Tag Archives: Ireland

News Ireland daily BLOG as told by Donie

Monday 10th July 2017

Irish motorists fear they have been sold laundered fuel after the recent seizure in Wicklow

 Image result for Irish motorists may have been sold laundered fuel after recent seizure in Wicklow  Image result for Irish motorists may have been sold laundered fuel after recent seizure in Wicklow

15,000 litres of laundered fuel was seized in Wicklow earlier this year.

One in 12 Irish motorists suspect that they have been sold laundered fuel in the past, according to recent survey carried out by AA Ireland.

The AA Motor Insurance survey, which was carried out in April, also found that 55% of those who suspect that they were sold laundered fuel also believed that their car was damaged as a result.

3,000 motorists responded to the survey, which was carried out in the wake of the seizure of 15,000 litres of laundered fuel in Wicklow earlier this year.

Motorists in Ulster were found to be far more suspicious about the possibility of being sold laundered fuel (30.48% of motorists in Cavan and 28.57% of motorists in Monaghan believed they had been sold laundered fuel), while at the other end of the scale, there was barely any suspicion amongst motorists in Waterford (1.72%) and Mayo (2.78%) that they may have been affected.

Conor Faughnan, Director of Consumer Affairs at the AA said: “We have seen a number of reports recently of seizures of laundered fuel and while there have been significant improvements made in tackling this issue the problem hasn’t been wiped out as of yet.”

“While fuel prices have been dropping in the past months, average prices for petrol and diesel are still approximately 7c higher per litre than August 2016. As a result of the higher prices motorists are keen to save anywhere they can and because of this may be tempted by a dealer offering fuel at unrealistically low prices.

“While it is important to shop around when it comes to purchasing petrol or diesel to ensure you make savings where you can, it’s also important to use common sense when it comes to prices. If the deal seems too good to be true then it’s very likely that the fuel you’re purchasing is not up to scratch.”

Laundered fuel has the potential to cause serious damage to a vehicle’s engine and Conor Faughnan had the following advice for anyone who suspects that they may have been sold it.

“If you suspect that you may have been sold laundered fuel then you should report it to the service station”, Faughnan added.

“The AA offer Fuel Assist, which will have the fuel drained and refilled with regulated fuel, and the contaminated fuel is then recycled.”


Image result for TÁNAISTE FITZGERALD WELCOMES THE NEW TRADE DEAL WITH JAPAN  Image result for JAPANESE IRISH TRADE DEAL  Image result for Minister for Trade, Pat Breen today welcomed a new EU trade deal with Japan

The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald along with Minister for Trade, Pat Breen today welcomed a new EU trade deal with Japan which they say will bring great benefits to Ireland. 

Japan is the third largest economy in the world and is Ireland’s biggest trade partner in Asia after China and the largest source of FDI into Ireland from Asia.

There are more than 50 Japanese companies with a presence in Ireland across a wide range of industrial sectors and it is estimated that Japanese companies employ close to 3,900 people in Ireland.

Furthermore, Japan is one of Ireland’s top 10 goods export markets. Ireland’s goods trade with Japan is now valued at over €4 bn a year, up from €2.2 billion in 2005. In 2016, the value of goods exports from Ireland to Japan was €2.9 bn and the value of goods imports was €1.2 bn.

Ireland’s principal goods exports were Medical & Pharmaceutical Products while principal imports were Road Vehicles and Industrial Machinery.

Speaking today, Minister Pat Breen said, “Japan is the third largest economy in the world and this important trade agreement will open up exciting opportunities for Irish exporters and companies across a wide range of sectors, helping them to tap into Japan’s large market. Agri-food, which is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry, will see particular benefits from the agreement, with new access for dairy products in particular beef and chedder cheese industries.”

Workers taxes to pay for Irish elderly care among the recommendations by Citizens’ Assembly

 Image result for Irish elderly care among recommendations by Citizens’ Assembly   Image result for Irish elderly care among recommendations by Citizens’ Assembly

The 70 members also called for a statutory footing on the care of older people accessing home care

A radical workers’ tax to pay for elderly care, the abolition of the mandatory retirement age, a minister for older people and full Government accountability, are just some of the recommendations the Citizens’ Assembly has voted for.

The 70 members also called for a statutory footing on the care of older people accessing home care and for a compulsory pension scheme to supplement the State pension.

The majority of the Assembly recommended a ‘compulsory social insurance payment or earmarked tax for all workers linked to ‘labour market participation’ – similar to PRSI, fund long-term/social care for older people,’

A total of 87% recommended that there should be an increase in public resources for the elderly and 99% called on the Government to “expedite the current commitment to place home care for older people on a statutory footing.” 87% recommended Government introduce a compulsory pension scheme to supplement the State pension.

On Sunday, Dr Micheal Collins, assistant professor of social policy at UCD, told the Assembly it was possible to introduce a Fair Deal type initiative top up pension scheme to “claw back” up to €200-a-week from elderly property owners with assets of around €200,000.

A further 86% voted against a mandatory retirement based on age – meaning an older person could work as long as possible and 87% recommended the Government backdate the Homemaker’s’ Scheme to 1973 – to allow those who’d spent years looking after children, the sick or disabled, in the home to claim a contributory pension.

The Assembly voted 100% that Government should “urgently prioritise and implement” existing policies and strategies on older people, including for example the National Positive Ageing Strategy published in 2013; the Carers’ Strategy, and the National Dementia Strategy.

Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Age Action, said: “When presented with the evidence and given the time to deliberate the citizens showed the overwhelming consensus for a fair State Pension system, the abolition of mandatory retirement and investment in homecare.

The votes came a day after members stated they were displeased the Government hadn’t implemented strategies and had instead left the issue with citizens to deal with. The recommendations, a combination of State and personal responsibility for the care, pensions, working life and retirement, of the elderly, will be brought to the Oireachtas for consideration.

The Assembly Chair Justice Mary Laffoy said: “I would hope that the Oireachtas pays close attention not just to the recommendations, but to the debate and the discussion that informed them. These deliberations were at times vigorous, at other times challenging but always interactive, inclusive and conducted in the spirit of collegiality.”

The Mandatory retirement age may be abolished? 

Image result for The Mandatory retirement age may be abolished?    Image result for The Mandatory retirement age may be abolished? 

The Citizens’ Assembly is to tell the Government to abolish mandatory retirement ages, eliminate the time gap between retirement and eligibility for the old age pension, and to link that pension to average earnings.

The recommendations follow a weekend of hearings at which the assembly discussed a wide range of issues to do with income, work, and pensions for older people.

Sixteen proposed recommendations were voted on and will form the basis for a detailed report to be sent to the Dáil and Seanad.

On the question of abolishing mandatory retirement ages, 86% of the assembly members present said this practice should be outlawed, while 96% said the anomaly whereby people who are forced to retire at 65 then cannot get the State pension until they are 66 or 67 should be removed.

A recommendation to seek the introduction of some form of mandatory pension scheme to supplement the state pension was backed by 87%, and 88% said the pension should be benchmarked to average earnings.

A large majority also voted to recommend the rationalisation of private pension schemes.

On general issues of care for older people, the majority voted to recommend the allocation of more resources, with the preference that funding be ringfenced and come from a compulsory social insurance payment.

They want that money spent primarily on improved home care services and supports, and want statutory regulation of the home care sector.

Assembly chairwoman Ms Justice Mary Laffoy said she aims to have the report written and ready for the Oireachtas by the end of September.

The recommendations were decided following presentations by experts in law, finance, social care, and human rights, but not all the ideas put forward made the final cut.

Earlier, the assembly heard from Micheal Collins, assistant professor of social policy at University College Dublin, who suggested a radical change in policy to end tax breaks for people who invest in private pensions.

He said State pensions were the most important source of income for retired people in Ireland, accounting for 53% of their income as compared to 32% from private and occupational pensions.

“The policy of supporting private pension provision through tax breaks is skewed towards those on higher incomes,” said Prof Collins.

“It is worth considering whether society should more efficiently use its resources to provide an improved basic living standard for all pensions, one well above the minimum income standard, and discontinue subsidising private pensions savings.”

Justin Moran of Age Action and Ita Mangan of Age and Opportunity argued strongly for the abolition of mandatory retirement ages, and UCD professor Liam Delaney warned that any move towards mandatory pension enrolment for workers should first examine the likely impact on wages, on administrative burdens for small businesses, and on other forms of financial provision that people made for their future such as investments. None of these impacts had “off-the-shelf answers”, he warned.

Gardaí in protective barrier around Sligo council staff carrying out works at car park

Gardaí with riot shields in Sligo stand-off at Travellers’ site

Image result for Gardaí in protective barrier around Sligo council staff carrying out works at car park   Image result for Gardaí in protective barrier around Sligo council staff carrying out works at car park

Gardaí armed with riot shields faced Travellers during a stand-off in a car park in Sligo town on Wednesday.

A number of young children chanted “we have rights” as up to 14 uniformed gardaí, some carrying riot shields, formed a protective barrier around Sligo county council staff who were carrying out works at the Connaughton road car park.

Throughout the operation, a Garda Armed Response Unit vehicle was parked outside the car park.

The car park was the scene of a confrontation two weeks ago when gardaí accompanied workers as they dismantled a fence and painted in parking spaces on behalf of the county council.

The car park has been home to the extended McGinley family for an estimated 30 years. Speculation is growing that the family will mount an “adverse possession” claim, also known as “squatters’ rights”, against the council over the property. The council says it has been working hard to find alternative accommodation for the family.

‘Heavy-handed’ claim

Sources close the McGinleys accused the council of being “heavy-handed” in its approach to the family in recent weeks, while the council has insisted the Garda presence was necessary to protect its staff. Council sources said it had always maintained this was a public car park and it had a duty to continue to ensure the public had access there.

In a statement, the council said Wednesday’s operation was to remove a tree which had been obstructing traffic signage and to restore a height control barrier which had been restored some time ago and typical of barriers at all public car parks.

The council said it was “maintaining contact with the McGinley family through their solicitor in relation to recent issues at the car park”.

Continuing to engage

A spokesman said the council was continuing to engage with the family with a view to finding a solution to their accommodation needs.

The family has turned down three sites suggested by the council, saying two of them had been rejected before as they were in commercial/industrial areas.

There were no arrests following the two-hour operation. A Garda spokesman said Gardaí were present “to prevent any breach of the peace”.

It is understood the family has sought the advice of senior counsel in relation to its claim for adverse possession. Sources pointed out the erection of the height control barrier means it will no longer be possible to move caravans in and out of the car park.

While the council said it was required to ensure protection for staff carrying out works on its behalf, sources close to the family have described the presence of members of the Garda Armed Response Unit and Gardaí in riot gear as “over the top”.

Sparkly Meteors and 7 more sky events you cannot miss in July

Image result for Sparkly Meteors and 7 more sky events you cannot miss in July  Image result for The Milky Way glows brightly as shooting stars streak across the sky during the peak of the 2016 Delta Aquarid meteor shower

Gas giants take center stage among the best sky shows this month.

The Milky Way glows brightly as shooting stars streak across the sky during the peak of the 2016 Delta Aquarid meteor shower.

The Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower promises to add some glitter to the night sky in July, with as many as 25 meteors per hour during its peak.

The night skies will also showcase two of the largest planets in the solar system this month, while early mornings offers superb views of Earth’s neighboring planet, Venus, as it pairs up with the moon and a star that marks a cosmic bull’s eye.


Jupiter will form a trio with the moon and the star Spica on July 1.

Look for the waxing gibbous moon as it passes very close to the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter, and the star Spica. The cosmic trio will form an eye-catching triangular formation, making for a dramatic display as they rise over the southeast horizon in the early evening.


Early risers on July 5 can catch the “morning star” Venus passing near the star cluster Pleiades.

Very early morning, before any hint of daybreak, look for the bright “morning star” Venus in the east to guide you to the nearby Pleiades star cluster. The cosmic pair of planet and stars will be seven degrees apart—less than the width of your fist held at arm’s length. The 300 light-year distant stellar grouping is a staple of winter-evening stargazing, but now is an easy target for early risers with binoculars, thanks to Venus, the goddess of love, pointing the way.


Saturn made it closest pass to Earth less than a month ago and is still near enough to appear large when viewed through a backyard telescope in July.

After darkness falls, look southeast for the waxing gibbous moon pairing up with the ringed world Saturn. To the naked eye the gas giant looks like a bright yellow-tinged star; however, through even the smallest of backyard telescopes, it shows off its famous rings easily.

Having just made its closest pass to Earth less than a month ago, Saturn will still appear impressively big and bright through the eyepiece. A telescope will also easily reveal the Cassini Division, a large 3,000-mile-wide dark gap in the rings, and a few of Saturn’s largest moons floating nearby.


Venus swings past the orange-colored star Aldebaran on July 14.

At dawn, the brightest celestial object visible rising in the east is the planet Venus. Commonly referred to as the “morning star,” the second planet from the sun is currently the brightest celestial object in the morning skies—other than the moon and sun.

Venus is even more eye-catching than usual this week as it makes a close swing past the orange-hued star Aldebaran. This giant star, which marks the eye of the mythical Taurus, the bull constellation, appears less than three degrees from Venus. This apparent proximity is only an optical illusion, however. While our sister planet is a mere 152 million kilometers (94.5 million miles) from Earth, Aldebaran is 65 light-years distant.

It’s interesting to note that the Pioneer 10 spacecraft, launched back in 1972, is currently 17.9 billion kilometers away and is making its way in the direction of Aldebaran. It should reach the star’s vicinity in about two million years.

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A crescent moon joins Venus and Aldebaran in the night sky on July 20.

The brilliant second planet from the sun, Venus, has the waning crescent moon as a companion in the dawn skies today. The cosmic duo should make for a stunning photo opportunity near the horizon.


On July 26, Venus will pass very close to the brightest supernova remnant in our skies, the Crab Nebula.

Venus passes just south of the brightest supernova remnant in our skies, the Crab Nebula (Messier 1) located 6,300 light-years away. The odd celestial pair will be separated by no more than one degree—equal to the width of two lunar disks side by side. You can spot this expanding cloud of debris left behind by an exploding star using binoculars under dark countryside skies—though it will be a challenge—or with a backyard telescope in suburban skies.


For a second time this month, Earth’s moon glides by Jupiter in the evening sky. So if you missed it on July 1, this is your chance.


Keep an eye out for shooting stars from the Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower peaking in the early hours before dawn. With its famed cousin, the Perseid meteor shower, potentially being washed out by the moon in mid-August, this shower may actually be a better bet for sky-watchers.

With the first quarter moon setting soon after local midnight, this sky show should peak in the early mornings under ideal dark skies. The first Aquarid meteors will actually begin flying as early as July 20 and will continue to ramp up in activity, reaching about 25 meteors per hour on July 30. Sporadic meteors from the Aquarid stream will continue until it trickles out in August by mid-month.

Individual meteors from this shower can be traced back to their radiant, which is their namesake constellation Aquarius, the water bearer, seen very low in the southern skies across mid-northern latitudes. The best views will be for meteor watchers located near the equator and in the Southern Hemisphere.

News Ireland daily BLOG by DONIE

Wednesday 14th December 2016

It was obvious that Simon Coveney would play hardball with Fianna Fáil over the rent cap issue

Tensions with Fianna Fáil tackled as Minister for Housing attempts to call their bluff

Image result for Simon Coveney would play hardball with Fianna Fáil over the rent cap issue   Image result for Simon Coveney would play hardball with Fianna Fáil over the rent cap issue  Image result for Simon Coveney would play hardball with Fianna Fáil over the rent cap issue

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has published his strategy for the private rental sector but the proposals could already be in jeopardy as party sources in Fianna Fáil have indicated that they will not support the strategy.

It was a fight that was coming, but it brought a cargo of subplots and consequence upon its arrival.

For weeks, if not months, resentment has been building in Fine Gael because of the belief of many in the party that Fianna Fáil has had it too good.

Thanks to the confidence and supply deal, Fianna Fáil has been able to dictate the shape of government policy while acting as a curious and at times appalled bystander.

Many in Fine Gael felt it was time Micheál Martin and his spokespeople were reminded who actually is in government, having cowered for so long. They were spoiling for the fight.

“We need to show some balls,” said one female member of the Cabinet at lunchtime in Leinster House yesterday.

When Simon Coveney outlined his plan for maximum annual rent increases of 4 per cent, to apply immediately for a three-year period in Dublin and Cork city and possibly be extended to other pressure points nationally, Fianna Fáil raised objections within hours.

Where the Minister for Housing wanted a maximum 4% annual increase, Fianna Fáil favoured 2%.

A further rollout of coverage?

Fianna Fáil also wanted the initial rollout of the rent caps to be extended beyond Dublin and Cork, and to take in Galway, Limerick, Waterford and commuter areas around the capital.

It seemed that the usual give and take between the minority Government and Martin’s party would apply. One wants 4 per cent, one wants 2 per cent: split the difference and move on.

Yet the Government had a different idea. The great irony was the person who put it up to Fianna Fáil was not the aspirant Fine Gael leader many expected to be at the centre of major disputes between the two parties.

Leo Varadkar is known to have little love for the current governmental arrangement and some in Fianna Fáil suspected it would be the Dublin West TD who would cause them most grief.

They had not anticipated that Simon Coveney would be the one to play hardball. Fianna Fáil TDs around Leinster House looked rattled for the first time in months.

So many issues were at play: the rental strategy itself and its core proposals, the dynamic in the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael relationship and Coveney’s leadership prospects, and his standing in the parliamentary party.

A leadership challenge?

He is considered to be behind Varadkar among TDs, but should Coveney stand up to Fianna Fáil and win, his leadership chances will surely be enhanced.

He has staked his ambitions on tackling big issues like housing and water and the rental plan is a huge element of what he hopes will be his calling card as a serious contender.

The Cork South Central TD has expended a huge amount of political capital on rent predictability, overcoming the concerns of the most significant players around the Cabinet table: Enda Kenny, Michael Noonan, Paschal Donohoe and Varadkar himself.

