Tag Archives: Irish Doctors

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 18th March 2016

Fine Gael now to offer Independents & a variety of other’s a five-year deal for a new government

Enda Kenny’s proposal includes major initiatives on housing and health issues


Enda Kenny is to offer Independents and smaller parties a five-year deal that will remain in force even if he leaves office, in a bid to win their support for a minority Fine Gael government.

A proposed programme for government may be put to a special Fine Gael conference to guarantee the party’s commitment to the deal.

Next week, Mr Kenny will seek the approval of his parliamentary party to continue negotiations with members of the Independent Alliance, the Green Party’s two TDs and several other Independents.

The proposed deal will pledge major initiatives to deal with housing and health issues, along with a range of measures to spread the economic recovery into rural areas.

Such an emphasis will help Fine Gael to “navigate the centre ground of Irish politics”, according to a high-level party source.

The manoeuvres reflect a growing confidence in Mr Kenny’s circle that Fine Gael can put forward a credible minority government option.

Fine Gael intends to focus on policy areas the party believes cost it support during the election campaign as it works to put together a five-year programme for government, with or without Fianna Fáil support.

Mr Kenny will put a short document before his TDs reaffirming the party’s election manifesto proposals while also emphasising how to link “our economic proposition with social justice and a fair society”.

Written submissions

TDs have made written submissions outlining the areas in which they felt Fine Gael was weak during the campaign.

The issue of Mr Kenny stepping down as Fine Gael leader has been raised in negotiations with Independents and smaller parties.

He has already said he will not lead Fine Gael into another election and the party has been asked if his successor would honour the terms of any agreement reached in the weeks ahead.

Sources said Mr Kenny was considering putting a programme for government before a special convention or ardfheis to effectively tie the party as a whole, rather than simply the current leadership, into any agreement.

Fine Gael is still open to negotiations with Fianna Fáil, either for a coalition administration or some framework for supporting a Fine Gael minority government.

While Fianna Fáil sources have suggested such a framework could be for a period of two years, Fine Gael wants a five-year programme.

It intends to work on such a programme with Independents and others, such as the Green Party, in the weeks ahead.

The programme could then be offered to Fianna Fáil to see if it wanted to sign up to it.

“You’d have to listen to their views and what the conditions of their support are,” a Fine Gael source said.

“We’d be extremely eager to have an arrangement with them that would support a minority government but the signals we’re hearing from there are still, ‘we just want Fine Gael out’.”

However, it is felt that even if Fianna Fáil does not formally support a Fine Gael minority government, Micheál Martin would find it hard to oppose a budget framed to appeal to the centre ground.

Such a budget would contain measures broadly similar to those proposed in the Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour Party manifestos..

Investigate level of doctors failing to meet CPD standards, says IMO

Padraig McGarry wants to determine level of non-compliance before sanctions considered


Padraig McGarry, (Left Pic) chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP Committee.

An investigation is required to determine the exact level of doctors failing to meet the professional competence requirements, according to Padraig McGarry, chairman of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP Committee.

Doctors are obliged to complete 50 hours of Compulsory Professional Development courses every year which includes clinical meetings.

The chief executive of the Irish Medical Council Bill Brasifka told the Medical Independent 30 per cent of doctors are not meeting their CPD requirements.

But Mr McGarry said this figure was incorrect as it failed to take into consideration doctors working abroad, those on maternity leave or sick leave and includes locums who would not have the time to carry out the extra requirements.

“It would be an onerous task to do that on top of the 60 hours they work a week, and many cannot just do the CPD courses because of the stress,” explained Mr McGarry.

He called for an investigation into the exact levels of non-compliance before fines or other measures were considered.

Petrol price decline slows up, but no sharp rise expected

AA Ireland says rising oil prices being felt at forecourts, but oversupply issues persist


AA Ireland said the average price for a litre of petrol in Ireland is now 121.1 cent.

Rising oil prices are starting to have an impact at forecourts with a decline in the cost of fuel slowing considerably last month, according to AA Ireland.

However, the organisation said motorists are unlikely to see a big jump in the cost of fuel anytime soon as oversupply issues persist.

AA Ireland said the average price for a litre of petrol in Ireland is now 121.1 cent, down 0.9 per cent on February but still considerably lower than the 153.1 cents being charged two years ago. Diesel rose by 0.9 cents last month to an average of 106.3 cents.

AA Ireland said that while prices are rebounding, motorists are unlikely to notice a big difference in the coming months.

“The price of oil has come up off the floor in the last few weeks but the recovery is nothing to be excited about and the problems of oversupply are still there. That may cause all sorts of problems for oil producers and for some parts of the global economy but by and large it is good for us, and it is certainly good for motorists.” said director of consumer affairs Conor Faughnan.

Oil prices fell as low as $27 dollars per barrel on world markets around mid-January before recovering to a current level of about $40. Prior to this, prices had averaged over $100 until the start of 2014 when the cost spiralled downwards.

The fall in oil prices has been of great benefit to the public with the average motorist saving as much as €48 per month due to lower petrol prices.

Overall, the cost of petrol has fallen by 21 per cent in Ireland, compared to a 64 per cent decline in oil prices. Mr Faughnan said the high rate of excise duty on fuel here meant Irish motorists were not benefiting as much from price reductions as motorists in other jurisdictions.

Lager, ale or blonde? Where to start with craft beer in Ireland?

With so many available these days it can be difficult knowing what to try


Choosing a beer these days can be tricky. IPAs, imperial stouts, red ales, blondes and the list is endless. It’s a good thing, of course, with so many new Irish and international offerings. But it can be hard knowing what to try or where to begin.

All beers fall loosely into two categories: lagers and ales. Light lagers have been the dominant beer style over the last 50 years or so, while ales have seen a massive resurgence with the recent craft beer boom. What’s the difference between an ale and a lager? Yeast.

“Lager” means “to store”, and lager yeasts are active at lower temperatures which is why the style originated in cooler climates, such as Germany.

We all know the crisp, light and golden lager; however there are many variations and colours, depending on the malts used. The clean and sweet grainy flavour of the Munich helles (light), for example, comes from Pilsner malt.

The more characterful Bohemian Pils became the template for many mainstream lagers, the archetype being the Czech Pilsner Urquel or “original”.

Ales – which include wheat beers and stouts – use yeasts which ferment at slightly warmer temperatures. While ales have a long history in Ireland and England, the craft beer movement began with the rise of the American pale ale which showcased pungent US hops with citrus and grapefruit flavours – Sierra Nevada among the first.

Cork brewers Cotton Ball do a cracking pilsner called Mayfield 5 – the perfect lager for anyone looking for an intro to craft beer scene. For a tasty light blonde ale with a summery tropical fruit zing try Pass If You Can by Hope Beer. 33 Sticke Alt by Northbound Brewing is an easy drinker, malty with a hint of bitterness, and is a hybrid lagered ale – but that’s a whole other story.

Garda cut from a patrol car rammed during a Donegal pursuit

Black Fiat Punto (like below middle pic.) was being pursued after failing to stop for Gardaí in Donegal


Patrol car was rammed after a high speed pursuit in Co Donegal early on Friday.

A Garda had to be cut from his patrol car after it was rammed following a high-speed pursuit in Co Donegal early on Friday.

The collision happened at McGrory’s Brae, between Ballybofey and Donegal town, when a black Fiat Punto crashed into a garda car.

The Punto had been pursued after failing to stop for gardaí in Donegal.

It is unclear if a stinger-style device was deployed in a bid to stop the car. The garda inside the patrol car was cut free by fire crews and was taken toLetterkenny University Hospital for treatment for minor injuries.

The driver of the Punto remains in hospital and gardai are waiting to interview him.

A Garda spokesman said the Ombudsman attended the scene as a matter of routine but are not investigating the incident.

He said gardai were appealing for anyone who saw the Punto on theBarnesmore Gap early on Friday to contact Letterkenny Garda station at (091) 67100 or the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111.

What will a mission to Mars hope to discover?


An artist’s impression of the ExoMars 2016 mission, a collaboration between the European and Russian space agencies, shows the lander, Schiaparelli, separating from the orbiter.

