Tag Archives: Retail sales

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 20th December 2016

Former Apollo House owner supports aims of occupation by Home Sweet Home

Liam Ó Maonlaí, Glen Hansard, Hozier and Christy Dignam perform at support gig

Image result for Former Apollo House owner supports aims of occupation by Home Sweet Home   Image result for Former Apollo House owner supports aims of occupation by Home Sweet Home  Image result for Former Apollo House owner supports aims of occupation by Home Sweet Home

Glen Hansard and Christy Dignam played in support of Apollo House that is being occupied by housing activists and homeless people.

The former owner of Apollo House says he supports the aims of Home Sweet Home, a group of housing activist who have occupied the vacant office building since Thursday, to accommodate rough sleepers. Property developer Garrett Kelleher controlled Shelbourne Developments which included the building in its portfolio of loans until 2014.

He said “nobody” should be homeless this Christmas and it was “heartwarming that so many people really care” about the homelessness crisis. “People have been squatting in vacant property for generations,” he said. “The receivers for Apollo and Nama should seek to immediately do what they can to help, not allow this to become a political football but actually help, have their lawyers down tools and do the right thing.”

Mr Kelleher, who is based in Chicago, said he became aware of the occupation through the media. He said he had not been in the building for three years.

Thirty-five people slept in the building on Monday night, according to Home Sweet Home spokeswoman Rosi Leonard. She rejected suggestions that the group had refused to meet receivers Mazars, saying they wanted to co-operate. Another spokesman said “solicitors” were in communication and a meeting was expected later this week.

There were now two fully-fitted kitchens and showers had been installed in the building, where they planned to be over Christmas, Ms Leonard said.

Up to 1,000 people gathered for a free gig in support of Home Sweet Home at Apollo House on Tuesday. Gardaí closed off the small street shortly before 1pm as singers Glen Hansard, Hozier, Liam Ó Maonlaí, Christy Dignam and the band Kodaline arrived at the building.

Hansard sang first from a small raised platform on the street, in front of the side gate into Apollo House, performing Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is your Land before being joined by Christy Dignam who delivered a performance of his band Aslan’s Crazy World. A number of former rough sleepers, who spent Monday night in Apollo House, watched from a roof above the ground floor over the car park.

Director Jim Sheridan joined in a performance of The Auld Triangle, followed by Kodaline singing Bob Dylan’s The Times They are a-Changing and their own tracks, High Hopes and All I Want. Hozier performed his hit Take Me To Church.

Volunteers passed through the crowd with buckets seeking donations towards the running costs of the project.

During the gig, Dean Scurry of the Home Sweet Home project, spoke of the need to end poverty and homelessness, with “people plus love”. He said Home Sweet Home and Apollo House were symbols of “freedom, hope, love, nourishment and respect”.

Among those present for the impromptu concert was Martina Balfe, who works in the GPO. She said she had come to “show support to the homeless”, adding “it’s a duty of everyone to be concerned about this”.

Julia Woods, Steve Woods and Shirley Kenny travelled from Athlone. “It’s a great cause and it’s really important to show solidarity and support,” said Mr Woods. Éanna Gordon, a student, said he was pleased to see the “movement” was “popular and growing”. “This has two purposes – a practical one to give shelter to homeless people and as well to draw attention to the issue. That’s a good thing,” he said.

Incentives to Bank staff  to increase lending undermined the quality of the product?

Central Bank says it acted to stop use of league tables to achieve new financial targets

Image result for Incentives to Irish Bank staff  to increase lending undermined the quality of the product?  Image result for The Central Bank told the Oireachtas finance committee that more oversight of retail banks by boards of directors and by shareholders was needed   Image result for The Central Bank told the Oireachtas finance committee that more oversight of retail banks by boards of directors and by shareholders was needed

The Central Bank told the Oireachtas finance committee that more oversight of retail banks by boards of directors and by shareholders was needed?

Irish retail banks have been using league tables to incentivise staff in driving new lending without giving proper consideration to quality, the Governor of the Central Bank Philip Lane told the Oireachtas finance committee on Tuesday.

Image result for The Central Bank told the Oireachtas finance committee that more oversight of retail banks by boards of directors and by shareholders was needed Mr Lane said this emerged in recent inspections by the regulator of the Irish retail banks.

Other weaknesses identified included a need for “better oversight and challenge” from boards in relation to the risk appetites of banks, which are used to govern and quantify lending decisions across sectors and borrower types.

It also included strategies focused on driving increased volumes without sufficient consideration of the risks associated with long-term lending, and the use of the league tables to incentivise staff to push lending volumes without due consideration to quality.

It is not clear which banks were using the league tables but it is understood that the they were operated informally and their use has stopped after interventions from the Central Bank.

Mr Lane said the culture within Irish banks also needs to change so that they “truly put the customer first”. He called for more oversight by boards of directors and by shareholders.

Separately, Mr Lane said “significant risks” remain on the horizon for the domestic Irish banks, in spite of the measures that have taken place to repair their businesses. “All have relatively concentrated business models, focused primarily on Ireland and to some extent the UK,” he said. “This makes them especially vulnerable to any shocks affecting the Irish economy.”

Mr Lane said that while Irish banks continue to work out their non-performing loans (NPLs), they still “remain high” both in absolute and relative terms. In absolute terms, NPLs have declined by just more than €48.5 billion or 57 percent since their peak in 2013, and now represent 17.3 per cent of all loans.

On the Central Bank’s view of it being given powers to regulate standard variable interest rates, Mr Lane said there were “many downsides” to this but it was ultimately a matter for the Oireachtas to decide.

In the absence of new lenders to the Irish market, Mr Lane encouraged mortgage customers to consider switching their home loan to another lender or transferring to a lower-cost product with their existing bank.

“More can be done to encourage switching,” he said, adding that the incidence of switching here was currently “too low”.

Mr Lane said Brexit presented a “significant challenge” for the domestic banking sector. “Depending on the outcome [of negotiations], the UK’s exit from the EU could have long-term structural consequences for those Irish banks with a significant presence there. This will become clearer during the next two years, as the elements of the EU-UK relationship take shape.”

He said Dublin was “in the mix” with other EU cities in terms of where London-based financial institutions might relocate their activities, adding that the Central Bank had a “neutral” view on this matter and would consider any applications by firms on their merits.

Christmas showdown as SuperValu and Dunnes go to battle for Irish consumers

Image result for Christmas showdown as SuperValu and Dunnes go to battle for Irish consumers  Image result for Christmas showdown as SuperValu and Dunnes go to battle for Irish consumers  Related image

Dunnes Stores snatched the title of the country’s largest grocery retailer last month from SuperValu.

Dunnes Stores and SuperValu now hold an equal share of Ireland’s multi-billion euro grocery market, as the pair battle it out for supremacy among consumers over Christmas.

New figures from research group Kantar Worldpanel show the retailers each have a 22.5% share of the market.

Dunnes Stores, headed by Margaret Heffernan and Frank Dunne, snatched the title of the country’s largest grocery retailer last month from SuperValu. It was the first time in over a decade that Dunnes had secured the top spot.

But SuperValu, under managing director Martin Kelleher, which is controlled by the Cork-based Musgrave group, will be vying to reclaim the title.

And with shoppers now in the final week before Christmas, there are intense efforts by all the chains to lure customers who are splashing out for the festive season.

Previous figures from Kantar Worldpanel showed that Dunnes Stores had a 22.6% share of the grocery market during the 12 weeks to the end of November 6. SuperValu had 22.4%.

The latest figures, for the 12 weeks ended December 4, show that the two retailers now share the number one position, while Tesco has a 21.8% share.

Dunnes’ share, in value terms, rose by 4.8%, while SuperValu’s was 1% higher. Grocery inflation in the period stood at 0.6%.

Tesco has been focusing on cutting prices to attract more customers. That hits the value of its sales – the figure that Kantar Worldpanel reports on. But the value of its sales was still 1% higher in the latest period.

David Berry, director at Kantar Worldpanel, said the latest figures are a “real testament” to how competitive the grocery market is.

“Just 0.7 percentage points now separate the three largest retailers as we enter the all-important festive period,” he said.

He added that evidence of Tesco’s turnaround has been seen in the last quarter. Mr Berry said that the chain’s sales have shown positive growth for the first time since March.

“An additional 10,000 households have chosen to shop with Tesco in 2016 and are returning to the retailer more frequently – a clear positive sign for the grocer,” he said.

Dunnes Stores has built its loyalty through its ‘Shop and Save’ campaign, a discounting ploy that has cost it tens of millions of euro.

But it has been also developing its product lines and acquiring businesses, moves designed to help it improve its overall offer to consumers.

Almost 64pc of households visited Dunnes Stores in the latest reported period, spending an average of €39.50 a visit. That’s a €3 increase per trip compared to the corresponding period last year.

Mr Berry said that Dunnes Stores has also seen more shoppers opt to buy branded goods – the only retailer to experience that in the latest period. Branded sales at the chain rose 5.7%, while own-label goods sales were up 3.3%.

