The lens of the eye is made of proteins that build up over time, with the proteins at the very centre of the lens laid down while the shark is developing in its mother’s womb. Work out the date of these proteins, the scientists say, and it is possible to achieve an estimate of the shark’s age.

In order to determine when the proteins were laid down, the scientists turned to radiocarbon dating – a method that relies on determining within a material the levels of a type of carbon, known as carbon-14, that undergoes radioactive decay over time.

By applying this technique to the proteins at the centre of each lens, the scientists deduced a broad range of ages for each shark.

The scientists then made use of a side-effect of atomic bomb tests which took place in the 1950s: when the bombs were detonated, they increased the levels of carbon-14 in the atmosphere. The spike, or pulse, in carbon-14 entered the marine food web across the North Atlantic no later than the early 1960s.

That provides a useful time-stamp, says Nielsen. “I want to know when I see the bomb-pulse in my sharks, what time does that mean,” he said. “Does it mean they are 50 years old, or 10 years old?”

Nielsen and the team found that the eye lens proteins of the two smallest of their 28 Greenland sharks had the highest levels of carbon-14, suggesting that they were born after the early 1960s. The third smallest shark, however, had carbon-14 levels only slightly above those of the 25 larger sharks, hinting that it was actually born in the early 1960s, just as bomb-related carbon-14 began to be incorporated in marine food webs.

A Greenland shark returning to the deep and cold waters of the Uummannaq Fjord in northwestern Greenland. The sharks were part of a tag-and- release program in Norway and Greenland. Photograph: Julius Nielsen/Science

“That indicates that most of our analysed sharks were actually older than the time mark, meaning that they were older than 50 years,” said Nielsen.

The scientists then combined the carbon dating results with estimations of how Greenland sharks grow, to create a model that allowed them to probe the age of the 25 sharks born before the 1960s.

Their findings revealed that the largest shark of the group, a female measuring just over five metres in length, was most likely around 392 years old, although, as Nielsen points out, the range of possible ages stretches from 272 to 512 years.

“The Greenland shark is now the best candidate for the longest living vertebrate animal,” he said.

What’s more, with adult female Greenland sharks known hit sexual maturity only once they reach more than four metres in length, the scientists found that females have to clock up an age of around 150 years before they can produce young.

But not everyone is convinced that Greenland sharks can live for four centuries. “I am convinced by the idea of there being long lifespans for these kinds of sharks, [but] I take the absolute numbers with a pinch of salt,” said Clive Trueman, associate professor in marine ecology at the University of Southampton.

Trueman agrees that it is possible to get a record of the early life of a vertebrate from eye lens proteins. However, the fact that the proteins in the centre of the eye lenses, and hence the carbon-14 within them, came from nutrients taken in by the shark’s mother adds a number of uncertainties to the calculations, he says.

Campana says while the approach taken by the researchers is sound, he remains unconvinced that Greenland sharks live for almost 400 years. But, he adds, “future research should be able to nail the age down with greater certainty.”

Nielsen is also looking forward to further research, saying that he hopes the Greenland shark’s new found fame will boost awareness of the animal, as well as conservation efforts and attempts to unravel other aspects of its physiology. “There are other aspects of their biology which are super-interesting to know more about and to shed light upon,” he said.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 11th July 2016

HSE has taken over three residential care centres for 40 people with autism

It follows Hiqa inspections at care centres in Meath, Wexford and Kildare.

    

The HSE has taken over three residential care centres for people with autism after an Hiqa inspections found serious flaws in their management.

The centres had been under the control of the Irish Society for Autism (ISA) and have been inspected by health watchdog Hiqa during the past 18 months.

Prior to the HSE taking responsibility for these centres the ISA had been subject to increased monitoring activity, meetings with Hiqa and warning letters – with it made clear that changes needed to be made.

However, these measures did not result in a “sufficient improvement” and a decision was made to cancel the registration of the three centres.

What were the problems?

The three centres in question are Cluain Farm in Meath, Dunfirth Farm in Kildare and Sarshill House in Wexford.

Between the three a total of 47 residents are housed between the three centres, with the majority (34) situated at Dunfirth Farm.