As he prepared to attempt to face down Fianna Fáil, the only question yesterday was whether Coveney had the backing of the Taoiseach.

Kenny gave his clear answer at the outset of the weekly meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, amplifying Coveney’s tactic by telling TDs and Senators in his leader’s statement that the Government would withdraw the strategy unless Fianna Fáil backed it.

Fine Gael had called the bluff of Martin and Barry Cowen, his housing spokesman, gambling that Fianna Fáil would be blamed if private rental tenants suffered. Even if that gamble fails, Coveney has still won in one crucial way: he has given his TDs the fight with Fianna Fáil they were pining for.

Irish fishermen now face wipe-out unless fishing rules are changed

Analysis: Ireland should use Brexit as basis to renegotiate EU fish policy, The industry says?

Image result for Irish fishermen now face wipe-out unless fishing rules art changed  Image result for Irish fishermen now face wipe-out unless fishing rules art changed

Fishing boats as seen in Cobh harbour in Co Cork. Fishermen’s representatives have called for a review of EU fishing rules.

Ireland’s fishing industry has breathed a sigh of relief, after Minister for Marine Michael Creed and his negotiating team in Brussels secured an overall six per cent increase for 2017 on last year’s share of quotas.

The outlook had been “dire”, as one representative said, with an initial 68 per cent cut in cod and nine per cent cut in prawns averted.

It was Creed’s first “red-eye” council, where EU fisheries ministers use sleep deprivation as a tactic to haggle for quotas for their fleets.

However, sleep may be in even shorter supply at such negotiations in years to come if Britain leaves the EU.

Oblivious to Brexit, fish know no boundaries, with some 40 different stocks moving between these two islands.

Creed acknowledged on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland on Wednesday that British withdrawal would have a serious impact on the Irish fishing industry – “38 per cent of volume and 36 per cent of value of Irish fishing is in British territorial waters”, he said.

If Britain “attempts to establish a wall around their territorial waters”, this would pose “a significant challenge” he said.

“It would mean the entire fishing network will be displaced to a smaller area,” he said – as in Irish waters, already under severe pressure from Spanish, French and Dutch fleets.

“We will raise questions with the Commission about Ireland’s unique position,” he added, but industry organisations don’t believe the Government has given that “position” sufficient punch.

With 22% of all EU waters off Irish coast, and just two per cent of EU fleet capacity to catch it, Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation chief executive Sean O’Donoghue has stressed the urgency of taking a strong stand.

The Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, whose members have felt the impact for years of Spanish and French fleets, says Ireland should use Brexit to renegotiate the entire Common Fisheries Policy, or face a “wipe-out”.

There are already ominous rumblings about the near future. Britain did not support Ireland at the talks in defending the “Hague Preferences”, which recognise the particular case of coastal communities in allocating quotas.

Also, British Secretary of State James Brokenshire recently reasserted London’s claim over Lough Foyle in response to a parliamentary question in the House of Commons last month. After the Belfast Agreement peace deal, a cross-border body known as the Loughs Agency took responsibility for the Foyle, which was a key strategic naval base during the second world war.

The Department of Foreign Affairs immediately rejected Mr Brokenshire’s assertion that “the whole of Lough Foyle is within the UK.”

A recent Supreme Court decision held that Northern Ireland fishing vessels could not legally fish or harvest mussel seed in the Republic’s territorial waters – under an arrangement known as “voisinage”.

However, it is understood that the Government wants to introduce legislation which would effectively reverse the Supreme Court ruling. At a recent seafood conference hosted by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, British National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) chief executive Barrie Deas forecast three possible scenarios in relation to Brexit.

The first was unilateral action by Britain to set its own quotas and control its own waters, the second involved bilateral and trilateral negotiations on shared stocks with coastal states, including Ireland and Norway.

The third was a move to a regional management structure by coastal states, a type of “super-regional advisory council”, expanding on the regional councils established as part of the revised Common Fisheries Policy, he said.

This latter scenario could benefit all EU coastal states, he suggested. The rights of coastal states to manage their own stocks – a type of regional management recognised in the most recent EU fish policy – is likely to gain greater currency as those stocks come under event greater pressure.

World demand for seafood is only going up, and the Irish industry is worth 1 billion euro in annual landings. However, foreign landings, transhipped back to Spain with no added value, are also on the increase here.

In an interview with The Irish Times in 1996, then EU fisheries commissioner Emma Bonino gave the most honest description of the community’s vision for “fewer, larger vessels”, spending longer periods of time at sea – such as the Dutch factory ships filmed in Irish waters for the recently released documentary Atlantic (italicss) directed by Risteard Ó Dómhnaill. This would fulfil the European Commission’s aim of providing cheaper fish for the consumer, but at the expense of coastal communities depending on the activity.

Birdwatch Ireland’s representative Sinéad Cummins, who was in Brussels for the fish talks, has urged EU ministers to think of the long term future of communities on the coastline by sticking to scientific advice – and allowing greater public access to the late night deliberations behind firmly closed doors.

Armed units will not change the Garda image, says Nóirín O’Sullivan

A new 55-strong unit will tackle terrorism and serious organised crime in Dublin. Says Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald TD as she inspects the new Garda Armed Support Unit (ASU) for the Dublin region, at Garda HQ in Phoenix Park.

Image result for Armed units will not change the Garda image, says Nóirín O’Sullivan  Image result for Armed units will not change the Garda image, says Nóirín O’Sullivan

A new command structure for armed Garda units is to be rolled out early next year, but Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has insisted it will not undermine the force’s unarmed status.

Speaking at the launch of the new Dublin armed support unit, Ms O’Sullivan accepted the manner of its deployment may further marginalise some communities if not managed properly.

“No, I don’t believe people want to see armed police,” she said, when asked if an armed unit would be welcomed on residential streets.

“I think when the units are deployed in their normal operating mode, it’s a softer approach. But when they have to deploy in overt mode they can do that as a tactical deployment.”

The new 55-strong unit will combat the threat from terrorism and serious organised crime in the capital. Plans for its establishment were accelerated when the Kinahan-Hutch feud erupted in Dublin during the general election campaign in the spring.

The gangland activity?

As well as providing an armed Garda presence at Dublin Airport and port, it will also conduct patrols and checkpoints in areas with significant gun feuding or other gangland activity.

The unit represents the final strand of rolling out armed support units in all regions of the country to complement the work of the Emergency Response Unit.

Ms O’Sullivan said all the units specialising in providing an armed response to flashpoint incidents as well as back-up for uniformed unarmed gardaí would now be drawn under a more centralised command.

The new structure represents the first time the armed response specialisation in the Garda has been considered large enough to warrant a dedicated command and training structure.

The commissioner said the establishment of regional support units around the country, and now the armed response unit for Dublin, was “the first step towards allowing us develop the armed response capability that we need right around the country.

“By the first quarter of next year we will establish a National Firearms Command which will mean the Emergency Response Unit and all of the armed response units in the regions will be trained [centrally].”

She said she would be making the case to Government for the creation of a number of senior posts to command the armed teams, all headed by a detective chief superintendent.

A proud tradition?

However, she did not believe the developments represented a move away from the Garda as an unarmed force. “It’s something we’re very proud of; it’s a tradition and a legacy we’ll never give up.”

However, the Garda also needed to “recognise the challenges” of modern policing in the Republic and “have a response commensurate with that”.

The new armed response unit for Dublin will work in the same way as the regional support units around the country. They will patrol in high-powered vehicles – new BMWs and Audi Q7 utility vehicles – dressed in uniforms unique to their unit.

When the need to switch to armed mode arises, they will switch into tactical clothing, comprising black overalls and ballistic vests, helmets and goggles and other protective wear.

They will unlock the firearms secured in the boots of their vehicles and arm themselves with MP7 machine guns, stun guns or a range of pepper sprays. The sprays vary in size and can be used to overpower one suspect at close range or a large group of people over a greater distance.

The vehicles are also kitted out with telescopic ladders, battering rams for breaking in doors and hooligan bars for taking doors off hinges.

The armed units were first recommended by the Garda Inspectorate, led by Kathleen O’Toole, 10 years ago, and the first two were rolled out in Limerick and Cork cities in 2008.

The inspectorate reviewed the report of the Barr tribunal of inquiry into the fatal shooting of John Carthy by the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) in Abbeylara. Its review concluded that second-tier armed response teams were needed to contain incidents involving firearms pending the arrival of the ERU

A decline in top three male cancers as lung cancer rates continue to rise among our women

Image result for A decline in top three male cancers as lung cancer rates continue to rise among our women  Image result for A decline in top three male cancers as lung cancer rates continue to rise among our women

One in three men, and one in four women, will get invasive cancer during their lifetime?

Prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer rates amongst Irish men are falling or steadying off, latest figures from the National Cancer Registry show.

These three cancers are the most common in Irish men and from 1994 until now, the likelihood of developing them had been increasing steadily.

However the research, completed by analysing data over 21 years, also shows lung cancer rates amongst women continue to rise “significantly”. Lung cancer is now the second most common cancer in Irish women, says the National Cancer Registry 1994-2014.

According to the NCR, current lung cancer rates reflect the prevalence of smoking in previous decades.

“Lung cancer incidence rates in males declined steadily over 1994-2014, while the female rate increased significantly over the same period. As in other developed countries, it is likely that the period of peak smoking prevalence in females occurred some years later than that in males, which would help explain the contrasting lung cancer trends,” the report said.

The chances of men being diagnosed with any kind of cancer has also plateaued however, after nearly 20 years of increases.

But overall, the risk of developing cancer still remains higher for men than for women. There have been significant decreases in breast cancer rates in women, since 2008. The latest figures show this fall continuing in 2014.

Overall, the number of cancers continues to rise nationwide because of an ageing and growing population. Up to 37,600 new tumours were registered annually in 2012-2014. Of these, 30,700 were malignant. There were 16,800 cases of non-melanoma cancer of the skin which, while the most common cancer, is rarely fatal.

Despite improving survival rates, cancer is the second most common cause of death in Ireland, after diseases of the circulatory system — 30% of deaths in Ireland are due to cancer. About 8,700 cancer deaths per year occurred during 2011-2013.

Lung cancer was the most common cause of cancer death, about 21% of the total.

The risk of dying from cancer was about 36% higher for men than for women.

Over four consecutive periods, five-year net survival for all cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) increased. Between 1994 and 1998, 44% survived. Between 1999-2003 that rose to 51%, by 2004-2008 to 57% and by 2009-2013 to 61%. Ten-year survival figures show a similar trend. At the end of 2014 there were 139,526 persons still alive whose cancer had been diagnosed over the previous 21 years (1994-2014), equivalent to 3% of the Irish population.

The largest number of cancer survivors over the past 21 years had been diagnosed with breast, prostate, bowel cancer, and melanoma of the skin.

Director of the registry and professor of cancer epidemiology at University College Cork, Kerri Clough-Gorr said: “ The incidence trend in male cancers is encouraging, as we no longer see an increase in rates for the three main male cancers. Whether these improvements will be sustained remains to be seen. There is a large and growing number of cancer survivors in our community which will need to be facilitated by expansion of cancer support services.”

Some cancer facts?

– The risk of an invasive cancer diagnosis, aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, in anyone aged up to 75 is one in three for men and one in four for women.

– The invasive cancer rate in Irish men was 10% higher than the EU average — partly due to increased diagnosis of prostate cancer. Our diagnosis rate is 52% higher.

– The top five most common invasive cancers in men were prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer, lymphoma and melanoma.

– The top five cancers in women were breast, lung, colorectal cancer, melanoma and uterine cancer.

‘A devastating loss to everyone’ As Tributes paid to man as he dies in a landslide incident

The Gardai and the HSA are investigating the man’s death?

Image result for 'A devastating loss to everyone' As Tributes paid to man as he dies in a landslide incident   Image result for 'A devastating loss to everyone' As Tributes paid to man as he dies in a landslide incident

Patrick McCaffrey & his beloved wife Helen. 

The entrance to the property where the man lost his life on a as a result of a landslide at the construction of a wind farm in Ballyfarnon, Co. Sligo.

Investigations are underway after a man died in a workplace accident.

The victim, who worked for Tralee based firm Moriarty Civil Engineering, has been named locally as Patrick McCaffrey (37) from Co Leitrim.

His manager Colin Scott told Independent.ie that everyone connected with the firm is devastated by his tragic death.

He said: “It is absolutely devastating the tragedy which occurred last night.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr McCaffrey’s family. Nothing like this has ever happened before.

“It’s a devastating loss to everyone.”

Local reports indicate that the man died after a landslide incident in the Ballyfarnon area on the Roscommon Sligo border.

The man in his 30s was working on a site in the area when the accident occurred at 6.30pm yesterday evening.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Search and rescue operations were hampered by the adverse weather. The coastguard were unable to respond to a request for helicopter assistance shortly before 9pm last night due to foggy weather conditions.

The Gardai and the HSA are investigating the incident.

A seahorse gene study reveals evolution of bizarre features?  like male pregnancy

 Image result for A tiger tail seahorse, which has evolved several unique traits, including male pregnancy  Image result for A tiger tail seahorse, which has evolved several unique traits, including male pregnancy  Image result for A seahorse gene study reveals evolution of bizarre features?  like male pregnancy

Seahorses have evolved at a galloping pace compared with their close relatives, a study has now shown.

As a result the creatures have acquired a bizarre body shape, eyes that can look in different directions at once, toothless snouts for sucking in prey, and – strangest of all – male pregnancy.

Scientists who mapped the complete genome, or genetic code, of the tiger tail seahorse, Hippocampus comes, identified numerous unique features that had evolved within a short time.

Both the loss and duplication of genes contributed to the rapid changes, said the researchers led by Professor Byrappa Venkatesh from the Agency for Science Technology and Research (ASTAR) in Singapore.

The seahorse owes its unusual appearance to bony plates that reinforce its body and allow it to stand and swim vertically.

A key feature is the absence of pelvic fins, which share the same evolutionary origins as human legs.

The scientists found that an important limb gene called tbx4, common to nearly all vertebrates, was missing from the seahorse genome.

When the same gene was deactivated in zebrafish, the fish also lost their pelvic fins.

Gene duplication, that can give genes entirely new functions, was thought to be how male pregnancy developed in the seahorse.

Males carry developing embryos in a “brood pouch” from which the offspring eventually hatch.

Regulatory elements of DNA that control gene activity are also believed to have played a key role in shaping the seahorse.

Loss of regulatory elements may have taken the brakes off evolution and allowed the seahorse skeleton to be so greatly modified.

Writing in the journal Nature, the authors concluded: “Our genome-wide analysis highlights several aspects that may have contributed to the highly specialised body plan and male pregnancy of seahorses.

“These include a higher protein and nucleotide evolutionary rate, loss of genes and expansion of gene families, with duplicated genes exhibiting new expression patterns, and loss of a selection of potential … regulatory elements.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 19th November 2016

Almost 200 countries agree climate time-frame change and make appeal to Trump

Marrakesh conference agrees to work out a rule book by December 2018

Image result for Marrakesh conference agrees to work out a rule book by December 2018 Image result for Marrakesh conference agrees to work out a rule book by December 2018  Image result for Marrakesh conference agrees to work out a rule book by December 2018

Members of International delegations at the climate conference in Marrakesh on Friday.

Nearly 200 nations agreed around midnight on Friday to work out the rules for a landmark 2015 global deal to tackle climate change within two years in a new sign of international support for a pact opposed by US President-elect Donald Trump.

At the end of two-week talks on global warming in Marrakesh, which were extended an extra day, many nations appealed to Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, to reconsider his threat to tear up the Paris Agreement for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Showing determination to keep the Paris Agreement on track, the conference agreed to work out a rule book at the latest by December 2018.

A rule book is needed because the Paris Agreement left many details vague, such as how countries will report and monitor their national pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Two years may sounds like a long time, but it took four to work out detailed rules for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement’s predecessor, which obliged only developed countries to cut their emissions. Paris requires commitments by all.

The final text also urged rich nations to keep building towards a goal of providing $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar told a news conference that Marrakesh had been the start of turning promises made in Paris into action.

“We will continue on the path,” he said, urging Trump to join other nations in acting to limit emissions.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who will host next year’s climate meeting in Germany, invited Trump to drop his scepticism about climate change and visit the South Pacific nation to see the effects of stronger storms and rising seas.

Trump plans to favour fossil fuels over renewable energies and has threatened to halt any US taxpayer funds for UN climate programmes.

On Thursday, governments reaffirmed their commitment to “full implementation” of the Paris accord which seeks to phase out greenhouse gas emissions this century and to limit a global average rise in temperature to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

“Not one country has said that if President Trump pulls the United States out of Paris, they will follow him,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Environmental groups said the outcome in Marrakesh was a step in the right direction, but many issues needed to be resolved over the next two years, including funds for developing nations.

“Rich countries have been trying to wriggle out of their pledges to help poorer countries meet the costs of coping with impacts and greening their economies,” said Harjeet Singh at ActionAid.

Also on Friday, a group of 48 developing countries most at risk from climate change said they would strive to make their energy production 100 percent renewable “as rapidly as possible”, as part of efforts to limit global warming.

The Social Democrats joint leaders call for radical changes in Ireland?

Party seeks end to religious discrimination, repeal of the 8th amendment

Image result for The Social Democrats joint leaders call for radical changes in Ireland?  Image result for The Social Democrats joint leaders call for radical changes in Ireland?

Catherine Murphy (centre) and Róisín Shortall address the party event in Dublin.

The joint leaders of the Social Democrats have called for radical changes in Irish society including an end to religious discrimination, repeal of the 8th amendment, an end to corruption, and prioritising public services over tax cuts.

Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall set out a vision for the party based on the Nordic political model, with a strong liberal outlook, at the first national conference of the new party.

In their leaders’ address to the conference at the Dublin Convention Centre last night, Ms Shortall and Ms Murphy emphasised homelessness, affordable homes, a universal health system free at the point of delivery, as well as saying that spending on public services should always be prioritised over health cuts.

