Tag Archives: Sea lions

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 9th June 2015

Irish Bank’s wants to take heat out of the housing market


Ireland needs to make renting much more attractive to tenants and landlords to take the heat out of the housing market and prevent the chances of another housing bubble, a deputy head at the Central Bank has said.

The call by deputy governor Stefan Gerlach will be seen as the Central Bank continuing to apply pressure on the Government to make renting as attractive an option as buying.

Despite pressures from across the political spectrum, the Central Bank, led by outgoing governor Patrick Honohan, this year stuck to its controversial plans to impose new restrictions on mortgage credit for first-time and second-time home buyers.

Politicians and industry figures continue to say that the controls that require first-time buyers to save large deposits to cover portions of the mortgage loan are too onerous because house price increases in some regions are making home purchases unaffordable for many prospective buyers.

However, Mr Gerlach, speaking at a conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia, said that the rental market could be the key to bringing stability to the housing market in countries such as Ireland and Croatia, which both saw huge collapses in the value of their property assets when their credit bubbles burst from 2008.

Citing research from Red C, he said that over a third of people renting out Irish homes are so-called accidental landlords, who were forced by economic necessity to rent rather than sell up when the financial crisis struck.

Moreover, a large majority in Ireland are unwilling tenants and would much prefer to own rather than rent, Mr Gerlach said.

Croatia, like Ireland, suffered from a property collapse. Some of the country’s large banks were, as was the case in Ireland, foreign-owned and required to be bailed out by their parents’ groups.

Encouraging renting will require policies aimed at tenants and landlords, Mr Gerlach said.

Strengthening security of tenure by offering long-term tenancy agreements may be a start, while landlords may require new incentives too.

Attracting institutional investors into the market who take a long-term view of tenancies such as real estate investment trusts may help the market provide more rental properties.

“The empirical evidence shows that the economies in which the rental market was relatively large and deep suffered less during the financial crisis. Deep rental markets appear to promote the resilience of the economy to adverse shocks and are therefore desirable from an economic stability perspective,” Mr Gerlach said.

“To promote their development, it is important that renting is an attractive long-term proposition for households and landlords alike.

“While many households may continue to buy rather than rent, we need to make sure that this choice reflects their preferences and does not merely reflect a poorly functioning rental market.”

Dunne’s Stores prices comparisons with Aldi are misleading a court finds

Court rules in favour of Aldi over pricing labels on sausages, yogurts, tomato ketchup


German discounter Aldi claimed that the on-shelf banners created the impression that Dunne’s Stores products generally, or its “Family Essentials” range, were cheaper than Aldi products when there was “no basis” for such a claim, Aldi claimed.

Dunnes Stores has been found guilty of engaging in misleading commercial practices when comparing the prices of some of its own-brand goods with Aldi products in a move which the High Court said was likely to deceive consumers.

Mr Justice Brian Cregan ruled in favour of Aldi over the pricing labels on Dunnes’ shelves in 14 out of 15 products before the court including sausages, turkey breast mince, yoghurts, tomato ketchup, tinned beef and chicken dogfoods and dry catfood.

In doing so Mr Justice Cregan said Dunnes Stores had infringed consumer protection law and EU regulations.

Aldi had alleged Dunnes on multiple occasions infringed Aldi trademarks by displaying banners in Dunnes’ supermarkets which contained the words “Lower Price Guarantee” and “Guaranteed Lower Prices on all your Family Essentials every week”.

Aldi took the action on the grounds that the banners failed to objectively compare one or more of the relevant and verifiable features of the Dunnes Stores products with those of Aldi and so did not comply with the Consumer Protection Act 2007 and the European Communities (Misleading and Comparative Advertising) Regulations 2007.

The German discounter also claimed that the on-shelf banners created the impression that Dunnes’ products generally, or its “Family Essentials” range, were cheaper than Aldi products when there was “no basis” for such a claim, Aldi claimed.

It accused Dunnes Stores of “comparing products which were not of the same quality and therefore giving an inaccurate comparison.”

It also said it had been “comparing products which were of different weights and therefore making inaccurate calculations which failed to show a proper comparison on a pro-rata basis for customers”. And thirdly the court was told that Dunnes had been “giving an inaccurate price of the plaintiff’s products at the time of the comparison”.

