Tag Archives: Statins

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 8th July 2016

As much as 48 charities are directly involved with suicide care in Ireland

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Ireland has some 48 non-profit organisations which are directly involved in some form of suicide care including counselling, prevention and information.

Of these, 31 are registered, and have a reported 153 staff.

One of these organisations is Console – which will be closed down shortly following revelations of financial irregularities.

Nearly half the charities are based in Dublin, with significant numbers also in Cork and Kerry.

Financial data was available for 29 of the suicide charities after the filing of accounts with the Companies Registration Office in 2014.

Pieta House had the largest turnover in 2014 with a reported income of €5.4m.

Six reported an income of €500,000 in 2014.

Public funding for several of the suicide organisations comes from a range of sources including the HSE, the National Lottery, Tusla the child and family agency, county councils and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

HSE Grants

Other funding was given by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of the Environment.

The HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention spent €4.4m in 2014 with the largest grant given to the National Suicide Research Foundation.

It gave €582,998 to the Samaritans, €548,000 to Console and €503,000 to Pieta House.

Shine received a grant of €303,506.

Ivan Cooper, director of advocacy at The Wheel, which supports charities, said: “The charity sector cannot continue to lurch from controversy to controversy – the work of the sector is much too important for that.

“It is the people and communities supported by charities that suffer every time a controversy occurs. We must end this cycle.

“Charities embody an immensely positive social value in Ireland.

“They result from a culture where people take initiatives to address social issues in their communities, and this approach is supported by the public and State entities.

“This vital work must be placed on firm footing, one that provides the necessary transparency and accountability for the public while supporting the trustees, staff and volunteers of charities to do their work.

“In short, we need a coherent policy framework for charities to operate in. We need effective and proportionate reporting for charities.”

Sick leave rates still very high in parts of the Irish public service

Reforms of sick leave arrangements see costs fall by more than €104m to €317.9m


Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said the number of days lost to sick leave per full-time equivalent jobs across the public service had fallen by 1.0 days to 8.5 days.

Rates of sick leave in parts of the public service remain high, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe has said.

However, reforms to sick leave arrangements introduced in 2014 had generated significant savings for the exchequer, he added.

New figures released on Friday by the Department of Public Expenditure showed that, overall, the level of sick leave across the public service has fallen below 4 per cent for the first time.

The figures published by the department revealed that, on average, 10.2 working days per full-time employee were lost in the Civil Service in 2015.

However, the department figures showed that within the Civil Service, areas such as the Irish Prison Service, the Department of Social Protection, theNational Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the Revenue Commissioners all reported higher levels than the average.

A spokeswoman for the Minister said that across the wider public service “areas such as the health sector and the Civil Service have higher average rates of days lost, but management in all areas will be working to further reduce rates of sick leave and absenteeism through the development of targeted strategies”.

Significant savings

Significant savings have also been achieved through changes. The department said that since reforms to sick leave arrangements were introduced in 2014 – which effectively halved entitlements – the cost to the State had fallen by more than €104 million to €317.9 million.

The department said the number of days lost to sick leave per full-time equivalent jobs across the public service had fallen by 1.0 days to 8.5 days.

The new figures cover about 250,000 full-time equivalent personnel across the public service, including the Civil Service, education, health, justice, local government and defence sectors.

In a statement, Mr Donohoe said: “While there has been a significant improvement since the reform, the rates of sick leave in areas of the public service remain high and need to be reduced further.

“To achieve this, management in each of the sectors must focus on the proactive management of absenteeism, and policies designed to assist employers in managing cases of prolonged or frequent absence proactively will be required.

“This will be a key recommendation in the review of the operation of the sick leave scheme, which is being undertaken by the department.”

He said his department would be establishing a public service sick leave management forum “to provide ongoing support for each of the sectors in managing sick leave in their respective sectors, including the identification of the underlying causes of sick leave and the development of targeted strategies aimed at further reducing sick leave absences.”

He said a target for the rate of sick leave would be set within each of the sectors and this would be monitored on an annual basis.

“It is also intended for the sectors of the public service to publish sick leave absence rates on an organisational/regional basis, where figures are available,” he added.

The number of new cars licensed in Ireland up 23.9% in first half of 2016

Volkswagen was the most popular make of new car licensed with 10.9% market share


Volkswagen was the most popular make of new car licensed in the first half of 2016, with 10.9% market share.

The number of new cars licensed for the first time rose by 23.9% in the first six months of the year, figures show.

Data from the Central Statistics Office indicates 97,490 new cars received licenses in the period January to June.

The number of used imported cars rose by 25% compared to the same period last year.

A total of 4,143 new private cars were licensed for the first time last month, an increase of 5.6% compared with June 2015.

A total of 5,459 used cars were licensed, representing an increase of 45% on the same month last year.

Volkswagen was the most popular make of new car licensed in the first half of 2016, with 10.9% market share.

Toyota was the second most popular car make with 10,384 new private cars licensed and a 10.7% market share, followed by Hyundai, Ford and Nissan.

In the first half of 2016, seven out of every ten (70.3%) new private cars licensed were diesel fuelled.

Statins may cut the risk of dying from four common cancers, scientists now believe?


Statins may significantly cut the risk of dying from four of the most common cancers, evidence suggests.

Scientists found “striking” reductions in death rate among cancer patients diagnosed with high cholesterol.

Treatment with the cholesterol-lowering drugs taken by millions of people in the UK is the most likely explanation, they believe.

A high cholesterol diagnosis was associated with a 43% lower risk of dying from breast cancer, 47% from prostate cancer, 30% from bowel cancer and 22% from lung cancer.

The findings support previous research indicating that statins may offer protection to cancer patients.

A study published last month in the journal Breast Cancer Research showed that breast cancers can manufacture a tumour-boosting molecule from cholesterol.

Dr Paul Carter, from Aston University in Birmingham, UK, who presented the new findings at a meeting of heart experts in Florence, Italy, said: “Our research suggests that there’s something about having a high cholesterol diagnosis that improves survival and the extent to which it did that was quite striking in the four cancers studied.

“Based on previous research we think there’s a very strong possibility that statins are producing this effect.”

He added: “These findings are likely to be seen in other cancers as well but this is only speculation and would need to be confirmed by studies in different types of cancer.”

The scientists analysed the health records of almost a million cancer patients admitted to UK hospitals over a 14-year period between January 2000 and March 2013.

Clinical information was compared with mortality data obtained from the Office for National Statistics.

Out of a total of 929,552 patients, 7,997 had lung cancer, 5,481 breast cancer, 4,629 prostate cancer, and 4,570 bowel cancer.

After adjusting for factors which might influence life span, including age, gender, ethnicity, and the ten most common causes of death, the scientists found that patients were less likely to die if they had a diagnosis of high cholesterol as well as cancer.

The new research was presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s Frontiers in CardioVascular Biology meeting in Florence.

Curiosity finds unique ripples in Mars Planet dunes


Though both Mars and Earth possess wind-blown sand dunes with very similar characteristics, it seems Martian dunes have a little something extra.

