Tag Archives: Irish Life

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 4th May 2017

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

A Garda graduation ceremony at Templemore, Tipperary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Barrett said the answers he received were unsatisfactory.

Irish managers not up to speed with our digital revolution

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

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

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

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

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

Going digital?

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

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

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

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

An early adoption plan

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

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

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

Irish Life report 44% increase in profits for Q1 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brendan Drumm, former chief executive of the HSE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 9th May 20915

The UK Conservative Party’s victory & what it means for Ireland next year?


‘The lesson for Enda Kenny and Joan Burton is that poor poll results may mean nothing when people are faced with choosing a government’

‘Fine Gael will aspire to a similar share of the national vote as the Conservatives but will get nothing like the seat bonus provided by the straight vote system.’ Above, people in London take copies of a free newspaper showing the Conservative Party’s election victory.

David Cameron’s stunning election victory has a number of implications for Ireland and one of them is that the Coalition has every chance winning a second term if the two parties in power hold their nerve and fight a coherent campaign.

Fine Gael TDs in particular were buoyed up by the result in the UK on the basis that it showed that voters are prepared to reward a party in power that has taken some very unpopular decisions in the national interest.

The reaction of Labour TDs in Leinster House was more nuanced. They were all naturally disappointed at the dismal failure of their sister party across the water to do better, but some were also quietly heartened by the lesson that governments can retain power in a time of “austerity”.

The twin planks of the Conservative victory were the promise of stability based on the party’s record in government and the attack on the Scottish nationalists as an insidious force who wanted to hold the rest of the UK to ransom.

“There is an obvious parallel here,” said one excited Fine Gael TD. “We are the only party that can offer the voters stability and Sinn Féin represents the same kind of bogeyman for middle Ireland as the Scots nats do for middle England.”

Of course there are some very important differences between Ireland and the UK and there are no guarantees that the electorate here will view the world in the same terms as British voters.

The difference in the electoral systems is also very important. Fine Gael will aspire to a similar share of the national vote as the Conservatives but will get nothing like the seat bonus provided by the straight vote system.

The converse, though, is that while the Labour Party here is in a position very akin to the Liberal Democrats, proportional representation should ensure that the loss of seats will be on nothing like the same scale.

Another feature of the British outcome that has given both Coalition parties here a shot in the arm is that nobody saw it coming. The polls, the pundits and the politicians all forecast a hung parliament but in the event it was nothing like that.

The lesson for Enda Kenny and Joan Burton is that poor poll results over the past two years may mean nothing when people are faced with the responsibility of choosing a government.

The Conservatives won because the British electorate did not see a viable alternative government on offer. The Irish electorate will be confronted with the same dilemma and if Fine Gael and Labour play their cards right they could win the extra votes needed to get them over the line.

There are no obvious UK parallels with the position Fianna Fáil finds itself in. Making itself relevant to the formation of government is the big challenge facing the main Opposition party given that it has ruled out coalition with either Fine Gael or Sinn Féin.

As for Sinn Féin, the party’s prospects lie somewhere between those of the SNP and UKIP, both of which place nationalism at the heart of their appeal. The straight vote system means that the SNP got far more seats than its vote warranted while UKIP got far fewer. Sinn Féin will certainly improve its position here – the only question is by how much.

The setback for Sinn Féin in Fermanagh South Tyrone and the slight drop in its support on other constituencies was welcome news for the Government parties in Dublin and for Fianna Fáil.

It demonstrated that the rise of Sinn Féin is not as inexorable as is so widely assumed while the performance of the SDLP and the Ulster Unionists showed there is still room for moderate parties on both the nationalist and unionist sides of the sectarian debate.

In terms of its most immediate direct impact on this country, Cameron’s victory means that a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union is now certain to happen in the next couple of years.

The potential damage that a UK exit would have on Ireland has caused considerable unease in this country across the political spectrum as well as among business and trade union leaders.