The mission blasted off from Kazakhstan last week and the spacecraft is expected to arrive in October. It will study dust storms and gases like methane, a hot topic because it can be created in a process requiring heat and liquid water.

While countries in Europe have been slashing budgets, one area has not just escaped the ax but chalked up a stellar jump: space exploration.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has seen its budget expand 75 percent since 2008, unscathed by the region’s sovereign debt crisis.

The project, which draws contributions from individual member nations, has become a rare force of unity in a region that’s struggling with an unprecedented refugee crisis, a potential British exit from the European Union and an unresolved conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

“There is a political meaning and purpose to this mission: working together beyond national borders, beyond crises on Earth,” said Jan Woerner, the head of ESA and a German engineer who formerly headed his country’s space agency. “We use a Russian launcher, with American contribution and it’s a European mission.”

From a space center in Kazakhstan, ESA is sending into deep space an orbiter tasked with gathering critical scientific data. Attached is a spacecraft that will head to the Martian surface to test the ability of Europeans to safely land on the planet. Monday’s liftoff is the first of two launches that will see a rover on Mars by 2020, joining NASA’s Curiosity, which is already there.

The orbiter has several scientific tasks: one is to sniff out any trace of methane, the gas that could be a signpost of life; another is to map out precisely when the rover can try to land, starting in 2018. While an earlier spacecraft launched during ESA’s mission in 2003 called Mars Express is still mapping, photographing and making useful scientific measurements, the lander sent with it was never able to transmit data to ESA.

The budget of ESA, an agency backed by 22 European nations, has risen 75 percent since 2008 to $5.8 billion (though that’s less than a third of NASA’s $19 billion). The support shows that Europe wants to be a key actor in the arena.

ESA also has made space exploration missions like the ExoMars more palatable by providing returns on investment. For each member, 1 euro invested in ESA generates between 5 and 7 euros in collateral investments in industry and jobs, the agency said.


Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 3rd March 2015

Irish Government Exchequer returns almost €1bn ahead of same period last year


The Irish Government collected close to a €1bn more in taxes in the first two months of this year compared to the same period last year. The main reasons were higher income tax and VAT receipts.

In total, around €6.7bn in tax revenue was collected in the first two months of the year which was 5.4% ahead of Budget forecasts.

In the first two months of the year, the Exchequer collected almost €2.9bn in income tax or 6.8% more than last year.

“February is a quiet month for VAT so the figure of most interest is income tax receipts,” said Peter Vale, a tax partner at Grant Thornton.  “These continue to remain buoyant, evidence of both more people at work and higher earnings.  With most people also paying less income tax from the start of the year, there is a higher percentage of disposable income, which is evidenced by increased retail spending (and strong VAT receipts).”

VAT receipts stood at €2.37bn by the end of last month which was 16.2% increase on the same period last year..

Excise duties soared 20% to  €778m and stamp duty receipts soared 42% to €152m.

Republic of Ireland first European country to ban branded tobacco packs


James Reilly, Children’s Minister and a former health minister, spearheaded the ban.

The Republic of Ireland has become the first country in Europe to pass laws banning branded cigarette packets.

Following the example set by Australia, all tobacco products sold in Ireland will be in a standard dark-coloured wrapper emblazoned with large health warnings and images of disease.

Slim boxes of cigarettes, in lipstick-style shapes, will also be illegal under the reform.

Brand names will be small and use similar fonts on all packets in the marketing clampdown which is likely to be challenged in the courts, either in Ireland or under European rules.

James Reilly, Children’s Minister and a former health minister who spearheaded the ban, said it was about protecting people and should be seen as a good day for the health of children.

“The interests of public health will be served when children decide never to take up smoking in the first place and if smokers are persuaded to quit,” he said.

“We have a duty to prevent our children from being lured into a killer addiction.

“Standardised packaging will strip away the illusions created by shiny, colourful cigarette packets and replace them with shocking images showing the real consequences of smoking.”

The UK is set to follow the Irish example with laws to be passed before the end of the month.

Anti-smoking campaigners and Government say the ban will remove one of the last remaining and most powerful marketing tools of big tobacco firms, but it is facing a legal challenge over claims it infringes trademarks and the free movement of goods across the EU.

Up to 10 European countries are understood to have complained over Ireland’s branding ban.

Analysis done for investors by Exane BNP Paribas has warned that the tobacco industry could be in line for payouts in the billions if the same law is passed in the UK.

In Ireland, with about 800,000 people estimated to smoke – a prevalence rate of about 22% – a successful compensation claim is likely to run to hundreds of millions, the investor advisers said.

New Zealand is also progressing similar laws while France, Finland and Norway have indicated they will go down the same path.

Anti-smoking group Ash Ireland said the ban was vital health legislation.

Spokesman Ross Morgan said the Government and opposition politicians should be complimented for pushing ahead with the ban despite threats of lawsuits.

“We would also expect that should the industry mount a legal challenge on any aspect of this health legislation it will be vigorously contested,” he said.

“Ash Ireland is firmly of the view that the successful implementation of this legislation here in Ireland will set the scene for others to follow in Europe as was the case with the workplace smoking legislation some 11 years ago.”

More than 5,200 people die in Ireland each year from the effects of smoking and more than 1 billion euro is spent by health services every year treating tobacco-related disease.

The country’s Revenue department said it took in 984 milion euro in excise duty and an estimated 309 million euro from VAT from tobacco sold over the counter in Ireland last year – a total of 1.3 billion euro.

Dr Morgan claimed the early indications from Australia are that smoking rates have fallen and young people find the standardised packets less attractive.

“In recent weeks it emerged that some legal companies were advising the tobacco industry and various elements of our health services,” the doctor said.

“This is an apparent conflict of interest which must be examined further and it seems clear that the status quo in this area is entirely unsatisfactory.”

The Department of Health in Dublin said: “The threat of legal challenges should not act as deterrents for the introduction of appropriate public health measures.”

It added: “The state would argue that the Irish Government has approved the development and introduction of this legislation on the basis that it is a proportionate and justified public health measure.”

Ireland introduced a workplace smoking ban 11 years ago this month making it illegal to smoke in bars and restaurants.

It was the first country in the world to impose such an outright ban and followed that with restrictions on displays of cigarettes and tobacco products in shops, restrictions on vending machines and an end to the sale of packets of 10 cigarettes.

Efforts are also being pursued by campaigners to make it illegal to smoke in a car with children.

President Michael D Higgins will formally sign the legislation into law at a date to be confirmed.

Ireland’s GPs to be offered €100 per child under free care scheme


GPs are expected to be offered a yearly fee of €100 a year for each child under the Government’s long-delayed scheme of free care for all 240,000 children under the age of six.

The fee would include a basic payment of €75 , plus another €25 if they agree to extras such as a weight checks three times a year.

A contract has yet to be finalised and offered to around 2,500 GPs who will have to decide individually if they accept or reject the scheme.

The Department of Health is expected to have to back to the Department of Finance to top up the €25m allocated to the scheme this year which will not be enough.

Talks have been underway between the Department of Health and the Irish Medical Organisation, the doctor’s union, since last autumn.

However, another union, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), which has 1,200 members, has already called for a boycott of the scheme.

It recently criticised its exclusion from talks as well as more negotiatiosn which are  due to begin  in the coming months on the  bid to modernise their contract coveringr medical card holders and reverse some of the cuts in fees imposed on them in recent years.

These talks are being held out as a “carrot” to encourage GPs to agree to treating children under-six and the over-70s for free, in return for State fees, from around June onwards.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said there appears to be little basis for partnership with the NAGP at this time given their threat to boycott the introduction of free visits for the under-sixes.

In response NAGP chief executive Chris Goodey said the Minister has come up with one  “sham reason” after another to justify this discrimination against our members.”

Mr Goodey said:”He has now revealed that the real reason we are being excluded is that we have refused to be bullied into accepting a policy that is driven by political need rather than the common good.”

A memo of understanding between the Department of Health and the Irish Medical Organisation states that the talks on the under-sixes should conclude by the end of March.In return the talks on the wider medical card contract could then get underway.

The NAGP has built up its membership in the last year among GPs who are deeply unhappy at cuts in fees which they say have left many of them in financial difficulties.

