Tag Archives: Stress

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 12th April 2016

Do you think you pay too much tax? The OECD says you don’t

‘Take home pay’ exceeds salary for average Irish family thanks to child benefit. A study shows


A new OECD study estimates that an average couple with two children in Ireland gets more in state transfers such as child benefit than they pay in taxes and PRSI on their incomes.

A new OECD study estimates that an average couple with two children in Ireland gets more in state transfers such as child benefit than they pay in taxes and PRSI on their incomes.

While families take home around 85.4 per cent of their gross pay on average in OECD countries – when benefits are added in – the study finds that in Ireland the average family has take home pay representing 100.3 per cent of their income. This means that the OECD calculates that for many families here, state payments such as child benefit are greater than the combined cost of income tax and levies and employee’s PRSI.

The figures are based on CSO earnings data . The OECD uses annual earnings of around €35,000 for an employee in its estimates. The figures focus purely on income tax and do not include other payments such as VAT, excises or property taxes.

Overall, total taxes on income in Ireland remain low by international standards, despite the increases of recent years, according to the study. The survey, “Taxing Wages 2016”, measures the so-called “ tax wedge”, which is a measure of the tax take on income including income tax and levies and employee and employer social insurance contributions. It shows that the average tax wedge for a single employee in Ireland is 27.5 per cent of gross income, compared to 35.9 per cent for the 34 OECD countries on average. Ireland ranks as the seventh lowest of the 34 countries measured in terms of the tax wedge on income .

Counting in employers’ PRSI, the total tax wedge on a one-earner married couple with two children stood at 9.5 per cent, compared to an OECD average of 26.7 per cent. The average “ child-related benefits and tax provisions” here were twice as valuable – about 18 per cent of income – than the OECD average.

When employers’ PRSI is excluded the figures showed families actually slightly ahead on average. Also excluding employers’ PRSI , a single worker is found to face an average tax rate of 19.7 per cent, compared with an OECD average of 25.5 per cent.

The study finds that the average tax wedge here for a single worker has fallen from 28.9 per cent in 2000 to 27.7 per cent last year. However there was a large fall between 2000 and 2007, followed by a sharp rise between 2008 and 2014.

Irish Mother jailed for 4½ years over abuse of seven children

Woman who cannot be named was found guilty in January following nine-day trial.


A 39-year-old Irish mother of seven children has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison – with the final six months suspended – for beating, starving and neglecting her children over a five-year period.

She often left them for days on end in the care of strange men, one of whom was a paedophile.

The woman, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the children was found guilty in January following a nine-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court of 29 charges of child cruelty and neglect, by wilfully assaulting, ill-treating, neglecting, or abandoning seven of her children, or causing or allowing the children to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, or abandoned, in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to the children’s health or seriously affect their well-being, at six different locations on dates between September 1st, 2006, and May 12th, 2011.

Charges relating to an eighth child were withdrawn from the jury at the end of the trial. Sentencing took place on Monday afternoon, and four of the woman’s eldest children were in court for the sentence hearing, accompanied by their various foster families and care workers. They sat together at the back of the courtroom, crying at times, while their mother sat a short distance away.

The woman’s former partner, (48), who fathered two of the woman’s younger children and who cannot be identified either, was also handed down sentences yesterday – ranging from two years to six months – which were all suspended.

He had initially been jointly charged with the woman with 42 counts of cruelty and neglect, but pleaded guilty to five of the charges last December.

Two of the charges related to his own children, while the remaining charges related to three of the woman’s other children.

In their victim-impact statements, read to the court last week, the children thanked the man for being nice to them. He had often gone into the children’s room and told them he had to pretend to beat them to placate their mother. He had apologised to the children and thanked their foster parents last week for taking such good care of them now. He said he regretted not being able to protect them when they were younger.

He was sentenced to two years in prison in relation to the three charges involving the woman’s children. He was further sentenced to six months, in relation to the charges involving his own children. All of the sentences are concurrent and have been suspended for two years on condition he continue with his rehabilitation in relation to alcohol abuse.

The court was told last week that the children had forgiven the man. They chatted to him prior to his sentence hearing and they hugged him in turn afterwards the sentences were suspended.

Imposing various concurrent sentences, ranging from one year to four and a half years on their mother earlier on all 29 charges, Judge Karen O’Connor said of particular concern to the court was the fact that the children had remained “under the radar” of the authorities for so long.

The trial in January had heard that the children had first come to the attention of social workers in 2006, and while social services liaised with the family in the interim, the children were not taken into care until May, 2011.

Judge O’Connor said the mother’s attempts to blame her eldest daughter for her offending behaviour, and that all of the children were traumatised at witnessing incidents of violence against their siblings over the five-year period, were also disturbing factors in the case.

Another aggravating factor, the judge said, was that the mother had put her children through the trauma of having to give evidence at the trial. She referred to psychological reports on the children, which had indicated they had all suffered enormously, particularly one of the boys, at having to attend their mother’s trial and give evidence against her.

“A common theme too, is the children’s great sadness of being separated from each other and the family link was broken. The youngest child was 13 months old when taken into care and the older sister who cared for the younger ones was deeply traumatised. It’s clear from the victim impact reports that a plea would have helped the children,” Judge O’Connor noted.

The very serious breach of trust was another aggravating factor, the judge said. There were multiple, young victims and the prolonged violent, offending behaviour had a serious impact on them, which would continue into the future.

“One of the most disturbing factors is she sought to attribute blame for this to her eldest daughter,” Judge O’Connor added.

Recalling the graphic evidence presented to the jury in January, Judge O’Connor said the circumstances of the case were that there was general neglect and a failure to look after the most basic needs of the children. This was coupled with drunkenness; images of shabby, neglected children with their shoes falling off their feet; neighbours having to feed them; an environment of violence, an atmosphere of fear; images of very young, frightened, anxious and helpless young children being beaten or watching their siblings being beaten.

“The cumulative effect of the offending has been more damaging to the children. Neighbours were concerned and they have to be commended for their efforts in looking out for the children. Two of the women fed and clothed the children. One woman reported her concerns to social services. Another neighbour, a man, also rang social services.

“It’s of concern to the court that the children remained under the radar of the authorities for so long. Having children is a privilege. Children have rights which are recognised in the Irish Constitution,” Judge O’Connor added. She commended the children and described them as “resilient, impressive young people”.

What should you do if you suspected a child may be the subject of abuse or neglect?


If you have any concerns about a child you should report it to the Child and Family Agency Tusla,

? a report can be made in person, by telephone or in writing.

Any member of the public who has a concern about a child can contact the local social work duty service in the area where the child lives for advice about reporting concerns.

If a child is in danger outside office hours, you should contact the Gardaí.

Under the Protection of Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998, so long as you report what you believe is true and it is done in good faith, you cannot be sued.

Under Irish law, the Child and Family Agency has the authority to assess all reports of child abuse.

Assessments are carried out by Child and Family Agency social workers.

Tusla says: “If a child is in immediate danger such as being left at home alone, being badly beaten, being sexually abused, then there will be an immediate response”.

“This may involve the child being taken to a safe place until a full assessment is done. A safe place will often be with the extended family”.

“Only in a few cases will a child be placed in temporary foster care or Child and Family Agency residential care,” it adds.

Child and Family Agency social workers work closely with the Gardaí, who are in charge of criminal investigations.

The four types of abuse are:

  • Neglect
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse


Neglect occurs where a child suffers significant harm by being deprived of such things as food, clothes, hygiene, medical care, intellectual stimulation and supervision. The neglect generally becomes apparent in different ways over time rather than at a specific point. Significant harm occurs where the child’s needs are neglected to such an extent that his/her wellbeing and/or development are severely affected.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse occurs where a child’s need for affection, approval and security is not being met by the child’s parents or carer. Examples of this are unreasonable disciplinary measures, premature imposition of responsibility and exposure to domestic violence. The effects of emotional abuse on a child are shown through the child’s behaviour, emotional state or development.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse occurs where a child is deliberately injured or is injured due to the deliberate failure of the child’s carer to protect the child. Examples of physical abuse are shaking a child, use of excessive force or allowing a substantial risk of injury to a child.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse occurs where a child is used by someone for their own, or someone else’s, gratification or sexual arousal.

A breakdown of 2013 figures

In October 2013, there were 5,886 children in care and 91% of these had an allocated social worker, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).

In 2011, there was 21,040 child welfare and protection reports received by social workers – this was an increase of more than 50% since 2006.

There were increases in all child protection categories with reports for emotional abuse up by 60% from 2,500 in 2010 to 4,011 in 2011.

In 2011, 48% of the children in care were girls and 52% were boys.

The age profile was 37% aged 0-8 years, 32% between 9-13 years and 31% were aged 14-17 years.

In 2013, over half (54%) of admissions to care were due to child welfare concerns, and 46% were due to child abuse.

In 2012, there were rises in all categories of abuse as the primary reason for admission to care.

The highest proportionate rises were seen for emotional abuse and neglect.

The figures from Tusla show a drop in the number of children in care for 2013.

Buncrana hero and pier tragedy mum to take part in charity marathon together

Hero Davitt Walsh holding baby Rioghnach.


The Buncrana pier hero Davitt Walsh (above left holding baby Rioghnach-Ann) is to join tragic mum Louise James in running a marathon to raise money for charity.

Louise lost five members of her family, including her husband and two young sons, when their car went off the slipway at the Co Donegal pier.

Unimaginable grief: Louise James with partner Sean McGrotty, sons Mark and Evan and baby Rioghnach-Ann who was saved.

Sean McGrotty (46), sons Evan (8) and 12-year-old Mark, Louise’s mother Ruth Daniels (57) and Ruth’s 14-year-old daughter Jodie Lee Daniels all drowned in the tragedy.

Davitt Walsh (28) saved four-month-old Rioghnach-Ann after jumping into Lough Swilly when the car went into the water.

Over 100 runners are now competing in the Belfast Marathon to honour those five family members whose lives were lost.

Davitt and Louise will be taking part in the poignant sports event on Monday, May 2, and will compete a leg of the race together.

Under the banner ‘#TeamEvan’, these supporters will be raising money for Muscular Dystrophy, an illness Louise’s son Evan suffered from.

The group have created a web-page so that people can donate money online.

Investing in treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a 400% return


Depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US$1 trillion each year; countries and development partners to discuss way forward during World Bank-WHO events

Every unit of currency invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of 400% in better health and ability to work, according to a new WHO-led study which estimates, for the first time, both the health and economic benefits of investing in treatment of the most common forms of mental illness globally.

The study, published today in “The Lancet Psychiatry”, provides a strong argument for greater investment in mental health services in countries of all income levels.

“We know that treatment of depression and anxiety makes good sense for health and wellbeing; this new study confirms that it makes sound economic sense too,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “We must now find ways to make sure that access to mental health services becomes a reality for all men, women and children, wherever they live.”

Depression and anxiety disorders are increasing?

Common mental disorders are increasing worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people suffering from depression and/or anxiety increased by nearly 50%, from 416 million to 615 million. Close to 10% of the world’s population is affected, and mental disorders account for 30% of the global non-fatal disease burden. Humanitarian emergencies and ongoing conflict add further to the need for scale-up of treatment options. WHO estimates that, during emergencies, as many as 1 in 5 people are affected by depression and anxiety.

Returns on investment in treatment far outweigh the costs?

The new study calculated treatment costs and health outcomes in 36 low-, middle- and high-income countries for the 15 years from 2016-2030. The estimated costs of scaling up treatment, primarily psychosocial counselling and antidepressant medication, amounted to US$ 147 billion. Yet the returns far outweigh the costs. A 5% improvement in labour force participation and productivity is valued at US$ 399 billion, and improved health adds another US$ 310 billion in returns.

However, current investment in mental health services is far lower than what is needed. According to WHO’s “Mental Health Atlas 2014” survey, governments spend on average 3% of their health budgets on mental health, ranging from less than 1% in low-income countries to 5% in high-income countries.

“Despite hundreds of millions of people around the world living with mental disorders, mental health has remained in the shadows,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group. “This is not just a public health issue — it’s a development issue. We need to act now because the lost productivity is something the global economy simply cannot afford.”

Finance and development actors meet to consider a scale-up

A series of events, being co-hosted by the World Bank and WHO on 13-14 April, as part of the World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington DC, is bringing ministers of finance, development agencies, academic experts and practitioners together to discuss how to put mental health at the centre of the health and development agenda globally and in countries.

The event aims to kick-start an increase in investments in mental health: investments by governments, development agencies and civil society. It also includes an Innovations Fair showcasing feasible, affordable and cost-effective ways to improve mental health care around the world.

During the events, countries which have been successful in scaling up mental health care will present the challenges they faced and how they were overcome. Examples include: Brazil, which has developed a psychosocial care network; Ethiopia, which is rapidly scaling-up training and provision of mental health care across the country; and South Africa, where mental health care and treatment form an integral component of the country’s re-engineered primary health care system.

“Mental health needs to be a global humanitarian and development priority — and a priority in every country,” said Arthur Kleinman, Professor of Medical Anthropology and Psychiatry at Harvard University and an expert on global mental health. “We need to provide treatment, now, to those who need it most, and in the communities where they live. Until we do, mental illness will continue to eclipse the potential of people and economies.”

Scaling up mental health services will contribute to achievement of 1 of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, endorsed at the United Nations General Assembly in 2015: by 2030, to reduce by one third premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being.


Health experts now say daily stress can lead to type 2 diabetes


Be it physical or emotional, taking unnecessary stress can not only give you headache or neck pain but, if left unattended for long, can also trigger elevation in blood sugar levels leading to Type 2 diabetes, health experts have now warned.

Owing to changes in lifestyle and daily routine, stress is now seen as a reason behind several health hazards, including the rise in diabetes in India.

Marked stress causes release of several stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol which, in turn, increase levels of sugar in blood apart from spiking blood pressure and pulse rate.

“If stress is consistently high, previously transient sugar elevation becomes persistently high, resulting in diabetes. Similarly, blood pressure elevation becomes elevated constantly. Stress also causes change in eating pattern, resulting in ‘binge eating’, thus increasing weight which may also add to elevation of blood sugar,” Dr. Anoop Misra, Chairman, Fortis C-DOC, told IANS.

Stress can affect diabetes control, both directly and indirectly. It is widely recognised that people with diabetes are regularly stressed and are more likely to have poor blood glucose control.

“Both physical and emotional stress can prompt an increase in these hormones which result in an increase in blood sugar”, Dr. Sunil Mittal, senior psychiatrist and director, Cosmos Institute of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences in the capital, told IANS.

Shared stress can also lead to similar dysregulation of hormones in children. If they are under constant stress in the home environment, children may have a similarly dysmetabolic state.

“According to recent findings, stress hormones cause an epigenetic change in sperm. So when a father is stressed out, his hormones pack the potential to raise his offspring’s blood sugar levels. With higher blood glucose levels comes a higher diabetes risk, especially Type 2 diabetes,” noted Dr. Ajay Kumar Ajmani, senior consultant (endocrinology) at BLK Super Speciality Hospital.

The primary function of these hormones is to raise blood sugar to help boost energy when it’s needed the most.

Think of the fight-or-flight response. One possibly can’t fight danger when their blood sugar is low, so it rises to help meet the challenge. Both physical and emotional stress can prompt an increase in these hormones, which results in an increase in blood sugar levels.

Making a few simple lifestyle changes can help combat and cope up with stress which reduces the risk of being diabetic or help to keep diabetes in control.

“One should do more of physical activities, like yoga, gymming and dancing. Aerobics and Pilates are great stress busters too. Make a few food changes like having a plenty of fibre and choosing whole grains. Avoid packaged foods and junk foods. Most importantly, take a break from your regular routine and plan some family outings,” Ajmani suggested.

Diabetes is a lifestyle disorder and becoming increasingly common these days.

“Intermittent stress relief in small time frames several times of day (10-15 minutes each) may be acquired with chores that you enjoy the most like music or playing your favourite sports. Mediation helps a lot too,” Misra added.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 5th April 2016

Irish Water the elephant in the room of government talks

Healy-Rae says public has waited for 40 days for a government and was getting frustrated


Michael Healy Rae (left) and his brother Danny. Michael Healy Rae has said that Irish Water is the ‘elephant in the room’ during the government formation talks.

An Independent TD has said the issue of Irish Water is the “elephant in the room” in all the negotiations with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Independent TD for Kerry Michael Healy-Rae said “our Lord spent 40 days in the desert” and said the Irish public had waited for a similar period for a government and that patience was now wearing thin.

Mr Healy-Rae said it was unhelpful that Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin have still not spoken to each other, he told Newstalk Breakfast.

On the same programme, Independent Alliance TD for Galway East Sean Canney, also called on the two largest parties to talk directly.

He said it would be wrong to spend another €40 million on a second election and said this money could be spent on tackling homelessness or employing more hospital consultants

Mr Canney said a lot of newly elected TDs, including those in Sinn Fein, had not engaged in the process of government formation and said there should be more focus on them. “What were they elected to do?”

Another Independent Alliance TD, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran says his group would make a collective decision on Wednesday on who they will back during a second vote in Dail on the election of a new Taoiseach.

The Longford Westmeath TD’s comments follow the suggestion that a number of non-party deputies may abstain from Wednesday’s vote.

A number of Independent TDs yesterday expressed anger about a tweet posted by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar on Sunday, in which he said his posters were ready for a second election if necessary.

The Panama Papers simply explained even a 5-year old can understand


The Panama Papers leak has pretty much been big news around the world. The scandal however has not been the easiest to understand for many people. A Reddit user here tries to ‘Explain it in simple terms Like I’m 5’ (ELI5) type of post that has since gone viral.

ELI5 is exactly what it sounds like – how you would explain a certain thing to a five-year-old. So how do you explain secret banking, offshore accounts and tax evasion to a five-year-old?

Here’s how Dan Gliesack explained the Panama Papers leak to five-year-olds:
When you get a quarter you put it in the piggy bank. The piggy bank is on a shelf in your closet. Your mom knows this and she checks on it every once in a while, so she knows when you put more money in or spend it.

Now one day, you might decide “I don’t want mom to look at my money.” So you go over to Johnny’s house with an extra piggy bank that you’re going to keep in his room. You write your name on it and put it in his closet. Johnny’s mom is always very busy, so she never has time to check on his piggy bank. So you can keep yours there and it will stay a secret.

Now all the kids in the neighbourhood think this is a good idea, and everyone goes to Johnny’s house with extra piggy banks. Now Johnny’s closet is full of piggy banks from everyone in the neighbourhood.
One day, Johnny’s mom comes home and sees all the piggy banks. She gets very mad and calls everyone’s parents to let them know.

Now not everyone did this for a bad reason. Eric’s older brother always steals from his piggy bank, so he just wanted a better hiding spot. Timmy wanted to save up to buy his mom a birthday present without her knowing. Sammy just did it because he thought it was fun. But many kids did do it for a bad reason. Jacob was stealing people’s lunch money and didn’t want his parents to figure it out. Michael was stealing money from his mom’s purse. Fat Bobby’s parents put him on a diet, and didn’t want them to figure out when he was buying candy.
Now in real life, many very important people were just caught hiding their piggy banks at Johnny’s house in Panama. Today their moms all found out. Pretty soon, we’ll know more about which of these important people were doing it for bad reasons and which were doing it for good reasons. But almost everyone is in trouble regardless, because it’s against the rules to keep secrets no matter what.

Irish Central Bank handed out severance payment of €32k to a person who did not work for it?

Another two exit packages worth €61k each were made to staff who had worked at the bank for less than two years


The Central Bank in Dublin (above left)

The state spending watchdog has criticised the Central Bank for handing out a severance payment worth €32,000 to an individual who had not even begun to work for it.

The bank suffered costs of €73,000 as a result of the case as it had to cover its own and the recruit’s legal fees.

Another two exit packages worth €61,000 each were made to staff who had worked at the bank for less than two years.

The Comptroller and Auditor General said the three payments “suggest that the Central Bank needs to review its procedures for managing recruitment and probation”.

It also noted that a long-term contractor who had never been an employee of the bank was awarded €60,000.

The report identified 14 expensive discretionary severance payments, amounting to nearly €1.5m, that were made by public sector bodies between 2011 and 2013.

The Central Bank made six of these payments, which amounted to over €540,000 including legal costs.

Between 2011 and 2013, the report said the bank had “more recourse” to termination agreements and severance payments than the other public sector bodies it examined.

“The frequency of payments could imply weaknesses in the Central Bank’s procedures for managing performance or addressing other human resource issues,” it said.

The bank clocked up its own legal costs and the costs of the employee in all but one case, but details of the legal advice it received were not documented in some cases.

The report noted that such severance payments are often made when the employment relationship breaks down “irreconcilably”.

It also says severance payments may be made to attract desirable candidates to short-term jobs.

An examination of formal severance payments awarded between 2011 and 2013 under six public sector schemes, found they had a value of €17.9m. It said nearly €11m of this was related to pension enhancements. like added years.

It found broad compliance with scheme rules in most cases, except for a scheme for chief executives of state bodies.

The report found two state bodies, who are not named, made severance payments in the form of pension enhancements worth over €1m without the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s prior approval.

According to the report, the governor of the Central Bank said the cases it was taken to task over arose in a period of unprecedented renewal and growth at the bank, as staff numbers grew by one third between 2009 and 2013.

A spokesman for the Comptroller and Auditor General said the Central Bank was the only public body named in the report, aside from the departments responsible for signing off on severance payments, because of the high number of discretionary payments it made.

Most Irish beaches meet water standards but six fail to make the cut


Bathers will have to think twice before taking the plunge at six of the country’s beaches after they failed basic water quality tests.

Among the six is Youghal in Co Cork, which continued its poor performance for a second year.

Untreated sewage in the water was the main culprit for the failures, with e. coli and other bacteria, making swimming and other water sports inadvisable and, in some cases, prohibited.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Irish Water are working to see what can be done to ensure that the beaches are given a clean bill of health before the summer season, but there are concerns they could remain no-go areas this year.

Matt Crowe, director of the EPA’s Office of Evidence and Assessment, said: “The relevant local authorities, in conjunction with Irish Water, have management plans in place to tackle the main pollution risks at these beaches and these plans are designed to return these beaches to at least ‘sufficient’ quality in the next year or two.”

The EPA also warned, however, that in some cases significant investment in infrastructure will be needed to get standards up to acceptable levels.

Some of the beaches are repeat offenders — Youghal, Co Cork; Duncannon, Co Wexford; and Ballyloughane, Galway City, failed for the second year in a row, while Rush, Co Dublin, failed for the third time in the last four years.

Newcomers to the bathing blacklist are Merrion Strand in Dublin Ccity and Loughshinny, which is close to Rush in north Co Dublin.

EPA inspectors who carry out the quality survey annually stressed the vast majority of the country’s most popular beaches and lakes were clean and clear of harmful pollutants.

Of the 137 inspected, 101 were rated as ‘excellent’ quality, as measured by EU standards, while a further 13 were classed as ‘good’ and 14 were ‘sufficient’.

Two that failed the previous year, Clifden, Co Galway, and Lilliput, Lough Ennell, Co Westmeath, improved enough to escape the blacklist this year, but further tests are awaited before they get a final rating.

The rest are rated as ‘poor’, which under EU regulations means they haven’t met the minimum standards required to give a green light for bathing and recreation.

Trá Inis Oirr in the Aran Islands was inspected for the first time last year and has not been tested enough to be ranked, but the EPA said sampling so far showed excellent results.

Failing the inspections does not automatically mean the beaches are off limits. Peter Webster, EPA senior scientist, said it meant there was “a risk of periodic microbiological pollution”.

“Local authorities are required to put in place notifications for the entire bathing season advising the public against bathing, which could include a bathing prohibition if a serious pollution incident occurs,” said Mr Webster.

During the bathing season, June 1 to September 15, current water quality information and details of any restrictions on bathing are displayed on the national bathing water website, splash.epa.ie, as well as on local beach notice boards.

Bathing restrictions applied on 131 out of 14,659 ‘beach days’ last year, but most suspected pollution incidents resulted in precautionary, short-term restrictions and no evidence of pollution was subsequently discovered.

Bereaved people at greater risk of developing irregular heartbeat,

Growing body of research suggests stressful life events boost risk of heart attack or a stroke.


People who suffer the death of a partner have a heightened risk of developing an irregular heartbeat for up to a year after the event, according to new research.

People who suffer the death of a partner have a heightened risk of developing an irregular heartbeat for up to a year after the event, according to new research.

The risk of an irregular heartbeat, also known as atrial fibrillation, is greatest among the under-60s and when the loss of the partner was least expected, the findings indicate. Atrial fibrillation is a risk factor for stroke and heart failure.

A growing body of evidence suggests that highly stressful life events boost the risk of a heart attack or stroke, but up to now it has not been clear whether this might also be true of atrial fibrillation.

The study, published in the online journal Open Heart, collected data on 88,612 people newly diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and 886,120 healthy people between 1995 and 2014.

The factors?

Danish researchers looked at factors that might influence atrial fibrillation risk. These included time since the bereavement; age and sex; underlying conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes; the health of the partner a month before death; and whether they were single.

Some 17,478 of those diagnosed with atrial fibrillation had lost their partner as had 168,940 of the comparison group.

Underlying illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and associated treatment for these conditions, were more common among those who had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

But the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat for the first time was 41 per cent higher among those who had been bereaved than it was among those who had not experienced such a loss, the findings indicated.

This heightened risk was apparent, irrespective of gender and other underlying conditions.

The risk seemed to be greatest eight to 14 days following a death, after which it gradually subsided until after a year the risk was similar to that of someone who had not been bereaved.

People under the age of 60 were more than twice as likely to develop atrial fibrillation if they had been bereaved.

Those whose partners were relatively healthy in the month before death were 57 per cent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation. No such increased risk was seen among those whose partners were not healthy and who were expected to die soon.

As an observational study, the research does not permit firm conclusions to be drawn about cause and effect.

Researchers suggest acute stress may directly disrupt normal heart rhythms and prompt the production of chemicals involved in inflammation.

Further research looking at whether the association found applies to more common, but less severe life stressors, is warranted, they say.

Seagulls are 10 times more polluting to beaches than people?

Merrion Strand (below left) in Dublin is polluted with human sewage and bird droppings, An EPA report finds.

   BEACHES_0016_LKM.jpg Rose Feerick and David Strohm pass through hundreds of seagulls as they walk along Venice Beach in Half Moon Bay. The beach has some of the most polluted water in the state, which could partially be caused by large number of seagulls that gather there. (Laura Morton/Special to the Chronicle) *** Rose Feerick
 *** David Strohm Photo: Laura Morton   

“The droppings of a seagull in a single day carried about ten times more concentrated bacteria than the waste from a human in a single day,” said EPA senior scientific officer, Peter Webster.

Seagulls are 10 times more polluting to the country’s beaches than people, according to the latest water quality report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The birds have been blamed as one of the reasons for the EPA’s decision to brand water quality at Merrion Strand in Dublin as poor, since they have taken to resting in large number on a sandbar.

“The droppings of a seagull in a single day carried about 10 times more concentrated bacteria than the waste from a human in a single day,” said EPA senior scientific officer, Peter Webster.

Six beaches, including Merrion, have been given “poor” grades, which means that local authorities will put up warnings to swimmers, but will not ban them from swimming there.

However, the EPA report found three-quarters of sites it inspected were “excellent” and 93.4 per cent met minimum EU standards – roughly in line with last year’s numbers.

Those classed as “poor” were Youghal, Co Cork; Duncannon Co Waterford; Rush south beach. Co Dublin and Ballyloughane, Co Galway all of which were first classed as “poor” in 2014, as well as Merrion Strand and Loughshinny in Dublin which were classified as poor for the first time in 2015.

No inland bathing areas were classified as having poor water quality.

EPA senior scientific officer Peter Webster said problems at Merrion Strand in south Dublin were “complex, on-going and difficult to resolve”.

Two factors had been identified. First was the presence the Trimleston and Elm Park streams which were found to be polluted with sewage. Mr Webster said this could be a result of “poor housing connections” from anywhere as far as the M50.