Lidl increased its share of the market by 4.3% to 11.1%. Aldi’s rose by 6.1%, also to 11.1%.

Grocery chains are facing increased pressure this Christmas following the decline in Sterling after the UK’s June Brexit vote.

A report yesterday from credit risk analyst firm Vision-net.ie showed that 24% of Irish shoppers intend to travel across the border to avail of weaker Sterling. “Irish consumers are cognisant of the impact of Brexit and a weakened Sterling, and plan to avail of the knock-on benefits this Christmas,” said Christine Cullen, managing director of Vision-net.ie.

Smartphones could soon come with software signal blocker for driving?

Image result for Smartphones could soon come with software signal blocker for driving?   Image result for Smartphones could soon come with software signal blocker for driving?

The mobile phone industry is under pressure to introduce software on phones to prevent drivers being distracted by notifications.

According to The Guardian, an informal government meeting is due to take place early next year at which ministers will tell phone manufacturers and network providers that software similar to airplane mode should be built into phones to block the data signal while the owner is driving.

The report said that ministers want a basic software to become standard, with suggestions it could be triggered using GPS technology to detect when certain speeds are reached.

The software would also differ from airplane mode in that it would still allow emergency calls or to accept calls from designated contacts.

From next spring the fixed penalty charge for using a mobile phone that isn’t hands-free while driving will double to £200, with the fixed penalty notice also set to double from three points to six.

It is hoped the new software could add further discouragement to drivers who still use a phone while at the wheel.

According to the RAC annual motoring report, which was published in September, the number of drivers who admitted using a phone in their hands while driving has risen from 8% in 2014 to 31% this year.

Eating leafy greens is good for your brain says researchers?

Image result for Eating leafy greens is good for your brain says researchers?   Related image   Image result for Eating leafy greens is good for your brain says researchers?

Researchers have identified an important link between the consumption of lutein-rich foods and brain health in older adults.

While most kids are told to eat their spinach and broccoli so they grow up strong, a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience suggests that these greens can significantly affect basic brain functions and intelligence later on.

Researchers at the University of Illinois have identified an important link between the consumption of lutein-rich foods and brain health in older adults. Lutein, a plant pigment prevalent in leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, accumulates in the brain over time, embedding in cell membranes and influencing certain neurological functions.

According to Marta Zamroziewicz, a University of Illinois graduate student who led the study, lutein plays “a neuroprotective role,” and can be “linked to cognitive performance across the lifespan.” While previous research has shown that lutein gathers in the gray matter of the brain “known to underlie the preservation of cognitive function in healthy brain aging,” Zamroziewicz set out to determine the specific cognitive elements most affected by the plant pigment.

A test group of 122 healthy adults aged 65-75 were asked to solve problems and answer questions that reflected “crystallized intelligence,” or the ability to effectively use the knowledge and skills acquired over a lifetime. Researchers also collected blood from each participant to test for blood serum levels of lutein, and performed MRI imagery on each of the test subjects’ brains to measure for the volumes of various structures.

After evaluating each participant’s brain make-up and test results, the researchers determined that adults with higher blood serum levels of lutein performed better on the crystallized intelligence tests. Zamroziewicz noted that while serum levels primarily reflect recent dietary intake, they have also been associated with long-term dietary intake in older adults.

Those with higher lutein levels in their blood also tended to have a greater volume of gray matter in their parahippocampal cortex, a focal region imperative for healthy aging. According to Aron Barbey, Illinois psychology professor and co-lead of the study, the “gray-matter volume of the parahippocampal cortex on the right side of the brain accounts for the relationship between lutein and crystallized intelligence.” This new-found data offers “the first clue as to which brain regions specifically play a role in the preservation of crystallized intelligence, and how factors such as diet may contribute to that relationship.”

Though Zamroziewicz notes that further testing will be needed to further determine how lutein in the diet specifically affects long-term brain structure, it’s clear that an extra helping of kale salad at dinner could pay off big time down the line.

Pregnancy may spur changes in a Woman’s brain?

Imaging shows adaptations in gray matter, but no sign that memory is affected.

Image result for Pregnancy may spur changes in a Woman's brain?   Surface-based measures.

New mothers often remark that they’ve got “baby brain,” a new way of thinking that seems to accompany pregnancy and childbirth.

New research suggests they’re right.

Pregnancy causes long-term changes in a woman’s brain that probably evolved to improve her ability to protect and nurture her child, Spanish researchers report.

The investigators used MRI scans to compare the brain structures of 25 women before and after their first pregnancies.

After giving birth, the women had significant reductions of gray matter in areas of the brain associated with social interactions, the findings showed. Those brain regions overlapped with ones that activated when mothers watched images of their own babies.

The “changes concern brain areas associated with functions necessary to manage the challenges of motherhood,” study co-lead author Erika Barba said in a news release from the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Though some expectant moms complain of fuzzy thinking — the downside of “baby brain” — researchers reported the women had no changes in memory or other thinking functions during pregnancy. That means the loss of gray matter does not lead to problems in those areas.

The brain changes, which lasted for at least two years after the women gave birth, probably help them adapt to motherhood, the study authors suggested.

According to study co-director Oscar Vilarroya: “The findings point to an adaptive process related to the benefits of better detecting the needs of the child, such as identifying the newborn’s emotional state. Moreover, they provide primary clues regarding the neural basis of motherhood, perinatal mental health and brain plasticity in general.”

Study co-lead author Elseline Hoekzema said in the news release that the changes “may reflect, at least in part, a mechanism of synaptic pruning … where weak synapses are eliminated giving way to more efficient and specialized neural networks.”

The researchers also found that they were able to use these brain changes to predict a mother’s attachment to her baby, according to the study published Dec. 19 in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The changes were similar whether women got pregnant naturally or through fertility treatments.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 29th August 2016.

17% increase in claims involving uninsured drivers in Ireland

Warning of increased premiums as more claims recorded during first seven months

Image result for 17% increase in claims involving uninsured drivers in Ireland   Image result for 17% increase in claims involving uninsured drivers in Ireland

Overall, there were 688 claims recorded in Dublin, up 78 on the 610 claims seen during the first seven months of 2015

The number of motor insurance claims involving uninsured or untraced drivers jumped by 17% between January and July, according to new figures.

The data show there were 1,644 claims involving such drivers during the first seven months of 2016, up by 235 versus the 1,409 claims lodged during the same period a year earlier.

The Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) figures show 42% of such claims were made in Dublin with the capital also showing a big spike in general claims made compared to last year.

Overall, there were 688 claims recorded in Dublin, up 78 on the 610 claims seen during the first seven months of 2015. The next highest number of claims were in Cork (129) and Galway (92).

Between January and July, claims increased in 20 counties, with the largest percentage change being in Roscommon, which recorded an increase of 500% as the number of claims rose from 2 to 12.

A decline in four counties.

Four counties experienced a decline in the number of claims, the largest drop being in Limerick which had 80 claims, down from 95 in 2015.

The number of claims in Clare and Kildare were the same across both years.

MIBI, which was established by the Government and the insurance industry in the 1950s, pays out approximately €60 million a year on claims involving uninsured or untraced drivers. David Fitzgerald, the body’s chief executive, warned that the jump in claims involving such drivers would likely impact on premiums in the future.

“An increase of 17% represents a significant jump in the number of claims being lodged. It showcases the increased pipeline of payments facing the MIBI. While no sums are yet attached to these claims, unfortunately more claims generally means higher levels of payments coming from the MIBI and ultimately, that will impact on motor insurance premiums,” he said.

Hiqa reports critical of HSE disability services

Peer abuse, failure to investigate complaints and mismanagement among findings

Image result for Hiqa reports critical of HSE disability services   Image result for Hiqa reports critical of HSE disability services

Hiqa inspectors found that some staff felt they were being troublemakers if they raised concerns about the quality of disability services.

Major patient safety concerns have been raised in a series of critical reports into HSE-run disability services around the country.

Inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) noted incidents of peer-to-peer abuse, misadministration of medications and failures to adequately report complaints of alleged mistreatment following visits to a number of large disability centres in Cork, Kilkenny and Donegal.

During an unannounced visit to the St Raphael’s Campus in Youghal, Co Cork, it was found that a resident had not been given adequate food and nutrition for a period of more than 18 hours.

Those working at the centre said there were not enough members of staff on duty on that particular day to get the resident out of bed and feed them appropriately.

The Youghal campus, which had court-applied restrictive conditions placed on its registration last year due to previous negative findings by Hiqa, also came in for criticism for incorrect use of seizure and antimicrobial medicines which could have “potentially catastrophic” or even fatal impacts on patients.

The facility is currently in the middle of a winding-down process and is due to close next year, but inspectors recorded an ongoing “lack of clarity for staff around the reporting of allegations of abuse”.

One resident alone had made 15 complaints of physical abuse by one of his peers over the space of less than a month, but none of these incidents were properly investigated, inspectors said.

Serious failings in governance and management were identified at an unnamed disability service in Donegal during another unannounced inspection in March.

