Tag Archives: Wild Atlantic Way

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 6th October 2016

Sterling slump less a problem for State than in past, Central Bank says

Risks to economy remain ‘clearly tilted to the downside’, says report from regulator

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The Central Bank maintains that demand for products and services in trading-partner countries outweighs everything, including foreign-exchange rates.

Ireland’s economy is better able to deal with a slump in sterling than it has been in the past, the Central Bank has said, as the euro hovers at a five-year high against the British currency as a result of the UK Brexit vote.

The euro has surged by more than 14% since the UK referendum on June 23rd to more than 88p and some, including analysts in Investec and UBS, see the exchange rate reaching 90p by the end of the year.

The Central Bank’s latest economic forecasts, published on Thursday, which see Irish gross domestic product expanding by 4.5% this year and 3.6% in 2017, is based on a euro-sterling rate of 84p, said John Flynn, the head of Irish economic analysis at the bank.

Mr Flynn said that if the current rate persisted it would have some impact on future forecasts.

However, he added: “We’ve seen over a long period of time the economy demonstrate considerable flexibility and it’s able to deal with the sterling rate at quite different levels. The Irish economy is a much more flexible economy now than it was at various times in the past, when sterling was a challenge for us.”

The demand?

The Central Bank maintains that demand for products and services in trading-partner countries outweighs everything, including foreign-exchange rates. While recent UK economic data suggested the British economy was faring better than many had feared following the Brexit vote, the Central Bank’s chief economist, Gabriel Fagan, said it was “far too early” to determine the real impact of the decision on the world’s fifth largest economy.

Meanwhile, Mr Flynn noted that the euro-sterling rate was much more important to companies in the food, clothing and footwear sectors, as well as tourism, than elsewhere in the economy.

“And the exchange rate is generally more important for indigenous firms because the UK accounts for a greater share of export markets for those groups,” he said.

The comments follow the Central Bank’s publication of its latest quarterly bulletin in which it shaved its forecasts for personal consumption, exports and overall economic growth for this year and warned risks to these projections “remain clearly tilted to the downside” as a result of Brexit.

The organisation lowered its forecast for gross domestic product growth for this year by 0.4% points to 4.5% and left its 2017 projection unchanged at 3.6%, having downgraded its estimates more materially in July in the wake of the surprise Brexit vote.

Mixed signals confusing?

“Signals in relation to consumer spending have become more mixed, although the balance of evidence across a range of indicators points to only a marginal slowdown, with consumer spending supported by solid gains in employment and rising earnings,” the Central Bank said.

The Central Bank lowered its forecast for personal spending growth, which rebounded two years ago following years as consumers showed the first signs of recovery from the financial crisis, to 3.8% for this year from 4% previously. Its 2017 forecast has come back to 2.2% from 2.3%.

It sees underlying domestic demand, a measure of the economy preferred by some analysts given how multinationals’ activities can skew the headline figures, slowing to 4% this year from 5% in 2015, before easing further to 2.7% in 2017. It has raised its forecasts for the economic contribution from activity in aircraft leasing and multinationals moving intellectual property.

Export growth is likely to slow to 5.6% this year from a previous projection of 6.4%, before easing back to 4.4% in 2017, according to the Central Bank.

With an eye on the unveiling of Budget 2017 next week, the Central Bank said “a prudent fiscal strategy remains essential, given the negative loops between fiscal stability, financial stability and macroeconomic stability.”

It also said the Government set long-term targets that were “robust to statistical issue”, clearly a reference to the 26% GDP growth rate for 2015 that had little to do with the underlying economy.

Uncertainties

“While the uncertainties in relation to the measurement of economic growth make it more difficult to calculate the underlying path for tax revenues, it would be prudent to assume that some fraction of the recent surge in corporation tax revenues might be temporary in nature,” it said.

Corporation tax rose to €4.16 billion for the first nine months of the year from €3.9 billion for the same period in 2015, according to the latest exchequer return figures, published earlier this week.

Nóirín O’Sullivan ‘doing so much damage to An Garda Síochána’, says Mick Wallace

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The Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan is doing “so much damage” to the force that it is in “turmoil”, the Dáil has heard.

Revelations in this week’s Irish Examiner, about a campaign by senior officers to destroy a whistle-blower, dominated leaders’ questions yesterday

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald came under serious fire over the scandal from Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, as well as Independents.

The Dáil heard claims that Ms O’Sullivan had given some members of An Garda Síochána carte blanche to hound and discredit whistle-blowers.

Independents4Change TD Mick Wallace, in a heated exchange, pleaded with Ms Fitzgerald to remove the commissioner.

Mr Wallace said he and his colleague, Clare Daly, have met with the two whistle-blowers who made the latest protected disclosures. he said Ms O’Sullivan has failed to end the persecution of whistle-blowers in the force.

“The Garda is in turmoil. There is a split in it with two camps. The Garda commissioner has promoted a ring around her. It is corrosive,” said Mr Wallace.

Nóirín O’Sullivan

“She is doing so much damage to An Garda Síochána that there are many good gardaí shocked at how she is operating. The Tánaiste and minister for justice and equality cannot leave her in position.”

Asked if she had any other protected disclosures on her desk, Ms Fitzgerald said: “There are no other protected disclosures on my desk.”

Mr Wallace informed the Dáil that whistle-blower Nick Keogh has written to the minister four times, but received only one reply.

“Nicky Keogh wrote to the minister four times and she replied once,” said Mr Wallace. “When he told the minister about the harassment and that he could not have been suffering without the commissioner’s knowledge, the minister wrote back to him to say she was looking for an urgent report from the Garda commissioner.

“That was May this year. The minister says she follows things up quickly. May was a long time ago.”

Ms Fitzgerald said while details of the disclosures are in the public domain, she is precluded by law from commenting. She said those involved are entitled to due process and that she would not be rushing to judgment.

“I will follow the legislation, passed in this House, where people have a right to confidentiality and due process,” she said.

“I would not be doing my job as minister for justice and equality if I did not follow due process and the law laid down regarding protected disclosures, a law on which we have all agreed should be followed.”

In response to Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, Ms Fitzgerald said Ms O’Sullivan is entitled to her full confidence.

“I want to be very clear about one thing: No findings of wrongdoing of any kind have been made against the Garda commissioner and I believe in those circumstances she is entitled to our full confidence,” said Ms Fitzgerald, adding that she would not be slow in establish a full inquiry into the allegations should it be merited.

Fianna Fáil’s Charlie McConalogue asked Ms Fitzgerald to state whether it was true that the two people behind the disclosures are likely to refuse to co-operate with any pending inquiry.

“The dysfunctionality of the Garda Síochána because of perceived system and management failures — it is hard to see beyond the saying, ‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark’,” said Mr McConalogue.

People are sheltering in libraries as they cannot afford fuel, claims Willie O’Dea?

Varadkar hopes to increase fuel allowance in budget but ‘cannot guarantee it at this stage’

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Willie O’Dea of Fianna Fáil: “Growing older increasingly seems to mean growing colder.

People are using public transport or sheltering in libraries because they cannot afford to heat their homes during the day, according to Fianna Fáil social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea.

Appealing to Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar to increase the fuel allowance in next week’s budget, he said organisations representing the elderly had conducted surveys showing “people who do not light a fire until the afternoon and who go to bed early in the winter to save fuel”.

“Other people resort to taking public transport or taking shelter in public libraries and other public buildings because they simply cannot afford to heat their homes properly for a sufficient period of time to enable them to live comfortably in their homes.” The Limerick city TD said, “Growing older increasingly seems to mean growing colder.”

Mr Varadkar said the fuel allowance was increased 10 per cent last year from €20 to €22.50, and he hoped they could continue “in the same direction” next year “but I cannot guarantee that at this stage”.

The allowance is given for 26 weeks to 380,000 households at a cost of €224 million, along with an electricity or gas allowance at a cost of €228 million.

Mr O’Dea said recent research found that the island of Ireland “has the highest rate of excess winter mortality in Europe, with an estimated 2,800 excess deaths each winter”, and fuel poverty was a factor in this.

Sligo Food train leaves Dublin for the Wild Atlantic Way

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L-R: Anthony Gray, Sligo Food Trail; Eva Dearie of Failte Ireland; Finbar Filan, Sligo BID; and Marguerite Quilann, Beltra Country Market.

Fáilte Ireland is partnering with Iarnród Éireann and the Sligo Food Trail to bring a group of VIP writers to Sligo, as part of a series of new initiatives to stimulate regional dispersion and seasonal extension along the Wild Atlantic Way.

The media VIPs will board a Sligo Food Train from Connolly Station to Sligo, where passengers will get to sample food from Sligo and also receive information on the Sligo Food Trail as they make their journey to the Wild Atlantic Way. Fáilte Ireland will also give a brief talk on the coastal route to the media as the train progresses towards Sligo.

The focus for Failte Ireland is to help businesses and regions broaden the so-called ‘shoulder seasons’ immediately prior to and following the main summer season in tourist destinations. This is especially important along the Wild Atlantic Way, where many businesses close outside of the peak months.

To this end Failte Ireland is supporting the Sligo Food Trail by partnering with Iarnród Éireann and bringing food writers and bloggers by train from Connolly Station to Sligo, where they will be treated to a 24 hour foodie experience in and around Sligo for this Sligo Harvest Feast event.

Fáilte Ireland’s Head of the Wild Atlantic Way, Fiona Monaghan said: “The Wild Atlantic Way has been incredibly popular with the domestic market and we believe there is great potential to grow activity outside of the summer season. We have been working with hundreds of businesses along the route – who have traditionally experienced a short tourism season – to help them become ‘autumn-ready’ and grow their trading season. With an emphasis on some of the quieter places, we are working to boost visitor traffic all along the route and especially beyond the usual hotspots throughout this autumn.”

For older women, caffeine could be pill needed in warding off dementia

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Among a group of older women, self-reported caffeine consumption of more than 261 mg per day was associated with a 36% reduction in the risk of incident dementia over 10 years of follow-up. This level is equivalent to two to three 8-oz cups of coffee per day, five to six 8-oz cups of black tea, or seven to eight 12-ounce cans of cola.

Could drinking coffee be linked to a reduced risk of dementia?

Among a group of older women, self-reported caffeine consumption of more than 261 mg per day was associated with a 36% reduction in the risk of incident dementia over 10 years of follow-up. This level is equivalent to two to three 8-oz cups of coffee per day, five to six 8-oz cups of black tea, or seven to eight 12-ounce cans of cola.

“The mounting evidence of caffeine consumption as a potentially protective factor against cognitive impairment is exciting given that caffeine is also an easily modifiable dietary factor with very few contraindications,” said Ira Driscoll, PhD, the study’s lead author and a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “What is unique about this study is that we had an unprecedented opportunity to examine the relationships between caffeine intake and dementia incidence in a large and well-defined, prospectively-studied cohort of women.”

The findings come from participants in the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study, which is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Driscoll and her research colleagues used data from 6,467 community-dwelling, postmenopausal women aged 65 and older who reported some level of caffeine consumption. Intake was estimated from questions about coffee, tea, and cola beverage intake, including frequency and serving size.

In 10 years or less of follow-up with annual assessments of cognitive function, 388 of these women received a diagnosis of probable dementia or some form of global cognitive impairment. Those who consumed above the median amount of caffeine for this group (with an average intake of 261 mg per day) were diagnosed at a lower rate than those who fell below the median (with an average intake of 64 mg per day). The researchers adjusted for risk factors such as hormone therapy, age, race, education, body mass index, sleep quality, depression, hypertension, prior cardiovascular disease, diabetes, smoking, and alcohol consumption.