The second issue was an offshore sandbar which had become home to populations of seagulls and wading birds. The droppings of a seagull in a single day carried about ten times more concentrated bacteria than the waste from a human in a single day, he said.

The EPA said where bathing waters were classified as poor, the advice was not to bathe. Where such a classification was made, local authorities must publicise the advice, or in more extreme cases close the beach.

In a statement on Monday evening Fingal County Council said it had agreed a management plan for Loughshinny Beach bathing water with the EPA, “who are satisfied that the measures set out in the plan will achieve an improvement in water quality”.

In relation to the other coastal areas, remediation measures are being put in place by agreement between the local authorities and the EPA.

Mr Webster said a complicating factor in the report was that data was compiled over a four year period, so the data applying to 2015 was collected between 2012 and 2015.

In the case of Loughsinny a once-off event in 2014 had caused a major pollution leak, but previous years had pulled the overall result up. Since 2015 was marginally worse than 2011, “the data tipped” into the poor classification this year, he said.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 26th November 2015

Full statement issued on behalf of Pat Smith – former IFA general secretary

‘He has no intention of lowering himself and getting into a brawl with an organisation’


Pat Smith is extremely saddened at the events of the past week, which has left many families hurt, especially the family of IFA where he spent over 25 years working.

Mr Smith said that Eddie Downey’s resignation as president of the IFA is a huge loss for Irish farmers and should not have been allowed happen.

Eddie, Mary and his family are reflective of all that is good in farming and Pat Smith wants to wish them well and assure IFA members that if Eddie Downeywas let do his job as president the IFA would not be in this turmoil.

Mr Smith said his solicitors wrote to the executive council of IFA on Wednesday and he was very disappointed that those who so badly want transparency did not make members aware of the contents. A copy is now enclosed.

Less than 24 hours after standing down from the position of IFA general secretary, to allow the association the opportunity to move on with the real work agenda, bad decisions were made that were catastrophic for the association.

  • Ex-IFA chief wants half of his severance pay to go to charity
  • Ex IFA chief’s pay package ‘obscene’ , says leading ICA member
  • IFA president Downey quits after €2m deal disclosure

Running an organisation such as IFA is a very complex and demanding job, and Pat Smith is very proud of his contribution to building IFA into one of the most effective and powerful organisations in Europe.

As he left IFA last week, the association had its highest paid-up membership ever and every committee was working hard and delivering real results on the issues of the day.

The large severance package?

The severance package agreed with Pat Smith represented approximately 6-weeks’ redundancy pay for each year worked for the association and fulfilled on legal commitments he and other staff have in relation to pension shortfalls following the closure of the defined benefit scheme.

Pat Smith believes the deal done was fair in the context of his work and delivery for the association for more than 25 years and the reality of what happened.

However, he has no intention of lowering himself and getting into a brawl with an organisation that is currently in turmoil and incapable of dealing with any matter fairly.

Therefore Pat Smith is asking that IFA stand good to its deal and pay his €1 million severance to charity before Christmas in equal amounts to Self Help Africa and StVincent de Paul.

Again Pat Smith wants to especially thank the staff of IFA and ask that the membership row in behind the association and support its vital work.

You have no plan and you have no clue  “on stressed out nurses”

Heated scenes between Tanaiste and Mary Lou McDonald and Joan Burton Dail


The TÁNAISTE Joan Burton has been accused of having “some cheek” after calling on hospital management and nurses to engage in constructive dialogue to prevent industrial action.

During heated scenes in the Dáil, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said that nurses were “stressed out” managing the “utter chaos” in the health system.

She noted that 92% of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s members have voted in favour of strike action month due to overcrowding in emergency departments.

“Leo Varadkar is presiding over a disaster that is putting the safety and, God forbid, the lives of patients at risk,” Ms McDonald said.

“The crisis in our health service is getting worse. This is not a dispute about pay, it’s a dispute about patient safety.

“Nursing staffing levels have been decimated on your watch,” she said.

However, Ms Burton said she wanted all sides to engage with the State’s industrial relations machinery.

Within the ED departments it does require widespread and construction positive action from the hospital managers, consultants and nurses,” the Labour Party leader said.

Ms McDonald replied that the Tánaiste have the gall of the highest order to appeal to these people to be constructive”.

“They are managing day on day the chaos your Government have inflicted on hospitals,” she said.

The Leaders’ Questions debate descended into a shouting match as the Ms Burton said a taskforce set up by Health Minister Leo Varadkar which the HSE and nursing union sit on was making progress.

She also said that he urgent assessment units were one solution that hospitals should be looking at.

And she said that there are 700 more nurses working in public hospitals than there were a year ago.

“We have some of the best staff working in our hospitals in the world. You hardly want to see nurses going on strike,” Ms Burton said.

“As recently as a couple of days ago we had a report from the OECD that indicated we have one of the highest ratios of nursing employment in all of the OCED countries.”

Ms McDonald said there are 4,500 less nurses than five years ago and the moratorium on recruitment “has absolutely buckled our hospitals”.

She also referred to the Government’s decision to drop its plans for Universal Health Insurance, saying: “Your Teflon minister for health Leo Varadkar has abandoned your big idea. You have no plan and you have no clue.”

Ireland’s Xmas drink-drive campaign to target ‘morning-after’ offenders

Garda to pay particular attention to drivers using bus lanes and mobile phones illegally


The number of roadside checkpoints testing for alcohol is to be increased for the next six weeks and the Garda will pay particular attention to drivers using bus lanes and mobile phones. Those stopped for either offence are likely to find themselves breath-tested.

The seasonal anti-drink drive campaign this year is to target so-called morning-after drivers.

The number and frequency of roadside checkpoints testing for alcohol is to be increased for the next six weeks and the Garda will also be paying particular attention to drivers using bus lanes and mobile phones illegally.

Those stopped for either offence are likely to find themselves breath-tested as well.

Road Safety Authority Christmas campaign.

Announcing the Christmas/New Year campaign on Thursday, the Garda andRoad Safety Authority disclosed that this year, to the end of October, 6,000 drivers had been arrested on suspicion of drink-driving – the vast majority of them males, and more than half of them aged between 20 and 39.

“The powers of An Garda Síochána enable us to breath test any driver who has committed a road traffic offence,” said Chief Supt Mark Curran at the launch of the campaign on Thursday.

“So, for example, if you are detected driving in a bus lane, or using a mobile phone, you can be tested for the presence of alcohol.”

Impaired performance.

Irish and international research has shown that using a mobile phone while driving can impair driver performance even more than driving while intoxicated, and also delay driver reaction times by up to 40 per cent.

In the past 12 months, 284,000 drivers admitted to drink-driving, according to an RSA survey. Arrest rates ran at a rate of 150 a week. Of the 284,000, 10 per cent admitted to drink driving on at least one separate occasion.

Forty per cent admitted consuming two or more drinks. Rates of offending were higher among those who drove to work and among drivers involved in collisions or near misses. In general, such drivers were also likely “to be high speeding and rule violators”, said the Garda and RSA.

Mandatory tests

The number of mandatory alcohol test checkpoints are to be increased, Mr Curran warned.

The chief executive of the RSA, Moyagh Murdock, said any quantity of alcohol impaired driving.

“This is not an opinion,” she said. “It is a scientific fact. So if you are heading to an office party or socialising over the Christmas and New Year period, make sure you plan ahead. Leave the keys at home and book a taxi, hackney, use public transport or designate a driver.”

This year to November 25th, 143 people were killed in road crashes, many of them relating to drink. The figure is 32 down on the same period in 2014.

Irish children are regularly exposed to alcohol ads,

A new study finds.

Significant exposure to drink marketing increases likelihood children will binge drink


On foot of the research, Alcohol Action Ireland is calling for legislation to regulate the sector.

The majority of Irish children are regularly exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing by drinks companies, a new study has found.

Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI), which commissioned the research conducted by the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, says the results show alcohol marketing to be a “child protection issue”.

Significant exposure to material, it said, increases the likelihood that children will drink, binge drink and engage in risky behaviour.

On foot of the research, the lobby is calling for legislation to regulate the sector.

The study, Alcohol Marketing and Young People: Drinking Behaviour in Ireland, is based on data collected from 686 children, aged 13-17, in 16 schools in three regions with the aid of a questionnaire.

It found 90 per cent were exposed to “traditional” or off-line advertising in the week prior to the study, with more than half of those surveyed citing four or more such advertisements a day.

It found 77 per cent reported online exposure and 61 per cent owned alcohol-branded merchandise.

More than half of Irish children (53.5 per cent) between the ages of 13 and 15 had previously consumed alcohol, it said.

Cannabis (Skunk) can seriously damage some of the vital nerve fibres in the brain


Smoking skunk can significantly damage the vital nerve fibres which allow communication between the two halves of the brain, a study has found.

Evidence found higher consumption of powerful kinds of cannabis caused more harm to fibres in the “corpus callosum” – the structure that allows communication between the brain’s left and right hemispheres.

But what effect it might have on users, and whether there is any connection with psychosis – known to be associated with strong forms of the drug – is still unclear.

Skunk weed is believed to be the most widely used form of cannabis in the UK today.

Potent cannabis strains, commonly known as skunk, are thought to be the most widely used form in the UK today. They contain high levels of the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which, when in contact with proteins in the corpus callosum, trigger biochemical effects.

Two scanning techniques were used to look at “white matter” – the part of the brain made up of neural fibres which nerve signals travel along – in the brains of 43 healthy volunteers and 56 patients who had reported an episode of psychosis, which is a serious mental condition characterised by hallucinations and delusions that lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Researchers say there is an urgent need for better education on the risks of cannabis use.

Lead researcher Dr Paola Dazzan, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, said: “We found that frequent use of high potency cannabis significantly affects the structure of white matter fibres in the brain, whether you have psychosis or not.

“This reflects a sliding scale where the more cannabis you smoke and the higher the potency, the worse the damage will be.”

She also said there was an “urgent need” to educate health professionals, the public and policymakers about the risks associated with cannabis use.

Mayo gathers for all out action on climate change


Irish schools, community groups, churches, businesses and members of the public are coming together to ask the government to represent us at a UN conference in Paris by coming to an agreement to take definite action on climate change.

The call has gone out to world leaders to create a low carbon, just and sustainable future for all.

Two events have been organised in Mayo as part of the Global Climate March (www.globalclimatemarch.org).

The first climate gathering takes place in Belmullet tomorrow (Friday, November 27) at 2.30 p.m. on Shore Road. Participants will line the shore, beginning at the pier, and send a message from Belmullet to Paris to protect our future.

For more information, contact Belmullet Tidy Towns on  (097) 20977, baileslachtmhar@gmail.com, and/or join Belmullet Climate Gathering on Facebook.

Then on Sunday, November 29, at 12.45 p.m., on The Mall, Westport, meeting outside St. Mary’s Church, the Catholic Church, the Church of Ireland and the general public will walk hand in hand around the Mall to symbolise our wish to work together to protect our town and our future and to call on the government to join in and take action on climate change.

For Sunday’s event, contact your local church or Laura Dixon on  (087) 9767019, ldixon@eeu.antaisce.org, and/or join Westport Climate Gathering on Facebook.

A picture and video will be taken of the gathering and sent to local, national and international media with the message: Tógaimis todhchaí níos fearr le chéile, Let’s Protect our Future and Stop Climate Change.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 19th October 2015

More than half of drink drivers in Ireland escape conviction

Statistics contrast with 97% conviction recorded in courts in England and Wales


More than 20,000 people were in court for drink driving between January 2013 and May 2015.

Only 40%  of drink driving cases listed before the country’s District Courts since January 2013 resulted in convictions, new figures show.

And for the first five months of 2015, the figure was 28%, according to data released by the Department of Justice.

The conviction rate compares unfavourably with England and Wales, where 97% of drink driving cases brought before magistrates’ courts result in conviction.

Drink driving convictions Jan 2013 to May 2015

In one court in Ireland, not a single person accused of drink driving was convicted, and in another, there were convictions in only 10% of cases.

Of those convicted, only 20% had their licence numbers recorded in court for endorsement. In some areas, no one had their licences recorded. The Road Safety Authority and Garda need the licence numbers of those disqualified in court to help them easily identify people suspended from driving.

Over the limit

People are brought before the District Court after they have tested positive for being over the alcohol limit using breath, blood or urine tests. Overall, between January 2013 and May 2015, more than 20,000 people were due before District Courts for drink driving, and 6,709 were convicted.

Co Kerry courts had the lowest conviction rate, at 29 per cent. In Cahirciveen, six convictions resulted from 40 cases; in Kenmare the figure was 11 out of 40. And of 168 cases before Listowel District Court, 44 ended in conviction.

The highest conviction rate was in Offaly, at 68%.

In Castlerea, Co Roscommon, 68 people were listed over the 2½ years; only seven were convicted. And of 21 cases listed in Cill Rónáin District Court, on Inishmore, Co Galway, there was only one conviction.

In Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, eight people were due before the courts for the offence in 2013. There were no convictions. The court has since closed.

Road safety. Just over a quarter of drink driving cases at Newcastle West in Limerick, Lismore, Co Waterford, Carrick-on- Suir, Co Tipperary and Carndonagh, Co Donegal resulted in conviction.

In Ballyhaunis, Cill Rónáin, Kenmare, Ardee, Co Louth, Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick, and Edenderry, Co Offaly, of those convicted of drink driving, none had their licence numbers recorded.

The figures were supplied to Parc, a group that aims to raise awareness of road safety in Ireland, through a parliamentary question tabled by Tommy Broughan TD. They include some cases listed before the courts but not yet finalised, and some summonses that have not been served, the Department of Justice said.

Some of the cases have also been adjourned pending an appeal of a High Court decision, which found regulations required drivers to be given results of their breathalyser test in both Irish and English.

Susan Gray, founder of Parc, backed Mr Broughan’s call for an entire review of the penalty point system.

“We believe that this must include a root and branch examination of how the courts and the RSA follow up on the good work of An Garda Síochána,” she said. “We also call for a consolidation of the Road Traffic Acts to make it easier to follow and less prone to loopholes.”