Dunnes denied the claims and told an earlier High Court hearing that comparing non – branded or own brand products “is always more difficult than comparing branded products.

This is because competitors’ own brand product ranges are rarely identical in terms of ingredients and specifications”.

It said that while some of the products “may not have identical ingredients and specifications it does not necessarily follow that the products are not comparable”.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Cregan found “shelf edge labels”, claiming Dunnes Stores prices for 14 of the 15 identified products were lower than Aldi prices had failed to objectively compare products which met the same needs or were intended for the same purpose.

He also said the advertisements included “the provision of false information” in relation to the 14 out of 15 comparative products, including information about the nature, composition, characteristics or ingredients of those products.

The information would be likely to cause an average consumer to make a transactional decision which that consumer would not otherwise make and this was contrary to the Consumer Protection Act, 2007.

The advertisements were misleading because they were likely to cause the average consumer to be deceived or misled in relation to those 14 products.

He also found Dunnes ommitted or concealed material information in relation to comparative advertisements that the average consumer would need to make an informed transactional decision.

The case was adjourned for two weeks to allow both sides consider the judgment before the court makes any orders. Dunnes will also consider whether to seek a stay on any order in the event of an appeal.

“The grocery retail market is highly competitive and in order to find the best value consumers must have confidence that the advertising information with which they are being presented is transparent, accurate and true,” said Aldi’s Group Buying Director, Finbar McCarthy after the ruling.

“Today’s ruling benefits consumers, clarifying their protection under the law.”

A second 100-year-old woman left on a hospital trolley for 25 hours


Rosanna O’Halloran, 102 year old lady from Castle Close in Clondalkin who spent 26 hours on a trolley in Tallaght Hospital

A second woman faced a 25-hour wait on a hospital trolley despite being over 100 years old – a situation which has been described as “inhumane”.

The 101-year-old woman’s granddaughter slammed the “wreck of a health system we have in Ireland”.

In a Facebook post highlighting the trolley situation in the A&E at University Hospital, Limerick, the woman said: “This is not a unique case.”

It is the second such reported incident to occur in the space of a week and follows a 26-hour wait on a trolley for 102-year-old Rose O’Halloran at the A&E in Tallaght.

Industrial Relations Officer with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation Mary Fogarty said: “What happened is inhumane and you wouldn’t see it in the third world.

“It is a catastrophic situation where the oldest person in the hospital is left to languish on a trolley for all of that time.”

A member of the HSE West forum, Independent Councillor Ann Norton, said the woman’s daughter compared the A&E in Limerick to “a war zone”.

The family has asked not to be named.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said: “The Emergency Department at University Hospital Limerick has seen an unexpected increase in patients presenting over the last week, which has resulted in high numbers of patients waiting on trolleys and long delays.”

She said she could not comment on a specific patient, but “UL Hospitals Group apologises that any patient has to wait to be admitted”.

She said “delivery of the best possible care for the patient is our priority”.

Chimps get drunk on palm wine


A juvenile chimpanzee uses a leaf sponge to drink palm wine in Guinea in West Africa.

Humans’ closest living relatives may have a drinking habit:

Scientists spied intoxicated wild chimps soaking up palm wine with leaves and squeezing it into their mouths.

Alcohol consumption is seen across nearly all modern human cultures that have access to fermentable materials. This prevalence led scientists to suggest what is known as the “Drunken Monkey Hypothesis” — that alcohol consumption might have provided a benefit of some kind to the ancestors of humanity, and perhaps also to the ancestors of chimpanzees, humanity’s closest living relatives.

Humans and apes share a genetic mutation that emerged about 10 million years ago that helps them break down alcohol and could have helped them eat overripe and fermenting fruit. According to the proponents of the Drunken Monkey Hypothesis, the benefits of such an expanded diet may have even led evolution to favor an attraction to alcohol.

There were a few anecdotes of primates other than humans partaking in alcohol — for instance, green monkeys introduced to the island of St. Kitts like drinking tourist cocktails. However, most of these anecdotes were unconfirmed.

Now, researchers say they have confirmed, for the first time, that wild apes habitually drink alcohol.

