Tag Archives: internet

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 18th November 2016

Ireland could be facing an even bigger recession,

FF leader Martin says Ireland’s economic model under threat from Brexit and global downturn

Image result for Ireland could be facing an even bigger recession says Michael Martin  Image result for Ireland could be facing an even bigger recession says Michael Martin   Image result for Ireland could be facing an even bigger recession says Michael Martin

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin warns of threats to Ireland’s economic model.

Ireland could be facing an even bigger recession than the one it has just come through as a result of Brexit and a potential downturn in the world economy, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has warned.

In an address to the Small Firms Association (SFA), Mr Martin said both threats represented a “defining moment” for the State and its economic model.

“This is not about a conventional economic shock but a direct challenge to our core economic system.”

Mr Martin warned that without a credible response Brexit could result in hundreds of business closures and thousands of jobs losses as well as lower investment in infrastructure and weaker public services.

He highlighted a recent report by the Economic and Social Research Institute and the Department of Finance, which forecast a possible €12 billion loss to national income from a hard Brexit scenario with Britain exiting the single market altogether.

Aside from Brexit, Mr Martin said many countries were now turning their backs on the sort of trade co-operation that smaller countries such as Ireland were reliant upon.

“As for the impact of last week’s US presidential election, it is very brave person indeed who can predict what American policy will be next year let alone in four years’ time,” he told the SFA’s annual lunch event in Dublin’s Mansion House.

Mr Martin said Ireland’s basic economic strategy was no longer sustainable and that Ireland’s economic base needed to be broadened with a particular emphasis on indigenous companies.

In his address, the Fianna Fáil leader also spoke of the threat to public finances from union pay demands. While union leaders had been forthright in sounding the alarm over Brexit they were were less cognisant of the fragile state of the public purse, he said.

“We need to step back before the pay situation gets out of hand. Surely after what we have just been though, an angry, relativities-driven escalation of industrial disputes is that last thing we need?” he said.

Also addressing the event was outgoing SFA chairman AJ Noonan, who warned Ireland may lose out in the race to attract UK businesses here in the wake of Brexit because of the “punitive” tax regime.

“In terms of Brexit, the current message we are sending as a country is ‘relocate to Ireland and pay more tax’ – not a winning formula,” he said.

“Our tax system is not working for owner-managers, our employees and our future prospects,” he said, suggesting some elements of the political system were too obsessed with the redistribution of wealth by taking more from those in work.

Enda Kenny speaks with US Vice President-Elect Mike Pence on electoral success

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny has spoken to US Vice President-Elect Pence on the phone last night Friday.

During a 15-minute phone conversation, Mr Kenny congratulated the Vice President-Elect on his recent electoral success alongside Donald Trump.

According to a Government statement, Mr Kenny also expressed his intention to engage positively with the new administration on a number of issues to the mutual benefit of Ireland and the U.S.

It was said Mr Kenny raised the issue of the undocumented Irish in the U.S and expressed his determination to work with the President and Vice President-Elect in seeking a solution to the issue.

But chances of a resolution appear less likely under a Trump administration.

There is considerable disappointment in the Irish American community that little or no progress was made during President Barack Obama’s two terms.

The Taoiseach is said to have referred to the economic ties between the two countries, including the long standing and productive relationship Ireland has with many US companies, as well as the fact that there are 100,000 Americans employed in Irish companies across America.

“Both men spoke of Vice President-Elect Pence’s strong Irish heritage and the Taoiseach expressed the wish that the Vice President-Elect might visit here again sometime in the future,” the statement added.

Mr Kenny was one of the first leaders to speak to Mr Trump following his election victory earlier this month.

This is despite describing the President-elect as a racist earlier this year.

Vacancies filling rift between the Commissioner and Tánaiste Fitzgerald

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Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald with Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

Major tensions have surfaced between Justice Minister and Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan over the filling of a series of key vacancies within the force.

Ms Fitzgerald has held up the promotions of a significant number of officers, including two assistant commissioners, after coming under pressure from the Policing Authority.

The newly established watchdog is understood to have voiced concern over the number of proposed promotions – meaning the jobs could remain unfilled until next year.

Sources say there is major anger within the force over the holding up of the promotions, and that the long-running vacancies weaken An Garda Síochána as a whole.

Some officers believe the decision not to send the list for Cabinet approval is “punishment” for Garda unions securing a special pay deal.

“This led to tensions between the Commissioner and Government and it is damaging to the force as a whole,” said a source.

It now seems likely that the Policing Authority will be given a much greater say over the appointments process within the force.

The ‘right to be forgotten’ and go play is ultimate in the protection of Ireland’s children

The right to play, giving more powers to Gardaí, and the abolition of direct provision centres were also contained in the report.

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A report has recommended over 100 changes the government should make to safeguard children including changing the law so that children’s information can be removed from the Internet (‘right to be forgotten’), and ensuring children’s right to play.

The report, compiled by a Rapporteur on Child Protection, is over 180 pages long, and discusses a range of subjects including the vulnerability of children with disabilities and the gaps in legislation in relation to technological advancements that leave children unprotected.

Other changes recommended include teaching children about consent in child sex abuse cases, and shielding children in court if absolutely necessary.

Tanya Ward, CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance said that this report was different from others as it focused on children who were “left behind” – such as children in homeless accommodation and children in direct provision centres.

Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One, she said that although there were some ambitious longterm recommendations, there were also ‘interim ‘ suggestions made in the report.

Here are some of the most important recommendations made by Special Rapporteur Professor Geoffrey Shannon.

Consent education is a must?

In his report, Special Rapporteur raised concerns about and highlights the need for adequate sex education to teach children and young people about consent and to challenge the concept of ‘victim blaming’ or holding the victim responsible for sexual violence or crime committed against them.

Shannon is commenting on provisions in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill which allows for children to give evidence in court behind a screen in certain circumstances.

He states that “this should be avoided whenever possible”, and the bill is currently before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The report also highlights the fact that gardaí don’t have the power to search and seize mobile phone devices that they suspect of containing images of children if the device is outside the home.

The report also calls for the gardaí to be given better powers when requesting information from companies like Google and Facebook.

Children’s digital rights.

For the first time, Prof. Shannon discusses the right to be forgotten, pinpointing the risks to children’s online identity. Activity on social media may be instant, but the unintended consequences for children when they post something online can last beyond childhood.

The report says:

The relevance for children of the ‘right to be forgotten’ should be acknowledged, children should be educated about the matter, and it should be understood that the age at which an individual posts information online should be considered a very important factor in decisions about whether to remove an individual’s personal information from sites.

Children with disabilities?

Shannon also brings a special focus to children with disabilities in his report.

This is very relevant in the context of the ‘Grace case’ and the attention that it has brought for the treatment of children with intellectual disabilities.

Shannon calls for an examination of the effectiveness of the government’s Stay Safe Programme (a personal safety skills programme for specialised mainstream primary schools) for children with disabilities.

He is also calling for Ireland to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Young People in the Justice System.

There are also some harsh criticisms of the method of judicial punishment for children in trouble with the law detention -the report says that detention centres “should be a measure of last resort”.

Against the backdrop of progress in the youth justice area and difficulties at the Oberstown Detention Campus, the report calls for more “imaginative community sanctions” for children.

While the Garda Diversion Programme has been extremely successful over the years, there are other, new diversion models in operation in other jurisdictions that should now also be explored. It is also calling for further attempts to “avoid the use of force, including restraint, of children in custodial settings”.

The right to play.

The report calls for child protection training and standards for people working in the field of play. He highlights the fact that children from disadvantaged groups lose out the most when it comes to play and recreation.

Children have a right to play, recreation, rest and participation in the arts.

Prof. Shannon highlights the serious and immediate developmental impact this is having on children and calls for a Government-led national strategy to address this and make sure that all children can access this basic right.

Other issues detailed in Prof. Shannon’s report include direct provision for asylum seekers, which he recommends should be abolished. In the interim, he suggests that living standards in direct provision centres should be improved. He also focuses on poverty and calls for national measures to address the nutritional needs of families.

The report is due to be debated before the Houses of the Oireachtas in the coming weeks.

Irish Pharmacists warn over drug driving and prescription medicines

An RSA report shows 30% of people killed on roads in Ireland in 2013 were on prescription medication

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The Irish Pharmacy Union said it was urging drivers to be aware of the dangers of driving after taking medicines, particularly those which can cause drowsiness.

Drivers who take prescription medicine should consult their pharmacist about whether it is safe for them to operate a vehicle after doing so, the Irish Pharmacy Union has said.

The union said it was urging drivers to be aware of the dangers of driving after taking medicines, particularly those which can cause drowsiness.

It comes after RTÉ reported a Road Safety Authority (RSA) internal report showed 30% of people who died in road crashes in Ireland in 2013 had taken prescription medicine.

The report examined 109 coroners’ reports and found 31% of those who died in crashes had consumed alcohol, while 30% had taken a prescription medicine.

The report stated that prescription medication includes drugs that legally require a medical prescription to be dispensed and include drugs such as benzodiazepines, antidepressants, antipsychotics and antiepileptic drugs.

Sedative hypnotic.

“Initial observation would indicate that presence of prescription medications appear to be over-represented in road traffic collision (RTC) fatalities, with 34 (30%) of all RTC fatalities having prescription medication found on toxicology. Benzodiazepine, a sedative hypnotic, was the most common prescription medication on toxicology.”

Irish Pharmacy Union executive committee member Caitriona O’Riordan said the data was very disturbing.

“Neither the Gardaí nor the RSA know if the medications that the unfortunate crash victims concerned were taking had been prescribed or were obtained illegally.

“The key point is that there are possible side-effects from some medications, and it’s vitally important that before driving people should ask their pharmacist if there is any possibility that the medicine may impact on their ability to drive safely,” she said.

“Many medications carry warnings to be aware of the dangers of drowsiness or other side-effects, and those warnings are there for a reason; it is absolutely vital that everyone taking medications discusses possible side-effects with their pharmacist and also reads the advisory notes with the medication,” she said.

CHARITY PLACES 380 PAIRS OF SHOES OUTSIDE DÁIL TO HIGHLIGHT RATE OF MALE SUICIDE

Image result for CHARITY PLACES 380 PAIRS OF SHOES OUTSIDE DÁIL TO HIGHLIGHT RATE OF MALE SUICIDE  Image result for We need to talk about our mental health more in Ireland and put pressure on our government to prioritise mental health services  Image result for We need to talk about our mental health more in Ireland and put pressure on our government to prioritise mental health services

A total of 380 pairs of shoes were laid outside Dáil Éireann today, symbolising the number of Irish men who die by suicide each year.

The Movember Foundation, which organised the event, said it is aiming to help reduce the rate of male suicide by 25% by 2030.

The protest was replicated in the UK, US, Australia and Canada ahead of International Men’s Day, which happens tomorrow.

Doug Leddin, a Movember participant and mental health advocate from Dublin said: “We need to talk about our mental health more in Ireland and put pressure on our government to prioritise mental health services.

“Unless you spend a day in the shoes of someone who is suffering it’s extremely hard to know what we’re going through. I was in a dark place and I suffered alone for a long time.

“Movember is a brilliant way to spread awareness of men’s health, raising funds and getting guys talking and being more open about mental or physical challenges they might be facing.”

Neil Rooney, Director of The Movember Foundation Ireland, said too many men are dying too young and before their time.

“The Movember Foundation is investing in projects that are having a real impact on the lives of men in Ireland and around the world,” he said.

“By engaging with men where they are, and understanding what works best, we’re helping make change happen sooner, before it’s too late.

“While the state of men’s health has come a long way since Movember started in 2003, there’s still so much work to be done and we won’t stop until men are living healthier, happier and longer lives.”

Three out of every four suicides in Ireland happen to men. On average, 32 men a month take their own life in the country.

Stephen Hawking warns humanity may only have 1,000 years left

Image result for Stephen Hawking warns humanity may only have 1,000 years left   Image result for Stephen Hawking warns humanity may only have 1,000 years left

Famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has spent his life pondering big questions about the wider universe. In recent years, he’s turned his attention closer to home, talking about AI, climate change, alien invasion, and other threats to the future of humanity.

Now, he’s put an expiration date on our species if we don’t get into space. He’s giving us just 1,000 years.

Hawking’s latest warning came in a speech delivered at Britain’s Oxford University Union. He noted that Earth is fragile, as is any single planet. The odds of a catastrophic global event wiping out humanity in any given year is slim, but over the course of years the chance becomes quite high. Human activity is only increasing those odds as well.

Hawking noted in the speech that some of the most pressing concerns for the future of humanity could come in the next century, as artificial intelligence is perfected and global climate change continues to affect civilization. When something happens on Earth, we don’t want all of humanity to be here, according to Hawking. The best way to keep the species going is to make sure we’ve got a backup — humans on other planets and maybe even in other star systems.

But where could we go? The easiest way to get humans off of Earth is to colonize Mars, and there are some ambitious plans to make that a reality within our lifetimes. The SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System is designed to shuttle as many as 200 people to Mars in each three month trip. Launches would only happen when the orbit of Mars put it close enough to Earth for such a quick journey. It’s certainly feasible to move people to Mars, but creating a functional society is still an unknown. Mars has no magnetic field to protect people from radiation and its thin atmosphere isn’t breathable.

Mars is a good start, but being in a completely different solar system would be the ultimate backup for humanity. Astronomers are constantly finding potentially habitable exoplanets, but we can’t get to any of them with current technology. The most likely target for further examination is Proxima Centauri, which harbors an exoplanet that may be Earth-like. First, we need to get a closer look at it, which the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope can manage. A few centuries ago, wooden sailing ships were the fastest way to travel, so who know what we’ll have in another couple generations? Proxima Centauri might not seem that distant.

A whole millennium might sound like a lot of time, but humanity has existed in more or less its current form for about 100,000 years. It’d be an awful shame if all this progress we’ve made was for naught in just 1% of that time. We should probably get on this.

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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 19th September 2016

The EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has no specific concern’s about the Irish tax system

Commissioner also says EU has no plans afoot to harmonise corporation tax

Image result for The EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has no specific concerns about the Irish tax system   Image result for The EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has no specific concerns about the Irish tax system

The EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

The European Commission has “no specific concern” about the Irish tax system and is not planning to harmonise corporate tax system, according to competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

The competition commissioner, who has ordered Apple to pay €13 billion in back taxes to the Republic, was speaking as she began a three-day visit to the United States.

“We don’t have a specific concern about Ireland,” she said.

“We do very specific case work. If there are reasons for concern, well then we may open investigations. But there can be obvious reasons why you want to place your business in Ireland [in particular because it] has an attractive corporate tax rate of 12.5 per cent.”

The European Union has no intention of trying to harmonise corporate tax rates, she said.

With many large US multinationals having European bases in Ireland, there have been fears that the Apple decision, which both Ireland and Apple are appealing, is a foretaste of things to come for the Irish economy.

However, Ms Vestager seemed keen to dispel the notion that she is on the cusp of launching a slew of similar investigations.

‘Very, very thorough’

“We are very, very thorough. We don’t just open a case in the spur of the moment. Because we need to write an opening decision where we state our concerns, and in order to do that of course we have been asking questions beforehand.”

The commission has been given some 1,000 examples of tax rulings by EU member state governments, she said.

Having reviewed these rulings, she said most of them were “very well done” with “no selective advantages” given to companies.

The Government has stressed that Ireland has not been fined in the Apple case, which involved a ruling that the company should repay tax. But the commissioner pointed out that enforcement of EU state rules does not work with punishments or fines.

“Where I was raised in the western part of Denmark, the most awkward thing you could ever do was to take back a gift” and this was effectively what was being requested here, she said. “You rely on the uncomfortable inconvenience of a member state having to take back a selective benefit or advantage that they wanted to give.”

The Government denies that its arrangement with Apple, which has had a base in the country since 1980 and employs nearly 6,000 in its Cork offices, constituted illegal state aid.

Ms Vestager is meeting officials in the US administration and Congress and speaking at academic conferences in Washington and New York. Asked if the Apple decision had created transatlantic tensions, she said: “Even though we may disagree on this decision, when it comes to global tax issues, we are very very much on the same page.”

