Tag Archives: Madeline McCann

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 5th October 2014

Internet Woman who targeted Madeleine McCann’s parents found dead in hotel room


The woman who was this week exposed as one of the trolls accused of targeting Madeleine McCann’s parents on the internet has been found dead in a Leicestershire hotel, it has been reported.

Brenda Leyland (63) was accused of posting online hate messages aimed at the McCanns.

Madeleine McCann disappeared during a family holiday to Portugal in 2007.

The Daily Mail has reported that Leicestershire Police were called to a hotel in Smith Way, Grove Park in Enderby, Leicester today.

A police spokeswoman said the death was not being treated as suspicious.

Earlier this week, Sky News revealed that Mrs Leyland posted dozens of messages attacking the family using the Twitter handle @sweepyface.

It was reported a day later that Mrs Leyland had fled her Leicestershire home.

When asked why she was using her Twitter account to attack the McCanns, who live with their nine-year-old twins, in Rothley, Leicestershire, Mrs Leyland said: ‘I’m entitled to do that.’

A dossier of online abuse directed at the parents of missing girl Madeleine McCann is being examined by police.

Members of the public have handed a file stretching to more than 80 pages of Tweets, Facebook posts and forum messages aimed at Kate and Gerry McCann to Scotland Yard, according to Sky News.

20% of  Irish households insist they will not pay their water bills


Research says 270,000 unlikely to pay charges

As billing for water services commenced last week, Irish Water is severely limited in its options to force people to pay.

UP to 20% of households are unlikely to pay their water charges, research carried out by Irish Water has found.

The survey suggests as many as 270,000 eligible households are unlikely to pay the controversial charges when bills land next January.

This would leave the Government, which has said it will not cut off the water of those who don’t pay, in a nightmare scenario as their options to force people to pay are extremely limited.

The most common reason given for not paying was because respondents disagreed “in principle” with water charges, followed by affordability issues, poor water quality, a belief they were already paying for water, and water wastage through leaking pipes.

As billing for water services commenced last week, Irish Water is severely limited in its options to force people to pay.

Unlike other utilities such as Electric Ireland or Bord Gais, Irish Water will not have the power to cut off the supply to any home. The most it can do is restrict the supply to a “trickle”. It has emerged that there is no legal minimum flow that Irish Water must continue to supply to homes even in a restriction scenario, as where a house is located on a certain supply pipe would impact on the water pressure.

It was reported that it will only be possible to restrict supply to homes with individual water lines off the main network. This raises the scenario that apartment owners or homes on a shared supply, even if they refuse to pay, are unlikely to ever see their supply restricted.

Irish Water is adamant that moving to a restriction of supply is a “last resort” and that it would hope that the incentive of the allowances will be sufficient to encourage as great a level of compliance as possible.

A couple with two children who would pay €278 under the assessed charge system will be charged €630 a year if they do not sign up when metering charges begin next July. This is because those who fail to provide details will lose their free allowances and will be asked to pay the full cost of drinking and waste water services.

However, anti-water charges groups have been stepping up their calls for the public to defy Irish Water and not pay.

Socialist TD Ruth Coppinger, speaking in the Dail last week, called on the public not to pay the water charges, in a bid to get enough people to refuse to comply as to make the system unworkable.

An Irish Water spokeswoman said that like other utility companies, Irish Water would be able to bring those who refuse to engage with them to court, but accepted that it was only for debt recovery. She said they would seek to find workable solutions for those people struggling to pay, but Irish Water must try and protect those customers who play by the rules.

“Of course, for those who are finding it difficult to meet the bills, we will ask them to engage with us to find a solution that works for everyone. But, for those who won’t pay, we have a range of options to try to ensure compliance. But we have to ensure we protect those customers who pay on time,” said the Irish Water spokeswoman.

Irish Water said last week that landlords would not be held liable for arrears of water charges built up by their tenants. The utility firm said landlords would be sent application packs for their rental properties, which they must forward to the tenants.

In the case of an owner-occupier, the full allowances in relation to water usage are allocated in the normal way and the occupier is liable for the bill.

A spokeswoman explained that if the property was unoccupied, the landlord could claim unoccupied-dwelling status and pay a set charge. The level of this is still under consideration by the regulator. In this case the landlord is liable for the charge. However, in the case of a rented property, Irish Water said: “The tenant is liable for the charge and is also eligible for the allowances, as the property is the principal primary residence of that household.”