A 7,000 year-old York dog is forcing experts to rethink on Stonehenge

Image result for A 7,000 year-old York dog is forcing experts to rethink on Stonehenge  Image result for A 7,000 year-old York dog

Evidence of the earliest journey in British history has been uncovered and a pet dog came along for the gruelling 250-mile trip from York to Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

Archaeologist David Jacques has found evidence that Mesolithic man’s best friend was an Alsatian – and bones found nearby suggest the dog would have feasted on salmon, trout, pike, wild pig and red deer.

The domesticated dog tooth was dug up at Blick Mead, a site a mile from the World Heritage Site and scientific tests have shown the dog most likely came from the York area.

Mr Jacques said the findings were significant because archaeologists did not know people travelled such long distances 7,000 years ago and the journey adds to the weight of evidence of people coming to Stonehenge 2,000 years before the monument was built.

He said previous excavations uncovered a slate tool from Wales and stone tools from the Midlands and the West of England.

As the Ice Age had just ended, one of the attractions of Blick Mead would have been a natural spring in which the only puce stones in the country could be found.

It would also have been relatively easy to reach because the nearby River Avon was the M1 of its time. Large numbers of deer and aurochs – extinct massive prehistoric cattle – grazed there.

Burnt stones, wood and auroch bones from the site indicate that it was popular for feasting, an important ritual activity.

Mr Jacques, a senior research fellow at the University of Buckingham, said at that time prehistoric people were starting to tame dogs and keep them as pets and the Alsatian may even have been brought to Stonehenge to exchange.

“The fact that a dog and a group of people were coming to the area from such a long distance away further underlines just how important the place was four millennia before the circle was built,” he said.

“Discoveries like this give us a completely new understanding of the establishment of the ritual landscape and make Stonehenge even more special than we thought we knew it was.”

Andy Rhind-Tutt, chairman of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust, said: “These amazing discoveries at Blick Mead are writing the history books of Mesolithic Britain.

“A dog tooth from York, a slate tool from Wales and a stone tool from the Midlands show that this wasn’t just the place to live at the end of the Ice Age, but was known by our ancestors for a long time widely across Britain. They kept coming here.”

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News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Friday 3rd June 2016

Broadband users face price hikes of 18% from September

Telcos say they intend to pass on Eir’s increase in wholesale rates to consumers

    

Eir defends price changes, saying they were linked to the company’s increased investment in high-speed fibre broadband.

Consumers can expect an 18% hike in broadband prices from next September as a result of changes to Eir’s wholesale rates.

The State’s largest telco rents space on its network to rival operators such as Vodafone, BT, Magnet and Sky, as well as its own retail arm.

From September, it plans to raise fibre broadband prices for wholesale customers from €19.50 to €23 a month. Non-Eir operators have signalled the hike, which has been approved by regulator Comreg, would be passed on in full to consumers.

Eir, however, said the rate increase, when combined with a €2.11 reduction in its traditional fixed-line rental rates due in July, was broadly price neutral, and therefore did not necessitate a price rise at the retail end.

The assertion was disputed by rivals, which claimed the two price changes related to different product sets and could not be used to offset each other.

Alto, the umbrella group for non-Eir companies, described Eir’s move as “cynical”, claiming it bore no relation to the costs associated with providing the service. “With improved efficiencies and economies of scale, the costs should actually be decreasing,” Alto spokesman Ronan Lupton said

He said Eir was imposing such charges with impunity and without any regard to the impact it would have on wholesale customers and ultimately the consumer.

In the context of the National Broadband Plan, Mr Lupton said Eir’s move emphasised the importance of having “very strict price controls on the winning tenderer”.

However, Eir defended the price changes, saying they were linked to the company’s increased investment in high-speed fibre broadband.

“We believe it is fair that we can make a reasonable return on investment that delivers much improved services,” the company said in a statement.

The likely price hike comes in the wake of an analysis by the European Commission, which suggested Irish consumers already face the second highest prices in the EU.

Priest claims Irish Catholic Church ‘is beyond the point of redemption’

Fr Tony Flannery says female clergy would make a dramatic change amid serious crisis.

      

Redemptorist Fr Tony Flannery pic above left: ‘The Catholic priesthood as we have known it, this male celibate thing, is gone.’

Dissident Irish priest Fr Tony Flannery has said the Catholic Church inIreland is in such “serious crisis” that it may well have gone beyond the point of redemption.

Fr Flannery, a Redemptorist priest who was suspended from duties in 2012 by the Holy See, was speaking in Rome on Wednesday at a meeting of WOW (Women’s Ordination Worldwide) in the celebrated House of Women, just down the banks of the Tiber from the Vatican.

Fr Flannery’s support for the concept of women priests in the Catholic Church was one of many issues which led to disciplinary sanctions against him.

Despite that, he repeated his support for women priests , saying: “We all know that the Church in Ireland is in serious crisis, indeed a lot of people would say at this stage that it has gone beyond the point of redemption.

“If you could release the energy of women, it would make a dramatic change.

“I’d say for example that a fair number of Redemptorist priests agree with what I say about women priests but they just think that I made the mistake of saying it publicly,” he said. “A lot of them keep their heads down because they don’t want to lose their ministry.

“The argument that a woman cannot be a minister of the Eucharist because she cannot be a persona Christi (someone who acts as Jesus and as God), that is such a ridiculous argument.

“That argument belongs to the time of the flat earth, when Galileo was persecuted.

“It is depressing and sad and disturbing that Pope Francis, a man for whom we have so much hope, seems to have that dreadful attitude (towards women priests)”.

Fr Flannery said parishoners “have moved light years ahead of the bishops in attitude”, which makes it difficult to maintain a dialogue with an ecclesiastical authority that is out of touch.

He said that within the church reform movement, people were warned “not to talk about the ordination of women”, because that was too “radical”.

Even though he conceded Pope Francis remains doctrinally conservative, he said he is “still quite hopeful” about the reform movement.

“The Catholic priesthood as we have known it, this male celibate thing, is gone,” he said. “So while all of that is happening, it gives me hope for real, real change. I certainly won’t live to see it…if it bears fruit in one hundred years’ time, it will have been worth doing.

“As for Ireland, it is no longer a Catholic country. A lot of people now say I don’t see what the issue is anymore, people just take it (sexual equality) for granted. Young Irish people will tell you that this Church is mediaeval in its thinking, they simply don’t care.”

Men can underestimate how much sex their wives and girlfriends want?

      

Men in long-term relationships tend to underestimate their female partners’ sex drive, new data from two Canadian universities show. A study published last month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates that the conventional wisdom eternally exploited in sitcom riffs and stand-up routines and that wives are incapable of satisfying their husbands’ gargantuan libidos which may be a figment of the male imagination.

Psychologists from the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario studied 229 North American couples, most of which were heterosexual partnerships. (A few same-gender couples participated, but not enough to produce any statistically significant data.) Research subjects were aged 18 to 68 and had been in their current relationships for an average of six years; they reported having sex about one to two times per week.

The members of the couples either visited the lab once to report on their general sexual desire, their perception of their partner’s sexual desire, and their satisfaction with their relationship, or kept a daily three-week diary on those same three factors. Some also reported on their daily level of motivation to evade sexual rejection.

The researchers found that, on a regular basis, men significantly underperceived the degree of their female partners’ sexual desire, while women consistently made accurate judgments about how much their male partners wanted sex. Among diary-keeping couples, on days when men underestimated their female partners’ libido, the women showed higher levels of relationship satisfaction.

This suggests that, whether consciously or not, men might be better partners when they think they have to work for it—in other words, a man will try harder to please his female partner if he thinks she’s not responding to his advances, which keeps him from taking the relationship for granted and getting lazy. Another likely explanation for male sexual underperception: fear of rejection. On days when men reported in their diaries a high level of motivation to avoid sexual rejection, they were more likely to underestimate their partners’ desire for sex, perhaps as a precaution against making advances that could go unreturned.

Socialized beliefs and behaviors could contribute to the perception gap, too. Women may make fewer or subtler sexual overtures that their partners, or, Elizabeth Bernstein suggests at the Wall Street Journal, if a woman knows she has a higher sex drive than her husband in general or on a particular occasion, she may refrain from making a move to avoid embarrassing or emasculating him if he wants to say no.

But there’s a larger, more amorphous barrier to accurate male sex predictions out there: The prevailing notion that women just aren’t that concerned with sex. As Taryn Hillin writes at Fusion:

Consider this—when this study started making news this week, the most common headlines were some variation of “Women are more interested in sex than you think” or “Hey guys, women want sex more often than you think.” These headlines assume that we, the readers, believe women are not interested in sex to begin with, and so this news is somehow shocking.

These framings ignore the fact that women also read news reports and probably already know that all those sitcom gags about sexually uninterested wives don’t match up with the reality of their experiences. As a lump demographic, men report higher sex drives than women, but women’s reports cover a much larger range that varies based on geography and other environmental factors, suggesting that the concept of sex drive is molded by sociocultural forces. Kristen Mark’s June 2015 paper in Current Sexual Health Reports analyzed 31 studies on sexual desire and sex-drive discrepancy in relationships; she found that, in long-term heterosexual partnerships, women and men are equally likely to be the lower-libido member of their couple.

Still, the findings of this new Canadian study were somewhat surprising, because the only previous research on men’s sex-drive perception focused on the situation of a man meeting a woman for the first time or evaluating the sexual interest of a fictional or unknown woman. These studies have reliably shown that men tend to overestimate the sexual interest demonstrated by these women’s behaviors.

That explains the circumstances of most overaggressive late-night bar encounters. Taken together, these contradicting trends suggest that when many men try to gauge a partner or potential partner’s desire, they perceive what they want to believe.

Now you can obtain a Wild Atlantic passport!

     Pictured at the launch of a new passport for the Wild Atlantic Way are Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O'Donovan with Fiona Monaghan, Head of Wild Atlantic Way, Failte Ireland

Pictured (right) at the launch of a new passport for the Wild Atlantic Way are Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Patrick O’Donovan with Fiona Monaghan, Head of Wild Atlantic Way, Failte Ireland

Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Patrick O’Donovan has launched the official Wild Atlantic Way Passport.

The joint Fáilte Ireland and An Post initiative provides visitors to the west with a recorded souvenir of their journey along some or all of the 188 Discovery Points on the world’s longest coastal touring route.

Minister O’Donovan said: “The Wild Atlantic Way is already proving popular with visitors – both from overseas and from Ireland. We want to deepen visitor engagement and encourage those who travel along the route to slow down, dwell longer and immerse themselves in the local towns and villages of Sligo along the west coast. The local Post Office is at the heart of these communities and the passport is a clever means to build such interaction into the Wild Atlantic Way experience.”

The new passport contains a section for each of the various zones along the route and visitors to Discovery Points can call in to the local Post office to have their passport stamped with a unique motif for each one. The Wild Atlantic Way Passport may be purchased (for €10) at over 130 selected An Post Offices, along the Wild Atlantic Way route as well as at Dublin’s GPO and St Andrew’s Street Post Offices.

Fiona Monaghan, Fáilte Ireland’s Head of the Wild Atlantic Way, today emphasised: “This passport is a wonderful way for visitors to record their experiences along the Wild Atlantic Way. However, by encouraging visitors to visit local towns to get their passport stamped in the Post Office, we also hope the passport will help increase tourist activity and engagement with people and places of Sligo.

“The passport is also neatly placed to encourage a return trip for those that have part-completed their passport – and we will be urging visitors to think about completing their collection of Wild Atlantic Way stamps over a number of years.”

