Tag Archives: Obesity problem

News Ireland as told by Donie

Tuesday 13th June 2017

Enda Kenny steps down as Taoiseach after forty two years in politics 

‘This has never been about me but always about the challenges the people of our country face’

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An emotional Enda Kenny has made his final address to the Dáil as Taoiseach, saying he was the first to acknowledge that he had not got everything right.

“But I can honestly say my motivation was always what I believed was in the best interests of the Irish people,” he added.

He thanked his colleagues in Government and the contribution of Fianna Fáil under leader Micheál Martin.

He had been truly blessed, he said, to lead the country and he thanked the people of Ireland and Mayo.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny leaving Government buildings to go to Áras an Uachtaráin to submit his resignation to President Michael D Higgins.

“I really do believe politics is work worth doing, a noble profession,” he added.

Flanked by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan who will also stand down, Mr Kenny’s successor Leo Varadkar, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and Minister for Health Simon Harris, the Taoiseach informed the Dáil at 2pm he would be going later to Áras an Uachtaráin to submit his resignation to President Michael D Higgins.

He formally handed in in his letter on Tuesday evening.

During his speech in the Dáil, he daid it was a privilege and a pleasure to lead Fine Gael and wished everybody good health in dealing with the challenges ahead.

He quoted Michael Davitt wishing “fond thoughts” and “fullest forgiveness”.

He said he hoped he had made a modest contribution to making Ireland better as envisaged by Davitt.

Mr Kenny then sat down, visibly emotional, to applause from all sides of the House.

Before the Taoiseach offered his resignation, the Dáil stood for the prayer in Irish and English, but there was some confusion when a number of TDs started to sit down during the 30 seconds of meditation.

Members of Mr Kenny’s family sat in the distinguished visitors gallery, including his wife Fionnuala O’Kelly, son Ferdia, his brother Kieran, his personal assistant Sarah Moran and chief of staff Mark Kennelly.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described him as “an Irish patriot and an Irish democrat”. Throughout his time in elected office and in government he had been a proud representative of his community, political tradition and country.

Martin tribute

Mr Martin also said Mr Kenny had managed events so that they have proceeded at his desired pace. “He has ensured that those who were stalking the corridors in search of journalists to brief against him have been obliged to issue lengthy statements describing him as the greatest Irishman since Brian Boru”.

The Fianna Fáil leader said “the mischievous enjoyment he has taken in this has been a genuine joy to behold”.

Enda Kenny acknowledges the applause from TDs in the Dáil following his final speech as Taoiseach.

Mr Martin joked it was a “great burden” for Mr Kenny that Mayo had failed to win the Sam Maguire during his time in office.

He said the Taoiseach was courageous when he agreed to take over the leadership of his party when it was at such a low ebb in 2002. He was courageous when he decisively faced down those who challenged him and then went on to win the 2011 general election.

But most of all it was “incredibly courageous to give your heart and soul to working on your job in Government knowing Michael Ring was back in Mayo stealing your votes”.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said his party and Fine Gael did not agree on many issues but “I always found Enda to be friendly on a personal level. Probably the best leader Fine Gael ever had.”

He said the Taoiseach’s departure from office would be a big change for his family.

“Let me say I will miss you. I will miss your entertaining tales of meetings you have had and meetings you have not had and recollections of people you have met along the way, like the man with the two pints in one hand.”

Mr Adams said he would “miss your optimistic energy”, his jizz, sense of humour and his ability to field questions without giving a clue about his view on the question he was actually asked.

Forty-two years was a long time in the House and he deserved his time out. He also wished Minister for Finance Michael Noonan well in his retirement as a Minister.

Mr Adams said there had been successes including the success of the same-sex marriage referendum. But he said said there had also been abject failures, including the Taoiseach’s consistent failure to recognise the State of Palestine, “the squandering of the biggest mandate in the history of the State as the Fine Gael-Labour Government reneged on election promises, kowtowed to the elites in the EU and the banking and finance sectors, and saddled the people of this State with a debt of €65 billion”.

He said another great failing “has been a clear lack of affinity with the North, one of the deepest problems facing the political system here, and a clear lack of consistent strategic engagement with the process of change that is under way on this island”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny waves to wellwishers as he leaves Government Buildings to go to Áras an Uachtaráin to resign on Tuesday.

Party backbencher

Mr Kenny stands down after six years as the longest serving Fine Gael Taoiseach and the first to secure a second consecutive term in government for the party.

He now becomes a party backbencher until the next general election when he is expected to retire as a TD.

The Taoiseach is also father of the House as the longest serving TD with 42 years in the Dáil. He was first elected in 1975 in a byelection following the death of his father Henry and fought another 12 elections in his Dáil tenure.

He served three years as a cabinet minister, holding the tourism and trade portfolio in the 1994 to 1997 rainbow coalition.

He also served for a year as minister of state for education and for labour from February 1986 to March 1987.

Mr Kenny took over from Michael Noonan as party leader in 2002 after a disastrous general election for the party and in 2007 the party’s numbers in the Dáil went from 32 to 51 TDs.

In the 2011 general election at the height of the economic recession, Fine Gael secured 76 seats, the most in the party’s history, under his leadership.

For the first time Fine Gael was the largest party in the Dáil and Mr Kenny became the State’s 13th Taoiseach.

AIB secures likely buyers for all of IPO stake

Shares in bank plunge as speculative investors digest price range for 28.8% being offered

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At one stage, AIB was notionally Europe’s fifth-largest bank by market value.

Investment banks and brokers working on AIB’s upcoming flotation have secured enough demand to cover the maximum 28.8% stake the Government plans to sell in the coming weeks, according to market sources.

A spokesman for the Department of Finance said the fact that the order book has been covered is “in line with expectations and shows that there’s good investor interest” in the deal.

Crucially, the initial orders fall within the range of between €3.90 to €4.90 per share that the Government announced as the expected initial public offering price range on Monday evening.

However, the ultimate success of the IPO, due to price around June 23rd, will depend on the extent to which the share sale has been oversubscribed and the type of investors it attracts. AIB’s chief executive Bernard Byrne has set his sights on mainly attracting fund managers with a long-term perspective, rather than hedge funds, who might be willing to pay more but would only have a short-term interest in the bank.

The deal is being led by Deutsche Bank, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Davy, with Goodbody Stockbrokers, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and UBS also on the team.

Shares plunge last Tuesday

Meanwhile, shares in AIB plunged by more than 28% on the junior market in Dublin on Tuesday morning as investors digested the expected price range. By late trading, the drop had reduced, but shares were still almost 14 per cent lower at €5.60.

Many small, speculative investors had ignored repeated warnings from the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan in recent few years that AIB’s stock – of which only 0.2% remained tradable after the State seized the bank in 2010 – had been overvalued amid thin trading volumes.

While the shares spiked late last month at €9.20, the Department of Finance revealed on Monday that it sees €4.90 per share as the top of its likely IPO range. This implies a value of between €10.6 billion and €13.2 billion for the bank.

The overvaluation of AIB first emerged in August 2011 when investors ignored a surge in the number of shares in issuance as taxpayers pumped the final amount of a total €20.8 billion rescue of the bank during the crisis.

At one stage, the bank was notionally Europe’s fifth-largest bank by market value, at over €60 billion, even as it was posting record losses. That was equivalent to nearly the State’s entire €64 billion bill for saving the banking system during the crisis and the €67.5 billion international credit line the Government was forced to accept in 2010 .

Being overweight, not just obese, carries a lot of serious health risks

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Excess weight can trigger a lot of killer diseases.

“Four million people died in 2015 as a result of being too tubby, struck by cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other killer conditions,” reports now show?

This is based on a global study that looked at how the proportion of people who are overweight and obese has changed over time. This was determined by recording body mass index (BMI), where a BMI of 25-29.9 means being overweight and 30 or above is being obese.

Researchers then assessed the link between having an unhealthy BMI and health outcomes including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

It found that, despite public health efforts, obesity is on the rise in almost every country and in both adults and children. Prevalence has doubled in most countries over the past 30 years. Researchers also estimated that having a high BMI accounted for 4 million deaths globally, 40% of which occurred in people who were overweight but not yet obese.

This demonstrates that being overweight may almost be as risky to health as being obese. The rate of increase in obesity was also greater in children, showing the need for interventions to halt and reverse this trend to avoid future disease and deaths.

What is considered a healthy weight – BMI 20 to 25 – was unsurprisingly found to be the category with the lowest health risk. The best way to obtain and maintain a healthy BMI is to eat a healthy calorie-restricted diet and exercise regularly; two concepts that are at the core of the NHS Weight Loss Plan.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from a wide range of global institutions and universities, but was led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE), based at the University of Washington in Seattle. It was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The research was published in the peer-reviewed The New England Journal of Medicine on an open-access basis, which means it is free to read online (PDF, 2.3Mb).

A surprising key finding, as the BBC reported, is that “of the 4 million deaths attributed to being overweight in 2015, nearly 40% were not considered clinically obese”. The BBC accurately explains how merely being overweight, and not just obese, can increase risk of death.

What kind of research was this?

This was a review and report of evidence from around the world that looked at how the prevalence of being overweight and obese has changed over time. The researchers then looked at how being overweight affects the risk of various health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease and death.

Gathering high quality data from across many studies over time is the best way to see whether prevalence has changed and to see which health conditions are most strongly related to high body mass index (BMI). However, it is difficult to know how big a role BMI plays in raising your risk of certain health conditions, as other factors also have an influence.

What did the research involve?

The researchers analysed data from 68.5 million people from 195 countries looking at the burden of disease related to BMI between 1990 and 2015, and according to age, sex, and country. They looked at both children and adults.

Disease burden was defined as deaths and disability-adjusted life years (accounting for years of life lost or lived with disability) due to high BMI.

Information on adult BMI was provided by 1,276 unique sources from 176 countries, and 1,211 sources from 173 countries provided data on children’s BMI.

For adults, “overweight” was defined as a BMI between 25 and 29 and “obese” was 30 or above. In children, the International Obesity Task Force definitions of childhood overweight and obesity were used. These definitions are based on the principle of a child being heavier for their age than you would expect. The results were broken down by sex and by 5-year age groups.

They looked at the effect of high BMI on health outcomes and estimated the increase in risk associated with a change of five units of BMI in 5-year age groups for:

  • ischemic heart disease (eg angina and heart attack)
  • ischemic stroke (caused by a blood clot)
  • haemorrhagic stroke (caused by a bleed)
  • hypertensive heart disease (strain on the heart caused by high blood pressure)
  • diabetes

To understand where most of the burden of disease occurs, they looked at three ranges of BMI (20 to 24; 25 to 29 and 30 or over) and for five overarching groups of diseases:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • chronic kidney disease
  • cancers
  • musculoskeletal disorders

They also determined the BMI associated with the lowest overall risk of death.

What were the basic results?

In 2015, globally 107.7 million children and 603.7 million adults were obese. The prevalence has doubled in more than 70 countries since 1980 and continuously increased in most other countries.

Obesity now affects an estimated 5% of all children and 12% of all adults. In all adult age brackets, prevalence was generally higher among women.

Worldwide findings included:

  • High BMI contributed to 4 million deaths in 2015 (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.7 to 5.3), representing 7.1% (95% CI 4.9 to 9.6) of all deaths globally.
  • High BMI contributed to 120 million disability-adjusted life years lost (95% CI 84 to 158).
  • A total of 39% of the deaths and 37% of the disability-adjusted life years were in people with a BMI of less than 30 (i.e. not obese).
  • Cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death and disability-adjusted life years with 2.7 million deaths (95% CI 1.8 to 3.7) and 66.3 million disability-adjusted life years (95% CI 45.3 to 88.5).
  • Diabetes was the second leading cause and contributed to 0.6 million deaths (95% CI 0.4 to 0.7) and 30.4 million disability-adjusted life years (95% CI 21.5 to 39.9).

A normal BMI of 20 to 25 in adults was associated with the lowest risk of death (the UK defines this as a healthy level).

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers concluded that their study “provides a comprehensive assessment of the trends in high BMI and the associated disease burden. Our results show that both the prevalence and disease burden of high BMI are increasing globally. These findings highlight the need for implementation of multicomponent interventions to reduce the prevalence and disease burden of high BMI.”

Conclusion?

This impressively large global study demonstrates that the prevalence of obesity is increasing worldwide among both children and adults. It supports what has long been thought, that increased body mass index (BMI) contributes to a range of illnesses and is ultimately responsible for a large number of deaths, particularly from cardiovascular disease.

One potential limitation is the use of self-reported BMI or health outcome data in some of the studies, although the majority used a specific independent measurement so this is unlikely to have biased results too much.