Yesterday it emerged that those refusing to register with Irish Water by the end of the month will be hit with bills that are likely to be twice as much as they would pay if they provided the information. There has been a fall in numbers saying they would not pay. In 2012, a similar survey found 30pc were unlikely to pay. Earlier this summer, it emerged that Irish Water had identified political interference and customers not paying as the two biggest threats to its viability.

History of charges

Water charges have haunted the political ‘to-do’ list since domestic rates were abolished in 1977. In the 1990s, an attempt was made to introduce water charges.

This failed after widespread public protest. Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins, then chairman of the Dublin Anti Water Charges Campaign, forced the abolition of water charges in Dublin in 1996.

The same year then Environment Minister Brendan Howlin announced the water charge was going to be replaced by a new system whereby the road tax collected in each area would be the source for council funding

Slow broadband is ‘killing the progress of Irish businesses’


A Portarlington businessman has claimed that slow broadbandspeed is “killing businesses” in the town.

David Maher, an eCommerce businessman based in Port, said that the slow broadband speed has dissuaded new businesses from moving to the area.

“Eircom has declared Portarlington to be fibre enabled since May 2014 and can now offer 100Mbps to users who are lucky enough to get it. Yet in reality less than half of customers in the town can avail of the service and Eircom in their wisdom have excluded the two official industrial estates in the town – Botley Lane on the Offaly side and Canal Road in Laois – from getting fibre optic,” he said.

“This is simply a disaster in terms of getting businesses to move into Portarlington. Why Eircom have decided that businesses should be excluded from access to high speed broadband is hard to understand.”

The future does not seem to offer much in the way of hope as Eircom’s website indicates that it may not upgrade the rest of the town before the end of 2016. Many businesses are forced to use wireless solutions to get the speeds they need.

“We are in the process of expanding our online eCommerce businesses and we have just moved to our new building eCom Park in Portarlington. We hope to be able to use the new facility to create a technology hub in Portarlington to allow web based business, especially start ups, to get established and thrive. Online is the way of the future and locating in a town like Portarlington gives huge cost advantages,” he said.

Waiting on a trolley in a Irish hospital linked to 30% increase in mortality,


The consultants’ association has claimed that patients are dying unnecessarily

The Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association has claimed that patients are dying unnecessarily because of having to wait on a trolley in emergency departments.

At the association’s annual conference in Cork, its President Dr Gerard Crotty said many acute hospital departments are in crisis.

Dr Crotty said waiting on a trolley is linked to a 30% increase in mortality, according to studies.

Speaking at the conference in Cork, Dr Crotty said the health service was in intensive care, after suffering the cumulative effects of six years of cuts, the most severe in history.

He said crude frontline budget cuts were having disastrous effects on patients.

Many acute hospital departments were in crisis, or on the brink of collapsing, because consultants who have left cannot be replaced, he said.

In contrast, he said the State was paying €1m a day using agency staff, mainly because of a shortage of non-consultant hospital doctors and consultants.

Dr Crotty said there was an opportunity to start the process of restoring trust with the appointment of new leadership in the Department of Health.

Newly-appointed Department of Health Secretary General Jim Breslin told the conference that even if the health budget discussions for 2015 are successful, funding cannot meet all the priorities advanced by people.

Mr Breslin said that co-operation with change should be part of normal business for health staff, rather than being dependent on extra pay.

Meanwhile, the IHCA has confirmed that a number of consultants are to take High Court action against the State alleging breach of contract in not applying a pay increase in June 2009.

The association’s secretary general, Martin Varley, said he could not quantify the sum of money involved due to the various types of contracts and other factors.

Reducing Antarctic ice messing up the Earth’s gravity

  • Blame linked to climate change


The Earth’s gravity is messing up and global warming appears to be responsible. The warming climate has caused massive ice loss in West Antarctica in recent years and this phenomenon has caused the Earth’s gravity to be weaker there.

The findings were based on measurements made by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite, which was developed to map the Earth’s gravitation field, and data from the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission, a collaboration between the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the German Aerospace Center which aims to provide accurate mapping of variations in the gravity field of the Earth.

Changes in the earth’s mass cause the gravity to fluctuate in small ways but with the large scale melting of the ice sheets in West Antarctica between 2009 and 2012, the loss was large enough to result in changes in the Earth gravitational force pulling over the region, ESA revealed.

