Thursday, February 12, 2015

Donie's Ireland daily news BLOG update

Syriza member says the rise of Sinn Féin’s ‘is the best help’ for Greek government.


Senator David Cullinane says their party wants to lead anti-austerity government in south

The rise of Sinn Féin in opinion polls in Ireland and a similar surge of support for Podemos in Spain is “the best help” that can be given to the newly-elected Syriza government in Greece, a leading member of Syriza said tonight.
Speaking at a Sinn Féin meeting in the House of Commons, Stathis Kouvelakis said: “This shows that the political landscape can change dramatically; that Greece is not an anomaly; that what happened in Greece can happen elsewhere.”
Tens of thousands of Greeks have gathered at rallies throughout the country in support of the “perfectly reasonable” demands made by the Greek minister for finance Yanis Varoufakis at today’s meetings with his EU counterparts in Brussels.
Meanwhile, Waterford-based Sinn Féin senator David Cullinane said that Sinn Féin, unlike some people involved in the anti-austerity movement in Ireland, is preparing to be part of the next government.“We are on an election footing. The very clear message that we are articulating very clearly is that we are prepared for government. We are going to stand the maximum number of candidates that we can possibly stand to take advantage of our increasing popularity.
“We have to be prepared to want to go into government, to lead an anti-austerity government in the south. There are people on the left who won’t be part of that, but we are certainly organising,” he told the meeting.
Criticising Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s refusal to support Greek calls for a debt conference, Mr Cullinane said: “It is crazy that a country which was forced to put into place a banking guarantee that signed us up to billions [in] debt is afraid to agree to a debt conference.
“[Ireland] has not even asked for a debt write-down. If they are not prepared to show solidarity with their own citizens, I don’t see Irish government showing solidarity with the Greeks.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy rejected a call that Sinn Féin should take up its seats in the House of Commons after the May election in a bid to ensure that the Conservatives are denied power.
Mr Murphy said: “We stand on the mandate of not taking our seats.”

A lot of Irish banks were concerned about the weakness & poor scrutiny in their sector

Some two and a half years before the actual collapse?


Professor John FitzGerald pictured above left who gave evidence before the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry yesterday.

Irish banks were concerned about the poor scrutiny of their own sector a full two and a half years before the collapse, the Banking Inquiry has been told.
AIB got in touch with Prof John FitzGerald who was a research professor at the ESRI in early 2006 because of these concerns, he said.
A senior bank economist phoned him and “my understanding was they felt the stress-testing was not stressful enough – kind of ironic,” he added.
He described how he met with the senior economist and another staff member and he believed their approach was coming from “a more senior level than the economists” and it had “first primed me to be concerned in this area.”
Prof Fitzgerald said he had explained to the bankers that the ESRI had already put together a series of macro-economic scenarios on CD which were publicly available and he referred them to this.
He told Fianna Fail deputy Michael McGrath he was subsequently approached by Ulster Bank and PTSB for a similar assessment.
On foot of these concerned he approached the Central Bank by email in 2007 saying he wanted to talk to them about it but despite emails over several months  “for various reasons” the meeting never happened.
Of the ESRI he added “clearly we had put out our warnings. Nobody in the political system seemed to be interested.
“My impression was that people weren’t interested in taking the punch bowl away.”
“What we do know is that the Regulator and the Central Bank were asleep on the job and did nothing,” he said.
He took responsibility for not examining bank data before the “catastrophic” collapse of the financial sector at the end of 2008.
“It is regrettable” he added. “Not seeing the unsound nature of the banking sector and it was a bad mistake”
“I made a mistake.  I thought that at that stages house prices had turned the corner, they were coming down gradually and I thought the odds were that we would reach a soft landing.  I was completely wrong.”
He felt if the ESRI had properly scrutinised the balance sheets they would have detected a problem.
Referring to the property bubble as  a “tumour which grew and grew and squeezed the rest of the economy” he said the number of houses being built was running ahead of the population and this had led to the bubble.
At the time, however, “the people of Ireland did not want to change. The information was out there. You couldn’t miss what we were saying” but people went ahead and bought houses and the government behaved as if there was no tomorrow.
On the Bank Guarantee while it was not something he had researched “we now know it was the wrong decision”.
He described it as “not the best outcome for Ireland but  something had to be done”.
No-one from the Department of Finance had consulted him personally or the ESRI about the guarantee. Relations with the department were “frosty’ at the time, he added.
Prof FitzGerald’s view of Nama was: “I think it has done a pretty good job.  It looks as if the State, instead of losing money, is going to get it back.  I think it has helped in terms  of the recovery and sorting out the problem.
He also said concerns about Nama had “turned out to be totally wrong”.
The bailout was something “we have got broadly right” in that Ireland, unlike Spain had “under-promised and over-delivered”
He stressed that when it became clear that €64billion was needed by the banks “a bailout became essential”.
Luckily interest rates were so low “the burden of the debt has turned out tho be much lower than anticipated.”
His assessment of the current situation is that “we are in a structured surplus” and “we do not need further cuts”
He was concerned that there was a need to improve the method of assessing fiscal policy to provide better guidance in the future.
Asked by Sen Susan O’Keeffe if he had every considered resigning when the financial crisis hit he responded: “No I felt I had done a reasonable job over the previous 30 years I looked at the fact that nobody else had done a better job.”

