Tag Archives: Red Planet

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 26th May 2016

Fianna Fáil must explain decision to side with the Government on Irish Water, says Sinn Fein

     

Sinn Féin TD Eoin O’Broin said Fianna Fáil has broken its promise to abolish Irish Water.

Sinn Fein has accused Fianna Fail of acting in coalition with Fine Gael by abstaining in a motion to scrap water charges.

This gave Fine Gael a comfortable winning margin to push through the deal reached with Fianna Fáil during negotiations to form a new minority government.

Under this deal – water charges will be suspend for the moment, to allow for the establishment of an independent commission.

“They’re supporting the Government and they’re supporting this Government’s policy, and they are supporting the continuation of Irish Water, despite clear election promises to the contrary,” he said.

“And they’re supporting a motion that leaves the door open to water charges in the future, so Fianna Fáil have to explain to their electorate why they promised to abolish Irish Water and water charges before the election and now are siding with the Government on these issues after the election.”

Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins defended the decision not to vote against the abolition of Irish Water., saying his party plans to support future legislation to abolish water charges.

“There will be, through legislation, a suspension of water charges and a commission to look into the whole issue of water in this country,” he said.

“So we’ve played a progressive part in this, unlike other political parties, and what we saw in the Dáil, spearheaded by Sinn Féin, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and indeed the People Before Profit was just simply petty politics.”

Leo Varadkar does a U-turn on child benefit

     

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has ruled out any linking of the payment of child benefit to school attendance, despite a commitment in the programme for government to do so.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Varadkar said while there is a requirement to disclose attendance records for children over the age of 16, at present there is no such requirement for those younger than that under current legislation.

He said the monitoring of children is beyond his remit and is a matter for Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

The programme for government states that monitoring of child benefit will be reformed by amalgamating two existing monitoring systems, to address poor attendance within some families.

This initiative has been spearheaded by Communications Minister Denis Naughten. However, Mr Varadkar yesterday ruled out any move to link the payment to attendance.

“Child benefit is a payment that is not means tested nor is it taxed and I have no intention of changing that. For those under 16 it is not linked to school attendance,” he said.

“I had some discussions with [Children’s Minister Katherine] Zappone and [Education Minister Richard] Bruton and our view is that those involved in monitoring truancy do not believe the further tool to enforce attendance would be useful. I see no reason in changing the law.”

Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea said concern had been raised following media reports about the inclusion of the measure in the programme for government, but that he welcomed Mr Varadkar’s ruling it out. “We are happy with that and I thank the minister,” he said.

Mr Varadkar was also pressed about the €2.5m cost to the taxpayer in meeting the statutory redundancies at Clerys in Dublin.

He said legal action could be instigated in order to reclaim the monies from the company, which was folded in controversial circumstances last year.

He said the redundancies were paid out of the Social Insurance Fund from PRSI contributions to 134 former employees at Clerys.

He said: “Arising from the Clerys liquidation, the Department of Jobs examined protection law for employees and unsecured creditors to see that limited liability or company restructuring is not used to avoid obligations to employees or creditors.

“It is my firm view that companies should stay true to the spirit and letter of company law. My department is now examining how the monies can be recouped.”

Mr Varadkar said legal action would have to take into account any burden of proof involved, the cost of taking such an action, and the level of assets in the company.

Labour TD Willie Penrose criticised the response, saying it reflects the conservative nature of bureaucracy. He called for Mr Varadkar to make the most of existing law to recoup monies for the taxpayer.

Mr Varadkar was also asked about his decision to scrap the Job-Bridge scheme. He told the Dáil he felt the scheme was now “out of date”.

Ten times more cyclists treated in Irish hospitals after crashes than official figures show

    

Today’s findings also showed far more people were hurt in road accidents

Ten times more cyclists are injured and treated in hospital than official figures show, it has been revealed.

Today’s findings also showed far more people were hurt in road accidents.

Researcher Brian Caulfield said: “New injury indicators are clearly needed since the existing data do not capture the gravity and extent of the problem.”

A team from Trinity College Dublin’s School of Engineering combined data from the Road Safety Authority, hospital records and the Irish Injuries Board.

The study into figures from 2005 to 2011 found there were 88,000 traffic injuries. Hospital figures reveal RSA data only includes around 30% of an overlap with patients admitted for road crashes.

The researchers said: “The evidence the numbers are far greater than the official data indicate implies that reducing injuries needs to play a more important role in road safety strategy.

“Policy measures under consideration to reduce fatalities could obviously also contribute to reducing injuries. Among these are helmets for cyclists, lower urban speed limits, stronger measures to protect pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.”

A spokesman for the RSA said its figures relating to collisions and injuries come from gardai and not hospitals or the IIB.

The lack of one comprehensive dataset has previously made it difficult to assess the extent of the problems in Ireland.

But the Trinity researchers got around this problem by linking figures from three separate sources.

Dr Jack Short, ex-secretary general of the International Transport Forum at OECD, said: “The total social costs of road traffic injuries are greater than the cost of fatalities, so this subject merits increased policy attention and a higher priority in the Irish Road Safety Strategy.”

€500,000 fintech start-up fund announced by Enterprise Ireland

L-R: Geraldine Gibson, Managing Director, AQ Metrics; Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation; Leo McAdams, Divisional Manager ICT & International Services, Enterprise Ireland; Brett Meyers, CEO, Currency Fair  

Enterprise Ireland has created a new €500,000 fund for fintech start-ups, with ten spots to be filled as part of the IFS-2020 strategy.

Announcing a new start-up fund for fintech start-ups today, Minister for Jobs, Mary Mitchell O’Connor claimed the support was a “key part” of the current government’s push to help key sectors.

Providing €50,000 in equity to ten selected start-ups in the fintech area, applications open at the start of June, closing after just two weeks.

Open to early stage companies that can either be providing technology into the financial services industry, or consumer end-market solutions, blockchain, IoT, AI and ‘data intelligence’ are area encouraged.

Aside from the equity fund on offer, successful applicants will also receive membership to Dogpatch Labs, access to the Ulster Bank Innovation Solutions team, as well as talks from members of the FinTech and Payments Association of Ireland (FPAI).

“By introducing a specific start-up fund targeting the fintech sector,” said Enterprise Ireland’s Leo McAdams, “[we are] leveraging our strong international financial services reputation and our world-class start-up ecosystem to allow ambitious entrepreneurs to start, scale and succeed – providing valuable jobs here into the future”.

Enterprise Ireland has been fairly active of late, pouring €2.5m into ArcLabs at Waterford Institute of Technology in a move that will double the capacity of the incubation hub.

The expansion is hoped to help achieve the goal of a 30pc increase in the number of start-ups in the south-east.

Meanwhile last November a €500,000 specifically aimed at female-led start-ups was created.

Mars is emerging from an ice age that ended about 400,000 years ago

Climate change affects the Red Planet as well as us on earth?

the-red-planet  marsnasa.jpg  NASA-9.jpg

Mars is emerging from an ice age, according to a new study. Studying the Martian climate and how it changes over time can help scientists better plan future missions to Mars and even understand climate change here on Earth, the study authors goes on to say.

Models had already predicted that Mars underwent several rounds of ice ages in the past, but little physical measurements ever confirmed those predictions. Today’s study, published in the journal Science, is the first to map the ice deposits on the north and south pole and confirm that Mars is emerging from an ice age, in a retreat that began almost 400,000 years ago. The researchers also calculated just how much ice accumulated over the poles; the amount is so big that if it were spread throughout Mars, the entire planet would be covered by a 2-foot thick layer of ice.

STUDYING CLIMATE CHANGE ON MARS IS IMPORTANT FOR MULTIPLE REASONS?

Studying climate change on Mars is important for multiple reasons, says study co-author Isaac Smith, who studies sedimentary systems on Mars at Southwest Research Institute. By understanding ice ages, we can get a better understanding of how ice — and water — behaved through time on the Red Planet. It can help us figure out how Mars went from being a wet world to the barren, frigid land it is today. And it can tell us where ice deposits can be found. That’s key if we plan to send humans on Mars. “We want to know the history of water,” Smith says. “At some point, we’re going to have some people there and we’d like to know where the water is. So there’s a big search for that.”

The Martian climate can also inform scientists about climate change here on Earth, Smith says. Mars is the most similar planet to Earth in the Solar System and it provides a good testing ground for climate research, because there are no people burning fossil fuels and pumping global warming pollutants into the atmosphere. “Mars is a very good laboratory for what happens on Earth,” Smith says. “Climate science actually has a very simple but perfect laboratory in Mars, where we can learn about the physics of climate change and then apply what we learn to Earth.”

Ali Bramson, a planetary scientist and PhD candidate at the University of Arizona, who did not work on the study, agrees. “I think it’s a really great study and I think it’s very timely,” she says. “I was really excited to see it. … Climate change is obviously a very salient topic on Earth, but understanding the distribution of water-ice on Mars is also something that’s of great interest because there’s a lot of interest in sending humans one day to Mars. So if we know where there are reservoirs of water-ice, that could potentially be useful for future human exploration.”

MARS “IS NOT A DEAD, STATIC WORLD. THINGS ARE GOING ON AND CHANGING.”

Just like Earth, Mars undergoes cycles of climate change and ice ages. But unlike Earth, climate change on Mars is affected primarily by how “tilted” the planet is. Every planet has an axis around which the planet rotates. Earth’s axis is tilted 23.5 degrees and it’s pretty stable, varying only a couple of degrees over time. Mars’ axis is currently tilted 25 degrees, but it wobbles between from 10 to 40 degrees. That happens for two reasons: first, Mars doesn’t have a moon as big as ours to stabilize its orbit; second, it’s much closer to Jupiter, and Jupiter’s gravity affects Mars’ rotation. When the Red Planet’s axis is more tilted, the poles receive more sunlight and get warm — so the ice to redistributes to the mid-latitudes, just above the tropic. That’s when Mars undergoes an ice age. “The impact is pretty dramatic,” says Peter Read, a physics professor at the University of Oxford.

Today’s study was based on predictions that 400,000 years ago such a shift in the planet’s axis took place. The researchers used radar instruments onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a NASA spacecraft that’s orbiting Mars. They analyzed the radar images of the ice deposits within the planet’s polar ice caps, looking out for signs of erosion and other features, like so-called spiral troughs that are created by the wind. Tracing these features can reveal how ice accumulated and retreated through time. The researchers confirmed that around 400,000 years ago an ice age ended. Since the end of that ice age, about 87,000 cubic kilometers of ice accumulated at the poles, especially in the north pole. That’s exciting, because 400,000 years is pretty recent when talking about planets in the Solar System.

The study is “another bit of evidence that climate is still actively changing on Mars,” says Stephen Lewis, a senior lecturer at the Open University, who didn’t work on the study. Mars “is not a dead, static world. Things are going on and changing.”

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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 3rd April 2015

Ireland’s older people should not have to pay more for “fair deal” health care,

Says Age Action

 

Government considers raising contribution under Fair Deal nursing home scheme

An unpublished Department of Health review lists a number of options for improving the funding of the Fair Deal scheme, including increasing the State contribution or making those in nursing homes pay more

Groups representing older people say they will oppose any attempt to increase the financial contribution by users of the Fair Deal nursing home scheme.

Age Action said the scheme was already fundamentally unfair, as no other section of society had to pay from their income, assets and home value towards their care.

It was responding to proposals by the Department of Health that could see applicants for Fair Deal having to pay more towards their care.

An unpublished review lists a number of options for improving the funding of the scheme, including increasing the State contribution or making those in nursing homes pay more.

Under one option, the level of assets discounted in the means test (€36,000) could be reduced, RTÉ’s Prime Timereported. Alternatively, the cap on the assets to be contributed could increase from 7.5%  to 10%.

It is also suggested older people should contribute to community services through a charge on their estate after they die.

Age Action head of advocacy Eamon Timmins said the scheme already causes hardship for older people. “The range of increased charges proposed by the document suggests a lack of understanding of the inequity of the scheme and that a belief that this inequity can be increased further – that older people who are sick and frail are a resource to be tapped time and again,” he said.

Alone chief executive Sean Moynihan said Fair Deal was not looking “particularly fair any more”. Asking older people to pay more was the easy way compared to reforming the system.

Increasing people’s contribution to the scheme could lead to cases of elder abuse, he warned. “Lifting the cap will result in a larger contribution being taken from the older person’s estate when they die. This could result in some families being less likely to put older relatives into nursing home care when they need it.”

State sets 70 as targeted maximum on trolleys

 

Fund of extra €74m to be allocated to hospital overcrowding and trolley crisis.

The Government has set new targets for hospitals to limit the number of patients who have to wait for lengthy periods on trolleys.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said that by this winter there should be no more than 70 people at any one time waiting on trolleys for more than nine hours in hospitals.

He said the target formed part of a new initiative to tackle emergency department overcrowding. The Government is to provide €74 million in additional funding to deal with the hospital overcrowding and trolley crisis which has worsened in recent months.

As part of the initiative, €44 million is to be allocated to the Fair Deal nursing home scheme. The Minister said this would provide an additional 1,600 nursing home places and reduce the waiting time for approved applicants from 11 weeks to four weeks.

In addition, €30 million is to be earmarked to cover the cost of additional temporary contract beds until June and for more permanent community, convalescence and district hospital beds.

The measures are aimed at facilitating the discharge of patients who have completed their acute hospital care – so-called delayed discharge patients.

Mr Varadkar said overcrowding had eased since January but it remained higher than at this point last year. He also said while the number of delayed discharges had fallen from a peak of 850, the figure remained at over 700.

Nursing homes

“For these reasons, it is necessary to take additional action to provide more nursing home placements to free up acute hospital beds and make more community, convalescence and district hospital beds available.” He said the measures would take about eight weeks to be fully implemented.

“Reducing the level of delayed discharges and the wait for Fair Deal places in a meaningful way will improve significantly the situation in many hospitals.”

The announcement of the additional funding was made as the emergency department taskforce plan was published.

The plan produced by the taskforce includes measures to reduce delayed discharges and lengths of stay, in line with agreed Health Service Executive national service plan targets. It also includes measures to develop and extend access routes to urgent care; ensure integrated discharge planning; improve chronic disease management, and ensure effective leadership and oversight in hospitals.

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association said the actions “did not go far enough to deal properly with the unacceptable delays for patients”.

Figures boost for Irish Government Coalition amid concerns for under funded hospitals

  

 

With just a year to go to a general election, all is going swimmingly well for the Government, at least on the economic front, 

Every economic data release continues to move in the right direction, which will, in theory, make life more difficult for the opposition over the coming year if they adopt the approach of attacking the Government’s economic competency. Many commentators and opposition politicians have expounded the view over recent years that the economy would never recover and that fiscal austerity would destroy us forever.

This is proving not to be the case and, despite the savage fiscal adjustment since 2008, consumer and business confidence levels are climbing steadily and a more solid and broad-based recovery is taking hold.

This is not to suggest that all is perfect. On the contrary, many of our important public services are creaking at the edges and are, at best, sub-standard. It has to be hoped that, as the economy gets better, the resources devoted to vital public services will increase and the efficiency of public service delivery will be addressed.

It has been proven in the past that merely throwing resources at public services does not necessarily improve their quality. But if people were to see an improvement in the quality of health, education, law and order, and public infrastructure, then the recovery would start to feel more real and the political dividend must just flow to those responsible.

Of all the economic indicators we track, the labour market is by far the most important. For every person who comes off the live register and moves into employment, the State saves €21,000. For individuals struggling with debt, attaining a meaningful job can make a significant difference, both mentally and financially.

In this context, the news continues to get better. In March, the number of people on the live register, which is not a measure of unemployment but is a good indicator of the health of the labour market, fell to 348,700, which means it has declined 42,556 over the past year and by 76,400 over the past two years.

The unemployment rate has fallen to 10% of the labour market, down from over 15% three years ago. Despite what the cynics might suggest, this is an impressive labour market performance and does suggest that the economic policy approach is working. For some, that is a bitter pill to swallow.

For Government and other policy-makers, it is essential that efforts continue to be directed at further improving labour market conditions. In this context, recent utterances from the trade union side give cause for concern.

The notion that we would start to increase public sector pay in an environment where the Exchequer is taking in over €6bn less than it collects in revenue makes no sense. On the private sector front, allowing wages to creep back up at a time when the recovery is still trying to gain traction would not be advisable but would just undermine competitiveness and further press the already pressed small business sector.

If Government is going to ramp up spending, it should direct it at capital projects rather than public sector pay; and it should also adjust personal taxation to put money back in the pockets of the squeezed private sector. Economically, it would be much more advantageous to help people through a cut in the direct tax burden rather than through wage increases.

The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) is arguing for some leeway from the EU to facilitate higher capital expenditure, which echoes a call last week from the International Monetary Fund. This makes a lot of sense. The IFAC is less enthusiastic about tax cuts, which also echoes recent advice from the ESRI.

As I wrote last week, while such advice makes perfect economic sense, it fails to recognise the political realities facing Government over the coming year. Tax cuts would be far preferable to wage increases. The reality is this is what the choice will be. The hope is that workers will be less anxious to push for wage increases if there is a pledge to gradually reduce the tax burden. Perhaps that is too much to hope for and maybe I think I live in Utopia.

Spirits roused by music and hula-hoops for Dunne’s Stores strikers in Galway

 

Public expresses sympathy at several city branches

Tánaiste Joan Burton meets striking Dunne’s Stores workers and union representatives on the picket line at Henry Street in Dublin.

Music, hula-hooping and beeping horns roused strikers’ spirits at several Dunnes Stores outlets in Galway today.

Small numbers of shoppers and Dunne’s Stores staff had passed pickets by lunchtime.

“We’ve had great support from the public, and our only problem is the number of young staff who decided to show up for work – when we are doing this for them,” Mandate union member Margaret Kelly said outside the Dunne’s Stores branch at Westside.

Ms. Kelly, who has worked with the company for 14 years, said her contract was “one of the better ones”.

“So it’s sad to see some people leaving the union to show up for work, and I can only think it’s because they are frightened of losing hours altogether,” she said.

She described how her daughter, who works at another branch, had found herself the only member of her section supporting strike action earlier on Thursday morning.

“We aren’t looking for more money, but for some decent working conditions,”Ms. Kelly said.

“We are doing this for our grandchildren, but some staff just don’t seem to understand that,”she added.

“The management put up rosters on Tuesday, but can change those by Wednesday and say it is because of ‘budgets’, “she said.

“Your wages can vary from €450 a week to €150 a week, depending on one manager, “she said, adding that she feared her hours would be cut next week because of her action.

Outside Westside, rock-trad band Cúla Búla played some jigs and reels in support of the Mandate members, as part of their grand tour of six Dunne’s Stores branches in Galway. Their “support” was Shazzy, the hula-hooping performance artist.

The band said they had taken a break from working on their first studio-recorded album, which is due out in a few weeks.

“Car drivers have been beeping their horns, people expressing their support, and it’s been really effective so far, “band member Will O’Brien said. “This is one of Ireland’s biggest corporations, and it seems shocking that it would refuse to negotiate with staff.”

Former city mayor and Independent councillor Catherine Connolly visited each of the Galway branches to voice her support. “It’s interesting, and heartening, to see that the majority of strikers are women – leading the way,”she said.

In Knocknacarra, one of Galway’s largest suburbs, a half-empty carpark at 2pm on one of the busiest shopping days of the season reflected the level of public support.

“I had no idea things were so bad – but you’d wonder about how other shopping chains are treating their staff,” said Pat Butler, a local resident collecting a prescription in a nearby chemist.

Eating more eggs and dairy could cut the risk of diabetes

   

Eating more eggs and dairy could reduce the risk of diabetes, according to new research from two Nordic countries.

In a study from the University of Eastern Finland looking at the dietary habits of more than 2,332 men, those who ate around four eggs per week were found to have a 37% lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those who only ate one a week.

The men, aged between 42 and 60, took part in a study from 1984 to1989 and found that following up just under 20 years later, 432 men were diagnosed with the disease.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, said that eggs contained many nutrients that could affect glucose metabolism and low-grade inflammation.

However eating more than four eggs was not found to bring any significant additional benefits.

Type 2 Diabetes is becoming increasingly widespread throughout the world, with research showing that lifestyle habits, such as exercise and nutrition play a crucial role in the development of the disease.

Jyrki Virtanen, adjunct professor of nutritional epidemiology a the University of Eastern Finland, said there had been little previous scientific evidence either way on eggs and diabetes risk.

As a result, the new findings underlined the problem with demonising single dietary ingredients.

He said: “A possible explanation is that unlike in many other populations, egg consumption in Finland is not strongly associated with unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, low physical activity or consumption of processed meats.”

“The study also suggests that the overall health effects of foods are difficult to anticipate based on an individual nutrient such as cholesterol alone.”

Meanwhile, a second study from Lund University in Sweden found that eating high fat cheese and yoghurt lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes by a quarter, but high fat meat increased the risk.

Scientists examined the eating habits of 27,000 people aged 45 to 74 in the early 1990s, and found 2,860 people were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes 20 years later.

Dr Ulrika Ericson said: “When we investigated the consumption of saturated fatty acids that are slightly more common in dairy products than in meat, we observed a link with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

“However, we have not ruled out the possibility that other components of dairy products such as yogurt and cheese may have contributed to our results.

“Moreover, different food components can interact with each other. For example, in one study, saturated fat in cheese appeared to have less of a cholesterol-raising effect than saturated fat in butter.

“Our results suggest that we should not focus solely on fat, but rather consider what foods we eat. Many foodstuffs contain different components that are harmful or beneficial to health, and it is the overall balance that is important.”

Astronauts could land on Mars by year 2039

   

 

A new report has revealed that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) could send humans to Mars within next 15-25 years.

The space agency’s Mars mission could reach orbit by 2030, and it is possible that a team of astronauts will be waking on the red planet by 2039.

The Planetary Society, a nonprofit organization involved in research and engineering projects related to astronomy, recently held a workshop to discuss strategies for sending humans to Mars.

The goal of the Humans Orbiting Mars workshop was to gather expert science, engineering, and policy professionals to build a consensus on the key elements of a long-term, cost constrained, executable program to send humans to Mars.

At the workshop, a credible plan for a long-term Humans to Mars program that constrains costs by minimizing new developments was presented.

An orbital mission in 2033 is required for a sustainable, executable, and successful Humans to Mars program. The mission will enable scientific exploration of Mars and its moons while developing essential experience in human travel from Earth to the Mars system.

“Getting humans to Mars is far more complex than getting to Earth’s Moon,” Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye said. “But space exploration brings out the best in us. By reaching consensus on the right set of missions, we can send humans to Mars without breaking the bank.”

The Planetary Society noted that an independent cost estimate showed that NASA could launch such a mission with costs falling within its budget.

“We believe we now have an example of a long term, cost constrained, and executable humans to Mars program,” said Professor Scott Hubbard, workshop chair and Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Stanford University. “This workshop was an important step in community-building among the many groups interested in Mars science and exploration.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 26th September 2013

Growing numbers of Irish teenager’s being gang-raped

“Says a report”

  

Cari said it was alarmed by the dramatic rise in reports of attacks by multiple perpetrators in 2012, which doubled to 41.

Mary Flaherty, chief executive, said staff also recorded a 162% increase in rape and sexual assault allegations on under 18s, from 132 to 351.

She revealed teenagers told volunteers they often felt culpable in attacks, were witnessed or sometimes encouraged by others, and left traumatised by recordings which were viewed or discussed on social media sites.

“The sexualisation of children and young people and easy access to pornographic imagery plays a vital role in how young people perceive sex and sexuality,” she said.

“The nature of our calls has changed so much in the past 20 years that this issue needs to be addressed.

“Social networking sites also need to play a role in child welfare and protection – which to date they have not done.”

Ms Flaherty said a 13% cut in State funding last year impacted severely on services, leading to the closure of its service in Cork and all staff being laid off for a month.

Therapy hours had to be cut by 7% nationwide, from 2,650 hours in 2011 down to 2,474, leaving more than 50 children who were sexually abused on a waiting list for therapy by the end of the year.

Ms Flaherty said it was an appalling indictment on the nation that some of the 3,300 youngsters who report abuse to health chiefs each year are being let down.

“Children in Ireland continue to be sexually abused every day and we continue to fail them,” she said.

“If you are an adult who has experienced abuse, either in the last 24 hours or as a child, you have access to counselling in every health board area. You also have rape crisis and domestic violence units nations.

“If you are under 18 you only have support two children’s hospitals in Dublin and a service in Limerick which we run.”

The helpline took 1,493 calls during the year, up 4%.

They included 1,182 where a child spoke about their ordeal, 208 silent calls which were seen as a victim’s first step for help and 104 that went unanswered due to resources, a 30% drop on 2011.

The majority of allegations involved a family member and some parents raised concerns over the sexualised behaviour of their teenagers, although no abuse had taken place.

Cari, which also supported 64 children or family members through the criminal courts, also criticised the three to four year delays in cases which impact on a child’s life and healing process.

Majella Ryan, acting national clinical director, said the long term effect of child sexual abuse on children when they do not receive the appropriate interventions is well documented.

“Children as young as eight years old present with thoughts of suicide, self-harm and mental health issues,” she added.

“Many struggle at school as a result of their experiences.

“When left untreated, they can go on to develop problems with addiction, social skills and many other things that can make life difficult and unbearable.

“When these children are made safe and receive the right intervention, they can move on and the abusive experience does not have to define them.”

Number of tourists visiting Ireland up by 142,000 6.7% increase

 

THE number of tourists visiting Ireland this summer increased by 142,000 over the same time last year to over two million, according to the latest figures from the CSO released this morning.

A total of 2,264,800 return trips were made between June and August – an increase of 6.7% over the same period last year.

Visitors from the UK represented the largest group of visitors here who made 879,500 visits during the peak summer months of June, July and August, an increase of  4.7pc.

But the key North American market showed impressed gains of close to 20pc over the same period last year with visitors from Canada and the USA making 437,900 return trips.

Visitors from Eastern Europe, Switzerland, Turkey and other European countries were the third largest group who made 172,600 visits, followed by Germany at 169,100, France at 136,900, other areas – including Africa, Asia and theMiddle East – at 86,000 followed by Benelux countries at 79,500, Italy at 77,400, Australia and New Zealand at 66,700 and Scandinavia at 63,400.

The figures, especially for North American visitors, reveal that The Gathering tourism initiative is paying off.

There were almost 300,000 overseas visitors here by the end of August, which is close to The Gathering’s target of 325,000 overseas visitors by the end of the year.

“There are still gatherings taking place until the end of the year so we are very confident we’ll hit the target,” a Failte Ireland spokeswoman said.

Failte Ireland CEO Shaun Quinn added: “For us in Fáilte Ireland, these figures are clear evidence that The Gathering is providing tourism with the ‘jump-start’ we always imagined it would. The North American performance is very impressive and the European markets are bouncing back. The increase in British visitors is particularly welcome as that market has been challenged for some time. The trick for tourism going forward will be to maintain the momentum created by the Gathering and build on this performance.”

The statistics also reveal that Irish residents took slightly more trips abroad and within Ireland for business and leisure this summer than last.

Some 4.4 million trips were taken over the summer – an increase of 4.9pc over the same time last year.

Failte Ireland attributed the heatwave in July and Gathering events for a slight increase in the number of Irish people making last-minute getaways within Ireland.

There was also a slight increase in the number of overseas trips taken (3.9pc) to 2.1 million, including holiday and business travel as well as visiting family.

Irish ploughing championships pull in record attendance’s this year

  

The number of people attending this year’s National Ploughing Championships has broken all records.

Almost 230,000 people visited the three day event in Ratheniska near Stradbally in Co Laois.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was the guest of honour on the third and final day of the 2013 Ploughing Championships in Co Laois, which are drawing to a close this evening.

A recording breaking 228,000 people turned out in Ratheniska near Stradbally since Tuesday morning – 43,000 more than last year’s figure.

“We knew that we’re in the cross roads of Ireland here, and we’re in between two major motorways … [and] the weather was a major, major factor,” said Anna May McHugh, Managing Director of the National Ploughing Association.

The organisers confirmed this evening that next year’s event will also take place in Ratheniska.

Irish Carbon Monoxide awareness Week 2013

  

Most Irish people are unaware of the connection between burning fossil fuels and the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, new research has found.

CO is a poisonous gas, however, it is colourless and odourless. It is produced when fossil fuels, such as oil, gas and coal, do not have enough oxygen to burn completely.

If inhaled into the body, CO combines with the blood, preventing it from absorbing oxygen. If a person inhales CO over a period of time, they are at risk of becoming seriously ill or even dying. Around six people die every year in Ireland as a result of accidental CO poisoning.

However, a survey of 1,000 adults released as part of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, revealed low levels of consumer awareness when it comes to the connection between CO and the burning of fossil fuels.

For example, just one in three people are aware that oil and gas can produce CO when burned, while only one in four are aware that coal, kerosene and bottled gas can produce it.

Meanwhile, just one in five people know that charcoal, peat and turf can produce the poisonous gas, while only one in seven know that burning wood and wood pellets can produce it.

In order to prevent CO, fuel burning appliances, such as gas boilers, should be serviced on an annual basis and chimneys, vents and flues should be kept clear.

According to the research, almost three in four people are aware of the importance of regular servicing of these appliances, however for almost six in 10 people, the cost of such a service is a prohibiting factor.

Furthermore, when asked when was the last time they had their heating appliance serviced, 8% said that to their knowledge, it had never been serviced, while 15% said they did not know.

“This research shows that everyone needs to be more aware that every fossil fuel when burned has the potential to produce CO. CO poses a very real threat to people’s lives. Regular appliance servicing and keeping vents, flues and chimneys clear are extremely important to ensure the safety of family members and loved ones,” commented Dr Paul McGowan of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which organises this event.

As part of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, which runs until September 29, people are being reminded of the importance of installing a CO alarm in their homes.

Symptoms of CO poisoning can include cold-like symptoms, headaches, dizziness, chest pains, diarrhoea and lack of energy. For more information on CO, click here

IMO calls for Irish minimum alcohol prices structure to reduce abuse

  

The Irish Medical Organisation is calling for a minimum unit pricing structure for alcohol across the country.

The group says the introduction of a minimum price would effectively reduce the problem of alcohol abuse on future generations in Ireland.

The President of the IMO, Dr Matt Sadlier, said they were seeking an all-island policy including the North to help to tackle the issue.

“Our reason for looking for minimum pricing for alcohol is that where minimum unit pricing has been introduced, it has been shown to reduce consumption – and thus reduce the social difficulties with alcohol,” he said.

The IMO is also urging the government to ensure that young people are not exposed to alcohol marketing and to introduce a complete ban on drinks advertising and promotion.

First pair of Okapis arrive at Dublin Zoo

Okapi  

Dublin Zoo has announced that the first okapis in Ireland have become its newest residents.

Males Kamba, aged 14, and Kitabu, aged six, arrived from Rotterdam Zoo this month.

Dublin Zoo said: “The okapi is originally found in the Ituri Rainforest, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in central Africa.”

Dublin Zoo continued: “It is one of the last species of mammals to be described by western science and even today the okapi largely remains a mystery to the outside world.

“For most people living in Ireland this will be their first opportunity to see these extraordinary animals.”

Dublin Zoo added: “Okapis are the only living relative of the giraffe. The okapi has a dark red-brown-coloured coat with horizontal, white-striped markings on their hind quarters and at the tops of their legs. Its long, black tongue is prehensile, meaning that it is able to strip leaves from the branches above.

“Unfortunately, due to deforestation and hunting, their numbers are declining rapidly.”

Director of Dublin Zoo Leo Oosterweghel said: “It is a privilege to see such a rare and beautiful animal. They are a shy and sensitive animal and are still settling in so may not be visible every day.”

Curiosity findings show 2% of Mars soil contains water

   

The first analysis of soil dug up by the Curiosity rover reveals new insights into the red planet’s propensity for retaining water beneath its surface.

After examining fine-grained soil particles extracted by the Curiosity rover from beneath the surface of Mars, scientists have concluded that roughly 2 percent of the Martian surface soil is made up of water. While showing no indication of organic material besides Earth-transported microbes, the results bode well for future manned missions to Mars, wherein astronauts could mine the soil for water, and advance scientists’ understanding of Mars’ history.

The findings, published Thursday in the journal Science, are part of one article in a five-paper special section on the Curiosity mission that began in August 2012. “One of the most exciting results from this very first solid sample ingested by Curiosity is the high percentage of water in the soil,” lead author Laurie Leshin, dean of the School Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said in a NASA press release.

The tool Curiosity used to analyze the sample was a collection of instruments called Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, that contains a gas chromatograph, a mass spectrometer, and a tunable laser spectrometer.

The rover first scooped up dirt, dust, and finely grained soil from a 2.5-inch-deep hole it dug in a patch of Mars’ soil referred to as Rocknest back in February. Then a tiny, pill-size portion of the sample was fed into SAM, where it was heated to 1,535 degrees Fahrenheit.

The gases that were released — which included significant portions of carbon dioxide, oxygen, and sulfur compounds — were analyzed, and gaseous carbonite was found in a quantity that suggests the water presence in Martian soil.

The Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument suite prior to installation inside Curiosity.

“This work not only demonstrates that SAM is working beautifully on Mars, but also shows how SAM fits into Curiosity’s powerful and comprehensive suite of scientific instruments,” said Paul Mahaffy, a lead investigator for SAM at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

These findings come on the heels of disheartening news last week that Curiosity has yet to crack the methane mystery that has persisted around Mars since 2003, when scientists observed methane plumes and the public and professional interest in finding life on the red planet soared.

The lack of methane thus far indicates that the rover has little chance of finding active microbial life on the planet, but the existence of water in such great quantities in the surface soil brings scientists one step closer to piecing together the planet’s past potential for harboring life.

“By combining analyses of water and other volatiles from SAM with mineralogical, chemical, and geological data from Curiosity’s other instruments, we have the most comprehensive information ever obtained on Martian surface fines,” added Mahaffy. “These data greatly advance our understanding surface processes and the action of water on Mars.”

Given the renewed interest of late in manned missions to Mars — from non-profit organizations like Mars One, privatized transportation companies like SpaceX, and the unofficial plans in the works over at NASA — these findings are reassuring. Leshin confirmed a cubic foot of soil, as opposed to the tiny sample Curiosity analyzed, could yield nearly 2 pints of condensation when heated.

News Ireland daily Blog on Sunday

Sunday 12th August 2012

The decline in Ireland’s ‘friendly’ B&Bs is a blow to tourism

The treatment of our B&Bs by controlling interests is a scandal, says Felim O’Rourke

   

B&Bs, which played a major role in Irish tourism in recent years, have suffered a massive decline, losing a huge share of both the overseas and domestic markets.

B&Bs are small businesses, enterprises with no voice and no access to the corridors of power, and the decimation of the sector has passed almost unnoticed by media and policy-makers.

In 2001 B&Bs provided 6.3 million bed-nights for overseas holiday visitors. B&Bs held a 30 per cent market share of the accommodation market and provided more bed-nights than the hotel sector. Between 2001 and 2010, the number of bed-nights sold by the B&Bs to overseas holiday visitors fell to 2.6 million and the market share fell to 14 per cent.

In 2001 B&Bs provided 2.2 million bed-nights to domestic visitors. B&Bs held 9.6 per cent market share of the domestic visitor accommodation market but provided only 40 per cent of the bed-nights that were provided by hotels. Between 2001 and 2010 the number of bed-nights sold to domestic visitors fell to 717,000 and the market share fell to 2.3 per cent.

Effectively the B&B has ceased to be an accommodation option for domestic visitors. In 2010, of the 3.3 million bed-nights sold by the B&B sector only 22 per cent went to domestic visitors. We can summarise the situation by saying that 80 per cent of the bed-nights sold by B&Bs go to overseas visitors and only 20 per cent go to domestic visitors.

  All surveys of Irish tourism have indicated that the friendliness of the people is a key strength of the industry. The B&B gave an opportunity to overseas visitors to experience this at first hand. The decline of the B&Bs is therefore a major loss to Irish tourism.

The decline of the B&B sector was gradual and steady over the decade, so the Department of Tourism, the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC) and Failte Ireland must have been aware of what was happening.

The graph above shows the trend in B&B bed-nights over the decade. It shows a decline of 60 per cent in overseas bed-nights and 68 per cent in domestic bed-nights over the decade.

The only reasonable explanation for the lack of concern by the Department of Tourism is that the B&B operators were not considered important.

The ITIC styles itself as the representative body for the tourism industry and was a part of the disastrous Social Partnership process. The ITIC has not done enough, however, for the B&B sector

Failte Ireland could not draw attention to the decline in B&Bs because that would be an admission of failure.

The other reason that the B&Bs have lost market share is that successive Fianna Fail governments allowed the hotel sector to be dominated by property speculation while, in Bertie Ahern’s words, “the boom is getting boomier”. There was no role for B&Bs in a tourism industry which was dominated by property speculation.

The B&B sector could have been the basis for a new approach to Irish tourism. We

could have used the B&B sector to pioneer activity holidays, generate community support for tourism and evolve a network of high quality small family hotels which would have combined friendliness with better standards. Instead our policy-makers presided over the decimation of the sector.

The treatment of the humble B&B by the controlling interests in Irish tourism is a scandal. The loss of the B&B sector has been a disaster for Irish tourism.

Felim O’Rourke is an Economist who has written extensively on tourism. He was joint author, with Jerome Casey of the Dublin City Business Association, of the report ‘Rejuvenating Dublin’s Tourism Product’

JNRS (joint national research survey) figures show 80% of adults regularly read a paper

   

Eighty per cent (80%) of adults are regular newspaper readers, a 2 per cent decline on the same period last year, according to the latest Joint National Readership Survey figures.

The JNRS’s 2011-12 report shows that 2.88 million adults here read a newspaper regularly between June 2011 and May 2012.

This compared with 2.94 million in the previous year, which represented 82 per cent of the population.

The Irish Times had an average daily readership of 287,000 in the 2011-12 report. This was down 37,000, or 11 per cent, on the previous year. These readership figures do not include visitors to the Irish Times website.

The Irish Independent recorded a decline in readership of 35,000 or 7 per cent to 465,000, while readership for the Irish Examiner remained the same at 169,000.

Among other daily newspapers, the Irish Daily Star recorded a readership of 348,000, down 24,000 or 6 per cent, while the Irish Mirror’s readership was up slightly by 1,000 to 208,000.

Two daily newspapers recorded more significant gains. The Irish Sun had a readership of 297,000, up 21,000 or 8 per cent, while the Irish Daily Mail recorded a readership of 159,000, up 18,000 or 13 per cent.

The Irish Times had an ABC1 profile – a key demographic for advertisers – of 80 per cent. This compared with 53 per cent at the Irish Independent and 42 per cent at the Irish Examiner.

While readership for the main section of The Irish Times was down, readership for the newspaper’s supplements remained broadly the same or grew slightly, such as the newspaper’s Saturday Magazine (367,000), Healthplus (273,000) and the Ticket (234,000).

Overall, just under half of adults – 49 per cent, or 1,774,000 people – read a daily title, according to JNRS figures.

A total of 59 per cent, or 2,118,000 people, read a Sunday title. This represented a decline of 8 per cent compared to the previous year, possibly due to the closure of the News of the World.

Overall, the National Newspapers of Ireland said the latest figures showed that newspaper readership remained strong, despite factors such as the recession and proliferation of other media.

“As an industry I would say we are encouraged but not surprised by the findings of the latest JNRS,” said NNI’s Frank Cullen said.

“Newspapers invest more in journalism than any other medium so it’s natural that more people come to us when they are looking for high quality, original news content.”

He added that readership among young people was impressive, with almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of 19- to 24-year-olds regularly reading a print title.

Mr Cullen said figures also showed people were dedicating more time to reading newspapers, with one in five readers spending more than six hours a week reading their papers.

Among the Sunday newspapers, most titles recorded a decline.

The Sunday Independent had a readership of 914,000, down 57,999 or 5.9 per cent, while the Sunday Times saw its readership decline by 33,000 or 8.2 per cent, to 367,000.

The Sunday Business Post’s readership fell by 2,000 to 162,000, while the Sunday World posted a small decline of 5,000, or less than 1 per cent, to 802,000.

The Irish Sunday Mirror recorded a significant readership increase of 13,000, or 8.9 per cent, to 195,000.

In addition, the Irish Mail on Sunday readership rose by 15,000 readers, up 5 per cent, to 345,000 readers.

Eating Grapes protects men’s heart health

    

Eating grapes may help protect the heart health of men with metabolic syndrome, according to a new study in the US.

Scientists have discovered that the fruit lowered several key risk factors for heart disease in men with metabolic syndrome. These benefits included reduced blood pressure, improved blood flow and reduced inflammation.

Natural components found in grapes, known as polyphenols, are thought to be responsible for these positive effects.

  Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together – increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist or low HDL (the good cholesterol) and increased blood triglycerides – significantly increasing the risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Metabolic syndrome is a major public health concern,

The researchers studied a group of men between 30 and 70 years of age with metabolic syndrome.

The study is believed to be the first to look at the impact of grapes on metabolic syndrome.

In this study, participants were randomly assigned to consume grapes, in the form of a freeze-dried whole grape powder, or a placebo powder, for four weeks.

Then, following a three-week “washout” period where neither grapes nor placebo were consumed, individuals were allocated to the alternate treatment. This powerful study design allowed investigators to compare the response of each individual to consumption of both the placebo and grapes.

The study results showed that for each of the study’s subjects, grape consumption resulted in significant decreases in blood pressure, improved blood flow (greater vasodilation), and decreases in a compound associated with inflammation.

“These results suggest that consuming grapes can improve important risk factors associated with heart disease, in a population that is already at higher risk,” said Dr Maria Luz Fernandez, who led the study, which was carried out at the Department of Nutritional Sciences of the University of Connecticut.

“This further supports the accumulating evidence that grapes can positively influence heart health, and extends it to men with metabolic syndrome.”

Scientists find master stem cells that drive human creativity

     

  • Researcher find master cells also key for abstract thought and planning ahead
  • Breakthrough could lead to new treatments for autism

A newly-discovered type of stem cell could be the key to higher thinking in humans, research suggests.

Scientists have identified a family of stem cells that may give birth to neurons responsible for abstract thought and creativity.

The cells were found in embryonic mice, where they formed the upper layers of the brain’s cerebral cortex.

Dr Santos Franco, a member of the US team from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, said: ‘Advanced functions like consciousness, thought and creativity require quite a lot of different neuronal cell types and a central question has been how all this diversity is produced in the cortex.

‘Our study shows this diversity already exists in the progenitor cells.’

In mammals, the cerebral cortex is built in onion-like layers of varying thickness.

The thinner inside layers host neurons that connect to the brain stem and spinal cord to regulate essential functions such as breathing and movement.

The larger upper layers, close to the brain’s outer surface, contain neurons that integrate information from the senses and connect across the two halves of the brain.

Higher thinking functions are seated in the upper layers, which in evolutionary terms are the “newest” parts of the brain.

The new research is reported today in the journal Science.

Growing the stem cells in the laboratory could pave the way to better treatments for brain disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.

NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Red Planet soil  ‘what else is ahead’

   

After a spectacular landing on Mars, the rover Curiosity wasted no time embracing its inner shutterbug, delighting scientists with vistas of Gale Crater complete with sand dunes, mountain views and even haze.

What is next?

The nuclear-powered, six-wheel Curiosity is on a quest to learn whether the Martian environment could have been favorable for microbial life. Before it can drive, it has to slog through weeks of health checkups. Since it’s the most complex spacecraft ever sent to the red planet, engineers want to make sure it’s in tip-top shape before they hand over the keys to scientists. It already has done a cursory check of its 10 science tools, but more tests are needed. This weekend, its computers get a software update — a process that will last several days.

Will we see a movie of the touchdown?

The footage is recorded and stored on board Curiosity and will be downloaded as time allows. It sent back a low-quality video and several high-resolution frames that captured the last few minutes of the descent, providing a sense of a spacecraft landing on another planet. In the video, the protective heat shield pops off and tumbles away. It ends with billowing plumes of dust as Curiosity was safely delivered to the surface.

The first impressions of the Gale Crater?

The mission’s chief scientist John Grotzinger said it was like staring at California’s Mojave Desert. The landing site is pebbly with sand dunes nearby and mountains off in the distance. A curtain of haze hung over the site. Curiosity’s destination is Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain rising from the center of the crater floor near the equator. Observations from space reveal the base of the mountain shows signs of past water — a good place to hunt for the chemical ingredients of life.

Curiosity’s performance was pretty much on target with expectations. Because it weighed nearly 2,000 pounds, it had to be gently lowered to the surface — a routine NASA had never tried before. A preliminary reconstruction indicates it landed 1 1/2 miles downrange from the bull’s-eye.

How many rovers are now on Mars?

Curiosity joins the long-running Opportunity, which has been exploring craters in Mars’ southern hemisphere since 2004. Opportunity’s twin, Spirit, fell silent in 2010 after getting stuck in a sand trap. Curiosity’s prime mission lasts two years.