Coin rounding to begin as 1c, 2c coins phased out

Irish consumers will receive change rounded off to nearest 5 cent from October 28th


1 cent and 2 cent coins will remain legal tender during the initiative and customers will be entitled to ask for exact change on cash payments

Irish consumers will begin receiving change in cash rounded off to the nearest 5 cent from Wednesday, October 28th as part of Ireland’s rounding initiative which aims to reduce the use of 1 cent and 2 cent coins.

The rounding will only apply to cash payments with the total amount of any bill being rounded up or down to the nearest 5 cent mark. Rounding will be conducted on a voluntary basis while 1 cent and 2 cent coins will remain legal tender.

Customers will still be entitled to ask for exact change.

The official rollout out day, which takes place on October 28th, follows the successful trial conducted by the National Payments Plan in Wexford in 2013 which showed 85 per cent of consumers and 100 per cent of retailers in Wexford welcomed the national rounding of cent coins in Ireland.

The Central Bank has distributed packs to 20,000 retailers across the State which will allow businesses to indicate whether they are taking part in the rounding process. Stickers, till wobblers and posters will also be on show in shops from October 28th.

Ronnie O’Toole of the Central Bank described the reaction to rounding as “fantastic” and said he expected Irish people would adapt well to the change.

“We migrated to the euro ahead of most other countries, and the indications so far are that consumers and retailers alike will embrace rounding,” he said.

Change for Charity and Make-A-Wish are calling on people to donate their hoarded 1 cent and 2 cent coins to charity.

Some 2,454,465,931 1 cent and 2 cent coins have been issued in Ireland since the introduction of the euro, with a total value of €37 million. The cost of producing these small coins exceeds their face value – a 1 cent coin costs 1.65 cent to produce while a 2 cent coin costs 1.94 cent.

Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden have already adopted a symmetrical rounding policy on smaller coins.

Changes on a total bill will be rounded up or down to the nearest five cent on transactions, for example:

– A transaction of €10.21 or €10.22 will be rounded to €10.20

– A transaction of €10.23 or €10.24 will be rounded to €10.25

– A transaction of €10.26 or €10.27 will be rounded to €10.25

– A transaction of €10.28 or €10.29 will be rounded to €10.30

Arm mole count can predict skin cancer risk


Having more than 11 moles on one arm indicates a higher-than-average risk of skin cancer or melanoma new research suggests.

Counting moles on the right arm was found to be a good indicator of total moles on the body. More than 100 indicates five times the normal risk.

The study, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, used data from 3,000 twins in the UK.

GPs could use the findings to identify those most at risk, it said.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer affecting more than 13,000 people in the UK each year.

It develops from abnormal moles, so the risk of being diagnosed with a melanoma is linked to the number of moles a patient has.

Researchers from King’s College London studied a large group of female twins over a period of eight years, collecting information on skin type, freckles and moles on their bodies.

After repeating the exercise on a smaller group of around 400 men and women with melanoma, they came up with a quick and easy way to assess the risk of skin cancer.

Moles, freckles and melanoma

  1. Freckles are small usually pale brown areas of skin, which are often temporary and are usually linked to sun exposure
  2. Moles are small coloured spots on the skin made up of cells called melanocytes, which produce the colour (pigment) in your skin. They are long-lasting and are not directly linked to sun exposure, but excess sun exposure will increase your risk of skin cancer and can make a mole turn malignant
  3. Moles can be flat, raised, smooth or rough and may have hair growing from them
  4. They are usually brownish in colour and are circular or oval with a smooth edge
  5. Most moles are completely harmless
  6. If you notice any changes to your moles or a worried about them, see your GP

Things to look for: Uneven colouring, uneven or ragged edges, bleeding, itching, enlargement.

Females with more than seven moles on their right arm had nine times the risk of having more than 50 on their whole body.

Those with more than 11 on their right arm were more likely to have more than 100 on their body in total, meaning they were at a higher risk of developing a melanoma.

The findings could help GPs to identify those with an increased risk of developing a melanoma.

What sun protection factor should I use?

The higher the sun protection factor (SPF), the more protection you get. Use sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15. Use broad-spectrum sunscreens, which protect against harmful UVA and UVB rays.

How long can I stay in the sun?

No longer than you would without sunscreen. Sunscreen should not be used as an excuse to stay out in the sun – it offers protection when exposure is unavoidable. The summer sun is most damaging to your skin in the middle of the day.

What should I do if I get sunburn?

Paracetamol or ibuprofen will ease the pain by helping to reduce inflammation caused by sunburn. Sponge sore skin with cool water, then apply after sun or calamine lotion. If you feel unwell or the skin swells badly or blisters, seek medical help. Stay out of the sun until all signs of redness have gone.

Should I cover up my mole when I’m in the sun?

If you have lots of moles or freckles, you’re more likely to develop skin cancer, so you need to take extra care. Avoid getting caught out by sunburn. Use shade, clothing and sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Keep an eye out for changes to your skin and report these to your doctor without delay.

RTÉ revamps the daily Angelus with new films and a public vote


One-minute broadcast is one of Ireland’s longest-running programmes

RTÉ television has revamped its daily Angelus broadcast with new films and a public vote to determine the nation’s favourite Angelus episode.

The one-minute Angelus broadcast on RTÉ One is one of Ireland’s longest-running programmes, having aired daily at 6pm since the start of RTÉ television in 1962.

New films which the broadcaster says will be “conducive to prayer or reflection for people of all faiths and none” have been commissioned to “create a reflective space for all in the peak-time schedule”.

Contributors, who range from a sand sculptor to a carer, were filmed in locations all over Ireland, from the Islandbridge Memorial, Dublin, to the Holy Well at Tobernalt, Co Sligo, and a traditional bookbinder’s workshop in Athlone to a topiarist’s garden in Malahide. The six new films will be shown in daily rotation.

In addition to these professional films, RTÉ has designated one slot per week, on Fridays at 6pm, as “The People’s Angelus” slot, showcasing the work of aspiring filmmakers and artists.

Submissions have come from a number of second and third level colleges, and ranged from animation to stills photography, and include “abstract work” and contemplative shots of landscape and the natural environment.

The public will be invited to vote for a favourite, which will receive an award and be shown again on RTÉ One.

UCC scientists discover probiotic that reduces stress

Cork researchers find bacteria helps improve memory and mental function


The probiotic has potential use as a way to reduce mild forms of anxiety and stress, say the researchers, based at the APC Microbiome Institute at University College Cork.

Scientists in Cork have discovered a live bacteria probiotic that can reduce stress and improve mental function and memory in humans.

The probiotic has potential use as a way to reduce mild forms of anxiety and stress, say the researchers, based at the APCMicrobiome Institute at University College Cork.

Details of the work were presented on Sunday in Chicago atNeuroscience 2015, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. The research was led by Prof John Cryan and Ted Dinan at the institute and presented in Chicago by Dr Gerard Clarke.

The bacterium, Bifidobacterium longum 1714, was one of many bacteria retrieved and cultured from a variety of human sources and held at the institute. Many probiotic bacteria offering health benefits come from the nappies of babies, said Prof Dinan.

Tested in mice

The stress-reducing potential of this bacterium had already been tested in mice, he said. “We published one or two preclinical studies in animals over the past three or four years in which we found if given to animals it made them less anxious and helped their memory response,” Prof Dinan said.

They decided to carry this forward into humans, setting up a trial with 22 healthy male volunteers. They received probiotic and placebo but didn’t know which was which.

Subjectively the subjects reported a reduction in their perceived daily stress levels. Objective measurements were also taken of their cortisol stress hormone levels and these were reduced when receiving the probiotic, he said.

Visual memory test

“They also underwent an international intellectual test battery to see if there was any improvement in intellectual function,” Prof Dinan said. The test group performed better on a visual memory test when taking the probiotic compared with the placebo.

“There was a statistically significant improvement in cognitive function, particularly memory,” he said.

They also mapped the subjects’ brains using an electroencephalogram and found that the probiotic actually modified brain activity. “These findings could be taken forward into people with psychological disorders related to stress, such as generalised anxiety disorder or major depression,” said lead author Dr Andrew Allen of the institute.

“This was one of the few studies where we have managed to find in humans exactly what we found in animals,” Prof Dinan said.

News Ireland daily BLOG

The ruling on Irish Water is a minor setback?


The Health Minister Leo Varadkar’s description of the EU’s surprise ruling on Irish Water as a “minor setback” has come under fire for being out of touch with reality.

The utility’s plans for massive borrowing were thrown into disarray when the agency Eurostat insisted it was not independent of Government debt.

The ruling meant money raised on the markets in order to finance an ambitious repair programme would have to be lumped in with State debt.

However, Mr Varadkar insisted this was just a “relatively minor setback.”

Clare TD Michael McNamara — who hopes to stand again as a Labour candidate in the general election despite having the whip taken away from him for voting against Government policy on the Aer Lingus sell-off — warned Mr Varadkar was not facing facts.

“He is absolutely wrong. The only way you could take that view is if you were looking at the HSE everyday, then Irish Water might seem fine to you.

“Eurostat basically said this is doing nothing new, Irish Water is controlled by the State, and the Government is meddling in it,” Mr McNamara said.

Mr Varadkar claimed Eurostat would reverse its decision next year when more people had paid up.

“It’s still a work in progress. There’s no doubt that Eurostat’s decision was a setback. It’s probably a temporary one though,” Mr Varadkar said.

“I think Irish Water is the right thing to do. First of all because metering allows us to identify leaks and actually fix them now; it also promotes conservation, people using less water; it’s giving us the revenue stream that we need to invest more in water infrastructure which was neglected for decades.

“What’s gone against us is the way we account for it in public accounts and as I say that can change next year. As you know 48% of people have paid already and I do think that will rise.”

Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson Barry Cowen said the Irish taxpayer was €785m worse off because of Irish Water.

“When the Government unveiled the Water Conservation Grant last year it was clearly designed to try and help Irish Water pass the Eurostat test. This plan has backfired spectacularly,” he said.

“The Government is wasting €5m per annum on administrating the Water Conservation Grant. This is money which could be spent on improving water infrastructure, but instead it is being spent on a pointless grant which has failed in its key objective of helping Irish Water pass the Eurostat test.

“The fact is that not an extra cent is being spent on water infrastructure above the €500m per annum Fianna Fáil spent in Government. The establishment of Irish Water has been a costly mistake for Irish taxpayers. The super quango is swallowing vast quantities of public money on a daily basis while giving little in return when it comes to improving the quality of our water infrastructure.

“Just what exactly is the purpose of the Water Conservation Grant considering it is unlikely to lead to water conservation and has not led to Irish Water passing the Eurostat test?

“Irish Water is set to cost the Government up to €70m this year alone. It is time to abolish the super quango instead of throwing more good money after bad,” Mr Cowen said.

Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty demanded more transparency on Irish Water’s finances.

Maíria Cahill calls on Dublin to examine abuse claims


Mairia Cahill who was abused by senior IRA man and later subjected to a ‘kangaroo court’.

Maíria Cahill arriving for talks with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Government Buildings last year,

Maíria Cahill is calling for Dublin to appoint a legal expert to investigate the alleged cover up of the sexual abuse of children.

Ms. Cahill was speaking at the Gerry Conlon memorial lecture entitled “Justice for Victims of Abuse” she delivered on Saturday evening at St Mary’s University College on the Falls Road in west Belfast, as part of Féile an Phobail.

The festival event, chaired by SDLP MLA Alex Attwood, was organised to explore how victims can be let down by the justice system and their own communities.

Ms Cahill came to public attention during a BBC Spotlight programme where she alleged she had been sexually abused by a senior IRA figure and later subjected to a “kangaroo court” investigation by republicans.

The west Belfast woman, whose great-uncle Joe Cahill was one of the founders of the Provisional IRA, pursued the matter through the courts but the case collapsed when she withdrew her evidence after losing faith in the Public Prosecution Service.

In May, a report by Kier Starmer – former chief of the Crown Prosecution Service, now a Labour MP – concluded it was “almost inevitable” that Ms Cahill, and two other alleged victims decided to withdraw their evidence. Following the publication of the independent review the director of the PPS in the North, Barra McGrory, apologised to the three women.

“My case isn’t unique and I know this from speaking to people since I went public,” she told the Féile audience of around 100 people on Saturday.

“I am now calling on the Irish government to put in place, without delay, a person of legal standing to conduct a special investigatory report, more commonly known as a scoping exercise, to help uncover the IRA and Sinn Féin members actions when it came to the cover up of child sexual abuse.”

She added: “There are many victims of abuse who never make it to the media to tell of their experiences.

“Those victims hurt just as much and in some cases more by suffering in silence but when victims and survivors go public we know that, as in my case, calls to rape crisis centres increases and other victims feel compelled to speak out about their cases.

“We should always encourage them to do so.”

Ms Cahill was critical of the criminal justice system, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and other party figures, members of her extended family and elements of the republican community.

She claimed Sinn Féin could not speak with credibility on the issue of child sexual abuse until it went beyond addressing sexual abuse by republicans in general terms.

“They need to admit that the IRA investigated my abuse against my wishes,” she said.

“They need to confirm explicitly that I was brought into a room with my rapist and three individuals from the IRA and that is my bottom line.

“And until they admit that they can never speak credibly on the issue of child sexual abuse again.”

Ms Cahill spoke of a “cover up” and also said that before and since speaking publicly about her life experience she had been made aware of allegations of people being raped at gunpoint and threatened with death, as well as alleged abusers being “moved on without a thought for the next child”.

Following the event Ms Cahill told The Irish Times some IRA members were among the audience at St Mary’s. “They kept themselves fairly quiet,” she said. “They will bring it back again. That’s the way it goes.”

She also said speaking at Féile had helped “lay ghosts to rest” and brought her some comfort. “It was important to do,” she said.

Being a perfectionist may stress you out!


Perfectionists who constantly worry about making mistakes and letting others down may sabotage their success at work, and even develop health problems, a new study has found.

In the first meta-analysis of the relationship between perfectionism and burnout, researchers analysed the findings from 43 previous studies conducted over the past 20 years.