IAG’s Willie Walsh to meet Minister Donohoe to discuss Aer Lingus bid


Pascal Donohoe says Government will weigh proposed offer on price and international access?

Willie Walsh, chief executive officer of International Consolidated Airlines Group is to discuss his Aer Lingus bid with Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe.
International Consolidated Airlines’ Group (IAG) chief executive Willie Walsh will discuss his company’s €1.36 billion bid for Aer Lingus with the Minister for Transport,Paschal Donohoe, on Wednesday.
Mr Walsh will be spending the next two days bidding to convince the Government and Oireachtas members to support IAG’s proposed €2.55 a-share offer for the Irish airline.
The Government holds a 25.1% stake in the business on behalf of the State, while the Dáil has approve any sale of that interest.
Mr Donohoe confirmed earlier that he is meeting Mr Walsh on Wednesday afternoon.
The minister has already said that the Government will not only consider the price on offer, but also the implications of a takeover for the Republic’s access to international markets.
He stressed that the coalition would evaluate IAG’s proposed bid on the basis of those criteria and all the information available to it.
IAG is offering the Government and business groups a legally-binding veto over the sale of the airline’s landing and take-off rights at Heathrow Airport, which are seen as critical to international access.
It is also willing to guarantee that they will be used exclusively to service Irish routes for five years.

13% of Irish internet users have suffered some online fraud. "40% have received Email's"


Nearly a third of Irish respondents have discovered malicious software on their device.

An estimated 40% of Irish internet users have received emails or phone calls trying to get access to their computer or personal details such as banking information, according to a Eurobarometer survey.

More than 1,000 people were interviewed in Ireland for the survey on cyber security.

