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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 15th January 2017

Irish mortgage rates still nearly double the euro area average?

Variable rate holders continue to pay price for profligate bank lending during boom years

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Irish mortgage interest rates remain nearly double the euro area average, according to data published by the Central Bank last Friday.

The weighted average interest rate on new mortgages, excluding renegotiation’s, was 3.38% in November, down 28 basis points year-on-year. The equivalent euro area rate was 1.72%.

Mortgage interest rates in Ireland used to reflect the main European Central Bank (ECB) lending rate, primarily because of the high proportion of tracker mortgages issued during the boom years.

The more recent divergence reflects the premium Irish banks have attached to variable rate mortgages issued since the start of the financial crisis.

Lenders here have resisted political pressure to lower their rates, insisting that lending into to Irish market represents a riskier proposition.

They also argue that Irish costs remain higher because of the higher funding costs they face as a result of the crisis.

Variable rates can rise or fall depending on wholesale interest rates, which are set by the ECB, though banks are not obliged to pass these changes on to customers.

Fianna Fáil is pushing for legislation that would give the Central Bank powers to cap variable mortgage rates, a move that is being resisted by the Central Bank and the Government.

The latest Central Bank data also show the volume of new mortgage agreements amounted to €548 million in November, bringing new agreements to €4.9 billion over the past 12 months.

Oxfam World report reveals ‘an obscene gap’ between the rich and poor.

Eight men’s wealth same as world’s poorest 50%, indicates study ahead of Davos forum

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The gap between rich and poor is becoming increasingly large, with just eight individuals owning the same wealth as 3.6 billion of the world’s poorest people, according to new research.

A report from Oxfam, launched on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos, found that the poorest half of the world has less wealth than previously thought, due to new data emanating from China and India. This means that the eight richest men in the world are worth the same as the poorest half of the world’s population, according to wealth distribution data provided by Credit Suisse.

“It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of just eight men . . . particularly when one in nine people in the world go to bed hungry every night,” said Oxfam Ireland chief executive Jim Clarke. “A fundamental change in the way we manage our economies is required so they benefit everyone, not just a fortunate few. We need a global economy for the 99%, not just the 1%.”

More than 3,000 participants, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, will descend on the snowy peaks of Davos, Switzerland, this week for the 47th World Economic Forum.

While the annual gathering has long been seen as a playground for the rich and powerful, the event this year is taking place against a background of resurgent populism and increasing public opposition to globalisation. This mood has been manifested in the election success of Donald Trump and the British vote to leave the European Union.

Although the US president-elect will not be attending the event, his inauguration as president of the US on Friday is expected to overshadow the summit. A number of sessions during the week are devoted to globalisation and the challenges posed by growing inequality and the question of wealth distribution. The theme of this year’s forum is “Responsive and Responsible Leadership”, a barely veiled acknowledgement of anxieties about the incoming regime in Washington and the series of elections scheduled to take place across Europe in 2017.

Xi Jinping Keynote address.

Among the most high-profile participants this year is Chinese premier Xi Jinping, who will deliver a keynote address on Tuesday. His presence marks the first visit to Davos by a Chinese leader.

British prime minister Theresa May will deliver a special address on Thursday morning, two days after she is expected to unveil details of her government’s vision for Brexit in a major speech.

British chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond will be in Davos on Friday, when he is expected to do a series of interviews and participate in a session titled “Britain and the EU: The Way Forward” with the former Italian prime minister and EU commissioner Mario Monti and others.

While more than 50 heads of state and government will travel to the exclusive Swiss ski resort, some of the world’s most senior banking and corporate executives will also attend the five-day event.

Among the economic heavy-hitters in attendance will be Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, and IMF managing director Christine Lagarde, as well as senior executives from the world’s biggest banks, such as UBS, Goldman Sachs and Deutschebank.

One familiar face on the Davos circuit, the Goldman Sachs chief operating officer Gary Cohn, won’t be present this time. He’s likely to be busy preparing to become Donald Trump’s new chairman of the National Economic Council.

Senior officials from Trump’s transition team will attend the event, however, and are expected to hold a series of bilateral meetings with senior political leaders, including possibly Xi Jinping, on the fringes of the event.

Outgoing US vice-president Joe Biden will address the summit on Wednesday, while US Secretary of State John Kerry will also attend the forum, undoubtedly one of his final official engagements of the Obama presidency.

Gaybo (Gay Byrne) hopes for best in battle against prostate cancer?

‘He is doing well. The treatment is ongoing’

Image result for Gaybo (Gay Byrne) hopes for best in battle against prostate cancer?  Gay Byrne on the Late Late Show in 1966  Image result for Gaybo (Gay Byrne) hopes for best in battle against prostate cancer?

Left Pic. Broadcaster Gay Byrne, with wife Kathleen, right pic. the old, the middle & the new L.L.S. hosts. Gay remains positive despite being diagnosed with prostate cancer

Ireland’s most-loved broadcaster Gay Byrne is upbeat and positive as he comes to terms with his cancer diagnosis, telling the Sunday Independent: “The treatment continues and we hope for the best.”

Gay was his usual sanguine self as he talked about his illness – echoing the thoughts of millions of well-wishers up and down the country who hope for his return to the airwaves in full health.

Last November, with typical understatement, Gay revealed to shocked listeners on RTE’s Lyric FM the disheartening news that he was suffering from cancer.

“I shall not be with our listeners on this day next week. Have to go to hospital… They think they may have discovered a bit of cancer in the prostate and they think it may have moved up into my back.

“I’ve had the most wonderful, fantastic, robust, good health all my broadcasting life,” he said in usual breezy style during his enormously popular show on the classical radio station.

“It’s my turn now… many, many people much worse off. Thank you for your good wishes,” he signed off.

Now, nearly three months on, Gay is in the throes of cancer treatment, but he is tough and resilient and well aware that he is undergoing the same difficulties endured by so many who are touched by the disease in this country.

And he is aware that prostate cancer is very treatable and the chances of a favourable outcome are quite high.

In short, Gay is not feeling sorry for himself but ongoing medical treatment obviously interrupted the usual Christmas and New Year celebrations – a favourite time of year for the couple who were married in 1964.

“Everything is on hold while we do our best to look after Gay,” his wife Kathleen Watkins told the Sunday Independent yesterday.

“He is doing well. The treatment is ongoing. Do thank the many people all over the country who have been in touch,” Kathleen requested.

“We got all the notes and letters and cards. We read all of them. Thank you. Thank you to all those kind people.It’s so much appreciated.”

The broadcasting legend is being looked after by his devoted wife at their home in Ballsbridge and there is lots of help and encouragement from the family – as well as the good wishes of an entire nation.

Local Property Tax in Sligo has highest compliance rate of almost 97% in Ireland

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There was a compliance rate of 96.8% with the Local Property Tax in Sligo in 2016 according to the figures just released by Revenue.

The national compliance rate is is estimated at 97% which is in line with previous years.

Revenue, which oversees its collection, say some €5.3 million was collected through the tax in county Sligo last year from almost 30,000 properties. Laois and South Dublin had the highest compliance rate in the country at 99.8%.

The vast majority of householders in County Sligo (43.8%) valued their homes in the lowest bracket of up to €100,000 with 32.1% valuing their houses up to €150,000 and 16.4 falling into the €150,001 to €200,000 category. Just 1.5% valued their homes at over €300,000 and a further 1.5% were in the €250,001 to €300,000 bracket. Approximately 42% of property owners self-assessed the same valuation band as the Revenue estimate and 58% of property owners self-assessed a different LPT valuation band compared to Revenue.

LPT Exchequer receipts in 2016 (at end December) are €463m. This includes approximately €50m in pre-payments for 2017 LPT as well as €70m in payments for 2015 LPT and earlier years. Exchequer receipts also include Household Charge (HHC) arrears. Revenue assumed responsibility for the collection of arrears of HHC from July 2013. By end 2016 in excess of €64m was collected (including nearly €8m in 2016) and over 360,000 additional properties are now HHC compliant.

For 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 Revenue issued 212,000, 148,000 and 324,000 and 300,000 compliance letters respectively. In the vast majority of these cases property owners fully complied with their LPT payment obligations, either on a phased basis or by way of a single payment. However, in each year there were a relatively small number of cases that chose to remain non-compliant,

Revenue say it left them with no alternative but to deploy debt collection/enforcement measures or other sanctions to ensure payment. Some 864 cases were referred to the Sheriff in 2016 and 40 cases to external solicitors for collection. Over 20,300 tax clearance requests were refused on foot of LPT non-compliance, of which almost 97% were subsequently granted clearance following mutually acceptable payment solutions.

Revenue deducted LPT from the salaries or pensions of almost 89,000 property owners last year of which over 49,000 ‘rolled over’ from mandatory deductions applied in 2015. Over 11,000 valuations were also increased in 2016 following Revenue compliance interventions.

The BT Young Scientist exhibition category winners

All the winners in each section of 2016 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition

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Right picture the overall BT Young Scientist & Technologist of the Year 2017 Shane Curran from Terenure College.

And above left picture:- Shay Walsh, managing director BT Ireland (left) and Minister for Education Richard Bruton (right), with Matthew Blakeney and Mark McDermott of the Jesus & Mary Secondary School, Sligo, runners-up at the BT Young Scientist & Technologist of the Year 2017 with their project Flint on the Moy?

The winners in each category of the 2016 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition have been announced.

1st place Junior group Kinsale Community School, Impact of sound pitch on the biological gustatory perception mechanism, a quantitative comparative study between adults and children.

Biological and Ecological Junior Group Caoimhe Lynch , Sylvie Plant

2nd place Junior group Loreto College – Foxrock, Does Simulating a Lack of Binocular Vision Have An Impact on performance?

Biological and Ecological Junior Group, Jessica Oakley O’Kelly, Margot Moore, Jennifer Leavy

3rd place Junior group St Mary’s Diocesan School, 40 Licks ( trying to determine if being weaned onto certain foods as a baby can effect your development into a super-taster) Biological and Ecological Junior Group Seb Lennon Calum Agnew

1st place Junior individual Christ King Girls Secondary School, An investigation on whether cereal is a healthy breakfast option for Children Biological and Ecological Junior Individual Romy Kolich

2nd place Junior individual Bandon Grammar School, A novel approach to growing Nannochloropsis in a controlled environment and it’s subsequent ability to produce oil Biological and Ecological Junior Individual Gregory Tarr

3rd place Junior individual Sandford Park School Ltd, Time as a variable in bread production Biological and Ecological Junior Individual Oscar Despard

1st place intermediate group Loreto Secondary School – Balbriggan, Does consuming certain varieties of potatoes as a staple food in a diet, increase blood glucose levels & chance of high blood pressure and diabetes in a sample of Rush residents Biological and Ecological Intermediate Group Sophie Weldon Laura Weldon Emma Kleiser Byrne

2nd place intermediate group Tullamore College , Investigating The Difference In Bacterial Contamination When Handling and Using a Device to Insert Contact Lenses Biological and Ecological Intermediate Group Lucy Leonard Michele Mann

3rd place intermediate Group Avondale Community College, Biodegradable plastic pots to minimise the effects of transplant shock. Biological and Ecological Intermediate Group Ayyub Azmat Niall Gaffeny Christopher Makin.

1st place intermediate individual Ardscoil Ris ‘To Bee or not to Bee’: Investigating solutions to falling bee populations using a multifaceted problem solving approach. Biological and Ecological Intermediate Individual David Hamilton

2nd place intermediate individual Colaiste Choilm, Investigating the use of natural plants oils and extracts as an antiproliferative cancer agents. Biological and Ecological Intermediate Individual Aivan Jose

3rd place intermediate individual Bandon Grammar School, A comparison of foot biomechanics in sport playing and non-sport playing teens Biological and Ecological Intermediate Individual Alex O’ Connor

1st place Senior group Midleton College , Foal sickness containment and prevention Biological and Ecological Senior Group Cathal Mariga George Hennessy

2nd place Senior group Loreto Secondary School – Balbriggan, To investigate whether contrast sensitivity can be improved from regular exposure to action video games and the impact on everyday tasks on a teenager with myopia Biological and Ecological Senior Group Chloe Tap Dagmara Dobkowska

3rd place Senior group St Joseph’s Secondary School, Stimulating plant growth using electricity Biological and Ecological Senior Group Niamh McHugh Vitalija Janusonyte

1st place Senior individual Our Ladys College – Drogheda, The Antimicrobial Potential of Tree Bark Extracts Biological and Ecological Senior Individual Niamh Ann Kelly

2nd place Senior individual Coláiste Choilm, An Investigation into the Application of Symsagittera roscoffensis & it’s symbiont Tetraselmis convolutae in Neurobiology and Biotechnology. Biological and Ecological Senior Individual Con Moran

3rd place Senior individual Scoil Mhuire Strokestown , An investigation into the quality of effluent discharging domestic waste water treatment systems (septic tanks) and an apparatus to improve this. Biological and Ecological Senior Individual Abbie Moloney

1st place Junior group Synge Street CBS, Generalisations of Feynman’s Triangle Theorem Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences Junior Group Carl Jones Keiron O’Neill

2nd place Junior group Synge Street CBS, New Conjectures Concerning the Partition Function Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences Junior Group Talha Moktar Abdulrhman Abouryana

3rd place Junior group Sutton Park School, The design and testing of a safe drinking water system for developing countries Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences Junior Group Xiangyu Carbon Mallol Méabh Scahill

A huge glacier crack in the Antarctic ice shelf widens dramatically

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A huge chunk of Antarctic ice is hanging on by a virtual thread. At the edge of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, a glacier is cracking from the inside out at an alarming speed. That’s scary because this glacier, and others like it, keep the ice from flowing into the sea, where it would raise sea levels by several feet.

The ice shelf in danger is known as Larsen C. British researchers who are monitoring the crack in this ice shelf believe that only about 12 miles now connect the chunk of ice to the rest of the continent. You can see more images of this ice crack here.

“After a few months of steady, incremental advance since the last event, the rift grew suddenly by a further 18 km [11 miles] during the second half of December 2016,” wrote Adrian Luckman in a statement from the MIDAS Project, which is monitoring changes in the area.

Luckman, a professor at Swansea University in Wales, and head of the MIDAS Project, is referring to a crack that has been growing for years and is now a total of roughly 70 miles long. When that fissure finally reaches the far side of the shelf, British scientists believe that an iceberg the size of Delaware will float off. The ice shelf itself is almost the size of Scotland, and the fourth largest of its kind in Antarctic. The piece that it is getting ready to break off is nearly 2,000 square miles in size.

It’s true that icebergs break off from ice sheets in the Antarctic on a fairly regular basis, but this one is especially significant because of its size, and because it shows that the ice retreat is happening farther inland than scientists had previously observed.

What Could Happen After This Break?

What will happen next? Scientists are uncertain. But the consequences of the break could be dramatic.

“When it calves, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10 percent of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded; this event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula,” said the MIDAS researchers in a statement about the rift.

The First Time In Over 12,000 Years and this could be part of a broader pattern for ice shelves.

It’s the latest sign of major ice loss in the fast warming Antarctic Peninsula, which has already seen the breakup of two other shelves in the same region, events that have been widely attributed to climate change. Larsen A collapsed in 1995, and much of Larsen B collapsed dramatically in 2002. Scientists have revealed that this is probably not something that has happened in the past 12,000 years or possibly, even more alarmingly, in more than 100,000 years.

So, Antarctica has lost ice shelves before, but none so huge as this one.

The iceberg resulting from this crack will not in itself raise sea levels, but if this ice shelf breaks up even more, that would have an impact on sea levels. Experts believe that if all the ice that the Larsen C shelf currently holds back entered the sea, global waters would rise by around four inches.

Antarctica is geographically a long way from most of us, but what happens there could be an indication of what’s happening with our planet Earth.

Is Climate Change To Blame?

The Project MIDAS group has not made any statement attributing the development at Larsen C to climate change, but has stated that the shelf would be “at its most retreated position ever recorded,” which suggests the possibility of climate change being the cause for this crack.

Previous research has also noted that the Larsen C ice shelf is becoming less thick, making it float lower in the water, which appears linked to the warming of the Antarctic Peninsula in recent decades.

Meanwhile, scientists wait for the anticipated break. Luckman told the BBC that “If it doesn’t go in the next few months, I’ll be amazed.”

But there are few certainties right now apart from an imminent change to the outline of Antarctica’s icy coast. “The eventual consequences might be the ice shelf collapsing in years to decades,” said Luckman.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 22nd November 2016

Adams describes water charges situation as ‘comedy of errors’

Pádraig Ó Céidigh appointment ‘beyond remit’ of Simon Coveney, Sinn Féin says

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Independent Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh: described by Taoiseach Enda Kenny as “an outstanding person”.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams described the situation as a “comedy of errors” and an “ongoing farce”.