Speaking to about 300 members, the leaders called for repeal of the Official Secrets Act, as well as the Ministers and Secretaries Act. Ms Shortall said that it would open up government.

She also said that the Social Democrats in power would also ensure that those found guilty of white-collar crime and corruption would be put beyond bars. The part, she said, would establish an anti-corruption agency.

Both Ms Murphy and Ms Shortall called for repeal of Section 7 of the Equal Status Act. That they said would remove the “baptism barrier” and ensure that there would be no bar on grounds of religion preventing children being enrolled in faith-based schools.

“The law of the land, as it currently stands, is that state-funded schools are perfectly entitled to refuse entry to children as young as four because they are not signed up to a particular religious belief.

“Even schools which do allow access to children of different faith, or no faith, continue to expose those children to a religious ethos to which they do not subscribe. This is entirely unacceptable.”

Ms Murphy said the party would also pledge to abolish zero hours contracts if in power.

Ms Shortall said: “Across the world people are hurting and are seeking to lash out at an establishment that has hurt them.

“But lashing out is not enough; we want to replace anger with hope; hope that things will be better for the many and not just for the chosen few. Brexit and the unknown quantity of a Trump presidency have the potential to impact negatively on all of us, and on our ability to compete on the world stage.”

She said the most successful countries were those where the gap between rich and poor was smallest. “The countries that manage to achieve this, are ones which strive towards equality of outcome. Invariably the Nordic countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway deliver better on these successful outcomes.”

Ms Murphy was highly critical of the reforms that have taken place over the past decade, saying they were driven by savage cuts.

“We see it in our chaotic health service; in our ever-worsening homelessness and housing crisis; in our underfunded and disjointed public transport system; in the second most expensive childcare costs in the world; and an educational system where parents are increasingly being asked to fund basic services such as school-heating costs.”

Ms Shortall also committed the party to a goal to end consistent child poverty by 2021.

On housing, Ms Murphy called on the Government to take immediate action to ensure long term rent certainty.

“We have to immediately free up many of the 200,000 vacant homes across the country,” she said.

As much as 130,000 customers hit by Three mobile data breach

Image result for As much as 130,000 customers hit by Three mobile data breach   Image result for As much as 130,000 customers hit by Three mobile data breach

The primary purpose of this was not to steal customer information but was criminal activity to acquire new handsets fraudulently.

More than 130,000 users of the Three mobile network has been compromised in a cyber security breach.

Customer information from more than 130,000 users of the Three mobile network has been compromised in a cyber security breach, the mobile operator has said.

Three boss Dave Dyson said in a statement that all affected customers were being contacted individually and that while personal information had been accessed, no financial information had been compromised.

Three men were arrested after the data breach was revealed, over the alleged fraudulent use of the company’s phone upgrade system in attempted to steal handsets.

“As you may already know, we recently became aware of suspicious activity on the system we use to upgrade existing customers to new devices and I wanted to update all our customers on what happened and what we have done,” Mr Dyson said.

“On 17th November we were able to confirm that eight customers had been unlawfully upgraded to a new device by fraudsters who intended to intercept and sell on those devices.

“I can now confirm that the people carrying out this activity were also able to obtain some customer information.

“In total, information from 133,827 customer accounts was obtained but no bank details, passwords, pin numbers, payment information or credit/debit card information are stored on the upgrade system in question.

“We believe the primary purpose of this was not to steal customer information but was criminal activity to acquire new handsets fraudulently.”

Three said it was continuing to work with law enforcement agencies, and as a precaution additional security measures had been placed on customer accounts.

The company had been criticised by some customers on social media for what was seen as a muted response to the breach, however Mr Dyson said Three would address all consumer concerns.

“I understand that our customers will be concerned about this issue and I would like to apologise for this and any inconvenience this has caused,” he said.

“We are contacting all of these customers today to individually confirm what information has been accessed and directly answer any questions they have.”

Security experts have again called for major companies with large amounts of customer data to do more to protect consumers.

The breach is the latest in a string of cyber attacks and data breaches, including those on TalkTalk and Yahoo.

How stages of prostate cancer are determined?

Image result for How stages of prostate cancer are determined?  Where is the prostate gland is located?  Image result for Testing for prostate cancer?

Any diagnosis of cancer has its own method of staging, which is a way to describe how much cancer is in your body and where it’s located.

Any diagnosis of cancer will have its own method of staging of the cancer detected. Cancer staging is a way to describe how much cancer is in your body and where it is located.

Staging of prostate cancer gives the doctor the information he needs to know on how big the tumor is, whether it has spread or not and if it has spread, where has the cancer gone to.

Staging is necessary for several reasons:

Testing for prostate cancer?

Image result for Testing for prostate cancer? When a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, the initial staging is based on the results of PSA blood tests, biopsies, and imaging tests. This phase of staging is referred to as clinical staging.

A PSA blood test is used primarily to screen for prostate cancer and it measures the amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. PSA is a protein produced by both cancerous and noncancerous tissue in the prostate gland.

The higher the level of PSA is an indication of a more advanced cancer. The doctor will want to know how fast the PSA levels have been rising from test to test as a faster increase could indicate a more aggressive tumor.

A biopsy of the prostate can be done in the doctor’s office and the results from this can tell what percent of the prostate is involved. It can also determine a Gleason score, which is a number from 2 to 10 showing how closely the cancer cells look like normal cells when viewed under a microscope.

If the score is less than 6, it suggests the cancer is slow growing and not aggressive. A higher number indicates a faster growing cancer that is likely to spread.

Imaging tests used to determine prostate cancer can include CT scans, MRI, or a bone scan.

How prostate cancer is staged and what they mean.

Stage I cancer

This stage is known as localized cancer, as the cancer has been found in only one part of the prostate.

Stage I cancers cannot be felt during a digital rectal exam or seen with imaging tests. If the PSA is less than 10 and the Gleason score is 6 or less, stage I cancer is most likely a slow growing cancer.

Stage II cancer

This stage of cancer is still localized and has not spread beyond the prostate but is more advanced than stage I.

In stage II, the cells are less normal than stage I and may grow more rapidly. There are two types of stage II prostate cancer: Stage IIA, which is found only on one side of the prostate; and Stage IIB, found in both sides of the prostate

Stage III cancer

This stage of cancer is called locally advanced prostate cancer and has spread outside the prostate into local tissue such as the seminal vesicles, the glands that make semen.

Stage IV cancer

This stage of cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, such as nearby lymph nodes or bones of the pelvis or spine. It could have spread to other organs such as the bladder, liver, or lungs.

For men diagnosed with stage I, II or III prostate cancer, the goal is to cure the cancer by treating it and keeping it from returning.

For men diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer, the goal is to improve symptoms and to prolong life as in most cases, stage IV prostate cancer is not curable.

The stage of prostate cancer along with the PSA and Gleason score will help the doctor to decide on the best treatment taking into account a man’s age, overall health, symptoms, side effects of treatment, and what are the chances the treatment can cure the cancer.

More than 38,000 people killed on Irish roads since records began in 1959

The stats come ahead of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims

 Image result for More than 38,000 people killed on Irish roads since records began in 1959  Image result for More than 38,000 people killed on Irish roads since records began in 1959  Image result for More than 38,000 people killed on Irish roads since records began in 1959

Records show that a total of 38,787 people have been killed on Irish roads since records began in 1959.

While 14,839 people have been killed on roads in Northern Ireland since deaths were first recorded there in 1931.

The statistics come ahead of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, to be held on Sunday November 20th.

Ceremonies are to be held to mark the day across the island.

The transport minister, Road Safety Authority (RSA), An Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and road safety groups are calling on road-users to join the international community to mark the day.

Transport Minister Shane Ross has welcomed the fact that people both north and south were coming together to remember all the lives lost on the island’s roads.

“Many lives have been saved and injuries prevented as a result of the collaborative work by road safety agencies on both sides of the border in recent years so it is fitting that we should come together on World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims’ to remember those who have tragically died on the road and to also think of their families.”

“I would also like to acknowledge the great work done by those in the emergency services and medical professionals, on both sides of the border, who have to deal with the aftermath and consequences of collisions.

“We will be thinking of them too on Sunday and the life-saving work that they do.”

“People just like you and me have lost their lives”

While Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Minister, Chris Hazzard, added:  “Across many generations thousands of families have been devastated by the heartache of road tragedy.

“Almost 15,000 people, people just like you and me, have lost their lives across the north since records began.  Many others have been seriously injured and are living with the physical and emotional scars.

“Road safety is a continuous challenge and road deaths do not discriminate. All road users are vulnerable – every journey, every day, every road.”

Chief Superintendent Aidan Reid of the Garda National Traffic Bureau said: “This Sunday gives us all an opportunity to reflect on our behaviour on the roads. An Garda Síochána is committed to working with communities and organisations to make every effort to keep our roads free from tragedy, but our biggest enemy is complacency.”

While PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “So far this year, Police officers have visited the homes of 59 families across Northern Ireland to deliver the devastating news that one of their loved ones has been killed on our roads.

“Many more have received news of serious injuries. Behind every statistic, every news report, there are families and friends who have been affected and we must remember them.”

The Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims was first held in 1993 in the United Kingdom.

Since then it has been organised by non-governmental organisations in a number of countries.

It was created as a means to give recognition to victims of road traffic crashes and the plight of their loved ones who must cope with the emotional and practical consequences of these events.

On October 26th 2005, the United Nations adopted a resolution which calls for governments to mark the day each year.

Global sea ice (Antarctica) shrinking at never before recorded speeds,

Scientist’s now warn

Image result for Global sea ice (Antarctica) shrinking at never before recorded speeds  Arctic sea ice at record low wintertime maximum event

Climate change experts say the repercussions of warmer sea temperatures are already being felt.

While ice in the Arctic is close to reaching record lows, the Antarctic has seen sea ice running at lowest ever levels since records began.

Global sea ice is retreating at unprecedented speed with its impact already being felt across the globe, a leading scientist has warned.

While ice in the Arctic is close to record lows, the Antarctic has seen sea ice running at lowest ever levels for this time of year since records began.

Professor Peter Wadhams, head of the polar ocean physics group at Cambridge University, said rates of ice growth in winter had slowed and rising temperatures were causing it to melt faster in the summer, causing a dramatic reduction in area and thickness.

He warned the global repercussions of the reduction of sea ice were already being felt, long before the ice has fully disappeared.

“As the ice area gets less, you’re changing the albedo of the earth, which is the fraction of solar radiation that gets reflected straight away back into space, so you’re absorbing radiation which warms the earth quicker creating a feedback effect as the ice retreats,”

“The only secure way of stopping the sea ice to retreat is stopping warming the climate and that is really by reducing our carbon dioxide emissions.”

He also warned of the disastrous implications melting sea ice had for rising sea levels across the world.

According to a new study, sea water levels have risen by almost 7.8 inches due to ice melting since 1870, causing flooding of low-lying coastal communities and displacement of fish populations fleeing increasingly warm waters.

“As the ice retreats you get warmer air over the Arctic and that warmer air spreads out to places like Greenland’s ice cap causing it to melt faster in the summer than it did in the past, which is contributing to global sea level rise,” he said.

He also warned of the release of the powerful greenhouse gas methane from the seabed as the ice melts, a gas that scientists recognise as a key driver of climate change.

“We are now seeing huge plumes of methane coming up to the surface from methane being released from the seabed,” he told The Independent.

“The ice in summer has shrunk back from all the seas around the edges of the arctic and without the sea ice, those seas around the edge can now warm up because the water is shallow which allows this warmer water to bathe the seabed.

“The seabed at the moment is covered with permafrost, frozen ground, hiding a large volume of methane underneath. As soon as the warmer water starts to act on the seabed the permafrost melts and the methane is released.”

Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in October were unusually high over the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, as well as the Barents and Kara Seas along the Eurasian coast, helping to limit ice growth (Climate Change Institute/University of Maine)

Concern is also growing among the scientific community over Donald Trump’s election as US president.

Last week, what is hoped will be one of the biggest ever environmental campaigns was launched by a group of scientists and environmentalists in an effort to convince the President-elect that global warming is real.

Professor Wadhams warned that Mr Trump’s stance as a climate change denier could be “a disaster and a catastrophe for the world”.

“I recently attended the Marrakech climate change conference and there was enormous concern because the US delegation who signed the Paris agreement is still Obama’s administration,” he said.

“Legally the US is taking part fully in the Paris accords but as John Kerry was saying, his administration would only be in office for the next two months. There’s general gloom everywhere, you quiver with fear with the rest of the globe for the future.”

However, Professor Wadhams, who recently published a book on the shrinking of sea ice, A Farewell to Ice, said there was hope for the future if the proper measures were put in place.

“One measure to stem the methane emissions from the seabed would be a kind of fracking method that the oil industry suggests which would be to drill down through these sediments, open up cavities which would then be filled with methane when you pump it out,” he said.

“Global warming and climate change is not going to be easy to reverse, especially sea level rise as that just seems to continue inexorably. The only way that’s been suggested that might work is ‘marine cloud brightening’, a form of geoengineering where you inject very fine water particles into the bottom of low cloud, these particles evaporate and it makes them brighter which will reflect more solar radiation.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 25th September 2016

Irish Central Bank signals resistance to changing mortgage lending rules

‘Stable rules are valuable in eliminating avoidable uncertainty’, says deputy governor

Image result for Irish Central Bank signals resistance to changing mortgage lending rules   Image result for Irish Central Bank signals resistance to changing mortgage lending rules

The Irish Central Bank deputy governor Sharon Donnery said the short- and medium-term impact of Brexit was likely to be negative.

The Central Bank has given its clearest indication yet of a reluctance to change its strict rules on mortgage lending and warned that adopting a “fine tuning” approach could lead to financial instability.

Speaking at the annual economic policy conference of the Dublin Economic Workshop, the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Sharon Donnery, said the benefit of adjusting the rules would have to be significant as a “stable regulatory regime was key to eliminating uncertainty”.

She also warned that uncertainty would remain a central feature of the economic backdrop against which policymakers would have to make decisions in the years ahead.

Under the Central Bank rules as they stand, first-time buyers need a 10 per cent deposit for the first €220,000 of a house price and 20 per cent for the balance while all other buyers must have a 20 per cent deposit in place. In addition, the Central Bank requires that lending limits of 3.5 times income are applied by the banks before approving mortgages.

A recent consultation process, which will inform the bank’s review, yielded 50 submissions, several of which called for the threshold below which first-time buyers have to pay only a 10 per cent deposit to be raised from the current level of €220,000.

Ms Donnery said “the evidence threshold to justify a material loosening or tightening of the rules is significant for two reasons. First, stable rules are valuable for both households and mortgage lenders in eliminating avoidable uncertainty about the regulatory regime. Second, the noisy and volatile nature of macro-financial data means that it would be unwise to seek to adjust the rules in response to minor and temporary fluctuations in the state of the financial cycle: such a fine-tuning approach could actually aggravate financial instability if revisions proved to be unwarranted or badly timed.”

She said that while the costs of the measures could be “immediately felt and is quantifiable to the banks or borrowers to which they apply, the benefits are often unobservable”.

Precise impact uncertain?

Addressing Brexit, Ms Donnery said the precise impact on the Irish economy was uncertain but warned that the “short- and medium-term impact is likely to be negative”.

She said the Republic was the most exposed European economy to the potential effects of Brexit because the UK accounts for a large percentage of Irish imports and exports and because labour flows and cross-Border investment linkages are considerable.

“There is considerable uncertainty regarding the specific political and institutional construct which may emerge once the UK decides to trigger article 50 of the treaty. This makes it challenging to estimate the impact on the Irish economy.”

Taoiseach Kenny urges the US to allow low-cost flights from Cork to Boston?

Enda Kenny says he has raised the matter twice with President Barack Obama

Image result for Taoiseach Kenny urges the US to allow low-cost flights from Cork to Boston?   Image result for Taoiseach Kenny urges the US to allow low-cost flights from Cork to Boston?

President Barack Obama: “You can’t get any higher than the American president,” says Enda Kenny.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has renewed his appeal to United States authorities to approve a licence for Norwegian Air International’s plan for low-cost transatlantic flights from Cork to Boston.

Mr Kenny said he was doing all he could to lobby for approval for the new service which is being opposed by aviation unions in the US and Ireland.

Some observers believe it will not be adjudicated on by the US department of transportation until after the US presidential election.

“What I have done is that I have raised this with the president of the United States on two occasions. We have had discussions at a European level and at an American level. You can’t get any higher than the American president,” said Mr Kenny on a visit to Cork.

“The issues raised by the American airlines have been referred to and dealt with comprehensively but it is a matter for common sense to prevail here for a situation that is in compliance with the Open Skies agreement.

Capacity is there.

“The opportunity for Norwegian Air International (NAI) to fly from Ireland to the States will have the capacity to do for long haul what Ryanair did for short haul with enormous opportunities for both sides.

“It’s not politics that’s holding this back. This is not a political obstruction, and obviously now there is a claim for this to go to arbitration. If the matter becomes approved in the meantime, there will be no need for arbitration.”

Mr Kenny made his comments as European commissioner for transportVioleta Bulc prepares to meet US secretary of transportation Anthony Foxx at the International Civil Aviation Organization assembly in Montreal on Tuesday.

Mr Kenny said the matter was going to be raised in a European context and he stressed that the NAI proposal to fly from Cork to Boston was in compliance and met all the requirements of the Open Skies deal between the US andEurope.

Last April, the US department of transportation indicated issued what is known as “a show cause order” concerning NAI, the Irish-flag subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle and following detailed examinations on submissions of NAI’s application for a permit.

Labour-related concerns.

In the show cause order, the department acknowledged that the labour-related concerns raised by the NAI’s opponents warranted proceeding with caution and it consulted with its own legal advisor, the department’s office of the general counsel.

The department also took the unprecedented step of formally consulting two agencies with special expertise on international law, the department of justice’s office of legal counsel (OLC) and the department of state (DOS), to solicit their views.

According to the department of transportation, it found that “the provision in the US-EU agreement that addresses labour does not afford a basis for rejecting an applicant that is otherwise qualified to receive a permit”.

