Tag Archives: Moody’s

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 16th May 2016

Irish Water says households are still liable for bills to end of March

Utility states customers must pay outstanding balances despite suspension of charges

    

Householders are liable for water charges bills up to the end of March, Irish Water has said.

The statement follows inquiries by one customer who received a bill on May 10th.

Geraldine Hennessy said she was puzzled when she received a bill after the Government announced that water charges would be suspended for nine months.

When she rang up Irish Water to inquire as to whether or not she should pay her bill, she was told that they had received “no formal directive” from the Government on the subject.

Ms Hennessy, who lives in Donnybrook in Dublin, said she had paid all her water bills to date and was prepared to pay the latest one, which was €40 for the first quarter of 2016.

“I don’t have a problem paying for my water. It is an investment really to upgrade the system, but I don’t want to pay Irish Water €40 only to be told a week later that water rates are gone.

“I don’t see the logic of giving back money to people because, when they paid it, it was the law of the land.”

Suspension to end of March.

A spokeswoman for Irish Water said the Government announced the suspension of water charges with effect from the end of March 2016, but charges apply up to that time.

The spokeswoman said: “Irish Water is currently issuing bills to customers for services provided in January, February and March of this year. Billing will be completed in the first week in June.

“Irish Water customers remain liable for balances due on any bills issued for services provided up to the end of March 2016 and Irish Water continues to accept payment and to deal with any billing queries in relation to outstanding balances.”

Ireland’s cost of funding now less after Friday’s Moody’s upgrade

The yield on Ireland’s 10-year bonds dipped to below 0.8% following Moody’s upgrade of our sovereign

   

On Friday last, Moody’s upgraded Ireland back to an “A” grade, moving the sovereign by one notch to A3 from Baa1.

As a result Ireland’s cost of borrowing fell to its lowest level in over a month on Monday after the ratings upgrade from Moody’s at the end of last week.

Ireland’s 10-year yields fell below 0.77% for the first time since April 11th, down more than 3 basis points on the day.

On Friday, Moody’s upgraded Ireland back to an “A” grade, moving the sovereign by one notch to A3 from Baa1. However, rating agencies S&P and Fitch continue to rate Ireland higher, with S&P’s A+ and Fitch’s A rating two notches and one notch respectively above their Moody’s equivalent following the upgrade.

Philip O’Sullivan, an economist with Investec in Dublin, said on Monday that the move “bolsters the already positive case for Irish sovereign yields”.

“We expect to see Irish yields move further towards core Eurozone levels from here,” he said.

Cantor Fitzgerald’s head of fixed-income strategy in Ireland, Ryan McGrath, said he was “happy to have been proved wrong” with Moody’s surprise upgrade. He was among eight out of 11 economists and analysts polled by the Irish Times who predicted before the announcement on Friday that Moody’s would hold off upgrading Ireland amid concerns over the UK’s referendum next month over EU membership.

“The upgrade was long overdue, as it was almost two years since Moody’s last Irish sovereign upgrade,” said Mr Ryan, nothing that while the ratings firm has narrowed the gap with rivals, it still lags Standard & Poor’s, which rates Ireland A+, and Fitch, which has an A stance on the country.

While German 10-year bond yields flirted once more with record lows of just 0.05%, on Monday they were yielding about 0.12% and French 10-year bonds are yielding about 0.47%. Yields on Spanish, Italian and Portuguese 10-year bonds remain above 1%.

Irish Naval ship LÉ Róisín rescues 125 migrants in the Mediterranean

Irish naval vessel joined search and rescue operations in the region earlier this month

  

The Irish naval vessel LÉ Róisín rescued 125 migrants in an operation in the Mediterranean on Monday.

The ship rescued the 107 men and 18 women from a rubber craft about 40 nautical miles northeast of Tripoli, Libya, following a request from the Italian Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre.

A Defence Forces statement said the operation began at 10.47am and finished at 2.45pm.

The rescued migrants are currently receiving food, water and medical treatment.

The LÉ Róisín departed Haulbowline, Co Cork, on May 1st to join humanitarian search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean as part of a bilateral agreement with Italy.

The vessel is the fourth Naval Service patrol ship to engage in operations in the region since May of last year, following the LÉ Eithne, LÉ Niamh and LÉ Samuel Beckett.

It is one of three naval ships that will be sent this year on 12-week rotations.

Last year, some 8,592 migrants and refugees were rescued by Irish Naval Service vessels.

Many Mediterranean deaths?

More than 700 migrants and refugees have died already this year attempting to cross into Europe via the Mediterranean, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

This is a 50% increase on the same period last year.

New Government strategy aims to tackle Irish obesity levels

Irish Government wants to ensure its citizens does not become the fattest country in Europe

     

The Irish Government plans to target a 5% reduction in the average weight of Irish people over the next 10 years.

Irish people face a new round of belt-tightening with Government plans to target a 5% reduction in our average weight over the next decade.

Disadvantaged areas will be encouraged to shed the most as the plan aims to reduce the gap in obesity levels between the richest and poorest sections of society by 10%.

The national obesity strategy, expected before Cabinet soon, aims to ensure Ireland does not become the fattest country in Europe, as predicted in international studies.

Implementation of the “A Healthy Weight for Ireland” strategy was identified as a health priority in the programme for government.

A sustained loss of 0.5% a year in excess weight (averaged across all adults) is targeted in the first five years of the plan,

A similar target has been set for reducing excess weight in children.

These overall targets will be reviewed every two years to take account of evidence on the likely impact of specific interventions to reduce obesity.

The way to achieve these objectives are set out as “Ten Steps Forward” in the plan.

These envisage a sugar levy this year as well as a “whole school” approach to health.

New calorie content Legislation.

Legislation requiring food establishments to post the calorie content of their meals is also planned for this year.

Other priorities include agreements with the food industry on reducing fat, sugar and salt in their products, and a code of practice for food and drink marketing.

Groups who need most support will be prioritised with an emphasis on families and children in the first 1,000 days of life.

One in four children, and six in 10 adults, are obese or overweight.

The real reason why you need to use your mobile phone ‘Flight Mode’ on airplanes?

    

Each time we take a flight and are asked to switch our phones to ‘Flight Mode,’ we assume it’s because leaving it on normal mode would cause the plane to break in half and plunge us to our watery death below.

Well, that’s not the case at all?

According to indy100, the reason it’s important to switch off your phone signal is a lot more banal than we thought.

It could cause the pilot to get a headache.

An anonymous pilot told the question and answer site Quora: ‘You may have heard that unpleasant noise from an audio system, that occasionally happens when a mobile phone is nearby.

‘I actually hear such noise on the radio while flying. It is not safety critical, but is annoying for sure.’

You probably know the sound he’s talking about – next time you’re beside a radio, put your phone next to it and get someone to call you. You’ll hear a buzzing noise that only goes away when the phone stops ringing.

Now, imagine that at 10,000 feet in your headphones while you’re trying to get clearance for landing.

The Sharks’ electricity sensing organs are even more powerful than scientists realised

   

A great white shark swims near Guadalupe Island off the coast of Mexico.

The most powerful proton conductor in the natural world is a weird, jelly-like substance that lives inside a shark’s head.

That’s according to a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances, which found that the material that makes up electricity-sensing shark organs called the ampullae of Lorenzini is almost as conductive as some of the most high-tech materials made by man.

Ampullae of Lorenzini were discovered in sharks more than 300 years ago — the sensory organs get their weird name from the 17th-century Italian doctor who first identified them — but scientists didn’t begin to understand what they were for until the past few decades.