Visitors will be rewarded for buying a passport with free entry into a draw for a holiday of a lifetime along the Wild Atlantic Way. Additionally, every time a visitor reaches 20 new stamps in their passport, they are encouraged to call into the nearest Tourist Information Office to receive a Wild Atlantic Way gift.

An Post Director of Innovation and Quality, John McConnell said that visitors are assured of a warm welcome at Post Offices along the Wild Atlantic Way.

“Ensuring the best possible customer experience is what An Post does on a daily basis throughout our retail network. This colourful, keepsake Passport is a great addition to our range of products and services and will help to drive footfall into rural Post Offices along the route. We’re delighted to be working so closely with Fáilte Ireland and here’s to a busy summer season ahead.”

Promotional material will be visible in all participating Post Offices and 16 Tourist Information Offices advertising the Passports to both domestic and overseas visitors. Training for all the Post Office staff involved has been provided to ensure they are knowledgeable about the Wild Atlantic Way initiative and its objectives.

The Wild Atlantic Way Passport is also being promoted across all Wild Atlantic Way digital platforms – the website, the dedicated App and social media channels.

Fungie the bottlenose dolphin injured by a ‘propellor blade’

      

The beloved Dingle dolphin, Fungie, has been injured, most likely due to a propeller of a boat.

Spotted yesterday, photos show the bottlenose dolphin has a deep wound on his side while a scratch goes over the side of the dorsal fin.

A Facebook page devoted to the dolphin and his welfare, Fungie Forever, posted the images of the injury saying that “while it looks deep, wide and red but we have seen deeper wounds on other dolphins that healed quite well”.

In a post on Facebook, they said they will continue to keep an eye on him:

“At first Fungie seemed to be quiet and stayed under water but after as while he started to play spontaneous and jump over and over and over… We tried to leave him in peace, give him some rest but he started to jump again and again.”

They also say that while they are “gutted”, they expect him to make a full recovery – last year, he sustained an injury to his chin which has healed within weeks.

It is unknown how exactly the injury was sustained – Fungie is said to be well used to the local boats, he is sometimes attracted to visitors to the harbour.

Our Universe is expanding way faster than we had thought, Researchers now say

I write about the Universe as we understand it.  

      

Left picture is a diagram of the cosmic distance ladder.  The bright spot in the lower left of the middle picture is a supernova in the NGC 4526 galaxy.

The Universe is expanding. In the standard model of cosmology the rate of that expansion is given by the Hubble parameter, which is a measure of the dark energy that drives cosmic expansion. New observations of distant galaxies yield a higher than expected Hubble value. That may mean the Universe is expanding faster than we thought, but there’s no need to start rewriting textbooks just yet.

Since the Hubble parameter measures the rate of cosmic expansion, one way to determine it is to compare the redshift of light from distant galaxies with their distance. The cosmological redshift of a galaxy is easy to measure, and is due to the fact that cosmic expansion stretches the wavelength of light as it travels across millions or billions of light years, making it appear more red. By comparing the redshifts for galaxies of different distances we can determine just how fast the Universe is expanding.

Unfortunately distance is difficult to determine. It relies upon a range of methods that vary depending on distance, known as the cosmic distance ladder. For close stars we can use parallax, which is an apparent shift of stars relative to more distant objects due to the Earth’s motion around the Sun. The greater a star’s distance the smaller its parallax, so the method is only good to about 1,600 light years. For larger distances we can look at variable stars such as Cepheid variables.

We know the distance to some Cepheid variables from their parallax, so we can determine their actual brightness (absolute magnitude). From this we’ve found that the rate at which a Cepheid variable changes in brightness correlates with its overall brightness. This relation means we can determine the absolute brightness of Cepheid variables greater than 1,600 light years away. If we compare that to their apparent brightness we can calculate their distance. By observing Cepheids in various galaxies we can determine galactic distances. We can observe Cepheids out to about 50 million light years, at which point they’re simply too faint to currently observe.

Enter the supernova. In a single burst of light a supernova can outshine an entire galaxy, so they can be detected across billions of light years. While there are several types of supernovae, one type (Type Ia) has a fairly consistent maximum brightness. We know this by observing several in galaxies where Cepheids have been used to determine their distance. Just like Cepheids, we can compare the actual brightness of a Type Ia supernova with its apparent brightness and determine the distance of a galaxy.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 10th April 2016

Calls for cool heads and space as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael start to talk

Paschal Donohoe says written agreement needed from discussion on minority government.

   

The Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin has called for space and cool heads as negotiating teams from both parties prepare to begin substantive talks on the formation of a new government.

Mr Martin said on Sunday that Fianna Fail are “committed” to taking a responsible role to ensure that a minority government will have the support needed in the Dáil.

He and acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny will have “overseeing” roles while the negotiations are going on and that the parties’ respective teams will report on their progress to the party leaders, he said.

Mr Martin was speaking in Newcastle, Co Tipperary, where he gave the keynote speech at the 93red annual commemoration for Liam Lynch, one of the local IRA officers during the War of Independence.

He was welcomed to the area by local independent TD, Mattie McGrath, one of the so-called “rural five” who have been engaged in discussions with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael over the formation of a new government.

The Fianna Fail leader welcomed the initiation of the substantive talks process, as announced in tandem by the two largest parties on Saturday evening, on how a minority government could work.

“I think space is now required and I think we need cool heads and I think we need to focus on achieving this and realising this and certainly Fianna Fail are very committed to taking a responsible role here and ensuring that we can bring about the formation of a minority government,” Mr Martin told reporters.

“Democracy is changing, the nature of our parliamentary system is changing and I think we need to embrace that and that basically can be best reflected in the formation of a minority government.”

Frances Fitzgerald statement:

Fine Gael TD and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said on Sunday it was possible to do a deal by the time the Dáil reconvenes on Thursday.

“But there is a lot of work to be done and huge commitment is needed between now and Thursday. But if not Thursday shortly after that,” she told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics.

Ms Fitzgerald said there would need to be agreements in place to form a minority government.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe said there would need to be a written agreement from the talks between the two parties. A minority government led by Fianna Fail would not be stable, he told RTÉ’s This Week.

Independent TD Dr Michael Harty dismissed reports that the rural Independent TDs would not support Enda Kenny as Taoiseach.

Nearing a conclusion

Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary said the process of forming a government was nearing a conclusion. He did not know if would happen by Thursday. “But I do think we are moving into an end game. We all want to put a government in place. We all want to get down to the work that the people expect us to do”.

Mr Martin said that he made it clear in his Dáil speech last Wednesday, before “events subsequently overtook” that speech, “that we were prepared to support a Fine Gael-led minority government if they had the numbers in terms of the independents’ preferences, but likewise that Fine Gael should equally offer that similar view that they would be prepared to support a Fianna Fail-led minority government if the numbers fell in that direction.

“I actually articulated that in the Dáil and that remains my view but I think the fact that we now have initiated a process involving our negotiators, I think we should take it forward now and leave it at that and just give space and room to try and move it forward.”

Dáil reform is a must?

He said Dáil reform is “well under way” under the chairmanship of Ceann Comhairle Sean Fearghail, and predicted “significant change” in how the Dáil does its business.

“The Dáil will be much more in command of its destiny now than it would have been heretofore when governments of the day tended to rule every single item on the agenda and determine what happened in the Dáil.”

Independent TDs spoken to by Fianna Fail in recent weeks gave negotiators a “very good reception,” he said.

“Obviously the independents were very anxious that both parties would get into the process that we are now in, in terms of ascertaining and working towards how would a minority government work.

“That has now happened and I’m not going to get into speculation as to who’s going to support who but what I can honestly say is that we’ve put forward very succinct, clear policy positions ranging from the health and housing issues right across of course to the issues of justice and transparency about how we appoint judges, for example, and I think we had very precise proposals and the independents welcomed that.”

Mattie McGrath, who was a Fianna Fail TD before leaving the party during the FF-Green coalition term, said it was “a pity” that his former party had ruled out a partnership government with Fine Gael, but welcomed the beginning of talks between the two parties.

“Before we can support a minority Government we have to have some idea about what the rules of engagement are — how many budgets will be passed and how will votes be held. It is not rocket science,” the independent TD said

The signs are good for Irish tourism?

Says Fáilte Ireland chiefs

 V     

Irish Tourism chiefs have hailed an exceptional start to the year for the industry but warned of the unravelling of competitiveness as the euro strengthens against sterling.

Fáilte Ireland, responsible for co-ordinating marketing of the tourism industry, also said the “omens are good” for the rest of the year as it unveiled its annual holidaymakers’ survey ahead of an annual trade fair.

The number of airline seats into Ireland this summer will be up 10% from last year, while Dublin hotels report “extremely high occupancy levels”; tourism businesses all along the Wild Atlantic Way say domestic visitors contributed to a very busy Easter; while an influx of French, German, Dutch, and Swiss travellers is helping to extend the early season.

Despite some weakening of the strength of sterling against the euro in recent months, visitors from the North are boosting business in counties Sligo and Donegal, while businesses in South Kerry say enquiries have increased because of the effects of the filming of Star Wars on Skellig Michael, according to the tourism authority.

 And Fáilte Ireland says in another of its promoted regions “the Ancient East” that US tourists and the “UK retiree market” are boosting accommodation bookings.

However, the tourism body warns that the favourable currency exchange rate that had helped make the Republic so attractive to tourists holding sterling and dollars last year, could be ending.

“The signs look good and there is great cause for optimism within tourism this year but there are also good reasons not to be too complacent,” said Shaun Quinn, chief executive at Fáilte Ireland.

“The recent weakening of sterling in relation to the euro means we have to remain vigilant with regard to competitiveness.

“Furthermore, recent incidents in Paris and Brussels have the potential for undermining travel confidence, particularly from the US. In Fáilte Ireland we are taking nothing for granted,” Mr Quinn said.

Its latest survey of overseas tourists’ experiences of Ireland, published yesterday, showed that a majority of visitors last year believed their holidays provided good or very good value.

Friendly people; security; the scenery; the range of attractions and sights; and history and culture were given as the top reasons for deciding to travel in Ireland.

Some 5% thought they got poor value for their money.

Two thirds of holidaymakers said that they would be back soon, while 39% hoped to return at some time. “While the research is very encouraging, with regard to how visitors perceive their time here, we still have to work hard to get people here in the first instance,” Mr Quinn said. “A strong level of competitiveness ensures that we attract visitors here in the first instance.”

Irish doctors urged to speak out on sexual harassment at work

      

Ireland’s Junior doctors want to break the silence around sexual harassment of female medics in Irish hospitals.

They have called on acting health minister Leo Varadkar to set up an expert group to investigate the extent to which female trainees may be afraid to complain because it will hurt their careers.

Fears that blowing the whistle on sex pests on the hospital wards will hamper career development is a very real one, delegates at the Irish Medical Organisation’s (IMO) AGM in Sligo were told.

Dr John Duddy, a neurosurgical specialist registrar in Beaumont Hospital, who is the new president of the IMO, said the problem came to the surface in Australia last year and the view of experienced medics here is that it is no different in Ireland.

Doctors in male-dominated hospitals in Australia said they had experienced everything from inappropriate jokes to sexual advances from senior staff who could make or break their careers.

Some said they would not trust the complaint mechanisms in place at hospitals and colleges where there was an established culture of “untouchables”.

Dr Duddy said: “We don’t know what is happening in Ireland but it is something that needs to be looked at.”

Irish hospitals continue to be “hierarchical” institutions and a trainee must rely on a good reference from a senior doctor when they seek a job.

The Australian probe found female surgical trainees had to give sexual favours.