He raised the issue during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, in the wake of the announcement by Mr Coveney of Mr Ó Céidigh as chair of the committee which will consider the report of the expert commission on water charges. The commission is due to issue its report at the end of November.

Fine Gael agreed the appointment of Mr Ó Céidigh in talks with Fianna Fáil, and Mr Adams said “the Minister has no authority to appoint the chairperson of an Oireachtas committee as such appointments are a matter for the Dáil. To intervene as the Minister did and to seek to appoint a chair is a serious departure from normal Oireachtas procedure.”

Mr Adams called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to have the chair of the committee decided by its 20 members when it was established without interference from the Minister.

‘The sound of marching feet’

However, Mr Kenny said: “My, my, how your memory has faded.” The Taoiseach recalled Mr Adams saying he would pay his water charges and Sinn Féin saying it would make the necessary contributions.

“Then when it heard the sound of marching feet out in Tallaght, it decided to reverse engines,” Mr Kenny said.

He said Mr Adams could not say Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were out of line. Mr Kenny said his party had a very clear view on water charges all along.

Fine Gael’s position had always been that people should pay for water but they had sat down with Fianna Fáil to ensure the Government could do its work, Mr Kenny said.

Fine Gael had a confidence-and-supply arrangement with Fianna Fáil. “It is obviously necessary to have somebody who is competent, objective and capable of chairing deliberations on a complex issue such as this as chairman of an Oireachtas committee,” he said.

Mr Kenny described Mr Ó Céidigh as “an outstanding person, a businessman who is used to seeing clearly through complex issues and making decisions. I am sure he will fulfil his remit in this regards in a very clear, objective and fulfilling way.”

Mr Adams said the agreement was “all about getting Fianna Fáil off the hook on this issue and getting you back into power”.

Ireland’s unemployment figures revised down to new post-crash low of 7.5%

The latest CSO figures show the number of people working in the State has reached an eight-year high.

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The number of people working in the State has reached its highest level in eight years as conditions in the labour market continue to improve.

Ireland’s unemployment rate has been revised down to a new post-crash low of 7.5%.

The latest official figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) suggest the number of unemployed people in the State fell by 34,200 to 164,400 in the 12 months to October.

The updated numbers, contained in the CSO’s Quarterly National Household Survey, also show the number of people working in the State has reached its highest level in eight years.

Despite the uncertain economic backdrop, employment on an annual basis increased by 2.9 per cent, or 57,500, in the third quarter of 2016, bringing the total employment to 2.04 million.

This was the highest level of employment recorded since the fourth quarter of 2008, but still below the 2.16 million peak reached in the first quarter of the same year.

The CSO’s survey reveals employment has now increased for 16 successive quarters and that most of the employment growth is in the full-time category, which rose by 44,800 or 2.9 per cent year on year.

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Significantly, the quarterly growth in employment appears to be untrammelled by Brexit.

The figures show employment grew by 0.7% or 13,500 in the third quarter following growth of 0.9% and 0.8% in the previous two quarters.

The construction sector?

Employment also rose in 12 of the 14 employment sectors of the economy with the largest increase recorded in the accommodation and food services sector, which expanded by 13,400 or 9.6%.

The construction sector, which suffered the biggest sectoral decline during the crash, saw employment rise by 9,300 or 7.3%.

The largest decline during the period was in the administration and support services sector, where employment fell by 2,000 or 2.9%.

“We’re going up on a more shallow slope than we declined down at, hence we haven’t returned to figures that are comparable to peak employment,” senior CSO statistician Brian Ring said.

Nonetheless he said the latest figures were consistent with a year-on-year growth in employment of 3%.

Mr Ring also noted the continuing downward trend in long-term unemployment, which fell from 5% to 4.2%, allaying fears that structural unemployment may become a feature of the economy.


Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor welcomed the latest survey, noting the figures put the Government on track to eclipse its target of creating an extra 50,000 jobs this year.

“I am particularly encouraged to see figures showing the vast majority of new jobs are being created outside of Dublin as one of my key priorities remains keeping a focus on job growth in all regions around Ireland,” she said.

Alan McQuaid of Merrion Stockbrokers said: “Although emigration has been a factor to some degree in keeping unemployment down since the financial crisis, the labour market has improved dramatically over the past two/three years, reflecting the strengthening of the economic recovery.”

He also noted the most recent migration estimates showed net inward migration of 3,100 in the year to April 2016 as against net outward migration of 11,600 in 2015, and the first positive figure since 2009.

Device developed by Irish scientists to ‘vastly improve’ detection of prostate cancer

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A device developed by Irish scientists is expected to lead to a vast improvement in prostate cancer detection.

It can test a non-invasive technique that could significantly increase the chance of finding tumours. Up to now, the potentially life-saving approach to prostate cancer detection remained confined within a research setting.

The test device that mimics the prostate and entire pelvic area was developed by Silvin Knight, a PhD student at Trinity College Dublin’s School of Medicine.

Mr Knight has been working under the supervision of Prof Andrew Fagan, director of the National Centre of Advanced Medical Images at St James’s Hospital and leader of the group.

Mr Knight’s work, funded by the Irish Cancer Society and the Movember Foundation, is published in the journal Physics in Medicine and Biology.

The device that took two and a half years to build and develop makes it possible to test an imaging technique that involves injecting a dye into a patient.

A series of images are taken as the dye leaks in and out of tissue in the prostate. Leakier blood vessels in prostate tissue are a strong indicator of the presence of a tumour. However, the accuracy of the technique that is up to 42% more sensitive compared with biopsy alone could not be adequately tested until now.

“The phantom test device is allowing us to develop a dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging technique to a higher degree of accuracy than has been possible previously with just imaging patients,” said Mr Knight.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in Ireland with around 3,400 new cases of the disease identified each year.

Mr Knight said: “Currently, it is difficult for doctors to definitively diagnose prostate cancer using existing techniques. These usually require patients to go through a painful and sometimes inaccurate biopsy procedure.”

Head of research with the Irish Cancer Society, Robert O’Connor, said that the development was hugely significant.

The society and the Movember Foundation is raising awareness about prostate cancer and other men’s health issues this month.

‘Shop and Save campaign’ incentive behind the resurgence of Dunne’s Stores

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The latest data shows that Dunnes Stores had a 22.6% share of the multi-billion euro grocery market during the 12 weeks up to November 6

You can bet that if there weren’t Champagne corks popping down at the Dunnes Stores headquarters on Dublin’s George’s Street yesterday, there was at least some smug satisfaction in being back on top.

Because it looked for a long time like Dunnes Stores had lost its way?

Its market share had declined, and it was taking a beating from rival SuperValu, which has developed new ranges and aggressively marketed its Irish and local credentials, heavily involving itself in local communities.

It’s arguable that Tesco’s own slide down the ranks was as much to do with its wider problems as a group, rather than just its ability to compete in the Irish market.

The first line of defence for Dunnes was to slash its own margins.

It did so by introducing its popular ‘Shop and Save’ incentive, where customers get €10 off every €50 they spend. Its popularity even forced rivals to begin accepting the vouchers.

It was an audacious, not to mention expensive, strategy for Dunnes.

Retail experts reckon that since the retailer introduced the scheme over two years ago, it has cost Dunnes tens of millions of euros.

What’s telling though is that Dunnes Stores has been able to afford to run that scheme for so long.

That makes one wonder just what kind of profit margin the chain was previously working off, and that if it was losing money to run the campaign, just how much in accumulated profits the business had on its books.

A substantial amount, certainly, but the business is unlimited, meaning it does not have to file publicly available accounts.

A big challenge now for the chain will be how to introduce an orderly halt to that discounting without losing too many customers, or seeing their spend fall if they do stay with the chain.

To that end, Dunnes Stores has been introducing new products and concepts.

It has also bought the small Dublin-based Café Sol chain to introduce the product to Dunnes Stores, and also acquired artisan butchers Whelans.

And that’s just the food side.

With textiles, it has hauled in top names such as Paul Costelloe, Lennon Courtney and Paul Galvin to front labels it hopes will spur sales with more discerning customers.

It’s all pushing Dunnes Stores more along the lines of Marks and Spencer (where Margaret Heffernan has even been spotted shopping), rather than the Dunnes of old.

And being number one might also stir interest in the chain from potential buyers.

Margaret Heffernan turns 75 next year, her brother Frank Dunne turns 74.

There will come a day when a decision will have to be made about the chain’s future.

An Post accused of ‘devious’ plan to close a Sligo country post office

Local Sooey Priest speaks out as company reviews contract after death of Ballygawley postmaster.

Image result for An Post accused of ‘devious’ plan to close a Sligo country post office  Image result for Sooey Sligo country post office

A protest last week in support of Ballygawley post office in Co Sligo.

A parish priest has spoken out against the closure of a rural post office in Co Sligo which is under threat following the death of the 55-year-old postmaster.

Speaking at the end of Mass in Sooey parish church on Sunday, Fr AB O’Shea urged parishioners to sign a letter, which was available in the church porch, urging An Post not to close the post office in nearby Ballygawley.

Campaigners have accused An Post of using the death of postmaster Colm McTiernan, less than six weeks ago, as an excuse to close the service now being operated by his wife. With 700 post offices nationally believed to be under threat, An Post has announced that the contract for Ballygawley post office is under review.

Fr O’Shea told the congregation it was important to maintain services in the west of Ireland and “not move everything towards the capital”.

‘Heartbeat of the community’

Thomas Walsh, chairman of Ballygawley Development, said local people were angry, not just because they feared losing their post office , “the heartbeat of the community”. “I know An Post is a commercial company but people feel this is being done in a very callous way”.

He said Mr McTiernan’s wife Antoinette was continuing to operate the post office in their multi-use business which includes a shop and filling station. “An Post is now going through this rigmarole of a process but we feel they are looking for an excuse to close the post office.”

The late postmaster’s brother Padraig said the family were very upset that the contract was put up for review so soon after Colm’s death at the age of 55. “There is no humanity in it. Antoinette has been running it and it is a very busy post office,” he added.

Campaigners said that within a 30-mile radius, four post offices had closed over the past three years, so closure would leave a large geographical area without a service. More than 300 people attended a rally outside the premises last week, including several local school children with letters addressed to Santa.

Big decision?

Angus Laverty, public affairs manager with An Post confirmed the contract for Ballygawley post office was now under review, and said a consultation period would continue until December 2nd. A decision on whether to keep the post office open is expected some weeks later.

Mr Laverty said the company was aware of the sensitivity of the case. “We are always sensitive to the family, and this case was particularly tragic as Colm was only in his 50s and he was our colleague. Unfortunately there is no good time to do this.”

Mr Laverty said that as postmaster, Mr McTiernan had been the person contracted to provide the service, and “unfortunately when a person dies that is the end of the contract”. He said there were 1,130 post offices in the country, 51 of them run by An Post staff , while the rest were operated on a contract basis.

This ancient Chinese bird kept its feathers, and colours for some 130 million years

Image result for This ancient Chinese bird kept its feathers, and colours for some 130 million years   Image result for This ancient Chinese bird kept its feathers, and colours for some 130 million years

The fossils of an ancient bird on the left of picture, Eoconfuciusornis, revealed microscopic evidence of pigment within its feathers, which were preserved for some 130 million years.

An international team of U.S. and Chinese scientists analyzed the color of the bird, the oldest known avian after the proto-bird Archaeopteryx, by first identifying a protein from its fossilized feathers that enables modern-day birds to fly.

The protein, beta-keratin, is the stuff of nails, feathers, scales and beaks. Evolutionary history and modern genetic evidence indicates that feather keratins evolved from reptilian scale keratins. (Beta-keratin is not to be confused with beta-carotene, the orange pigment found in carrots and other plants.) The keratin proteins are arranged like building blocks to give a particular biological structure its function, akin to the way brick can form a walkway or a chimney.

Scientists studied Eoconfuciusornis beta-keratin buried deep within the animal’s fossilized feathers. They probed the keratin structures to find small, dark grains called melanosomes. These are the little specks within animal cells that give skin and other tissues its color. Although melanosomes had been discovered in fossilized creatures before, it was previously too difficult to tell if the dark granules belonged to the animal itself or ancient microorganisms preserved alongside it.

The trick was to pick out the bird melanosomes embedded within the keratin. “If we couldn’t find the keratin, then those structures could as easily be microbes, or a mix of microbes and melanosomes — in either case, predictions of dinosaur shading would not be accurate,” said study author and North Carolina State University biologist Mary Schweitzer in a news release.

In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers used an analytical technique not traditionally applied to 130-million-year-old animals. Chinese Academy of Sciences paleontologist Pan Yanhong told the South China Morning Post that, “We must remove many unwanted materials to reveal the keratin proteins, and for the job I borrowed some techniques used in the study of ancient human DNA.” The price of the technique was that parts of the fossil, each sliver about the size of a rice grain, were destroyed in the process.

Eoconfuciusornis — the “early Confucius bird” or “the dawn of the Confucius bird” — was first discovered in 2008, and is thought to have been the size of a crow. It was the first animal known to have a toothless, horned bill like a bird. The specimen used in the current study was found in Hebei, China, where a lake once existed during the beginning of the Cretaceous period. (An amateur paleontologist previously unearthed the slightly younger Confucius bird, Confuciusornis, when he purchased a specimen at a flea market in Jinzhou in 1993.)

As University of Bristol paleontologist Mike Benton told National Geographic at the time of the bird’s discovery, there was a question of just what colors its plumage bore when it was alive. The early Confucius bird could have been brown and black. Or, Benton said, “these might alternatively have been the bright reds, blues, and yellows of modern birds.”

The melanosomes examined with the new technique lent support to the idea that the early Confucius bird’s body was brownish or dark in color. What’s more, the study hinted at future discoveries embedded within additional ancient skins and feathers. As Pan said to the South China Morning Post, “We can use the same technology to study other animals, such as dinosaurs.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 19th November 2016

Almost 200 countries agree climate time-frame change and make appeal to Trump

Marrakesh conference agrees to work out a rule book by December 2018

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Members of International delegations at the climate conference in Marrakesh on Friday.

Nearly 200 nations agreed around midnight on Friday to work out the rules for a landmark 2015 global deal to tackle climate change within two years in a new sign of international support for a pact opposed by US President-elect Donald Trump.

At the end of two-week talks on global warming in Marrakesh, which were extended an extra day, many nations appealed to Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, to reconsider his threat to tear up the Paris Agreement for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Showing determination to keep the Paris Agreement on track, the conference agreed to work out a rule book at the latest by December 2018.

A rule book is needed because the Paris Agreement left many details vague, such as how countries will report and monitor their national pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Two years may sounds like a long time, but it took four to work out detailed rules for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement’s predecessor, which obliged only developed countries to cut their emissions. Paris requires commitments by all.

The final text also urged rich nations to keep building towards a goal of providing $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020.

Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar told a news conference that Marrakesh had been the start of turning promises made in Paris into action.

“We will continue on the path,” he said, urging Trump to join other nations in acting to limit emissions.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who will host next year’s climate meeting in Germany, invited Trump to drop his scepticism about climate change and visit the South Pacific nation to see the effects of stronger storms and rising seas.

Trump plans to favour fossil fuels over renewable energies and has threatened to halt any US taxpayer funds for UN climate programmes.

On Thursday, governments reaffirmed their commitment to “full implementation” of the Paris accord which seeks to phase out greenhouse gas emissions this century and to limit a global average rise in temperature to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

“Not one country has said that if President Trump pulls the United States out of Paris, they will follow him,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Environmental groups said the outcome in Marrakesh was a step in the right direction, but many issues needed to be resolved over the next two years, including funds for developing nations.

“Rich countries have been trying to wriggle out of their pledges to help poorer countries meet the costs of coping with impacts and greening their economies,” said Harjeet Singh at ActionAid.

Also on Friday, a group of 48 developing countries most at risk from climate change said they would strive to make their energy production 100 percent renewable “as rapidly as possible”, as part of efforts to limit global warming.

The Social Democrats joint leaders call for radical changes in Ireland?

Party seeks end to religious discrimination, repeal of the 8th amendment

Image result for The Social Democrats joint leaders call for radical changes in Ireland?  Image result for The Social Democrats joint leaders call for radical changes in Ireland?

Catherine Murphy (centre) and Róisín Shortall address the party event in Dublin.

The joint leaders of the Social Democrats have called for radical changes in Irish society including an end to religious discrimination, repeal of the 8th amendment, an end to corruption, and prioritising public services over tax cuts.

Catherine Murphy and Róisín Shortall set out a vision for the party based on the Nordic political model, with a strong liberal outlook, at the first national conference of the new party.

In their leaders’ address to the conference at the Dublin Convention Centre last night, Ms Shortall and Ms Murphy emphasised homelessness, affordable homes, a universal health system free at the point of delivery, as well as saying that spending on public services should always be prioritised over health cuts.

Speaking to about 300 members, the leaders called for repeal of the Official Secrets Act, as well as the Ministers and Secretaries Act. Ms Shortall said that it would open up government.

She also said that the Social Democrats in power would also ensure that those found guilty of white-collar crime and corruption would be put beyond bars. The part, she said, would establish an anti-corruption agency.

Both Ms Murphy and Ms Shortall called for repeal of Section 7 of the Equal Status Act. That they said would remove the “baptism barrier” and ensure that there would be no bar on grounds of religion preventing children being enrolled in faith-based schools.

“The law of the land, as it currently stands, is that state-funded schools are perfectly entitled to refuse entry to children as young as four because they are not signed up to a particular religious belief.

“Even schools which do allow access to children of different faith, or no faith, continue to expose those children to a religious ethos to which they do not subscribe. This is entirely unacceptable.”

Ms Murphy said the party would also pledge to abolish zero hours contracts if in power.

Ms Shortall said: “Across the world people are hurting and are seeking to lash out at an establishment that has hurt them.

“But lashing out is not enough; we want to replace anger with hope; hope that things will be better for the many and not just for the chosen few. Brexit and the unknown quantity of a Trump presidency have the potential to impact negatively on all of us, and on our ability to compete on the world stage.”

She said the most successful countries were those where the gap between rich and poor was smallest. “The countries that manage to achieve this, are ones which strive towards equality of outcome. Invariably the Nordic countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway deliver better on these successful outcomes.”

Ms Murphy was highly critical of the reforms that have taken place over the past decade, saying they were driven by savage cuts.

“We see it in our chaotic health service; in our ever-worsening homelessness and housing crisis; in our underfunded and disjointed public transport system; in the second most expensive childcare costs in the world; and an educational system where parents are increasingly being asked to fund basic services such as school-heating costs.”

Ms Shortall also committed the party to a goal to end consistent child poverty by 2021.

On housing, Ms Murphy called on the Government to take immediate action to ensure long term rent certainty.

“We have to immediately free up many of the 200,000 vacant homes across the country,” she said.

As much as 130,000 customers hit by Three mobile data breach

Image result for As much as 130,000 customers hit by Three mobile data breach   Image result for As much as 130,000 customers hit by Three mobile data breach

The primary purpose of this was not to steal customer information but was criminal activity to acquire new handsets fraudulently.

More than 130,000 users of the Three mobile network has been compromised in a cyber security breach.

Customer information from more than 130,000 users of the Three mobile network has been compromised in a cyber security breach, the mobile operator has said.

Three boss Dave Dyson said in a statement that all affected customers were being contacted individually and that while personal information had been accessed, no financial information had been compromised.

Three men were arrested after the data breach was revealed, over the alleged fraudulent use of the company’s phone upgrade system in attempted to steal handsets.

“As you may already know, we recently became aware of suspicious activity on the system we use to upgrade existing customers to new devices and I wanted to update all our customers on what happened and what we have done,” Mr Dyson said.

“On 17th November we were able to confirm that eight customers had been unlawfully upgraded to a new device by fraudsters who intended to intercept and sell on those devices.

“I can now confirm that the people carrying out this activity were also able to obtain some customer information.

“In total, information from 133,827 customer accounts was obtained but no bank details, passwords, pin numbers, payment information or credit/debit card information are stored on the upgrade system in question.

“We believe the primary purpose of this was not to steal customer information but was criminal activity to acquire new handsets fraudulently.”

Three said it was continuing to work with law enforcement agencies, and as a precaution additional security measures had been placed on customer accounts.

The company had been criticised by some customers on social media for what was seen as a muted response to the breach, however Mr Dyson said Three would address all consumer concerns.

“I understand that our customers will be concerned about this issue and I would like to apologise for this and any inconvenience this has caused,” he said.

“We are contacting all of these customers today to individually confirm what information has been accessed and directly answer any questions they have.”

Security experts have again called for major companies with large amounts of customer data to do more to protect consumers.

The breach is the latest in a string of cyber attacks and data breaches, including those on TalkTalk and Yahoo.

How stages of prostate cancer are determined?

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Any diagnosis of cancer has its own method of staging, which is a way to describe how much cancer is in your body and where it’s located.

Any diagnosis of cancer will have its own method of staging of the cancer detected. Cancer staging is a way to describe how much cancer is in your body and where it is located.

Staging of prostate cancer gives the doctor the information he needs to know on how big the tumor is, whether it has spread or not and if it has spread, where has the cancer gone to.

Staging is necessary for several reasons:

Testing for prostate cancer?

Image result for Testing for prostate cancer? When a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, the initial staging is based on the results of PSA blood tests, biopsies, and imaging tests. This phase of staging is referred to as clinical staging.

A PSA blood test is used primarily to screen for prostate cancer and it measures the amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. PSA is a protein produced by both cancerous and noncancerous tissue in the prostate gland.

The higher the level of PSA is an indication of a more advanced cancer. The doctor will want to know how fast the PSA levels have been rising from test to test as a faster increase could indicate a more aggressive tumor.

A biopsy of the prostate can be done in the doctor’s office and the results from this can tell what percent of the prostate is involved. It can also determine a Gleason score, which is a number from 2 to 10 showing how closely the cancer cells look like normal cells when viewed under a microscope.

If the score is less than 6, it suggests the cancer is slow growing and not aggressive. A higher number indicates a faster growing cancer that is likely to spread.

Imaging tests used to determine prostate cancer can include CT scans, MRI, or a bone scan.

How prostate cancer is staged and what they mean.

Stage I cancer

This stage is known as localized cancer, as the cancer has been found in only one part of the prostate.

Stage I cancers cannot be felt during a digital rectal exam or seen with imaging tests. If the PSA is less than 10 and the Gleason score is 6 or less, stage I cancer is most likely a slow growing cancer.

Stage II cancer

This stage of cancer is still localized and has not spread beyond the prostate but is more advanced than stage I.

In stage II, the cells are less normal than stage I and may grow more rapidly. There are two types of stage II prostate cancer: Stage IIA, which is found only on one side of the prostate; and Stage IIB, found in both sides of the prostate

Stage III cancer

This stage of cancer is called locally advanced prostate cancer and has spread outside the prostate into local tissue such as the seminal vesicles, the glands that make semen.

Stage IV cancer

This stage of cancer has spread to distant parts of the body, such as nearby lymph nodes or bones of the pelvis or spine. It could have spread to other organs such as the bladder, liver, or lungs.

For men diagnosed with stage I, II or III prostate cancer, the goal is to cure the cancer by treating it and keeping it from returning.

For men diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer, the goal is to improve symptoms and to prolong life as in most cases, stage IV prostate cancer is not curable.

The stage of prostate cancer along with the PSA and Gleason score will help the doctor to decide on the best treatment taking into account a man’s age, overall health, symptoms, side effects of treatment, and what are the chances the treatment can cure the cancer.

More than 38,000 people killed on Irish roads since records began in 1959

The stats come ahead of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims

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Records show that a total of 38,787 people have been killed on Irish roads since records began in 1959.

While 14,839 people have been killed on roads in Northern Ireland since deaths were first recorded there in 1931.

The statistics come ahead of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, to be held on Sunday November 20th.

Ceremonies are to be held to mark the day across the island.

The transport minister, Road Safety Authority (RSA), An Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and road safety groups are calling on road-users to join the international community to mark the day.

Transport Minister Shane Ross has welcomed the fact that people both north and south were coming together to remember all the lives lost on the island’s roads.

“Many lives have been saved and injuries prevented as a result of the collaborative work by road safety agencies on both sides of the border in recent years so it is fitting that we should come together on World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims’ to remember those who have tragically died on the road and to also think of their families.”

“I would also like to acknowledge the great work done by those in the emergency services and medical professionals, on both sides of the border, who have to deal with the aftermath and consequences of collisions.

“We will be thinking of them too on Sunday and the life-saving work that they do.”

“People just like you and me have lost their lives”

While Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Minister, Chris Hazzard, added:  “Across many generations thousands of families have been devastated by the heartache of road tragedy.

“Almost 15,000 people, people just like you and me, have lost their lives across the north since records began.  Many others have been seriously injured and are living with the physical and emotional scars.

“Road safety is a continuous challenge and road deaths do not discriminate. All road users are vulnerable – every journey, every day, every road.”

Chief Superintendent Aidan Reid of the Garda National Traffic Bureau said: “This Sunday gives us all an opportunity to reflect on our behaviour on the roads. An Garda Síochána is committed to working with communities and organisations to make every effort to keep our roads free from tragedy, but our biggest enemy is complacency.”

While PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “So far this year, Police officers have visited the homes of 59 families across Northern Ireland to deliver the devastating news that one of their loved ones has been killed on our roads.

“Many more have received news of serious injuries. Behind every statistic, every news report, there are families and friends who have been affected and we must remember them.”

The Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims was first held in 1993 in the United Kingdom.

Since then it has been organised by non-governmental organisations in a number of countries.

It was created as a means to give recognition to victims of road traffic crashes and the plight of their loved ones who must cope with the emotional and practical consequences of these events.

On October 26th 2005, the United Nations adopted a resolution which calls for governments to mark the day each year.

Global sea ice (Antarctica) shrinking at never before recorded speeds,

Scientist’s now warn

Image result for Global sea ice (Antarctica) shrinking at never before recorded speeds  Arctic sea ice at record low wintertime maximum event

Climate change experts say the repercussions of warmer sea temperatures are already being felt.

While ice in the Arctic is close to reaching record lows, the Antarctic has seen sea ice running at lowest ever levels since records began.

Global sea ice is retreating at unprecedented speed with its impact already being felt across the globe, a leading scientist has warned.

While ice in the Arctic is close to record lows, the Antarctic has seen sea ice running at lowest ever levels for this time of year since records began.

Professor Peter Wadhams, head of the polar ocean physics group at Cambridge University, said rates of ice growth in winter had slowed and rising temperatures were causing it to melt faster in the summer, causing a dramatic reduction in area and thickness.

He warned the global repercussions of the reduction of sea ice were already being felt, long before the ice has fully disappeared.

“As the ice area gets less, you’re changing the albedo of the earth, which is the fraction of solar radiation that gets reflected straight away back into space, so you’re absorbing radiation which warms the earth quicker creating a feedback effect as the ice retreats,”

“The only secure way of stopping the sea ice to retreat is stopping warming the climate and that is really by reducing our carbon dioxide emissions.”

He also warned of the disastrous implications melting sea ice had for rising sea levels across the world.

According to a new study, sea water levels have risen by almost 7.8 inches due to ice melting since 1870, causing flooding of low-lying coastal communities and displacement of fish populations fleeing increasingly warm waters.

“As the ice retreats you get warmer air over the Arctic and that warmer air spreads out to places like Greenland’s ice cap causing it to melt faster in the summer than it did in the past, which is contributing to global sea level rise,” he said.

He also warned of the release of the powerful greenhouse gas methane from the seabed as the ice melts, a gas that scientists recognise as a key driver of climate change.

“We are now seeing huge plumes of methane coming up to the surface from methane being released from the seabed,” he told The Independent.

“The ice in summer has shrunk back from all the seas around the edges of the arctic and without the sea ice, those seas around the edge can now warm up because the water is shallow which allows this warmer water to bathe the seabed.

“The seabed at the moment is covered with permafrost, frozen ground, hiding a large volume of methane underneath. As soon as the warmer water starts to act on the seabed the permafrost melts and the methane is released.”

Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in October were unusually high over the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, as well as the Barents and Kara Seas along the Eurasian coast, helping to limit ice growth (Climate Change Institute/University of Maine)

Concern is also growing among the scientific community over Donald Trump’s election as US president.

Last week, what is hoped will be one of the biggest ever environmental campaigns was launched by a group of scientists and environmentalists in an effort to convince the President-elect that global warming is real.

Professor Wadhams warned that Mr Trump’s stance as a climate change denier could be “a disaster and a catastrophe for the world”.

“I recently attended the Marrakech climate change conference and there was enormous concern because the US delegation who signed the Paris agreement is still Obama’s administration,” he said.

“Legally the US is taking part fully in the Paris accords but as John Kerry was saying, his administration would only be in office for the next two months. There’s general gloom everywhere, you quiver with fear with the rest of the globe for the future.”

However, Professor Wadhams, who recently published a book on the shrinking of sea ice, A Farewell to Ice, said there was hope for the future if the proper measures were put in place.

“One measure to stem the methane emissions from the seabed would be a kind of fracking method that the oil industry suggests which would be to drill down through these sediments, open up cavities which would then be filled with methane when you pump it out,” he said.

“Global warming and climate change is not going to be easy to reverse, especially sea level rise as that just seems to continue inexorably. The only way that’s been suggested that might work is ‘marine cloud brightening’, a form of geoengineering where you inject very fine water particles into the bottom of low cloud, these particles evaporate and it makes them brighter which will reflect more solar radiation.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thurs 10th November 2016

Irish Government appeals against €13bn EU ruling

Image result for Irish Government appeals against €13bn EU ruling  Image result for Irish Government appeals against €13bn EU ruling

Ireland’s stance on the EU’s landmark ruling against Apple, saying the tech giant owed the country €13bn, has finally been made official.

Ireland doesn’t want the EU’s help when it comes to taxation. So much so that Michael Noonan, Ireland’s Minister for Finance, has officially appealed against the Apple ruling.

In August, Europe’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, revealed the culmination of a three-year investigation into Apple’s tax status in Ireland.

Finding that Apple enjoyed a special agreement of sorts with the Irish Government, €13bn was the value Vestager put on the arrangement.

“This selective treatment allowed Apple to pay an effective corporate tax rate of 1% on its European profits in 2003, down to 0.005% in 2014,” she said.

Quids in for Ireland, with billions of winnings a boon to a country still operating under a shroud of debt. However, the Irish Government has been firmly in Apple’s corner throughout the case, and ever since.

Yesterday, just one day before the appeal deadline, Noonan acted.

“The government fundamentally disagrees with the European Commission’s analysis and the decision left no choice but to take an appeal,” Noonan told a European Parliament committee in Brussels.

“The tax practices that gave rise to the Apple decision are no longer part of Irish law, but we still think that the competition commissioner is wrong in law, and we’re appealing on those grounds.”

At the time of the decision, Apple CEO Tim Cook called it “maddening”.

“It’s maddening. It’s disappointing. It’s clear it comes from a political base and has no basis in fact,” he said.

Speaking to RTÉ, Cook strongly lauded Apple’s Irish workforce, currently employing some 5,000 people in Cork, with this figure soon to rise to 6,000. There’s also a new data centre in Galway to be built, but some are now concerned future investment could be curtailed should Apple be forced to pay up.

Apple’s relationship with Ireland “has not been diminished one iota”, said Cook, calling the company’s Ireland-based employees “world class”.

“I’m pretty confident that the Government will do the right thing. That is to stand up and fight against this overreach.”

Ireland must ‘practise what we preach’ on USA undocumented people

If State wants Trump to help Irish illegals we must address ‘crucial issue’ here.

Image result for Ireland must ‘practise what we preach’ on USA undocumented people   Image result for 50,000 undocumented Irish in the United States

Labour leader Brendan Howlin raised concerns about Donald Trump’s position on immigration which he said was the direct opposite of Ireland’s.

Ireland needs to “practise what we preach” and address the issue of the undocumented migrants living in the State if the Government wants US president-elect Donald Trump to help illegal Irish immigrants in America.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said the Migrant Rights Centre estimated that 20,000 to 26,000 undocumented immigrants are in Ireland of whom 2,000 to 6,000 are children, who “live in the shadows of our society”.

He said that “if we’re going to take the initiative to protect the 50,000 undocumented Irish in the United States, is there not an absolute imperative on us to practise what we preach and address those in our State who are undocumented”.

Mr Howlin raised in the Dáil concerns about Mr Trump’s position on immigration which he said was the direct opposite of Ireland’s.

“He has promised to deport illegal immigrants in the first 100 days and the clock is ticking.” Mr Howlin asked what the Government was doing “to address the crucial issue” of the estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in the US.

Equal obligation

And he said there was an equal obligation on the State to help deal with the undocumented in Ireland.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald told him: “I do want to confirm to this House that on immigration reform, relief for undocumented Irish remains an absolute priority for the Government.”