Despite initially being told by the person in charge that there had been no “incidents, suspicions, allegations or investigations of abuse” there since 2013, Hiqa officials later found that such allegations had indeed been made and investigations were instigated.

Inspectors said the person in charge subsequently handed over documents relating to the alleged incidents of abuse, and they concluded that “there was a significant risk to the safety of residents as a consequence of seriously inadequate safeguarding arrangements in the centre”.

Speaking to inspectors, some members of staff felt they were being seen as “troublemakers” if they highlighted problems with safeguarding measures or instances of possible mistreatment.

Elsewhere, Hiqa was not satisfied that the requisite improvements had been made to service provision at St Patrick’s Centre in Kilkenny which was taken over by the HSE in October 2015 following “significant failings” by the previous care provider.

Incidents of peer-to-peer aggression had continued since the handover, and there were still “significant concerns regarding the lack of suitable governance and management arrangements to oversee the quality and safety of care provided to residents” which had “direct negative outcomes for residents”.

A smaller community-based facility for six residents in Westmeath failed to demonstrate compliance for any of the nine standards tested during a visit in March, and the two-story house had no overall evacuation plan in the event of a fire.

It was also found to be deficient as regards safeguarding measures, as the member of staff designated to deal with complaints told inspectors they were “not aware that they had been assigned this responsibility” and said they did not have time to carry out managerial roles alongside their frontline duties.

The findings came in a raft of 11 inspection reports released by Hiqa on Monday. Other centres visited managed to demonstrate more consistent compliance with regulations, and there was evidence of a good quality of life for residents within these services.

The State’s health watchdog also provided an update on two autism care centres which are operated by Gheel Autism Services on behalf of the HSE after it took over control from the Irish Autism Society following negative inspection outcomes published in July.

Inspectors found that significant improvements had been made in safety and quality of life of residents at both premises.

Ireland’s retail sales up by 12.6% for July 2016

Big jump in car sales accounts for the overall boost?

Image result for Ireland's retail sales up by 12.6% for July 2016    Image result for Ireland's retail sales up by 12.6% for July 2016

The volume of retail sales increased by 12.6% in July when compared with June and there was an increase of 6.3% in the annual figure.

If car sales are excluded, there was a decrease of 0.5% in the volume of retail sales in July when compared with June and there was an increase of 2.7% in the annual figure.

The sectors with the largest month on month volume increases were motors which were up 12.5%, furniture and lighting, up 5.3%, and books, newspapers and stationery, up 2%.

The sectors with the largest monthly decreases were clothing, footwear and textiles which were down 2.5 per cent.

Other retail sales are down 2.4% and food, beverages and tobacco are down 0.9%.

There was an increase of 4.5% in the value of retail sales in July when compared with June and there was an annual increase of 3.9% when compared with July 2015.

The genetics of Type 2 Diabetes is in a mess

A recent study shows why genetic advances in medicine are so challenging.

Image result for The genetics of Type 2 Diabetes is in a mess Image result for The Human Genome Project was both a spectacular success Image result for The Human Genome Project was both a spectacular success

The Human Genome Project was both a spectacular success and a frustrating disappointment. It has revolutionized the science of biology and spawned a multi-billion dollar industry. It has alsofailed to deliver on the ambitious promise that genome science will, as President Bill Clinton stated 16 years ago, “revolutionize the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of most, if not all human diseases.”

But hype springs eternal. The human genome is now old news; today scientists study tens or even hundreds of thousands of human genomes. We now hear promises about the imminent benefits of personalized medicine, medicine that is tailored to an individual’s unique genetic make-up. President Barack Obama hopes that “10 years from now we can look back and say we have revolutionized medicine,” from cancer to Alzheimer’s. To achieve this, the White House has launched another large research effort: the Precision Medicine Initiative, which will devote hundreds of millions of dollars to advance the use of genomics and other cutting-edge science in medical practice.

It’s an admirably ambitious vision, but in 10 years we shouldn’t expect to look back and see a revolution. Scientifically, this is the right direction — over the long-term, genomic discoveries will certainly drive major medical advances. But it’s going to be a long slog. The major challenges that lie ahead are laid bare in a recent genetic study of Type 2 diabetes. This study, published inNature earlier this month, shows that the genetics of diabetes is a mess — and it illustrates why the big promises of genetic medicine won’t be realized any time soon.

Known mutations account for only 10 percent of the estimated genetic contribution to the disease. After more than a decade of large, high-tech studies, the genetic basis of diabetes remains, for the most part, unexplained.

Type 2 diabetes is one of the major diseases that biomedical scientists hope to conquer with genomics. It’s one of our most common diseases — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 10 percent of all Americans have it. Diabetes is also expensive: It accounts for an estimated $176 billion in medical costs each year. And while most of us have the impression that diabetes is something you prevent with a healthy diet and exercise, the disease also has a strong genetic component.

By understanding the genetics of diabetes, we hope to combat the disease in three big ways. First, we’ll be able to identify people with a high genetic risk, and make them the focus of prevention efforts. Second, we might recognize and specifically treat different molecular forms of the disease — different people likely have different underlying genetic mutations, which means that not all diabetics respond the same way to a one-size-fits-all therapy. And third, genetics will help us understand the disease’s molecular underpinnings, and guide us toward better treatments that directly target those molecules. If we achieved all three goals, we would indeed revolutionize the treatment of diabetes.

And so, for the past decade, researchers have conducted large genetic studies, involving at first thousands, and now tens of thousands of diabetics. The results have been somewhat disappointing: Though researchers have linked dozens of mutations with diabetes, we’re clearly still missing much of the picture. Known mutations account for only 10 percent of the estimated genetic contribution to the disease. After more than a decade of large, high-tech studies, the genetic basis of diabetes remains, for the most part, unexplained.

To find the missing mutations in diabetes, scientists of two large international research consortia performed a deeper DNA analysis of a large set of study subjects. Earlier studies used a lower-cost, coarse-grained scan of the subjects’ DNA. These scans only had the power to detect mutations that are relatively common in the population. In this most recent study, the researchers decided to survey the subjects’ genomes much more comprehensively.

The hypothesis behind this approach is that diabetes is a bit like Leo Tolstoy’sfamous claim about unhappy families: Each case of diabetes is affected by genetics in its own way. In other words, although diabetes is a common disease, its genetic component might not be caused by a set of relatively common mutations. Rather, each person’s genetic risk could be the result of distinctly different, and relatively rare, mutations.

If that were true, this new, more comprehensive study should have turned up many of these hypothetical rare mutations. But that’s not what the researchers found. After analyzing the DNA of over 100,000 diabetics and healthy volunteers, the researchers largely re-discovered the same set of common mutations that had been previously found. They discovered few rare mutations.

The hypothesis behind this approach is that diabetes is a bit like Tolstoy’s famous claim about unhappy families: Each case of diabetes is affected by genetics in its own way.

Why is this bad news? Because it means that finding the genetic risk factors for diabetes is going to be very hard. If rare mutations were important genetic drivers of diabetes, then the task of understanding diabetes genetics would likely be easier. Rare mutations are expected to have larger effects, and therefore a person’s individual genetic risk for the disease would come down to just one or a few mutations. If we knew what mutations to look for, we could easily test for them in a routine, clinical genetic test.

Mutations that are common in the population, on the other hand, tend to have smaller effects on disease. (Mutations with large effects tend not to become common, thanks to natural selection.) This latest study suggests that the genetic basis of diabetes involved the combined effects of many mutations, each one only making a small contribution. These small contributions are statistically challenging to detect in a scientific study, and much harder to evaluate in a clinical genetic test. This is why the study authors argue that “Genome sequencing in much larger numbers of individuals than included in the current study are needed.” As one scientist put it: “Once dubbed ‘a geneticist’s nightmare,’ diabetes seems to be living up to its reputation.”

Fortunately, with today’s technologies, very large genetic studies are becoming feasible. Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative proposes to put together a study cohort of one million Americans over the next several years. And given the hundreds of billions of dollars that diabetes costs America each year, such large studies, if successful, are clearly worth the expense.

The challenging genetics of diabetes and other common diseases, however, means that the benefits of such studies will mostly arrive in the long term. We are laying an important foundation for the medicine of the future — but people also need care today. Fortunately, even without the genetics, we understand a lot about how to prevent diabetes though lifestyle changes. Investing in large efforts to help people change their diet and exercise habits may not sound as exciting as high-tech genetic medicine. But, just as we shouldn’t overhype the near-term prospects of genetics, we shouldn’t undersell the value of the effective care we can provide today.

Putting lemon wedges in your drink is actually a bit gross

Bacteria is apparently rife there?

Image result for Putting lemon wedges in your drink is actually a bit gross  Image result for Bartender asks would you like a lemon slice with your cold drink  Image result for Putting lemon wedges in your drink is actually a bit gross

Bartender asks would you like a lemon slice with your cold alcoholic beverage? Your reply “That sounds bloody marvellous” – stick it right in. Thanks kind sir for supplying me with alcohol and a lovely bit of citrus fruit that perfectly compliments my beverage.

There’s nothing wrong with that Friday night (tad overly enthusiastic) exchange right? Wrong. According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health the lemons and limes given out at bars are actually rife with all kinds of bacteria. That’s just not what you want. Plus we just found out that water bottles can be pretty rank too. Can someone just cut us some slack.

The research team swabbed lemon slices that were on their drinks at 21 different restaurants, and they discovered that almost 70% of the samples had some sort of microbial growth, including 25 different microbial species. Ewwwww. But also I wonder if they got to expense all those drinks. Not a bad life despite the germs.

“The microbes found on the lemon samples in our investigation all have the potential to cause infectious diseases at various body sites, although the likelihood was not determined in this study. Restaurant patrons should be aware that lemon slices added to beverages may include potentially pathogenic microbes.”

Wow – way to ruin the humble lemon guys. Elle magazine spoke to Philip Tierno, PhD, a clinical professor of microbiology and pathology at New York University School of Medicine and author of The Secret Life of Germs who explained why they can be so gross.

“People are touching the lemon in your glass, handling it, cutting it, placing it in a container or a cup, or a glass; and then picking up those slices at a later point in time and dropping them into a drink and putting them on the rim of a glass. You can easily see how those lemon slices and lemon wedges can be contaminated.”

But here at Cosmopolitan we deal with solutions, not problems. What you’re gonna need to do is eyeball your bartender as he prepares your drink, and then send it back if you see the bartender put their fingers all over the rim of the glass or use a dirty rag to clean the glass. Thanks for the tips Tierno.

“Weather bomb” could shed new light on mysteries of the Earth’s interior

Image result for “Weather bomb” could shed new light on mysteries of the Earth’s interior Image result for “Weather bomb” could shed new light on mysteries of the Earth’s interior Image result for “Weather bomb” could shed light on mysteries of Earth’s interior

The rarely-detected S-waves from a “weather bomb” storm may help scientists uncover the Earth’s hidden structure

Researchers from the University of Tokyo have uncovered a rarely detected type of seismic wave deep inside of the Earth stemming from a “weather bomb,” an extratropical storm that is small, fast-developing and possesses central pressure that rapidly increases in intensity. The findings could help scientists map out the hidden, deeper structure of the Earth.

Despite their rapidly intensifying central pressure – typically more than one millibar per hour for the course of 24 hours – weather bombs are fairly small storms. However, their fast-moving nature creates steep pressure gradients, leading to the formation of strong winds.

In the current study, the weather bomb occurred between Greenland and Iceland in 2014, creating a pressure pulse that spread to the seafloor and transformed into microseismic waves – tremors deep inside of the Earth that stem from natural phenomena – that rippled through both the surface and interior of the Earth.

Microseismic waves are detectable as both surface and body waves. Although it is typically not possible for surface waves to be observed past the coast, body waves make their way deep into the Earth’s interior and can be detected by land-based seismic stations, making them ideal for deconstructing the internal structure of the Earth.

Body waves can be split into two categories: P-waves and S-waves. P-waves contain particles that move parallel to the direction of the waves’ motion, whereas the particles in S-waves move perpendicular to the direction of the waves’ motion. While seismologists frequently detect P-waves, the detection of S-waves by seismic stations is not a common occurrence.

Thanks to the Atlantic weather bomb, the current study is one of the first ever to detect S-waves, a feat that was accomplished through the use of 202 wave-detection stations. These stations were able to trace the movement and direction of the microseismic waves created by the weather bomb using “Hi-net arrays.”

Hi-net arrays work by taking the information gathered by seismometers that pick up the “noise” created by microseismic waves as they move through the various layers of the Earth and transforming it into electronic data that can be charted and analyzed in the lab.

The successful detection of rare S-waves provides seismologists with a novel method of uncovering the Earth’s deeper structure. S-waves are of particular use due to the fact that they are more sensitive to liquids than other waveforms, meaning scientists can use them to determine areas of the Earth’s interior where solids turn into liquids.

“This [study] demonstrates the connection of the solid Earth to the atmosphere and ocean climate system,” said Peter Bromirski, a geophysical oceanographer who co-authored a perspective on the current study. “New discoveries of any kind are always exciting, particularly when multiple fields of study are involved.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 28th August 2015

Suspicious package sent to Alan Kelly’s office declared a hoax


The package was sent to Alan Kelly’s constituency office in Nenagh, Co Tipperary

A package containing white powder which was sent to Environment Minister Alan Kelly’s constituency office has been declared a hoax.

The alarm was raised after a letter sent to the building on Summerhill in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, was opened by a member of staff.

The Defence Forces’ bomb squad was called in by gardai and declared the scene safe within an hour of arriving.

“The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team was called to deal with what is described as a letter containing suspicious material. The EOD team arrived on scene at 12.40 pm and following an examination declared the letter and material a hoax,” they said.

Mr Kelly was not in the office at the time and it was closed during the scare.

He has spoken openly about threats made against him personally since he took over the environment portfolio and pressed ahead with the roll-out of controversial water charges.

A bomb scare threat was phoned in to his constituency office last year and a death threat was also made against him, while the minister has said other threats have been made against his wife, family and staff.

Mr Kelly said sending the white powder was a deplorable act.

“It is not something any office of any occupation should have to deal with at any time,” he said.

“I will not be making any further comment other than to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the constituency office staff who regrettably have to encounter such instances. My primary concern is for their health and safety.”

The alarm was raised at 9.05am and the bomb squad declared it safe at 1.30pm after spending under an hour at the office.

Cars, bars and home decor drive Irish economy recovery in retail

Retail sales jump by a record 11.6% in July


Retail sales jumped 11.6% in July, the largest monthly rise in 10 years, as new car sales benefitted from the introduction of 152 number plates and consumers spent more in bars and on home decor.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) indicate retail sales have risen by 9.9% year-on-year.

When motor trades are excluded, the monthly rise was 0.6% and 6.6% on an annual basis.

The sector with the largest monthly increases was motor trades, which saw sales rise 22.9%. New car sales peak due to the dual registration system, which saw the 152 number plates from July 1st.

However, there were also increases in sales of furniture and lighting (+6.7%) and bars (+4.4%).

The sectors with the largest monthly decreases were hardware, paints and glass (-3.5 per cent), books, newspapers and stationery (-2.4%) and food, beverages and tobacco (-1.4%).

On an annual basis, sale in most of the 13 business sectors covered by the survey grew, with car sales (+18.9%), furniture and lighting (+13.8%), and electrical goods (+14.4%) leading the charge.

Only food and beverages recorded a year-on-year decline, falling by 2%.

“Following on from the positive employment and earnings trends, it is little surprise the Irish consumer spending recovery is continuing,” Goodbody economist Dermot O’Leary said.

Noting the jump in car sales, he said the growth in big ticket items was a confirmation of the improvement in consumer confidence and belief about the sustainability of the recovery in the labour market.

He also said the renewed buoyancy in bar sales was “a sign that discretionary spending is also on the up”.

Isme, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, acknowledged the figures reflected a broad-based recovery.

However, chief executive Mark Fielding said the continuing pressure on margins and the increase in business costs were crippling the sector.

“Irish consumers are holding back a certain amount of spend. However, they are willing to buy when they can see value. Unfortunately for our retailers, that means more sales at higher costs leading to lower profit margins”.

“The Budget could rectify this through a reduction in the tax burden for consumers and a reinstatement of the 4.25% employer’s PRSI”.

HSE investigates Lloyds pharmacy prescription payments

Lloyds denies fraud over boosting income by claiming multiple medical card prescription fees


Lawyers for Lloyds Pharmacy criticised the HSE for alleging fraud and breach of contract in a letter sent to managing director Goretti Brady (pictured) earlier this month.

The HSE is investigating the way Lloyds, the largest pharmacy chain in Ireland, has significantly boosted its dispensing fee income by claiming multiple payments from the State for single prescriptions presented by medical card holders.

Individual pharmacies in the LloydsPharmacyIreland chain could boost their fee income by 66 per cent by using a system developed within the company, branch managers were advised in an internal memo.

Lloyds has denied there was any fraud in its practice of claiming up to four fees in a month in respect of a single prescription dispensed in one visit and said its approach was no different to any other pharmacy.

Lawyers for the company criticised the HSE for alleging fraud and breach of contract in a letter sent to Lloyds managing director Goretti Brady earlier this month.

In its replying letter, Lloyds’ lawyers called on the HSE to withdraw the “entirely unfounded” allegation for which no substantiation had been offered.

LloydsPharmacyIreland operates a system known as MyMed, which, in the case of a four-week drug supply, involves putting a patient’s medication into four separate compartmentalised trays, one for each seven-day period. The drugs are all supplied to a patient in a single visit to the pharmacy.

Lloyds claims it is entitled in such a case to both the first dispensation fee of €5 and three additional phased dispensing fees of €3.27 each.

The HSE, however, contends that when all medication is dispensed to a patient on the same date, Lloyds is entitled only to the €5 dispensing fee per prescription item.

