Tag Archives: Sharks

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 16th May 2016

Irish Water says households are still liable for bills to end of March

Utility states customers must pay outstanding balances despite suspension of charges


Householders are liable for water charges bills up to the end of March, Irish Water has said.

The statement follows inquiries by one customer who received a bill on May 10th.

Geraldine Hennessy said she was puzzled when she received a bill after the Government announced that water charges would be suspended for nine months.

When she rang up Irish Water to inquire as to whether or not she should pay her bill, she was told that they had received “no formal directive” from the Government on the subject.

Ms Hennessy, who lives in Donnybrook in Dublin, said she had paid all her water bills to date and was prepared to pay the latest one, which was €40 for the first quarter of 2016.

“I don’t have a problem paying for my water. It is an investment really to upgrade the system, but I don’t want to pay Irish Water €40 only to be told a week later that water rates are gone.

“I don’t see the logic of giving back money to people because, when they paid it, it was the law of the land.”

Suspension to end of March.

A spokeswoman for Irish Water said the Government announced the suspension of water charges with effect from the end of March 2016, but charges apply up to that time.

The spokeswoman said: “Irish Water is currently issuing bills to customers for services provided in January, February and March of this year. Billing will be completed in the first week in June.

“Irish Water customers remain liable for balances due on any bills issued for services provided up to the end of March 2016 and Irish Water continues to accept payment and to deal with any billing queries in relation to outstanding balances.”

Ireland’s cost of funding now less after Friday’s Moody’s upgrade

The yield on Ireland’s 10-year bonds dipped to below 0.8% following Moody’s upgrade of our sovereign


On Friday last, Moody’s upgraded Ireland back to an “A” grade, moving the sovereign by one notch to A3 from Baa1.

As a result Ireland’s cost of borrowing fell to its lowest level in over a month on Monday after the ratings upgrade from Moody’s at the end of last week.

Ireland’s 10-year yields fell below 0.77% for the first time since April 11th, down more than 3 basis points on the day.

On Friday, Moody’s upgraded Ireland back to an “A” grade, moving the sovereign by one notch to A3 from Baa1. However, rating agencies S&P and Fitch continue to rate Ireland higher, with S&P’s A+ and Fitch’s A rating two notches and one notch respectively above their Moody’s equivalent following the upgrade.

Philip O’Sullivan, an economist with Investec in Dublin, said on Monday that the move “bolsters the already positive case for Irish sovereign yields”.

“We expect to see Irish yields move further towards core Eurozone levels from here,” he said.

Cantor Fitzgerald’s head of fixed-income strategy in Ireland, Ryan McGrath, said he was “happy to have been proved wrong” with Moody’s surprise upgrade. He was among eight out of 11 economists and analysts polled by the Irish Times who predicted before the announcement on Friday that Moody’s would hold off upgrading Ireland amid concerns over the UK’s referendum next month over EU membership.

“The upgrade was long overdue, as it was almost two years since Moody’s last Irish sovereign upgrade,” said Mr Ryan, nothing that while the ratings firm has narrowed the gap with rivals, it still lags Standard & Poor’s, which rates Ireland A+, and Fitch, which has an A stance on the country.

While German 10-year bond yields flirted once more with record lows of just 0.05%, on Monday they were yielding about 0.12% and French 10-year bonds are yielding about 0.47%. Yields on Spanish, Italian and Portuguese 10-year bonds remain above 1%.

Irish Naval ship LÉ Róisín rescues 125 migrants in the Mediterranean

Irish naval vessel joined search and rescue operations in the region earlier this month


The Irish naval vessel LÉ Róisín rescued 125 migrants in an operation in the Mediterranean on Monday.

The ship rescued the 107 men and 18 women from a rubber craft about 40 nautical miles northeast of Tripoli, Libya, following a request from the Italian Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre.

A Defence Forces statement said the operation began at 10.47am and finished at 2.45pm.

The rescued migrants are currently receiving food, water and medical treatment.

The LÉ Róisín departed Haulbowline, Co Cork, on May 1st to join humanitarian search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean as part of a bilateral agreement with Italy.

