Tag Archives: Lungs

News Ireland daily BLOG by DONIE

Wednesday 14th December 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A further rollout of coverage?

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

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

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

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

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

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

A leadership challenge?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The gangland activity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A proud tradition?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some cancer facts?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Patrick McCaffrey & his beloved wife Helen. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s a devastating loss to everyone.”

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

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

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

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

The Gardai and the HSA are investigating the incident.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 18th January 2015

“Steady the Ship” A crucial week for Europe and the euro coming up


All the heavy hitters at the ECB are preparing for the announcement of Europe’s QE plan this week – but the markets have already priced in the play, says Investec’s Justin Doyle

Financial traders speak in their own language – one known for banal and gratingly cliched expressions or proverbs.

I avoid them where possible, but one that I unabashedly and unapologetically throw around when I see fit is: “Buy the rumour, sell the fact”.

I use it sparingly – but I use it because it is brilliantly descriptive and, more often than not, it’s a perfect fit for the foreign exchange market.

It describes an overstretched market that has fully priced in the result or outcome of a future event or events. When the result of said future events are realised and only just meets expectations (or, God forbid, disappoints), the rebound in price can be vicious and unforgiving.

So, as we approach the most eagerly-anticipated European Central Bank (ECB) meeting for months, if not years – in tandem with what could be a game-changing Greek election – I’m dusting off my handbook as I type.

After last month’s disappointing ECB meeting on December 4, with Eurozone inflation data continuing to worsen, ECB President Mario Draghi said the bank would adopt a wait-and-see approach – they would reassess the monetary stimulus situation early in the New Year.

Pressed on exactly when that would be, he alluded to the fact that it would probably be at the March 5 meeting.

At that time, the markets were expecting the ECB to unveil their landmark sovereign/corporate bond purchase (QE) programme at the upcoming January 22 meeting, at the latest. March 5 would have been a whole 13 weeks away.

Thirteen weeks is a very long time in FX markets. It didn’t take long for the ECB’s benchmark EUR/USD rate to turn heel from multi-year lows of around $1.22 and head back up towards $1.26 – and these were unacceptable levels for a Central Bank hell-bent on keeping the value of the single currency subdued.

Mr Draghi ordered his foot soldiers onto the streets, and ECB policy makers have been hogging the newswires since mid-December.

With the exception of some of the German contingent, most – if not all – of the ECB heavy hitters have been preparing the markets for a January 22 QE announcement. The first negative Eurozone inflation print in almost six years, due mostly to lower oil prices, has given the language added impetus.

Greece popped ominously back into the headlines in late December after Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras (of the New Democracy party) called a snap general election for January 25, after he failed to get enough votes to support his nomination for president.

While Greece isn’t the basket case it was at the height of the EZ debt crisis (2010-2012), a disillusioned, austerity-ravaged electorate are still dealing with close to 25pc employment.

As a result, Alexis Tsipras and his far-left Syriza party have enjoyed a comfortable lead of almost 3pc over Samaras’ party in the opinion polls for over a year now.

It is entirely possible that Syriza won’t enter government with an outright majority, but it does look like it will be the biggest party.

In the worst-case scenario it looks likely that Mr Tsipras will head up any coalition government that is formed after the election.

Markets are jittery again – and rightly so. Mr Tsipras is adamant that he wants Greece to stay in the euro -but he is also adamant that he wants to end austerity and kick-off debt negotiations with the Troika.

Much to the horror of the ECB and the delight of Irish exporters to the US, the growing expectations and the demands for a large Fed or Bank of Japan-style QE programme from the ECB – allied with the uncertainty surrounding the upcoming Greek general election – have all formed a perfect storm.

It has helped to quickly push the EUR/USD rate to nine-year lows of just under $1.17 earlier in the week.

I fear, however, that these two major event risks are fully priced into an already stretched short euro market.

I genuinely hope I’m wrong, but my greatest concern is that the ECB may have overplayed its hand and lulled willing market players into what maybe yet another massively underwhelming announcement on January 22.

With expectations so high, the ECB must provide total clarity and transparency on the exact size, breakup (sovereign/corporate bonds) and a time line of the purchases.

Mr Draghi has pointed out on several occasions in recent months that he would like the ECB balance sheet to return to levels not seen since in the middle of the debt crisis.

At its highest level it was just over €3trn. Currently at just over €2trn, it figures that the ECB are eyeing a €1trn purchase programme. With the German voting members of the ECB still wary and the Greek election around the corner, I feel that seeking consensus on the full €1trn may be an ask too far – and an announcement of anything under €500bn will be massively disappointing.

The ECB has form in the disappointment arena – and if the Scottish referendum tells us anything, it is that polls are only polls and a swing of 6pc or 7pc on the day could hand the Greek election to the pro-Europe Samaras and his ND party.

The single currency is at multi-year lows against the currencies (USD and GBP) of our two largest non-euro denominated trading partners, a great opportunity to hedge short-term exposure ahead of what could be the first important ‘Buy the rumour, sell the fact’ event of 2015.

‘I miss that bit of lung they took away – but not badly, mind you’


Frank Cox got lung cancer at the same age his dad died from it.