“In this regard, the order states that Norwegian Air International appears to meet DOT’s normal standards for award of a permit and that there appears to be no legal basis to deny Norwegian Air International’s application,” it stated.

US and Irish trade unions have objected to the new proposed service, claiming that the NAI would employ crew on “Asian contracts” that were not governed by the labour laws of either the US or the EU but this has been strongly denied by the company.

Seanad leader Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer, from Cork, said he plans to raise the issue with Minister for Transport Shane Ross and Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan this week to ensure diplomatic pressure is maintained to secure the permit.

Blind entrepreneur man wins national award for successful health food business

Image result for Blind entrepreneur man wins national award for successful health food business  Image result for Blind entrepreneur man wins national award for successful health food business

When an unemployed Donegal man sought a quick recovery from knee surgery, he found a solution that’s now earning him a living as well as accolades and awards.

Derek Walker (28) from Letterkenny was advised to take wheat-grass as part of his recovery because the natural food product is rich in protein, vitamins and minerals and helps with healing. Wheat-grass is even said to help cure cancer.

However, it isn’t the easiest item to digest, so Derek began growing and producing convenient 30ml shots of fast-frozen wheatgrass juice for his own consumption and for sale.

He felt he had to try to make a living somehow. Derek is registered blind and had been unable to find normal paid work, partly he believes because of discrimination.

With support from Donegal Local Development Company’s (DLDC) self-employment support unit, he was able to move production from a spare room in his house to custom-designed facilities. Today, his wheatgrass juice shots are sold in dozens of Tesco, Supervalu and other stores.

When he discovered that Letterkenny had no market for local food, craft and art producers, he and his fiancé Anna McQuade simply set one up. Letterkenny Artisan Market at Carrygally Business Park now caters for 40 exhibitors.

For his entrepreneurship, Derek won a regional award during the summer and last week was chosen as national winner of the inaugural Irish Local Development Network award for unemployed people who set up their own businesses.

Derek’s disability is not obvious at first, but his sight has been diminishing since he was 12 years old due to a rare condition.

He applied for many jobs but could not get past the interview stage. He recalled dropping his magnifier and it rolling across the floor during one job interview: “That was me done for,” he said.

“I’m glad it happened now,” he said of the discrimination, as it prompted him to go it alone.

On scooping the national award, Derek said, “I feel nothing but gratitude. With losing my eyesight, this is very special to me. I made the job myself and I want a future to work towards, where as at one point I felt I was going to have nothing.”

He praised the staff in DLDC and the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) scheme.

“They restored some inner belief in me that others had taken away from me. I learned that I am a person of value. Don’t set limits. Just because you can’t do one or two things, with help you can do as many things as you want to.”

“And the BTWEA was a big help because it enabled me to create a network of contacts. I was on a blind pension – a disability allowance – and the scheme gave me two years to try out my idea.”

The scheme allows participants to retain their social welfare payment, plus secondary benefits, on a reducing basis over a two-year period.

Derek’s success and the achievements of 17 other finalists were hailed as an example to 11,500 people currently availing of the BTWEA scheme.

“It shows what you can do with the right ideas, support and determination,” said Kathleen Stack, Assistant Secretary General at the Department of Social Protection, speaking at the awards event, in Dublin, on September 15th.

Meanwhile, Derek had advice for people who can’t find work because of lack of jobs, because of the recession, or because of discrimination over disabilities:

“You can do it for yourselves, with support. I wouldn’t have had the courage on my own to do it. The scheme gave me security and now the world is my oyster.”

He intends to invest his €2,000 prize money into the business and to begin employing people shortly. Busy times beckon as Derek and Anna also became parents recently.

Organ donors can give the gift of life after death

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(Above centre pic) Members of the Heart and Lung Transplant Association during a visit to the Circle of Life Garden in Salthill on Saturday. Sean O’Gorman from Tipperary, a heart recipient of nine years; Rosaleen Clasby from East Galway who received a double lung transplant earlier this year; Sally Whelan from Co Laois, a double-lung transplant of three and half years, and David Crosby from Cavan who also received a double lung transplant earlier this year.

The garden commemorates the donor community and their families in Ireland and across the globe.

When it comes to donating organs, Ireland has a pretty good track record. We’re ranked ahead of countries such as Germany and France, but there’s always room for improvement, as places such as Spain and Croatia show.

In Ireland, the number of organ donors per million people is 18. In Spain, it’s 36, making it a leader in the EU.

Specialists from Spanish hospitals were among a group of European visitors to Ireland last week, sharing their knowledge and expertise with some 40 colleagues involved in organ donation here.

The group visited UHG and Salthill’s Circle of Life Commemorative garden before returning to Dublin for a two-day conference.

It’s part of a campaign to increase the number of organ donors in Ireland to 25 per million people

That’s on foot of a 2010 EU directive which was introduced mainly because of Europe’s ageing population, explains Emer Curran, a Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine who has been appointed as Clinical Lead in Organ Donation for the Galway University Hospital Saolta Group,

Emer is one of two new appointments made locally by the HSE to educate staff and the public about the importance of organ donation and to liaise with staff at Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland (ODTI).

That’s the body that co-ordinates organ transplantation in Ireland. Based in Dublin, it’s the first contact point between Intensive Care Units countrywide and transplant surgeons in Ireland’s three transplant hospitals. Kidney transplants are carried out in Beaumont, hearts and lungs at the Mater and liver and pancreas transplants are done in St Vincent’s.

The other appointee in the Saolta region is Pauline May who took up the role of Organ Donor Nurse Manager last year, bringing extensive experience as an Intensive Care Nurse and Clinical Nurse Manager.

Donor Nurses have been in place across the HSE since 2015. This year, in addition to Emer’s appointment in the West, three Lead Clinicians were appointed in Dublin, and one in the Mid-West area – there will be an appointment in Cork next year.

It’s part of a campaign to create a version of the Spanish model although we can’t replicate everything they do as we don’t have the resources, Emer explains.

She and Pauline cover an area from Galway to Donegal, so the remit is large, especially since Emer’s role is part-time, but you have to work with the resources that are available to you, she says. There are seven hospitals in the area, five with ICU departments, which is where most donors come from.

“We’re not doing too badly, but we want to do better,” she says about organ donation in Ireland.

That’s where she and Pauline come in?

“It’s about educating everybody to make sure we are on the same page,” she says of people on the frontline of patient care.

Organ Donation and Transplant Ireland was established in 2014 by the HSE, and given responsibility for organ procurement.

The aim of the body, headed up by Galway man and NUIG graduate, Professor Jim Egan, a consultant in Respiratory Medicine at the Mater, is to increase the number of organ donors while ensuring care of patients, recipients and organs.

There are many reasons why it’s important to increase the number of organ donors, Emer says. Ireland has the highest rate of Cystic Fibrosis in the world and diabetes – a leading cause of kidney disease – is becoming more common. Ageing is a big factor. Also, our population has increased and that means increased need for organs.

How to talk to a horse the Norwegian way

Image result for How to talk to a horse the Norwegian way  Image result for Mr Ed the talking horse the Norwegian way  Image result for How to talk to a horse the Norwegian way  

Norwegian horses have been taught to communicate in a “horse code,” allowing them to talk with human caretakers.

Researchers have devised a way that could allow you to talk to horses.

A horse is a horse of course of course, and no one can talk to a horse of course.

Or can they?

It’s not quite the equivalent of Mister Ed, but it’s the next best thing. Researchers have taught a group of Norwegian horses to use a series of symbols to talk to their human caretakers, and the equines used their newfound verbosity to communicate their blanket preferences.

Horses were trained to use their noses to select one of three boards with different symbols on them. The board with a horizontal line means “put my blanket on,” while the board with a vertical line means “take it off.” A third board, blank, allows the horses to indicate that they are perfectly happy as is. It took less than two weeks to train all 23 horses in the study to properly use the symbols. The research was detailed in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

The training process involved placing the horses in either a very warm environment with a blanket on or a very cold environment without a blanket. The animals were cued about the meaning of the symbols by being fed carrots whenever they made the appropriate choice. When wrong choices were made, the horses were given nothing. It took just 10-15 minutes of training a day for the horses to figure out the symbol system.

Once everything clicked for the horses, they became increasingly eager to communicate with humans, even going out of their way to get the attention of their caretakers so that they could discuss their preferences. They seemed enthusiastic at the opportunity to take more control over their own temperature regulation, to convey whether they were hot or cold. In fact, once the horses grasped the symbol system they no longer required carrots as reward, which indicated to researchers that they truly understood what the boards meant.

Researchers also confirmed that the animals were either sweating or shivering when they would indicate their blanket preferences. By the end of the study, the horses were using the symbols with 100 percent accuracy. Over the following months, they would continue to use the communication system to indicate their changing preferences as weather conditions changed.

It’s a remarkable result, one which could revolutionize how horses are kept and cared for. The next step will be to see what other concepts the horses might be able to communicate, and to test just how big their vocabulary can become.

Stephen Hawking is still wary of making contact with aliens

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Especially if some of our own Earth films are anything to go by.

It’s no secret that we as a society have developed a fascination with contact from alien civilizations over the years. The concept of meeting intelligent life from somewhere else, either from our galaxy or another, has been the basis of much of our recent research–including the work of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, which we’ve been avidly following.

It’s also been the inspiration for some of the most popular science-fiction franchises out there, from Star Trek to Close Encounters of the Third Kind to the Independence Day films. In much of our fiction, however, meeting alien life for the first time can either go well… or not so well.

With that in mind, it’s no wonder that renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is personally pretty nervous when it comes to the concept of first contact with an alien civilization. Back in 2010, Hawking posited the theory that if intelligent life exists outside our universe, they may not be as friendly as we would like to believe.

Six years later, he still holds that same belief–and he’s discussing it in a documentary called Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places, which is available on CuriosityStream:

One day, we might receive a signal from a planet like [Gliese 832c]. But we should be wary of answering back. Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well.

It’s easy to understand Hawking’s hesitancy–even though other scientists aren’t so sure we need to be erring on the side of caution when it comes to welcoming first contact. Their argument stands behind the fact that any aliens who reach out to us would have likely already learned a lot about us due to the fact that our planet has been sending out satellite signals for hundreds of years already. So maybe it wouldn’t necessarily turn out likeIndependence Day. Maybe it would actually be closer to this scene in Final Contact that gives me emotions every single time. We could definitely introduce our equivalent of Vulcans to some rocking’ tunes:

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 5th September 2016

Irish State to shut controversial ‘vulture fund’ tax loopholes

Use of funds’ charitable status to be tackled in Finance Bill, department vows

Image result for Irish State to shut controversial ‘vulture fund’ tax loopholes  Image result for Michael McGrath: the Fianna Fáil finance spokesman

Michael McGrath: the Fianna Fáil finance spokesman says he wrote to the Minister and the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, urging them to close the loophole.

The Government has committed to close off a number of controversial tax loopholes as part of a drive to ensure tax transparency and fairness in the wake of the Apple tax ruling.

The Department of Finance confirmed yesterday that a loophole in legislation dating to 1997 that has allowed vulture funds avoid tax by gaining charitable status will be closed off in the Finance Bill, to be published after the budget.

Provisions of the legislation, especially section 110 of the Finance Act 1997, have allowed such funds – which have acquired billions of euro of distressed debt and properties – to register as charities and minimise their tax bills to negligible amounts.

Their use of the legislation in this manner has also been examined by the Charities Regulator.

A spokesman for the Department of Finance said yesterday that the change, as reported by the Sunday Business Post, is being considered in the context of the Finance Act.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said yesterday that he wrote to Michael Noonan and the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners last month, urging them to close the loophole.

“I wrote that the use of aggressive tax avoidance by the funds did not seem to be consistent with section 110..

“I would hope the Government is minded to shut it down.

Introducing legislation option?

“I also said that if Revenue was of the opinion it did not have existing powers to deal with this, legislation should be brought forward and that Fianna Fáil would be happy to support it,” he said.

The department is now examining the legislative option as a means of addressing the loophole.

It forms part of a broader move by the Government to repair Ireland’s reputation internationally after it was damaged by a series of controversies over its tax structure, not least by the European Commission ruling on Apple. In addition to a review of the corporation tax set-up, the Government has made a commitment to achieve tax justice, a key demand of Independent Minister Katherine Zappone.

An important concession achieved by the Minister for Children was that any tax opinion would be valid for a maximum of five years. This would represent a significant change.

Ministers from Fine Gael and from the Independent ranks agreed yesterday that internal communications between the dominant party and its Coalition partners needed to be put on a more structured basis, rather than the slightly informal nature of operations until now.

The Independent Alliance has appointed experienced lawyer Tony Williams as a special adviser and programme manager, and he will undertake that liaison work within government. The group is also expected to appoint a press officer this month to represent its views and position in government.

A Fine Gael Minister said yesterday the “mood music” this week was a measurable improvement from the tense exchanges that took place during the vote on the private members’ motion on fatal foetal abnormalities.

Apple ruling

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty confirmed the party had tabled an amendment to the Government motion on its appeal of the Apple ruling, to be heard in the Dáil on Wednesday. The amendment calls on the Government to spend the €13 billion on essential services.

However, with support from Fianna Fáil and from Labour, the Government is expected to have a comfortable majority in the Dáil.

CSO to revise property price index to include cash purchases

Move comes after criticism that its mortgage data-based index only covers 50% of market

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The new index is expected to be published by the end of September. 

The Central Statistics Office has responded to criticism of how it calculates property price trends by substantially revising its price index, which is now set to include cash purchases for the first time.

The new index, which tracks house prices across the country, had been due to launch this week but has now been postponed and is expected to be published by the end of September.

Including data on cash purchases may lead to a substantial revision of the index. The most recent index for example showed that prices across the country rose by 6.6 per cent in the year to June, but once it is reconstituted, this figure may change.

Since its launch in 2011, the index has been based on mortgage data from lenders only but now it will be based on stamp duty returns. Given that cash buyers accounted for about 47 per cent of all transactions in the first six months of the year, and more than 50 per cent in previous years, the index has to date only reflected price trends in about half of the market.

The new index

The new index will replace the existing monthly Residential Property Price Index and will be based on stamp duty returns made to the Revenue Commissioners, which is the same data source as the Residential Property Price Register (RPPR), maintained by the Property Services Regulatory Authority.

It means that it will cover both cash and mortgage-based transactions for the first time, as well as all market purchases of houses and apartments. When the index was first launched in 2011, e-stamping had only been introduced, and the CSO was unable to access Revenue data, hence the reliance on mortgage statistics.

The CSO said the move represents a “significant methodological improvement” over the existing index, as in addition to the stamp duty information, data from the RPPR will be matched with Building Energy Rating certification data provided by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, and locational characteristics from the GeoDirectory and census 2011 small area population statistics.

The new index will also include regional indices, giving a breakdown of price and transactions trends in specific areas, such as Dublin city and Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown, as well as statistics drawn from Eircodes.

It will also include details on the characteristics of sellers and buyers.

One omission in the new index is data on institutional buyers, such as the likes of real estate investment trusts, and it will also exclude non-market transactions.

Some 2,137 young jobseekers in Donegal as Youth Council calls for moves to reduce figure

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The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) has called for measures to reduce youth unemployment in County Donegal and nationwide.

Data from the Department of Social Protection shows that the number of young people in Donegal in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance or Benefit is 2,137.

“This number is still far too high and investment to tackle the continued high level of youth unemployment are needed,” according to James Doorley, deputy director at the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI), which represents youth organisations working with over 380,000 young people nationwide.

As part of its pre-budget submission published recently, the NYCI is calling for an investment of €30m in a renewed Youth Guarantee scheme and asking Government to incentivise education, training and work experience for young people by reversing the cuts in payments to young people on these schemes. Mr Doorley said:

“While youth unemployment has declined from the crisis levels of the 2009 to 2013 period, the most recent figures indicate that we have almost 40,000** young people on the live register – of whom 16,000*** have been on the register for one year or more. In Donegal alone there are 2137 young people in receipt of Jobseekers payments. We need action now to support these young people on the path to employment.”

The cleanest (and the most littered) parts of Ireland

 Image result for The cleanest (and the most littered) parts of Ireland   litter  Image result for The cleanest (and the most littered) parts of Ireland

Illegal dumping near Rathfarnham in Dublin earlier this year.

A survey has revealed the cleanest and most littered areas in the country.

Only 2 of 25 towns surveyed were deemed littered, but 7 of the bottom 8 places on the list were city areas in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

Kilkenny was named Ireland’s cleanest area in the survey by Irish Business Against Litter, while Farranree in Cork was Ireland’s only ‘litter blackspot’.

The previously littered towns of Athlone, Portlaoise and Ennis all improved to ‘Clean to European Norms’, while Maynooth shot up 19 places in the rankings.

Dublin city centre had its best ever showing, with Grafton Street, Temple Bar and Christchurch receiving top marks.

“Dublin City Council has done a fine job in presenting the capital at its best in what was an important summer for tourism,” says IBAL’s Conor Horgan. “This job was complemented by the roads around Dublin Airport being exceptionally clean. At the same time Ballymun and North Inner City were littered, so we’re not near to solving the capital’s litter problem yet.”

Galvone in Limerick city and Mahon in Cork city were also found to be littered.

These survey findings bear out our contention that while our city centres are generally well maintained, disadvantaged areas continue to be the source of much of the litter in our country,” continues Horgan.

According to IBAL, litter is a symptom of social neglect, and councils need to look at a community-wide response targeting those areas where the problem is at its worst.

“Work at keeping these areas clean for six to twelve months and they are likely to stay clean, and the community can have pride in their neighbourhood, “ says Horgan. “That does cost money initially, but the payback will be significant.”

The survey also found that while littering had decreased, dumping is on the rise; IBAL are concerned that mandatory pay-by-weight bin charges, due to be introduced next year, could encourage dumping.

Red kite chicks bred in Fingal for first time in 100 years

Fledglings in the air after efforts to reintroduce species initially beset by problems.