However, the scale of Mr Cameron’s victory is something of a silver lining from an Irish point of view as it puts him in a strong position to lead the EU referendum debate and fight the campaign on ground of his choosing.

If it had been a hung parliament, as almost all of the polls and pundits were suggesting, Cameron might have retained power but would have been dependent on his own anti-EU right wing or even UKIP.

That would have made it very difficult for him to get an EU reform package strong enough to placate the variety of anti-European forces in the UK and the referendum campaign could have turned into an unwinnable proposition.

“David Cameron wants the UK to remain in the EU. This election victory puts him in a strong position to get a good deal from his EU partners and to convince the British public to stay, so it’s not a bad result at all,” said one senior Government politician.

The Brussels think-tank Open Europe came up with a similar analysis in advance of the British election. In a detailed report last week it argued that in the long term a Labour victory would have made a British exit from the EU more rather than less likely.

That said, real concerns remain in Ireland about the outcome the referendum on EU membership. The Government here will have to do everything in its power to ensure that the British get the kind of deal that will enable Cameron to sell it to the British public.

Taoiseach Kenny heckled by anti-water charge protesters in Sligo


About 100 people turn backs on Enda Kenny and US ambassador at Civil War event

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was heckled by anti-water charges protesters in Sligo on Saturday.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and US ambassador Kevin O’Malley were heckled and jeered by protesters at a ceremony in Co Sligo on Saturday to honour the Irish who fought in the American Civil War.

About 100 anti-water charges and anti-war protesters turned their backs on speakers including Mr Kenny and the ambassador as a monument was unveiled in Ballymote marking the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.

Throughout the ceremony the protesters practically drowned out the speakers – who also included local Fine Gael TD John Perry – calling them “traitors”.

They repeatedly shouted “war mongers” and “American troops out of Shannon” throughout the Ambassador’s speech.

Before the ceremony began, those taking part in the rally were urged to turn their backs in silence by one participant who said that otherwise they would be demonised by the media.

Afterwards Mr Kenny said he was well used to peaceful protests which were part of our democracy but “but you would expect in a place like this that respect would be shown for the national anthems and for visitors from the US especially for the ambassador, himself the son of Irish emigrants”. He noted that the protesters did “respectfully” observe a minute’s silence for those who died in the war.

The Taoiseach was in Ballymote for the unveiling of a monument , a sculpture in bronze, of a solider on horseback, dedicated to the memory of the Irish who served and died during the American Civil War.

The ceremony was attended by a few hundred people including locals who shook hands with Mr Kenny on his arrival, and some of whom expressed disapproval at the nature of the noisy protest.

There were angry scenes when the ceremony ended as gardaí erected a barrier and refused to allow some of those who had been involved in the demonstration to exit the area until the Taoiseach’s entourage left. Some of the protesters sat on the road in protest as Sligo county councillor Seamus O’Boyle (People Before Profit) pleaded with gardaí to let them through.

On arrival Mr Kenny was greeted with placards saying ‘No attachment orders for the bankers’ , ‘US war machine out of Shannon’ and ‘Where’s the monument for one million dead Iraqis’.

Throughout the speeches about a dozen uniformed gardaí and members of the Garda public order unit separated the demonstrators from the podium where singer Eunjoo Goh performed both the Irish and US national anthems.

Members of the Irish UN Veterans association also attended including 72-year-old James Taheny from Riverston Co Sligo who fought at the siege of Jadotville in The Congo in 1961. “Today is very important to me”, he said.

Irish Life’s profits rise 54% to €57m in quarter


Profits at Irish Life shot up 54% in the first three months of the year to €57m.

The insurer was sold by the State to Canada’s Great-West Lifeco for €1.3bn in 2013.

Irish Life contributing profits of €57m (CAD$80m) to the CAD$700m of net earnings at Great West Lifeco in the first three months of the year, the company said.

