Tag Archives: IBEC

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 13th July 2016

Ireland should now plan to cut 12.5% corporation tax rate & steal a march on Brexit


Michael Noonan Minister for finance and Ibec policy chief Fergal O’Brien.

The Irish Government should go on the offensive and consider cutting the 12.5% corporation tax rate, and prepare an “aggressive” strategy in the budget to prepare for any fallout from the decision of the UK to quit the EU, business group IBEC has said.

In a new policy document, the business group also advises the Government to temporarily secure a break on the EU spending rules and splash €1bn in building social housing next year.

It says a massive programme to build new social homes – the largest in the history of the State – is the only way to start to address the housing crisis.

Ibec said its new document, called ‘IBEC priorities for budget 2017’, represents a call to arms for the Government to respond in a new way to the threat of the Brexit on Irish businesses.

“The most important thing about this budget is it is seen as a Brexit response. A real aggressive drive is required.

“The Government has sat on its hands – but we have already seen [UK chancellor] George Osborne setting the terms for the UK government what they want to do with corporation tax cuts to 15%, possibly lower,” said Ibec policy chief Fergal O’Brien.

“The UK has laid down the gauntlet on its business tax ambitions, Ireland must now respond,” he said. “We are looking for a more aggressive approach”.

Ibec said a corporate tax rate cut should be part of the Government’s armoury, the budget should address the immediate challenges of the Brexit vote.

It said it was most concerned about the Irish indigenous companies which now face financial pain because of the slump in the value of sterling against the euro since the Brexit vote on June 23.

Ibec urges more favourable tax terms for the self-employed to match and compete with the incentives the UK offers its entrepreneurs, in capital gains and in the taxing of share awards.

“Sterling is a massive issue. This budget has to be about reacting to Brexit and addressing those competitive concerns which will help Irish business to be more competitive,” Mr O’Brien said.

“We think it would be completely illogical for example to increase our minimum wage to impact on those sectors such as food processing, tourism, retail and indigenous exporters, who are trying to cope with an exchange rate,” he said.

Mr O’Brien said Irish companies were already suffering after the plunge in sterling and it was up to Government to control business costs.

“Not that many companies are hedging. The majority of the smaller companies are going to be exposed really quickly,” he said, adding that proposals to introduce a sugar tax and raise excise duties on tobacco would hurt retailers.

“The UK is going to take out the bazooka. If they are outside the EU, they are going to act on state-aid issues.

“We are going to have to react. The budget is the first opportunity for the Government to show what they can do for indigenous companies,” Mr O’Brien said.

Ibec said that cutting the USC rate would not help businesses. It said its tax measures would cost €469m and its recommendations for spending on infrastructure and research and development would cost an extra €250m.

Spending on social housing would be covered by the Government securing a derogation from EU spending rules, Ibec said.

Ex-Nama ‘big player employee’ used inside knowledge to buy Dublin site, 

The Wexford TD Wallace asks Taoiseach why Harcourt Street Garda premises was sold to ‘vulture fund’


Independents4 Change TD Mick Wallace has claimed that a former ‘big player’ in Nama used insider knowledge to purchase the site of the Harcourt Street Garda control centre.

A former “big player” in Nama used insider knowledge to purchase the site of the Harcourt Street Garda premises, Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallacehas claimed.

Mr Wallace called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to explain why the State allowed Nama to sell the location of the Garda “command and control centre” for the entire country to a vulture fund.

Hibernia Reit later said the claims about it were “ill-informed, inaccurate and without foundation”.

Hibernia Reit is now taking a court action to have An Garda Síochána removed from the Harcourt Street premises, Mr Wallace told the Dáil.

“The company that now owns Hibernia Reit was set up by a guy who was a big player in Nama where he was a portfolio manager for three years,” the Wexford TD said.

Asking why Nama was allowed to sell the site to a vulture fund, rather than keep it in State ownership, Mr Wallace said: “Had it anything to do with the fact that the people to benefit from it were insiders?”

Mr Kenny told him “the advice given to me by the authorities is that loan portfolio was sold following an open process to the highest bidder”.

“I’ll find out the answer for you why Harcourt station was sold to a vulture fund,” Kenny said.

An objection lodged?

The Taoiseach said an objection had been lodged to the Hibernia Reit court action. He also said that if there was an allegation being made about an individual or entity the Comptroller & Auditor General was “perfectly entitled to investigate that completely independently”.

Mr Kenny said “there are a lot of rumours going around, a lot of speculation, a lot of allegations”.

He said that if Mr Wallace had any evidence “this will be treated seriously as it was in other areas where commissions of investigations have been involved”.

Speaking about the buyer, Mr Wallace said that “when he joined Nama he moved his 30 per cent shareholding in his father’s company to an offshore trust. Did he declare that to Nama?”

The same company “then benefited from some very lucrative work from Nama”.

‘Inside knowledge use’

Mr Wallace said the portfolio manager left Nama in December 2012 and “used his inside knowledge regarding Nama assets to line up investment funds that would provide the finance for this new company Hibernia Reit which he manages”.

Mr Wallace said “it wouldn’t require forensic knowledge to establish that Hibernia Reit did remarkably well in purchasing assets from Nama, many of which this gentleman was involved with”.

He said “the public interest would be best served if we examined the internal workings of Nama”.

“At this stage the majority of people believe Nama is rotten to the core,” he added.

Project Aspen

In a statement after Mr Wallace’s comments, Hibernia Reit said the claims about it were “ill-informed, inaccurate and without foundation”.

Hibernia REIT did not purchase Harcourt Square from Nama, the company said. Harcourt Square was sold by Nama to Starwood Capital in 2013, as part of a large portfolio of assets called Project Aspen. Hibernia acquired the property from Starwood Capital in February 2015.

“Hibernia REIT is an Irish listed and regulated public company that is investing in Ireland for the long term,” the statement said. “It is disappointing that Deputy Wallace has used the protection of Dail privilege to make a range of untrue allegations.”

Financial strain, overcrowded housing and deprivation and young people have it tougher nowadays, says the ESRI

Research finds over-65s have fewer quality-of-life problems than younger adults


Financial strain, overcrowded housing and deprivation were among the most serious problems for young adults, according to ESRI research.

Younger people are having a tougher time of it in modern Ireland than the over-65s, new research has suggested.

Far more of those aged 18-30 have multiple quality-of-life problems than people over 65, the research from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has found.

Financial strain, overcrowded housing and deprivation were among the most serious problems for young adults, while poor health and feeling unsafe were among the worrying issues for older people.