It is also always difficult from observational data to be certain of the exact amount of years of life lost or lived with disability that are directly caused by high BMI. It is possible that being overweight or obese may contribute to the risk of getting a particular disease, for example cancer, in combination with other health and lifestyle factors. Therefore, though based on a large quantity of data, the results must still be considered as estimates.

Nevertheless the study highlights what we already know – that being obese is linked to a large number of chronic diseases. Perhaps more notable was that it also shows that almost half of the years of life lost or lived in poor health could be attributed to people being overweight, not just obese.

This study design cannot explain the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity. However, the fact that obesity has increased in countries of all levels of development indicates it is no longer a problem solely for high income countries. As the authors suggest, there are multiple factors contributing to this continuing trend, including reduced opportunities for physical education with growing urbanisation, along with increased availability, affordability and accessibility of energy-rich but nutritionally poor food.

There is an ongoing need for effective interventions to tackle overweight and obesity, both at the public health and the individual level. Otherwise the public health burden of obesity could be for the 21st Century what smoking was to the 20th Century – an entirely preventable cause of disability and death.

Ireland is one step closer to lifting the Good Friday alcohol ban

The Irish cabinet approved a number of amendments to a private members bill which would lift the ban.

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The lifting of the alcohol ban on Good Friday got one step closer today, as Cabinet approved amendments to a private members bill that will lift the ban in restaurants, registered clubs and hotels.

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has already said the Government will not oppose the Bill tabled by the Independent Senator Billy Lawless earlier this year.

The Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2017 aims to reverse the obligatory closure of licensed premises every year on Good Friday.

Today’s amendments extend the scope of the Bill, but as it stands the ban on alcohol in pubs on Good Friday still exists.

Originally, the Government had intended to deal with the 90-year old alcohol ban with its own legislation, but it is now happy to allow the private members bill to proceed on, with amendments made to it along the way.

While lifting the ban in pubs is yet to be approved by Cabinet, one government source said today’s amendments “signals the direction and intention” of the government to move towards an overall lifting of the ban in pubs, restaurants, clubs and hotels.

What do you think?

A Mini-poll: Should pubs be allowed to open on Good Friday?

The Poll Results: 

Glamping village owner hits out at banks over loans

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The undertaker who made world headlines when he transported a decommissioned Boeing 767 by sea to his planned glamping village, has hit out at banks who he claimed treat the west of Ireland as a “no-go area”.

The Quirky Glamping Village featuring a decommissioned Boeing 767 in Enniscrone, Co Sligo.

Enniscrone-based David McGowan told Sligo County Council that he hopes the first guests will be on site at the Quirky Nights Glamping site this time next year.

However, the entrepreneur who had hoped to be open for business this summer, outlined his difficulty in raising finance for the project saying he had been offered a bank loan, on terms which would have been “suicidal” for him to accept. He said banks had sought a €2m personal guarantee.

“As far as I was concerned I would be putting my family at risk”, said Mr McGowan.

He said the banks’ attitude was that “if it goes down, they are left with a hundred ton of scrap metal”.

Mr McGowan said that as well as being “very soul destroying”, this gave an insight into how lending institutions regard developers in the west of Ireland.

The undertaker said that he will now use Crowdfunding to raise the €2.5m needed to make his dream a reality.

He said he needed 25,000 people to pledge €100 each and was “fairly confident” of achieving that.

“I have 70,000 followers on my Facebook page,” he said.

He told councillors while there was a rumour out there he had run out of money this was not true.

“I am just being cautious. I think the banking system in this country is all wrong. I think they treat people in an inhumane way. They throw you out on the side of the road. They don’t care about your family”.

He told Sligo councillors that he had put the county on the world stage and had been trending third in the world on Twitter — behind Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin — on the night the Boeing 767 was successfully deposited on Enniscrone beach.

He has moved a decommissioned RAF helicopter, a London train and a number of former London taxis to the site.

A breakthrough in thin electrically conducting sheets paves way for smaller electronic devices

Image result for A breakthrough in thin electrically conducting sheets paves way for smaller electronic devices   Image result for Professor Marty Gregg from Queen's University School of Mathematics and Physics, have created unique 2-D sheets, called domain walls

Queen’s University Belfast researchers have discovered a new way to create extremely thin electrically conducting sheets, which could revolutionise the tiny electronic devices that control everything from smart phones to banking and medical technology.

Through nanotechnology, physicists Dr Raymond McQuaid, Dr Amit Kumar and Professor Marty Gregg from Queen’s University’s School of Mathematics and Physics, have created unique 2-D sheets, called domain walls, which exist within crystalline materials.

The sheets are almost as thin as the wonder-material graphene, at just a few atomic layers. However, they can do something that graphene can’t – they can appear, disappear or move around within the crystal, without permanently altering the crystal itself.

This means that in future, even smaller electronic devices could be created, as electronic circuits could constantly reconfigure themselves to perform a number of tasks, rather than just having a sole function.

Professor Marty Gregg explains: “Almost all aspects of modern life such as communication, healthcare, finance and entertainment rely on microelectronic devices. The demand for more powerful, smaller technology keeps growing, meaning that the tiniest devices are now composed of just a few atoms – a tiny fraction of the width of human hair.”

“As things currently stand, it will become impossible to make these devices any smaller – we will simply run out of space. This is a huge problem for the computing industry and new, radical, disruptive technologies are needed. One solution is to make electronic circuits more ‘flexible’ so that they can exist at one moment for one purpose, but can be completely reconfigured the next moment for another purpose.”

The team’s findings, which have been published in Nature Communications, pave the way for a completely new way of data processing.

Professor Gregg says: “Our research suggests the possibility to “etch-a-sketch” nanoscale electrical connections, where patterns of electrically conducting wires can be drawn and then wiped away again as often as required.

“In this way, complete electronic circuits could be created and then dynamically reconfigured when needed to carry out a different role, overturning the paradigm that electronic circuits need be fixed components of hardware, typically designed with a dedicated purpose in mind.”

There are two key hurdles to overcome when creating these 2-D sheets, long straight walls need to be created. These need to effectively conduct electricity and mimic the behavior of real metallic wires. It is also essential to be able to choose exactly where and when the domain walls appear and to reposition or delete them.

Through the research, the Queen’s researchers have discovered some solutions to the hurdles. Their research proves that long conducting sheets can be created by squeezing the crystal at precisely the location they are required, using a targeted acupuncture-like approach with a sharp needle. The sheets can then be moved around within the crystal using applied electric fields to position them.

Dr Raymond McQuaid, a recently appointed lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s University, added: “Our team has demonstrated for the first time that copper-chlorine boracite crystals can have straight conducting walls that are hundreds of microns in length and yet only nanometres thick. The key is that, when a needle is pressed into the crystal surface, a jigsaw puzzle-like pattern of structural variants, called “domains”, develops around the contact point. The different pieces of the pattern fit together in a unique way with the result that the conducting walls are found along certain boundaries where they meet.

“We have also shown that these walls can then be moved using applied electric fields, therefore suggesting compatibility with more conventional voltage operated devices. Taken together, these two results are a promising sign for the potential use of conducting walls in reconfigurable nano-electronics.”

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News Ireland daily BLOG as told byDonie

Sunday 5th March 2017

Bus Éireann may sell company property and assets to pay for redundancy scheme?

As part of revised survival plan, move considered for voluntary redundancy scheme.

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Bus Éireann suggested in a confidential email to the WRC that funding could be secured to meet the cost of a voluntary redundancy scheme.

Bus Éireann may sell assets including property to part fund a voluntary redundancy scheme for staff as part of a revised survival plan for the company.

Bus Éireann believes the board of its overall parent holding group, CIÉ, will provide it with additional funding in the short term if it produces a viable plan to tackle potential insolvency and uncompetitiveness.

The company suggested in a confidential email on Friday to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) that funding could be secured to meet the cost of a voluntary redundancy scheme to be put in place over the next 12-18 months.

Sources suggested this money could be provided by both the CIÉ holding group and by Bus Éireann itself including by means of a sale of assets including property.

The company also indicated for the first time that the immediate threat of insolvency at the company could be overcome by staff co-operation with improved efficiency measures and the implementation of all existing national agreements across the company. Plans for cuts to terms and conditions and further cost-saving measures which were to be included in an all-embracing survival plan which was to have been completed by the end of March would appear to have been shelved.

Talks suspended?

A planned all-out indefinite strike at the State-owned transport company, which was scheduled to go ahead on Monday, was suspended on Friday after the intervention of the WRC, which invited the parties to talks on Monday.

Management at the company agreed to hold back on the planned unilateral introduction of work practice changes and new efficiency measures next Monday and in turn trade unions suspended their plans for strike action.

The planned closure of the Clonmel-Dublin route on March 12th and the scheduled reduction in frequency of Dublin-Limerick and Dublin-Galway services on the same date have also been deferred pending the outcome of the new talks.

In an email on Friday afternoon, Bus Éireann management told the WRC: “We all want Bus Éireann to survive and prosper. We are very conscious of the significant long-term damage that could be caused by a strike and are willing to engage with the unions and compromise to reach a sustainable agreement. With this in mind and in a final effort to avoid a dispute the company are putting forward the following position. We believe that if we can put forward a viable plan that demonstrates that we are addressing the insolvency and competitiveness issues that we can expect financial support in the short term. This proposal covers all items and there will not be a need for any additional plans such as those suggested for the end of March.”

Bus Éireann said that the issue of uncompetitiveness at the company would significantly be addressed by “restructuring and rationalisation”.

A staff reduction?

“The implementation of streamlining structures together with improved efficiencies will allow for a reduction in staff numbers. We are confident that if we reach agreement on improved efficiencies and show how this is addressing the imminent threat of insolvency that funds will be made available to provide for the costs of voluntary severance. Releasing staff through voluntary severance could then begin rolling out over the next 12 to 18 months. Redeployment will be a critical element of achieving the core manning numbers as will voluntary severance. The potential voluntary severance packages are likely to be available across all grades. “

Bus Éireann also said in the email it was willing to negotiate with the unions on the issue of a pay increase for staff “in the context of ensuring a plan for future survival without pre-conditions”.

It said any increase must be justified in its own right.

Siptu sector organiser Willie Noone said the union’s representatives would continue to play their part in trying to avert a national public transport dispute “but we rely on the management of Bus Éireann making genuine efforts to reach a resolution”.

NBRU general secretary Dermot O’Leary said his members remained on a “war footing” and would be prepared to engage in an immediate all-out strike “should the company plough ahead with any attack on members’ terms and conditions.

Parkinson’s treatment app founder named as “Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur”

The app has helped people with Parkinson’s Disease in 40 countries.

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The founder of an app to help people with Parkinson’s Disease has been crowned Ireland’s best young entrepreneur.

The 26 year old Physiotherapist Ciara Clancy, developed Beats Medical which emits a beat or soundwave from your smartphone to help control movement and speech.

She will now receive a €45,000 investment through the Local Enterprise Offices to help develop her company further.

Minister Mary Mitchell O’ Connor and Minister Pat Breen announced the winner of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) competition at the Google European HQ in Dublin earlier today.

The competition, which is supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Enterprise Ireland and run by the 31 Local Enterprise Offices, attracted entries from over 1,800 18-to-35-year-olds and showcased some of the country’s best and brightest business talent.

In addition to becoming Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur, Ciara Clancy also won the ‘Best Established Business’ category.

The Beats Medical app provides individually tailored physiotherapy, speech and language and occupational therapy exercises through mobile phones.

Ciara Clancy said that her aim is to continue supporting more and more people with Parkinson’s around the world, as an estimated 10 million people currently live with the disease.

She is also developing digital treatments for other neurological conditions such as MS, Stroke, Dyspraxia and Cerebral Palsy.

Speaking after winning the award she said “These success stories keep all of the team at Beats Medical motivated every day to do more for the people that use our service.”

U2 at the top of Irelands rich list chart

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U2 are the richest entertainers in Ireland with a combined wealth of €645 million, according to the 2017 Sunday Times Irish Rich List.

Irish entertainers Niall Horan, Colin Farrell, Graham Norton, Michael Flatley, Daniel O’Donnell, and Enya also feature on the new list, which examines the wealth of the 300 richest individuals and families in Ireland across entertainment, sport, business, technology and construction.

U2’s last world tour took in $133m but the band are still some way behind the world’s richest entertainer, Paul McCartney, who was estimated to have a fortune of £730m on 2015’s Sunday Times list.

One Direction star Horan is the only person under 40 on the Richest Entertainers List, and has securing a place among the top 10. Donegal star Daniel O’Donnell also makes the grade with an estimated wealth of €31m.