Now, it’s clear that the dense networks of jelly-filled canals in the heads of sharks, rays and other cartilaginous fish end in highly sensitive electroreceptors, capable of sensing electric signals from miles away. With every twitch of muscle and flick of a fin, animals in the ocean — including humans — emit a faint electric field, and the ampullae help sharks detect that motion as they swim in search of food.

It’s a pretty neat trick, but scientists still aren’t sure how sharks do it. So they’ve been dissecting the ampullae of Lorenzini — AoL for short — to try to figure out what’s going on.

Researcher Marco Rolandi zeroed in on the jelly that fills the long tubes connecting sharks’ electro-sensitive cells to pores on their skin. He found that it is the best biological material yet for conducting positively charged hydrogen atoms, which scientists call protons. This conductivity allows the electric charge to flow easily from one end of the tube to the other. Other known natural proton conductors, like a protein found in squid skin and the pigment melanin in humans, are not nearly as strong.

The AoL jelly’s conductivity was not that much lower than that of Nafion, a state-of-the-art synthetic material used in things like batteries and fuel cells. Understanding how the jelly works could help researchers who are trying to build better versions of those technologies.

“Given that Nafion is a very carefully prepared material that’s very precisely made, it was interesting to see the shark had replicated something very close to that material just by nature,” said co-author Erik Josberger, a PhD candidate in electrical engineering who worked in Rolandi’s lab at the University of Washington.

Rolandi, now an associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of California at Santa Cruz, said it’s not clear what role the AoL’s proton conductivity plays in sharks’ electric sensing. It’s possible that the conductivity somehow boosts or preserves electric signals, but it could also have evolved out of a fluke. Until scientists investigate it further, it’s impossible to know for sure.

“I always say, if you have all the answers, then we’re out of a job,” Rolandi said. “So it’s rather exciting that we’re creating new questions rather than all the answers.”

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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 15th May 2016

Ireland regains its coveted A grade credit rating as expected

Moody’s says that budget deficit should continue to fall under new government guidelines?

  

Moody’s has maintained a B rating on Irish debt for much longer than other agencies.

The new Government received a boost last night as the last of three major credit rating agencies assigned an A-grade on Irish debt for the first time in five years.

One week after Taoiseach Enda Kenny returned to office, the move by Moody’s marks a public assertion of confidence in his minority administration and its broad economic plan.

Early on Saturday morning Moody’s upgraded Ireland’s long-term government to an A-grade rating , saying that the recent election of a Government gave confidence that the budget deficit would continue to fall. It also said that the outlook remained “positive”, indicating that further upgrades might be possible. It has upgraded Ireland’s rating to an A3 from a Baa1.

In a statement, the agency said that Ireland’s debt position continued to improve more rapidly than expected, with the debt ratio falling to 94 per cent of GDP by the end of last year. It said that the risk of a reversal of course on budget policy looked small, following the election of a Government led by Fine Gael, which had established a strong record of budget management in recent years.

In an upbeat assessment, Moody’s said Ireland was poised for further growth which would lead to continued improvements in its public finances.It pointed to the risk of a British exit from the EU but said that even if this happens the situaiton should be “manageable”for Ireland.

In its statement the agency said: “In Moody’s view, the risk of a reversal of the fiscal consolidation seen over the past several years is low. The recent political agreement between the two largest parties in parliament and the recent election of a minority goverment led by Fine Gael, which has established a strong track record of fiscal management over the past several years, give comfort that the budget deficit wil be reduced further in coming years.”

The Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, said the move proved Ireland was progressing in the right direction. “That progression will carry on under the new Government. The decison shows that Moody’s are confident that the Programme for Government, published earlier this week, will reinforce that upward trend.”

The upgrade was also welcomed by the National Treasury Management Agency. Frank O’Connor, NTMA’s director of funding and debt management said: “Moody’s upgrade represents further affirmation of Ireland’s fiscal and economic recovery. While the rating is still two notches below Ireland’s highest rating it is encouraging that the “positive outlook was maintained, allowing potential for more upgrades.”

He said that while an eventual uplift to a A-grade had already been discounted by many investors, “the formal upgrade will assist our ongoing efforts to broaden the market for Irish sovereign debt, particularly to those who are obliged to use the lowest ratings across the major rating agencies.”

Last to upgrade

Moody’s had previously refused to follow rivals Standard & Poor’s and Fitch when they upgraded their assessments of Ireland’s debt to the A level in light of the advancing economic recovery.

Any A-grade on a sovereign bond increases its appeal to risk-averse investors, who accept lower interest payments in return for greater security.

Although the State has large post-crash debts, the fact that each of “big three” global rating agencies now have A-grades on Irish bonds will underpin investor confidence. This should help maintain lower borrowing costs, which is of benefit to the public finances.

The upgrade by Moody’s, the most conservative of the rating agencies, also expands the range of potential buyers of Irish bonds. Some low-risk investors insist on an A-grade from all three big agencies as the minimum requirement to take a position in any sovereign debt. Fiscal rules

The development comes despite uncertainty over the durability of the minority Government and its adoption of many uncosted promises in its political programme. But the Government also pledged to uphold stringent fiscal rules set out in domestic and EU law, a crucial declaration to financial markets of its intent to maintain spending discipline.

The Government has also pledged to take “all necessary action” to tackle high variable mortgage rates but earlier in the week Minister for Finance Michael Noonan insisted nothing would be done to undermine the banks.

Moody’s had been seen as an outlier by markets as Standard & Poor’s has an A+ rank on Ireland’s debt and Fitch has an A. As a result, some analysts have cast its anticipated action as a “catch-up” manoeuvre to put it on the same footing as its rivals.

Growing anticipation of an upgrade by Moody’s drove Irish 10-year borrowing costs down in Friday’s trading session.

The bonds changed hands at 0.8439 per cent as markets opened in the morning. By the close in Dublin the yield was at 0.8009 per cent, a mark of confidence in some quarters that an upgrade might be imminent.

Investors in Irish debt have been encouraged by swift economic growth and the restoration of order in the public finances. At the same time, intensive bond market interventions by the European Central Bank have also helped to cut the cost at which the State borrows.

Such trends are significant as Ireland’s large post-crash debt imposes very heavy costs on the public finances. The State spent €6.98 billion last year to service the debt.

With €22.93 billion in debt to mature in the next three years, maintaining investor confidence in the debt is a priority for the Government.

State service MABS writes off millions in debt for people struggling in Ireland

    

The State’s free money advice service has secured millions of euro in debt write-offs since January for people struggling with problem debt.

New figures show that the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs) has used the debt relief notice (DRN) scheme to secure €238,000 in debt write-offs for 17 qualifying clients who engaged with its Cork City service alone in the first quarter of the year.

It is one of the highest rates of DRN write-offs in the country. The individual write-offs ranged from €3,000 for one client to €32,000 for another.

Cork Mabs co-ordinator Margaret O’Neill described the DRN scheme as a “golden ticket” for people struggling with unsecured debt.

“It really is a once-in-a-lifetime golden ticket. You can simply walk away from the debts. There are no hidden strings. This is a means to a fresh start,” she said. “We all know the symptoms of carrying problem debt. When this kind of unsecured debt becomes unmanageable, people need support.

“This scheme is aimed at people trying to get their life back on track, and can provide for full relief of burden debt up to a maximum of €35,000.”

The DRN scheme is part of the Government’s insolvency legislation introduced in 2012.

It is designed for people who have less than €35,000 in qualifying debt such as Revenue, credit card and utility bills, bank, credit union, or money lender loans, and other forms of unsecured debt, and who have few assets and a low income.

Applicants cannot have an interest in property, and must be living in rented accommodation or with their parents. Ms O’Neill said people who apply to Mabs to avail of the scheme will meet with one of their ‘approved intermediaries’ who assess each case individually.