The vessel is the fourth Naval Service patrol ship to engage in operations in the region since May of last year, following the LÉ Eithne, LÉ Niamh and LÉ Samuel Beckett.

It is one of three naval ships that will be sent this year on 12-week rotations.

Last year, some 8,592 migrants and refugees were rescued by Irish Naval Service vessels.

Many Mediterranean deaths?

More than 700 migrants and refugees have died already this year attempting to cross into Europe via the Mediterranean, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

This is a 50% increase on the same period last year.

New Government strategy aims to tackle Irish obesity levels

Irish Government wants to ensure its citizens does not become the fattest country in Europe


The Irish Government plans to target a 5% reduction in the average weight of Irish people over the next 10 years.

Irish people face a new round of belt-tightening with Government plans to target a 5% reduction in our average weight over the next decade.

Disadvantaged areas will be encouraged to shed the most as the plan aims to reduce the gap in obesity levels between the richest and poorest sections of society by 10%.

The national obesity strategy, expected before Cabinet soon, aims to ensure Ireland does not become the fattest country in Europe, as predicted in international studies.

Implementation of the “A Healthy Weight for Ireland” strategy was identified as a health priority in the programme for government.

A sustained loss of 0.5% a year in excess weight (averaged across all adults) is targeted in the first five years of the plan,

A similar target has been set for reducing excess weight in children.

These overall targets will be reviewed every two years to take account of evidence on the likely impact of specific interventions to reduce obesity.

The way to achieve these objectives are set out as “Ten Steps Forward” in the plan.

These envisage a sugar levy this year as well as a “whole school” approach to health.

New calorie content Legislation.

Legislation requiring food establishments to post the calorie content of their meals is also planned for this year.

Other priorities include agreements with the food industry on reducing fat, sugar and salt in their products, and a code of practice for food and drink marketing.

Groups who need most support will be prioritised with an emphasis on families and children in the first 1,000 days of life.

One in four children, and six in 10 adults, are obese or overweight.

The real reason why you need to use your mobile phone ‘Flight Mode’ on airplanes?


Each time we take a flight and are asked to switch our phones to ‘Flight Mode,’ we assume it’s because leaving it on normal mode would cause the plane to break in half and plunge us to our watery death below.

Well, that’s not the case at all?

According to indy100, the reason it’s important to switch off your phone signal is a lot more banal than we thought.

It could cause the pilot to get a headache.

An anonymous pilot told the question and answer site Quora: ‘You may have heard that unpleasant noise from an audio system, that occasionally happens when a mobile phone is nearby.

‘I actually hear such noise on the radio while flying. It is not safety critical, but is annoying for sure.’

You probably know the sound he’s talking about – next time you’re beside a radio, put your phone next to it and get someone to call you. You’ll hear a buzzing noise that only goes away when the phone stops ringing.

Now, imagine that at 10,000 feet in your headphones while you’re trying to get clearance for landing.

The Sharks’ electricity sensing organs are even more powerful than scientists realised


A great white shark swims near Guadalupe Island off the coast of Mexico.

The most powerful proton conductor in the natural world is a weird, jelly-like substance that lives inside a shark’s head.

That’s according to a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances, which found that the material that makes up electricity-sensing shark organs called the ampullae of Lorenzini is almost as conductive as some of the most high-tech materials made by man.

Ampullae of Lorenzini were discovered in sharks more than 300 years ago — the sensory organs get their weird name from the 17th-century Italian doctor who first identified them — but scientists didn’t begin to understand what they were for until the past few decades.

Now, it’s clear that the dense networks of jelly-filled canals in the heads of sharks, rays and other cartilaginous fish end in highly sensitive electroreceptors, capable of sensing electric signals from miles away. With every twitch of muscle and flick of a fin, animals in the ocean — including humans — emit a faint electric field, and the ampullae help sharks detect that motion as they swim in search of food.

It’s a pretty neat trick, but scientists still aren’t sure how sharks do it. So they’ve been dissecting the ampullae of Lorenzini — AoL for short — to try to figure out what’s going on.

