Tag Archives: Landlords

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 15th February 2017

Another Garda whistle-blower demands inclusion of their case in public inquiry

Keith Harrison claims he and his girlfriend endured surveillance and referrals to Tusla?

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A second Garda whistle-blower has demanded that his case is included in a public inquiry into an alleged smear campaign against Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Another Garda whistle-blower has demanded that his case is included in a public inquiry into an alleged smear campaign against Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Keith Harrison claims he and his girlfriend endured covert and overt surveillance, referrals to Tusla – the Child and Family Agency, and that they were the victim of rumour, innuendo and malicious falsehoods.

Garda Harrison issued a lengthy statement through his solicitor after Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed a tribunal was being set up into the scandal of unfounded and false sex abuse claims being peddled against Sgt McCabe.

Mr Harrison claimed there is an “orchestrated system and culture” among senior management of the force that dictates the treatment of whistleblowers.

Mr Harrison said: “The efforts of this Government to restrict the inquiry/commission of investigation to the very traumatic story of Sgt McCabe absolutely ensures we will not get to the bottom of the culture of management failures and ill-treatment of whistleblowers within An Garda Síochána. ”

Effectively forced

The Government was effectively forced into ordering the tribunal with hearings to be public.

The decision was taken after Mr McCabe and his wife Lorraine said they would not accept any investigation into the controversy being held behind closed doors.

“There’s nothing worse in this country than to be called a sex abuser, nothing worse,” the Taoiseach told the Dáil.

The terms of reference of the tribunal are expected to be finalised in the next 48 hours, with the Government now under deepening pressure to extend it to include other whistle-blowers.

Who is Sgt Maurice McCabe?

In 2008, Sgt Maurice McCabe raised concerns about quashing of penalty points. In 2012, he was banned from using Pulse, the Garda system through which he identified questionable quashing. Controversy over his treatment led to resignations of Garda commissioner Martin Callinan and minister for justice Alan Shatter. In due course, Sgt McCabe was vindicated over his main complaint.

The Garda whistle-blowers: We found this helpful a Yes No

Garda Harrison, who was previously nominated for a Scott Medal for bravery but has been on extended sick leave, was stationed in Athlone when he stopped a colleague on suspicion of drink-driving in 2009.

He also raised concerns about drug-dealing investigations.

In the statement issued on behalf of Mr Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms, their solicitor claimed that since then both he and his family suffered victimisation, bullying, and intimidation.

Disciplinary action?

He has also faced disciplinary action and threatened criminal prosecution.

The officer was prosecuted for having no insurance on his car and he was reported to Tusla.

Garda Harrison has spoken out before and some of his claims have been put on the record in the Dáil.

“It is our belief that senior management within An Garda Síochána set out to attack and destroy our family because I sought to speak out about malpractice within the force,” Mr Harrison said.

“In doing so they tried to discredit me, and also reported ‘concerns’ regarding the wellbeing of my partner’s children, leading to a Tusla investigation, which revealed no risk whatsoever.”

Garda Harrison said his treatment bears similarities to the experience of Sgt McCabe and his family.

“It is clear to us the incidents contained in the disclosures of Supt (David) Taylor and Sgt McCabe are not isolated but rather, along with our experience, identifies a common approach within the senior management of An Garda Síochána to whistleblowers,” Mr Harrison said.

Under pressure

Amid the second whistle-blower going public, the Government is under pressure for Ministers, including the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, to formally explain what they knew and when they knew it, regarding the McCabe affair.

The sergeant was at the centre of an unfounded and false report on a Tusla file of an allegation of sex abuse against a colleague’s daughter.

A counsellor working on behalf of the agency has claimed the error was made when details from a different case were cut and pasted on to a file.

Sgt McCabe has rejected an apology issued by the Health Service Executive at the weekend.

A horrific ordeal?

And in a four-page statement issued on Monday, Sgt McCabe accused Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan of privately discrediting him while publicly declaring her support over his horrific ordeal.

The officer claimed the Garda chief’s lawyers set out to discredit him at the O’Higgins Commission which investigated and vindicated a series of allegations by Sgt McCabe of negligence in policing in the Cavan-Monaghan district.

Irish Cabinet approves new Irish drink-driving laws

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The Cabinet has approved new laws that will automatically ban all those caught drink driving from the roads.

Currently, first-time offenders are not necessarily disqualified and can pay a fine and get three penalty points.

Transport Minister Shane Ross said that this sends out the wrong road safety message.

Welcoming the decision to approve the General Scheme of a Road Traffic (Fixed Penalty – Drink Driving) Bill 2017, Minister Ross said: “The evidence shows that despite a perception to the contrary, drink driving continues to be a very serious issue in this country.

“We can no longer be ambivalent in our attitude toward this destructive practice.”

“What I am now proposing is that the existing provision allowing people to get penalty points rather than a disqualification for drink driving sends the wrong message and should go.

“Instead of three penalty points, such drivers will get a three-month disqualification. This is quite proportionate.

“Drink driving is serious, and potentially fatal. Even a small amount of alcohol can impair people’s reactions, and that cannot be tolerated when people are behind the wheel of a car.”

The Minister expressed his hope that this Bill can be passed quickly and without amendment.

Minister Ross added: “It is important to get it out there and working, and with it the message that drink driving will no longer be without serious consequences.

“This is an important step on the road to enacting what will be a focused, timely and urgently needed piece of legislation which will ultimately save lives.”

The General Scheme will now be submitted to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for formal drafting, with a view to its publication as soon as possible.

In line with Government policy, the Minister will also refer the General Scheme to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport for its consideration.

New Irish tenancy laws confuse both the tenants and landlords

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The Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016, announced before Christmas, aimed to bring a greater level of predictability to the rental market. However, confusion remains for both tenants and landlords.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney last month announced an extension of the existing list of rent pressure zones (RPZs). The list now includes most of Galway City as well as 23 smaller commuter towns, including Cork City suburbs such as Douglas and Ballincollig.

While tenants will welcome the new measures in a climate of rapidly rising rents, many landlords see them as curtailing their potential rental income and their ability to manage their properties.

What does it mean if I live in a RPZ?

For those properties now located within a RPZ, rent rises are capped at 4% per year for three years. There is also a set formula which landlords must use when calculating the reviewed rent. This cap doesn’t apply if the property was vacant (before the current new letting), and was not let at any time in the 24 months before the area became an RPZ. The cap also won’t apply where there has been a substantial change in the nature of the accommodation since the rent was last set. For example, if major refurbishment works have been undertaken which would change the market rent applicable for that property.

How often will landlords be able to review rents?

The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2015 had restricted a landlord’s ability to review rents to once every two years, so many tenants may now be confused as to when their rent can next be reviewed. The new legislation means that, in the case of existing tenancies within RPZs, the cap on rent rises will apply when the next rent review falls. So, if you are currently within a rent review freeze, the RPZ designation will become relevant once those two years are up. When that next review occurs, rent reviews will then be allowed annually, rather than every two years.

What happens when I have rented a property for six months or more?

Once you have lived in a property for more than six months, a part 4 tenancy occurs, entitling you to remain for a further three-and-a-half years. This right is separate to any lease agreement with the landlord, so even if you have a one-year lease, after six months, you also have part 4 tenancy rights. After four years, if you remain in the property, a further part 4 tenancy begins.

The landlord can only terminate a part 4 tenancy on certain specific grounds, for example, if they require the property for their own use, for that of a family member, or if they plan to substantially refurbish the property.

Two main changes have been introduced to give tenants greater security of tenure.

The first is the extension of the cycle from four to six years, for tenancies that began after December 24, 2016. For any part 4 tenancy beginning before that date, a four-year cycle remains but, as soon as that ends, the further part 4 tenancy will be a six-year cycle.

The second change relates to how a part 4 tenancy can be terminated. Previously, once the first cycle was up, a landlord was entitled to terminate the tenancy at any time in the first six months of the further part 4 tenancy, without needing to fall within one of the above termination grounds.