Subject to certain criteria, successful applicants must agree to certain obligations for three years, after which the debts are simply written off, thanks to an agreed protocol with the Irish Banking Federation Institute.

Ms O’Neill said the DNR scheme is just one of the many free and confidential debt solutions provided by Mabs.

“We are the gateway to debt solutions. For some people, the DRN is the perfect solution, but there are others,” she said.

New figures show that Mabs is also negotiating with lenders on behalf of 1,440 long-term mortgage arrears householders.

Mabs staff have been attending all repossession hearings since last October 1 and are now seeing more referrals from the courts to their dedicated mortgage arrears advice team.

Mabs national development officer Michael Culloty said these specialist mortgage advisers are giving people in mortgage distress a “fighting chance”.

“It is evident that even at a late stage, deals can be put in place that will keep people in their homes,” he said.

However, he said that, in other cases, lenders need to “get real” in terms of their expectations and demands.

“Unfortunately, some lenders and credit servicing firms have their eye only on the rising property market and, where there is an amount of equity in the property, some seem fixated on getting their hands on an appreciating asset no matter what the cost to the homeowner,” he said.

Big Oil companies on a borrowing binge as price point rates fall

So what do oil companies do when their price point is plummeting? They borrow,

      

Oil rigs in the Golf of Mexico. The price of oil has gone through the floor in the past three years

The world’s biggest oil companies are borrowing record amounts of money to cope with a slump in crude prices. Luckily, there’s rarely been a better time to go on a debt binge.

Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Total, BP and Eni have together sold the equivalent of $37bn of bonds this year, about double the amount issued in the period before oil prices plunged, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While this is stretching their balance sheets and even resulting in credit-rating downgrades, the lowest debt costs in a year are softening the blow.

“They’re making hay while the sun shines,” benefiting from improved investor sentiment as oil prices have recovered, said Alex Griffiths, a London-based managing director at Fitch Ratings. “Treasurers are making use of good market conditions to maintain liquidity buffers.”

Even though oil has increased from the lows of January as a global surplus diminished, prices are still less than half their level two years ago. The world’s biggest companies have sought to keep investors happy through the downturn by maintaining dividend payouts and investing for the future at the same time. With profit and revenue sharply down, the only way to do that is borrow more money.

Debt markets are opening up for companies worldwide as central banks in the US and Europe keep benchmark borrowing rates low. Investors currently demand a return of 3.09% to hold dollar-denominated debt of companies with an investment-grade rating, the lowest level in a year, according to data from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. For euro securities, they seek 1.01%, close to the record low of 0.93% in March 2015, the data shows.

Oil companies have further benefited from the recovery in prices. Brent Crude, the global benchmark, has increased 70pc since January, aided by supply disruptions from Canada to Nigeria and falling production in the US. This has seen the 20-company Stoxx Europe 600 Oil & Gas Index rebound 3.8pc in 2016 following two years of declines.

At the same time, the premiums for credit default swaps for the biggest US and European oil companies, which investors use to protect against defaults, have dropped from the highest level in at least five years.

Shell sold $1.5bn of five-year bonds this month, which were priced to yield 1.99%, data compiled by Bloomberg show. A $2bn five-year debt sold by the company about a year ago yielded 2.13% on the first day of trading, the data shows.

BP sold $1.25bn of 10-year notes last month with a 3.12% coupon, versus 3.51% for a similar issue in March 2015. Both bonds were sold at face value. Chevron issued $1.35bn of five-year notes this month with a yield that was 32 basis points, or 0.32 of a percentage point, lower than a sale in November.

Shell’s net borrowing has increased to about $70bn and its gearing (the ratio of net debt to total capital) has risen to above 26pc from 14pc at the end of last year. In addition to the plunge in oil prices, the $54bn acquisition of BG Group added to Shell’s debt, prompting Fitch to cut the company’s credit rating in February. BP’s gearing was 23.6% at the end of the last quarter compared with 21.6% in December.

“The majors still have strong balance sheets to raise debt at competitive rates so they can manage their capital agenda, for example, to maintain dividends and strategic capital investments,” said Jon Clark, leader for oil and gas transaction-advisory services in Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Ernst & Young. “It’s also a good opportunity to refinance more expensive debt.”

Oil’s slide has forced companies to cut billions of dollars of spending, delay or cancel projects and renegotiate contracts – yet they continue to make dividends their top priority.

Shell hasn’t cut its payments to investors since at least the Second World War. Exxon even increased its pay out a day after losing its coveted AAA credit rating last month.

Shell, BP, Eni, Total, Exxon and Chevron will together pay out about $14bn for the first quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Some of those companies may pay a portion of these dividends in shares rather than cash.

Jim Chanos, founder of Kynikos Associates, said on Thursday that he is shorting Shell and Chevron’s shares because they have negative free cash flow and are relying on borrowed money to pay dividends.

“What that means is the CEOs have convinced the boards that they should borrow to pay their dividend,” Chanos said in an interview with Bloomberg. “How long that will be sustainable, we don’t know.”

Last February, BP chief executive Bob Dudley said he was happy to let the company’s debt rise this year to maintain dividends.

Debt and gearing is “something that I might lose sleep about, but not just yet,” Shell’s CFO Simon Henry said earlier this month.

“You’ve recently seen an easing of bond market risk aversion and a higher oil price,” Fitch’s Griffiths said. “That makes it a good time for Big Oil to tap the market.”

Man diagnosed with terminal cancer left stunned after friend secretly renovates his entire home

Keith Ellick asked for his fence to be fixed and never expected an army of volunteers would transform his whole home?

    

The man Keith Ellick (pictured above with his family right) was given just a year to live and was left speechless after his boss organised a team of volunteers to renovate his house

Keith Ellick, 41, broke the news to his boss Addam Smith by telling him he might not last a year and could not even afford to pay for a funeral.

But when Mr Ellick asked his boss, who owns a landscaping and fencing company, if he would help mend his fence, his friend went a step further and organised a team of volunteer builders to give his home a makeover.

After sending Mr Ellick and his family away for a week, Mr Smith got to work with a team of builders from the Facebook group Builders Talk and used donated supplies to get the job done.

“I had the opportunity to work with the SAS of the building world… the best lads I’ve ever met,” Mr Smith said of the team of volunteers. “They’re he best lads I’ve ever met.”

But Mr Smith didn’t stop there, and is now fundraising extra money to help his friend buy the house for his family to live in, get his affairs in order, and send him to a specialist in London.

On his fundraising page, Mr Smith wrote: “This is for my mate Keith Ellick, a hard working loving family man. Keith has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and been given a year to live, let’s get him and his family on holiday and sort him out with a few quid to get his affairs in order.”

Having seen his newly renovated family home, Mr Ellick shared his own thank you message with those who had helped on the fundraising page.

“I’ve been through a rough few months, but this is not about me, this is about me telling all you people thank you for what you’ve done for me and my family,” the brave father said in a video.

“What you’ve done for me is like wow, you people you’re kind decent amazing people. I was never even taught there were people out there like you.

“All I wanted them to do was finish off my fence and he decided to do this and I’m like wow and he even got the charity to take me down to London to see this professor… all I can say is thank you very much, I appreciate everything,” he added tearfully.

Row over plan to save extinct white rhino’s by advanced reproductive technology 

    

‘Other creatures that might benefit from this new technology could include the kouprey, an ox-like creature from Cambodia, and the buffalo-like anoa, from Sulawesi and many more.

Under the watchful eyes of a group of heavily armed guards, three rhinos graze on the grassland of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Most of the world knows that the rhinoceros is threatened, but the status of these animals is in another league. They are the planet’s last three northern white rhinos. None is capable of breeding. The northern white, which once roamed Africa in its thousands, is in effect extinct. The three rhinos named Sudan, Najin and Fatu now are the last of their kind?