Alastair McCall, Editor of The Sunday Times Rich List, said: “U2’s status as one of Ireland’s most recognisable exports is confirmed by their position at the top of our Entertainers’ Rich List, accounting in their own right for more than 30% of the wealth measured. They are to Ireland what Abba were to Sweden in the 1970s – a global brand with instant recognition.”

Actors including Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Farrell also appear on the Richest Entertainers List. Wicklow residents Daniel Day-Lewis and his wife Rebecca Miller are in at 8th place on the list with a fortune of €55m between them.

Threat to Sligo vet lab is against Irish rural policy says Marian Harkin

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The Independent MEP Marian Harkin.

The Independent MEP Marian Harkin has said the possible closure of the Department of Agriculture’s regional veterinary laboratory (RVL) in Sligo conflicts with Government rural policy.

The proposal by the Department to close the lab in Sligo and others is flying in the face of good animal health practice and in contravention of recent Government policies to stimulate development in rural areas, according to Marian Harkin MEP.

She was speaking after it was revealed by the Irish Farmers Journal that RVLs are subject to a major internal review headed by Professor Alan Reilly, the former chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

One of the recommendations from the report is to, in time, close Limerick, Sligo and Kilkenny, with an upgrading of the facilities at the other three labs.

“The Sligo laboratory also plays a significant role in helping to protect Ireland’s animal health status, which is a major positive marketing tool in promoting the country’s food products on a worldwide basis,” Marian said.

A six-hundred kilometre round-trip?

“We have seen successive lip service plans to supposedly bring long overdue balanced regional development and the latest Ireland 2040 plan’s strategy is to ensure that ‘the enormous potential of the rural parts of our country are maximised’”, she said.

If the closure goes ahead, it will leave farmers having to travel a 600km round-trip from the Inishowen Peninsula to the proposed centralised facility in Athlone.

Bringing a dead animal for the examination would have significance for both the farmer concerned and for the build-up of knowledge, which is vital to protecting the country’s animal disease status, the Independent MEP said.

She questioned how this aspiration for regional development could be taken seriously in the northwest when a service vital to the region’s most important economic sector was proposed to be removed.

Saving the lab petition.

In an effort to save the RVL, part-time suckler farmer Trevor Boland, who is from Dromard in Co Sligo, set up a petition.

He told the Irish Farmers Journal the RVL is of vital importance to farmers from Donegal to Sligo.

“If this RVL closes, the nearest one to us will be in Athlone and that will affect the speed of post-mortem tests and their results,” he said.

Obesity now linked to 11 types of cancer as our overweight population grows

Image result for Obesity now linked to 11 types of cancer as our overweight population grows  Image result for Obesity now linked to 11 types of cancer as our overweight population grows  Related image

A new research finds a link between obesity and 11 cancers as the worldwide obesity rate continues rising, according to the World Health Organization.

Obesity is strongly linked to the development of 11 types of cancers, including breast, kidney, rectum, colon, and pancreatic cancer, scientists warned in a new study.

The research on excess body fat and cancer, published in the British Medical Journal, reviewed more than 200 studies on cancer and obesity and found “strong evidence” of a connection between increased body fat and 11 cancers.

“Other associations could also be genuine, but there is still substantial uncertainty about them,” lead study author Dr. Maria Kyrgiou, of Imperial College London, said by email, according to reports from several news outlets.

Researchers specifically reviewed the data on body mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height, and discovered links between an increase in BMI and a higher risk for cancers of the pancreas, kidney, bone marrow, esophagus and biliary tract.

The strongest connection was discovered between obesity and cancer of the digestive organs, and excess fat and hormone-related cancers in women, according to the survey.

But, the study authors cautioned that more research is needed to better understand the connection between obesity and cancer.

Cancer is a leading cause of death globally, with almost 9 million people dying from a form of the disease in 2015, according to the World Health Organization, and the numbers are expected to continue increasing by about 70 percent over the next two decades, the WHO said on its website.

Almost 2 million adults are overweight or obese, the WHO reported. Obesity increases the risks for all kinds of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 24th September 2016

Enda Kenny vows no change to Ireland’s 12.5% corporate tax rate

Image result for Enda Kenny vows no change to Ireland’s 12.5% corporate tax rate  Image result for “The American Chamber believes that competitiveness and certainty of tax policy are necessary to Ireland’s foreign direct investment   Image result for “The American Chamber believes that competitiveness and certainty of tax policy are necessary to Ireland’s foreign direct investment

There will be no change to Ireland’s 12.5% corporate tax rate, the Taoiseach told US business leaders in Ireland yesterday.

Enda Kenny gave the reassurance after his first post-Brexit meeting with the American Chamber of Commerce at a business lunch in Cork.

Chamber president, Bob Savage, said the need for certainty in policy and administration to secure current and future inward investment had come into sharp focus in recent weeks in the wake of the UK’s shock Brexit vote.

“The American Chamber believes that competitiveness and certainty of tax policy are necessary to Ireland’s foreign direct investment (FDI) offering,” he said.

And in their pre-budget submission, the chamber, which represents US companies in Ireland employing some 140,000 people, said competitiveness and certainty of tax policy are vital parts of Ireland’s foreign direct investment offering.

After meeting members of the chamber’s board yesterday, Mr Kenny ruled out any question of Ireland’s corporate tax rate being up for negotiation post-Brexit, or following the EU’s tax ruling on US tech giant Apple, which is the subject of an appeal.

“This is the first meeting I have had with the (American Chamber (of Commerce) since the decision on Brexit,” Mr Kenny said.

“I have to say that the American Chamber has given a very strong indication of their continued support for investment in Ireland.

“I have made it perfectly clear, from a tax certainty point of view, that Ireland is absolutely committed to its 12.5% corporation tax rate.

“That will not be changing and that is an important element for consideration with American investors coming here to Ireland.

“From my discussions with the IDA the (foreign direct investment) pipeline is busy up ahead.

“There are matters that we need to attend to in the future in terms of infrastructure, housing and provision of adequate facilities for major companies to do their jobs here.

“There are 175,000 people directly employed in both companies that are both associated with and members of the American Chamber and Irish companies who have invested here.”

Mr Savage welcomed the Taoiseach’s clear statement on corporate tax.

“We appreciate the Taoiseach’s unambiguous declaration that the Government will steadfastly defend our hard-earned reputation as a pro-business country that is defined by fairness and certainty of treatment,” he said.

“We have never seen the competition for US business investment from other regions of the world as intense as it is today. It is essential that we constantly benchmark our competitiveness against the countries that compete with us.”

Thousands of protesters take part in pro-choice rally in Dublin

London, Paris, Brussels and New York among cities hosting demonstrations

Image result for Thousands of protesters take part in pro-choice rally in Dublin  Image result for Thousands of protesters take part in pro-choice rally in Dublin

Bad weather and bus strikes did not deter thousands turning out for the fifth annual March for Choice rally in Dublin.

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in a Dublin rally calling for he repeal of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution in one of the biggest pro-choice demonstrations seen in Ireland.

The march set off from Garden of Rembrance on Parnell Square shortly after 2pm, travelling down O’Connell Street.

The mainly young crowd shouted chants of “Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate”, “Get your rosaries off my ovaries”, and “Pro-life, that’s a lie, you don’t care if women die” before reaching Merrion Square where speeches were made.

Incessant heavy rain and the ongoing Dublin Bus strike failed to deter large crowd. ,

Organised by the Abortion Rights Campaign, the March for Choice event was the fifth annual protest by the group and the biggest.

Several observers put the attendance at about 20,000, although some participants calculated a higher figure.

Pro-choice campaigners among the Irish diaspora are holding parallel demonstrations in a number of cities including London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Melbourne.

Linda Kavanagh of the Abortion Rights Campaign said: “In 1916 people dreamed of a better Ireland, one of self-determination and the right to choose their own destiny. A hundred years later, we’re still fighting for that right; there can be no freedom without bodily autonomy.

“We cannot wait for another woman to die, for another woman to be kept alive artificially, for another woman to be force-fed and cut open against her will.

“Enough blood has been spilled, enough women have died. No more shame, no more silence, no more stigma. This is our Rising.”

Singer Mary Coughlan told the crowd: “I have been involved in many campaigns, and this is surely the most joyous of all to see so many of you here today.

“I’m a mother of five children, three daughters and two sons. I’m a grandmother of three children and another one on the way.

Sligo man and restaurant boss wants to see the county helped out more by the Government

Image result for Sligo native Anthony Gray was elected President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland  Image result for Sligo native Anthony Gray was elected President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland

The President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Sligoman, Anthony Gray (right of picture above) has urged the Government to help Sligo and rural Ireland in its recovery and growth before it becomes a ‘desert wasteland’.

“It’s quite amazing to see other small towns and counties like Mayo thriving while the rest of rural Ireland is forgotten about. For example, Mayo has five dedicated tourist officers and Galway, eight. Sligo has a big fat zero, the same as many other rural towns like Roscommon. I wonder why you continually hear of job announcements in these areas. Maybe, it’s due to the fact they have fibre broadband, motorways and good healthcare?

Mr Gray continued, “I drive to Dublin regularly and from the Collooney roundabout until Castlebaldwin it’s quite eerie just to count the number of crosses where far too many people have been killed. What a picture for potential tourists, visitors and investors. We are to get a motorway, but when?

“We in Sligo, only have tourism to hang our hat on. We have zero job investments but fantastic hard working people in IDA who keep trying to bring more to Sligo but the government only allows them a 19% growth outside of Dublin. If it wasn’t for some talented like-minded people who believe in and drive Sligo forward, who brought the Fleadh here and tirelessly promote Sligo for its food culture and beauty, you might as well forget this part of the most beautiful countryside actually exists.

“At present, the only major contributor to Sligo for me is Failte Ireland, they realise its wealth as a tourist destination and believe it will work. It is the only organisation that are investing in Sligo,” he said.

With the success of events like the Fleadh, the continuing hard work by the Tidy Towns, Sligo food trail and other groups who consistently promote Sligo for its rich heritage in music and beauty, it really shows that there is a passion and it clearly outlines our ability to succeed but when there is absolutely no Government support its very frustrating.

I sit on many boards trying to promote Sligo and, pardon the pun, there’s one major ingredient missing from all rural towns in Ireland and Sligo and that is government investment and money. Sometimes, you can’t even get enough money for a sign to bring with you to say that you’re from Sligo.”

A frustrated Mr Gray noted Sligo’s most recent loss. “Sligo has most recently lost its library due to the county council being handed a financial plan that’s totally unrealistic. The fact of the matter is the council has no money and it is being asked to reduce its staff by 42%. Something has to give and what can you do if you don’t have the staff? Let’s call it as it is, Sligo has no money, fact. None whatsoever from the government and more than likely, it won’t get any in a hurry, the same as every other rural town in Ireland. This is why we will never reach our full potential unless changes are made. No one can work in the direction they want because of this. It’s down to the current government to make changes and no one else.

It’s about time that Sligo and rural Ireland stood up and got angry. At present, our TDs in rural Ireland and Sligo are not strong enough nor do they possess the political clout. Do you think a library in Kerry would have closed under the eyes of the Healy Rae brothers? Not a hope.

This Government’s blind indifference to Sligo and rural Ireland is destroying its potential. The litany of broken promises from the last general election measured against outcomes since represents the greatest act of political skulduggery by this government. It is true the greatest failure is the two tier recovery, it will be the ruination of rural Ireland and Sligo if not addressed.

Strategic thinking and the right resource application can transform our local economy. A balancing of the books by government can give Sligo a budget it can work with to embrace its true potential, all that’s required is a life line. We in Sligo and other towns can do this and the rest of the country will start to prosper but only then. The government must look at this matter clearly instead of with the blinkered vision. Right now there is a two-tier economy and this is widening between urban and rural Ireland.

If the government wants to redeem themselves they must understand that Ireland, especially rural Ireland, is still in a very fragile state. With now having to contend with Brexit and fluctuations in sterling, it really is about time the people in power remember the rest of Ireland and the border counties. It’s time somebody cared and did something about rural Ireland. After all, it’s not a desert wasteland but it will be if the government fails to repay rural Ireland for what it suffered in austerity by not investing in job creation and boosting tourism. For now, a Sligo budget will be detrimental to the Restaurant Industry in rural Ireland and Sligo and SMEs across this nation.”

A “Healthy Weight for Ireland” new action plan to tackle obesity

 Image result for A "Healthy Weight for Ireland" new action plan to tackle obesity   Image result for A "Healthy Weight for Ireland" new action plan to tackle obesity                                                                                                                Sugar Tax

60% of Ireland’s adults now overweight or obese

A new action plan to target Ireland’s growing obesity problem has been launched by the Department of Health.