The NAGP has applied for a negotiating licence but this will take some time to come through. In the meantime, it

has secured a negotiating licence by entering into a cooperative arrangement with the Independent Workers Union of Ireland (IWU).

It believes this agreement allows it freedom to negotiate, a licence exclusively held by the Irish Medical Organisation up to now.

The NAGP said the agreement with the IWU  would see both organisations continue to operate as independent entities while sharing resources and the IWU negotiating licence.

Forbes’ rich list names contains five Irish billionaires


Three of Ireland’s rich listed billionaires left to right above Denis O’Brien, Dermot Desmond and Martin Naughton. 

Microsoft founder Bill Gates is the world’s richest person with a fortune of $79bn, and Indian tycoon Pallonji Mistry is Ireland’s richest citizen.

Despite the financial crisis and fears for global growth, the number of billionaires surged to a record 1,826 last year, including five from Ireland, according to the 2015 Forbes Rich List.

The number of billionaires is up almost 200 since last year.

The wealthiest Irish citizen to have been born here is businessman Denis O’Brien, according to Forbes, which puts the Digicel founder’s fortune at $6.8bn.

Glen Dimplex founder Martin Naughton has a $2.8bn fortune, Forbes said.

Campbells Soup heir John Dorrance III, an American-born Irish citizen, is worth $2.6bn.

Businessman Dermot Desmond, who created a private equity investments empire after founding and selling NCB Stockbrokers, has a $1.8bn fortune, according to Forbes.

Pallonji Mistry is little known here, but as head of the family-controlled Shapoorji Pallonji conglomerate he presides over business interests ranging from construction and oil to Tetley Tea and Jaguar Land Rover.

He qualifies as Irish as the husband of Dublin-born Patsy Perin Dubash. His fortune of $16.3bn, according to Forbes, makes him the 55th wealthiest person on earth.

Bill Gates’s $79bn tally puts him “just” $2bn ahead of the $77bn fortune of Mexican telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim, according to the annual rich list. Bill Gates has been ranked at the top of the listing for 16 of the last 20 years, even though the philanthropic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gives away billions to charity each year.

Men dominate the rich list, which includes fewer than 200 women. The highest placed is Wal-Mart stores heiress Christy Walton, who comes in at eighth with a $41.7bn fortune.

The co-founders of mobile messaging service Snapchat, Evan Spiegel (24) and Bobby Murphy (25,) are the youngest billionaires, worth $1.5bn each, according to Forbes.

The US has the most (536) billionaires, followed by China with 213.

The riches and perils of the fossil fuel age


If nations could agree a carbon tax, it would help create a more efficient, less polluting future

Our ancestors lived in eras we call the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Ours is the “fossil-fuel age”. The energy we have extracted from the earth’s reserves of fossilised sunlight has spread (unequally shared) abundance across humanity. Will this continue? Can we manage its impact on our environment? The answers will shape the future of our complex global civilisation.

As always, BP’s Energy Outlook provides a glimpse into a possible future. No doubt, its forecasts will be wrong. But it tells us what well-informed people at the heart of the oil and gas industry consider “the likely path of global energy markets to 2035”. It puts forward five important propositions about a plausible energy future.

First, global economic output is forecast to rise by 115 per cent by 2035. Asian emerging economies — principally China and India — are expected to generate more than 60 per cent of that increase.

The primary driver of the rise in global output is expected to be a 75 per cent jump in global average real output per head, as the prosperity of emerging economies catches up with that of high-income countries. Population growth plays a distinctly subsidiary role. It is not the number of people, but rather their prosperity, that drives demand for commercial energy.

Second, as a result of rapidly rising energy efficiency, energy consumption is forecast to grow by only 37 per cent. This is far less than the rise in output of real goods and services.

Third, emissions of carbon dioxide are forecast to grow by 25 per cent, a growth rate of about 1 per cent a year. In terms of the link between output and emissions, this is a huge achievement. But — given the need to cut emissions outright, in order to have a good chance of limiting the global average temperature rise to below 2C — it is wholly inadequate. Thus, in 2035, emissions of CO2 are forecast to be 18bn tonnes above levels suggested by the International Energy Agency’s “450 Scenario”. This seeks to limit atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration to the equivalent of about 450 parts per million of CO2. If such targets are to be met, something far more radical needs to occur. (See charts.)

Fourth, improvements in energy efficiency are a far more important driver of the relatively low growth in emissions than shifts in the fuel mix. This is despite a substantial rise in use of renewables. So, between 2013 and 2035, output of renewable energy is forecast to grow by 320%. Even so, its share in primary energy production is forecast to grow only from 2.6% to 6.7%. The combined share of renewables, hydroelectricity and nuclear power grows only from 9% to 19%. This, then, is expected to remain a fossil-fuel age.

Fifth, the revolution in the production of shale gas and tight oil is expected to continue, with their share in primary energy production rising to about 10 per cent. An important result is large shifts in patterns of trade. So the US is forecast to shift from being a net importer of 12m barrels a day of oil in 2005 to being a net exporter by 2035. Meanwhile, China is forecast to shift to being a net importer of more than 13m b/d by 2035 (from self-sufficiency in the early 2000s); and India to being a net importer of about 7m b/d. Such shifts have huge geopolitical implications.

It would be wrong to describe these forecasts as simply “business as usual”. They actually imply a faster rise in energy efficiency than between 2000 and 2013. But they are not radical. The world would continue to rely overwhelmingly on fossil fuels and it would emit ever greater quantities of greenhouse gases. Could we do better?

I start from the presumption that humanity will aspire to and often manage to achieve the prosperity now taken for granted in rich countries. So we need an accelerated technological revolution. At the Oslo Energy Forum last month, I heard Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute describe just such a revolution. He argued, for example, that US gross domestic product in 2050 could be 2.5 times what it is today, even if the country stopped using oil, coal and nuclear energy altogether and cut its use of natural gas by one-third.

This would mean carbon emissions of just one-fifth of their present level. Moreover, he argued, the revolution could well be driven by market forces alone, given the growing economic superiority of the new technologies. There might, he suggests, be no need to to take direct policy action against rising emissions of carbon dioxide.

The sense of the BP report (not surprisingly, perhaps, given that BP is a fossil-fuel producer) is that such a radical and rapid market-driven revolution is unlikely. The purported obstacles are many: costs, technological limits, slow turnover of the capital stock, inability to implement policy globally and natural inertia. In brief, I fear BP is right about the obstacles. But Mr Lovins might be right about the opportunities, though only if policy makers give them a big push.

If governments could agree to implement a tax on carbon, they would give a big impulse towards an energy future that is more efficient and less polluting. Governments should invest strongly in fundamental science and new technologies. Finally, governments can help the spread of new technologies abroad and help finance their uptake at home. With this push, normal market forces should pull the world economy towards a more sustainable future.

Mass poverty is not an option. But neither is taking ever-bigger gambles with the climate. The right course has to lie in between. To put ourselves on that course, we need to wean ourselves off the excesses of the fossil-fuel age. It is a daunting challenge. But it has to be met, for our children’s sake.

A species of crab named after David Hasselhoff is teaching us quite a lot


And they are not named after him because of their amazing performance during the fall of the Berlin Wall.

There’s a species of crab in our wonderful world nicknamed in honour of David Hasselhoff… because they have very hairy chests. We’re sure that this now makes them your favourite species of crab (narrowly beating the Greenmark Hermit crab.

This is important because, thanks to new research, we now know more about the Hoff (crab) than ever before.

In a study looking at the private life of the deep-sea crabs it was found that the males and females spend separate lives at volcanic vents 1.5 miles deep near Antarctica, because of the conflicting demands of feeding and raising young among the sexes.

In 2010, a British expedition revealed a “lost world” of deep-sea animals including the crab named after the Baywatch star thriving on the ocean floor near Antarctica.

Using a deep-diving remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to examine the distribution, size and sex of these crabs at the vents, Dr Leigh Marsh and colleagues from the University of Southampton have now pieced together their private lives.