Junior doctors at the AGM unanimously backed a motion calling on Mr Varadkar to set up a working group to find out the prevalence of sexual harassment across the health service. Dr John Donnellan, a trainee paediatric radiologist in Temple St Hospital said: “It is foolish for the HSE to presume that this is not an issue, when every other industry and profession recognises this, as that causes problems for their employees.

“There is no mention of support or facilities within hospitals with information on where to go,” he added.

The junior doctors also want the minister to set up a task force to tackle the scourge of bullying.

It follows a survey by the Medical Council, the doctors’ regulator, showing that one in three trainees is subjected to bullying at work.

Dr Duddy said the Medical Council referred to bullying as part of a “culture”.

However, he said: “I do not agree with that. If you are bullied at work you are more likely to leave the health service.”

He said there is silence around “doctor-on-doctor” bullying and he himself experienced it early on in his career.

“I know what it is like to have my performance in the operating theatre undermined.”

Dr Duddy also condemned the low number of women in senior medical posts.

He said there needs to be a change in medical training and working hour regimes in order to make some medical posts more attractive to female doctors.

Women must play bigger role in church, A Synod hears

Limerick Diocesan Synod hears call for lay-led liturgies without priests on weekdays

     

A motion to establish a working group to explore and scope out how and where women can play a leadership role in the governance of the church received the highest number of priority votes at the Limerick Diocesan Synod.

Women need to play a much more important role in the church, the first Synod in Ireland in 50 years has been told.

Some 400 delegates spent three days at the Limerick Diocesan Synod where they voted on 100 proposals to help map out the future of the church and how it serves the local community in a time of falling vocations.

A motion to establish a working group to explore and scope out how and where women can play a leadership role in the governance of the church received the highest number of priority votes at the Synod.

A proposal to develop and support lay-led liturgies and the celebration of sacraments was supported by more than 90 per cent of delegates.

Lay-led liturgies

Speaking at the Synod Fr Eugene Duffy, a lecturer in theology and religious studies at Mary Immaculate College, recommended that occasional lay-led liturgies without priests should be introduced on weekdays as a way of preparing for the reality of priests not being available to every parish in the years ahead.

“If we can get used to having lay-led liturgy on week days first then people will begin to appreciate it, understand it, grow in their own acceptance of it and see the value of it,” he said.

“In the absence of a priest that’s what they will have to do on a Sunday. We have to start by doing it on a week day and then people become familiar with it. The foundational thing that people have to do is to gather on a Sunday to worship, however we do it.

Fr Duffy also said that the Catholic Church can learn from the Church of Ireland in this regard.

“The Church of Ireland has readers who look after the liturgy on a Sunday if an ordained minister cannot be present. We are going to have to get used to this situation and have no option to prepare for it. Otherwise there is going to be a trauma some Sunday.

The role of women in the church was also discussed as part of the universal themes which could not be voted on but were discussed on the final day of the Synod.

Vincent Hanley, a delegate from Knockaderry/Clouncagh, Co Limerick, said the issue of women priests was a popular theme during the three-year listening process which took place before the Synod.

“Up to now we have been very pragmatic in our discussions but there are elephants in the room and especially the situation around women priests. This issue came up again and again in our listening process, in the questionnaires and our assemblies,” said Mr Hanley.

Marian Wallace, a delegate from Ardpatrick, Co Limerick, said women, in particular mothers, were tired of “religious apartheid”.

“Mothers are the backbone of the church, we teach our children we bring them to church but we are tired of inequality we are tired of religious apartheid,” she said.

Wild tiger population rising for first time in a 100 years

     

The world’s count of wild tigers roaming forests from Russia to Vietnam has gone up for the first time in more than a century, with some 3,890 counted by conservation groups and national governments in the latest global census, wildlife conservation groups said Monday.

The tally marks a turnaround from the last worldwide estimate in 2010, when the number of tigers in the wild hit an all-time low of about 3,200, according to the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum.

India alone holds more than half of them, with 2,226 tigers roaming reserves across the country, from the southern tip of Kerala state to the eastern swamps in West Bengal, according to its last count in 2014.

But while experts said the news was cause for celebration, they stopped short of saying the number of tigers itself was actually rising. In other words, it may just be that experts are aware of more tigers, thanks to the fact that survey methods are improving and more areas are being included.

Still, this is the first time tiger counts are increasing since 1900, when there were more than 100,000 tigers in the wild.

“More important than the absolute numbers is the trend, and we’re seeing the trend going in the right direction,” said Ginette Hemley, senior vice president of wildlife conservation at WWF.

The global census, compiled from national tiger surveys as well as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, was released a day before ministers from 13 countries meet for three days in New Delhi as they work toward doubling the world’s wild tiger population from the 2010 low by 2022.

Not all nations are seeing progress, though. While Russia, India, Bhutan and Nepal all counted more tigers in their latest surveys, Southeast Asian countries have struggled. They are also behind the others in conservation measures, and do not yet conduct a tiger census on their own.

“When you have high-level political commitments, it can make all the difference,” Hemley said. “When you have well protected habitat and you control the poaching, tigers will recover. That’s a pretty simple formula. We know it works.”

Cambodia is looking at reintroducing tigers after recently declaring them functionally extinct within its borders, meaning there are no longer any breeding tigers in the wild. Indonesia has also seen a rapid decline, thanks to having the world’s highest rate of forest destruction to meet growing demand for producing palm oil as well as pulp and paper.

Tigers are considered endangered species, under constant threat from habitat loss and poachers seeking their body parts for sale on the black market. They are also seeing their habitats rapidly shrinking as countries develop.

The global tiger count is based on data from 2014. Here is the tally broken down by country:

Bangladesh, 106; Bhutan, 103; Cambodia, 0; China, more than 7; India, 2,226; Indonesia, 371; Laos, 2; Malaysia, 250; Myanmar, no data available; Nepal, 198; Russia, 433; Thailand, 189; Vietnam, fewer than 5.

The experts said the Myanmar government’s count of 85 tigers in 2010 was not included because the data was considered out of date.

 

In 2011, CBS News correspondent Seth Doane was granted access to some rare pictures of tigers in the wild. Taken by cameras hidden deep in the jungles of Thailand, the video showed the endangered animals as they’ve rarely been seen.

The footage was made available only to CBS News by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Hidden camera footage provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society shows tigers in their natural environment.

 THE WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY

“It’s the first time that technology has gotten to the stage where we can take videos,” Elizabeth Bennett said in 2011. Bennett is with the WCS, which runs New York City’s Bronx Zoo. The laser-triggered camera traps capture video of the tigers “behaving naturally,” she said. “Completely away from humans — there are no humans anywhere near them.”

The cameras were set up along Thailand’s border with Burma. The images all come from within a special protected zone roughly the size of Rhode Island.

News Ireland daily BLOG byDonie

Saturday 19th March 2016

The housing shortage ‘will cost Ireland key jobs’ warn business leaders

    

Thousands of new jobs are at risk of being lost to Ireland because of the housing crisis, business leaders warned.

Representative bodies and business owners have urged the appointment of a dedicated housing minister by any new government to tackle the severe lack of accommodation which is stunting job creation.

While many Irish businesses are now looking to expand and multinational companies are seeking to lure staff on secondment from other countries, the major shortage of housing, coupled with soaring rents, is preventing job growth.

The owner of Cork-based multinational outsourcing company Voxpro said he may be forced to divert hundreds of new positions away from Ireland due to major housing shortages.

Voxpro chief executive Dan Kiely said small businesses looking to expand and global companies hoping to set up bases here are being limited by a lack of accommodation for staff.

“We want to do the best for Cork and deliver as many jobs as we can in the next three years, but the housing situation will affect the numbers we employ,” said Mr Kiely.

“If we don’t tackle this, then businesses like Voxpro will be looking to places outside of Dublin and Cork.

Last October, Paypal, with offices in Dublin and Dundalk, urged workers to rent spare rooms to new employees to help with a rental accommodation shortage.

The IDA acknowledged a “tightness of supply”, while Ibec said a shortage of office space had been an issue in recent years but companies are now encountering difficulty on the residential side.

“Businesses are now finding that they can find spaces for workers to work in but they can’t find space for the workers to live in,” said Peter Stafford, director of Property Industry Ireland, which is a business association within Ibec.

“It’s an issue in the cities, especially in Dublin where a lot of tech companies are clustering around the Docklands.”

Mr Stafford said many multinationals now find employees are reluctant to relocate to Ireland and are asking for salary increases to offset the higher cost of rental accommodation.

“There are companies who are paying staff a premium to move to Dublin because their cost of living is going to be so much higher here because rent is high,” he said.

Barrie O’Connell, president of Cork Chamber, said there is a “lack of coherence” when it comes to housing policy, with 12 government agencies having some involvement.

“Establishing a minister for housing and infrastructure would ensure improved oversight and a more connected approach at central level, which is required to address the rental and buyer crisis that currently presents a potential risk to our future economic development capacity,” he said.

This was echoed by Mr Kiely who said a “taskforce with teeth” made up of business leaders, Nama, and developers is also required “to come up with achievable solutions to solve the problem in the immediate term”.

Mr Kiely, who lives in Douglas, Cork, said there are around 30 homes in his area which are unoccupied but have not been put on the market and developments like these should be made available to workers.

“If we can’t accommodate young Irish graduates and EU graduates moving into Cork, then we will have to look elsewhere,” he said.

An IDA spokesperson said that although companies are continuing to invest in Ireland, there is “a tightness of supply in some city locations at present”.

“Any tightness of supply is very much a reflection of the success Dublin has had and much of the discussion around this issue concerns supply in one particular part of the city,” they said.

This is exactly what people around the world think of Ireland

  

Here is exactly what people around the world think of Ireland and we all agree that Ireland is the best wee country on earth, but what does the rest of the world make of us?

In this love letter, an Argentinian-Spanish woman who called Dublin home for two years asks people from around the world: “What is Ireland?”

  On St Patrick’s Day, Clara Baez Morandi paid tribute to her former home by reaching out to people who have come to Ireland from all corners of the world to find out what makes our country so unique.

She used these interviews to tell a story about multiculturalism, reflecting what a melting pot the country has become.

According to the people in the video, Ireland is a multitude of things: it’s magical and it’s challenging, it’s happy and it’s sad.

They mention Niamh, Ciara and “Sean with an S-e-a-n” as the names they most associate with Ireland, and cite the beloved chicken fillet roll as our specialty food.

While their initial thoughts on arrival in Ireland were of disappointment – “it’s not so green”, “it’s such a small village”, “it’s raining!” – they spoke movingly about how their time here has made them stronger and more optimistic.

One young man observed: “It won’t jump at you with its marvels, you have to find them.”

The sound bites, which vary from light-hearted to poignant, beautifully capture how Ireland is changing in today’s increasingly multicultural world.

Warning over number of children knocked down in driveways

RSA research shows 38 children killed after collisions in built-up areas over last five years

  

A still from one of the videos produced by the RSA highlighting the dangers to children when vehicles are moving.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has launched a new campaign to keep children safe in driveways as latest figures show over 40 per cent of child road fatalities occur in built-up areas.

There were 38 child fatalities involving motor vehicles between 2010 and 2015, and half of all road-related serious injuries among children occurred as a result of a collision in a built-up area during the same period.

The campaign features a series of videos focusing on child safety near driveways and in housing estates, and the RSA has issued specific advice to parents ahead of the Easter holidays.

The videos give step-by-step guidance on the different checks and routines drivers can employ when travelling with children or in areas where children may be exposed to danger such as driveways, housing estates and near schools.

“We cannot expect children to take responsibility for their own safety. It is up to us to make road safety part of their everyday routine and teach them how to share the road safely,” said RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock.

“Children are the most vulnerable of our road-users so it is really important that we as adults take responsibility for their safety. The aim of these videos is to provide all of us with tools to do this,” she added.

