Sunday Long Reads: Altitude training at 21,000 ft, and does the Irish government spy on its citizens?

Kick back with a cup of coffee and enjoy the best long reads from Newstalk

As we near the end of St. Patrick's weekend, this week's Long Reads includes a varied mix of culture and politics.

As the CIA's advanced tools for surveillance are revealed, we look at what the Irish government has at its disposal in a curious look at whether Irish citizens are being spied upon or not.

Newstalk talks to a man who acquired the ability to fluently play the piano after suffering a concussion, global landmarks go green for St. Patrick, and we discover what it's like to train as an athlete at high altitude.

Does the Irish government spy on its citizens?

Last week WikiLeaks showed that the CIA intelligence agency had a cache of highly sophisticated hacking tools which operatives could use to hack everything from your iPhone, Android smartphones, Windows PC and even your smart television.

So, does the Irish government have a similarly deep treasure trove of hacking tools available to it in order to monitor its own citizens or people overseas who may pose a potential threat to national security?

In November of last year the Irish government outlined a series of updates to the law thT would take the existing framework for interception of voice calls and text messages, and extend it to the internet. This would allow for the interception of everything from email to direct messages on Twitter and even communications which are encrypted — though this would require the cooperation of companies like Apple and Facebook.

Meet the man whose concussion made him a musical genius

In 2006, Derek Amato sustained a severe head injury some swimming pool action with friends. Diagnosed with concussion, he was sent home from hospital with instructions to be woken every few hours.

But the most bizarre consequence came just four days after his accident - despite having no previous experience, he became a fluent piano player.

"I didn't recognise it right away, it wasn't that important," he said on Moncrieff, referring to the keyboard at his friend's house where he first realised his gift. "After a few minutes, I felt more compelled to play with it and turn it on and make noise."

Pictures: Landmarks light up across the globe for St. Patrick's Day

Tourism Ireland’s largest Global Greening initiative ever took across the world, with some 278 iconic landmarks and sites in 44 countries around the world going green.

World famous sites such as the London Eye, Niagara Falls and the Colosseum, alongside some of the more unusual newcomers for 2017, including The Big Fiddle of the Ceilidh on Cape Breton Island in Canada and two rhino statues in Nairobi National Park, are turning a shade of green to celebrate our national day.


This is what it's like to train at 21,000 ft

Once reserved for professional athletes, altitude training is now making its way to the masses. Also known as hypoxic training, it involves exercising in, living in, or otherwise breathing oxygen-reduced air for the purpose of improved athletic performance, pre-acclimatisation to altitude, and/or physical wellness.

Standard high intensity interval training (HIIT) classes are held within specially designated cardio chambers. This involves running, rowing or cycling at maximum effort for 90-second intervals, following by a 30-second break.

Temperature levels in the chamber range between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius, with oxygen levels at 15% (sea-level rates are typically measured at 21%).

"Increased demand means classes are regularly fully booked - on the Sunday I attend, all morning classes are at maximum capacity."