Concerns within the HSE were raised when it became aware of a notice from Lloyds head office to its pharmacies, entitled “MyMed Profitability”. The notice said: “Wondering why we’re obsessed with MyMedding?!” and included a graphic which it said “should show you why it’s so important to hit your target. And why it’s even better to hit your target early so you can make a real dent on your overall profitability for the year.”

The notice said the graphic illustrated “the difference in fees between a MyMed and normal dispensing”.

The graphic showed that for five items dispensed for the “regular fee” of €5 each, the total fees would be €25. On another line, the graphic showed that the regular fee of €5 for five items, plus 15 phased fees of €3.27, would result in total fees of €74.05. This would result in an additional €588.60 in dispensing fees for such a MyMed patient in a year, it stated.

Elsewhere, under the graphic, the notice stated: “MyMed increases our dispensing fees by 66%!”

When the HSE wrote to Lloyds about the issue, the pharmacist’s solicitors said they were instructed the MyMed system involved considerable resources and “dramatically increases the time it takes to prepare the prescribed medication for dispensing to patients”. They said Lloyds took the view the process “clearly involves the assembly of four separate weeks’ supply of medication, each of which require to be checked individually and amounts to the dispensing of medication on a phased basis, notwithstanding that all four trays may be supplied to the patient at the one time”.

They added: “It is on this basis that our client claims the additional phased dispensing fees.”

The HSE wrote to Lloyds earlier this month after receiving allegations from a whistleblower and after an inspection last July of certain pharmacies.

The HSE declined to comment on the matter as there was an investigation underway.

A spokeswoman said pharmacists were entitle to claim a fee for each tranche of medicines dispensed. They could claim an additional fee for phased dispensing “in certain narrow circumstances” relating to patient safety or the shelf-life of medicines.

25% of parents leave children alone in the car despite huge risk research reveals


Kids not able to share mp3 player

A shocking new study has revealed that a quarter of parents regularly leave their children in the car alone, sometimes for up to a half an hour.

More than 25% of parents admitted leaving children as young as four unattended in a parked vehicle for an average of 22 minutes despite the serious risks involved.

Younger couples were found to take this risk more than older parents as 42pc of parents between the age of 18 and 34 confessed to doing this at least once.

Choosing to leave children in a parked vehicle without supervision poses huge risk of endangerment particularly if they should they release the handbrake.

Mothers were found to be more conscious of the risks involved than dads, leaving children in the car for an average of 17 minutes compared to a dad’s 27 minute average.

The research, carried out by UK company Kwik Fit Insurance, found that parents often return to the car to find the interior has been damaged and alarms have been set off. Children are also found to be bickering upon their parents return.

Parenting expert Richard Curtis revealed that the study’s findings are hugely concerning.

“There are a number of hazards that could pose a risk to children left in an unattended car.

The World Is ‘Locked Into At Least 3 Feet of Sea Level Rise, And Probably More’


The world has seen three inches of sea level rise since the early 1990s and we should expect “at least three feet” more by roughly the end of the century, NASA scientists said in a press briefing Wednesday, as global warming accelerates the melting of the planet’s ice sheets and the slow but steady expansion of the oceans.

“Given what we know now about how the ocean expands as it warms and how ice sheets and glaciers are adding water to the seas, it’s pretty certain we are locked into at least three feet of sea level rise, and probably more,” said Dr. Steve Nerem, a professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder and the head of NASA’s Sea Level Change Team. “But we don’t know whether it will happen within a century or somewhat longer.”

NASA released a series of visualizations at Wednesday’s briefing that show just how much sea level rise has varied around the world over the past 23 years, based on satellite data.

While some parts of the world have actually seen sea levels drop thanks to long-term processes like the retreat of ancient glaciers, others (like some Southeast Asian nations) have seen sea levels rise by as much as 9 inches, thanks to periodic ocean cycles like the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

“Sea level along the west coast of the United States has actually fallen over the past 20 years because long-term natural cycles there are hiding the impact of global warming,” Josh Willis, an oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said in a press release.

“However, there are signs this pattern is changing,” he added. “We can expect accelerated rates of sea level rise along this coast over the next decade as the region recovers from its temporary sea level ‘deficit.'”

Global sea level has been measured accurately and continuously by satellites since 1993. (NASA/Steve Nerem, University of Colorado)

Scientists say the sea level rise we’re experiencing today is due to three culprits:

  • The expansion of the oceans as their water warms up. “We know this from basic physics,” NASA points out in this explainer. “When water heats up, it expands. So when the ocean warms, sea level rises.”
  • The loss of ice from the massive Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets
  • The melting of mountain glaciers around the world, such as in Central Asia

The melting of the Greenland ice sheet offers up one of the starkest scenarios of how far sea levels might rise in the future. Spanning some 660,000 square miles – nearly the size of Alaska – and with ice nearly two miles deep at its thickest point, the island’s ice holds the potential to raise global sea levels by about 20 feet.

Though it would take centuries for Greenland’s ice to melt away completely, its melting is accelerating thanks to its location in the Arctic, which is warming up at roughly twice the rate of the rest of the planet. The island’s pattern of losing ice in summer and gaining it back in winter “fell out of balance in the 1990s, and is now shedding more and more ice in the summer than it gains back in the winter,” NASA says.

What’s more, the rest of the world’s glaciers are melting faster than ever today too. Meanwhile, big changes are occurring also at the southern end of the world, where Antarctica’s two major regions have begun to experience big changes over the past decade.

The 2002 breakup of the Larsen B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula served as an omnious sign of things to come. Made up of some 1,250 square miles of floating ice just off the peninsula and stable for more than 10,000 years, the ice shelf broke up that year thanks to warming air and ocean temperatures, and is now gone forever.

That loss has been followed by the breakup of additional ice on the peninsula, which has in turn sped up the flow of glaciers into the ocean. And while the complete melting away of all of Antarctica’s ice would take thousands of years, the continent contains enough ice to raise the world’s oceans by 190 feet.

It’s enough to prompt scientists to ask what could happen in the meantime – especially for the world’s coastal cities –  in the meantime. “We’ve seen from the paleoclimate record that sea level rise of as much as 10 feet in a century or two is possible, if the ice sheets fall apart rapidly,” Tom Wagner, the cryosphere program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a press release.

“We’re seeing evidence that the ice sheets are waking up, but we need to understand them better before we can say we’re in a new era of rapid ice loss.”

While the prevailing view among scientists who specialize in this area has been that much of Antarctica remains stable, “we don’t really know,” said Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at University of California-Irvine.

“Some of the signs we see in the satellite data right now are red flags that these glaciers might not be as stable as we once thought,” Rignot added. “There’s always a lot of attention on the changes we see now, but as scientists our priority needs to be on what the changes could be tomorrow.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 29th April 2015

Troika to meet Irish officials for third post-bailout review of our economy


  1. State’s ‘unquestionable’ ability to repay loans is only assessment issue, say Irish officials

Under the terms of Ireland’s bailout, officials will undertake two post-programme surveillance missions each year until 75 per cent of Ireland’s bailout loans are repaid.

Troika officials are due to meet officials from theDepartment of Finance and the Central Bank over the coming days as part of the third post-bailout programme review of the Irish economy.

Representatives from Ireland’s three main lenders during its bailout – the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – arrived in Dublin on Monday as part of a week-long mission to assess Ireland’s adherence to its commitments under its bailout programme, which ended in December 2013.

Under the terms of Ireland’s bailout, officials will undertake two post-programme surveillance missions each year until 75 per cent of Ireland’s bailout loans are repaid.

Officials are expected to complete their mission by Thursday. As it stands, representatives of the troika are not scheduled to meet Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, although an informal meeting is possible.

Fiscal consolidation

“The mission will take stock of Ireland’s fiscal consolidation and financial repair, as sustained financing conditions are essential for the full recovery of the Irish economy,” a spokeswoman for the commission said today.

“To this end, programme partners’ staff are discussing with the Irish authorities the latest developments in the financial sector, the fiscal and macroeconomic outlook and progress on the structural reforms agreed under the programme.”

Government officials played down the significance of the timing of the visit on the week the government unveiled its inaugural spring economic statement. “The representatives of the troika are completing a post-programme surveillance visit which is part of the post-bailout process. In terms of assessment, the only issue is Ireland’s ability to repay its loans. This is unquestionable,” a Department of Finance spokesman said.

In addition to the three main lenders, a representative of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) is also participating in the mission. ESM director Klaus Reglinghas consistently argued that the ESM – which manages the euro area’s bailout fund – has an obligation to ensure its members are fully repaid.

The ESM manages the eurogroup’s loans that were offered to Ireland and other bailout countries during the financial crisis.

The Government successfully secured a commitment by the commission to reassess the formulae used to calculate Ireland’s growth projections, in advance of this week’s spring statement.

Mr Noonan raised the issue at a March 9th eurogroup meeting in Brussels at which ministers agreed to grant France, Italy and Belgium greater leeway on reaching budget targets.

Mr. Noonan is understood to have been supported in his call for flexibility for all member states by a number of smaller EU member states, including Portugal.