Dr Marsh said: “The life cycles of deep-sea animals have been largely hidden from us until now but thanks to more frequent expeditions and advances in technology, we are getting a clearer picture of the natural history of the ocean depths that cover most of our world.”

The researchers found that large male Hoff crabs live highest on the mineral spires of the deep-sea vents, closest to the hot fluids that jet from them.

A university spokesman said: “At the base of the mineral spires, smaller males mingle with females in spectacular piles, many crabs deep, where they get together to mate.

“The females then crawl away from the bustling piles of crabs and the warm mineral-rich fluids seeping from the seafloor, which can be toxic to their young.

“Away from the mineral spires, the few crabs found by the researchers were all females, carrying developing offspring under their curled-up tails.

“Moving away from the warmer waters of the spires takes the females across a gauntlet of predators, such as large sea anemones and seven-arm sea stars.”

They continued: “Away from the vents, the cold water of the deep Antarctic also slows down the metabolism of the adult female crabs, making them less active than in the warmer waters of the jostling piles.

“However, the conditions away from the vents may be more stable and less harmful to their offspring for their early development, making the journey of the females worthwhile.

“Males, meanwhile, don’t share in “child-care” arrangements with the females, and instead can climb up the mineral spires of the vents to take advantage of the warmth and conditions best suited for growing bacteria on their hairy chests.

“By scraping off and eating these bacteria using comb-like mouthparts, the males can grow much larger than the females.”

Study co-author Dr Jon Copley said: “Deep-sea vents are island-like habitats on the sea floor, and discoveries like these show that our exploration of the life that thrives around them has only just begun.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 8th December 2014

Irish Government asks Central Bank to ease mortgage deposit rules


The Irish Government wants the Central Bank to ease the introduction of strict new rules on mortgage borrowing by introducing the changes gradually.

In a submission to the Central Bank which will be lodged today, the Department of Finance will offer broad support for the regulator’s controversial plan to tighten the lending rules while calling for more flexibility in some areas. The regulator asked for suggestions after stunning the property market by revealing that it wants most first-time buyers to save at least 20pc of the cost of a house.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan will specifically say that he wants the Central Bank to introduce a transition period for the changes, rather than forcing borrowers to raise more money from next month. Mr Noonan also wants more people to be exempt from the rules. The Central Bank has said it believes 15pc of people should be exempt from the ban on borrowing more than 80pc of a mortgage.

Submission: Finally, the submission urges the Central Bank to focus more on loan-to-salary ratios and less on loan-to-value ratios. The Central Bank said in October than it wants to ban loans of more than three-and-a-half times salary

The Central Bank will begin sifting through submissions tomorrow, but Governor Patrick Honohan has already signalled that he may water down some of the measures.

The Department of Finance has waited until the last moment to issue its submission on the Central Bank proposals; the deadline for submissions closes today.

A group campaigning against the changes will deliver a petition to the Central Bank today. The new group, called Uplift, claimed yesterday the rule will cause more problems than it solves.

The Professional Insurance Brokers Association warned last week that the consequences of the Central Bank’s proposals to restrict mortgage lending will be “far more far-reaching than many realise”. Rachel Doyle of PIBA said: “It will impact young people’s ability to make any other contribution towards their financial future, including prudent pension planning, quite apart from using up, at a very early stage, tax-free family inheritances.”

Ms Doyle said the way in which the Central Bank consultation document is framed “leads one to become suspicious, despite recent indications from the governor, that the regulations are already drafted and are, in fact, a fait accompli”.

A spokeswoman for the Central Bank said the proposed requirements on deposits and the proposed stipulation that lending cannot exceed 3.5 times income are part of a consultation process. “When the consultation closes we will review all submissions and we will not comment on responses until after that time,” she added.

One in three 33% of trainee doctors in Ireland report bullying


Survey of junior medics finds bullying rates three times higher than the UK

The first national survey of trainee doctors has found most are happy with their training, but in one-in-three has suffered bullying.

The ’Your Training Counts’ report was commissioned by the Medical Council and involved 1,636 trainee doctors who responded to approximately 100 questions. The number who responded constitute approximately half of the trainee doctors in Ireland.

There was a dramatic difference in incidences of bullying between the UK and Ireland. Some 33.7% of Irish trainee doctors reported bullying or harassment in their post in comparison with 13.4% in the UK.

Medical Council chief executive Caroline Spillane said the UK had been dealing with bullying in the medical workplace for many years. “The UK has taken a number of measures to address the problem but that only happened after they decided to measure the prevalence first.”

The Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said he did not personally experience bullying as a trainee doctor but he acknowledged hospitals can be stressful places. “Senior colleagues are not always as supportive as they might be, but that is not peculiar to medicine.”

Some 85% of trainees reported the quality of care provided at the clinical site as “good” or “very good”.

Areas of the clinical learning environment rated highly were “consultants/GPs role”, “teamwork” and “peer collaboration”.

Weaknesses included the attributes of “feedback”, “professional relations between consultants” and “role of the educational supervisor”.

However, the research found levels of satisfaction with training and supervision lagged behind levels in both the UK and the Netherlands where similar surveys have been carried out.

Though nine in 10 trainees completing speciality training felt they had been well prepared for their next role, approximately three in 10 interns reported that their previous medical education and training did not prepare them well for intern training.

The prevalence of this issue among trainees in Ireland is two to three times greater than among their UK counterparts.

The survey found 55% of trainees who are going on to intern in hospitals said there was either a minor or major lack of preparation for their intern year. The equivalent figure in the UK is 26%.

A second Your Training Counts report will be published early in 2015 and will look in detail at career intentions, emigration and the health of trainees.

Seanad reform group to report to Government by March


Body tasked to come up with reforms which would not require a constitutional referendum

The group will examine submissions and proposals for reform which have already been made and will look at the role of a reformed Seanad within the political process.

A new group established by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to examine proposals for Seanad reform is to report back to the Government by March.

The membership of the group has been formally announced and it will be chaired by former Fine Gael Senator Maurice Manning.

It also includes Mary O’Rourke, Pat Magner and Maurice Hayes, former members of the Upper House on the Fianna Fáil, Labour and Independent benches respectively. The remaining members are Tom Arnold, who chaired the Constitutional Convention, Dr Mary Murphy, a politics lecturer in University College Cork and Elaine Byrne, a commentator and author on public policy.

The working group has been tasked with coming up with ideas for Seanad reform which would not require a constitutional referendum.

A Government statement said the group will “examine submissions and proposals for reform which have already been made and will also look at the role of a reformed Seanad within the political process, the powers and functions of a reformed Seanad” and other relevant issues.

It will also be entitled to receive new proposals if needed and will report back to the Government by the end of March 2015.

Water protester charged with letting air out of Tánaiste’s car


Teenager was arrested in connection with incident in Tallaght

A teenager arrested in connection with a incident in Tallaght when the Tánaiste Joan Burton was stuck in her car, has appeared before Tallaght Court.

Glen Carney is alleged to have to let air out of the tyre of a garda car that Ms Burton was transferred to during the heated incident in west Tallaght a month ago.

The 19-year-old, from Cloonmore Park, Tallaght, is charged with damaging the tyre of a car belonging to a Garda Superintendent at St Thomas’ Church, Kiltalown, Tallaght, on November 15th.

Sergeant Bernard Jones gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution by certificate for Kearney to District Judge Bridget Reilly.

Sgt Jones asked Judge Reilly to remand the case for DPP’s directions. He indicated to the court that DPP’s directions may be required in the matter.

Carney’s defence lawyer, Kevin Tunney, made an application for legal aid.

Judge Reilly granted bail and remanded Carney on bail to February for DPP’s directions.

The genetic secrets of Ancient Parchments


There are not a lot of new stories to be found by the humanities in ancient parchments, but millions of documents stored in archives could trace agricultural development across the centuries, thanks to increasingly progressive genetic sequencing techniques.

Thanks to sequencing, vital information can be derived from the DNA of the parchment on which they are written.

Researchers extracted ancient DNA and protein from tiny samples of parchment from documents from the late 17th and late 18th centuries. The resulting information enabled them to establish the type of animals from which the parchment was made, which, when compared to genomes of their modern equivalents, provides key information as to how agricultural expansion shaped the genetic diversity of these animals.