FRANK COX kept getting chest infections in 2006 and 2007 – they just would not clear up.

Eventually his GP sent him for a chest X-ray which confirmed his worst fear: he had lung cancer. He was 66 years old at the time – the same age his father was when he died from the disease in 1961.

“You’re sort of in denial when you’re told, you think: ‘It’s not happening to me.’ I was off the cigarettes for 16 years at that stage, but the damage was done: I was on them since I was 16 or 17 years old.

“The doctor said I had given myself a chance by giving them up. He told me if I was still smoking we wouldn’t be doing surgery, we’d be doing chemo to prolong my life, not save it,” Frank recalls.

Luckily his cancer was detected at a very early stage. He successfully underwent surgery and three months of chemotherapy.

Frank (now 73) got the five-year all-clear in 2012.

“It was great, it really was … I was a bit nervous. It was a great relief, it’s always at the back of your mind.”

I miss that bit of lung they took away – not badly, mind you. I can climb stairs, but I would feel it if I was rushing or ran somewhere … If you saw a bus coming and you made a dart for it, that’s when you’d miss it.

Frank now does peer support with the Irish Cancer Society (ICS), where he talks to newly-diagnosed patients over the phone.

When I was diagnosed I didn’t know anything about it. I wanted to talk to somebody who had been diagnosed and had surgery and come out the other side. It’s different to hearing from doctors and nurses, you need to speak to somebody who has been through it.


Aoife McNamara is a Lung Cancer Information Nurse with the ICS. She said that increased awareness of the disease is needed as it is now the “biggest cancer killer in Ireland and worldwide”.

About 1,800 people die from lung cancer in Ireland each year.

Frank (far left) at an ICS awareness-raising event outside Leinster House.

Aoife said women are becoming more at risk of the disease than they once were.

The mortality rate of lung cancer among men has decreased in recent years while the rate in women has steadily increased. The mortality and incidence rates in Irish women are among the highest in Europe.

Lung cancer might have been seen as a man’s disease, but that’s not the case any more.

Aoife said this is directly linked to an increased number of women taking up smoking.

She said that thanks to various campaigns, women in Ireland are “very breast aware” when it comes to cancer symptoms.

“However, this is not the case when it comes to lung cancer, despite the fact that it overtook breast cancer as biggest cancer killer in women in 2011.”

Aoife said it’s important for people to know the symptoms of lung cancer and go to their GP if they’re concerned.

Symptoms include:

•           A cough that won’t go away

•           Shortness of breath

•           Repeated chest infections

•           Coughing up blood and phlegm

•           Unexpected weight loss

•           Swelling of the neck or face

•           Sore throat

Aoife said 90-95% of lung cancer cases are directly linked to smoking. She said anyone trying to give up cigarettes should contact the National Smoker Quitline on Freephone 1800 201 203.

Instructors on jobseeker schemes were JobBridge interns – An audit to happen


A Departmet of Social Protection report into a €6m Job Club schemes raises concerns.

The Department of Social Protection has said it will examine an audit on training schemes for jobseekers in which the instructors themselves were on JobBridge internship and Tús trainee schemes.

The Department of Social Protection has said it will examine an audit on training schemes for jobseekers in which the instructors themselves were on JobBridge internship and Tús trainee schemes.

An audit of Job Club schemes, carried out by an internal departmental audit unit last July, found some JobBridge interns were providing training workshops on their own to club participants.

The details of the audit were carried on RTÉ radio’s This Week programme.

Job Club schemes are run by private operators and financed by the Department of Social Protection at an average cost of €6 million a year. They aim to provide services to job seekers such as CV preparation and IT skills, through individualised supports, ‘drop in’ services and formal workshops of one to four weeks long.

There are 50 schemes countrywide and participants receive an additional €20 a week on top of their social welfare payment.

The audit, completed last July, examined Job Clubs in Dublin, mid-Leinster and in the South. It found some of the training and workshops were being delivered by instructors who were participants on Tús training and JobBridge programmes.

JobBridge is an internship scheme offered to unemployed people and Tús is a community employment scheme for unemployed people. Participants in both schemes receive a top-up on their social welfare payment similar to that paid to Job Club participants.

Auditors found on some Job Club schemes, JobBridge interns were delivering part of the workshops on their own. The job descriptions provided to the audit team said the roles of the JobBridge interns covered the entire duties of a Job Club leader and assistant, the two senior grades of staff working at Job Clubs.

They also found one private operator fell well below the minimum standard required for the scheme, but had still been allowed to continue to run clubs.

The report raised concerns that a lack of over sight of the clubs could lead to contracts being renewed where the minimum standard was not being met. It also had data protection concerns and noted inconsistencies in the awarding of the €20 allowance.

In a statement issued to The Irish Times, the Department of Social Protection said JobBridge had been very successful in providing work experience for participants to break the cycle of unemployment.

Independent evaluation showed “three in five participants secure employment after completing their internships”, the statement said.

It also said JobBridge was subject to strict control measures to ensure the internship did not displace an existing position and appropriate training and development was provided, with suitable mentoring and support.