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The successful Fingal fledgling comes after GET, along with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Welsh Kite Trust, brought back red kites to Ireland between 2007 and 2011.

Three newly fledged red kite chicks are soaring over Dublin after a successful breeding programme.

Years of patient efforts to reintroduce red kites into Ireland have resulted in three chicks being fledged in two nests in Fingal this year, the Golden Eagle Trust (GET) said.

It is good news for the kites, which last bred in north Co Dublin more than 100 years ago, but bad news for rats and crows which are among the birds’ favourite fodder.

Efforts to reintroduce the species in Ireland in recent years were initially beset by problems due to the use of second generation rodenticides, leading to a campaign for the responsible use of such chemicals.

The successful Fingal fledgling comes after GET, along with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Welsh Kite Trust, brought back red kites to Ireland between 2007 and 2011.

Strategic locations

The Fingal Red Kite release programme was part of the final year of the project and the final batch of 53 red kites was released in 2011 at various strategic locations in Fingal.

Dr Marc Ruddock of GET said the confirmation of the three chicks in 2016 is “hugely rewarding” and means there are now six established pairs of kites.

Hans Visser, biodiversity officer at Fingal Co Council, said this was a “pretty amazing” result as red kites were last breeding in north Co Dublin more than a century ago.

The presence of the species here dates back much earlier. Numerous red kite bones were uncovered from excavations of the 11th century Wood Quay site in Dublin, and were also noted in the Phoenix Park in the 14th century.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 29th August 2016.

17% increase in claims involving uninsured drivers in Ireland

Warning of increased premiums as more claims recorded during first seven months

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Overall, there were 688 claims recorded in Dublin, up 78 on the 610 claims seen during the first seven months of 2015

The number of motor insurance claims involving uninsured or untraced drivers jumped by 17% between January and July, according to new figures.

The data show there were 1,644 claims involving such drivers during the first seven months of 2016, up by 235 versus the 1,409 claims lodged during the same period a year earlier.

The Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) figures show 42% of such claims were made in Dublin with the capital also showing a big spike in general claims made compared to last year.

Overall, there were 688 claims recorded in Dublin, up 78 on the 610 claims seen during the first seven months of 2015. The next highest number of claims were in Cork (129) and Galway (92).

Between January and July, claims increased in 20 counties, with the largest percentage change being in Roscommon, which recorded an increase of 500% as the number of claims rose from 2 to 12.

A decline in four counties.

Four counties experienced a decline in the number of claims, the largest drop being in Limerick which had 80 claims, down from 95 in 2015.

The number of claims in Clare and Kildare were the same across both years.

MIBI, which was established by the Government and the insurance industry in the 1950s, pays out approximately €60 million a year on claims involving uninsured or untraced drivers. David Fitzgerald, the body’s chief executive, warned that the jump in claims involving such drivers would likely impact on premiums in the future.

“An increase of 17% represents a significant jump in the number of claims being lodged. It showcases the increased pipeline of payments facing the MIBI. While no sums are yet attached to these claims, unfortunately more claims generally means higher levels of payments coming from the MIBI and ultimately, that will impact on motor insurance premiums,” he said.

Hiqa reports critical of HSE disability services

Peer abuse, failure to investigate complaints and mismanagement among findings

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Hiqa inspectors found that some staff felt they were being troublemakers if they raised concerns about the quality of disability services.

Major patient safety concerns have been raised in a series of critical reports into HSE-run disability services around the country.

Inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) noted incidents of peer-to-peer abuse, misadministration of medications and failures to adequately report complaints of alleged mistreatment following visits to a number of large disability centres in Cork, Kilkenny and Donegal.

During an unannounced visit to the St Raphael’s Campus in Youghal, Co Cork, it was found that a resident had not been given adequate food and nutrition for a period of more than 18 hours.

Those working at the centre said there were not enough members of staff on duty on that particular day to get the resident out of bed and feed them appropriately.

The Youghal campus, which had court-applied restrictive conditions placed on its registration last year due to previous negative findings by Hiqa, also came in for criticism for incorrect use of seizure and antimicrobial medicines which could have “potentially catastrophic” or even fatal impacts on patients.

The facility is currently in the middle of a winding-down process and is due to close next year, but inspectors recorded an ongoing “lack of clarity for staff around the reporting of allegations of abuse”.

One resident alone had made 15 complaints of physical abuse by one of his peers over the space of less than a month, but none of these incidents were properly investigated, inspectors said.

Serious failings in governance and management were identified at an unnamed disability service in Donegal during another unannounced inspection in March.

Despite initially being told by the person in charge that there had been no “incidents, suspicions, allegations or investigations of abuse” there since 2013, Hiqa officials later found that such allegations had indeed been made and investigations were instigated.

Inspectors said the person in charge subsequently handed over documents relating to the alleged incidents of abuse, and they concluded that “there was a significant risk to the safety of residents as a consequence of seriously inadequate safeguarding arrangements in the centre”.

Speaking to inspectors, some members of staff felt they were being seen as “troublemakers” if they highlighted problems with safeguarding measures or instances of possible mistreatment.

Elsewhere, Hiqa was not satisfied that the requisite improvements had been made to service provision at St Patrick’s Centre in Kilkenny which was taken over by the HSE in October 2015 following “significant failings” by the previous care provider.

Incidents of peer-to-peer aggression had continued since the handover, and there were still “significant concerns regarding the lack of suitable governance and management arrangements to oversee the quality and safety of care provided to residents” which had “direct negative outcomes for residents”.

A smaller community-based facility for six residents in Westmeath failed to demonstrate compliance for any of the nine standards tested during a visit in March, and the two-story house had no overall evacuation plan in the event of a fire.

It was also found to be deficient as regards safeguarding measures, as the member of staff designated to deal with complaints told inspectors they were “not aware that they had been assigned this responsibility” and said they did not have time to carry out managerial roles alongside their frontline duties.

The findings came in a raft of 11 inspection reports released by Hiqa on Monday. Other centres visited managed to demonstrate more consistent compliance with regulations, and there was evidence of a good quality of life for residents within these services.

The State’s health watchdog also provided an update on two autism care centres which are operated by Gheel Autism Services on behalf of the HSE after it took over control from the Irish Autism Society following negative inspection outcomes published in July.

Inspectors found that significant improvements had been made in safety and quality of life of residents at both premises.

Ireland’s retail sales up by 12.6% for July 2016

Big jump in car sales accounts for the overall boost?

Image result for Ireland's retail sales up by 12.6% for July 2016    Image result for Ireland's retail sales up by 12.6% for July 2016

The volume of retail sales increased by 12.6% in July when compared with June and there was an increase of 6.3% in the annual figure.

If car sales are excluded, there was a decrease of 0.5% in the volume of retail sales in July when compared with June and there was an increase of 2.7% in the annual figure.

The sectors with the largest month on month volume increases were motors which were up 12.5%, furniture and lighting, up 5.3%, and books, newspapers and stationery, up 2%.

The sectors with the largest monthly decreases were clothing, footwear and textiles which were down 2.5 per cent.

Other retail sales are down 2.4% and food, beverages and tobacco are down 0.9%.

There was an increase of 4.5% in the value of retail sales in July when compared with June and there was an annual increase of 3.9% when compared with July 2015.

The genetics of Type 2 Diabetes is in a mess

A recent study shows why genetic advances in medicine are so challenging.

Image result for The genetics of Type 2 Diabetes is in a mess Image result for The Human Genome Project was both a spectacular success Image result for The Human Genome Project was both a spectacular success

The Human Genome Project was both a spectacular success and a frustrating disappointment. It has revolutionized the science of biology and spawned a multi-billion dollar industry. It has alsofailed to deliver on the ambitious promise that genome science will, as President Bill Clinton stated 16 years ago, “revolutionize the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of most, if not all human diseases.”

But hype springs eternal. The human genome is now old news; today scientists study tens or even hundreds of thousands of human genomes. We now hear promises about the imminent benefits of personalized medicine, medicine that is tailored to an individual’s unique genetic make-up. President Barack Obama hopes that “10 years from now we can look back and say we have revolutionized medicine,” from cancer to Alzheimer’s. To achieve this, the White House has launched another large research effort: the Precision Medicine Initiative, which will devote hundreds of millions of dollars to advance the use of genomics and other cutting-edge science in medical practice.

It’s an admirably ambitious vision, but in 10 years we shouldn’t expect to look back and see a revolution. Scientifically, this is the right direction — over the long-term, genomic discoveries will certainly drive major medical advances. But it’s going to be a long slog. The major challenges that lie ahead are laid bare in a recent genetic study of Type 2 diabetes. This study, published inNature earlier this month, shows that the genetics of diabetes is a mess — and it illustrates why the big promises of genetic medicine won’t be realized any time soon.

Known mutations account for only 10 percent of the estimated genetic contribution to the disease. After more than a decade of large, high-tech studies, the genetic basis of diabetes remains, for the most part, unexplained.

Type 2 diabetes is one of the major diseases that biomedical scientists hope to conquer with genomics. It’s one of our most common diseases — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 10 percent of all Americans have it. Diabetes is also expensive: It accounts for an estimated $176 billion in medical costs each year. And while most of us have the impression that diabetes is something you prevent with a healthy diet and exercise, the disease also has a strong genetic component.

By understanding the genetics of diabetes, we hope to combat the disease in three big ways. First, we’ll be able to identify people with a high genetic risk, and make them the focus of prevention efforts. Second, we might recognize and specifically treat different molecular forms of the disease — different people likely have different underlying genetic mutations, which means that not all diabetics respond the same way to a one-size-fits-all therapy. And third, genetics will help us understand the disease’s molecular underpinnings, and guide us toward better treatments that directly target those molecules. If we achieved all three goals, we would indeed revolutionize the treatment of diabetes.

And so, for the past decade, researchers have conducted large genetic studies, involving at first thousands, and now tens of thousands of diabetics. The results have been somewhat disappointing: Though researchers have linked dozens of mutations with diabetes, we’re clearly still missing much of the picture. Known mutations account for only 10 percent of the estimated genetic contribution to the disease. After more than a decade of large, high-tech studies, the genetic basis of diabetes remains, for the most part, unexplained.

To find the missing mutations in diabetes, scientists of two large international research consortia performed a deeper DNA analysis of a large set of study subjects. Earlier studies used a lower-cost, coarse-grained scan of the subjects’ DNA. These scans only had the power to detect mutations that are relatively common in the population. In this most recent study, the researchers decided to survey the subjects’ genomes much more comprehensively.

The hypothesis behind this approach is that diabetes is a bit like Leo Tolstoy’sfamous claim about unhappy families: Each case of diabetes is affected by genetics in its own way. In other words, although diabetes is a common disease, its genetic component might not be caused by a set of relatively common mutations. Rather, each person’s genetic risk could be the result of distinctly different, and relatively rare, mutations.

If that were true, this new, more comprehensive study should have turned up many of these hypothetical rare mutations. But that’s not what the researchers found. After analyzing the DNA of over 100,000 diabetics and healthy volunteers, the researchers largely re-discovered the same set of common mutations that had been previously found. They discovered few rare mutations.

The hypothesis behind this approach is that diabetes is a bit like Tolstoy’s famous claim about unhappy families: Each case of diabetes is affected by genetics in its own way.

Why is this bad news? Because it means that finding the genetic risk factors for diabetes is going to be very hard. If rare mutations were important genetic drivers of diabetes, then the task of understanding diabetes genetics would likely be easier. Rare mutations are expected to have larger effects, and therefore a person’s individual genetic risk for the disease would come down to just one or a few mutations. If we knew what mutations to look for, we could easily test for them in a routine, clinical genetic test.

Mutations that are common in the population, on the other hand, tend to have smaller effects on disease. (Mutations with large effects tend not to become common, thanks to natural selection.) This latest study suggests that the genetic basis of diabetes involved the combined effects of many mutations, each one only making a small contribution. These small contributions are statistically challenging to detect in a scientific study, and much harder to evaluate in a clinical genetic test. This is why the study authors argue that “Genome sequencing in much larger numbers of individuals than included in the current study are needed.” As one scientist put it: “Once dubbed ‘a geneticist’s nightmare,’ diabetes seems to be living up to its reputation.”

Fortunately, with today’s technologies, very large genetic studies are becoming feasible. Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative proposes to put together a study cohort of one million Americans over the next several years. And given the hundreds of billions of dollars that diabetes costs America each year, such large studies, if successful, are clearly worth the expense.

The challenging genetics of diabetes and other common diseases, however, means that the benefits of such studies will mostly arrive in the long term. We are laying an important foundation for the medicine of the future — but people also need care today. Fortunately, even without the genetics, we understand a lot about how to prevent diabetes though lifestyle changes. Investing in large efforts to help people change their diet and exercise habits may not sound as exciting as high-tech genetic medicine. But, just as we shouldn’t overhype the near-term prospects of genetics, we shouldn’t undersell the value of the effective care we can provide today.

Putting lemon wedges in your drink is actually a bit gross

Bacteria is apparently rife there?

Image result for Putting lemon wedges in your drink is actually a bit gross  Image result for Bartender asks would you like a lemon slice with your cold drink  Image result for Putting lemon wedges in your drink is actually a bit gross

Bartender asks would you like a lemon slice with your cold alcoholic beverage? Your reply “That sounds bloody marvellous” – stick it right in. Thanks kind sir for supplying me with alcohol and a lovely bit of citrus fruit that perfectly compliments my beverage.

There’s nothing wrong with that Friday night (tad overly enthusiastic) exchange right? Wrong. According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health the lemons and limes given out at bars are actually rife with all kinds of bacteria. That’s just not what you want. Plus we just found out that water bottles can be pretty rank too. Can someone just cut us some slack.

The research team swabbed lemon slices that were on their drinks at 21 different restaurants, and they discovered that almost 70% of the samples had some sort of microbial growth, including 25 different microbial species. Ewwwww. But also I wonder if they got to expense all those drinks. Not a bad life despite the germs.

“The microbes found on the lemon samples in our investigation all have the potential to cause infectious diseases at various body sites, although the likelihood was not determined in this study. Restaurant patrons should be aware that lemon slices added to beverages may include potentially pathogenic microbes.”

Wow – way to ruin the humble lemon guys. Elle magazine spoke to Philip Tierno, PhD, a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University School of Medicine and author of The Secret Life of Germs who explained why they can be so gross.

“People are touching the lemon in your glass, handling it, cutting it, placing it in a container or a cup, or a glass; and then picking up those slices at a later point in time and dropping them into a drink and putting them on the rim of a glass. You can easily see how those lemon slices and lemon wedges can be contaminated.”

But here at Cosmopolitan we deal with solutions, not problems. What you’re gonna need to do is eyeball your bartender as he prepares your drink, and then send it back if you see the bartender put their fingers all over the rim of the glass or use a dirty rag to clean the glass. Thanks for the tips Tierno.

“Weather bomb” could shed new light on mysteries of the Earth’s interior

Image result for “Weather bomb” could shed new light on mysteries of the Earth’s interior Image result for “Weather bomb” could shed new light on mysteries of the Earth’s interior Image result for “Weather bomb” could shed light on mysteries of Earth’s interior

The rarely-detected S-waves from a “weather bomb” storm may help scientists uncover the Earth’s hidden structure

Researchers from the University of Tokyo have uncovered a rarely detected type of seismic wave deep inside of the Earth stemming from a “weather bomb,” an extratropical storm that is small, fast-developing and possesses central pressure that rapidly increases in intensity. The findings could help scientists map out the hidden, deeper structure of the Earth.

Despite their rapidly intensifying central pressure – typically more than one millibar per hour for the course of 24 hours – weather bombs are fairly small storms. However, their fast-moving nature creates steep pressure gradients, leading to the formation of strong winds.

In the current study, the weather bomb occurred between Greenland and Iceland in 2014, creating a pressure pulse that spread to the seafloor and transformed into microseismic waves – tremors deep inside of the Earth that stem from natural phenomena – that rippled through both the surface and interior of the Earth.

Microseismic waves are detectable as both surface and body waves. Although it is typically not possible for surface waves to be observed past the coast, body waves make their way deep into the Earth’s interior and can be detected by land-based seismic stations, making them ideal for deconstructing the internal structure of the Earth.

Body waves can be split into two categories: P-waves and S-waves. P-waves contain particles that move parallel to the direction of the waves’ motion, whereas the particles in S-waves move perpendicular to the direction of the waves’ motion. While seismologists frequently detect P-waves, the detection of S-waves by seismic stations is not a common occurrence.

Thanks to the Atlantic weather bomb, the current study is one of the first ever to detect S-waves, a feat that was accomplished through the use of 202 wave-detection stations. These stations were able to trace the movement and direction of the microseismic waves created by the weather bomb using “Hi-net arrays.”

Hi-net arrays work by taking the information gathered by seismometers that pick up the “noise” created by microseismic waves as they move through the various layers of the Earth and transforming it into electronic data that can be charted and analyzed in the lab.

The successful detection of rare S-waves provides seismologists with a novel method of uncovering the Earth’s deeper structure. S-waves are of particular use due to the fact that they are more sensitive to liquids than other waveforms, meaning scientists can use them to determine areas of the Earth’s interior where solids turn into liquids.

“This [study] demonstrates the connection of the solid Earth to the atmosphere and ocean climate system,” said Peter Bromirski, a geophysical oceanographer who co-authored a perspective on the current study. “New discoveries of any kind are always exciting, particularly when multiple fields of study are involved.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 18th July 2016

Ireland’s first-time home buyers may get aid under a new scheme

Irish Government is considering tax relief and top-ups in effort to tackle the housing crisis


A scheme to help first-time home buyers in Ireland with tax relief and State top-ups of mortgage deposit savings is being examined by the Government.

A scheme to help first-time home buyers with tax relief and state top-ups of mortgage deposit savings is being examined by the Government.

The Help to Buy scheme is under consideration as part of efforts to tackle the housing crisis, but will not be included in Minister for Housing Simon Coveney’s action plan for housing, to be announced tomorrow.