Dunfirth Farm was inspected five times between January and November of 2015.

During the inspections poor outcomes for residents were found in the areas of:

  1. Risk relating to health and safety, risk management, social care needs, safeguarding and safety, governance and management [and] use of resources and workforce.
  2. “Poor managerial oversight and governance arrangements” were also said to be an issue.

At the unannounced inspection of Cluain Farm in Meath it was found that significant improvements that had previously been recommended had not been implemented.

At the centre it was found that there was inappropriate guidance for the use of chemical restraint and safeguarding measures to ensure that residents were protected and felt safe were inadequate.

At the centre in Wexford it was also found that Hiqa recommendations had not been implemented.

Areas of non-compliance at this centre included poor management of staffing resources, poor governance and staff not being adequately trained to meet the needs of the residents.

Here is a county by county Irish breakdown of the rise in house prices in the last three months

  

A nationwide supply shortage has fuelled a rise of over 2% in the price of the average house in the last three months, according to a national survey carried out by Real Estate Alliance.

The majority of counties in the country recorded price increases in the second quarter this year, the latest Real Estate Alliance Average House Price Survey has found.

The group claims it is the lack of supply of suitable properties in a scarce market that has caused these rises, exacerbated by the effect of would-be commuters moving ever further from Dublin to acquire affordable homes.

“We are seeing firms who are in business for 50 years who have never experienced such a low level of supply, and this is responsible for causing sharp increases in prices in some areas over the past three months,” said REA Chairman Michael O’Connor.

The average three bed semi nationally now costs €195,361, an increase of more than €4,000 (+2.18%) since the end of March. This is a rise of 4.49% against the same time last year.

  The REA Average House Price Survey concentrates on the sale price of Ireland’s typical stock home, the three-bed semi.

While prices in Dublin city grew by 1.4% to €363,333 since March, competition for scarce housing below the Central Bank’s €220,000 deposit limit in both the inner and outer commuter areas is fuelling an inflationary market.

Prices in commuter counties, Cork and Galway, have risen by €5,000 to €214,588 (+2.4%) while those in the rest of the country have increased by over €3,000 to €128,768 (+2.75%).

Three-bed semi prices in Kilkenny city rose by €20,000 or 12.5% in the past three months, a figure that is entirely driven by record low supply, according to Michael Boyd of REA Boyds.

“Our analysis of the Price Register tells us that there are 15 less units per month selling in the county than this time last year – and that this is the lowest level since these records began,” he said.

“We are finding that demand is strong, mainly from loan-approved returned emigrants or Eastern European buyers.

“We desperately need new building to start, especially as prices for quality stock are now well into viable levels for builders to commence.”

As the flight to another of the outer commuter counties continues, prices in Laois have risen by €10,000 (+8%) in the past three months.

Prices in Kildare (€242,500) have remained static in the four main towns, due to a low supply of suitable housing stock, combined with a relatively higher price to neighbouring counties.

In contrast, Meath has now broken the €200k barrier (€201,250) following a 3.21% growth in three months, as Dublin-based commuters move out to houses they can afford under the Central Bank’s deposit guidelines.

In Wicklow, prices in Blessington have risen from €240,000 to €265,000 in a three-month period, a rise of 10.42%, with agent REA Murphys advising that there is a bubble in the three-bed semi market.

Prices in the county as a whole have gone up by 4.44% to €235,000 over the past three months.

Louth continues to act as a microcosm of commuters travelling further in search of affordable homes with Dundalk enjoying a rise of 11.1% in three months (€150,000) while pricier homes in Drogheda (€203,000) have risen by just over the national average at 2.78%.

“There is no doubt that the major factors affecting the Irish property market at the moment are supply of housing, the Central Bank restrictions, the banks’ mortgage lending policies and high rents,” said REA Chairman Michael O’Connor.

“We have seen each of these influence the market to different degrees over the past 15 months.

“The Central Bank restrictions were brought in to calm a market bubble but we are now seeing the lack of supply very definitely fueling house price inflation on its own.

“We now need to address the roadblocks in the way of building new suitable family homes.