Differences between social classes were also identified, with poorer adults significantly more likely to have “multiple problems” than wealthier people. Their problems include poverty, financial stress and housing quality and health.

The recession?

The findings pointed to the harsher impact the recession had on young people and on lower socioeconomic groups, said its author Dorothy Watson.

Published today by the Department of Social Protection, the research goes beyond income to measure Irish adults’ quality of life. It used 11 indicators to examine not only economic wellbeing, but also physical and mental health.

Drawing on 2013 survey data from the Central Statistics Office, the indicators used were income poverty, inability to afford basic goods and services, financial strain, poor health, mental distress, housing quality problems, neighbourhood problems, crowded accommodation, mistrust in institutions, lack of social support, and feeling unsafe in one’s local area. The findings apply to adults over 18.

Just over 70% of all adults had experienced at least one of the issues, while 25.5% had faced three or more of them.

The ESRI found that while 31% of those aged 18-30 faced problems in relation to three or more of the issues, only 20% of those aged 65-70 and those aged 71-85 reported a similar level of problems.

The social class in Ireland?

In relation to social class, it found 36% of those in the manual skilled and semi-skilled sector experienced multiple problems compared with 14 per cent in the professional-managerial sector.

Ms Watson said the findings were consistent with those of other studies, with evidence of younger adults contending with multiple social stressors less likely to impact on older people. These included the cost and availability of housing, childcare costs and increased precariousness of work.

In contrast, successive budgets had protected pensions.

She said better public services in other societies helped to mitigate some of these stressors, particularly on the poor and younger adults.

This teacher’s letter praising a pupil with autism is the nicest thing you’ll read today

Ruth Clarkson decided to pen a letter praising the student for qualities not examined in academic tests


The mother of 11-year-old boy Ben Twist, who has autism, has shared a heart-warming letter his teacher penned detailing all his qualities that academic tests could not measure.

Ben’s teacher Ruth Clarkson decided to write the uplifting letter after he failed his stats which he sat earlier in the year.

Gail, Ben’s mother, posted the letter on Twitter and it has already been retweeted 3,500 times.

In tears. A letter to my 11 yr old autistic son from his school. “These tests only measure a little bit of you”

The letter reads: “A very important piece of information I want you to understand is that these tests only measure a little bit of you and your abilities. They are important and you have done so well but Ben Twist is made up of many other skills and talents that we at Lansbury Bridge see and measure in other ways.”

She then lists some of his qualities including his kindness, abilities in sport and artistic talents.

She continues: “We are so pleased that all of these different talents and abilities make you the special person you are and these are all of the things we measure to reassure us that you are always making progress and continuing to develop as a lovely bright young man. Well done Ben, we are very proud of you.”

Ben’s emotional mum told the Liverpool Echo: “Ben worked so hard and sitting the tests was a massive achievement. We knew the results were coming but to get a letter like that – I got part-way through it and I burst into tears.”

“He is all of the things they wrote about him – he is an amazing person. I think their words will stay with him if we keep reminding him what they said about him. When I told him he said: ‘Wow, do they really think all those things about me?’ It’s just a beautiful thing to do.”

New Benthic Underwater microscope lets scientists watch corals as they boogie on down

   Researcher Andrew Mullen uses the underwater microscope to examine coral off the coast of Maui.   

Using the newly released Benthic Underwater Microscope, scientists observed coral polyps off the coasts of Israel and Maui eating, dancing, and even kissing.

New underwater microscope technology allows scientists to get an up-close and personal look at the secret lives of dancing coral, according to a study published in the July 12 issue of the journal Nature Communications.

Scientists say that the new microscope, called the Benthic Underwater Microscope (BUM), allows them to explore the underwater world in an unprecedented way. The microscope features an extremely high-resolution camera, an underwater computer with a diver interface, bright LED lights for fast exposure images, and a flexible, tunable lens that allows scientists to view underwater structures in 3D.

“To understand the evolution of the dynamic processes taking place in the ocean,” said study lead author Jules Jaffe in a statement, “we need to observe them at the appropriate scale.”

First on the list of underwater life forms to observe using the new microscope? Coral. The magnificent invertebrates may look stationary, but they are built by tiny creatures called polyps, which look similar to upside down jellyfish attached to the bottom sides of coral reefs.

Millions of polyps work together to build coral reefs by secreting calcium carbonate, with the tiny animals providing nutrients and color to the reef.

The new microscope allowed a team of scientists to observe the tiny polyps as they gently swayed, ate, and, apparently, danced.

Using the microscope, scientists were able to position themselves two inches away from the polyps and watch them as they captured tiny plankton and brine shrimp with tiny swaying tentacles.

Scientists left the microscopes out overnight in order to observe the polyps over an extended period. The images and footage gathered show the polyps’ gentle “dancing” and post-meal kisses that scientists say could be a way for polyps to share nutrients throughout the coral colony.

Images from the Benthic Underwater Microscope also revealed a more violent side to the secret lives of polyps, showing coral of different species conquering weaker specimens. In order to win more reef space, the conquering coral will emit filaments that secrete stomach enzymes to destroy the tissue of their competitors.

Researchers have used the BUM in two places thus far – the waters off of Maui and the coast of Israel. With some of the largest coral bleaching events ever recorded taking place this year, scientists were especially interested to study the hard hit coral reefs off of Maui.

With the help of their new microscopic tool, scientists discovered that in bleached areas, there is a honeycomb pattern of algal colonization (like underwater squatters, algae move in when coral is weak from bleaching) and algal growth around individual polyps on the coral.

When coral are weak, scientists found, algae are able to outgrow and smother the already struggling reefs.

Scientists are enthusiastic about the future of underwater exploration with this new microscope, which they say is a great leap forward in the tools available for seafloor study.

“This underwater microscope is the first instrument to image the seafloor at such small scales,” said Dr. Jaffe’s co-lead author Andrew Mullen of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

“This instrument is a part of a new trend in ocean research to bring the lab to the ocean, instead of bringing the ocean to the lab,” said fellow lead author Tali Treibitz of the University of Haifa.

Next up for the microscope: close-up study of coral surfaces and tiny particles in the water around them in an effort to understand how coral breathe through gas exchange.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 28th March 2016

IBEC warns of threats to Irish economic growth

Brexit possibility creating competitiveness risk for Irish exporters, says lobby group


Brexit yes vote could spark devaluation of sterling which would mean products from Irish companies selling into the UK would effectively be 30% more

Ibec the employers lobby group, expects economic growth of 4.6% this year and 3.9% for 2017. But it warned that uncertainty from the growing “economic headwinds” facing Ireland means the actual performance could deviate “substantially” from these numbers.