Researcher Marco Rolandi zeroed in on the jelly that fills the long tubes connecting sharks’ electro-sensitive cells to pores on their skin. He found that it is the best biological material yet for conducting positively charged hydrogen atoms, which scientists call protons. This conductivity allows the electric charge to flow easily from one end of the tube to the other. Other known natural proton conductors, like a protein found in squid skin and the pigment melanin in humans, are not nearly as strong.

The AoL jelly’s conductivity was not that much lower than that of Nafion, a state-of-the-art synthetic material used in things like batteries and fuel cells. Understanding how the jelly works could help researchers who are trying to build better versions of those technologies.

“Given that Nafion is a very carefully prepared material that’s very precisely made, it was interesting to see the shark had replicated something very close to that material just by nature,” said co-author Erik Josberger, a PhD candidate in electrical engineering who worked in Rolandi’s lab at the University of Washington.

Rolandi, now an associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of California at Santa Cruz, said it’s not clear what role the AoL’s proton conductivity plays in sharks’ electric sensing. It’s possible that the conductivity somehow boosts or preserves electric signals, but it could also have evolved out of a fluke. Until scientists investigate it further, it’s impossible to know for sure.

“I always say, if you have all the answers, then we’re out of a job,” Rolandi said. “So it’s rather exciting that we’re creating new questions rather than all the answers.”


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 27th July 2013

Former Irish President Mary Robinson almost had a breakdown


Ex Irish President Mary Robinson quit her presidency three months before her end of term in 1997 to take up the job as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Former Irish president Mary Robinson has revealed she was on the verge of a breakdown when she took one of the top posts in the United Nations.

In a revealing and intimate interview on BBC Radio 4, she also confessed her problems with the Catholic Church over its authoritarian stance on family planning.

Ms Robinson, who quit her presidency three months before her end of term in 1997 to take up the job as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she struggled with stress.

“I decided to get up earlier in the morning, come in, work harder, work later,” she said. “I started taking sleeping pills and by the first Christmas in 1997 I was a wreck. I was exhausted.

“My eldest brother who was a doctor took a look at me and he told me, ‘Mary, you’ve got to watch it, you’re going into breakdown territory’.”

The 69-year-old said she ultimately decided to throw away her sleeping pills and take a break. “I took an extra week and spent a lot of time walking by the lake and pulled myself together,” she said. “I decided I’ve got to get on top of this. I’ve got to do this job.”

Ms Robinson became emotional during an airing of the famous Desert Island Discs. She broke into tears as she recalled a trip to Delhi, when a crowd of children gave a rousing performance of We Shall Overcome – a song she chose as one of her desert island discs.

Ms Robinson, who was Ireland’s first female president as well as the first to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace, also discussed her faith.

“I’m not somebody who goes to mass every Sunday because I feel I have to,” she said. “I’m deeply spiritual and I’m seeking to understand the way in which so much of the Catholic Church is so authoritarian not supporting family planning. So there’s a great deal that I’m very, very troubled by.”

She said she still believes in the “gospel of Jesus as being the highest standard that we can attain”.

Austerity is hurting too many Irish people says St Vincent de Paul


The Central Bank has urged the Government not to turn away from the path of austerity when formulating the upcoming October Budget.

The bank, in its quarterly bulletin, indicated its dismay that there was talk of pruning back “fiscal consolidation”.

And it emphasised that the Government must ensure that “this temptation must be resisted”.

The Central Bank was also less than optimistic about the future growth of the economy.

It significantly cut its forecast for economic growth, stating gross domestic product will be just 0.7pc this year, down from an earlier prediction of 1.2pc.

However, the Society of St Vincent de Paul has slammed the statement from the Central Bank which, it said, showed a “one-track-mind” with the financial community which will cause “even further hardship” to thousands of Irish people.

STRUGGLING: “The people we assist and those who are struggling throughout Ireland have suffered enough,” a spokesman for St Vincent de Paul said.

“All people in Ireland deserve a living income in and out of work but the level of austerity imposed over the last six budgets has made this aspiration impossible for thousands of individuals and families.

“We believe that Government can choose to close the gap between Ireland’s revenue and expenditure while protecting vulnerable people and the services they rely on,” they added.