Drivers are encouraged to develop a series of steps for checking that the area around their vehicle is safe prior to departure, and to perform a ‘cockpit drill’ when in the car to ensure the handbrake and gear lever are properly positioned and that all doors are locked.

New ‘Star Wars’ film to shoot in Donegal and along “Wild Atlantic Way”

Irish Film Board welcomes plans to shoot along ‘some of our most spectacular locations along the Wild Atlantic Way’

    

The producers of Star Wars have confirmed they are returning to Ireland this year to shoot scenes for the next film in the blockbuster series at locations along the western seaboard.

Lucasfilm is preparing to film sequences for Star Wars: Episode VIII in May at the western tip of the Dingle Peninsula, where contractors are installing a 1.5km metal roadway to facilitate the transport of gear and crew.

Plans are also underway to film at Malin Head in Donegal, where a number of B&Bs and rental homes have already been booked out for the production.

The chief executive of the Irish Film Board, James Hickey, said it was “delighted to welcome the production of Star Wars: Episode VIII to some of our most spectacular locations along the Wild Atlantic Way”.

The closing scene of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, the most recent release in the series, was shot on Skellig Michael off the coast of Kerry. The film currently ranks as the third highest-grossing release of all time, with more than $2 billion worth of cinema tickets sold worldwide.

The Government’s decision to grant permission to film on the UNESCO world heritage site was criticised by some heritage and environmental groups, but a further licence was granted to Lucasfilm to carry out filming last September for the new film.

Thrilled to return

Candice Campos, vice-president of physical production at Lucasfilm, said the company was thrilled to return to Ireland to film several sequences for the next chapter in the Star Wars saga.

“The beauty of Skellig Michael was stunning and we know the new locations along the Wild Atlantic Way will prove to be equally as beautiful in Star Wars: Episode VIII,” Ms Campos said. “We want to thank the people of Ireland for their warm welcome and continued support. Ireland has become an important part of Star Wars history.”

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys said the return of Star Wars to Ireland was a further boost for the Irish film sector.

“My department has been working with Disney Lucasfilm over recent months in a bid to accommodate the return of Star Wars to Ireland,” Ms Humphreys said. “Disney Lucasfilm have developed a strong affinity for Ireland, and I am delighted to see them return to Ireland for further filming around our beautiful and dramatic coastline.

“We have already seen how the most recent Star Wars film has brought Sceilg Mhichíl and southwest Kerry to a global audience. Now, further locations around the Irish coast will experience similar exposure, providing untold benefits to the tourism and film sectors.”

Make angry Birds happy, UN chief Ban Ki-moon tells the world

        

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon launches International Day of Happiness 2016-Help Red Go Green.

The sight of anything green is enough to enrage him, but in an ironic twist, Red, the leader of the Angry Birds computer game characters, has been named Honorary Ambassador for Green by the United Nations, the top bird given the mission of “inspir(ing) climate action toward a sustainable and happier future for all.”

“We are proud to give Red a reason to go Green,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.

“There is no better way to mark the International Day of Happiness than to have our animated ambassador raise awareness about the importance of addressing climate change to create a safer, more sustainable and happier future for all,” Ban added.

Highly strung, easily provoked

The character’s creators describe Red as highly strung and easily provoked—even by the sound of the wind which it sees as a declaration of war. In the Angry Birds universe, the feathered protagonists are pitched against a group of pigs.

“The whole flock tries to keep Red calm and relaxed by telling him to follow a strict program of herbal tea, soothing bath salts and deep-breathing exercises,” says the website Angrybirds.com. “But this only takes the edge off his anger … Even the sight of something green can enrage him.”

   Make Angry Birds happy

But with Red being named Ambassador of Green, the warring flock is now part of making the world a better place, with the public being asked to “make the Angry Birds happy” by professing their commitment to address climate change, through photos posted on social media platforms using the hashtag #AngryBirdsHappyPlanet.

“By recycling, taking public transportation and conserving water, for example, individuals can share tips on how they can live sustainably and happily in their everyday lives,” Ban said.

Also behind this year’s campaign are Sony Pictures Entertainment (whose facilities produced and distributed the Angry Birds movie), as well as the UN Development Program and UN Foundation.

Fundamental human goal

In July 2011, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution declaring that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal.”

Two years later, on March 20, 2013, the first International Day of Happiness was celebrated in the wake of the 2012 UN Conference on Happiness. The conference was convened by the government of Bhutan which, in the 1970s, introduced the concept of gross national happiness, or measuring a nation’s prosperity by emphasizing people’s well-being over economic productivity.

Happiness Day

In a separate statement, the UN chief said this year’s Happiness Day was an opportunity to assert the primacy of peace, well-being and joy, amid the pervasive suffering caused by grave injustice, devastating wars, mass displacement, grinding poverty and other man-made crises.

“The best way to celebrate this International Day of Happiness is by taking action to alleviate suffering,” Ban said.

“More than individual contentment, it’s an affirmation that we have a collective responsibility to humanity,” he added.

Spread happiness, secure peace

The UN chief said governments can help spread happiness and secure peace by working to fulfill the interlinked Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the UN General Assembly had adopted in September 2015.

Included in these goals are: an end to poverty and hunger; good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; responsible production and consumption; climate action, as well as peace, justice and strong institutions.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Thursday 17th March 2016 (St. Patrick’s day)

Ireland’s economy now growing as fast as China

    

Call it the luck of the Irish shamrock green…economy?

Ireland is booming. It grew almost 7% last year. That’s far better than the U.S. and on par with China (or, at least, what the Chinese government claims).

The emerald isle won the “best eurozone economy” prize each of the past two years and is widely expected to keep the streak going this year.

Ireland’s economic success wasn’t a given. The country was hit very hard by the financial crisis and Great Recession. Big Irish banks were on the verge of collapse from too much lending, especially on speculative property deals. Government debt skyrocketed, and unemployment topped 15% — significantly higher than what the U.S. experienced.

Only a few years ago, experts warned that Ireland, Spain and Portugal could be the “next Greece.” Ireland received €67 billion ($73 billion) in international bailout loans in 2013, after its property market collapsed and banks started failing.

Now the Irish have extra reason for St. Patrick’s Day cheer. Unemployment recently fell to 8.6%and no one is talking about an Irish default anymore.

“Ireland bounced back the best of any economy after the recession,” says Martin Schulz, head of international equity at PNC Capital Advisors.

How Ireland did it?

The path to success sounds simple: Ireland quickly wrote off its bad bank debt and made sweeping financial reforms, says Schulz.

The government cut costs and focused on growing exports. That turned out to be a shrewd move as the euro has fallen in value, allowing Irish (and other European) exports to thrive.

The reform measures weren’t always popular. Despite Ireland’s “Celtic tiger” growth miracle, Prime Minister Enda Kenny is struggling to hold onto power after his party lost seats in the latest election.

But as many countries, especially in Europe, struggle to jumpstart growth again, Ireland is a symbol of hope.

President Obama hailed “significant progress in the rebound of the Irish economy” when he met with acting Prime Minister Kenny on Tuesday.

Related: Americans fear a life of ‘dead-end crap jobs with crap wages’

Ireland is widely known as a tax haven. Several prominent U.S. corporations have headquarters there (or are trying to move there) to save money on taxes.

But the European Commission points out that the real Irish economy is growing too. It’s not just foreign businesses.

“While the recovery started in the external sector, domestic demand is now driving GDP growth,” a recent EU report concluded.

Housing charity Threshold call to reform ‘flawed’ Irish rent supplement law

    

Making it illegal to discriminate against tenants in receipt of rent supplement will not make it easier for vulnerable tenants to secure housing.

The chairperson of Threshold (Pic. above), Senator Aideen Hayden said the Government needs to do more to protect vulnerable tenants.

National housing charity Threshold said the legislation, which came into force at the beginning of the year, “is not a cure-all” for the current difficulties faced by tenants. It said the State needs to accept responsibility for the reality of tenant’s situations by addressing soaring market rents, higher than those seen during boom times, and inadequate rent-supplement limits.

It was reported earlier this week that property websites are still featuring adverts which discriminate against tenants in receipt of rent allowance — despite this being outlawed under the Equality Act 2015.

“While the new equality legislation in relation to those in receipt of housing support and assistance is welcomed, it is simply not good enough. The State can’t pat itself on the back and claim it has addressed the issue through legislation when the reality on the ground is quite different.”

“Market rents are surpassing the maximum rent supplement limits, making it almost impossible for tenants to secure adequate accommodation and remain in their homes, resulting in increasing numbers of individuals and families becoming homeless,” she said.

Ms Hayden called on the Government to reform the “seriously flawed” rent- supplement scheme which it said was contributing to rising levels of homelessness. “In Threshold’s experience, landlords are reluctant to engage with the rent supplement scheme for a wide variety of reasons, including the inadequacy of rent supplement limits, payment in arrears and bureaucratic delays.

“The rent-supplement scheme is seriously flawed: Rent supplement tenants are not pre-approved, and payments are made in arrears not in advance. This means landlords can be left waiting for their rent payment,” she said. Threshold said the new Government must reform how the scheme operates and provide a lasting solution for rent-supplement tenants, ensuring landlords feel secure in accepting rent supplement.

It said this can be done by increasing rent supplement limits to bring them in line with market rents, introducing a pre-approval mechanism for rent supplement claimants similar to mortgage pre-approval and ensuring payments are made directly to landlords in advance. The Threshold chairperson said the charity received calls daily from tenants who face discrimination because they rely on rent supplement.

“However, there is no point pretending that landlords will take less than market rent because someone is on rent supplement,” she said. “The new Government must increase rent-supplement limits to bring them into line with market rents and remove the administrative flaws and payment delays inherent in the scheme.”

Irish firm Movidius brings vision to drone maker

Movidius unveiled as provider behind the Phantom 4’s vision-aided flight system

   Curt Walton prepares a DJI S900 drone to shoot aerial video of a $12.5 million home for sale in Alamo, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 26, 2016. The use of video from drones as a marketing tool to help sell multi-million dollar homes is rapidly expanding even as the FAA formulates the use of drones for commercial use. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)

DJI drone: Movidius processor facilitates a number of new features.

Irish company Movidius has done a deal with drone maker DJI that brings the company’s vision-sensing technology to the latest Phantom drone.

The Dublin-founded firm has been unveiled as the provider behind the Phantom 4’s vision-aided flight system, which gives the drone the ability to sense and avoid obstacles in real time. DJI developed specialised software algorithms in spatial computing and 3D depth sensing to combine with the Movidius’ Myriad 2 chip.

The Movidius processor facilitates a number of new features in the DJI drone, including Tap Fly, which allows pilots to tap a spot on the screen to direct the drone and Active Track, which can designate an object or person on the screen to track.

The drone can also hover in a fixed position without the need for a GPS signal.

“DJI’s goal with this is that it be impossible to crash and it lowers the barrier to people adopting drones. It’s much easier for people to fly,” said chief operating officer and co-founder of Movidius Seán Mitchell. “It’s more intuitive than using the two-stick controller.”

The platform enables streams from multiple video cameras to be processed, along with readings from other sensors such as accelerometers, depth sensors, gyroscopic sensors and sonar. “That’s all coming together and we can put on top of that object identification and tracking.”

Mr Mitchell said the Phantom 4 was a milestone for vision-sensing technology.

“It is going to be very interesting to see how things evolve as these devices become more autonomous and more intelligent. The intention is to make life easier for people and safer,” he said.

Capabilities

Paul Pan, senior product manager at DJI, said the company was constantly seeking ways to expand its technological capabilities. “Movidius’ vision processor platform, Myriad 2, met the rigorous requirements we set for our flagship product,” he said.