Its latest quarterly economic outlook warned that the possibility of a British exit from the European Union was creating a major competitiveness risk for Irish exporters into the UK. It also warned on the dangers of a global economic slowdown, spiralling wage growth at home and constraints due to Ireland’s acute housing shortage.

Ibec said a Brexit vote could spark a devaluation of sterling. That would mean products from Irish companies selling into the UK would effectively be 30 per cent more expensive following the June referendum than they were in January.

Different path

  Danny McCoy, the chief executive of Ibec, said that even if the UK votes to remain within the EU, it has set itself “on a different path” to the rest of Europe that could harm Irish economic prospects.

“Even if the UK stays, an ever-closer union is not for them. That’s massive [for Ireland]. Over time, it could lead to a significant drift away from the European core,” he said.

Ibec warned the UK would not be bound by state aid rules were it to leave the EU, potentially creating competition for Ireland for mobile foreign investment.

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On the upside, it said a Brexit could create opportunities for the Irish financial sector to capitalise by attracting UK-domiciled institutions that want an EU “home”.

Sean Kelly, leader of the Fine Gael delegation in the European Parliament, also warned yesterday of the dangers of a Brexit for Ireland, which he said would “severely damage” trade.

Ibec’s report predicts “continued increases in rental prices in and around the main cities” in Ireland due to the accommodation shortage.

“The current housing crisis is a supply side problem and is not likely to go away until enough houses are built to meet demand,” it said. However, it warned that building costs were still too high.

“There is a lazy assumption out there that just because house prices are rising, there will be huge investment in building,” said Mr McCoy. “But it isn’t like that. Investors in the sector have other places to put their money, such as into commercial property.”

Ibec is forecasting 2.1% employment growth, or an extra 40,000 jobs in the economy, with short-term unemployment almost down to pre-crisis levels. Wages will grow by about 2% this year.

The improvement in the labour market, meanwhile, should lead to a 4.1% increase in consumer spending in 2016, it said, although retail competition will keep price growth to a minimum.

Luas dispute

However, Ibec warned that the Luas dispute was an example of how wage demands are spiralling in some sectors and that the economy needs to focus on maintaining competitiveness.

“If wage growth stays within productivity growth, then you’ve no problem,” said Mr McCoy, “but there is no way of co-ordinating wages at a national level.”

He said that he was not calling for a return to a centralised system of collective bargaining over wages, as per the pre-crash social partnership deals, “but there does need to be some centralised forum for social dialogue on the elements that affect pay. We need an anchor for wage expectations.”

Ibec highlighted that there was a “ clear upward momentum in wage trends”, especially in certain sectors such as technology and in administration and support services.

It said that the still relatively high unemployment level of 8.8% was not acting as an effective brake on wage growth, as it normally would, because of the concentration of long-term unemployment in jobless figures.

Ireland’s brewers building a brighter future for their trade


Ray Ryan reports that brewers in Ireland are building a better future for themselves by increasing their investment in new product development.

Beer production remains an important sector within the Irish drinks industry in terms of indigenous manufacturing and the provision of jobs.

It accounts for about 50% of the market, directly employs around 2,500 people, and exports more than 40% of its production.

Exports last year increased by over 10% to around €265m as stronger trade to Britain, other European Union markets and the United States is helping to boost trade.

The craft beer sector in Ireland continues to be a success story, making up an estimated 1.2% of the market, with 40% of microbreweries exporting.

That represents a small portion of the overall Irish beverage exports to 130 markets worldwide last year. However, it highlights a huge potential for growth.

The craft beer industry alone is worth an estimated $12.5bn in annual sales in the United States. New York and Boston, cities with large numbers of people with Irish ancestry and many Irish pubs, are obvious marketing targets.

A number of Irish brewers are already exporting to the US. Some are focusing on on-trade channels while others are connecting with craft breweries and creating partnerships that are potentially beneficial to both sides.

With beer consumption in Ireland now approaching the average level of most northern European countries, the Irish Brewers Association is working to ensure that people are aware of their industry’s contribution to social and economic life.

Over 60 microbreweries now operate in Ireland with 22 of them having started in the past two years. The number is expected to exceed 100 by 2020.

The value added by the overall beer sector to the economy was €1.72bn in 2014. It spends €400m purchasing goods and services including transport and agricultural products.

It raised some €425m in excise receipts. The beer- related contribution to employment represents 44,741 jobs.

A new report by Europe Economics, ‘The Contribution made by Beer to the European Economy’ commissioned by the Brewers of Europe, found that brewing companies in Ireland are responding to the opportunities and challenges they are facing by increasing investment, particularly in product development.

The report says production fell slightly between 2013 and 2014, which it says reflects conditions in international markets.

It also says that the industry exported 2.8 million hectolitres of beer in 2014, and that 64% of beer in Ireland is consumed “in the on-trade”, meaning in restaurants and pubs.

The report also found the total beer-related contribution to government revenues increased from 2013 to 2014, with increases in excise duties and on-trade and off-trade Vat, in particular.

Jonathan McDade, the head of the Irish Brewers Association, said the Irish beer industry is experiencing an exciting period of development.

“As the report states, investment in product development is also up. These trends reflect an increasingly diverse beer sector, with more high-quality Irish beer products for consumers at home and abroad,” he said.

“This is having a knock on effect on employment, up by around 370 between 2013 and 2014 to almost 44,800 jobs,” he said.

Seamus O’Hara, managing director, Carlow Brewing Company (O’Hara’s Craft Beers), is the new chairman of the Irish Brewers Association, the representative industry group for brewers and beer distributors.

He grew up in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow. After completing a master’s degree in biotechnology at UCD, he moved to Britain, where he worked in the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors with firms such as AstraZenca and Glaxo Smith Kline.

It was during this time that he was first exposed to the diversity and flavours of craft beers. In 1991, he moved back to Ireland, where he took up a position with Enterprise Ireland and 10 years later he left to co-found a new venture-capital firm, Seroba-Kernel.

In 1996, he and his brother Eamon set up Carlow Brewing Company on a small-scale part-time basis. In 2011, Seamus made the decision to move full-time into brewing.

The company’s website says there has never been a more exciting time to be part of the craft beer scene in Ireland.

“Craft beer consumers are becoming more numerous, confident and adventurous than ever before leading to demand for a wide variety of flavours and styles.

“Pubs and off-licenses are playing their part too and many now stock a broad range of Irish craft beer to meet customer demand,” it says.

Half of everything that the Carlow brewery produces is exported to more than 25 countries, including the US, France, Italy, Russia, Norway and Croatia.