Irish profits in the quarter were up from €34m in the same quarter in 2014, the company said. “Assets under management at ILIM exceeded €50bn for the first time at the end of Q1 2015 as markets continued to rise,” according to Bill Kyle, chief executive officer, Irish Life Group.

“In addition we achieved strong sales of our Multi-Asset Portfolio Strategies (MAPS) to the institutional and retail markets.” Irish Life MAPS investment funds doubled in size over the last six months, he said.

Dairy consumption increases well in the US 

  1. Consumption of dairy products increased strongly in the united states during March according to statistics from the US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and Foreign Agricultural Service.

Cheese consumption was reported at 1 billion lbs (454,545 tonnes), up 3.8% on March 2014. Despite a decline of 5.1% in total cheese exports to 75.6 million lbs (34,363 tonnes), domestic consumption grew by 4.6% to 938.4 million lbs (426,545 tonnes), which supported the overall increase.

Butter consumption increased by 8.5% on March last year. Weaknesses in exports were offset by a 28% jump in US domestic consumption.

Non-fat dry milk consumption was reported at 205.8 million lbs (94,772 tonnes) up 20.2% on March 2014. The overall increase was supported by a 6.6% increase in exports and a 47.1% increase in domestic consumption.

The improvement in the US economy, which has led to more consumers eating out, is the main reason for increased cheese and butter consumption.

If this increase continues, it will have the effect of reducing quantities of dairy produce on the world export market for the remainder of this year. The US exported 16% of their total dairy production in 2014. This amounted to the equivalent of 15 million tonnes of milk production.

The strong US dollar is leaving US dairy exports much less competitive but the increase in home consumption should prevent any collapse in prices.

Can a computer beat one of the world’s best poker players?


Strategy games such as chess have long been considered important ways to measure artificial intelligence. But A.I. researchers at Carnegie Mellon University chose a different method of research, and in some ways, a more challenging game: poker.

Doug Polk, 26, is considered the best heads up, or one on one, no limit Texas hold ’em player in the world. He’s defeated countless opponents and won millions of dollars.

Polk bet his reputation that he could beat Claudico, Carnegie Mellon’s artificial intelligence super computer.

“You’re playing a cold-blooded killer because when he goes all in and you snap him off and win his stack, he’s not scared now, he’s just computing, right?” Polk said.

For the past two weeks, Polk and three other professional poker players each played 20,000 hands against Claudico at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh.

Viewers from more than 100 countries watched online, but nobody paid closer attention than the man responsible for Claudico, professor Tuomas Sandholm.

“The computer definitely bluffs and does all sorts of other tricks that human poker players know, but the key is that we don’t program in the bluffing,” Sandholm said. “So the algorithms themselves figure out the strategy, how to bluff, when to bluff, in what situations and so forth.*

In 1997, the world watched in wonder when IBM’s Deep Blue, whose research originated at Carnegie Mellon, defeated the world’s best chess player, Garry Kasparov. And again in 2011 when Watson bested “Jeopardy” champion Ken Jennings.

So why is poker a better gauge of A.I. than playing “Jeopardy” or chess?

“In chess it’s a game of complete information, so when it’s your turn to move you know exactly what the state of the world is, what the state of the game is,” Sandholm said. “In poker, you don’t.

“This is really to be able to assist humans and companies in interacting, let’s say in negotiation,” Sandholm said. “Wouldn’t it be nice if you had an agent that helped you strategize in the world when you’re buying a car or buying insurance?”

Jason Les studied computer science in college before becoming an online poker pro. It turns out his education wasn’t much of a help. But he was still happy he signed up to play a computer.

“I thought this was a historic event and a big landmark in poker and artificial intelligence,” he said. “And I’m happy that I came up here and I was able to be a part of the winning team.”

Well, not exactly. According to Carnegie Mellon, the pros’ combined $732,000 lead in fake money makes it a statistical tie. The university plans to rewrite Claudico’s algorithms.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 13th March 2014

57% of Irish workers fear colleagues hoard company info for their personal gain


57% of Irish workers fear colleagues hoard company info for personal gain. 