OECD

This is especially the case in light of OECD and G20 initiatives to create rules which make it more difficult for companies to legally avoid tax, she added.

Ms Vestager said it was hearings on Apple’s tax arrangements held by the US Senate that led the commission to open its investigation.

“We do not have a national bias,” she said, adding that of the 150 EU decisions taken between 2000 and 2015 where member states were required to recover illegal state aid, only 2 per cent involved US companies.

She was equally adamant that the case did not represent an attempt by the EU to assume tax-raising powers. “We are not trying to become, and we are not now, a tax authority. We enforce competition rules.”

Ireland and Apple intend to appeal the commission’s decision at the EU Court of Justice.

Irish property study reveals an appetite to buy

But potential purchasers say there’s a lack of suitable properties on the market…

 

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Almost one-third of Ireland’s adult population have said that they are at least contemplating buying a residential property during the next year, according to the KBC Bank Ireland’s Home Buyer survey.

49% of respondents believe that it is a good time to buy a house, with 14% thinking that it’s a bad time, and 37% remaining undecided.

When asked if the Central Bank’s mortgage lending measures had affected their plans 44% said that they will not have an impact – while the remaining 56% said that it had either affected the kind of property that they would consider buying, prolonged the period that they will wait before they buy, or meant that they will need to rely on family supports or other loans to support a purchase.

The average period of time added to raise this money is between one and two years.

Of those looking for a home, 29% said that they had seen no properties which suited their needs. 60% saw between one to five properties on the markets which they considered suited to their needs – while the remaining 11% had seen a greater number.

Interestingly, 48% of respondents plan to buy a property on their own – while 52% want to find a property with someone else.

One-third stated that the Brexit result has affected their plans.

Diet is vital for the prevention of Alzheimer’s

Image result for Diet is vital for the prevention of Alzheimer’s   Image result for An estimated 55,000 Irish people currently have dementia, with about 60% of them having Alzheimer’s  Image result for broccoli slows the degeneration of acetylcholine while egg yolks help to make it; avocado boosts blood flow to the brain, and the antioxidants in kale make your brain ‘younger’

Each year, September 21st marks World Alzheimer’s Day. An estimated 55,000 Irish people currently have dementia, with about 60% of them having Alzheimer’s disease (AD). And due to our ageing population, figures are expected to rise exponentially.

AD is characterised by the formation of amyloid ‘tangles’ and ‘plaques’ in the shrinking brain. These clumps destroy brain cells and interfere with its chemical messaging functions, particularly of acetylcholine, which deals especially with memory. Age is of course the primary risk factor, but others are equally important – diabetes, cardiovascular issues, genetics, infections, stress and nutritional deficiencies. An overview of more than 300 studies last August found that the number one protective factor was a healthy diet.

One consideration is that cognitive health is directly linked to heart health, and that both are strongly determined by blood levels of a toxic compound called homocysteine. Reducing those levels, by taking high strength B vitamins, would therefore be the first plan of action. Research has shown between 30% and 90% less brain shrinkage in people with early signs of AD when given B6, B12 and folic acid, which boost the conversion of homocysteine into that vital acetylcholine in the same way as the drugs given to people with AD do.

Inflammation (partly as a result of poor gut bacterial balance) is a central feature, as is oxidative damage to the cells, so taking a good probiotic and eating plenty of antioxidants in brightly coloured plant foods is the second prong of attack, along with exercising regularly (in the sunshine for important vitamin D). Inactivity raises the risk of AD by 70%, while sex has been shown to light up the relevant areas of the brain. And be sure to visit your dentist regularly – a strong connection has been established between gum disease and amyloid clumping.

Eating plenty of anti-inflammatory omega 3 and vitamin D-rich oily fish, and the healthy oils in olive oil, avocadoes, nuts and seeds is of proven benefit to those most at risk, but avoid trans/hydrogenated fats altogether, as they markedly accelerate cognitive decline. While research shows that a diet high in healthy fats reduces risk by 44%, a diet high in sugar and refined (white) grains increases the risk by a staggering 89%. Another study showed accelerated shrinkage in the part of the brain involved in memory in those on a Western diet of processed and fried meats, crisps and soft drinks.

The latest research on diet includes: a moderate coffee intake can reduce risk by 18%, broccoli slows the degeneration of acetylcholine while egg yolks help to make it; avocado boosts blood flow to the brain, and the antioxidants in kale make your brain ‘younger’. A chemical called resveratrol, in red wine, raspberries and dark chocolate, can strengthen the barrier that blocks harmful molecules from accessing the brain.

An anti-inflammatory and antioxidant Indo/ Mediterranean diet, based on colourful vegetables and fruit, greens, oily fish, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, olive oil, green tea and a little red wine, is widely accepted by as the very best model for the prevention and control of AD (figures are lower in Mediterranean countries). Olive oil contains compounds that can halt the build up of those plaques.

A connection has long been made between AD and exposure to aluminium. This is disputed, but it might be wise to eat foods rich in silicon, which counteracts aluminium. More recent research has pointed to high levels of copper in the blood of AD sufferers, and we know that copper makes it harder for the brain to get rid of amyloid proteins. It is, however, in a great variety of foods and necessary for health, so the answer is to take a supplement of zinc, which is antagonistic: the higher your zinc levels, the lower those of copper.

This January it was suggested that BMAA, a toxic compound produced by algae in Irish lakes and reservoirs and so present in some seafood and plants, is contributing to our Alzheimer’s ‘epidemic’, so this will doubtless be the focus of further research. As will the revelation that the brains of sufferers contain unusual yeasts and fungi. In more practical terms: while some studies show that being slightly overweight is far more protective than being underweight, it’s just been shown that the inflammation associated with obesity causes the brain to age ten years faster, so it really is a balancing act. Also in January, Canadian scientists found that chronic exposure to anxiety and stress hormones—also inflammatory–damage and shrink the relevant parts of the brain. And finally, a study out this April involving 5,000 people with insomnia found them to be 43% more likely to develop dementia in later life; there’s no doubt that lifestyle issues are key.

The future of Sex, Dating, and finding a Mate

Image result for Dating in the Internet Age.   Image result for The future of Sex, Dating, and finding a Mate  

Sex is one of the most powerful, fundamental human drives.

It’s caused wars… built and destroyed kingdoms and it occupies a significant percentage of most people’s thoughts.

As such, it’s worth a conversation about how exponential technologies will change our relationship with sex.

Dating in the Internet Age.

Dating in past generations was local and linear. You had access to a small number of potential mates based on where you lived, where you went to school and your social status.

In the 1960s, over 50% of marriages globally and 95% of marriages in India were arranged.

Today that number has dropped to less than 15% (globally).

In 1960, the median age at first marriage for the bride was 20 and the groom was 23 years old.

Today, the median age is closer to 29 for women and 30 for men.

A cultural shift is happening, and it’s changing the game.

Dating has gone digital. As such, it has gone from local and linear to global and exponential.

Today, 40 million Americans use online dating services (that’s about 40% of the single population in the U.S.), driving the creation of a $2.4 billion online dating industry. (Go here for a great online dating infographic.)

These services transcend geography and social strata. People are matched from around the world.

Between 1995 and 2005, there was exponential growth among heterosexual couples meeting online. (See the green line in the first chart here.) For same-sex couples, the online dating trend has been even more dramatic, with more than 60% of same-sex couples meeting online in 2008 and 2009. (See the green line in the second chart here).

The implications of this are staggering — besides moving the marriage age back, there are a number of sociological effects such as decision fatigue, gamification of dating, and the commoditization of people that will start to have population-level effects as mating behaviors change.

And this is just the beginning.

Dating and Exponential Tech

In the very near future, we will see machine learning / artificial intelligence-based matchmakers that will find the perfect match for you based upon everything from your genomics to your psychographics.

Once you’re on a date, your augmented reality glasses will give you real-time dating info, calling up any info you want to know, as you need to know it.

Perhaps you want to understand how she/he is feeling about you, and your AR camera is watching her pupillary dilation and capillary flushing.

Like all technology, these applications are double-edged swords. My hope is that this tech actually increases the number of successful, meaningful relationships in the world and, in turn, has a net positive impact.

But while dating is one side of the coin, sex is another… and the implications of exponential technology on sex can be shocking.

Sex and Exponential Tech

Today, sex has been digitized; as such, it has been dematerialized, demonetized and democratized.

Sex, in the form of pornography, is free, available to anyone with an Internet connection and pervasive across many platforms.

In 2015, just one pornography website reported that their users watched over 4.3 billion hours of porn (87 billion videos) that year.

The proliferation of Internet connectivity, online video players and streaming, mobile phones, and advertisement delivery networks have propelled pornography into a $97 billion industry.

This is causing a number of negative social phenomena.

More than half of boys and nearly a third of girls see their first pornographic images before they turn 13. In a survey of hundreds of college students, 93% of boys and 62% of girls said they were exposed to pornography before they turned 18.

“Pornography is influencing everything from how teens language and frame sexuality to how and why they pierce certain body parts to what they expect to give and receive in intimate relationships,” says Jill Manning, Ph.D, Witherspoon Institute.

In Japan, a growing population of men report that they *prefer* having “virtual girlfriends” over real ones (i.e., they believe they are “dating” virtual avatars that they largely control).

Forty-five percent of Japanese single women and 25 percent of Japanese single men aged 16 to 24 claim they aren’t even interested in sexual contact.

Given these trends, unless something happens to boost Japan’s birth rate, its population will shrink by a third between now and 2060. In other words, there is serious concern of significant UNDER population.

But again, this is only the beginning… as virtual reality (VR) becomes more widespread, one major application will inevitably be VR porn.

It will be much more intense, vivid, and addictive — and as AI comes online, I believe there will be a proliferation in AI-powered avatar and robotic relationships, similar to those characters depicted in the movies Her and Ex Machina.

Implications

VR porn promises to offer a virtual world filled with more sex, better sex, endless sex, and new varieties of sex.

The dark secret, however, is that the further a user goes into that fantasy world, the more likely their reality is to become just the opposite.

Many psychologists believe that VR porn may numb us to sexual desire and pleasure in the real world, leading to less and less satisfying sex.

For many, VR (as well as other exponential technologies such as robotics, sensors and AI) will act as a complete replacement for intimacy and human relationships, as it is more easily accessible, cheaper, on-demand, and, well, controllable.

As the father of two five-year-old boys, this is really concerning to me…That said, are there upsides too?

Perhaps a bit of intimacy (if even technological) for those who are infirmed, aged, crippled and thereby alone.

We shall see. One thing is for sure: as with every technology in history, from the printing press to VHS and the Internet, pornography will be on the front line funding the advance of technology.

Pigeons can now distinguish real words from gibberish????

Image result for Pigeons can distinguish real words from gibberish   A pigeon scrutinizes a word (gibberish) during training. (Credit:   Image result for A pigeon scrutinizes a word (gibberish) during training.

(Centre picture) A pigeon scrutinizes a word (gibberish) during training.

Birds are rapidly building their reputation as a brainy bunch, and the latest credit goes to four pigeons who can visually recognize written words.

These pigeons were living in a lab in New Zealand where, over a span of two years, they learned to distinguish four-letter English words from nonsense words. For their training, a computer screen would flash words like “DOWN” or “GAME”, and non-words like “TWOR” or “NELD”, along with a star symbol. Each time the pigeons made a correct identification — pecking the word if it was a real one, or pecking the star symbol beneath a non-word — they were rewarded with a portion of wheat.

Building ‘Vocabulary’

After the pigeons built up decent vocabularies (the star pupil acquired 58 words), the screen began flashing new words that they had never seen before. And even when faced with these novel words, the pigeons continued to pick out the real words from the non-words with impressive accuracy, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

So how did they do it? How does a pigeon distinguish words from gibberish, based solely on how the strings of letters look on a screen?

“It appears that the pigeons are paying attention to pairs of letters in the words,” explains study lead author Damian Scarf, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Otoga, New Zealand. Letters that appear side-by-side are known as bigrams, and some bigrams occur more frequently than others. For example, “TH” is a high-frequency bigram, whereas the “CB” combination is far less common.

Over time, the pigeons came to pick up on these statistical properties of words.

“We looked at whether the pigeons’ performances were related to how frequent the letter pairs were in their vocab,” says Scarf. “Basically we found what you find with people, which is that the more common the letter pairs, the better they do at recognizing the word.”

They Weren’t Reading

Now, before we raise our hopes of seeing a pigeon sitting on a park bench, poring over a newspaper, it’s important to note that these trainees could not read. Reading requires not only the ability to visually recognize words, but also to decode the letter-sound relationships. The pigeons were missing that second half of the equation.

But what these birds did manage to learn is remarkable, and it might even explain why humans have an entire brain region devoted to recognizing written words, despite the fact that writing was only invented around 5,400 years ago. As Scarf and his colleagues note, that’s far too short a period for a new specialized brain area to have evolved from scratch, but more than enough time for an old neural mechanism to get repurposed.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

This process of “neuronal recycling” involves brain cells that were once devoted to spotting everyday objects, like rocks or trees, gradually learning to key in to new visuals, like the written word. Some scientists believe this is precisely how ancient people first developed reading skills, and a recent studyrevealed that monkey brains can be trained to visually process written words in much the same way.

But according to this latest study, visual word recognition is not limited to the realm of the primate brain. Indeed, bird brains, which are “neither genetically nor organizationally similar to [those of] humans,” are quite capable of taking an existing neural circuit and recycling it to process a visual word — or, as Scarf describes it, a “two-dimensional stimulus that’s not relevant in the real world.”

Though the capacity to recognize a series of printed strokes may be of little consequence to a pigeon, the research shows that a visual system separated from ours by more than 300 million years of evolution can be co-opted to perform a very human function.

So whether or not they care, for four pigeons in New Zealand, words are now jumping off the page.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 9th November 2015

OECD upgrades Irish GDP forecasts for 2015/2016

Irish economy to expand by 5.6% in 2015 and 4.1% in 2016

   

In its review of Ireland, the OECD said on Monday that the Irish economy is projected to continue its strong expansion in the next two years.

The OECD increased its growth forecast for Ireland on Monday, noting that the economy will continue its strong expansion in the next two years, as it revised its GDP growth figure upwards from the 5 per cent it predicted in September, to 5.6%. It also raised its forecast for 2016 up from 4% to 4.1%.

Last week the European Commission said that Ireland’s economy is set to grow by 6 per cent this year, the fastest rate in the European Union.

Globally, the OECD trimmed its global economic forecasts for the second time in three months as slower growth in emerging markets spilled over into countries such as Germany and Japan.

World output will expand 2.9% in 2015 and 3.3% in 2016, down from the 3% and 3.6% predicted in September, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a semi-annual report published Monday.

“Global growth prospects have clouded this year,” the Paris-based organization said. “The outlook for emerging-market economies is a key source of global uncertainty at present.”

With Russia and Brazil in recession and China poised to deliver its weakest expansion in more than two decades, the economies that powered world growth in recent years are now slowing it down. Developed economies are feeling the brunt in the form of reduced demand for both commodities and manufactured goods.

Ireland.

In its review of Ireland, the OECD said that the Irish economy is projected to continue its strong expansion in the next two years. Exports will rise in line with increasing demand in its trading partners, while business investment should remain “robust” the OECD said, thanks to rising profitability and favourable financing conditions.

“Growth will provide momentum to job creation and reduce the still high rate of unemployment, thereby spreading the fruits of the recovery more widely. Household consumption will be supported by labour earnings growth.”

And, the OECD noted that fiscal policy is expected to exert a “smaller drag” on activity than in past years, while the government remains on track towards its medium-term goal of balancing the budget.

“Fiscal windfall gains from strong economic growth and low interest costs should be used primarily for more rapid reduction of public debt,” the OECD said, noting that the fiscal package of €1.5 billion in 2016 (0.7% of GDP) “should prioritise getting more people back into work by revamping the tax and benefit system and enhancing activation policy”.