Heart disease is Ireland’s biggest killer with 27 dying every day,

  • new figures reveal


More people losing their lives to it than from cancer or alcohol-related illnesses.

Heart disease is Ireland’s biggest killer with 27 dying every day, new figures have revealed.

More people losing their lives to it than from cancer or alcohol-related illnesses.

The Irish Heart Foundation released a fact sheet about the dreaded disease yesterday (WED) ahead of their annual Happy Heart Appeal next week.

The IHF said many people don’t realise stroke and premature heart attacks are both cardiovascular diseases, which are caused by a build-up of fatty deposits in our arteries.

IHF Medical Director Caroline Cullen commented: “It is well known by medical professionals that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and disability in Ireland.

“Coronary disease can be treated more easily now than in the past with medication and stenting so fewer individuals require bypass grafting, there is a perception by the general public that it’s not so bad.

“But it’s important to remember that a stroke can have severe consequences leading to high levels of disability and a heart attack can lead to development of heart failure, a chronic condition which also has high levels of mortality and morbidity.”

Ms Cullen added: “Prevention is crucial and we strongly advocate healthier lifestyles and a less toxic environment.”

Cardiovascular disease begins at birth, when our body starts collecting these lumps. The effect they have on our arteries is influenced by factors such as genetics, age, gender and lifestyle.

The IHF warned that 20% of people will have a stroke.

They debunked the myth that stroke is an older person’s illness, saying it can strike at any age, with children as young as two being affected.

Women are also seven times more likely to die from heart disease and stroke than from breast cancer.

There is good news though, as the IHF said 80% of premature heart disease and stroke is preventable.

They are encouraging us to make lifestyle changes- such as eating healthily, not smoking, being active and keeping an eye on our cholesterol and blood pressure- to avoid getting these diseases young.

Furthermore, we should regularly monitor our blood pressure, as high levels can be deadly.

The top thing we can do to improve our heart health is to quit smoking.

It has been proven that a year after stubbing out, the risk of having a heart of stroke is slashed to half of that of a smoker.

When it comes to warning signs of a heart attack, chest pains are not the only one to look out for.

Men should be aware of indigestion, jaw or neck pain, while women may experience nausea, sweating and vomiting.

There are 90,000 people living with heart failure in Ireland right now and 50,000 who have been left with a disability after a stroke.

The IHF is urging the public to get behind their Happy Heart Appeal, which runs from May 7-9.

Pin badges will be available for E2 from street volunteers and Shaws and Supervalu branches.

All money raised will go towards helping fight heart disease and stroke, through care, prevention and research.

Having a challenging job could protect your brain in later life,

  • A study says


  • Jobs that require more speaking, and even arguing with colleagues are key
  • Can protect against memory and thinking decline in old age

Having a tough job could protect your brain in later life, researchers have found.

They say professionals whose jobs require more speaking, and even arguing with colleagues, could be better off.

Having managerial reponsibilities may even give you better protection against memory and thinking decline in old age than co-workers.

Professionals whose jobs require more speaking, and even arguing with colleagues, could be better off.


Examples of executive tasks are scheduling work and activities, developing strategies and resolving conflicts.

Examples of verbal tasks are evaluating and interpreting information and fluid tasks were considered to be those which included selective attention and analyzing data.

Memory and thinking abilities were also studied.

‘Our study is important because it suggests that the type of work you do throughout your career may have even more significance on your brain health than your education does,’ said study author Francisca S. Then, PhD, with the University of Leipzig in Germany.

The new study published in the April 29, 2015, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology

‘Education is a well-known factor that influences dementia risk.’

For the study, 1,054 people over the age of 75 were given tests that measured their memory and thinking abilities every one-and-a-half years for eight years.

The researchers also asked the participants about their work history and categorized the tasks they completed into three groups: executive, verbal and fluid.


Dublin Zoo announces birth of baby monkey


Dublin Zoo is delighted to announce the birth of a Goeldi’s monkey baby to the South American House, proudly sponsored by Kellogg’s Coco Pops.

The new arrival was born on the 3rd March and weighs approximately 30 grams.

The baby joins its parents and older sister, Yari, who is 10 months old.

Commenting on the new arrival zookeeper Susan O’Brien said, “We’re delighted with the new addition. Inca, the mother, arrived to Dublin Zoo in 2012 from Banham Zoo in the UK and is a fantastic mother.

She is keeping the newborn very close to her at the moment and swinging around the habitat with her new baby on her back.”

“The baby is feeding very well on a diet of crickets, mealworms and waxworms.

This may not sound so tasty to us humans, but the insects are fed a high-vitamin diet which in-turn gets passed onto the Goeldi – a perfect diet for a newborn.”

“In a couple of weeks we should be able to get close enough to determine the gender but for now we are happy for the family to bond and get to know each other.

Goeldi’s monkeys blend into the forest so well that they were only first described in 1904.

These dark-haired monkeys, from western regions of South America’s tropical rainforests, mainly feed on fruit, vegetables, insects and bird eggs.

Don’t miss this week’s episode of The Zoo, which will be aired at 7pm on Thursday April 30th on RTÉ One, where footage of the Goeldi’s monkey baby can be seen!

Tesco to play the green card as it seeks to win back its crown

  • Retailer named as biggest buyer of Irish food and drink as it launches Tastebud initiative


SuperValu, which recently deposed Tesco Ireland as the largest grocer in the State by market share, makes much in its marketing of its relationship with local food suppliers. It sounds as if Tesco is not yet prepared to cede this turf to its rival.

Tesco on Wednesday launched its annual Tastebud initiative in conjunction with Bord Bia. This is a mentoring programme with the ultimate aim of getting Irish suppliers listed with Tesco.

The supermarket giant also launched a detailed report by Indecon economic consultants on its contribution to the Irish food industry.

The Indecon report concludes that the wider Tesco group is the largest buyer of Irish food and drink in the world, with purchases of €1.57 billion. This puts it well ahead of other big buyers of Irish food products, such as McDonalds, which sources beef here.

Alan Gray of Indecon says that Tesco Ireland accounts for close to €600 million of the purchases. Referencing the remaining €980 million sold to Tesco stores abroad, Gray reckons Tesco accounts for more than 11 per cent of all Irish food and drink exports.

Tesco Ireland’s commercial director, John Paul O’Reilly, insisted that the local operation of the group acts as a promoter of Irish food and drink exports to its sister operations in other countries, predominantly the UK.

With the relative weakness of the euro against sterling, the attractiveness of Irish products to Tesco’s buyers in Britain is likely to increase for as long as the currency remains undervalued versus the pound.

It’s another opportunity for Ireland Food Corporation?

O’Reilly suggested that Tesco plans to make more noise about its contribution to the Irish food and drink industry.

“We’re going to talk to our customers more about this, and about the Indecon report,” he said.

Tesco, which is beginning to find its feet at a corporate level after an annus horribilis due to an accounting scandal and lost market share, was never likely to take its toppling by Super-Valu in Ireland lying down.

As one of the planks of its strategy, shouting that “we are the biggest buyer of Irish food and drink in the world” isn’t a bad option.

Progress M-27M Russian space cargo ship could crash to Earth


Russia’s Mission Control has failed to stabilise a cargo ship spinning out of control in orbit and it is plunging back to Earth.

However, Mission Control says it has not yet given up on saving the unmanned spacecraft. The Progress M-27M was launched on Tuesday and was scheduled to dock at the International Space Station six hours later to deliver 2.5 tons of supplies, including food and fuel.

However, flight controllers were unable to receive data from the spacecraft, which had entered the wrong orbit. Mission Control spokesman Sergei Talalasov told the Interfax news agency that flight controllers were still trying to restore communication with the Progress.

However, an official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the AFP news agency that the cargo ship will plunge back to earth. “It has started descending. It has nowhere else to go,” the official said. “It is clear that absolutely uncontrollable reactions have begun.”

“We have scheduled two more communication sessions to soothe our conscience,” said the official. The vessel would fall back to Earth anytime over the next week. Mark Matney, a scientist in the Orbital Debris Program Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, said the odds that any of the 7 billion people on Earth will be struck by a piece that makes it back through the atmosphere is 1 in 3,200.

“The odds you will be hit are 1 in several trillion,” Matney said. TASS news agency quoted an unnamed space official as saying the Progress, carrying supplies such as food and fuel, had missed its intended orbit and could be lost if it is not corrected.

Other officials told Russian news agencies there had been a problem opening two antennae on the craft.

Space exploration is a subject of national pride in Russia, rooted in the Cold War space race with the US, but the collapse of the Soviet Union starved the space programme of funds and it has been beset by problems in recent years.

The current crew on the International Space Station is made up of Americans Terry Virts and Scott Kelly, Russians Anton Shkaplerov, Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Korniyenko and Italian Samantha Cristoforetti.

NASA said none of the equipment on board was critical for the US section of the ISS, and that the astronauts have enough provisions for months.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 29th October 2014

Irish retail sales this September 5.9% higher year-on-year


Excluding the sale of motors, there was a 3.1% increase in the annual figure

The volume of retail sales rose by 5.9% in September, when compared to the same month last year, according to the CSO.