Mars is a planet shaped by aeolian — or “wind-driven” — processes. So it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to know the Red Planet also sports some pretty big sand dunes.

From afar, these dunes strongly resemble the dunes we have on our planet. But in a new study carried out by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, an active dune field on Mars has revealed that, though many of the processes that shape Martian dunes are the same processes that shape terrestrial dunes, there’s an extra ripple that can only form in Mars’ atmosphere.

“Earth and Mars both have big sand dunes and small sand ripples, but on Mars, there’s something in between that we don’t have on Earth,” said graduate student Mathieu Lapotre, of Caltech in Pasadena, Calif., in a NASA statement.

On both Earth and Mars dunes can be as large as a football field and consist of a gently-sloping upwind face and a steep downwind face that is shaped by continuous sand avalanches as the prevailing wind keeps pushing material over the apex of the dune. Classical arc-shaped barchan dunes can often result on both planets and Mars satellites have captured some stunning observations of these types of dunes from orbit. Just look at them, they’re amazing.

On Earth, the surfaces of these dunes are often rippled with peaks and troughs spaced around 30 centimeters (12 inches) apart. These rows of ripples are created by wind-carried grains of sand colliding with stationary grains, eventually creating a corrugated texture on dunes covering sandy deserts and beaches.

Until Curiosity started its approach to the active dark Bagnold Dunes six months ago on the northwestern slopes of Mount Sharp, scientists didn’t know whether these small-scale “impact ripples” existed. From orbit, larger ripples measuring around three meters (10 feet)from peak to peak could be seen and it was generally assumed that these larger-scale ripples were equivalent to Earth’s impact ripples, only much larger owing to the thin Martian atmosphere and lower gravity.

But when Curiosity arrived at Bagnold, the rover didn’t only see the 10 feet-wide ripples, but it also saw the small-scale ripples just like Earth’s impact ripples.

“As Curiosity was approaching the Bagnold Dunes, we started seeing that the crest lines of the meter-scale ripples are sinuous,” said Lapotre, who’s also science team collaborator for the Curiosity mission. “That is not like impact ripples, but it is just like sand ripples that form under moving water on Earth. And we saw that superimposed on the surfaces of these larger ripples were ripples the same size and shape as impact ripples on Earth.”

So it turns out that Mars dunes have an added complexity that could only be proven by rolling up close and taking photos. Mars dunes have the small impact ripples, plus medium-sized “sinuous ripples” that can be resolved from space.

Interestingly, though Earth’s dunes don’t possess sinuous ripples, they can form underwater — on a riverbed, for example. Rather than particles colliding, these sinuous ripples are created as flowing water drags particles, causing them to settle in a rippled pattern.

Lapotre, who is lead author of a study that was published on July 1 in the journal Science, thinks that the Martian sinuous ripples are being driven in a similar way, but it’s the Red Planet’s thin atmosphere that’s dragging the particles to form the medium-sized ripples on the sand dunes. Lapotre’s team have nicknamed them “wind-drag ripples.”

“The size of these ripples is related to the density of the fluid moving the grains, and that fluid is the Martian atmosphere,” he said. “We think Mars had a thicker atmosphere in the past that might have formed smaller wind-drag ripples or even have prevented their formation altogether. Thus, the size of preserved wind-drag ripples, where found in Martian sandstones, may have recorded the thinning of the atmosphere.”

But after studying observations (carried out by Curiosity and NASA’s veteran rover Opportunity) of Mars’ sandstone dating back to 3 billion years ago, the researchers found evidence of these wind-drag ripples preserved in the material of the approximate same size as the ripples that exist in today’s Martian dunes. This means the planet lost most of its atmosphere early in its geological history and for the past 3 billion years the atmospheric pressure has remained fairly constant — a finding that fits with other Mars atmosphere evolution models.

“During our visit to the active Bagnold Dunes, you might almost forget you’re on Mars, given how similar the sand behaves in spite of the different gravity and atmosphere. But these mid-sized ripples are a reminder that those differences can surprise us,” said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

It’s pretty amazing to think that a fairly simple observation of an active sand dune on Mars can reveal so much about Mars’ current and ancient atmospheric conditions. But as the sophisticated wheeled robot continues its quest to seek out past and present habitable environments, and this is all in a day’s work.

Mars plays host to a huge number of dune fields — regions where fine wind-blown material gets deposited to form arguably some of the most beautiful dunes that can be found on any planetary body in the solar system. Using the powerful High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, planetary scientists have an orbital view on these features that aid our understanding of aeolian (wind-formed) processes and Martian geology. Here are some of our favorite Mars dunes as seen by HiRISE. Pictured here are shell-like “barchan dunes” in the ancient Noachis Terra region of Mars.

Dunes of many shapes, sizes and formation processes can be found on the Red Planet. Shown here are elegant “linear dunes” with deposits of larger rocks and possibly ices in their troughs.

These slug-like dark dunes are striking examples of “dome dunes” — elliptical accumulations of fine material with no-slip surfaces. These domes contrast greatly with the often jagged appearance of barchan dunes. Found at the bottom of Proctor Crater, they are darker than the surrounding crater floor as they are composed of dark basaltic sand that was transported by the wind.

Looking like a wind-blown silk sheet, this field of “star dunes” overlays a plain of small ripples, another aeolian feature. The ripples move more slowly across the bottom of Proctor Crater, so the large dune field will travel over the smaller ripples. Dunes are continuously evolving and moving with the wind, ensuring that the Martian surface is never static.

These “transverse dunes” are undergoing seasonal changes. Likely entering Mars summer, this region of dunes is stained with pockets of subliming ices — likely carbon dioxide. As the ices turn from solid to vapor, dune material slumps, revealing dark, sandy material underneath.

Resembling the mouths of a shoal of feeding fish, this is a group of barchan dunes in Mars’ North Polar region. Barchan dunes betray the prevailing wind direction. In this case, the prevailing wind is traveling from bottom right to top left; the steep slope of material (plus dune “horns”) point to the downwind direction. The HiRISE camera monitors barchans to see if they move between observing opportunities, thereby revealing their speed of motion across the Martian plains.

This is the same barchan dune field, zoomed out, a “swarm” of dunes covering the plains.

Not all barchan dunes “behave” and form neat “horny” shapes. They can become muddled and overlapping, creating “barchanoid dunes,” as shown here.

This very fluid-looking collection of barchans is accompanied by a wind-blown ridge in the Hellespontus region of Mars but…

…only when zoomed out does the true nature of this fascinating region become clear. The prevailing wind is eroding the mesas (small hills) to the right of the image, carrying fine material downwind (from right to left), creating a startling pattern of barchans and a viscous-looking trail of sandy ridges across the plains.

The band Train sang about the “Drops of Jupiter” — what about the “Drops of Mars”? Sure, they’re not made of any kind of fluid, but they do make for incredibly-shaped dunes. These raindrop-shaped dunes are found in Copernicus Crater and are known to be rich in the mineral olivine, a mineral that formed during the wet history of Mars’ evolution.

These craggy-looking dunes are old barchanoids eroding away through seasonal processes (sublimation of sub-surface ices) and the persistent Martian wind.

These linking barchan dunes are at the leading edge of a dune field — grains of dust have been blown across a plain, deposited and left to accumulate in elongated arrow shapes.

Dome-shaped dunes and barchans seem to “reach out” and touch their downwind partners with slumped material.

Barchan dunes inside Arkhangelsky Crater in the southern hemisphere of Mars reveal a wind direction from top left to bottom right. Note the tracks of Martian dust devils over the dune slopes.


News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 15th June 2015

Former Anglo workers tried to destroy records, court hears


Three accused of conspiring to hide account with Seán FitzPatrick link from Revenue.

Former Anglo Irish Bank official Aoife Maguire (60) of Rothe Abbey, South Circular Road, Kilmainham, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to deceiving the Revenue between 2003 and 2004.

An account held in Anglo Irish Bank was not furnished to the Revenue Commissioners because it was connected with the bank’s former chairman Seán FitzPatrick, the jury in the trial of three former Anglo officials has been told.

In his opening statement, Dominic McGinn SC, for the prosecution, said an account held by John Peter O’Toole was omitted from a list of non-resident accounts to be given to Revenue in March 2003.

Mr McGinn said that it was deliberately omitted because it was connected with Mr FitzPatrick, who was Mr O’Toole’s brother-in-law.

He told the jury of six men and six women that in 2004, there were also attempts to delete information from the bank’s database about six other accounts, the motivation for which was a connection between the accounts and Mr FitzPatrick.

Aoife Maguire (60) of Rothe Abbey, South Circular Road, Kilmainham, Dublin, Bernard Daly (65) of Collins Avenue West, Whitehall, Dublin and Tiarnan O’Mahoney (54) of Glen Pines, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow are facing charges for alleged offences that occurred in 2003 and 2004.

They have pleaded not guilty.

All three are accused of conspiring to destroy, mutilate or falsify documents relating to accounts of Mr O’Toole held at Anglo Irish Bank.

Mr Daly and Mr O’Mahoney are accused of furnishing a list of bank accounts in connection with tax that did not include Mr O’Toole’s.

Ms Maguire and Mr O’Mahoney are accused of conspiring to destroy the records of six accounts and defraud revenue.

The accounts were listed in court as Lock Ltd/Suzie Ltd, Carnahalla Ltd/Suzie Ltd, Lock Ltd, Carnhalla Ltd, Triumvirate Properties Ltd and Seán FitzPatrick Trust/Crohan O’Shea Trust.

Mr McGinn told the jury there would be significant parts of the trial that wouldn’t be exciting.

He said that the courts were usually full of offences such as those seen on television in Crimecall or in Love/Hate, but this trial would be long and would involve tax and fraud.

“There are no punch ups or car chases,” he said.

He told the jury that in the early 1990s and late 2000s, Revenue began looking at non-resident bank accounts.

He said that Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) did not apply to the accounts of people who did not live in the State, but that some non-resident accounts were bogus and tax should have been paid on them.

Revenue was said to have contacted all banks to ask them about non-resident accounts and Anglo told them they had no such accounts.

However, when a tax amnesty followed, some people came forward who had such accounts in Anglo. Revenue then decided to investigate the bank.

High Court order

Revenue got a High Court order in March 2003 requiring Anglo to provide a list of non-resident accounts.

It also said it would come into the bank and audit it. It sought three lists of non-resident accounts of more than €100,000 in 1990, 1995 and 1999.

To comply with that, a team was sent up in the bank led by Mr Daly. Mr O’Mahoney had a supervisory role in the team, and the prosecution alleged that Ms Maguire was appointed to the team by Mr O’Mahoney to report directly to him and influence team members.

In November 2003, lists were provided and Mr O’Toole’s name was left out of the list for March 1995.

Mr McGinn said that the omission was a deliberate act because the account was connected to Mr FitzPatrick. He said that Mr O’Toole was Mr Fitzpatrick’s brother-in-law and that Mr FitzPatrick had some involvement with transactions on the account.

He said Mr Daly and Mr O’Mahoney both had separate conversations with separate team members who refused to omit Mr O’Toole’s name from the list, and that those members were removed from the team.

In 2004, there were attempts to delete the information from the bank’s database, counsel said.

Mr McGinn said that staff in Anglo’s IT department were instructed to delete references to Mr O’Toole’s accounts and to six other accounts.

Mr McGinn alleged that the IT department was uncomfortable regarding the deletions and so instead archived the information.

He said that the attempt to delete those accounts was motivated by a connection between the accounts and Mr FitzPatrick.

“To a greater or lesser extent, Seán FitzPatrick has involvement in this case.”

Counsel told the jury the six accounts were set up to trade offshore or manage property and were held in the Isle of Man or Jersey, but they were Anglo accounts, and that there was a concerted effort made to conceal them for the purpose of not paying tax.

Mr McGinn said that all three accused were involved in the attempt to delete Mr O’Toole’s accounts from the bank system and Mr O’Toole’s name was removed from the tax list by Mr Daly and Mr O’Mahoney.

Mr O’Mahoney and Ms Maguire were involved in an agreement to delete the other six accounts and hide references to them in the bank system, Mr McGinn said.

He told the jury there would be no direct evidence, or “smoking gun”, in the case. He also said the prosecution did not have to prove that Revenue was actually defrauded.

Poets and fans gathered for WB Yeats celebrations in Sligo


‘Absolutely Fabulous’ actor Joanna Lumley (above right) declares Sligo has stolen her heart.

Irish poet and playwright William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939) who received the Nobel prize for literature in 1923.

During one of the headline events of his birthday celebration in Sligo, WB Yeats’ granddaughter Caitriona briefly shared a stage with Mary Plunkett grandniece of 1916 leader, Joseph Mary.

Caitriona Yeats, a harpist, was presented with a book of her grandfather’s poems hand-printed by Plunkett, whose work is inspired by the poet’s sisters Susan and Elizabeth Yeats, of Cuala Press fame.

Earlier in the day, Ireland’s ambassador to Britain Dan Mulhall had noted that Yeats “engaged on a daily basis with the public life of Ireland”.

The encounter between descendants of the revolutionary and the poet underlined that role in the life of the country.

Yeats and Plunkett were applauded by six poet laureates , all female, from Ireland,England, Scotland, Wales, London and Northern Ireland, who were joined by President Michael D Higgins at Saturday night’s National Poets’ event. The laureates read from Yeats’ and their own work.

President Higgins, despite being enthusiastically kissed on his arrival by the National Poet of Scotland Liz Lochead, who was charmed with the idea of a poet as President, chose to read Auden’s In Memory Of WB Yeats, but none of his own work.

Politicians and celebrity guests spent the weekend in Sligo soaking up the atmosphere.

Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys was at Lissadell House, while Minister for Communications Alex White was there for the cutting of a giant birthday cake on O’Connell Street.

It was a weekend when everyone reached for connections with the man, who President Higgins described as our national poet.