In a few months, however, a group of scientists from the US, Germany, Italy and Japan will attempt the seemingly impossible task to rescue the northern white rhino somewhat smaller and hairier than its southern cousin from the jaws of extinction. In October, they plan to remove the last eggs from the two female northern whites and by using advanced reproductive techniques, including stem cell technology and IVF, create embryos that could be carried to term by surrogate rhino mothers. The northern white could then be restored to its former glory. The procedure would be a world first.

It is an audacious plan -and a controversial one. Many conservation experts believe the resources being used to create northern white embryos would be better spent on saving other rhino species by providing them with protection in the wild. Why try to restore the species if the cause of its extinction has still not been tackled, they ask. Others say that taking a hi-tech approach to species preservation could lull the conservation movement into thinking it would always be able to fall back on science to help reproduce a species once it gets into trouble.

These points are rejected by project scientists. “Unless we act now, the northern white rhino will go extinct. And don’t forget that, once we have developed IVF and stem cell technologies to save it, we will then be able to use them to rescue other threatened species,” said one of the project’s leading scientists, Professor Thomas Hildebrandt, of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin. “For example, there are only three or four rhinoceros from Borneo left in captivity and none known in the wild,” said Hildebrandt. “We could use this technology to rescue them.”

Other creatures that might benefit from this technology include the kouprey, an ox-like creature from Cambodia, and the buffalo-like anoa, from Sulawesi.

But not everyone agrees with the hi-tech approach.

“We put millions of dollars into protecting the northern white rhino in Garamba national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said Susie Ellis, of the International Rhino Foundation.

“However, the species was lost there when the park became a conflict zone and we had to pull out to ensure the safety of our staff. If there is no political will, there is only so much that organisations like ours can do.”

“We need to take a multifaceted approach to this challenge, and hi-tech science is certainly one of them,” added Ellis.

“In fact, there is no easy answer regarding the northern white rhino. It is now functionally extinct.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 13th May 2016

Irish 10-year bond yields falls as Moody’s upgrade is anticipated

Ratings agency due to release its latest decision on State’s debt after 9pm on Friday

   

Moody’s has maintained a B rating on Irish debt for much longer than other agencies.

Irish 10-year borrowing costs dropped as investors as weighed the increasing probability of an upgrade tonight by Moody’s on the status of the State’s debt.

With a statement expected from Moody’s after 9pm on Friday, anticipation that the ratings agency would put an A-grade on Irish sovereign bonds for the first time since 2011 drove interest rates down.

Irish 10-year bonds changed hands at 0.8439 per cent as markets opened on Friday morning. By the close in Dublin the yield was at 0.8009 per cent, a mark of confidence in some quarters that an upgrade might be imminent.

Despite prolonged post-election uncertainty over the formation of a minority government and doubt over the Brexit referendum, Irish debt has continued to trade around historically low levels.

Interventions

While investors are encouraged by the pace of economic recovery, bond market interventions by the European Central Bank have also driven borrowing costs down. The 10-year yield fell to a record low of 0.707 per cent in April. At the height of crisis in mid-2011, it reached as high as 14.1 per cent

Moody’s has maintained a B-grade on Irish debt long after rival agencies Standard & Poor’s and Fitch upgraded to A status in light of the economic turnaround. However, a one-notch increase tonight by Moody’s would be sufficient to replace its Baa1 rating with an A.

Such a move would be seen as a boost for Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his new minority adminstration, which pledged to comply fully with stringent fiscal rules even as it adopted an ambitious 160-page political programme.

A Moody’s upgrade would also expand the range of potential buyers of Irish bonds as some conservative investors insist on an A-grade from all three major agencies as the minimum requirement to take a position in any sovereign debt.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald calls for accessible register of company owners

The Tánaiste will introduce new anti-corruption Bill in the Dáil during the current term of the Government

   

“Ireland will work with its partners to promote good governance and a culture of zero tolerance for all corrupt practices”

A central register holding the names of those who own companies and properties should be publicly accessible in all bar a few cases, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said.

“There should be a good reason not to move in that direction,” said the Minister, who was speaking on the margins of a a global anti-corruption summit in London.

There, she committed to establishing a central register of beneficial ownership which could be accessed by law enforcement agencies – a proposal pushed by British prime minister David Cameron.

Hosting the summit, Mr Cameron has promised to make Britain’s register publicly accessible and a committee in the Department of Finance is considering if Ireland should follow suit.

Public registers.

France, Kenya, the Netherlands, Nigeria and Afghanistan have also announced that their registers will be public. “I certainly think we need at this point to be exploring all the issues around it. There should be a good reason not to move in that direction, if you know what I mean,” said Ms Fitzgerald.

The Tánaiste will introduce a new anti-corruption Bill in the Dáil during the current term, aimed at consolidating anti-corruption legislation and strengthening laws banning the payment of bribes in foreign countries. She said Ireland was determined to play its part in the international effort to combat the corruption which is further impoverishing some of the poorest countries on earth.

Abuse of power

“A lack of good governance, the absence of efficient and accountable institutions, the lack of transparency – all these lead to economic under performance, expose states to corruption and abuses of power and generate security risks at national and regional level. Ireland will work with its partners to promote good governance and a culture of zero tolerance for all corrupt practices. Events like this are an important opportunity to take stock of the global efforts being made and to reaffirm and reinvigorate our response,” she said.

Representatives of some of Britain’s crown dependencies, which have come under the spotlight since the Panama Papers exposed the use of tax avoidance vehicles based in tax havens, complained of double standards at the summit.

The Cayman Islands president, Alden McClaughlin, said that, while small territories such as his were being told to introduce much tougher standards, nobody was taking steps against the US state of Delaware, which is home to tens of thousands of shell companies.

The Tánaiste said that Irish citizens identified in the Panama Papers as using tax havens should consider the good of the country as well as whether such tax avoidance stratagems are legal.

Two Irish landlords convicted who have to pay €3,500 for failing to register tenancies

Residential Tenancies Board secures criminal convictions against lettors in Donegal and Tallaght

   

The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) has secured criminal convictions against two landlords who failed to register their tenancies, despite receiving a number of statutory notices and warning letters instructing them to do so.

Two landlords have received criminal convictions for failing to register their tenancies.

The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) has secured criminal convictions against two landlords who failed to register their tenancies, despite receiving a number of statutory notices and warning letters instructing them to do so.

In the first case proceedings were taken against Eileen Maguire of Ballydevitt, Donegal Town, Donegal, for failing to register a tenancy at Ballydevitt, Donegal. The case was heard by Judge John O’Neill on April 4th, 2016.

Ms Maguire was sent two notices ordering her to comply with the legislation but failed to register the tenancy.

The RTB’s solicitors, sent two further warning letters prior to the initiation of proceedings, offering Ms Maguire further opportunities to register the tenancy, which was not availed of.

Mr O’Neill convicted Ms Maguire of an offence under Section 144(3) of the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 and imposed a fine of €1,000. Mr O’Neill made an order for costs against Ms Maguire in favour of the RTB in the amount of €2,500. The tenancy was registered at the time of the court hearing.

The second case?

In the second case Andrew Oliver Fleming of Tymon Crescent, Old Bawn, Tallaght, Dublin 24, was convicted for failing to register a tenancy at the same address.

The judge imposed a fine of €1,000 and made an order for costs in favour of the RTB of €2,500. The tenancy was registered at the time of the court hearing.

The RTB has said further cases will be brought before the courts throughout 2016 and beyond against landlords for failing to register tenancies in breach of the Act.

A total of 22,854 letters were issued by the RTB in 2015 notifying landlords of their specific registration requirement.