The scientists watched wild chimpanzees living near the village of Bossou in the West African country of Guinea from 1995 to 2012. Villagers in Bossou tap raffia palm trees for the sap, harvesting it with plastic containers placed near the crowns of the tall palms. Villagers leave the containers alone for most of the day, collecting the palm sap in the early morning and late afternoon.

The sweet palm sap ferments quickly into palm wine. Villagers knew chimps occasionally sampled this sap for themselves, the researchers said.

Chimps often fold or crumple leaves inside their mouths to produce a drinking tool. They dip these “leaf sponges” into their preferred drink, and then squeeze the leafy tools in their mouths.

The researchers saw 51 instances in which 13 chimps used leaf sponges to drink fermenting sap. “I was fascinated by this behavior,” study lead author Kimberley Hockings, a behavioral ecologist at Oxford Brookes University in England, told Live Science.”To harvest the palm wine, chimpanzees at Bossou use a leafy tool as a spongy drinking vessel.”

The sap averaged about 3.1 to 6.9 percent alcohol, or 6.2 to 13.8 proof. For comparison, beer averages between 3 and 6 percent alcohol, and wine can contain 7 to 14 percent alcohol, with dessert wine having nearly 19 percent alcohol content, according to the University of Notre Dame. The chimps often drank the booze in large quantities — about a liter (34 ounces, or about three average-size beers) of fermented sap on average. Males accounted for 34 of the 51 instances of drinking — one adult male in particular accounted for 14 of the 51 instances.

“Chimpanzees at Bossou have applied their knowledge of how to make and use leafy tools to exploit a new liquid resource — palm wine,” Hockings said. “This new use of elementary technology shows once again how clever and enterprising humankind’s nearest living relations are.”

A number of chimps appeared intoxicated. One time, Hockings noted the chimps rested immediately after drinking the palm wine; “on another occasion after drinking palm wine, one adult male chimpanzee seemed particularly restless and whilst other chimpanzees were making and settling into their night nests, he spent an additional hour moving from tree to tree in an agitated manner,” she said.

Hockings noted these findings do not confirm the Drunken Monkey Hypothesis, since they cannot say for sure whether the chimpanzees were attracted to the alcohol. “However, our data clearly show that alcohol is not an absolute deterrent to chimpanzee feeding in this community,” Hockings said.

Michael D Higgins opens sea lion cove in Dublin Zoo

President pays a visit to his neighbours to launch wildlife park’s new attraction


Dublin Zoo’s sea lions have moved into their new Cove habitat which features a deep saltwater pool and a viewing area to observe the colony of sea lions underwater through glass.

President Michael D Higgins’s neighbours are a noisy lot with their grunting, squawking and squealing. What else do you expect when you have Dublin Zoo in your back garden?

However, despite his close proximity to the zoo, Mr Higgins’s arrival to open the sea lion cove marked his first official visit to the wildlife park since he took office in 2011. The zoo was certainly on its best behaviour.

The flamingos were tickled pink with the attention, and even the monkeys looked pensive as Mr Higgins waxed lyrical about the zoo’s role in preserving the diversity of the earth’s species.

Mr Higgins proclaimed himself delighted with his visit. “I want to say what a wonderful day it is to be here to visit the neighbours.

“Without a doubt, a day trip to the zoo has been a special highlight for generations of Irish children and adults.”

Sea lion cove

The key attraction of the sea lion cove is a viewing area where visitors can watch the mammals swimming underwater. Mr Higgins and his wife Sabina peered through the glass at the sea lions as they swooped and dived in front of them.

Viewed from the other side of the cove, it looked like the presidential couple were so impressed with the facility that they had plunged underwater themselves.

“They really know how to strut their stuff,” Ms Higgins said, after the mammals caught a few fish and honked happily.

Sea lion team leader Eddie O’Brien said the new habitat was one of the best he’d seen anywhere. “This new pool was built in the lake of the zoo and it’s salt water, which is pretty amazing.”

As well as being its nearest neighbour, Mr Higgins also has a family connection with the attraction, as his son John produces RTÉ’s The Zoo.

“Everytime I’ve seen that programme I’ve been so struck by the importance of those who work in the zoo, the extraordinary care of putting the animals first,” Mr Higgins said.

Then, in the best tradition of neighbourliness, he was invited to have a cup of tea.