London laureate Aisling Fahey , wasn’t sure if it was her grandfather or great grandfather who “used to drive Yeats in a horse and cart to Thoor Ballylee” when he went west.

One of the unlikely stars of the weekend was Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley who declared that Sligo had stolen her heart.

“I love it, I completely love it,” said actor Joanna.

Her popularity meant that the award winning Lake Isle of Innisfree garden was in danger of being trampled into the ground when she cut the ribbon there.

Lumley, who started the day with a visit to Yeats’ grave in Drumcliffe, had been invited by Senator Susan O’Keeffe, chair of Yeats 2015, to open the garden at the Model arts centre because of her campaign for a London Garden Bridge.

“It is enchanting – Yeats’ dream, every dream he ever had,” she said.

If the actor was taken aback by “all the loveliness I have met” in Sligo, out the road in Lissadell House, SenatorDavid Norris was giving her a run for her money in the popularity stakes where he too spent the day posing with fans for selfies.

As Sligo Drama Circle organised a marathon reading of all 378 Yeats poems, celebrities spent the weekend reciting personal favourites.

The apparently age-defying 69-year-old Lumley who urged people to “take off your hats and dance in the street” recited When You Are Old.

In Lissadell, Senator Norris gave a majestic rendering of Sailing to Byzantium while Anne Doyle read The Cat and the Moon tearfully recounting that her pet cat Pooka had passed on last week.

RTE’s Bryan Dobson chose Easter 1916 as his party piece, while his colleague Mary Wilson treated the audience to her favourite Crazy Jane talks with the Bishop.

But in Hargadon’s pub Caitriona Yeats probably won the heart of many of those force fed Yeats as school children when she candidly admitted: “We didn’t read much of my grandfather’s work growing up”.

She read Come Gather Round Me, Parnellites because her mother Grainne used to sing it and she liked the sentiment of “Come fill up all those glasses and pass the bottle round”.

Ireland to stop making 1 & 2 cent coins


National Payments Plan recommends nationwide roll out for ‘rounding’ system.

Ireland has been minting coppers at three times the rate of the EU average but there is a consistent shortage of them across the country.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan will recommend to Cabinet on Tuesday the withdrawal of one and two cent coins following the success of a pilot project in Wexford.

Mr. Noonan has received a report from the Central Bank’s National Payments Plan recommending the roll out nationally of the rounding project so as to reduce the need for one and two cent coins.

The recommendation comes following the overwhelming success of a nine-week project in Wexford in 2013 where transactions were rounded up or down to the nearest five cent.

According to Wexford Chamber of Commerce CEO, Madeleine Quirke the project which ran from September 17th until November 17th 2013 was a tremendous success.

“Some 250 businesses in Wexford participated in the project – everyone from supermarkets to pubs to fast food outlets to garages – anyone handling large amounts of cash.

“Some 85 per cent of consumers and 100 per cent of business owners surveyed afterwards were in favour of the project – in fact we have had no complaints or negative comments at all.”

Ms Quirke said the success of the project stemmed from the fact that business people in Wexford adhered to the strict guideline that there should be no increase in prices.

“It was stipulated clearly by the Central Bank when Wexford was chosen that there would be no increase in prices and businesses here adhered to that faithfully,” she explained.

“Prices remained the same – items were still carrying the same prices tags and it was only the total bill at the end of the transaction that was rounded up or down to the nearest five cent.”

“Consumers were very happy to support the project once it wasn’t hitting them in their pocket while it cut down on the time that business people had to spend dealing with coin.”

Unveiling the pilot project back in 2013, Ronnie O’Toole of the National Payments Plan explained that the pilot trial followed the Central Bank surveying customers about the coins.

“People said they couldn’t use them any more to buy anything or use them in machine so what people do is that they take them out of their wallet or purse and put them in a jam-jar.

“As a result, we have had to replace those coins going out of circulation – we have issued over €30 million worth of one and two cent coins since the euro was introduced in 2001.

“In fact our issuing of replacement one cent and two cent coins accounts for 85 per cent of all coin production for the Central Bank at the mint in Sandyford,” said Mr O’Toole in 2013.

However even small change comes at cost with each one cent coin cost 1.7 cent to mint and each two cent coin cost more than two cents to mint, explained Mr O’Toole.

This has resulted in the Central Bank having to spend well in excess of €30 million on the coins in the period between 2001 and 2012.

It’s understood that while the Central Bank has recommended out the national roll out of the rounding project, participation in the scheme will be on a voluntary basis.

This means that one and two cent coin will remain legal tender as is the case in a number of other Eurozone countries which have already adopting a rounding policy.

Earlier this month Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone said the Central Bank should abolish the coins.

“Ireland has been minting coppers at three times the rate of the EU average and yet there is a consistent shortage of them across the country. This is causing consistent problems for businesses when it comes to change shortages and is a hassle shared by businesses and consumers alike,” she said.

“It seems senseless that we are bending over backwards to produce these coins given the cost of production costs more than their stored value, with a one cent coin costing 1.7 cent to produce and a two cent coin costing about two cents.”

New low cholesterol drug may be available by end of year


Evolocumab can be used for high levels of cholesterol when statin drugs are not effective

based on the potential role of the monoclonal agent and its cost effectiveness.

LDL cholesterol causes “furring” of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and the brain, which puts those affected at greater risk of heart attack and stroke.

A novel class of cholesterol-lowering drug could be available to Irish patients by the end of the year, following the approval of the first of the new agents by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The EMA has recommended to the European Commissionthat it issue a EU-wide marketing authorisation for evolocumab as a treatment to lower high blood levels of cholesterol in cases where the standard treatment with statin drugs is not effective.

The new drug, which will be marketed under the trade name Repatha and is manufactured by Amgen, is also indicated for people who cannot take statins and for those with a rare inherited form of familial high cholesterol in which levels of LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) are higher than normal from birth.

Unlike statins, which are taken orally, the new class of monoclonal antibodies are injected either monthly or once every two weeks.

Evolocumab, and other drugs in the class, block a protein called PCSK9, the effect of which is to increase the number of LDL- receptors in the liver, thereby enhancing the body’s ability to remove the harmful form of cholesterol from the blood.

LDL cholesterol causes “furring” of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and the brain, which puts those affected at greater risk of heart attack and stroke.

Evolocumab and another agent alirocumab received preliminary approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week even though research data proving their efficacy in reducing cardiovascular disease is not yet complete. This fact led a minority of experts on the FDA panel to vote against approval.

However other experts say that trial results showing a 40 to 65 per cent reduction in LDL levels among participants is highly significant.

Dr Jim Crowley, medical director of CROì, the west of Ireland cardiology foundation, said it is reasonable to use LDL reduction as a surrogate for reducing cardiac events based on current knowledge.

Both Dr Crowley and Dr Angie Brown, medical director of the Irish Heart Foundation, emphasised a need to establish the long -term safety profile of the new class of agents.