China & Russia

The OECD barely changed its forecasts for Chinese output, pegging growth at 6.8% this year and 6.5% in 2016. Yet Brazil’s economy is now seen shrinking 3.1% this year and 1.2% next, compared with contractions of 2.8% and 0.7% predicted in September. Russian gross domestic product is on track to drop 4% in 2015 and 0.4% next year, according to the report. Since the OECD didn’t give an estimate for Russia in September, that compares with a June prediction for a contraction of 3.1% in 2015 and expansion of 0.8% in 2016. For emerging markets, “challenges have increased,” the OECD said. Should their situation deteriorate, “growth would also be hit in the euro area, as well as Japan.”

Japanese GDP will grow 0.6% this year and 1% next, according to the report. While the 2015 forecast is unchanged, the 2016 one has been cut from 1.2%. “The outlook for Japan remains softer than in other advanced economies, despite an anticipated upturn in real wage growth,” the fiscal headwinds.”

Refugee crisis

The euro area’s expansion is now seen at 1.5% in 2015 and 1.8% in 2016, a reduction by 0.1 percentage point for each year. In terms of the economy, Europe’s immigration crisis represents a much needed potential boost, the OECD said. It estimates that the influx of refugees may add between 0.1 and 0.2 points to growth in 2016 and 2017 thanks to extra government spending. “Asylum seekers need not impose an unmanageable economic burden,” the OECD said. “If the refugees who stay are rapidly integrated into European society, they are likely to benefit the host countries.” The US expansion remains on track, with the OECD predicting growth of 2.4% this year and 2.5% in 2016. UK GDP is seen rising 2.4% in both years, little changed from September.

In the US, “output remains on a solid growth trajectory, propelled by household demand,” the OECD said. “Monetary policy remains very accommodative, which is consistent with stubbornly below-target inflation, subdued wage pressures and hints of downward pressure on inflation expectations.” The OECD also offered its first glimpse of 2017, predicting a global expansion of 3.6%. It sees growth of 2.4% in the U.S., 1.9% in the euro area and 6.2% in China.

Noonan confident of getting budget approval from Brussels

Trioka expressed concern that the spending plans are too expansionary

   

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan at yesterday’s eurogroup meeting in Brussels.

Minister of Finance Michael Noonan has said he is confident the European Commissionwill approve Budget 2016 in the coming weeks, despite concerns from members of thetroika that the Government’s spending plans are too expansionary.

Mr Noonan was speaking as representatives of the European Commission, EuropeanCentral Bank and IMF arrived in Dublin for a week-long meeting with officials from theDepartment of Finance, Central Bank and main pillar banks.

Speaking in Brussels ahead of a eurogroup meeting of finance ministers, the Minister said he had been assured that the budget would be acceptable within budget rules.

Fiscal rules

“We have given the commission all the documents, and the commission have assured us informally that the budget is totally in accord with the fiscal rules and are quite happy with the approach we’re taking.”

He said that this week’s visit was a separate process to the commission’s annual assessment of the budget.

“The primary purpose of the post-programme assessment is to see can Ireland continue to repay its debts, and in the context of the troika it’s to repay the official debt to the countries that lent to us, and of course, we’re absolutely confident that we’re in a very strong position to repay the debts.”

Ireland is subject to two post-programme surveillance missions by the Troika each year until 75 per cent of its bailout loans are repaid, a process that is likely to take decades.

The European Central Bank in particular is concerned that the budget unveiled by the Government last month fails to sufficiently address structural reforms and reduction of debt levels.

Windfall gains

Though the European Central Bank is not formally involved in the budgetary assessment process, it can technically demand budgetary changes if it feels the country is not in a position to repay its debts.

Minister Noonan also rejected criticisms of the budget from other quarters, including the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, which criticised the budget’s “over-expansionary fiscal stance,” even after its head, Prof John McHale, retracted his suggestion that the budget could be in breach of EU budget rules.

“The criticism made by the Irish Fiscal Council was admitted by their chairman to be based on an error,” Mr Noonan said yesterday. “He had missed the fact that the commission published in June what the target was for adjusting the structural deficit, and subsequent to his initial criticisms he admitted he was wrong. He didn’t stand over anything. He admitted he was wrong.”

He also said he had taken on board pre-budget advice given to the Government ahead of the budget by Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan which warned of the danger of using “windfall fiscal gains to justify long-lasting spending commitments.”

The European Commission could rule on the budget of euro zone member states as early as next Wednesday, with a eurogroup meeting scheduled to review the assessments on November 23rd.

Increase in new business orders prompts spike in building activity

   

A rise in new business orders led to a strong increase in construction activity during October, bucking the recent trend of monthly declines.

The latest Ulster Bank Construction Index — seen as the primary barometer of health for the Irish building sector — shows a reading of 56.3 points for last month, up from 55.8 points in September, thereby signalling an accelerated expansion in activity during the month.

The survey has been posting readings of more than 50 points — the cut-off point between a sector in growth mode and one in decline — for more than two years now.

However, the latest monthly figures bring to an end a mini-run of three consecutive monthly declines.

“The pace of activity accelerated in both housing and civil engineering, and though there was a marginal easing of growth in commercial activity, all three sectors registered expansion for the second month in a row,” commented Simon Barry, Ulster Bank’s chief economist in the Republic of Ireland.

“The path of expansion in new orders and employment eased slightly last month, but in each case the growth rates remain very solid.

“Both overall activity and new business levels have been rising for well over two years now and the sustained expansion of activity in the sector continues to drive higher staffing levels among survey respondents.

“More generally, optimism about future prospects for the sector remains high and strengthened in October, with nearly 60% of respondents expecting a further rise in activity levels over the next 12 months,” he added.

In terms of outlook, more than 58% of respondents to the October survey predicted that activity will increase over the coming year, with just 6% of them pessimistic regarding the 12-month outlook.

Improvement in client demand supported the further growth in new business, extending the current sequence of expansion to 28 months.

The latest positive Irish construction data comes less than a week after a similar survey in the UK, which showed that country’s building sector to be slowing down, after hitting its fastest pace for six months in September.

Breaches of speed limits and rules of road revealed in survey

One in five drivers sees breaking 100km/h limit as acceptable, according to RSA

       

The Driver Attitudes and Behaviour Survey 2014 showed a catalogue of safety infringements, from drink driving to use of mobile phones and speed-camera “manipulation”.

More than 40% of Irish motorists consider it broadly acceptable to break the 100km/h speed limit, with almost 20% of drivers classed as “high-speeding rule violators”, according to latest research from the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

Based on questionnaires put to more than 1,000 motorists, Driver Attitudes and Behaviour Survey 2014 showed a catalogue of self-admitted safety infringements, from drink driving to use of mobile phones, speed-camera “manipulation” and negative attitudes to pedestrians.

The RSA said the research showed clearly that young, affluent male drivers were among the greatest breakers of speed limits and rules of the road.

Drink driving

The research found 11% of motorists – representing about 285,000 motorists if extrapolated – admitted they had driven after taking alcohol in the last year and more than a third of these had had two or more drinks.

The survey found older drivers were more likely to drive after taking alcohol, with the 65- plus age group the largest cohort. Men outnumbered women by more than two to one.

While more than 60 per cent of drivers claimed not to drink at all before driving (as opposed for instance to having one bottle of beer), this declined to 48% for those who drank alcohol on a weekly basis, and 40% for those who had a history of speeding and rule violations.

Hand-held mobile phones

Almost one in three drivers (31%) admitted they had spoken on hand-held mobile phones while driving, while 16% admitted texting and 7 per cent said they had checked their mobile apps while in control of a vehicle.

The figures showed some 45% of drivers said they had spoken on hands-free phones, with more than 400,000 motorists estimated to use hand-held mobile phones while driving. Fewer than half of transgressors thought it likely they would be caught by Gardaí.

One in three drivers were also found to be speed-camera “manipulators”, driving more slowly only at speed camera locations.

Motorists also showed a negative attitude to pedestrians, with 95% claiming pedestrians were frequently distracted by taking or making phone calls or texting.

Some 69% of drivers said they had exceeded the 50km/h speed limit by less than 10%, while 61% of respondents admitted breaking the 100km/h speed limit by less than 10km/h.

Belly fat deadlier than obesity alone, study suggests

Researchers find more evidence confirming that BMI doesn’t tell the whole story

   

It’s not just how much fat you have, but it’s where the fat is that matters for cardiovascular health, doctors say.

People who weigh a normal amount when they step on the scale may be at higher risk of dying in the medium term if their fat is concentrated in the abdomen, say doctors who want everyone to use a tape measure to measure themselves.

Researchers have long suspected the body mass index, or BMI, that tells you how appropriate your weight is to your height isn’t a good measure of body fatness — particularly fat that accumulates in the belly and within abdominal organs and leads to inflammation, glucose intolerance and other complications that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

“There are many different names for it,” said  study co-author Thais Coutinho, a cardiologist at the Ottawa Heart Institute. “There’s the apple shape as opposed to the pear shape, there’s a muffin top, there’s a beer belly. A spare tire.  But basically, it is exactly what it sounds like: if somebody has a disproportionately large abdomen compared to other parts of the body.”

Coutinho and her co-authors from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., assessed the five- and 10-year mortality risk in men and women with normal BMIs and central obesity compared with those who are overweight or obese based on BMI. The study included more than 15,000 participants who were followed for an average of 14.3 years as part of the U.S.-based Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, known as NHANES III.

“We found that the group of patients that actually has the highest risk of dying were precisely the patients who had normal BMI, so these are people who are not necessarily heavy for their height, but they were centrally obese,” Coutinho said.

The study is published in Monday’s issue of the scientific journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

For a man with central obesity and normal BMI, the mortality risk was double that of those who were overweight or obese based on BMI alone. For women with central obesity and normal BMI, the mortality risk was nearly 1.5 times greater than for those with a problematic BMI but without fat concentrated in the middle.

‘Worst fat is in the midsection’

Raj Padwal, a physician at the University of Alberta’s faculty of medicine who studies cardiovascular risks and obesity, said the results show “it’s not just how much fat you have, but it’s where the fat is.”

“The worst fat is in the midsection. It’s in the intra-abdominal cavity, in the organs,” Padwal explained. “Fat infiltrating that area of the body is definitely the worst in terms of future risk of cardiovascular complications and future risk of death.”

That’s because central obesity is linked to fat infiltrating the pancreas and liver, which in turn is linked to risk of Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver and eventually end-stage liver failure, he said.

Padwal said BMI has served its use and should no longer be used clinically. “Preferentially, I would say waist-hip ratio or waist circumference should be measured and BMI should be discarded.”

The study’s authors said their findings suggest those with normal weight but central obesity could be an important population to target for prevention and lifestyle changes.

While long-term weight loss is notoriously difficult, Coutinho said healthy lifestyle changes bring positive changes in the body regardless of fat loss, such as lower blood pressure.

To calculate your waist-to-hip ratio, measure your waist at its narrowest, and then divide that by the measure of your hips at their widest.

If the result is greater than .85 in women or greater than .90 in men, then lifestyle and exercise changes are recommended to improve health in the long run.

“It’s very simple. It’s just a tape measure,” she said. “Everybody can do and it can help us identify people at highest and lowest risk.”

There is also equipment to give a more sophisticated measure of fat directly, but doctors face a trade-off between what’s pragmatic and what’s the best measurement, Padwal said.

What is the Dark Web? How to access the Dark Web.

What’s the difference between the Dark Web and the Deep Web?  

The UK government has launched a dedicated cybercrime unit to tackle the Dark Web. But what is that? We explain what is the Dark Web, how it differs from the Deep Web, and how to access the Dark Web. Plus: the Deep Web, the Deepnet, the Invisible Web, the Hidden Web and the Dark Internet. Everything you need to know about the hidden internet.

The UK government has launched a dedicated cybercrime unit to tackle the Dark Web. But what is that? We explain what is the Dark Web, how it differs from the Deep Web, and how to access the Dark Web. Plus: the Deep Web, the Deepnet, the Invisible Web, the Hidden Web and the Dark Internet. Everything you need to know about the hidden internet. (Image by TheAutomotovatedCyclist.)

Update 20 August: The Deep Web is hitting the headlines this week after it has been reported that 10GB of data stolen from Ashley Madison, a site designed to enable bored spouses cheat on their partners, was dumped on to the Deep Web. Hackers stole the data last month and threatened to upload it to the web if the site did not close down. It has now acted on that threat. Here we look at how the Dark Web and Deep Web differ, and how you can turn out the internet lights – how to access the Dark Web.

Update 9 November: Today it has emerged that the UK government has launched a dedicated cybercrime unit to tackle the Dark Web, with a particular focus on cracking down on serious crime rings and child pornography. The National Crime Agency (NCA) and UK intelligence outfit GCHQ are together creating the Joint Operations Cell (JOC).

What is the Dark Web?

The Dark Web is a term that refers specifically to a collection of websites that are publicly visible, but hide the IP addresses of the servers that run them. Thus they can be visited by any web user, but it is very difficult to work out who is behind the sites. And you cannot find these sites using search engines.

Almost all sites on the so-called Dark Web hide their identity using the Tor encryption tool. You may know Tor for its end-user-hiding properties. You can use Tor to hide your identity, and spoof your location. When a website is run through Tor it has much the same effect.

Indeed, it multiplies the effect. To visit a site on the Dark Web that is using Tor encryption, the web user needs to be using Tor. Just as the end user’s IP is bounced through several layers of encryption to appear to be at another IP address on the Tor network, so is that of the website. So there are several layers of magnitude more secrecy than the already secret act of using Tor to visit a website on the open internet – for both parties (See also: How to delete your Google location history).

Not all Dark Web sites use Tor. Some use similar services such as I2P – indeed the all new Silk Road Reloaded uses this service. But the principle remains the same. The visitor has to use the same encryption tool as the site and – crucially – know where to find the site, in order to type in the URL and visit.

Infamous examples of Dark Web sites include the Silk Road and its offspring. The Silk Road was (and maybe still is) a website for the buying and selling of recreational drugs. But there are legitimate uses for the Dark Web. People operating within closed, totalitarian societies can use the Dark Web to communicate with the outside world. And given recent revelations about US- and UK government snooping on web use, you may feel it is sensible to take your communication on to the Dark Web. (I’ll stick to Facebook, but I like the attention.) See also:What does Google know about me?

Dark Web or Deep Web? (Or Deepnet, Invisible Web, or Hidden Web?)

Although all of these terms tend to be used interchangeably, they don’t refer to exactly the same thing. An element of nuance is required. The ‘Deep Web’ refers to all web pages that search engines cannot find. Thus the ‘Deep Web’ includes the ‘Dark Web’, but also includes all user databases, webmail pages, registration-required web forums, and pages behind paywalls. There are huge numbers of such pages, and most exist for mundane reasons.

We have a staging version of all of our websites that is blocked from being indexed by search engines, so we can check stories before we set them live. Thus for every page publicly available on this website (and there are literally millions), there is another on the Deep Web. The content management system into which I am typing this article is on the Deep Web. So that is another page for every page that is on the live site. Meanwhile our work intranet is hidden from search engines, and requires a password. It has been live for nearly 20 years, so there are plenty of pages there.

Use an online bank account? The password-protected bits are on the Deep Web. And when you consider how many pages just one Gmail account will create, you understand the sheer size of the Deep Web.

This scale is why newspapers and mainstream news outlets regularly trott out scare stories about ’90 percent of the internet’ consisting of the Dark Web. They are confusing the generally dodgy Dark Web with the much bigger and generally more benign Deep Web. Mixung up the act of delibarately hiding things, with that of necessarily keeping pages away from search engines for  reasons of security or user experience. (See also:How to use torrent sites in UK: how to access The Pirate Bay, blocked torrents.)

Wait, what about the ‘Dark Internet’?

Confusingly, ‘Dark Internet’ is also a term sometimes used to describe further examples of networks, databases or even websites that cannot be reached over the internet. In this case either for technical reasons, or because the properties contain niche information that few people will want, or in some cases because the data is private.

A basic rule of thumb is that the phrases ‘Dark Web’ or ‘Deep Web’ are typically used by tabloid newspapers to refer to dangerous secret online worlds, the ‘Dark Internet’ is a boring place where scientists store raw data for research. The Deep Web is a catch-all term for all web pages that are not indexed for search, the others refer to specific things. (See also: Take precautions when using public Wi-Fi networks.)