Currently in Ireland, six in 10 adults and one in four children are overweight or obese and this costs the country around €1 billion per year. Carrying excess weight significantly increases a person’s risk of developing a number of serious conditions, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

A Healthy Weight for Ireland – Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016- 2025 contains 60 specific actions which aim to reduce the burden of obesity and improve the overall health of Irish people.

Actions which will be taken over the coming years include:

  1. -New national healthy eating guidelines
  2. -The development of a nutrition policy
  3. -Calorie posting legislation
  4. -The prioritisation of obesity services in the HSE service plans for 2017 and beyond
  5. -Support for the introduction of a sugar levy to discourage the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks
  6. -The appointment of a new clinical lead for obesity by the HSE.

Speaking at the launch of the plan in Dublin, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, said that while lifestyle choices are made by individuals and families, ‘Government can and must help to empower people to make these healthy choices’.

“We have a responsibility to influence the environment and conditions which help people to have their desired quality of life and enjoy physical and mental health and wellbeing to their full potential,” he commented.

The plan recognises that when it comes to obesity rates in Ireland, there are socio-economic inequalities, with people in poorer areas much more likely to be obese.

To this end, the HSE aims to develop community-based health promotion programmes with a special focus on disadvantaged areas.

Meanwhile also at the launch of the plan, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, launched Healthy Lifestyles – Have Your Say, a report based on consultations with children and young people on this issue.

“Body image and media influences were identified as the main barriers to a healthy lifestyle among teenagers, including the pressure to conform to a particular body image. Exam stress and heavy study workloads were identified as contributing to sedentary and unhealthy lifestyles.

“Other school-related issues identified by young people include their criticisms of the teaching of social, personal and health education (SPHE) and the lack of choice in physical education (PE), with the few alternatives to team sports it offers and its failure to cater for different interests,” Minister Zappone explained.

She said that it is important to give young people a voice in decisions that affect their lives and this also leads to ‘more effective policies and services’.

The obesity plan was welcomed by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, which said that it offered ‘an unprecedented opportunity to create a healthier nation’.

The plan was also welcomed by the Irish Heart Foundation, but it warned about the risk of ‘implementation paralysis’.

“We need to ensure that the implementation paralysis that has accompanied previous policies is not repeated. It’s a worrying sign that there is currently no dedicated funding for the strategy, whilst we already know that one of its key measures, the imposition of a sugar-sweetened drinks tax, has been postponed until 2018 at least, despite overwhelming public and political support,” commented the IHF’s head of advocacy, Chris Macey.

He added that the longer it takes to address this issue, ‘the more children will be condemned to lives dominated by ill health, chronic disease and the prospect of an early grave’.

Scandinavian type baby care boxes aim to reduce cot deaths in Ireland

Image result for Scandinavian baby care boxes aim to reduce cot deaths in Ireland   Image result for baby care boxes aim to reduce cot deaths in Ireland

A Scandinavian baby care concept which has dramatically reduced infant mortalities such as cot deaths in Finland was introduced to Irish mothers-to-be yesterday.

The baby box programme launched at University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) will provide free baby boxes for infants to sleep in.

Made from durable cardboard, the box can be used as a baby’s bed for the first eight months of life. The box prevents babies from rolling onto their tummies, which experts say can contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The baby boxes come with a foam mattress, waterproof mattress cover and cotton sheet.

Education material with advice from healthcare professionals on reducing risks to babies, is also included in the baby box pack.

The use of baby boxes has been credited with helping reduce infant mortality rates in Finland from 65 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 1938 to 2.26 per 1,000 births in 2015.

Ireland’s infant mortality rate is 3.7 per 1,000 births.

The concept already adapted in Britain, Canada and the US was introduced to this country yesterday at UMHL, the first Irish maternity hospital to embrace the idea.

As well as the baby boxes, new mothers will be presented with clothing and educational materials.

Dr Mendinaro Imcha, consultant gynaecologist/obstetrician UMHL, said: “The baby box programme is a proactive approach to improving the health and safety of the newborn child and parents. We are combining tradition with current technology and supporting the newborn child’s family with online education material covering a broad range of essential topics and postnatal care.”

Margaret Gleeson, chief director of nursing and midwifery at the UL hospitals group, said up to 5,000 baby boxes will be distributed to new mothers who give birth at UMHL over the coming year.

Ms Gleeson said: “The baby boxes are a thing of beauty and there is the invaluable education element of this initiative which makes this truly patient-centre.”

Tipperary-based tattoo artist, and expectant mother, Karen Smith did the artistic designs which decorate the UMHL baby boxes.

She said: “The whole meaning behind my design is rebirth. I thought the butterfly was the perfect symbol for the baby box. It is a symbolic creature in many cultures and lends itself to all manner of colourful and fanciful adaptations, in this case our beautiful baby box.”

Jennifer Clery, chief executive of the US-based The Baby Box Co, said: “We are delighted to expand our baby box programme to Ireland and look forward to this new collaboration here in Limerick at the University Maternity Hospital. The baby box is an innovative integrated programme to support parents and improve maternal and infant healthcare outcomes globally.”

UMHL is the second largest maternity hospital in the country, outside Dublin and cares from women from Limerick, Clare, Tipperary, North Kerry, North Cork and areas of Offaly.

Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg aim to ‘cure, prevent and manage’ all diseases

The couple plans to invest $3bn over next decade to help scientists develop and utilise tools such as artificial intelligence and blood monitors to treat illnesses

Image result for Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg aim to 'cure, prevent and manage' all diseases  Image result for Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg aim to 'cure, prevent and manage' all diseases   Image result for Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg aim to 'cure, prevent and manage' all diseases

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan pledge $3bn to end all disease

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have laid out plans to invest $3bn over the next 10 years with the not insignificant goal of tackling all diseases.

“Can we cure, prevent or manage all disease by the end of this century?” asked Zuckerberg, speaking in front of a packed lecture theatre at the University of California, San Francisco’s (UCSF) William J Rutter Center.

The Chan/Zuckerberg Initiative will focus on some of the world’s biggest killers, including heart disease, cancer, infectious diseases and neurological diseases.

One of its biggest investments is to be a $600m “Biohub” at UCSF, which will bring together scientists and engineers from Stanford, Berkeley and UCSF – who haven’t collaborated in this way before – to develop tools to treat diseases.

Cure all diseases? The Chan Zuckerberg plan is brilliantly bold

The second focus will be transformative technology, all of which will be made available to all scientists everywhere.

“Throughout the history of science, most of the major scientific breakthroughs have been preceded by some new tool and technology that allows you to see in new ways,” explained Zuckerberg. “The telescope helped us understand astronomy and the universe, the microscope helped us understand cells and bacteria to help us develop treatments for infectious diseases, while DNA sequencing and editing helps us fight cancer and genetic disorders.”

Zuckerberg suggested that artificial intelligence could help with brain imaging to treat neurological diseases, machine learning could be used to analyse cancer genomes, and chips and blood monitors could identify diseases quickly. “These are the kinds of tools we want to focus on building at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative,” he said.

The acclaimed American neurobiologist Cornelia Bargmann, who will lead the initiative, gave the example of a “cell atlas”, a comprehensive resource that maps the locations, types and molecular properties of all of the cells in the human body.

“We need this to develop new understanding and cures for diseases in all areas of medicine,” she said.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a limited liability company that the couple uses to make donations and investments to advance their philanthropic causes. It was launched at the birth of the couple’s first daughter, Max, in December 2015. The couple has committed 99% of their Facebook stock, valued at $45bn, to the initiative, which makes charitable donations and for-profit investments.

The organisation initially focused on education, funding the Indian company BYJU’s, which helps students learn maths and science, and the Nigerian company Andela, which trains African software developers. It has now turned its attention to science.

The organisation will achieve its objective by focusing on building tools and technology, bringing scientists from across the world together and growing a movement to fund more scientific research.

Will Zuckerberg and Chan’s $45bn pledge change philanthropy?

Wiping back tears in an emotional opening talk, Chan described her work as a paediatrician.

“I have worked with families at their most difficult moments in their lives, from making the devastation diagnosis of leukaemia to sharing with them that we were unable to resuscitate their child,” she said. “By investing in science today, we hope to build a future in which all of our children can live long and rewarding lives.”

Zuckerberg and Chan acknowledged it was an ambitious undertaking. “It’s a big goal,” said Zuckerberg. However, he said that he and Chan had spent two years talking to Nobel Prize-winning scientists and researchers and believed it was not unrealistic.

“Can we all together work to cure, prevent or manage all disease within our children’s lifetime? We think it’s possible and so do scientists,” Chan added. “It’s not that we won’t ever get sick, but that our children and their children will get sick a lot less.”

The plan won the approval of one surprise guest – Microsoft founder-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates. He was welcomed to the stage by Zuckerberg, who described him as a “role model and mentor”.

“The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is already doing some very promising work in improving the education of all students. It’s amazing they are taking on another bold challenge,” said Gates, who has flexed his philanthropic muscles by funding projects to tackle malaria and HIV through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the last 15 years.

“We cannot end these diseases with the tools we have today. Only through science can we get an HIV vaccine, a malaria vaccine,” he said.

“I am so impressed with the team that’s been pulled together here. I have no doubt that we’ll make great progress on these diseases and literally save millions of lives and make the world a better place.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 4th June 2016

Irish Revenue plans for renewed Border control in the event of Brexit

The Irish Government now planning stragety in the event of a ‘Brexit Leave’ vote

    

A PSNI and a Garda officer at the Irish Border. In the event of a Brexit, Border controls may be reintroduced in Ireland and Revenue is working to examine the repercussions for travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The Revenue Commissioners are carrying out an examination of the reintroduction of Border controls if the UK votes to leave the EU.

The Irish Times has learned an analysis is under way by the agency of how many Customs officers would be required to staff potential controls between the North and the Republic.

Revenue is also examining the introduction of automated Border controls to be established in the aftermath of a Brexit.

This would mean there would not be a need for the constant presence of an immigration officer, and processes could be carried out electronically.

The Government is also understood to be preparing a contingency plan to outline how it will deal with a “Leave” outcome.

However, it is said to be confident it has a two-year timeframe to address the risks and opportunities that arise from a Brexit.

The Government is said to be aware a “Leave” vote would bring economic, trade, legal and operational risks for Ireland.

A British exit from the EU would have similar consequences for other countries that trade with the UK.

However, it is suggested the impact on Ireland would be proportionately greater than on other member states.

The key areas identified for such impact are trade, markets, migration, social welfare, energy market, foreign direct investment and Northern Ireland.

Fall in trade

Every 1 per cent decrease in UK GDP can normally be expected to result in a decrease of 0.3 per cent in Irish GDP, according to research from the Economic and Social Research Institute.

The Government fears trade between Ireland and the UK could fall by as much as 20 per cent in the medium term.

It anticipates the agrifood business, in particular, would be particularly vulnerable.

There is also concern that there may be disproportionate adverse impacts on jobs here.

Any changes to the common travel areas will have consequences for migration flows between the UK and Ireland.

Border controls may be reintroduced and Revenue is working to examine the repercussions for travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Issues may also arise for foreign direct investment and the possibility that it may be diverted elsewhere in the EU.

Strategies may be implemented and developed to mitigate these effects on the economy.

The implications?

The Government’s plan will incorporate details from each Minister, department and agency about the policy, operational and programmatic implications that will follow.

A referendum on whether the UK should stay or leave the EU takes place on June 23rd.

Senior Government Ministers and the Taoiseach are expected to travel in the coming weeks to urge the Irish living in Britain to vote against a Brexit.

It has been estimated by campaign groups there are about half a million first-generation Irish living in England, Scotland and Wales.

A communications strategy has also been be prepared and diplomatic contact has been prepared for the outcome.

It is understood the Government is also preparing plans in the event that the UK remains a member of the EU.

As part of an agreement reached by heads of state and government at an EU Council meeting, four key measures were agreed in the areas of economic governance, competitiveness, sovereignty and social benefits.

If the UK remains, Ireland will examine whether it will avail of its agreement on child benefit payments.

The proposal would see payments brought into line with standard of living in the state of residence.

Killer gangs behind 240 murders still at large in Ireland?

     Mark Noonan and Glen Murphy murdered - RTE Prime Time

Figures now show that in the past 10 years, there have been more than 130 gangland murders in Ireland which have not been solved.

More than 240 murders committed by criminal gangs in Ireland remain unsolved, according to new figures.