“Don’t leave it as long again,” Dublin Zoo director Leo Oosterweghel might have been tempted to say as he waved off the presidential couple.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 7th June 2015

Anti-water charge protests groups around country plan another national day

Image result for Anti-water charge protests groups around Ireland plan another national day  

Anti-water charges groups from around the country have announced plans for another national day of demonstration.

60 groups from across the country have decided to join forces, in order to bolster their opposition to the fees.

Up to 300 people attended a forum in Dublin earlier where plans for a large protest in Dublin this coming July were discussed.

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy has said that it is important that the campaign reaches every corner of the country.

“This is really a campaign to make sure that every part of the country has active local groups giving people the arguments why not to pay,” said Deputy Murphy.

“People need to see that in their local community there are other people like them who are not paying and that gives them confidence to stick together. So we had a series of workshops about how that can take place across the country. People can fundraise and organise street meetings, public meetings and protests.”

Over 500 migrants rescued by Irish Navy Vessel the LÉ Eithne this weekend


Over 500 migrants have been rescued in the Mediterranean by the Irish Navy Vessel the LÉ Eithne this weekend.

Efforts are continuing to save more people tonight as hundreds more flee war torn countries during a good spell of weather.

A British ship the HMS Bulwark has more than a thousand migrants on board this evening.

One of them, Abdul Karim Saleh says he left Sudan with a toothbrush, a passport photo of himself and a few hundred euro, leaving his family behind.

“My brothers and sisters are very young, I came to try to help them. We have no schools, we have no hospitals, so it is a difficult life,” said Mr Saleh.

Mayo investment of €180m. to create 130 jobs on new power generating station


The Taoiseach Enda Kenny has announced a new 42 megawatt biomass combined heat and power generating station is to be built in Mayo with the creation of 350 jobs over the next two years. 

The location of the project is the old Ashai site in Killala and will involve an investment of €180 million.

The company involved, Mayo Renewable Power, is backed by an American investment company based in New Jersey, Weichert Enterprise.

Stated Deputy Kenny: “I thank Gerald Crotty, the chairman of Mayo Renewable Power, for selecting Mayo as the location for the power station and for his determination in seeing this important project through.

“Building work will start on the site this month and will give employment of up to 350 people during the two-year construction phase.

“When in operation up to 30 people will be employed full-time at the plant and in excess of 100 will be employed indirectly in growing, harvesting, transport and other ancillary services associated with the plant.

“This investment is a vote of confidence in the Irish economy and is part of the recovery that is beginning to spread to every region of Ireland.
It will be the largest biomass power station to have been built in this country to date and will contribute to reducing our greenhouse emissions.

“The overarching objective of the Government’s energy policy is to ensure secure and sustainable supplies of competitively priced energy to all consumers. Bioenergy has a critical role to play in meeting our target to ensure 16% of our energy requirements come from renewable sources by 2020.

“In order to meet this target, Ireland is committed to meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of its heat, and 10% of its transport, from renewable sources. The new Mayo plant will help us meet our targets.

“The power station will burn biomass such as Willow, Spruce, Miscanthus and Mesquite, and the ‘waste heat’ from the station will be used in an adjoining fuel processing plant to refine the biomass for commercial use.

“This will offer a great opportunity to farmers in the region to grow biomass crops which require little maintenance and where they will have a ready market for sales.

“This investment is another positive announcement for Mayo and will, no doubt, assist in attracting further investment to the country.”

Why are signs up and down the UK losing their letters?


Have you noticed letters conspicuously missing from cinemas, street signs, and book shops around the country? Bu there’s a very important reason why it happens.

It’s National Blood Week starting from June 8 and NHS Blood and Transplant have launched the campaign, to highlight the need for more blood donors.

The letters A, O, and B have gone missing on signs for Odeon, Waterstones, and even Downing Street.

There are 40% fewer new blood donors now than there were 10 years ago and, if we want the nation’s blood stocks to remain at a safe level for the future, 204,000 new volunteers are needed to come forward this year.

A, O, and B are the letters which make up the blood types, and the campaign is hoping to show that unless more donations are made, types could go missing and there may not be enough available for patients when they need it.

Fake Orca whale capsizes in effort to scare off seal lions out of Oregon port


There’s some-fin fishy about that orca, isn’t there? Hang on, that’s not a real Orca at all!