The volume of retail sales rose by 5.9% in September, when compared to the same month last year, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office(CSO).

However, on a monthly basis, the volume of retail sales increased just 0.1% between August and September of this year.

If motor trades are excluded, there was a decrease of 0.6% in the volume of retail sales in September 2014 when compared with August 2014 and there was an increase of 3.1% in the annual figure.

Goodbody Stockbrokers said retail spending failed to benefit from renewed optimism in September, a month when consumer confidence hit an almost eight year high.

“Given the improvement in sentiment, the muted nature of sales in September is somewhat of a surprise. However, concerns about water charges or possible changes in the Budget may have played a role,” Goodbody chief economist Dermot O’Leary said.

The sectors with the largest month on month volume increases included hardware, paints and glass (+4.9%) and fuel (+3.3%).

The sectors with the largest monthly decreases were furniture & lighting (-3.7%), books, newspapers and stationery (-2.5%) and bars (-2.3%).

Ex-PD minister Liz O’Donnell to chair Road Safety Authority


Nomination comes as deaths on Ireland’s roads show increase

Liz O Donnell, former deputy leader of the Progressive Democrats, is to be nominated as chair of the Road Safety Authority, replacing Gay Byrne.

Former Progressive Democrat minister Liz O’Donnell has been nominated as the new head of the Road Safety Authority.

In a statement issued after a Cabinet meeting today, Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe he had appointed Ms O’Donnell as Chairperson Designate of the RSA for a period of five years.

M/s O’Donnell will become the chairman designate pending an appearance before the Oireachtas Committee in Transport to confirm the appointment.

She is filling the position relinquished by Gay Byrne, who stepped down at the beginning of September after eight years in the role.

Byrne completed one full five-year term as chairman and was asked to remain in his position by the then minister for transport, Leo Varadkar, and did so for three years until he reached his eightieth birthday.

He was asked to remain in the position for a further two years but declined.

Mr Donohoe said the appointment was being made “in advance of the introduction of new procedures for State Board appointments, in view of the urgent need to fill the vacant post which is crucial to our efforts to combat road deaths.”

Ms O’Donnell’s appointment comes as the number of children killed on Ireland’s roads more than doubled this year. Mr Donohoe recently said the surge was “incredibly worrying” after years of decreases in child road deaths.

She is seen as being a very strong media performer and also, crucially, has no links to either coalition party and therefore the appointment is unlikely to prompt allegations of cronyism.

During his tenure, Mr Byrne repeatedly criticised the impact of the reduction in Garda resources for the Traffic Corps.

Since the RSA was set up in 2006, road fatalities dropped from 368 to a record low of 162 in 2012. However, fatalities rose to 190 last year and are on course to increase again this year.

Ms O’Donnell provides consultancy, lecturing and advisory services for corporate, educational and various other organisations in the field of government relations and public affairs and is an opinion columnist in the Irish Independent newspaper.

She was born in Dublin, studied at Trinity College Law School, and after graduation embarked on a career as a lawyer. She was first elected to Dublin City Council in 1991 for the Rathmines Ward.

She had earlier been vice chair of the Women’s Political Association and worked on the presidential campaign of Mary Robinson.

She was first elected to the Dáil in 1992 and served as a Progressive Democrats TD for Dublin South from 1992 to 2007.

Her career in the Dáil began as PD spokeswoman on health and social welfare, from 1992-93.

Following the June 1997 general election, she was involved in negotiating the programme for the coalition government between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, along with her then party colleague, Robert Molloy.

In July 1997, she was appointed Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for Overseas Development Assistance and Human Rights.

In this capacity, she had a role in Anglo-Irish relations. She was a member of the government’s negotiating team in the multi-party talks at Stormont, which culminated in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

In 2007, she was promoted to Cabinet as Minister of State to the Government on the retirement of Robert Molloy.

She also served as chief whip and deputy leader of the PDs.

M/s O’Donnell retired from politics following the PD meltdown at the 2007 general election.

Vocal tones with deep voices ‘scare others more’


The vocal patterns of President Francois Hollande of France were among those studied by scientists

If you want to scare others into submission, speak with a deep, dynamic voice that varies widely in pitch.

On the other hand, vocal tones that are higher on average with a narrower pitch range are likely to mark you out as sincere and trustworthy.

While leaders throughout history have instinctively known how to manipulate people with their voices, scientists are now learning the secrets of the dark art.

A twist of fate allowed researchers to study the vocal keys to charisma in one man, the right wing Italian politician Umberto Bossi.

In 2004 Mr Bossi, former leader of the Northern League Party, suffered a severe stroke that permanently altered his speech.

Whereas before he had been perceived as dominant and authoritarian, suddenly the Italian firebrand came over as strangely benevolent.

The reason was that after the stroke his voice became “flat”, varying little in pitch.

Dr Rosario Signorello, from the University of California at Los Angeles, said: “I collected speeches of him before and after the stroke, and I discovered that before the accident, he was perceived as an authoritarian leader, because his voice was characterised by low average of fundamental frequency, normal modulation of the pitch contour, a wide pitch range, a lot of perturbation in voice and a lot of creakiness and harshness.

“The stroke caused him to have a very flat pitch contour, so even if he had the harshness, even if he had the creakiness, his pitch contour was very flat.

“I submitted his voice to the listeners and he was perceived as a benevolent and competent leader, which is very different from the authoritarian perception. In that case, the pitch contour played a very important role.”

Dr Signorello’s team conducted further research using a technique called “delexicalisation” which strips out words from a speech while retaining the speaker’s acoustic properties.

The scientists found that one of the most important charismatic influences was fundamental frequency, or “F0” – the lowest average rate of vocal cord vibration.

Another was the range of frequency variation in a voice.

Comparisons were made between the way the voices of Italian, French and Portuguese politicians – namely Luigi de Magaistris, Francois Hollande and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – were perceived by listeners.

Dr Signorello concluded that someone who speaks with a low average F0 and wide pitch range is seen as dominant and threatening. Conversely, a higher F0 and narrow pitch range conveys the idea of “sincere and reassuring” leadership.

However, the way different people responded to leaders’ voices was also affected by cultural factors.

“The Italians seem to need a low-pitched voice, and the French a high-pitched one, because of cultural reasons,” said Dr Signorello, who presented his findings at the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Indianapolis.

“The Italians seem to want a more dominant leader, and the French a more competent leader.”

He now plans to extend the research to monkeys and apes.

“What we want to do is understand how the use of the F0 helps the non-human primate individuals to emerge and be recognized by the group and understand how these individuals use their voice behaviour to create different patterns and convey leadership,” he said. ” The hypothesis is that the biological function of charismatic voice is also cross-species.”

Laura Whitmore wants her Sisters to Misstache for Movember


Television presenter Laura Whitmore launches Aussie’s Misstache for Movember, a campaign for women to support and raise awareness of the men’s health charity, in central London.

TV presenter Laura Whitmore is encouraging women around the country to “tache up” and join the Misstache Movement to support Movember.

Whitmore wants Irish ladies to pose for the cameras while sporting a makeshift moustache by wrapping a lock of hair under their nose.

Girls can join in with Movember too – Laura Whitmore shows off her ‘Misstache’:00 / 00:33

“Show your support by uploading your picture on social media using the hashtags #Misstache for #Movember,” she said.

“Together with the Mo Bros we can make Movember bigger than ever.”

The campaign is being run in conjunction with Aussie hair products.

Movember, which sees men grow a variety of moustaches over the course of 30 days, was first established in Australia in 2003 to promote men’s health.

Since then, more than four million Mo Bros and Mo Sistas have supported the annual campaign which has raised in excess of €409m since it was first established.

Whether it’s a handlebar, pencil or Fu Manchu, organisers are asking men to ditch the razor for Movember.

Baby birds struggle to survive with noise pollution


It turns out that nestlings, baby birds, could be suffering from noisy environments. Because nestlings depend on their parents for both food and protection, vocal communication is key-something that could be drowned out if the surroundings are too loud.

It turns out that nestlings, baby birds, could be suffering from noisy environments. Because nestlings depend on their parents for both food and protection, vocal communication is key-something that could be drowned out if the surroundings are too loud.

In order to see how ambient noise might impact nestlings and their survival, the researchers presented nestling tree swallows with audio recordings of a parent warning of a predator or announcing a food deliver. Then, the scientists compared the responses that the baby birds had to the sounds when played with recorded background noise or in a quiet environment.

Faced with competition from hungry siblings, nestlings instinctively react quickly to any sign that a parent might have food, vigorously begging to attract attention. Yet this same begging puts them at risk of misidentifying predators as parents.

In the end, the researchers found that the background noise reduced the nestlings’ responsiveness to both feeding calls and alarm calls. They often failed to beg after hearing a feeding call and also failed to fall silent when hearing a warning call. Not only that, but they received little assistance from parents, who did not appear to change their calls in noisier situations.