“Although not designed to map changes in Earth’s gravity over time, ESA’s extraordinary satellite has shown that the ice lost from West Antarctica over the last few years has left its signature,” ESA said in a statement.

By combining data from GOCE and GRACE, scientists learned that West Antarctica lose about 209 billion metric tons of ice from year 2009 to 2012, which could be largely blamed on the retreating glaciers. During this period, Pine Island Glacier shed 67 billion metric tons of ice annually. Thwaites Glacier and Getz Ice Shelf, on the other hand, lost 67 billion metric tons and 55 billion metric tons of ice respectively each year.

“Scientists can now look at changes in ice mass in small glacial systems,” ESA said. “They have found that the loss of ice from West Antarctica between 2009 and 2012 caused a dip in the gravity field over the region.”

GOCE has already provided several observations in the past that showed how gravity on Earth changes overtime. The satellite, for instance, has revealed that the earthquake that struck Japan in 2011 has left a mark in the gravity of the planet.

Besides messing with the Earth’s gravity, a number of extreme and unwanted phenomena that took place in recent years including the loss habitats, the declining population of wildlife and extreme weather events such as heat waves and storms are also largely attributed to climate change.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 6th May 2014

Irish Taxes forcing our young to leave the country in droves Says Minister Hayes


Brian Hayes wants a move on tax in the October budget. 

Ireland’s higher rate of income tax is a major factor in the exodus of our young professionals, according to Junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes.

Mr Hayes has become the latest Fine Gael minister to demand a consecutive cut in the income tax in the next two budgets.

Confirmation that the coalition favours tax cuts over wage increases has proved a thorny issue in recent weeks, particularly among union leaders.

SIPTU president Jack O’Connor said last month that the “key to intensifying the momentum in the economy must be pay increases”.

CAUTIOUS approach, 

His remarks are at odds with those expressed by a number of government ministers who are very cautious about even discussing the prospect of wage increases.

Mr Hayes, who is Fine Gael’s European candidate in Dublin, said he believed tax measures in October’s budget must benefit those who pay the higher rate of income tax.

“Our current rate of tax is a huge disincentive for people to stay in Ireland and work and is encouraging a brain drain of young professionals,” Mr Hayes said.

“We need to keep our best and brightest here in Ireland making a contribution to their own country – not Australia, not Canada, not the US. Our very high tax rates on very modest incomes must be reversed. Young workers deserve a break.”

Government sources insist that Finance Minister Michael Noonan will examine how to “ease the burden” on middle income earners, particularly those with children.

Sources insist that changes to the Universal Social Charge (USC) are also on the table ahead of the budget.

But Mr Hayes said yesterday that while he favours changes to USC, the immediate focus must be on income tax.

His comments come just days after Mr Noonan clearly signalled that he is preparing to raise the band at which workers pay the higher rate of income tax.

At present, workers pay a marginal rate of 52pc on every euro earned above €32,800.

Mr Hayes, a Dublin-South West TD, said this represents a factor in the flow of young people who are being lost to emigration.

He said: “Trade union officials and other economic commentators have been calling for an economic stimulus. The best and fairest economic stimulus of all is a tax cut.”

Irish Central Bank insists people are switching bank accounts to escape fees

However, new figures show just one in 10 switching bank despite hike in charges


The Central Bank has insisted that more people are switching bank accounts in a bid to escape higher fees and bad service.

But the regulator also admitted this morning that despite a rise in the numbers moving accounts, the switching figures are still low.

Fewer than 11,000 people switched bank account in the second half of last year, using the Central Bank’s switcher code.

This is out of a total of 5.4 million current accounts. In percentage terms, less than 0.2pc of accounts were switched in the second six months of last year.

In the first half of last year 4,241 consumers moved bank.

This is despite higher fees and charges being imposed by the main banks and the decision of ACC and Danske Bank to pull out of retail banking here.

Director of Consumer Protection, Bernard Sheridan, said: “These new figures show that, while low, an increasing number of consumers are availing of the Central Bank’s Switching Code to manage the changeover when switching current accounts.

“Factors which appear to be influencing the choices that consumers are making include: changing fees and charges; service issues; and announcements regarding the withdrawal of current account providers from the market.”

The code is supposed to make it easier for consumers to move banks, and demands that the switch is completed within 10 days.