Whale whale whale, what do we have here? Whale hello there.

In an effort to scare off sea lions from the docks of the Oregon coast docks, a fake, life-size orca with a human man sitting inside (no, we’re not making this up) was spotted bobbing about in the sea.

The 32ft killer whale replica made the usually boisterous sea lions silent with fear as he sailed into view on Thursday night. However, his intimidating presence didn’t last long as the orca-boat capsized and floated around belly-up for some time. Having a whale of a time (Joshua Bessex/AP) It all got a little bit over-whale-ming (Joshua Bessex/AP)

Still, Port of Astoria executive director Jim Knight says there’s “a chance” they’ll try the orca again today.

Earlier on Thursday, officials had to find a replacement motor for the 32-foot replica that belongs to a whale watching business. It was brought overland from Bellingham, Washington. John Wilfer, whale driver The Oregon sea lions think the ocra boat looks a  bit seal The presence of sea lions hanging out near Astoria put jobs as risks as they damage docks, prevent boaters from using the docks and eat lots of salmon.

Endangered ducklings take their first paddle at UK zoo


Two very rare, and very cute white-winged ducklings have been spotted paddling in their pond for the first time at Chester Zoo.

The pair who hatched out last month were caught on camera enjoying their first dip with their mum.

The species are listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

It’s thought there are as few as 250 white-winged ducks left in the wild.

They birds are normally found near swamps and woodlands but widespread destruction of forests and wetlands means they are under threat.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 19th May 2015

Mortgage lending soars as Ireland’s recovery goes from strength to strength


Recovery could hit a speed bump as figures don’t yet reflect Central Bank lending rules

First-time buyers continue to dominate the property market although latest figures show a slow return of property investors

Mortgage lending rose by 73% in the first quarter of 2015 to € 983m, as first-time buyers continued to dominate the market.

However, both the value and volume of mortgage lending was down on the last quarter of 2014, and the impact of tighter lending requirements from the Central Bank, which came into force on February 11th, has yet to be fully observed.

According to data published on Tuesday by the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland, some 5,618 new mortgages worth €983m were drawn-down in the first quarter, up by 64% on the same period in 2014, but down by 26% on Q4 2014, traditionally the strongest period for mortgage lending. This compares with Q1 2007 when 7,919 loans worth some €7.8bn were drawn-down.

First time buyers accounted for more than half (53.6%) of these loans, followed by those trading up (31.9%). Just 320 buy-to-let mortgages were drawn down during the period, accounting for 5.7% of the total. While down on Q4 (395), the figure is up 74% on Q1 2014, suggesting that investors are looking to take advantage of strong rental growth.

The average loan size rose to € 175,016 in Q1 2015, up 5.5% on Q1 2014.

Central Bank rules

Davy economist Conall MacCoille expects total new mortgage lending to reach €4.5bn in 2015, up from €3.7bn in 2014 and €2.4bn in 2013. However, growth rates have slowed, and Mr MacCoille said that the new lending rules from the Central Bank “will constrain credit availability as the year progresses”.

As of yet, the figures reveal little about the impact the new rules might have.

Juliet Tennent, economist with Goodbody Stockbrokers, says that while it is difficult to quantify the incidence of those who received mortgage approval under the “old” regime accelerating home purchase in the aforementioned figures, the Q1 numbers are encouraging as is the strong approvals figure for March, noting that the recovery has some “momentum”.

Ireland will struggle to meet its EU GHG emission reduction target


Figures released by the EPA on Monday show that significant effort will be needed for Ireland to meet its EU greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets

Figures released by the EPA on Monday show that significant effort will be needed for Ireland to meet its EU greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has predicted that Ireland will struggle to meet its EU greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reduction targets, which demand a 20% reduction by 2020 on 2005 levels.

The latest figures show that annual emissions from Ireland’s non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector, in which agriculture and transport dominate, are projected to be 9% to 14% below 2005 levels by 2020, which compares unfavourably to the 2020 target.

The EPA does add, however, that overachievement of annual limits in the period 2013-2017 under the best case scenario will allow Ireland to cumulatively meet its compliance obligations over the period 2013-2020.