Nearly a third of Irish respondents said they have discovered malicious software on their device, but just over half of them have installed anti-virus software. This compares with an EU average of 61% who have taken this precaution.
The survey found 13% of Irish Internet users have experienced online fraud where goods purchases were not delivered, counterfeit or not as advertised, a little above the EU average of 12%. Experience of online fraud was highest in Poland (19%) and lowest in Greece (4%).
Some 9 per cent of Irish Internet users say that they have experienced or been a victim of identity theft, above the EU average of 7%. Experience of identity theft was highest in Romania and Hungary (both 11%) and lowest in Bulgaria and the Netherlands (both 3%).
Sixteen per cent of Irish respondents – the third highest in the EU – said they have had experience of their social media or email account being hacked.
While internet access in Ireland has never been higher at 80 per cent, we are still behind Sweden (96%) the Netherlands (95%) and Denmark (94%).
Greece, Portugal and Romania had the lowest rates of internet access in Europe.
The overall EU-wide survey saw more than 27,000 people interviewed on the topic of cyber security, with the majority of respondents concerned their personal information is not being kept secure by public authorities and websites.
A total of 67% said they worried about information not being safely held by public authorities, while 73% said they were concerned over website security.
Approximately two in three Internet users in the EU said they were concerned about experiencing identity theft (68%) and about discovering malicious software on their device (66%).
More than half are concerned about being the victim of bank card or online banking fraud (63%); having their social media or email account hacked (60%); scam emails or phone calls (57%) or online fraud (56%).
EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said cybercrime undermines consumer confidence in the use of Internet, hampering both our digital economy and our online lives.
“Our priority is to create a safer Internet for all users by preventing and combating cybercrime in all its forms, to enable users to reap the full benefits of the digital internal market and to exercise their fundamental rights online,” he added.
The figures come as EU officials call on internet telecommunication companies to share encryption keys with EU authorities as part of a wider crackdown on terrorism.

A new procedure in stroke treatment is a ‘major breakthrough’


A new stroke treatment has been shown to be so effective that Canadian researchers say they believe it will be used as part of standard stroke care.

The results of a new study, led by scientists at the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute and published online Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, found a clot-retrieval procedure, called endovascular treatment, significantly decreased the incidence of disability or death among those who experienced acute ischemic stroke.

The treatment, which involves removing blood clots in the brain with a retrievable stent, also nearly doubled the percentage of patients who experienced positive outcomes from 30% to 55%.

“That’s a massive jump with people going home, people going back to work, people being independent, people not having to live in nursing homes,” says the study’s co-principal investigator Dr. Mayank Goyal, a professor of radiology and clinical neurosciences at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine. “It’s a major, major breakthrough in the disease.”
Dr. Rick Swartz, a study collaborator, medical director of the stroke program at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and an acting spokesman for The Heart and Stroke Foundation, says he thinks “Canada will be one of the first countries in the world to incorporate this treatment into our best practice guidelines.”
Best practices for stroke care are developed by stroke experts across the country with funding from the foundation, which was one of the sponsors of the study.
The Canadian sites involved in the study, which already have the equipment and expertise, can begin using the procedure immediately, Dr. Goyal says.
In severe cases of ischemic stroke, blood clots block larger arteries at the base of the brain. Until now, the standard treatment has been to give patients a clot buster drug, known as tPA or tissue plasminogen activator, which dissolves clots and restores blood flow. For larger clots, this can be time-consuming – and in stroke care, “time is brain.” For every minute the brain is starved of fresh oxygenated blood, it’s believed about two million neurons die.
Though endovascular treatments have been evolving for two decades, the latest generation of stent retrievers are game-changers. Medical teams involved in the study – conducted at 11 sites across Canada and another 11 around the world, including the United States, Britain, Ireland and South Korea – were able to identify the blood clots and their location in the brain using advanced imaging, and then quickly extract them using stent retrievers, in some cases, within minutes.
The Canadian study, which involved 316 patients, is the first to show a decline in patient mortality: to one in 10 patients, compared with two in 10 patients when current standard treatment was used alone.
Because the results demonstrated an “overwhelming effect” during an interim analysis, the study was stopped early, Dr. Goyal says.
It closely follows a previous study showing beneficial patient outcomes from endovascular treatment, conducted in the Netherlands and published online in the New England Journal of Medicine in December, and a separate study published Wednesday by Australian researchers that also demonstrated positive results.
Performed under X-ray guidance using injectable dyes, the procedure involves inserting a thin tube into the artery in the groin area, then threading a thinner tube, about two to three millimetres in diameter, into the neck. From there, an even thinner tube, about one millimetre in diameter, is guided into the brain to the site of the clot. A retrievable stent, which looks like a tiny mesh coil attached to the tip of a wire, is then routed through the tube and captures the blood clot, collapsing as it is pulled back out.
Dr. Goyal credits the success of the treatment, in part, to the speed at which participating medical teams were able to identify patients for whom endovascular treatment was appropriate and then carry out the procedure. The goal for getting from “picture to puncture” – imaging the brain, moving the patient and inserting the tube – was a median time of 60 minutes or less.
Not everyone who experiences ischemic stroke will fit the criteria for endovascular treatment, however. The treatment is for those who experience a moderate to severe stroke, whose symptoms are recent, and whose brain images show a large clot in an artery. The imaging must also show that some blood is able to detour around the blockage, buying doctors enough time for them to carry out the procedure.
Endovascular treatment does have some risks, including a very low risk of infection and bruising, as well as the risk of scraping or pushing the blood clot along the blood vessels, Dr. Swartz says. But, he says, “we know that people who get the procedure are doing much, much better than the people who don’t. So even with those risks, the outcomes are better.”