“In practice, internships are, and can be offered, across all job types from basic entry level roles through to roles with greater responsibilities”.

It said the department would examine and respond as appropriate to the internal audit report.

Irish beef farmers eye stake in lucrative US market


Standing inside one of the sheds that are the winter homes for his 550-strong herd of Limousins and Belgian Blues, Robin Talbot recounts the cows daily routine with an almost paternal fondness. Among other things, his livestock and their autumn-born calves have a fresh bed every day and their diet is prepared with the help of a nutritionist.

“Everything they eat is grown on my farm,” he says, pointing to a group of about 50 heifers due to be slaughtered in a few weeks’ time. “I am pretty sure 90 per cent of them will meet the top market specifications.”

Mr Talbot, one of Ireland’s leading cattle farmers, produces prime beef steak for the domestic and European markets from his 600-acre farm outside the village of Ballacolla, the heartland of grazing country amid the flat fields of County Laois in Ireland’s midlands.

But the lucrative market in the US, the largest consumers of beef in the world, has been denied him — until now.

Following an deal agreed recently between Washington and Dublin, he and his fellow Irish beef farmers are gearing up to sell their product to the US for the first time since a 15-year ban was imposed on European beef in the wake of the “mad cow disease” outbreak in the 1990s.

As Europe’s biggest beef exporter — overseas sales of Irish beef in 2014 were worth €2.3bn, accounting for about a fifth of all Irish food and drink exports — the reopening of the US market offers a potential lifeline to farmers such as Mr Talbot at a tough time for the industry.

With prices at home and in Europe at a low, and with beef producers in seemingly perennial dispute with the meat processing industry, the higher prices that beef in the US can fetch — up to €1 a kilogramme extra by some estimates — could turn the battle for mere survival into something approaching a decent profit.

“It can be a game-changer, but it depends on how we respond,” says Mr Talbot. “There is high potential in it, but there is a lot of work to be done.”

Mr Talbot’s caution tempers some of the excitement with which the announcement of Ireland’s return to the US beef market was greeted locally.

Although the US market is vast — its consumers eat an estimated 11m tonnes of beef each year, of which just 10 per cent is imported from the likes of Mexico and Australia — cracking it will be tough for a small country such as Ireland.

The danger of putting too much faith in the fickle US consumer was captured in a recent cartoon in the Irish Farmers Journal, the industry bible. It depicted a conversation between an Irish farmer — sporting a Stetson, cowboy boots and spurs, a horse tethered nearby — and his sceptical wife, who asked: “Aren’t you going a bit far with this beef news from the USA?”

Jer Bergin, national treasurer of the Irish Farmers’ Association, also counsels caution. “There is a little bit of irrational exuberance about the US market,” he says.

But he agrees that Irish beef has a potentially unique selling point — the cattle are grazed on family farms set amid the lush green pastures of rural Ireland, a country with which the US has close emotional links.

This is in many ways a simplified view of Irish beef farming — many Irish cattle eat food supplements too, because grass alone is not always enough to “finish” them for food. But Irish food exporters have a template — the success of Kerrygold, the butter brand masterminded by business tycoon Tony O’Reilly. Kerrygold is the number one imported butter brand in the US, according to Bord Bia, the Irish food board.

However, unlike the dairy industry, relatively homogenous and which was for many years backed by the state, the Irish beef industry is private and disparate.

So without a co-ordinated approach by independent producers, cracking the US market will be a significant challenge. Indeed, before the US ban, Europe exported just 1,500 tonnes of beef there.

Still, if grass-reared beef is becoming increasingly popular in the US, as evidence suggests, Irish farmers would be in a prime position to capitalise. Mr Talbot believes it is a market where farmers such as him can succeed. “We have a story worth selling,” he says.

See the spaceX falcon 9 rocket crash land at sea

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Give it up for ambition. After an initial delay, Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket on a resupply mission to the International Space Station last week. In 2015, there’s nothing all that ambitious about an unmanned rocket launch. What was ambitious was what came afterwards—or what was supposed to come afterwards.

SpaceX intends to cut the cost of launching people and products into space in half. The company hopes to accomplish this by building stage-one rockets that are designed to not only survive reentry, but will land upright. If SpaceX can pull that trick off, then the rockets can be easily captured and rapidly reused, thus taking much of the cost out of space travel.

Last week’s mission was supposed to see the rocket land upright onto an unanchored floating barge (aka “drone spaceport ship”) in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. This is no easy feat. SpaceX itself only pegged mission success at 50 percent (though Musk later said that hepulled those numbers out of the air). But let’s just agree that it’s a really hard engineering barrier to overcome.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work this time. The rocket did manage to land on the barge, but it couldn’t make the landing and exploded on impact. As Elon Musk tweeted shortly thereafter “Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho.”

Musk then went on to tweet “Didn’t get good landing/impact video. Pitch dark and foggy. Will piece it together from telemetry and … actual pieces.” But some new footage must have been found, because SpaceX just tweeted the following Vine footage taken at the point of impact explosion:

Yesterday, Musk himself tweeted out a number of spectacular stills from the crash: