Tag Archives: Sligo

News Ireland BLOG as told by Donie

Thursday 20th July 2017

Simon Coveney says he is happy at the direction of Brexit negotiations on Irish issues

Talks focused on avoiding a hard North-South border after Brexit

Image result for Simon Coveney says he is happy at the direction of Brexit negotiations on Irish issues  Image result for Simon Coveney happy at the direction of Brexit negotiations & Michel Barnier and his team

The British Irish Chamber of Commerce held its first meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney TD in London today.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has expressed satisfaction at the direction of negotiations between Britain and the European Union over Ireland’s specific issues. Speaking in London after meetings about Brexit with academics, diplomats and business representatives, Mr Coveney said more work was needed on some areas.

“In particular, more detailed work is needed on how best to protect North-South co-operation, an essential aspect of the Good Friday Agreement. It has facilitated some of the most tangible benefits from the peace process and contributed directly to the normalisation of daily life in the border region. On the Common Travel Area, I welcome that both sides agreed that it should be maintained. It will now be for the UK side to confirm how it will ensure this,” he said.

The discussions in Brussels did not focus on the future of the Border but Mr Coveney said that talks between the British and EU teams this week about protecting the gains of the peace process were directly related to avoiding a hard Border after Brexit.

“My officials and I will continue to work closely with Michel Barnier and his team to ensure that sufficient progress is made on the Irish specific issues in phase one of the negotiations. Progress on these, on citizens’ rights and the financial settlement would allow parallel discussions to begin this autumn on the EU’s future relationship with the EU,” he said.

“This will require constructive engagement on all issues and a strong political willingness to achieve the best possible withdrawal agreement. Contrary to what some may think, no agreement would be disastrous for everyone. We must continue to work for the closest possible future relationship between the EU and the UK, facilitated by effective transitional arrangements.”

Theresa May on Thursday sought to reassure British business that its concerns would be considered as Britain continues its negotiations with the EU. The prime minister hosted representatives of big companies and business organisations at Downing Street for the first meeting of a new “business council”.

“The prime minister emphasised her desire to listen to the views of business, to channel their experience and to share with them the government’s vision for a successful Brexit and a country in which growth and opportunity is shared by everyone across the whole of the UK,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.

“On Brexit, the prime minister reiterated that the government’s overarching goal is for a smooth, orderly exit culminating in a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU, with a period of implementation in order to avoid any cliff-edges.”

Brexit win for the West of Ireland as medical conference moves from London to Sligo

Firefly founder and medical director Martin McGeough and big-wave surfer Dr. Easkey Britton launch Firefly Summit 2017, which is moving from London to Sligo as a result of Brexit.

Image result for Brexit win for the West of Ireland as medical conference moves from London to Sligo   Image result for The Firefly Summit, a conference of 200 podiatrists,

The Firefly Summit, a conference of 200 podiatrists, mainly from London and the rest of the UK, will move to Sligo this year.

The summit will see 21 of the podiatry profession’s top minds deliver a series of quick-fire lectures, sharing their hands-on clinical practices.

Firefly, a custom-made orthoses company, made the decision to move the summit to Sligo as a result of the impact Brexit was having on its business.

“When sterling started devaluating on the back of the Brexit announcement, our margins were way down. We have managed to survive – but only just about. We had to decide how we were going to respond to it,” Martin McGeough, Firefly’s founder and medical director said.

While some companies are looking at how to reduce costs or increase prices, Firefly are looking at building relationships with customers who are podiatrists, and by moving the conference to Sligo the company hopes to cement existing relationships with customers and build more.

Firefly is also turning the concept of a medical conference on its head by taking speakers and delegates out of the lecture halls and into nature.

Surfing, hiking, stand up paddle boarding (SUP), golf and other activities are built into the programme of the Firefly Summit, which takes place from September 29-30.

This will allow attendees to connect with the UK and Ireland’s most renowned podiatric consultants and practitioners in a relaxed setting by removing the barriers of traditional conferences, Firefly said.

Podiatry or podiatric medicine is a branch of medicine devoted to the study, diagnosis and medical and surgical treatment of disorders of the foot and ankle.

It is expected that the conference will result in an economic boost of at least €320,000 to the local economy.

What makes a man’s best friend your dog ? It’s in their genes

Image result for What makes a man's best friend your dog ? It's in their genes   Image result for What makes a man's best friend your dog ? It's in their genes

Two Saint Bernard dogs rest on a meadow as they make their way to the Great Saint Bernard mountain pass, near Bourg-Saint-Pierre, between Switzerland and Italy, on July 

Dogs that are extra friendly share certain genetic similarities with people who are born with a developmental disorder sometimes called the “opposite of autism,” which makes them hyper social, researchers said Wednesday.

The report in the journal Science Advances pinpointed changes in two genes that are related to extreme social behavior in dogs, and also in people who are born with Williams-Beuren Syndrome.

People with this condition tend to be highly outgoing, gregarious, empathetic, interested in prolonged eye contact, prone to anxiety and may have mild to moderate learning disabilities and intellectual impairment.

The findings offer new insights into how dogs became domesticated and split paths from their wolf ancestors thousands of years ago.

“It was once thought that during domestication dogs had evolved an advanced form of social cognition that wolves lacked,” said co-author Monique Udell, an animal scientist at Oregon State University.

“This new evidence would suggest that dogs instead have a genetic condition that can lead to an exaggerated motivation to seek social contact compared to wolves.”

Survival of the friendliest

Researchers studied 18 domesticated dogs and 10 captive gray wolves to see how social they were toward people and how they performed on problem-solving tasks.

Given the task of lifting a puzzle box lid to get a sausage treat, the canines were rated on how much they turned to a human in the room for help.

The wolves were more likely to figure out how to get the treat than dogs. The dogs were more likely to stare longingly at the nearby people.

“Where the real difference seems to lie is the dog’s persistent gazing at people and a desire to seek prolonged proximity to people, past the point where you expect an adult animal to engage in this behavior,” said Udell.

Then, researchers took blood samples and to see how the wolves’ and dogs’ genetic traits lined up with their personalities.

They found variations in two genes — GTF2I and GTF2IRD1 — “appeared to be connected to dog hyper sociability, a core element of domestication that distinguishes them from wolves,” said the report.

These genes have previously implicated in the hyper social behaviors of humans with William-Beuren Syndrome.

The changes weren’t identical in humans and dogs. For instance, in dogs, unique genetic insertions called transposons in these genetic regions were linked to a strong tendency to seek out human contact.

Some of these transposons “were only found in domestic dogs, and not in wolves at all,” said the report.

In people, the deletion of genes from this region in the human genome is linked to Williams-Beuren syndrome.

“We haven’t found a ‘social gene,’ but rather an important [genetic] component that shapes animal personality and assisted the process of domesticating a wild wolf into a tame dog,” said a statement by co-author Bridgett vonHoldt, an assistant professor in ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University.

How wolves became dogs

Adam Boyko, an assistant professor at Cornell University and expert in dog genetics, called the study “truly interesting and important.”

“It may be one of the first studies to ever identify the specific genetic variants that were important for turning wolves into dogs,” he said in an email.

“That said, the overall sample size in the study is small, so validating the association of these variants in a much larger cohort of diverse dogs would be needed to prove that these are, in fact, the variants in the region driving both the association and the signature of positive selection.”

The topic of just when and how dogs become domesticated thousands of years ago is a subject of much debate in the scientific community.

A separate study out earlier this week in Nature Communications suggested dogs first split from wolves about 40,000 years ago.

It’s unlikely that humans sought out to tame wild wolves. Rather, the process would have started with the animals approaching hunter-gatherer camps in search of food, researchers said.

“Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this” and more likely to befriend humans, explained the report.

The research by Udell and vonHoldt lines up with this theory — that sociability, rather than smarts, drove dogs to become man’s best friend.

“If early humans came into contact with a wolf that had a personality of being interested in them, and only lived with and bred those ‘primitive dogs,’ they would have exaggerated the trait of being social,” vonHoldt said.

Minerals firm plans market listing to fund Sligo zinc drill

Erris Resources is plotting a flotation on London’s AIM market

‘Potential investors have been told that the company is looking to have its shares admitted to trading as early as August.

Image result for floating on the market listing to fund Sligo zinc drill   Image result for Zinc exploration Ireland

Minerals explorer Erris Resources is looking to float in order to raise funds for drilling a zinc prospect in Sligo.

The London-based company is plotting a potential listing on that city’s AIM market, raising as much as £5m (€5.7m).

Potential investors have been told that the company is looking to have its shares admitted to trading as early as August. Erris declined to comment.

The prospect is at Abbeytown in Co Sligo and was the site of a lead mine in the 1950s and 1960s.

Erris believes that zinc, lead, silver and copper are at the site, which it labels historically overlooked. Drilling work that the company has undertaken indicates that there is a potential new mineral zone at the site.

It has presented investors with two scenarios; one, in which it raises £3.5m, releasing just over £1.5m for work at Abbeytown, and another, where it raises £5m, with more than £2.8m for Abbeytown.

A £5m fundraise would give the company a market capitalisation of £9.7m on a fully diluted basis – meaning that share options are included in the calculation of the company’s value, as well as shares.

Meanwhile, another zinc explorer with interests in Ireland, Group Eleven Resources, has plans to float.

The company, which has been backed by former Davy corporate finance chief Hugh McCutcheon, is hoping to list in Canada in the autumn.

“The reason to go to Canada is that Vancouver is really the capital of the junior resource market in the world. But if it made sense for us, I’d love to be listed in Dublin at some stage in the not-too-distant future,” Group Eleven chief executive Bart Jaworski said.

Last week, the company announced a deal to buy 60pc of a prospect which covers areas of Co Longford and Co Westmeath.

It is buying the asset known as the Ballinalack prospect from the Canadian mining giant Teck. The other 40pc of the prospect is owned by a Chinese company. The asset is located 50km west of Europe’s largest zinc mine at Navan in Co Meath.

A big rise in the price of zinc has lifted activity in the Irish sector in recent months.

The island of Ireland is the biggest zinc producer in Europe.

Australian-listed Hannan Metals has been drilling at a prospect in Kilbricken in Co Clare and announced its estimates of the resource potential based on the results earlier this week.

Chief executive Michael Hudson said the result “ranks Kilbricken as one of the top 10 base-metal deposits discovered to date in Ireland. This is a significant initial achievement in a country that is ranked first in the world in terms of zinc discovered per square kilometre since the 1950s.”

He added: “While this resource is substantial, it is also lies open in all directions, with excellent potential for expansion.

“We currently have one drill rig operating a resource expansion programme and we will soon be mobilising additional drill rigs.”

Elsewhere, the mining giant Glencore has resumed drilling at its Pallas Green prospect in Limerick.

“The objective is to better understand certain aspects of the deposit,” a Glencore spokesman said, adding that any decision about building a fully fledged mine at the site was “a long way down the road”.

Potential treatment for Huntington’s disease discovered by NUIG researchers

Collaboration with University of Barcelona aims to find cure for ‘relentlessly fatal’ condition

Image result for Potential treatment for Huntington’s disease discovered by NUIG researchers   Image result for Potential treatment for Huntington’s disease discovered by NUIG researchers

Researchers at NUI Galway have discovered what they say are encouraging early signs for a potential treatment for Huntington’s disease.

Huntington’s is an inherited neurodegenerative disease that causes serious cognitive and movement defects.

Sometimes called Huntington’s chorea, it is “debilitating, untreatable and relentlessly fatal”, according to the researchers.

Prof Robert Lahue and his team at the Centre for Chromosome Biology and the Galway Neuroscience Centre at NUI Galway collaborated with scientists at the University of Barcelona.

They targeted an enzyme called histone deacetylase 3 (HDAC3), which is thought to alter important biochemical mechanisms in the brain of Huntington’s disease patients and thereby accelerate disease progression.

The study published on Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports shows that blocking HDAC3 with an experimental compound in a pre-clinical model of Huntington’s disease slows cognitive decline and delays the onset of molecular signs of neurodegeneration.

While these results are preliminary, the data shows that the onset of Huntington’s disease is delayed when HDAC3 is blocked in this pre-clinical setting. This is an encouraging first step because currently there are no effective treatments that target the root cause of the disease,” Prof Lahue said.

Prof Lahue noted the key role of the Spanish collaborators and co-authors, Dr Silvia Ginés and Nuria Suelves from the University of Barcelona.

Prof Lahue and Dr Ginés have applied for additional funding to develop the treatment further and to assess additional safety aspects.

Science Foundation Ireland and the European Huntington’s Disease Network supported the research in Ireland.

The Huntington’s Disease Association of Ireland estimates, based on research in Northern Ireland and a population of 4.67 million in 2011, that there are about 500 people here with the condition and a further 2,500 at risk.

While Huntington’s disease is relatively rare, over 9,000 family members in Ireland may require support and information, according to the organisation.

Huntington’s Disease is a genetic condition with each child of an affected parent having a 50 per cent likelihood of inheriting the gene.

Both men and women have equal chances of being affected and most people develop the symptoms between the ages of 30 and 50. About 5-10 per cent of people have onset of symptoms before the age of 20 and 10 per cent after the age of 60.

The average survival time after diagnosis is about 15-20 years, but some people have lived 30 or 40 years with the condition.

Artefact find suggests earlier arrival of humans in Australia

Image result for Artefact find suggests earlier arrival of humans in Australia  Image result for Artefact find suggests earlier arrival of humans in Australia

Digs at Madjedbebe have unearthed stone tools, ochres, plant remains and bones

Humans arrived in Australia 10,000 years earlier than was previously thought, casting doubt on the theory that they killed off the giant kangaroo and other unique animals, scientists believe.

New artefact evidence suggests that the continent was first occupied about 65,000 years ago, long after the ancient ancestors of modern humans emerged in Africa.

The discovery challenges the theory that people caused the extinction of Australian megafauna including giant kangaroos, wombats and tortoises which disappeared more than 45,000 years ago.

Lead scientist Dr Ben Marwick, from the University of Washington, US, said: “Previously it was thought that humans arrived and hunted them out or disturbed their habits, leading to extinction, but these dates confirm that people arrived so far before that they wouldn’t be the central cause of the death of megafauna.

“It shifts the idea of humans charging into the landscape and killing off the megafauna.

“It moves toward a vision of humans moving in and coexisting, which is quite a different view of human evolution.”

Since 1973, digs at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in Australia’s Northern Territory, have unearthed more than 10,000 stone tools, ochres, plant remains and bones.

A dating technique called optical stimulated luminescence (OSL) was used to determine the age of the oldest buried artefacts.

The process can show the last time a sand grain was exposed to sunlight up to 100,000 or more years ago.

This and other tests built up a picture of the environment and showed that when the first humans arrived, northern Australia was wetter and colder than it is today.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, support the theory that our species Homo sapiens evolved in Africa before dispersing to other continents, Dr Marwick said.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 15th January 2017

Irish mortgage rates still nearly double the euro area average?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xi Jinping Keynote address.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘He is doing well. The treatment is ongoing’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The BT Young Scientist exhibition category winners

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

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

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

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

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

Biological and Ecological Junior Group Caoimhe Lynch , Sylvie Plant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A huge glacier crack in the Antarctic ice shelf widens dramatically

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

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

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

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

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

What Could Happen After This Break?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Climate Change To Blame?

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

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

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

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

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 12th January 2017

Irish Water spends €25m a year on billing alone an Oireachtas committee hears

Image result for Irish Water spends €25m a year on billing alone an Oireachtas committee hears  Image result for Irish Water spends €25m a year on billing alone an Oireachtas committee hears

Ervia chief executive also defends amount the water utility spent on consultants and Irish Water would save €25m a year if it stopped billing customers, an Oireachtas committee has been told.

Irish Water would save €25 million a year if it stopped billing customers, an Oireachtas committee has been told.

The Oireachtas committee is examining the future of water charges.

It was established last year to consider a report on the charges by an expert commission.

The report proposed that water services be funded by general taxation, rather than by a separate charge, and each household be given an average water allowance, to be determined by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) – Ireland’s water regulator.

On Thursday, Irish Water told TDs and Senators on the committee that the annual cost of billing customers for water charges is €25 million, which includes €13 million for processing bills, €10 million for the contact centre and €2 million in staff costs.

Meanwhile, Michael McNicholas, the chief executive of Ervia, which runs Irish Water, defended the amount the utility spent on consultants, insisting the consultants were “international experts”.

Mr McNicholas said the €73 million spent on consultants was not wasted and was necessary to establish Irish Water.

He said the experts were tasked with building the software and computer systems needed to establish a national water services company.

He said the cost of hiring the experts was “really efficient”.

Water meters.

On Wednesday, the CER told the committee that Irish Water should stop installing water meters in existing homes.

It warned that the cost of completion would cripple efforts to improve water quality and supply.

In a submission to the committee, the CER said finishing the programme was not a priority.

“If a decision was taken to complete further metering, then either significant additional funding would have to be made available or a significant level of necessary capital expenditure would have to be deferred from other priorities for water investment for the time period 2017-2018,” the CER said.

The CER also proposed that householders be given the option of installing a meter. The meter would then entitle them to a tax rebate, if they used less water than average.

It also said grants should be given to people who invest in water-saving measures and that the installation of water meters in new houses and estates should be mandatory.

In a separate submission on Wednesday, Irish Water said €13 billion must be invested in Ireland’s water and waste-water services to ensure safe drinking water and proper sewage treatment.

It said it does not believe water services should be funded wholly or largely through the exchequer, since this would put investment in competition with public spending demands. It said guaranteed funding was needed.

It confirmed it would need €714 million in funding this year, to include the annual €475 million subvention plus €239 million in replacement revenue, in lieu of its previous income from domestic billing.

X-Man star James McAvoy says life has ‘changed massively’ since his divorce

Related image  Related image

James McAvoy has revealed that his life has “changed massively” following his split from wife Anne-Marie Duff.

The acting couple, who met on the set of the Channel 4 show Shameless in 2004, announced that they were parting ways after ten years of marriage last May. They broke the news in a statement and asked for privacy for their six-year-old son Brendan.

McAvoy has now commented on the changes in his life over the past 12 months, which include moving into his own place near the family home in north London.

“My life has changed massively”, he told Mr Porter magazine: “At the same time, so much has stayed the same.

“One of the things that’s stayed the same is that I still don’t talk about my personal life, really. Me and Anne-Marie, when we were together, it was our policy not to speak about each other in public. We rarely broke that and if we did, it was for tiny things – ‘Yes, we are cooking turkey for Christmas’ and that policy still stands.

“Even separated, we’re still respectful of each other and committed to doing that publicly and personally. But yeah, things are really good.”

“Which is a rubbish, pat answer”, he added jokingly.

The X-Men star, who plays Charles Xavier/Professor X in the superhero franchise, also said he gave up drinking whiskey because it made him aggressive.