A study into information sharing in Irish organisations has found that 79% of workers feel that company information should be shared equally within their organisation, but 57% feel colleagues hoard information for personal advantage.

A Microsoft-sponsored Amárach study looked at how Irish employees use, share and communicate company information within their organisations.

It found that 48% of employees feel that enterprise social technologies like Yammer would lead to better collaboration and avoid wasting precious internal company, customer and competitor information.

“Traditionally, we have shared information in a formal, more structured approach but using social media, the way that many of our employees interact in their daily lives, has democratised access to and delivery of information,” Ian Slattery, Director in Accenture’s Technology Practice said.

“For example, in global organisation that employees over 250,000 people, we have a lot of valuable information all over the world but it can be difficult to identify at speed.

“By using Yammer, I can reach out to a global community quickly and easily and my experience so far suggests that the information I require gets to me in a very timely manner.  In addition, because you’re dealing with individuals, most of the time it means that you have also made a valuable contact.

Four personality types when it comes to sharing information

The study discovered four distinct personalities when it comes to how information is managed and shared in organisations.

The broker is someone who who trades knowledge for collaboration, they know its inherent value and can make the most of the information they have or can gain access to. According to the research, they are most likely male, aged between 35-44 years old and earn over €60,000 per annum.

The hoarder is someone who gathers, but does not want to share company information for the sake of maintaining power or fear of missing out. They are mid-level management aged 55 years or older and more likely to be female. Their average income would be over €20,000.

The squanderer is someone who neither uses or shares company information. They would be junior to mid-level in an organisation, and possibly part time, are equally likely to be male or female on an annual income of €20,000 or less and aged between 24-54 years.

The trader tends to over-share information without realising its inherent value. Most likely to be early in their career and aged 24 year earning around €20,000 per year.

When asked what category they fitted into, 82% felt they were brokers, and did a great job of sharing information.

However, when they were asked to rate their colleagues, 50% felt that others were brokers and that 31% were squanderers of information.

Interestingly, employees in small organsiations (1-5 employees) are far more likely to share competitor or marketing information for mutual benefit. Employees of larger companies (250+) shared company and HR info.

How information gets shared

In terms of how information gets shared, 81% use face to face interactions (48% felt this was effective), some 68% use email (30% believe this is effective) and 60% rely on phones to share information (only 4% believe this to be effective).

The study found that 41% of workers want a centralized system for storing information.

Some 50% of respondents have tried various types of shared drives and networks, with only 8% saying they found these useful due to lack of training or encouragement by their organisation.

“Microsoft has been studying how to enable collaboration and communication by using social tools to help businesses be more competitive by allowing people to work in a familiar way,” said Mike Hughes, Business Group Lead, Office Division, Microsoft.

“Traditional work is no longer working, and is encouraging hoarders and squanderers, who could be undermining your business.

“A Gallup report in 2013 showed that 87% of global employees are not engaged with their jobs. Your employees and colleagues are disconnected in. We have seen how shared knowledge can drive a common purpose.

“Organisations need to create a culture of sharing, backed up by technology that creates a common space where information becomes social, shared and accessible.

“Enterprise Social Solutions like Yammer can create this safe haven where information, insights and timely actions are shared across an organisation liberating it from a shelf or an email inbox,” Hughes said.

The number of Irish permanent mortgage restructures continue to rise


New figures from the Finance Department show that the number of mortgage accounts in arrears of over 90 days has fallen from 79,782 at the end of December to 79,427 at the end of January.

The total mortgage accounts in arrears (in arrears for one day or more) rose to 115,631 at the end of January from 114,921 at the end of December.

The Department said this increase may be due to both seasonal factors and the introduction of new payment processing after the banks’ implementation of SEPA.

Today’s data also shows that engagement between banks and consumers has led to 53,969 permanent mortgage restructure agreements, an increase of 2,781 since the end of December.