How to access the Dark Web

Technically, this is not a difficult process. You simply need to install and use Tor. Go to http://www.torproject.org and download the Tor Browser Bundle, which contains all the required tools. Run the downloaded file, choose an extraction location, then open the folder and click Start Tor Browser. That’s it. The Vidalia Control Panel will automatically handle the randomised network setup and, when Tor is ready, the browser will open; just close it again to disconnect from the network.

Depending on what you intend to do on the Dark Web, some users recommend placing tape over your laptop’s webcam to prevent prying eyes watching you. A tinfoil hat is also an option.

The difficult thing is knowing where to look. There, reader, we leave you to your own devices and wish you good luck and safe surfing. And a warning before you go any further. Once you get into the Dark Web, you *will* be able to access those sites to which the tabloids refer. This means that you could be a click away from sites selling drugs and guns, and – frankly – even worse things.

Aggregation sites such as Reddit offer lists of links, as do several Wikis, includinghttp://thehiddenwiki.org/  – a list that offers access to some very bad places. Have a quick look by all means, but please don’t take our linking to it as an endorsement.

Also, Dark Web sites do go down from time to time, due to their dark nature. But if you want good customer service, stay out of the dark!

And do heed our warning: this article is intended as a guide to what is the Dark Web – not an endorsement or encouragement for you to start behaving in illegal or immoral behaviour.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 8th November 2015

Enda Kenny & Cameron hope for a Stormont deal soon?

‘This week sometime’

      

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he hopes a Stormont deal can be reached within days, to resolve the political crisis that is threatening power- sharing.

Talks began in September, aimed at tackling the dispute over welfare reform, paramilitarism, and budget matters.

British prime minister David Cameron recently met Stormont’s political leaders as the pace of negotiations stepped up. The Taoiseach said “I am very hopeful and happy that the reports I am getting are that a deal is on here.

“I do hope it can be concluded successfully in the next couple of days.”

A vexed budget wrangle has left the power-sharing administration in Belfast facing an unsustainable black hole of hundreds of millions of pounds.

A resolution to the long-standing impasse over the executive’s failure to implement the government’s welfare reforms in the North will be crucial to any breakthrough.

It is understood that Stormont’s leaders want the British government to commit extra funding to the power-sharing executive, both resource and capital, as part of any settlement.

The wider negotiations, which have been on-going for weeks, are also trying to find a way forward on other problems causing the current instability at Stormont, including the fallout from a recent murder linked to the IRA and a row over how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

Mr Kenny is meeting David Cameron at 10 Downing St this afternoon for bilateral talks.

Yesterday, Mr Kenny laid a wreath at the war memorial in Enniskillen, 28 years to the day after the IRA bombed the annual Remembrance Day service.

Eleven people, who had gathered to pay their respects, were killed and dozens more were injured in the no-warning blast in 1987, just minutes before the event had been due to start.

In terrible weather conditions, Mr Kenny joined other dignitaries in laying a wreath at the foot of the memorial.

In Belfast, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan laid a laurel wreath at the Cenotaph.

He said: “I am pleased to represent the Irish Government for the second year at the Remembrance Sunday commemoration at Belfast City Hall.”

More than 200,000 Irish-born soldiers served in the British Army and Navy from 1914 to 1918.

Businessman Bobby Kerr announces cancer diagnosis

The broadcaster is receiving treatment for cancer of the neck and head

      

Businessman Bobby Kerr has started receiving treatment for cancer of the head and neck, and is temporarily stepping aside as host of his Newstalk radio show. 

Businessman Bobby Kerr has revealed live on his own radio show that he has been diagnosed with cancer.

The self-made millionaire and owner of the Insomnia chain of coffee shops told listeners of his Down to Business show on Newstalk that he has started receiving treatment for cancer of the head and neck, and is temporarily stepping aside as host to “make myself better”.

“Did you know 35,000 people hear the dreaded words every year ‘we have the results of your biopsy, you need to come in and see me’. Well folks, it’s 34,999 and one other- me,” he said, “because guess what, I’ve been diagnosed with cancer of the head and neck, and I’m currently receiving treatment to make myself better.

“I have a very serious disease, it’s been caught early, it’s only in one place, and because it’s been caught early my chances of beating this increase incrementally,” added the 55 year-old, who has been presenting the Saturday morning magazine show for six years.

Mr Kerr, who was previously an investor on RTÉ’s Dragon’s Den series, said he wanted to broach the issue in such a public manner to raise awareness of Movember and Men’s Health Month in the hope that more people will get themselves checked out.

“So, why am I telling you this, what you might consider a very personal and private piece of news? The reason’s simple- it’s Movember, it’s Men’s Health Month. Get yourself checked out, I did.

“I’ve always considered myself a glass half-full type of person, always tried to take a positive attitude of whatever life throws at me, and I believe that life is absolutely for living,” he said.

He went on to mention the “arsenal of armoury” he has to beat the illness including support from his mother, brother, extended family and business colleagues alongside his wife Mary and their four daughters Meghan, Emily, Rebecca and Michaela.

He also paid tribute to co-workers and station management at Newstalk, as well as fellow presenters Jonathan Healy and Vincent Wall who will take over hosting duties for Down to Business until Mr Kerr’s expected return in the new year.

“God bless you all and thanks, and I’ll see you next year,” he concluded.

The perfect solution to stop office colleagues from stealing the milk?

    

Yes, we have all been in that situation where that pint of milk you lovingly bought and stored in the fridge at work has miraculously disappeared.

And you know all too well that your chances of catching these milk thieves at work are pretty slim.

After all, which colleague in his/her right mind will admit to the fact that they have made (and drank) several cups of tea using the milk that YOU bought?

But it seems someone may have found a rather passive aggressive solution to this problem by going to extreme lengths to keep their milk for themselves.

And it requires a lock… and the means to drill holes into the milk carton. (Either that, or they’ve gone to great lengths on Photoshop to put a padlock on the image).

Real or fake, this hilarious picture of the padlocked milk has been viewed more than 1.8 million times on Imgur.

The photo was posted on Reddit by a user called banginthedead with the caption: “The milk situation at work is starting to get a little serious.”

But the story doesn’t end here.

It seems banginthehead later posted a second image of a milk container with what looks like an explosive booby trap device on it saying: “The milk situation hasn’t improved.”

It’s hard to say whether this person really went and padlocked and booby-trapped their milk container, but it’s definitely a good laugh.

Hundreds of Web Summit attendees go west for guaranteed Sligo surf waves

Surf Summit weekend event included talks from local and international surf champions

      Knocknarea

The web Summit attendess took part in a range of activity sports including stand up paddling, kayaking, kite boarding and surfing at the Surf Summit in Strandhill Co. Sligo.

Hundreds of Web Summit attendees made the break for the West lured by stand up paddling around the lake isle of Innisfree, kayaking on Lough Gill and making business deals on the waves alongside some of the world’ s top surfers.

Watching Peggy Johnson, one of Microsoft’s top deal makers, pulling pints at Sligo pub Shoot the Crows on Saturday evening was a bonus.

“There was a time when the golf course was synonymous with networking and deal making but a lot of people in the tech world are into activity sports,” explained local surfer and tech enthusiast Allan Mulrooney, one of the organisers of the Surf Summit.

He and his friend former Westlife singer Kian Egan were among the hosts who brought high profile guests including world record big wave surfer Garrett McNamara and Adam Berke of AdRoll, on a whirlwind tour of Sligo’s best known surfing and party locations.

About 300 people, most of them delegates from the Web Summit, attended talks by Mr McNamara, European surf champion Pauline Ado and local sufer Easkey Britton over the weekend.

Mr McNamara, who broke the world record when he surfed a 100 foot wave in Nazare in Portugal, had never been to Ireland before. “We took him to Mullaghmore and Bundoran and he told us he will be back to surf here next month,” said Mr Mulrooney.

A range of activity sports including stand up paddling, kayaking, kite boarding and surfing kept delegates busy on Saturday.

“The weather was amazing. We even had a double rainbow,” said Easkey Britton, founder of Waves of Freedom whose lecture focussed on how surfing can be a tool for social change.

While guests sampled everything from locally brewed White Hag craft beer to traditional music in well-known Sligo bars Connollys and McGarrigles, there was also time for some business at the Surf Summit.

“ We had investors here from Singapore, the US and Australia and a few deals were clinched”, said Mr Mulrooney.

“The setting may have been unusual – some investors did not expect to be drinking hot whiskeys at a camp fire on the shores of Lough Gill listening to Dave O’Hara of SUP forAll reciting Yeats poetry but I think they enjoyed it”.

A bonus, he added, was that the Wifi worked well, there were no traffic jams and Peggy Johnson knows how to pull a pint of Guinness.

Meanwhile:-

Lisbon’s Web Summit won’t be the same as Dublin

Ireland’s high-profile tech event packed its bags on Thursday and set sail for Portugal. But will it succeed there, and will Dublin rue its departure?

     

On the Dart to Sandymount they’re talking about angels and unicorns. Which is strange, as they’re not five-year-olds. In fact pretty much everyone in the carriage is a 25- to 45-year-old man wearing the same uniform: suit jacket, no tie, jeans. The chat is also of VCs and VR, pivots and platforms, bootstraps and wearables. You’d need an app to translate this stuff.

My phone pings – again – with a notification from the Web Summit app. “Hi Hugh! I’m a 20 year old girl from Australia, co-founder of ClosetDrop – Rent out your wardrobe. To put it simply, we’re basically the Airbnb of fashion. My best friend and I started ClosetDrop to help girls all around the world fulfil their expensive taste in fashion for just a fraction of the price. ClosetDrop is a global online market-place where girls can rent out their own clothes, shoes & accessories between each other . . .”

I’m still 10 minutes from the entrance, but I feel as if I’m already deep inside the forcefield of Web Summit. (The definite article is always absent, as with Fight Club or Electric Picnic, or Narnia). What is this strange place, and why does it exist?

Part evangelical prayer meeting, part digital flea market, it’s a mixture of the huckster and the hipster, and in its own way it provides a snapshot of a lot of the forces that, for good or ill, proclaim that they’re going to change your world.

And what exactly does the word tech mean? I like this description, by Nathan Heller: “Tech today means anything about computers, the internet, digital media, social media, smartphones, electronic data, crowd-funding, or new business design. At some point, in other words, tech stopped being an industry and turned into the substrate of most things changing in urban culture.”

Through some happy conjunction of luck, timing, brass neck, hard work and sheer pig-headedness, Web Summit’s founders,Paddy Cosgrave and Daire Hickey, tapped into that substrate over the past few years and built from scratch an international event that this year claimed an attendance figure of more than 40,000. Web Summit has grown and grown, and now it has grown too big for Dublin. Some might say it has grown too big for its bootstraps.

Irish media coverage this week has been as plentiful as ever – to the annoyance of those who regard the whole thing as overhyped in the first place – refracted through the prism of the absurd handbags that broke out between Cosgrave and the Government about who wanted what and who said whatever to whom in the months leading up to the announcement that Web Summit would be moving to Lisbon for the next three years.

It flared up again with rows about invitations and snarky interviews on radio and television.

Nobody came very well out of this small-town bickering, but it didn’t seem to have registered particularly with the international visitors I met this week. Talking to a cross section of them during the pub crawls organised across central Dublin on Monday night, one thing came across clearly, however. They did like being here.

It helped that the weather was better than it had been in August, but over and over I was told what a beautiful, interesting, friendly city I lived in. The impression was unavoidable that there’s a connection between Web Summit’s success and its location.

It’s something the Government would do well to pause and ponder, no matter how well the move to Lisbon works out. Because, whatever method you use to calculate the value of Web Summit to Dublin in cold, hard cash terms, and whether or not you buy into the proposition that it contributes to the growth of an indigenous tech sector, there is no doubt that these tens of thousands of people are highly educated, highly connected and potentially highly influential, which has to be worth something.

The people I talked to came from North and South America, from across Europe, the Middle East and (to a lesser extent) Asia. To my inexpert ear some of them seemed to be involved in substantial enterprises. One was helping to build a platform for the sale and distribution of education services and distance learning across the Indian subcontinent. Another was developing a digital marketplace for advertising inventory on digital billboards in Brazil.

Some of them, though, do fit the start-up cliche. Two young guys have an app that allows you to hook up and socialise with like-minded people when you’re away from your own country. “So it’s like Tinder for city breaks,” I say, but their faces darken. Someone must have got to that line first.

All this frenetic activity, all these tiny start-ups selling variations on a theme: does it really amount to anything substantial? Henry Hwong, a Palo Alto-based marketing consultant, tells me that cloud-computing platforms like Amazon Web Services andMicrosoft Azure mean there is a very low barrier to entry, which is the reason for the glut of “Uber for this” or “Airbnb for that” type of companies.

“It would be nice if there were more investment in really hard engineering projects that move technology forward,” Hwong says. “But that’s just technology capitalism, and Darwinism, at work – lots of investment in many companies that will go nowhere, but the ones that succeed could have a major impact on society.”

At the RDS over the succeeding three days the sheer scale of Web Summit now creates its own dynamic. With so many stages operating simultaneously, and so many different “summits”, each with its own rows of start-ups pitching for business from cramped plywood booths, this year’s event starts to feel as if it has split in two, with one Web Summit in the main RDS complex and the other across Anglesea Road in Simmonscourt.

As the Irish Times columnist Karlin Lillington pointed out, too many of the events are just too short, and therefore don’t go deep enough to yield anything truly interesting. But, despite all the self-aggrandisement and messianic claims of changing the world, there are plenty of thoughtful, impressive people with something to say.

Then there’s the Food Summit in Herbert Park. In previous years this was an impressively organised series of tents feeding thousands of people excellent Irish food, with front-of-house duties carried out with aplomb by the likes of Darina Allen – all included in the price of your ticket.

That you had to pay an extra €20 a day this year, and that the quality of the food seemed to have fallen significantly, provoked some angry reaction. The tents looked grim and empty compared with previous years, and the organisers stood accused of price-gouging – the very charge they had levelled at Dublin hotels.

Who knows what Web Summit will be like at the end of its three-year stint in Lisbon? Cosgrave seems to model it, and the spin-off events he now runs in other countries, on the digital-business model of scaleability, where rapid growth and the acquisition of new customers are the overriding imperatives.

He may be right – and there are other successful events internationally that outrank Web Summit in size. But human beings aren’t software, and the impersonality of a purpose-built conference facility on a city’s fringe could drain away some of the improvisational and occasionally ramshackle elements that made the whole thing work in the first place.

Rising temperatures could drive 100m people into extreme poverty,

The world Bank warns?

    

Efforts to curb climate change must be twinned with programmes to cut poverty, warns a study of the threat posed by global warming to food security.

A dead acari-bodó, a type of catfish that can remain alive for a couple of days out of water, lies before stranded floating houses on a dried out stretch of Brazil’s Rio Negro.

The world must pair efforts to stabilise climate change with programmes to eliminate poverty if vulnerable people are to be kept from falling back into hardship as rising temperatures wreak havoc on food security and livelihoods, a report has said.

As many as 100 million people could slide into extreme poverty because of rising temperatures, which are caused by greenhouse gas emissions, the World Bank report said. The bank’s most recent estimate puts the number of people living in extreme poverty this year at 702 million, or 9.6% of the world’s population.

Climate change has led to crop failures, natural disasters, higher food prices and the spread of waterborne diseases, creating poverty and pushing people at risk into destitution, according to Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty, released on Sunday.

Efforts to stabilise climate change should incorporate strategies to eradicate poverty, said Stéphane Hallegatte, a senior economist at the World Bank’s climate change group and co-author of the report. “The policies, the investments, the financing, all of that should be integrated. Otherwise, we’re just less efficient.”

Poor people need social safety nets and universal healthcare to sustainably eradicate poverty, according to the report. Programmes to lessen the impacts of climate change should not create new vulnerabilities and they should inform development policies by taking into account future climate conditions.