Since January 2011, the fee is €90 per tenancy if registered within one month of the tenancy commencing and, a late fee of €180 applies if the tenancy is registered outside of that time period.

The registration fees also fund local authority inspections of rental accommodation to enforce minimum standards.

A landlord, if convicted under the Residential Tenancies Act 2004 for failing to comply with a notice, faces a fine of up to €4,000 and/or six months’ imprisonment, along with a daily fine of €250 for a continuing offence where the tenancy continues to remain unregistered after the court hearing.

Lack of commitment to Ireland’s mental health funding problem

New Programme for Government is low on details

   

The new Programme for Government does not contain a detailed commitment to mental health funding, it has been claimed.

According to Mental Health Reform, while the programme does state that the mental health budget ‘will be increased annually during the lifetime of this new Government’, there are no specific details on mental health funding.

Mental Health Reform is a national coalition of organisations which work towards promoting best practise and improving services for all people with mental health problems. It has 54 member organisations including Aware, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland, the Children’s Rights Alliance and the Samaritans.

According to its director, Dr Shari McDaid, the coalition is disappointed that the Government ‘has not specified an amount of development funding for mental health per year over the lifetime of its term, as had been promised in both the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil manifestos’.

She acknowledged that a number of commitments have been made which are to be strongly welcomed, including an intention to extend counselling services to people on low incomes and an intention to establish a National Taskforce on Youth Mental Health.

“It is clear from the range of mental health commitments made, that the new Government is beginning to understand the wide impact that mental health difficulties have on Irish society. But Mental Health Reform is extremely concerned at the lack of any commitment to end the inappropriate admission of children to adult wards and the absence of an immediate commitment to 24/7 crisis supports,” Dr McDaid commented.

However, she welcomed the Government’s intention to use ‘proceeds from the sale of older assets used for mental health services for new developments in mental health’.

Previously, funds raised from the sale of lands were used solely to fund capital developments in mental health, however the Programme for Government suggests that these funds may now also be used for new developments and new services in mental health.

“We welcome the commitment to retaining money from the sale of mental health service lands within the services. The sale of the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum in Dublin, which is prime residential land, could potentially raise a significant amount of money for investment in mental health facilities and services,” Dr McDaid added.

Gluten-free products are not always a healthy choice for most children

A paediatrician now says

    

Diet may be nutritionally deficient, high in fat and sugar, as well as costly.

A paediatric gastroenterologist is warning parents about high fat and sugar in packaged products that are gluten-free.

There is more risk than benefit to a gluten-free diet for people and especially children who haven’t been diagnosed with celiac disease or wheat allergy, according to the Journal of Paediatrics.

In a commentary that aims to separate fact from fiction, Dr. Norelle R. Reilly, of New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, says a gluten-free diet is not a healthy lifestyle choice.

“Parents should be counselled as to the possible financial, social, and nutritional consequences of unnecessary implementation of a gluten-free diet,” said Reilly, who is a specialist in pediatric gastroenterology.

In 2015, 25% of U.S. consumers reported consuming gluten-free foods, according to market research by the Mintel Group. The gluten-free industry more than doubled in size from 2013 to 2015.

Most people self-diagnose

Most of those consumers are eating gluten-free without checking with a dietitian or health professional, making it a fad that could be affecting thousands of children, Reilly said.

Gluten-free products are more costly than wheat-based products and lack the nutritional fortification of traditional flours, according a commentary in the Journal of Pediatrics. (John Bazemore/Associated Press)

Books like David Perlmutter’s Grain Brain and William Davis’ Wheat Belly, have helped make the gluten-free food market a multi-billion-dollar industry, but dietitians are skeptical.

Reilly expressed concern about high levels of fat and sugar in gluten-free packaged foods, saying this could lead to increased caloric intake at a time when a high proportion of the population are struggling with obesity.

She also said a gluten-free diet may be lower in nutrients than one that includes wheat products, as ingredients are not fortified, leading to deficiencies in B vitamins, folate, and iron.

Rice and rice flours often substitute for wheat in gluten-free products, increasing the risk that people are consuming serum mercury and arsenic, which rice takes up naturally from the soil.

She also points to the higher cost of food and quality of life issues for children limited to a gluten-free diet, who would not be able to eat at a friend’s home or to exchange  treats with school friends.

Nothing toxic about gluten

Reilly said there is a misconception that gluten itself is toxic, which may be leading many people to adopt a gluten-free diet when they don’t need to.

  • Gluten-free market booming, but researchers aren’t sold
  • Dietitians fed up with gluten-free claims

“Gluten, comprising gliadins and glutenins, is one of the many protein components of wheat and for the majority of people, gluten proteins pass through the gastrointestinal tract without leading to disease,” she said.

Reilly said parents should be discouraged from putting their children on a gluten-free diet even where one member of the family has been diagnosed with celiac disease or a wheat allergy.  Often the family will all eat gluten-free foods as a matter of convenience.

She acknowledges that celiac disease, which would warrant a gluten-free diet, is underdiagnosed in the U.S. and wheat allergy is rare. But she said there is little data about non-celiac gluten sensitivity in children.

However, putting a child on a wheat-free diet before celiac disease is diagnosed can obscure evidence of the disease, she said.

Gluten and children

Parents may resist reintroducing foods with gluten which may be necessary to get a diagnosis, she added.

“Other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, small bowel bacterial overgrowth, and fructose and lactose intolerance may be responsible for symptoms in those self-diagnosed with gluten sensitivity,” Reilly said in her commentary.

There is no evidence that delaying the introduction of gluten to infants has any impact on later development of celiac disease, she said. Most literature recommends introducing wheat-based products between six months and one year.

She urged people who adopt a gluten-free diet to seek the advice of a health professional.

“Health care providers may not be able to end the gluten-free diet fad, but can certainly begin to play a larger role in educating patients, excluding celiac disease, and preventing nutritional deficiencies in those choosing to stay gluten-free,” she said.

Genes can contribute slightly, to a person’s education level

A study says?

   

A study said last Wednesday they had identified 74 genes that partially determine how far someone gets in school, depending on which variant of those genes a person possesses.

Compared to environmental factors such as diet, family circumstances and opportunity, this hard-wiring has only a meager influence, accounting for less than half of one percent of the outcome.

Even when combined with all known genetic variants across the human genome, that share only rises to about three percent.

But the findings, published in Nature, are robust enough to help researchers match genetically-linked personality traits — such as grit and contentiousness — with education attainment, at least at the level of society, if not the individual.

Even a single gene, they found, could have a measurable impact.

“For the variant with the largest effect, the difference between people with zero copies and those who have two copies predicts, on average, about nine more weeks of schooling,” said Daniel Benjamin, a professor at University of Southern California and corresponding author for the consortium that completed the study.

The most common type of genetic variants — known as SNPs (or “snips”) — can show up as deletions or duplications of DNA fragments.

Earlier research by the same team of 250 scientists worldwide canvassed the genomes of 100,000 people, and only turned up three relevant genes.

News Ireland daily BLOG Friday

Friday 6th December 2013

John Gilligan warned his life in danger after gunman failed to find & shoot him dead

 

Gardaí chase gunman on motorbike through Dublin suburb and recover pistol

Gardaí have warned convicted drug dealer John Gilligan that his life is in immediate danger after what they believe was a failed attempt to shoot him dead when gunmen went to the wrong pub.

A senior Garda officer said providing him with an armed escort to prevent any future attempt on his life did not arise.

While the Garda at times provided protection to people under threat from gangs, such as witnesses in court cases or journalists, it did not offer that service to convicted criminals.

Dubliner Gilligan (61) was drinking in the Hole in the Wall pub on Blackhorse Avenue beside Dublin’s Phoenix Park on Thursday afternoon when two armed men arrived at the Halfway House in Ashtown less than 1km away.