They found that concerns about perfectionism can sabotage success at work, school or on the playing field, leading to stress, burnout and potential health problems.

Researchers, however, said that perfectionism is not all bad. One aspect of perfectionism called “perfectionistic strivings” involves the setting of high personal standards and working toward those goals in a pro-active manner.

These efforts may help maintain a sense of accomplishment and delay the debilitating effects of burnout, the study found.

The dark side of perfectionism, called “perfectionistic concerns,” can be more detrimental when people constantly worry about making mistakes, letting others down, or not measuring up to their own impossibly high standards, said lead researcher Andrew Hill, an associate professor of sport psychology at York St John University in England.

Previous research has shown that perfectionistic concerns and the stress they generate can contribute to serious health problems, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, fatigue and even early mortality.

“Perfectionistic concerns capture fears and doubts about personal performance, which creates stress that can lead to burnout when people become cynical and stop caring,” Hill said.

“It also can interfere with relationships and make it difficult to cope with setbacks because every mistake is viewed as a disaster,” Hill said.

The study found that perfectionistic concerns had the strongest negative effects in contributing to burnout in the workplace, possibly because people have more social support and clearly defined objectives in education and sports.

“People need to learn to challenge the irrational beliefs that underlie perfectionistic concerns by setting realistic goals, accepting failure as a learning opportunity, and forgiving themselves when they fail,” Hill said.

“Creating environments where creativity, effort and perseverance are valued also would help,” Hill said.

Most people display some characteristics of perfectionism in some aspect of their lives, but perfectionistic strivings or concerns may be more dominant.

The development of a personality profile that identifies perfectionistic concerns might be a valuable tool in detecting and helping individuals who are prone to burnout, the study noted.

The future kitchen in an age of scarcity


Americans these days line up to buy iPhones, but half a century ago, they were flocking to see gleaming, futuristic prototypes of kitchen appliances. General Motors’ Kitchen of Tomorrow, part of a traveling exposition of the company’s products, featured an Ultrasonic Dishwasher and an Electro Recipe File.

Cooking technology was a matter of geopolitical importance. President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev argued about whose nation had better dishwashers during the president’s 1959 visit to Moscow.

Things that seem mundane now excited our parents and grandparents’ imaginations. Their enthusiasm is understandable:

Rapid technological progress had made their lives easier, as new inventions eliminated hours and hours of menial labor. Many of them would have been used to hauling and chopping firewood for cooking. Stoves and electricity gradually entered U.S. homes over the first half of the 20th century, according to data compiled by W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm in The New York Times. The refrigerator transformed the American kitchen even more quickly, replacing the icebox. In 1930, fewer than 10 percent of households had a refrigerator. Nearly all did by 1960.

Since the introduction of the microwave in the 1970s and 1980s, though, kitchens have changed little, despite the advertisers’ promises. Industrial designers are still thinking about the future of the kitchen, but the contrasts between their prototypes and older ones show how much Americans’ outlook has darkened.

A case in point is IKEA’s Concept Kitchen 2025, which went on display earlier this year in Milan. The designers incorporated a 40 percent increase in the cost of food into their prototypes, along with constraints on energy, water and living space. They wonder whether the world will be able to sustain its eating habits, especially its taste for meat. General Electric’s designers had similar concerns in mind when they unveiled a model kitchen two years ago. Instead of a world of leisure, these corporations are preparing for a hungry, thirsty, crowded future.

The Swedish furniture manufacturer collaborated with design students and the design firm IDEO to design a sink that separates wastewater for the sewer from gray water for reused for washing dishes and irrigation. Their miniature refrigerators communicate with transmitters printed on the food’s packaging to regulate the temperature, so that the appliances don’t waste energy keeping food inside colder than necessary.

Like the Kitchen of Tomorrow of an earlier generation, some aspects of IKEA’s Concept Kitchen seem disconnected from real cooking. The most precious resource in any household isn’t food or water, but time. Convenience is an important reason that families eat so much meat and processed food, even though they require more resources to produce and are more expensive as a result. Vegetables require soaking, washing and careful planning — they don’t keep well, no matter how intelligent your refrigerator. If they spoil, a family will have to make another trip to the grocery store.

And a kitchen that is designed to help save money on food, water and energy might not change the kinds of foods that families buy, unless the design saves them time as well. Research and survey data suggest that families with more material resources do not spend much more on produce than those with less means.

IKEA’s answer to this problem is the digitized “Table for Living,” which uses a camera to identify ingredients placed on it and suggests recipes. The design seems about as useful as General Motors’ Electro Recipe File. Looking up a recipe online might be easier, or even just using the index in a cookbook. And the designers expect that drones will solve the problem of fresh produce by delivering groceries quickly and in minutes, which is optimistic.

That said, one crucial point of progress is evident in IKEA’s kitchen. American manufacturers previously assumed that women would be the ones using their prototypes in the kitchen, and women were the targets of their advertising. “What we want to do is to make more easy the life of our housewives,” Nixon told Khrushchev, who denigrated “the capitalist attitude toward women.” IKEA’s design, by contrast, imagines the kitchen as a place that members of the family share, with parents working from home.

Refrigerators and dishwashers made women’s drudgery in the kitchen obsolete. Yet economists argue that instead of spending that extra time with their children or twirling around in dance shoes, as commercials from the period implied, women instead entered the workforce.

Economists debate how technology will change the ways we spend our time in the future. Some say that technology is saving us more time than ever, even if the changes are hard to measure. Others argue that the most important inventions — the ones that, along with changes in the law and the culture, allowed women to work outside the home — are all in the past. On this view, our children’s lives will resemble our own more than our grandparents’ lives resembled our great-grandparents’, and the kitchens of 2025 might not look that different from those of 1985. And we won’t be well equipped to deal with the environmental challenges reflected in IKEA’s design.

Beluga whale seen off County Antrim coast near Dunseverick


Marine researchers have said a beluga whale has been sighted off the County Antrim coast near Dunseverick.

It is believed to be the first time the Arctic species has been recorded in Northern Irish waters.

Dr Peter Evans, director of the Seawatch Foundation, said a fall in sea temperatures could be why the whale strayed so far from its usual habitat.

“A beluga whale is extremely unusual,” he said.

“It’s the first record that we know for Northern Ireland and in fact there’s only been about a dozen in 50 years for the whole of Britain and Ireland.

“On the whole, over the last sort of 10 years, certainly the sea temperatures have been generally warming, but at the same time there have been a number of anomalies where you’ve got actually significantly cooler waters and that seems to be the case here.”

There are just two records of beluga whales off the coast of the Republic of Ireland – one off Clare Island, County Mayo, in 1948 and another at Cobh, County Cork, in 1988.

“This is not the first arctic species to occur in Britain this year. Back in February, the first European sighting of a bowhead whale was captured on a smart phone in the Isles of Scilly,” Dr Evans said.

“In that instance it was thought that the fragmentation of floating ice may have resulted in whales typically associated with pack ice, straying much further south.

“Whether the same has occurred in the case of this beluga is not clear but sea temperatures have been unusually low this summer.”

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 5th June 2015

Ireland’s sovereign debt upgraded to A+ with growth


Rating agency expects economy to continue to expand until 2018

Citing the rebound in Irish property prices, S&P expects Nama to redeem all of its senior bonds by the end of 2018. “We believe the likelihood that Nama will remit a residual gain to the government when it winds up its operations exceeds the likelihood that it will incur a shortfall,” it said.

Rating agency Standard & Poor’s has upgraded its assessment of Ireland’s sovereign debt, saying it expects the economy to expand at one of the fastest rates in the euro zone until 2018.

With the general election due in less than a year, S&P said the upgrade was premised on its expectation that the next government “will not deviate significantly from current fiscal targets and commitments.”

S&P has indicated it expects the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition to run its course. Its view is that the next administration is likely to take office a year from now.

The upgrade comes in spite of the fact that S&P foresees “some slippage” vis-à-vis the Government’s deficit-reduction targets until the election.

“We therefore don’t expect the fiscal balance to return to surplus before 2019 as we think expenditure overruns (especially in health care) will be recurrent,” it said.

“We also expect public-sector wage pressure to emerge after current accords lapse and public investment to pick up.”

However, S&P said Ireland’s policy and institutional effectiveness was supported by a “consensus” among most of the main political parties “in favour of sound public finances and policies aimed at promoting economic flexibility, competitiveness, and openness.”

Citing the rebound in Irish property prices, S&P expects Nama to redeem all of its senior bonds by the end of 2018. “We believe the likelihood that Nama will remit a residual gain to the government when it winds up its operations exceeds the likelihood that it will incur a shortfall,” it said.

“We note that the price rebound in the housing market hasn’t been driven by mortgage credit, though approvals for mortgage loans have started to pick up.

“We expect the constrained supply of new housing to remain a key factor behind rising house prices.

In a statement on Friday evening which it forecast average annual economic growth of 3.6 per cent between 2015 and 2018, S&P said it foresees a narrowing deficit, higher state asset sales and further redemptions of Nama senior bonds. This will bring net general government debt below 100 per cent of GDP by the end of this year, it said.

“We are therefore raising our long-term sovereign credit ratings on Ireland to ‘A+’ from ‘A’. The outlook is stable,” said S&P.

The upgrade was welcomed by Minister for FinanceMichael Noonan, who said it

recognised Ireland’s commitment to restoring the public finances to full health and the significant progress made to date in this regard. “It is also reflective of Ireland’s strong economic growth potential into the medium term,” Mr Noonan said.

Although Irish borrowing costs have risen in recent from record low levels amid volatility in international debt markets, rating upgrades such as the action by S&P mark a boost for the Government as it still needs to borrow to fund the budget deficit.

S&P, which said Ireland is taking a big benefit from the reduction in the euro’s value against the dollar, said it expects the unemployment rate to “fall sharply” to 7.5% in 2017 from the present rate of 9.8%.

“The upgrade reflects our view of Ireland’s improved fiscal performance, higher state asset sales, and robust economic performance, which have combined to lead to a quicker decline in net general government debt than we had previously forecast,” said S&P.

“Ireland’s economic performance has surpassed that of most euro zone countries, with real GDP growth reaching 4.8% in 2014, compared to an average of 0.9 per cent for the euro zone.

“The domestic economy, measured by gross national product, has expanded at a faster pace than GDP (which includes accounting effects from Ireland’s large multinational sector) for three straight years.

“We expect Ireland’s recovery to remain steady with real GDP growth of 3.6% over 2015-2018. Much of the strong growth in the past few years has stemmed from the economy rebounding from a deep financial crisis.

“Net exports contributed to two-thirds of Ireland’s economic growth in 2014, primarily in aspects of the services sector such as information and communications technology and business services. Ireland has notably benefitted from the economic recovery of some of its key trading partners such as the UK and US, which we expect to continue over the forecast period.

Dunnes workers to march to head office over zero-hours row


Dunnes Stores workers are marching to the retailer’s head office in Dublin tomorrow.

The march is part of their campaign to gain greater job security and end zero hours contracts.

The rally is being supported by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and follows a one-day strike in April.

ICTU General Secretary Patricia King said Dunnes Stores had full control over its workers’ hours and earnings, “over how and when the hours are assigned, (and) full control over the workers’ income…with little regard at all for the workers’ needs and how they run their lives”.

Sudden work stress can cause weight gain


It’s been suggested that switching from a relaxed work atmosphere to a stressful one could make you put on weight.

Sudden bouts of stress at work could cause an expanding waistline, it’s been claimed. You might think that’s not much of a surprise, after all who hasn’t heard that pressure can cause people to comfort eat? But what’s new is the suggestion that being under constant stress at your job won’t have much of an impact on the scales.

A team at University College London looked at eight studies boasting 60,000 people and compared the results. Overall, it seemed that those whose jobs were relatively relaxed to begin with but then ramped up a gear were more likely to be obese. In fact, they were 20 per cent more likely to have put on a dangerous amount of weight while their job intensified than those whose careers remained more stable.

Although the reason for the finding isn’t totally clear, Professor Sir Cary Cooper explained there could be a correlation between sudden stress and having little time for home life.

“If your job becomes more stressful, it means you are not coping with it,” the workplace health expert explained.

“You are probably working longer hours, which means you are probably not eating as well as before, you are probably not having a proper lunch or walking as much.”

It’s possible people who are struggling with their workload feel the need to boost their energy too, which could lead to them reaching for chocolate or fizzy drinks.

The findings were published in the International Journal of Obesity, where Professor Mika Kivimaki explained they show how important it is to tackle the obesity epidemic. That is especially so because the analysis didn’t point to people losing weight when their work stress drops off.

There are currently thought to be one billion overweight adults worldwide, with 300 million obese. That number has risen three fold since 1980, with those who are an unhealthy weight more at risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and hypertension.

A death diet: Now chips, toast, crisps, biscuits and coffee give you cancer


A highly toxic chemical normally found in tobacco is also present in fried foods including chips and toast, according to a new study.

Chips and coffee are among the food items said to contain the harmful chemical

The shocking report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found acrylamide (AA) –  which is also found in crisps, biscuits and coffee – is a cancer risk.

Scientists warn that the toxins are also widespread in baby foods, with toddlers exposed to around 60 per cent of their daily intake of the chemical through food.

The toxin forms when foods are baked, fried or roasted at high temperatures

European scientists have warned that AA causes cancer in animals and that the risk extends to humans as well.

AA forms in numerous baked or fried carbohydrate-rich foods, including French fries, potato crisps, breads, biscuits and coffee

They add that it is “virtually impossible” to remove the chemical from foods, but consumers should try and reduce their intake.

Around half (51 per cent) of children’s exposure to the chemical comes from fried potato products, including chips and roast potatoes.

The EFSA warn: “AA forms in numerous baked or fried carbohydrate-rich foods, including French fries, potato crisps, breads, biscuits and coffee.

“AA is also known to be present in cigarette smoke.”

TTY: Bread – both soft and toasted – also contains the AA toxin

The study added that children were the most vulnerable based on their body weight.

Other harmful effects of AA include damage to the nervous system, harm to pre- and post-natal development and male fertility.

Tips for reducing AA include not allowing fried foods to burn or crisp and making sure toast is golden yellow rather than brown.