Did giant reservoirs of CO2 locked in the oceans end the last ice age?


Scientists have discovered that oceans spewing carbon dioxide played a big part in warming up our planet tens of thousands of years ago.

Arrogant species that we are, humans tend to think global warming is a very man-made problem. But the natural world is equally capable of spewing huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere all by itself, as new research into the end of the last ice age recently revealed.

How was the CO2 released?

It issued forth from the briny deeps… specifically the briny deeps of the Southern Ocean.
The study shows how a vast isolated reservoir of carbon stored deep in the cold waters off the Antarctic managed to re-connect with the atmosphere.
The sudden change in CO2 levels in the atmosphere stoked an increase in global temperatures, marking the end of the last ice age.

How important is this discovery?

Scientists say this gives an important insight into how the oceans affect the carbon cycle. Joint lead author Miguel Martínez-Botí, from the University of Southampton, said: “The magnitude and rapidity of the swings in atmospheric CO2 across the ice age cycles suggests that changes in ocean carbon storage are important drivers of natural atmospheric CO2 variations.”
As humanity tries to get its head around climate change, this kind of knowledge could prove essential. It is estimated that the oceans have soaked up around 30% of the CO2 that our cars, planes and factories have been spewing out over the last 100 years.

How does this carbon-ocean relationship work then?

CO2 levels in the atmosphere fluctuate from about 185 parts-per-million (ppm) during ice ages, to around 280 ppm during warmer “interglacial” periods like today.
The oceans currently contain approximately 60 times more carbon than the atmosphere, but that carbon can exchange rapidly (at least from a geological perspective) between the oceans and the atmosphere.
During ice ages the interaction between the deep-sea and the atmosphere is reduced, locking carbon into vast reservoirs in the abyss. The opposite happens during interglacial periods.

How do scientists work out the carbon levels in oceans tens of thousands of years ago?

The answer lies in the shells of tiny marine creatures that lived near the ocean’s surface at the time.
The international team (which included academics from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the Australian National University) studied the composition of the calcium carbonate shells of ancient marine organisms that lived thousands of years ago. These revealed the ocean’s carbon content.
Joint lead author Gianluca Marino, from the Australian National University, said: “We found that very high concentrations of dissolved CO2 in surface waters of the Southern Atlantic Ocean and the eastern equatorial Pacific coincided with the rises in atmospheric CO2 at the end of the last ice age, suggesting that these regions acted as sources of CO2 to the atmosphere.”

Does more research need to be done?

Of course! The more research the merrier – especially since this is just one part of the bigger picture that marked the end of the ice age.
Co-author Gavin Foster, also from the University of Southampton, said: ”While our results support a primary role for the Southern Ocean processes in these natural cycles, we don’t yet know the full story and other processes operating in other parts of the ocean, such as the North Pacific, may have an additional role to play.”   

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