Thursday, March 12, 2015

Donie's Ireland daily news BLOG update

Irish Permanent TSB seeks to raise some €525m

Ireland plans to test international investors’ appetite for its recovering financial system, as the country’s third-biggest bank seeks to raise €525m and begin its return to the private sector.
Permanent TSB, which was nationalised at the height of the country’s financial crisis at a cost of €4bn to Irish taxpayers, failed Europe-wide banking stress tests last year. Regulators identified a capital shortfall of €855m.
The bank is holding an investor and capital markets day on Thursday after giving a series of informal presentations to potential shareholders over the past few weeks. On Wednesday the bank reported a big drop in its annual pre-tax loss and said that its core banking activities in Ireland made a profit of €5m in 2014 before exceptional items, compared with a loss of nearly €700m in 2013.
PTSB’s search for private investors comes as the Irish government studies options for its 99 per cent stake in much larger Allied Irish Banks, which last week reported its first profit since 2008, when the Irish property market collapsed and felled the country’s banks. People familiar with the process said an initial public offering was the preferred route back to the private sector for AIB.
PTSB has appointed Deutsche Bank to advise on its capital-raising, which will be in the form of new equity. The majority of the proceeds will be used to repay a €400m contingent capital loan (Coco) issued to the Irish government as part of its rescue.
The Irish bank’s restructuring plan has been agreed in principle with the European Commission. The bank also said on Wednesday it had agreed to sell a €5bn portfolio of UK and Irish mortgage assets to private investors.
Jeremy Masding, PTSB chief executive, said the bank’s informal presentations on its prospects had been “very well received” by investors. Mr Masding said it was unlikely Irish taxpayers would see their full investment in the bank repaid.
The capital raising would dilute the Irish state’s 99.2 per cent stake although the state is likely to remain above 51 per cent. PTSB’s 134,000 minority shareholders can participate, Mr Masding said.
However, the transaction is taking place even as a group of group of minority investors are mounting a legal challenge to the way the Irish government handled the rescue of PTSB.
The case is before the European Court of Justice and has been brought by Piotr Skoczylas, whose Malta-based Scotchstone Capital says it is acting for shareholders owning most of the 0.8 per cent of PTSB equity in private hands.
Mr Skoczylas said yesterday the capital-raising amounted to “a backdoor dilution” of existing shareholders. Mr Masding declined to comment on the legal case, which centres on the investors’ claim that their rights under EU law were violated by the government rescue.

Garda crackdown on motor tax scam nets 18 luxury BMWs


Irish Motorists are warned insurance policies void on cars involved in scam.

Motorists have been warned if they mislead Revenue and the insurers as to the size of their vehicles, their insurance policies will be void in the event of an accident.
Gardaí have seized 18 luxury BMW cars as part of an investigation into an alleged scam to defraud the Revenue Commissioners by under-declaring the size of a vehicle’s engine.
It is believed the practice at the centre of the Garda inquiry is costing the Exchequer at least €2 million per year.
Motorists have been warned if they mislead Revenue and the insurers as to the size of their vehicles, their insurance policies will be void in the event of an accident.
The Garda has urged those involved in the illegal practice to regularise their positions immediately with the relevant Motor Taxation Office.
The Garda investigation was established into suspicions that the cubic capacity of vehicles was being deliberately under declared in order that lower rates of motor tax would be payable on the vehicles.
In many cases vehicles with 3.2 engines were being declared as being 1.9 in capacity. And the saving to the motorist annually has been up to €1,200.
Gardaí said while all of the vehicles seized in the case that has now come to light were BMWs, the fraud is also believed to involve a range of other models including Mercedes, Range Rover and Jaguars.
The scam is not being run by one gang or vehicle supplier. It is more widespread and involves motorists acting of their own volition, as well as car repair and sales garages and others in the motor trade.
A man suspected of involvement in the scam targeted in recent days was arrested during a search operation inDublin on Tuesday. He has since been before the courts to theft and fraud charges.
The vehicles at the centre of the investigation were seized in three tranches in Dublin, with 11 confiscated last Saturday, four on Sunday and three on Tuesday.
The raids were carried out by members of the Garda’s Dublin Metropolitan Region Traffic Division based at Dublin Castle in the south inner city.
The Garda said as well as the suspected motor tax fraud under investigation, the 18 vehicles seized would also being examined to determine if they were being run on illegal diesel.