She said the Government was taking a two-pronged approach in trying to regularise the status of the undocumented and trying to get a dedicated quota for legal emigration from Ireland.

She said Taoiseach Enda Kenny had had a preliminary conversation with US president-elect Trump “and we will continue to pursue the values that we hold dear and the priority issues of which immigration reform remains an absolute priority”.

The Government raised this issue at every opportunity and fully intended to do so again “in our contacts with this administration”, she said.

Ms Fitzgerald, who is Minister for Justice, said she had met the Migrant Rights Council a number of times and intended to have further discussions with them.

She said “we would encourage people to make contact with officials and regularise their position”.

She said that every few months there were citizenship ceremonies and “we have a very inclusive approach” to immigrants seeking to work in Ireland.

HSE boss Tony O’Brien apologises after leaked memo said patients could be removed with “minimum force”

Minister for Health Simon Harris said that the rescinded memo was “utterly offensive and unacceptable”.

  Image result for HSE boss O'Brien apologises after leaked memo said patients could be removed with "minimum force"

The HSE boss Tony O’Brien has apologised for any distress caused after a leaked memo said nurses could remove patients from beds “as trespassers” using “minimum force” to free up beds.

O’Brien told the Oireachtas Health Committee this afternoon that the memo should not have been disseminated as widely as it was.

He apologised for any distress it caused.

However, he did say it was drafted based on legal counsel in relation to rare cases where patients refused to leave hospital.

Yesterday, Minister for Health Simon Harris said that the memo was “utterly offensive and unacceptable” and had been rescinded.

He was agreeing with Liam Doran, General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, who welcomed the retraction but also expressed worry over why the memo included those instructions in the first place.

Roscommon-Galway Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice shared his concern, and said that those responsible for HSE statement on removal of patients should be removed from their roles.

“The notion that the HSE would ask nurses to use force to remove patients from beds is absolutely unbelievable and a further indication of the disconnect that there is between some of the people who run our health service and the most important people of all, who are the patients.

“The callous tone of this statement is quite astonishing and to suggest that anyone in a civilised society would be treated in this manner is quite shocking.”

Simon Harris pledges to take action on medicinal cannabis

Minister makes promise to mother of child with a catastrophic form of epilepsy

Image result for Simon Harris pledges to take action on medicinal cannabis  Image result for Simon Harris pledges to take action on medicinal cannabis

Buds of cannabis at a a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, California, US. Minister for Health Simon Harris has promised he will take action on the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has promised the mother of an ill child that he will take action on the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes in January.

The Minister made the promise to Vera Twomey after she embarked on a walk from Co Cork to Leinster House in order to draw attention to the issue.

Her six-year-old daughter, Ava Barry, has a catastrophic form of epilepsy, but is now almost seizure-free after she started taking two doses of cannabis oil a day.

Ava suffers from Dravet syndrome and needed around-the-clock care before she started taking cannabidiol oil earlier this month.

Ms Twomey is calling for a change to Irish law to allow for cannabis to be used for medicinal purposes.

Cannabis for medicinal purposes is legal in a number of countries, including the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Canada, Australia, Malta, Croatia and some US states.

It is usually made available on prescription from doctors and supplied in a standardised form through pharmacists.

Mr Harris had said the Government had ordered a review of the Republic’s policy on medicinal cannabis.

As part of the review, Mr Harris has asked the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) to provide him with expert scientific advice on the matter.

The Oireachtas health committee is also due to discuss the issue later this month.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Harris said he “had a good meeting with Vera and Paul Twomey”, where he took the opportunity to update them on the policy review.

He said the HPRA had been asked to provide advice on recent developments in the use of cannabis for medical purposes, and an overview of related products that have been authorised in other jurisdictions.

Additionally, he said he had asked for an overview of the “wider ongoing and emerging clinical research” on the efficacy of medicinal cannabis, as well as an overview of the different regulatory regimes in place in states which allow it.

The HPRA will also advise on the legislative changes that would be required to allow the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes in the Republic.

Mr Harris said he hoped to receive the report from the HPRA and advice from the Oireachtas health committee in January.

He said he will then move forward with any legislative changes that may be recommended.

Cannabis for Medicinal Use Bill

Separately on Wednesday, Anti-Austerity Alliance-People before Profit TD Gino Kenny launched the Cannabis for Medicinal Use Bill 2016 at a press conference in Dublin.

The Bill is unlikely to be passed without Government support.

The Bill provides for the regulation of cannabis for medicinal use so that patients can receive a “legally-protected, secure supply” of a quality-controlled cannabis-based medicine.

The Bill includes provisions for a regulatory authority that would issue licences for importation and supply of such medicines.

The cannabis-based medicines would only be available from a pharmacy under the terms of the Bill, while the advertising and the sale of cannabis to minors would be banned.

Some 90% of Ireland’s prostate cancer patients alive after five years

N.B.: Scientists have revealed recently that a component found in green tea may help reduce the development of prostate cancer in men facing high risk.

Image result for Some 90% of Ireland’s prostate cancer patients alive after five years  Image result for 90% of Ireland’s prostate cancer patients alive after five years  Image result for 90% of Ireland’s prostate cancer patients alive after five years

Nine out of 10 prostate cancer patients survive more than five years, compared to just one in three 40 years ago.

As part of the Movember fundraising campaign, the Irish Cancer Society has been looking back on prostate cancer research advances in Ireland.

Survival rates have improved tremendously, because of huge strides in the prevention, detection, and treatment of the disease.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Irish men, accounting for a third of their cases.

About 3,400 new cases of the diseases are identified in Ireland every year, due to improved detection.

However, more needs to be done to improve survival rates, particularly for men with metastatic prostate cancer.

Also, ways need to be found to improve the lives of men who have survived the disease, as they often suffer a reduced quality of life.

The Irish Cancer Society and the Movember Foundation Ireland became partners nine years ago to invest in Irish prostate cancer research projects.

Consultant medical oncologist, Prof Ray McDermott, said prostate cancer survival rates only showed one side of the journey a patient with the disease travelled.

“For survivors, their diagnosis and treatment often impact on their physical and mental wellbeing in ways men rarely speak openly about,” he said.

Prof McDermott is clinical director of the prostate cancer research initiative, iPROSPECT, funded by the Irish Cancer Society in partnership with Movember, to devise personalised treatments and improve patient outcomes.

Scientists have revealed recently that a component found in green tea may help reduce development of prostate cancer in men facing high risk.

Trump’s climate change denial poses big problems in global fight

US president-elect has promised to tear up the Paris climate accord ratified last year

Image result for Ireland must ‘practise what we preach’ on USA undocumented people  Image result for Trump climate change denial poses big problems in global fight  Image result for Trump climate change denial poses big problems in global fight

The greatest danger posed by US president-elect Donald Trump may be his threat to “cancel” the Paris accord on climate change, which was concluded last December after decades of negotiations.

The Paris accord seeks to limit the rise in global temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees compared to pre-industrial revolution levels; 1.5 degrees if possible.

“Article 28 of the text I negotiated foresees that a state which has signed – and President Obama signed – may renounce the accord three years after it enters into force,” Laurent Fabius, who presided over the 21st Conference of Parties, or COP, told France Inter Radio.

The accord took effect on November 4th, after the required two-thirds threshold of ratification by 55 countries, accounting for 55% of global greenhouse emissions, was met.

Trump could renounce the agreement in 2019, Fabius said. A US withdrawal would take effect in 2020. The US is the world’s second-largest producer of carbon emissions, after China.

Fabius recalled going through the agreement, line by line, with US and Chinese envoys. China linked its ratification to that of the Americans, and a US pullout could create a domino effect.

“It would have huge repercussions,” Fabius said. “Once you put greenhouse gases in the air, they stay there for up to 10,000 years. There’s a risk that other countries will say, ‘If the US is doing nothing, we won’t either.’ It would be extremely grave for the world; the future of the world is at stake.”

News of Trump’s election cast a pall over COP22 in Marrakech, the first international climate summit since the Paris accord. The meeting had started with great optimism on November 7th, because the ratification procedure had been completed much more quickly than expected.

In other positive news for the fight against climate change, the first global climate deal for aviation was reached on October 6th, and an agreement to phase out planet-warming hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, used in air conditioners and refrigerators, was concluded in Kigali on October 15th.

This hard-won progress is threatened by Trump’s climate negationism. “With Donald Trump’s election, a period of great uncertainty regarding US climate policy has opened,” Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists told Le Monde from Marrakesh.

“It will have an undeniable psychological effect, even if it doesn’t block the working session in Marrakesh.”

On Tuesday, US election day, the World Meteorological Organisationpresented its analysis of the global climate from 2011 through 2015 at COP22. The five-year period was the hottest on record. The organisation reported “the increasingly visible human footprint on extreme weather and climate events with dangerous and costly impacts”.

The same day, the Germanwatch group reported that more than 528,000 people have died in the past decade due to some 11,000 extreme weather events.

Trump has often ridiculed one of the most powerful scientific consensuses of our time. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive,” he tweeted in November 2012.

Global warming

In a campaign speech last May, Trump promised to “cancel” the Paris accord on the grounds it gave “foreign bureaucrats” control over US energy consumption and would “kill jobs and trade”.

In other tweets, Trump has cited freak cold weather events as proof that global warming is a hoax, claimed that wind turbines are “bad for people’s health” and that low-energy light bulbs cause cancer.

Trump does not even need to renounce the Paris accord to sabotage it. At the insistence of the US and other parties, the accord is non-binding, and there are no sanctions against countries who do not fulfil their pledges to cut carbon emissions.

Trump has vowed to dismantle the US Environmental Protection Agency, which has an $8 billion budget, and whose work he termed “shameful”. He also said he would cut US funding for UN projects that fight climate change.

The Obama administration pledged $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund to help developing countries make the transition to renewable energy.

President Barack Obama’s “Clean Power Plan”, designed to reduce emissions from power plants, has been suspended since February, following a lawsuit by 27 mostly Republican states.

The president-elect wants to develop fossil fuels and increase reliance on coal mining and coal-fired power plants, which are responsible for 40% of US carbon dioxide emissions. And he may resurrect plans for the Keystone XL pipeline between Alberta, Canada, and refineries in Illinois and Texas.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 31st October 2016

Charlie Flanagan surprised by Arlene Foster’s claim of poaching investors from the North

First Minister says ‘political instability in Dublin’ is driving Brexit decision-making

Image result for Charlie Flanagan surprised by Arlene Foster’s claim of poaching investors from the North   Image result for Charlie Flanagan surprised by Arlene Foster’s claim of poaching investors from the North

The United States Secretary of State, John Kerry (right) meets Minister for Foreign Affairs Charles Flanagan in Co Wicklow during a one-day visit to Ireland.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has said he was “very surprised” by comments made by Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster about the “poaching” of jobs for the Republic at the North’s expense.

Mr Flanagan also said on Sunday he was “very concerned” about Mrs Foster’s remarks that political instability in the Irish Government, rather than concern for Northern Ireland, was driving the State’s stance over Brexit

Dublin made during her first address as party leader to the DUP’s annual conference on Saturday.

The Minister was asked about Ms Foster’s comments during a joint press conference in Tipperary with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“I was very surprised at these remarks,” he said. “I’m very concerned at these remarks. I’m very concerned at a claim that representatives of the Irish Government were allegedly talking down the Northern Ireland economy.

“I’m very concerned at allegations that representatives of the Irish State were in any way poaching business or investors.”

Mr Flanagan said he spoke on Saturday evening to the North’s Minister for the Economy, Simon Hamilton, to express his concern over the comments.

“He and I agreed that it is important that we work together, which we will do. I believe it’s important that the unique relationship of the people on this island forms part of the negotiated framework in the matter of the relationship of the United Kingdom and the European Union.

“We need to work together. We have to work together, in order to ensure the economic and social prosperity for all the people on this island. That is the priority of our government.”

Mr Kerry, who was in Tipperary to accept this year’s Tipperary International Peace Award at Aherlow House Hotel, said that when dealing with Brexit “people need to be really careful with downstream consequences… one choice can have an impact on other aspects”.

He said “how that border access is managed” needs to be done “very thoughtfully and very sensitively” so it doesn’t impact on trade within the island.

During her speech Mrs Foster said political instability rather than concern for Northern Ireland was driving the Irish Government’s stance over Brexit.

The Stormont First Minister said relations with the Irish Government were as good as they ever had been and she would continue to work with the southern neighbours.

But she told delegates at the DUP annual conference near Belfast relations with the EU were much less important than the benefits derived from being within the UK.

“The reality is that political instability in Dublin, and fears for their own future, are driving their decision-making at present as much as any concern about Northern Ireland.

“And while they seek to take the views of people of Northern Ireland on the issue of Brexit at home, their representatives are sent out around the world to talk down our economy and to attempt to poach our investors.

“It is clear, conference, that the one place that a hard border does exist is in the mind of the Irish Government.

“Well, I don’t believe in a hard border and am happy to welcome shoppers looking for a bargain from across the border any time they want to come.

“And I am quite confident that the investment offer that will be available, both now and in the future, will mean our reputations as a place to invest will continue to grow.”

Mrs Foster was addressing her first party conference as leader. She replaced Peter Robinson in December. The DUP retained its position as Northern Ireland’s largest party in the May Assembly poll. The party campaigned for Brexit in the June referendum.

Gardaí offered a substantial package to avert Friday’s strike,

Talks between Garda bodies and department of Justice are continuing over the weekend

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The Garda Representative Association (above) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors are threatening to withdraw their labour this coming Friday.

Gardaí have been offered a “substantial arrangements and a package” in a bid to avoid unprecedented strike action on Friday, according to Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe.

Mr Donohoe declined to be drawn on the specifics of the proposals being put to the Garda Representative Association (GRA).

However, the Minister insisted the Government was committed to finding a solution and meeting the needs of gardaí.

Members of the GRA and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) will strike for 24-hours on each of the four Fridays in November as part of a dispute over pay and representation.

It is understood the Government is offering to pay gardaí extra money for periods of time before their shifts begin.

The offer centres on payment for a 15 minute period spent “on parade”, which is a largely historical practice of preparing for a new shift.

It is not clear if the payment would be for work that was already done and unpaid, or for extra work that would have been carried out.

Discussions between the Department of Justice and the garda representative bodies are ongoing today under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission.

Mr Donohoe said the Government was in discussions with a number of agencies about the need for a contingency plan if the strike proceeds.

However, Mr Donohoe would not be drawn on whether the Defence Forces would form part of the measures.

He said: “There is no contingency plan comparable to 12,000 members of the force not turning up.”

Mr Donohoe said while the Government was aware and appreciative of the work of gardaí, he stressed any arrangement would have to be within the parameters of the existing Lansdowne Road agreement on public sector pay, which 20 other unions are signed up to.

The Association of Secretary Teachers of Ireland is also in dispute with the Government over pay.

Mr Donohoe said the Government was committed to equal pay for all public servants but declined to commit to a timeframe.

Mr Donohoe told RTÉ Radio on Sunday “it all comes out of the same pot of money, the same pot of money I am using to deal with other issues all over our country.

“There is no ideological difficulty or resistance to this (equal pay). It is the challenge of having the money available to do it.”

Mr Donohoe’s Ministerial colleague Sean Canney confirmed emergency planning to deal with a potential strike by gardaí was under way.

If the strike does go ahead, gardaí will work off a priority list with violent and life-threatening crimes prioritised, one newspaper has reported.

Under this contingency plan reported murders, serious assaults and aggravated burglaries would be responded to first while burglaries and road traffic collisions where there is no serious injury or threat to life would not be responded to immediately.

If the strike proceeds, non-GRA and AGSI gardaí, mostly senior officers and members of specialist units, will provide skeleton policing cover.

Asked about the contingency plans in the event of a strike a Garda spokesman said: “There are mechanisms in place for resolving these matters the Garda Commissioner would encourage all bodies to remain engaged.

“The best outcome for all involved, including the public is that these issues are resolved within these mechanisms.”

From the Government point of view, the focus is on securing a deal with the 10,000-strong GRA compared to the estimated 2,000 members in the AGSI.

The total strength of the force is over 13,000 and Government sources said securing GRA support for a new deal is crucial to halting a possible strike.

Separately the Unite trade union called on the Government to give an unambiguous commitment to the principle of equal pay for equal work.

Unite Irish regional secretary Jimmy Kelly said the “pay discrimination against new entrants to the public sector is unacceptable and must be addressed.”

“This is not just a matter for ASTI members: it is totally unacceptable to all workers that their colleagues doing the same work are not paid the same wages. Equal pay for equal work is a fundamental principle and its application was hard-won by the trade union movement.”

“All unions who signed up to the Lansdowne Road agreement would recognise that this issue of equality must be addressed urgently.”