“This idea had been neglected, perhaps because parents and nestlings are so close to each other when they communicate that you think error wouldn’t be an issue,” said Andy Horn, one of the researchers, in a news release. “We usually associate declines in animal populations with our physical destruction of habitat, but the noise we make is another threat that we can’t ignore.”

The findings reveal the background noise could be impacting bird populations. This, in turn, highlights the need to reduce noise pollution in certain areas, especially when it comes to conservation efforts.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 28th December 2013

Retailers report bumper start to winter sales


New figures suggest opening day of the sales yesterday was the busiest in six years

Most retailers reported both footfall and spending increased by more than 20 per cent on last year.

Early indications have suggested that Irish shop owners are set to enjoy their best winter sales period since the economy imploded more than five years ago.Figures released today by Retail Excellence Ireland have confirmed that the opening day of the sales yesterday was the busiest in six years with most retailers reporting both footfall and spending increasing by more than 20 per cent on last year as tens of thousands of shoppers went in search of bargains in urban centres across the State.The chief executive of the retail umbrella group David Fitzsimons had been downbeat about retail sales figures just before Christmas but he said today that the start of the winter sales “could not have gone any better with both footfall and spending significantly up on last year”.

He said members of Retail Excellence Ireland had seen large numbers of shoppers out in force in the primary shopping centres and cities with most of those who opened yesterday reporting significant jumps in sales.

Mr Fitzsimons said he had spoken to one retailer who had done 50 per cent of last year’s St Stephens Day turnover in the first hour of trading yesterday.

“After a somewhat disappointing December for retail, many businesses were carrying significant amounts of stock into yesterdays sales equating to very deep discounts, which a significant cohort of consumers responded to,” Mr Fitzsimons said.

“We have noticed that savvy consumers are willing to postpone fashion, footwear, home and prestige and luxury brand spending into the sales period,” he continued and pointed out that today was an even more important day as it marked the first day that all retailers nationwide start their ales “and our local economies open back up for business”.

Mr Fitzsimons expressed the belief that the Government’s Home Renovation Incentive Scheme will act as a further stimulus to “big ticket” home spending in the coming days with consumers benefiting from a 13 per cent tax credit on home renovation costs.

Many of the largest retailers in the Republic who opened their doors yesterday were similarly upbeat with all reporting significant increases in both footfall and spending compared with last year.

Festive miracle for lonely OAP who advertised for company


James Gray receives post from well-wishers. Photo by Irish Post

THE lonely Irish pensioner who took out a newspaper advert looking for someone to spend Christmas Day with enjoyed the festive season in company for the first time in a decade.

James Gray (85), who paid for the ad in the ‘Irish Post’ in London, told how he had been on his own for the past 10 years.

But the Corkman’s wishes were answered by London-Irish couple Marian and John Cunningham, who volunteered to join him for Christmas dinner.

“This is like a miracle come true,” said James, a retired butler living in south London.

Marian, who is originally from Galway, said she was happy to spend Christmas Day with James because she thought it was brave of him to put up his hands and say that he was feeling lonely.


“It really pulled at my heart-strings when he said he thought he was the only person who was in this situation, because he really is not,” she said.

The pensioner had advertised in the hope of finding a Christmas companion, but he received only one reply. And his spirits were crushed when those plans fell through.

He then went public, saying that this time of year is hard if you are old and alone.

Since then, offers have flooded in from across Britain and as far away as the US and Chile, with more than 1,700 cards and gifts being sent to James.

Eating nuts during pregnancy could prevent allergies


The study utilized data from an ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II programme.

A new study suggests that eating nuts while pregnant may lower the risk of having a child with a nut allergy. The study authors think that pregnant women who consume nuts during pregnancy could have been helping their child build up an immunity to nut allergens. The study is the first to provide evidence that this is possible,

The study authors controlled for factors such as a family history of nut allergies, and found the strongest link between eating nuts and babies who were resistant to nut allergies in women who ate five or more servings of tree nuts or peanuts per week.

The study utilized data from an ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II. Participants were children whose mothers had previously reported on their eating habits during pregnancy, United Press International explains. Out of the 8,205 children included in the study the scientists found that just over 300 had developed a nut allergy. One-hundred and forty of those cases were tree nut or peanut allergies.

“Our study supports the hypothesis that early allergen exposure increases the likelihood of tolerance and thereby lowers the risk of childhood food allergy. Additional prospective studies are needed to replicate this finding,” said study author Lindsay Frazier in a statement obtained by UPI.

The study authors caution that they cannot prove a cause and effect relationship because there are so many factors that influence how children develop allergies and thus cannot issue an official recommendation to eat more nuts. However, as nuts can be part of a healthy diet, there is certainly nothing to lose in eating them in an attempt to contribute to the health of the future baby.

The study is significant because it contradicts prior studies which suggested that eating nuts during pregnancy either had no effect or could raise the risk of the child forming a nut allergy. The authors of the new study assert that the prior studies were based on less reliable data and raise the possibility that eating nuts is an excellent way to try to prevent allergies in children.

In 2008, the  American Academy of Pediatrics retracted advice that parents not feed young children nuts. Peanut allergies can range from minor irritations to life-threatening allergies and recent years have seen the rise of children who are even more sensitive to the nuts, including the smell. With more research on nut benefits on the way, pregnant women should seriously consider eating them in order to give their child a better chance of avoiding a lifelong allergy.

COPE Galway pays no top ups and issues a funding breakdown


The Charity for the Homeless COPE Galway provided over 15,000 bed nights to 356 people during 2013

The organisation has also issued a statement saying it doesn’t pay top ups and never has

In 2013 COPE Galway provided refuge to 88 women with 83 children who were fleeing from violence at home

A further 283 women and 253 children availed of the Support and Outreach service

Also in the course of the year COPE helped over 200 older people, some of whom feel isolated and alone, and provided over 45,000 meals.

The full and part time staff of 100 comprise social care professionals, childcare workers, community support workers, chefs, cleaners, drivers, fundraisers, and administrators. They are supported by over 150 volunteers

In a statement COPE says all salaries are on or below the levels of corresponding staff aligned to HSE pay scales and it does not nor never has paid top ups.

The CEO, Jacquie Horan, receives a salary of €53,251 for the part-time position, minimum 25 hours per week.

It receives 79% in funding from statutory bodies the HSE and the City Council, 5 % from grants and 8% from service charges

COPE concludes by saying it depends on the generosity of the public to raise the remaining 8% of the funds required

Fin whale carcass on Keel Beach draws locals to the Achill beach


Fin whales are the second largest species of whales, eclipsed in size only by the blue whale

The whale became stranded on Keel Beach on Christmas Eve but died a few hours later.

A 20-metre fin whale which became stranded on a beach in Achill Island has died.The whale became stranded on Keel Beach on Christmas Eve but died a few hours later, according to local RNLI officers.It is not yet clear what condition the mammal was in prior to getting stranded.Irish Whale and Dolphin Group chairman Willie Meuhlausen travelled to the beach yesterday to take samples including skin, blubber, muscle and baleen as well as photographs.

The group said a steady stream of people had been coming down to the beach to see the whale.

Fin whales are the second largest species of whales, eclipsed in size only by the blue whale.

New eruption may be brewing at El Hierro volcano in Canary Islands


A view of El Hierro island’s coast on Nov. 6, 2011, after an underwater volcano eruption, in the Canary Islands, southwestern Spain.

Two years after a new underwater volcano appeared offshore of El Hierro in the Canary Islands, earthquake swarms and a sudden change in height suggest a new eruption is brewing near the island’s villages, officials announced Friday (Dec. 27).

After the announcement, one of the largest temblors ever recorded at the volcanic island, a magnitude-5.1 earthquake, struck offshore of El Hierro at 12:46 p.m. ET (5:46 p.m. local time) Friday, the National Geographic Institute reported. Residents on the island reported strong shaking, and the quake was felt throughout the Canary Islands, according to news reports. The earthquake’s epicenter was 9 miles (15 kilometers) deep.

Before the earthquake struck early Friday afternoon, the island’s volcano monitoring agency, Pelvolca, had raised the volcanic eruption risk for El Hierro to “yellow.” This warning means that activity is increasing at the volcano, but no eruption is imminent. A similar burst of activity prompted a yellow warning in June 2012, but the volcano soon quieted down.

Parts of El Hierro have swelled nearly 3 inches (7 centimeters) in the past week, with the growth centered between El Pinar and La Restinga, according to Involcan, the Volcanological Institute of the Canaries.

More than 550 earthquakes rattled the island between Monday and Wednesday, also centered on La Restinga. About 30 of the earthquakes were greater than magnitude 3, Involcan said. The earthquakes are triggered by magma rising underground, fracturing rocks and swelling the surface as the hot rock reaches upward. “The earthquake swarm corresponds to a new magmatic intrusion,” Involcan said Friday morning in a statement.

Friday’s preliminary magnitude-5.1 earthquake was on the opposite side of the island from the ongoing swarm.

El Hierro was the site of a spectacular underwater volcanic eruption in 2011, which severely affected island fisheries and forced islanders to evacuate.