Mr O’Hara, one of the craft brewing industry’s most recognisable pioneers, told the recent Teagasc National Malting Barely Growers Association conference that the sector is a growing business.

The craft beer products are still relatively small at 1.5% to 2% of the overall beer market in Ireland but with the right momentum there is a potential to grow this to 10%. “It is a great honour to be entrusted with the role of chairperson of the Irish Brewers Association, particularly as the Carlow Brewing Company celebrates its 20 year anniversary this year.

“The Irish Brewers Association, has represented the interest of brewers in Ireland since 1908. Since then the industry has changed drastically and in 2016 we continue to experience exciting developments, with new breweries opening across the country and established players expanding and investing,” he said.

Mr O’Hara said the number of microbreweries operating here has more than trebled since 2012. Consumers have never had more choice. His appointment association chairman was another acknowledgement of the importance of the craft sector to the wider brewing industry.

“I hope that I can use my experience in developing a small but successful brewery within a fledgling industry to guide the Irish Brewers Association over the next two years,” he said.

British pet insurers paid out record claims for last year 2015


Pet insurers dealt with 686,000 claims for dogs.

Pet insurers paid out a record £657 million in claims in 2015 – equating to £1.8 million every day – according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI).

The figures show that in 2015, t he number and cost of claims reached record levels, with 911,000 pet insurance claims made, up 9% on 2014. Their cost, at £657 million, was also up 9% on the previous year.

The average claim was for £721 last year, while the average pet insurance premium was £241.

Pet insurers dealt with 686,000 claims for dogs costing £501 million. For cats, 193,000 claims were handled, worth £105 million.

Despite the record payouts last year, most pet owners remain uninsured, the ABI said. Only one in four of the nine million dog owners and one in seven of the 7.9 million cat owners are thought to have pet insurance.

The ABI said some of the more unusual pet insurance claims handled include the r emoval of a sock eaten by a dog, and treatment for a cat which fell from a fourth floor window.

Mark Shepherd, general insurance manager at the ABI, said: “The record levels of claims handled by pet insurers highlights that owning a pet can be costly as well as rewarding.”

Protein rich weight loss diet can lead to a better night’s sleep


Previous studies have already linked the effect of sleep on weight loss and diet but a new study looked on the opposite perspective and focused on the effect of protein weight loss diet on sleep.

A group of researchers from the Purdue University in Indiana found out that obese and overweight people who follow a high protein-diet for several months have better sleep at night. The study initially involved 14 participants – 11 women and 3 men – who were asked to follow a high-protein diet based on pork and beef or soy and legume products in the first pilot study. On the other hand, the main study focused on 44 obese and overweight participants with ages 35 to 65 years old who were assigned into two groups; the first group was asked to follow a normal protein diet while the other group was given a high protein weight loss diet.  The study was led by Wayne Campbell, a professor of nutrition science at Purdue University, and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The protein diets given to the participants were designed by a dietitian who ensured that the participants’ daily recommended energy intakes were met. Furthermore, a total of 750 calories worth of carbohydrates and fats were removed from the diets per day while maintaining the amount of protein assigned to each group. The protein sources for the diets were beef, pork, soy, legumes and milk protein.

The participants of the main study were able to adapt to the diet after three weeks and continued on their protein diets for 16 weeks. During this period, the participants were able to consume 0.8 or 1.5 kilograms of protein for each kg of body weight daily. They were also given a survey every month to assess the quality of their sleep during the course of the study.

In the pilot study, results showed that the 14 participants reported to have better sleep after four weeks of consuming a high protein weight loss diet. The same trend was observed in the sleep quality of participants who followed the high protein diet in the main study after three to four months.


    Antarctic birds, humans

Antarctic brown skuas are capable of recognizing individual humans, a new paper has shown.

Birds living among people are able to differentiate between individual humans but scientists have now found that skuas (above right) living in remote Antarctica can also recognise people who had previously accessed their nests. The researchers from Inha University and Korea Polar Research Institute in South Korea performed a series of experiments on brown skuas living in Antarctica.

Antarctic brown skuas are large brownish birds that eat fish and other small animals, and they have been known to steal prey from other predators. They’ve even been observed pilfering sips of breast milk from nursing elephant seals. Living life as a food thief, or a kleptoparasite as biologists call it, requires a relatively high level of intelligence.

But brown skuas (Stercorarius antarcticus) may be even smarter than we thought. A study published in March in the journal Animal Cognition found that these large birds can recognize individual people.

Korean scientists at a research station on King George Island, off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, embarked on a study of seven brown skua nests, to see if the birds were breeding and how many young they were having. However, they noticed that the birds would begin to act much more aggressively and even attack—swooping in on researchers and hitting them on the head with their feet—after the researcher had visited the nest a couple times.

Antarctic brown skuas are capable of recognizing individual humans, a new paper has shown.

But it didn’t stop there. “When I was with other researchers, the birds flew over me and tried to hit me,” said Yeong-Deok Han, a doctoral student at Inha University, in a statement. “Even when I changed my field clothes, they followed me. The birds seemed to know me no matter what I wear.”

This strongly suggested that the brown skuas were recognizing Han. Other birds such as crows, ravens and magpies have already been shown to recognize individual humans. However, this ability remains rare among birds, so far as we know.  To further explore this possibility, the scientists set up an experiment in which a pair of researchers—one who had approached the nest before (labeled as the “intruder), and one who hadn’t—walked toward the nest and waited for a few seconds as the birds flew toward them. They then walked in different directions (away from the nest). In each case, for all seven breeding pairs of birds tested, the skuas followed the intruder and ignored the newcomer.

“It is amazing that brown skuas, which evolved and lived in human-free habitats, recognized individual humans just after three or four visits,” said Won Young Lee, a senior researcher from Korea Polar Research Institute. “It seems that they have very high levels of cognitive abilities.”

Since the change of clothes didn’t deter the birds, it suggests they are able to recognize humans by looking at their face, or perhaps recognizing differences in body posture and gait, according to the study.

Most birds that can recognize human individuals, like crows, have lived in the same area as humans for longer, so it’s possible that evolution could have helped select for this human-identifying ability. With brown skuas, however, they have only been exposed to humans since the 1950s, so evolutionary pressures almost certainly haven’t played a role in developing this ability, the researchers wrote.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 7th October 2014

Central Bank proposes new mortgage lending restrictions


The Central Bank says it’s very appropriate to bring in limits on new mortgage lending

The Central Bank has proposed new restrictions on how much banks can lend to home buyers in an effort to reduce the risk of a new property bubble forming as prices recover rapidly from the property crash.