“It is very important to see the results of long term outcome trials before these agents are used more widely,” Dr Brown said. She predicted the new agents are likely to complement statins in the prevention of heart disease rather than replace them.

While the exact cost of the drug in Europe is not yet known, US sources have predicted a cost per patient per year of around $10,000.

Once marketing authorisation has been granted, the HSE medicines management programme will take a decision on reimbursement

What does a diabetes-friendly meal look like?


Practicing portion control is a crucial part of a diabetes-safe diet, and this tip makes it easy.

Counting carbs is effective and plays a critical role in your diabetes control. So does portion control — and all you need to get started is an empty plate.

Take an ordinary dinner plate and draw an imaginary line down the center. Now, focus on filling half the plate with nonstarchy vegetables. Then divide the remaining half into two sections, each of which you will fill with starchy foods and a protein source like meat or fish. (But don’t pile the food sky-high on the plate!) Following this practice is a simple and effective method to lose weight and help manage type 2 diabetes.

Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables:

  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Greens
  • Cabbage
  • Bok choy
  • Onion
  • Cucumber
  • Beets
  • Okra
  • Mushrooms
  • Peppers
  • Turnips

In one small section (1/4 of the total plate) put starchy foods:

  • Whole-grain bread
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Dal
  • Tortillas
  • Cooked beans or peas, such as pinto beans or black-eyed peas
  • Potatoes
  • Green peas
  • Corn
  • Lima beans
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Low-fat crackers, snack chips, pretzels, or fat-free popcorn

In the other small section (1/4 plate) place your protein choice:

  • Chicken or turkey without the skin
  • Fish such as tuna, salmon, cod, or catfish
  • Other seafood such as shrimp, clams, oysters, crab, or mussels
  • Lean cuts of beef and pork such as sirloin or pork loin
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat cheese

At breakfast, your plate will look different, but the idea is the same. Whether you use a plate or bowl for breakfast, keep your portions small. Use half the plate for starchy foods and fill the smaller sections with fruit (1/4) and your protein choice in the other (1/4).

Pope backs climate changes and denounces world leaders


Pope Francis attends a meeting with the Roman Diocesans in St. Peter’s Square on June 14, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican.

Pope Francis has endorsed the science behind global warning and denounced the world’s political leaders for putting national self-interests ahead of action.

The 192-page leaked draft of a papal encyclical, published Monday by the Italian magazine L’Espresso, is an attempt to influence the debate before United Nations climate talks scheduled for the end of the year in Paris. Father Federico Lombardi, the pope’s spokesman, said the text was not the final one, which will be officially released midday local time Thursday by the Vatican.

The encyclical, entitled “Laudato si (Praised Be) on the care of our common home,” is a call to action in the form of a letter to the church’s bishops. With fossil-fuel emissions and temperatures at record levels, the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics is adding his voice to calls to rein in greenhouse gases.

“International negotiations cannot progress in a significant way because of the positions of the countries which privilege their own national interests rather than the global common good,” the pope wrote. “Those who will suffer the consequences which we are trying to hide will remember this lack of conscience and responsibility.”

Francis squarely put the blame on humans, writing that many scientific studies show “the greater part of global warming in the last decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and others) emitted above all due to human activity.”

  Some ‘Honesty and Courage’ needed.

Reducing emissions, he wrote, demands “honesty, courage and responsibility, above all by the most powerful and most polluting countries.”

For months, the pontiff and his advisers have met dozens of scientists and economists to guide the church’s views on the topic.

The pope’s intervention already is rattling climate skeptics in the U.S. and giving environmentalists hope that the weight of his opinion could energize the agonizingly slow UN discussions.

“Francis has become the moral leader of our age, and he can do what scientists and national leaders cannot do,” Veerabhadran Ramanathan, professor of climate and atmospheric sciences at the University of California in San Diego, said in a phone interview.

“He can ask people, and not just Catholics, to change their behavior,” said Ramanathan, a senior member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that advises Francis.

Renewables and Investments.

A shift in the energy industry, which produces the majority of greenhouse gases, is already is under way. Investment in renewable energy ballooned to $310 billion last year from $60 billion a decade ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The International Energy Agency says cleaner forms of energy willdominate power generation by 2030.

To help drive his message home, Francis has requested that bishops around the globe “accompany the publication with appropriate explanations and comments,” the Vatican said in a statement last week.

Francis himself will press his views on a visit to the U.S. in September. He will meet President Barack Obama and address Congress — the first pope to do so — and the UN General Assembly.

Rumblings about the encyclical already have drawn fire from critics in the U.S. — where the Republican chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, James Inhofe, wrote a book on climate change titled “The Greatest Hoax.” Francis should “leave science to the scientists,” Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said this month.

St. Francis

“There are a significant number of devout Catholics who are Republicans, and those people will have to think very hard about his message,” said Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute in Washington, who took part in a seminar on climate with Francis and several cardinals in May.

The title of the encyclical recalls the opening phrase of the “Canticle of the Creatures” by St. Francis of Assisi, who was the patron saint of animals and the environment. The pope chose to become Francis on his election in March 2013.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 4th May 2014

Higher overall Irish water fees as a €50 charge is ruled out


New ‘hardship measures’ agreed for some welfare claimants and pensioners

The Coalition is close to a deal to cut water charges for some welfare claimants, but many householders who do not benefit from new “hardship” measures will have to pay higher fees.

Although Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore have yet to sign off on the revised plan, negotiators from Fine Gael and Labour have settled their differences over some of the most divisive elements of the initiative. They are understood to have reached agreement in principle to eliminate a €50 standing charge, which was to be imposed regardless of usage and other allowances.

Labour, in particular, had major reservations about the standing charge, which would erode the benefit of allowances for households with children, and this had complicated the discussions. Agreement in principle on special provisions for pensioners living alone has also been reached.

Under the draft deal, such pensioners would pay between €40 and €48 a year in quarterly instalments of €10-€12. A senior Labour source said this meant certain pensioners would now pay “little or nothing” for water.

a Annual fee

At the same time, the source acknowledged that the average annual fee for householders bearing the full brunt of the new water regime will rise.

This is because the Government is still committed to raising €500 million a year from the water charge, which is one of the final outstanding elements of Ireland’s bailout deal with the troika to be implemented. The average annual fee was pitched at €240 at the outset of the latest negotiation, which followed a bitter Cabinet row between Fine Gael and Labour Ministers in the run-up to Easter. However, the extent to which the €240 will rise as a result of the new “hardship remediation package” is still unclear.

The ultimate scope of this package and the range of beneficiaries remains to be finalised, it is understood. The draft plan on the table is under discussion between political advisers and civil servants but not yet between Taoiseach and Tánaiste, it is understood. Still, negotiators are working on the basis that settled welfare entitlements – for example, for specific medical conditions – would determine whether householders have the right to benefit from the water hardship package.

Having failed to strike a definitive accord this week, the negotiators are now working to ensure all aspects of the agreement can be endorsed by the Cabinet when it meets next Tuesday. While Mr Kenny pledged many weeks ago that voters would know what fees would be charged before local and European elections on May 23rd, a Fine Gael push for an pre-Easter deal fell foul of Labour claims that the larger Coalition party was trying to railroad the deal through.