New hospital technologies could improve patient safety, says Hiqa director



Dr Máirín Ryan, Hiqa’s director of health technology assessment and acting deputy chief executive, said a survey of 32 hospitals nationally to identify electronic systems currently in use in Ireland found limited use of such systems outside two hospitals where the technology was being used in very restricted settings.
The introduction of new technologies could lead to reduced mortality, increased patient safety, shorter waiting lists and reduce hospital overcrowding, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has said.
Dr Máirín Ryan, Hiqa’s director of health technology assessment and acting deputy chief executive, said a survey of 32 hospitals nationally to identify electronic systems currently in use in Ireland found limited use of such systems outside two hospitals where the technology was being used in very restricted settings.
She said the evidence from other countries was that such systems led to increased accuracy in the recording of vital signs which in turn led to improved mortality rates and morbidity rates for patients, the latter evidenced by reduced lengths of stay in hospital.
“The results of one study from the UK which most closely reflected the Irish context, and which specifically looked at the switch from a paper-based to an electronic system, indicated that the reduction in length of stay could lead to a substantial increase in hospital bed capacity… and a potential reduction in waiting lists,” she added.


“The electronic collection of this data would also provide us with data for audit of clinical care which in turn drives further improvements,” Ms Ryan said.
However, the implementation of the systems would require “significant capital investment” with an estimated cost of between €1 million and €1.3 million for a single hospital or between €40 million and €51.4 million to cover national implementation over a five-year period.
The authority’s assessment of how information technology could improve outcome for patients followed a request from the chief medical officer in the Department of Healthin October 2014.
A recommendation for the introduction of an early warning score was recommended by the National Clinical Effectiveness Committee in 2013.
In October of the same year, a Hiqa report on the death of Savita Halappanavar in University Hospital Galway recommended that a national maternity early-warning system be commissioned (the recommendation was mandated by the Minister for Health in late 2014).


Another of the report’s key recommendations was the introduction of a national early warning score across the wider hospital system.
As part of its assessment, Hiqa carried out a systematic review of the available literature in this area, examining 10 studies on electronic early warning systems and 17 on electronic clinical handover systems internationally, including one Irish study.
Hiqa recommended that all electronic early warning and clinical handover systems be developed in line with National Clinical Effectiveness Committee quality assured National Clinical Guidelines.

Mental disorders common among young Irish people


More than half of young people in Ireland will meet the criteria for a mental health illness before they reach the age of 25, a study has found.

Researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and Dublin’s Mater Hospital traced 212 people from different schools in north Dublin who had been interviewed when they were aged between 12 and 15, and re-interviewed them when they were aged between 19 and 24.
The study found that by the age of 25, almost one in five of the participants were found to be affected by a current mental health disorder. Furthermore, 56% had been affected by a mental health disorder at some point in their lives.
One in six of the participants was found to have had an alcohol use disorder at some point in their life.
The researchers emphasised that the provision of mental health services for young people in Ireland must be a priority and called for larger studies from around the country to help inform the development of such services.
The findings were published in a special youth-themed issue of the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine. Another study featured in the issue revealed that young people who are not in education, employment or training of some sort are at an increased risk of developing a mental health disorder and experiencing suicidal ideation.
Researchers from the RCSI and University College Dublin (UCD) found that young people in this position are three times more likely to develop a mental health disorder during their lifetime and are seven times more likely to have suicidal thoughts.
Furthermore, people who are diagnosed with a mental health disorder while still in their teens are four times more likely to be unemployed in young adulthood.
A third study featured in the journal found that one in three teenagers in Ireland experiences elevated levels of anxiety and depression.
The study by researchers from UCD and Headstrong found that the role of family and parents is key. Cohesive families with low levels of parental criticism were found to benefit teenagers’ mental health and wellbeing the most.
Commenting on the findings, Prof Mary Cannon of the RCSI, insisted that it is now time to ‘start focusing on providing specialised services catering for the needs of young people’, especially those transitioning from adolescence to adulthood.
“This can be a difficult time with many challenges for vulnerable youth. The reality is that our existing services simply cannot respond to the level of need among Irish youth. New models of service are required,” she commented.

Forget about your three meals a day theory



Forget what you know about eating habits, because some advice could be doing more harm than good.