The bank said it was appropriate to bring in limits on new lending at high loan-to-value (LTV) or loan-to-income (LTI) ratios as house prices in Dublin jumped by 25% in the year to August.

Today’s proposed measures will require banks to restrict lending above 80% of the value of a home to no more than 15% of the aggregate value of all housing loans.

They will also restrict lending above three and a half times the borrower’s income to no more than 20% of that aggregate value.

The proposals are contained in a consultation paper and banks have until December 8 to respond to them.

Today’s measures also include a lower threshold for buy-to-let properties. They require banks to limit loans of over 70% of the value of investment properties to 10% of all buy-to-let loans.

The head of financial regulation at the Central Bank, Cyril Roux, said there was concern that the market was getting back to a place where some borrowers were taking out loans where their ability to repay was tenuous.

“These measures have been carefully considered and, taking past experience into account, are being introduced at an appropriate time to ensure borrowers and lenders can withstand potential economic or property market shocks in the future without financial distress,” Mr Roux said.

Mr Roux said the new measures are not intended to replace lenders’ own risk management practices, but rather they should reinforce and strengthen the existing risk mitigation practices used to ensure prudent lending.

Stefan Gerlach, the Central Bank’s deputy director, said the measures were not aimed at limiting or steering prices but would probably have an impact on the pace of price increases.

He said the main objective of the new measures is to increase the resilience of the banking and household sectors to the property market.

Minister Fergus O’Dowd who set up Irish Water now brands it a disaster

Coalition TD says ‘uncaring’ agency is an abject failure


The former Minister who helped establish Irish Water has criticised the company’s approach to introducing water charges, describing it as “an unmitigated disaster”.

Ex-junior environment minister Fergus O’Dowd, who developed the legislation which set up the utility, said it had “abjectly failed” in selling its message to consumers.

In an unprecedented attack from a Government TD, Mr O’Dowd said: “Irish Water has come across as arrogant and uncaring, demanding money and demanding PPS numbers without properly explaining why all of this is necessary.”

He also spoke of his fears that it was becoming “another cosseted quango with a bonus culture” and his belief that disadvantaged groups are faced with having to pay more for water than they should.

The criticism couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Government as it faces into two by-elections on Friday.

Water charges are proving to be a key election issue in Dublin South West, while water quality is a huge cause of concern in the Roscommon-South Leitrim constituency, where 21,000 people are living with boil water notices.

Minister examining proposals to bring Irish Water under the Ombudsman’s remit

Mr. O’Dowd, who lost his ministry in the Government reshuffle during the summer, made the comments in a piece for today’s Irish Independent.

Asked what actions he had taken over his concerns, Mr O’Dowd said he had raised them with department officials and the then environment minister, Phil Hogan, who is now the designate EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Mr O’Dowd’s involvement with the utility company ended after he steered the legislation setting it up through the Oireachtas. Ministerial responsibility was taken by Mr Hogan at that point.

He said he had asked Mr Hogan for more responsibility, but this was not given to him.

Mr O’Dowd said the new company had been its own worst enemy and would not be facing as much resistance if it had adopted a better communications strategy.

“I warned the department at a high level meeting that it was going to be an unmitigated disaster if there was not enough engagement with the public and that has proven to be the case,” he said.

The former minister refused to apportion individual blame for the shortcomings he identified.

“This is not about personalities,” he told the Irish Independent. “It is about bringing about real change in Irish Water. This organisation has to change its ways right now and listen to the people.”

Mr O’Dowd said people felt “angry and intimidated” after receiving their sign up packs in the post, requesting copies of PPS numbers.

He said it was clear there was “an intense dislike of the whole process”.

An information campaign focusing on the positives the company can bring in terms of water conservation and the environment would have been much preferable to the approach it has adopted, he said.

The former minister called for the introduction of new board members with a consumer advocacy background.

He said there should be a widening of exemptions as unemployed people were telling him they simply could not afford the charges.

Mr O’Dowd also said he only became aware that staff at the company would be entitled to bonuses when it was disclosed at an Oireachtas committee in January. He said he believed the practice should be scrapped.

Irish Water managing director John Tierney disclosed at the time that staff were in line for performance related bonus payments averaging €7,000 under a model it adopted from its parent company Bord Gais.

It is understood no bonuses have been paid to date.

However, the company would find it difficult to deny staff bonuses they were contractually entitled to.

Mr O’Dowd has previously said he was not made aware of €50m worth of consultancy contracts awarded by the new company when it was being set up.

Mr Hogan also said he was unaware of these payments when details emerged last January and expressed concern about them at the time.

Documents uncovered in recent weeks suggest he was informed of allocations in December 2012.

However, Mr Hogan last week dismissed accusations he “misled” the public and defended the costs involved, saying the setting up of a new system costs money.

Irish Water has urged householders not to ignore the information packs it has sent out.

Families who refuse to register and provide information could be hit with bills twice what they would normally pay.

This is because each household which fails to provide details will lose free allowances.

A four-person family with two children is expected to use 129,000 litres of water a year, but would be entitled to a free allowance of 72,000 litres, leaving a bill of around €278-a-year.

Irish Water will not be able to turn off the supply of customers who refuse to pay.

However, it can bring people to court to recover debts.

The company is proposing to invest €1.77bn as part of its capital investment programme up to 2016.

Irish Economy to grow by 6%, says Ibec


The business lobby group Ibec has almost doubled its growth forecast for this year to 6.1% on the back of positive data across the economy.

The group had originally forecast GDP growth of 3.1% for 2014, and also hiked its projections for next year to 4.5% from 3.9%.

It predicted exports will grow at their fastest pace since the turn of the century and said business sentiment remains high, with companies displaying strong faith in the recovery.

Ibec economist Fergal O’Brien said the economy was recovering much faster than many had expected.


“Importantly, growth is coming from a broad range of sources, with domestic demand and trade contributing strongly,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Ireland is set to be one of the world’s best-performing developed economies this year,” he added.

Ibec reiterated its call for income tax cuts in next week’s budget, saying there was no need for any further austerity.

But it said that despite the strong growth figures, Ireland remains about 3.5% below its peak in terms of volume levels. It said exports would grow by more than 12% this year – the strongest growth since 2000.

There’ll be similar trends in imports, which will rise 11%, the lobby group said.

With confidence among companies remaining strong, Ibec said it expects investment growth this year and next of 14.3% and 13.8% respectively.

Employment numbers will return to early 2009 levels by next year, it predicted.

“Ireland is firmly on the way back and this gives the Government options on Budget day. Recent tax hikes have pushed our marginal tax rate, at 52%, way out of line with our international competitors,” Mr O’Brien said.