Beating climate change is key to making nutritious food needed to beat hunger

Neven Mimica and Phil Hogan

“When we [build] infrastructure, for instance, [we need] to make sure it’s in a safe place today but also in a safe place with sea level rise and the change in rainfall and so on,” said Hallegatte.

He added that the world needs to take urgent action to reduce the impacts of climate change if the sustainable development goal on eradicating extreme poverty is to be met.

“We really want to reduce poverty before people get affected by even bigger climate impacts. It’s easier to get people out of extreme poverty now rather than doing it later,” said Hallegatte.

Without proper planning, efforts to stabilise the impacts of climate change can undo decades of progress in lifting vulnerable people out of poverty, the study warned. Environmental taxes, designed to reduce emissions, can raise the cost of fuel and food, which hit poor people hardest.

“These same policies can be designed to protect, and even benefit, poor people – for instance, by using fiscal resources from environmental taxes to improve social protection,” the report said.

Ethiopia’s social protection and Rwanda’s health coverage have boosted long-term poverty reduction efforts in both countries, making it less likely that poor people will fall back into poverty as a result of climate change.

“In most cases, what we want is a package of policies – the climate polices themselves and additional policies to smooth the transition and to support poor people in the transition,” said Hallegatte.

Hallegatte is optimistic that world leaders will take urgent action to stabilise climate change, which he says will boost efforts to eradicate poverty.

This year, a series of high-profile meetings took place, creating a sense of gathering momentum around the battle against global warming. A key step was the adoption of the global goals – which set a 2030 deadline for the eradication of poverty in all its forms and sought to galvanise action to combat climate change and its impacts – at the UN general assembly in September.

This growing migration crisis is the canary in the mine on climate change

Mahmoud Solh

Other milestones have included the Addis conference on financing for development and the Sendai conference on disaster risk reduction, while next month world leaders will convene in Paris for the 21st session of the conference of the parties to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“You can see there is a convergence – these conferences have been designed as a package and you can feel the urgency,” Hallegatte said.

But many challenges remain. According to the report, the world needs to find $1tn (£645bn) more each year to boost key infrastructure if the goals are to be met. Climate summits have in the past been thwarted by the US and China, which have been reluctant to sacrifice economic growth for reduced emissions.

Expectations for next month’s climate summit have been buoyed by fruitful talks held last year in Beijing, where China pledged to bring its emissions to a peak “around 2030”, and the US said it would cut its emissions by 26-28% of their 2005 level by 2025.

Hallegatte said: “Now there is the implementation, and that’s really the challenge – to translate this willingness to act into something that makes a difference on the ground.”

Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Tuesday/Wednesday 13 & 14th May 2015

Irish State’s elderly population set to increase significantly in next 45 years

 

A new EU report has said that the Republic’s elderly population is set to increase dramatically over the next 45 years.

The Irish State’s pension problems may be due to get worse, with new figures showing that the Republic’s elderly population is set to increase dramatically over the next 45 years.

The European Commission’s 2015 Ageing Report, published today, shows the national population is expected to rise to 5.3 million by 2060, with average life expectancy increasing from 79 to 85 for men and from 83 to 89 for women.

The elderly population, currently classified as those aged 80 and over, will rise from its current population share of 2.9% to as high as 10.2% over the same period.

Public spending demands will rise accordingly in the areas of healthcare and pension payments, the report says.

Unemployment benefits

Spending on unemployment benefits, however, will most likely decrease due to a decline in the younger population.

The report says that those aged up to 14 years will fall in proportional terms from 21.9% to 18.5% of the population, with unemployment rates in the 20 to 64 age bracket expected to decrease from 12.8% in 2013 to 6.5% in 2060.

In broader terms, the EU population is projected to increase by almost 5%, rising from 507 million in 2013 to as high as 526 million by 2050.

A decline in population to about 523 million is then forecast over the following decade, although that figure may be altered by variations due to immigration.

According to these projections, the UK would become the most populous country in the EU by 2060, with about 80 million people, followed by France (76 million), Germany(71 million), Italy (66 million) and Spain (46 million).

SuperValu and Tesco on Irish retailer’s top spot

  

The Irish supermarkets SuperValu and Tesco have now 25% market share each and are tied in first place, according to the latest figures from Kantor for the 12 weeks ending April.

“Over the past 12 weeks SuperValu and Tesco have each captured 25% of the grocery market, with SuperValu battling to hold on to the number one position it claimed last month and Tesco aiming to recover lost ground,” said David Berry, director at Kantar Worldpanel.

Among the big three retailers, Dunnes has posted the strongest sales growth of 3.6%, lifting its market share from 21.5% to 22%.

Dunnes has been benefiting from an offer that gives hefty discounts to customers who make big purchases.

It wasn’t good news for everybody.

“One of the most interesting trends in the latest data is the slowing growth rate of bothAldi and Lidl,” he added.

“While the 8.8% growth posted by Aldi and 7.8% for Lidl remains impressive, this is the first time since 2010 that both Aldi and Lidl have grown their sales by less than 10%.”

Classroom internet access linked to much higher Irish schools sucess test scores

 

Schools teaching design and graphics programme set to benefit from €7m in grants.

Researchers said “we cannot be certain that the use of internet in the class caused” the higher scores but a strong “relationship” was identified.

Primary school children who used the internet in the classroom had significantly higher mathematics and reading scores on average than peers who had no online access, a study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has found.

The researchers said “we cannot be certain that the use of internet in the class caused” the higher scores but there was a strong “relationship” identified.

The study comes amid further investment in technology in schools, with the announcement of €7 million in grants to post-primary schools to support the implementation of Design and Communication Graphics (DCG) curriculum.

Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan announced the funding on Tuesday, which will see 450 schools get an average of €15,560 for the purchase of computers and software to encourage more students to take DCG in the Leaving Cert.

The ESRI study, published in the ‘Economic and Social Review’, identified “encouraging” returns from the state’s investment of €30 million in primary school broadband between 2005 and 2008.

The researchers found “no evidence for Ireland of the negative effects of broadband in schools reported in some studies internationally” but cited a time lapse in the positive results filtering through here.

“We found that on average teachers were more than twice as likely to use the internet in class after broadband service was installed under the programme, but it took about two years for this gain to emerge.

“This is not surprising, because it takes time for teachers to learn to use new technologies and to change their teaching practices.

“In addition, teachers in schools with better computer-related facilities were also more likely to use the internet in class.”

While many teachers and pupils express frustration at slow broadband speeds, the researchers found that having a faster connection speed had no statistically significant effect on educational outcomes.

Of the scale of these improvements, the authors noted, “the average difference in mathematics test scores between children in classes with and without internet use was as big as the rise enjoyed by children whose mothers had completed a degree rather than finishing at the Leaving Cert”.

ESRI and TCD researcher Seán Lyons, one of the authors of the study, said “we think the effect of the internet in the classroom depends on the context, and the way it’s used.

“So it may even differ from one school to another, and certainly from one country to another.”

A study in Portugal last year found that the roll out of broadband in schools led to negative educational outcomes for both male and female pupils.

But Mr Lyons said Portuguese schools appeared to have brought in internet access “in an unrestrictive way”.

The negative impact had been greatest in Portuguese schools where pupils were allowed to access websites such as YouTube.

For the study, the team of researchers, comprising Mr Lyons, Marie Hyland, Richard Layte, Selina McCoy and Mary Silles, examined data from standardised test scores, statistics on the broadband rollout, and figures from the Growing Up in Ireland survey.

Announcing the grants for the DCG programme, Minister for Education and Skills Jan O’Sullivan says the subject incorporated principles of science, materials, manufacture, design, technology and information technology and as such “directly contributes to the key skills required in Ireland’s knowledge-based economy”.

In 2012, 5,319 candidates sat the exam, with the predicted 2015 figure standing at 5,705.

“The allocated funding has been increased accordingly and will ensure that this important subject continues to go from strength to strength,” she said.

Letters will issue to schools detailing the amount of money they’re being allocated, based on the number of students who had taken the subject in the past three-four years.

The Department has also purchased support software from Solid Solutions Ireland for six years and three months, at a cost of €299,000.

Tourism Ireland Board Meets in Sligo

  

The Sligo Park Hotel was the venue for the May board meeting of Tourism Ireland, which took place on Thursday, 7th May.

The board members took the opportunity to meet with local tourism operators prior to the meeting, to discuss the upcoming peak season and the extensive promotional programme which Tourism Ireland is undertaking to highlight Sligo, the North West and the island of Ireland around the world this year.

Speaking after the board meeting, Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “We were delighted to be in Sligo for this month’s board meeting and to have the chance to meet with representatives of the tourism industry from Sligo and to hear directly how business is shaping up for the upcoming peak season.”

Man falls flat on his face behind Vincent Browne live on air

  

TV3 broadcaster Vincent Browne can’t help but chuckle when somebody faceplants behind him as he says his intro on Tonight with Vincent Browne.

During the opening of the show, which was broadcast from the Headfort Arms Hotel in Kells, the unlucky man stumbles and falls, landing at the presenter’s feet, prompting

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opGudV7EhXM

Vincent to look down in surprise and exclaim, “Somebody’s just fallen down beside me” much to the delight of audience and guests alike.

Robot pets way of future, could change human relationship with animals, researcher says

  

Robot pets could be common place in 10 years’ time and change the way we interact and relate with the real things, a Melbourne researcher believes.

Dr Jean-Loup Rault from Melbourne University studies animal welfare and the way humans and animals interact with each other.

Recently, he has been looking into how technology has changed the way we relate to animals and pets.

“We know very little about robotic pets, virtual animals online and what they actually do to people,” Dr Rault said.

“Is that going to change the way we relate to animals? Can that be a substitute to a live pet?

“Technology is moving very fast. The Tamagotchi in the early 1990s was really a prototype of a robotic pet and now Sony and other big companies have elaborated a lot on what have become robotic animals.”

He said humans were able to become emotionally attached to objects.

“There’s anecdotal evidence and a few studies that show people actually develop a bond, some kind of emotional attachment to those robots,” Dr Rault said.

“They know it’s not a live pet, they don’t consider it as a live animal but they also don’t consider it a mere object.

“It has an intermittent status between that of an animal and that of an object that projects some kind of personality.”

Dr Rault said robot pets could suit someone living in inner-city or high-density areas, as well as those with allergies and who were unable to look after a live animal.

But robotics expert Professor Maurice Pagnucco from the School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of New South Wales said there was still a big gap between the current technology and a “virtual pet”.

“I don’t think we’re at the point where you could have a reliable pet,” he said.

“They wouldn’t be at the same level as a real pet, at the moment they’re basically toys.

“But where we’ll be in the future, we can’t really say.”

Technology ‘now part of our normal lives’

Dr Rault said the growing popularity of robot pets also raised questions about the way humans developed socially.

“There are school programs that use animals to teach children about responsibility, if you replace those live animals with robotic animals that don’t need to feed, you just plug them in and turn them off, is that the same thing?” he said.

“Are they going to develop in a different way?

Maybe you have a dog that stays at home when you’re at work so you buy it a robotic companion, so it interacts with it when you’re gone.

Dr Jean-Loup Rault, researcher

“It raises some major ethical questions in the same way that Facebook has – does interacting with others on the site actually make you social or less social?”

Dr Rault said robot pets could also have a positive effect, with robotic baby seals being used in the United States to help people with Alzheimer’s.

“They found out if you gave them a robotic baby seal, people would interact with it and derive some benefits from it,” he said.

“Maybe you have a dog that stays at home when you’re at work so you buy it a robotic companion, so it interacts with it when you’re gone and it keep it company.

“It’s not replacing anything that we have, it’s creating something new.

“Now we think as them as strange, weird and perhaps creepy, but in 10 years’ time people may think it’s normal.

“The new generation is very different. This technology is part of their lives, it’s not seen as something extra.

“Will it change the way we interact with real animals? A difficult question to ask, but it is an interesting one.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 7th January 2015

TDs Shane Ross and Michael Fitzmaurice to form alliance

  

Independents hope to have candidate in each constituency for General Election

Shane Ross (pictured above left) will join up with Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice (above right) to form an alliance.

Independent TD for Roscommon South-Leitrim Michael Fitzmaurice has said he will be joining up with Independent TD for Dublin South, Shane Ross to form a new alliance.

Mr Fitzmaurice said Mr Ross was a “very reasonable guy” and said he believes they can work together.

Mr Fitzmaurice said he has been talking to people interested in running for the party from around the country including the west and midlands.

He told RTÉ’s Prime Time they hope to have at least one candidate with a shot at a seat in every constituency in the next General Election. Mr Fitzmaurice was elected in October a by-election for Luke ’Ming’ Flanagan’s vacatedseat .

Mr Ross told RTÉ the issue of who would lead the alliance has not been discussed. He said members of the alliance will be able to vote and speak as they like on key issues and they hope to “change the face of the Dáil and make it relevant.”

Former Reform Alliance member and Independent TD for Roscommon South- Leitrim, Denis Naughten also said he is interested in joining the alliance. “I think we need to agree a programme and be able to put a proper platform to the people but in principle I do think there’s merit in it,” he said.

Several other independent TDs are set to join the alliance.

Mr Fitzmaurice did not say if the alliance would be left or right wing. “I don’t buy into this left and right. I could say something and people would say he’s right wing, I could say something and they would say he’s left wing,” he said.

His priorities include job creation, agriculture, rural Ireland and social housing, he added.

“Ireland like a 3rd World” has to improve its youth fitness says expert

  

Ireland is a “Third World” nation when it comes to the physical sporting health of its young people, according to a leading expert in the field.

Professor Niall Moyna of the Centre for Preventive Medicine in DCU is involved in a research study of which details were released yesterday and showed that signs of early onset of heart disease in 15-year-olds are linked to poor fitness.

The DCU football manager also stressed that reshaping behaviour in primary school is vital if recent trends are to be reversed.

“The Sports Council have made great strides in the last 20 years, there’s no doubt about that,” Moyna said. “But we’re still a Third World nation. I mean, we talk the talk but we’re couch-potatoes sportspeople.

“We’ve known now for years that, as a nation, our children are less active and they’re becoming heavier. Obviously we know from adults if you’re overweight and inactive it increases the likelihood that you’re going to get heart disease.

“If we’re really serious about this we have to educate kids,” he warned.

“Asking a child to switch on when they get to secondary school aged 12, it’s too late.”

The study involves measuring the fitness of a number of secondary school students and conducting tests to attempt to predict heart disease. The results indicate a worrying trend.

Moyna explained: “What we found was that compared to the moderately active and high-fit kids, if you were low-fit you had a higher body fat — 23 percent versus 10 — significantly higher blood pressure and higher levels of circulating bad cholesterol.

“It basically shows not alone did the 15-year-olds have risk factors for heart disease, they actually had the disease itself.”

Moyna called for an overhaul of how Physical Education is taught at schools and criticised the Department of Education’s inaction in light of evidence of increasing obesity of young people due to poor lifestyles.

“I think the inertia in the Department of Education is mind-boggling. We live in a different world than we did even 10 years ago, but we are not moving with the times at all.

“I don’t like the words ‘PE teacher’. It has the connotation of sport and elite sport and it should be about so much more than that. That’s only 10% who like elite sport.

“The other 90%, we have to find a way of getting them regularly active so it has a positive effect on both their physical and mental health. I would like to see dedicated teachers in primary schools and get kids to change their behaviour. We’ve got to get them to adopt healthy behaviour when they’re at a young age.

Moyna recommends scrapping the biology and PE curriculums and combining them into a life science course.

“We need to contextualise biology, learn about it from the effects of alcohol, stress, tobacco, diet and inactivity so they understand what happens when they do these things.

“Learn how they all affect our organ systems because when you leave secondary school you leave with your body and you forget 95% of the rest of it.

“Most students think, ‘I’m young, I’m healthy’ but we’re showing you’re not young and healthy, you actually have heart disease. You have clinical manifestations of heart disease at 15 years of age because you’re inactive and you’re overweight.”

And he believes making it a Leaving Certificate subject with CAO points on offer is the best way to make a difference and to get parents to heed the warnings contained in the study.