Jamie Oliver says obesity poses a greater threat to the UK than Isis does

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Jamie Oliver has attacked Theresa May’s government for not doing enough to tackle obesity and insisted the obesity epidemic poses a greater threat to Britain than Isis.

In an episode of Dispatches which is set to air on Channel 4 tonight, the celebrity chef compared the challenge of curbing obesity to “war” and argued Ms May had failed to follow through with David Cameron’s pledge to fight childhood obesity.

Mr Cameron made childhood obesity a flagship issue for his second term, placing No 10 officials in charge of the issue rather than the department of health. Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the UK and one third of children are overweight or obese by the time they reach 11 years of age.

“If you are worried about the thing that hurts British people the most, it ain’t Isis, right?” Oliver said.

“Obesity is killing huge amounts of people, well before their time. This is a war.”

Brandishing a copy of the new proposals, he also said: “This should go to the Trade Descriptions Act because that says an ‘action plan’ and there’s hardly any action in there.”

“When you look at how the plan came out at midnight, next to the A-level results, while the whole of government’s on holiday, it absolutely screams out, ‘we don’t care’.”

According to Dispatches, great swathes of Mr Cameron’s original plans no longer exist under the watered down plans of the current government.

Mr Cameron’s original plans included proposals to cut childhood obesity by half within the next ten years and thus have 800,000 fewer obese children by 2026. Obesity can lead to fundamental problems in later life, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes and is estimated to cost the NHS more than £4 billion every year.

Galway nurse Rachael Dalton works to increase prostate issue awareness

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Rachael Dalton (left) and a Movember initiative.

A Galway nurse is aiming to create awareness surrounding men’s health – and more specifically those who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer – ahead of the nationwide Movember campaign which begins this month of November.

Rachael Dalton, a nurse in UHG, has organised two local events in early November where men can approach nurses from urology, cancer care and radiotherapy services to answer any questions they may have regarding the disease.

The first – in UHG on November 2 – is an information evening for the general public regarding prostate cancer. Answers relating to the diagnosis, treatment and questions relating to Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) testing can be sought on the night.

The second event will take place in the Salthill Hotel, on November 8, and is for men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer and who are currently undergoing treatment. The evening will see discussion on what services are available to men to try and assist them with any side effects they may be experiencing.

Approximately 3,400 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in Ireland each year; the second most common cancer in men here.

Prostate cancer has a 90.6% five-year survival rate – men are now living longer with prostate cancer but unfortunately on occasion they are also living with some short and long term side effects relating to their treatment.

Rachael’s events are funded by the Movember and the Irish Cancer Society.

“My main interest would have been in oncology and cancer care. I also have an interest in education – in both my colleague’s and patient’s education. So I found that clinical special role allowed me to use my skills and education to promote education of patients and to develop these education evenings which we run across the west of Ireland.

“My role is to provide men with support, education and advice along the way and be a link for men between the hospital and other community services that are available to support them with any side-effects relating to their prostate cancer treatment or diagnosis,” Rachael stated.

Rachael described the role of the Movember campaign as “absolutely pivotal” in raising awareness of cancer in men. The campaign will see thousands of men throughout Ireland grow various forms of facial hair in an effort to raise money for the cause.

Irish scientists make breakthrough on aggressive breast cancer with new drug

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Irish scientists have found a potential new way to treat one of the most aggressive and difficult to treat forms of breast cancer.

Researchers have shown that a new drug can prevent the growth of some cancer cells.

The study was carried out by BREAST-PREDICT, an Irish Cancer Society Collaborative Cancer Research Centre. The findings from their work have recently been published in the International Journal of Cancer.

If found to be successful in clinical trials, APR-246 has the potential to save lives for patients with a form of breast cancer which is currently difficult to treat.

The research was carried out by PhD student Naoise Synnott.

“At the moment the only form of drug treatment available to patients with triple-negative breast cancer is chemotherapy.

“While this will work well for some patients, others may find that their cancer cells don’t respond as well as might be hoped to chemo, leading to patients suffering the side effects of this treatment without any of the desired outcomes.

“I decided to focus my BREAST-PREDICT research on triple-negative breast cancer because it was clear that work needed to be done to provide better and more targeted treatment for these patients.

“I hope that the work of me and my colleagues in St Vincent’s and UCD will be a big step in providing better treatment and hope to future triple-negative breast cancer patients.”

More than 250 people are diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer each year. It accounts for approximately one in six breast cancer cases globally.

Triple-negative breast cancer is often aggressive, difficult to treat and tends to be more common in younger women.

The oldest and thickest arctic sea ice no match for our warming summers

Image result for The oldest and thickest arctic sea ice no match for our warming summers  PaintImage116

According to research conducted by NASA, the thick layers of the Arctic sea ice are melting. In the past, huge blocks of ice would remain frozen during the hot season, but today they melt along with the new ice layers.

Since 1984, scientists have been working on estimates of the sea ice age and its age evolution in order to understand the mysteries behind the ice thickness across the Arctic, as direct measurements often fail to reflect its exact characteristics.

According to the researchers, the sea ice has grown, shrunk, spun, melted and drifted out of the Arctic during the last three decades, as shown by a NASA visualization of the age of Arctic sea ice.

During the first years of the 21st century, researchers at the University of Colorado created a way to monitor the Arctic sea ice movement, as well as its evolution in age, through the use of data from a corroboration of sources, mainly satellite passive microwave instruments.

Thus, brightness temperature was shown; according to the scientists, the ice’s thickness is directly proportional to its age.

“Ice age is a good analog for ice thickness because basically, as ice gets older it gets thicker. This is due to the ice generally growing more in the winter than it melts in the summer,” noted Walt Meier, a NASA sea ice researcher.

The instruments used by the researchers measured the microwave energy that the sea ice emitted, as well as the influence on the ice temperature, the ice salinity level, the texture of the ice surface and, ultimately, the layer of snow that lies on top of the sea ice.

Each year, the ice is created during the winter and it melts during the summer. However, the ice layer that manages to survive the hot season thickens from one year to another. Consequently, this starts a natural slippery slope. The more ice remains after the hot season, the thicker the ice layer during the cold season, and the thicker it becomes, the harder it is for it to melt.

During one single year, the ice grows from 3 to 7 feet in thickness; however, multi-year ice, the one that manages to remain unmelted throughout more seasons in a row, is roughly 10 to 13 feet thick. However, despite this natural trend of growing in thickness, the sea ice has become thinner and younger during the past years.

According to Meier, this bizarre and threatening phenomenon is caused by sea ice melting from one season to another. While the sea ice formed throughout various seasons should be more resistant to melting, it seems that it behaves very similarly to the current year’s ice layer. Consequently, the old ice melts along with the new one during the hot seasons.

One of the main reasons causing this occurrence could be the ice formation and its dynamic. Unlike the past, when ice layers were seen in huge, resistant blocks, the current ice layers can be observed in much smaller chunks, which makes them more vulnerable to melting during the hot season.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 22nd October 2016

Vulture funds now shifting assets after Irish tax clampdown

Government to add more anti-avoidance measures as Finance Bill goes through Oireachtas

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Overseas investors are likely to move billions of euro of Irish property assets out of funds targeted by a major State tax clampdown into ordinary companies and real-estate investment trusts to ease the pain.

Meanwhile, the Irish Government is preparing to add further anti-avoidance measures as the Finance Bill goes through the Oireachtas. This will minimise how the strict rules in the proposed laws, unveiled on Thursday, can be circumvented by creative manoeuvrings, according to sources.

“The proposed changes will materially alter the tax treatment of Irish property funds,” William Fogarty and Andrew Quinn, tax lawyers with Maples and Calder in Dublin, said in a note to clients on Friday.

“Investors may wish to restructure their Irish real estate holdings in order to utilise standard corporate structures, or alternatively, to develop a real estate investment trust (Reit).”

As much as €12 billion of Irish property assets are held in Qualifying Investor Alternative Investment Funds and Irish Collective Asset-management Vehicles, which are targeted by the new rules.

Those with at least 25% of assets in Irish property face a 20% withholding tax from January on distributions to overseas investors, unless the recipients are pension or life assurance companies or other “collective investment vehicles”.

Funds that hold on to property for at least five years will be exempt from withholding tax being applied to distributions from capital gains. The remainder, including funds that are involved in developing property at a time when the country is facing a housing shortage, are likely to consider restructuring as a trading company, where a 12.5% tax rate would apply or, a tax-efficient rate structure, according to tax industry sources.

While some industry observers have welcomed that the Government introduced its plans this week, rather than waiting for a second Finance Bill as had been mooted at one stage, they say laws will have a broader impact than on the targeted funds.

“It will be a challenge for Ireland after this to convince foreign investors that the regime won’t change in future, particularly if existing transactions are not grandfathered,” said Jim Clery, a partner and head of real estate team with KPMG in Ireland.

“Each transaction I’ve been involved with recently involving major foreign direct investment has resulted in the overseas buyer saying they’ll come back and look at it later.”

Mr Clery warned that the property market may be hit by “a year or two of little activity” as long-term investors stick to the sidelines.

“The funds that brought assets from Nama and the Irish [State-controlled] banks paid prices on the basis of being able to put these assets in tax exempt fund structures,” he said. “In effect, they paid the State up front for the tax treatment that was clearly on the books at the time.”

Colm Lauder, an analyst with Goodbody Stockbrokers, said: “The changes will affect the price that certain funds will be willing to pay for assets, potentially dampening capital values and liquidity, if the pool of investors reduce – though [it] could present opportunities for unaffected investors.”

Ireland’s house price market up 7.2% for year to August

Image result for Ireland's house price market up 7.2% for this year 2016 to August  Image result for Ireland's house price market up 7.2% for this year 2016 to August Up 7.2%

Irish house prices rose by 7.2% over the last year and economists now have to revise their projections for price inflation in 2017 thanks to the Government’s new help-to-buy scheme.

The residential property price index published yesterday by the Central Statistics Office shows that, while the national index is 33.7% lower than its highest level in 2007, prices nationally have risen by 45.6% since the “trough” in early 2013.

In Dublin, all residential property prices increased by 4.5% in the year to August. The index for all residential property prices in the rest of Ireland — excluding Dublin — increased by 11.4% in the year to August.

“The south-west region showed the greatest price growth, with house prices increasing 14.8%,” the CSO pointed out. “Conversely, the mid-east region showed the least price growth, with house prices increasing 5%.”

Conall Mac Coille of Davy Research said a geographical pattern remains with “more muted price gains in Dublin and its commuter belt”.

“The price gains are strongest in areas that have seen the slowest recovery so far,” he said. :In the Midlands, prices fell on the month by 0.5% but are still up 14.1% on the year. In the southwest, prices rose by 1.2% and up to 14.8% on the year.

“As we had expected, Irish house prices have risen briskly through the summer months after a slow start to 2016. The RPPI index has now increased for five consecutive months, up by 5% in the three months to August.”

Mr Mac Coille said his organisation had expected Irish house price inflation to remain close to 5% through 2017 and 2018.

“However, the new help-to-buy scheme will now provide a tax rebate for first-time buyers of newly-built homes worth up to €20,000, or 5% of the purchase price, and should push up prices on newly-built homes,” said MR Mac Coille. “So we will now have to revise up our forecasts for Irish RPPI inflation to above 5% in 2017.”

Property Industry Ireland said the Residential Property Price Index showed that only 6.8% of transactions in August were for new dwellings.

“The help-to-buy scheme, available only for new homes, will help bring a new supply of homes onto the market,” it said.

Galway tourism trade targets Canadian markets  ‘with Canadian Expo workshop’

Image result for Galway tourism trade targets Canadian markets  'with Canadian Expo workshop'  Image result for tour operators in Canada

A select number of tourism operators from Galway, will meet 20 top tour operators from Canada at a workshop in the Meyrick Hotel this Monday.

Canadian tourists visiting here injected an estimated €133 million into the Irish market last year the Galway workshop titled, ‘Canadian Expo’, is organised by Fáilte Ireland, in conjunction with Tourism Ireland.

It is focusing on attracting more overseas visitors to Galway and other Irish destinations from key markets such as Canada.

The workshop provides a cost and time effective business opportunity for the Irish tourism businesses to meet buyers and engage in one-to-one sales meetings to either make initial contact or maintain already established business relationships.

While here the Canadian tour operators will enjoy a cruise on the Corrib Princess, have a tour around Galway’s foodie destinations with Galway Food Tours, have a site visit at Glenlo Abbey Hotel, and take in a trip to Kylemore Abbey.

‘Most men have a fear of prostate cancer & some ignore it for years’

“It is simple get a PSA blood test done now”

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Co. Laois farmer Christy Slevin is urging every man over 50 to get a simple blood test called a PSA done to check for prostate cancer, after his own was diagnosed early and successfully treated.

Christy’s cancer was detected from a PSA blood test carried out by his GP, three years ago when he was 53.

“I was getting routine blood tests anyway because I was on depression medication. My doctor said to get it looked at so I went off to James’ in Dublin for a biopsy. I wasn’t even that worried. My mother was sick with lung cancer and my dad was possibly facing a leg amputation at the time, so to me the prostate was like getting a bad tooth out,” he said.

“Most people have a fear of prostate cancer, some ignore it for years, but I had it the other way, I didn’t treat it with enough respect,” he said.

The first step after finding early prostate cancer is to ‘watch as wait’ becuase it grows very slowly and its removal can have lasting side effects.

Christy was even advised by doctors to go and enjoy a planned family holiday, but decided not to because of his parents being unwell.

A few months later, he had the operation to remove his prostate, a walnut size gland which is part of the male reproductive system.

It was keyhole surgery, and a second operation followed to remove a further dozen small clips.

The costs were covered 90 percent by his health insurance, and he drove a bargain for the rest.

“I got them to knock off the 10 percent. Farmers are divils for a bargain,” he said with a laugh.

Usually radiotherapy follows but as he has Crohn’s disease, it could not be used.

Christy’s cancer is gone, but he did not realise the full after effects of the operation.

Tiredness hit like a wall Christy said.

“I went home and did a bit of tilling but I fell asleep on the tractor. I woke up at the far end of the field,” he said.

His chronic tiredness affected his family, with support needed from his wife Mary, his sons and daughter.

“I had cancer but Mary had to cope with everything. She always does a lot but she had to do a lot more.

“I didn’t do much lambing that year. I didn’t realise the effect it has on your children. We talked to our kids but other people don’t. If they find out from friends, they worry more about what else you haven’t told them,” he said.

Christy has also found support in The Cuisle Centre in Portlaoise.

“I knew of it, but I thought it was for terminally ill people, and more for women. My brother brought my mother to it, and got me a leaflet so I rang them,” he said.

Last autumn he took part in their annual six support week Prostate Cancer course, where he finally met other men also experiencing sife effects.

“They were nearly all the same with the tiredness. To find out you’re not the only one was a relief, I felt I was being lazy so I was pushing myself too hard, but now I can take a nap in the day and sleep well because I don’t feel guilty. I feel 80 percent better since I came in here, it helps you to cope,” he said.

He is even spreading the word to fellow farmers about getting checked, and even loaning them relaxation tapes from Cuisle, which help with many stress related problems.

It is easier for men to talk in the group, says director Stella Moran .

“Some men said they never talked about it at home, and it was the first time they were able to express their feelings. On the last night they can bring their partners and by then they are more able to talk,” she said.

Prostate is one of the most curable cancers, if treated in the early stage.

“The test only costs about €15. If you were told you had cancer and where would you prefer it, you would go for the prostate, because it’s the most curable,” Christy said.

For him, life is now ploughing ahead.

“Nearly all the negatives can be got over. My son is getting married in Japan next year and we are looking forward to that. If I hadn’t looked after myself, I wouldn’t be here, now I have a full life ahead,” he said.

He urges any man facing or finished treatment, to go to the next Prostate Cancer Support Group course at the Cuisle Centre, starting on Tuesday October 25 at 7pm.

The centre also offers pelvic floor exercise classes for before and after prostate cancer treatments, to minimise the side effects.

“I just want to say to people, don’t be afraid to come into the Cuisle Centre, everybody here is very approachable,” Christy said.

Single men could now get the right to start family under radical new ‘infertile definition’

Services could face pressure as World Health Organisation changes global legal standard

Image result for Single men could now get the right to start family under radical new 'infertile definition'  Image result for Single men could now get the right to start family under radical new 'infertile definition'  Image result for Single men could now get the right to start family under radical new 'infertile definition'   

The authors of the new global standards said the revised definition gave every individual “the right to reproduce”

Single men and women without medical issues will be classed as ‘infertile’ if they do not have children but want to become a parent, the World Health Organisation is to announce.