Sleep apnoea sufferers are seven times more likely to fall asleep at wheel


A survey shows one in 10 Irish motorists have fallen asleep at the wheel at some point in the past.

Prof Walter McNicholas told a road safety conference today that short rests should not be seen as a cure for tiredness but as a temporary relief.

People who suffer from sleep apnoea (a condition in which breathing is disrupted during sleep) are seven times more likely to fall asleep while driving, road safety experts warned today.

With 146 people killed on the country’s roads so far this year – just one below the death toll in the same period last year – motorists are being cautioned about the impact the condition and tiredness can have on the risk of collisions.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) revealed statistics on how lack of sleep can lead to deaths on the roads, with fatigue believed to be a factor in one- fifth of all collisions.

Prof Walter McNicholas, director of the pulmonary and sleep disorders unit at St Vincent’s University Hospital, said short rests should not be seen as a cure for tiredness, but as a temporary relief.

“Untreated sleep apnoea is associated with high levels of sleepiness, which makes driving incredibly dangerous,” he said .

“When treated effectively, sleep apnoea is incredibly manageable, so awareness of the signs and early diagnosis is key.”

In a presentation at the RSA annual safety lecture, the professor said a 15 to 20-minute sleep will only revive a driver for up to an hour.

Prof McNicholas said evidence from research into the cause of road crashes shows, on average, a fifth to a quarter of all motorway crashes are due to excessive sleepiness.

The RSA said a survey of driver attitudes and behaviour carried out last year which showed that as many as one in 10 Irish motorists admitted they have fallen asleep at the wheel at some point.

The authority said the road death toll this year is currently almost as high as last year, when the number of accidents led to the first increase in road deaths since 2005.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said: “Sadly we have seen worryingly high deaths on our roads so far again this year, almost on a par with last year.”

“But if we have learned anything from the previous few years, it’s that we can all make real changes to improve road safety. So this week, consider what you can do to make our roads safe.”

How to Watch Tonight’s ‘Blood Moon’ Total Lunar Eclipse


This year has been filled with a lot of big events: a satellite landed on a friggin’ comet, Apple released a giant friggin’ iPhone, and George friggin’ Clooney finally got friggin’ married! 2014 was also a year in which there was not one but two total lunar eclipses visible from North America—the second of which will take place later tonight (or very early tomorrow morning, depending on where you are).

Those in the middle of the Pacific Ocean will have the best view, but U.S. readers in the contiguous 48 states will have tickets to the show as well, though at far less convenient start times.

The action will begin for West Coast skywatchers at 1:17 a.m. PT and the whole process will have run its course by 6:32 a.m. On the East Coast, the events won’t begin until 4:17 a.m. ET, but the process will barely have kicked into high gear before the scheduled 7:01 moonset. While they won’t get to see the finale, viewers on the East Coast (with a clear view of the horizon) will have the unique opportunity to watch an eclipsing moon setting below the horizon, which should be a treat in and of itself.

Unlike fainter astronomical events such as meteor showers, viewers in urban areas will be able to watch the whole event without leaving town—if you can see the full moon under normal conditions, you will be able to see a lunar eclipse. Those on the East Coat, however, should keep in mind that they will want to have as clear a view of the western horizon as possible.

The only thing that will hinder most people in the eclipse-viewing area from catching the show is cloud cover. If nature isn’t cooperating in your location, you can follow online with crowdsourced astronomical team Slooh’s live eclipse coverage, which is embedded below. Additionally, NASA will offer a livestream of the eclipse on its Ustream page, which will include a live Web chat beginning at 3 a.m. ET to answer any questions.

Blood Moons Aren’t Really a Thing

A total eclipse is what happens when the moon dives into the darkest part of the Earth’s shadow or umbra. When this happens, the moon doesn’t simply fade into the dark sky, but rather it slowly transitions from bright white into a deep reddish-orange hue.

This reddening is the result of sunlight refracting through the Earth’s atmosphere. Usually the direct light from the sun “washes” out this refracted light, but during a lunar eclipse this refracted red light is the only thing illuminating the lunar surface and thus is why the moon appears to turn red.

You may have seen many in the media dubbing tonight’s event a “blood moon,” just as they did with eclipse in April. Let’s get something clear: This term doesn’t have any actual astronomical significance—all total lunar eclipses turn a deep blood reddish hue. This happens during ev-er-y eclipse. But the phrase “blood moon” sounds spooky and has recently been co-opted by the fire-and-brimstone crowd so, we’re kind of stuck with this meaningless nothing-phrase.

But unlike April’s eclipse, tonight’s “blood moon” will occur directly after the moon’s perigee, or the closest point in its orbit around the Earth, which means that the moon will appear similar in size to the so-called “supermoon.” In fact, according to CNN, tonight’s lunar eclipse will appear 5.3 percent larger than the one back in April.

There are usually around two lunar eclipses per year, but they’re not visible to all parts of the Earth. According to Slooh’s astronomy team, North America won’t get to see two total lunar eclipses in the same year until 2022. That’s another two presidential administrations away!

If you do miss tonight’s events for some reason (sleep, for example), don’t worry, there will be another, more conveniently timed, total lunar eclipse visible from North America in September 2015.

Cannibal spiders are unleashed

Tube spider filmed catching and eating smaller spider


This one involves a massive spider eating one of his smaller eight legged friends.

The fearsome tube spiders, which sport green fangs they use to devour their enemies, have been spotted several times throughout the UK over the past few months.

Mike Rance was filming one of the giant beasts in his friend’s house in Newport, Wales when he caught it pouncing on one of its fellow arachnids and eating the poor thing alive.

‘We then tried [feeding it] a normal sized spider but it didn’t want to know,’ the 41-year-old said. ‘They only seemed to want to eat smaller ones, I guess they must be easier prey.’

The tube spider darts and and catches its prey with its fangs (Picture: Caters)

Rather than follow the logical course of action and burning the house down before moving to Antarctica, Mike caught the spider and passed it onto a vet, who confirmed it was in fact a tube spider, the bite of which cause excruciating pain for up to six hours.

Mike also found that a neighbour of his friend had a nest containing ‘about 30 or 40 in his back garden’.

Tube spiders, which first came to the UK 150 years ago but have recently seen their numbers grow, typically hide during the day before sneaking out at night looking for food.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 25th March 2014

Queen Elizabeth greets Irish stars at reception for Irish community


British monarch welcomes Van Morrison, Imelda May and Niall Horan to Buckingham Palace

One Direction’s Niall Horan (2nd right) meets Queen Elizabeth of Britain at a reception for the Irish community at Buckingham Palace, London.