“I suggested five years ago we give you €5,000 if you’re in the top one percent of Europeans for fitness,” Moyna added. “Because if you’re in the top one percent of Europeans for aerobic fitness the likelihood of you being obese is reduced. It has to be a Leaving Cert subject.

“You can say to a parent, ‘Johnny or Mary is overweight or they’re unfit’, but it doesn’t even resonate. You say to a parent, ‘By the way, Johnny has a wee problem here in the artery and that increases risk for a stroke’, they listen then. Hopefully this is a wake-up call not just for parents but for our educational system, our healthcare system.”

Prof Niall Moyna was at the Aviva Stadium to launch the 2015 Schools’ Fitness Challenge to first, second, third and transition year students which aims to highlight the importance of cardiovascular fitness from an early age.

Opposition parties demand a statement on overcrowding from Leo Varadkar in annual Irish Hospital crisis

 

Opposition parties are demanding a statement from the Minister for Health as hospital overcrowding hits a new record.

601 people are lying on trolleys or sitting in chairs awaiting admission to hospitals across the country today.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation says it fears a ‘major incident’ will occur because of the crisis and its holding ballots for industrial action at ED units.

Leo Varadkar is not in the country at present, with the Dáil not set to resume until next week. However, his political opponents are calling for a statement of intent from the Minister.

Fianna Fail’s Health Spokesperson Billy Kelleher says Leo Varadkar needs to prove his claim that he is a “hands-on” Minister:

“Clearly, the staff are under huge pressure – the HSE have now said themselves that patient safety is compromised … the Government has to respond to that.

“It’s time for the Minister to act, and we would like to hear a statement from him on what he intends to do.”

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said there were more than 80 people on trolleys in Drogheda’s Our Lady of Lourdes hospital.

“The Minister for Health appears to be AWOL. This is unacceptable. Minister Varadkar needs to surface and to address this developing crisis with urgency,” Adams said.

Meanwhile, a consultant in emergency medicine says the Government has no plan to deal with the current hospital admissions crisis.

There are calls for the Dáil to return from its break to deal with the overcrowding, in addition to a statement from the Health Minister.

A consultant at Sligo Regional Hospital, Dr Fergal Hickey says comments by the Jobs Minister earlier that the coalition was dealing with the issue are a cause for concern:

“The first recorded case of a patient remaining overnight in an emergency department took place on the 8th of October, 1997.

“This is a problem which has got worse and worse and worse – and all we’ve had is politicians and health service managers claiming improvements in the absence of improvement.”

A statement from the Department of Health this evening said the Minister is due back at his desk tomorrow but has kept in close contact, including having regular discussions with senior HSE management.

UPC ups fibre power offering for Ireland to 240Mb/s

  

UPC has begun offering consumers a 240Mb/s service – the fastest in Ireland to date. The announcement follows the publication of the results on an independent survey by broadband research company SamKnows, which confirms UPC as having the best broadband speed in Ireland.

The study, which measured broadband performance delivered by UPC’s 120Mb/s broadband product to users, found that UPC customers receive speeds of at least 100Mb/s on average.

Campbell Scott, portfolio product manager, UPC Ireland, said: “Our research shows that broadband device usage is doubling every three years in Ireland. The actual Broadband speed performance delivered by providers is therefore becoming increasingly important and there is a real lack of transparency in the market.

With this study, we’ve opened ourselves up to independent scrutiny of our actual speeds with SamKnows, to set a clear benchmark and help consumers draw comparisons of real speed performance between providers.”

The SamKnows report is the first in a series of ongoing studies. It is also the first based on data from measurement hardware and software, in this case, the SamKnows ‘Whitebox’ device whose software conducts automated measurements of broadband performance throughout the year.

Rogue Star said to be on a collision course with solar system

  

If a recent research paper is to be believed a rogue star known as HIP 85605 and one of the binary system in the Hercules constellation some 16 light years away is en route to a probable collision course with our solar system, but before you start worrying there are few reassuring caveats that you need to know about.

According to Dr. Coryn Bailer-Jones of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany HIP 85605 will cruise past our Solar System at a distance of 0.04 parsecs – equivalent to 8,000 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun (8,000 AUs). Further this event is not going to happen for another 240,000 to 470,000 years from now, and if it does happen, it will not affect Earth or any other planet’s orbit around the Sun.

The star is expected to have an effect on the icy planetesimals laden Oort Cloud and could cause serious disruption. The close encounter could blow away planetesimals into the space and some could be sent hurtling towards Earth. This could be a problem to Earthlings – assuming that humanity is still around for another 240,000 years or more.

Bailer-Jones, in his paper published in Astronomy & Astrophysics, says that such “close encounters” between stars isn’t a common occurrence but on astronomical timescale, they are common and HIP 85605’s close shave is one of several predicted to take place in the coming years.

The researcher has studied as many as 50,000 stars and out of the many said to be coming close to our solar system, HIP 85605 is the only one expected to come within a single parsec. He is 90% confident that this event will occur; however, he added that if astronomy is incorrect, the next closest encounter will happen when a K7 dwarf dubbed GL 710 is predicted to pass our solar system within 0.10 – 0.44 parsecs.

Bailer-Jones added that last time such an encounter happened was some 3.8 million years ago when gamma Microscopii – a G7 giant having mass two and a half times that of our Sun – came within 0.35-1.34 parsec of our system. He is 90% confident that such an event took place.

‘Alien Earth’ is among eight new far-off planets

  

One of eight new planets spied in distant solar systems has usurped the title of “most Earth-like alien world”, astronomers have said.

All eight were picked out by Nasa’s Kepler space telescope, taking its tally of such “exoplanets” past 1,000.

But only three sit safely within the “habitable zone” of their host star – and one in particular is rocky, like Earth, as well as only slightly warmer.

The find was revealed at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Red sky. The three potentially habitable planets join Kepler’s “hall of fame”, which now boasts eight fascinating planetary prospects.

And researchers say the most Earth-like of the new arrivals, known as Kepler 438b, is probably even more similar to our home than Kepler 186f – which previously looked to be our most likely twin.

At 12% larger than Earth, the new claimant is bigger than 186f but it is closer to our temperature, probably receiving just 40% more heat from its sun than we do from ours.

So if we could stand on the surface of 438b it may well be warmer than here, according to Dr Doug Caldwell from the Seti (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute in California.

“And it’s around a cooler [red dwarf] star… so your sky would look redder than ours does to us,” Dr Caldwell said.

That first-person encounter, however, is unlikely – both because the planet is 475 light-years away and because we still have essentially no idea what it’s made of.

Images from the Kepler telescope, which trails behind the Earth and peers far into the distance as we orbit our own sun, are used to identify far-off planets by observing “transits”.

This refers to the dimming of a star’s light when a planet passes in front of it.

A large team of researchers then uses additional data from Earth-bound telescopes to further explore these unfamiliar solar systems.

They try to calculate how big the planets are, and how closely they orbit their host stars.

Not everything that causes such a dimming eventually turns out to be a planet, however.

At the same time as the eight confirmed new exoplanets were announced by a 26-strong team spanning Nasa and multiple US institutions, the Kepler mission’s own scientists released another tranche of more than 500 “candidate” planets.

“With further observation, some of these candidates may turn out not to be planets,” said Kepler science officer, Fergal Mullally.

“Or as we understand their properties better, they may move around in, or even outside, the habitable zone.”

‘Star Trek’ scenario

Even once scientists have anointed a candidate as a confirmed exoplanet, the question of whether or not it is “Earth-like” is a fraught one, with fuzzy boundaries.

The size of the habitable, or “Goldilocks” zone, where a planet is far enough from its sun to hold water but not so distant that it freezes, depends on how confident scientists want to be with their guess-work.

According to Dr Cardwell, just three of the eight new exoplanets can be confidently placed in that zone – and only two of those are probably rocky like the Earth.

More detailed description is very difficult.

“From the Kepler measurements and the other measurements we made, we don’t know if these planets have oceans with fish and continents with trees,” Dr Caldwell told BBC News.

“All we know is their size and the energy they’re receiving from their star.

“So we can say: Well, they’re of a size that they’re likely to be rocky, and the energy they’re getting is comparable to what the Earth is getting.

“As we fill in these gaps in our solar system that we don’t have, we learn more about what it means to be Earth-like, in some sense.”

Speaking at a related event at the conference, Prof Debra Fischer from Yale University said she remembered a time before the first exoplanet was discovered, more than two decades ago.

“I remember astronomers before that point being very worried,” she said.

“We really had to step back and say: Maybe the Star Trek picture is wrong. That filled me with despair.”

Prof Fischer said that sensitive telescopes like Kepler had ushered in an era of “amazing and impressive work”.

“We’re talking about a planet – and we can only see its star with a powerful telescope.

“And we can draw graphs and sketch its composition and have serious scientific discussions. This is incredible.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 26th. April 2014

Miriam O’Callaghan has no problem with European candidate Ronan Mullen’s using photo’s

 

The election poster with Miriam O’Callaghan and Ronan Mullen (on the left).

The popular RTE star Miriam denies backing Ronan’s campaign as her picture is used in his voting drive for Europe.

European candidate Senator Ronan Mullen is using a picture of RTE star Miriam O’Callaghan in his election leaflet.

Leaflets sent to voters in the Midlands/North West constituency feature a snap of the Senator and the top presenter at an Irish Hospice Foundation event.

The picture could pose a problem for Miriam, 54, as broadcasters are strictly banned from endorsing candidates.

But a spokeswoman for M/s O’Callaghan said she had no issue with the pictures appearing in the leaflet. She said: “Miriam first became aware of it last Tuesday.

Miriam carries out three charity events a week and it is perfectly clear in the leaflet the picture was taken at a charity event.

“It is clear that she is not endorsing his campaign and does not intend to make any complaint.”

The European elections kicked off on Tuesday night with posters being erected across the country.

Candidates are also sending letters to hundreds of thousands of homes.

Senator Mullen’s leaflet includes four pictures under the headline: “A record of representation.”

Snaps of Ronan speaking in the Seanad and at the Council of Europe sit alongside the image of him with Miriam at the charity event.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland rules state: “Endorsements by broadcasters of election candidates, participating political parties or election interests are not permitted.

“Similarly, endorsements by staff who are employed, contracted or who volunteer with a broadcaster are also not permitted.

“Broadcasters should ensure that those with responsibility for overseeing election coverage are fully familiar with the content of these guidelines and the provisions of the Code Of Fairness, objectivity and impartiality in news and current affairs.”

Senator Mullen was unavailable yesterday but his spokeswoman said the picture was used to illustrate “public activity”.

She added: “Ronan hasn’t sought endorsement. This was cleared personally with Miriam O’Callaghan as a courtesy.

“He contacted her in advance, advised her that he wasn’t in any way seeking an endorsement of presenting it as same.

“He realised her position as a journalist. He mentioned it as a courtesy and there was none. Miriam was very courteous.”

FG Brian Hayes stares defeat in the face in European elections,

A recent poll shows

   

Fine Gael Junior Minister Brian Hayes is facing defeat in next month’s European elections as Sinn Fein and Independents look set to capitalise on a wave of anti-Government public sentiment.

According to a new Sunday Independent/MillwardBrown opinion poll of the make or break Dublin constituency, the first comprehensive poll of its kind in this election, a decisive backlash against both Fine Gael and Labour is crystallising, with less than five weeks to polling day.

Today’s poll shows Fine Gael junior finance minister Brian Hayes, the perceived early favourite to take the first seat, is lagging behind Sinn Fein’s Lynn Boylan (20%) and Independent MEP Nessa Childers (19%).

Based on the figures published today, Mr Hayes, on 15%, is in a dogfight for the last seat with Fianna Fail’s Mary Fitzpatrick (13%), Labour’s Emer Costello (12%) and Green Party leader and former Minister Eamon Ryan (11%).

Our poll also asked for people’s second preference in terms of candidate and of greater concern for Mr Hayes, is the fact he is not as transfer friendly as Ms Costello, Mr Ryan or even Ms Fitzpatrick.

On this basis, Mr Hayes is facing an uphill battle to take one of the three Dublin seats.  Any failure by Fine Gael to win a seat in Dublin would have serious internal ramifications for Mr Kenny within a party who are furious about the mishandling of the Shatter crisis.

Nationally, taking both yesterday’s Irish Independent poll and today’s poll together, Sinn Fein look set to take three seats in the European Parliament, one in each constituency, which would represent a remarkable surge in their fortunes. Fine Gael and Fianna Fail look set to take two seats each, while Labour are only in contention for one seat.

According to today’s Dublin poll, which was taken last Tuesday and Wednesday, Ms Childers is the most transfer friendly of all of the candidates, with18 per cent saying they would give her their number two preference.

Sitting unelected Socialist MEP Paul Murphy, who replaced Joe Higgins after he was elected to the Dail in 2011, is polling at just 4pc and at this stage looks unlikely to retain his seat.

Mr Murphy is sitting one point behind the People Before Profit candidate, Brid Smith, while Direct Democracy Ireland’s Tom Darcy is at 1pc.

For full Coverage of the Sunday Independent/MillwardBrown opinion poll, see tomorrow’s Sunday Independent or Independent.ie

Irish broadband connection’s to be improved with Fibre powered service for everybody

 

Rural Ireland’s dodgy broadband is going to get much better – but what is yours like now?

Almost one million rural households and businesses in Ireland are to see a boost in their broadband service following an announcement that fibre powered broadband is spreading all over the country.

Fibre Powered broadband

The Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, announced that the Government has committed to a “major telecommunications network build-out to rural Ireland” which will see reliable high speed broadband for all.

In today’s poll up to 2am the poll results below show that Irish people rate their internet connection as pretty poor at 30%. 

The Poll Results:

Ireland’s Government to invest €512m on Internet to ensure entire country is covered with fibre

  

Ireland’s Government to invest €512m to ensure entire country covered in fibre

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has said his department has Cabinet sign-off on a €512m plan to ensure 1,100 villages in areas commercial operators don’t consider viable will be connected to future-proofed fibre networks.

Rabbitte said in urban areas in Ireland, broadband is already comparable with any city in Europe or the US and that industry investment since 2012 has been €2bn.

Currently, Eircom is rolling out a €400m Next Generation Access fibre network that will provide 1.4m homes with 100Mbps by 2016 – 800,000 homes can now access this network.

As well as this, UPC has invested €500m in connecting more than 700,000 homes with 200Mbps broadband and businesses with up to 500Mbps broadband.

The ESB is entering into a joint venture with Vodafone to bring fibre to towns and villages across Ireland in a plan that will address 450,000 homes.

And three out of four of Ireland’s mobile operators have begun rolling out their 4G networks.

Wooden poles

However, Rabbitte pointed out that the private-sector companies’ plans do not address 1,100 villages and districts in rural Ireland, amounting to around 900,000 homes and businesses.

He said the Government is deliberately stepping away from metrics, such as having a minimum of 30Mbps to every home by 2015, and will instead look further down the line and aim to have future-proofed fibre as readily available as possible.

The new plan envisages spending between €355m at the lower end and €512m at the upper end to connect between 1,000 and 1,200 villages.

“Large tracts of Ireland have a basic service that is not acceptable. People are entitled as citizens to the same quality and there’s a huge argument in terms of regional development and facilitating businesses in provincial Ireland.”

He pointed out Ireland spent €17.5bn on its roads between 2002 and 2012 and virtually nothing on telecoms infrastructure, which is vital to the future.

“Fibre is the Rolls-Royce of connectivity and this investment will provide the opportunity for parts of rural Ireland to anticipate they will have this access.”

He said it is intended to connect rural areas with fibre via ESB poles whereby a third, slightly lower-hanging cable containing the fibre would be added and which would be contained in a protected sleeve.

Rabbitte said the plan is ultimately to address areas simply not served by existing operators and that a commercial operator selected by the State would sell the fibre services to homes and business.

Delivery of the fibre network is dependent on the Government also qualifying for funding from the European Investment Bank, as well as getting funds from the Strategic Investment Fund (National Pension Reserve).

Rollout of the new infrastructure will only happen once a detailed mapping exercise is carried out for the European Union.