If you believe all the diet advice you read, you probably think eating three meals a day is key, that breakfast is the most important of these and that snacking may as well be the devil’s work. Well, maybe it’s time to rethink and switch up your eating habits.
Historian Abigail Carroll is looking to dispel the myth that tucking into three meals morning, midday and evening is the only way to eat healthily. Speaking to the Mother Jones website, she claims this idea was actually a cultural construction, imposed by European settlers on Native Americans.
Her book Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal claims eating at set times was seen as civilised, while fasting and changing meals according to seasons was deemed unfashionable.
There’s been plenty of evidence that breakfast may not, in fact, be the holy grail of health and weight loss. Last year a study carried out by the University of Bath found whether or not someone skipping the first meal of the day had an impact on calorie consumption throughout the rest of it.
“Contrary to popular belief, there was no metabolic adaptation to breakfast, with limited subsequent suppression of appetite,” it claimed.
This goes against previous advice that breakfast kick-starts the metabolism and will stop you from snacking later on. Although of course it’s better to have something healthy first thing than gorge on crisps and biscuits later.
Whether you prefer three large meals or several smaller ones is also personal choice and may not necessarily make a difference to weight loss. Eating six meals spread throughout the day keeps your metabolism going and is particularly beneficial to anyone who suffers with low blood sugar.
If you find your stomach rumbling between meals, consider portioning two or three smaller ones and taking them into work. As long as you keep each portion to around 300 calories, you shouldn’t see a change to your waistline.
And people who think fasting is a bad idea should just look at supporters of the 5:2 diet, where for two days a week its followers limit their calories to 500 and eat normally on the remaining five.
When you eat therefore seems to be one of the less important parts of weight loss. Instead, concentrate on building exercise into your day and keeping your meals as balanced as possible. Aside from that, do whatever feels right for your body.

Chester Zoo Babirusa piglet makes her debut yesterday



A Babirusa piglet named Matano made her first public appearance at Chester Zoo today.
As one of the rarest piglets in the world, Matano has been watched by zookeepers since her birth in December, but has now been unveiled for all to see.
Babirusa are native to the Indonesian Island, Sulawesi, where numbers are in serious decline.
Chester Zoo is one of the only places in Europe to have successfully bred the animal, and the arrival of Matano is seen as important for the future of the species.
Curator of mammals, Tim Rowlands, explained: “Babirusa pigs are highly threatened.
“They’re one of the rarest pig species on the planet and so our new little arrival is a significant addition to the world’s population.
“Years of planning and preparation have gone into us being able to successfully breed babirusa here.”

A Lobster as big as a human found in Morocco


The 480 million-year-old fossil of a human-sized lobster has been found in Morocco

A filter-feeding ”lobster” as big as a human took the place of whales 480 million years ago, a new fossil find has shown.
The two-metre (6.5ft) prehistoric creature, whose remains were unearthed in Morocco, lived at a distant time when life was just starting to get into its stride.
It belonged to the family of anomalocaridids that were the early ancestors of modern crustaceans, insects and spiders.
But while most of its relatives were shark-like apex predators with circular mouths ringed by sharp teeth, the new species, named Aegirocassis benmoulae, was a gentle giant.
Like modern day whales, it filtered seawater to trap tiny particles of food, using spine-covered ”limbs” on its head.
It is thought to be the oldest giant filter-feeder ever discovered.
Dr Allison Daley, from Oxford University, who co-led a team studying Aegirocassis writing in the journal Nature, said: ”This would have been one of the largest animals alive at the time.
”These animals are filling an ecological role that hadn’t previously been filled by any other animal. While filter-feeding is probably one of the oldest ways for animals to find food, previous filter-feeders were smaller, and usually attached to the sea-floor. We have found the oldest example of gigantism in a freely swimming filter-feeder.”
  1. The benmoulae was named after the Moroccan fossil hunter who discovered it, Mohamed Ben Moula.

The three-dimensional fossil, exposed using tiny needle-like tools to chip away the surrounding rock, is exceptionally well preserved. In contrast, other anomalocaridid fossils have been flat, like pressed leaves.
”Without these 3D remains, we may never have got the insight into these animals’ anatomy that we did,” said Dr Daley.
The fossil shows that Aegirocassis had pairs of swimming flaps along its body, which were likely to be precursors of the unique double-branched appendages seen in modern crustaceans.
It’s the latest in a line of bizarre fossils unearthed.
Discoveries:- Fossil hunters searching for ancient relics found the skeleton of a 40,000-year-old woolly mammoth in the North Sea.
The team of archaeologists, salvagers and palaeontologists trawled the waters off the east coast of Britain at a depth of 100 feet.
North Sea Fossils, who are based in Urk, Netherlands, include an expert they call “Mr Mammoth” and are in search of the remains of extinct animals in the dark depths.
Bones of animals including woolly rhinos, Irish elks and parts of the male skeleton of an 11-foot tall woolly mammoth, including its skull and tusks, have all been brought up and collected.
A treasure trove of hundreds of large Ice Age-era prehistoric mammals were unexpectedly discovered in a cave in Wyoming.
The ancient sinkhole is believed to have opened up 25,000 years ago, trapping a large number of unsuspecting creatures who fell into it over the course of thousands of years and whose remains were preserved in the cool, dark conditions.
The 2014 find in Natural Trap Cave, at the base of the Bighorn Mountains in northern Wyoming, had gone unexplored for more than 30 years, and scientists had no idea of the scale of the remains they would find when they began digging at the end of last month.  

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