“That used to be my drink – a peaty Talisker, or a Laphroaig,” he said. “But I find that I can’t drink too much whisky any more. More than one or two now and I get a bit leery, a wee bit fighty, a bit chippy, looking for an argument. And I didn’t like that. So I mostly stopped drinking it. My problem is, if I have it in the house, I’ll tan the lot.

“I’m a consumer. If it’s in front of me, I’ll f***ing do it. I’ll consume it. I’ll take it, whatever it is. I’ll have a go… And I don’t know what that is. I still drink, and sometimes have a lot of drink. But I just don’t want to have alcohol in the house any more.”

McAvoy can next be seen on the big screen in Split, Submergence and The Coldest City this year. The Scottish actor said he is unsure if he will appear in a new X-Men installment, as neither he nor his co-stars, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence, are contracted for a new film.

“They certainly haven’t asked me to do another yet,” he said. “I know they’re writing another [original] X-Men movie. Whether they’re gonna make it or not, I don’t know. And I know they’re looking at doing some spin-offs as well, that I may or may not be involved in.

“It’s all up in the air at the moment,” he added. “I may end up being in f***ing 20 X-Men movies in the next five years. And I may end up being in none.”

The actor’s new thriller, Split, directed by M. Night Shyamalan goes on release in Ireland next week.

BT Young Scientist students find Left-handed people are more ambidextrous, 

The study is one of dozens of class projects at this year’s RDS Primary Science Fair

Image result for BT Young Scientist students find Left-handed people are more ambidextrous  Image result for BT Young Scientist students find Left-handed people are more ambidextrous  Related image

Students at the 2017 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition seek to reduce waste, save energy, bring alternative energy sources to market and close the STEM gender gap.

Left-handed people have a chance to shine at the RDS Primary Science Fair, thanks to a research project on whether, with training, someone can become ambidextrous.

The project, from Ballapousta National School, Drogheda, Co Louth, was one of dozens of primary school entries to the fair, which opened on Thursday morning and will run until Saturday afternoon.

The fair is a non-competitive event that aims to promote science, technology, engineering and maths projects undertaken by primary school pupils.

On Thursday, Minister for Education Richard Bruton visited the fair, chatting with the excited fourth-, fifth- and sixth-class pupils as they described their discoveries.

The research projects covered a multitude of subjects, from finding what liquids make your hands go wrinkly to testing what kind of cup keeps a teacher’s coffee warm for the longest period.

Image result for Left-handed people are more ambidextrous  Ronan Tallon, a fifth-class pupil at Ballapousta National School, described what he and his class found with their project, “Ambidextrous! Can I train my other hand? That would be handy!”

“We wanted to find out if we could train our non-dominant hand to be as good as our dominant hand,” he explained, alongside his teacher, Louise McGivern.

The class worked on the project for two months and discovered a number of things, including that left-handed people could train their right hands more quickly than a right-hander could train their left hand.

Girls were also quicker than boys at picking up skills such as cutting with a scissors and catching a ball.

The class put their data into graphs for the fair. They are also offering visitors a chance to test their ambidextrousness.

Daniella Údra, a fifth-class student at Bunscoil Loreto, Gorey, Co Wexford, described what she and her classmates got up to with their project, “Which parachute can land an egg best?”

The project turned out badly for the eggs, but they were hard-boiled before being tossed off a staircase to test the parachutes so there was very little mess.

The group’s teacher is Claire Thompson.

“We used different kinds of parachutes,” Daniella explained.

The class tested square-, round- and octagon-shaped parachutes made of light-weight dishcloths, paper, felt and a plastic bag.

She said the class timed each test and assessed whether the egg passenger had survived the fall.

They found that the best results were with the dishcloth parachute, despite its tiny holes.

‘Human lie detector’

William Lin and Danny Howlin were two of the 37 sixth-class pupils from Kilrane National School, Co Wexford, who presented the project, “Can you become a human lie detector?”

Their teachers are Bobby Kenny and Emma Hore.

“We started with a game that we got from a book with five maths questions and five direction questions,” Danny explained.

The project then shifted towards trying to understand how the human brain worked and then by extension whether the class could use the brain to develop a lie detector that could catch a fib.

In the end, the class managed to produce a lie detector using a Hot Wires electronics kit.

Mr Bruton praised the hard work of the pupils, and said they were learning skills that would be important in their future, technological lives.

He noted the fair involved about 7,500 pupils overall and said that he would like to see that number growing every year.

The RDS has run the fair along side the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition for some years, but last year expanded its primary science programme to include a separate event in Limerick.

This year’s Limerick fair will take place next week.

On Thursday, it announced a third location for its primary science programme, in Belfast.

The first Belfast fair will take place this June, said Karen Sheeran, the science and technology programme manager for the RDS.

“There is a huge appetite for it and we are trying to increase access and capacity,” she said.

European Volunteering Capital Sligo for 2017 looking forward to the opportunity of a big year

Image result for European Volunteering Capital Sligo for 2017 looking forward to the opportunity of a big year  Image result for European Volunteering Capital Sligo for 2017 looking forward to the opportunity of a big year

Mayor of Sligo Municipal District, Cllr Marie Casserly pictured with Commissioner Draghi.

Mayor of Sligo Municipal District, Cllr Marie Casserly, says 2017 will be a significant one for Sligo, as it holds the title of European Volunteering Capital. In her New Year message, the Mayor said: “2017 will be a big year for Sligo as we continue to punch above our weight taking on the title as European Volunteering Capital.

Thank you to the army of different types of volunteers who care for our community and those that need their help. I have been astonished and delighted to see that there is a huge amount of good work taking place across County Sligo.” She said having this title is a major thing for Sligo.

“Sligo as European Volunteering Capital is a major opportunity for Sligo to project itself not only in Ireland but also in Europe and further afield as a holiday destination and as a quality of life region to live, work, study and invest in. Sligo in recent years as host to European Town of Sport, National Fleadh Cheoil, Yeats, Armada and 1916 Commemorations is now beyond doubt a major sporting, cultural, tourism and transport hub in Ireland. Many of these social and economic accolades are attributed to the work of our volunteers who work tirelessly in their local communities and via our Diaspora networks.”

The Mayor said it’s important Sligo embraces the year ahead.  “Sligo like many progressive regions is going to be affected by Brexit, no one knows yet what will a Hard or Soft Brexit mean.

“What is of direct concern to Sligo is to be aware now of the potential scale of difficulty and scale of opportunity that will affect our economy. We must in the meantime act on the basis of greatest difficulty and opportunity at our doorstep. We have an over dependence on markets in the UK and we must engage more with Europe and in it’s Internal Market of 500 million consumers.

All the benefits from UK relocating firms should not accrue to Dublin. Being European Capital of Volunteering is the rally call for our Sligo Volunteers and our Sligo Diaspora to reach out to investors and start -up companies in the UK to help us grow our creative commercial base, and to contribute to job creation and in turn strengthening purchasing power in our county. The events that I have attended and been involved with since becoming Mayor of Sligo have been varied and diverse but without exception, each one has involved people who want to improve the area they live in, either economically or socially.

“To all those who, in Sligo, through their business, their action or work, have developed projects which contribute to the economic and social life of our country, I hope that their efforts thrive in this achievement. Our county will be a place to be proud of which is more prosperous, vibrant, healthy, sustainable and where people enjoy a better quality of life. I look forward this year as we continue to make the region a better place to live, work, visit and invest. Together we can do it! Most importantly I would like to thank everyone for your continued support and for those who support the local economy through choosing local produce in the supermarkets, butchers, local shops and when eating out. Sligo is a great county. I invite you to join me in anticipating what we will accomplish together in the year to come.

Scientists use light to trigger the killer instinct in mice

Technique called optogenetics used to pinpoint and take control of brain circuits involved in predatory behaviour.

Image result for Scientists use light to trigger the killer instinct in mice  Image result for Scientists use light to trigger the killer instinct in mice  The researchers also observed increased anxiety,  repetitive behaviour and impaired ability to communicate with others in the mice and noted their symptoms are similar to those of autism in humans (illustrated)

A mouse demonstrating instinctual predatory behaviour with a cricket. The researchers also observed increased anxiety, repetitive behaviour and impaired ability to communicate with others in the mice and noted their symptoms are similar to those of autism in humans

It has all the trappings of a classic horror plot: a group of normally timid individuals are transformed by scientists into instinctive killers, programmed to pursue and sink their jaws into almost anything that crosses their path.

However, this hair-raising scenario was recently played out in a study of laboratory mice, designed to uncover the brain circuits behind the predatory instinct.

The research revealed that one set of neurons triggers the pursuit of prey, while another prompts the animal to clench its jaws and neck muscles to bite and kill. The study relied on the technique optogenetics, in which neurons can be artificially activated using light, effectively allowing scientists to switch the killer instinct on and off at will.

Light switches memories on and off

When the laser was off in the experiment, the animals behaved normally, but at the flick of a switch they assumed qualities of “walkers” from The Walking Dead.

Ivan de Araujo, a psychiatry researcher at the Yale University School of Medicine and lead author said: “We’d turn the laser on and they’d jump on an object, hold it with their paws and intensively bite it as if they were trying to capture and kill it.”

In the study, the mice were seen to pursue almost anything in their path, including insects, robot insects and even inanimate objects such as bottle caps and wooden sticks.

However, De Araujo said the mice stopped short of displaying aggression towards fellow mice or the researchers, and seemed only to target objects that were smaller than themselves. “It had to be something that could be grabbed and contained, something they want to capture and subdue” he said. “It’s not that they got out of control and tried to kill everything. It had to be something that looks like food to them.”

In the study, published in the journal Cell, the scientists used a technique called optogenetics to pinpoint and eventually take control of the neuronal circuits involved in predation. The mice were genetically engineered so that specific groups of neurons were light-sensitive, meaning that these could be switched on and off by shining a laser into the mouse brain.

The scientists identified two separate clusters of neurons in the central amygdala, a brain area normally linked to emotion and motivation. These were shown to be communicating with other neurons in two motor areas – in one case, a region linked to the ability to run and change speed and, in the other, a region known to control jaw and neck movements.

In real life sensory cues, such as a small animal scurrying across the predator’s field of view, would trigger activity in the amygdala setting off this “chase and kill” neuronal chain of command, the scientists said.

Rodent recall: false but happy memories implanted in sleeping mice.

In the experiment, they were able to bypass the usual sensory requirements and could trigger the predation circuits artificially using lasers.

They found that the two clusters operated independently: if they only activated the “hunting” neurons, the animals would chase the prey, but the biting force of the jaw was decreased by 50%. “They fail to deliver the killing bite,” said De Araujo.

When they only activated the “biting” neurons, mice in empty cages would display “fictive feeding” behaviours, raising their paws as though they were chomping on something.

Hunger had a powerful influence on predatory behaviour – hungry mice were much more aggressive in their pursuit. “The system is not just generalised aggression,” said De Araujo. “It seems to be related to the animal’s interest in obtaining food.”

The same circuits are thought to be closely conserved in the human brain, although De Araujo said that the circuitry is more likely to be associated with our drive to find food, rather than with anger or the instinct to attack.

“My take on this is that predatory behaviour is more related to food intake itself,” he said. “I would be a little hesitant to associate this with aggression.”

Professor Candy Rowe, a zoologist at the University of Newcastle, said that the research provided a valuable insight into predation, although said it was unsurprising that mice have effective predation circuitry in the brain. “Mice are often represented as prey – take Tom and Jerry as an example – but in fact they are predators themselves, particularly of invertebrates. At this time of year, that might include worms or hibernating butterflies,” she said.

Rowe added that in future, scientists hope to gain a better understanding of what sensory information triggers pursuit and capture behaviours, and how prey might evolve strategies to evade this.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 5th January 2017.

“The Government winter plan” as some extra 60 beds to open in attempt to tackle HSE trolley crisis

Staff needed to cover extra work, while some patients taken to private hospitals

Image result for The Government winter plan as some extra 60 beds to open in attempt to tackle HSE trolley crisis   Image result for The Government winter plan as some extra 60 beds to open in attempt to tackle HSE trolley crisis

The latest measures are an expansion of the previously announced €40 million “winter plan” but no extra funding has been allocated from the Government.

Any extra funding will have to be found from existing HSE resources.

Some extra beds are being opened immediately as Minister for Health Simon Harris and the Health Service Executive attempt to tackle the latest winter trolley crisis in hospital emergency departments.

An additional 60 beds are being made available immediately to 10 acute hospitals, with a further 63 coming onstream in the weeks ahead.

Other measures, such as a discharge lounge in Waterford Hospital, as well as identifying private hospitals that can take in public patients, such as in Kilkenny, Mullingar and Cork, were included in a list of measures from the HSE to tackle the crisis following a meeting with Mr Harris last night.

Some public patients have already been taken into private hospitals, with a number in private care in Cork last night.

Mr Harris and the HSE have been under pressure since the number of people on hospital trolleys peaked at a record 612 on Tuesday. The numbers on trolleys remained at 578 early yesterday, with the HSE saying a flu outbreak was partly to blame.

It is unclear if the latest announcement will have a significant effect on the hospital overcrowding crisis, as extra staff will also have to found to man whatever new beds come onstream.

The latest measures are an expansion of the previously announced €40 million “winter plan” but no extra funding has been allocated from the Government. Any extra funding will have to be found from existing HSE resources.

Step-down beds

The 60 “transitional care beds” or step-down beds that are to be made available immediately to hospitals in Galway, Clonmel, Wexford, Drogheda, as well as St Vincent’s, St James’s, Tallaght, the Mater, Connolly and Beaumont in Dublin are for those who would otherwise be in an acute bed while their nursing home applications are being finalised.

Another 63 acute beds will be available in the weeks ahead, with 28 in Galway University Hospital, 15 in the Mater, eight in Kilkenny and 12 in Tullamore. Hospital groups and community healthcare organisations will also work with nursing homes in their local areas to manage outbreaks of the flu.

Additional diagnostic services, such as ultrasound and X-ray, will be made immediately available to GPs in Wexford, Portlaoise, Waterford, Limerick and Letterkenny.

Mr Harris, who said yesterday he was sorry for patients and what they had to put up with at present, said last night he is “pleased the HSE has come back with the additional measures which I sought on Tuesday”, adding that he now expects the “HSE to get with these measures”.

Mr Harris will attend a meeting of the Emergency Department taskforce on Friday morning.

Apollo House activists urge Nama to house homeless

Demonstrators to meet Simon Coveney after launching emergency housing plan

Image result for Apollo House activists urge Nama to house the homeless  Image result for Apollo House activists urge Nama to house the homeless  Image result for Apollo House activists urge Nama to house the homeless

Organisers of the Apollo House occupation in Dublin say they will not vacate the building unless property controlled by Nama is used to house the homeless. The group has released a four-page emergency housing plan and it wants it’s implemented.

Organisers of the Apollo House occupation in Dublin have said they will not vacate the building unless property owned by the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) is used to house the homeless.

The occupiers of the Apollo House office building, which is being used to house up to 40 homeless people, have been told by the High Court to vacate the building by midday on January 11th.

Brendan Ogle of the Unite trade union, who is one of the organisers of the Home Sweet Home campaign, said a delegation would meet Minister for Housing Simon Coveney on Friday afternoon, having been invited by the Minister.

Asked what might happen that would cause the campaigners to vacate the previously empty office block, he said the Government could “with the stroke of a pen” instruct Nama to provide housing to suitable homeless people staying in Apollo House and other emergency accommodation.

However Nama chairman Frank Daly told an Oireachtas committee last year that it could not offer more homes for social housing than it already has because the rest of the portfolio is occupied.

To have offered more “would have simply displaced one group of people by giving their homes to another group,” he said. “It would have made no sense.”

Offers of commercial property made some years ago by Nama to housing agencies were turned down as they were not deemed suitable for housing.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Mr Ogle said the political leaders of Germany, the UK and France did not have the advantage the State had when it came to solving homelessness as “they don’t have Nama”.

He said that when considering the deadline set by the courts the organisers of the campaign would be taking into account the talks with the Minister, legal considerations and the use of public pressure to support the Home Sweet Home campaign.

A Ministerial instruction

Section 14 of the act that established Nama allows for the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, to instruct the agency to provide property under its control for the housing of homeless people, Mr Ogle said.

“We want the Minister to use Nama to address the homelessness emergency,” he told a press conference at the Unite offices in Dublin at which the group released a four-page emergency housing plan it wants implemented.

Mr Ogle said he wanted to praise the artists who had come forward to support the Home Sweet Home campaign and said they had fulfilled a vital role in raising awareness about the homelessness issue. The Apollo House occupation was “totemic” rather than a solution to the problem.

He said the group was not advocating further occupations. He also said the group, which has raised about €170,000, would not be registering as a charity but would be publishing financial accounts.

David Gibney of Mandate trade union, said the plan being launched for resolving homelessness was an alternative to the “neoliberal, ideology-driven” plan of the Government, which aimed to increase the supply of houses by driving up prices.

Film-maker Terence McMahon said he had been homeless for a year and a half years and had to deal with the banks in relation to his family home. “I’ve seen the kind of scum they are,” he said.

Fire insurance on Apollo House runs out on January 11th, and public liability insurance five days’ later.

Figures from Nama show that it identified 6,900 residential properties associated with it debtors over the past number of years that might be suitable for social housing, 2,748 of which have since been delivered to housing bodies.

The bulk of the rest were deemed unsuitable by the housing agencies because of location, the fact that they would not fit with plans for mixed housing, or because they did not have the number of bedrooms required.

Most of these properties have since been sold or let, and the number of finished properties vacant is understood to be close to zero.

The State-owned agency has spent €200 million by way of a purposely-established vehicle, National Asset Residential Property Services Ltd, to speed up the process of providing social housing to housing agencies. It has also spent more than €100 million finishing off properties that housing agencies wanted to buy or lease from Nama debtors.

Last year the Nama chairman, Frank Daly, told an Oireachtas committee that the bulk of the houses that secure its loans are occupied.

“So, there is really no hidden supply of houses that NAMA is keeping from the market,” he said. “And those that are not occupied are for sale to people who want to live in them or people who want to rent them to tenants.”

Mr Daly said the only way Nama could have increased the number of homes it was offering to local authorities, was by moving out the tenants that were in them.

And meanwhile in Sligo: –

The homeless in Sligo and couch surfing hides the true extent of the crisis

Over 1,000 on housing list while numbers contacting Focus Ireland up 50%.

Image result for The homeless in Sligo and couch surfing hides the true extent of the crisis  Image result for The homeless in Sligo and couch surfing hides the true extent of the crisis  Some of the 1,000 empty houses in the Borough (not Nama stock). Photo:SligoToday.ie

Mary Jameson left pic. says: “Five years ago banks were not repossessing homes. We never had to deal with people in that category but that has all changed now”

Two men recently spent a night in the trolley bay at Sligo’s Tesco store.

It is not clear why they ended up taking shelter there but local councillor Gino O’Boyle (People Before Profit) said it was not the first-time people had been forced by circumstances to sleep beside the stacked trollies.