A total of 373 suspected abuse cases at Irish homes


Hiqa said it received 5,362 alerts of potentially harmful events in care homes. A total of 373 reports were made last year of alleged, suspected or confirmed abuse of older people in care homes.

The Watchdog Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) said it received 5,362 alerts of potentially harmful events in care homes up and down the country during 2013.

Among them were 4,246 reports of serious injury to a resident.

But the most concerning figure involved the 373 instances of reported abuse in 195 out of the 566 care homes in either the state or private sector.

Phelim Quinn, Hiqa’s director of regulation and chief inspector of social services, said despite the high figures, safety and quality standards are improving.

But he warned: “It is clear from this report that there are areas where further improvement is required and we will focus on these areas as part of our continued regulatory activities.”

The Hiqa report is the first annual overview on the regulation of nursing homes since the rules were introduced more than four years ago.

Its report said inspectors carried out 814 checks of 565 residential centres for older people in 2013.

It recorded 293 notifications of outbreaks of infectious disease; 171 reports of unexplained absence from a home; and 95 reports of alleged misconduct by the care provider or a member of staff.

On abuse, Hiqa said its inspectors identified 303 actions needed to ensure homes complied with rules to prevent issues over residents’ finances in 174 of the centres.

Hiqa said it received unsolicited information 355 times relating to 213 centres last year, most of which came from concerned relatives of residents. Others came from staff in the care homes, health professionals visiting the homes to work and residents themselves.

Most of the information being relayed to inspectors centred on the quality and safety of care, staffing issues and other complaints associated with fees, discharge decisions and contracts of care.

Age Action said it was concerned about the high level of serious injuries reported by nursing homes and the notifications of abuse, which care homes are bound by law to report.

“The report not only highlights the great need which exists for an independent inspection authority, but also the need for nursing home management to improve their service when it comes to issues of health and safety and risk management,” spokesman Eamon Timmins said.

“This must involve training, supervision and strict adherence to the existing procedures and protocols.”

Issues were also identified with medicines in 325 care homes with changes required on the ordering, prescribing, storing and administering of drugs to residents and the handling and disposing of unused or out-of-date medicines.

Inspectors also looked at issues relating to food and found that more than half of the homes reviewed – 30 out of the 52 chosen for this area – were fully compliant in relation to food and nutrition.

It said there were only seven findings of moderate non-compliances and 15 minor non-compliances, such as a lack of choice or issues over staffing levels at meal times or small dining rooms.

Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) said that of the 565 registered care centres and homes, one was forced to close last year.

“NHI recognises the critical role of Hiqa in supporting care provision and will continue to be proactive in engagement with the authority to continually drive improvements in care delivery for older persons in residential care,” the organisation said.

UK search police teams excavating sites in Portugal for Madeline McCann


Search teams are expected to start excavating a number of sites in Portugal as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

Portuguese authorities are understood to have given permission for the search of several sites in Praia da Luz, where Madeleine went missing in 2007, aged just three.

The move comes just after the seventh anniversary of her disappearance on May 3 2007, part-way through a family holiday.

The request to search a number of sites is thought to be among a series of requests made by British detectives in connection with the search for Madeleine.

The excavations, which are expected to be conducted by forensic experts, are not thought to necessarily be in connection with a search for the youngster’s body or remains.

Detectives from Scotland Yard are expected to be in Portugal for the searches, but it is not thought that Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry will return to Praia da Luz.

Scotland Yard have refused to comment on reports about the latest development in the investigation.

The McCanns’ spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: “As always, we simply will not comment on operational details of Operation Grange, that is a matter for the Met Police.

“Kate and Gerry are being kept fully informed throughout.”

At the weekend, Mr and Mrs McCann thanked the public for their unstinting support at a prayer service on the seventh anniversary of her disappearance.

The couple were joined by around 100 well-wishers, friends and relatives for a low-key open-air service in the centre of Rothley, Leicestershire, which saw candles being lit for all children around the world who have been taken away from their parents against their will.

Mr McCann expressed his family’s gratitude that the Metropolitan Police team investigating Madeleine’s disappearance was now moving on to a “very active” phase in their investigation, saying: “They are chipping away and obviously there is new evidence so we are going to continue to hope that we will get a happy outcome.”

Earlier, Mrs McCann disclosed that she privately returns to the Portuguese resort where her daughter disappeared to “walk those streets” and “look for answers”, as she backed a revamped alert system triggered when missing children are kidnapped or their lives are at risk – known as Child Rescue Alerts.