 An imaged parchment document from Yarburgh Muniments Lancashire Deeds YM. D. Lancs Jan. 13-14, 1576/7.

To conduct their research, geneticists at Trinity extracted DNA from two tiny (2x2cm) samples of parchment provided by the University of York’s Borthwick Institute for Archives. Meanwhile, researchers in the Centre for Excellence in Mass Spectrometry at York extracted collagen (protein) from the same parchment samples.

The first sample showed a strong affinity with northern Britain, specifically the region in which black-faced breeds such as Swaledale, Rough Fell and Scottish Blackface are common, whereas the second sample showed a closer affinity with the Midlands and southern Britain where the livestock Improvements of the later 18th century were most active.

  This shows a sewn repair in Archbishop’s Register 7 Greenfield, 1306-1311. By permission of The Borthwick Institute for Archives.

Professor of Population Genetics at Trinity College Dublin, Daniel Bradley, said, “This pilot project suggests that parchments are an amazing resource for genetic studies that consider agricultural development over the centuries. There must be millions stored away in libraries, archives, solicitors’ offices and even in our own attics. After all, parchment was the writing material of choice for thousands of years, going back to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

“Wool was essentially the oil of times gone by, so knowing how human change affected the genetics of sheep through the ages can tell us a huge amount about how agricultural practices evolved.”

If other parchments show similar levels of DNA content, resulting sequencing could provide insights into the breeding history of livestock – particularly sheep – before, during and after the agricultural improvements of the 18th century that led to the emergence of regional breeds of sheep in Britain.

Professor Matthew Collins, of the Department of Archaeology at York, who heads the University’s BioArCh research centre, said, “We believe the two specimens derive from an unimproved northern hill-sheep typical in Yorkshire in the 17th century, and from a sheep derived from the ‘improved’ flocks, such as those bred in the Midlands by Robert Bakewell, which were spreading through England in the 18th century. We want to understand the history of agriculture in these islands over the last 1,000 years and, with this breath-taking resource, we can.”

News Ireland dailY BLOG

Friday 1st August 2014

Foreign Minister Flanagan calls for a ceasefire in Gaza


Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers at Stormont House in Belfast recently. 

Minister for Foreign Affairs says lifting of blockade is ‘fundamental’ to ceasefire

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said  “A ceasefire without action on the blockade will not give rise to a lengthy cessation of hostilities so the lifting of the blockade is fundamental.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza linked to an ending of the Israeli blockade of the area.

  “A ceasefire without action on the blockade will not give rise to a lengthy cessation of hostilities so the lifting of the blockade is fundamental,” Mr Flanagan said.

The Minister, who yesterday had his third conversation in a little over a week with Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry to explore the prospects of a ceasefire, said that since his appointment three weeks ago he had been at pains to express the desire of the Irish people to see an end to the “wholly unacceptable killing” in Gaza.

“I have met the Israeli ambassador here on a number of occasions in Iveagh House and I have conveyed to him in no uncertain terms the revulsion on the part of the Irish people at what is appearing on our screens daily.

“In my most recent meeting I asked that he immediately following the meeting convey a strong message from the Irish Government to my counterpart, Mr Lieberman, and directly to the office of the prime minister, Netanyahu, which I understand that he did,” said Mr Flanagan.

He added that last week at the EU council of foreign ministers in Brussels agreement had been reached on a strong resolution condemning acts the violence. “On behalf of the Irish people I intervened strongly at that meeting in furtherance of that agreed resolution,” he said, adding that the fact the resolution was agreed without dissent was significant.

“On Wednesday of last week, there was the UN vote. I think the vote must be seen in the context of the EU council of foreign affairs on Tuesday. Ireland’s position at that meeting was that we were most anxious to ensure the wording of a resolution that would be passed without dissent.”

Responding to criticism of the Government for abstaining along with other EU states in a vote at the UN condemning the Israeli actions in Gaza, Mr Flanagan said the resolution was not balanced. “The Palestinian proposal was unbalanced and not comprehensive as presented. Our permanent representative made strenuous efforts throughout the day with our EU colleagues and beyond to achieve balance,” he added.

The resolution was supported by a number of countries including China, Russia, Cuba Saudi Arabia and opposed by the US. All of the EU members abstained. “We are a small neutral country with influence. Another small neutral country with influence, Austria, similarly abstained. I believe it is important that our balance be preserved, that our influence be preserved, and that we play a part as a small neutral influential State,” he said.

Mr Flanagan said that in a conversation with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon earlier this week, he had conveyed to him the views of the Irish people and offered humanitarian assistance such as food and shelter and power and fuel.

“I was very pleased last week that myself and Minister Seán Sherlock made available a further amount of €500,000 by way of direct aid. This will go to UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency] for direct aid on the ground and that is on top of €10 million that we provide directly by way or relief and support to the Palestinian people.”

Asked about his role in the Oireachtas Ireland-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group, Mr Flanagan said he was a member of a group that had met in 2009 and 2010 and included TDs Ruairí Quinn, Lucinda Creighton and Joanna Tuffy. He said this cross-party group acknowledged the right of the democratic state of Israel to defend itself and its territory against indiscriminate rocket fire from organisations such as Hamas or other military groups.

He said the group had not met for a long time and as Minister he would not be involved in any parliamentary caucus but would represent the views of the Irish people. “I condemn the disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks on Gaza and I have made that position clear,” he said.

Irish Government ‘bit off more than we could chew’ says Leo Varadkar


Health minister sets out vision of universal GP care followed by universal primary care

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said his priorities for his time in office will be the introduction of universal GP care and later, universal primary care, including the provision of dental and optical treatments.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said the Government “bit off more than we could chew” when taking power, specifically referring to how quickly universal healthcare could be introduced.

In discussing his vision for the Irish health service, Mr Varadkar said his priorities for his time in office would be the introduction of universal GP care and later, universal primary care, including the provision of dental and optical treatments.

However, he said that bringing about any changes in the current structures involves dialogue and negotiation and cautioned against moving too quickly.

“I do think that probably when we came into office as a Government we bit off more than we could chew. We have tried to bring in universal healthcare in too short a timeframe,” he said in an interview on last night’s Tonight with Vincent Browne show.

Last month, under plans brought to Cabinet by the Minister for Health, the Government said it had agreed to provide free GP cards for all children over the next three years, as well as to those over the age of 70.

If this was an early sign of Mr Varadkar’s intentions to affect change, he expanded on his philosophy last night.

“I am somebody who very much believes in universal healthcare. I think everyone should have access to health services in the same way people do in almost every western country,” he said.

“Health is a universal right. It’s like education, for example. It’s like pensions when you retire; the whole idea is you pay your taxes and you benefit and that’s how we do a lot of things. We don’t do health like that in Ireland. ”

Mr Varadkar also outlined other issues on his radar, saying more could be done to reduce the price of medicines, while health insurance could be expanded to more of those in their twenties and thirties with the incentive of discounted packages.

“I totally understand that if we are going to make universal GP care and universal primary care work that is going to involve resources and those discussions need to be had. At the same time though, governments can’t write blank cheques and we can’t give vetoes to any section of the health service.”

As a trained GP, Mr Varadkar said he understood the mood of doctors and said in the health profession generally, more needed to be done to lift morale and to retain home produced doctors and nurses.


A New Irish Health Bill will set a minimum indemnity cover for doctors


the Move will allow the irish public to seek redress in the event of a medical mishap, says leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health: “It is good news for patients

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has published legislation that will make it a legal requirement for all medical practitioners to have a minimum level of indemnity cover.

Mr Varadkar said the move would allow members of the public to seek redress in the event of a medical mishap or negligence.

The Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2014, published yesterday, places the onus on practitioners to ensure they have adequate cover, he said.

The announcement follows reports last month of consultants in private practice facing increases in their indemnity premiums of up to 50 per cent.

“At present there is no legal obligation on a medical practitioner to have adequate medical indemnity insurance cover,” Mr Varadkar said on the publication of the Bill.

“This legislation will address this deficit. It is good news for patients as the enactment of the legislation will mean that members of the public will be able to have redress in the event of a medical mishap or negligent care from a medical practitioner.”