While Mr Coveney will reiterate the programme for government’s plan to introduce such a scheme, details are being withheld until October’s budget.

Mr Coveney had pushed for it to be included in his action plan but Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said tax measures can only be announced on budget day.

Mr Noonan last night emphasised that the Government does not want to cause any market disruption.

He said when former Tánaiste Michael McDowell proposed abolishing stamp duty in 2006, it contributed to a slump in house sales.

Mr Noonan said he is prepared to backdate Help to Buy measures to this month.

Mr Coveney is understood to have pushed for a top-up scheme in recent weeks. A similar scheme operates in the UK, where mortgage deposit savings are topped up by 25%, to a limit of £3,000.

Similar approach

The Fianna Fáil party proposed a similar approach in its election manifesto, although it said the top-up would be restricted to €5,000 per person, or €10,000 per couple.

It is understood that Mr Noonan and others raised concerns with Mr Coveney that such a scheme could drive up demand and house prices at a time when few homes are being built.

Of concern to all Ministers is the difficulty in saving for a mortgage deposit in Dublin and other urban areas due to the Central Bank lending rules.

One Government source suggested the value of Help to Buy would have to be around €10,000 to have a tangible effect.

The emerging scheme is a mixture of a deposit top-up and tax relief, modelled on the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme. VAT relief targeted at first-time buyers also featured in discussions.

The programme for government contains a proposal to temporarily reduce VAT on new affordable homes and apartments from 13.5% to 9%.

Four new gold mines discovered by gold mining firm Conroy Gold in Ireland


Gold found in the Republic is officially owned by the State and extracted under licence.

Irish gold mining firm Conroy Gold and Natural Resources has found four new gold zones on its Glenish target in Monaghan.

The discovery was made in a 150 metre-wide structural corridor in the western part of the Glenish gold target.

It included intersections of 2.25 metres grading 2.65 g/t gold, at a depth of 18 metres, 2 metres grading 1.59 g/t gold at a depth of 27.75 metres; 2.75 metres grading 1.43 g/t gold at a depth of 36 metres and 3 metres grading 1.76 g/t gold at a depth of 64.25 metres.

The Glenish gold target spans some 147 hectares.

The gold mineralisation in the drilling area remains open in all directions.

Mining activity in Ireland requires a licence from the State, but “recreational” panning is allowed.

That’s defined as activity that uses only hand-held, non-motorised equipment. The Department of Communications, Energy and National Resources asks panners to seek permission from various parties, including relevant landowners and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, to ensure the site they wish to use isn’t environmentally sensitive.

Precious metals in the ground are the property of the State but panners are allowed to keep small quantities “as a souvenir”. Any finds which return more than 20 gold flakes or individual nuggets that weigh more than two grammes are to be notified to the department.

But selling the gold is a no-no. That’s defined by law as ‘working’ of minerals – which requires permission from the Government.

A global study shows stroke is largely preventable

10 risk factors are the same worldwide, with some regional variations


Ten risk factors that can be modified are responsible for nine of 10 strokes worldwide, but the ranking of those factors vary regionally, says a study led by researchers of the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University.

The prevention of a stroke is a major public health priority, but the variation by region should influence the development of strategies for reducing stroke risk, say the authors of the study published in The Lancet today.

  1. Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries. The two major types of stroke include ischaemic stroke caused by blood clots, which accounts for 85% of strokes, and haemorrhagic stroke or bleeding into the brain, which accounts for 15% of strokes.
  2. The study led by Dr. Martin O’Donnell and Dr. Salim Yusuf of the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster and collaborators from 32 countries, builds on findings from the first phase of the INTERSTROKE study which identified ten modifiable risk factors for stroke in 6,000 participants from 22 countries. This full-scale INTERSTROKE study added 20,000 individuals from 32 countries in Europe, Asia, America, Africa and Australia, and sought to identify the main causes of stroke in diverse populations, young and old, men and women and within subtypes of stroke.
  3. “This study has the size and scope to explore stroke risk factors in all major regions of the world and within key populations,” said O’Donnell, a principal investigator for the PHRI and professor of translational medicine at HRB-Clinical Research Facility, NUI Galway.
  4. “We have confirmed the ten modifiable risk factors associated with 90% of stroke cases in all regions, young and older and in men and women. The study also confirms that hypertension is the most important modifiable risk factor in all regions, and the key target in reducing the burden of stroke globally.”
  5. The investigators looked at the different risk factors, and determined the proportion of strokes which would be cut if the risk factor disappeared.
  6. The number of strokes would be practically cut in half (48%) if hypertension was eliminated; trimmed by more than a third (36%) if people were physically active; and shaved by almost one fifth (19%) if they had better diets. In addition, this proportion was cut back by 12% if smoking was eliminated; 9% for cardiac (heart) causes, 4% for diabetes, 6% for alcohol intake, 6% for stress, and 27% for lipids (the study used apolipoproteins, which was found to be a better predictor of stroke than total cholesterol).
  7. Many of these risk factors are known to also be associated with each other (such as obesity and diabetes), and when were combined together, the total for all 10 risk factors was 91%, which was similar in all regions, age groups and in men and women.
  8. However, the importance of some risk factors appeared to vary by region. For example, the importance of hypertension ranged from practically 40% in Western Europe, North America, and Australia to 60% in Southeast Asia. The risk of alcohol was lowest in Western Europe, North America and Australia but highest in Africa and south Asia, while the potential impact of physical inactivity was highest in China.
  9. An irregular heart rhythm, or atrial fibrillation, was significantly associated with ischaemic stroke in all regions, but was of greater importance in Western Europe, North America and Australia, than in China or South Asia.
  10. However, when all 10 risk factors were included together, their collective importance was similar in all regions.

“Our findings will inform the development of global population-level interventions to reduce stroke, and how such programs may be tailored to individual regions,” said Yusuf, a professor of medicine of McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and director of the PHRI. “This includes better health education, more affordable healthy food, avoidance of tobacco and more affordable medication for hypertension and dyslipidaemia.”

Along with the study, The Lancet published a related comment from New Zealand researchers Valery L. Feigin and Rita Krishnamurthi of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences, of Auckland’s University of Technology.

They said the key messages from the study were that stroke is a highly preventable disease globally, regardless of age and sex; that the relative importance of modifiable risk factors means there should be development of regional or ethnic-specific primary prevention programs, and that additional research on stroke risk factors is needed for countries and ethnic groups not included in INTERSTROKE.

“Now is the time for governments, health organizations, and individuals to proactively reduce the global burden of stroke. Governments of all countries should develop and implement an emergency action plan for the primary prevention of stroke,” they wrote.

Meanwhile: –

Too much red meat could harm your kidneys?

A study now reveals


Red meat consumption now linked to kidney failure, say’s researchers

Eating red meat may boost the risk for kidney failure, but swapping even one daily serving of red meat for another protein may reduce the risk, a large study from Singapore suggested.

Red meat intake is strongly associated with an increased risk of end-stage renal disease, the loss of normal kidney function. The relationship was also “dose dependent”, which means the higher the consumption, the greater the risk.

The association held up even after compensating for factors that could skew the results, such as lifestyle and other health conditions, the study authors noted.

“Our findings suggest that patients with chronic kidney disease or the general population worried about their kidney health can still maintain protein intake but consider switching to plant-based sources,” said Dr Woon-Puay Koh, professor in the office of Clinical Sciences at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore.

“However, if they still choose to eat meat, fish, shellfish and poultry are better alternatives to red meat,” said Koh, one of the study authors.

The study adds new data to a conflicting body of evidence on the relationship between protein in-take, particularly red meat, and kidney disease, experts noted.

“It adds useful and additional information to our knowledge base, but I’m not sure if it necessarily tips the scale one way or another,” said Dr Allon Friedman, a nephrologist and associate professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

“My opinion is that it’s still perfectly fine for individuals who are otherwise healthy to consume red meat in moderation,” he said.

Dr William Mitch, professor of nephrology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said that plenty of studies have shown that low-protein diets may benefit people who already have kidney damage.

However, in the general population, there’s no persuasive evidence that eating a lot of protein causes kidney damage,” he said.

Red meat has been implicated in recent reports and studies as potentially harmful to human health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) last year warned of a possible link between red meat and cancer. Similarly, a November 2015 study in the journal of cancer found that meat cooked at high temperatures could potentially affect kidney cancer risk.

For the new study, researchers followed more than 63,000 Chinese adults in Singapore for an average of 15.5 years.

The food questionnaires were used to gather data on people’s daily protein consumption. The records on the incidence of end stage renal disease came from a nationwide renal registry.

About 97 percent of red meat intake in the study population consisted of pork. Other protein sources included poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy products, soy and legumes.

Although pork may appear white after being cooked, but it still considered red meat, said the US Department of Agriculture.

People consuming the highest amounts of red meat had 40 percent increased risk of developing end stage kidney disease, compared with people who ate the lowest amounts, the study found.

No association was found with poultry, fish, eggs or dairy products, while soy and legumes appeared to be slightly protective. The study also found that replacing one serving of red meat with another protein reduced the risk of kidney failure up to 62 percent for poultry.

Here are six ways to nail that CV once and for all & bag your dream job

    Swiss Resume and Cover Letter Template - Helping You Save Time & Get The Dream Job You Deserve - Instant Download:     

Interviews have changed a lot?

If you’re sick of your jobs, then stop talking about it and go for a change. From networking to that CV, here are top tips towards making that move:

  1. The compelling CV: Stop talking about your duties and focus on your achievements. It may seem obvious that you should be outlining your duties in previous roles, but what employers want to see is results. Focus not on what you did but what you did well. Your cv has one job – to get you the interview so make sure it’s a world class document.
  2. Start Networking: Go to industry talks and conferences and start meeting people. Employers will always look to the people they know, then they’ll look for recommendations, before finally advertising a job.  Employers want to avoid having to go through cvs and interview processes by being referred a great person from someone they trust.
  3. Don’t copy and paste: You may feel as though you have spent so long perfecting your CV and cover letter that you just need to change the name of the recipient and fire it off. This is the worst tactic to use. No matter how well-written a cover letter is, it will never read as well as one written specifically for that job.
  4. Stand out at interview: Do your preparation – talk to people who work there, look at their social media pages, see if they have been in the news recently. You will find a huge amount about the organisation that often the interviewer sitting across from you does not know. It shows that you have a genuine interest in the job.
  5. Pick up the phone: We all hear people talking about how many jobs they’ve applied to, only to be ignored or rejected. But how many of those people have ever actually picked up the phone and called in? Everyone relies so heavily on the internet these days that a single phone call can be enough to differentiate you.
  6. Prove your enthusiasm: One of the most common things candidates will bring up in an application is their enthusiasm for the role. While enthusiasm is better than indifference, don’t just say you’re enthusiastic about your line of work, prove it by pointing to things you have accomplished with that enthusiasm.
  7. Go for jobs you actually want: If you are not sure if you want to work for the company you have an interview with, you certainly are not going to convince someone else. So do your research talk to friends, find a job and a company you love – this is not easy it takes time and effort but doing a job you love means never working a day in your life.

Hummingbirds process the world much differently than other birds of flight?

Says an UBC study?


When you spend time engaged in 100 kilometre per hour dives and fly 50 km/h in tight spaces you tend to see the world a little differently.

Hummingbirds can move as fast as your car and stop on a dime to feed from a flower, which requires some specialized image processing abilities, according to Roslyn Dakin, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia.

“We wanted to know how they avoid collisions and we found that hummingbirds use their environment differently than insects to steer a precise course,” she said. “They are really amazing flyers, they are capable of hovering and dramatic acceleration and stopping.”

Bees process their distance from objects by how quickly objects pass through their field of vision, like the telephone poles that race by you when you drive a car. But hummingbirds are doing something else.

The tiny speedsters chart their course based on how quickly images get larger, an indication they are getting close and pose a hazard. Things that get smaller are likely moving away and pose no risk.

“They tend to steer towards smaller features and away from larger features,” she explained.

The researchers spent months building and programming a 5.5 metre-long flight chamber to capture the hummingbirds’ reactions to visual queues, in other words, find out how they steer in flight.

“We took advantage of hummingbirds’ attraction to sugar water to set up a perch on one side of the tunnel and a feeder on the other, and they flew back and forth all day,” said co-author Douglas Altshuler, a zoology professor. “This allowed us to test many different visual stimuli.”

Hummingbirds react strongly — adjusting their altitude — when presented with projected images of patterns moving up or down, rising as their environment appeared to move upward.

“That is a trait they share with flies,” said Dakin.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 15th July 2016

More than 259,000 vacant homes in Ireland

CSO figures show number of empty Dublin holiday properties ‘up 190% in five years’


Preliminary figures published by the Central Statistics Office on July 14th show the total population is now 4,757,976.

The number of vacant holiday homes in Dublin city centre has nearly trebled in five years.

Publishing preliminary statistics from the April 24th census, the CSO said there had been a “noticeable increase”, up from 322 in 2011 to 937 this year – an increase of 190%.

The housing crisis in some parts of the State appears to have manifested itself in the census, with figures showing the number of vacant dwellings has fallen by 29,889 (13.8%).

In total, there are 259,562 vacant homes, including 61,204 vacant holiday homes, up 1,809 (3%) on the last census.

Vacancy rates for housing vary widely by county but the overall rate stands at 12.8%.

Carlow experienced the largest fall in the number of vacant dwellings from 3,202 in 2011 to 2,417 in this year’s census – a drop of 26.9%.

In Leitrim, the county with the highest vacancy rate in 2011, the number of vacant homes fell by just 3.7%.

Donegal, where the vacancy rate was 28.4% five years ago, has seen the number of vacant dwellings fall by just 97 units or less than 1%, the CSO said. This brings the vacancy rate to 28.2%.

The census provided information on the number of vacant dwellings for the first time in 2006 and the results showed there were 266,322 vacant dwellings (including holiday homes) in Ireland at that time, with a vacancy rate of 15%.

Vacancy rate

By 2011 the number of vacant dwellings had increased by 23,129 to 289,451, while the overall vacancy rate (14.4%) had fallen.

According to the 2016 preliminary census figures, household formation has fallen behind population growth and household sizes are also getting bigger in urban areas, bucking the trend of previous censuses. In rural areas, household sizes are getting smaller, the CSO’s statisticians said.

The number of occupied households increased between 2011 and 2016 by just over 49,000, or 3%.

Asked how the CSO identified housing as vacant, senior statistician Deirdre Cullen said the 4,663 enumerators were provided with very detailed notes. “It’s vitally important that we get it right,” she said.

Enumerators were instructed to call to every dwelling four, five, six and even seven times.

“They call several times; they talk to neighbours.”

If the house was vacant, neighbours might identify it as a holiday home or a property that was just visited at weekends. Overgrown gardens, for sale signs and an absence of post were also indicators a home was vacant.

“It’s really just on-the-ground knowledge by talking to people,” Ms Cullen said.

Airbnb, which allows people book short-term stays in homes of their choice around the world, insisted earlier this year that its services were not taking housing off the market.

Figures from the Airbnb website back in March showed the number of properties available to rent in Dublin for short-term holidays exceeded the number available for long-term letting.

At that point there were 1,748 apartments or houses available for holiday lettings on the site.

Ireland’s lobbyists call for investment after ‘vote of confidence’ in Republic population growth

Groups say more money needed to cope with growing population


Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy said the coming years would see “significantly increased pressure” on services, housing and infrastructure.

The growth in the population is “a vote of confidence” in the Republic’s future, but there is an “urgent need” for the Government to invest in services if the State is to be equipped to cope, according to lobbyists reacting to Census 2016.

Danny McCoy, chief executive of employers’ group Ibec, said the coming years would see “significantly increased pressure” on services, housing and infrastructure.

“We need a long-term approach to planning and development. The rapidly growing population is a vote of confidence in the country’s future.

“While many countries struggle to confront the problems of a declining population, Ireland must address those presented by a young, rapidly growing population.”

Mr McCoy said the shift in population from the western seaboard to the east was “a concern”. If economic activity was focused predominantly on the capital it would stretch resources, push up costs, and leave other parts of the State behind.

“It is creating a worrying economic and social imbalance. A new Atlantic-cities strategy is needed to ensure complementary growth between Dublin and other cities in terms of size, infrastructure, population and other resources.”


Chambers Ireland director of policy Mark O’Mahoney said it was “crucial” that Government prioritises increased capital investment “in the short term”.

“We recognise that efforts have been made and that there are limited resources. However, it is only through sustained capital investment that Ireland can avoid future infrastructural bottlenecks that will hinder our economic growth.”

Simon Communities spokeswoman Niamh Randall said the figures were “unacceptable” when there are over 6,000 men, women and children in emergency accommodation “with no place to call home”.

“That there are 198,358 vacant units at a time when we are experiencing the worst housing and homeless crisis is scandalous. Clearly, having more effective housing stock management across the country must be addressed urgently.”

Irish exports slow in first four months

Major concerns have been flagged over currency fluctuations hitting exports.


The Irish trade surplus fell by over €4bn in the first four months of this year.

Statistics released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) reveal that the number of exports exceeding imports declined from €20.3bn in 2015 to €16bn this year.

Exports to the UK declined by €162m in the year to April. Irish importation of UK products also slowed, down over €116 million compared to the January to April sequence for 2015.

Ireland’s trade surplus with the UK was €1.4bn for the first four months of the year. Germany imported €2.2bn worth of Irish goods, followed by France with €1.9bn.

Irish exports to the US were down by €480m, while Irish imports from the US fell by €771m. Exports to China were up €215m.

Obesity causes premature death, concludes a study of studies

Even overweight people risk earlier death than those of normal weight, research shows

  An overweight child and adult

Men who are obese are at much higher risk of premature death than obese women, according to the study of studies published in the Lancet medical journal.

Obesity and excess weight do shorten lives, according to a major review across five continents which sought to find a definitive answer to a controversial question.

While obesity is a known risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer and type 2 diabetes, which can all be life-shortening, the impact of obesity alone has been much disputed. Overweight and obesity are measured by BMI – body mass index – which charts weight against height. Many argue that it is a seriously flawed measure because it does not allow for the muscle that replaces fat in very fit people, such as athletes.