Gut bacteria research could help regulate peoples weight and cholesterol


Breakthrough research in the role gut bacteria have in regulating weight gain and cholesterol could lead to the design of probiotics for the control of obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

That is according to researchers at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre in University College Cork whose findings are published this week in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

Dr Cormac Gahan, who together with Dr Susan Joyce, is leading the UCC team, said they had analysed a protein commonly made by gut bacteria that breaks down bile acids (chemicals produced in the liver) — and found that specifically increasing levels of this protein reduces cholesterol and weight gain in mice.

“We reasoned that in the gastrointestinal tract that if bacteria influence bile acids, they might have an influence on the host’s [mouse] weight gain and metabolism,” Dr Gahan.

“So we went about looking at it experimentally and we basically showed if bacteria can break down bile acids then it influences weight gain in mice,” Dr Gahan said.

However, even though they had shown that a specific mechanism exists by which bacteria in the gut can influence the host’s metabolism, Dr Gahan said they now needed to determine if the same mechanism existed in humans before embarking on the development of probiotics to target this mechanism to regulate weight gain or high cholesterol. Their research meant that they “now have the potential for matching probiotic strains with specific end-user needs”, Dr Joyce said. “Work is under way to determine how this system operates in humans,” she added.

Researchers in China have also looked at what impact gut bacteria have on people’s weight.

Their research has led them to believe that changing the type of bacteria found in the gut may be more effective at helping people to shed weight than cutting calories alone.

Incredible shrinking process helped the dinosaur’s survival

 A depiction of dinosaur body size evolution and shape over 170 million years

A depiction of dinosaur body size evolution and shape over 170 million years

One of evolution’s greatest success stories is that of the Incredible Shrinking Dinosaur, scientists have revealed.

The reptiles that ruled the world for almost 200 million years never went away. At least some of them just got smaller and turned into birds.

Now researchers have shown that shrinking was key to survival for this group, which became one of the most diverse and abundant families of animals alive today.

Only those dinosaurs destined to be birds broke the lower body weight limit of one kilogram seen in their relatives.

Lead scientist Dr Roger Benson, from the Department of Earth Sciences atOxford University, said: “Dinosaurs aren’t extinct; there are about 10,000 species alive today in the form of birds. We wanted to understand the evolutionary links between this exceptional living group, and their Mesozoic relatives, including well-known extinct species like T rex, Triceratops, and Stegosaurus.

“We found exceptional body mass variation in the dinosaur line leading to birds, especially in the feathered dinosaurs called maniraptorans. These include Jurassic Park’s Velociraptor, birds, and a huge range of other forms, weighing anything from 15 grams to three tonnes, and eating meat, plants, and more omnivorous diets.”

Small body size may have been a vital difference that helped the ancestors of modern birds remain on Earth after other dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago, say the researchers.

A huge asteroid impact off the coast of Mexico is generally thought to have brought the dinosaurs’ long reign to an end. However, many experts believe dinosaurs were already in decline when the meteor delivered the coup de grace that finished them off.

Together with Canadian colleagues from the Royal Ontario Museum, Dr Benson’s team estimated the body mass of 426 dinosaur species by measuring the thickness of their leg bones.

The scientists found that dinosaurs underwent rapid changes in body size shortly after they first appeared around 220 million years ago.

Thereafter only the evolutionary line leading to birds continued to change size at such a fast rate, and did so for a further 170 million years.

The study, published in the online journal Public Library of Science Biology, revealed that dinosaurs ranged in size from the 90 tonne Argentinosaurus – the largest creature ever to walk on land – to the bird-like Qiliania, which weighed 15 grams and was the size of a sparrow.

The team worked on the basis that if members of a family of related animals are similar in size, their evolution is likely to have been slow. On the other hand having close relatives that are very different in size implies fast rate of evolution.

“What we found was striking,” said co-author Dr David Evans, from the Royal Ontario Museum. “Dinosaur body size evolved very rapidly in early forms, likely associated with the invasion of new ecological niches. In general, rates slowed down as these lineages continued to diversify.

“But it’s the sustained high rates of evolution in the feathered maniraptoran dinosaur lineage that led to birds – the second great evolutionary radiation of dinosaurs.”

The bird ancestors kept experimenting with different and often radically smaller body sizes, allowing them to adopt new designs and adaptations more quickly than larger dinosaurs.