That six-month window has now been removed. For all tenancies, which began after December 24, 2016, once the further part 4 tenancy commences, the stated reason for termination must also be one as set out in the legislation. This is expected to be extended shortly, to tenancies which commenced on or before that date.

Landlords who wish to avoid having to give specific grounds will need to time the termination correctly so that it falls before a further part 4 tenancy begins.

To achieve this, they will have to serve notice before the current part 4 tenancy ends, with the notice period expiring on, or after, the tenancy’s end-date. This ensures that a further part 4 tenancy does not occur.

Anything else that we should know?

A further provision, which has not yet commenced, is a restriction on landlords seeking to terminate tenancies on the grounds of “intention to sell”. This is where they propose to sell ten or more units within the same development, either at the same time or within a six-month period. This will be of interest given recent media attention around “vulture funds” buying up loans from banks. As they now wish to sell off properties they hold as security, these vulture funds are serving notices on multiple tenants within the same development of “intention to sell”.

Landlords will soon only be able to rely on these grounds if they can prove that selling the property with the tenant still remaining will reduce the market value by 20% below what it would be, if sold with vacant possession. They also need to prove it would cause undue hardship on the landlord.

Irish Water reveals households wasting less than it was previously thought

Managing director Jerry Grant: 765m litres a day still being lost in public pipe network

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Metering is said to have identified that “by far the most beneficial gain” in Irish Water’s activities was in fixing leaks “on the public side” of the pipe network.

Information gathered from the State’s water-metering programme has led Irish Water to conclude households waste less water than previously thought.

Jerry Grant, managing director of Irish Water, told the Oireachtas Committee on the future of water charges the utility was “forced to rethink” its calculations on water usage, after the metering programme revealed individual water use was about 110 litres per day, at the lower end of international comparisons.

It had previously been estimated that individuals used in excess of 140 litres per day, but metering had identified that “by far the most beneficial gain” in Irish Water’s activities was in fixing leaks “on the public side” of the pipe network.

Mr Grant told the committee on Tuesday that domestic meters measured “flow” to households “for a variety of uses”, but he said “it was a government decision to charge” for that water.

Drinking water supply?

He said Irish Water provided about 1.7 billion litres of drinking water to homes and businesses a day. Of this, 600 million litres were consumed by households and 300 million litres went to “non-domestic” premises.

He said these figures were dwarfed by the 765 million litres a day which were still being lost in the public pipe network – about 45% of overall water production.

The use of domestic meters had already identified leaks of 77 million litres per day on the householder’s property, which had been fixed under the utility’s free “first fix scheme”.

Already conserving water?

The data the company had got from 800,000 water meters had shown most households were already conserving water – but one per cent of households used over 20% of all domestic water. Five% of households accounted for use of one third of domestic water supplies.

Mr Grant said metering had helped the utility establish that some households had “continuous night flows”, which indicated leaks.

Some 28,000 homes had availed of the utility’s free “first fix” scheme, resulting in savings of 70 million litres of water per day.

He said about a half a billion euro had been spent on domestic water meters when the scheme was suspended, and the remaining fund of about €150 million had been redirected to invest in the network, largely in new connections.

One domestic leak under a driveway could typically see consumption rise to that of 20 households, he said.

“The information is telling us the fundamental gain is about fixing leaks,” Mr Grant said.

He added the greatest gains in water conservation over the next 15 to 20 years will not be from individual household conservation measures, but in fixing leaks and installing district meters.

Mr Grant was asked by Anti Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy why water meters were used to gather information on households, while district networks used other tools, from “listening sticks” to technology, to establish water flow.

Mr Grant said Irish Water could gather data from 80,000 meters in two months, collecting by the use of technology-equipped vans, whereas to send out individuals to seek access to individual properties and stopcocks would take a multiple of that time.

A lust for life and why sex is better in your 80’s

Sexually active older people are considered a curiosity, but a new survey suggests that lovemaking is often more fulfilling for ‘sexual survivors’ than those in middle age

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Dr David Lee says ‘sexual survivors’ are probably ‘the healthiest people in older age’.

Dr David Lee, a research fellow at Manchester University’s School of Social Sciences, calls them “sexual survivors” – people over the age of 80 who still enjoy an active sex life. In a report written with Professor Josie Tetley, using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, he notes that while physical challenges (erectile difficulties, for instance) occured more frequently with age, the emotional side of sex appeared more fulfilling for people over 80. Men and women in this age bracket reported more shared sexual compatibility and emotional closeness than those in their 50s, 60s and 70s – which sounds like good news for anyone going through a drought in middle age.

Sex isn’t defined by penetration, says Lee – some older people find more imaginative ways to keep their sex lives active. “We saw quite a lot of adaptation in the older people, saying they no longer had penetrative sexual intercourse and were more content with kissing and cuddling and general intimacy. We kept a very broad definition of sex. We saw what appeared to be adaptive behaviour in the older members of our sample.”

Don’t bank on hitting your sexual peak so late, though. The problem is, having a sex life at all in your 80s is far from guaranteed. Only about one in 10 women aged 85 or older, and nearly one-quarter of men of that age, enjoy one. “They’re a minority, clearly, but they’re an interesting minority,” says Lee. “Among those who were [sexually active], it was quite interesting that they seemed happy with their sexual lives.”

Lee is studying what it takes to become a sexual survivor. There is likely to be a range of factors, he says. Having a partner is important, of course, and many people in their 80s have been widowed. “I would envisage that these [sexual survivors] are the healthiest people in older age,” he adds. Medication, for instance, can interfere with sex drive and ability.

Sexually active octogenarians are still considered such a curiosity that documentaries are made about them (such as Channel 5’s Party Pensioners, which featured an octogenarian burlesque dancer, and Sex and the Silver Gays, a film about older gay men who go to sex parties). Sites aimed at millennials run interviews with them, too – in 2015, Vice published an interview with an 82-year-old called Chris Wilson about his exploits on Grindr (he said he found the hook-up app “especially helpful when travelling. When I was in London, England, I got hit on by about 40 guys. I had sex eight times in seven days!”).

Lee says we need to get used to the idea that some older people may want a fulfilling sex life – and take seriously the means to allow them to achieve this. “We’re simply trying to broaden the discussion around sex and saying, irrespective of age, there is a need for joined-up healthcare services that people can access if they wish. We’re seeing from the comments in our survey [that] when older people try to access healthcare [for] sexual problems they have come across dismissal: ‘You should expect it at your age.’” But Lee has also seen how it becomes internalised in older people: “They think: ‘It’s not relevant to me anymore.’” Better, instead, to know you could enjoy a later-life sexual peak.

First live birth evidence in a group of dinosaur relatives found

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It was adapted for a fully aquatic lifestyle

Scientists have uncovered the first evidence of live births in the group of animals that includes dinosaurs, crocodiles and birds.

All examples of this group, known as the Archosauromorpha, lay eggs.

This led some scientists to wonder whether there was something in their biology that prevented live births.

But examination of the fossil remains of a very long-necked, 245 million-year-old marine reptile from China revealed it was carrying an embryo.

Jun Liu, first author of the new study in Nature Communications, said that the animal would have measured between three and four metres long, with a neck that was about 1.7m long.

The embryo may have been around half a metre long and is positioned inside the rib cage of the adult Dinocephalosaurus fossil, which was discovered in 2008 in Luoping County, Yunnan Province in southern China.

Researchers had to consider whether the smaller animal might have been part of the adult’s last meal. But it’s facing forward, whereas swallowed prey generally face backwards because predators consume the animal head first to help it go down the throat.fossil embryo appears to be facing forwards; ingested prey often end up facing backwards

Another line of evidence in favour of the live birth idea is that the small reptile inside the mother is clearly an example of the same species.

Co-author Prof Mike Benton, from the University of Bristol, told BBC News that the fossil was important because the Archosauromorpha form one of three large groupings of land-based vertebrates (backboned animals), each including about 10,000 species.