After they were unable to find him they left on a motorbike. They were chased by gardaí and threw their gun away. It has since been recovered.

Garda sources said they were treating the incident as an attempt to murder the gang leader, adding that, aside from the information on Mr Gilligan’s whereabouts being wrong, the planning was elaborate.

“You’re talking about robbing a bike, sourcing a gun and getting the money to pay two guys willing to do it. A lot of work went into that,” said one source.

Other sources said it was unclear if the motive behind the botched attack was related to a dispute Mr Gilligan had while in Portlaoise Prison or whether he had crossed rival drug dealers since his release in mid-October after 17 years in jail.

Customers
Gardaí were alerted to Thursday’s incident when both customers and staff in the Halfway House rang 999 to report that a man wearing a black motorcycle helmet had walked into the pub with a handgun just before 4pm. He shouted “where’s Gilligan”, before being challenged by a staff member and fleeing on realising his intended victim was not in the pub.

The armed man got back on a waiting motorbike outside driven by an accomplice, and as they drove away they were seen by armed detectives in an unmarked car who had sped to the scene.

They chased the two men on the motorbike down River Road towards Finglas, and at Ratoath Road in the north Dublin suburb they failed to bring the bike to a stop. A 9mm pistol was thrown or fell from the motorbike, and the two men managed to escape. The gun was found and has since been taken for ballistic and forensic analysis.

Mr Gilligan was in the High Court in Dublin yesterday for a hearing related to the seizure of land and houses the Criminal Assets Bureau claims are the proceeds of his crimes.

Gardaí approached him in the precincts of the courts and formally warned him his life was in danger, as they are legally obliged to do in such circumstances.

Irish Banks given June deadline over mortgage arrears problem

 

Central Bank tells lenders to have ‘sustainable solutions’ to 75 per cent of cases

The Central Bank of Ireland has told lenders that it expects them to have provided “sustainable solutions” to 75 per cent of their mortgage arrears customers by the end of June and “concluded solutions” to 35 per cent of them by that date.

These targets form part of the regulator’s attempt to address the significant mortgage arrears problem that exists with Irish banks.

The targets apply to AIB (including EBS), Bank of Ireland(including ICS), Permanent TSBKBC Bank Ireland, Ulster Bank and ACC, which is withdrawing from the retail market here, and apply to customers who are 90 days or more in arrears.

The regulator announced its first set of targets in March his year and has been ratcheting them up since then.
Potential problemsFigures published last week showed that lenders have succeeded in meeting the Central Bank’s most recent targets for dealing with mortgage arrears, but potential problems have emerged in the nature of some of the solutions proposed, according to an audit.

The Central Bank review identified “issues” in checking facts such as a borrower’s income or the value of a property, and in following up so-called “legal” cases. The number of mortgage accounts for principal dwelling houses (PDH) in arrears, fell from 142,892 (18.5 per cent of total stock) to 141,520 (18.4 per cent) in the three months to the end of September.

PDH accounts in arrears of more than 90 days at the end of September amounted to 99,189, an increase of 1,315 on the previous quarter. This increase was driven entirely by accounts in arrears over 720 days, with all other maturity categories declining.

The number of these accounts in early arrears of less than 90 days declined by 6 per cent during the quarter. There was a total stock of 80,555 PDH accounts classified as restructured at the end of September, reflecting a quarter-on-quarter increase of 1.5 per cent.

Investigation into intellectual disability services body

 

Concerns of neglectful or abusive practices raised by students on placement at Stewart’s

The HSE said last night that its head of operations of disability services of its social care division had been in discussion with Stewarts Care on the issue.

An organisation providing services for persons with intellectual disability in the eastern region confirmed last night it has established an investigation into allegations made about the standard of care provided to some of its clients.

The Stewarts-Care organisation said that it was “in receipt of reports/observations that contain allegations of neglectful or abusive practices in relation to the way services are delivered to a number of service users”.

Stewarts provides services for persons with intellectual disability and has a main campus in Palmerstown in Dublin as well as other ancillary facilities in west Dublin, Kildare and Meath.

It is understood concerns were raised by a number of students from Trinity College Dublin who had been on placement in its intellectual disability services that some of the situation’s they witnessed could constitute abuse.

Highly placed sources said that allegations made by the students included shower doors not being closed while a person was being showered, persons being locked out of their bungalows and clients being spoken of as if they were not present.

Incidents
It is understood the incidents highlighted by the students were alleged to have taken place at the end of last year and in the early part of 2013.

In a statement issued to The Irish Times last night Stewarts said its management had informed the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa)and the Health Service Executive it had received reports of alleged neglectful or abusive practices.

It is understood that some parents of young people with intellectual disability have also been told by Stewarts about the allegations which have been made.

Stewarts confirmed in its statement that “an investigation process has been initiated and further developments will be predicated on the outcome of this”.

The HSE said last night that its newly appointed head of operations of disability services of its social care division,Marion Meany, had been in discussion with the service provider (StewartsCare) yesterday on the issue regarding the concerns raised by the placement students “and has been fully briefed as to their action plan”.

Education
Stewarts was established in 1869 in Dublin to provide for the education, training, and maintenance of children with a mental handicap from across the island of Ireland.

Stewarts provides extensive on-site and community-based services for clients.

The organisation supports over 300 residents, and provides wide-ranging services for some 600 clients including children and adult day attenders.

Stewarts also offers a full range of pre-school services for two- to five-year-old children with a developmental delay.

Minister Noonan hopes Moody’s may lift Ireland from Junk status in Early 2014

 

Ireland’s Finance Minister Michael Noonan said he hopes Moody’s Investors Service will raise the nation’s credit rating from non-investment grade as the country exits its bailout program and plans debt sales.

“We’re hopeful that Moody’s will have another look at us early in the New Year,” Noonan, 70, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in London. “The mood from all the rating agencies is positive at present.”

Ireland’s Finance Minister Michael Noonan said, “We’re hopeful that Moody’s will have another look at us early in the New Year.” Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) — Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan talks about the country’s banking system and the planned exit from its bailout program. He speaks with Guy Johnson and Francine Lacqua on Bloomberg Television’s “The Pulse.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Ireland is preparing to exit the 67.5 billion-euros ($92 billion) aid program it entered in 2010, after its financial system almost collapsed. Irish government bonds, which slumped as the nation took a bailout, have returned 11.5 percent this year, amid signs the economic outlook is improving.

Moody’s, which gave Ireland its top Aaa grade in 1998 before the euro was introduced, cut its rating on the nation to non-investment grade, or junk, in July 2011 after a real-estate market collapse.

“Moody’s difficulty seems to be with the European Union and the euro zone, rather than with Ireland specifically,” Noonan said. “That’s what they’ve told us.”

A junk rating cuts out some money managers, whose investment criteria stop them buying low-rated securities. Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, rank Ireland at BBB+, three levels above non-investment grade.

Cash Buffer

The yield on Ireland’s 10-year bonds was little changed at 3.56 percent at 1:30 p.m. London time, leaving the yield difference, or spread, over similar-maturity German bunds at 1.70 percentage points.

Noonan said Ireland will exceed its budgetary targets this year and the government has a cash buffer of more than 20 billion euros.

“We’re in a good place,” he said in a speech after the interview. “We decided to exit the bailout and do it cleanly without any precautionary programs or any dedicated credit lines. We’re not jumping out of the plane without a parachute. We have cash buffers in excess of 20 billion. That funds up to the second quarter of 2015 if we never entered the market.”