While Rabbitte acknowledged the rollout won’t be complete “during the life time of this Government” he said the aim is to have the process complete in the next four years.

“Data is exploding. What we know for certain is the pace of change of technology requires future-proofing, not solutions that would be inadequate in a few years. It’s important to get the solution right.”

Economic impact

Rabbitte said he is hopeful the arrival of the ESB/Vodafone joint venture will help drive competition and ensure services are affordable.

“Eircom sees the new joint venture as competition for them, but competition is good.”

In talking with the Irish Farmers Association, he said the use of ESB poles to distribute the new fibre will not require any changes to existing relations with landowners.

Ultimately, Rabbitte said, the people of Ireland, especially rural Ireland, right now want the proper broadband quality that people are enjoying in towns and cities across the world.

“People of rural Ireland are more concerned about getting a quality service than whether the State owns the network.”

The real reward, he said, will be the economic impact fibre will have on local economies.

“The exciting thing is it will provide young people in rural Ireland with the opportunity to employ themselves and stay employed and stay in their own region.

“This is an opportunity that the entire west coast of Ireland never had before when faced with emigration.

“This technology offers the opportunity for people to make a living in their domestic environment.”

He cited the example of an architect in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, who works with customers in London, who would be otherwise unemployed if not for an 80Mbps broadband connection. Another company, Western Print & Packaging in Loughrea, Co Galway, has seen its business prospects transformed because of the ability to transact online.

“I believe this kind of transformation can have the same impact in Clonakilty or anywhere else in the country,” Rabbitte said.

Our generation will be the last to worry about dying from cancer

Says top GB scientist

 

A leading research scientist in Cambridge GB Prof. Evan (above left) is confident the next generation will not have to “worry” so much about dying from cancer.

World-renowned cancer research expert Professor Gerard Evan believes that remarkable developments in technology and knowledge of gene mutation has revolutionised the treatment of cancer.

“We are going to see dramatic shifts in our abilities to treat and contain human cancers in the next 10, 15, 20 years,” said the Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge in Britain.

  “I can pretty confidently say that my children will never have to worry about dying from cancer in their lifetimes.”

Prof Evan was speaking ahead of joining 40 researchers from throughout Ireland who will gather next week to help explain the latest developments in the science behind battling cancer – as the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) announces the ‘Researcher of the Year’ award for pioneering work.

“I can’t tell you how exciting it is at the moment for someone who has spent their life in cancer research,” Professor Evan told the Irish Independent.

The researcher explained that his own offspring were now aged 24 and 32 but in 30 years’ time, he strongly believes, cancer will be treatable.

“I’m more worried about global warming than my children dying of cancer,” he said.

“I started my life as a graduate student in 1977 and for the first 25 years of that, most of us thought if breakthroughs would come it would be 100 years from now – it was almost banging your head against a brick wall.”

Over the past 15 years a combination of technological developments and increased understanding of gene mutation has driven research forwards. Now laboratories can strip cells down and identify the ‘drivers’ behind the cancer which has allowed pharmacists to make drugs to inhibit them.

“The combination has done amazing things – for decades there were no really new cancer drugs working in new ways,” he said.

Now, some drugs can put patients into remission in 60pc of cases for five or 10 years.

“The way things are going, if the person relapses there will be lots of new drugs in five or 10 years,” he said.

“We will be able to knock them back again and again.”

He highlighted multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood cells, once considered “pretty much a death sentence”, yet a combination of three drugs has now “transformed the lives” of a large number suffering from the disease.

Prof Evan is just one of a number of experts who will be addressing the ICS’s free public event on research aiming to eliminate cancer on Wednesday, April 30 at the Hilton Hotel, at Charlemont Place, in Dublin 2.

The event, taking place from 5pm to 7pm, is free.

Warning’s on side effects of drugs for Irish people suffering from mental illness

   

Failure to monitor the side-effects of drugs to treat long-term mental illness is shaving up to 20 years off the lives of thousands of patients, according to a leading consultant psychiatrist.

Siobhán Barry said up to 100,000 people, “enough to fill Croke Park on any given Sunday”, are on psychotropic medications — which have been shown to cause conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

This was mainly because of the significant weight gain associated with these drugs, said Dr Barry. In addition, many suffering mental ill health also smoked, and this compounded their physical health problems.

Yet the reality was psychiatric outpatients were not regularly monitored for the adverse health effects of long-term medication.

Ideally, their metabolic and cardiac health should be monitored from the time they started on medication and then checked every six months, Dr Barry said.

Potential problems could be picked up that way and addressed early. Failure to carry out these health checks was “reckless”, she said.

Instead, she said, they “die 20 years younger than their peers” who do not have enduring mental illness and are not on long-term medication.

The drugs in question included powerful tranquillisers such as Olanzapine, used to treat schizophrenia, rather than common antidepressants.

Addressing doctors at the Irish Medical Organisation’s AGM in Co Kildare, Dr Barry proposed a motion calling on Health Minister James Reilly to request that the Mental Health Commission audit the adequacy of facilities available for the physical monitoring of outpatients prescribed long-term psychotropic medication.

The motion was passed unanimously.

A separate motion calling on Dr Reilly to “urgently publish guidelines” in respect of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was also passed.

Outgoing IMO president, consultant psychiatrist Matt Sadlier, said failure to supply guidelines to doctors was akin to giving someone sitting a driving test a copy of a Road Traffic Act instead of the rules of the road.

However, the Department of Health said yesterday that a final draft of the guidance document to assist health professionals in the implementation of the Act has been signed off by a committee tasked with drawing up the guidelines.

“It is expected that this document will be ready for publication and dissemination shortly,” a department spokesman said.

How sloths breathe upside down as explained by Zoology scientists

  

Zoology researcher Rebecca Cliffe studied how sloths were able to breathe normally hanging upside down

A Swansea University team has found out how sloths are able to spend up to 90% of their lives hanging upside down yet continue breathing normally.

The research found the mammals, which live in the rainforests of south and central America, have a way of fixing their internal organs to the rib cage.

These adhesions prevent the stomach, liver, kidneys and even the bowels and bladder from pressing on the diaphragm.

The research carried out in Costa Rica is published by the Royal Society.

The scientists say much is still to be learned about these elusive and endangered creatures – the world’s slowest mammals – as even basic information such as their natural diet and habitat preference remains a mystery.

PhD zoology researcher Rebecca Cliffe, 24, is one of the authors of the paper, based on work at the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica.

The research was carried out a sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica

She said: “With an extremely slow metabolic rate and low energy diet, sloths are experts at saving energy.

“They have a very slow rate of digestion and can store up to a third of their body weight in urine and faeces. For a mammal that spends a significant amount of time hanging upside down, this large abdominal weight pressing down on the lungs would make breathing very costly in terms of energy, if not impossible.

“Sloths have solved this problem by anchoring their organs against the rib cage.

The facts about Sloth’s.

•           The sloth is the world’s slowest mammal, so sedentary that green algae grows on its coat, which helps camouflage it

•           They sleep for 15-20 hours a day and even when awake will remain motionless

•           Sloths carry up to a third of their bodyweight in urine and faeces and will only defecate once a week

•           Sloths are endangered.

“They have multiple internal adhesions that bear the weight of the stomach and bowels when the sloth hangs inverted. We estimate that these adhesions could reduce a sloths energy expenditure by 7% – 13% when hanging upside down.

To a sloth, an energy saving of 7% – 13% is a big deal. They generate just about enough energy from their diet to move when and where required, but there is not much left in the tank afterwards.

“It would be energetically very expensive, if not completely impossible, for a sloth to lift this extra weight with each breath were it not for the adhesions. The presence of these simple adhesions therefore really is vital.”

Prof Rory Wilson, of the College of Science at Swansea University, a joint author of the paper, said: “Nothing that sloths do is normal.

“They are quite the most extraordinary and “off-the-wall” mammals I have ever come across and yet we know so very little about them.

“How foolish we would be to watch these creatures become victims of deforestation and habitat fragmentation and the like without having the slightest idea how to help.”

News Ireland daily BLOG Friday

Friday 14th. March 2014

Second Irish woman challenges Ireland’s abortion laws at the UN

   

Siobhán Whelan says she felt demeaned asking hospital staff about termination after learning baby had fatal foetal abnormality

Pro-choice supporters demonstrate outside the Irish parliament in Dublin last July ahead of a vote to introduce limited abortion.

An Irish woman who claims to have been demeaned by doctors when she asked for an emergency abortion is to take her case against the Republic to the United Nations.

Siobhán Whelan said she was made feel as if it “was illegal” to ask Irish medical staff if she could have the option of an abortion after learning in September 2009 that her baby would die.

On Thursday, backed by the New York-based Centre For Reproductive Rights, Whelan became the second Irish woman to file a challenge at the UN against the ban on abortions for medical reasons.

The centre has filed a petition with the UN human rights committee to hold Ireland accountable for subjecting Whelan to inhuman and degrading treatment, interfering with her privacy and discrimination on the basis of her gender.

The committee cannot impose a sanction on Ireland but the centre hopes to keep global pressure on its legislators.

Although limited abortion was introduced in the Republic last year, women cannot get terminations in Irish hospitals if they discover they are suffering from fatal foetal abnormalities when pregnant.

After about 21 weeks into her pregnancy Whelan was told by medics at Dublin’s National Maternity hospital that her baby had a fatal anomaly, called Trisomy 13.

She said one doctor told her she would be have been offered a termination in another jurisdiction, but that this was not possible in Ireland.

Whelan said another doctor handed her a report of the scan suggesting she would need it if she decided to travel overseas to have a termination.

But she claimed that staff did not do anything to enable her to contact a UK hospital and did not explain what a termination entailed. Additionally, the medics never mentioned what support she could expect post-diagnosis, she said.

Whelan decided that ending the pregnancy was the best choice for her and her family. She added that her husband had to arrange for time off work and for childcare, as well as find the necessary funds to pay for travel, accommodation and the procedure at the Fetal Assessment Centre at Liverpool Women’s hospital.

Johanna Westeson, regional director for Europe at the Centre For Reproductive Rights, said: “Ireland’s harsh policies made Siobhán fearful to even ask about her options and allowed her healthcare providers to give up on her once she made the decision to end her pregnancy. The UN human rights committee should act swiftly and call on Ireland to expand woman’s access to abortion care as demanded under human rights law.”

Whelan said on Thursday: “The Irish doctors made me feel like it was illegal to discuss the option of termination for fear of having the door slammed in my face or of not receiving any help whatsoever.

“I will never understand why I had to pack my bags and leave Ireland so I could access the medical care I needed. It is truly demeaning and I will never forget it.”

A clairvoyant, a stone crusher and a tax specialist on Tax defaulters list

 

Revenue Commissioners’ 100-strong list made settlements totalling €13.77 million

A clairvoyant, a stone crusher and a taxation service provider were just some of the unusual or unlikely professions to feature on the latest tax defaulters’ list.

The 100-strong list, published today by the Revenue Commissioners, made settlements totalling €13.77 million.

Carol Byrne, a clairvoyant based in Co Wexford, made a settlement of €163,000 with Revenue for the under declaration of VAT and income tax.

Michael Reidy, a stone crusher from Co Tipperary, made a settlement of €122,000 also for the under declaration of VAT.

Accountant and taxation service provider Yaw Dankwa of Unit 4, Drogheda Business Park, Donore Road in Drogheda made a settlement for €38,359 which related to a penalty determination by the courts for the under declaration of VAT and income tax.

The rest of the list, which covers the three-month period to the end of December, was dominated by medical practitioners, restaurateurs, nursing home operators and building contractors.

The biggest settlement on the list was by Cork heating and plumbing contractor Barry Murphy for €991,000, which included just under €495,000 in interest and penalties, arising out of the under declaration of income tax and VAT.

The second highest settlement was made by Mulleady Civil Engineering Limited in Co Longford for €762,125, which included €458,000 in interest and penalties, arising out of the under-declaration of VAT and relevant contracts tax.

A Co Wicklow motor dealer trading as Fargo LeisureLimited made a settlement for €559,000 arising out of the under-declation of VAT, PAYE and PRSI.

Of the 100 published cases, five exceeded €500,000 and 38 were for amounts exceeding €100,000.

Four cases, yielding €0.47 million, related to the Revenue’s investigation into offshore funds.

Euro small copper face the axe as one and two cent coins on the way out?

 

Group recommends doing away with coppers after successful trial

Could we be about to see the end of the one and two cent coins?

A new trial by the National Payments Plan suggests their days are numbered.

A trial run for rounding cash transactions to the nearest five cent amount took place last year in Wexford between September and November in Wexford. According to the National Payments Plan, the trial revealed widespread support among both consumers and retailers for the scheme, and the steering committee has recommended to the Minister of Finance that symmetrical rounding is rolled out nationally on a voluntary basis for both consumers and retailers.

“The results of the trial were clear. The answer from Wexford was a resounding ‘yes’. When ‘don’t knows’ are excluded, 85 per cent of consumers and 100 per cent of retailers surveyed believe rounding should be applied nationally,” said NPP programme manager Ronnie O’Toole.

He moved to reassure consumers worried that the move would lead to a rise in prices.

“Rounding only applies to total bills, not to the prices of individual goods. Quite simply, the price of almost all goods tracked over the nine weeks of the trial remained unchanged,” he said.

If Ireland chooses to adopt the rounding system, we will join five other EU member states, including theNetherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Hungary, who have already put a similar system in place. Belgium, meanwhile, is currently in the process of adopting it.

The small denomination coins cost more to mint than their face value, and carry a higher cost to the Central Bank due to transport and storage. They also go out of circulation quickly due to stockpiling.

22 year old Woman with anorexia will continue to be fed through tube after court ruling

   

President of the High Court made the decision after hearing the 22-year-old had gained weight

A young woman who suffers from the eating disorder anorexia nervosa is to be fed through a tube in hospital for another period, the President of the High Court has decided after being told she has gained weight.

The 22-year-old woman has reached a weight of 37.9kg and may be in a position to proceed to a new weight maintenance programme once she reaches her 40kg target, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns was told.

Peter Finlay SC, for the HSE, said it was agreed that the court order permitting tube feeding, first granted last January, was a “life-saving” exercise.

The multi-disciplinary team looking after the woman plan, once she reaches 40kg and her BMI is 15, to put a programmme in place for weight maintenance, he said.

That programme would last eight to ten weeks after which the HSE wished the court to reassess the situation in relation to whether the feeding order should stay in place. The order remains in place pending further court order.

Michael Ramsey SC, for the woman, said there was no doubt the progress made had been excellent and the woman believed the court order and the work of the multi-disciplinary team had saved her life.

However, counsel added, the woman felt “voiceless” at each court hearing to assess her progress and wanted the court to consider suspending the feeding order for seven days to allow her proceed to the weight maintenance programme.

In light of that application, Mr Justice Kearns asked the consultant psychiatrist treating the woman to outline her opinion as to whether the woman was ready for the maintenance programme.

The psychiatrist said the woman has become distressed in the last few weeks by her weight gain and her blood pressure and glucose levels were also not yet stable. In her view, the woman’s body was not ready for the maintenance progeramme and it was too early to consider it at this stage, the psychiatrist said.

Prior to the granting of the court order, the woman did not believe she was going to die but she has now learned the feeding process is essential to live, the psychiatrist added.

Mr Justice Kearns said he would continue the order and will review the case on May 9th. The judge also asked the psychiatrist to pass on words of encouragement to the woman to the effect, if she achieves the weight gain target, the team will work with her in the maintenance programme.

The judge added he would read the corerespondence handed into the court from the woman which, her counsel said, was written in sequence through the feeding programme and showed how her insight into her condition has improved.

The court made the tube-feeding order in January after it heard the woman had refused four out of seven oral nutritional supplements in one 24 hour period. Due to her low body weight, which in January stood at 32.8kg with a BMI of 12.2, she ran the risk of collapse, it was stated.

Half of fixed broadband homes in Ireland now have speeds greater than 10 Mbps

    

Half of fixed broadband homes in Ireland now at speeds greater than 10Mbps

Average broadband speeds in Ireland have increased, with 53.4% of all fixed broadband subscriptions over 10Mbps at the end of last year, ComReg said in its latest quarterly review.

