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Scientists say plastic pollution impact could be irreversible – dpa international

vRubbish disposal and recycling facility in the west of Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Global plastic pollution is heading for an “irreversible tipping point,” according to a study published on Friday in the journal Science. Despite worldwide alarm triggered by shocking images of rivers and seas deluged with plastic rubbish, the problem may be already beyond repair, the researchers warned, saying that “rates of plastic emissions globally may trigger effects that we will not be able to reverse.” Lead author Matthew MacLeod of Stockholm University said plastic “leaks out into the environment everywhere,” including in countries “with good waste-handling infrastructure.” Even then, recycling has “many limitations,” according to co-author Mine Tekman of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, as wealthy nations ship rubbish “to countries with worse facilities.”

Tourism collapse could cut 4 trillion dollars from global economy – dpa international

Galway in the west of Ireland is a popular with visitors to the island (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — The global economy is facing losses of up to 4 trillion dollars due to the collapse of international travel, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The coronavirus pandemic and ensuing containment measures have caused a “crisis with devastating effects on developing countries, especially those dependent on tourism,” UNCTAD said on Wednesday.” The worst affected region is likely to be Central America, where gross domestic product (GDP) could shrink by almost 12 per cent by the end of the year in a worst-case scenario.

Pandemic restrictions pushing coffee prices up and undermining production – dpa international

Sign outside a Dublin coffeeshop. Cafes in Ireland have been restricted to takeaway services, and more recentky, offering outdoors dining, since December 2020 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Even as the coronavirus pandemic has receded in some parts of the world, coffee drinkers might not be able to sip in peace anytime soon: According to a recent analysis, coronavirus restrictions have likely spurred a crisis across the global coffee industry. In a study published by the National Academy of Sciences in the US, researchers led by academics from Rutgers University said “socio-economic disruptions” since the start of the pandemic “are likely to drive the coffee industry into another severe production crisis.” Lead author Kevon Rhiney warned of “serious implications for millions of people across the globe” if there is turmoil in the sector.

Chinese cyber power not a match for the US’s, according to experts – dpa international

Near the entrance of a hospital in the west of Ireland (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN  — Despite long-running allegations of Chinese hacking of Western governments and businesses, Beijing’s “cyber power” is “clearly inferior” to that of its chief rival, the US, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). China is “unlikely to match US cyber capabilities for the next decade at least,” according to the IISS, which regularly stages conferences involving some of the world’s most powerful defence ministries. The US is out on its own as the world’s leading cyber power, the IISS said, in a new 174-page report looking at the “cyber capabilities” of 15 countries.

Singapore aiming to live with flu-like ‘endemic’ Covid-19 – dpa international

DUBLIN — Singapore’s government on Thursday said it should be possible “to live normally” with Covid-19, which it expects to become “endemic” like influenza.  The three ministers responsible for the government’s coronavirus response announced “a broad plan” to “turn the pandemic into something much less threatening.” Pointing to the example of influenza, Trade Minister Gan Kim Yong, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that “we can work towards a similar outcome for Covid-19.” 

Coffee in moderation lowers likelihood of deadly liver disease – dpa international

DUBLIN — Coffee not only takes bleary out of bleary-eyed, according to British scientists, but lowers the likelihood of liver disease so long as it’s no more than three or four cups a day. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Southampton looked at health data for almost half a million people and concluded that “drinking any type of coffee was associated with a reduced risk of developing and dying from chronic liver disease compared to not drinking coffee.” According to Oliver Kennedy, the lead author of the study, which was published by BioMedCentral, a Springer Nature journal, coffee “could offer a potential preventative treatment for chronic liver disease.”

Global foreign investment to recover lost ground this year – dpa international

The centre of Dublin, the capital of Ireland, which received the world's 7th-most foreign investment in 2020 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Foreign direct investment should revive in 2021, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said on Monday, after a 35 per cent global drop last year when lockdowns “slowed down existing investment projects.” According to UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2021, global investment should “recover some lost ground” by growing 10-15 per cent, as multinational enterprises resume work paused due to “prospects of a recession” last year. The global economy shrank by over three per cent in 2020 but is expected to rebound this year with 5-6 per cent growth, according to recent World Bank and OECD estimates. Though overseas investment is expected to bounce back in tandem with GDP expansion, it will remain 25 per cent below 2019 levels after a tough 2020, according to Unctad’s James Zhang.

Listening to Mozart could curb epilepsy, Czech neurologists say

dpa

DUBLIN — Listening to Mozart could prevent epileptic seizures, according to research being presented over the weekend to the European Academy of Neurology. A Czech-led team, from St. Anne’s University Hospital and Masaryk University in Brno, found a 32 per cent reduction in seizure-inducing epileptiform discharges (EDs) among patients who listened to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos K448. Exposure to Mozart “may be a possible treatment to prevent epileptic seizures,” the team suggested, after using “intracerebral electrodes” that were “implanted in the brains of epilepsy patients prior to surgery” to measure the effects of music.

Singapore cedes top spot to Switzerland in competitiveness index – dpa international

Singapore harbour seen from Marina Bay, a popular vantage point for visitors (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Wealthy city-state Singapore is no longer the world’s most competitive economy, according to the Institute for Management Development (IMD), which on Thursday put Switzerland top of its 2021 World Competitiveness Ranking. Singapore topped the list for the previous two years and was the sole Asian representative in the top five, which was rounded out by Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. Though most European countries were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, measured by lives lost and case numbers, the Lausanne-based IMD said the continent’s economies “weather[ed] the health crisis better than most other regions,” with Switzerland ranked highest after it “kept a disciplined financial strategy.” Singapore’s fall from first to fifth came despite being it being relatively lightly hit by the pandemic – and was down to “problems with job losses, lack of productivity and the economic impact of the pandemic,” the IMD said.

‘Pervasive’ privacy breaches found on mobile phone health apps – dpa international

Jogger in Dublin's Phoenix Park in early June 2021 (Simon Roughneen)

DUBLIN — Thousands of health-related mobile phone applications have “serious problems with privacy,” according to analysis by Macquarie University in Australia. Published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the Sydney-based team’s research into more than 20,000 apps found “collection of personal user information” to be “pervasive.” Of the almost 5 million apps available on platforms operated by Apple and Google, around 100,000 are health-related, including increasingly-popular fitness monitors. However “inadequate privacy disclosures” often hinder users “from making informed choices,” said the Macquarie researchers, who compared 15,000 health apps with a sample of 8,000 others. While the health apps gathered less user data the others examined, around two-thirds of them still “could collect advert identifiers or cookies” and a quarter could “identify the mobile phone tower to which a user’s device is connected.”