Two days ago, however, Mr Gilmore said he recognised that the lack of clarity over the water fees was making life difficult for Labour candidates. The campaign started badly this week for Labour with a call for Mr Gilmore’s resignation by substitute MEP Phil Prendergast.

Soundings from Fine Gael sources point to a willingness to provide a measure of relief to Labour over the new water charge.

Sligo County gets 10% (€908,000) of fund’s for 6 unfinished housing estates


Sligo has been allocated the largest share from a new fund for unfinished housing estates.

The county will receive almost €1m – close to one tenth of the total €10m Special Resolution Fund, which will tackle issues in 86 unfinished housing estates across the country.

Sligo is set to receive €908,877 to complete six estates, whilst Donegal has been approved for €851,101 to complete eight estates and Longford has been allocated €844,072 for four estates.

Wicklow secured the least amount of funding, and was granted just €43,000 for works on one development. A further €12m is also to be invested from third parties, including developers, lenders and bond-holders.

The biggest recipients of private funds for the completion of estates were counties Galway, Meath and Sligo, which between them, will account for close to €5m of the €12m.

Unfinished estates

Minister for Housing Jan O’Sullivan announced the funding while visiting the Fionn Uisce development in Galway city. It will receive €250,000 for completion works under the fund. She said there had been substantial progress in tackling unfinished estates, with the numbers of such developments dropping by 50% since 2010.

“We estimate that there are more than 2,100 families living on the 86 estates earmarked for funding,” she said. “They have had to endure many years of frustration and I am glad that this will now be at an end.”

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore also praised the new fund. “One of the things we set out to do was complete the unfinished housing estates and get them back into operation,” he said. “We’ve about 56% of the unfinished estates completed.

“Even better news is that 72% of all of the housing units in unfinished housing estates are now completed and are now being lived in.”

Some answers to key questions on Irish rural broadband


So the Government says it’s going to fork out up to €512m to roll out state subsidised fibre broadband to remote rural areas. Lots of questions remain. Here is what we know, together with some of the key questions about such a service.

The “core” lines will be fibre broadband

The government swears that this is not an exercise in providing some unspecified “high speed” broadband. It is “fibre”. That means relatively high-end broadband speeds.

Every village “will get” fibre

This is important. A government spokesman has clarified to me that each of the 1,000-plus rural villages named in the Department of Communications’ will see the fibre physically arrive into the village and not some nearby hill. That means 15-strong Blacksod in County Mayo, Spanish Point in County Clare and other such far-flung places.

Rural homes and businesses may still need phone lines or roof antennae to connect to the service

Here’s a minor catch: if the fibre is simply “arriving” in each village, it won’t reach most rural-dwellers. That’s because many live in the wider townland area, often several kilometres away from a village.

A key question, then, is where the fibre goes once it reaches the village. Does it stop at a single point? Does it carry on into each business or home? (It won’t.) Or does it simply attach to an Eircom phone line cabinet?

No details as to this ‘last mile’ delivery are yet forthcoming. But it’s hard to see beyond phone lines, wireless providers or even mobile 4G signals being used to connect homes and businesses to the rural fibre. “Details of appropriate access points are to be identified as part of the process,” said a spokesman for the Dept of Communications. “These could include buildings, cabinets or base stations,” he said. “The Department will engage intensively with industry to ensure the optimum routing of the fibre for the purposes of next generation access.”

This will have a massive impact on the actual speeds the service delivers. If, for example, it becomes a fixed wireless service (connecting to the fibre pipe), it could be limited to 10Mbs. That’s still far better than many rural areas experience now. But it’s also still miles behind 150Mbs available in urban areas.

The Government has backed away from promising minimum speeds. 

The last time the Government proffered its “National Broadband Plan”, it specified a minimum speed of 30 megabits per second (Mbs) to every rural home in the country.

This was never achievable on any kind of manageable budget and the government had to conceded that it wasn’t deliverable.

Now the government has declined to nominate any specific minimum speed.

On one level, this is sensible recognition of reality. On another, it’s disappointing: the EU has based much of its continent-wide digital targets on minimum speeds being attainable.

Big questions remain over the mapping

The government insists that all listed villages will get fibre. And it has costed the venture at between €355m and €512m. But it will not say how its assessors – Prisa Consulting and New Era – came to that figure, or how many km of fibre are involved.

This information, it says, is “commercially sensitive” ahead of a tender process. But it’s a pretty crucial bit of the jigsaw and one that goes directly to the credibility of the proposed project.

It could be three to five years before it’s fully rolled out

The timeframe here involves the government spending much of the rest of the year consulting existing broadband companies such as Eircom and UPC and then getting approval from the European Commission for its state intervention.

After that, it’s a question of drawing up public tenders. And only then – perhaps in late 2015 – will the actual fibre networks begin to roll out.

Coastguard cliff rescue ends terror for Staffordshire terrier (Bella)


Emma Jervis with volunteer rescuer Kieran O’Connor after she was reunited with her Staffordshire Terrier, Bella. The dog fell 150ft into a ravine at Rabbit’s Cove in Glandore and was rescued by coastguard teams.

A dramatic May Day cliff rescue ended in elation as heroic coastguard volunteers returned to its owners a dog that fell 45m.

Bella, a Staffordshire Terrier adopted from a rescue shelter, plummeted to rocks at the bottom of a steep, inaccessible ravine at Rabbit’s Cove in Glandore.

The dog’s howls were heard by its owners as they searched for her on the West Cork cliff top.

Incredibly, the two-year-old Staffie suffered only a broken leg after the fall onto rocks.

She was reunited with her overjoyed owners by rescue crews as darkness fell on Thursday night.

Coastguard volunteers from the Toe Head-Glandore Unit swung into action following a frantic call for help from Bella’s owner, local photographer Emma Jervis. “We got help from a local boat at Union Hall to try and access the cove at sea level but the swell was too high. We couldn’t even see her,” she said.

Emma and her partner Clo Reddin’s hopes for their pet’s survival were dashed as they returned to the cliff in tears.

The pair could barely believe it when they heard Bella’s anguished cries still emanating from the rocky depths below.

“We couldn’t believe she was still alive,” said Emma. “But the situation was heartbreaking as there was no way we could get her out of there.”

Coastguard cliff and water rescue teams were tasked at 7.15pm. The deputy officer in charge of Toe Head Glandore Coastguard, John O’Mahony, said: “The reason we go in in a situation like this is that, if we don’t go, the owner or another civilian might put their life at risk.”

The coastguard D-class inshore rescue boat was launched from Union Hall. The crew managed to navigate the inlet’s rocky mouth to the shoreline where they scaled slippery rocks to reach the distraught dog.

Armed with treats, they gathered the whimpering Bella and carried her back to the boat. Minutes later, the dog and her owners were reunited at Glandore Harbour.

“She wagged her tail and she was so happy to see us, it was such a huge relief, they were minding her so well,” Emma said.