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas saw a number of new drones unveiled at the show. Intel demonstrated a drone, the Typhoon H, on stage that offered obstacle recognition using its RealSense camera, dodging a falling tree as part of the showcase. However, the product, made by Yuneec, has yet to hit the market. The Phantom 4 is available for €1,600 now.

“We’ve seen companies showing demonstrations; this is a real product and it’s a flagship product by an industry leader, and I think that’s the real proof of the pudding,” said Mr Mitchell.

The DJI deal is the latest announcement from the company which also revealed a lucrative deal with Google earlier this year. Movidius employs about 140 people between its offices in Dublin, Romania, the US and China.

Fáilte Ireland launches Virtual Reality tours of the Wild Atlantic Way

Have a headset, will travel?

     

Fáilte Ireland’s VR experiences will be shared on the Oculus store where millions of people with VR headsets can download and enjoy them.

Fáílte Ireland has captured several experiences along the Wild Atlantic Way for Virtual Reality (VR) viewing.

The VR products, piloted this week at the ITB Berlin travel fair, will give people the chance to remotely experience 3D tours of the coastal route.

The “unmissable”, 360-degree experiences include surfing under the Cliffs of Moher, horse-riding in Sligo, cycling in the Burren and climbing one of the tallest sea stacks in Europe off the coast of Co. Donegal.

Streaming through Samsung VR Gear and Occulus Rift tehnology, the experiences were captured with the help of activity partners along the Wild Atlantic Way.

For the surfing experience, for example, Fáilte Ireland worked with creative agency Big O Media to shoot champion surfer Ollie O’Flaherty using specially adapted cameras in the Atlantic. You can watch several ‘making-of’ snippets in this video:

VR products are in their infancy, but their potential to transform travel marketing and help consumers make travel decisions is viewed as a huge opportunity.

“You forget it’s a 3D/360 experience and you think its reality,” said one user at ITB Berlin this week. “It really gave me the full experience of the Wild Atlantic Way – I never knew you could do that in Ireland, it was amazing.”

Fáilte Ireland says it is also looking at the possibility of integrating the immersive VR experiences across its Tourist Office network, and offering them to trade and industry partners for promotional activites.

“Virtual Reality is proving to be a game-changer in how experiences are consumed and this technology is set to be the most exciting innovation in travel and tourism marketing during 2016,” said its Director of Marketing, Noel-John McLoughlin.

The Wild Atlantic Way experiences will be available for consumers with VR headsets to download on the Oculus store by the end of March, the tourism agency says.

The 360-degree video tours will also be released on YouTube.

Ditch your car for public transit to shed those extra kilos

    

Adults who commute to work via cycling or walking have lower body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI) measures in mid-life compared to adults who commute via car, the study found.

You should ditch your car and lace up your walking shoes or choose to cycle or take public transport for your morning commute, if you want to shed those extra kilos, according to a recent study.

Adults who commute to work via cycling or walking have lower body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI) measures in mid-life compared to adults who commute via car, the study found.

Even people who commute via public transport showed reductions in BMI and percentage body fat compared with those who commuted only by car. This suggests that even the incidental physical activity involved in public transport journeys may be important.

The study looked at data from over 150000 individuals from the UK Biobank data set, a large, observational study of 500000 individuals aged between 40 and 69 in the UK.

The strongest associations were seen for adults who commuted via bicycle, compared to those who commute via car.

After cycling, walking to work was associated with the greatest reduction in BMI and percentage body fat, compared to car-users. For both cycling and walking, greater travelling distances were associated with greater reductions in BMI and percentage body fat.

Commuters who only used public transport also had lower BMI compared to car-users, as did commuters who combined public transport with other active methods. The effect of public transport on BMI was slightly greater than for commuters who combined car use with other active methods.

The link between active commuting and BMI was independent of other factors such as income, area deprivation, urban or rural residence, education, alcohol intake, smoking, general physical activity and overall health and disability.

Study author Dr. Ellen Flint from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said, “We found that, compared with commuting by car, public transport, walking and cycling or a mix of all three are associated with reductions in body mass and body fat percentage, even when accounting for demographic and socioeconomic factors. Many people live too far from their workplace for walking or cycling to be feasible, but even the incidental physical activity involved in public transport can have an important effect.”

Dr Flint adds: “Physical inactivity is one of the leading causes of ill-health and premature mortality. In England, two thirds of adults do not meet recommended levels of physical activity. Encouraging public transport and active commuting, especially for those in mid-life when obesity becomes an increasing problem, could be an important part of the global policy response to population-level obesity prevention.”

The study appears in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal India is on the verge of complete eradication of poliomyelitis, the last reported case of wild polio virus disease was in January 2011.

“With the switching over to bOPV and simultaneous introduction of single dose of injectable polio vaccine, we are aiming at complete eradication of poliomyelitis. Thereafter, oral polio vaccine would be completely withdrawn and replaced by injectable polio vaccine, as being currently practised in the developed countries,” said pae diatrician Jayant Joshi, president of Pune branch of the IAP .

“Among 686 cases of paralytic polio caused by circulating vaccine derived polio viruses (cVDPVs) that have been detected since 2006, type 2 cVDPVs (cVDPV2s) accounted for 97% of the cases,” said paediatrician Rajeev Joshi.

To eliminate the risks posed by cVDPV2s, OPV serotype 2 will be withdrawn from all immunization activities through a global, synchronized replacement of all tOPV with bivalent OPV . “Eventually , we want to get rid of the polio virus, be it wild virus or vaccine virus. So the bivalent oral polio vaccine will be replaced by injectable polio vaccine by 2020 which will eliminate all types of circulating polioviruses and the adverse events caused by the current oral polio vaccine,” said paediatrician Sanjay Lalwani, head of the paediatrics department at Bharati hospital.

Astronaut Tim Peake captures the lush green Emerald Isle on St. Pats day from on board the ISS

    

  • The British astronaut took the photograph of Ireland from the ISS
  • It shows the lush-green landscape of the Emerald Isle on St Patrick’s Day
  • He will have opportunities to take further shots of the country today because the ISS will pass over Ireland a total of 16 times

Cracking open a can of Guinness on the International Space Station (ISS) would likely result in chaos, so instead, Tim Peake is celebrating St Patrick’s Day by sharing a photograph of Ireland.

 Tim Peake as photographed by one of his fellow Astronauts. 

He will have opportunities to take further shots of the country because the ISS will pass over Ireland a total of 16 times today.

British astronaut Tim Peake has shared  a photograph of Ireland (pictured) from 255 miles (410km) above the Earth on the International Space Station. He will have opportunities to take further shots of the country because the ISS will pass over Ireland a total of 16 times today

The ISS completes an orbit of Earth every 92.91 minutes and moves at 17,100mph (27,600km/h) per hour.

The snap is one of many impressive shots, ranging from countries and weather events to selfies, taken by Major Peake, who is three months into his mission.

He tweeted: ‘The Emerald Isle is looking lush and green from space…Happy St Patrick’s Day to all down there!’

Last month, he captured storms raging across Europe and Africa in all their mesmerising beauty.

The British astronaut tweeted a timelapse of the footage, explaining that it’s ‘amazing how much lightning can strike our planet in a short time.’

Earlier this year, as storms raged across Europe and Africa, Tim Peake captured them in all their mesmerising beauty from on-board the International Space Station. The footage was filmed as the ISS travelled over North Africa, Turkey and towards Russia (pictured)

Construction of the ISS began on 20 November 1998.

It supports a crew of up to six, with crews split into groups of three.

The station orbits at a height of about 255 miles (410km).

It has a total mass of about 990,000 pounds (450,000kg) and has living space roughly equivalent to a five-bedroom house.

It completes an orbit of Earth every 92.91 minutes and moves at 17,100 miles (27,600km) per hour.

It has now been in space for more than 5,900 days, during which time it has completed more than 92,000 orbits of Earth, and has been continuously occupied for more than 13 years.

It was filmed as the ISS travelled over North Africa, Turkey and towards Russia.

The ideal conditions for lightning and thunderstorms occur where warm, moist air rises and mixes with cold air above.

These conditions occur almost daily in many parts of the Earth and rarely in other areas, making certain regions more prone to strikes.

For example, parts of Africa including the Democratic Republic of the Congo have the highest frequency of lightning on Earth.

This is caused by air from the Atlantic Ocean hitting mountains as it blows across the region.

Nasa tracks lightning strikes using satellites fitted with sensors and information from these satellites is sent to staff on Earth.

During the 33-second clip, a spattering of flashes is seen on the horizon.

As the ISS soars towards Eastern Europe, the flashes become more intense and centralised and the cloud cover thickens.

More lightning occurs over land than water because the sun heats the land surface faster than the ocean.

The heated land surface warms the air above it and that warm air rises to encounter cold air.

Researchers recently found that regardless of where in the world a person is, lightning bolts are at their most powerful at 8am.

The ISS completes an orbit of Earth every 92.91 minutes and moves at 17,100 miles (27,600km) per hour. It typically visible as it flies over the regions in the clip between 6pm and 7pm local time. Lightning strikes are shown by the bright flashes in the centre of this image

The Ireland snap is one of many impressive shots, ranging from countries and weather events to selfies, taken by Major Peake, who is three months into his mission. The astronaut is shown somersaulting

This is because there are fewer particles in the atmosphere overnight so it takes a more powerful charge to overcome the extra distance between these particles and release the bolt of power.

By comparison, more storms occur in the afternoon as solar heating charges a higher number of particles, but these storms are weaker.

Typical afternoon lightning might vary from 6,000 to 20,000 amps per ground flash but powerful morning lightning to ground strokes can average 30,000 amps.

Urbanised areas are also 5 per cent more likely to be hit by thunderstorms, on a given day, than rural areas of the same size.

Storms were more likely to hit these urbanised areas during warmer months, in July and August, in the late afternoon and early evening.

These findings add further weight to the fact rising temperatures increase the frequency of storms, but also that increased pollution levels in urban areas play a major role.

In addition to pollution, urbanised areas cause more storms because they create ‘urban heat-islands’.

Concentrations of buildings can increase temperatures causing low pressures to form above cities, compared to high pressures in rural areas.

This causes a so-called ‘low-level atmospheric convergence’, which forces air up into thunderstorms.

Buildings may also change the flow and direction of winds, which in turn changes pressure levels and affects the upward movement of air.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 9th August 2015

Greece hopes to conclude bailout talks by Aug. 11

  

Greece hopes to conclude negotiations with international creditors by early Tuesday at the latest, a Greek official said as talks continued in Athens on a new multi-billion euro bailout.

Greece’s finance and economy ministers were locked in negotiations with representatives of creditors on Sunday. Greek officials have previously said they expect the bailout accord to go to the country’s parliament for approval by Aug. 18.

“Efforts are being made to conclude the negotiations, the horizon is by Monday night or early Tuesday,” said a Greek official who declined to be named.

“When the new bailout comes to parliament for a vote it will be one bill with two articles – one article will be the loan agreement and the MoU (memorandum of understanding) and the second article will be the prior actions,” the official said, referring to measures Greece needs to take for the bailout accord to take effect.

The negotiations began on July 20. A senior Greek finance official told Reuters the aim was for a meeting of euro zone finance ministers to review the accord on Friday, Aug. 14.

Athens is negotiating with European Union institutions and the International Monetary Fund for up to 86 billion euros ($94 billion) in fresh loans to stave off economic collapse and stay in the euro zone. The bailout must be in place by Aug. 20, when Greece has a repayment falling due to the European Central Bank.