A large group of international researchers has attempted to overcome the problems of previous studies by analysing a vast amount of data collected in smaller studies, on 3.9 million adults worldwide. They found that even overweight people risked an earlier death than those of normal weight.

“On average, overweight people lose about one year of life expectancy, and moderately obese people lose about three years of life expectancy,” said Dr Emanuele Di Angelantonio, the lead author, from the University of Cambridge.

“We also found that men who were obese were at much higher risk of premature death than obese women. This is consistent with previous observations that obese men have greater insulin resistance, liver fat levels and diabetes risk than women.”

The researchers in the Global BMI Mortality Collaboration looked at the risk of early death between the ages of 35 and 70. Men of normal weight (with a BMI of 18.5 to 25) have a 19% risk of an earlier death and women a 11% chance. For those who are moderately obese, with a BMI of 30 to 35, that rises to 29.5% for men and 14.6% for women.

If obesity does directly cause early deaths, they calculate that if all those who are overweight or obese were instead of normal weight, one in seven early deaths could be avoided in Europe and one in five in north America, where obesity rates are higher. “Obesity is second only to smoking as a cause of premature death in Europe and North America,” said co-author Prof Sir Richard Peto, from the University of Oxford.

“Smoking causes about a quarter of all premature deaths in Europe and in North America, and smokers can halve their risk of premature death by stopping. But [being] overweight and obesity now cause about one in seven of all premature deaths in Europe and one in five of all premature deaths in North America.”

New initiative launched to save threatened bee species in Ireland


Bumblebee (left) collecting pollen from a mullein and the Irish honey bee (right)

A new initiative has been launched to save Ireland’s declining bee population, following the news that one third of our 98 bee species are endangered.

The National Biodiversity Plan seeks to protect Ireland’s pollination services.

More than 68 governmental and non-governmental organisations across Europe have agreed to the shared plan, which notes 81 actions everyone can take part in to make our gardens pollinator friendly.

“If you’re a pollinator, finding enough food is the biggest challenge you have to face.” said Dr Úna FitzPatrick from the National Biodiversity Data Centre, who chaired the plan steering group.

She added “gardens can play a crucial role by acting as pit stops for busy bees as they try to move around the landscape”.

The plan includes a list of low-cost and practical actions to suit gardens of any size.

The most important thing people can do in their garden is to make sure there are bee-friendly flowers in bloom from March to October.

Dr Erin Jo Tiedeken, the project officer for the All-Ireland Plan, recommends lavender, heather, comfrey, lungwort and catmint as a great food source for bees.

The plan suggests cutting your garden lawn slightly less often to allow wildflowers such as dandelions and clovers to grow.

It also warns not to use pesticides that are harmful to pollinators.

The implementation of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan is being coordinated by the National Biodiversity Data Centre with funding provided by the Heritage Council and Bord Bia.

New underwater microscope shows the beauty of coral turf on the ocean floor

Benthic Underwater Microscope   Benthic Underwater Microscope   Benthic Underwater Microscope

Left, Two polyps connect their gastrovascular openings at night this is dubbed ‘polyp kissing, (On right picture) Stylophora on the left of the picture and Pocillopora on the right were placed close together to induce competition. When corals compete for dominance, they emit mesenterial filaments, string-like structures,

Researchers used the instrument to capture images of coral turf wars and a previously unknown phenomenon dubbed “coral polyp kissing.”

Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have developed a diver-operated underwater microscope that can examine small-scale biological processes on the ocean floor. Referred to as the Benthic Underwater Microscope (BUM), this revolutionary tool is able to take photographs and videos of microorganisms in their native habitats without interfering with their natural settings.

Prior to the development of the BUM, scientists were forced to remove organisms from the ocean in order to analyze them with microscopes, preventing them from fully understanding the context of ecological processes.

Oceanographer Jules Jaffe led the team that developed the microscope, and he considers the instrument essential to conducting research in the ocean. “To understand the evolution of the dynamic processes taking place in the ocean, we need to observe them at the appropriate scale,” Jaffe explained.

Jaffe and his team brought the BUM to coral reefs off the coasts of Maui, Hawaii and in the Red Sea to test it in the field. While using the microscope in the Red Sea, the researchers observed corals of different species firing string-like filaments from their stomach cavities towards one another in a “coral turf war.” The filaments secreted enzymes that dissolved coral tissue in an effort to reduce competition from neighboring species. The researchers also observed individual coral polyps on a single colony embracing each other, a previously unknown phenomenon they dubbed “coral polyp kissing.”

Off the coast of Maui, the team used the BUM to observe coral bleaching, a phenomenon that occurs when waters are too warm. The change in water temperature puts stress on corals, causing them to expel algae that live in their tissue and turning them completely white. The microscope revealed a previously undiscovered honeycomb pattern formed by expelled algae as it grew on the surface of the bleached coral.

Jaffe and his team published their observations in the journal Nature Communications and also produced a video describing their research. Watch Andrew Mullen, one of the authors of the study, explain how the BUM works and see some of the beautiful footage below.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 12th July 2016

Irish charities regulator to examine trusts set up towards tax avoidance claims

Stephen Donnelly tells the Dáil that debt buyer paid €250 corporation tax on €300m profit?


Social Democrat TDs Stephen Donnelly, Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall at the launch of the Social Democrats private member’s motion regarding regulation in the charity sector.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald will ask the charities regulator to examine the issue of charitable trusts, a number of which a TD claimed, had been set up specifically to avoid paying tax in Ireland.

Ms Fitzgerald was responding to Social Democrats TD Stephen Donnelly who highlighted the case of companies using charities to allow the firms avoid paying tax.

Mr Donnelly for the second time in a week in the Dáil had raised the case of Oaktree Capital, which deals in distressed mortgages and uses another firm to invest those funds.

He said Oaktree had paid €80 million for distressed mortgages in Ireland and expected to make a profit of between €300 million and €320 million.

Last year it had income of €14 million but paid corporation tax of just €250.

He said profits “should rightly be taxed in this country with the benefit going to the exchequer”.

He said the firm had three shares, each in the ownership of a charitable trust. “All three are controlled by one of Ireland’s top law firms, Matheson, ” he said.

He said charitable status should not be available to hedge funds, debt collectors, “to companies operating in the shadow banking sector in Ireland with the specific aim of avoiding paying taxes in this country”.

The Wicklow TD said it deprived the State of very valuable taxes “that it could be using to provide the public services that the real charities have stepped in to provide”.

Ms Fitzgerald said she would bring the issues to the charities regulator, adding that Mr Donnelly had raised relevant points about charitable status.

Anti-corruption agency

Both were speaking in a debate on a Social Democrats private member’s motion calling for the establishment of an anti-corruption agency, and for a critical review of the HSE’s 2014 revised framework for all organisations it funds.

The debate follows the controversies involving financial irregularities at the suicide charity Console and pay and pensions top-ups to senior executives at the St John of God organisation.

Introducing the debate, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said “we tend to deal with the scandal rather than prevent its occurrence in the first place.”

She said there was only a very small number of dysfunctional charities “but they bring the whole sector into disrepute”.

Ms Murphy said 50 per cent of the sector’s income came from statutory grants.

“One has to question the effectiveness of a lot of the funding and one has to question whether it would be better utilised in a more streamlined sector where it could be more accurately targeted.”

She pointed out that there were more than 200 suicide charities and as a result funding was fragmented and disjointed. “An amalgamation or an umbrella of those charities would be very welcome,” she believed and it was the same with housing and animal-welfare charities.

The Tánaiste said “the public must have confidence that the money they donate to charity will be managed and used correctly at all times. Anything less is a betrayal of the goodwill of thousands of people around the country and of the taxpayer.”

She said one of the key roles of the charities regulator was to safeguard the future of the charity sector and there had been significant progress.

Ms Fitzgerald said the regulator was engaged with more than 12,500 charitable organisations.

“It has received approximately 300 concerns raised against 132 entities, the majority of which were charities. These concerns ranged from issues to do with an organisation’s purpose to the quality of services provided.” The Minister said the number represented about 1 per cent of all charities.

Referring to the Social Democrats’ call for the establishment of an anti-corruption agency, Ms Fitzgerald acknowledged they were “motivated by a concern to enhance the way in which a broad range of wrongdoing is addressed”.

But she said it was not clear how the amalgamation of the functions of a wide range of agencies with widely varying functions would, of itself, enhance the capacity of the State to fight corruption.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan said serious allegations of misappropriation of funds were matters for An Garda Síochána.

“Any misappropriation from funds of charities is theft and should be treated in same way as any other theft,” he insisted.

Mr O’Callaghan added that had the charities regulator been fully implemented when it was passed a number of years ago, inspectors would have been in place and the dysfunction that occurred might have been prevented.

Irish off-licences seek ban on below-cost selling of alcohol

National Off-Licence Association also calls for cut to excise duty


        Off=Licences                            Supermarkets

The umbrella group for off-licences is calling on Government to reduce excise duty and ban below cost selling of alcohol.

The umbrella group for off-licences is calling on Government to reduce excise duty and ban below-cost selling of alcohol.

In a pre-budget submission, the National Off-Licence Association (NOffLA) said Ireland had the highest excise on wine in the EU and the third highest tax on beer and spirits.

It claimed the budgetary hikes on excise made during the financial crisis have pushed many off-licences to the brink of commercial failure.

Retailers and suppliers have to raise and pay an extra €17,958 per 1,000 cases of wine in excise and Vat due to increases in Budget 2013 and 2014.

The sector’s difficulties are exacerbated by competition from mixed traders, mainly supermarkets, which now control about 80% of alcohol sales in the Republic.

The group claimed supermarkets typically absorb tax increases on popular products – by as much as 68% to keep alcohol prices low and maintain footfall.

The group, which represents about 300 businesses – employing 5,900 people in the Republic, wants the Government to reintroduce a ban on the below cost selling of alcohol.

Alcohol Bill

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which is before the Dáil, contains provisions for the establishment of minimum unit pricing measures to prevent below-cost selling.

A potential obstacle comes in the form of a recent European Court of Justice ruling, which found similar legislation in Scotland contravened EU law.

As part of the submission, NOffLA released the results of its 2016-member survey which indicated that 55% of off-licences would struggle to remain open if the current level of excise is increased in Budget 2017, jeopardising thousands of jobs.

Conversely, the survey suggested if the current level is excise is reduced 81% of respondents would re-invest in their business.

“We are calling on the new Government to take positive and decisive action that will safeguard jobs, encourage local investment and ultimately contribute to the development of local communities,” Noffla’s government affairs director, Evelyn Jones, said.

“A reversal of the punitive Budget 2014 excise increase on alcohol combined with a reduction of the tax on wine, which is significantly higher than that of cider and beer, would facilitate business and indeed consumer choice,” she said.

“Finally, we believe tighter controls on out-of-state online retailers should be introduced to promote higher levels of responsible retailing thus protecting the general public, alcohol consumers and retailers,” she added.

As much as 44% of working adults think their work impacts on their health?

Most say their workplace is supportive of actions to improve their health

Workplace Poll chart   

A new NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll finds that more than four in ten ie. 4 in 10 of working adults (44%) say their current job has an impact on their overall health, and one in four (28%) say that impact is positive.

However, in the survey of more than 1,600 workers in the U.S., one in six workers (16%) report that their current job has a negative impact on their health. Workers most likely to say their job has a negative impact on their overall health include those with disabilities (35%), those in dangerous jobs (27%), those in low-paying jobs (26%), those working 50+ hours per week (25%), and those working in the retail sector (26%).

A number of working adults also report that their job has a negative impact on their levels of stress (43%), eating habits (28%), sleeping habits (27%), and weight (22%). “The takeaway here is that job number one for U.S. employers is to reduce stress in the workplace,” said Robert J. Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who directed the survey.

Note: View the soon to be posted on-demand recording of Harvard Chan School’s July 11, 2016 Forum webcast, Health in the American Workplace: Are We Doing Enough?, for more perspectives on the topic: https://theforum.sph.harvard.edu/events/health-in-the-american-workplace-are-we-doing-enough/

A summer-long series on the topic began airing July 11, 2016 on NPR.

View the complete poll findings.

The key Findings are:-

Figure 1. Do you think your current job is good or bad for your [INSERT ITEM], or does it not have an impact one way or another?

Responses: Stress Level: bad impact, 43%, no impact, 39%, good impact, 16%;

Eating Habits: bad impact, 28%, no impact, 56%, good impact, 15%;

Sleeping Habits: bad impact, 27%, no impact, 55%, good impact, 17%;

Weight: bad impact, 22%, no impact, 57%, good impact, 19%

Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% because Don’t Know/Refused responses are not shown.

Chemicals and contaminants top list of biggest health concerns in the workplace

About one in five working adults (22%) say that something at their job may be harmful to their health, including 43% of construction or outdoor workers and 34% of workers in medical jobs.

Among workers with any health concerns about their workplace, the most frequently cited health concerns mentioned are chemicals and other contaminants (30%), unhealthy air (13%), accidents or injuries (12%), and stress (11%).

About one in four workers rate their workplace as fair or poor in providing a healthy work environment; about half are offered wellness or health improvement programs

About one in four workers (24%) rate their workplace as only fair or poor in providing a healthy work environment; however, 34% give their workplace a rating of excellent. About half (51%) say their workplace offers any formal wellness or health improvement programs to help keep themselves healthy.

“Every year, U.S. businesses lose more than $225 billion because of sick and absent workers,” said Robert Wood Johnson President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. “But I believe that business drives culture change and with them on board we can succeed in building a Culture of Health in America. It’s not a hard connection to make. In many companies as much as 50 percent of profits are eaten up by health care costs.”

Nearly half of all workers (45%) rate their workplace as only fair or poor in providing healthy food options. Over half of workers in factory or manufacturing jobs (55%), medical jobs (52%), retail outlets (52%), and construction or outdoor jobs (51%) give their workplace a fair or poor rating at providing healthy food options.

A majority of ‘workaholics’ say they work longer hours because it is important to their career; half say they enjoy working longer hours.

About one in five working adults (19%) say they work 50 or more hours per week in their main job; these workers are called ‘workaholics’ in this study. When given a list of possible reasons why they work 50+ hours per week, a majority of these workers (56%) say they do so because it’s important for their career to work longer hours, 50% say they enjoy doing so, and just 37% say they do it because they need the money.

A majority of working adults say they still go to work when they are sick

A majority (55%) of working adults say they still go to work always or most of the time when they have a cold or the flu, including more than half (60%) of those who work in medical jobs and half (50%) of restaurant workers.

Types of workers who are most likely to still go to work always or most of the time when they are sick include those working 50+ hours per week in their main job (70%), those working two or more jobs (68%), workers in low-paying jobs (65%), and younger workers ages 18-29 (60%).

Low-wage workers often face worse conditions than high-wage workers.

Working adults in self-reported low-paying jobs often report worse working conditions than those in high-paying jobs. For instance, more than four in ten workers in low-paying jobs report facing potentially dangerous situations at work (45% vs. 33% in high-paying jobs), and almost two-thirds (65% vs. 48% in high-paying jobs) say they still go to work always or most of the time when they are sick.

One in four workers in low-paying jobs (26%) say their job has a negative impact on their overall health, compared to just 14% of those in high-paying jobs. “In an era of concern about low-wage workers, it’s clear they face more negative health impacts from their jobs compared to those who are paid substantially more,” said Blendon.

Methodology of report?

This poll is part of an ongoing series of surveys developed by researchers at the Harvard Opinion Research Program (HORP) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NPR. The research team consists of the following members at each institution.

  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Robert J. Blendon, Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis and Executive Director of HORP; John M. Benson, Research Scientist and Managing Director of HORP; Justin M. Sayde, Administrative and Research Manager; and Mary T. Gorski, Research Fellow.
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Fred Mann, Vice President, Communications; Carolyn Miller, Senior Program Officer, Research and Evaluation; and Joe Costello, Director of Marketing.
  • NPR: Anne Gudenkauf, Senior Supervising Editor, Science Desk; and Joe Neel, Deputy Senior Supervising Editor, Science Desk.

Interviews were conducted by SSRS of Media (PA) via telephone (including both landline and cell phone) using random-digit dialing, January 6 – February 7, 2016, among a nationally representative probability sample of 1,601 workers in the U.S. In this survey, “workers” are defined as adults working full- or part-time who are either employers or work for someone else in their main job (not self-employed), and who work for 20 hours or more hours per week in their main job. The interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. The margin of error for total respondents is +/- 2.9 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Possible sources of non-sampling error include non-response bias, as well as question wording and ordering effects. Non-response in telephone surveys produces some known biases in survey-derived estimates because participation tends to vary for different subgroups of the population. To compensate for these known biases and for variations in probability of selection within and across households, sample data are weighted by cell phone/landline use and demographics (sex, age, race/ethnicity, education, and number of adults in household) to reflect the true population. Other techniques, including random-digit dialing, replicate subsamples, and systematic respondent selection within households, are used to ensure that the sample is representative.

People with disabilities have right to a proper professional service,

Says Junior Minister McGrath


The Minister of State for Disabilities Finian McGrath has said that people with disabilities have a right to “proper professional service”.

His comments come after HSE took control of three centres run by the Irish Society for Autism.

A total of 47 adult residents with autism were living in the three farm-based centres at Cluain Farm in Westmeath, Dunfirth Farm in Kildare, and Sarshill House in Co Wexford

“We need to be able to ensure that these people get a proper, professional service,” said Mr McGrath.

“And we also need to change the mindset as well in relation to the whole idea of people with disabilities in charities – as far as I’m concerned, people with disabilities have rights [including] their right to proper services.”

Investigations by the healthcare watchdog HIQA last year revealed that drugs were used to chemically restrain patients, while others left the premises unnoticed or engaged in self-harm.

The charity admitted it has been experiencing “some difficulty in achieving regulation with HIQA”.

It added: “These have been very challenging times for all concerned including our residents and staff, many of whom have been with us for a long time.”