“It is cramped but at least it is dry,” he said.

Homelessness in the State’s major urban centres repeatedly made the news in 2016 but the problem is not confined to Dublin and Cork.

The numbers accessing Focus Ireland’s services in Sligo jumped by 50% last year, with the majority (172 people) looking for advice or information on accommodation options.

The northwest Simon Community branch assisted 44 people in crisis situations in Sligo last year, most facing imminent eviction. No social housing has been built in Co Sligo since 2009/10 and there are more than 1,000 households on the county council’s housing list.

Mary Jameson, Focus Ireland project leader in Sligo, said couch surfing was a growing phenomenon in the county.

Hidden homeless couch surfing?

“It is definitely getting worse. There are ‘hidden homeless’ out there, people who are couch surfing, staying temporarily with different relatives. That puts stresses on a family,” she said.

Ms Jameson estimated that two or three homeless people regularly slept on the streets of Sligo but said emergency beds were available for anyone in need.

However, Cllr O’Boyle believes that up to a dozen people, some with addiction issues, often sleep rough. Others may have shelter but are being traumatised by their living arrangements.

“One couple who between them have four children from previous relationships, are living in a two-bedroom house,” he said. “When all the kids are there, the couple sleep downstairs in the sitting room. If his children are with their mother, the couple get a bed.”

Cllr O’Boyle has advocated for a young woman with four children, two with special needs, who lost her home when her landlord returned from the US and wanted to move back in.

“She got a month’s notice and the council put her up in a hotel for three weeks which was hard going when the children had challenges.”

He said a Traveller family of 11 people, including nine children, was living in a caravan with no outlet for running water. “If you are a Traveller you have even more obstacles to overcome.”

Both Cllr O’Boyle and Ms Jameson believe a reluctance among landlords to accept tenants on Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) is keeping people in substandard and unsuitable accommodation.

Chimney fires

“I am dealing with a family who have had three chimney fires in their rented house. Even when it’s freezing they can’t light the fire because the mother is afraid of a tragedy,” said Cllr O’Boyle . “The landlord won’t do anything as he says the rent they pay would not cover the costs”.

Focus Ireland has been operating in Sligo for 10 years.

“Five years ago banks were not repossessing homes. We never had to deal with people in that category but that has all changed,” said Ms Jameson, who says her clients include families opting to hand the keys to their homes back as well as those facing repossession.

Emma Dolan, head of client services with Simon in the area, said people were being forced to move to rural areas with poor infrastructure due to lack of accommodation in Sligo.

“If there is no public transport and you don’t have a car to bring your children to school or to get to work, that’s an issue but people have no choice,” she said.

Sligo County Council said the 1,045 households on the housing list included 120 who were availing of HAP, and 97 who had been approved for a transfer to alternative accommodation. The numbers availing of emergency beds in hostels or B&B accommodation in Sligo fluctuated between 20 and 30, it said.

The council said anyone who presented seeking emergency accommodation was being facilitated, but Cllr O’Boyle said some people with complex needs were not equipped to “present”.

“To be fair, the council does its best to accommodate people, but there are some with addiction issues and other problems,” he said.

Through his job as a bouncer in a late night venue in the town, Cllr O’Boyle said he got to know many of these people. Some stay in a car park in an unfinished apartment block in the town centre or sometimes they bed down in a vacant building not too far away where rats are an issue when the door is left open.

Sligo Social housing funding?

Sligo County Council received a €6.5 million allocation for social housing last January and plans to build 28 housing units on the Knappagh Road but it’s a lengthy process, with four approval stages to negotiate before construction can begin.

Those working with homeless families are frustrated by the delays.

Councillors were also infuriated last year by news that 95 local authority houses were boarded up, awaiting refurbishment, at a time when more than 1,000 households are waiting for a home. The council said 38 of these properties had since been refurbished and allocated and the remainder would be dealt with this year.

Focus Ireland has 14 apartments in Sligo town for single people and has accommodation for two families. “We are in the process of buying three houses,” said Ms Jameson, who is concerned for women who are forced to remain in dysfunctional relationships. “They have nowhere to go.”

Ms Dolan said women and children in refuges “are not counted but are part of the hidden homeless” problem.

“Rough sleeping should not be the indicator for homelessness. By the time that happens something is broken.”

Ms Dolan said house building was the key to ending the homeless crisis in Sligo as everywhere else in the State.

“We all need to work harder, and to work faster.”

HIQA says E-cigarettes are most likely to increase the number of smokers who quit cigarettes?

Irish report is the first in Europe to examine the cost effectiveness of e-cigarettes

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“While the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes have not yet been established, data from Healthy Ireland reveals that 29% of smokers currently use e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting smoking.”

Greater uptake of e-cigarettes by smokers is likely to increase the number of people who successfully give up smoking, according to an independent analysis of health interventions.

A health technology assessment (HTA), published by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) on Thursday, is the first in Europe to examine the cost effectiveness of e-cigarettes. It was carried out on foot of a request from Dr Fenton Howell, the national tobacco control adviser at the Department of Health.

The agency’s director of health technology assessment, Dr Máirín Ryan said: “This HTA found a high level of uncertainty surrounding both the clinical and cost-effectiveness of e-cigarettes. While the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes have not yet been established, data from Healthy Ireland reveals that 29 per cent of smokers currently use e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting smoking.

“Hiqa’s analysis shows that increased uptake of e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting would increase the number of people who successfully quit compared with the existing situation in Ireland, and would be cost-effective provided that the currently available evidence on their effectiveness is confirmed by further studies.”

The report found that the most cost-effective quit strategy is to maximise the combined use of the drug varenicline and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Varenicline is a prescription-only medication which helps people to stop smoking by reducing withdrawal symptoms and reducing the satisfaction that can be gained from smoking. NRT is available in a number of formulations, including skin patches and inhalers.

Cessation support cost?

Currently the overall cost of smoking cessation in Ireland is estimated to be over €40 million annually. This figure includes the cost to the HSE of providing smoking-cessation support though the HSE tobacco control programme, the costs of GP services and pharmacological treatment to those with a medical card, as well as out-of-pocket expenditure by smokers on various smoking-cessation products.

If e-cigarette use in Ireland rose to maximum levels currently reported in England (45 per cent), and smokers choose this option without seeking medical advice, the number of prescriptions required could fall by nearly 40%, the report notes.

“Given the increasing use of e-cigarettes it is of vital importance that their potential benefit and harms continue to be discussed with smokers to ensure informed decision-making in relation to their use,” it says.

The Irish Vape Vendors Association welcomed the publication of the health technology assessment, noting its acknowledgment of the wider public health potential of tobacco harm reduction through smokers switching to vaping.

“This report found that all publicly funded smoking cessation interventions can be considered clinically effective when compared with doing nothing, and cost-effective when compared with unassisted quitting,” Dr Ryan concluded.

Second-hand smoke?

The prevalence of smoking in the Republic is 22.7 per cent in people aged 15 years and over. The prevalence is higher in men (24.3 per cent) than women (21.2 per cent), and has been in decline since 2008.

Approximately 20 per cent of deaths each year can be attributed to smoking, including deaths due to second-hand smoke.

A public consultation seeking feedback on the report is open until February 3rd, 2017. Following this, a final report will be prepared for consideration by the Hiqa board, before being submitted to the Minister for Health and the HSE.

The report, along with details on how to take part in the consultation, is available at http://www.hiqa.iewww.hiqa.ie.

Why Vicky Kavanagh (A producer with TV3) now 26 years old is saying no to alcohol and how you can too

Vicky Kavanagh: ‘I went to work with a happy face but I was bottling up my emotions and not dealing with anything. I don’t know if I really wanted to end my life or just put it all on pause for a while.’ Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill No to Image result for Why Vicky Kavanagh is saying no to alcohol and how you can too  Image result for Why Vicky Kavanagh is saying no to alcohol and how you can too

Vicky Kavanagh from Dublin finally realised her drinking was a problem after she passed out drunk in a field and was rescued by a friend.

She was only 17 then.

Now an assistant TV producer with TV3 who rarely drinks alcohol, Kavanagh recalls how she and her friends started drinking around the age of 14.

Alcopops and vodka were the drinks of choice and by the time they hit 16, she says, getting drunk was the norm.

“We’d drink in people’s houses or outside with my peers and I was doing it as well as people outside my immediate social group,” she says.

“Typically, you’d start off the evening with an alcopop if you had the money. Then you’d go on to a naggin of vodka or a shoulder of vodka, which is slightly bigger.

“We could end up throwing up because we were ill from it. Then, sometimes, if you had been sick you’d have a beer or even more alcopops.”

Now 26, the Killiney, Co Dublin, woman rarely drinks, and views her drinking past with dismay.

“I was so silly, so foolish. I woke up about alcohol when I was 17 after I passed out drunk in a field and was found by a friend.

“Anything could have happened to me! I realised that this was a problem and that I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.”

Kavanagh cut out alcohol completely for six months after that incident, though she later allowed herself the odd drink. In college, she’d occasionally get “caught up” in the drink culture and drink heavily, but even this was rare, and since her early 20s, she says, she’s had no interest in drinking and rarely indulges in it.

“Now I might go out for a social drink twice a month with a friend. I don’t drink at home or after work.”

There is, Kavanagh believes, an epidemic of binge-drinking among people in their early teens. “They’re becoming normalised. It’s seen as a normal part of adolescence and it’s not.”

Her concern is substantiated by figures showing Ireland is one of the world’s top binge-drinking nations — 75% of all alcohol consumed in Ireland is drunk as part of binge-drinking sessions, according to the Irish Heart Foundation, which kicks off its ‘On The Dry’ campaign this month.

The organisation says 64% of people who registered for the campaign over the last two years were female.

“There is a pressure to get wasted,” says Kavanagh, who believes the pressures on young women to drink are enormous.

“Drinking or prinking (pre-drinking) is the norm now.

“It’s an absolutely necessity for a night out — alcohol is a social lubricant and there’s a lot of pressure for young women about how they look.

“You have a drink before going out to build up your confidence. You think it’s absolutely OK to get drunk because everyone else around you is doing the same thing,” she says, adding that in some cases, the pre-drinking session at a house can go on and on, and girls will end up not going out at all.

Kavanagh stopped because she no longer wanted to wake up with “a banging hangover” and is “focused on other things now”.

Giving up alcohol, according to the experts, means you sleep better, lose weight, eat less, your skin looks better because you’re more hydrated, plus you have more money in your pocket and a lower risk of getting cancer — so what’s not to like?

Yet it’s hard to get this message across in a culture where ‘laddish’ young women expect to match guys drink for drink while at the same time, the availability of sweet alcoholic drinks such as alcopops, designer gins, and ‘on-tap’ Prosecco makes it ever-easier for girls to drink to extremes.

“It’s hard to get through to people in their 20s and 30s about their consumption of alcohol because the habit has become so ingrained,” explains Kavanagh.

“Young people know it’s not good but they don’t care — it’s a problem for another day. If they put on weight they just drink alcohol that has fewer calories — for example, they might have a gin and tonic instead of wine, but that’s just vanity, it’s not being health-conscious.”

According to Alcohol Action Ireland, teenage girls here are drinking as much, and sometimes more, than their male counterparts.

The result: A rise in the number of young women presenting with serious alcohol-related conditions such as liver cirrhosis. In fact, although women now account for a quarter of all alcohol-related discharges, this rises to an eye-watering 47% among women aged 15 and under.

Maebh Leahy, chief executive of the Rutland Centre, which treats addiction of all kinds, says she is seeing an increasing number of women in their late 20s and early 30s with alcohol problems.

“Years ago it was nearly all men who came to us, but now it is close to 50/50,” says Leahy, adding that cultural changes have seen women gather for a chat over a bottle of wine instead of a teapot and a plate of cake as their mothers and grandmothers would have done.

“Women are drinking more alcohol, more often, and they’re drinking different kinds of alcohol — spirits and pints. Years ago you didn’t see women drinking pints as often.”

On top of that, she believes that the demands of modern life mean many women lead much busier lives, coping with demanding careers and young families — and it’s become the norm for many in their late 20s or early 30s to end a challenging day with a glass of wine or two or even three as a ‘reward’.

“This generation of women in their 20s and 30s have grown up with alcopops and easy access to alcohol,” says Leahy, adding that for this generation, drinking is normal and binge-drinking is a major issue. The habit is giving rise to serious problems.

“We’re seeing liver damage in women in their 20s and 30s that you wouldn’t expect to see until much later in life. It’s testament to the fact that we are drinking so much more now and that drinking starts so very young — we’ve had young women at 18, 19, or 20 coming in with full-blown alcohol addiction who may have started drinking as young as 13 or 14.”

Designer gin and on-tap Prosecco, as well as vodka, are seen as “sophisticated” drinks, says nutritionist Gaye Godkin — but over-consumption, she warns, comes with a significant health cost.

“They are drinking so much more than girls drank years ago,” she says, warning that one of the biggest, and possibly least known problems caused by alcohol is that it destroys a B vitamin called folate, which is equivalent to folic acid, linked with both fertility and brain health.

Godkin worries about the effect on fertility levels by the casual binge-drinking in this age group and younger.

“The ovaries are where all the eggs are. One has to consider what damage is being done to the equipment in the ovaries by this tsunami of alcohol that a lot of young girls and women assault their bodies with. These are long-term issues,” she says.

Alcohol also affects your blood sugar balance. “When you drink alcohol and go to bed, your body is literally up all night detoxing through your liver. This affects your sleep, and going to bed with a tankful of gin or vodka is not conducive to restorative sleep. Most young people are sleep deprived.”

Not only are many alcoholic drinks high in sugar, but alcohol also stimulates us to eat more.

“Alcohol dysregulates the appetite and satiety hormones, stimulating you to eat more — if you don’t hit the chipper that night, the next day you will eat the fry-up for breakfast or drink Lucozade to get your blood sugar up because alcohol lowers your blood sugars and makes you hungry for carbohydrates,” says Godkin.

“You’re looking for energy because you feel fatigued — alcohol also dehydrates you, which affects brain function.

“Even the ‘lite’ alcohols are packed full of sugar so will affect the waistline while pints are very fattening.”

Alcohol is packed with calories. The Irish Heart Foundation points out that just one standard drink contains 10g of alcohol, which amounts to 70 calories.

If you down five standard drinks of a spirit with cola, you’ll consume 765 calories or 11 digestive biscuits worth of calories. Knock back five standard drinks of a spirit with a diet cola or a diet mineral and your calorie consumption is still high — 420 calories or five digestive biscuits worth of calories.

However, there are far more long-term and even riskier implications of over-consumption of alcohol.

Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, which are caused by the over-consumption of alcohol, are increasingly prevalent among young women, warns Dr Mark Murphy, a lecturer with the Royal College of Surgeons.

“Our hepatology and gastroenterology colleagues have seen a rise in the prevalence of this,” he says, adding that liver disease is a deeply destructive condition which can be fatal.

“Chronic liver disease results in a shrunken scarred liver which doesn’t make the normal proteins that it should make.”

The result, he warns, is an individual who appears perfectly healthy — but only until the liver very quietly reaches its tipping point.

“People can feel very well and very healthy even though their liver is extremely damaged,” says Dr Murphy, though often it’s too late and the effects on the liver of over-consumption of alcohol are irreversible.

“This could manifest in a large amount of blood, a very swollen abdomen, or a person exhibiting mental confusion.

“When this happens it is a sign that the liver is damaged to such an extent that the person’s risk of death in the next few years is very high and unfortunately that cannot be reversed.”

So even though drinking in moderation may have a protective effect, he says, drinking excessive amount of alcohol is very dangerous — it’s also linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease as well as cancers of the stomach, the colon, or the oesophagus.

Alcohol can also have a depressive effect, he warns, with evidence also suggesting that excessive alcohol consumption is associated with reduced fertility rates.

Cutting down on alcohol

Now the season of good cheer is officially over, how about cutting down on your alcohol consumption and reducing the effect it has on your body?

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach – always have it with food. Research has shown ingesting food before drinking doesn’t just slow the rate of alcohol absorption into the bloodstream, but also lowers the peak concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream.
  • Buy a measure says the IHF — if you drink spirits at home make sure you’re not overfilling your glass
  • Alternate your drinks between alcoholic and non-alcoholic
  • Avoid rounds or opt for a non-alcoholic drink on your round
  • Pace yourself — Small sips and savour the drink
  • Rehydrate when you are drinking, for example, alternative a glass of wine with a glass of water – this slows down your consumption and rehydrates your body
  • Stop drinking early in the night so that you are not going to bed with an overloaded, overtaxed liver
  • Understand that you cannot save up your units for a night and avoid binge-drinking because you are assaulting your body with toxins
  • Educate yourself about the negative effects of over-consumption of alcohol
  • Remember the biology – women simply cannot drink the same amount as men because we don’t have the capacity to detox the same amount of alcohol as men do.
  • Space out your drinking advises the Irish Heart Foundation – keep at least three days a week alcohol-free

Mysterious radio waves traced to distant galaxy

Scientists make breakthrough in the study of the Fast Radio Burst phenomenon

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The Very Large Array (VLA), the astronomical radio observatory in New Mexico, US.

A mysterious short pulse of radio energy picked up by astronomers has been traced to a dwarf galaxy more than three billion light years away.

Dubbed a Fast Radio Burst (FRB), it is one of just 18 known examples of a phenomenon that has puzzled scientists since 2007.

FRBs are highly energetic but very short-lived bursts of radio waves lasting no more than a millisecond.

The first was discovered in 2007 by scientists scouring archived data from Australia’s Parkes radio telescope.

Since then , 17 more FRBs have been identified but only one, spotted in 2012 by astronomers at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, has recurred repeatedly.

By studying nine bursts from this FRB over a period of six months, astronomers were able to home in on its exact position in the sky.

FRB 121102 was pinpointed using the Very Large Array (VLA), a multi-antenna radio telescope operated by the US National Science Foundation.

Its location coincided with that of a faint dwarf galaxy far, far away – a distance of more than three billion light years from Earth.

Dr Shriharsh Tendulkar, a member of the team from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, said: “Before we knew the distance to any FRBs, several proposed explanations for their origins said they could be coming from within or near our own Milky Way galaxy.

“We now have ruled out those explanations, at least for this FRB.”

Adding to the mystery, the FRB appeared to be accompanied by a stream of ongoing, persistent weaker radio emissions.

Further high precision observations showed that the two emission sources could not be more than 100 light years apart, said the scientists, whose findings appear in the journals Nature and Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Dr Benito Marcote, from the Joint Institute for VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) in Dwingeloo, the Netherlands, said: “We think that the bursts and the continuous source are likely to be either the same object or that they are somehow physically associated with each other.”

Questions still remain?

However, what produced the FRB remains unknown.

One likely candidate is a super-dense neutron star – possibly a “magnetar”, a neutron star with a very powerful magnetic field – surrounded by debris from a stellar explosion.