Under the law, the Medical Council will seek proof of indemnity from practitioners on registration, and will have the power to impose sanctions on those who do not comply with the minimum requirement.

A statement from the Department of Health said the move would not require any higher payment than would be necessary for a normal and adequate policy. The legislation will be initiated in the Seanad in the autumn.

Last July, it was revealed that the UK-based Medical Protection Society (MPS) would be contacting its Irish private consultant clients to tell them of rises in the cost of indemnity cover by as much as half the existing policy.

Such an increase would likely have the effect of threatening the financial viability of some practices while at the same time increasing the cost of care for patients.

Cost of claims According to MPS, the increase in subscription rates is due to a rise in the rate at which doctors are facing legal action and the subsequent cost of claims. It is unclear what effect the new legislation will have on existing cover.

Expressing concerns at the increased prices revealed last month, Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association chief executive Martin Varley said it would result in “a growing number of patients seeking care in public hospitals at a time when these hospitals do not have the capacity to treat more patients due to a lack of frontline resources and an insufficient number of consultants.”

Women in Ireland over the age of 40 are urged to take contraception


the Well Woman Centre says there are many surprise pregnancies for over 45 year old’s.

Women over the age of 40 are less likely to present for smear tests and are also more likely to consider that they do not need contraception, the Dublin Well Woman Centre has said in its annual report.

The trend in relation to smear tests has been described as “worrying”, according to the centre’s chief executive Alison Begas.

She also warned that many women over 40 who are still sexually active should not stop taking contraception. There were 223 births last year to women over 45 in the State.

“We would see a lot of women coming up to menopause. Even in the year before they officially stop having their periods or the year or two afterwards, they should carry on taking contraception,” she said.

Ms Begas said they had come across women who were surprised to become pregnant in their forties. “They thought it definitely shouldn’t happen to them,” she said. “We have women coming in seeing our pregnancy counsellors saying ‘my God, I didn’t think I would be in this position’. At that stage they are not thinking of being mothers to young babies.

“If their periods stop before they are 50, they should carry on taking contraception for two years. That is the standard practice.”

The Dublin Well Woman Centre medical director Dr Shirley McQuade said there was a “ worrying trend” of women not reporting over the age of 40 for cervical tests.

The average age for the diagnosis of cervical cancer is 44 and the average age of death is 55.

“There are minor changes that can progress to major changes over 10 years. If the minor changes can be detected, it makes it easier to treat,” she said.

In the 18 to 29 age group, almost 80 per cent of women are presenting for a smear test. That figure drops to below 70 per cent for women over the age of 40 and for women over the age of 60 it is less than half.

Dr McQuade said this was an international trend and down to a number of factors.

“ A lot of women are generally fit and healthy. They are not going to the doctor and they have stopped taking contraception. Some of them see themselves as too busy. Their priority isn’t their health. They look after everyone else except themselves,” she said.

“ Keeping up to date with regular smear tests is by far the most effective way to for women aged 25 – 60 to protect themselves from this preventable disease.”

The annual report found that Chlamydia continues to be a concern for patients, with over four thousand tests taken in 2013, with 4.6 per cent testing positive for the infection.

In addition, 881 long-acting reversible contraceptive devices (LARCs) were fitted by the Well Woman Centre in 2013, compared to 914 in 2012.

The Dublin Well Woman Centre welcomed the enactment of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, 2013, yet expressed concern over some elements of the legislation.

However, Ms Begas described the legislation as “long overdue”. She accused the Government of presenting legislation which “ fails to deliver a compassionate response to women dealing with a fatal foetal abnormality.

“Learning that a much-wanted baby has a fatal foetal condition is not the fault of the woman, but the lack of compassion in the State’s response to those women clearly places it at fault.”

The Well Woman Centre provides a wide range of primary health care services, family planning, counselling and sexual health services to women and men. The organisation employs nearly 50 doctors, nurses, counsellors and administration staff at three locations in Dublin – Liffey Street, Pembroke Road and Coolock.

Has the mystery of the Northern Siberian craters finally been solved?

Scientist claims they were created by SINKHOLES that erupted outwards

This first giant crater measuring around 262ft and found in far northern Siberia is believed to have been caused by rising temperatures in the area. Recent helicopter video footage of the first hole, in the Yamal region, reveals a mound of loose dirt that appears to have been thrown out of the hole with water inside The discovery eliminates the possibility that a meteorite had struck the region in the Yamal Peninsula - the name of which translates as 'the end of the world'

  • The theory by geophysicist Vladimir Romanovskyis backed up by helicopter footage of the first mystery hole
  • The footage shows a mound of loose dirt that appears to have been thrown ou of the 230ft (70 metre) crater
  • Theory states crater began in a similar way to that of a sinkhole, when ice collected in an underground cavity
  • Rather than the roof of the cavity collapsing, pressure from natural gas such as methane caused an eruption
  • Two other smaller craters have recently been spotted in the region, triggering debate about their formation
  • One of the craters is located in Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula in the Taz district and has a diameter of 49ft (15 metres)
  • The other was spotted on the Taymyr Peninsula in Kransoyark region and has a diameter of 13ft (four metres)

The three mystery craters that appeared earlier this month in northern Siberia have triggered a number of theories about how they formed, including their creation by aliens and meteorites

Now one scientist believes he has a more concrete explanation. The craters, claims geophysicist Vladimir Romanovsky, were formed by a type of sinkhole that erupted outwards rather than collapsing inwards.

His theory is backed up by recent helicopter footage of the first hole in the Yamal region which reveals a mound of loose dirt that appears to have been thrown out.

This first giant crater measuring around 262ft and found in far northern Siberia is believed to have been caused by rising temperatures in the area. Recent helicopter video footage of the first hole, in the Yamal region, reveals a mound of loose dirt that appears to have been thrown out of the hole with water inside

A sinkhole is a hole in the ground created by erosion and the drainage of water in an underground cavity.

The water inside the first crater likely came from melting permafrost or ice, said Mr Romanovsky, who studies permafrost at the University of Alaska Fairbanks speaking to Tanya Lewis at LiveScience.

He explained that whereas most sinkholes suck collapsed material inside, ‘this one actually erupted outside.’

Mr Romanovsky believe the crater’s formation began in a similar way to that of a sinkhole, when ice collected in an underground cavity.

Rather than the roof of the cavity collapsing, he believes pressure built up from natural gas such as methane. This eventually erupted out a slurry of dirt, creating a crater in its place.

However, the theory does not explain why the hole’s border so round or where the gas came from to fuel such an eruption.

Last week two similar craters were discovered. A second is in the same permafrost region of northern Russia, and a third on the Taymyr Peninsula, to the east, in Kransoyark region. Both were spotted by reindeer herders who almost fell in.

The original hole received worldwide attention after being identified by helicopter pilots some 20 miles (32km) from a huge gas extraction plant at Bovanenkov.

‘Theories range from meteorites, stray missiles, a man-made prank, and aliens, to an explosive cocktail of methane or shale gas suddenly exploding,’ reported The Siberian Times.

‘The version about melting permafrost due to climate change, causing a release of methane gas, which then forces an eruption is the current favourite, though scientists are reluctant to offer a firm conclusion without more study.’

The new Yamal crater is in the area’s Taz district near the village of Antipayuta and has a diameter of about 49ft (15 metres).

A deputy of the regional parliament – or duma – Mikhail Lapsui said: ‘I flew by helicopter to inspect this funnel’ which he said was formed last year though only now have reports of it reached the outside world.

‘There is ground outside, as if it was thrown as a result of an underground explosion.

‘According to local residents, the hole formed on 27 September 2013.

‘Observers give several versions. According to the first, initially at the place was smoking, and then there was a bright flash. In the second version, a celestial body fell there.’

The chief scientist of the Earth Cryosphere Institute, Marina Leibman, told URA.RU website in Sibera: ‘I have heard about the second funnel on Yamal, in Taz district, and saw the pictures.

‘Undoubtedly, we need to study all such formations. It is necessary to be able to predict their occurrence.

‘Each new funnel provides additional information for scientists.’