Experts also recommend not storing potatoes in the fridge as it increases sugar levels in the vegetables, leading to increased levels of AA.

The EFSA added: “Evidence from animal studies shows that acrylamide and its metabolite glycidamide are genotoxic and carcinogenic: they damage DNA and cause cancer.

“Since acrylamide is present in a wide range of everyday foods, this health concern applies to all consumers but children are the most exposed age group on a body weight basis.

“The most important food groups contributing to acrylamide exposure are fried potato products, coffee, biscuits, crackers, crisp bread and soft bread.”

The EFSA is recommending that individual countries across Europe now conduct their own investigations.

The findings mean European authorities could now look again at how chemicals in food are regulated.

It could also mean changes to advice on eating habits and home-cooking, and tighter controls on factory and restaurant food production.

New software gauges kids’ pain levels at a glance


Assessing pain according to facial expression could be a giant step forward in pediatrics.

Measuring the degree of pain kids are going through can be tricky, but a new method using facial pattern recognition software was recently developed at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Currently, children and adolescents self-report their pain, usually on a scale of zero to 10, but the research team says most kids have trouble assessing their pain and young tots do not have the cognitive and conceptual abilities to belay their pain in such a way.

In such cases, members of the nursing staff are called to perform clinical pain assessments yet even with help from parents, they often underestimate the pain, says senior author Jeannie Huang, MD, MPH, a professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and a gastroenterologist at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego.

What’s more, these pain assessment sessions are often scheduled at the convenience of the hospital staff, which may not coincide with the height of the kids’ pain, says Dr. Huang.

The software employs the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), which was developed in Sweden to connect feelings with the facial expressions they produce and contains 46 anatomically-based component movements.

Using the software to analyze the sort of facial expressions we have when we experience pain, the research team assessed 50 children and adolescents ranging in age from five to 18 years old.

All participants were patients at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, where they had undergone laparoscopic appendectomies.

They filmed the kids at three separate intervals after their surgeries, the first being one day later, the next being one calendar day after the first post-op visit and once more at a follow-up within the first two to four weeks post-op.

The video recordings taken using the software were compared against self-reported pain ratings by the kids and also against pain ratings by their parents and nurses.

“The software demonstrated good-to-excellent accuracy in assessing pain conditions,” says Dr. Huang. “Overall, this technology performed equivalent to parents and better than nurses. It also showed strong correlations with patient self-reported pain ratings.”

What’s more, Dr. Huang and her team detected no inconsistencies in the results concerning ethnicity, race, gender or age amongst the patients.

“Accurate assessment of pain is a fundamental tenet of delivery of care,” says Dr. Huang.

Pain control is not only a question of comfort, according to Dr. Huang, it aids recovery, for previous research has indicated that if left untreated, pain could lead to unfavorable surgical outcomes.

20-Foot Monster Shark Once Trolled Mesozoic Seas


A giant shark the size of a two-story building prowled the shallow seas 100 million years ago, new fossils reveal.

The massive fish, Leptostyrax macrorhiza, would have been one of the largest predators of its day, and may push back scientists’ estimates of when such gigantic predatory sharks evolved, said study co-author Joseph Frederickson, a doctoral candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Oklahoma.

The ancient sea monster was discovered by accident. Frederickson, who was then an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, had started an amateur paleontology club to study novel fossil deposits. In 2009, the club took a trip to the Duck Creek Formation, just outside Fort Worth, Texas, which contains myriad marine invertebrate fossils, such as the extinct squidlike creatures known as ammonites. About 100 million years ago the area was part of a shallow sea known as the Western Interior Seaway that split North America in two and spanned from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic, Frederickson said.

While walking in the formation, Frederickson’s then-girlfriend (now wife), University of Oklahoma anthropology doctoral candidate Janessa Doucette-Frederickson, tripped over a boulder and noticed a large vertebra sticking out of the ground. Eventually, the team dug out three large vertebrae, each about 4.5 inches (11.4 centimeters) in diameter. [See Images of Ancient Monsters of the Sea]

“You can hold one in your hand,” but then nothing else will fit, Frederickson told Live Science.

The vertebrae had stacks of lines called lamellae around the outside, suggesting the bones once belonged to a broad scientific classification of sharks called lamniformes that includes sand tiger sharks, great white sharks, goblin sharks and others, Frederickson said.

After poring over the literature, Frederickson found a description of a similar shark vertebra that was unearthed in 1997 in the Kiowa Shale in Kansas, which also dates to about 100 million years ago. That vertebra came from a shark that was up to 32 feet (9.8 meters) long.

By comparing the new vertebra with the one from Kansas, the team concluded the Texas shark was likely the same species as the Kansas specimen. The Texan could have been at least 20.3 feet (6.2 m) long, though that is a conservative estimate, Frederickson said. (Still, the Texas shark would have been no match for the biggest shark that ever lived, the 60-foot-long, or 18 m, Megalodon.)

By analyzing similar ecosystems from the Mesozoic Era, the team concluded the sharks in both Texas and Kansas were probablyLeptostyrax macrorhiza. Previously, the only fossils from Leptostyraxthatpaleontologists had found were teeth, making it hard to gauge the shark’s true size. The new study, which was published today (June 3) in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests this creature was much bigger than previously thought, Frederickson said.

Still, it’s not certain the new vertebrae belonged to Leptostyrax, said Kenshu Shimada, a paleobiologist at DePaul University in Chicago, who unearthed the 1997 shark vertebra.

“It is also entirely possible that they may belong to an extinct shark with very small teeth so far not recognized in the present fossil record,” Shimada, who was not involved in the current study, told Live Science. “For example, some of the largest modern-day sharks are plankton-feeding forms with minute teeth, such as the whale shark, basking shark and megamouth shark.”

Either way, the new finds change the picture of the Early Cretaceous seas.

Previously, researchers thought the only truly massive predators of the day were the fearsome pliosaurs, long-necked, long-snouted relatives to modern-day lizards that could grow to nearly 40 feet (12 m) in length. Now, it seems the oceans were teeming with enough life to support at least two top predators, Frederickson said.

As for the ancient shark’s feeding habits, they might resemble those of modern great white sharks, who “eat whatever fits in their mouth,” Frederickson said. If these ancient sea monsters were similar, they might have fed on large fish, baby pliosaurs, marine reptiles and even full-grown pliosaurs that they scavenged, Frederickson said.

News Ireland daily BLOG BY Donie

Wednesday 6th November 2013

Ireland now likely to exit troika bailout without any back-stop assistance

   Michael Noonan attends this morning's meeting of EU finance ministers alongside his Dutch counterpart, and Eurogroup president, Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

(right pic.) Michael Noonan attends this morning’s meeting of EU finance ministers alongside his Dutch counterpart, and Eurogroup president, Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

Michael Noonan minister says decision on exit strategy remains ‘finely balanced’

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan held his final meeting with senior figures from the EU and IMF yesterday in the Netherlands

Sources in Brussels now expect Ireland to exit the bailout without a backstop in place. Officials believe that if Ireland deploys a one-year credit line, it will confront the same issue of market confidence when that credit line expires in a year’s time.With market conditions currently favourable, and Irish bond yields hovering at 3.5 per cent, it is seen as preferable for Ireland to return to fully fledged market financing now rather than at a later juncture.A final decision on a request for a precautionary credit line may be made as early as next week, amid increasing signs that Brussels is prepared to back Ireland if it decides to exit its EU-IMF programme unaided.Minister for Finance Michael Noonan held his final meeting with senior figures from the EU and IMF yesterday in the Netherlands, where he met the head of the group of euro zone finance ministers, Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem. It follows meetings with the European Commission, European Central Bank, and IMF over the last two weeks.

Hour-long meeting
Both finance ministers described the hour-long meeting at the Dutch finance ministry as “constructive.” While Mr Noonan said yesterday evening the decision on an exit strategy remained “finely balanced”.

Unlike three years ago, at the time of the Irish bailout when contagion across peripheral countries was a primary concern, the decoupling of Irish government bond yields from the yields of other programme countries such asGreece and Portugal over the last year is assuaging concerns about contagion should Ireland’s return to full private funding spark market unrest.

The fact that a request to draw down a precautionary credit line from the euro zone rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), would need parliamentary approval from a number of countries, including Germany, is also weighing on the decision.

EU commissioner Olli Rehn said yesterday that while the decision on an exit strategy was “by and large for the Irish Government”, Ireland was well-funded.

“The Irish sovereign is now well-funded with quite significant cash reserves that serve as a buffer,” the commissioner for economic and monetary affairs said, adding that Ireland was seen as “an economic turnaround,” with growth returning and improvements in the unemployment rate.

Mr Rehn said last month that Ireland had a “very good chance” of exiting the bailout without a precautionary credit line. Mr Noonan took some analysts by surprise last month when he told the Fine Gael annual conference that Ireland may exit the bailout without a backstop mechanism.

Sentiment in Washington
He repeated the sentiment in Washington last week following a meeting at IMF headquarters. Since then Irish bond spreads have narrowed, suggesting the prospect of Ireland exiting unsupported may not trouble investors. While Ireland is the first country to exit a joint euro zone-IMF rescue package – a landmark for the euro zone – a number of countries have exited IMF programmes without the use of a precautionary credit line.

With the final troika visit to Dublin due to finish tomorrow, Mr Noonan may make a decision before next Thursday’s meeting of all 17 euro zone finance ministers, in Brussels. Any decision on a precautionary credit line will be first brought to Cabinet in Dublin before being discussed by the euro group of finance ministers.

Australian mystery woman has family connections in Tipperary


and is not a victim of human trafficking

The mystery girl found in O’Connell St. Dublin and identified by Gardai as an Australian adult has a previous conviction for deception in her native country.

The woman, Samantha Azzopardi, illegally tried to draw social welfare benefits payments and received a six month prison sentence, independent.ie has learned.

However, the sentence, handed down late last year, was suspended for 12 months.

The revelation comes as gardai continue to liaise with their Australian counterparts about the woman, who was taken into HSE care after being discovered in a distressed state outside the GPO on Dublin’s O’Connell Street on October 10.

Initially officers believed she was aged 14 to 16. But they have now confirmed she is actually 25 years old.

The woman is believed to have up to 40 different aliases.

Samantha Azzopardi is to be assessed this afternoon by a psychiatrist.

Lawyers were at the High Court today where Mr Justice George Birmingham discharged the order that he had made allowing her to be detained under the Childcare Act.
But he put a stay on the discharge until tomorrow morning to allow other arrangements to be put in place.

The case is be mentioned in court tomorrow morning. It is hoped the assessment by a psychiatrist this afternoon will allow authorities to decide what steps to take next.

The court heard she is “vulnerable” and she is to remain in HSE care for at least another 24 hours as her “life could be at risk” if she is released.

Gardai revealed in court today that she been in Ireland for three weeks before she was found wandering around in a distressed state outside the GPO.

Ms Azzopardi  was initially believed to have been a teenager victim and could not communicate with gardai.

However, it has now emerged she has family connections in Tipperary and officers are satisfied that she is not a victim of human trafficking.

The Herald understands a man, who is not a relative, made contact with detectives yesterday afternoon.

“He was able to tell them who she was and supply details about her  family,” explained a source.

It is believed that Samantha (25) was living with relatives in Clonmel, Tipperary.

The massive breakthrough came just hours after gardai released a photograph of the young woman.

Sources said that the Australian citizen is thought to have travelled here via the United Kingdom.

“She does understand English and can articulate in writing English, but she won’t speak,” said a source close to the investigation.

“She is not talking. There is some written communication coming from her, but only bits and pieces.”

The woman had refused to allow herself to be photographed and the images of her issued yesterday are understood to have been taken without her knowledge.

A source close to the case said: “She is very disturbed. It would appear there is something very serious going on here.”

A garda spokesperson confirmed: “With the assistance of the public, the Gardai are now following a definite line of enquiry and will be liaising closely with the Australian Police and the HSE to finalise the matter.”

The Australian Federal Police are working with Gardai, and would not confirm any reports on her identity, DNA tests or aliases.

A spokesman for Australian Police said there are potential mental health issues so there are important privacy issues in place.

The identification of the 25-year-old woman followed an unprecedented move by gardai to publish a photograph of a person in State care.

More than 2,000 hours of garda time has been devoted to trying to identify the woman and there have been more than 100 separate lines of inquiry by officers.


In all, 15 possible names were given to investigators but none of the names were correct when they were checked out.

There are reports in Australia this morning that a member of the girl’s family has now made contact with the gardai.

When she was found in a distressed state near the GPO on Dublin’s O’Connell Street on October 10, the woman was wearing clothes from Irish department stores and had braces fitted.

While in State care, she rarely spoke but did sketch pictures of being taken on an aircraft. She gave officers no indication of her origins.

Babies feel their parents stress & anxiety

 Postpartum Psychology

Stress, depression and money problems endured by thousands of Irish families can affect babies as young as nine months old and harm their development.

A major study to be published today on how 11,000 five-year-old children are developing has found that parental stress can result in less sensitivity towards children, meaning parents are less likely to respond to their needs and help them in times of distress.

The Growing Up in Ireland ‘Parenting and Infant Development’ study from the ESRI and TCD says stressed parents could be hampering their children’s development, resulting in problems developing motor and social skills.

And while household income has no bearing on how the average nine-month-old develops, financial pressures coupled with a lack of supports can have a negative outcome.

Co-author of the report, Dr Elizabeth Nixon, said being tuned into the needs of the child and being able to read signals was an “important skill”, but that stress levels impacted on the ability to read these signals. “What this analysis does is highlight some of the processes which feed into how infants are doing,” she said.

“We’re identifying things like parental stress and depression and their effect on parenting.

“These findings show that, even from a very young age, the sensitivity that parents show when interacting with their babies is important for their development.

“Parenting is a challenging task. The reality is it may have nothing to do with what the parent is doing, the child may be, by their nature, more difficult. It’s about the parents learning about how their baby is and appreciating them as individuals. What works for one baby, may not work for another.”

The study was based on interviews with the parents of over 11,000 nine-month-old children. The children and their families have been interviewed twice since.