The Department noted a significant rise in the number of split mortgages from 2,521 when this data series began in August to 7,131 by the end of January.

The Finance Department information differs from the Central Bank as it relates to data from the six main banks only – AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB, ACC, KBC Bank Ireland and Ulster Bank. These lenders make up 90% of the market.

Today’s figures also show that the number of buy to let mortgages in arrears at the end of January rose to 34,139 from 33,831 at the end of 2013. The number in arrears of over 90 days rose by 216 accounts since the end of December to 26,710.

Finance said that engagement between BTL mortgage holders and their lenders had led to 10,532 permanent restructures.

The six banks also said that they have 3,721 rent receivers in place at the end of January, up 542 at the end of December.

12,000 pints of cheap lager and stout sold at Dail bar last year 2013


The Dail, inset, the ‘lapgate’ incident last summer during the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill debate.

Inset the Dail bar clocked up almost €7,000 in sales that night

Almost 12,000 pints of cut- price Guinness and Heineken were sunk at the Dail bar last year.

There were 90 kegs of the black stuff and 41 kegs of the Dutch lager ordered during the course of the year, although this was a slight drop on 2012.

The new figures also confirm that the Dail bar’s busiest night of the year last year coincided with the all-night sitting for the Government’s Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

The Dail did not break until 5am and the beer taps at the Dail bar continued to pour throughout the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill debate, as the bar clocked up almost €7,000 in sales.

Previous figures have shown how nearly €4,000 of this was spent on alcoholic drinks alone, including pints of stout, lager and ale, as well as small bottles of wine and spirits.


The bar’s busiest night also coincided with the infamous ‘lapgate’ incident in the Dail chamber involving Fine Gael TD Tom Barry and party colleague Aine Collins.

The latest figures obtained under Freedom of Information show that 90 kegs of Guinness were ordered by the Dail bar last year compared to 98 kegs in 2012.

There was also a slight drop in Heineken sales, with 41 kegs ordered compared to 44 in 2012.

There are around 90 pints in a keg – suggesting the sale of around 8,100 pints of Guinness in 2013, with around 3,690 pints of Heineken sold.

Pints of beer are sold for about 70 cent less than nearby city centre pubs, with most recent figures showing Guinness at €4.30.

The FOI figures show that the second busiest night in 2013 was ‘Prom Night’ on February 6 that related to the passing of legislation concerning the liquidation of the former Anglo Irish Bank. The Dail debate on that legislation did not conclude until 2.55am.

Annual accounts for the Dail bar for 2013 are not yet available. However, figures for 2012 show that the business’s profits increased by 5% from €138,600 to €145,623.

Cancer the main reason for life insurance and serious illness claims 

A survey claims


Cancer is now the main reason for claims made for life insurance and serious illness cover, a break-down of payouts made by Irish Life shows.

The life company said it paid out €168m in life insurance and specified illness claims last year.

Cancer accounted for 44pc of life assurance claims and 58pc of specified illness cover claims to Irish Life in 2013.

More than half of life insurance claims for women were related to cancer and 41pc for men.

The figures come from an analysis of the claims book of Irish Life, andCanada Life. The Canadian company took over Irish Life last year.

The analysis shows that €112.4m was paid out for 1,714 life insurance claims last year.

Another €56.4m was paid out for 81 specified illness cover claims.

The average payment was €65,560 in respect of Life Insurance claims, and €69,638 for specified illness cover claims although the figures show wide variations in the size of claims settled.

Managing director of Irish Life retail Gerry Hassett said: “The scale of the life insurance and specified illness cover claims paid shows that it is crucially important for people to look after the interests of their dependants in the event of death and serious illness.”

Psychiatric report ordered on nurse who taped up patient’s mouth in Sligo Hospital


Filipino-born Bimbo Paden, (39), wept throughout his appearance at Sligo District Court today for sentencing on one charge of assault.