The Central Bank outlined that weakness in the economy during the first three months of 2013 was across the board.

“Consumption, having recorded two consecutive quarters of growth during mid-2012, registered its largest quarterly contraction since 2009,” it said.

“Exports of goods and services, which had been the main driver of economic growth in recent years, also fell sharply,” it said in a statement.

“The latter reflects the challenging external environment faced by Irish exporters, as well as structural issues related to patent expiry in the pharmaceutical sector.”

VHI is seeking a longer-term partnership with Berkshire Hathaway


Reilly warns deal cannot be substitute for cost control at State-owned health insurer

The re-insurance conThe State-owned health insurance company VHI has said it is working on securing a longer-term partnership with Berkshire Hathaway, the company run by billionaire investor Warren Buffett (pictured right) .tract between VHI and Berkshire Hathaway, which was announced yesterday, will run for one year.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Health James Reilly has warned that the re-insurance deal could not be a substitute for cost control at the VHI.

Speaking yesterday he said he welcomed the new arrangement between VHI and Berkshire Hathaway.

However, he said the process to control costs would continue unabated and that costs in the private health insurance system were “far too high”.

The deal announced yesterday will see Berkshire Hathaway reinsure about €700 million of VHI’s claims – about 50 per cent of the total.

‘First investment’
In a statement VHI confirmed that it had entered into a reinsurance contract with Berkshire Hathaway, which it described as one of the largest reinsurers in the world.

“This is the first investment this company has made in the insurance market in Ireland and as such is a major vote of confidence in VHI Healthcare. It is a short-term deal; however, we are working on securing a longer-term partnership.”

VHI said the new initiative should reduce the capital requirements of the company to secure authorisation from the Central Bank. The authorisation process is due to be completed by the end of year.

The Government had previously been advised by the Department of health that it would potentially have to invest more than €200 million to bring the company’s reserves up to a level needed to facilitate the authorisation process.

The company said yesterday that the re-insurance deal with Berkshire Hathaway would minimise the amount of capital required from Government.

Blood pressure drugs give brain a boost, researchers find


Researchers say the brain improvements were small but over the years, the boost to cognitive functions could be immense

Researchers in Canada and Ireland have discovered that blood pressure drugs, known as ACE inhibitors, can improve brain function while slowing down the onset of dementia.

ACE inhibitors, known by names such as ramipril and perindopril, have been already been shown in previous studies to delay the onset of dementia. What the medical community didn’t know was that these drugs may also enhance cognitive function.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, concludes that the use of ACE inhibitors could become useful in the management of dementia.

The study examined 361 patients, all of whom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia (triggered by lack of blood supply to the brain) or a mix of the two.

Many Alzheimer’s patients suffer dementia, which can affect memory, thinking, reasoning, planning and the ability to speak.

Eighty-five of the patients were already taking the ACE inhibitors while the rest were not.

Researchers also separately tested 30 patients, put on the drugs for the first time, for changes in their brain function. The average age was 77 and participants were followed for one year.

In measuring cognitive function, scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., and University College Cork in Ireland, tested the participants six months apart.

The 30 people who had begun taking ACE inhibitors for the first time showed improvement over the six-month period, compared with those already taking them and those not taking them at all.

The study’s authors say it could be because those put on a new drug regimen tend to be more diligent about taking the pills versus those that have been on them for years or, it might be a product of improved blood flow to the brain.

“Although the differences were small and of uncertain clinical significance, if sustained over years, the compounding effects may well have significant clinical benefits,” concludes the study.

The authors do warn the ACE inhibitors can be harmful to some patients and suggest wider studies on the use of these drugs on people suffering from dementia.

New wet suit designed to protect from shark attacks


Scientists at the University of Western Australia and designers at Shark Attack Mitigation Systems created a new wet suit to protect against shark attacks.

The technology was created in response to the growing incidence of shark attacks on the coast of West Australia.

Researchers have created two main designs to keep sharks at bay.

One design makes swimmers almost invisible to the predators.

The designs are based on the science of visual cues for shark attacks.