Researchers looked at a range of development milestones including motor skills, such as crawling and grasping items, social skills such as co-operating with parents when getting dressed and communication skills including vocalising sounds and making associations between words and objects.

The study found that premature babies took longer to develop than those born at full-term, but notes that most children would catch up. The age of the child at birth – if they were premature – had three times more influence on outcomes than parenting.

It also found:

* Mothers in one-parent households have higher levels of stress.

* There was no difference between one and two-parent households, as measured by infants’ personal, social, motor or problem-solving skills.

* Stress among mothers was commonly associated with fussy and irritable children, resulting in the parent being less likely to be sensitive to their needs, which in turn caused more irritability.

* Mothers tended to become stressed about money, but not fathers. Women also became stressed about a lack of support from family and friends.

* Fathers stressed about the relationship with their partners, which impacted on parenting.

“The most important predictor for fathers’ stress was the quality of the relationship,” Dr Nixon said.

“It points to the important role that mothers have to play in supporting fathers’ parenting. Mothers can play a role in supporting or undermining fathers’ parenting.”

While differences have emerged in how children from different economic backgrounds develop – for example those from lower-income families tended to have better communication skills, while those from more prosperous families had better social skills – the differences were “very small”.

“What matters is relationship and interactions between the family. Obviously, if families are in economic difficulty, it does have an impact but children can be protected.

“You don’t need money to have a good relationship and lots of positive, stimulating reactions,” she added.

Crumlin reiterates support for new children’s hospital at St James’s campus site


Chief executive says support for St James’s campus location ‘remains unchanged’

The development of the national children’s hospital is earmarked for a site at the west end of St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin has reiterated its “categorical” support for locating the new national children’s hospital at St James’s Hospital.Chief executive Lorcan Birthistle said the hospital informed the Government in April last year that its board unanimously supported the location of the new hospital on the St James’s campus and “this position remains unchanged”.Mr Birthistle was responding to recent media coverage of the issue, including a call by An Taisce to extend the campus of St James’s to include the Coombe Women’s Hospital and to relocate the project from St James’s to land adjacent to the Coombe.This would mean the hospital was co-located with a children’s hospital, in line with best international practice.Dr Orla Franklin, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at Crumlin, has also expressed reservation about the failure to co-locate the children’s hospital with a maternity hospital, given the need for very sick newborns to receive immediate treatment in a children’s hospital.

Mr Birthistle said in a statement issued this morning: “We look forward to working with the Children’s Hospital Group Board and the National Paediatric Hospital Development Board in developing this very important project on the St James’s campus.”

UTV to launch a new Dublin-based TV channel


Station will have Irish rights to Corrie and Emmerdale in possible blow to TV3

More than 50 years after it became the first commercial television station in Ireland, UTV is launching a new Dublin-based television channel directly targeting viewers in the Republic.

A nightly hour-long news and current affairs programme placed “at the heart of the schedule” will report “from all corners of the country” when the channel goes on air from early 2015, UTV Media said today.

The company’s executives declined to give any further details of its in-house production plans earlier today, but the popularity of the channel with audiences will be underpinned by its signing of a content deal with ITV Studios that will give it the exclusive rights to show programmes such as Coronation Street and Emmerdale in the Irish market.

The advent of the channel, which is expected to create at least 100 jobs, is subject to the regulatory go-ahead. UTV Media said it had “dropped off” a Content Provision Contract, as required by Section 71 of the Broadcasting Act, to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland this morning.

“We believe that shortly after Christmas we will find out whether or not we have been successful,” said Michael Wilson, managing director of UTV Television. The media group is committed to the Irish television market, he said. “We have been here since 1959. We intend to be here in 2059, and beyond.”

Its submission to the BAI says that “for clarity, the proposed new UTV Ireland Ltd service will be a separate channel to UTV Ltd”. However, group chief executive John McCann said the channel would “be known simply as UTV” on air.

“It’s a very straightforward, simple concept and that is to provide the ITV schedule customised to meet the needs and preferences of Irish viewers,” he said.

To make the new channel work, UTV Media believes it must be available on all platforms. The station is not currently available on the Saorview digital terrestrial television service operated by RTÉ NL and in the Republic it must be tuned in via the “other channels” section of Sky’s electronic programme guide. “We have not had any conversations with platform providers yet,” Mr Wilson said.

The UTV deal with ITV Studios means TV3 will be obliged to stop broadcasting schedule staples Coronation Street, Emmerdale and The Jeremy Kyle Show from early 2015. I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! will also be among the casualties, but it had already moved this to its second station, 3e.

TV3 chief executive David McRedmond played down the loss of the shows today, saying it was “almost inevitable” that its arrangement to broadcast the two soaps, which account for around 15 per cent of total viewing to TV3, would come to an end.

The rising price tags for the rights, despite a 20 per cent drop in their viewing figures over the past five years, had made the deal a loss-maker for TV3, he said. “Each year there was a ratcheting up in the price and it just became unaffordable.”

Two emus walk into a house in Galway without any permission


hello who are you? Do you know who this giant bird/bird’s is?

SOME PEOPLE WOULD be happy if a leggy bird showed up unexpectedly at their home and refused to leave.

You’re kidding. But that is just weird.

But that was the problem facing a Galway householder who got something of a surprise when two giant birds which appear to be emus – both almost 2 metres high – turned up in her garden on Monday and were in no rush to go anywhere.

“Nobody knows a thing about where they came from. They just walked onto her land,” Imelda O’Brien of the Galway & Claddagh Swan Rescue told TheJournal.ie.

The woman living in the house in Knockdoe fed the two giant birds (pictured) when it became clear that they were looking for food and didn’t want to leave. She contacted the rescue centre in a bid to trace the owners.

“She was quite afraid of them,” said Imelda O’Brien. “Even though they’re extremely tame, they’re huge – I think you could almost even get up on their back, they’re so big”.

She speculated that the birds could have come from a pet farm or a wildlife park, but may have travelled a long distance.

Emus are the second-largest living bird in the world after ostriches and can run at speeds of up to 48 kilometres per hour for large distances.

The Galway &  Claddagh Swan Rescue has placed an appeal on its Facebook page for the owners to come forward. In the meantime, the birds have been taken into the care of Galway County Council which is keeping the animals in an open space until their owners can be found.

Ireland news daily BLOG by Donie

Monday 18th March 2013

Failte Ireland says the Gathering is working,


Fáilte Ireland has said The Gathering tourism initiative is already delivering benefits to the Irish economy. 

It says the tourist sector has seen its best St Patrick’s Day in years, with many hotels in Dublin reporting no vacancies between now and Friday.

The country’s biggest parade saw hundreds of thousands of spectators descend on the streets of Dublin.

About 8,000 foreign visitors led the procession in the People’s Parade, which was a Gathering event.

Around 120,000 people passed through the arrivals gate at Dublin airport in the lead-up to this year’s festival, and organisers expect them to contribute towards a €50m financial windfall for the economy.

Fáilte Ireland said it had seen particularly strong levels of visitors from the United States.

Head of communications Alex Connolly said it was clear The Gathering was playing its part.

“The Gathering has been out there for the last number of months as a big hook for visitors to come over. We would be working very hard to get more and more people in this year for The Gathering, and that’s what’s happened,” he said.

“This is the official start of the tourism season.”

Discounts on generic medication’s used to subsidise pharmacy losses


Pharmacists claim generic drug discounts used to offset losses on other medication

Chemist shop: large discounts from generic drug firms are helping to subsidise losses.

Pharmacists are using double- digit discounts from generic drug firms to subsidise losses in other parts of their business, according to the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU).

The union said one in four of its members was operating at a loss, despite reports that they enjoy discounts of up to 90 per cent on the price of generic drugs for which they are reimbursed by the Health Service Executive.

Two generic drug companies are offering pharmacists discounts ranging from 40 to 90 per cent on drugs they are dispensing for the HSE,


Neither company was named, but in the examples quoted the HSE was paying the pharmacist 10 times as much as pharmacists were paying for drugs such as aciclovir (used to treat cold sores) and the antidepressant fluoxetine, originally known as Prozac.

Separately, a survey showed that people who pay for their own drugs are paying as much as 18 times the price of the same generic medicine in Northern Ireland. Pharmacists in the Republic were charging €166 for olanzapine, compared with just €9 in the North.

The price of atorvastatin, which is prescribed for high cholesterol, was €2.87 in Northern Ireland. In the Republic private customers pay up to €33.77, while the HSE pays €18.22.

The IPU said “purchase price incentives” were a feature of all businesses. It pointed out that the HSE benefited from the practice, having recouped 8.2 per cent of the cost of all medicines from payments to pharmacists since 2009.
Small market

The union argues that generic medicines cost more in Ireland because they account for a relatively small part of the market and so sales volumes are lower. The amount of generics dispensed in Ireland is 18 per cent, or even less by value, compared to 80 per cent in the UK.

“Every time the Government and the manufacturers lower the price of medicines those reductions have been passed on by pharmacists to their patients. Further falls in medicine prices will occur and will also benefit patients,” a spokesman said.

Pharmacists have seen their payments cut three times in recent years. In 2009, some pharmacists withdrew from the HSE-funded drug schemes in a dispute over drug prices but their protest action fizzled out quickly.

Underage drinking and peer-pressure & a desire to conform and fit in is a Irish student’s dilemma


A few drinks now and then does little harm – but just because everybody else is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to,

The desire to conform and fit in, to be accepted as part of a group, is one that is common to all teenagers. What must be done in order to gain acceptance by one’s peers is not always consistent with the individual’s morals. However, if this behaviour is necessary to acquire ‘friendship’ then more often than not it is carried out for fear of being cast out, alone.

Underage drinking is nothing new in society, nor is it a phenomenon that is unique to Ireland. Where there exists a legal drinking age, there will be underage drinking. It is an undeniable state of affairs, which has been a part of life in the past, and will be for as long as the legislation regarding under-18s’ inability to purchase or consume alcohol remains in effect.

One-size fits all rule

I am unsure as to what causes the sudden onrush of maturity that overcomes people on their 18th birthday. People are marginally different than they were the day before, perhaps even months before. I understand that no two people are the same and that reasonable drinking ages can not be set on an individual basis. However, the one-size fits all rule at 18 gives rise to the aforementioned underage drinking.

Alcohol-consumption, in moderation at any age, is perfectly fine. The problem, is the culture of excess. Ireland is renowned globally for its alcohol abuse. A fact, which I do not feel we should be proud of. Due to the illegal nature of alcohol to youths, most teenagers have their first encounter with alcohol in some field or parent-free house. There is a strong chance that peer pressure will have played a part in this. Pushed on by ‘friends’, kids as young as 13 and 14 will consume far more that their bodies are capable of handling.

I don’t think that there can be any argument that it would be preferable for young people to have their first taste of alcohol in the family home, under parental supervision. Parents could at least make an attempt to explain the importance of sensible drinking to their offspring, rather than having them being egged-on to the point of alcohol poisoning in what would be more favourable company in their eyes.

A safe environment

Parents might not be the coolest people going in teenagers’ eyes but at least if they could get their first taste of alcohol out of their system in a safe environment, there is less of a chance that a stomach pumping will be required at a later stage. Fuddy duddies they may be, but I think that teenagers who have loving, trusting relationships with their parents are happier in all facets of life.

Excess is not the only problem when it comes to teenage drinking in Ireland, reliance on alcohol is equally as bad. I am a second-level student myself, and I can testify that all social gatherings succumb to a drearily formulaic routine. There seems to be a distinct inability for sober socialising in Ireland, not just among teenagers, but across all societal demographics.

I am not suggesting for a second that the entire population become teetotallers. I merely feel that is it a sad state of affairs that the social lubricant of alcohol is required for any kind of interaction at said events. What is even more depressing is the gloomy realisations of those who have decided to abstain from alcohol that without this magic relaxant they do not enjoy themselves as much but instead are more aware than usual of the typical idiotic antisocial drunken behaviour which accompanies alcohol consumption.

Expressing feelings without alcohol

A few drinks now and then does little harm. But all too often people do not  limit themselves to a few – that would be far too sensible. The live fast, die young mentality is a sure-fire way to die prematurely of liver failure. People have the right to enjoy their nights out without having to step around vomit/be vomited on/babysit their overly-inebriated companions. There is always the few who take things a naggin too far and end up putting a dampener on proceedings for everyone.

What worries me further still is the legitimacy of drunken conversations. Science has shown that people still have control over their actions while in an intoxicated state. This does not stop them from blaming their behaviour on the alcohol though. If people needexternal substances such as alcohol to ‘be themselves’ I question their mental health. It is said that drunken words are sober thoughts. Why shouldn’t people be able to express their feelings without the assistance of alcohol?

Macho bravado v common sense

One thing I will never understand is how people can say that they know they’ve had a good night because they were so sozzled they wake up criminally hungover the following morning and can’t remember a thing. This defies reason. There is a macho bravado when it comes to who can drink the most pints etc. All lunacy again. It requires a great degree of self-confidence and comfort with oneself to stay clear of the crowd and do things at one’s own pace. Consume as much alcohol as you like, provided you don’t behave in a way that will affect others’ enjoyment. Common sense is what’s needed when it comes to alcohol, in a serious way. And better examples from our elders wouldn’t go amiss.

Moreover, just because everybody else is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to. I guarantee that ‘uncool’ non-drinking friends who share your values and courage in defecting from the pack will offer you infinitely more in terms of friendship than image-conscious sheep who dare not deviate from the norm.

Stressful work & jobs increases chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease


Having a stressful job could increase the chance of developing Alzheimer’s in old age, research indicates.

New research indicates constant stress could raise the risk of Alzheimer’s – although it is well established that people who exercise their brains more are less prone.

When Sara Bengtsson, a PhD student at Umeå University in Sweden, looked at the relationship between levels of stress hormones in the brains of mice and their memories, she found those which were more stressed could not remember as well.

She also discovered that highly stressed mice had higher quantities of proteins called beta-amyloids, which are linked to Alzheimer’s.

High levels of these amyloids are thought to cause brain synapses to malfunction, leading to memory problems and other symptoms of the disease, which affects some 500,000 in Britain.