In a move, which dramatically changes the definition of in- fertility, the WHO will declare that it should no longer be regarded as simply a medical condition.

The authors of the new global standards said the revised definition gave every individual “the right to reproduce”.

Until now, the WHO’s definition of infertility – which it classes as a disability – has been the failure to achieve pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sex.

The World Health Organisation sets global health standards and its ruling is likely to place pressure on individual health services.

Dr David Adamson, one of the authors of the new standards, said: “The definition of infertility is now written in such a way that it includes the rights of all individuals to have a family, and that includes single men, single women, gay men, gay women.

“It puts a stake in the ground and says an individual has got a right to reproduce whether or not they have a partner. It’s a big change.

“It fundamentally alters who should be included in this group and who should have access to healthcare.

“It sets an international legal standard. Countries are bound by it.”

Infertility affects one in five couples in Ireland. This radical new departure will see infertility redefined from a medical condition to the “right to reproduce” and could have public policy health implications, according to experts.

Speaking about the change in the definition, Dr Bart Kuczera, consultant with Beacon Health Fertility, said: “As surrogacy is illegal in this country it’s unlikely that this new WHO definition will be adopted in the short term.

“However, the Department of Health is currently charged with drafting legislation dealing with assisted human reproduction (AHR) which will regulate a range of practices for the first time.”

These include gamete (sperm or egg) and embryo donation, posthumous assisted reproduction and stem cell research, among other areas.

“Furthermore, the adoption of this WHO new definition could impact on potential new government plans to fund fertility treatment for couples struggling to conceive,” added Dr Kuczera.

The new definitions drawn up by WHO’s international committee monitoring assisted reproductive technology will be sent to every health minister for consideration next year.

The controversy broke as the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual congress heard that the 10 millionth IVF baby would be born by the end of 2020.

Official figures estimate that by 2013, 6.5 million people had been born using the technique since the first IVF birth took place in 1978.

The world’s longest pub crawl has been calculated & it features 25,000 boozers across the UK

Image result for pubs crawl in the UK    Image result for pub crawls across the UK

The world’s longest pub crawl has been mapped out, after a team of mathematicians in Canada worked out the shortest route between nearly 25,000 pubs in the UK.

The international team spent two years on the project, which covers 24,727 pubs from every corner of the UK – from Land’s End to the northernmost islands of Shetland.

The blue line on this map of the UK marks the shortest route possible between each pub, returning eventually to the first pub again (math.uwaterloo.ca/screenshot)The project, from the University of Waterloo in Canada, was used as an example of the “travelling salesman problem” or TSP.

This ancient problem is one of the most studied in computational mathematics and aims to find the shortest route between a series of points on a map, usually landmarks, before bringing you back to where you started.

In this project, the team chose to map such a route from every pub from the website Pubs Galore, amounting to more than 100 times more stops than any road distance TSP to date.

The shortest route they found between the thousands of pubs was 45,495,239 metres, which equates to about 28,269 miles.

This close up of the pubs visited in Cambridge shows how efficient the route is (math.uwaterloo.ca/screenshot)Due to the fact the route returns to the beginning, it is actually endless. This means anyone in the UK could go to the nearest point on the map and start the tour if they wanted to.

Looking at how efficient it is you could walk much of it too, but there are a few ferry trips needed to get to the more remote areas.

Have no fear though, two of these ferry rides do serve beer.

“We, of course, did not have in mind to bring everything mathematics has to bear in order to improve the lot of a wandering pub aficionado,” wrote research lead Professor William Cook.

“The world has limited resources and the aim of the applied mathematics fields of mathematical optimisation and operations research is to create tools to help us to use these resources as efficiently as possible.”

The team say their next TSP goal is even bigger – a walking tour through 50,000 stops from the US National Register of Historic places.

Fancy giving the crawl a go? Then good luck trying to finish it, but you can take a look at the University’s work, including maps,

The beautiful Snow Leopard population is quickly declining due to human threat but

“All is not lost yet”

Image result for The beautiful Snow Leopard population is quickly declining due to human threat but  Image result for The beautiful Snow Leopard population is quickly declining due to human threat but   Image result for The beautiful Snow Leopard population is quickly declining due to human threat but

A snow leopard walks in the snow at Banham Zoo in Norfolk, United Kingdom. According to a new report, snow leopards’ numbers are declining fast because of rampant poaching in some Asian countries.

Alarm bells are ringing about the rapid decline of snow leopards in the high mountain ranges of many Asian countries.

According to a new report, nearly 90% of the poaching is happening in countries such as China, India, Mongolia, Pakistan, and Tajikistan.

The report from wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC said only 4,000 snow leopards are left now. It also voiced concerns over the illegal trade in snow leopard skins going online, evading the eyes of law enforcing agencies. In addition to skins, the teeth, claws and bones of snow leopards are in high demand.

Found in 12 countries around the Himalayan plateaus at altitudes between 1,000 and 5,400 meters above sea level, the leopards survive in the cold because of hairy coats and furry feet.

Yet another study published in the journal Biological Conservation cautioned that two-thirds of the snow leopards’ alpine habitat will become extinct by 2070 because of global warming.

According to the new study, poaching has intensified since 2008 with an average 450 snow leopards getting killed annually.

Noting that half of the leopards are killed by herders as revenge for preying on their livestock, the report said, only 21% of snow leopards are targeted for claws, pelts, teeth, and bones, which are then sold through illegal channels.

“We think that what most observations, seizure records, and expert opinion shows are that the majority is still happening because of retaliatory killing,” said James Compton from TRAFFIC.

One report also talked about snow leopards hunting linked to their use in traditional Chinese medicines.

There is, however, hope. Conservation efforts of the Kyrgyzstan government are a case in point. They have saved several snow leopards from destruction by turning the hunting ground, Shamshy, near capital Bishkek, into a sanctuary. It is going to be co-managed by the Snow Leopard Trust and the Snow Leopard Foundation. Such a transformation of hunting ground into wildlife refuge has been rare.

According to Kuban Jumabai Uulu, director of the Snow Leopard Foundation, the conservation efforts in Shamshy are showing good results with a clear spurt in the numbers of snow leopards.

Conservation apart, the need for local communities to protect the depleting animal stock has been underscored in the TRAFFIC report.

With the need for killing to stop, Rishi Sharma, co-author of the report, said there is the requirement to work together in reducing the conflict between farmers and wildlife so that mountain communities can co-exist with snow leopards.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 2nd May 2016

Richmond Barracks Dublin becomes the permanent reminder of Irish Rising 100 years on

Courts martial of rebels took place at the Inchicore site


Sarah Morris and Robbie O’Connor performing for Sabina Higgins, Dublin Lord Mayor Críona Ní Dhálaigh and Joan Burton at the opening of Richmond Barracks.

One hundred years to the day that 1916 rebel leaders were court martialled at Richmond Barracks in Dublin, their relatives attended the reopening of the site as a tourist attraction.

The barracks in Inchicore has been designated one of the nine so-called permanent reminders” of the Rising and has been redeveloped by Dublin City Council as part of the Ireland 2016 centenary programme.

It will open next month as an interactive multimedia centre which will trace the story of the site from military barracks, to housing estate, to school. It also has a tea room and landscaped garden area.

Tours will incorporate the adjacent Goldenbridge cemetery, which will be open to the public for the first time.

More than 3,000 people, including the leaders, were rounded up and taken to the barracks for processing in the days following the Rising. Pádraig Pearse, Thomas McDonagh, and Thomas Clarke were among those court martialled on Tuesday, May 2nd, 1916, in the gymnasium.

Those in attendance at Monday’s reopening included the family of former taoiseach Liam Cosgrave.

Sabina Higgins, wife of President Michael D Higgins, was guest of honour and the event was also attended by Tánaiste Joan Burton and British ambassadorDominick Chilcott.

Relatives of the 77 women who were held at the barracks were also in attendance and their names were recited as part of the Flames Not Flowers performance art project.

Christina McLoughlin, from Dublin, said her uncle Sean McLoughlin and aunt Mary McLoughlin, then aged just 15, had been in the GPO during the Rising.

Their brother Paddy was in the Four Courts although it had proven harder to get information about him.

Deirdre Ní Enruigh, also from Dublin, said both her grandfathers had fought in 1916. Her mother’s father, John “Blimey” O’Connor, had come over from London in January 1916. Her paternal grandfather, Frank Henderson, captain of the F Company, came to the GPO from Fairview on the morning of the Rising.

The executive chair of Richmond Barracks, Eadaoin Ní Chléirigh, said the site had been part of the community in Inchicore for more than 200 years and had “a huge significance in Ireland’s national history”. The redevelopment by the city council, Purcell Construction and conservation architects Blackwood Associates with Margaret Quinlan Architects had been a “labour of love”.

Calls for increase in rent supplement to address the Irish homelessness issues



      An immediate increase of 28% in rent supplement is required in order to prevent more families from becoming homeless, campaigner Fr Peter McVerry (above middle pic.) said.

He was addressing the annual May Day parade, organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, in the city centre yesterday.

Several hundred trade unionists and activists marched under their banners from the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square to Liberty Hall, where they were addressed by a number of speakers urging changes to employment legislation to protect workers’ rights.

Fr McVerry told the crowd that when the figures became available, they would show that while the political parties had been trying to form a government, some 200 families and about 300 individuals would have become homeless. “There is no sense of urgency, no sense of priority about dealing with this hugely critical problem at the moment.”

Over the next two weeks another 150 emergency beds would be taken out of the system, he said. “And they don’t know where they are going to go. They may very well end up, many of them, back sleeping on the streets.”

Emergency legislation was also required to prevent banks and financial institutions evicting people from their homes until they had found alternative suitable accommodation.

Fr McVerry said compulsory purchase orders were required for empty buildings to allow them to be used for family accommodation. He urged the incoming government to discuss the barriers to any such policy.

Marching with former employees of Clerys department store, which closed suddenly last year after its sale to a consortium, Siptu organiser Teresa Hannick said their campaign for changes to employment legislation was continuing.

“They are here to make sure no other worker has to go through what they went through,” she said. Chanting ‘justice for the Clerys workers’, the group stopped briefly outside the shuttered store on O’Connell Street.

Gerry Markey, speaking on behalf of the workers at the rally outside Liberty Hall, welcomed reports that the government had opened an investigation into the closure and sale last year which led to the immediate sacking of 460 staff.

Pat Bolger, of the DCTU, spoke about injustices in the healthcare system. He said the Impact union had warned the Government that its proposals for universal healthcare were unworkable. “When will anybody in power listen to the real experts – the staff, the workers, their unions and the patients?”

Former Ictu president John Douglas, speaking on behalf of Tesco workers, said their recent ballot for strike action over planned changes to their pay and conditions, was the answer to any employer who thought it could “roll over” workers without any regard to trade unions.

Activists and trade unionists marched under banners for Mandate, Siptu, the CPSU, Labour Youth, Unite, Anti-Austerity Alliance, People Before Profit, Irish Housing Network, Labour Youth, DCTU, Limerick Soviet, Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Please do not link Irish wage demand rises to housing inflation?

Say’s IBEC

   Comparison of final transaction price to initial list price, 2010-2016  

                                                IBEC boss Danny McCoy

Business employers’ group IBEC has insisted it does not want wage demands linked in any way to house price increases even as unions eye a return to a social partnership pay model.

An IBEC spokesman also told the Irish Independent that the group does not envisage a return to centralised wage agreements, and that for the “foreseeable future” wage agreements will continue to be thrashed out at an enterprise level.

IBEC boss Danny McCoy and the head of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Patricia King, have held meetings in recent weeks amid increasing unrest as workers from companies including Luas operator Transdev, Irish Rail and Tesco push for pay increases.

But while weekend reports suggested that the talks might pre-empt a wider shift towards returning to social partnership, an IBEC spokesman said that the business group has always held talks with unions.

“We don’t always see eye to eye, but it’s never the case that we don’t talk to each other,” he said.

He added that while IBEC is cognisant of the pressure being put on employees as a result of the housing shortage, he said the issue is equally of concern to employers.

He said that any attempt to link wage increases to rising home prices would be a step towards “repeating mistakes of the past”.

“One of the big mistakes of the boom years was the awarding of significant pay increases that did not accurately reflect the underlying health of individual businesses or the economy as a whole,” Mr McCoy told the IBEC CEO conference less than two weeks ago.

Housing starts have remained near record low levels, with the pace of construction significantly short of demand. Builders have had to fund more of construction projects themselves, while the new mortgage rules are also impacting the market.

By the middle of 2014, house prices in Dublin had risen by 40pc since the beginning of 2013. But property group Daft said that house price inflation slowed to 0.9pc in the first quarter of this year as the new mortgage rules bit. However, it said that in Dublin there are just 27 homes for sale for every 10,000 people, compared to 62 for every 10,000 elsewhere in the country.

Siptu and the National Bus and Rail Union have threatened possible strike action at Irish Rail if the company refuses to “meaningfully” engage on wage demands.

A new drug called Hsp90 inhibitor could treat resistant prostate cancers

New Drugs May Treat Lethal Resistant Prostate Cancers: Study  

Men with lethal prostate cancer that has stopped responding to conventional treatment could potentially benefit from a new class of medicines designed to overcome drug resistance, a new study suggests.

The drugs, called Hsp90 inhibitors, which are already in clinical trials for several types of cancer, specifically target and inactivate a mechanism commonly used by prostate cancer cells to evade the effects of standard treatment, the findings showed.

The research team found that the drugs countered the effect of malfunctions in the androgen receptor, which often occur in resistance to hormone treatments.

Prostate tumours rely on male hormones called androgens to grow and spread, and blocking androgen receptors can be an effective treatment.

“We have demonstrated for the first time that Hsp90 inhibitors can block the production of the most common abnormal androgen receptors that cause many prostate cancers to stop responding to current treatments,” said study co-leader Johann de Bono, professor at The Institute of Cancer Research, London.

“These drugs are already in clinical trials for several types of cancer, and I am excited that our work suggests they could also benefit men with prostate cancer who have otherwise run out of treatment options,” he noted.

The study was published in the journal Cancer Research. The researchers investigated the effect of the drugs on human cancer cells.

Hsp90 inhibitors are among several innovative new types of treatment designed to attack cancer indirectly, by destabilising multiple different proteins required for the growth and survival of cancer cells.

By destroying several cancer signals at once, they are designed to make it hard for cancers to escape the effects of treatment, giving them promise as potential ‘resistance-busting’ drugs.
“These drugs can hit cancer harder than those targeting only one protein, and look promising for preventing or overcoming drug resistance,” study co-leader Paul Workman, chief executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said.

New opportunities have to be seized in the context of changing our climate.

Humans have managed to change the atmosphere on a global scale, and as a result the planet is warming up


Protesters against climate change pretending to be dead outside a Paris hotel last week where the International Petrol Summit was taking place.

It is hard to imagine there is anyone left who still questions climate change or that the altered weather patterns and global warming we are experiencing are not a consequence of human activity.

Surprisingly the doubters are out there and in considerable numbers unfortunately. They are happy to believe that humans have nothing to do with the changes we see in the seasons and in the shrinking Arctic Sea ice cover or the melting of the Antarctic peninsula.

So how do the climate-change deniers persist in the face of an overwhelming volume of scientific research that shows we are causing climate change?

A study by Trinity College Dublin and University of Exeter of 16,000 publications about climate change by 19 major think tanks over the 15-year period to 2013 showed a marked increase in attacks on research findings.

“Our data suggest that the era of climate-chance denial is not over,” says Trinity’s Prof Constantine Boussalis, who with colleagues published their findings last February in Global Environmental Change.

A recent study from the University of Queensland’s Global Change Instituteand other international colleagues writing in Environmental Research Lettersdescribes assessing tens of thousands of research papers on climate change. This is one of a number of studies that comes to the same conclusion. There is no room left for confusion about this issue; collectively humans have managed to change the atmosphere on a global scale, and as a result the planet is warming up.

The researchers found that 97% of climate scientists agree with this view. There is no uncertainty. There is no doubt. One wonders how the doubters come to their conclusions in the face of such certainty. The Queensland study was conducted to provide yet another proof – as if any more were needed – that scientists have reached a very high level of consensus on this issue.

And it isn’t just the scientists. The UN climate conference in Paris last December got 195 nations to agree to act in the face of global warming, to take action on controlling carbon release into the atmosphere, and to sign a treaty as a binding agreement to respond to the threat.

Why was the study needed given it just repeated what other studies had found?

Because the deniers who would seek to cause confusion over human-induced climate change are doing a better job at getting their message out to the people than the science lobby. They have stirred up enough doubt to make the public believe that disagreement persists amongst scientists.