A report by RTÉ’s ‘Prime Time’ last night examined the worrying figures which haunt the families of victims of crime on a daily basis.

The figures show that in the past 10 years, there have been more than 130 gangland murders which have not been solved.

Worryingly, from 1980 to the present day, the killers responsible for 240 murders have never been caught and brought to justice.

In November 2010, cousins Mark Noonan and Glen Murphy joined the catalogue of murder victims after they were shot dead at a filling station at the Clearwater Shopping Centre in Finglas, Dublin.

They were murdered by members of a Dublin gang who then fled across the border.

Despite a large-scale garda investigation, nobody has been charged with the brutal murder.

Mark’s mother Geraldine told ‘Prime Time’ that the failure of the State to catch the killers responsible for her son’s murder has added to her unspeakable grief.

“They went to the shop that night like anybody else to get a DVD and a packet of cigarettes,” said Geraldine.

“Mark had a little girl, she was only nine months old.

“Our lads are now lying in a grave and the killers are still out, walking and living,” the heartbroken mother added.

DRUG COMPANIES CANNOT HOLD COUNTRIES LIKE IRELAND TO RANSOM

  

The Tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald (above left) has said drug companies cannot be allowed to hold countries or patients to ransom.

Frances Fitzgerald has been quizzed in the Dáil after the National Centre for Pharma-Economics ruled that Orkambi which is used to treat cystic fibrosis is too expensive.

It is understood that the manufacturer Vertex may be willing to re-negotiate it’s €158,000 a year per patient price.

The Tánaiste says drug companies have to be reasonable: “I want to welcome the decision that was taken yesterday for example, by Bristol-Myers Squibb in relation to continuing to give another drug to making it available in a compassionate way to people at this point.

“And it is very important, indeed critical that drug companies do not hold countries or patients to ransom in terms of pricing and the real challenge of course for new drugs is the very high prices sought by manufacturers.”

The Tánaiste said that she agrees with the head of the National Centre for Pharma-Economics, who ruled the drug is too expensive.

“Dr Barry made it absolutely clear this morning that he felt, in his expert opinion, that the manufacturers of this product have got it wrong when it comes to pricing,” she said.

“Now obviously what we want to ensure is that patients recive the drugs that they need.”

Why we need to get out a bit more in the healthy sunshine and have safe sunbathing?

   

Valerie O’Connor suggests we drop the Factor 50 and get our Vitamin D fix directly from the source.

Skin cancer it seems, is on the rise in some parts of the world.

The rise of skin cancer concurs with the rise in the use of sunscreen products essentially that are being absorbed through our skin and adding to the toxic load that we are walking about with.

Some years ago I bumped into a reputable plastic surgeon while out buying a pint of milk in Dublin, as you do.

He commented on my pasty complexion and said I needed to get some sun, of course I retorted that the sun is meant to be bad for you and the free lecture I got put me in my place and I haven’t used sunscreen since.

We need vitamin D, it boosts our serotonin levels so we actually feel happier when we get some sun exposure.

Vitamin D deficiency is one of the causes of osteoporosis and MS patients are prescribed high doses of the stuff — plus they are told to get as much sunlight as possible.

Not enough vitamin D, which we create in our bodies from sunlight, actually leads to aching bones, fatigue and a low mood.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means if you have a gastrointestinal condition that affects your ability to absorb fat, you may have lower absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D as well.

This includes gut conditions like Crohn’s, coeliac disease and IBS.

But of course we have been scared to death by the figures of skin cancer and have become simply afraid of the sun.

I saw a toddler on the beach at the weekend who was joyfully without clothes, I knew the child mustn’t have been Irish as you never see a child on a beach in Ireland who isn’t armoured in a full-body anti-UV suit plus a hat with scarf while sitting in the shade.

Babies are now being born deficient in vitamin D and they are getting injections to give them what they need. Who wants their baby to be depressed?

While it is called a vitamin, D is more of a hormone that can really only be gotten through exposure to the sun, and guess what, we don’t really get much of it in on our lovely little island.

Recent studies at UCC indicate an insufficiency of vitamin D throughout the population but most especially in infants and toddlers, whose sensitive skin burns easily.

Further studies due to be published later this year will show that a cohort of overweight children in Ireland appear to have abnormally low levels of vitamin D — the lowest in the world, according to Dr Aoife Carroll of Temple Street Children’s Hospital.

Now we shouldn’t go out and get burned, there is such a thing as responsible sunbathing and a way to do it safely, most dermatologists and specialists, advise safe amounts of sunlight, especially as it’s the only way our bodies can synthesise vitamin D.

Some nutritionists (not dieticians, there is a huge difference), are now recommending short sun-bed sessions for patients with chronic fatigue, thyroid and other auto-immune conditions when there isn’t sunshine available.

If you feel yourself coming down with a cold or chill, four or five minutes on a sun-bed can nip symptoms in the bud.

  • So what is a recipe for safe tanning?
  • Tanning, what a word, almost gone out of date.
  • No don’t roll out the tin-foil and get the baby oil out.
  • It’s more calculated that that.
  • We have melanin in our skin for a reason, it acts as a natural, protective barrier against the suns harmful rays, but it needs to be built up slowly.
  • If you want to tan safely and get that delicious feeling you only get when you lie in the sun, here’s how to do it: ideally not in the midday sun.

Do not apply sunscreen.  Sunbathing with care:

  1. Roll out a wool blanket or a sheepskin rug, preferably onto the grass or any natural surface.
  2. Take off all your clothes, within reason of course depending on where you are.
  3. Toast yourself for ten minutes each side.
  4. Put your clothes on and carry about your business.

Over days you can increase the time by five minutes each side, but always employ common sense. Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

If you want to build up a good protective layer and enhance your tan you can drink carrot juice every day.

Ideally do this for a month before you go away somewhere really hot, on your holidays.

The beta carotene in the carrots produces vitamin A and gives you a natural glow that comes from the inside as well as promoting a beautiful, even complexion.

So even if you don’t want to sit in the sun, carrot juice, ideally freshly-pressed will make you gorgeous and means you don’t have to spray yourself in orange chemicals when you go to a wedding.

Generally I like to make a juice that we call the ABC, it’s apple, carrot and beetroot so you get tons of vitamins together and the liver booster of beetroot too.

Being overweight and having a large waistline increases risk of prostate cancer

Every 4in (10cm) increase in waistline raises risk of developing fatal cancer by 18%, A University of Oxford study finds.

    

Having a high BMI or a large waistline increases the risk of developing fatal prostate cancer, A recent study finds

The risk of developing aggressive prostate cancer can be worsened by being an unhealthy weight and having a large waistline, a study has found. Researchers found that every 4in (10cm) increase in waist circumference can increase a man’s chances of developing fatal prostate cancer by 18%. The risk of being killed by a fatal strand of the disease also rises if a man has a high body mass index (BMI), the report said.

The study, by scientists at the University of Oxford, examined more than 140,000 men across eight countries with a mean age of 52 years. After 14 years, 7,000 incidents of prostate cancer were identified, of which 934 were fatal. It also found that high-grade prostate cancer, an aggressive form of the illness, was exacerbated by obesity. There was a 13% increase in the risk of developing it for every 4in (10cm) of waistline gained.

A study, funded by Cancer Research UK, said: “The findings from this large prospective study show that the association between body size and prostate cancer is complex and varies by disease aggressiveness; men who have greater adiposity have an elevated risk of high-grade prostate cancer and prostate cancer death. Our results are in line with health advice for other non-communicable diseases. Men should try to maintain a healthy weight.”

A spokesman for Prostate Cancer UK said: “Maintaining a healthy weight and staying active can protect against many diseases, including cancer. This research adds to a growing body of evidence that shows that weight and waist size could be another crucial risk factor for men to be aware of when it comes to protecting themselves against prostate cancer.”

Snails study reveals how 2 brain cells can hold the key to decision making

     

Scientists at the University of Sussex have discovered how just two neurons in the brain hold the key to explaining how complex behavioural decisions are made.

In the first-of-its-kind study, published today in Nature Communications, scientists from the University studied the brain activity of freshwater snails and discovered how a circuit comprising of just two neurons can drive a sophisticated form of decision making.

Scientists, from Sussex Neuroscience, monitored the snails’ behaviour whilst they made decisions in their search for food (in this case lettuce). The researchers then measured the activity in the snail’s brain by using electrodes to record small electrical changes, called action potentials, in individual neurons.

They discovered a controller type neuron which lets the snail’s brain know potential food is present and a second neuron which transmits signals telling the snail’s brain what it’s motivational state is, i.e., whether it’s hungry or not. The scientists also reveal how the system, created by the neurons, enables the snails to save energy by reducing brain activity when food is not found.

Professor George Kemenes, of the University of Sussex, who led the study, said: “What goes on in our brains when we make complex behavioural decisions and carry them out is poorly understood.

“Our study reveals for the first-time how just two neurons can create a mechanism in an animal’s brain which drives and optimizes complex decision making tasks. It also shows how this system helps to manage how much energy they use once they have made a decision.

“Our findings can help scientists to identify other core neuronal systems which underlie similar decision making processes. This will eventually help us design the ‘brains’ of robots based on the principle of using the fewest possible components necessary to perform complex tasks.”

Food-searching is an example of a goal-directed behaviour which is essential for survival. During goal-directed decision making, such as searching for food, animals must integrate information about both their external environment and their internal state in order to find food whilst using minimal energy.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 5th December 2014

Taoiseach Kenny surprised & shocked to see extent of homeless problem

As he takes to the streets

 

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny took to the streets of Dublin last night to help homeless volunteers in the city.

The move came as the Government pledged that whatever funding is required to ensure no-one is forced to sleep on the streets of Dublin will be made available before Christmas.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly said an extra 200 emergency beds will be made available “within days and weeks”.

“If they want a bed, if they want accommodation, it will be there for them if they so choose,” he said outside the Government’s special summit on homelessness.

The announcement follows the death of Jonathan Corrie on a doorstep of Molesworth Street in the shadow of Leinster House on Monday.

It emerged this morning that Taoiseach Enda Kenny wanted to see for himself the work of a group of volunteers from Inner City Helping Homeless with people on the streets.

The Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) volunteer group conducted their nightly outreach programme, and alongside Lord Mayor Christy Burke and ICHH Director Anthony Flynn, Enda Kenny walked the streets interacting with the homeless who were offered food, warm drinks and clothing by one of the ICHH teams.

The 50-plus volunteers and Mr Kenny finished up at 2am having fed 136 people in the relatively small area of Temple Bar and Grafton Street.

“The Taoiseach was surprised to see the extent of the problem and said he would work with us on it,” Mr Flynn told the Herald.

“He was very recptive to the people he met and seemed shocked that many of them were there due to the economic situation and job losses.

“He took the details of many of the people and I get the impression that he will try and help.”

Environment Minister Alan Kelly yesterday said there should be no reason for anybody to sleep rough and vowed that whatever was rolled-out in the capital would be replicated around the country.

Dublin’s Lord Mayor was also in attendance at the summit alongside various NGOs, state agencies and Government representatives.

Christy Burke said it was probably “the most sincere meeting” he had ever attended with a minister in 30 years.

Meanwhile Mr Corrie’s former parter Catherine McNeill has spoken about the difficulties he faced during his life.

She said that, along with her children, she saw him on the street two years ago and gave him her phone number if he ever wanted to contact them.

“He was staying in a hostel up in Dublin and he stayed there for quite a while,” she said.

“Then he was talking to his daughter and he said he was bullied in one of the hostels and someone took his wallet so that’s why he didn’t stay there.”

She said he genuinely wanted help but wasn’t sure how to get it adding that she felt it could have made a difference. M/s McNeill and their children, Natasha (14) and Nathan (16), paid tribute to their father.

“My dad was a lovely, caring man but he had a cruel life. I always wanted him to stay with me when he was leaving to go back to Dublin, but he never could,” Natasha said.

“The last time I saw him was around two years ago and he didn’t look too well.”

Separately, the heartbroken mother of Mr. Corrie has said her family did everything possible to help him. She and her late-husband bought Jonathan two houses, one after another, to live in.

LOVING

Reverend Robert McCarthy, speaking on her behalf, said he understood that Jonathan had sold both houses. He added that the loving parents went to endless trouble to help him.

M/s Corrie said she also wanted it to be known that she was able to speak with her only son as recently as last week.

Rev McCarthy said Jonathan had a drug dependency but the cause of his death would not be known until a post-mortem examination had been completed.

Following the summit, the Lord Mayor rejected the idea that the minister’s promise to have everybody off the streets by Christmas was ambitious.

He said the minister had promised “all the money you want” to deal with the crisis.