This best case scenario assumes that ambitious policies and measures out to 2020 will be implemented in full, including reducing energy consumption in our homes and businesses and increasing renewable fuels in transport and heating.

Commenting on the latest figures, Laura Burke, EPA Director General said, “Our economy is now beginning to grow again and we must balance our focus on growth with a focus on becoming more sustainable and reducing emissions. Considerable effort will be needed between now and 2020 to implement key policies and measures in order to deliver projected emissions reductions. These include improvements in energy efficiency across the industry, commercial and residential sectors and reducing emissions from transport.”

Agriculture and transport dominate the non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector. Together they account for approximately 75% of Ireland’s non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector emissions in 2020, with agriculture at 46% and transport at 29%. For the period 2013-2020, agriculture emissions are projected to increase by 2%.

The EPA added that even if Ireland complies with its 2013-2020 obligations there will be as yet undefined new obligations for the years 2021-2030.

A starting point for post-2020 obligations in excess of the range of expected outcomes for 2020 (i.e., 9 – 14% below 2005 levels) will inevitably lead to severe compliance challenges early in the following decade and beyond.

Eircom needs more fibre to keep pace with new competition


What do Eircom’s results really tell us about its prospects in the near future? Has it turned itself around?

By the standards of recent years, the results are good.

Quarterly revenue growth, even taking into account seasonal factors, is a decent achievement.

If such growth continues, as executives are guiding, confidence will increase.

The company is a lot leaner than it was two or three years ago, too, and appears to have successfully changed its focus to high-speed broadband, an area it largely ignored until it almost collapsed two years ago.

But it still has some big decisions ahead. The biggest one is whether, and to what extent, it is prepared to walk the walk in terms of rolling out fibre broadband.

Directly piped to houses broadband?

That means proper fibre broadband that is piped directly into homes and businesses, not the type that only connects to old-fashioned copper phone lines from half a mile away. (Such ‘eFibre’ lines may be perfectly adequate for most of today’s uses, but are not long-term solutions.)

Eircom would undoubtedly prefer to ‘sweat’ its existing infrastructure – its copper landlines – for as long as it possibly can before having to invest several hundred millions more. That would mean relying on ‘eFibre’ DSL copper-hybrid infrastructure.

But rival entities such as the new ESB-Vodafone fibre broadband firm Siro are set to plough ahead with a €450m investment to connect 500,000 premises to direct fibre by 2018. And UPC, whose broadband speeds are over twice what Eircom can achieve with its current technology, has hoovered up a huge percentage of broadband subscriptions in urban areas. So if Eircom is to keep pace, it needs to invest hundreds of millions in new fibre infrastructure, even if it forestalls a return on investment for shareholders.

Is it prepared to do this? So far, it has indicated that it will match fibre roll-out plans in 50 towns by the ESB-Vodafone’s Siro company. And it could get a big boost if it wins the Government’s upcoming National Broadband Plan tender, which is likely to prioritise fibre to 700,000 rural premises. But it needs to keep investing to keep its momentum going.

New study on brain exercises for healthy ageing in people with Down syndrome


Researchers specialising in ageing in persons with an intellectual disability at Trinity College Dublin have just begun a new study to examine if cognitive training for adults with Down syndrome can have a protective effect for healthy ageing. The study is being conducted in the context of a growing concern by the researchers involved regarding levels of dementia in an ageing Down syndrome population in Ireland and varying standards of care, support and diagnostic pathways around the country.

The BEADS study (Brain Exercises for Adults with Down syndrome) will investigate the feasibility of using existing brain training games with a cohort of older adults with Down syndrome without dementia, and measure the effectiveness of the training in positively influencing levels of executive functioning such as planning, attention and memory.

Dementia is a critical issue for adults with Down syndrome, both in terms of rates of occurrence and the early age of onset in this particular group pf people. In a recent report by IDS-TILDA, the Intellectual Disability Supplement to The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, the researchers found that in the three year period since the first wave of data collection was conducted in 2010, the prevalence of dementia among people with Down syndrome had almost doubled from 15.8% to 29.9%. These are much higher levels than the 1.5% seen in the general population. Other Trinity studies have found that the average age of onset of dementia for people with Down syndrome was 55 years of age with some cases presenting in their early 40’s. By comparison, onset for the majority of people with dementia in the general population was at over 65 years of age.