The deniers claim there are valid, natural reasons for warming other than human activity so there is no need to change anything we are doing.

Theirs is a more comforting message – you don’t have to change anything, you can continue to drive your 5-litre SUV the half kilometre to the supermarket.

The result is widespread scepticism in the US and Australia, the authors say. Only 12% of people in the US are aware of the high level of scientific consensus, and the figure in Australia is 15%.

The door has already closed on this one but only a fraction of people heard the catch click on doubts over climate change.

The shadowy groups determined to keep doubts in place continue their nefarious work so who cares? Irish business innovators should.

It may be a bit of that silver lining in a deeply grey cloud, but companies here will have to adjust to an altered climate reality. This will open up newopportunities for those involved in a wide range of businesses, for example engineering companies, construction, consultants, and agriculture.

People will be looking for help and services that can provide answers for problems that arise, for example dealing with flooding risks, finding ways to guarantee water supplies, being able to cope with a wetter, hotter, stormier or drier climate or all of these depending on how it emerges in Ireland.

Now is the time to be developing ways to respond. Climate change will throw up problems but also advantages. It will come down to research and the work of scientists, technologists, engineers and not to mention meteorologists.

And stop laughing if someone jokes about the notion of Irish wineries. They already exist. We are officially listed as a wine-producing country by theEuropean Commission. We have three vineries in Co Cork, two in Mallow and one in Kinsale. There is a winery in Cappoquin, Co Waterford, and in Lusk, Co Dublin.

With our evolving climate innovation will be needed in many disciplines, with its delivery only a matter of research away.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 29th May 2015

Irish fuel prices increase for fourth month in a row


Motorists in Ireland are paying more money to fill up their cars this summer as the price of fuel increases for the fourth month in a row.

The average price of a litre of petrol now costs 143.6c, 4.6c more than in April.

The average price of a litre of diesel has also risen – consumers are currently paying 133.1c per litre, 2.6c more than last month.

The increases were recorded by the AA’s national fuel price survey. According to the new figures, a motorist putting 30 litres of petrol in their car each week will now pay €43.08, which is €1.38 a week more than only a month ago.

Someone putting 30 litres of diesel in their vehicle each week will pay 78c more.

But despite the hike, fuel prices are still lower than they were this time last year. Last summer the average price of a litre of petrol was 154.3c, while a litre of diesel was 146.8c.

“Prices fell in the second half of last year but have been rising since February,” said Conor Faughan from the AA. “It was only a short reprieve. The recent rise looks set to continue with the weakening Euro making it even worse. It will be an expensive summer on the roads.”

Mr Faughan said the main reason for the country’s high fuel prices is due to the Government’s tax, including an extra 23c per litre in austerity-era tax increases added since 2008. “When you spend €1.48 on a litre of petrol, 92c of it is tax. A tax-free litre, even with recent price rises, only costs 51.8c.”

Meanwhile, the European Consumer Centre (ECC) advises people thinking of buying a car to be wary of scams.

“Car purchase scams remain a persistent problem for consumers. In 2014, such scams accounted for 14% of all car purchase queries to ECC Ireland,” it said and cautioned against paying any money by bank transfer or to an escrow or delivery service.

“Fraudsters may ask consumers to send payment by bank transfer or via money wiring services, only for the seller and vehicle to disappear once the money is sent. This is particularly commonplace in internet transactions. Consumers may also be asked to send payment to an intermediary, such as an escrow company, who will then deliver the car to them. Consumers are often told that they will not have to pay if they are not happy with the vehicle. Unfortunately, in many cases, the intermediary disappears once the money has been sent.”

Consumers who fall victim to a scam are urged report it to Gardaí as soon as possible.

Price of posting in Ireland set to increase soon


Postage rates are to increase on July 1, An Post has announced.

The standard domestic letter rate for items up to 100g within Ireland will increase from 68c to 70c while the standard international letter rate up to 100g will increase from €1 to €1.05.

“Despite the increase, An Post’s rates will remain among the lowest in the EU 15 countries including Britain, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands and well below the EU domestic average of 77c,” said a statement from An Post.

“A wide range of discount options continue to be available to businesses.

“The existing Meter rate for Standard Post letters will remain unchanged at €0.66 per item and a wide range of significant discount options continue for Ceadúnas licence and bulk-mail services.”

The company defended the increase, saying that it is necessary “to stem the unsustainable financial losses arising from the company’s Universal Service Obligation.

“Losses totalled €38m in 2014 – whereby customers in all areas of the country are provided with daily collection and delivery services for a uniform tariff.

“An Post continues to offer excellent value for money to Irish businesses of all sizes and to personal customers.”

Thumbs up for EU-US trade from Irish public in nationwide poll


More than three quarters (77%) of Irish people in a nationwide poll hold the view that Ireland should stay in the EU, even if the UK leaves it.

The poll was conducted following the newly elected UK government’s promise in the Queen’s speech at the opening of the new UK parliament to hold an ‘in/out’ referendum on the country’s membership of the union.

According to the Red C poll commissioned by independent, not-for profit organisation, European Movement Ireland, 86% of respondents believe Ireland should remain part of the EU, with 84% of adults here believing that Ireland has, on balance, benefitted from membership of the EU.

These figures are higher than those in a similar poll carried out in 2013.

In addition, around seven in 10 Irish adults support the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and US.

The poll was conducted among a representative sample of over 1,000 people aged 18 and over from across the country.

How green tea could cut prostate cancer development in men


In a new study, scientists have revealed that a component found in green tea may help reduce development of prostate cancer in men facing high risk.

In a new study, scientists have revealed that a component found in green tea may help reduce development of prostate cancer in men facing high risk.

A team of researchers led by Nagi B. Kumar, Ph.D., R.D., F.A.D.A. at Moffitt Cancer Center assessed the safety and effectiveness of the active components in green tea called, “catechins” to prevent prostate cancer development in men who have premalignant lesions.

20 percent of green tea is consumed in Asian countries where prostate cancer death rates are among the lowest in the world and the risk of prostate cancer appears to be increased among Asian men who abandon their original dietary habits upon migrating to the U.S.

Laboratory studies have shown catechins inhibit cancer cell growth, motility and invasion, and stimulate cancer cell death. Green tea catechins also prevent and reduce tumor growth in animal models. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is the most abundant and potent catechin found in green tea responsible for these cancer prevention effects.

Shock rise in health insurance premiums for Irish people insured for 1st time  


One of the plans going up is the €425-a-year Starter Select, an entry-level plan introduced to capture new entrants ahead of the lifetime community rating changes

Health insurance premiums are to rise at Aviva – just weeks after thousands of people took out cover for the first time.

The insurer is to implement rises averaging 5.5% on 106 plans for those renewing or taking out cover from July, in a move that will see some policies costing between €200 and €470 more for families.

The rises come just weeks after an extra 74,000 people took out health insurance ahead of the introduction of late-entry penalties as part of lifetime community rating.

One of the plans going up is the €425-a-year Starter Select, an entry-level plan introduced to capture new entrants ahead of the lifetime community rating changes.

Aviva had already increased premiums in January.

Experts had been expecting few, if any, rises this year. This view was reinforced when both VHI and Laya cut the cost of a number of plans and froze premium ratings on others.

New immunotherapy drug outperforms chemotherapy for a form of lung cancer


Philip Prichard, of Memphis, has seen his renal cell cancer virtually wiped out by the immunotherapy drug nivolumab.

A new drug that unleashes the body’s immune system on cancer cells performed better than a traditional chemotherapy agent in fighting an advanced form of lung cancer, researchers reported Friday. The new drug was also less toxic to patients.

Nivolumab, one of three government-approved drugs that stimulate the immune system to take on foreign invaders, improved outcomes for 19.2% of patients with non-squamous cell non-small cell lung cancer, compared with 12.4% of people who were treated with docetaxel. Patients also survived longer — a median of 12.2 months vs. 9.4 months for those on chemotherapy, and saw a 27% smaller chance of death while on the drug.

Patients whose tumors released a specific kind of protein did even better in the study of 582 people, surviving 17.2 months, vs. 5.6 months for the chemotherapy group.

“There is no doubt that immunotherapy has come to stay in lung cancer,” said Luis Paz-Ares of the Hospital Universitario Virgen Del Rocio in Sevilla, Spain, who led the research.

Immunotherapy works by removing the brakes or “checkpoints” that keep killer T-cells from recognizing and attacking cancer. In the past few years, it has quickly become the fourth, and perhaps most promising, avenue of cancer treatment, alongside surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

[He had months to live before immunotherapy made his tumors disappear.]

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths world-wide and 1.8 million people will be diagnosed with it this year, Paz-Ares said. The Food and Drug Administration approved nivolumab earlier this year for use against squamous cell non-small cell lung cancer, but this group of people is considerably larger. Paz-Ares said he expects FDA approval to use the drug on these patients soon.

Two other immunotherapy drugs are government-approved for treatment of melanoma, a lethal form of skin cancer, as is nivolumab.

Only 7 percent of the nivolumab patients suffered side effects from the medication, a smaller proportion than the 20 percent who took docetaxel. And they suffered a much smaller number of serious side effects.

The new research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, where 35,000 people in the field are gathered.

In a second study presented Friday, researchers from Johns Hopkins University and elsewhere showed that genetic testing can be used to predict whether the cancers in a small percentage of people will respond to immunotherapy. The test could be valuable in determining how to use the highly expensive checkpoint inhibitor drugs, which can cost $10,000 a dose or more.

Many of the cancers examined in the study had been considered poorly responsive to immunotherapy. They included colorectal, endometrial, stomach and small bowel cancers.

But the team led by Dung T. Le, a medical oncologist at the school’s Kimmel Cancer Center, showed that tumors with genetic defects that make them poor at repairing errors as DNA is synthesized mutate hundreds and perhaps thousands of times. Those mutations express a protein that can tell doctors whether the tumor will be a good candidate for immunotherapy.

Le said at a media briefing that her study is the first “to use genetics to guide immunotherapy.” The small, early stage study involved 41 patients who were treated with pembrolizumab, one of the drugs the FDA has approved for treatment of melanoma.

Overall, Le said, the “mismatch repair deficiency” used to guide the therapy is present in just 4 to 5% of many cancer types. But in some, it may be found in as many as 40% of tumors. The tests cost just a few hundred dollars and in some cases may be conducted anyway, so they would not add extra costs to a patient’s care, she said.

Great Barrier Reef Is Not ‘in Danger’ but Needs Care,

U.N. Experts Say


Despite threats to the Great Barrier Reef from climate change and human activity, United Nations conservation experts stopped short of recommending on Friday that the reef, a World Heritage site, be classified as “in danger.”

Even so, the overall outlook for the reef remains poor, and Australiashould improve its management of it, the World Heritage Center and the International Union for Conservation of Nature said in their report. The document cited climate change, water pollution and the impact of coastal development as major threats.

In particular, scientists and conservationists have sharply criticized plans to expand the Abbot Point coal-loading port in Queensland, which would involve the dumping of dredge spoils in waters near the reef, which includes 1,050 islands and stretches along almost the entire eastern coast of Queensland.

The experts’ recommendation, published in Paris, now goes to a vote by the World Heritage Committee, which includes representatives of 21 countries and is scheduled to meet next month in Bonn, Germany.

Greg Hunt, the Australian environment minister, said on Friday that the government was committed to a 35-year plan to restore the reef to good health, a fact noted in the recommendation.

“We have listened intently and responded directly to the concerns from the Australian community, the World Heritage Committee and their technical advisers,” Mr. Hunt said in a statement. He said the national government and the state of Queensland should invest about $1.5 billion in the reef over the next decade.

But conservationists have criticized the government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott for supporting the expansion of the port and the Galilee Basin coal mines that use it.

Under pressure from environmentalists, Mr. Hunt has said the government will permanently ban the dumping of dredge spoils from new port projects in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. But the ban would not cover dredging to maintain the depth of existing shipping channels and ports, which could still dump more than a million tons of sludge a year in reef waters, according to Jon C. Day, who was a director at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority from 1998 to 2014.

WWF-Australia, an environmental advocacy group, said in a statement that the United Nations was placing Australia on probation. “The draft decision acknowledges progress, but keeps the pressure on the Australian government to turn their commitments into real actions and results, or find themselves having to explain to the World Heritage Committee in 2017 why they’ve failed to meet their commitments,” the statement said. The group said the government had not allocated enough money to the reef protection plan.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 27th April 2015

An Post could dump our letters that don’t have enough stamps on them


An Post could end up dumping away our letters that don’t have enough postage paid on them under new proposed terms it wants to impose on Irish customers.

And consumers could end up insuring letters to carry cash but get nothing back if the mail gets lost.

The regulator ComReg has highlighted a number of serious concerns it has with new terms and conditions proposed by An Post.

It says that some of the new conditions An Post wants to impose are very heavily weighted against customers and would have a “significantly adverse effect on postal service users”.

In a consultation paper on the new postal terms and conditions, ComReg highlights particular issues where consumers want to send cash or vouchers in the post.

ComReg said An Post on the one hand appears to prohibit the sending of cash through the post but then permits it if in a secure insured package.

Another clause then states that cash, bank drafts and vouchers can be sent in postal packets to addresses inside and outside the state, but says they are excluded from compensation.

This implied people could pay insurance but would not then get anything back if the item went astray.

“ComReg considers that it would be difficult for postal service users to know whether they can or cannot send money by post and if so in what circumstances this is permitted and what compensation is payable,” it said.

An Post is also seeking the right to detain or dispose of underpaid letters and packages rather than delivering them with a surcharge to the recipient, as is currently the practice.

ComReg is also calling foul on this new postal condition, arguing that it gives An Post very wide-ranging discretion and that it is “a fundamental change” to how post has always been treated as the property of the addressee.

This new way of doing business would also allow An Post to open private letters, and would mean that neither the sender nor the recipient might be aware what had happened to their mail.

This is the first time that An Post has drawn up terms and conditions that are subject to regulation

ComReg is now looking for interested parties to have their say on the changes by May 20 before new rules are set.

PTSB raises €525m from capital markets with stock priced at €4.50 per share


  • Bank sells €400m in shares and sources €125m via debt instrument

PTSB chief executive Jeremy Masding described the investor interest as “exceptional” with the company making more than 100 presentations to potential investors over the past six months.

Permanent TSB has raised €525 million from capital markets through the sale of €400 million worth of shares and €125 million via a debt instrument.

PTSB today raised €400 million through the sale of 88.9 million ordinary shares with private investors. This priced the stock at €4.50 per share, which was the top of the price range indicated by the bank last week.

It has also raised €125 million through the issuance of AT1 capital with a coupon of 8.625%.

In addition, the Government is selling 21.8 million shares in the group for €98 million. All of this will have the effect of reducing the State’s holding in PTSB to 75% from the 99.2% currently.

The bank will now seek admission to the main stock markets in both Dublin and London in the next two days.

The funds will be used in part to plug a €125 million hole in its capital, which was identified in regulatory stress tests last October. In addition, the bank will pay €410.5 million to the Government through the repurchase of the State’s contingent capital notes.

PTSB chief executive Jeremy Masding described the investor interest as “exceptional” with the company making more than 100 presentations to potential investors over the past six months.

The bank also plans an open offer to existing retail shareholders, who own the residual shares in the bank. This will be on the same terms as offered to the new investors today. The open offer will close in three weeks.

The Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, welcomed the capital raising by PTSB and its return of some of its €2.7 billion bailout to the State following its recapitalisation in 2011.

He said it was an “important milestone” for the company and he expressed his satisfaction at the State retaining a “valuable” 75% holding in PTSB.

“The move to the main markets on both the Irish Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange is a positive for the bank and allows the State additional flexibility and liquidity to manage its sell down of PTSB in the future,” Mr Noonan said.

Markus Feehily abused to chanted vile homophobic abuse in Sligo pub


The singer was forced to leave a pub after a group of men chanted abuse at him

Markus Feehily has revealed he was forced to leave a pub in his Hometown after being subjected to vile homophobic abuse.

The Westlife star was enjoying a drink when a man approached him to take a picture.

A group of the man’s friends then crowded around the singer and began chanting abuse at him.

Shock: Mark was ganged up on in the pub Markus admitted the experience was “intimiating” and “upsetting”.

“A man asked to take a picture of me then four of his friends crowded round yelling, ‘What the f**k are you doing? Why are you taking a photo with him – you gay? You queer!’”

“We left quickly, the fear kicks in. I was shocked,” Markus said.

The Sligo native feels more work needs to be done to crack down on anti-gay sentiment.

“It would be a mistake to think it’s over. Things are far from where they need to be.”