S&P upgrades Ireland rating to A on solid growth prospects

  

This year has reopened new markets to us across Asia,” Michael Noonan said in a statement.

A view shows the Standard & Poor’s building in New York’s financial district February 5, 2013.

Standard & Poor’s raised Ireland’s credit rating to ‘A’ on Friday, rewarding the former bailout recipient for what it said was solid economic growth, improving employment and a debt reduction path that stands out in the euro zone.

S&P became the first agency to strip Ireland of its prized AAA rating in March 2009 when the country’s financial crisis took hold, but was also the first to put it back in the A band with an A- rating in June as economic prospects picked up.

Ireland’s rating was upgraded by another notch to A with a stable outlook, placing it closer in S&P’s opinion to AA-rated Belgium than Portugal, which followed Ireland into an EU/IMF bailout and is rated at BB by the New York-based agency.

“The upgrade reflects our view of Ireland’s solid economic growth prospects, which we expect to underpin further improvements in the government’s budgetary position,” S&P said in a statement.

“The stable outlook balances our view that government finances have improved and that financial system asset quality is on the mend, against the prevailing downside risks associated with eurozone trading partners’ uncertain growth prospects and the Irish government’s still highly-leveraged balance sheet,” it added.

Ireland is forecasting gross domestic product (GDP) growth of almost 5 percent this year, likely making it the fastest-growing economy in the euro zone. S&P said the economy should grow by an average of 3.7 percent over the next three years.

It forecast that unemployment would fall to a near 10-year low of around 9 percent by 2017 when the debt-to-GDP ratio would also drop to 91.4 percent, a pace that it said would stand out among high and static debt levels in most euro zone countries.

The performance of NAMA, Ireland’s state-owned “bad bank”, also impressed, as did the improving health of Ireland’s lenders which nevertheless face an uneven return to profitability with credit levels set to fall until 2016.

Ireland’s finance minister said the upgrade was particularly welcome ahead of meetings with potential investors on a state visit to China over the coming days.

“The return to investment grades across all of the main ratings agencies

Obesity can take 8 years off your life,

A new study finds

  

Today, more than one-third of American adults — or 78.6 million people — are considered obese. A new study pinpoints why we should take that statistic very seriously.

The research out of McGill University has found that obesity can shorten your life expectancy by up to eight years. In addition, excess weight can cut the average lifespan by close to two decades of healthy years, thanks to the increased risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Professor and epidemiologist Steven Grover, M.D., the study’s lead author, said that the age at which you pack on those extra pounds is a key factor and that the worst outcomes were in people who gained the weight at younger ages.

For the study, published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, Grover and his colleagues utilized data from 4,000 people involved in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to analyze the contribution of excess body weight to years of life lost and healthy years of life lost. Grover found that those who were very obese could lose up to eight years of life, while obese people could lose up to six years of life. People who were simply overweight could lose up to three years of life.

People are generally considered overweight if they have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9. Those who are obese have a BMI of 30 and above, and a healthy BMI is generally defined as 18.5 to 25. Body mass index is calculated using a person’s weight and height and is, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, a fairly reliable indicator of body fat for most people.

“The pattern is clear — the more an individual weighs and the younger their age, the greater the effect on their health,” Grover said in a written release. “In terms of life-expectancy, we feel being overweight is as bad as cigarette smoking.”

Personalizing this information will make it more relevant and compelling for patients. “What may be interesting for patients are the ‘what if?’ questions. What if they lose 10 to 15 pounds? Or, what if they are more active? How will this change the numbers?” Grover said in the statement. Towards that end, the research team has launched a three-year study in community pharmacies across the country to determine whether presenting this information to patients will actually help them adopt healthier habits, including eating more nutritiously and getting regular physical activity.

“These clinically meaningful models are useful for patients, and their healthcare professionals, to better appreciate the issues and the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, which we know is difficult for many of us to adopt and maintain,” Grover said.

Obesity has long been linked to a variety of health troubles, including high blood pressure to stroke to cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Aldi and Lidl looking to keep the upmarket customers

  

After five years lying vacant Cork City’s iconic building is now host to one of the country’s fastest growing supermarket chains with Aldi to open for business next week.

During the downturn the German ’discounters’ were swooped upon by householders as a way of ’cutting your cloth’ but as the economy reignites the duo are making a play to keep discerning customers says Tommy Barker.

DESIGNED to host a high-end retailer like the homeware and fashion chain, Avoca the ground floor of Cork’s €150m Elysian tower instead has an Aldi, which will open on December 11. This is another example of changed times and of sharply-adjusted realities.

But much as it reflects the Elysian’s once-lofty hopes and its pragmatic acceptance of a paying tenant after five years of vacancy, it tells us much societally about the bedding-down and broad acceptance of German discounters like Lidl and Aldi, among initially-aloof Irish consumers.

Aldi and Lidl arrived on Irish shores 15 years ago, almost back-to-back, in 1999 and 2000 to middle-class amusement. Aldi and Lidl had strikingly similar logo liveries of yellow, blue and red — like two women turning up at a wedding, in practically identical outfits.

And while they may have arrived as garishly dressed bridesmaids (and it did take Irish shoppers time to differentiate one from the other), Aldi and Lidl have marched themselves up the aisles: there are 140 Lidl outlets and 111 Aldi’s, with 6,000 employees between them. They’re expanding like no other supermarket and have bedded down in the Irish psyche.

Almost sibling supermarkets, they arrived at the peak of the Celtic Tiger boom with value-driven, cheap and cheerful offers and remarkably small product ranges. Yet Ireland then was in thrall to choice, big brands, designer gear and reckless spending: spending that in hindsight was done on lots of borrowing.

The new kids on the block were, at first, most readily frequented by non-nationals, who had little or no previous brand loyalties. But gradually the Irish began to realise that while the prices were rock bottom, the quality was as good, if not better, than other supermarkets.

And so native Irish shoppers began to cherry-pick, via so-called ‘basket-splitting,’ using the German discounters as a ‘’secondary’ shop. Aldi and Lidl facilitated what’s since been dubbed ‘hybrid shopping’, trading down on everyday food purchases so they could survive wage cuts, unemployment or else in more affluent homes, so they could trade up on more premium products (and pardon the trade’s marketing speak) in ‘socially and emotionally relevant product categories’.

Stephen Wynne-Jones, editor of the trade-watching journal, Checkout Magazine, agrees that many Irish families had long maintained a loyalty to the country’s ‘Big Three’ of Tesco, Dunnes and SuperValu, and only visited Lidl or Aldi for things like sliced meats, cheese and the heavily advertised DIY specials.

But, as the Germans now rapidly expand their higher-quality ranges, like Lidl’s Deluxe and Aldi’s Specially Selected to their wares (along with saffron, lobster, kangaroo, ostrich meat, and pricier wines), a war is being waged on a broader product platform than Lidl and Aldi’s earliest days.

Tesco has fought back with their Price Promise; Dunnes with cash-back vouchers and familiar brand names at round-euro prices while Super-Valu stress local links with Signature Tastes, on top of sponsorships like the GAA and Tidy Towns.

Competing supermarkets’ in-house Christmas magazines are proof of the drive for this festive season’s market share, which is shaping up for a bumper spend.

This month’s expected headlong trolley rush is the end-of-year cherry-on-top for retailers everywhere, as Irish families prepare to splurge, on average, €1,500 on Xmas groceries and gifts.

Aldi and Lidl have splashed out on 52-page Christmas magazines — and SuperValu’s Fresh Christmas magazine has a hefty 98 pages.

During the recession, “shopping-around was commonplace, and each supermarket got their share,” Wynne-Jones says of the settling-down periods of Aldi and Lidl but, with a finger on the country’s retail conveyor belts he says “in the past year, driven partly by increased vouchering, there has been a move back to the big weekly shop.”

However, instead of reverting back to traditional type (ie, a ‘Dunnes’ or ‘Supervalu’ shopper), consumers are switching their ‘main’ shop to Aldi or Lidl, he says: “the average basket size in Aldi and Lidl has grown quite considerably in the past year, hence its consistent double-digit share growth”.

That double-digit growth has been facilitated by the rapid spread of the new German stores, easily built on sites of little more than an acre, and their popping up in unlikely locations, like a basement in Cork City’s Cornmarket Street (Lidl), or under 17 storeys of luxury apartments at the Elysian.

The budget-conscious Lidl and Aldi stores are physically smaller than Dunnes (116 stores in the Republic) and Tesco (142 Irish stores); but they’re on a size-par with many provincial town SuperValus (193 outlets nationwide).

Real estate company CBRE’s Bernardine Hogan says because of Lidl and Aldi’s business models they have to go into a broad variety of catchments – especially as they don’t offer online shopping or home deliveries. “Home delivery has not caught on as much here as in the UK,” she says.

A crash in Irish property and in site values also means Aldi and Lidl are getting land for far less: currently, CBRE have five Dublin City sites under offer for Aldi, says Ms Hogan. As a mark of intent, Aldi last year opened a second, €100m, 600,000 sq ft distribution centre to serve Munster, parts of Connaught, and future stores.

Lidl and Aldi are steadily closing in on Ireland’s ‘Big Three’ — combined, the duo may match their market basket share in another year or two of ongoing store openings. The prize?

Well, it’s a national market worth billions of euro. One-third of Irish household spending goes on groceries, while the multiples here rake in €9 out of every €10 of that spend.

After a bad year on many fronts, Tesco looks like being toppled very soon from its poll Irish supermarket position.

With its four store sizes, from Tesco Express to Extra, Tesco was traditionally the ‘top shop’ but now its hold has slipped to 24.9% of grocery market share, with SuperValu closing in for number-one position at 24.5% (helped by its 2011, €229m swoop on Superquinn,) and with Dunnes just behind, at 23.59%, according to the latest ‘Kantar Worldpanel’ consumer monitor.

This latter puts Lidl at 8% and Aldi at 8.4% or a combined 16.4%.

Kantar’s Irish commercial director, David Berry, last month noted that 63.4% of Irish householders had shopped in a Lidl and Aldi in the past three months.

The economic crash was an obvious boon to Lidl and Aldi’s ‘no frills at the tills’ business model.

“There’s been a relentless quality to their expansion,” says Sean Murphy of Retail Excellence Ireland, who also welcomes the first signs of recovery in the grocery sector as official third-quarter trade in 2014 was up 1.1% — the first rise in seven, long years.

And, says REI’s Mr Murphy, that Q3 1.1% growth was despite a dip in one of those three months, August, as foreign holidays started to find favour once more with Irish families, so national spending dipped that month.

“There’s signs of more confidence in the future and recovery,” REI’s Mr Murphy says.

Curiously, Ireland’s slight rise in grocery spend, after so much belt-tightning and austerity (and how much higher will that spend soar at Christmas?) contrasts with a first, historic downturn in the UK’s grocery market: during summer 2014, over 50% of UK shoppers visited a Lidl or Aldi — in a market long-dominated by Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s.

Shadowing their Irish experience, the two German discounters saw a 24% surge in their UK market share, to now jointly stand at 8.4%, up from 6.8% last year.

Sober publications, like the Daily Telegraph, have had headlines on how Aldi (with its multi-medal-winning brands) has won a British class war, becoming the UK’s fastest-growing chain with over well over 500 stores.

As Ireland says goodbye to austerity, Aldi and Lidl are keen to hold on to their hard-won customers and to drive them up the value chain to their ballooning range of mid-market products.

Lidl and Aldi will always have the value brands and wines for under a tenner, but now— shock! — Lidl offers a bottle of superior French red for €65.

For Christmas, Lidl have been taking orders for Jamon Iberico (air-dried Iberian ham leg) for a ‘mere’ €99.99.

In the depth of Ireland’s recession, pigs would have flown faster than these Iberian hams.

Huge cost of adapting to climate change revealed by UNEP in Lima

 

UN body Unep says costs for developing countries may be treble current estimates

Marcos Avilques and Marcio Kokoj of the Co-ordination of the Indigenous Organisations of the Brazilian Amazon address a news conference as part of the UN climate change conference in Lima.

Climate change adaptation costs for developing countries are likely to be double or even treble current estimates of $70 billion-$100 billion (€57 billion-€81 billion) per year, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (Unep).

Based on a detailed estimate of $40 billion (€32 billion) for south Asia alone, it concludes that the adaptation costs for all developing countries “could climb as high as $150 billion (€122 billion) by 2025-2030 and $250 billion-$500 billion (€203 billion-€406 billion) per year by 2050”.

Released at the UN climate conference in Lima, where delegates have finally entered into negotiation mode, the report says the higher estimates would apply even if greenhouse gas emissions are cut to cap global warming at 2 degrees Celsius.