Alternatively, the source could be jets of material shooting out from the rim of a supermassive black hole.

Co-author Dr Shami Chatterjee, from Cornell University in the US, said: “Finding the host galaxy of this FRB, and its distance, is a big step forward, but we still have much more to do before we fully understand what these things are.”

The research was presented at the American Astronomical Society’s annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Wednesday 28th December 2016

Almost 50% of speeding drivers in Ireland escape court appearance as summons not served

Gardaí probe as nearly half of all cases thrown out.

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Almost half of summonses for speeding motorists to appear in court were not served in the past two years

Almost half of summonses for speeding motorists to appear in court were not served in the past two years, shock new figures has revealed.

The scale of the problem is so big that Garda management has been forced to set up a group to examine the issue.

The force says several issues, including inaccurate address information, are contributing to the issue.

Courts Service data shows that of 66,800 speeding cases listed in the courts between January 2015 and October 2016, some 30,600 or 45.8% -were struck out as summonses were never served on the defendants.

The problem was most acute in the Manorhamilton area in Co Leitrim, where 84 out of 99 summonses were not served.

In Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, 248 out of 391 summonses and some 63% went unserved.

Other summons service ‘blackspots’ included Killarney, Co Kerry, where 558 of 910 summonses went unserved, and Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, where 24 out of 39 summonses were not served.

At county level, the issue was most prevalent in Monaghan and Kerry, where 61%c and 59% of summons respectively were not served.

The best performing county was Wexford, but even there 30% of summonses went unserved.

The data on non-served summons was released by Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald following questions from Independent TD Tommy Broughan.

Ms Fitzgerald said her officials were seeking clarification on the “significant percentage” of cases being struck out for non-service.

She revealed a working group had been set up in An Garda Síochána to examine how the service rate can be improved and to monitor the level of service around the country.

Ms Fitzgerald said there were challenges to serving summonses in certain circumstances.

These included situations where there was “inaccurate address data, persons moving address, or living in multi occupancy dwellings or other settings which make service difficult”.

“In addition, certain persons will take steps to evade service. Similar difficulties are experienced by many other police forces,” she added.

The PARC Road Safety Group, which has carried out an analysis of the data, said urgent action was needed as the non-service rate was inexplicably high.

Other Courts Service data released by Ms Fitzgerald indicated many motorists who were convicted of speeding offences may have avoided penalty points by not producing their licence in court.

Although it is an offence to not to produce your licence, it has not been regularly enforced and there have been difficulties securing prosecutions.

A new Road Traffic Bill is expected to include measures to ensure drivers produce their licences in court, while the wording of summonses is to be changed so Gardaí can prosecute those who fail to produce their licence.

In counties such as Sligo and Kildare, the rate of recording of licence numbers in court between January 2015 and October 2016 was just 22%.

However, this does not mean everyone who failed to produce a licence escaped penalty points.

All convictions for penalty points offences, whether the driver licence number is produced in court or not, are provided electronically to the Transport Department.

Where a driving licence number is not provided, the Road Safety Authority undertakes a matching exercise to match the conviction with a specific driving licence.

Matching takes place on the National Vehicle Driver File, where other available information makes this possible.

DNA screening of taxi drivers in rape case is welcomed as long as a balanced approach is taken?

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre has welcomed the Garda initiative which aims to solve the 2015 case.

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THE (DRCC) has welcomed reports of mass DNA screening being used by Gardaí in an effort to solve an alleged sexual assault case, but cautioned that a balanced approach must be taken.

Reports say that 84 taxi drivers in Dublin will be requested to provide DNA samples in an effort to track down the perpetrator of an attack which took place in December 2015.

The paper reports that the search was narrowed down to drivers of a particular make and model of car through analysis of CCTV footage.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, chief executive of the DRCC Noeleen Blackwell said it is crucial that a serious crime like this is investigated fully, adding that it is important for the victim to see that work is being carried out to solve the case.

However she cautioned that nobody’s rights can be improved by infringing on other’s.

“The rights of victims must be properly pursued, and they must be pursued in a legitimate way.”

We’re heartened to see that the case is being investigated but it will be a matter to ensure the rights of all those suspected of the crime are preserved.

Under the legislation being used to authorise the mass DNA screenings, people cannot be compelled to provide a sample.

“We recognise the right of someone not to hand over any evidence,” Blackwell said. “So it’s a question of keeping that balance, and that’s very much a question for how the guards go about it.

They have to take great care that they’re not requiring innocent people who are out earning their living to account for their movements.

The aim of the database, which became active in 2015, is to assist gardaí in tackling crime by being able to link cases and identify suspects. It also means that the Irish justice system will be able to search and be searchable in other national DNA databases.

Not only will it benefit criminal investigations, the database will also be able to identify missing and unknown persons, including unidentified human remains.

If a person is on the sex register, their DNA can be kept indefinitely.

Only eighty nurses register to attend HSE three-day recruitment fair in Dublin

Event targeting nurses home for Christmas or going back to work after some time away

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Rosarii Mannion the HSE national director of human resources: “A lot of the negative messages that have gone out have inhibited relocation but we want to change that narrative.”

Only Eighty nurses have so far registered to attend a three-day recruitment fair taking place over the holiday period at the Health Service Executive headquarters in Dublin.

Yesterday, the first day of the event, 36 nurses had turned up at Dr Steevens’s Hospital to express an interest in working in the public health service. Some 28 were interviewed and 19 were successful and will be offered posts. However the HSE said this was only the first of a series of career events it planned to hold over the coming months.

Minister for Health Simon Harris, who plans to visit the jobs fair today, said: “One of the things I want to do is significantly overhaul the recruitment process for nurses.


“It needs to be more streamlined; it needs to be more accessible in terms of information for nurses.

“It is going to be a priority for 2017. Recruitment is a challenge in terms of nurses. There is global competition for nurses and therefore Ireland needs to make sure that nurses applying for jobs in a hospital here that the process is as straightforward as possible.” Mr Harris said one of the issues for nurses had been a lack of information and assistance when applying for positions in the health services.

One of the possibilities being examined is establishing a new information helpline to assist them with the process. The Minister refused to be drawn on new or enhanced payments to nurses, claiming this was a matter for Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe. Many of those attending yesterday were interviewed on the spot while others with a more tentative interest were provided with information on a range of jobs.

The event is predominantly targeting Irish nurses who are home from overseas for Christmas and who are thinking of coming back here to work. Others who turned up were thinking of returning to the workforce after time away from work or were considering switching from the nursing home sector to hospital-based work.

‘Lost graduates’

“We are very keen on changing the narrative around the nursing profession in Ireland,” said Rosarii Mannion, HSE national director of human resources. “For years, we lost graduates because we were not in a position to offer permanent positions, but that has changed now.”

As well as permanent jobs, she highlighted the “very good” pension scheme, an abundance of education and training opportunities and flexible working hours as the positive factors of working for the HSE.

Nurses returning from abroad may also qualify for a €1,500 relocation allowance.

Susan Leahy, a midwife from Limerick who left for Britain after qualifying in 2009, said she was attending because “it is time to come home”. “At the time, there weren’t a lot of positions available, so I went for the experience.”

Exiles and entrepreneur’s the target of Sligo’s new digital hub block

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Exiles and entrepreneur’s are among the target audience for a special open day to take a sneak peek inside a digital working hub.

The Building Block in Sligo will show would-be tenants including startups around a purpose-designed facility – one of the largest in Ireland – which opens for business in January.


Uniquely located right in the centre of Sligo town, overlooking Sligo’s main waterway and at the centre of a regeneration quarter. The building features spectacular views on every side.

5 Minute walk from Sligo’s main train and bus station, with direct Dublin links, 3-4 times daily. 10 minute drive from spectacular beaches popular for walks and surfing.

The Building Block is a co-working space providing desks, and private office suites for startups and small businesses, and will open its doors officially in early 2017.

The 20.000 sq. ft. building has lain largely empty for ten years but is now being totally renovated and repurposed with stylish interiors inspired by Sligo’s coastal heritage – including purpose-built ‘beach hut’ meeting rooms.

It will feature lightning-fast, fibre optic broadband, providing 1 Gigabit (1G) connectivity with state-of-the art working spaces including ground-floor hot-desks, dedicated desks, private office suites as well as large social spaces, canteens and presentation areas.

On the ground floor, there will be a focus on attracting potential tenants from across the creative Industries: design, media, marketing, digital, web and startups. The building will host events and guest speakers, pitching nights and networking opportunities.

With stunning river views and offices flooded with natural light, the idea behind The Building Block is that businesses and start-ups move in to the first floor and move up through the floors to both serviced and non-serviced private office suites as they grow and develop. International companies will also be provided for through IDA Ireland.

The Building Block is taking part in the #homeforwork initiative organised by HR amd recruitment specialist Collins McNicholas which is hosting its event at the Glasshouse Hotel in Sligo from 10am until 2pm.

In tandem with this event, The Building Block, situated on the riverbank at Stephen Street car park, will open its doors to the public for the first time.

The open day provides an opportunity for those coming home to Sligo and the North West over the Christmas holidays to see and hear about this new space, the first of its kind in the region.

Sligo-based business woman Denise Rushe worked with local architect John Monohan of NOJI Architects to push the idea of The Building Block with building owner Martin Doran, a Sligo businessman who is based in Dublin.

Denise Rushe said: “We will be providing short guided tours of the ground-floor co-working space and answering any questions you might have.”

The Building Block is currently undergoing the final stages of a fit-out on the ground floor which will house the co-working space. Desks will be available from mid to late January.

To register interest, individuals can go to http://www.thebuildingblock.ie

What is Cognitive behavioural therapy and which conditions is CBT used to treat?

If your doctor has mentioned CBT, this is what you need to know about it?

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Living with a mental health condition does not necessarily mean someone has to take daily medication and many people live happy and healthy lives with the help of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as well.

The aim of cognitive behavioural therapy is to separate a person’s thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions

If you’re unsure about what CBT is, and how it could help you or a loved one, this is what you need to know.

What is Cognitive behavioural therapy?

CBT is a type of talking therapy, which aims to help people manage their problems by changing the way they think.

The therapy is based on the concept that thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are all interconnected – and negative thoughts can trap you in a vicious cycle.

During CBT sessions, the therapist will encourage their patient to break their seemingly overwhelming problems into smaller parts.

It deals wholly with current problems, rather than focusing on issues from the patient’s past.

The CBT therapist will look for practical ways for the patient to improve their state of mind on a daily basis.

What conditions is Cognitive behavioural therapy used to treat?

CBT can be used to treat a whole range of mental health conditions either instead of, or alongside, medical treatment.

While Loose Women panellist Denise Welch credits CBT with helping her lose weight and quit smoking.

CBT can be effective in treating:

  1. Depression
  2. Anxiety
  3. Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  4. Panic disorders
  5. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  6. Phobias
  7. Eating disorders (such as anorexia and bulimia)
  8. Insomnia
  9. Alcohol misuse

In addition to these mental health problems, CBT can also help with long-term conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and chronic fatigue symptoms (CFS).

Although it won’t cure the physical symptoms of these conditions, CBT can help people cope better.

What happens during Cognitive behavioural therapy sessions?

CBT is normally broken down in between five and 20 sessions, each lasting between half an hour and one hour.

During each session, you will work with your therapist to break down your problems into separate parts – and distinguish between your thoughts, physical feelings and actions.

The therapist will then help working out if these thoughts, feelings and actions are unrealistic or unhelpful, and what effect they have.

After working out what could be changed, the therapist will ask you to practice putting these processes into action.

The aim is to learn to manage your problems and stop them having a negative impact on your daily life.

The steps learnt in CBT can then be used throughout the patient’s daily life, even after they finish their sessions.

The Cheetah is much more vulnerable than previously thought

Urgent action needed to save the fastest land animal in the world from extinction

Image result for The Cheetah is much more vulnerable than previously thought  Image result for The Cheetah is much more vulnerable than previously thought  Image result for The Cheetah is much more vulnerable than previously thought

Scientists now estimate that just 7,100 of the fleet-footed cats remain in the wild, occupying just 9% of the territory they once lived in.

Urgent action is needed to stop the cheetah which is the world’s fastest land animal sprinting to extinction, experts have warned.

Scientists estimate that just 7,100 of the fleet-footed cats remain in the wild, occupying just 9% of the territory they once lived in.

Asiatic populations have been hit the hardest with fewer than 50 individuals surviving in Iran, according to a new investigation led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have plummeted by 85% in little more than a decade.

The cheetah’s dramatic decline has now prompted calls for the animal’s status to be upgraded from “vulnerable” to “endangered” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species.

Dr Sarah Durant, from ZSL and WCS, project leader for the Rangewide Conservation Programme for Cheetah and African Wild Dog, said: “This study represents the most comprehensive analysis of cheetah status to date.

“Given the secretive nature of this elusive cat, it has been difficult to gather hard information on the species, leading to its plight being overlooked. Our findings show that the large space requirements for cheetah, coupled with the complex range of threats faced by the species in the wild, mean that it is likely to be much more vulnerable to extinction than was previously thought.”

The cheetah is one of the world’s most wide-ranging carnivores and needs a lot of space. Partly because of this, 77% of its remaining habitat falls outside protected areas, leaving the animal especially vulnerable to human impacts.

Even within well-managed parks and reserves the cats have suffered as a result of humans hunting their prey, habitat loss, illegal trafficking of cheetah parts, and the exotic pet trade, say the researchers writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In Zimbabwe these pressures have seen the cheetah population plunge from 1,200 to a maximum of only 170 animals in 16 years, a decline of 85%.

The experts want to see a completely new approach to cheetah conservation focusing on the landscape that transcends national borders and incorporates co-ordinated regional strategies.

It would involve motivating both governments and local communities to protect the cheetah and promoting the sustainable co-existence of humans and wildlife.

Dr Kim Young-Overton, from the wild cat conservation organisation Panthera, said: “We’ve just hit the reset button in our understanding of how close cheetahs are to extinction.

“The take-away from this pinnacle study is that securing protected areas alone is not enough. We must think bigger, conserving across the mosaic of protected and unprotected landscapes that these far-reaching cats inhabit, If we are to avert the otherwise certain loss of the cheetah forever.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 9th December 2016

Irish economy bounces back & grows 4% in third quarter of 2016

Figures are again affected by financial flows related to multinationals

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On an annual basis GDP was 6.9% higher compared to the same quarter in 2015, with GNP up 10.2%.

Ireland’s economic growth rate bounced back in the third quarter after a weak start to 2016, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

However, the figures are again affected by the activities of multinationals, with a significantly slower rate of growth in the domestic economy than shown in the headline figures.

Gross domestic product (GDP) rose 4% versus the second quarter, while gross national product (GNP), which strips out the effect of multinational profit repatriations, increased 3.2%.

On an annual basis, GDP was 6.9% higher compared to the same quarter in 2015, with GNP up 10.2%. However, the latest figures were again influenced by financial flows related to big multinationals in Ireland involving the treatment of intellectual property and profit repatriations. This led to a large fall in the measured level of investment and also to a big drop in imports.

The CSO said that elsewhere investment increased, with a 3% rise in spend on machinery, led by aircraft, and a 4.6% jump in construction.

Commenting on the data, Dermot O’Leary, chief economist at Goodbody, said a more meaningful gauge than the GDP/GNP figures was core domestic demand, which shows the economy growing by about 3%; still double that of the euro zone average.

The three largest sectors of the economy experienced growth during the third quarter, with industry rising 3.8% in volume terms. Distribution, transport, software and communications increased 5.3%, while “other services” grew 1.5%.

The domestic demand?

Overall total domestic demand fell 1.8% versus the second quarter. Personal consumption, which accounts for about 53% of domestic demand, rose 0.7% in the quarter, and was running 2.1% ahead on an annual basis. Government consumption was up 0.8%.

Service exports increased €3.5 billion to €34.7 billion in the third quarter, driven by exports of computer services and business services, the CSO said. Capital investment fell 7.2% on an annual basis.

Separately, the CSO said the current account balance of payments, a measure of Ireland’s financial flows with the rest of the world, is now at an all time high of 14.7% at €10.1 billion. This compares to a surplus of €6.9 billion for the same quarter a year earlier.

Austin Hughes, chief economist at KBC, said the 4% jump in third-quarter GDP was “largely technical”. However, he added that solid gains in household spending and construction suggested healthy domestic demand.


“The outsized quarterly jump in GDP is largely technical in nature but, beyond the headline figure, the details of today’s release suggest that activity remains on a positive path, with a solid growth rate of around 4% in prospect for 2016.

“There are also signs of a more cautious consumer, continuing catch-up in construction and tentative signs of some impact from sterling weakness on goods exports,” Mr Hughes added.

Merrion’s chief economist Alan McQuaid said the National Accounts data “remain unsatisfactory”.

He said that personal spending and construction activity appeared to be holding up. However, he added that “Brexit” worries would likely intensify next year, leading to lower overall GDP growth in 2017.

The owner of the Patrick Pearse letter is to keep it in his collection abroad

Historic document may end up on display at cultural institution

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Patrick Pearse (right) with his brother, Willie, in the gardens at St Enda’s.

Patrick Pearse’s order of surrender is held by Stuart Cole, a director at Adam’s auctioneers, at their offices in Dublin, after it failed to sell at the reserved auction price.

The owner of the Patrick Pearse surrender letter which failed to sell at auction this week intends to keep it in his private collection overseas and bequeath it to his children.

The historic document may end up on display at an unspecified cultural institution in the owner’s home country, Adam’s auctioneers has said.

Retaining his anonymity, the proprietor was said to be “philosophical” about the document’s withdrawal from auction on Wednesday when bidding stopped at €770,000. It had a guide of between €1 million and €1.5 million.

The letter, written by Pearse in Easter Week shortly after his surrender to Brig Gen William Lowe, had been the focus of significant attention in the run up to its sale, prompting calls for it to be retained in Ireland.

Adam’s had made efforts to sell it on behalf of its client to the State without success. The Government said it would be an inappropriate way to spend public money and Adam’s will now apply for an export license clearing the way for it to leave the country.

“He [the owner] intends to give it to his kids at some point in the future and say, ‘you know what, here is a piece of Irish history and we are lucky to have it’,” said Stuart Cole, a director at Adam’s.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if at some time you see it being given to an institution outside of Ireland. More than likely a museum or a library.”

Mr Cole said such a move would be taken in order to protect the 100 year old letter which has spent the last 12 years in specialised storage.

The owner, described as being “of substantial means” and not motivated by profit, paid about €800,000 for the document. He is now resigned to the letter not being wanted by the State.

‘Very philosophical’

“He was very philosophical about [its failure to sell at auction]. He said either people will want it or they won’t want it.”

On Thursday, Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys said there was nothing preventing the owner donating it to the State and claiming 80 per cent of the value back in tax relief.

Under Revenue’s S1003 scheme – which encourages the donation of heritage items to Irish institutions – 80 per cent of the market value can be offset against the tax liability of the owner.