Since we now know that no fundamental biological barrier to live births exists in this group, palaeontologists would be “looking very closely” at other fossils. He suggested one target would be a group of aquatic crocodile relatives – whose mode of reproduction was not well known.

Prof Liu, from Hefei University of Technology in China, said the discovery pushes back evidence of reproductive biology in the archosauromorphs by 50 million years.

The mode of reproduction in Dinocephalosaurus also points to how the sex of its offspring was determined.

Co-author Prof Chris Organ, from Montana State University, added: “Some reptiles today, such as crocodiles, determine the sex of their offspring by the temperature inside the nest.

“We identified that Dinocephalosaurus, a distant ancestor of crocodiles, determined the sex of its babies genetically, like mammals and birds.”

Prof Benton explained: “This combination of live birth and genotypic sex determination seems to have been necessary for animals such as Dinocephalosaurus to become aquatic.

“It’s great to see such an important step forward in our understanding of the evolution of a major group coming from a chance fossil find in a Chinese field.”

The possibility that an eggshell once surrounded the embryo but was not preserved in fossilisation could not be ruled out, said Prof Benton. But living Archosauromorphs all lay eggs very early in embryonic development, whereas this embryo is very advanced, with well developed bones.

Furthermore, the team says Dinocephalosaurus’s long neck and other features of its anatomy suggest it could not have manoeuvred easily out of the water, meaning a reproductive strategy like that of turtles – which lay eggs on land before returning to the water – was probably not an option.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 2nd August 2016

Getting deposit back an issue for ‘60% of renters in Ireland’, USI says

Student lobby in campaign to tackle issue of landlords withholding money

   

UCD campus in Belfield. A campaign to tackle the issue of landlords withholding tenants’ deposits will be launched by the USI.

A campaign to tackle the issue of landlords withholding tenants’ deposits will be launched today by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).

The USI said almost 60% of renters experience difficulties getting their deposit back.

As part of its Homes for Study campaign, the union will announce a partnership with deposit management service Deposify.

The company is backed by Bank of Ireland and, according to its founder, John Bayle, “gives landlords and tenants a joint account for rental deposits, and lets them manage and control how and when deposits are paid and resolve deposit-related disputes”.

Deposit management

USI president Annie Hoey said: “Last year, Ireland saw many problems in the accommodation sector, but this year USI is at the forefront of finding solutions to these problems, and a deposit management service with Deposify is a perfect solution for deposit disputes.”

The USI is urging anyone with spare rooms to rent them out to students. It will relaunch its website homes.usi.ie, which links students with landlords who can lease rooms to students during the college term tax free up to €12,000 annually.

According to Daft.ie, there is 40% less rental space available compared with last year while rents have increased by over 8% nationally.

Trinity College and UCD last week launched an accommodation campaign in Dublin to encourage homeowners to provide student digs.

The project will include blogs of students’ positive experiences in digs which will be posted online as an encouragement for potential landlords.

The universities said they hope to create several hundred new bed spaces for students in a matter of weeks.

About 2,000 accommodation places at DIT’s new Grangegorman site should be in place by 2018, along with 280 beds at Trinity’s Oisín House on-campus accommodation project.

Sharp increase in number of women dying from alcohol related illness

Half of people admitted to hospital with acute alcohol hepatitis die, says Prof Frank Murray

    

A new trend is emerging of younger women running into problems with alcohol, a liver specialist has said.

Prof Frank Murray of Beaumont Hospital and president of Royal College of Physicians in Ireland has warned that Irish people are underestimating how much they drink and the harm it can cause.

Three Irish people die every day as a result of alcohol abuse. Previously these would have been mostly older men drinking heavily in pubs on a regular basis.

However in recent times there has been a huge increase in the number of women being admitted to hospital and dying from liver failure, Prof Murray says.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Prof Murray said, “Commonly they are in their 40s, less commonly in their 30s and sometimes over 40s as well.

“We’ve seen a big change in deaths due to alcohol from being mainly older men to being much more gender balanced and much younger people.”

He said this change has come about because in Ireland and in the UK, most alcohol is now consumed at home rather than in the pub.

“What happens is people buy wine and in some cases people drink half a bottle a night several times during the week and a bottle each day at the weekends. That’s enough to cause liver failure.

  What is considered a safe level of weekly drinking?

“The awful thing is that people frequently have no premonition or warning that they’re going to develop liver failure, and to die as a result of alcohol because the vast majority of people who develop cirrhosis, develop liver failure, haven’t got symptoms before the crisis, and the life threatening component develops.”

Blood tests not precise?

He said that blood tests are not very precise and can often pick up the effects of alcohol rather than alcohol damage.

“The sad fact is we don’t have a great test of impending liver failure or impending advanced damaged leading to cirrhosis and liver death. Any abnormality should be a very serious warning to patients if they’re drinking substantially.

“Unfortunately many people with advanced liver disease will have relatively normal blood tests of the liver.”

Prof Murray said the single most important treatment is to stop consuming alcohol completely.

“There are two components, cirrhosis and the inflammatory component which will fade away if they stop drinking.

“Unfortunately when people get admitted to hospital with acute alcohol hepatitis – half of them die. Frequently that’s their first presentation. They die during that first admission, that’s the first that they know they’re in trouble.

“That’s part of the problem, people don’t identify any symptoms, they’re not out of breath, running out of energy, there’s nothing that they will recognise as specific. Interestingly people who drink heavily feel terrible all the time, that’s the alcohol, rather than the liver disease component of it.

“The majority of people who present with liver failure have not had antecedent symptoms which are attributable to the liver failure itself.”

“Unfortunately many patients who present will die in their initial presentation, or they are in hospital for a very long time with complex problems related to their liver failure.”

Prof Murray said the patients would not make it to liver transplant stage because the liver disease is too severe to get them over the six month period of abstinence that’s required for liver transplant.

He described it a complex and high mortality illness.

“There is a recklessness to it, most people underestimate how much alcohol they consume, by as much as 61%. There is a huge amount of under estimation of what they drink and of the risk.”

Tesco under pressure from Dunne’s as SuperValu remains Ireland’s top grocer

     

SuperValu has retained its position as the country’s biggest grocery retailer, with Dunnes Stores continuing to put pressure on Tesco for the number two spot, according to new data this morning from research group Kantar Worldpanel.

The survey also shows that the Euro 2016 championship boosted grocery sales here by 3.3% as fans stocked up on booze, soft drinks and snacks.

SuperValu, the brand owned by Cork’s Musgrave Group, had a 22.5% share of Ireland’s multi-billion euro grocery market in the 12 weeks ended July 17.

That was ahead of the 21.9% share held by Tesco, and the 21.3% share that Dunnes Stores has.

Read more: Tesco planning appeals halt expansion moves by supermarket rivals

Both SuperValu and Dunnes Stores enjoyed a boost to the value of their sales in the latest period, but Tesco’s declined.

Lidl has an 11.9% share of the market, while Aldi has 11.2%. The value of sales at Lidl rose 4.5% in the latest period, compared to a 3.7% rise at Aldi.

“Ireland’s involvement in the Euro 2016 certainly looks to have had a positive impact for the major supermarkets,” said Kantar Worldpanel director David Berry. “Alcohol sales over the past 12 weeks are 11pc higher than the same time last year, as consumers stocked up more often and bought more each time they shopped,” he said. “Soft drinks, confectionery, crisps and snacks all also saw positive sales growth as football fans made the most of the opportunity to treat themselves.”

The probe will then take a sample from the asteroid before heading back to Earth for 2023.

Kenmare Resources first-half production more than doubled first six months this year

   

Kenmare’s managing director Michael Carvill (left pic), The company says power situation at Moma mine is stable

Dublin-listed Kenmare Resources has reported a big increase in production at its Moma mine in Mozambique in the first half of this year.

The company said this morning that it shipped 309,000 tonnes of finished products from the mine in the second quarter of this year, an increase of 133% compared with the same period last year and a record quarterly figure.