Three years ago, a photograph of a Cork fishmonger, Pat O’Connell and Queen Elizabeth II, both beaming with laughter, became the image of her State visit to Ireland that went around the world.

Tonight in Buckingham Palace, the two again met in laughter when the queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, greeted the man from the English Market and 300 other Irish guests.

“Well, she recognised me, anyway. We had a joke back in 2011 where I told her that I was more nervous than I had been since I got married 30 years earlier. “Tonight, I told her I was better dressed than I have been for 30 years,” O’Connell told The Irish Times minutes later at the reception to mark the role played by the Irish in Britain.

“The Duke said to me, “Well, you’re here!”,” he went on.

Pressed to offer more details about his exchanges with the queen, O’Connell said: “Before she left she asked me if I had brought any fish.”

The gathering was the curtain-raiser for President Michael D Higgins’s state visit to Britain early next month – the first time a visit by an Irish head of state has received such status.

The guests included musician Van Morrison, ex-Formula 1 team-owner Eddie Jordan, ex-rugby player Bob Casey, designer Orla Kiely, ex-world boxing champion Barry McGuigan.

“It is a wonderful occasion for the Irish community in Britain,” said Irish Ambassador to Britain Dan Mulhall.

“They have made a huge contribution to Britain over the years – a huge contribution.”

Grand National winner and racehorse trainer Jonjo O’Neill joked: “I was only talking to her about horses, it all I know about. She just had a horse lose by a short-head in Australia.

“Sure, she’ll pick up a few quid anyway. It is lovely to be invited to the palace,” he told The Irish Times, following his extended words with the queen.

Bernie O’Roarke, who works with domestic abuse victims in London, declared: “I’m very proud and my family back in Ireland are very proud, really thrilled.”

The Clones, Co Monaghan-born Barry McGuigan exchanged pleasantries with the queen and Prince Philip.

“The Duke said it was a long time since he had seen me. I haven’t been here since the 1990s,” he said.

Clearly enjoying the occasion, the queen mingled with the guests who had begun to gather in Buckingham Palace before six o’clock for the reception.

Getting into the spirit of things, a spokesman for the palace later said: “It was a really fun evening – great company and extremely relaxed. Her Majesty seemed to enjoy the craic.”

Former Ireland rugby international Bob Casey was one of 10 people to be presented to the queen in the White Drawing Room at the start of the reception.

“I am more nervous than I ever was going out at Twickenham. It’s lovely, I am really, really thrilled to be here. It is amazing,” he said later.

The guests numbered NI Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, chef Rachel Allen, One Direction singer Niall Horan, along with Dr Cecilia McDaid, who leads Conradh na Gaeilge in Glasgow.

“It is an absolute honour to step inside this building and meet the lady herself. Obviously when Irish and English people get together it is always a good occasion,” said Horan.

“I saw an envelope which had the Buckingham Palace royal stamp on top and it was a bit ‘OK what is this about’ and I got a bit of a shock and here we are three weeks later,” he went on.

Band manager Louis Walsh, who is a judge for the X-Factor show, declared: “It is a really good night, a celebration of all things great about Ireland and the Irish.

“The queen was magnificent when she came to Ireland. She has the X Factor, she’s got it, no doubt about that,” he said, as he broke away from chatting to Orla Kiely and Rachel Allen.

Graham Linehan now living in Norwich, the co-creator of the Father Ted series said: “If you are a writer and you turn down a chance to get inside walls like these then you would be drummed out of the business.”

As much as half of Irish lenders decisions appealed by SMEs are overturned


More than half of all lending decisions appealed to the Credit Review Office by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are overturned.

The office, set up to monitor banks’ lending into the real economy, has warned about the lack of competition among lenders because of the withdrawal of foreign lenders.

But in his 13th report into lending to small business, the head of the Credit Review Office, John Trethowan, said he did not believe that lending targets set for AIB andBank of Ireland needed to be extended.

The two main banks both hit their targets to lend €4bn each to SMEs last year, Mr Trethowan said.

Ongoing monitoring of lending and the continued scrutiny of the lenders meant it was not necessary to extend the formal targets, he said.

The report also weighs into the debate over whether lack of demand for credit, or lack of supply, is affecting the statistics.

The consensus arrived at in meetings between the Credit Review Office, the Department of Finance and business groups was that demand for loans is depressed and likely to remain low while SMEs rebuild their balance sheets.


For companies that are looking to borrow, the report found that 55pc of lending decisions appealed by prospective borrowers end up with the original decision reversed.

As a result, €21.6m in additional credit has been made available to SMEs and farms, according to the report.

SMEs unhappy with a credit decision by AIB (including EBS) or Bank of Ireland can take an appeal to the Credit Review Office, which was set up in the wake of the banking crisis.

Based on the cases appealed, the latest report from the agency found that capital increases and cash for business investment were now the main drivers of business loan applications.

It is seen as a sign business is starting to recover from the crash.

However, the other main driver of demand is from companies looking to refinance debts previously advanced by foreign banks that are now pulling out of Ireland.

The report also warned that it was becoming easier for AIB and Bank of Ireland to maintain levels of lending to small business without taking on riskier clients because of the exit of a number of foreign-owned banks from the market here.

Last year, Rabobank-owned ACC and Denmark’s Danske Bank announced plans to withdraw from the market here, forcing customers to shift their banking arrangements over to the remaining pool of lenders.

IBEC launches priorities for next phase of recovery


Employers’ group IBEC is launching its new campaign, “An Ireland that works”, setting out the business priorities for the next phase of the recovery.

The lobby group wants a lower tax burden for individuals – saying consumers here deserve a break.

It’s also calling for the Government to invest in infrastructure projects, skills and education, promotion of entrepreneurship and a push to extend Ireland’s reach in international debates such as those on tax and EU reform.

It wants a reduction of the marginal income tax rate to below 50pc and also recommends that the pension levy to be dropped.

Infrastructure spend should be increased to 4% of GDP while it is also calling for Irish interests to be protected in the international tax debate.

300 Irish driving tests cancelled because of a planned strike

Union says further stoppages could follow if dispute not resolved

About 300 people who are scheduled to undergo driving tests next week will have them cancelled by a planned strike by driver testers.

Driver testers, who are represented by the trade union Impact, are to stage a half-day strike from 2pm on Wednesday April 2nd in a dispute over outsourcing.

Impact said that further stoppages could follow if the dispute was not resolved.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA)said that anyone who was due to have a driving test next Wednesday afternoon would have it re-scheduled at no cost as quickly as possible.