“Thanks especially to the coastguard for rescuing her, they were amazing.”

Statins (cholesterol reducing tablets) could increase your daily fat intake


The Indian Express reported a study which revealed that individuals taking statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs) tend to gradually raise their consumption of fat and calories.

It’s a 12-year study on statin use involving 27,886 men and women participating in a 24-hour dietary recall interview for cholesterol levels and body mass index. It was found that statin use increased from 7.5% in 1999 to 16.5% in 2010 in the group of participants. The cholesterol levels reduced in statin users but their daily calorie intake raised by 9%, and fat consumption increased by 14.4%.

Non-users did not show any significant changes in either measure. Body mass index raised in statin users by 1.3 compared with an increase of 0.4 in the non-user group. The effect was seen despite control over factors like age, race, education and conditions like of diabetes and high cholesterol. (Read: Is it necessary to take statins for preventing heart diseases?)

How do statins work? How they prevent heart disease?

‘Cholesterol is a type of fat made by our body. It’s essential for good health and is found in every cell in the body. However, if you have too much ‘bad’ cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) in your blood, it can cause fatty deposits to build up on the walls of your arteries. This is known as atherosclerosis – a condition that narrows your arteries.

Statins work by reducing the amount of LDL cholesterol your body makes. They do this by blocking an enzyme in your liver needed to produce cholesterol. This slows down the production of cholesterol by your liver. By reducing cholesterol, statins can help to reduce your risk of having a heart attack, stroke or developing peripheral arterial disease.

There is some evidence to suggest that statins may also work in a number of other ways to help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

One promising benefit of statins appears to be their anti-inflammatory properties, which help stabilise the lining of blood vessels. This has potentially far-reaching effects, from the brain and heart to blood vessels and organs throughout the body.

What precautions should a person take while on statins?

‘Too much of a good thing can be bad, but too little of a bad thing can be even worse. So, first of all, patients on statins should have regular blood tests to monitor their lipid levels,’ says Dr Bela Sharma, senior consultant, internal medicine, FMRI.

Other important things to remember:

•  Adherence to prescribed medication dosage is extremely essential. 

•  Avoiding drug interactions, mainly with drugs (erythromycin, simvastatin, cyclosporine) that block liver enzymes.

•  In case you experience any adverse side-effect, consult your doctor immediately.

706 people continue to fight for four one-way tickets to Mars planet


706 people continue to fight for four places in the Mars colonization program Mars One, a participant of the project, resident of Los Angeles, Sue Ann Pien said on Friday.

More than 202 thousand people filed applications for participation in the first stage of the selection program, which ended in September, 2013.

The first six groups of Martian colonists – consisting of four people each – should be formed in 2015; after that, they will begin their seven-year preparation for the mission.

It is supposed that at first, several robots will be sent to Mars and from 2016 to 2020, they will construct residential and service modules.

The launch of the spacecraft with colonists on board is planned for 2022, and their arrival on Mars – for 2023.

The one-way flight will take about seven months. The first group will consist of two men and two women. After that, every second year, other colonists will be sent to Mars.

According to General Director of Mars One, Bas Lansdorp, English will be the official language on Mars.

The Mars One project was launched in 2011; the idea belongs to the homonymous Dutch company.

The goal of the project is to conduct a manned mission to Mars followed by foundation of a colony and to broadcast all events on television.

Mars One expects to receive a part of funds necessary for the project from sponsors and another part – from the income from the interactive reality show featuring all the aspects of the planned mission, starting from the selection of colonists to the flight to Mars.

News Ireland daily BLOG update

Saturday 7th December 2013

NAMA plans a sale of $2.5 billion worth of property loans


Ireland’s National Asset Management Agency is preparing to sell Irish, German and U.K. real estate loans with a face value of 1.8 billion euros ($2.5 billion) as demand for property debt rises, two people with knowledge of the plan said.

The loans are linked to properties built by Irish developer Michael O’Flynn and his companies, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. UBS AG will act as broker, one of the people said. David Clerkin, a NAMA spokesman at public relations firm Gordon MRM, and UBS spokeswoman Stephanie Aneto declined to comment. O’Flynn wouldn’t comment when contacted by phone.

International investors have been buying property and loans backing European real estate as the region rebounds from its sovereign-debt crisis. Lenders in the European Union sold 29 billion euros of portfolio loans and assets such as bank branches and mortgage-servicing units and in the first half of 2013, according to Richard Thompson, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in London.

O’Flynn Group’s developments include student housing across Europe and The Elysian apartment tower in Cork that’s Ireland’s tallest building, according to building-data provider Emporis.

NAMA was set up in 2009 by the government to take over 74 billion euros of risky commercial real estate loans held by Ireland’s banks and sell them over as many as 10 years.

Over 500 Irish schools could close if Teachers dispute escalates


Supervision and Substitution duties to become unpaid and mandatory in January

Over 500 second-level schools could close from mid-January if the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) rejects the Haddington Road agreement and a dispute commences over supervision and substitution duties, Government sources believe.

The cabinet decided last week that if the ASTI votes again to reject the Haddington Road deal in a ballot currently underway , supervision and substitution would become unpaid and mandatory for its members from January 17th.

It is understood that the Department of Education will formally set out this position in a circular to schools in the weeks ahead if the ASTI votes against the agreement.

Government sources believe that if the ASTI subsequently directed members not to carry out supervision and substitution duties, schools where it has a significant number of members could not stay open.

Government sources estimated that there are around 500 schools where the ASTI is either the dominant trade union or has a significant number of members.

Ultimately it would be a matter for individual boards of management in schools to determine whether they should stay open.

It is understood the Government made no provision for non-union members to accept the Haddington Road agreement if they wished on an individual basis.

Separately figures released by the Department of Education maintained that young teachers who are members of the ASTI will be more than €220 per month worse off than their counterparts in the Teachers Union of Ireland, if they vote to reject the Haddington Road agreement.

The Department of Education stated that for ASTI members who commenced their careers in 2012 they would be worse off by €734 per month by 2020 if the Haddington Road deal was rejected and the Government imposed the provision of financial emergency legislation and ended payments for supervision and substitution duties.

Members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland have accepted the Haddington Road agreement, however the ASTI is currently balloting again on the deal with a recommendation and members should vote against it.

The figures released by the Department of Education maintained that an ASTI member who started teaching in 2012 would be worse off by €222 per month in salary form next February if Haddington Road was rejected compared with a teacher in the Teachers’ Union of Ireland.

It said an ASTI member who started their teaching career in 2011 would be worse off by €164 per month or €660 per month by 2020.

The Department of Education maintained that an ASTI member with seven years experience would be worse off by €139 per month from next February or €339 per month in 2020 compared with a member of the Teacher’s Union of Ireland.

The Department of Education said that an assistant principal in a school on the top of their pay scale would be €2 per month worse off from February or €330 per month by 2020 compared with a member of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland.