Ilmenite production rose by 18% to 217,900 tonnes and zircon production was up 46% to 16,900 tonnes. The company said market conditions had improved and it had implemented price increases on ilmenite due to be shipped in the third quarter.

The amount of ore mined increased by 5% to just under 7.4 million tonnes.

Kenmare maintained its target of producing 950,000 tonnes of ilmenite this year. It also said production was in the second half of the year was expected to increase further.

Kenmare has also completed a capital restructuring which has reduced its gross debt by 74% to $100m and left it with 75m of additional cash for working capital.

“The strengthening of the balance sheet, allied with falling cash costs and consistent productivity gains at Moma, positions Kenmare to benefit from the improvement in the titanium feedstock market we are currently experiencing as higher ilmenite prices are reflected in revenues for the second half of 2016,” said managing director Michael Carvill.

The company also said that the mine had continued to experience stability in power quality and reliability as a result of the additional transmission capacity commissioned by Electricidade de Mocambique in December.

Last woolly mammoths ‘died of thirst’ some 5,600 years ago

   

One of the last known groups of woolly mammoths died out because of a lack of drinking water, scientists believe.

The Ice Age beasts were living on a remote island off the coast of Alaska, and scientists have dated their demise to about 5,600 years ago.

They believe that a warming climate caused lakes to become shallower, leaving the animals unable to quench their thirst.

Most of the world’s woolly mammoths had died out by about 10,500 years ago.

Scientists believe that human hunting and environmental changes played a role in their extinction.

But the group living on St Paul Island, which is located in the Bering Sea, managed to cling on for another 5,000 years.

This study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that these animals faced a different threat from their mainland cousins.

The mammoths were contributing to their own demise says Prof Russell Graham, Pennsylvania State University

As the Earth warmed up after the Ice Age, sea levels rose, causing the mammoths’ island home to shrink in size.

This meant that some lakes were lost to the ocean, and as salt water flowed into the remaining reservoirs, freshwater diminished further.

The fur-covered giants were forced to share the ever-scarcer watering holes. But their over-use also caused a major problem.

Lead author Prof Russell Graham, from Pennsylvania State University, said: “As the other lakes dried up, the animals congregated around the water holes.

“They were milling around, which would destroy the vegetation – we see this with modern elephants.

“And this allows for the erosion of sediments to go into the lake, which is creating less and less fresh water.

“The mammoths were contributing to their own demise.”

This study highlights that small populations are very sensitive to changes in the environmentLove Dalen, Swedish Museum of Natural History

He said that if there was not enough rain or melting snow to top the lakes up, the animals may have died very quickly.

“We do know modern elephants require between 70 and 200 litres of water daily,” Prof Graham said.

“We assume mammoths did the same thing. It wouldn’t have taken long if the water hole had dried up. If it had only dried up for a month, it could have been fatal.”

The researchers say climate change happening today could have a similar impact on small islands, with a threat to freshwater putting both animals and humans at risk.

‘Best understood extinction’

Commenting on the study, Love Dalen, professor in evolutionary genetics at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, said: “With this paper, the St Paul Island mammoth population likely represents the most well-described and best understood prehistoric extinction events.

“In a broader perspective, this study highlights that small populations are very sensitive to changes in the environment.”

The very last surviving mammoths lived on Wrangel Island, in the Arctic Ocean. It is thought they died out 4,000 years ago.

News Ireland daily BLOG by DONIE

Saturday/Sunday 12 & 13th September 2015

Michael Noonan says Tax hikes are possible in next budget

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has revealed that the Coalition may hike taxes in next month’s budget to help increase Government spending.

   

Mr Noonan also privately told Fine Gael TDs yesterday that the Government is looking at overhauling Nama’s role so it can become a type of housing authority.

At the party’s pre-Dáil meeting in Adare, Co Limerick, he spoke about Fine Gael’s election priorities and said the Coalition was planning a cycle of budgets.

“It [economic recovery] has spread widely through the country now — all the cities, Cork, Limerick, Galway and a lot of the hotspots like Kilkenny, Kenmare, and Westport. There’s very strong economic growth.”

hildcare support, the treatment of the self- employed, and reducing personal taxation will be priorities for Fine Gael at the next general election, it was announced.

Mr Noonan said it was still his plan to allocate €750m on tax cuts and the same amount on funding services in the budget. But he indicated for the first time that the figure could increase if further taxation measures are introduced. The minister also strongly hinted that a further hike in duty on tobacco may be on the cards in the budget.

“There can be variations on that [splitting €1.5bn] because under the fiscal rules, if we were to raise taxes, it can increase the space. If we were to collect another €200m in taxes, €1.5bn would become €1.7bn because you can spend receipts of extra taxes.

“But we’re not really minded to do a lot on tax increases. We may raise some taxes, obviously on health grounds. There’s always an interest in raising duty on tobacco. We won’t rule it out completely.”

During a private session with TDs and senators, Mr Noonan said the Coalition parties were considering changing the remit or mission statement of the National Asset Management Agency, so its work with be similar to that of a housing executive.

“It has the tools, land and manpower. Why not?” said a TD. One minister confirmed the plan and said it would help alleviate the housing shortage if Nama had a direct role in the private sector, rather than solely acting as a “bad bank”.

Mr Noonan told reporters that a new model was being considered to alleviate the housing shortage. He said the issue was discussed at the think-in.

“There was quite a strong view that we need a major housing programme,” he said.

There was a need to deliver family homes, private houses, three-bed and four-bed semis and detached units, he said.

Earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny ruled out any reductions or changes to water charges if Fine Gael are returned to power.

He said prices would remain fixed until 2019 and that the decision was the right one.

Mr Kenny said he would serve out the full five years as Taoiseach if the Coalition is returned to power.

We have enough food to end our world hunger, says our Bono

U2 singer used to ‘create a stir’ at Expo 15 in Milan and put pressure on states to donate

  

Bono and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi at Expo 2015 in Milan last night. Renzi acknowledged that Italy could provide more food aid and distribution. 

“These are big questions: can we face the problem of hunger in the world, can we fix the problem of poverty in the world, can we fix the problem of conflict in the world? With regard to the first two of those three, I can speak with confidence when I say yes, absolutely.

“There is already enough food in the world to feed the world. It is not the lack of food but rather the lack of will to distribute the food that is the problem”.

Bono was the speaker, and he uttered these sentiments at an Expo 2015 event in Milan last night, jointly organised by the Irish and Italian Ministers for Agriculture, Maurizio Martinaand Simon Coveney.

In its five months, Expo 2015 will have seen nothing like last night’s crowds, excitement and occasional hysteria as the fans, patrons and tourists gathered to hear the U2 frontman, referred to by Coveney as the “most influential Irish person on the planet”.

Last night’s event, largely, the brainchild of the Irish Minister Coveney, was billed as the launch of a campaign to highlight world hunger.

On the platform with Bono were the Italian prime minister,Matteo Renzi; Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP); and Sudanese ambassador Amira Gornass, future chair of the UN FAO Committee on Food Security.

“The Irish Minister said he was anxious that we try to do something big at Expo. Even if the Irish pavilion here has had a million visitors, the real theme of Expo is about feeding the world, particularly at this moment, when we face the challenges related to the mass movement of people in the Middle East and north Africa, across the Mediterranean and also into the Balkans.

“Feeding large numbers of people represents a really complex challenge.

Bono pressure?

The Minister went on: “What we have tried to do is use the fame of Bono, bring him here, cause a stir and put pressure on [countries to donate]. Ireland is coming here with a big package, namely €60 million over the next three years for the WFP.”

Both Bono and Coveney said out that the WFP – “the world’s largest humanitarian aid organisation” – in effect relies on ad hoc donations, and that it currently feeds more than four million displaced Syrians.

Next winter, however, it may be forced to stop supplying food to up to 250,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan because it has simply run out of money.

“That is something that has to change, globally and collectively,” Coveney said, “and I hope that is the big message that will come out of this evening.”