“We feel that the State ultimately needs to implement a 50% vat reduction on new homes, backed up by rebate schemes on local development charges on a nationwide basis.

“Nama need to accelerate sales of land on the open market as well as selling through loan sales.

“In conjunction, there is a need to fast track planning within the correct zoning for urban land bought within the next two years.”

In North County Dublin, the market has stagnated due to a lack of new builds while south County Dublin has grown by 2.19% to €350,000 and Dublin city only by 1.4% to €363,333.

“Where property is moving in Dublin it is due to supply fueling rises or investors looking to exit the market, even in spite of increasing rents,” said Mr O’Connor.

Plenty of fruit and veggies will make you happy. 

One key to happiness is in your fruit basket, says a new study.

    

The adage of “an apple a day” has now got new bite.

Everybody knows that eating fruits and vegetables is good for you in the long run as it reduces risks for cancer and heart attacks. But anew study found that munching produce boosts happiness even quicker. The associated feel-good factor kicks in within two years. Granted, that’s still not fast as other things will make you feel better, like, say, a bag of Doritos or a vodka and tonic.

But yes dive into that kale now for your health’s sake.

So urge researchers who followed 12,385 randomly selected subjects as they kept food diaries and had their psychological well-being monitored. The collaborative effort was by the University of Warwick, England, and the University of Queensland, Australia.

Subjects were observed in 2007, 2009 and 2013. Changes in their income, employment and personal factors were figured into findings. Happiness benefits were detected for each extra daily portion of fruit and vegetables — “tinned, frozen, dried and fresh,” per the study — up to eight portions per day. “The fruits and vegetables do not have to be prepared in any special way,” Warwick researcher Andrew Oswald told the Daily News. “However, French fries will not count.”

Many experts suggest eating 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. The more produce that was consumed, the bigger the feel-good increase.

Subjects who changed from eating almost no fruit and vegetables to munching eight portions a day experienced an increase in life satisfaction equivalent “to moving from unemployment to having a job.”

Veggies are a source of a “more immediate” feel-good boost.

“Eating fruit and vegetables apparently boosts our happiness far more quickly than it improves human health,” said Oswald.

“People’s motivation to eat healthy food is weakened by the fact that physical-health benefits, such as protecting against cancer, accrue decades later,” Oswald added. “Well-being improvements … are closer to immediate.”

Further study is needed to explain why eating fruits and veggies makes people feel good. A possible explanation is that fruits and veggies are rich in antioxidants, substances in the body that other research has linked with optimism.

“Perhaps our results will be more effective than traditional messages in convincing people to have a healthy diet,” said researcher Redzo Mujcic. “There is a psychological payoff now from fruit and vegetables, not just a lower health risk decades later.”

Good luck with that. Americans, at any rate, aren’t anywhere close to eating fruits and veggies in recommended numbers. And, again, French fries don’t count.

Increased cancer risk before and after diabetes diagnosis

Supports theory of shared risk factors

     

People with diabetes may have an increased risk of developing cancer before and immediately after their diagnosis, a new study has found.

Previous research indicates that type 2 diabetes could increase the risk of developing a number of types of cancer, with the highest risk appearing to be soon after a diabetes diagnosis.

Canadian researchers decided to investigate this further. They looked at the incidence of cancer in over one million adults during different time points. They found that those with diabetes were 1.23 times – that is 123% – more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer during the 10 years before their diabetes diagnosis compared to people without diabetes.

“This supports existing hypotheses that shared risk factors may be contributing to both cancer and diabetes diagnoses,” commented Dr Iliana Lega of the University of Toronto.

The study also found that the incidence of cancer was much higher among people with diabetes in the first three months after their diabetes diagnosis. However this increased risk did not appear to extend past three months.

“This may in part be explained by increased healthcare visits and screening tests following a diagnosis of diabetes,” Dr Lega noted.

She warned that the increasing incidence of diabetes may lead to more cases of cancer as well.

“There is excellent evidence that diabetes can be prevented and that metabolic changes leading to diabetes can be reversed with lifestyle changes. Similarly, diet and exercise interventions have also been shown to reduce cancer risk and improve cancer outcomes in the general population.