Markus is currently busy promoting his debut solo single Love Is A Drug and recently performed the tune on The Saturday Night Show.

First Irish-American collaboration to target prostate cancer research

  • Irish American collaboration ‘the first of its kind’


The Irish Cancer Society (ICS) is to join forces with two leading US institutions in an attempt to advance research and identify new treatments for prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common male cancers, affecting around one in every six men in their lifetime. Over 2,000 Irish men are newly diagnosed with the disease every year.

The ICS is joining forces with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to form the Boston-Ireland Prostate Cancer Collaboration.

This new collaboration, the first of its kind, aims to make ‘a significant and lasting impact on the diagnosis, treatment and management of the disease’, the ICS said.

“This fellowship programme will address key clinical needs in prostate cancer such as accurate diagnosis, assessment of treatment options to ensure best quality of life and identification of new therapeutic targets for treatment-resistant disease,” the society noted.

A highly competitive selection process to find a young scientist or clinician to undertake this opportunity is due to start later this year. The successful recipient will spend two years in the US, before bringing their expertise back to Ireland.

“This collaboration brings together internationally unique expertise in the field of prostate cancer. This novel partnership will leverage our combined knowledge and resources to make a real and lasting difference to prostate cancer patients and their families on both sides of the Atlantic,” commented the ICS’s head of research, Dr Robert O’Connor.

Meanwhile, according to Dr Philip Kantoff of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, this collaboration ‘will train bright young investigators in Ireland and Boston with a view to creating a pool of talented and internationally networked researchers’.

“It is through exciting collaborations such as this that leading US and Irish researchers can exchange knowledge which will ultimately lead to significant prostate cancer breakthroughs,” he added.

The announcement about the collaboration was made at the inaugural John Fitzpatrick Irish Prostate Cancer Conference, which took place recently in Dublin in memory of Prof Fitzpatrick, the first head of research at the ICS.

Have scientists found a way to ‘switch off hunger panks’?

  • A team of researchers have identified the brain cells which cause hunger pangs


Feeling hungry? It’s all to do with a select set of brain cells, apparently

We all know what it’s like to try and lose weight, only to find ourselves gorging on chocolate once the hunger pangs strike.

There could be hope for dieters however, after scientists identified the brain cells which create the sensation of hunger – findings that they say create “a promising new target for the development of weight-loss drugs”.

Resarchers from Harvard Medical School and Edinburgh University found that a brain circuit known as melanoncortin 4 receptor-regulated (MC4R) is the set of cells which controls the desire to eat.

By switching off the cells in a group of mice, the scientists increased hunger, while switching them on stopped the hunger pangs.

“Our results show that the artificial activation of this particular brain circuit is pleasurable and can reduce feeding in mice, essentially resulting in the same outcome as dieting but without the chronic feeling of hunger,” explained the study’s co-senior author Bradford Low, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an investigator at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for Nutrition and Metabolism.

The scientists managed to activate and switch off the brain cells by exposing the mice to blue laser light, via an optical fibre that was implanted in the animals’ brains.

New dinosaur poses evolutionary puzzle

Paleontologists have unearthed a strange new species of dinosaur that is unlike anything ever seen before.


  • Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, a vegetarian dinosaur despite being a close relative of famous meat-eaters like Tyrannosaurus rex.

It was given the name Chilesaurus because it was found in Chile. The “diegosuarezi” part of its name is a tribute to Diego Suarez, who found the first Chilesaurus fossil in 2005 when he was just 7 years old.Suarez was in the region with his geologist parents who were there to study rock formations. He was hunting for stones when he found his first fossil, which belonged to this strange, never-before-seen dinosaur.

It also mixes a bizarre range of characteristics from unrelated dinosaur species, leading palaeontologists to describe it as a platypus dinosaur.

Most families have one, the odd one out who doesn’t seem to look like the rest of the group. The Chilesaurus diegosuarezi takes this to the extreme, and not just in its preference for leaves and plants over a Stegosaurus steak or a Brontoburger.

All dinosaurs had feathers at one time, researchers say

Most of the dozen Chilesaurus specimens excavated so far are about the size of a modern-day turkey, but larger bones suggest the big ones could have been three-metres long.

It is related to tough guys such as the Velociraptor and Carnotaurus, but has a proportionally smaller head and feet that are more like those of the long-neck dinosaurs, according to the authors of a study of the species published in Nature.

Chilesaurus is probably the descendant of meat-eating theropods and eventually evolved to become an herbivore, the researchers conclude. It had plant-chomping teeth like those of primitive long-necked dinosaurs, Plant-eating theropods have been found before, but this was the first one to be seen in South America.

A previously unknown species?

Experts are excited, not just because it was a previously unknown species that dates back to 145 million years ago.

Its admixture of unique anatomical traits makes it one of the most extreme cases of what is known as “mosaic convergent evolution” recorded in the history of life.

This happens when one organism has characteristics from other unrelated species due to a similar mode of life, explains Dr Martin Ezcurra of the University of Birmingham.

In effect, it borrows useful traits from other species because they suit the animal’s particular lifestyle.

Its discovery is a story in itself. Diego Suarez (7) found the fossilised bones while searching for decorative stones with his sister Macarena. They were with their geologist parents who were studying rocks in Chilean Patagonia.

The species must have been very successful despite its oddities, given it came to be “by far the most abundant dinosaur in southwest Patagonia”, lead researcher Dr Fernando Novas, of Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum in Argentina, said.

News Ireland daily news BLOG by Donie

Friday 17th April 2015

Aer Lingus talks to conclude within weeks

  • Says Pascal Donohoe

Claims that IAG and Government close to deal on Heathrow guarantees


Shares in Aer Lingus rose 5.5% to €2.42 at lunchtime yesterday in Dublin

Discussions about the takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG should be concluded within coming weeks, the Minister for Transport, Paschal Donohoe has indicated.

In a statement issued on Thursday afternoon, the Minister said that the Government’s steering group on the takeover proposal and its advisers had engaged further over recent weeks and that this engagement had been “useful”.

He said talks had focused on matters previously outlined by him and that IAG had provided further details on “issues of concern” to the Government. In earlier statements on the proposed deal, Mr Donohue has highlighted employment prospects, expansion plans and commitments on the Aer Lingus Heathrow slots as being particularly significant.

“ Discussions are progressing and as I have indicated previously I do not want this process to be drawn out unnecessarily and I expect that it can be brought to a conclusion in the coming weeks,” he said on Thursday.

Shares in Aer Lingus surged in trading on Thursday following reports of a rapprochement between IAG and the Government, which controls 25% of the Irish airline. A deal on the Heathrow slots is seen as being most significant in the talks.

IAG is proposing to pay close to €1.4 billion for Aer Lingus. The stock was up almost 4% at €2.38 on Thursday afternoon, having climbed higher earlier in the day.

Youthful Ireland top country in Europe for stats on young people


Ireland is the most youthful country in Europe, according to new figures from Eurostat.

We have the largest proportion of children under the age of 15, at 22%.

France is next on almost 19%, followed by the UK.

Ruth Deasy of the EU office in Dublin, says the number of people in Ireland under the age of 30 is exceptional.

“Ireland stands out in this study as the most youthful country in the EU, where four out of 10 Irish people are aged less than 30 and this is really quite exceptional,” said Deasy.

“We also have the largest proportion of under-16s in the EU and by quite a large margin.

“Ireland’s fertility rate is high, it is the highest in the EU but it is still slightly below replacement level,” said Deasy.

12 months extension granted for charities to register with CRA


Only 200 of the estimated 4,000-plus charities in Ireland required to register with the Charities Regulatory Authority (CRA) have registered, despite the threat of stiff fines for non-compliance.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald has announced a 12 month extension to the deadline after discussions with the Charities Regulatory Authority.

The one-year extension of the deadline risks undermining confidence in a sector which has been working to regain public trust after the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC)  scandal 18 months ago.

In a statement Minister Fitzgerald said only 200 charities had registered when the original deadline expired.


The Minister said the move does not affect 8,500 other charities which have been automatically registered with the authority by virtue of the charitable tax status granted to them by the Revenue Commissioners before mid-October 2014.

The Authority was established by the Government last October almost a year after a series of financial scandals at the CRC involving a gold-plated pension for its retired Chief Executive, Paul Kiely, top-up payments to some executives and cross-directorships with a related company.

This and subsequent revelations about finances at the Rehab organisation led to a significant decline in public donations to most of the Republic’s charities.


Responding to the Minister’s announcement, the Irish Charities Tax Reform group (ICTR) has expressed concern that the announcement of an extension of the registration deadline for certain charities risks undermining confidence in the sector which has been trying to regain public trust after the CRC scandal of 18 months ago.

During that scandal it was revealed that the board of the long-established disability charity had approved the use of charitable donations to help fund a €740,000 annual pension for its former chief executive, Paul Kiely.


A spokesperson for the ICTR group told RTÉ News it was “over-ambitious” of the 2009 Charities Act to set a deadline of six months for unregistered to register with the new Charities Regulatory Authority, as the law had not been fully enacted until 16 October last year.

The spokesperson for the 160-strong umbrella group, which represents some of the country’s largest charities, said that a shortage of resources in the newly-established Charities Regulator’s office compounded the problem.

The CRA website apologises to readers that “due to the high volume of queries we receive, it may take us some time to respond to your query”.


The ICTR has said that only four new additional full-time staff equivalents were allocated to the regulator last year.

It conceded that the regulator also inherited a further five full-time staff from the Commission for Charity Regulation and Bequests but said they continued to fulfill their established functions.

The group said a crunch meeting is scheduled soon with the Department of Justice and Equality on a request from the Charities Regulatory Authority for additional staff.

It said the Scottish regulator was given 50 staff a decade ago to service a population similar to the Republic of Ireland’s

The group estimates that the Republic of Ireland’s regulator needs approximately 11 extra staff to boost its complement to about 20.


Meanwhile, an organisation representing over 1,000 charities, The Wheel, has called for big awareness raising initiative to ensure unregistered charities understand their obligation to register.

Welcoming Minister Fitzgerald’s 12 month extension of the deadline for unregistered charities to make themselves known to the Charities Regulator, The Wheel Director of Advocacy Ivan Cooper, said many of the mostly smaller organisations concerned seem to be unaware of their obligation.

The Wheel also called on the minister to ensure that the CRA is sufficiently resourced to communicate with, educate and support charitable organisations that have yet to apply to it for registration.

Mr Cooper also called on the Department to ensure that the CRA is given enough resources to support the other 9,000 or so registered charities that are currently completing their entry in the CRA’s Register.

He said it will be working closely with the CRA and other partners in the charity sector to raise awareness of the requirements facing unregistered charities.

Applications for inclusion on the Register of Charities can be made through the CRA’s website at the CRA’s website at www.charitiesregulatoryauthority.ie

24,000 Irish people could have un-diagnosed diabetes


The largest ever study into diabetes risk and cardiovascular risk, conducted by VHI Healthcare, has revealed that 24,000 people in Ireland could have un-diagnosed diabetes.

The research was conducted in VHI Healthcare’s medical centres in Cork and Dublin.

Almost 30,000 people took part in the study from 2009 to 2013.

Of those, nearly 5,000 people (17%) were found to have abnormal initial fasting blood sugar levels.

Men were up to three times more likely to have undiagnosed diabetes.

Research was conducted in VHI Healthcare’s medical centres in Cork and Dublin.

Those with abnormal blood sugar levels were most likely to be older, men, smokers, with abdominal obesity, higher BMI and higher blood pressure.

Study findings included that the risk of undiagnosed diabetes went up by 89% for every 5kg increase in body mass index.

The author of the report and medical director at VHI Healthcare, Dr Bernadette Carr, said: “The results of our research suggest that the rate of undiagnosed type two diabetes and pre-diabetes is higher in Ireland than in similar European countries such as Britain and Holland.


Dr Bernadette Carr, The author of the VHI diabetes report said “By making some very simple lifestyle changes, people can improve their outcomes and, in the case of pre-diabetes, can even delay or prevent progression to diabetes,”

Fitness apps will not improve your health  

And it could be harmful?


They are the latest health and fitness ‘revolution’, beloved of the fad dieters and the pilates obsessives and not to mention some of our leading politicians.

But what use, really, are increasingly popular health apps like Fitbit and Jawbone that monitor our activity levels, heart rate and even sleep patterns? None at all, according to one leading GP – and they could even end up doing harm.

Writing in the BMJ, Glasgow GP and health commentator Dr Des Spence warns that the products, which increasingly include wearable devices that link to computers and smartphones, providing 24-hour health monitoring, are “untested and unscientific” and could ignite “extreme anxiety” in a new generation of the “worried well”.

Warning that such apps could soon be “ubiquitous”, Dr Spence said that devices that could offer perpetual health monitoring risked giving rise to ‘over-diagnosis’ of health problems, with people unable to distinguish harmless variation or faulty readings from genuine signs of ill health.

“The truth is that these apps and devices are untested and unscientific, and they will open the door of uncertainty,” he writes. “Make no mistake: diagnostic uncertainty ignites extreme anxiety in people. We must reflect on what we might lose here, rather than what we might gain.”

Thousands of health apps are now available and some are even endorsed by the NHS.

George Osborne raised eyebrows when he was seen wearing one – a Jawbone ‘UP’ wristband – at a committee hearing two years ago. It is unclear whether the device played an important part in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s subsequent weight loss, but he did confirm at the time that former Education Secretary Michael Gove was also using one.

George Osborne sporting the Jawbone wristband
Despite their rising popularity, there is no evidence that smartphone-connected health apps can actually improve health, although two randomised trials of weight loss apps for old-style ‘handheld PC’ devices did show they worked better than paper or web-based fitness programmes.

Not all doctors are convinced health apps are a cause for concern. Also writing in the BMJ, Iltifat Husain, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, USA, said that apps which encouraged more exercise and a better diet could well carry benefits.

He said that while tests of Fitbit and Jawbone devices had not found evidence they could improve health outcomes or exercise compliance, there was also no evidence they could do harm.

“Healthy people may well benefit from using some health apps…but doctors need to be proactive about telling people which metrics matter and which apps they should buy,” he writes.

Daily brisk walking good for prostate cancer survivors


Brisk walking a key for prostate cancer survivors.

Brisk walking for about three hours a week is enough to help prostate cancer survivors reduce damaging side effects of their treatment, according to a promising study.

“Non-vigorous walking for three hours per week seems to improve the fatigue, depression and body weight issues that affect many men post-treatment,” said Siobhan Phillips, lead author from the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

“If you walk even more briskly, for only 90 minutes a week, you could also see similar benefits in these areas,” he added.

Phillips used data from the health professionals follow-up Study. She focused on prostate cancer survivors who were diagnosed with non-advanced disease prior to 2008 and responded to a health-related quality of life (HRQOL) questionnaire.

Common HRQOL symptoms included urinary and bowel problems, sexual function issues, fatigue, depression, increased body weight and erectile dysfunction.

The men reported the average time spent during a week walking to work or for exercise as well as time spent jogging, running, cycling, swimming and playing sports.

They also reported their usual outdoor walking pace as easy, average, brisk or very brisk.

The findings indicate that higher duration of brisk walking were associated with better hormone/vitality functioning (affecting fatigue, depression and body weight).

“Those who are able to walk should be encouraged to start an easy walking routine or engage in other non-vigorous activities soon after a prostate cancer diagnosis,” Phillips noted.

The benefits could help manage symptoms such as fatigue, depression and body weight – and improve overall health.

Walking may also potentially increase survival and impact their quality of life by preventing the onset of those other conditions.

The only surviving male northern white rhino is put under armed guard 24 hours a day


Rangers in Kenya risking their lives to keep the above 43-year-old rhino safe.

Sudan is the last hope for this Rhino species now on the verge of being wiped out for ever.

But ivory is now fetching as much as £47,000 per kilo as demand grows

Animal sanctuary Ol Pejeta trying to raise money to help pay for guards

The world’s last surviving male northern white rhino – stripped of his horn for his own safety – is now under 24-hour armed guard in a desperate final bid to save the species.

Sudan is guarded day and night by a group of rangers who risk their lives on a daily basis as they try to keep the rhino from poachers lured by the rising price of ivory.

But even without his horn, keepers in the Kenyan reserve of Ol Pojeta in fear for his safety.

Guard: The rangers keep an armed watch around Sudan at all times to deter poachers after his horn

Northern white rhinos at the Ol Pojeta reserve in 2012

The 43-year-old rhino – who could live until his 50s – is the last chance for any future northern white rhino calves.

Sudan was moved, along with two female rhinos, from a zoo in the Czech Republic in December 2009.

The reserve, which specialises in the conservation of rhinos, was chosen because of its successful breeding programme with black rhinos.