Mr Cole said, however, this would not apply to the owner of the Pearse letter as he held no business interests or tax liabilities in the State.

The anonymous collector is a frequent traveller to Ireland and decided last April, having been impressed by the Government’s handling of the 1916 centenary celebrations, it was a suitable time to sell the letter back to the country.

Mr Cole said auction was the last option but the State had shown no interest in their approaches.

Ms Humphreys told RTÉ News it was “very clear to me” that Adam’s maximised publicity to “put a very high price on this letter and they have been pressurising the State to use taxpayers’ money to purchase it”.

“The Minister is correct,” Mr Cole responded of the publicity, “my job was to work for my client and to publicise the auction as much as I could.”

He said they had approached the Government several months before the auction date “out of the limelight” to avoid bringing public pressure.

Ireland’s student unions warn against introducing a loan scheme

Graduates who emigrate may be ‘too afraid’ to return home, Oireachtas committee told Ibec,

Image result for Ireland's student unions warn against introducing a loan scheme  Image result for Ireland's student unions warn against introducing a loan scheme

However, they told the committee that an income-contingent loan system was the only “equitable and sustainable” option.

Thousands of graduates will end up leaving Ireland and may never return if a student loan scheme is introduced, an Oireachtas committee heard on Thursday.

An income-contingent loan system – where graduates pay fees when their earnings reach a certain level – is one of a number of options proposed in a Government-commissioned report into the future funding of higher education.

However, Jane Hayes-Nally, president of the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union, said many graduates from New Zealand were “too afraid” to return home since it introduced a loan scheme.

“Is this what will happen to me? Too afraid to come home, struggling to make repayments, saddled with debt before I am even 25,” she asked.

The fifth-year secondary school student said income-contingent loans would end up driving students overseas to countries such as Germany where third level is publicly funded.

“My only option could be to enrol in Germany. Right now, no fees apply to international students in Germany, bar a small contribution of €50. So for the class of 2016, willkommen Deutschland.

A radical idea.

Other student representative bodies, including the Union of Students of Ireland (USI) and Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union, also called on committee members to support a publicly-funded higher-education system.

Annie Hoey, USI president, said a publicly-funded system was not a radical idea and that “fully-free” education was available in Scotland, Scandinavia and Germany.

Universities and employers’ groups, however, were generally supportive of a loan scheme as the most realistic way of providing the kind of funding needed to tackle a “crisis” facing the sector.

Employers’ group Ibec said a publicly-funded system was not economically sustainable or socially desirable.

Tony Donohoe, Ibec’s head of education, said an income-contingent loan system was the only “equitable and sustainable” option.

Such a model needed to avoid mistakes made in other countries, he said.

“It would be economically foolish and socially unacceptable to saddle a generation of young people with the scale of debt that we see in the US and will probably see in the UK,” he said.

“Therefore, we need a balanced, fair and sustainable system that combines adequate State investment with an affordable student contribution.”

A structured approach?

He said business currently contributed €360 million a year through the National Training Fund – a levy on employers – and individual companies contributing directly to colleges.

Mr Donohoe said employers were willing to play their part through more effective use of the National Training Fund and a structured approach to supporting programmes in areas of skills demand.

The chair of NUI Galway’s governing body, former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness, said that while she would like a State-funded system, it was not realistic and student loans seemed “the best solution”.

She said the “free fees” system introduced 20 years ago had not led to a significant narrowing in the social divide.

“We can at least see if we can design a system that does not let the State or employers off the hook,” she said.

Government’s ‘Creative Ireland’ plan is outlined by Taoiseach

Taoiseach launches five-year programme to promote culture as part of everyday lives

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The Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the National Gallery of Ireland said: “We can make Ireland the first country in the world to guarantee access for every child to tuition and participation in art, music, drama and coding.

There was a broad welcome across the arts and culture sectors for the Government’s new five-year plan, Creative Ireland, which was launched by the Taoiseach in the newly refurbished Shaw Room at the National Gallery of Ireland on Thursday.

In front of an audience which included the heads of most of the State’s key cultural institutions, Mr Kenny outlined an ambitious vision for what he described as “placing culture at the centre of our lives, for the betterment of our people and for the strengthening of our society”.

The Taoiseach, along with Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Pascal Donohoe, laid out the details of the cross-governmental initiative, which aims to build on the legacy of the Ireland 2016 centenary programme.

The Taoiseach himself will chair a new Government committee dedicated to achieving the objectives of the plan, while a dedicated programme office will be set up within the Department of Arts.

Commitments announced for the next 12 months include:

* a pilot scheme to assist self-employed artists who have applied for Jobseekers Allowance;

* a new annual cultural day, to be held nationwide on Easter Monday each year; and

* the appointment of a culture team by every local authority in the country.

Heritage infrastructure in Ireland?

Plans will be drawn up for an investment programme for Ireland’s cultural and heritage infrastructure and institutions, as well as for developing Ireland as a global hub for film, TV drama and animation. The first item on the agenda, however, is the drafting of a five-year “Creative Children” plan, which will “enable every child to access tuition in music, drama, art and coding”.

“Together we can do extraordinary things,” Mr Kenny said at the launch. “We can make Ireland the first country in the world to guarantee access for every child to tuition and participation in art, music, drama and coding. We can make every local authority a dynamic hub of cultural creativity.

“We can unlock the huge potential of our people in the creative industries. And we can make an important statement to ourselves and to the world about the interdependency of culture, identity and citizenship.”

Mr Donohoe said the Government recognised that high-quality infrastructure was critical for a vibrant arts and culture sector. Investment in culture underpinned social cohesion and supported strong and sustainable economic growth.

Culture and citizenship

Ms Humphreys said the initiative had been inspired by the “extraordinary public response” to the 1916 Centenary Programme. “This year thousands of cultural events were held around the country,” she said. “Bringing people together in shared reflections on identity, culture and citizenship that combined history, arts, heritage and language. We now want to build on the success of the commemorations and plan ambitiously for our arts and culture sectors for the years ahead.”

Ms Humphreys described the plan as “a very ambitious public policy initiative; possibly the most significant for the arts and cultural sectors in a generation”.

The plan was welcomed by the director of the National Library of Ireland, Dr Sandra Collins, who described it as “progressive and exciting”.

The National Campaign for the Arts, a nationwide, volunteer-led movement, said the plan had “the potential – if delivered – to realise a sea-change for the cultural sector but also for the wellbeing of Irish society as a whole” and welcomed the proposed social protection changes as a “a long overdue safety net for self-employed artists” .

Ireland and Sligo hosts European Capital of Volunteering campaign for 2017 in January 2017

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Sligo is to stage a spectacular opening ceremony to kick off its year as European Volunteering Capital 2017, with acclaimed musicians and volunteers taking centre stage at a Friday, January 27 , 2017 civic and gala event.

The designation of European Volunteering Capital 2017 was formally bestowed on Sligo at an event held in London’s City Hall on Dec 5.

The EVC 2017 designation is a coup for Sligo in that it follows the major European cities of Barcelona, Lisbon and London in being chosen to showcase volunteering and the positive impacts that it has on lives across Europe.

The gala celebration at the IT Sligo Knocknarea Arena will feature VIP guests and specially composed pieces by acclaimed musician Michael Rooney.

The ‘Spirit of Sligo’ celebration event will also feature a selection of inspiring volunteer stories and performances by other artists including Niamh Crowley, Kieran Quinn, Sligo Gospel Choir and the Sligo Academy of Sinfonietta Orchestra.

Highlights from Michael Rooney’s rousing compositions Famine, Battle of the Books, De Cuellar and Macalla suites will be performed alongside a new arrangement of his seminal Prince Charles Suite by traditional and classical musicians.

Ciara Herity of Sligo Volunteer Centre said: “The designation is a real honour and a chance to tell the many stories of volunteerism which happen every day in Sligo and beyond.

“London showed in 2016 what was possible in connecting people to volunteering and next year we hope to emulate that work by showcasing Sligo at its very best.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Ciaran Hayes, CEO of Sligo County Council, who attended the launch of the January 27 ‘Spirit of Sligo’ gala event.

He said: “The ‘Spirit of Sligo’ gala event is a wonderful not to be missed show. It’s also a recognition and celebration of all of those who give back to their community, the silent majority who contribute so much to Sligo and who make us what we are.

“The range and extent of volunteering and generosity of volunteers in this county is breathtaking. It’s a special and remarkable place to live and I’m delighted that we can now bring those stories to life and bring the real Sligo to the fore with such a spectacular and entertaining opening.”

Say what you like? But monkey mouths and throats are equipped to talk like us

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Monkeys’ vocal equipment can produce the sounds of human speech, research shows, but they lack the connections between the auditory and motor parts of the brain that humans rely on to imitate words.

If you could change the way a monkey or an ape’s brain is wired, that animal would be capable of producing perfectly intelligible speech.

That’s the conclusion of a study that closely tracked the movements of a monkey’s mouth and throat with X-rays, to understand the full potential of its vocal tract.

The researchers used X-ray videos to capture and trace the movements of the different parts of a macaque’s vocal anatomy — such as the tongue, lips and larynx — during a number of typical macaque behaviors, including lip-smacking, yawning, grunting and cooing.

Researchers then used that information to create a computer model of what it would sound like if the monkey were able to say phrases such as “happy holidays.”

Monkey Voice Simulation Saying “Happy Holidays”

The finding calls into question long-held assumptions about how humans developed their unique ability to use spoken language.

“What you’ll find in the textbooks is that monkeys can’t talk because they don’t have the appropriate vocal tract to do so,” says Tecumseh Fitch, a cognitive biologist at the University of Vienna. “That, I think, is a myth. My colleagues and I all get very tired of seeing this. But you see it in all the textbooks. Lots of popular books, and also scholarly books about the evolution of language, assume that in order to evolve speech we had to have massive changes in our vocal tract. ”

In the past, scientists looked at dead animals to judge what their vocal tracts could do. But Fitch says that made people vastly underestimate the flexibility of nonhuman mammals.

He and his colleagues monitored a long-tailed macaque named Emiliano as he made a wide range of different gestures and sounds, including lip-smacks, yawns, chewing, coos and grunts. Their special equipment took a rapid series of X-rays that allowed them to capture the full range of movement in the monkey’s vocal tract. Then they used computer models to explore its potential for generating speech.

Friday, in the journal Science Advances, his team reports that monkeys would be physically capable of producing five distinguishable vowels — the most common number of vowels found in the world’s languages.

And human listeners could clearly understand phrases they created with their synthesized monkey speech, including a marriage proposal.

Monkey Voice Simulation Saying “Will You Marry Me?”

The bottom line, says Fitch, is that a monkey’s speech limitations stem from the way its brain is organized.

“As soon as you had a brain that was ready to control the vocal tract,” Fitch says, “the vocal tract of a monkey or nonhuman primate would be perfectly fine for producing lots and lots of words.”

The real issue is that monkeys’ brains do not have direct connections down to the neurons that control the larynx and the tongue, he says. What’s more, monkeys don’t have critical connections within the brain itself, between the auditory cortex and motor cortex, which makes them incapable of imitating what they hear in the way that humans do.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a science fiction movie from 2011, actually has the right idea, notes Fitch. In that film, after a lab chimp named Caesar undergoes brain changes, he eventually is able to speak words such as “No.”

“The new Planet of the Apes is a pretty accurate representation of what we think is going on,” says Fitch.



News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 28th November 2016

Dáil expected to pass Bill legalising medicinal cannabis

Up to 90 TDs support new legislation proposed by People Before Profit’s Gino Kenny

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Gino Kenny TD, whose Bill for the legalisation of medicinal cannabis has received widespread support in the Dáil.

Legislation allowing for the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes is expected to pass through the Dáil.

A Bill proposed by People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny has secured the support of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour, the Social Democrats, the Green Party and his colleagues in the Anti-Austerity Alliance.

A number of other Independent TDs including Dr Michael Harty and the Independents4Change are also expected to back it.

The Independent Alliance, which includes Minister for Transport Shane Ross, Minister of State at the Department of Health Finian McGrath and Minister of State John Halligan, has also secured a free vote on the legislation.

This means the Bill will have the support of up to 90 TDs in the Dáil ensuring its passage through the House.

Minister for Health Simon Harris is likely to propose a reasoned amendment to the legislation.

Mr Harris is eager to see change on the issue of medicinal cannabis but is awaiting a report from the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) on the subject. It is due to report back by the end of January.

The Minister has met Mr Kenny and People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett to discuss the legislation.

Mr Harris has asked the deputies to consider adjourning the debate or suspending the vote until the report is concluded.

The Bill, which is to be debated on Thursday, provides for the regulation of cannabis for medicinal use so that patients can receive a legally protected, secure supply that is safe and effective.

Regulatory authority?

However, it also proposes the establishment of a cannabis regulatory authority, which would be tasked with regulating the sale, labelling, advertising and marketing of cannabis and related products.

A Cannabis Research Institute, which would conduct or commission and publish cannabis-related research, has also been proposed.

Once the Bill is passed it will go to the Oireachtas health committee for examination.

While a number of parties have agreed in principle to support the Bill, it is likely they will seek a number of changes at committee stage.

Sinn Féin is to request the HPRA oversee the regulation of cannabis rather than establishing two new bodies. Fianna Fáil, the Independent Alliance and Labour are likely to seek safeguards to ensure this does not lead to abuse of the law or the decriminalisation of cannabis.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977 to 2016, cannabis is subject to stringent controls. A doctor can prescribe cannabis products in limited circumstances if granted a licence by the Minister for Health. One cannabis-based medicine, Sativex, is authorised for the treatment of multiple sclerosis in limited circumstances. Legislation could be amended to allow for its prescription on a wider basis.

Cannabis for medicinal use is permitted in the Netherlands, Croatia, Malta, the Czech Republic, Australia, Canada and a number of US states.

Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne said there should be an option for people to access cannabis for medical use.

“I have had a lot of calls on the issue with people making very good cases in favour of legalising cannabis for medical use, and against. In my own position, as Minister of State, I would be concerned that there would have to be very tight controls on it,” she said.

“I wouldn’t want people to think we are legalising cannabis, which is something I’d be totally against. We don’t want to see cannabis available on prescription and then being dealt on the streets.”

Doctor allegedly admitted cutting C-section patient in the wrong place

Obstetrician accused of professional misconduct in Sligo is before medical council

Dr Andrea Hermann  Image result for Consultant gynaecologist at Sligo Regional Hospital

Dr Andrea Hermann was also the subject of a previous fitness to practice inquiry at the Medical Council, in 2009 and 2010.

A doctor who allegedly admitted cutting a patient undergoing a Caesarean section “in the wrong place” is before a medical council fitness to practice inquiry.

Dr Andrea Hermann faces allegations of professional misconduct and poor professional performance arising from her care of six patients at Sligo Univerity Hospital where she worked as an obstetric and gynaecological registrar in 2013 and 2014.

Patient A told the inquiry that she suspected something was not right when she was still in hospital four days after giving birth. She asked her husband to take a look at her scar and, when he did so, she said he told her, “It’s an awful big scar. It goes down one side.”

She was allowed go home on the Sunday but just as she was leaving a woman at reception “roared” at her to stay. She said Dr Hermann then came up to her. The doctor brought Patient A into a room and, according to Patient A, said, “I cut you in the wrong place.”

Patient A said Dr Hermann admitted she had made a mistake, apologised and said she was sorry this had happened to her.

Patient A said Dr Hermann said by way of explanation that they were using new drapes – a large piece of fabric placed over the patient with a slit for the incision – during the surgery.

“At this point I didn’t know what to think,” Patient A told the inquiry. “I was very shocked. I was quite upset leaving the hospital.”

“I was devastated,” she said. “I couldn’t get my head around how she had made a mistake doing a planned section.”

She said she still experiences a twinge of pain on her side.

Serious consequences.

In relation to another patient, it is alleged that Dr Hermann failed to establish whether a Mirena coil was still in place during a follow-up appointment. This patient later conceived and miscarried, the inquiry heard.

It is also alleged that Dr Hermann failed to display any surgical skill when closing a uterotomy during a procedure undergone by a woman referred to as Patient F. The inquiry heard that during this procedure, in January 2014, Dr Hermann was attempting to suture Patient F’s uterus to her abdominal wall. If it had not been for the intervention of one of her colleagues, there could have been very serious consequences for the patient, the inquiry heard.

It is also alleged Dr Hermann failed to tell the Sligo hospital of previous conditions imposed on her by the Medical Council following an earlier fitness to practice inquiry in 2010.

Her legal representative, Gerard O’Donnell, of O’Donnell Waters solicitors in Galway, read out a statement on behalf of Dr Hermann, before going off record. In the statement, Dr Hermann said that as a result of events following the previous inquiry in 2009 and 2010, she suffered from severe depression and was “traumatised”. She said her privacy was of huge importance and asked that her name did not appear in the media again.

Senior counsel Patrick Leonard, for the Medical Council, said Dr Hermann was also the subject of a previous fitness to practice inquiry at the Medical Council, in 2009 and 2010. Before this time, Dr Hermann worked in the Galway Clinic.

On foot of this, the Medical Council recommended that Dr Hermann be suspended for one year and that certain conditions be attached to her registration, such as agreeing to certain supervision, once she began work again. These conditions were confirmed by the High Court in March 2011.

Dr Hermann was suspended from June 2010 to June 2011. During this time, she practiced as a doctor in Germany, where she is from originally, and she continued to work there until the summer of 2013.

Restrictions disclosure?

It is alleged that she did not disclose the restrictions attached to her registration at a job interview at Sligo University Hospital when she returned to Ireland, although Dr Hermann disputes this.

Her application for re-registration was accepted and on July 24th, 2013, the Medical Council emailed Sligo hospital to confirm that Dr Hermann was registered, with certain conditions attached.

However, it appears that the hospital “did not appreciate” that Dr Hermann’s registration was subject to conditions, according to Mr Leonard.

By January 2014, concerns had been raised within Sligo hospital about Dr Hermann’s clinical competencies. The hospital removed her from the on-call rota, and they increased levels of supervision for her. In May 2014, Dr Hermann resigned from her post.

The inquiry heard that Dr Hermann, who is not present at the inquiry, admits to a number of the clinical allegations, and that they amount to poor professional performance. However, she has not made any admissions regarding the allegations concerning the conditions attached to her registration.

At the start of the inquiry Dr Hermann applied for a privacy application, so that her name would be anonymised, but this was denied.

Ireland’s unemployment rate falls to 7.3% for this November

Youth unemployment also slips to 15.5%, according to new CSO figures for November

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The unemployment rate for women in November was 6.1% now down from 6.2% in October.

The Republic’s unemployment rate fell to a new post-crash low of 7.3% during November, according to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for November 2016 was 7.3% – down from 7.5% in October 2016 and down from 9.1% in November 2015.

The number of people unemployed was 160,700 in November 2016, down from 164,100 in October 2016.