“Our findings are important because they underscore the need for further research that examines the impact of exercise and healthy diet on cancer risk specifically in patients with, or at risk for, diabetes,” she commented.

You can now charge your phone just by going for the wee wee’s “that’s if you fancy it”

     

A miniature fuel cell costing no more than £2 which can generate electricity from a single visit to the toilet has recharged a smartphone for the first time.

Using “pee power”, scientists have been able to provide three hours of phone calls for every six hours of charge time – all from 600ml of urine.

The microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology provides enormous potential to enable people to stay connected in areas that are off grid using urine.

The world first has been developed at the University of the West of England in Bristol by Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos and his team.

Prof Ieropoulos said: “We are excited to announce several global firsts – this development was possible by employing a new design of microbial fuel cells that allowed scaling up without power density losses.

“Although it was demonstrated in the past that a basic mobile phone could be charged by microbial fuel cells, the present study goes beyond this to show how, simply using urine, a microbial fuel cell system successfully charges a modern-day smartphone.”

Several energy-harvesting systems have been tested and results have demonstrated that the charging circuitry of commercially available phones may consume up to 38% of energy on top of the battery capacity.

Each of the fuel cells costs between £1 and £2 and works by using natural biological processes of “electric” bacteria to turn urine into electricity.

Urine passes through the microbial fuel cell for this reaction to happen, with the bacteria then generating electricity.

This can be stored or used to directly power electrical devices.

The fuel cell measures just one inch square in size and uses a carbon catalyst at the cathode which is derived from glucose and ovalbumin, a protein found in egg white.

This catalyst is a renewable and much cheaper alternative to platinum, which is commonly used in other microbial fuel cells.

Monkeys have long been using tools for almost 700 years,

Archaeologists now discover

     

Brazilian capuchins have been using stone tools to crack open cashew nuts on a sandstone ‘anvil’ (pictured above) for at least 700 years, and the use of tools was once seen as a key dividing line between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.

But new research has found it’s actually so easy that a monkey can do it, as the saying goes.

Archaeologists have discovered capuchin monkeys in Brazil have been using stone hammers and anvils to break open cashew nuts for at least 700 years.

And they suggested that humans might have discovered that the nuts were good to eat after stumbling across the site of the monkeys’ “cashew-processing industry”.

But the capuchins appear to be hidebound traditionalists, always opening the nuts in the same way, rather than attempting to invent a better way of doing it.

Dr Michael Haslam, lead author of a paper about the research in the journal Current Biology, said: “We have new evidence that suggests monkeys and other primates out of Africa were also using tools for hundreds, possibly thousands of years.

“This is an exciting, unexplored area of scientific study that may even tell us about the possible influence of monkeys’ tool use on human behaviour.

“For example, cashew nuts are native to this area of Brazil, and it is possible that the first humans to arrive here learned about this unknown food through watching the monkeys and their primate cashew-processing industry.”

The monkeys use hard quartzite stones as hammers and flat sandstones as anvils when breaking open the nuts.

And they also tend to do this in the same places – usually close to the trees that produce them – partly because the right kinds of stones are already laid out like “a set of cutlery in a restaurant”.

The archaeologists excavated one site down to a depth of 70cm, where they found a total of 69 stones with signs of damage caused by the repeated pounding and the residue of cashews.

A number of small pieces of charcoal found with the stones were then carbon dated to about 700 years ago.

The research suggests capuchins have not managed to build on the work of the original monkey inventor who pioneered the technique.

“In capuchin terms, 700 years is about 100 generations. The same thing in human terms would be about 2,500 years,” Dr Haslam said.

“They [the capuchins] tend to use the same types of materials in the same ways, unlike humans who have in the last 2,500 years have gone from obviously the Iron Age to where we are now.”

The populations of species that have showed significant promise as tool-makers – apart from humans – have all been reduced by our domination of the planet.

And Dr Haslam said this meant it was unlikely that any other animal would come to rival our success with tools.

“The potential for there to be a chimpanzee who would invent a microwave or a Boeing 747 really isn’t there anymore,” he said.

“We have to accept that we are the chimpanzee that did that and live with that.”