For his part, the normally verbose Renzi was happy to take a back seat, expressing his thanks to Bono but adding that Italycould do much more.

Pope John Paul II. 

Renzi recalled Bono’s involvement in a Drop the Debt campaign back in the 1990s, when the singer famously plonked a pair of cool dude shades on Pope John Paul II during a meeting at Castelgandolfo.

Renzi said that the world has not made enough progress in dealing with hunger and debt since then.

The WFP’s Cousin was another to thank Bono for lending his name to the campaign, acknowledging that had it not been for his presence on stage, “all you young people out there” would not be here to hear about the issues.

She said simply that, for many, “without food there is no hope. For these people, a piece of bread is a feast from God. But when you have no hope, you take the desperate measure, you do whatever is required in order to feed your family.”

Cuts to programmes.

It was Bono, however, who best summed up the meaning of Sunday night’s conscience-raising event.

“To me it seems extraordinary that, in the middle of a refugee crisis, the WFP find themselves having to cut their programme in Jordan, where they are doing extraordinary work. That is politically unacceptable to everybody under this sky this evening.

“This is not good enough, and neither the Italian people nor the Irish people will have it.”

Where else do landlords make the most money off our students?

  

New research suggests that Edinburgh is the place where landlords make most money off students. Sorry about that if you’re planning on studying there.

In fact, four of the top five most lucrative locations are in Scotland, with Coventry being the top English spot in second place.

Property site Zoopla looked at where investors can get the best return from buying up properties near universities and letting them out to students.

In Edinburgh, buy-to-let investors can expect a rental yield of 6.11% for doing so, while in Coventry it is 6.03%. Aberdeen is the third most profitable at 5.66%.

But while renting to students in Scotland is proving a veritable goldmine, the same is not true in the North of England.

Renting to students in Middlesbrough would mean a yield of just 1.47%, less than a quarter as profitable as Edinburgh.

Lawrence Hall of Zoopla commented: “Many Scottish universities are now internationally renowned, with thriving undergraduate and graduate environments.

“This means demand for rental accommodation in university areas is very high, as throngs of students compete to live near their campuses.

“Combined with Scottish house prices still remaining relatively low, this equates to excellent yields.”

Gluten-free diet fads put coeliacs at some big risks

    

Opting for a gluten-free diet as a lifestyle choice rather than because of an actual intolerance to gluten is sending mixed messages to workers in the hospitality industry about what coeliacs can or cannot eat.

That’s according to Dr Nicholas Kennedy, president of the Coeliac Society of Ireland (CSI), who said there are growing numbers of people on gluten-free diets “that have no medical requirement to do so”.

“What you have is people who are not coeliacs, on a very lax gluten-free diet, and they go into a restaurant and ask for gluten-free dishes, and they have a starter and a main course and then they see there’s nothing [gluten free] fascinating for dessert and they opt for cheesecake. That’s just a mixed message for the restaurant staff. People being slack about their gluten-free diet is causing problems for actual coeliacs,” Dr Kennedy said.

“You are either coeliac or you are not. It is not a question of ‘how coeliac are you?’” Dr Kennedy said.

Another problem was the increasing number of people self-diagnosing gluten sensitivities which, he said, could cause difficulties when it came to being clinically tested for coeliac disease.

“Eliminating gluten from your diet before testing may result in a false negative result,” Dr Kennedy said.

People who self-diagnosed were also potentially denying themselves the opportunity for proper long-term management of their condition, he said.

Dr Ciarán P Kelly MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said it had become increasingly popular to adopt a gluten-free diet and that, in the last decade, the market for gluten-free products had grown by more than 20% each year.

Dr Kelly, who along with Dr Kennedy, was addressing the Association of European Coeliac Societies annual conference in Dublin, outlined how consuming gluten causes symptoms such as bloating and discomfort in coeliacs, but also intestinal injury, high coeliac antibodies, malabsorption, and nutritional deficiencies.

If untreated, it can lead to complications such as osteoporosis. Those with coeliac disease tend to have a genetic predisposition towards the disease. It can be associated with other autoimmune diseases, and the only treatment is a lifelong strict gluten-free diet.

In contrast, those with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity tend to have no known genetic predisposition; no known complications; and the strictness of their gluten-free diet may vary.

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, whose four children have coeliac disease, spoke in support of targeted screening directed at first blood relatives of those already identified as coeliacs.

Coeliac disease is more prevalent in those of Irish descent and an estimated 45,000 people are affected in Ireland. People with coeliac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a substance in wheat, rye, and barley.

Go west to Sligo Ireland for stunning scenery, great & perfect pubs and poetry galore

Deirdre O’Brien tells us on how a trip to the WB Yeats’ Land of Heart’s Desire finds the poet in us all?

    

The sign on a pub in Sligo reads: “This space is saved for my birthday party, please keep it free from 6.30. Love W. B. Yeats.”

By the appointed hour the party, at Hargadon’s Pub in Sligo, was in full swing with trucks of oysters being washed down by pints of Guinness. But the guest of honour was never going to make it – as the party was for his 150th birthday, and he’s been dead since 1939.

Still, the Irish never let inconvenient details stand in the way of a good thrash, and they weren’t going to miss out on celebrating the anniversary of the birth of a famous and beloved son.

Ireland is sometimes called The Land of Saints and Scholars and for many of the natives, Yeats, a Nobel laureate as well as a statesman, is regarded as a bit of both.

Although he was actually born in Sandymount in County Dublin, nowhere claims him more fiercely than Sligo, the county in the West where he spent idyllic childhood holidays and is now buried.

He called it “The Land of Heart’s Desire” and before his death and original burial in France, he left the instruction ‘dig me up and plant me in Sligo’. That was exactly what was done. His final resting place is now the graveyard of ¬Drumcliffe Church.

But Sligo feel that Yeats belongs to them, not least because the wild, rugged landscape of the county inspired much of the beauty of his romantic poetry, such as the famous poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree.

And while a trip to Sligo won’t turn us all into Nobel laureates, everyone will be wowed by the sheer beauty of the landscape.

A good place to start isInnisfree itself – the name Yeats gave to Lough Gill. A beautiful body of water, it’s perfect for a boat cruise.

Sunshine is never guaranteed here, but the day we visited the heavens obliged with a double rainbow – pointing exactly to the island thought to been Yeats’ inspiration. Nice work, Mother Nature.

On the lake’s border is Parke’s Castle, a beautifully restored 16thC fortress, which hosts some interesting exhibitions about life in Ireland, including some frightening realistic waxworks. heritageireland.ie/en/north-west/parkescastle

The other massive draw for Sligo is the coastline known as The Wild Atlantic Way. Stretching for 2,500kms, it is one of the world’s longest coastal driving routes. We started out on Streedagh Beach.

The views are breathtaking, and while the weather can be bracing, if you wrap up warm, the rolling breakers, the riot of wild flowers, the raw sea air, and the bursts of sun will be guaranteed to lift your spirits.

You can bike, hike, ride horses, surf or swim or take a tour. Seatrails offers a great walk conducted by a very knowledgeable archeologist. seatrails.ie

Sligo Town itself is a pretty old fashioned place, with a sleepy vibe. Hargadons pub is well worth a pit stop. Look out for the two huge murals, one of WB himself and the other, of Maud Gonne, the beautiful revolutionary who captivated him.

The neighbouring county is Leitrim, known as Lovely Leitrim. One of the least populated counties in Ireland, what it lacks in population, it makes up for in landscape, including some picture-postcard pretty villages especially the charming Drumohair.

We stopped for lunch at the Stanford Inn, the sort of perfect Irish pub that serves delicious food, a warm welcome and Guinness a world away from the stuff served across the water.

A really special place is the Holy Well at Tobernault, an age old site of worship, where the Druids used to congregate in secret. A peaceful pilgrimage site, its waters are said to have healing powers.

Sligo may feel like a world away from the stresses of city life, but it’s just three hours drive from Dublin.