Anglo Irish

The Irish government injected 64 billion euros into lenders including Anglo Irish Bank Corp. and Allied Irish Banks Plc. This week, the state sold 1.3 billion euros of preferred shares in another firm — Bank of Ireland — to investors at a 4.75 percent premium. That was beyond Noonan’s expectations, he said.

“A lot of people want to buy our paper,” Noonan said. “We’re not junk, we’re doing fine.”

There’s no evidence that the country’s lenders need more capital, Noonan said. He’ll “take time and see” what to do with Ireland’s 99.9 percent stake in Dublin-based Allied Irish, which is probably worth between 5 billion euros and 7 billion euros, he said. He said he’s still “hopeful” on the government’s campaign to win retroactive recapitalization of the banking system.

Private firm plans the first controlled landing on lunar surface in 40 years

its Back to the moon

 

  • MX-1 will blast off in 2015 on a mission ahead of plans to mine the moon
  • Designed by Moon Express, it was unveiled in Las Vegas last night
  • It will scoop up rock samples from lunar surface to be ferried back to Earth 
  • Moon is a gold mine of titanium and platinum and other rare minerals
  • The last time America landed on moon was with
  • Apollo 17 in 1972
  • America is to pay the moon a visit for the first time since Apollo 17 touched down there more than 40 years ago.
    • The privately-owned MX-1 will blast off in 2015 on a reconnaissance mission ahead of plans to mine the moon for minerals.
    • The unmanned spacecraft, unveiled last night at the Autodesk University show in Las Vegas, will scoop up rock and dust samples from the lunar surface to be ferried back to Earth for testing.

The moondirt brought back by mankind’s first moonwalkers, Gene Cernan, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, contained an abundance of titanium, platinum and other rare minerals and Moon Express plan to plunder that gold mine ‘for the good of humanity’.

‘The MX-1 is the ‘iPhone of space,’ said Bob Richards, co-founder and CEO of manufacturer Moon Express. ‘[It’s] a platform capable of supporting many apps including our core plan of exploring the Moon for resources of benefit to humanity.’

Fuelled by hydrogen peroxide, the ‘microlander’ can deliver up to 130 pounds of cargo to the surface of the moon, or act as a sample return vehicle or a ‘space-tug’, he said.

Moon Express is introducing the MX-1 as the first of a series of robotic space vehicles based on a scalable patent pending design to operate in Earth orbit and deep space destinations.

The last time a U.S. spacecraft touched down on the moon was on December 17 1972 when astronauts brought home 110kg of moon rock.

Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent about 75 hours on the Moon in the Taurus-Littrow valley, while colleague Ronald Evans orbited overhead.

Apollo 17 was the sixth and last Apollo mission and the last time that humans walked on the surface.

The mission returned to earth on December 19, 1972.

The team carried out a series of experiments including seismic profiling, atmospheric composition analysis and lunar sampling, orbital and biomedical experiments.

The crew spent 22 hours on the lunar surface in total.

Last year Nasa released an image taken by Cernan as he and Schmitt roamed the valley floor.

The image shows Schmitt on the left with the lunar rover at the edge of Shorty Crater, near the spot where geologist Schmitt discovered orange lunar soil.

The Apollo 17 crew returned with 110 kilograms of rock and soil samples, more than was returned from any of the other lunar landing sites.

Now forty years later, Cernan and Schmitt are still the last to walk on the Moon.

Moon Express is just one of many private companies planning space missions.

Tourism, orbiting hotels are among the areas explored so far – but none has exploded more than the moon. Astrobiotic Technology is also vying to mine the moon.

Meanwhile, Bigelow Aerospace wants to sell property there, a Japanese firm suggested a solar panel power ring, and on Monday China launched the Chang’e 3 lander, which should touch down on the moon in mid-December.

It has even been claimed China wants to turn the moon into a ‘Death Star’ by planting missile silos on its surface.

It will be the first controlled landing since the Soviet Union’s Luna-24 mission in 1976.

‘Nine billion. That’s how many people will be alive on the Earth as soon as 36 years from now,’ Dennis Wingo, a space entrepreneur and author of the book MoonRush, told Fox News. ‘The moon and beyond is an extension of our earthly society, with vast resources in metals and a place to expand human activity.’

Moon Express is yet to pick a place to land in 2015.

Richards said he is considering a spot in the Southern Hemisphere, near Surveyor 7 – the last robotic mission, which the U.S. soft-landed on the moon in 1968.

‘It’s iconic to have the first private robotic lander resting next to the last government robotic lander,’ he added.

News Ireland daily BLOG

Friday 20th September 2013

German multinational uses Ireland to avoid €100m annual tax bill

 

A German software giant SAP uses Ireland to avoid paying taxes of up to €100m a year, according to a special report by global news agency Reuters.

The news wire, which has been one of the most authoritative sources of information on the global financial crisis, claimed that while Ireland accounted for less than 1% of SAP’s sales, it is the home base for 20pc of its profits.

The revelations heap yet further pressure on the Irish government amid a European probe into how Ireland levies taxes on several multi-national companies.

And it also means that the controversy surrounding the state’s tax regime does not simply encompass US companies but raises questions about EU corporations as well.

SAP, which is headquartered in Walldorf, Germany, provides software for businesses to process and analyse transactions and is the fourth largest firm in Germany.

The company told Reuters that profits reported in Ireland reflected genuine economic activity and that the structure was driven by operational rather than tax motives.

Moody’s upgrades outlook on Irish sovereign debt

    

The credit ratings agency Moody’s has upgraded its outlook on Irish sovereign debt from negative to stable.

Moody’s continues to apply a junk rating to Irish government bonds, but the change in outlook is the first sign that the agency may consider a ratings upgrade.

In a note issued tonight, Moody’s said the key drivers of the outlook change were the Government’s progress in restoring solvency to its public finances, and the country’s reduced risk of losing access to financial markets because of an improvement in its liquidity.

It notes that Ireland has fully pre-funded its 2014 debt rollover requirement.

It also says its debt and deficit position has improved as a result of the promissory note deal and the extension of the terms of bailout loans from the European Union.

It also notes financial market perceptions about Ireland have shown little reaction to adverse events that were observed in some of the other peripheral countries over the past year, notably in Cyprus.

It sees this as a sign that Ireland is now better insulated from shocks to investor confidence from elsewhere in the euro area.

The agency also lifted its outlook on NAMA debt from negative to stable.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said the move was a “welcome development”.

He said: “While it’s disappointing that the move was not an upgrade in the rating, it is clearly a step in the right direction.”

Moody’s is the only major ratings agency to assign junk bond status to Irish government debt.

It has consistently been the most negative of the ratings agencies on the eurozone crisis.

Its last ratings note on Ireland was issued in March, when it affirmed both its junk rating for the country’s debt, and its negative outlook, citing the continued vulnerability of the euro area to shocks, and the poor asset quality of the Irish banks, which it says was holding backtheir ability to lend and support economic growth.In its latest note, Moody’s says upward pressure on Ireland’s sovereign rating could come from the Government continuing to meet its fiscal consolidation targets, producing a primary surplus [which is planned to happen next year] and benefitting from stronger GDP growth.It expects growth to be supported by stronger growth in the UK and eurozone.

However, it says negative ratings pressure would develop if the country’s efforts at fiscal consolidation were to falter, if there were much bigger stresses in the euro area, or if any new losses in the banking sector were expected to be transferred to the Government’s balance sheet.

Of the other major ratings agencies, Standard and Poor’s rates Ireland at a low investment grade level of BBB+ with a positive outlook, indicating it is likely to upgrade the rating at its next review.

Fitch also rates Irish sovereign debt at BBB+ with a stable outlook, indicating it may consider an upgrade at next review.

But Moody’s has assigned a sub-investment grade rating of Ba1 – two notches below the other agencies.