Unep’s first Adaptation Gap Report warns that, although funding for adaptation to the impacts of climate change reached $23 billion-$26 billion (€19 billion-€21 billion) in 2012-2013, “there will be a significant funding gap after 2020 unless new and additional finance is made available”.

It says: “Without further action on cutting emissions, as outlined in Unep’s Emissions Gap Report 2014, the cost of adaptation will soar even further as wider and more expensive action is needed to protect communities from the intensifying impacts.”

Unep executive director Achim Steiner told a press briefing in Lima that the delegates from 194 countries needed to include “comprehensive adaptation plans” in the global agreement on climate change, due to be concluded in Paris at the end of 2015.

“The impacts of climate change are already beginning to be factored into the budgets of national and local authorities. The escalating cost implications on communities, cities, business, taxpayers and national budgets merit closer attention,” he said.

“Of particular concern are the implications for the least developed countries, whose financial resources for investing in development will need to be redeployed to financing adaptation measures,” Mr Steiner said, adding that rich countries would have to help.

“The report provides a powerful reminder that the potential cost of inaction carries a real price tag. Debating the economics of our response to climate change must become more honest. We owe it to ourselves but also to the next generation, as it is they who will have to foot the bill.”

It was the recent Fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that included estimates on the cost of adaptation in developing countries of $70-$100 billion per year by 2050 – based largely onWorld Bank figures from 2010.

But Unep’s Adaptation Gap Report, produced in collaboration with 19 leading institutions and research centres, included new national and sector studies in its analysis and concludes that the earlier figures are “likely to be a significant underestimate”.

An earlier Unep report, released prior to last year’s Warsaw climate conference, found that adaptation costs for Africa alone could reach $350 billion annually by 2070 if the 2 degrees Celsius target is significantly exceeded, compared to $150 billion lower per year if it was achieved.

The latest report also highlights that least-developed countries and low-lying small island states are “likely to have far greater adaptation needs”; without early efforts, the adaptation gap “will widen as greater financial resources will need to be committed later on”.

Meanwhile, the climate talks in Lima have moved into a higher gear as co-chairs Artur Runge-Metzger and Kishan Kumarsingh yielded to pressure from developing countries for “party-driven” negotiations to begin on elements of text for next year’s agreement in Paris.

But developed countries made it clear that they do not favour any reference in the proposed deal to quantified targets for adaptation finance or contributions to the Green Climate Fund. Indeed, EU chief negotiator Elina Bardram described this as a “clear red line”.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 5th November 2014

Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin ‘very close’ to resigning over water charges

  

Brendan Griffin Fine Gael deputy for Kerry South left and John Tierney head of Irish water right, 

A Fine Gael TD says he is “very close” to resigning from the party over the water charges debacle.

Party back-bencher Brendan Griffin says he has to consider “where is the red line” which would push him over the edge and leave the Government.

“When the time comes or if the time comes that I feel there is absolutely no more influence that I can change for the better, well then, obviously, you’d be a fool to stay where you are.”

“I am very close to that. I am very close to that,” he said on Radio Kerry.

The Kerry South TD said backbenchers felt they had to work together to bring about change in the way the Dail operated.

“Well I don’t want to get into the numbers at this stage in time but certainly, amongst people on the backbenches, there is a strong feeling that we need to act in numbers and we need to collectively bring about this change,” he said.

Mr Griffin was highly critical of the handling of the water charges by the Government.

“I have to consider also, you know, where is, you know, where is the red line? Where is the point where you can say: ‘No more’? And I can tell you, I know that the people are saying this is getting very close to the point where we can say: ‘No more’. Because what we have here is another example in 2014 of an issue that the Government has completely mishandled.

“That is, you know, in the context of an overall macroeconomic situation that is improving immensely but has a long way to go as well – I absolutely appreciate that – but we have come a huge way from where we were in 2011. So as a government TD I need to balance all of these things, but, as I said, there has to be now, there has to be change in the way that we do business in Dail Eireann,” he said.

During his speech at the meeting, Kerry TD Brendan Griffin told Mr Kenny that the party “can no longer take my vote got granted”.

However, it’s not believed that Mr Griffin has any intentions to quit the party at this point in time.

Meanwhile:-

Q & A on Water charges and knowing your rights

  

Question: I live with my 2 small children in a standard town house. The water meter was installed this summer. How much will my water bills be? Can I get tax relief?

Answer: Irish Water provides two services – water supply and waste water (sewage) services. As you are in a town house, I presume that you use both services, so the charge is €4.88 per 1,000 litres in your case.

There is a free allowance of 30,000 litres per year for every household. This is worth €146.40 per year to you. If you are getting Child Benefit for your children, you can claim two free child allowances of 21,000 litres per year. These are worth €102.48 each per year.

You apply to Irish Water for these allowances, either on the form that has issued to every household, online at water.ie or by phone at 1890 448 448. You will need to provide your own Personal Public Service Number (PPSN) and your children’s PPSNs. Irish Water will use these numbers to check that you are entitled to the allowances.

In general, you will be billed for the amount of water you use each quarter, but your first three bills, starting in January 2015, will be capped at standard assessed charges. These assessed charges are based on the standard assessed consumption for each household size.

This capping means that the most you can be charged on these first three bills is the standard assessed charge for your family size – one adult and two children, based on standard quarterly usage of 27,000 litres. Of course, if you use less than this amount of water, you will only be charged for the metered amount.

As you are using both water supply and wastewater services, the assessed charge will be €527.04 for a full year before allowances.

Your free allowances add up to €351.36, giving an annual assessed charge, after allowances, of €175.68. This leaves a quarterly charge of €43.92, so the most that you can be charged for the first three quarters is €43.92 per bill.

If you pay income tax, you can claim relief at 20% on the water charges, up to a maximum of €500 per year. This equates to a maximum tax credit of €100.

Read more about water charges on citizensinformation.ie. Further information is available from the Citizens Information Centre.

Food addiction is not the cause of our obesity problem. A conference hears

 

Not enough evidence to show common foods or particular ingredients are addictive

Health minister Leo Varadkar below pic. quoted “disturbing statistics” that show three in four Irish adults and one in four primary school children are obese or overweight. 

It is not helpful to tell overweight and obese people that they have a food addiction and it’s not their fault, a conference exploring the issue of food addiction has heard.

Prof Julian Mercer, head of obesity and metabolic health at the University of Aberdeen, said labelling overeating as an addiction and blaming the food industry gave people the impression that there was nothing they could do about it.

He said there was insufficient evidence that common foods, or a particular ingredients, were addictive.

“Eating addiction might be a more appropriate term to describe problematic relationships with food, avoiding the implication that food contains addictive chemicals,” he said.

“For most individuals with a weight problem, weight gain occurs rather slowly over periods of years or decades, and it is almost certainly completely inappropriate to suggest that food addiction or eating addiction has any role to play.”

Prof Mercer said headlines saying cookies were as addictive as crack cocaine or fast food was as addictive as heroin were exasperating and misleading. Scientists must work harder to get sensible messages out there.

Prof Mercer was speaking at a conference on food addiction organised by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s consultative council.

Opening the conference, Minister for Health Leo Varadkarsaid studies now showed that two out of three Irish adults, and one in four primary school children, were overweight or obese. “These disturbing statistics represent a major challenge. It’s a challenge for health professionals, for parents, for individuals and for society as a whole,” he said.

Nutritionist Paula Mee encouraged people wishing to reduce their calorie intake to use smaller plates and more slender glasses. She said people should practise mindful eating, slowing down so that they enjoyed their food more.

Irish families will spend an average of €620 on gifts this Christmas

 

Overall cost of festive season will be closer to €1,500 as toys from the movie Frozen to feature

Irish families will spend up to €1,463 this Christmas, with the average family spending €620 on gifts alone, according to research by Aviva Home Insurance.

Other costs include €340 on food and drink; €228 on socialising, including Christmas parties, pantomimes and family parties; and € 210 on home decoration and ad hoc costs such as Christmas crackers, carol singing donations, clothes on Christmas day.

However, a fifth of respondents said that they will spend less on gifts this year, while a further fifth intend to consume less food and drink (18%) and 23 per cent said they would spend less on socialising and events such as pantomimes.

Given the cost of gifts that many families keep at home, Aviva is recommending that people check their home insurance policy to make sure these gifts are covered in the event of a burglary. Aviva for example, automatically increases your contents sum insured by 10 per cent for the month of December.

Meanwhile, the top 12 toys that children across Ireland are expected to find under their Christmas tree this year were unveiled at the launch of the Christmas Toy Show in the RDS.

Chosen by the Toy Retailers Association, which expects 2014 to be the biggest year for toy sales since 2010, this Christmas looks set to be dominated by the movie Frozen, wearable tech watches, and interactive pets, dolls and dinosaurs.

The top toys this year are expected to be:

Boomer Dino (Spinmaster): € 130

Bop It Beats (Hasbro): € 29

Frozen Snow Glow Elsa (Jakks Pacific): € 45

Frozen Sparkle Dolls (Mattel): € 21

Lego Benny’s Spaceship (Lego): € 105

Little Live Pets Birdcage (Character Options): € 25

Kiddizoom Smart Watch (Vtech): € 50

Minecraft Figures (Character Options): € 10

My Friend Cayla: (Vivid): € 75

Nerf N-Strike Elite Demolisher 2-in-1 (Hasbro): € 59

Toot-Toot Animals Safari Park (VTech): € 50

Science women to receive €1.7m from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)

 

Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English has announced the 10 recipients of €1.7m delivered through the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Advance Award Programme.

The programme is aimed at encouraging women to return to or stay in a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Recipients included Dr Aleksandra Kaszubowska-Anandaraja, Dr Elisabetta Arca and Dr Hye-Young Kim of Trinity College.

Thai airports in sky lantern alert

RevelLers in northern Thailand have been asked not to launch lanterns into the sky near airports to avoid airborne accidents during a popular festival.

The air traffic control centre in Chiang Mai province declared a 5km zone around the airport where people were advised not to launch lanterns from yesterday to Friday, when Loy Krathong festival celebrations will take place.

Thais believe that launching lanterns will rid them of bad fortune. Authorities and airlines, however, have expressed safety concerns over the lanterns.

Fundraiser (5) climbs BT tower

A five-year-old fundraiser has become the youngest person ever to climb the 842 steps of London’s BT tower.

Reuben O’Hara climbed the 34 floors in 19 minutes, with his mum Elizabeth following closely behind.

The schoolboy, from west London, took up the challenge to raise money for Action On Hearing Loss, and has collected £600 (€765) to date. “I really like towers and I also wanted to help my granddad who can’t hear well,” he said.

Paul Simon yes to biography

Paul Simon has agreed to cooperate with author and music critic Robert Hilburn for a planned biography.

Publishers Simon & Schuster said the book was still untitled and did not yet have a release date. Hilburn’s previous books include the memoir Corn Flakes With John Lennon and a biography of Johnny Cash.

“I enjoyed and admired his biography of Johnny Cash and I think he’ll tell my story well,” Simon said.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 15th June 2013

Irish Coalition’s €6bn pension fund gamble to kick-start economy

  

The Irish Government is smashing open the State’s savings in a €6.4bn all-or-nothing gamble aimed at kick-starting the economy.

The stimulus package is the clearest sign yet of a shift from a policy of “austerity” to one aimed at direct investment to foster economic growth.

The pension fund is being wound up and the money will be put into a new Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF).

The money will be ploughed into projects such as road building, water infrastructure and school-building programmes, where there is a known need for investment and where the Government thinks it will be able to make a return on the money spent.

As part of the radical plan, new laws are being introduced that will force the National Pensions Reserve Fund to sell off its billions of investments.

This money will then be used to fund two new state investment agencies charged with overseeing the high-risk strategy. The money is currently invested in profitable stocks and bonds abroad and had been earmarked to cover the cost of civil servant pensions into the future.

“The move is a very important shift in government policy,” Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said.

Legislation to wind up the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) and put new state investment agencies New Era and the ISIF investment bodies on a statutory basis was announced by ministers Michael Noonan, Brendan Howlinand Pat Rabbitte and the minister of state responsible for New Era, Fergus O’Dowd.

The plan is aimed in particular at getting some of the 150,000 construction workers who lost their jobs since 2007 back to work, and, crucially, spending in the economy again.

Fianna Fail’s Sean Fleming warned that without clear targets for measuring progress under the plan, it was hard to see it as “anything more than another PR-driven announcement”.

It is understood the Government did not need permission from the EU/IMFfor the move, because the cash has never been covered by the so-called memorandum of understanding setting out the bailout terms.