The 160,700 figure also represents a decrease of 36,200 when compared to November 2015.

In November 2016, the unemployment rate was 8.3% for men – down from 8.6% in October 2016 and down from 10.7% in November 2015.

Youth unemployment

The unemployment rate for women in November 2016 was 6.1% – down from 6.2% in October 2016 and down from 7.1% in November 2015.

The number of men unemployed in November 2016 was 99,600. This is a decrease of 3,400 when compared to the October 2016 figure of 103,000.

In November 2016, the number of women unemployed was 61,100 – an increase of 100 when compared to October 2016.

The unemployment rate for people aged 15-24 years (youth unemployment rate) was 15.5% in November 2016, a decrease from 16.4% cent in October 2016.

Merrion Stockbrokers economist Alan McQuaid said the fall in the figrues may “to some degree” be down to people returning to education or taking up training schemes.

“Although emigration has been a factor to some degree in keeping unemployment down since the financial crisis, the labour market has improved dramatically in recent years, reflecting the strengthening of the economic recovery,” he said.

“Meanwhile, in the third quarter of 2016, employment rose in twelve of the fourteen economic sectors on an annual basis and fell in the other two in the quarter.”

The greatest rates of increase were in the accommodation and food service activities sector, which rose 9.6% or 13,400, and in construction, which rose 7.3% or 9,300.

“The pick-up in the latter is particularly encouraging given that it was the building industry that suffered the worst in the downturn,” said Mr McQuaid.

The outlook?

The outlook from next year on however, is “more uncertain” in light of Britain’s impending exit from the European Union.

“Increased labour market participation will also impact on the numbers,” he said. “Still, we expect the downward trend in unemployment to continue over the next twelve months, albeit at a slower pace than before.”

ISME chief executive Neil McDonnell said living costs were impacting job creation.

“Government policies strongly influence almost 48% of the costs in the Consumer Price Index,” he said. “They must act now to reduce these costs, in health, education, housing, rent, insurance and travel”.

Mr McDonnell called on Government to reduce business costs to below the EU average, target capital investment in job rich infrastructure, outsource more state sector services to SMEs, and to reform the social welfare system to make it more profitable to work.

“If Government-controlled costs are reduced, workers would have more money in their pockets,” he said. “This would reduce the calls for pay increases, and would allow employers take on more staff.”

A Fathers’ embrace as role leader is tied to less behavioural problems in pre-teens

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A new U.K. study suggests a new father’s adjustment to being a parent and his confidence in this role, rather than the amount of direct childcare they give, seems to be important during a child’s early years.

Investigators discovered pre-teens whose dads embrace parenthood may be less prone to behavioral issues.

The nature of parenting in a child’s early years is thought to influence their short- and long-term well-being and mental health, which are in turn linked to development and educational attainment.

But it’s not entirely clear what impact the father’s role might have, as much of the research to date has tended to characterize paternal involvement in a child’s upbringing as one-dimensional.

The researchers therefore drew on data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) study, which has been tracking the health of nearly 15,000 children since birth, to assess several aspects of paternal involvement. The study is published in the online journal BMJ Open.

The parents of 10,440 children living with both their mother and dad at the age of 8 months were asked to complete a comprehensive questionnaire about their and their child’s mental health. The questionnaire explored attitudes to parenting; time spent on childcare; their child’s behavior and development; as well as details of household income/education.

When the children were aged nine and 11, their behavior was assessed using the strength and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ). This covers emotional symptoms, behavior (conduct) problems, hyperactivity, peer relationship issues, and helpfulness (pro-social behavior).

Fathers’ parental involvement was measured by asking them to rate their level of agreement with 58 statements, reflecting the amount of direct childcare they engaged in, including household chores; their attitudes to parenting; the relationship with their child; and how they felt about the birth eight weeks and eight months afterwards.

The final analysis was based on almost 7,000 nine year-olds and nearly 6,500 of the same children at the age of 11.

Three key factors emerged in relation to the children’s SDQ scores:

1. fathers’ emotional response to the baby and their parenting role;

2. how much time the dads spent on direct childcare;

3. and how well they adjusted to their new role, including how confident they felt in their abilities as a parent and partner.

Investigators discovered a father’s emotional response and confidence in their new role were most strongly associated with lower odds of behavioural problems when their children reached nine and 11 years of age.

A high paternal factor one score was associated with 21 percent and 19 percent lower odds of a higher SDQ score at the ages of nine and 11, respectively. Similarly, a high paternal factor three score was associated with 28 percent lower odds of a higher SDQ score at both time points.

When researchers adjust for potentially influential factors, such as age at fatherhood, educational attainment and household income, hours worked and sex of the child, the results remained consistent.

Researchers noted, however, that the study is observational and no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. Moreover, researchers note the study dates back 25 years, and parenting styles may have changed, so the findings may therefore not be widely generalizable.

But they write, “The findings of this research study suggest that it is psychological and emotional aspects of paternal involvement in a child’s infancy that are most powerful in influencing later child behavior, and not the amount of time that fathers are engaged in childcare or domestic tasks in the household.”

A flying camera will now take your selfies from mid-air!

It’s a drone, and also, a flying camera.

Image result for A flying camera will now take your selfies from mid-air!     Image result for A flying camera will now take your selfies from mid-air!

Selfie sticks are so passé. Millennials now have something new to look forward to: a pocket-sized flying camera or perhaps the only portable flying camera that integrates with smartphones has now set a completely new aspiration for the selfie brigade.

It is simply called AirSelfie the device generates its own WiFi that a smartphone can pair with, and comes equipped with a rechargeable battery through a cell phone case. Additionally, a vibration-absorber system and a host of in-flight stability systems claim to offer fluid flight and sharp images. Compatible with most popular smartphones such as iPhone (6, 6s, 7 and 7 Plus), Huawei P9, Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, it is comprised of four propellers and a 5MP video camera with which you can take both photographs and video recordings.

With the built-in 260 mAh 7.4 V battery and a 4GB microSD card, the mini-drone can fly for up to three minutes on a single charge, and is controlled by its own app (available for iOS and Android.) For obvious reasons, the AirSelfie will work well for those personal selfies, and will also prove beneficial while taking group shots and family photos from up to 66 feet away. Users can take indoor and outdoor aerial photos of subjects and locations that would otherwise be unreachable.

“Our team of 60 seasoned technology professionals and enthusiasts researched, designed and created a flying camera that exceeds all current standards,” said Edoardo Stroppiana, co-founder of AirSelfie. “We saw an increasing need for a device that goes beyond a selfie stick, allowing users to take pictures from all angles, and we’re excited to introduce AirSelfie to millennials and consumers around the world. It sets a completely new bar for the market.”

How it works?

To activate AirSelfie, users need to remove it from its case, turn it on, then pair it with a smartphones via its self-generated WiFi access point. After use, simply pressing the ‘slide to land’ label on the app causes the device to descend and power off. Using the ‘selfie delay timer’ function, users can also take timed photos, giving them up to 10 seconds to get into position for the picture.

AirSelfie is available for pre-order via Kickstarter beginning November 17, and is slated to commence deliveries by March next year.

The Great Barrier Reef has suffered the worst coral devastation  on record

Image result for The Great Barrier Reef has suffered the worst coral devastation on record V Image result for The Great Barrier Reef has suffered the worst coral devastation on record

Earlier this year, the Great Barrier Reef was devastated by the largest mass bleaching event ever seen as record-warm ocean temperatures turned large swaths of this vibrant 1,400 mile habitat into a ghastly white boneyard.

Now scientists have finally tallied up the damage. Data released Monday by Australian researchers shows that an unprecedented fraction of the coral in the more pristine northern part of the reef has died, with average mortality rates of 67 percent.

The good news is that the southern sections fared much better, with just 6 percent of coral dead in the central section and 1% dead in the south. “The [sea] corals have now regained their vibrant colour, and these reefs are in good condition,” said Professor Andrew Baird of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in a release. Here’s a map showing the damage:

The map, detailing coral loss on Great Barrier Reef, shows how mortality varies enormously from north to south.

The scientists note that it could take 10 to 15 years for the worst-hit sections of the reef recover — but the real fear is that, thanks to global warming, another mass bleaching event will come along very soon and make the situation even worse.

How mass bleaching ravaged the Great Barrier Reef this year

Coral reefs are often dubbed the rain forests of the ocean. Anchored by millions of coral polyps — tiny, soft-bodied animals that create elaborate calcium carbonate skeletons that shelter fish — these reefs cover just 0.1 percent of the sea floor but are home to 25 percent of marine fish species.

They’re popular spots for divers and tourists. They protect coasts from storms. They sustain food for half a billion people. And they’re just plain lovely. Here’s what a healthy reef looks like:

Coral reefs are, however, extremely vulnerable to soaring temperatures. In normal times, the living coral polyps form a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae, a colorful type of algae that synthesizes sunlight and carbon dioxide to create nutrients for the reef. This algae gives the coral its purple/gold color.

But this symbiosis only thrives within a fairly narrow temperature band. If the water in the reef gets too warm, the zooxanthellae’s metabolism goes into overdrive and starts producing toxins. The polyps recoil and expel the algae from their tissue, leaving the coral with a ghastly “bleached” appearance. At that point, the coral loses a key source of food and becomes more susceptible to deadly diseases.

That’s what happened in January through March of this year. Record high temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, fueled by global warming and a powerful El Niño, caused mass bleaching throughout the Great Barrier Reef. Here’s a shot of bleached staghorn coral at Lizard Island, taken February 2016:

Bleaching doesn’t kill the coral right away; if ocean temperatures drop again, the zooxanthellae will come back. But if temperatures stay high for a long period and the bleaching gets really severe, as was the case in the Great Barrier Reef, then a lot of coral will start to die of malnutrition or disease.

Here’s another picture of Lizard Island taken two months later, in April 2016 — the staghorn coral is completely dead and smothered in algae:

Dead staghorn coral overrun by algae in April 2016 at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef.

Once the coral dies off, it can adversely affect the fish that rely on the reefs. The entire ecosystem suffers.

Bleached coral reefs can recover — but only if they’re given a chance

Now, the good news is that coral reefs can recover from these mass die-offs. Now that El Niño is gone, ocean temperatures have fallen around Australia. New polyps are returning and starting to build new skeletal structures to replace the dead coral.

The hitch is that recovery takes time. Lots of time. In places like the Seychelles, where reefs are mostly sheltered from pollution, tourism, and heavy fishing, it has taken at least 15 years for damaged reefs to come back. In areas stressed by human activity, the process can take much longer.

What’s more, recovery is often uneven. The fast-growing “branching” corals bounce back first. But there are also older, massive corals that are centuries old and provide valuable shelter for bigger fish. When those die off, they don’t return overnight.

And here’s the catch: The current pace of global warming may not give these damaged reefs sufficient time to bounce back fully. Before the 1980s, mass bleaching events were virtually unheard of. Now they’re becoming more and more frequent, particularly every time there’s an El Niño, as ocean temperatures spike. In April, a paper in Science warned that the Great Barrier Reef may lose its ability to bounce back as global warming continues.

“This year is the third time in 18 years that the Great Barrier Reef has experienced mass bleaching due to global warming, and the current event is much more extreme than we’ve measured before,” Terry Hughes of the ARC Centre said back in May.

Another complication: As we pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the oceans are becoming more acidic. In some cases, acidification can make corals more sensitive to bleaching at lower temperatures. It can also make it harder for the corals to build their protective skeletons and recover from events like this.

Now, there are some things that Australia (and other countries) can do to help make reefs more resilient to bleaching. Humans can limit fertilizer and sewage runoff that further damage the coral. We can avoid overfishing key herbivores like the rabbitfish that nurture the reefs by clearing away excessive algae.

Chomp, chomp. The white-spotted rabbitfish has been spotted clearing away harmful coral in the Great Barrier Reef.

Humans can also avoid wreaking havoc on reefs by rerouting boats around them and restricting construction in the coastal areas near them. Australia is on the wrong track here: In 2015, the government approved plans to expand coal exports via ship in the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef.

But ultimately, reducing our CO2 emissions is the crucial step. Mark Eakin, who runs who runs NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch program, told me back in March that we’d likely need to keep total global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius for coral reefs to continue thriving. Right now we’re on course to blow past 2 degrees Celsius, which could doom recovery efforts.

“At 2 degrees Celsius,” Eakin says bluntly, “we are likely to lose numerous species of coral and well over half of the world’s coral reefs.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 14th November 2016

Construction activity in Irish Republic rose again in October

Building, orders and employment all rose rapidly last month,

Image result for Construction activity in Irish Republic rose again in October  Image result for Construction activity in Irish Republic rose again in October

Total construction activity in the Republic increased for the second successive month in October.

The construction sector in the Republic recorded a strong start to the final quarter of the year, with activity, new orders and employment all increasing at faster rates in October, according to the latest Ulster Bank Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI).

Meanwhile, a similar survey by Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland showed that firms enjoyed a surge in export orders last month on the back of sterling’s continued weakness but their good fortune was mirrored by growing problems for local importers as costs continue to spiral.

In the Republic, the seasonally adjusted index, designed to track changes in total construction activity, increased for the second successive month in October to 62.3, up from 58.7 in September.

This represented a sharp monthly rise in total construction activity, and the fastest in seven months. Construction output has increased continuously since September 2013.

Commenting on the survey results, Simon Barry, chief economist for the Republic of Ireland at Ulster Bank, said: “Importantly, construction firms are continuing to benefit from robust increases in new business levels, with the new orders index rising to its highest level since February following a fifth consecutive monthly acceleration in October.

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“Firms continue to report a strengthening in client demand amid a general improvement in economic conditions as an important contributor to the ongoing uplift in new business volumes. In turn, the healthy expansion of new orders continues to underpin increased demand for construction workers. The employment index rose sharply last month, with the pace of hiring accelerating to its fastest in eight months as almost one-third of firms noted a rise in employment.”

Mr Barry said the mainly domestic-facing construction sector was less directly exposed to adverse Brexit impacts than more heavily trade-dependent areas of the economy.

Northern Ireland figures

In Northern Ireland, Ulster Bank’s PMI survey showed that although businesses are enjoying an export boost following the Brexit vote, the total number of new orders recorded by local firms remained largely unchanged during October.

The PMI survey also highlighted that while business activity demonstrated growth last month in the local economy, the pace of growth was sluggish and weaker compared to nearly every other UK region.

Richard Ramsey, Ulster Bank’s chief economist in Northern Ireland, said the survey reveals the stark differences between domestic and export markets.

“Overall, incoming orders stagnated in October and have failed to grow since June. However, export orders expanded at their second-highest rate since the survey began. This implies that domestic orders have been contracting at a significant rate.

“The converse seems to be the case within the construction sector. Given Belfast’s crane-cluttered skyline, it would appear that business conditions within the local construction market are relatively buoyant.

“However, despite this, and perhaps surprisingly, the PMI points to rapid rates of contraction in construction output orders and employment. This is largely due to subdued demand within a major external market, ie GB.”

Mr Ramsey said sterling’s current weakness was a “mixed blessing” for the North as the manufacturing and retail sectors are forced to bear the brunt of the input-cost inflation.

Donald Trump’s temperament will not serve him well as the next president of USA,

Image result for Donald Trump's temperament will not serve him well as the next president of USA,  Image result for Donald Trump's temperament will not serve him well as the next president of USA, Image result for Donald Trump's temperament will not serve him well as the next president of USA,

Donald Trump is known for his blunt speaking

President Barack Obama has warned there are “certain elements” of Donald Trump’s temperament that will not serve him well “unless he recognises them and corrects them”.

With just weeks left in office, Mr Obama said the president-elect understands that a candidate being reckless with his words can be less consequential than a president saying the same thing.

Mr Obama noted that markets move and foreign governments take note of a president’s rhetoric and stressed that national security “requires a level of precision” so that deadly mistakes are not made.

He said blunt-spoken Mr Trump “recognises that this is different – and so do the American people”.

In a White House news conference ahead of his final overseas trip as president, Mr Obama made the argument that immigration is good for the American economy.

He acknowledged that many Americans have grown sceptical about the “complex argument” in support of immigration, when they see factories closing at home and jobs going offshore. But he said “immigration is good for our economy” if it is “orderly and lawful”.

Mr Trump campaigned on a promise to limit immigration into the US and bring offshore jobs back home.

But Mr Obama maintained that it is still his “strong belief” that achieving a strong global economy does not mean “shutting people out”.

And he believes Mr Trump will seek to “send some signals of unity” to people alienated by his ferocious campaign.

He said he advised the president-elect “to reach out to minority groups or women or others that were concerned about the tenor of the campaign” and “that’s something that he will want to do”.

But he added that Mr Trump is trying to balance commitments he made to “supporters that helped to get him here”.

On the campaign trail, Mr Trump described Mexicans as rapists and criminals. He vowed to build a wall along the US’s southern border and make Mexico pay for it.

He appeared to mock a reporter with a physical disability and threatened to sue several women who accused him of assaulting them. Mr Trump also disparaged the Muslim American parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq, and battled a former Miss America who is Latino about having gained weight.

Mr Obama stressed the need to give Mr Trump the “rope and space” for a “reset” once he takes over the reins of power.

Earlier it emerged that Mr Trump was considering a woman and an openly gay man to fill major positions in his new leadership team.

It would be seen as history-making moves that would inject diversity into a Trump administration already facing questions about its ties to white nationalists.

The incoming president is considering Richard Grenell as United States ambassador to the United Nations.

If picked and ultimately confirmed by the Senate, he would be the first openly gay person to fill a Cabinet-level foreign policy post.

Mr Grenell previously served as US spokesman at the UN under former President George W Bush’s administration.

At the same time, Mr Trump is weighing up whether to select the first woman to serve as chairman of the Republican National Committee.

On his short list of prospective chairs: Michigan GOP chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, the former sister-in-law of Trump rival and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

“I’ll be interested in whatever Mr Trump wants,” Ms McDaniel said, adding that she was planning to seek the Michigan GOP chairmanship again

Internal deliberations about staffing come a day after Mr Trump made overtures to warring Republican circles by appointing RNC Chairman Reince Priebus as his White House chief of staff and Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon as chief strategist and senior counsellor.


Will Mike Pence the US vice-president elect visit Ireland

Image result for Will Mike Pence the US vice-president elect visit Ireland  Image result for Mike Pence grandparent from Doocastle outside Tubbercurry co Sligo  Image result for Tubbercurry town co Sligo

The vice-President elect of the USA Mike Pence will be officially invited to the Co Sligo town of Tubbercurry where his grandfather hails from.

And the Chamber of Commerce in Tubbercurry believes Donald Trump’s running mate could himself end up in the top job in as little as four years’ time.

“Local people are delighted,” said chamber spokesman Roger McCarrick.

“We will be writing to him officially to invite him to the home of his ancestors. Regardless of policies he is still an ex-Tubbercurry man as far as we are concerned.