An investment-grade rating from all three of the main ratings agencies would make Irish debt more attractive to investors, as some funds are prevented from investing in sub-investment grade instruments.

This in turn could lead to greater interest by investors in government bonds, which could help to reduce the Government’s cost of borrowing from the markets.

Moody’s says the Government is considering the option of getting a €10bn precautionary credit line from the ESM, which it presumes would come into effect in 2014.

It says it expects the monitoring associated with any precautionary line would establish Ireland’s eligibility to access the ECB’s new bond-buying programme, Outright Monetary Transactions, “if circumstances require it to do so”.

Ireland is due to return to full market funding of its sovereign debt at the end of the year, following the completion of a three-year programme funded by the EU and IMF.

Ryanair pledges to end their abrupt culture and improve customer service’s

 

O’Leary vows to address customer service ‘issues’ after voted worst in UK poll

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said the company plans to revamp its website and concentrate more on its mobile and social media strategy.

No-frills airline Ryanair has announced its plans to transform its “abrupt culture” and revamp its website, admitting for the first time that it had a significant problem with customer service.

The airline said it would become more lenient on fining customers over bag sizes and overhaul the way it communicates.

“We should try to eliminate things that unnecessarily piss people off,” chief executive Michael O’Leary told the company’s annual general meeting. The airline was this week voted the worst of the 100 biggest brands serving the British market by readers of consumer magazine Which.

Mr O’Leary said it would stop fining customers whose carry-on baggage exceeds minimum sizes by a matter of millimetres. “A lot of those customer services elements don’t cost a lot of money … It’s something we are committed to addressing over the coming year,” he said.

Ryanair is also rethinking its digital marketing strategy after admitting rival EasyJet’s website was better.

The company said it planned to make its mobile app available free of charge from October 1st, and would engage with customers via its @Ryanair twitter account.

Ryanair pledged to make it quicker for customers to complete booking, with a redesign of its booking flow to go live in December and a registration service scheduled in time for next summer.

It also plans to remove the security feature Recaptcha, which uses distorted text to prevent automated access to services , for individual bookings, although it will stay in place for high volume users such as larger travel agents.

“Our primary focus this winter will be to significantly invest in, and improve, the Ryanair.com website, our mobile platform and our interaction with passengers using social media,” chief executive Michael O’Leary said. “ We are pleased to remove Recaptcha from November for individual passengers, although the security feature will remain in place for high volume or multiple IP addresses in order to deter larger travel agents, screenscrapers and others who flood our website seeking fare quotes, and diminish our website’s accessibility for individual passengers.”

Church of Ireland appoints first woman bishop

 

Rev Pat Storey is first female bishop in Ireland or Britain

The Church of Ireland has appointed its first woman bishop. Rev Pat Storey was yesterday elected as the new Bishop of Meath and Kildare, to succeed Most Rev Dr Richard Clarke, who last December was appointed Church of Ireland primate and Archbishop of Armagh.

Rev Storey, who is the also the first woman bishop in Ireland or Britain, is 53 and has been rector of St Augustine’s in Derry since 2004. Married to Rev Earl Storey they have two adult children, Carolyn (25) and Luke (22).

Having grown up in Belfast and studied French and English at Trinity College Dublin,Rev Storey trained at the Church of Ireland Theological College (now Institute) in Dublin and was ordained deacon in 1997 and priest in 1998.

She served as a curate in Ballymena Co Antrim and was team vicar in Glenavy Co Antrim as well as a part-time youth worker co-ordinator with the Church of Ireland Youth Department. She is also a member of the Standing Committee of the General Synod.

Announcing her appointment today Archbishop Clarke said that “having known Pat Storey since she was an undergraduate and I was chaplain at Trinity College, Dublin, I very much welcome her as a new bishop. She is a person of great warmth, intelligence and spiritual depth and I am certain that her ministry in the dioceses of Meath and Kildare and the wider Church will be a blessing to many. We remember her and her family in our prayers.”

In response, Rev Storey said she was “both excited and daunted by this new adventure in our lives. I have had an extraordinarily happy experience in St Augustine’s and in this wonderful city which I will be sad to leave. However, I count it an enormous privilege to begin a new phase of my ministry with the people of Meath and Kildare, and I look forward to working with the team of clergy who are already there. I would sincerely ask for your prayers for myself and my family, who are the best family in the world!”

Her appointment had passed to the Church of Ireland House of Bishops yesterday as the episcopal electoral college for Meath and Kildare, which met on May 28th lastfailed to appoint a new bishop of the dioceses. On being contacted after the House of Bishop’s decision yesterday Rev Storey asked for some to consider the Bishops’ historic and momentous decision.

Samaritans warn of suicide risk of Ireland’s middle-aged men

 

New survey highlights loneliness and isolation as key causes

Suicidal feelings were expressed during one in five contacts made by men, while 20 per cent of these also talked about previous suicide attempts.

One in four men who contacted the Samaritans talked about loneliness and isolation in a new survey carried out by the support group.

The poll of 671 men was taken across 10 branches of the support group in Ireland and the UK during the week from August 5th to August 11th last.

Some 23 per cent of men talked about relationship difficulties, while in 43 per cent of conversations, financial issues were discussed.

Suicidal feelings were expressed during one in five contacts made by men, while 20 per cent of these also talked about previous suicide attempts.

Samaritans chief executive Catherine Johnstone said there was a “likelihood of social disconnection” among men in mid-life, “particularly if unemployed and without a partner”.

She said this played a “fundamental role” in the high risk of suicide in this demographic. “A lack of supportive relationships or belief there are no people you can turn to are well-established risk factors for suicide.

“A growing evidence base shows that positive social connections – such as marriage or partner, family, ties to friends and neighbours, workplace ties – make people happy and healthy.

“Lack of social relationships constitutes a major risk factor for ill-health and mortality, comparable to cigarette smoking, blood pressure, blood lipids, obesity and physical inactivity.

“This survey again highlights the role of men’s feelings of loneliness and lack of social support in their increased risk of suicide. We have to stop putting pressure on men to live up to societal views of what it is to be a ‘real man’,” she added.

To contact the Samaritans, call 1850 609090

How Hybrid cars can help our Environment

 

To some it may seem like an odd dichotomy that a hybrid car with two energy sources could actually be better for the environment than traditional cars with only one. However, that is exactly the belief that hybrid experts support – the idea that hybrid cars are better for the environment than traditional cars.

But what are hybrids and why exactly do supporters believe they are better for planet earth than their gas run counterparts?

According to NewCarPark.com, hybrid cars use two types of power sources – traditional gasoline engines and an alternative fuel source such as electric or hydrogen-run motors. This allows the second energy source to kick in, thus reducing their gas usage, which also results in three important benefits.

  1. •           Better gas mileage  A hybrid car gets 5 miles per gallon better mileage on average than a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle. And, because hybrid cars run in part on alternative fuel sources, they do not need to be filled up with gasoline as frequently, cutting overall gasoline consumption and cost.
  2. •           Fewer emissions – When gasoline is burned to produce energy for vehicles, carbon monoxide is created and released into the environment. However, with hybrid cars, much less of this dangerous substance is released into the atmosphere, thus reducing emissions and air pollution.
  3. •           Decreased fuel demand – As hybrid cards become more mainstream, the demand for fuel could decrease, potentially leading to less drilling and lessening the risk for negative impacts on the environment.

While the debate over environmental benefits of hybrid cars may continue, one thing remains clear – you should understand the pros and cons of both.

Whether you’re thinking about buying a brand new hybrid car or a traditional used car, be sure to find a lender you can trust to help you make the most of whichever car you decide to purchase. From new car loans  and used auto loans  to the chance to refinance the auto loan  you currently have, the right lending solution can help make your money work harder for you.