Other dinosaur groups became locked into narrow ecological niches from which they could not escape, say the researchers. This may have ultimately contributed to their extinction.

Commenting on the findings in the journal, doctors Daniel Moen and Helene Morlon from the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, France, wrote: “What explains why some groups of organisms, like birds, are so species rich? And what explains their extraordinary ecological diversity, ranging from large, flightless birds, to small migratory species that fly thousands of kilometers every year?

“(Benson and colleagues) find that body-size evolution did not slow down in the lineage leading to birds, hinting at why birds survived to the present day and diversified. This paper represents one of the most convincing attempts at understanding deep time adaptive radiations.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 4th July 2013

ECB Bank to regulate AIB and Bank of Ireland directly


Minister Michael Noonan says there is no evidence’ to suggest Irish banks will need more capital.

AIB and Bank of Ireland and at least one more systemically important institution operating here will be regulated directly by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt when the new European banking supervisory regime comes into force, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told the Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform yesterday.

Mr Noonan also reiterated that the Irish banks are well capitalised and said there was no evidence that they would need additional funds from the State when a new set of stress tests is completed next year.

When asked by Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty to identify which Irish banks would be directly regulated by Frankfurt, Mr Noonan said “AIB and Bank of Ireland will be two. We could have a number of bids on the table for the third.”

He said the third institution could be Ulster Bank, in spite of the fact that it is owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, which is regulated in the UK. It will come down to which banks are considered “systemically important”, he added.

Mr Noonan said the Central Bank of Ireland and the ECB would decide which Irish banks are directly regulated under the regime.

The banking union will see the introduction of a single supervisor in Europe, the ECB. It will take over responsibility for all major or systemically important banks from national regulators from mid-2014. This will involve a minimum of three institutions per country, Mr Noonan said.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath asked the Minister what impact direct supervision from Frankfurt would have on the activities of the Central Bank here.

Mr Noonan said the ECB could choose to fly people in to Dublin for supervisory purposes or it might use a group of people based locally. “I’m not sure how the logistics will work.”

He also suggested the ECB might delegate certain functions to national regulators, while retaining its right to override the domestic supervisor and “take control” of a situation. Those banks in Ireland not directly regulated from Frankfurt will continue to supervised by the Central Bank, he added.

On the issue of the Irish banks needing more capital, Mr Noonan said: “There is no evidence whatsoever that any of the Irish banks will need extra capital next year. They are very well capitalised. I have no evidence [to the contrary] at this point in time either.”

He was involved in a testy exchange with Mr Doherty, lasting a few minutes, on what mechanism would be used to provide extra capital to the Irish banks if it was required following the stress tests next year.

“You are trying to construct a theory on a fake premise,” Mr Noonan said.

Mr Noonan confirmed that the budget would be brought forward from its usual slot in early December to October 15th under new European rules.

The Finance Bill will be published before Christmas, he added.

Senators vote to scrap itself the Seanad


Plans to hold referendum pass by 29 to 22

The Seanad has this evening voted to scrap itself. Senators approved plans to proceed with a referendum on Seanad abolition by 29 to 22.

The move means it is now virtually certain that Ireland will hold a referendum on scrapping the Seanad in early October.

The last time the Seanad voted against a government Bill Eamon de Valera was Taoiseach so it is not surprising that the Seanad did not block plans to hold a referendum on scrapping itself.

However a slew of Fine Gael Senators had spoken out against abolishing the Upper House of the Oireachtas. They held fire this evening and decided not to oppose the plans until the referendum campaign itself.

The Seanad is now likely to sign off on the plans next week with a referendum in early October.

Speaking last week, former Presidential candidate Senator David Norris launched a scathing attack on those trying to abolish the institution.

New leads spark Met formal inquiry into Madeleine McCann now missing for 7 years


Madeleine was almost four years old when she disappeared, she would now be 11 years old.

Scotland Yard says it has “new evidence and new witnesses” in the Madeleine McCann case and has opened a formal investigation into her disappearance.

The Met Police said it still believed there was a chance Madeleine was alive and it was investigating 38 “persons of interest” after reviewing the evidence.

Madeleine’s parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, said the shift from review to investigation was “a big step forward”.

Madeleine was almost four when she disappeared in Portugal in May 2007.

She went missing from her family’s holiday flat in the Algarve resort of Praia da Luz, as her parents dined out with friends at a nearby restaurant.