A trip to the wild West and a few days soaking up the culture of Dublin’s Fair City make for a magical combination no doubt a heart’s desire indeed.

Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka sets space time record

The Russian astronaut Gennady Padalka has returned to Earth with the record for having spent the most time in space.

   

The 57-year-old’s latest mission lasted 168 days, bringing his total to 879 days in space over five trips.

This is two months longer than the previous record set in 2005 by Russian Sergei Krikalev over six missions.

Mr Padalka and two other members from the International Space Station (ISS) landed safely in Kazakhstan on their Soyuz spacecraft just before sunrise.

The capsule descended after re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere under a parachute.

Gennady Padalka

  • Graduated as a pilot and became a colonel in the Russian Air Force
  • First journey to space was in 1998, to Russia’s Mir space station
  • Only person to have commanded the ISS four times
  • He beat the previous record for most time in space on 28 June 2015
  • Has participated in 10 spacewalks

What are the challenges of living in space?What are the challenges of living in space?

A ground crWhat are the challenges of living in space?ew rushed to welcome and extract the three astronauts from the charred spacecraft and medics checked their condition.

“I am fine,” Mr Padalka told them as he sipped tea and ate an apple, the AFP news agency reports.

Mr Padalka’s companions – Andreas Mogensen from Denmark and Kazakh Aidyn Aimbetov – are both novices in comparison, having only spent 10 days in orbit on what was their first mission.

Mr Aimbetov had travelled in place of British soprano Sarah Brightman, who had been due to made the trip as a space tourist but withdrew from training in May citing family reasons.

Six astronauts now remain on the ISS, including Nasa’s Scott Kelly and Russia’s Mikhail Kornienko, who began a 12-month tour of duty in March – the longest continuous stay anyone would have been aboard the 400km-high (250 mile) orbiting platform.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 26th August 2015

Irish Developers sent on golf and F1 trips by banks as perks

 

Two of the country’s leading property developers have revealed details of corporate hospitality lavished on them and their associates by banks during the boom.

AIB organised trips for senior management to the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix and to the Ryder Cup in the US.

Trips to the Ryder Cup in Kentucky and other major sporting events were among junkets detailed by developers Gerry Gannon and Peter Cosgrave in statements to the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry.

Former AIB group managing director Colm Doherty also told the inquiry that entertainment it provided to developers was “multi-faceted, occurring across a number of countries in which we operated”.

Impossible list of hospitality?

In a written submission to the inquiry, Mr Gannon detailed a trip to the Ryder Cup courtesy of AIB in 2008, a trip to Venice with Anglo Irish Bank and further corporate hospitality afforded to him by Anglo at a race meeting at the Curragh.

Another executive director of Gannon Homes, Aidan Kenny, went on a trip to Paris with Anglo, Mr Gannon told the inquiry.

Mr Cosgrave said it was impossible to provide the inquiry with an exhaustive list of hospitality arranged by the banks for senior executives in the Cosgrave Property Group.

However, in a written submission, he was able to outline trips to several of the world’s top sporting events, as well as golf days in the UK, France and the US, courtesy of Ulster Bank, AIB, EBS and Bank of Ireland.

Trips to the Irish and British Open golf tournaments were organised by Ulster Bank, while it and AIB took senior executives to the US Masters in Augusta, Georgia.

AIB organised trips for senior management to the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix and to the Ryder Cup in the US.

  1. Horse racing also featured on the list provided by Mr Cosgrave.
  2. Bank of Ireland took company executives to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
  3. AIB and EBS hosted senior management at race meetings in Punchestown and Leopardstown.
  4. There was also a one-off ski trip and visits to the opera and theatre organised by Ulster Bank.

In a written submission, Mr Doherty told the inquiry that where corporate hospitality was valued in excess of €500, it had to be recorded in a business unit register within the bank.

He said he believed the corporate hospitality and entertainment spending by AIB on corporate clients was “generally appropriate” and “on par with common practice in the industry”.

He said he could not comment on the extent of entertainment provided by the bank to developers.

However, he said he was aware that AIB had taken “a large contingent of property clients” to the Ryder Cup in Kentucky.

These were also provided with the use of corporate boxes in Croke Park and tickets for rugby and soccer matches, concerts and the theatre.

Ethical

Mr Doherty said AIB had developed a policy on the giving and receiving of gifts in 2003, setting out ethical standards for staff to abide by.

This permitted gifts, benefits or entertainment valued at up to €500. Any gifts valued between €500 and €1,000 had to be registered, he said.

Pre-approval was required for the acceptance of any gifts, benefits or entertainment valued in excess of €1,000.

Mr Doherty said he believed the limits set out in the policy were appropriate.

He said he was aware of only one instance where hospitality received by AIB staff members from a loan client was deemed inappropriate.

“This occurred in our UK business. In this case the executives involved were subject to disciplinary proceedings, resigned and left the bank,” he said.

Kathleen Lynch confident she will get extra funding for mental health

  

The Minister with responsibility for Mental Health said that she is confident that she can secure extra funding for services.

The group Mental Health Reform has launched its ‘Invest in my Mental Health’ campaign, setting out how an extra €35m is needed.

Minister Kathleen Lynch said that she will be fighting for the increased budget.

“It may come as a surprise now to Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin, and I’m saying this publicly but that is the aim,” said Minister Lynch.

Minister Lynch admits there are still recruitment issues in the mental health services area.

But she says there’s been substantial progress on waiting lists for young people.

“There is one issue in terms of child and adolescent mental health services which I was hugely concerned about and so was mental health reform, and we have managed to make progress on that.

“We have the waiting lists reduced considerably, it’s reducing month-on-month, and if we go the way we’re going, those waiting lists will no longer be there at the end of this year. We will have no one waiting longer than 12 months.”

Irish surveyors rule out rent controls as ‘retrograde’

   

No rent controls, a reduction in Vat on new homes, tax breaks for landlords and an apprenticeship scheme for construction workers are among a list of demands for the Government unveiled by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland yesterday.

In a pre-budget submission, the SCSI has called on the Government to support the delivery of more housing units, more commercial office space and to introduce an apprenticeship scheme to address the skills shortage and create more jobs.

The SCSI, which is the professional representative body for the property, land and construction sectors, said Budget 2016 was an opportune time to put in place key measures to create a more sustainable sector.

The SCSI’s recommendations for the housing sector include:

  • A temporary reduction in Vat on new homes from 13.5% to 9% for properties up to a value of €300,000.
  • A more favourable tax regime for professional providers of rental accommodation.
  • A reduction in development levies.
  • More commercially priced finance for developers.
  • The introduction of low- cost modular housing for people in need of emergency accommodation.

Andrew Nugent, president of the SCSI said: “We are calling for the introduction of a suite of measures that would kick-start building and increase supply.

“The Housing Agency has projected a need for 21,000 units annually and we are currently building less than half of that figure and we now need some short-term measures to stimulate house building activity,” he said.

Commenting on recent coverage on proposals to introduce rent controls, Mr Nugent described this as a retrograde step: “International evidence has shown that rent controls do not work in markets where there is an acute supply shortage.

“Building more units and supporting the financing of rental schemes will make rents more affordable, not artificial controls.”

In the commercial property market, the SCSI has called on Government to increase in available development finance at more attractive rates for viable developments.

It pointed to the recent announcement of a €500m joint venture between the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund and KKR Credit for house building and said that similar funds should be considered for commercial projects.

“One of the main sources of delay on commercial projects coming to the market is difficulties accessing finance. We need to see more finance at commercial rates being made available,” said Nugent.

To advance the construction of commercial buildings in strategic locations, the society is recommending that the IDA should underwrite the rent for office buildings in these areas.

“The IMF estimates suggest that as much as 27% of Ireland’s potential economic output was lost between 2008 and 2013 and the SCSI believes that investment in essential public infrastructure including transport, social housing and broadband provision must be prioritised in terms of public capital investment,” said Nugent.

The SCSI said the Home Renovation Incentive (HRI) scheme which has attracted nearly €300 million worth of construction work should be extended beyond 2015.