This is up from 31.5% in the fourth quarter of 2012.

ComReg says that around a third of all fixed broadband connections in Ireland are now up over 30Mbps.

In terms of average broadband penetration in Ireland, ComReg reports Ireland is now at 67% fixed and mobile penetration.

Looking at next-generation technologies, like fibre-to-the-cabinet (VDSL), ComReg claims there are now 74,540 VDSL broadband subscriptions in Ireland. Eircom aims to pass 1m homes by this summer with VDSL capable of reaching speeds of up to 100Mbps.

Mobile penetration now at 122%

The mobile market accounted for about 74.1% of all voice and internet subscriptions (fixed and mobile), with fixed market subscriptions (voice and internet) representing the remaining 25.9%.

The number of texts sent continues to decline as consumers’ mobile data usage intensifies.

The total number of SMS messages sent by mobile users in Ireland was more than 2.15bn in Q4 2013, down 27.6% on Q4 2012. Data volumes continue to rise, increasing by 43.7% in the year to Q4 2013 to reach just over 12,273 terabytes.

ComReg estimates that industry retail revenues in Q4 2013 were €788.4m, which was a 0.1% decrease since Q3 2013.

Total industry retail revenues in the 12 months to December 2013 at €3.15bn were down from more than €3.24bn over the previous 12 months.

In Q4 2013, Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) in the mobile sector was €27 per month, down from €29 compared to Q4 2012.

ComReg says the drop in ARPU is due, in part, to lower-priced mobile plans and increased sales of bundled products, combined reductions in mobile roaming and termination rates.

There were 5,626,398 mobile phone subscriptions at the end of December, which was an increase of 0.2pc on the previous quarter. Ireland’s mobile penetration rate for the quarter was 122.2%.

ESO’s Very Large Telescope spots a hypergiant yellow star

Artist's impression of HR 5171 A [1] (Image: ESO)    HR 5171 A [1] is over 1,300 times larger than our Sun (Photo: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2)

The European Space Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has spotted a massive yellow star with a diameter of more than 1,300 times the size of the Sun. The star is also a part of a binary system, with a companion star orbiting so close that it is actually in physical contact with the giant.

The truly massive nature of the stellar behemoth, imaginatively named HR 5171 A [1], was discovered due to detailed imaging by the ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI).

The VLT itself is not a single telescope, but comprises four Unit Telescopes, each boasting an impressive 8.2 m (26 ft) diameter main mirror. In addition to this, the VLT has four mobile 1.8 m (5.9 ft) auxiliary telescopes. Interferometry essentially allows the light collected from all four main telescopes as well as the auxiliaries, to be combined, creating one giant 140 m (459 ft) telescope.

HR 5171 A [1] is the largest of a very rare category of star known as a yellow hypergiant. These stars are generally extremely unstable and represent some of the brightest stars that we know of. The unstable nature of the star manifests physically with the regular expulsion of massive amounts of stellar material, causing the star to have a large extended atmosphere.

HR 5171 A [1] is roughly 50 percent larger than the red supergiantBetelgeuse. Sitting 12,000 light-years away from earth, HR 5171 A [1] has an astonishing diameter of more than 1,300 times our own star, and is over a million times brighter.

However, even with the yellow hypergiant’s incredible size making it one of the top ten largest stars ever discovered, it cannot compare to some of the biggest stars on record. For example, the red supergiant UY Scuti is a veritable leviathan with a diameter of 1,708 times that of our Sun.

It must be noted that references to the size of these monster stars are subject to significant margins of error. This is due to the fact that the size of the stars cannot be discovered via direct observation and must instead be inferred with measurements of brightness, temperature and distance.

It is not just the sheer size of HR 5171 A [1] that makes it such a rare and beautiful find. Regarding the unique nature of the star, Olivier Chesneau of the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, Nice, France, said that “The new observations also showed that this star has a very close binary partner, which was a real surprise,” going on to say that, “The two stars are so close that they touch and the whole system resembles a gigantic peanut.”

The existence of the companion star was verified with observations from other observatories, with data suggesting that the small star orbits its massive parent once every 1,300 days.

HR 5171 A [1] has actually been observed for around 60 years prior to being imaged by the VLTI, but no-one had previously known how truly massive it was. It’s also been growing over the last 40 years, with the star cooling as it enlarges. Further observations of the changing star will undoubtedly grant a fascinating insight into the evolution of these stellar giants.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 12th September 2013

Enda Kenny defends Ireland’s tax regime as Brussels confirms inquiry into deals done

 

Taoiseach says Ireland is committed to ’transparent system’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended Ireland’s tax regime after Europe’s top competition authority launched an investigation into its dealings with multinational companies.

As the European Commission confirmed Ireland was one of three countries being examined about its tax arrangements, Mr Kenny insisted the state is committed to a “transparent” system.

He said the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which released its economic report on the country today, was satisfied Ireland was not a “tax haven”.

“Ireland is very happy to participate internationally, work with the OECD and the other institutions to bring about a transparent and accountable system in respect of tax,” Mr Kenny said.

“And I welcome the strong confirmation from the OECD that Ireland is not a tax haven.”

The European Commission has sent requests to Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, asking them to explain their systems of tax rulings and to give details of any deals struck with certain multinationals.

Its preliminary examination could potentially lead to a formal investigation.

In June, the Government was forced to reject claims by two US senators that Ireland was a tax haven and had handed technology giant Apple a special deal.

Ireland’s ambassador to the US, Michael Collins, wrote to senators Carl Levin and John McCain arguing the country’s tax system is transparent.

However, the lawmakers said records obtained by their committee showed Apple, which has about 4,000 employees in Ireland with most based in Cork, paid a nominal rate far below Ireland’s corporation tax rate of 12.5%.

Mr Kenny today said the country was willing to work with its European counterparts to ensure a fair system.

“I can confirm here that at the Council of Europe meeting of the leaders, there was very strong support for getting involved in the base erosion, profit shifting requirement for discussion and international involvement in setting out a transparent system of taxation here,” he said.

Mr Kenny also insisted Ireland’s relatively low corporation tax rate would remain unchanged despite the latest wave of scrutiny on the country’s tax laws.

Opposition party Fianna Fáil urged the Government to deal with this “threat” as swiftly as possible.

European Affairs Committee member Timmy Dooley said he was surprised the Taoiseach was unaware the European Commission had been planning its probe.

“Our corporation tax rules are in accordance with OECD guidelines and robust defence of our position should be a diplomatic priority at the highest level of Government,” Mr Dooley said.

“Ireland’s corporation tax regime has been a cornerstone of our industrial policy for decades and any threat to it must be dealt with swiftly.

“Ill informed and politically motivated commentary threatens reputational damage to Ireland and the proliferation of the myth that Ireland is a tax haven.”

Nineteen held in rhino-horn raids on Traveller gang’s in Limerick

   

Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and members of the Emergency Response Unit have raided a number of properties in connection to a Europol investigation into the activities of an international crime gang

Nineteen suspects are in custody after a series of police raids on both sides of the Irish Sea as part of a major investigation into organised crime involving members of Traveller families.

The Criminal Assets Bureau raided homes in three areas here as well as solicitors’ offices in Limerick and Cork.

The arrests of 17 men and two women were all made in England and the North.

The suspects are alleged to be linked to several crime gangs – including an outfit known as the Rathkeale Rovers, which has been blamed for the theft of rhino horns across Europe.

The stolen horns are estimated to have a black market value of more than €40m.

One of the thefts was carried out last April at the National Museum’s collections resources centre at Balheary Road, Swords, in north Co Dublin, when eight horns, worth €500,000, were taken during an armed robbery.

Members of the bureau, backed up by armed officers and local gardai, swooped on houses in the Raheen area of Limerick city, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, and Newmarket, Co Cork.

Gardai said the bureau had been involved in a Europol initiative, which was set up specifically in 2010 to target the criminal activities of an international network of Traveller criminals.

Over the past three years, there have been more than 60 thefts of rhino horns and rare Chinese cultural artefacts from museums and private collections throughout Europe.

The garda operation focused on the assets and financial affairs of suspects who were also alleged to be involved in counterfeiting fraud, labour exploitation, tobacco smuggling and tarmac scams, as well as the rhino horn robberies.

As a result of the raids, gardai seized a large haul of documents, a small amount of cash and a number of artefacts.

Chief Supt Dave Sheahan, who is in charge of policing in Limerick, said those arrested in England were predominantly Irish people with English addresses.

He said the searches in Limerick and Cork were the culmination of a large policing operation in several countries and a very positive response by the gardai to targeting the assets of people involved in the crimes.

“While the operation was mainly carried out by the Criminal Assets Bureau, there was a large local input, which will feed into the system to help our colleagues across Europe to dent the activities of these criminal organisations,” he added.

SEIZED: Hundreds of police officers from 25 forces in England as well as the PSNI, and the Serious Organised Crime Agency carried out around 40 searches and seized cars, cash, suspected stolen property and documents from addresses in Essex, Cambridgeshire, London, Sussex, the West Midlands and the North.

Five men and two women were detained in London, four men in Cambridgeshire, two in Essex, one each in the West Midlands, Sussex and Nottingham and three in the North.

All were held on suspicion of conspiracy to burgle, apart from a 54-year-old woman who was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and assisting an offender.

The English investigation was linked, in particular, with six crimes over a four-month spell at museums and auction houses.

Police said that while much of the stolen property had since been recovered, several high value items, particularly the Chinese artefacts, were still missing and a substantial reward had been offered for informationleading to their safe return.

Ryanair clips wings of online people who criticise the Airline

 

Airline outlines steps it is taking to identify people who are making anonymous critical comments about its attitude towards safety
Ryanair has outlined to a court in South Africa the steps it is taking around the globe to identify people who are making anonymous critical comments on the internet about its attitude towards safety.

The airline has secured an order forcing African telecoms group Telkom to furnish it with information that might help identify a person who has made internet postings using the tag alwaysflying. The company is also seeking information on a specific IP address in South Africa.

The person has made postings on an internet site called PPRuNe.org, which is used by pilots to discuss matters to do with their work.

Ryanair company secretary Juliusz Komorek told the court in an affidavit that one posting falsely portrayed the airline as having an incompetent flying crew and that this could affect the airline’s reputation and business.

The posting read: “I don’t care if it’s wind/ delays/ weather or anything, if you are flying around your destination eating into alternate fuel then you shouldn’t be a pilot. If they were employed at my company I would have fired the lot of them!”

Mr Komorek told the court the airline had no objection to honest, objective and legitimate comment, but would seek the removal of unlawful and wrong statements and seek a public apology.

The court was told Ryanair had engaged a law firm in Los Angeles, Holland & Knight LLP, to file libel proceedings against a number of defendants in the Los Angeles Superior Court.

It had also issued proceedings against Internet Brands in California, the registered owner of the PPRuNe.org site, and issued supoenas against Yahoo, Microsoft and Googlein pursuit of information.

The information gathered was examined for it by specialist consultancy company Word to the Wise, which idenfied IP addresses in Ireland, the UK and South Africa.

‘Always flying’
It is understood Ryanair has indentified the person who used the ‘always flying’ tag and will take legal proceedings as a result. In some cases the airline has secured public apologies from people who made anonymous postings as well as donations to charities, according to one source.

Earlier this year Ryanair got court orders in the Republic instructing Eircom and UPC to provide it with informationconcerning the identity of parties whom, the High Court was told, had made postings that falsely impugned Ryanair’s excellent safety record.

It has initiated up to six sets of legal proceedings in the Republic against individuals who made postings on PPRuNe.org concerning the airline, according to the source.

Preventative angioplasty could save thousands of lives for heart attack patient’s

 

Preventive angioplasty in heart attack patients cuts the risk of death and other serious complications, according to research by cardiologists.

The ‘PRAMI study’ involved 465 patients recruited between 2008 and 2013 and was conducted at specialist heart centres across the UK, including the London Chest, Norfolk and Norwich, Newcastle and Glasgow’s Golden Jubilee.

It concluded that heart attack patients who had stents – thin cylindrical metal mesh-tubes – placed in their other narrowed arteries at the same time as the one that triggered the heart attack were 64 per cent less likely to die, suffer another serious heart attack or have severe angina over the subsequent two years. There are around 103,000 heart attacks in the UK each year, according to the British Heart Foundation.

Professor Colin Berry, a co-author of the study from the University of Glasgow, said: “Currently, following a heart attack, patients undergo an emergencyoperation called an angioplasty. During this procedure, a stent is inserted into the blocked artery to restore normal blood function. However, around half of patients also have significant narrowing in other arteries which could cause another heart attack in the future.

“Historical guidelines recommend that only the artery which caused the heart attack should be treated, but our research shows improved outcomes for patients when all narrowed arteries are treated simultaneously.”

Senior author, Professor Keith Oldroyd, based at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, said: “The PRAMI trial shows very clearly that patients have a much better outcome if other narrowed arteries are stented at the same time as the one that triggered the attack. This strategy is also much more cost effective for the Health Service.”

The Golden Jubilee is one of the UK’s leading ‘heart attack centres’ with a concentration of resources, skills and expertise within the centre has enabled this state of the art national hospital to lead the way in research, development and academic activity which ensures innovation and improvements in patient care.

New Welsh law creates first opt-out organ donation system in the UK

 

A new law has been passed to create the first opt-out organ donation system in the UK.

The Human Transplantation (Wales) Act will turn the donation process on its head. It means that people not wanting to give up their organs after their death must sign a register– rather than choosing to take part.

Ministers hope a soft “opt-out” scheme – praised by medical experts but criticised by some religious leaders – will drive up transplant rates and save lives.

Wales First Minister Carwyn Jones heralded the new law as historic.

He said: “The Act has had a long genesis through committees and through the Assembly. It happens to be the most significant piece of legislation the Assembly has ever passed.”

The Act was unveiled in the media suite of the Welsh Government’s offices in Cathays Park, Cardiff, during a special ceremony.

The three-stage process began with the Queen signing the Letters Patent before Mr Jones, who also holds the title of Keeper of the Seal, used a hand-wound press to stamp the Act.

The new legislation became official after being given Royal Assent.

The Welsh Government has long said there is a desperate need to drive up transplantation rates – with 226 people in Wales waiting for a transplant.

Officials hope the new legislation will increase donors by around a quarter.

Once implemented, people will have to choose not to donate their organs and it would apply to over-18s who die in Wales if they have lived in the country for more than 12 months.

Organs made available under the system would be the same as the “opt-in” method – including kidneys, heart, liver, lungs and pancreas – and would not only go to donor patients in Wales. They could go anywhere in the UK.

The scheme faced opposition from some religious groups, which claimed it would make conscripts out of donors.

But ministers have denied this and described the system as a “soft opt-out”.

They say it will allow relatives or “friends of long standing” to object to someone’s organs being used if they had not asked to be removed from theregister. The final decision will rest with medical staff if they decide to continue with the process – provided a match has been found.

No organs donated in Wales under this method will go anywhere in the UK and vice-versa.

The new law will come into effect on December 1 2015.

Ministers will stage a two-year, £8 million publicity drive in the meantime so people are well briefed about the changes.

Wales’s Health Minister Mark Drakeford said people would be given plenty of information on how the new system works and what choices they have.

He added: “Even today people can help others by ensuring their loved ones know their wishes about organ donation and I would encourage everyone to have that conversation.”

Rare whale spotted off southwest coast of Ireland

  

Rare whale spotted off southwest coast Whale experts say this photo ‘almost certainly’ shows three True’s Beaked Whales 

One of the world’s rarest whale species is believed to have been recorded around 100km off the southwest coast of Ireland.

The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group has said photographs taken during a research expedition to the Porcupine Sea Bight area “almost certainly” show three True’s Beaked Whales.

The IWDG described the whales as among “the most rarely seen animals on the planet”, with only two confirmed sightings in the wild since 1995.

It said the animals passed within 50 metres of the RV Celtic Mist research vessel on 4 September.

A total of eight different whale and dolphin species were recorded during the trip, including a humpback whale that was photographed breaching clear of the water.