Dunnes Stores strikers of 1984 to attend Mandela funeral


(right pic.) Mary Manning (right) kneels next to a plaque commemorating the strike

Irish supermarket workers who went on strike for almost three years over the import of goods from apartheid South Africa are set to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

Trade unions are trying to organise transport for some of those who took part in the high-profile picket at Dunnes Stores in Dublin in the 1980s.

The action was triggered in 1984 when 21-year-old cashier Mary Manning was suspended for refusing to handle goods bought from South Africa.

The strike, involving 11 workers, was one of the longest in trade union history and only ended when the Irish Government agreed to ban the import of South African fruit and vegetables until the apartheid regime was over.

Mr Mandela met the strike workers during a visit to Dublin in the early 1990s.

Ms Manning has a street named after her in Johannesburg.

The workers were commemorated five years ago with an official plaque in central Dublin.

Ms Manning was presented the plaque in a special ceremony by former South African president Thabo Mbeki.

Mandate trade union said it and other unions in Ireland were in the process of arranging the attendance of the Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strikers at Mr Mandela’s funeral next Sunday.

Mandate general secretary John Douglas said: “The trade union movement believes it would be a fitting tribute from the Irish trade union movement to send the Dunnes Stores strikers, who took such a brave stance on the issue of apartheid, to the funeral of Mr Mandela in South Africa.”

Irish President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina will fly to South Africa tomorrow to attend a memorial service for Mr Mandela at the FNB stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Almost 50% of people stressed over money worries during festive season


We’re not looking forward to Christmas. A shocking 75% of middle-aged people are the most stressed and money is the biggest cause.

The Alka-Seltzer study Seasonal Stress and Excess found that almost one in two adults – 49% are stressing out about Christmas, with shopping, cooking and cleaning adding to their woes.

Seasonal stress affects more women than men with 74% of females versus 68% of men feeling the strain.

It also revealed that the “sandwich generation” of 32 to 50-year-old women carry the biggest stress burden.

Alka-Seltzer brand manager Jennifer Walsh said the frantic nature of Christmas – coupled with an already strained economy – causes serious tension headaches, the most common type of primary headaches.

MINIMISE: Some people feel them in the eyes, others in the neck and some in the back – and they account for 90pc of headaches.

But there are things you can do to minimise the stress and maximise Christmas. Cut down on your gift list as well as creating a budget for the ones you’ve decided to buy and focus on the free stuff.

Get prepared in advance and share the workload with family and friends.

PRUNE: Don’t create unnecessary work for yourself either, “prune your action list” recommends Alka-Seltzer.

Indigestion is another common symptom around Christmas with people over-indulging on the turkey.

Keep meals to a manageable size and bear in mind that excessive eating doesn’t make anyone happy. Finally make Christmas fun – not perfect.

The use of Statin increases amputation-free survival in patients with critical limb ischemia


In patients with critical limb ischemia, statin use was associated with lower mortality and fewer major adverse cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events, as well as increased amputation-free survival, according to recent study results published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Researchers reviewed 380 patients with critical limb ischemia who underwent diagnostic angiography or therapeutic endovascular intervention from 2006-2012. Overall, 246 patients were prescribed statins. Patients prescribed statins had lower mean serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels and more baseline comorbidities, including extensive lower extremity disease, diabetes, coronary artery disease and hypertension, according to study results.

Researchers found an association between statin therapy and lower 1-year rates of major adverse cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events, including stroke and myocardial infarction, and major amputation or death. Patients with LDL levels above 130mg/dL were at greater risk of major adverse cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events and mortality compared with patients with LDL levels lower than 130mg/dL.

“The improved rates of 1-year MACCE [major adverse cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events] with stain use strengthens the evidence supporting the guideline recommendations of statin therapy for all PAD patients, including those with even the most advanced stages of disease. Our finding of superior outcomes for patients with lower LDL levels also provides support for the use of LDL as a treatment target in patients with PAD.

Future studies should determine the optimal statin type and dose, further explore potential treatment targets including low-density lipoprotein for statins in peripheral arterial disease, and investigate barriers to more widespread use of statins among patients with critical limb ischemia,” the researchers wrote.

Human evolution comparison of various humans existing prior to modern Man


Denisovans, Neanderthals, and Homo floresiensis Are Cousins

Human evolution, ever changing and full of mystery, is beautiful. The Denisovans, Neanderthals, and Homo floresiensis were ancient populations whose DNA remnants can be traced to today’s modern humans. They were around during the early times of human progress. Each type branched off from the original early humans over time, according to Matthias Meyer of the Max Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology.

For years, it has been a conversation involving only the Neanderthal when looking into how humans evolved. The discovery in 1974 of Lucy, 3.2 million years old with features of human and ape alike, fit into the known Neanderthal context. Lucy, who walked upright,  was found in Ethiopia by Donald Johnson, a paleontologist. She was the oldest human ancestor discovered at the time.

In 2004, the human evolution chain was adjusted once more.   Homo floresiensis fossils were discovered in the Liang Bua Cave, on an Indonesian island called Flores. Research found the specimens of these ancient humans to be small in stature. Their features attracted the term “Hobbit” as their distinction.

Homo floresiensis fossils are still being investigated to see where they fit in the tree of human evolution. For one, it is not clear whether their size is natural or from adaptation to being on an island with limited food availability. Another oddity is the lack of clarification of how these fossils appear to somehow possibly fit in the old world and the new world. It is expected more findings will be uncovered providing clarification of who  Homo floresiensiswas in the future.

In 2008, a chip of a Denisovan’s fingertip was discovered in a small chamber in the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia. After it was scientifically analyzed by Johannes Krause (part of evolutionary geneticist Svante Pääblo’s team of the Max Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology) it was clear, without a doubt, that the fingertip did not come from a modern human or a Neanderthal; it was a completely different species.

To paint a picture, two teeth were discovered that fit into the Denisovan family. The teeth are larger than the teeth of modern humans and Neanderthal.   One tooth was at first thought to belong to a cave bear. A magical note to the location of this discovery is that Densinova is (so far) the only place on the planet where modern humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans all lived at some point, according to Pääblo.

Early modern human evolution was around 500,00 years ago.  The Denisovans, Neanderthals, and  Homo floresiensis derived from that group, becoming their own separate hominin group. This interesting information designates that humans are not descendants of any of the aforementioned, but rather they broke off the same group. Until research provides different conclusions, every group originated out of Africa, with modern humans being of the Homo sapiens group, Neanderthals of the Homo neanderthalensis group and Homo floresiensis being its own group.

Dr. Meyers theorized that the Neanderthals (who went to Europe and Central Asia) and Denisovans (to East Asia) left Africa approximately half a million years ago. Homo floresiensiswas uncovered on the Indonesian Island of Flores, according to Dr. Meyer. The discovery is still being assessed. Homo sapiens left about fifty to one hundred thousand years ago. These are said to be the early beginnings of modern humans.

While the Denisovans, Neanderthals, and Homo floresiensis are the only types of hominins known at this time, in the future there may be more as scientists continue to uncover new information.  The full details of the study were published this month in the journal Nature.