Impact said the dispute centred on proposals by RSA management to outsource testing in breach of a LabourCourt ruling which recommended the recruitment of a reserve body of qualified testers to avert any possible backlog in test applications.

Impact official Denis Rohan said management had since ignored the Labour Court-recommended process and instead moved to engage subcontractors instead of recruiting reserve staff. He said management had breached its agreement with staff and had since refused to talk to the union about the issue.

The union said that a subsequent Labour Courtrecommendation in January this year was rejected by driver testers.

Mr Rohan said that this was because the recommendation made no provision for talks on outsourcing arrangements.

The RSA said in accordance with numerous recommendations and rulings by the Labour Relations Commission it had established a panel of five reserve driver testers to assist in reducing the impact of short-notice sick leave absences on customers and to continue to deliver a high quality service.

It said this service would only be drawn down if required, in order to minimise any disruption that sick leave or absences causes to customers, and to ensure that waiting times of less than 10 weeks for a driving test continued to be met.

It said that in 2012, a total of 11,880 driving tests were not conducted due to sick leave taken by driver testers. It said 8,200 of these tests were not covered from spare capacity and as a result, the RSA had to reschedule the affected candidates’ tests, free of charge, at a cost of €697,000 to the Authority.

The RSA stressed it was not replacing any substantive post with these reserve testers but supplementing the service to allow for sickness absence and training activities in order to deliver an improved level of service to the public.

“The RSA is extremely disappointed with the stance taken by Impact as the Public Service (Croke Park) agreement 2010-2014 states that the findings of the industrial relations dispute mechanism are binding. It also states that trade unions are precluded from taking industrial action when the employer is acting under the remit of the Public Service Agreement.”

“Furthermore, contrary to the statement issued by Impact, the Road Safety Authority’s actions are fully compliant with Labour Court findings, specifically recommendation LCR 20309 (May 2012); and the Labour Court recommendation LCR20681 (Dec 2013) as subsequently clarified and reinforced in January 2014”, it said.

Mr Rohan said management’s outsourcing proposals could also breach the RSAs own safety standards as it was not insisting that subcontractors hold the HETAC driver-tester qualification, which is a requirement for all RSA testers.

“We regret the inevitable inconvenience that will now follow management’s decision to ignore our concerns on outsourcing and the breach of agreement with staff. We have decided on a relatively short stoppage to limit the inconvenience, but the staff concerned feel they have been forced into this action because management is refusing to deal with the issue,” he said.

Ireland’s older & lonely generation grows as emigration increases

All alone, walking for comfort?

Emigration is now tearing families apart and creating a new generation of lonely older people in Ireland, the Alone charity has claimed.

Irish charity ALONE says it has seen an increase in the number of older people at an all-time low as a direct result of their children and grandchildren emigrating.

The charity’s claims follow news last week that a record number of Irish workers under 35 are set to move to Canada after more than 10,000 Canadian visas were made available this year.

ALONE CEO Sean Moynihan said: “We have even received calls from the emigrants themselves asking us to check on their older relative.

“The children and grandchildren of Ireland’s older people are emigrating in droves, leaving behind a large huge increase in the number of older people requiring our services because their support systems have disappeared.”

EU figures show Ireland now has the highest level of emigration in Europe.

The latest Central Statistics Office figures show almost 250 people leave the country daily – one person every six minutes.

With a son already in London, 70-year-old Dubliner Noeleen was referred to ALONE last year after her daughter’s family left to live in Australia.

She said: “It’s very hard, but that’s the reality I miss my two little granddaughters terribly, but they seem to be settling in well.”

Marian, who also moved to Australia after her husband lost his job, contacted ALONE as she was concerned for her elderly mother.

“My husband had been out of work since 2007 so we had to move, otherwise we would be back in Ireland in a heartbeat,” she said.

“I feel really helpless being so far away. My mam used to be so active but now with age she doesn’t go out as much as she used too.

She added: “I’m so worried about her being isolated and alone in her house. She has a history of depression and the thought of her being lonely, is very difficult.”

ALONE supports older people in Ireland through its volunteer befriending and community response service.

To contact the charity call 00353 1 679 1032 or visit http://www.alone.ie

Real leadership is when everyone else thinks they are in charge?

Yes we are the top’s 

Fortune Magazine has named Bono in their list among businessmen, The Pope and Bill Clinton.

In their short profile, the magazine says: “Real leadership is when everyone else feels in charge.

“Now, through his ONE and (RED) campaigns, he is enlisting major companies and millions of people to combat AIDS, poverty, and preventable diseases.”

The full top ten in Fortune’s list is:

1 Pope Francis

2 Angela Merkel – Chancellor, Germany

3 Alan Mulally – CEO, Ford Motor Co.

4 Warren Buffett – CEO, Berkshire Hathaway

5 Bill Clinton – Founder, the Clinton Foundation

6 Aung San Suu Kyi – Chairk, National League for Democracy

7 Gen. Joe Dunford – Commander, U.S. Forces, Afghanistan

8 Bono – Irish rock singer

9 The Dalai Lama

10 Jeff Bezos – CEO Amazon

Researchers at Nanyang TU develop new solar Cell that can emit light


Scientists at Nanyang Technological University have made a significant breakthrough that can advance solar technology as well as better integrate it into our lives.

Almost a serendipity, the scientists found a new solar cell material capable of emitting light in addition to the regular role of converting light into electricity.

While developing a new hybrid Perovskite solar cell material, physicist Sym Tze Chien asked his fellow researcher Xing Guichuan to shine a laser on the material. To the researchers’ surprise, when the laser was directed at the new Perovskite solar cell, it lit up.

“What we have discovered is that because it is a high quality material, and very durable under light exposure, it can capture light particles and convert them to electricity, or vice versa,” said Asst Prof Sum, a Singaporean scientist at NTU’s School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (SPMS). The team of eight scientists and researchers has been working on the Perovskite research project since early 2013.

A press release from the university says Perovskite could hold the key to creating high-efficiency, inexpensive solar cells.

The new material is also versatile, with the applications potentially ranging from being used as tinted windows in cars (it can be made semi-translucent) to making lasers. In addition, the material is five times cheaper than current silicon-based solar cells, making it an option the solar energy industry could look into. The researchers say the significantly lower cost is due to easy solution-based manufacturing process that works by combining two or three chemicals at room temperature.

The scientists picture a future where the facade of buildings such as malls could store energy in the day and light up advertisements at night.

Further, the team says the material can be tuned to make it emit a wide range of colors, a characteristic that makes it suitable for use in gadgets with flat screen displays. Perhaps in the future when your phone runs out of juice while you are out, you can just recharge it under the sun.