The third crater and hole is in the Taymyr Peninsula and was accidentally discovered by reindeer herders who almost fell into it, in the vicinity of the remote outpost of Nosok.

The funnel is a perfectly formed cone, say locals who are mystified over its formation.

Its depth is estimated at between 200 to 330ft (60 to 100 metres) and its diameter – more than 13ft (four metres).

Experts – geologists, ecologists, and historians – have not come to a consensus about the origin of the funnel, say reports in the region.

‘It is not like this is the work of men, but also doesn’t look like natural formation,’ said one account expressing puzzlement at its creation.

Scientists in Krasnoyarsk region – the second largest in Russia – plan further study of this hole.

he first hole is around 230ft (70 metres) deep and when a group of experts visited it earlier this month, they noted an icy at its bottom.

Their footage highlights a darkening around the rim which was earlier seen as evidence of heat possibly from an explosion during the crater’s creation.

‘They found the crater – around up to 300ft (70 metres) deep – has an icy lake at its bottom, and water is cascading down its eroding permafrost walls.

‘It is not as wide as aerial estimates which earlier suggested between 164ft and 328ft (50 and 100 metres).’

Andrey Plekhanov, senior researcher at the Russian Scientific Centre of Arctic Research, revealed that satellite mapping imagery is being used to establish when the phenomenon was formed, thought to be in the last year or two.

‘The crater has more of an oval than a circular shape, it makes it harder to calculate the exact diameter,’ he said.

‘As of now our estimates is about 98ft (30 metres). If we try to measure diameter together with soil emission, the so-called parapet, then the diameter is up to 197ft (60 metres).

The structure is so fragile that the scientists could not climb deep into the lake and had to send a camera down instead.

One theory is that the feature is a ‘pingo,’ reports the Sunday Morning Herald.

A pingo is a large chunk of ice that is located underground that can create a hole in the ground when it melts.

‘Certainly from the images I’ve seen it looks like a periglacial feature, perhaps a collapsed pingo,’ Dr Chris Fogwill of the University of New South Wales said.

‘This is obviously a very extreme version of that, and if there’s been any interaction with the gas in the area, that is a question that could only be answered by going there.’

Dr Plekhanov added the hole was most likely the result of a ‘build-up of excessive pressure’ underground, due to the region’s changing temperatures.

He said 80% of the crater appeared to be made up of ice and that there were no traces of an explosion.

The discovery eliminates the possibility that a meteorite had struck the region.

‘Could it be linked to the global warming? Well, we have to continue our

research to answer this question,’ said Dr Plekhanov.

‘Two previous summers – years 2012 and 2013 were relatively hot for Yamal, perhaps this has somehow influenced the formation of the crater.

‘But we have to do our tests and research first and then say it more definitively.’

After the hole was discovered, there was speculation online about the crater indicating ‘the arrival of a UFO craft’.

Thanks to their readings (shown) the team now believes the cause was increasing temperatures  Ruling out extra-terrestrial intervention, Dr Plekhanov said: ‘We can say for sure that under the influence of internal processes there was an ejection in the permafrost.

‘I want to stress that was not an explosion, but an ejection, so there was no heat released as it happened.’

The latest expedition organised by the Yamal authorities included experts from Russia’s Centre for the Study of the Arctic, and also the Cryosphere Institute of the Academy of Sciences.

They took samples of soil, air and water from the scene and were accompanied by a specialist from Russia’s Emergencies Ministry.

Anna Kurchatova from the Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Centre, previously said the crater was formed by a mixture of water, salt and gas igniting an underground explosion, a result of global warming.

Gas accumulated in ice could have mixed with sand beneath the surface, and then mixed with salt.

Global warming may have caused an ‘alarming’ melt in the under-soil ice, released gas and causing an effect like the popping of a Champagne bottle cork, Ms Kurchatova suggests.

Yamal, a large peninsula jutting into Arctic waters, is Russia’s main production area for gas supplied to Europe.

Dr Plekhanov said: ‘I’ve never seen anything like this, even though I have been to Yamal many times.’

The crater is different from others on Yamal. The experts say the phenomenon maybe a restarting of a process not seen for 8,000 years when the lake-pocked Yamal landscape was formed on what was once a sea.

This maybe ‘repeating nowadays’, he said. ‘If this theory is confirmed, we can say that we have witnessed a unique natural process that formed the unusual landscape of Yamal peninsula.’

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 23rd November 2013

Assisted suicide is a topic we should address as human beings,


Eamon Gilmore has said that the issue of assisted suicide should be addressed in response to questions in the Dáil.

The TÁNAISTE EAMON GILMORE has said that legislators should deal with the issue of assisted suicide and has suggested that committee hearings be held when a case currently before the court concludes.

Gilmore was speaking at Leaders’ Questions when he was asked about the issue of assisted suicide in the wake of a woman being charged with assisting the suicide of another woman in Dublin in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the State.

Indpendent TD Stephen Donnelly raised the case of Marie Fleming, an MS sufferer, who unsuccessfully challenged the country’s laws on assisted suicide earlier this year.

Donnelly told the Dáil that Fleming’s condition has deteriorated to the point where she may now starve to death and asked Gilmore if her husband Tom should face the threat of 14 years in prison if he helps his wife to die.

Gilmore said that it was best that the case before the courts concludes before TDs discuss the issue of assisted suicide, but he added:

“I met with Tom Curran after the Marie Fleming case… It is my view that as legislators we should address this issue here in this house.”

“I think it’s a difficult issue, I have enormous sympathy for the situation that Tom and Marie find themselves in, but there is no simple answer to this,” he said.

The Tánaiste said that the topic raised “ethical and legal” issues but said it was one that should be addressed.

“I think that this is a topic that I think we should address as legislators collectively,” he said. “I don’t think this should be a kind of government [versus] opposition type of issue.”

He said it is a “a topic we should address as human beings, as legislators” and said that when the court case is over there may be an opportunity to hold committee hearings.

Gilmore added: “The straight answer is ‘yes’. I do think we should deal with this as legislators.”

Donnelly said that the court case should not prevent TDs from discussing the issue and called for an expert report could be carried out. Gilmore said this was a positive suggestion which he would discuss with his government colleagues.

Donnelly also called for the Director of Public Prosecutions to issue guidelines on when penalties for assisted suicide may not apply as has happened in the UK.

Drug resistance warning to Irish people over ‘casual’ attitude to antibiotics


Clinicians begin campaign to discourage over-prescribing

Doctors have warned against the over-use of antibiotics.

A casual attitude to antibiotics is damaging their effectiveness and we seeing an alarming global rise in so-called ‘superbugs’, doctors in Ireland have warned.Consultant microbiologist Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick, HSE/RCPI clinical lead, said there was a rise in drug-resistant bacteria that cause pneumonia and meningitis, MRSA and E.coli.Misuse of antibiotics threatened to undermine the progress made in medicine over recent decades. Their overuse also made patients less likely to respond to treatment.Launching the action on antibiotics campaign to mark European Antibiotic Awareness Day, Dr Fitzpatrick said: “Taking antibiotics when they aren’t needed means that they might not work when you really need them for a serious infection.

“That is why the action on antibiotics campaign – supported by the Department of Health, Health Service Executive,Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), Irish Pharmacy Union, Royal College of Physicians and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland – is aiming to raise public awareness on the correct use of antibiotics and to preserve this precious resource for the use of future generations.”

She said antibiotics had “utterly transformed modern medicine”.

“Before antibiotics were available, common injuries such as cuts and scratches that became infected could result in death or serious illness because there was no treatment available.

“Thankfully, this does not happen anymore as we have antibiotics available to treat these infections. However antibiotics must be used appropriately and by misusing them we face the risk of returning to the pre-antibiotic era.”

Clinicians warned that antibiotics should be used only as prescribed and only when needed. They would not work for colds or flu.

In addition, patients should always finish a prescribed course of antibiotics – even if they felt a lot better.

President of the ICGP, Dr Seamus Cryan said that the organisation had been actively encouraging lower usage rates for a number of years across its membership.

Leaflets and posters are being circulated to all GPs and pharmacies nationwide to promote the campaign.