Portuguese authorities dropped their investigation into her disappearance in 2008, but Scotland Yard started a review in May 2011, after Prime Minister David Cameron had responded to a plea from the McCanns, of Rothley, Leicestershire.

New theories

Det Ch Insp Andy Redwood, who is heading what has been called Operation Grange, said: “The review has given us new thinking, new theories, new evidence and new witnesses.”

A team of Scotland Yard’s best detectives, assisted by police overseas, in an inquiry paid for by the Home Office, offers the best opportunity to find out what happened to Madeleine McCann. It may also be the last chance to do so.

Although the Yard cannot put right mistakes made during the initial inquiry, when the Portuguese were accused of failing to seal off the area where Madeleine had been staying and gather all available forensic evidence, the new team has had access to all the files.

That has enabled detectives with no prior involvement to look at the case objectively and form fresh views about what may have happened to Madeleine. There is a real determination among officers to solve the mystery – and a quiet optimism that it may be possible.

His 37-strong police team is two-thirds of the way through examining 30,500 documents from files held by the Portuguese, private investigators and British police. Some fresh interviews have also taken place.

“Over the last two years what the review has told me is that there is no clear, definitive proof that Madeleine McCann is dead,” Det Ch Insp Redwood said.

“So on that basis, I still genuinely believe that there is a possibility that she is alive.”

He added: “It is a positive step in our hunt for Madeleine that our understanding of the evidence has enabled us to shift from review to investigation.”

Scotland Yard’s decision to formally open its own investigation – which, like the review, will be funded by the Home Office – follows extensive discussions with UK prosecutors and the Portuguese.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said: “It’s highly unusual – although not unprecedented – for a British police force to launch its own inquiry into an incident abroad.”

In a statement, the McCanns said: “Kate and Gerry warmly welcome the shift in the Met’s emphasis from review to investigation.

“It is clearly a big step forward in establishing what happened and, hopefully, towards bringing whoever is responsible for Madeleine’s abduction to justice.”

The Met said the 38 “persons of interest,” who include 12 British nationals, are from five European countries – Portugal, the UK and three unnamed others.

Detectives say they need to find out more information and collect evidence on them and are not anticipating any immediate arrests.

The 12 UK nationals, who are not all currently in the UK, are believed to have been in Portugal at the time of Madeleine’s disappearance.

Portuguese assistance

The Met said it was “at an advanced stage of dialogue” with the other countries involved, and enquiries would be continuing with their assistance in the months ahead “to establish more information about the individuals concerned and any potential involvement”.

A foreign national resident abroad could not be prosecuted in the UK for any possible crime that may be linked to Madeleine’s disappearance.

Detectives say Madeleine’s parents, the friends the McCanns were with in Portugal and people known to the family before they went away are not suspects or people they need to investigate.

The investigation is currently closed in Portugal and as part of the country’s criminal justice system it cannot be reopened unless judges are convinced there are solid grounds to do so.

British police have formally asked the Crown Prosecution Service to submit an international letter of request to Portuguese authorities for assistance in obtaining evidence relating to their inquiries.

The Met has asked for a small number of its officers to be present in Portugal for the inquiries there.

As part of the review, a computer-generated image of how Madeleine might have looked at the age of nine was created with the help of her family. They marked her 10th birthday on 12 May.

By May 2012 – one year into the review – the Home Office’s costs had reached £1.9m. The Met Police said a more up-to-date figure for the cost of the review would be released in due course.

The former head of the National Police Improvement Agency Peter Neyroud said it was a difficult investigation because it involved two countries, possibly more.

“It was always going to be an expensive inquiry and it is a fine judgement as to how far you go on but if, as appears, there are fresh lines of inquiry and a case worth pursuing, there is a young lady out there who deserves to be reunited with her parents – or a murder case that deserves to be pursued.”

Pregnancy screening test developed in Ireland


Irish scientists have developed a screening test which could detect life-threatening pre-eclampsia in the early stages of pregnancy.

Pre-eclampsia causes high blood pressure in expectant mothers and is thought to affect 3pc of first-time mums.

At present, there is no effective test for the condition.

Therefore, medics are unable to offer preventative treatments.

However, scientists in Cork have developed a screening test which they believe could detect the condition at the 15th week of pregnancy.

If the test is found to be successful, it could be available to all mums-to-be in less than three years. Clinical trials are currently underway and should finish by 2016.