Despite initial objections to two of the takeovers, which were later dropped, the charity said: “We are a small organisation and we believe that, in the long term, this decision is in the best interest of our residents.”

A new MRI technique shows what drinking water does for your appetite, stomach and brain?


Stomach MRI images combined with functional fMRI of the brain activity have provided scientists new insight into how the brain listens to the stomach during eating. Researchers show — for the first time — real time data of the brain, the stomach, and people’s feelings of satiety measured simultaneously during a meal.

Activation in the insula is increased when the stomach is distended more.

Stomach MRI images combined with functional fMRI of the brain activity have provided scientists new insight into how the brain listens to the stomach during eating. Research from Wageningen University in the Netherlands shows and for the first time an real time data of the brain, the stomach, and people’s feelings of satiety measured simultaneously during a meal, in a study to be reported this week at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior, held in Porto, Portugal.

The researchers collected data from 19 participants during two separate sessions with different consumption procedures and found that a simple change like drinking more water can alter messages from the stomach interpreted as fullness by the brain. This new research approach can be used to investigate the interplay between satiety feelings, volume of the stomach and activity in the brain.

In the experiment, participants drank a milk-shake on an empty stomach, which was followed by a small (50 mL) or large glass of water (350 mL). MRI images were used to see how the different amounts of water affected stretching of the stomach: the large glass of water doubled the stomach content compared to the small glass. Together with this larger volume subjects reported to have less hunger and felt fuller.

This novel approach — combining information obtained simultaneously from MRI images of the stomach, feelings reported by the subjects, and brain scans — can offer new insights which would otherwise have been unknown, for example that activation in a brain area called the mid-temporal gyrus seems is in some way influenced by the increased water load in this experiment. The Wageningen University scientists developed the combined MRI method as part of the European Nudge-it research project, which seeks to discover simple changes that promote healthier eating. They will use it to search for a brain signature that leads people to decide to stop eating, to determine how strategies like water with a meal can be effective at feeling fuller sooner.

“Combining these types of measurements is difficult, because MRI scanners are usually set-up to perform only one type of scan. We’ve been able to very quickly switch the scanner from one functionality to another to do this type of research” says Guido Camps, lead author of the study. “In conclusion, we’ve found that simply adding water increases stomach distension, curbs appetite in the short term and increases regional brain activity.”

Global warming is shifting the Earth’s clouds, A new study shows

The warming of the planet over the past few decades has shifted a key band of clouds poleward and increased the heights of clouds tops 


Clouds are a key component of the Earth’s climate system.

The reaction of clouds to a warming atmosphere has been one of the major sources of uncertainty in estimating exactly how much the world will heat up from the accumulation of greenhouse gases, as some changes would enhance warming, while others would counteract it.

The study, detailed Monday in the journal Nature, overcomes problems with the satellite record and shows that observations support projections from climate models. But the work is only a first step in understanding the relationship between climate change and clouds, with many uncertainties still to untangle, scientists not involved with the research said.

While clouds are a key component of the climate system, helping to regulate theplanet’s temperature, their small scale makes them difficult to accurately represent in climate models.

Using satellite observations to look for trends is also problematic because they come solely from weather satellites, which aren’t geared to producing consistent, long-term records. In addition, some satellites have been replaced over time, have changed orbit, or seen degradation of their sensors, introducing false trends.

Joel Norris of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and his colleagues had previously figured out a way to remove those artifacts in the satellite data to reveal actual trends since the early 1980s. They focused on looking for those patterns that showed up in different climate models and that our physical understanding of the atmosphere supports.

Namely, the observations showed that the main area of storm tracks in the middle latitudes of both hemispheres shifted poleward, expanding the area of dryness in the subtropics, and that the height of the highest cloud tops had increased.

Such changes reinforce global warming: There is less solar radiation at the high latitudes near the poles, so as clouds shift that way, they have less radiation to reflect back to space. High cloud tops mean that more of the radiation that is absorbed and re-emitted by Earth’s surface is trapped by the clouds (akin to the greenhouse effect).

To investigate whether these changes in cloud patterns could be chalked up to the natural variation of the climate system, Norris and his team compared climate models that included external influences like rising greenhouse gases and volcanic eruptions with those that did not. The former showed the same trends as the observations, while the latter didn’t.

“The pattern of cloud change we see is the pattern associated with global warming,” Norris said.

Kate Marvel, a climate researcher with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, agreed but cautioned that the cloud shifts are also consistent with what would be expected during recovery from major volcano eruptions, of which there were two at the beginning of the study period.

“More work is needed to tease out the relative roles of greenhouse gas emissions and volcanic eruptions,” she said in an email.

Norris plans to tackle this question in future work, as well estimating exactly how much clouds have changed.

The study also doesn’t deal with some of the cloud changes that are expected to be most important, namely those to low clouds in the subtropics, Bjorn Stevens, of the Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology, said in an email. Stevens is the lead author of the chapter on clouds and aerosols in the most recentIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

Monday’s study is a step toward better understanding how clouds will change along with the climate, and lays bare the limitations of the satellite record and the need for better long-term observations, said Stevens, who was not involved with the research.

“This study reminds us how poorly prepared we are for detecting signals that might portend more extreme (both large and small) climate changes than are presently anticipated,” he said.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 11th July 2016

HSE has taken over three residential care centres for 40 people with autism

It follows Hiqa inspections at care centres in Meath, Wexford and Kildare.


The HSE has taken over three residential care centres for people with autism after an Hiqa inspections found serious flaws in their management.

The centres had been under the control of the Irish Society for Autism (ISA) and have been inspected by health watchdog Hiqa during the past 18 months.

Prior to the HSE taking responsibility for these centres the ISA had been subject to increased monitoring activity, meetings with Hiqa and warning letters – with it made clear that changes needed to be made.

However, these measures did not result in a “sufficient improvement” and a decision was made to cancel the registration of the three centres.

What were the problems?

The three centres in question are Cluain Farm in Meath, Dunfirth Farm in Kildare and Sarshill House in Wexford.

Between the three a total of 47 residents are housed between the three centres, with the majority (34) situated at Dunfirth Farm.

Dunfirth Farm was inspected five times between January and November of 2015.

During the inspections poor outcomes for residents were found in the areas of:

  1. Risk relating to health and safety, risk management, social care needs, safeguarding and safety, governance and management [and] use of resources and workforce.
  2. “Poor managerial oversight and governance arrangements” were also said to be an issue.

At the unannounced inspection of Cluain Farm in Meath it was found that significant improvements that had previously been recommended had not been implemented.

At the centre it was found that there was inappropriate guidance for the use of chemical restraint and safeguarding measures to ensure that residents were protected and felt safe were inadequate.

At the centre in Wexford it was also found that Hiqa recommendations had not been implemented.

Areas of non-compliance at this centre included poor management of staffing resources, poor governance and staff not being adequately trained to meet the needs of the residents.

Here is a county by county Irish breakdown of the rise in house prices in the last three months


A nationwide supply shortage has fuelled a rise of over 2% in the price of the average house in the last three months, according to a national survey carried out by Real Estate Alliance.

The majority of counties in the country recorded price increases in the second quarter this year, the latest Real Estate Alliance Average House Price Survey has found.

The group claims it is the lack of supply of suitable properties in a scarce market that has caused these rises, exacerbated by the effect of would-be commuters moving ever further from Dublin to acquire affordable homes.

“We are seeing firms who are in business for 50 years who have never experienced such a low level of supply, and this is responsible for causing sharp increases in prices in some areas over the past three months,” said REA Chairman Michael O’Connor.

The average three bed semi nationally now costs €195,361, an increase of more than €4,000 (+2.18%) since the end of March. This is a rise of 4.49% against the same time last year.

  The REA Average House Price Survey concentrates on the sale price of Ireland’s typical stock home, the three-bed semi.

While prices in Dublin city grew by 1.4% to €363,333 since March, competition for scarce housing below the Central Bank’s €220,000 deposit limit in both the inner and outer commuter areas is fuelling an inflationary market.

Prices in commuter counties, Cork and Galway, have risen by €5,000 to €214,588 (+2.4%) while those in the rest of the country have increased by over €3,000 to €128,768 (+2.75%).

Three-bed semi prices in Kilkenny city rose by €20,000 or 12.5% in the past three months, a figure that is entirely driven by record low supply, according to Michael Boyd of REA Boyds.

“Our analysis of the Price Register tells us that there are 15 less units per month selling in the county than this time last year – and that this is the lowest level since these records began,” he said.

“We are finding that demand is strong, mainly from loan-approved returned emigrants or Eastern European buyers.

“We desperately need new building to start, especially as prices for quality stock are now well into viable levels for builders to commence.”

As the flight to another of the outer commuter counties continues, prices in Laois have risen by €10,000 (+8%) in the past three months.

Prices in Kildare (€242,500) have remained static in the four main towns, due to a low supply of suitable housing stock, combined with a relatively higher price to neighbouring counties.

In contrast, Meath has now broken the €200k barrier (€201,250) following a 3.21% growth in three months, as Dublin-based commuters move out to houses they can afford under the Central Bank’s deposit guidelines.

In Wicklow, prices in Blessington have risen from €240,000 to €265,000 in a three-month period, a rise of 10.42%, with agent REA Murphys advising that there is a bubble in the three-bed semi market.

Prices in the county as a whole have gone up by 4.44% to €235,000 over the past three months.

Louth continues to act as a microcosm of commuters travelling further in search of affordable homes with Dundalk enjoying a rise of 11.1% in three months (€150,000) while pricier homes in Drogheda (€203,000) have risen by just over the national average at 2.78%.

“There is no doubt that the major factors affecting the Irish property market at the moment are supply of housing, the Central Bank restrictions, the banks’ mortgage lending policies and high rents,” said REA Chairman Michael O’Connor.

“We have seen each of these influence the market to different degrees over the past 15 months.

“The Central Bank restrictions were brought in to calm a market bubble but we are now seeing the lack of supply very definitely fueling house price inflation on its own.

“We now need to address the roadblocks in the way of building new suitable family homes.

“We feel that the State ultimately needs to implement a 50% vat reduction on new homes, backed up by rebate schemes on local development charges on a nationwide basis.

“Nama need to accelerate sales of land on the open market as well as selling through loan sales.

“In conjunction, there is a need to fast track planning within the correct zoning for urban land bought within the next two years.”

In North County Dublin, the market has stagnated due to a lack of new builds while south County Dublin has grown by 2.19% to €350,000 and Dublin city only by 1.4% to €363,333.

“Where property is moving in Dublin it is due to supply fueling rises or investors looking to exit the market, even in spite of increasing rents,” said Mr O’Connor.

Plenty of fruit and veggies will make you happy. 

One key to happiness is in your fruit basket, says a new study.


The adage of “an apple a day” has now got new bite.

Everybody knows that eating fruits and vegetables is good for you in the long run as it reduces risks for cancer and heart attacks. But anew study found that munching produce boosts happiness even quicker. The associated feel-good factor kicks in within two years. Granted, that’s still not fast as other things will make you feel better, like, say, a bag of Doritos or a vodka and tonic.

But yes dive into that kale now for your health’s sake.

So urge researchers who followed 12,385 randomly selected subjects as they kept food diaries and had their psychological well-being monitored. The collaborative effort was by the University of Warwick, England, and the University of Queensland, Australia.

Subjects were observed in 2007, 2009 and 2013. Changes in their income, employment and personal factors were figured into findings. Happiness benefits were detected for each extra daily portion of fruit and vegetables — “tinned, frozen, dried and fresh,” per the study — up to eight portions per day. “The fruits and vegetables do not have to be prepared in any special way,” Warwick researcher Andrew Oswald told the Daily News. “However, French fries will not count.”

Many experts suggest eating 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. The more produce that was consumed, the bigger the feel-good increase.

Subjects who changed from eating almost no fruit and vegetables to munching eight portions a day experienced an increase in life satisfaction equivalent “to moving from unemployment to having a job.”

Veggies are a source of a “more immediate” feel-good boost.

“Eating fruit and vegetables apparently boosts our happiness far more quickly than it improves human health,” said Oswald.

“People’s motivation to eat healthy food is weakened by the fact that physical-health benefits, such as protecting against cancer, accrue decades later,” Oswald added. “Well-being improvements … are closer to immediate.”

Further study is needed to explain why eating fruits and veggies makes people feel good. A possible explanation is that fruits and veggies are rich in antioxidants, substances in the body that other research has linked with optimism.

“Perhaps our results will be more effective than traditional messages in convincing people to have a healthy diet,” said researcher Redzo Mujcic. “There is a psychological payoff now from fruit and vegetables, not just a lower health risk decades later.”

Good luck with that. Americans, at any rate, aren’t anywhere close to eating fruits and veggies in recommended numbers. And, again, French fries don’t count.

Increased cancer risk before and after diabetes diagnosis

Supports theory of shared risk factors


People with diabetes may have an increased risk of developing cancer before and immediately after their diagnosis, a new study has found.

Previous research indicates that type 2 diabetes could increase the risk of developing a number of types of cancer, with the highest risk appearing to be soon after a diabetes diagnosis.

Canadian researchers decided to investigate this further. They looked at the incidence of cancer in over one million adults during different time points. They found that those with diabetes were 1.23 times – that is 123% – more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer during the 10 years before their diabetes diagnosis compared to people without diabetes.

“This supports existing hypotheses that shared risk factors may be contributing to both cancer and diabetes diagnoses,” commented Dr Iliana Lega of the University of Toronto.

The study also found that the incidence of cancer was much higher among people with diabetes in the first three months after their diabetes diagnosis. However this increased risk did not appear to extend past three months.

“This may in part be explained by increased healthcare visits and screening tests following a diagnosis of diabetes,” Dr Lega noted.

She warned that the increasing incidence of diabetes may lead to more cases of cancer as well.

“There is excellent evidence that diabetes can be prevented and that metabolic changes leading to diabetes can be reversed with lifestyle changes. Similarly, diet and exercise interventions have also been shown to reduce cancer risk and improve cancer outcomes in the general population.

“Our findings are important because they underscore the need for further research that examines the impact of exercise and healthy diet on cancer risk specifically in patients with, or at risk for, diabetes,” she commented.

You can now charge your phone just by going for the wee wee’s “that’s if you fancy it”


A miniature fuel cell costing no more than £2 which can generate electricity from a single visit to the toilet has recharged a smartphone for the first time.

Using “pee power”, scientists have been able to provide three hours of phone calls for every six hours of charge time – all from 600ml of urine.

The microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology provides enormous potential to enable people to stay connected in areas that are off grid using urine.

The world first has been developed at the University of the West of England in Bristol by Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos and his team.

Prof Ieropoulos said: “We are excited to announce several global firsts – this development was possible by employing a new design of microbial fuel cells that allowed scaling up without power density losses.

“Although it was demonstrated in the past that a basic mobile phone could be charged by microbial fuel cells, the present study goes beyond this to show how, simply using urine, a microbial fuel cell system successfully charges a modern-day smartphone.”

Several energy-harvesting systems have been tested and results have demonstrated that the charging circuitry of commercially available phones may consume up to 38% of energy on top of the battery capacity.

Each of the fuel cells costs between £1 and £2 and works by using natural biological processes of “electric” bacteria to turn urine into electricity.

Urine passes through the microbial fuel cell for this reaction to happen, with the bacteria then generating electricity.

This can be stored or used to directly power electrical devices.

The fuel cell measures just one inch square in size and uses a carbon catalyst at the cathode which is derived from glucose and ovalbumin, a protein found in egg white.

This catalyst is a renewable and much cheaper alternative to platinum, which is commonly used in other microbial fuel cells.

Monkeys have long been using tools for almost 700 years,

Archaeologists now discover


Brazilian capuchins have been using stone tools to crack open cashew nuts on a sandstone ‘anvil’ (pictured above) for at least 700 years, and the use of tools was once seen as a key dividing line between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.

But new research has found it’s actually so easy that a monkey can do it, as the saying goes.

Archaeologists have discovered capuchin monkeys in Brazil have been using stone hammers and anvils to break open cashew nuts for at least 700 years.

And they suggested that humans might have discovered that the nuts were good to eat after stumbling across the site of the monkeys’ “cashew-processing industry”.

But the capuchins appear to be hidebound traditionalists, always opening the nuts in the same way, rather than attempting to invent a better way of doing it.

Dr Michael Haslam, lead author of a paper about the research in the journal Current Biology, said: “We have new evidence that suggests monkeys and other primates out of Africa were also using tools for hundreds, possibly thousands of years.

“This is an exciting, unexplored area of scientific study that may even tell us about the possible influence of monkeys’ tool use on human behaviour.

“For example, cashew nuts are native to this area of Brazil, and it is possible that the first humans to arrive here learned about this unknown food through watching the monkeys and their primate cashew-processing industry.”

The monkeys use hard quartzite stones as hammers and flat sandstones as anvils when breaking open the nuts.

And they also tend to do this in the same places – usually close to the trees that produce them – partly because the right kinds of stones are already laid out like “a set of cutlery in a restaurant”.

The archaeologists excavated one site down to a depth of 70cm, where they found a total of 69 stones with signs of damage caused by the repeated pounding and the residue of cashews.

A number of small pieces of charcoal found with the stones were then carbon dated to about 700 years ago.

The research suggests capuchins have not managed to build on the work of the original monkey inventor who pioneered the technique.

“In capuchin terms, 700 years is about 100 generations. The same thing in human terms would be about 2,500 years,” Dr Haslam said.

“They [the capuchins] tend to use the same types of materials in the same ways, unlike humans who have in the last 2,500 years have gone from obviously the Iron Age to where we are now.”

The populations of species that have showed significant promise as tool-makers – apart from humans – have all been reduced by our domination of the planet.

And Dr Haslam said this meant it was unlikely that any other animal would come to rival our success with tools.

“The potential for there to be a chimpanzee who would invent a microwave or a Boeing 747 really isn’t there anymore,” he said.

“We have to accept that we are the chimpanzee that did that and live with that.”