The proposals are outlined in the SCSI’s pre-budget submission 2016 document, Building for Growth.

Women urged to know their heart attack risks

  

Most Irish women have no idea what the biggest killer of females in this country is — wrongly presuming their number one threat is cancer.

A survey for the Irish Heart Foundation found only one in 10 women correctly identified cardiovascular disease — mainly heart attacks and strokes — as the single biggest killer of females here, responsible for about one in three deaths.

The majority believed cancer, in particular breast cancer, claimed most lives despite the fact that women are six times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than breast cancer.

A campaign to make women more aware of the disease and how best to avoid it is being run by the Irish Heart Foundation.

The Red Alert campaign aims to dispel some of the myths and misinformation around cardiovascular disease, alert women to the risk factors, and help them make better lifestyle choices to minimise their chances of falling victim to it.

Dr Angie Brown, a consultant cardiologist and medical director of the Irish Heart Foundation, said women tend to view a heart attack as mainly a man’s problem, with 75% of women believing more men die from heart disease when in fact the death rate is equal.

“Most women are more concerned about breast cancer even though six times as many women die from heart disease and stroke in Ireland each year. Our goal is to alert women that especially after the menopause, they are at risk of heart attack and stroke, as much as any man.”

She said women’s hormones protect against heart disease but after the menopause, their risk caught up with that of a man.

Dr Brown also said women sometimes delayed getting to hospital after a heart attack because their symptoms could be less clear than those experienced by men. A woman may experience more vague symptoms such as nausea, tiredness, shortness of breath, rather than the more usual crushing pain in the chest. The good news is that 80% of cardiovascular disease is preventable and a positive lifestyle can alter risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

“This September’s Red Alert is a wake-up call to every woman in Ireland to take care of her heart health.

“Remember, it’s usually not the fancy stuff that makes you live longer, it’s about the basics: weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, being active, quitting smoking and knowing your family history,” she said.

Norah Casey, an ambassador for the campaign, lost her father to a heart attack and is conscious about heart health: “It was a devastating lesson to learn about the importance of heart health. Heart disease is one of the few largely preventable diseases and we hold the key to heart health in our hands — we just need to use it.”

Theft is more likely to involve an electronic device when you’re outside of London

 Smartphones and tablets are more likely to be taken during a theft in Leicestershire than in London, new research shows.

Data obtained by a series of Freedom of Information requests to England’s police forces by security and communications firm ViaSat found that while electronic device theft accounted for 27% of theft reports to City of London and the Metropolitan Police, the figure rose to 51% in Leicestershire.

This was much higher than the national average; which was 19% of all thefts being device-related. However, ViaSat reported a drop in total reported thefts compared to similar research carried out last year – with reports to the Metropolitan Police falling 37% alone, and on average 34% across the country.

ViaSat chief executive Chris McIntosh said that personal data on the devices was still a draw for criminals: “Whether a corporate smartphone, a personal tablet, or your bank manager’s laptop, there is a huge amount of information stored on electronic devices that can compromise our privacy.

“The simple fact is that, for many thieves, the most tempting target isn’t necessarily the device itself, but what it contains. From access to your bank records; to blackmail; to flat-out identity theft, a lost or stolen device can still damage its owner long after it’s stolen.

“As the largest city in the UK, with the most visitors, London will have a disproportionate number of thefts. But as we can see from these results, wherever you are in the UK you need to not only be wary of your own devices; but make sure that anyone who records and stores your sensitive data does so responsibly and securely.”

Between March 1 2014 and February 2015, there were 285,312 reports of theft to the City of London and Metropolitan Police, with 77,243 involving electronic equipment. In Leicestershire there were 8,661 reports of theft, with 4,451 involving electronics.

Scientists discover new reef that might be even bigger than the Great Barrier Reef

  

You know Great Barrier Reef off the eastern coast of Australia that you’ve seen in countless videos and pictures? Well, it turns out there’s yet another similarly impressive reef that’s located near the same country.

The Great Barrier Reef in Queensland is part of the UNESCO World Heritage, and Mashable reports that it might have an actual rival located in the south of Australia. Officials from Parks Victoria said that the newly exposed Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park reef near Melbourne can match the Great Barrier Reef in terms of the abundance of coral, sponge and fish.

The problem with the Victoria reef, however, is that it’s located deeper underwater than the Queensland reef, making it inaccessible to snorkelers.

Scientists from the parks service used an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) to explore the region for the first time and revealed some interesting findings of the underwater area.

“The resulting footage shows that the deep reef habitats are teeming with life and are home to rich and abundant marine ecosystems that are comparable to Australia’s better-known tropical reef areas,” Parks Victoria Marine Science Manager Steffan Howe said. “The extent and abundance of spectacular sponge gardens and corals is a particularly exciting find.”

The scientists found coral fans and dunes that measured at around 30 meters high and 2 kilometers long that house rare fish such as the Australian barracuda and Longsnout Boarfish and also “large sea whips and colorful sponge gardens beyond scientists expectations.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 24th February 2015

Jailed water protesters can get out of Mountjoy Prison if they agree to court orders

 

Judge says ‘door to this court is open’ for four protesters who left him with no alternative

Protester Kenneth Hanlon outside Mountjoy Prison during a demonstration over the imprisonment of water charges demonstrators.

Jailed water charge protesters can free themselves simply by undertaking to abide by court orders not to interfere with meter installers, a High Court judge has said.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said the “door to this court is open” to the four protesters who had left him with no alternative but to jail them.

He was speaking after a fifth man, jailed in his absence because he is in the Canary Islands for health reasons, wrote agreeing to abide by the orders.

A stay was put on the committal to prison order against Michael Batty (64) of Edenmore Avenue, Raheny, Dublin, until Tuesday as he was abroad for health reasons.

When the matter came before Mr Justice Gilligan on Tuesday, he adjourned it again until March 9th after the court heard Mr Batty was now agreeing to abide by the court orders.

Mr Batty was one of five people who the judge ordered last week should be committed to prison for breaching orders not to interfere with water meter installersGMC Sierra.

In a letter from Mr Batty handed in to the judge Tuesday by his solicitor Cahir O’Higgins, Mr Batty apologised for not appearing in court last week as he was a chronic asthmatic who had gone abroad to a hot climate with financial help from his family.

He could not afford to change his March 6th return flight date, but was prepared to give an undertaking to sign a bond not to breach any injunction.

Mr Justice Gilligan said in view of Mr Batty’s attitude, it was only fair the court should hear further submissions on the matter after he had returned from abroad. He listed the matter again for March 9th.

Mr Higgins said he felt he had to bring to the court’s attention that three of the other four people jailed last week for contempt, spent three days in 23-hour lock up.

While the reason given for this was that they had to be processed, Mr O’Higgins said this was, along with their loss of liberty, an additional punishment which was not sanctioned or fair. While it was not malicious, it had stopped when he wrote to the prison authorities.

He was not making any application to the court in relation to it but it was important the judge in the case should know.

Mr Justice Gilligan said this was not a matter for the court but for the prison governor.

The judge said as Mr O’Higgins had made a statement, he too wanted to make a statement in view of the widespread publicity and discussion about this matter and to clarify the situation.

The four people in prison were “not there as a result of peaceful protest” but because the court had made an order which they breached.

“It was open to them to appeal that order if they were dissatisfied”, he said.

He hoped they would see from Mr Batty’s case the options open to them.

“It is important people in the general community know that it is open to them to apologise for their contempt and give an undertaking to abide by the orders”, he said.

They had effectively left the court with no other choice but to impose sentences for contempt.

However, if any of the four wished to adopt the same attitude as Mr Batty “then the door of this court is open to them”, he said.

Meanwhile:-

Landlords given just weeks to forward names of tenants to Irish Water

 

The numbers registering in the rental sector are significantly less than among owner-occupiers

  Elizabeth Arnett: “Landlord and tenants can confirm details at any time.”