“There has been a sense of pride that a descendant of here could aspire to such high office. He has been Governor of Indiana since 2013 and it’s possible he could run for President in four or eight years’ time and he could be on the biggest political stage of all for the next 16 years.”

Governor Pence’s grandfather was Richard Michael Cawley, who emigrated in 1923 to Chicago where he became a bus driver.

He is said to have hailed from the Doocastle area outside Tubbercurry.

Pence has spoken in the past on how his views on immigration were shaped by his grandfather’s entry from Ireland through Ellis Island in 1923.

Now, further details of Mr Cawley’s Sligo roots have emerged thanks to research carried out by New York native, Robert Theiss from Arlington, Virginia, a postgraduate in history who has a strong interest in genealogy.

Theiss said: “Passenger arrival records show Richard Cawley, aged 20, a miner, arriving in New York on April 11, 1923, on a ship called the Andania, which had set sail from Liverpool.

“The passenger arrival record shows Richard Cawley’s place of birth as Doocastle. The passenger arrival record shows his last place of residence as having been Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lancs., England.”

Pence’s Irish granddad died on Christmas Eve 1980. He was 77. Pence was 21 at the time.

Richard Cawley’s wife, was Mary Elizabeth Maloney. She was born on March 22, 1907, in Chicago, Illinois. She died in Chicago on November 1, 1980, aged 73, just weeks before her husband Richard died.

She was the daughter of Irish immigrants. Her father, James Michael Maloney, was born on February 1, 1872, in Killaloe, Co. Clare, and her mother, Mary Anne Downes, was born on July 16, 1880, in Doonbeg, Co. Clare. James died in Chicago on October 10, 1916, aged 44. Mary Anne died in Chicago on December 23, 1955, aged 75.

Mike Pence and his family visited Ireland three years ago going to Co. Clare and Co. Sligo. Mike Pence met Moloney and Downes distant cousins, in Co. Clare.

Ireland’s Garda reserve membership has fallen 13% from June-Sept this year

Image result for Ireland's Garda reserve membership has fallen 13% from June-Sept this year  Image result for Ireland's Garda reserve membership down

Fianna Fáil has called on the Justice Minister to start recruiting more members onto the reserve force.

The number of Garda reserves across the country has fallen to under 800 in the past four months.

New figures released to Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan showed how there were 1,179 reservists at the beginning of 2014. This number has now fallen a further 13% in the four-month period between June and September to 756.

Depleted reserves?

The biggest drop was in the Dublin South Central district where the number fell by a further 12% since May of this year.

O’Callaghan said: “Concerns have been expressed for some time on not utilising the significant potential of the garda reserve. This poses a much bigger challenge if the numbers continue to fall.

“The Garda Inspectorate report, published last December, indicated that despite receiving considerable training, reserves are not consistently or strategically maximised for operational purposes.

Just last month it was stated that there are plans afoot to more than double the number of Garda reserves nationally. This would bring the strength of the force up to 2,000. I am calling on the minister to kick start this process without delay.

NUIG refutes claims of continued gender discrimination at University

Image result for NUIG refutes claims of continued gender discrimination at University   Image result for NUIG refutes claims of continued gender discrimination at University

The five female lecturers (right) who claimed NUIG overlooked them for promotion.

NUI Galway has refuted claims that it’s ‘punishing’ women who highlighted issues surrounding gender discrimination at the university.

In a statement, college authorities said accusations made by the Irish Federation of University Teachers are ‘ill-informed’ and ‘untrue’.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers claims NUI Galway has failed to address outstanding legal cases relating to gender discrimination.

It argues that the university is stalling and prolonging actions taken by four female staff members, which are currently before the Circuit and High Court.

It says the situation amounts to the ‘punishment’ of whistleblowers who have highlighted vital issues on the national stage.

It comes more than two years since the Equality Tribunal ruled against NUI Galway in a case involving Dr. Micheline Sheehy-Skeffington.

NUI Galway says the cases are subject to the remit and rules of the courts and it is actively seeking their progression.

It adds that the contention by the IFUT that the university is delaying or prolonging court cases is ill-informed and simply untrue.

A new search in depression area for life on Mars now being looked at

Image result for A depression area on Mars now being looked for new life  Image result for A depression area on Mars now being looked for new life  Image result for A depression area on Mars now being looked for new life

Scientists at the University of Texas have zeroed in on a depression that could possibly support life on Mars.

A newly discovered depression may breathe new life into the pursuit to find life on Mars.

A strangely shaped depression—likely formed by a volcano beneath a glacier—could be a warm, chemical-rich environment suited for microbial life, according to a study from the University of Texas at Austin.

“We were drawn to this site because it looked like it could host some of the key ingredients for habitability — water, heat and nutrients,” lead author Joseph Levy, a research associate at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, a research unit of the Jackson School of Geosciences, said in a statement.

The depression is located inside a crater perched on the rim of the Hellas basin and is surrounded by ancient glacial deposits.

The depression first came to light in 2009 when Levy noticed crack-like features on pictures of depressions taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter looked similar to ice cauldrons formations found in Iceland and Greenland, which were made by volcanos erupting under an ice sheet. Levy and others also discovered another depression in the Galaxias Fossae region of Mars that had a similar appearance.

“These landforms caught our eye because they’re weird looking,” Levy said. “They’re concentrically fractured so they look like a bulls-eye. That can be a very diagnostic pattern you see in Earth materials.”

Earlier this year, Levy and his research team were able to more thoroughly analyze the depressions using stereoscopic images to investigate whether the depressions were made by underground volcanic activity that melted away surface ice or by an impact from an asteroid.

Timothy Goudge, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas- Austin, used pairs of high-resolution images to create digital elevation models of the depressions that enabled in-depth analysis of their shape and structure in 3D.

“The big contribution of the study was that we were able to measure not just their shape and appearance, but also how much material was lost to form the depressions,” Levy added. “That 3D view lets us test this idea of volcanic or impact.”

A closer analysis showed that both depressions shared an unusual funnel shape with a broad perimeter that gradually narrowed with depth.

“That surprised us and led to a lot of thinking about whether it meant there was melting concentrated in the center that removed ice and allowed stuff to pour in from the sides,” Levy said. “Or if you had an impact crater, did you start with a much smaller crater in the past and by sublimating away ice, you’ve expanded the apparent size of the crater.”

After running formation scenarios for the two depressions, researchers concluded that the debris spread around the Galaxias Fossae depression suggests that it was the result of an impact with the possibility it could be formed by a volcano due to the volcanic history of the area. However, the Hellas depression has many signs of volcanic origins, lacks the surrounding debris of an impact and has a fracture pattern associated with concentrated removal of ice by melting or sublimation.

According to Levy, the interaction of lava and ice to form a depression would show that it could create an environment with liquid water and chemical nutrients.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 24th September 2016

Enda Kenny vows no change to Ireland’s 12.5% corporate tax rate

Image result for Enda Kenny vows no change to Ireland’s 12.5% corporate tax rate  Image result for “The American Chamber believes that competitiveness and certainty of tax policy are necessary to Ireland’s foreign direct investment   Image result for “The American Chamber believes that competitiveness and certainty of tax policy are necessary to Ireland’s foreign direct investment

There will be no change to Ireland’s 12.5% corporate tax rate, the Taoiseach told US business leaders in Ireland yesterday.

Enda Kenny gave the reassurance after his first post-Brexit meeting with the American Chamber of Commerce at a business lunch in Cork.

Chamber president, Bob Savage, said the need for certainty in policy and administration to secure current and future inward investment had come into sharp focus in recent weeks in the wake of the UK’s shock Brexit vote.

“The American Chamber believes that competitiveness and certainty of tax policy are necessary to Ireland’s foreign direct investment (FDI) offering,” he said.

And in their pre-budget submission, the chamber, which represents US companies in Ireland employing some 140,000 people, said competitiveness and certainty of tax policy are vital parts of Ireland’s foreign direct investment offering.

After meeting members of the chamber’s board yesterday, Mr Kenny ruled out any question of Ireland’s corporate tax rate being up for negotiation post-Brexit, or following the EU’s tax ruling on US tech giant Apple, which is the subject of an appeal.

“This is the first meeting I have had with the (American Chamber (of Commerce) since the decision on Brexit,” Mr Kenny said.

“I have to say that the American Chamber has given a very strong indication of their continued support for investment in Ireland.

“I have made it perfectly clear, from a tax certainty point of view, that Ireland is absolutely committed to its 12.5% corporation tax rate.

“That will not be changing and that is an important element for consideration with American investors coming here to Ireland.

“From my discussions with the IDA the (foreign direct investment) pipeline is busy up ahead.

“There are matters that we need to attend to in the future in terms of infrastructure, housing and provision of adequate facilities for major companies to do their jobs here.

“There are 175,000 people directly employed in both companies that are both associated with and members of the American Chamber and Irish companies who have invested here.”

Mr Savage welcomed the Taoiseach’s clear statement on corporate tax.

“We appreciate the Taoiseach’s unambiguous declaration that the Government will steadfastly defend our hard-earned reputation as a pro-business country that is defined by fairness and certainty of treatment,” he said.

“We have never seen the competition for US business investment from other regions of the world as intense as it is today. It is essential that we constantly benchmark our competitiveness against the countries that compete with us.”

Thousands of protesters take part in pro-choice rally in Dublin

London, Paris, Brussels and New York among cities hosting demonstrations

Image result for Thousands of protesters take part in pro-choice rally in Dublin  Image result for Thousands of protesters take part in pro-choice rally in Dublin

Bad weather and bus strikes did not deter thousands turning out for the fifth annual March for Choice rally in Dublin.

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in a Dublin rally calling for he repeal of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution in one of the biggest pro-choice demonstrations seen in Ireland.

The march set off from Garden of Rembrance on Parnell Square shortly after 2pm, travelling down O’Connell Street.

The mainly young crowd shouted chants of “Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate”, “Get your rosaries off my ovaries”, and “Pro-life, that’s a lie, you don’t care if women die” before reaching Merrion Square where speeches were made.

Incessant heavy rain and the ongoing Dublin Bus strike failed to deter large crowd. ,

Organised by the Abortion Rights Campaign, the March for Choice event was the fifth annual protest by the group and the biggest.

Several observers put the attendance at about 20,000, although some participants calculated a higher figure.

Pro-choice campaigners among the Irish diaspora are holding parallel demonstrations in a number of cities including London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Melbourne.

Linda Kavanagh of the Abortion Rights Campaign said: “In 1916 people dreamed of a better Ireland, one of self-determination and the right to choose their own destiny. A hundred years later, we’re still fighting for that right; there can be no freedom without bodily autonomy.

“We cannot wait for another woman to die, for another woman to be kept alive artificially, for another woman to be force-fed and cut open against her will.

“Enough blood has been spilled, enough women have died. No more shame, no more silence, no more stigma. This is our Rising.”

Singer Mary Coughlan told the crowd: “I have been involved in many campaigns, and this is surely the most joyous of all to see so many of you here today.

“I’m a mother of five children, three daughters and two sons. I’m a grandmother of three children and another one on the way.

Sligo man and restaurant boss wants to see the county helped out more by the Government

Image result for Sligo native Anthony Gray was elected President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland  Image result for Sligo native Anthony Gray was elected President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland

The President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Sligoman, Anthony Gray (right of picture above) has urged the Government to help Sligo and rural Ireland in its recovery and growth before it becomes a ‘desert wasteland’.

“It’s quite amazing to see other small towns and counties like Mayo thriving while the rest of rural Ireland is forgotten about. For example, Mayo has five dedicated tourist officers and Galway, eight. Sligo has a big fat zero, the same as many other rural towns like Roscommon. I wonder why you continually hear of job announcements in these areas. Maybe, it’s due to the fact they have fibre broadband, motorways and good healthcare?

Mr Gray continued, “I drive to Dublin regularly and from the Collooney roundabout until Castlebaldwin it’s quite eerie just to count the number of crosses where far too many people have been killed. What a picture for potential tourists, visitors and investors. We are to get a motorway, but when?

“We in Sligo, only have tourism to hang our hat on. We have zero job investments but fantastic hard working people in IDA who keep trying to bring more to Sligo but the government only allows them a 19% growth outside of Dublin. If it wasn’t for some talented like-minded people who believe in and drive Sligo forward, who brought the Fleadh here and tirelessly promote Sligo for its food culture and beauty, you might as well forget this part of the most beautiful countryside actually exists.

“At present, the only major contributor to Sligo for me is Failte Ireland, they realise its wealth as a tourist destination and believe it will work. It is the only organisation that are investing in Sligo,” he said.

With the success of events like the Fleadh, the continuing hard work by the Tidy Towns, Sligo food trail and other groups who consistently promote Sligo for its rich heritage in music and beauty, it really shows that there is a passion and it clearly outlines our ability to succeed but when there is absolutely no Government support its very frustrating.

I sit on many boards trying to promote Sligo and, pardon the pun, there’s one major ingredient missing from all rural towns in Ireland and Sligo and that is government investment and money. Sometimes, you can’t even get enough money for a sign to bring with you to say that you’re from Sligo.”

A frustrated Mr Gray noted Sligo’s most recent loss. “Sligo has most recently lost its library due to the county council being handed a financial plan that’s totally unrealistic. The fact of the matter is the council has no money and it is being asked to reduce its staff by 42%. Something has to give and what can you do if you don’t have the staff? Let’s call it as it is, Sligo has no money, fact. None whatsoever from the government and more than likely, it won’t get any in a hurry, the same as every other rural town in Ireland. This is why we will never reach our full potential unless changes are made. No one can work in the direction they want because of this. It’s down to the current government to make changes and no one else.

It’s about time that Sligo and rural Ireland stood up and got angry. At present, our TDs in rural Ireland and Sligo are not strong enough nor do they possess the political clout. Do you think a library in Kerry would have closed under the eyes of the Healy Rae brothers? Not a hope.

This Government’s blind indifference to Sligo and rural Ireland is destroying its potential. The litany of broken promises from the last general election measured against outcomes since represents the greatest act of political skulduggery by this government. It is true the greatest failure is the two tier recovery, it will be the ruination of rural Ireland and Sligo if not addressed.

Strategic thinking and the right resource application can transform our local economy. A balancing of the books by government can give Sligo a budget it can work with to embrace its true potential, all that’s required is a life line. We in Sligo and other towns can do this and the rest of the country will start to prosper but only then. The government must look at this matter clearly instead of with the blinkered vision. Right now there is a two-tier economy and this is widening between urban and rural Ireland.

If the government wants to redeem themselves they must understand that Ireland, especially rural Ireland, is still in a very fragile state. With now having to contend with Brexit and fluctuations in sterling, it really is about time the people in power remember the rest of Ireland and the border counties. It’s time somebody cared and did something about rural Ireland. After all, it’s not a desert wasteland but it will be if the government fails to repay rural Ireland for what it suffered in austerity by not investing in job creation and boosting tourism. For now, a Sligo budget will be detrimental to the Restaurant Industry in rural Ireland and Sligo and SMEs across this nation.”

A “Healthy Weight for Ireland” new action plan to tackle obesity

 Image result for A "Healthy Weight for Ireland" new action plan to tackle obesity   Image result for A "Healthy Weight for Ireland" new action plan to tackle obesity                                                                                                                Sugar Tax

60% of Ireland’s adults now overweight or obese

A new action plan to target Ireland’s growing obesity problem has been launched by the Department of Health.

Currently in Ireland, six in 10 adults and one in four children are overweight or obese and this costs the country around €1 billion per year. Carrying excess weight significantly increases a person’s risk of developing a number of serious conditions, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

A Healthy Weight for Ireland – Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016- 2025 contains 60 specific actions which aim to reduce the burden of obesity and improve the overall health of Irish people.

Actions which will be taken over the coming years include:

  1. -New national healthy eating guidelines
  2. -The development of a nutrition policy
  3. -Calorie posting legislation
  4. -The prioritisation of obesity services in the HSE service plans for 2017 and beyond
  5. -Support for the introduction of a sugar levy to discourage the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks
  6. -The appointment of a new clinical lead for obesity by the HSE.

Speaking at the launch of the plan in Dublin, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, said that while lifestyle choices are made by individuals and families, ‘Government can and must help to empower people to make these healthy choices’.

“We have a responsibility to influence the environment and conditions which help people to have their desired quality of life and enjoy physical and mental health and wellbeing to their full potential,” he commented.

The plan recognises that when it comes to obesity rates in Ireland, there are socio-economic inequalities, with people in poorer areas much more likely to be obese.

To this end, the HSE aims to develop community-based health promotion programmes with a special focus on disadvantaged areas.

Meanwhile also at the launch of the plan, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, launched Healthy Lifestyles – Have Your Say, a report based on consultations with children and young people on this issue.

“Body image and media influences were identified as the main barriers to a healthy lifestyle among teenagers, including the pressure to conform to a particular body image. Exam stress and heavy study workloads were identified as contributing to sedentary and unhealthy lifestyles.

“Other school-related issues identified by young people include their criticisms of the teaching of social, personal and health education (SPHE) and the lack of choice in physical education (PE), with the few alternatives to team sports it offers and its failure to cater for different interests,” Minister Zappone explained.

She said that it is important to give young people a voice in decisions that affect their lives and this also leads to ‘more effective policies and services’.

The obesity plan was welcomed by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, which said that it offered ‘an unprecedented opportunity to create a healthier nation’.

The plan was also welcomed by the Irish Heart Foundation, but it warned about the risk of ‘implementation paralysis’.

“We need to ensure that the implementation paralysis that has accompanied previous policies is not repeated. It’s a worrying sign that there is currently no dedicated funding for the strategy, whilst we already know that one of its key measures, the imposition of a sugar-sweetened drinks tax, has been postponed until 2018 at least, despite overwhelming public and political support,” commented the IHF’s head of advocacy, Chris Macey.

He added that the longer it takes to address this issue, ‘the more children will be condemned to lives dominated by ill health, chronic disease and the prospect of an early grave’.

Scandinavian type baby care boxes aim to reduce cot deaths in Ireland

Image result for Scandinavian baby care boxes aim to reduce cot deaths in Ireland   Image result for baby care boxes aim to reduce cot deaths in Ireland

A Scandinavian baby care concept which has dramatically reduced infant mortalities such as cot deaths in Finland was introduced to Irish mothers-to-be yesterday.

The baby box programme launched at University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) will provide free baby boxes for infants to sleep in.

Made from durable cardboard, the box can be used as a baby’s bed for the first eight months of life. The box prevents babies from rolling onto their tummies, which experts say can contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

The baby boxes come with a foam mattress, waterproof mattress cover and cotton sheet.

Education material with advice from healthcare professionals on reducing risks to babies, is also included in the baby box pack.

The use of baby boxes has been credited with helping reduce infant mortality rates in Finland from 65 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 1938 to 2.26 per 1,000 births in 2015.

Ireland’s infant mortality rate is 3.7 per 1,000 births.