The project – Improved Pregnancy Outcomes by Early Detection – has received €6m in EU funding and began in November 2012.

Project leader Professor Louis Kenny, UCC Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said it took the college a total of 12 years to develop the test.

Some 5,000 first-time mothers from across the EU will now be involved in the clinical trials, including 1,000 from Munster.

Take it outside you parents to stay fit while playing like a child again


It’s well known that fitness and exercise are important to overall health. Exercise boosts your metabolism to burn fat, promotes a strong immune system, and releases harmful toxins from the body through sweat.

Hard sweating through fitness is beneficial for your health as well as cardio exercises to get the blood flowing and the heart pumping. You can control blood sugar, high cholesterol, sleep disorders, and even stress, all with the implementation of an exercise routine.

Does this mean another trip to the gym? Not this time!

When the weather permits, who wants to stay indoors when there is so much you can do outdoors by going green with your fitness program?

When first starting out, why not try the good old back yard for some inspiration? Try doing some exercises that you would normally do indoors, such as push-ups, sit-ups, lunges and any other stationary routine, and try it out in the great outdoors. The fresh air can add a huge boost to your workout!

If you are looking for more fun than the backyard, you can head down to your local playground as many parks and playgrounds have equipment satisfactory for physical activities, with a little imagination. Pump on the swings, workout the abs on the slides, climb across the monkey bars and other equipment. Find your inner-child, while promoting some healthy fitness activity. This could be your chance to have some fun on the playground, while also giving yourself a good light-hearted workout.

Walking is always one of the best forms of exercise, and can be a little more effective when picking up the speed and adding a few weights to carry as well as on your ankles.

Jogging is also a passion for many people and a great choice for overall fitness while enjoying the outdoors. Make your walks and jogging more fun by changing your route often. Take a walk around your neighborhood, or explore some parts of your town that you have never seen before!

Another way to de-stress your life while being fit is to find a nearby trail and go hiking.  Paths that are steep can get the heart pumping for a beneficial cardio workout. Be sure to bring along plenty of water, sunscreen and insect repellents – and bring your dog as well.  Most outdoor activities can provide fun, fitness and a bonding moment for both of you.

Some other great activities for the great outdoors include leisurely bike rides, a couple of laps at the local pool, and skating or rollerblading – all of which offer a workout while strengthening and toning your muscles. Swimming benefits by working all muscles in your body for increased metabolism and strength without sweating.

If you are passionate about green living and outdoor fitness, check into local classes of outdoor yoga, Pilates or other fitness programs that may meet your needs.

Your fitness plans don’t have to go to the wayside just because the weather is not cooperating as there should always be a backup plan. Going green by enjoying the environment is one of the best options but when it is not feasible, provide your own at-home gym equipment with a treadmill or elliptical, both a great form of cardio workout, as well as adding weights and other equipment to complete your own fitness area in lieu of your greatest joy – going green to be healthy.

Your fruits and vegetables can tell day from Night and even get Jet Lag


You probably don’t feel much remorse when you bite into a raw carrot.

You might feel differently if you considered the fact that it’s still living the moment you put it into your mouth.

Of course, carrots—like all fruits and vegetables—don’t have consciousness or a central nervous system, so they can’t feel pain when we harvest, cook or eat them. But many species survive and continue metabolic activity even after they’re picked, and contrary to what you may believe, they’re often still alive when you take them home from the grocery store and stick them in the fridge.

The most recent evidence of this surprising phenomenon? A new paper, published today in Current Biology by researchers from Rice University and UC Davis, found that a range of harvested fruits and vegetables—including cabbage, lettuce, spinach, zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots and blueberries—behave differently on a cellular level depending on their exposure to light or darkness. In other words, these fresh produce have an internal “body clock,” or circadian rhythm, just like we do.

Previously, Rice biologist and lead author Danielle Goodspeed had found that some plants depend on light cycles and their internal circadian rhythm to fend off predatory insects, at least while still in the ground. In experiments, she had noticed that thale cress plants used reliable daily exposure to sunlight as a basis for anticipating the arrival of insects during the day, and were able to build up reserves of defensive chemicals beforehand, during the night.

In this new study, she and others sought to determine whether already harvested samples of plant species that we commonly eat demonstrate the same kind of circadian behavior. They started by looking at cabbage, a close relative of thale cress, subjecting samples to similar experiments employed to arrive at the previous finding.