Landlords, including local authorities, have been warned that they have just weeks to contact Irish Water with the names of tenants or they may be held liable for all water charges on whatever properties they own.

The utility was forced to issue the warning after it emerged that the numbers registering for the service across the rental sector was significantly less than among owner-occupiers.

While roughly 30 per cent of would-be customers of the utility would be expected to come from rental properties, the number of completed registrations from that sector currently stands at just 17 per cent. The remaining 83 per cent of those who have registered are owner-occupiers.

Irish Water has said it is now in a position to contact landlords directly after being given the green light to act by the Data Protection Commission (DPC).

The utility’s spokeswoman, Elizabeth Arnett, said earlier this month it had been cleared to seek the names of tenants, including those who live in local authority housing. She told The Irish Times the DPC had confirmed that “once we have gone through the processes correctly and allowed all occupants ample time to come forward then we can approach the landlords”.

She stressed that all landlords – including local authorities which control the bulk of the rental market — would be treated the same when it came to billing. If more than one person is named on a lease, it will be up to the landlord to provide the name of just one tenant. Irish Water will then engage directly with the named individual “and provide them with an opportunity to confirm their details”.

Ms Arnett stressed that it would be in tenants’ best interests to contact the utility directly as failure to do so would mean they could not avail of the Government’s €100 water conservation grant. She said single-adult households would also run the risk of being hit with annual bills of €260 instead of €160.

“Landlord and tenants can confirm details at any time. However Irish Water would encourage an early response to ensure details are as accurate as possible in advance of billing,” she said.

She said some 1.22 million of the 1.9 million homes across the State had contacted Irish Water with almost a million responses coming from among the 1.5 million households on the public network, a response rate of two-thirds.

Irish motorists warned about stolen NCT certs

  Image result for Irish motorists warned about stolen NCT certs

Irish motorists have been warned to be on the lookout for stolen NCT certs.

Vehicle history expert CARTELL.IE has issued an image of one of the stolen Certificates, and says it fears that ‘unscrupulous’ individuals may be using others lie it on cars they have for sale.

Cartell said that an armed holdup at an NCT centre in Drogheda in October 2013 resulted in the theft of 850 official certificates.

Jeff Aherne, Director, Cartell.ie, said the certificate was one of the 850 certificates stolen in a raid in 2013.

‘Understandably, these certificates will look completely authentic, as they were stolen at source, but the numbers on the certificates are not in official circulation.

‘The consumer is encouraged to verify the numbers on the NCT Certificate with the official records to authenticate the certificate. Verification of the official NCT number with official records held by the Government is one of the many services provided by Cartell.’

These stolen certificates may be displayed in the window of vehicles offered for sale in the market. It is also possible that unscrupulous individuals are offering these stolen certificates for sale and buyers may not be aware that purchase and display of these certificates constitutes an offence.

Using a motor vehicle without a valid NCT Test Certificate is an offence contrary to Section 18 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 as amended by Road Traffic Act 2006, section 18. Conviction for this offence carries five penalty points and Courts may impose a fine of up to €2,000 and/or up to three months’ imprisonment.

Ireland moves up 2 places to 9th in EU’s digital economy index

    

Ireland moves up 2 places to 9th in EU’s digital index

The latest European Union (EU) Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) is out and shows improvement for Ireland having risen two places to ninth out of the 28 EU member states.

The findings released today compiles data from each country to determine its level of connectivity, its internet skills and how intertwined digital technologies – particularly services including cloud, e-commerce and e-invoices – are developed and was sourced using data obtained between 2013 and 2014.

According to these new figures, Ireland has scored 0.52 out of a score of 1 on the digital performance index putting it at slightly above the average of the cluster of medium performance countries at 0.51, and ahead of the EU Average of 0.47.

This marked a minor improvement on last year’s figure which saw Ireland ranked eleventh with an overall score of 0.49 – just above the cluster countries (0.47) and above the EU average (0.44).

From their findings, during the past year, take-up of high-speed broadband in Ireland has increased considerably with subscription numbers increasing from 30% to 40%, while use of internet services has also increased with 71pc of Irish people using video on-demand, 63% using social networking, 62% using online shopping, 60% using online banking and 56% of internet users using eGovernment actively.

The report goes on however, to say that more progress is needed in Ireland on increasing digital skills with only 53% of the population having digital skills at a level to operate effectively online, down from 56% in 2012.

The best-perfoming country in the EU was found to be Denmark who scored an index of 0.68, while the worst performing country overall is Romania with an index score of just 0.31.

There no fools? A survey finds out

Dogs do know when people are lying

   

Japanese researchers find dogs learn to distrust people after being deceived.

Don’t try to fool your dog with that trick of pretending to throw the ball but actually keeping it in your hand — he or she will not only know you’re lying, but will actually stop believing you when you are telling the truth.

A new study from Japan finds that dogs can quickly distrust a human who is not being truthful and can hold onto that distrust for some time.

“Dogs have more sophisticated social intelligence than we thought. This social intelligence evolved selectively in their long life history with humans,” lead study author Akiko Takaoka of Kyoto University told the BBC.

Takaoka tested 34 different dogs by presenting them with two containers, one full of treats and the other empty.

In the first round of testing, the researchers would stand between the boxes and point to the one filled with food, which the dogs happily ate.

In the second round, the same researchers pointed to the empty box, confusing the poor animal.

Then, in a third round, the same person would point at the container with the food, but the dogs would not go to that container.

Takaoka suggests that experience had taught the dogs not to trust the person doing the pointing.

To test that theory, another individual was brought in to point at the full container. This time the dogs jumped at the box and ate the food.

The researchers say the behavior shows dogs are able to distinguish between a “good actor” and a “bad actor” and learn not to trust the person who deceived it.

Takaoka tells the BBC she was surprised that the dogs “devalued the reliability of a human” so quickly.

Maybe that’s why Eclipse the dog took to riding a Seattle bus.

Buddha statue reveals the remains of a mummified monk inside

 

The mummified remains of a monk have been revealed inside a nearly 1,000-year old Chinese statue of a Buddha.

The mummy inside the gold-painted papier-mache statue is believed to be that of Liuquan, a Buddhist master of the Chinese Meditation School who died around the year 1100, researchers said. It’s the only Chinese Buddhist mummy to undergo scientific research in the West.

The statue was on display last year at the Drents Museum as part of an exhibit on mummies. It was an cited as an example of self-mummification, an excruciating, years-long process of meditation, starvation, dehydration and poisoning that some Buddhist monks undertook to achieve enlightenment and veneration.

When the exhibit ended in August, a CT scan at the Meander Medical Center in the Netherlands revealed the seated skeleton. Samples taken from organ cavities provided one big surprise: paper scraps printed with ancient Chinese characters indicating the high-status monk may have been worshiped as a Buddha.

The finding was first reported in December but did not get wide notice. Irish Archaeology carried a report over the weekend, which apparently started the news ball rolling.

But the revelation is not, as some reports claim, “a shocking discovery,” The History Blog notes: “It was known to be inside the statue all along . that’s why it was sent to the Drents Museum in the first place as part of the Mummies exhibition.”

The mummy’s existence was discovered in 1996 when the statue was being restored in the Netherlands, Live Science reported, explaining what was found, how its age was determined and when the first detailed skeletal imaging was performed.

DNA tests were conducted on bone samples, and the Dutch team plans to publish its finding in a forthcoming monograph.

Researchers still have not determined whether the monk mummified himself, a practice that was also widespread in Japan and that was outlawed in the 19th century. If he did, the process was gruesome, as Ancient Origins explained:

“For the first 1,000 days, the monks ceased all food except nuts, seeds, fruits and berries and they engaged in extensive physical activity to strip themselves of all body fat. For the next one thousand days, their diet was restricted to just bark and roots. Near the end of this period, they would drink poisonous tea made from the sap of the Urushi tree, which caused vomiting and a rapid loss of body fluids. It also acted as a preservative and killed off maggots and bacteria that would cause the body to decay after death.”