Twenty Irish care centres facing closure

   

Some twenty care centres across the country face closure, affecting hundreds of people with intellectual disabilities.

The Sunday Business Post reports that health watchdog Hiqa has issued 20 HSE-run care homes with notices to cancel or refuse applications for registration unless they make drastic improvements or immediate changes.

According to the newspaper, only two of the residential homes said they were resolving the issues.

The Áras Attracta care home in Swinford, Co Mayo (pictured), which was at the centre of a Prime Time investigation, is one of the affected 20 centres.

Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on disability and mental health deputy Colm Keaveny said the closure notices could have been prevented, and claimed the situation was much worse than had been reported.

He said there had been a lack of investment over a number of years.

“The Government has secretly and silently warehoused people with intellectual disabilities (in a) most blatant abuse of equality,” he said.

“It’s an absolute scandal (and) the situation is much worse than has been reported. The Government has, if any thing, deprioritised disability.”

Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2015: ‘biggest Irish trad music festival’ launched in Sligo on Sunday

 Sligo is set to shine during the Fleadh 

The Sligo event is a magnet for ‘larger Irish family’ and those with no Irish links, says President Higgins.

  The website of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2015, taking place in Sligo.

Sligo was full of people dragging wheelie suitcases and musical instruments through its streets on Sunday as Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann , “the biggest traditional Irish music festival on the planet”, was launched by PresidentMichael D Higgins.

Just a few hundred enthusiasts attended the first Fleadh Cheoil in Mullingar in 1951 when, according to President Higgins, “Ireland’s traditional culture was at a low ebb”.

  On Sunday, when he launched the eight-day 2015 Fleadh at the “Wild Atlantic Way gig rig” in the centre of Sligo, the President pointed out that over 350,000 people are expected to attend this year.

Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú was predicting closer to 400,000, and as someone who has attended “probably about 50” fleadhanna he is something of an expert.

Comhaltas praised

Praising the “heroic” work of Comhaltas Ceoltoirí Éireann in reviving Irish music, the President pointed out that the Fleadh was a magnet for the “larger Irish family” and also for people with no links to Ireland.

Mr Higgins welcomed visitors with “ neither ancestral nor geographic links to Ireland but who, with a curiosity that we all welcome, have developed a kinship with the Irish through culture and our folk traditions”.

A lot has changed since 1951. Fleadh hoodies and T-shirts are the attire of choice for many young musicians in Sligo. The official Fleadh cheoil website is encouraging them to “play music, make new friends and take music selfies (tweeted using #sligofleadh2015)”.

The elite of the traditional music world will arrive in the coming days and will be warmly welcomed, judging from the number of signs outside pubs declaring “musicians welcome”. “Sterling welcome” was another popular notice.

If people thought WB Yeats was going to even briefly step out of the limelight for the week of the Fleadh, they reckoned without the Drumcliffe-based Cos Cos dance group.

Under Bare BenBulben’s Head

They presented a pageant entitled “Under Bare BenBulben’s Head” billed as “an artistic interpretation of an imaginary meeting between two of Sligo’s best known historical figures, WB Yeats and St Colmcille”.

It was an apt pairing. Not only has the 6th century missionary close links with Drumcliffe, but the history books show that after being buried on the island of Iona off Scotland, his remains were disinterred many years later and moved to Downpatrick where he was laid alongside St Patrick and St Brigid.

With the serious business of Scoil Eige now getting into gear for thousands of young competitors, Irish Rail has laid on extra services between Sligo and Carrick-on-Shannon for those staying in outlying towns and villages .

The company is also mindful of those hoping to enjoy “a good evening out without the stresses of driving home afterwards”.

Another popular transport initiative is the John LennonEducational Tour Bus, which Music Generation Sligo and the Fleadh Cheoil have organised .

Supported by Yoko Ono Lennon, the bus boasts a fully equipped music studio and on Wednesday a lucky group of young musicians will be aboard for a masterclass in how to record and produce original music and make a video.

For others there will be busking opportunities on every corner.

The “Wild Atlantic Way” is a big success for Irish tourism

wild-atlantic-way 

Projects such as the Wild Atlantic Way have led to a significant boost to tourism here according to Tourism Ireland.

They also say that more people now consider Ireland good value for money.

Figures released this week show that over 400,000 more visitors came to Ireland in the first half of the year.

CEO of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons said projects including the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East were proving to be a big draw for tourists.

“It really worked in the international marketplace,” he said. “We have a very compelling story to tell (but) it’s important we don’t get complacent.”

Anti-smoking breakthrough drug eats nicotine like Pac-man!

   

A new breakthrough research reveals a promising enzyme therapy that would help smokers quit for good.

A new study reveals a nicotine-eating bacteria that takes mental high and fun out of smoking.

The research was conducted at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) who were searching for an alternate, and effective, solution for people who wanted to quit smoking but needed help, according to NYC Today.

The nicotine-eating bacteria has an enzyme that would prevent the nicotine from ever reaching the brain, which in turn, who rob the smoker of any mental pleasure in the activity. The bacterial enzyme is called NicA2 is geared to make smoking less rewarding for smokers, in turn, internally encouraging them to quit.

The lead of the study, Kim Janda, is a chemistry professor and member of the Skaggs Institute for chemical biology at TSRI. Janda said that the experiment is promising, but still in the early stages. They hope that it will soon become one of the most successful therapies for smoking cessation.

The study to create this breakthrough therapy has been under the microscope for many years in the lab. The process has proven to work as they have been able to extract the enzyme from bacterium Pseudomonas putida.

The therapy is predicted to help about 80-90 percent of smokers who choose to use it. When used, the enzyme has effectively dropped the half-life of nicotine from hours down to minutes once added into the bloodstream. They also predict that at higher doses, the effect could be even more powerful.

Janda added, “The bacterium is like a little Pac-Man. It goes along and eats nicotine. Our research is in the early phase of drug development process, but the study tells us the enzyme has the right properties to eventually become a successful therapeutic.”

The enzyme was originally discovered in the soil from a tobacco field. The bacterium naturally consumes nicotine as a main source of nitrogen and carbon. The testing continued there in the lab where researches happily found the enzyme to be stable, which Janda says was an amazing sign.

“The enzyme is also relatively stable in serum, which is important for a therapeutic candidate,” said Song Xue, a TSRI graduate student.

NASA releases two Online tools for exploring Mars to the public

   

On the three-year anniversary of the Mars landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover, NASA is unveiling two new online tools that open the mysterious terrain of the Red Planet to a new generation of explorers, inviting the public to help with its journey to Mars.

Mars Trek is a free, Web-based application that provides high-quality, detailed visualizations of the planet using real data from 50 years of NASA exploration and allowing astronomers, citizen scientists and students to study the Red Planet’s features.

Experience Curiosity allows viewers to journey along with the one-ton rover on its Martian expeditions. The program simulates Mars in 3-D based on actual data from Curiosity and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), giving users first-hand experience in a day in the life of a Mars rover.

A NASA team already is using Mars Trek to aid in the selection of possible landing sites for the agency’s Mars 2020 rover, and the application will be used as part of NASA’s newly announced process to examine and select candidate sites for the first human exploration mission to Mars in the 2030s.

“This tool has opened my eyes as to how we should first approach roaming on another world, and now the public can join in on the fun,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division in Washington. “Our robotic scientific explorers are paving the way, making great progress on the journey to Mars. Together, humans and robots will pioneer Mars and the solar system.”

Mars Trek has interactive maps, which include the ability to overlay a range of data sets generated from instruments aboard spacecraft orbiting Mars, and analysis tools for measuring surface features. Standard keyboard gaming controls are used to maneuver the users across Mars’ surface, and 3-D printer-exportable topography allows users to print physical models of surface features.

Mars Trek was developed by NASA’s Lunar Mapping and Modeling Project, which provides mission planners, lunar scientists and the public with analysis and data visualization tools for our moon.

Experience Curiosity also uses real science data to create a realistic and game-ready rover model based entirely on real mechanisms and executed commands. Users can manipulate the rover’s tools and view Mars through each of its cameras.

“We’ve done a lot of heavy 3-D processing to make Experience Curiosity work in a browser. Anybody with access to the Web can take a journey to Mars,” said Kevin Hussey, manager of the Visualization Applications and Development group at NASA’sJet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which manages and operates the Curiosity rover.

Curiosity’s adventures on the Red Planet began in the early morning hours of August 6th, 2012, Eastern time (evening of August 5th, Pacific time), when a landing technique called the sky-crane maneuver deposited the rover in the 96-mile-wide (154-kilometer-wide) Gale Crater. From there, the rover began investigating its new home, discovering it had landed near an ancient lakebed sprinkled with organic material. Billions of years ago, fresh water would have flowed into this lake, offering conditions favorable for microbial life.

“At three years old, Curiosity already has had a rich and fascinating life. This new program lets the public experience some of the rover’s adventures first-hand,” said Jim Erickson, the project manager for the mission at JPL.

NASA has been on Mars for five decades with robotic explorers, and August traditionally has been a busy month for exploration of the planet. Viking 2 was put into orbit around Mars 39 years ago on August 7th, 1976, making NASA’s second successful landing on the Martian surface weeks later.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched on August 12th, 2005, and still is in operation orbiting Mars. And Tuesday, August 4th, marked the eight-year anniversary of the launch of the Phoenix mission to the north polar region of the Red Planet.

NASA’s orbiters and rovers have changed the way we look at Mars and enable continued scientific discoveries that one day will pave the way for astronauts to explore the Red Planet.

News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Saturday 5th April 2014

Chinese ship may have found signs of the Malaysia Airlines MH370

 

Signals picked up by a Chinese search vessel may be “consistent with the aircraft black box”

A crew member aboard a RNZAF P3 Orion maritime search aircraft reacts as he looks at screens while flying over the southern Indian Ocean looking for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 Photo: REUTERS

The hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane entered a new phase on Saturday when a Chinese ship reported hearing possible signals from a “black box” flight recorder.

On day 29 of the search for Flight MH370, a series of “pings” from the depths of Indian Ocean appeared to constitute the first solid lead.

A Chinese survey vessel, Haixun 01, heard a pulse with a frequency of 37.5kHz per second – identical to the standard signal used by the locator beacon of a flight recorder.

At that moment, the ship was located west of the Australian coast – and north of the main search area – at the coordinates 25 degrees south latitude and 101 degrees east longitude.

A reporter with the Chinese state broadcaster, CCTV, who is on board Haixun, said the ship had first picked up the signal on Friday, when pings were detected intermittently for about 15 minutes. But other vessels were in the vicinity, raising the possibility that they might have been the source.

Haixun then heard the signal again on Saturday, when the pings were picked up every second for 90 seconds.

Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, cautioned there was still no confirmation of any link with the “missing Malaysian passenger jet”. Haixun had reported hearing the “pulse signal” and was conducting further investigations, added Xinhua.

On Saturday night Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, a retired Australian officer coordinating the search effort, said the signals had not been verified but added: “I have been advised that a series of sounds have been detected by a Chinese ship in the search area. The characteristics reported are consistent with the aircraft black box.”

The sea in this area of the Indian Ocean is about 4,500 metres deep and criss-crossed by submerged mountain ranges, with peaks rising 2,500 metres from the seabed.

Black boxes can be detected at a maximum range of about 3,000 metres, suggesting that if the signals are genuine, then Haixun must be relatively close to the target.

Objects floating in the sea, which may have been wreckage, were also photographed by a Chinese reconnaissance aircraft about 60 miles from where Haixun detected the pings.

Haixun is a patrol and survey ship operated by the China Coast Guard. Weighing 5,400 tonnes and with a length of 430ft, the vessel is capable of conducting search, rescue and survey missions thousands of miles from its home base.