Specifically, Ms Bengtsson looked at levels of a stress steroid called allopregnanolone. In her study, mice which were given elevated levels of allopregnanolone were compared with those given a placebo.

While 41 per cent of the mice given the placebo exhibited an impaired memory, among those given high levels of the stress hormone, 79 per cent were memory-impaired.

Writing in her thesis submission, she said that high levels of the hormone “could be a mechanism behind stress-induced Alzheimer’s disease.”

She concluded that “chronic elevation of allo­pregnanolon accelerated the development of Alzheimer’s disease” in the mice, although she cautioned that more studies were required to grasp the clinical significance of her findings.

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, noted: ‘It’s important to remember this research was not carried out in people.”

But he said: “Some research has already highlighted a possible link between chronic stress, cognitive decline and the development of Alzheimer’s, and further study in people is needed to fully investigate these links.

‘If we can better understand the risk factors for Alzheimer’s we can also empower people to make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk.

“Although we can’t say from these findings that chronic stress causes Alzheimer’s, there are a number of other health reasons for taking steps to manage our stress levels,’ she said.

“Research to understand the causes of the disease could identify targets for future treatment development, and we must invest in research to make a real difference to people’s lives.”

However, it is much more firmly established that using one’s brain intensively throughout life – for example by having an intellectually demanding job, or speaking another language, lowers the chance of developing Alzheimer’s.

Birds evolve shorter wings to survive on our roads


Birds in Nebraska have evolved shorter wings, which may help them avoid dying on roads by taking off quickly and darting away from cars.

   Eighty million US birds are killed by traffic each year. Cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) have taken to nesting on road bridges, so may be especially vulnerable.

Charles Brown of the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma has been picking up dead swallows for 30 years. Roadkill numbers have steadily declined since the 1980s, even as the number of roadside nests has risen. The killed birds have longer wings than birds caught in mist nets for research, and on average the caught birds’ wings have got shorter.

It makes sense: shorter wings are better for a quick vertical take-off, and improve manoeuvrability.

“Everything fits with the idea that it’s vehicular selection,” says Ronald Mumme of Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania.

However, Brown says that encounters with traffic may not be the only force at work. After a particularly cold May in 1996 killed about half the nesting population through starvation, wing lengths dropped markedly, perhaps because birds with shorter wings were better able to capture the remaining insects still on the wing.

The swallows are the latest case of humans influencing evolution. Fish are maturing more quickly because of commercial fishing, and two formerly diverging populations of Darwin’s Galapagos finches seem to be collapsing back into one now that food from bird feeders is replacing their natural diets.

New plans for addition of other animals including the giant PANDA to FOTA WILDLIFE PARK


Fota Wildlife Park has lodged plans for a massive 27-acre expansion that will clear the way for the arrival of tigers, lions, rhinos and rare giant pandas.

The extension will add approximately 40% to Fota’s overall size and make it one of the largest wildlife parks in Europe.
It is hoped that the first phase of the €6m project, involving the addition of Sumatran tigers, will be complete and open to the public by next summer. Two tigers, currently in a French zoo, have been earmarked for Fota.

  The wildlife park has also confirmed plans to secure two rare giant pandas and will be using Cork’s twinning relationship with Shanghai to strengthen its case.

Senior government officials have already been brought on board to support the campaign, but it is expected to be a difficult process to complete with just a handful of pandas in zoos outside Asia.

In the meantime, it is planned to introduce a number of new Asian animals to Fota, many of which are endangered.
As well as Sumatran tigers, it is planned to introduce Asiatic tigers, rhinoceroses, Japanese cranes, Takin antelopes and Asian bears, if the plans to bring pandas to Cork are unsuccessful.
The Asian sanctuary site is being developed behind the penguin and bison enclosures.

It will include 13 new buildings for animals, two new lakes, a second entrance building, a small souvenir shop and a viewing building.
Stephen Ryan of Fota Wildlife Park said it hadthey have just lodged plans for the exciting project and plan to start work immediately once planning permission is granted.

“Once complete the addition of the Asian sanctuary will make Fota one of the biggest wildlife parks in Europe.
“It will add about a mile of extra footpaths,” added Mr Ryan. and increase the average time to complete the park from three hours to five.”
Given the increase in size, Fota is considering introducing a two-day pass for visitors to give them time to completely cover the park.

The park is already one of Ireland’s most popular attractions drawing almost 400,000 visitors each year.
Meanwhile, there has been a major setback for another significant Cork tourism project.
Fáilte Ireland has refused to give €4m funding to Cork County Council to develop Spike Island in Cork Harbour into a major tourism attraction and national park.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Tuesday 26th February 2013

Ireland’s Bank Eligible Liabilities Guarantees Scheme (ELG)  is to end on 31st March


Minister for Finance Michael Noonan: said ‘significant progress’ had been made in addressing Ireland’s banking problems.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has  announced the Eligible Liabilities Guarantees Scheme (ELG)  is to end.

The scheme will be closed on March 28th.

There had been growing expectations that the scheme, which was put in place in December 2009 to protect deposits in Irish covered banks, was set to be phased out, given the improving position of Irish banks.

“The Irish banking system failed the Irish people and the mismanagement of the banks and the crisis has cost the Irish taxpayer €62 billion,” Mr Noonan said this afternoon. “All of the Government actions since taking office in March 2011, both at home and abroad, are designed to repair this damage and break the negative link between the banks and the State. We are making significant progress in this regard and the ending of the Guarantee for new liabilities marks another step forward.”

The current scheme was set to run until June 30th, 2013, and late last year ratings agency Fitch warned that this would likely be the last extension.

Mr Noonan said the bank guarantee scheme had proved controversial.

“We feel the time is right and the banking system in Ireland is normal enough to proceed without the guarantee, ” he said.

“The guarantee was a decision made in an emergency and we have moved out of the emergency ward now. We have moved back to normal conditions.”

Mr Noonan said the banks would welcome the Government decision, taken at today’s Cabinet meeting, because the guarantee was costing them money.

Mr Noonan said Fine Gael had voted for the guarantee because the then finance minister Brian Lenihan said the banks had a liquidity problem rather than a solvency problem.

He said that tied the party into voting for something it probably shouldn’t have voted for.

However he stressed he did not want to criticise the late Mr Lenihan. He said decisions had to be taken quickly in the Department of Finance.

“I don’t really want to look back,” he said.

The ELG imposts a high cost on the banks, which include Bank of Ireland, AIB and Permanent TSB, as they must pay for protection of their depositors.

The scheme provides for an unconditional and irrevocable State guarantee for certain eligible liabilities (including deposits) of up to five years in maturity incurred by participating institutions from the date they joined the scheme until the closure of the scheme on certain terms and conditions.

It was introduced as a measure to maintain the stability of the financial system in the State and succeeded the government’s blanket guarantee of September 30th, 2008.

It is separate to the Deposit Guarantee Scheme, which protects deposits of up to €100,000. The Central Bank said this scheme was unaffected by today’s announcement.

The total amount guaranteed under the ELG scheme at September 30th, 2012 was €78 billion.

Between July 2011 and the end of January this year, State-guaranteed banks’ deposits increased 10 per cent to €154.3 billion, the Department of Finance said earlier this month.

Their European Central Bank funding reliance fell about 30 per cent to €48 billion in the same period, it said.

Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks withdrew their UK units from the ELG programme last year. Both banks said in November they are prepared for the expiry of the guarantee.

Labour TD Ciarán Lynch, who chairs the Oireachtas committee on finance and public expenditure, welcomed the ending of the scheme.

“This is a very significant and positive announcement and highlights the progress that this Government is making day to repair the damage caused by the banking crisis and the mismanagement of the economy by the previous Government,” he said.

“We are slowly but surely dismantling the infrastructure of economic catastrophe that was put in place by the Fianna Fail, beginning with the Blanket Bank Guarantee in 2008 and ending when they sold out our economic sovereignty to the Troika in 2010.”

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said the ending of the ELG scheme was “a necessary step towards normalising the banking system”.

“In recent months, the Irish banks have managed to successfully raise funds outside of the guarantee scheme and deposit levels have stabilised. Since its introduction, the ELG scheme has played an important role in ensuring affordable access to funding for the banks and has yielded around €1 billion a year for the exchequer by way of fees from the participating banks.”

Shane Filan’s Sligo mansion now up for sale


  • The mansion that formerly belonged to bankrupt Westlife star Shane Filan has been put on the market.

The Castledale house in Carraroe, Co Sligo – once home to singer Shane (33), his wife Gillian and their young family – has a price tag of €990,000.

This is a far cry from the estimated €4m the house cost to build.

The move comes as the father-of-three continues to deal with debts of up to €23m.

The well-known singer – who is rumoured to be releasing a solo album this year – was declared bankrupt in the UK last June.

He now lives in a €2.5m house in Surrey with wife Gillian and their three children Nicole (7), Shane (4) and Patrick (3) as he works through his financial problems.

The detached house has five bedrooms and six bathrooms and has been listed by Sherry Fitzgerald Draper with a guide price of €990,000 – although it’s expected to go for more than that.

Shane built the house from scratch in 2004 after being given the land by a relative and it’s estimated that he splashed out up to €4m on building it.

The Bank of Scotland is owed €3.85m on the home.

Covering an area of nearly 10,000sq ft and set on almost five acres of landscaped gardens, the waterfront home with a natural stone finish includes a bar and an entertainment lounge as well as a cinema area and a sun-room.

It is controlled by electronic gates with trees and shrubs blocking it from the road.

Many Irish office workers are highly stressed


Forty per cent of office workers and small business owners are highly stressed in their job, with Monday mornings being the most stressful time for many, a new study has found.

As part of the study, several hundred workers were surveyed about stress, while the body temperatures of a group of volunteers were also taken at set times over a five-day period.

The temperature results showed that four in 10 workers had a stress temperature of 18-24 Celsius. This indicates that they are highly stressed or are suffering from anxiety.

The most stressful time of the week was found to be first thing on a Monday morning, with almost six in 10 people showing signs of stress at this time. The second most stressful time of the week was Monday evening.

Friday was also found to be one of the most stressful days of the week. The least stressful day was Wednesday, with just one in three people recording signs of stress then.

Meanwhile, the survey of workers revealed that at least one in four people feel stressed about their job on a daily basis, while almost half believe that work stress affects their health.

One in three admitted to comfort eating in an attempt to deal with their stress.

Almost half said that they work unpaid overtime, but one in five of these said this is because they are afraid of losing their job otherwise.

According to Neil Shah, who conducted the Stress At Work study on behalf of Viking office supplies, the results show that many people are dangerously stressed, but they may not even be aware of this.

“Tension and stress can manifest themselves in many different ways, but can be linked to long-term health problems such as headaches, heart problems and depression.

“From a business point of view a stress free worker is a more productive, proactive and valuable one. Ensuring really simple things like people taking a lunch break or doing exercises in the office can make a huge difference,” he said.

Sleep study shows that a lack of enough sleep affects our genes


Researchers say a lack of sleep changes our genes, which means it affects our bodies and can even make us ill.

The team at the University of Surrey tested the blood of people who had different amounts of sleep.

The study showed that more than 700 genes changed when people had slept only 6 hours a night for a week.

This is important because the genes are all linked to protein which helps rebuild tissue in the body.

Researchers say this shows not enough sleep could make it difficult for your body to mend.

Tips for getting a good night’s sleep

  • Go to bed at the same time each night even on weekends. This helps your body clock get used to these times.
  • Sleep in a comfortable bed.
  • Create a calm bedroom environment. Sleep in a dark room and avoid turning your bedroom into an entertainment centre with televisions, computers and stereos.
  • Regular exercise is a great way to improve your sleep. Just be careful not to do it close too bed time as exercise produces stimulants that stop the brain from relaxing quickly.
  • A healthy diet will also help but eating a large heavy meal too close to bedtime will interfere with your sleep.

Millionaire wants to fund private mission to Mars


World’s first space tourist plans privately-funded mission to the Red Planet when it makes its nearest approach to Earth in 2018

It has been a long-cherished dream of space enthusiasts, as well as lovers of science fiction, but now it seems that someone has finally come up with an ambitious – and some say realistic – plan to send two astronauts to Mars in just five years’ time.

Tomorrow at the National Press Club in Washington, multi-millionaire Dennis Tito – the world’s first space tourist – is expected to reveal how he hopes to launch a privately-funded mission to Mars in 2018, when the Red Planet makes its nearest approach to Earth.

Little is known about the “Inspiration Mars” mission accept that it is Tito’s brainchild and that he has garnered some high-profile supporters, including Jonathan Clark, the associate professor of neurology at Baylor College of Medicine who has flown on the Space Shuttle six times as the crew’s surgeon.

Dr Clark told The Independent that he is not supposed to talk about the mission until all is revealed at the Washington conference this evening, but he dismissed suggestions that the plan is not a serious one.

“I wouldn’t be involved if I didn’t think there was something to it. I don’t want to pre-empt the announcement, but it’s a very in-depth study that has gone into it,” Dr Clark said.

The Inspiration Mars mission will send two astronauts on a simple return trip to Mars, flying around the far side of the planet once but without going into orbit. Scientifically, the 501-day mission will accomplish next to nothing. The probes, landers and robots already sent to Mars have sent back far more interesting and useful data than this manned mission is ever going to be able to gather.

However, in terms of human endurance and psychology, the mission could set new precedents in space exploration. For 17 months, two people will experience what it is like to be cooped up together in a space module not much bigger than a small bathroom with the ever-present risk of something going fatally wrong.

Galway man found guilty of sexual assault on four girls


The Galway village of Killimor where the sexual assaults occurred.

The girls were aged between five and 12 at the time of the sexual assaults

A Galway man has been found guilty by a jury of the sexual assault of four schoolgirls over a 10-year period.The man had denied 23 charges of sexual assault against four girls in the east Galway village of Killimor, on various dates between 1996 and 2006.

He cannot be named to protect the identity of the victims.

The girls were aged between five and 12 at the time.

All four victims broke down while being cross-examined during the five-day trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court.

They told the jury of three women and nine men that the accused sexually assaulted each of them in turn.

The jury found the man guilty of all but one charge, following six-and a half hours of deliberation over two days.

He will be sentenced on 7 March.