But the move is part of a wider European move towards policies aimed explicitly at job creation.

“Disruptive action is needed because around 45pc of people on the live register have been there long-term,” according to Philip O’Sullivan, an economist at Investec.

The challenge for the Government will be finding the right projects to back, he said.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said using the cash to drive economic growth rather than “squirrelling it away in savings” makes sense.

“The best way to meet the cost of pensions is to grow the economy,” he said.

The plan is to invest on a commercial basis and to re-invest back into the economy as cash goes back into the fund, but details of just where the money will go and how many jobs are likely to be created remain vague.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said much of the funds will be used in Public Private Partnership deals to match investment from the private sector and from Europe.

It is already happening with projects like the upgrade of the N7 at Newlands Cross, and of the N11 Dublin to Wexford road.

It is likely to come into force in the second half of this year, but the NPRF has already been shifting money into projects at home in anticipation of the changes.

Over the past two years it has invested around €1.5bn of the €6.4bn in Irish projects, including joint venture deals that have set up funds to lend to small business.

The latest plans include a major shake-up of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), which will get a simplified management structure and will see its New Era unit given a major say in the running of the ESB, Bord Gais, Coillte and Eirgrid.

Those semi-states, which have a turnover of €6bn a year and control more than €13bn of the State’s capital assets, will be grouped together for the first time under the plan.

Health insurance charges to rise by 30% because of HSE’s hike in hospital charges

 

Government to charge private patients full cost of using public hospital beds

Private patients occupying public beds will be charged up to €1,122 a night in place of the existing charge of €75, under legislation published by the Department of Health yesterday.
Health insurance premiums are set to rise by over 30 per cent by the end of the year on foot of Government plans to charge private patients the full cost of using public hospital beds, insurers said last night.

Private patients occupying public beds will be charged up to €1,122 a night in place of the existing charge of €75, under legislation published by the Department of Health yesterday.

The decision to press ahead with charging private patients the full economic cost of using public beds will force over 300,000 people to give up insurance, leaving just a third of the population with cover by 2015, the four health insurers warned.

Minister for Health James Reilly last night rejected the insurers’ claims, accusing them of “scaremongering”. Dr Reilly said it was “neither fair, reasonable nor acceptable” for private patients to be subsidised in the public health system and claimed insurers weren’t doing “near enough” to reduce costs.

Industry lobbied
The measure was announced in last December’s budget but the industry lobbied hard to have it delayed, or introduced on a phased basis. However, the Government was under pressure from the troika to introduce the change.

The Health (Amendment) Act applies charges to all private inpatient services in public hospitals, increases the €75 charge for all inpatient services in public hospitals to €80 and increases the asset contribution payable by new residents of long-stay residential homes under the Fair Deal scheme from 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent.

The Government hopes to raise €120 million from the combined measures next year. While it had aimed to raise €60 million this year, this is in doubt because of the delay in introducing the legislation.

At present, 20 per cent of beds in public hospitals are designated for private use, and insurers pay the full cost of using these beds. However, large numbers of patients are accommodated in public beds outside of this allocation, for which the current charge of €75 applies.

After the legislation passes, private patients will be levied a charge of €1,122 a night for a single-bed room in any of 25 hospitals. In smaller hospitals, a charge of €911 will apply. In most cases, where patients have private cover, insurers pick up the bill. Charges of up to €860 a night will be levied for “multi-occupancy rooms”. This definition appears to have replaced semi-private cover, which guaranteed rooms contained no more than four beds. For inpatient services where no overnight stay is involved, the daily charge will be €730.
Health insurers
The Insurance Ireland, health insurance council, which includes the State’s four main health insurers, warned the proposed new bed charges would increase reliance on the public health sector, thereby adding to the exchequer burden.

32% of Irish seven year old children overweight or obese and the problem is getting worse

  

One in three Irish seven-year-olds are either overweight or obese, according to experts.

The Oireachtas Health Committee was told yesterday that around 32% of seven year olds in Ireland are overweight or obese.

Ireland now ranks fifth in the EU when it comes to childhood obesity. The lifetime health consequences of obesity are severe, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, impotence and infertility, depression, amputation and blindness. According to figures from the Department of Health, every year in Ireland, some 2,000 premature deaths are directly attributable to the consequences, a trend the Department says is “rising relentlessly”.

The cost to the Irish state of illness, absences from work and premature deaths related to obesity is estimated to be around four billion euros annually.

Paediatrician Dr Sinead Murphy told the Committee that the situation is worsening and if the problem was not tackled, nearly half of adults in Ireland will be obese by 2030.

There are around 100,000 obese children in Ireland at present.

How marine mammals hold their breath

   

Scientists say they have solved the mystery of one of the most extreme adaptations in the animal kingdom: how marine mammals store enough oxygen to hold their breath for up to an hour.

The team studied myoglobin, an oxygen-storing protein in mammals’ muscles and found that, in whales and seals, it has special “non-stick” properties.

This allowed the animals to pack huge amounts of oxygen into their muscles without “clogging them up”.

Dr Michael Berenbrink from the Institute of Integrative Biology at the University of Liverpool took part in the study.

He said that scientists had long wondered how marine mammals managed to pack so much of this vital protein into their bodies.

“At high enough concentrations, [proteins] tend to stick together, so we tried to understand how seals and whales evolved higher and higher concentrations of this protein in their muscles without a loss of function,” he told BBC News.

   The sperm whale can dive for up to an hour and to depths of a kilometre

The team extracted pure myoglobin from the muscles of mammals – from the land-based cow, to the semi-aquatic otter, all the way up elite divers like the sperm whale.

Led by researcher Scott Mirceta, this painstaking examination traced the changes in myoglobin in deep-diving mammals through 200 million years of evolutionary history.

And it revealed that the best mammalian breath-holding divers had evolved a non-stick variety of myoglobin.

The secret, Dr Berenbrink explained, was a subtle but crucial piece of chemical trickery; marine mammal myoglobin is positively charged.

It also allows us to estimate the dive times of the ancient ancestors of whales”

This has important physical consequences. Dr Berenbrink explained: “Like the similar poles of a magnet; the proteins repel one another.”

“In this way we think the animals are able to pack really high concentrations of these proteins into their muscles and avoid them sticking together and clogging up the muscles.”

Dr Berenbrink said he was excited by the discovery because it helped make sense of the incredible changes that took place in mammals’ bodies as they evolved from land-based animals to the aquatic, air-breathing creatures that inhabit the oceans today.

It showed, he said, the physiological change that accompanied the land to water transition of mammals.

“It also allows us to estimate the dive times of the ancient ancestors of whales,” Dr Berenbrink explained.

“We can look the fossils and predict the dive times they had.”

Understanding exactly how mammals’ bodies store oxygen so efficiently could also aid medical research.

Copying this bit of natural chemistry could aid the development of oxygen-carrying liquids that would deliver emergency supplies of oxygen to a person’s tissues when a blood transfusion is not possible.

But its biggest impact will be in the realm of evolutionary biology.

Harbour seals routinely hold their breath for 30 minutes and even sleep underwater

Nicholas Pyenson, curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, said that the study was an exciting advancement for understanding the evolution of deep-diving.

“The idea that we can estimate maximal dive times for early diverging relatives of today’s marine mammals will have a profound impact on how we think about their ancient ecology and biology,” he told BBC News.

Professor Michael Fedak from the University of St Andrews’ Sea Mammal Research Unit pointed out that myoglobin was only “part of the story” of how marine mammals were able to dive.

“But it’s an important part,” he said.

The scientist, who was not involved in this study, explained that a great deal of research at the moment was looking into how marine mammals manage to survive repeatedly cutting off and re-establishing the blood supply to their body tissues, something he likened to repeatedly suffering a crush injury.

“But being able to pick up a few [fossilised] bones of an extinct marine mammal and estimate its dive time from that – that’s miraculous.”

The first few Minutes after Death

  

After countless accounts of near-death experiences, dating as far back as ancient Greece, science is now taking serious steps forward to explore the nature of the phenomenon. A new project aims to determine whether the experience is a physiological event or evidence that the human consciousness is far more complicated than we ever believed.

The Human Consciousness Project sets out to explore the nature of human consciousness and the brain. The first step of the project is the “Awareness During Resuscitation” study, a collaboration among more than 25 medical centers throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe.

With the expectation of recruiting 1,500 patients during a 36-month time frame, the study will examine everything that happens to the human brain during cardiac arrest, from oxygen levels to the ability to recall images. The participating hospitals will be outfitted with equipment to monitor any patient who goes into cardiac arrest.

While the person is in arrest, resulting in a flat line, doctors will monitor oxygen levels and blood flow into the brain. If patients consent to additional testing after recovery, they will be asked to recall any memories they can from the time while they were in cardiac arrest. Regardless of the recollection, each experience is useful to the study.

“If they have no memories, they’re useful because we’ll use them as a control group,” says Dr. Sam Parnia, director of the Human Consciousness Project and leader of the study.

But the most intriguing aspect of the study is its attempt to study consciousness during clinical death. According to Parnia, the science of these “consciousness events” may be somewhat similar to the relation between Newtonian physics and quantum physics. Scientists once believed that Newtonian physics could answer all the questions in the universe.

When they ventured into the sub-atomic realm, though, Newtonian physics no longer applied. But quantum physics did. Similarly, the near-death experience could be another state of consciousness with a different set of rules than what we currently understand, and beyond the limits of what current scientific methods can explain.

“When you study mind and brain, you see that, although in many circumstances this practical model we have developed — mind and brain are the same thing — is fine, when you go to an extreme environment like during a cardiac arrest…they don’t seem to apply anymore,” says Parnia. “It may suggest that there’s something that hasn’t been discovered scientifically.”

Studies by Parnia and other researchers show that between 10 and 20 percent of who are resuscitated from cardiac arrest had a near-death experience (NDE). Various other studies show the frequency of near-death experience to be between 4 and 18 percent.

The experience is typically described as a progression of stages. First, the person has a sense of peace, then a sense of separation from the body. The person then enters into darkness, and sees a bright light like the end of a tunnel. Finally, the person enters the light and interacts with an entity, described as God, Allah, or simply a universal cosmic force.

During the time that people report the feeling of detachment from their physical body, or an out-of-body-experience, they report a perception of floating above their body, or floating near the ceiling in the room where the experience occurs. This aspect of the experience plays an important role in the study.

The initial phase of the study will outfit participating rooms with shelves placed high up on the wall. On the top of each shelf will be a picture, visible only from the ceiling. Doctors will test whether patients who report a near-death experience are able to recall the image. If patients — as few as four or five — can positively recall these static images, then the study will move on: randomly generated images will be projected onto the shelves, which will further test the ability of the test subject to recall images. If no patients can recall the static images, the study can conclude that the floating effect is a trick of the mind.

According to Parnia, the study is important for two reasons. First, published studies have shown that people who undergo cardiac arrest can recall specific memories and demonstrate consciousness. Second, during cardiac arrest, there is no measurable brain activity. “If you combine these two sets of data together, it indicates a need to do a large study to determine: is this real or not? Can this really be going on?”

Still, the explanation behind these events can be attributed to the complexity of the human mind, not, as some believe, a universal spiritual experience, or even a new realm of science.

Last year, a study by Dr. Kevin Nelson, professor of neurology at the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine, found that people who have reported prior visual or auditory hallucinations in the transition between sleep and wakefulness — a phenomenon known as REM intrusion — may be more likely to report a near-death experience.

“There’s a very tiny switch deep in the brain stem, near our centers that control our heart and our breathing. That switch brings us either into wakefulness or REM sleep,” explains Nelson. “It’s either in one direction or another, either in REM or in wakefulness. Sometimes that switch goes haywire and blends the two.”

When these states of consciousness blend together, people can have the feeling of an out-of-body experience. The fact that people who have experienced REM intrusion are more likely to have a near-death experience points to a brain glitch as the cause. However, it is unknown whether a near-death experience is what makes the brain’s “switch” go haywire, or if the near-death experience simply reveals a pre-existing abnormality.

While many questions still remain about the nature of human consciousness, the first step is to determine whether, during a near-death experience, the subject is in a state of consciousness despite being clinically dead.

“We sometimes think that, obviously, when your heart stops beating, your consciousness is also gone,” says Parnia. “We have no evidence, we have no studies that tell us at what point the human consciousness does and mind cease functioning during clinical death. Is it at the moment the heart stops beating? Is it the first few seconds?

 The first few minutes? Is it the first few hours? We have no idea.”

Despite the best efforts of science, the organ inside our skulls still resists giving up its mysteries. “We will never fully comprehend the brain.” says Nelson.