Beacons attached to flight recorders send out one “ping” every second for about 30 days. The frequency is carefully chosen to distinguish the signal from the background “noise” of the ocean.

Ten military aircraft and 11 vessels are now taking part in the hunt for MH370, including HMS Echo, a Royal Navy survey ship, and HMS Tireless, a Trafalgar class nuclear submarine.

The Boeing 777, carrying 239 passengers and crew, vanished on March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

David Johnston, the Australian Defence Minister, urged caution over the latest lead. “This is not the first time we have had something that has turned out to be very disappointing,” he said. “I’m just going to wait.”

Some of the relatives of the 153 Chinese passengers said they were already convinced the “ping” had come from the missing plane’s black box. Chen Zesheng, whose cousin was on the plane, said: “I just saw the news. Now I feel really sad. Earlier there was still a glimmer of hope.”

Mr Chen, 63, said he had become “lost and disappointed” with the so far “fruitless” search. “We still want to know what happened,” he added. “I hope the search and rescue ships, especially those from China, can carry on with their work, finding the debris of the plane as well as the passengers’ belongings [so we have] something to remind us of ours loved ones.”

The search is focusing on a large area of the southern Indian Ocean, where satellite tracking data suggests the plane disappeared after veering wildly off course.

The quest has a new urgency because the battery on the black box will run out after about 30 days. If a signal has now been detected, it will have come at the eleventh hour.

Commodore Peter Leavy, of the Australian Navy, said: “The search using subsurface equipment needs to be methodical and carefully executed in order to effectively detect the faint signal of the pinger.”

Malaysia has come under sustained criticism over a seemingly confused response to the disappearance of the airliner and a series of contradictory statements.

The mixed messages continued on Saturday when Hishammuddin Hussein, the Malaysian transport minister, denied that investigators had cleared the passengers on board MH370 of all suspicion. However, Malaysia’s police chief said last week that the involvement of any passengers in the aircraft’s fate had indeed been ruled out.

Mr Hussein also dismissed as “completely untrue” any suggestions that the Malaysian authorities themselves had been negligent.

He was apparently responding to remarks from Anwar Ibrahim, the country’s opposition leader, who told the Telegraph on Thursday that Malaysia’s authoritarian regime had consistently held back vital information.

In particular, Mr Anwar said that an advanced radar system, which he had purchased as finance minister in the 1990s, would have detected the aircraft when it turned off course and flew over Malaysia itself for about 45 minutes.

“Whether they ignored it, or failed to detect it because of incompetence is the question which has not been answered and is still being dodged by the authorities. That opens up all manner of speculation including a possible cover-up,” he said.

New Garda boss Noirin O’Sullivan says the Martin Callinan remark was unfortunate

  

The former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan’s description of the actions of the garda whistleblowers as “disgusting” was “unfortunate”, according to the woman who has assumed his role.

Interim Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan was speaking at her first public appearance, the graduation of 79 new reserve volunteers at the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary.

While Ms O’Sullivan described Mr Callinan’s use of the word “disgusting” in relation to the behaviour of the whistleblowers as “unfortunate”, she said he was entitled to his opinion on the matter.

SENSITIVE

Mr Callinan made his comments before a Dail committee earlier this year.

He later clarified the remark to say he was not referring to whistleblowers John Wilson and Sgt Maurice McCabe’s character, but rather to the manner in which “personal and sensitive data” was released into the public domain.

Mr Callinan quit as Garda Commissioner almost two weeks ago, saying he was retiring in the best interests of the force and his family. He added that recent developments were a “distraction” from the important work of An Garda Siochana.

The force has been rocked by a string of controversies in recent months, including revelations of widespread taping of phone calls at garda stations.

Ms O’Sullivan yesterday promised a new era for the force in which dissent would not be viewed as disloyalty and which would embrace whistleblowers.

She said: “In any organisation as complex as An Garda Siochana there will be people who identify issues that they wish to bring to our attention and I certainly believe that those people need to be supported.”

She told garda reserve graduates that they will be called on to show courage when they take to the streets.

“You’ll need the courage to question, even when questioning irritates and infuriates people who can influence your future,” she said. “Because that’s what a good guard does.

“The fact that I came to the job of commissioner in the middle of a maelstrom of controversy means that I’ve a lot of immediate work to do. But at the same time I need to meet and listen to people at every level, from new members of the reserve to top management.”

Asked if she intended to apply for the full-time post of commissioner, she replied: “The position has not been advertised yet, but I am sure when it is, yes, I certainly will.”

Meanwhile, in an interview on last night’s Late Late Show, whistleblower John Wilson said he is happy that Justice Minister Alan Shatter has corrected the record of the Dail.

DEPLORABLE

He said: “I believe his behaviour throughout all of this in relation to the penalty points scandal has been deplorable.”

He added there is “no doubt” Mr Shatter should resign.

Referring to Mr Callinan’s decision to quit, he said: “I take no pleasure in the demise of any human being, and Martin Callinan has done this some country service, but it was the right decision to go. I believe his credibility was gone. I believe his position had become untenable.”

He also warned of further revelations in the coming months and said he had no regrets on the stance he has taken.

A further €1.4 million in funding released for the Wild Atlantic Way

 

This €10 million project will see tourist attractions developed along the west coast of Ireland.

A further €1.4 million in funding has been announced for the recently developed Wild Atlantic Way.

When finished, this long-distance tour route is intended to act as a key tourist attraction for the west of Ireland.

The 2,500km route will encompass 159 different attractions.

Minister of State for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring has called it a “game-changer for the west”.

He said this new funding “will make the route even more tempting and ensures that we develop its full potential to deliver and hold onto the greatest number of tourists”.

This funding will be focused on three projects in Mayo, Galway, and Cork.

More than €400,000 will see a walking and cycling trail known as the Galway Greenway completed.

When finished, the trail will contribute more than 78km to the National Cycle Network.

A visitor centre, built around a blowhole, will be developed at Downpatrick Head in Mayo using €640,000.

Close to €370,00 has been designated for the restoration of the Signal Tower at the Old Head of Kinsale in Cork.

Wet Irish summers will put our swallows under threat

Young Swallows flapping their wings before take-off

The population of the iconic swallow is on the decline thanks to the widening of the Sahara, wet Irish summers and Mediterranean gunmen, according to a leading bird expert.

On top of dodging nature’s predators during their epic 6,000-mile journey back from Africa every spring, the country’s swallows have to run the gauntlet of gunmen shooting them for sport as they cross through Cyprus and Malta on the migratory flyways of the Mediterranean.

Niall Hatch, from Birdwatch Ireland, said fewer and fewer swallows were returning to Ireland to nest each spring after their mammoth journey up from their wintering grounds in Johannesburg.

 “We’re seeing declines in the swallow,” Niall Hatch said. “They are nowhere near the numbers they used to be years ago.

“Their arrival date seems to be getting earlier, which would point to climate change having an effect on migration and the survival of the chicks seems to be a bit lower.

“The Sahara desert is getting wider each year and more arid and fewer can survive the crossing.”

While the birds also have to escape natural predators on their way, he said they were shot at for sport when flying over Malta and Cyprus.

“There are also lots of human hunters out in Egypt, Malta and Cyprus,” he said. “They catch the birds in big numbers.”

The ornithologist said the pattern towards more extreme weather in recent years also could have fatal consequences along with the effects of rain-drenched Irish summers as they had fewer flies to feed on before they leave.

He said: “They can run into terrible rainstorms and thunderstorms which can affect them. They are migrating and they are not as fit so they are less likely to return the following year.”

While he said it was still a “relatively common bird” with an estimated population of half a million, the population was on a “knife edge” as so few of the chicks survived to adulthood.

“We are encouraging people to keep an eye out for swallows, cuckoos and swift and when they find them, go to Springalive.net and post their details there and it builds into a huge database.”

4,500 year-old drowned forest path discovered near Galway Bay was used by the Celts

   

Remains of an ancient oak trackway found within the “drowned forest” on the north Galway shoreline.

The discovery of a pathway within a 7,500-year-old ‘drowned forest’ on the Galway shoreline has been hailed by geologists and historians as it suggests human habitation.

The Irish Times reports that the track could be between 3,500 and 4,500 years old.

It was discovered after the recent heavy storms and may have been built when the sea level was rising and was gradually enveloping the forest that pre-dated Galway Bay according to the report.

NUI Galway geologist Prof Mike Williams has researched the ‘drowned forest’ which comprises of a layer of peat and tree stumps uncovered by the winter storms.

He examined the trackway this week after he was alerted to it by Spiddal resident Alan Keogh who discovered it during a walk on the south-east Connemara shore.

Keogh told the Irish Times that he had heard about the drowned forest and recognised the significance of what appeared to be a ‘symmetrical structure’ below a line of peat.

Prof Williams told the paper: “Together with the Bearna canoe, this is the first evidence of human habitation within these forests and lagoons in this area.

“It could have been built during the late Neolithic or early Bronze age era, and may have been ceremonial or may have been built across wetland which was decaying forest, forming into bog.

“This would make it older than the Corlea togher (trackway), the Iron Age track across the boglands of Longford, close to the River Shannon.”

The report says the Corlea oak road, excavated by Prof Barry Raftery of University College Dublin, is the largest of its kind to have been uncovered in Europe.

Prof Williams added that he is awaiting further archaeological examination of the section on a storm beach near Furbo, looking south to the Burren and Black Head.

The Bearna canoe was discovered on the shore near Bearna by Brian and Rónán Ó Carra in 2002 and is preserved in the Galway Atlantaquaria in Salthill.

it was found to be 4,740 years old when radiocarbon-dated and Ó Carra believes the trackway may be of a similar age.

He said: “The canoe was freshwater, and these people used them for fishing and as a form of transport – like our stand-up paddle-boards.”

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/ancient-trackway-found-within-drowned-forest-in-connemara-1.1750856

The discovery of a pathway within a 7,500-year-old ‘drowned forest’ on the Galway shoreline has been hailed by geologists and historians as it suggests human habitation.

The Irish Times reports that the track could be between 3,500 and 4,500 years old.

It was discovered after the recent heavy storms and may have been built when the sea level was rising and was gradually enveloping the forest that pre-dated Galway Bay according to the report.

NUI Galway geologist Prof Mike Williams has researched the ‘drowned forest’ which comprises of a layer of peat and tree stumps uncovered by the winter storms.

He examined the trackway this week after he was alerted to it by Spiddal resident Alan Keogh who discovered it during a walk on the south-east Connemara shore.

Keogh told the Irish Times that he had heard about the drowned forest and recognised the significance of what appeared to be a ‘symmetrical structure’ below a line of peat.

Prof Williams told the paper: “Together with the Bearna canoe, this is the first evidence of human habitation within these forests and lagoons in this area.

“It could have been built during the late Neolithic or early Bronze age era, and may have been ceremonial or may have been built across wetland which was decaying forest, forming into bog.

“This would make it older than the Corlea togher (trackway), the Iron Age track across the boglands of Longford, close to the River Shannon.”

The report says the Corlea oak road, excavated by Prof Barry Raftery of University College Dublin, is the largest of its kind to have been uncovered in Europe.

Prof Williams added that he is awaiting further archaeological examination of the section on a storm beach near Furbo, looking south to the Burren and Black Head.

The Bearna canoe was discovered on the shore near Bearna by Brian and Rónán Ó Carra in 2002 and is preserved in the Galway Atlantaquaria in Salthill.it was found to be 4,740 years old when radiocarbon-dated and Ó Carra believes the trackway may be of a similar age.

He said: “The canoe was freshwater, and these people used them for fishing and as a form of transport – like our stand-up paddle-boards.”