Irish Doctors call for 500 new GPs to address the manpower crisis


The National Association of General Practitioners says 150 practices around the country are at risk of closure due to funding shortages.

THE CEO OF the National Association of General Practitioners is calling for the Government to support the appointment of 500 new GPs in order to bring Ireland into line with other developed countries.

Speaking in advance of the representative body’s AGM in Dublin, Chris Goodey said the move was needed to bring the country’s doctor-patient ratio up to the OECD average.

“As a matter of urgency the government needs to put the resourcing in place to support an increase in the number of GPs,” Goodey said.

He said that unless there were “significant reforms” to make General Practice attractive for new entrants to the profession “the current manpower crisis will lead to a collapse in the system of primary care”.

He said that in his address to the AGM he would send a “strong warning” to the Government parties that unless funding to the sector was increased “150 General Practices across every county in the country face the real risk of imminent closure”.

The organisation is also warning that the plan announced in the Budget to extend free GP cover to all children aged five and under will have a significant impact on other patients.

According to spokesperson Dr Stephen Murphy:

If the 280,000 or so children under six who currently don’t have a medical card are given one, then there will be a huge increase in visits to GPs – thereby increasing the average GPs workload by 10 per cent or more – other patients will, of necessity – have to lose out or wait.

He warns that if the GP service is overwhelmed “it will have a serious follow-on impact on the rest of the health service with disastrous results”.

The one-day AGM takes place in the Herbert Park Hotel, Ballsbridge. The keynote speaker is Dr Edward Walsh, founding President of the National University of Limerick. There are also one-on-one forums covering legal and tax advice, and a workshop by credit management specialist Declan Flood on ‘Getting Paid’.

Two Northern Ireland men remanded in custody over Bundoran Methylone find


Two Northern Ireland men were remanded in custody on a €115,000 drugs distribution charge.

Paul McConville 55, of Cranny Terrace, Craigavon, and Malachy Doran, 52, of Church Walk, Lurgan, appeared at a special sitting of Sligo District Court.

They were accused of having €115,000 worth of Methylone, and ecstasy-type drug, and having it for sale and supply in a rented house Bunholvil, Bundoran, Co. Donegal on Friday.

They were refused bail and remanded in custody by Judge Kevin Kilrane to appear at Sligo Court next Thursday.

The men were arrested at 9.15 a.m. on Friday at Bunholvil by local drugs squad gardai working with Customs officers in an ongoing operation targeting drugs sales in South Donegal.

UN climate deal allows countries to make ‘contributions’ on emissions targets


Diplomats from almost 190 nations endorsed a set of measures on global warming, laying the groundwork for a treaty to be adopted in 2015 that would limit pollution by all nations for the first time.

The delegates at a United Nations conference called on those who are ready to make pledges on emissions by the first quarter of 2015. They authorized work on a “loss and damage” mechanism that would help the poorest cope with the impact of climate change, took in $100 million in aid pledges to fund adaptation programs and agreed on a forest-protection deal.

The deal resulted from a last-minute compromise between industrial and developing nations about the fossil-fuel emissions cuts they were agreeing to. China and India rejected an effort by the U.S. and European Union to lock all nations into “commitments” on greenhouse gases. That word was swapped for “contributions,” a sign some countries may be shying away from explicit emissions reductions targets such as those enshrined in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

The meeting sidestepped the most thorny issues in the debate, namely how to divide up responsibility for emissions cuts and how richer nations will meet their promise to channel $100 billion a year by 2020 in aid for climate projects. Those concerns may stymie work toward a broader accord in two years.

“There are some very difficult political issues that will need to be addressed over the next two years if we are going to have a successful outcome,” said Alden Meyer, an observer of the talks for two decades at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said at the meeting today in Warsaw, Poland. “We’re just at the beginning of a long and potentially difficult journey.”

This year’s meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was never designed to produce a breakthrough. Instead, it was meant to work out the technical groundwork necessary for the 2015 deal, which will be negotiated in Paris after an interim meeting in Lima, Peru.

Record carbon emissions have lifted the Earth’s temperature about 0.8 degrees Celsius since the industrial revolution, and the planet is on a path to exceed the UN-endorsed maximum of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by 2100. As a result, sea levels are rising, oceans are acidifying and glaciers and sea ice are melting. Scientists predict more freak weather, droughts and stronger storms.

Humans have already emitted more than half the greenhouse gases compatible with a 2-degree increase, UN scientists said Sept. 27. The implication of that is many fossil-fuel reserves need to remain unburned if the temperature goal is to be met.

“The coal lobby cast a shadow over the negotiations,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of the climate and energy program, at the World Resources Institute. “It’s increasingly clear that unabated coal use is inconsistent with the goal of staying within 2 degrees.”

When the mandate to reach a new global deal was fixed two years ago in Durban, South Africa, industrial nations hailed it as breaking down the firewall that assigned mandatory targets only to rich countries. Clashes between developed and emerging nations in Warsaw showed the divisions remain.

Poland sparked ire from environmental activists for hosting a coal conference at the same time as the talks, while China led an angry backlash by developing countries against Japan’s decision to water down its planned emissions target for 2020.

The meeting began three days after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines. That fed animosity about who is to blame for global warming and who should pay to fix the damage. India and China called on industrial nations to move first on emissions. The agreement allowed wiggle room on exactly when their own pledges must be delivered.

The European Union and U.S. succeeded in their bid to set a deadline for taking in emissions pledges before the Paris meeting. They had to accept language that said it applies to those that are ready.

Rich countries didn’t give further detail on when they’d boost climate-related aid from the the $10 billion a year that has flowed in the past three years.

Those issues may be more sharply defined at the next annual conference, which will be held in December 2014 in Lima. For now, there was $100 million in new pledges from nations led by Germany, Sweden and Switzerland for the UN’s Adaptation Fund, which helps developing nations adapt to the impact of climate change. The Green Climate Fund, established two years remains un-capitalized because the way it works hasn’t been fully defined.

The delegates seek to write a new climate-protection agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the only global deal with emissions restrictions.

It limits greenhouse pollutants in industrialized nations, leaving poorer countries to make only voluntary commitments. Since Canada pulled out of Kyoto and Russia and Japan rejected new targets after 2012, the treaty has applied to less than 15 percent of global emissions. China has surpassed the U.S. as the world’s biggest polluter since 1997, with India catching up.

“You have no chance to achieve the ambition you need unless you have an agreement which is going to be maximally inclusive, bringing all the players in,” U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern told reporters in Warsaw.

Richer nations have offered aid to entice poorer ones into joining in limits on fossil-fuel emissions. Japan pledged $16 billion in aid over the next three years. Norway promised at least $500 million a year through 2020. The U.S. said it’s paying out $2.7 billion this year. The $100 million for the adaptation fund will help pay for projects in Belize, Cuba, the Seychelles, Myanmar and Uzbekistan.

‘There are some very difficult political issues that will need to be addressed over the next two years if we are going to have a successful outcome’

The debates over long-term finance to meet the $100 billion goal, the loss-and-damage mechanism, and the timetable of emissions pledges leading up to the 2015 deal proved the most touchy issues in Warsaw. Envoys say each nation must prepare for the next session to have targets to put on the table.

“If we don’t do our homework before we meet, then we won’t get an agreement when we meet,” Danish Environment Minister Martin Lidegaard said in an interview.

In a victory for islands states that fear they’ll be submerged by rising seas, delegates set up a body called the Warsaw Mechanism to help the most vulnerable nations address the losses and damage they suffer due to global warming.

While it falls short of a demand that it becomes a channel for compensation, its functions may include coordinating research into extreme weather events and so-called slow-onset effects of climate change. Those include the rise of sea levels, melting glaciers and ocean acidification. It may also play a role coordinating with aid agencies and UN bodies dealing with health, weather and agriculture.

On forests, the conference adopted a rulebook setting out how aid funds can go to protect woodlands, concluding eight years of negotiations. Deforestation and land-use changes account for 17 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions, and the measures known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD-plus, will help nations such as Brazil and Congo protect forests.

“With these decisions, the REDD house is built,” said Pipa Elias, forest policy consultant at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Now we need to furnish it and pay for it.”