But after hearing the result of a damning HSE internal report on the affair, Judge Kevin Kilrane adjourned the case for six weeks, asking for a psychiatric assessment on Paden.

The father-of-three had told Gardai that he was alone on a ward at St John’s Hospital in Sligo with eight other patients at the time and had acted “in a moment of complete stupidity.”

On June 26 last year, while dealing with eight other patients, Paden claimed that one of them had been shouting and upsetting another patient suffering from cancer.

The victim was Kevin Quinn, a 49-year-old patient of the hospital who has needed 24-hour care since suffering a brain haemorrhage 13 years ago.

Mr Quinn had been shouting and the nurse claimed he had rubbed his shoulders to reassure him but when this failed to calm him, he had placed the tape over this mouth.

Today Mr Quinn’s brother Christy broke down in the witness box as he told Judge Kilrane that when he now visits him at St John’s, he pushes away his hand when he tries to reassure him.

The judge asked defence solicitor Mark Mullaney to read the conclusions of an HSE investigation into the incident.

The report found Paden’s workload allocated workload was “inequitable and unsafe.”

He had worked in a “risky working environment with little support and inadequate management.”

The report found the nurse was “deeply remorseful” and clearly working under “extreme stress.”

Judge Kilrane adjourned the case until April 10 for mention.

Risk of heart problems from anti-diabetes drugs is being ignored 


They say the risk should monitored closely during clinical trials of glucose-lowering medication.

Trials of glucose lowering drugs are not taking potential heart risks into account, experts have warned.

In a review published today in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal, a range of heart and diabetes experts have reviewed evidence showing a link between drugs used to treat diabetes and heart attacks.

There is already an increased risk of heart failure among those with diabetes.

They note that while ‘major adverse cardiovascular events’ such as cardiovascular death, heart attack, and stroke are all taken into account in clinical trials of the drugs, it is not seen as a key factor when accessing the associated health risks.

“Until heart failure is systematically evaluated in clinical trials, the cardiovascular safety of anti-diabetes drugs will remain uncertain,” Professor John McMurray from the University of Glasgow, who led the study, said.

Fortunately, some trials in progress are taking heart failure into account as a secondary outcome. But many others are neglecting to report this important complication as a key trial outcome.

Diabetes Ireland say that the number of people with diabetes in Ireland is expected to hit 194,000 by 2015, a rise of 37 per cent from the 2007 figure.

They say one in eight people over 60 years of age has diabetes.

Fuel cell model sheds new light on the origins of life on Earth


In a path-breaking research, scientists have developed a ‘fuel cell model’ for developing a similar energetic process that may have led to the emergence of life on earth.

The researchers have demonstrated a proof of concept for their ‘fuel cell model’ of the emergence of cell metabolism on earth, a crucial biological function for all living organisms.

“What we are trying to do is to bridge the gap between the geological processes of the early earth and the emergence of biological life on this planet,” said Terry Kee from University of Leeds.

All life forms use the same chemical processes that occur in a fuel cell to generate their energy, Kee added.

Fuel cells in cars generate electrical energy by reacting fuels and oxidants.

This is an example of a ‘redox reaction’ as one molecule loses electrons is oxidised and one molecule gains electrons is reduced.

Certain geological environments can be considered as ‘environmental fuel cells’ since electrical energy can be generated from redox reactions between hydrothermal fuels and seawater oxidants, such as oxygen.

“Certain minerals could have driven geological redox reactions, later leading to a biological metabolism,” said Laura Barge from the journal Astrobiology.

Iron and nickel are much less reactive than platinum.

However, a small but significant power output successfully demonstrated that these metals could still generate electricity in the fuel cell – and hence also act as catalysts for redox reactions on early earth.

“With these techniques, we could actually test whether any given hydrothermal system could produce enough energy to start life, or even, provide energetic habitats where life might still exist and could be detected by future missions,” she said.