In the general population there has been a lot of research conducted on the protective value of cognitive stimulation, or brain training, and its importance in healthy ageing. This is even more vital in a population of adults with Down syndrome as typically fewer opportunities for cognitive training and development were presented throughout their lives. As of yet, there has been little work in Ireland or indeed internationally on cognitive training and its influence on executive functioning for older adults with intellectual disabilities.

Speaking about the importance of conducting new research which will address the challenges with increasing levels of dementia in people with Down syndrome in Ireland, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences in Trinity and Principal Investigator of IDS-TILDA, Professor Mary McCarron said: “Dementia has become such a significant challenge to the successful ageing of people with Down syndrome and we must do more than simply provide care. Other successes in the lives of people with Down syndrome occurred because we found new ways to increase opportunities; we can do no less as we confront the challenge of dementia.”

“In tandem with new studies such as BEADS which hope to help with improved levels of healthy ageing for people with Down syndrome, the Irish healthcare system must also urgently address the specific diagnostic and care needs of this group of people in a comprehensive, systematic and consistent way,” Professor McCarron concluded.

Sea lions get their teeth brushed at Scottish safari park

  • Part of an oral national health campaign


Poppy the sea lion gets a kiss from head sea lion keeper Frances Reid at Blair Drummond Safari Park near Stirling.

It is National Smile Month, so some of the sea lions at Blair Drummond have been having their pearly whites brushed. They’ve been trained to have it done from an early age.

Poppy the sea lion has her teeth cleaned by head sea lion keeper Frances Reid at Blair Drummond Safari Park near Stirling.

A group of sea lions at Blair Drummond Safari Park have been getting their teeth cleaned to help mark the start of a national oral health campaign.

The animals lined up to get their gnashers polished at the park near Stirling as National Smile Month got under way around the UK.

Poppy the sea lion has her teeth cleaned by head sea lion keeper Frances Reid at Blair Drummond Safari Park near Stirling.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of health issues and improve the oral health of millions of people throughout the country.

And while brushing a sea lion’s teeth might seem an odd thing to do, park bosses insist it is vital to their welfare.

Head keeper Frances Reid said: “Sea lions will live a lot longer in captivity then their wild counterparts, so their teeth need to last a lot longer.

“Just like our own teeth, we need to control the amount of plaque building up on them and reduce the amount of decay.

“Also if our sea lions get something stuck in their teeth, we can remove it easily without the need to put them under general anaesthetic and call the vet in.”

One of the sea lions, 10-year-old Poppy, was trained at an early age to get her teeth cleaned.

Trainer Sam Clark said: “We achieved it through positive reinforcement, so lots of encouragement and food rewards until she had complete trust in us and was confident to have her teeth brushed.

“A sea lion has 18 teeth on the bottom jaw and 18 on the top, and they only have one set of teeth in their lifetime, so we need to be able to inspect them daily.”

Planet Earth now has a flag for interplanetary relations


Let’s imagine for a moment that we’re on the cusp of the next great space race.

With private space enterprise a reality, the possibilities of incredible new spacedrive technologies, and a plan to colonise Mars in the next decade, it’s a wonderful time to be a space nerd.

But when humankind reaches Mars, what flag will we plant proudly in the surface?

There is actually an Outer Space Treaty (part of Space Law, which is also a thing) that bans countries from claiming celestial bodies as territory.

And so, a Swedish designer has taken it upon himself to create the International Flag of Planet Earth.

Designed by Oskar Pernefeldt as a graduation project at the Beckmans College of Design, it’s not yet an “official” flag for Earth – however that would be decided – but NASA is thanked on the contributors page for the project.

It’s not known how they were involved, though.

“Current expeditions in outer space use different national flags depending on which country is funding the voyage,” Pernefeldt wrote about the project.

“The space travelers, however, are more than just representatives of their own countries. They are representatives of planet Earth.”

As a design student, he set out to design something that not only reflect humanity’s existing flags – rectangular, wider than it is tall – but also has some meaning in the symbol.

Our little pale blue dot is unique in our survey of the known universe so far for its large quantities of liquid surface water – and so Pernefeldt chose a deep, rich blue as his primary colour – to offset a pure white flower.