The concept already adapted in Britain, Canada and the US was introduced to this country yesterday at UMHL, the first Irish maternity hospital to embrace the idea.

As well as the baby boxes, new mothers will be presented with clothing and educational materials.

Dr Mendinaro Imcha, consultant gynaecologist/obstetrician UMHL, said: “The baby box programme is a proactive approach to improving the health and safety of the newborn child and parents. We are combining tradition with current technology and supporting the newborn child’s family with online education material covering a broad range of essential topics and postnatal care.”

Margaret Gleeson, chief director of nursing and midwifery at the UL hospitals group, said up to 5,000 baby boxes will be distributed to new mothers who give birth at UMHL over the coming year.

Ms Gleeson said: “The baby boxes are a thing of beauty and there is the invaluable education element of this initiative which makes this truly patient-centre.”

Tipperary-based tattoo artist, and expectant mother, Karen Smith did the artistic designs which decorate the UMHL baby boxes.

She said: “The whole meaning behind my design is rebirth. I thought the butterfly was the perfect symbol for the baby box. It is a symbolic creature in many cultures and lends itself to all manner of colourful and fanciful adaptations, in this case our beautiful baby box.”

Jennifer Clery, chief executive of the US-based The Baby Box Co, said: “We are delighted to expand our baby box programme to Ireland and look forward to this new collaboration here in Limerick at the University Maternity Hospital. The baby box is an innovative integrated programme to support parents and improve maternal and infant healthcare outcomes globally.”

UMHL is the second largest maternity hospital in the country, outside Dublin and cares from women from Limerick, Clare, Tipperary, North Kerry, North Cork and areas of Offaly.

Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg aim to ‘cure, prevent and manage’ all diseases

The couple plans to invest $3bn over next decade to help scientists develop and utilise tools such as artificial intelligence and blood monitors to treat illnesses

Image result for Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg aim to 'cure, prevent and manage' all diseases  Image result for Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg aim to 'cure, prevent and manage' all diseases   Image result for Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg aim to 'cure, prevent and manage' all diseases

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan pledge $3bn to end all disease

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have laid out plans to invest $3bn over the next 10 years with the not insignificant goal of tackling all diseases.

“Can we cure, prevent or manage all disease by the end of this century?” asked Zuckerberg, speaking in front of a packed lecture theatre at the University of California, San Francisco’s (UCSF) William J Rutter Center.

The Chan/Zuckerberg Initiative will focus on some of the world’s biggest killers, including heart disease, cancer, infectious diseases and neurological diseases.

One of its biggest investments is to be a $600m “Biohub” at UCSF, which will bring together scientists and engineers from Stanford, Berkeley and UCSF – who haven’t collaborated in this way before – to develop tools to treat diseases.

Cure all diseases? The Chan Zuckerberg plan is brilliantly bold

The second focus will be transformative technology, all of which will be made available to all scientists everywhere.

“Throughout the history of science, most of the major scientific breakthroughs have been preceded by some new tool and technology that allows you to see in new ways,” explained Zuckerberg. “The telescope helped us understand astronomy and the universe, the microscope helped us understand cells and bacteria to help us develop treatments for infectious diseases, while DNA sequencing and editing helps us fight cancer and genetic disorders.”

Zuckerberg suggested that artificial intelligence could help with brain imaging to treat neurological diseases, machine learning could be used to analyse cancer genomes, and chips and blood monitors could identify diseases quickly. “These are the kinds of tools we want to focus on building at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative,” he said.

The acclaimed American neurobiologist Cornelia Bargmann, who will lead the initiative, gave the example of a “cell atlas”, a comprehensive resource that maps the locations, types and molecular properties of all of the cells in the human body.

“We need this to develop new understanding and cures for diseases in all areas of medicine,” she said.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a limited liability company that the couple uses to make donations and investments to advance their philanthropic causes. It was launched at the birth of the couple’s first daughter, Max, in December 2015. The couple has committed 99% of their Facebook stock, valued at $45bn, to the initiative, which makes charitable donations and for-profit investments.

The organisation initially focused on education, funding the Indian company BYJU’s, which helps students learn maths and science, and the Nigerian company Andela, which trains African software developers. It has now turned its attention to science.

The organisation will achieve its objective by focusing on building tools and technology, bringing scientists from across the world together and growing a movement to fund more scientific research.

Will Zuckerberg and Chan’s $45bn pledge change philanthropy?

Wiping back tears in an emotional opening talk, Chan described her work as a paediatrician.

“I have worked with families at their most difficult moments in their lives, from making the devastation diagnosis of leukaemia to sharing with them that we were unable to resuscitate their child,” she said. “By investing in science today, we hope to build a future in which all of our children can live long and rewarding lives.”

Zuckerberg and Chan acknowledged it was an ambitious undertaking. “It’s a big goal,” said Zuckerberg. However, he said that he and Chan had spent two years talking to Nobel Prize-winning scientists and researchers and believed it was not unrealistic.

“Can we all together work to cure, prevent or manage all disease within our children’s lifetime? We think it’s possible and so do scientists,” Chan added. “It’s not that we won’t ever get sick, but that our children and their children will get sick a lot less.”

The plan won the approval of one surprise guest – Microsoft founder-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates. He was welcomed to the stage by Zuckerberg, who described him as a “role model and mentor”.

“The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is already doing some very promising work in improving the education of all students. It’s amazing they are taking on another bold challenge,” said Gates, who has flexed his philanthropic muscles by funding projects to tackle malaria and HIV through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the last 15 years.

“We cannot end these diseases with the tools we have today. Only through science can we get an HIV vaccine, a malaria vaccine,” he said.

“I am so impressed with the team that’s been pulled together here. I have no doubt that we’ll make great progress on these diseases and literally save millions of lives and make the world a better place.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 2nd July 2016

Irish Protestant and Catholic church leaders hold joint service in the Somme

‘The Somme has somehow become a river of Ulster,’ said Church of Ireland primate Archbishop Richard Clarke in the presence of  Catholic primate Archbishop Eamon Martin.


Dignitaries lay wreaths during a service to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial on July 1st, 2016 in Thiepval, France. 

The Somme has somehow become a river of Ulster, a centenary commemorative service was told in France Friday.

In an address at the Ulster Tower, near Thiepval in France, Church of Ireland primate Archbishop Richard Clarke recalled the final scene from Frank McGuinness’s play Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching towards the Somme.

“The young Ulster soldiers, about to go ‘over the top’ on the morning of 1st July 1916, start discussing the rival merits of the rivers of Ulster – the Lagan, the Foyle, the Bann,” he said.

Realising they are standing near another river, the River Somme, “the discussion becomes more excited and excitable. One of the soldiers calls out that now the Somme is the Lagan, the Foyle, the Bann.

“This river, the Somme, is now theirs. The Somme has somehow become a river of Ulster,” the Archbishop said.

“Few images could more perfectly encapsulate that connectedness between the Somme and Ulster. For many people of that province, the Somme and Ulster have, for 100 years, belonged together in the imagination of succeeding generations. This connectedness is something we celebrate today,” he said.

He recalled how just a week ago he and the Catholic primate ArchbishopEamon Martin “stood here, at this Ulster Tower, with a group of young people from all parts of Ireland, and representing both our Christian traditions – traditions which for so long have seen themselves as apart, even at enmity with one another.

“We prayed, we kept silence, and we reflected, all in the sombre realisation that many of those who had died here at the Somme were of an age with the young people who were part of our group.”

The soldiers who died at the Somme “were now part of us, but we would do them no honour if we saw their young lives and early tragic deaths only as sad or even sacred history”.

A week ago, “we prayed in this place for true peace, God’s peace in our lives and for our world. And this must surely also be at the heart of our praying today”, he said.

Other Irish church leaders who took part in the commemorative service included Catholic primate Archbishop Eamon Martin, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church Rev Dr Frank Sellar, and President of the Methodist Church Rev Bill Mullally

In a joint statement the four Church leaders jointly called for Christians of all traditions in Ireland to pray for peace in these challenging times.

They said: “Let us put our faith into action – love our neighbours, reach out to the stranger, care for the vulnerable, build community and be agents for peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

Human trafficking in Ireland alarmingly up 73% since 2014

Immigrant group calls for new laws to tackle problem of sex trafficking to the State


The US State Department on Thursday released a report showing a 73% increase in the number of detected cases of human trafficking in Ireland since 2014.

New laws are urgently needed to tackle the increasing problem of sex trafficking to the State, the Immigrant Council of Ireland has said.

The report highlighted that the majority of victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation, with sex trafficking of children remaining a serious concern, the immigrant council said.

“What is needed to ensure the safety of those affected is strong anti-trafficking laws and close cooperation between the State agencies working in the area and civil society support organisations,” said the council’s chief executive Brian Killoran.

“While the report praises the Irish Government for introducing the Sexual Offences Bill to criminalise the purchase of commercial sex, the Immigrant Council again renews its call for the Government to advance the legislation as a matter of urgency.

“This most recent US State Department report clearly shows that it is more important now than ever before, that we as a society end the demand and exploitation of victims of trafficking in the sex industry.”

The council called on the Government to take action to improve the situation for victims of human trafficking.

“We must offer hope to those who are vulnerable and we are committed to working closely with the Government to develop new policies and best practice following this report,” said Immigrant Council of Ireland anti-trafficking manager Nusha Yonkova.

Brexit tourism and trade fears for Sligo ahead

The fallout from Brexit will be a lot worse for border counties?

  Brexit NI  

Theresa Villiers and Charlie Flanagan will discuss the impact of Brexit on Ireland in general.

The people of Britain have spoken and one thing is certain following their Europe exit, Sligo will be greatly affected. The repercussions of Brexit will hit our tourism and trade with fears that a weakened sterling will result in shoppers travelling across the border from here.

Similarly, with British tourists bringing in millions of Euro to our economy every year, another factor is how this will affect tourism numbers as the British public will have less money in their pockets if their currency continues to weaken.

Paul Keyes, Sligo Chamber CEO, said it’s a worrying, uncertain time for the Northwest as the impact for Sligo won’t be felt for sometime.

“It’s very bad for our economy in terms of tourism and trading, Britain is our largest international partner and this is a very substantial setback,” Mr Keyes pointed out.

David Godsell, President of the Sligo Tourism Development Association, said he’s disappointed with the result and even though it will impact tourism here, he doesn’t think to a great degree. “We feel that the value is still very good for people, especially those from the North, in coming here.” The group also run the busy caravan park in Strandhill, which is widely used by Northern Ireland visitors.

David added: “When talking about the caravan park, we feel that the Brexit result will have little impact to it as it still has good value. In the broader sense of tourism in Sligo, Brexit will have a small impact on it, which is disappointing, yet Sligo still represents good value for people,” Mr Godsell added.

Survey reveals 80% of Irish people do think Ireland has a drinking problem

But say that they personally do not have a problem?


Ireland has over the years had a complicated relationship with alcohol.  

While it is a huge part of our social lives and very much a public affair, Irish people’s relationship with alcohol is often questioned.

In our recent Slice Of Ireland survey, we asked over 3,000 JOE readers – men and women of all ages – about their personal relationship with alcohol and we found some interesting, and some might say, slightly worrying results.

A massive 80% of people think that Ireland has a harmful drinking culture.

It’s not surprising that this is the consensus considering the fact that alcohol is responsible for 88 deaths every month in Ireland, which is over 1,000 deaths per year.

Conor Cullen, Head of Communications and Advocacy ofAlcohol Action Ireland spoke to JOE about these results.

“Sadly, the results of the survey are not surprising. You would expect the vast majority of people to recognise and accept that Ireland has an alcohol problem, given the huge burden that harmful drinking places on individuals, families and communities throughout Ireland.”

Personal relationship with alcohol

25% of people surveyed said that they feel have a very healthy relationship with alcohol, and a further 40% would describe their relationship with drink as somewhat healthy.

Only 3% of people said that their drinking habits were very unhealthy.


6 in 10 people have blacked out from drinking. A quarter of people say it only happened once, yet 43% of people said it happened more than once.

Blackouts should not be a normal part of a night out. The worryingly high number of blackouts is reflective of our high levels of binge-drinking according to Conor.

“Being unable to remember parts of what happened during a night is a real sign that you are drinking far too much.

“Blackouts happen because high levels of alcohol in your brain interfere with its natural filing systems and if it occurs regularly it can impair your ability to take in, understand and remember new information on a daily basis.

People are also at risk during the blackout, when they are ‘not themselves’ – they may do something dangerous, while they are also at greater risk of being exploited by others.”

Drink Driving

34% of men said that they have driven with alcohol in their system while 19% of women have done the same.

Conor told JOE that this statistic was hugely concerning.

“The continued problems surrounding drink driving reflect the serious issues we have with alcohol in Irish society and our general ambivalence towards them.”

Although most people will point the finger at society for the harmful drinking culture, we may be in denial about our own habits.

Taking into account that a total of 66% of people chose to describe their relationship with drink as ‘healthy’, the exact same percentage of people have also blacked out while drinking.

“All too often we seek to paint this is as a problem for someone else, not ourselves. It’s important to remember that it is not just the person who drinks too much who suffers in Ireland.

“Our high levels of harmful drinking have an impact on us all, regardless of our personal relationship with alcohol.

“These impacts include the huge burden it places on the health service and every tax payer, but also the many innocent victims of alcohol-fuelled assaults or drink-driving collisions and the thousands of Irish children suffering every day due to harmful parental drinking, a key child welfare issue that is all too often ignored” Conor said.

After examining all of the survey’s results, Conor had this to say..

“In some respects we are in collective denial about our alcohol problem and we have normalised harmful drinking and the fallout from it to the extent where many of us don’t recognise that we are drinking in a harmful way ourselves.

Alcohol is part of many people’s social lives, but many are not recognising that they themselves are part of the problem and instead generalise that the country as a whole has an issue.

Approved Leukaemia drug shows potential treatment for rare type of ovarian cancer


A drug already approved for leukaemia patients could also be used to treat a specific type of ovarian cancer, according to a Cancer Research UK-funded study published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics*.

“Unfortunately ovarian cancer is often diagnosed when it has grown too far to be completely removed by surgery, which is why we need new ways to tackle it.” says Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK

Scientists from The Institute of Cancer Research, London found that ovarian cancer cells in mice stopped growing after they were given a drug called dasatinib.

The researchers discovered a faulty gene that could potentially be targeted to treat patients who had been diagnosed with ovarian clear cell carcinoma – a subtype of ovarian cancer which makes up between five to 25 per cent of ovarian cancers.

Cells with this gene mutation continue to grow in a way that healthy cells with the non-mutated form would not. The drug dasatinib helps to control this process by stopping the cancer cells from growing any further.

The mutation is found in around half of patients diagnosed with ovarian clear cell carcinoma. Researchers don’t yet know exactly how it is linked to cancer.

This study tested 68 different drugs on cancer cells with and without this gene mutation before finding that dasatinib stopped growth in cells that carried it.

In studies in mice, they then showed the drug could stop tumours with the mutation from growing.

In the UK more than 7,200 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year and 300 of those are diagnosed with ovarian clear cell carcinoma.

Dr Chris Lord, leader of the Gene Function Team at The Institute of Cancer Research, London said: “All ovarian cancers are difficult to treat and that’s particularly the case for this type, which is often resistant to chemotherapy. In our study, we found a drug that could be effective in a group of patients who carry mutations to a particular gene in their tumours.

“The next step will be to test whether this drug is effective in ovarian cancer patients. If it is, we’ll be able to get this drug to patients relatively fast as it’s already approved for other types of cancer and we know it’s safe.”

Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “Unfortunately ovarian cancer is often diagnosed when it has grown too far to be completely removed by surgery, which is why we need new ways to tackle it. It’s still early days and this drug will have to be tested in patients with this less common type of ovarian cancer before we can say for sure whether it’s effective, but the early results look promising.”

Antarctica’s ozone hole is starting to heal evidence shows


 Antarctica’s ozone hole finally is starting to heal, a new study finds.

In a triumph of international cooperation over a man-made environmental problem, research from the United States and the United Kingdom shows that the September-October ozone hole is getting smaller and forming later in the year.  And the study in Thursday’s journal Science also shows other indications that the ozone layer is improving after it was being eaten away by chemicals in aerosols and refrigerants. Ozone is a combination of three oxygen atoms; high in the atmosphere, it shields Earth from ultraviolet rays.

The hole has shrunk by about 1.7 million square miles (4.5 million square kilometers) in the key month of September since the year 2000 – a decline of about one-fifth, the study found. That difference is more than six times larger than the state of Texas. It also is taking about 10 days longer to reach its largest size, according to the study.

The hole won’t be completely closed until mid-century, but the healing is appearing earlier than scientists expected, said study lead author Susan Solomon of MIT.

“It isn’t just that the patient is in remission,” Solomon said. “He’s actually starting to get better. The patient got very sick in the ’80s when we were pumping all that chlorine” into the atmosphere.

“I think it’s a tremendous cause for hope” for fixing other environment problems, such as man-made climate change, said Solomon, who led two U.S. Antarctic expeditions to measure the ozone layer in the 1980s and has also been a leader in studying global warming.

In the 1970s, scientists suggested that Earth’s ozone layer – about 6 to 30 miles high (10 to 50 kilometers) in the stratosphere – was thinning because of chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons from aerosols and refrigerants.

Those chemicals would break down into chlorine that attacked ozone, which at that level protects people from ultraviolet rays linked to skin cancer. Then in early 1980s, a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica started appearing in October – and then, September and October – making the problem more urgent. Ozone thinned elsewhere on Earth and already has begun healing in the middle section of the planet, but the Antarctic ozone hole was the gaping wound that grabbed the world’s attention.

The Montreal Protocol , a 1987 global treaty to phase out many of the ozone-depleting chemicals, led companies to develop new products that didn’t eat away at the ozone layer. Still, scientists said it would take time before the problem would heal. Now it is actually getting better, not just stabilizing, based on new observations using different methods to measure the ozone layer, Solomon said

“There is a sense of ‘mission accomplished,'” emailed University of California San Diego’s Mario Molina, who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize for chemistry for his characterization of the ozone problem. He praised the study, in which he played no part.

Last October threw a big scare into scientists who had been tracking the Antarctic. After years of slow decline, the ozone hole blew up to its biggest size ever.

“It was ‘Oh my God, how could there be this record large ozone hole’?’ Solomon said. “It was a huge setback.”

But the increase was sudden, which told Solomon something else was happening. She determined that small particles in the air from the Calbuco volcano eruption were mostly at fault.

“The paper is quite convincing. To me at least it resolves the mystery of the 2015 Antarctic ozone hole,” University of Maryland atmospheric scientist Ross Salawitch, who wasn’t part of the research, wrote in an email. “So, 28 years after the Montreal Protocol was agreed upon, we have strong evidence that the ozone hole is getting smaller.  I’d say this is a remarkable achievement, particularly in the instant gratification world in which we live.”