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When will there be a coronavirus vaccine? 5 questions answered

<p><strong>Is there a vaccine under development for the coronavirus?</strong></p> <p>Work has begun at <a href="https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/mers-sars-therapeutics-vaccines">multiple organizations</a>, including the National Institutes of Health, to develop a vaccine for this new strain of coronavirus, known among scientists as <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html">2019-nCoV</a>.</p> <p>Scientists are just getting started working, but their vaccine development strategy will benefit both from work that has been done on closely related viruses, such as <a href="https://www.niaid.nih.gov/news-events/niaid-officials-discuss-novel-coronavirus-recently-emerged-china">SARS and MERS</a>, as well as advances that have been made in vaccine technologies, such as <a href="https://doi.org/10.2147/IJN.S39810">nucleic acid vaccines</a>, which are DNA- and RNA-based vaccines that produce the vaccine antigen in your own body.</p> <p><strong>Was work underway on this particular strain?</strong></p> <p>No, but work was ongoing for other closely related coronaviruses that have caused severe disease in humans, namely MERS and SARS. Scientists had not been concerned about this particular strain, as we did not know that it existed and could cause disease in humans until it started causing this outbreak.</p> <p><strong>How do scientists know when to work on a vaccine for a coronavirus?</strong></p> <p>Work on vaccines for severe coronaviruses has historically begun once the viruses start infecting humans.</p> <p>Given that this is the third major outbreak of a new coronavirus that we have had in the past two decades and also given the severity of disease caused by these viruses, we should consider investing in the development of a vaccine that would be broadly protective against these viruses.</p> <p><strong>What does this work involve, and when might we actually have a vaccine?</strong></p> <p>This work involves designing the vaccine constructs – for example, producing the right target <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/antigen">antigens</a>, viral proteins that are targeted by the immune system, followed by testing in animal models to show that they are protective and safe.</p> <p>Once safety and efficacy are established, vaccines can advance into clinical trials in humans. If the vaccines induce the expected immune response and protection and are found safe, they can be mass produced for vaccination of the population.</p> <p>Currently, we lack virus isolates – or samples of the virus – to test the vaccines against. We also lack antibodies to make sure the vaccine is in good shape. We need the virus in order to test if the immune response induced by the vaccine works. Also, we need to establish what animals to test the vaccine on. That potentially could include mice and nonhuman primates.</p> <p>Vaccine development will likely take months.</p> <p><strong>Can humans ever be safe from these types of outbreaks?</strong></p> <p>We expect that these types of outbreaks will occur for the foreseeable future in irregular intervals.</p> <p>To try to prevent large outbreaks and pandemics, we need to improve surveillance in both humans and animals worldwide as well as invest in risk assessment, allowing scientists to evaluate the potential threat to human health from the virus, for detected viruses.</p> <p>We believe that global action is needed to invest in novel vaccine approaches that can be employed quickly whenever a new virus like the current coronavirus – and also viruses similar to Zika, Ebola or influenza – emerges. Currently, responses to emerging pathogens are mostly reactive, meaning they start after the outbreak happens. We need a more proactive approach supported by continuous funding.</p> <p><em>Written by Aubree Gordon and Florian Krammer. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/when-will-there-be-a-coronavirus-vaccine-5-questions-answered-130590">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Longest running what?! Queen Elizabeth’s latest milestone

<p>Queen Elizabeth can tuck another special achievement as of January 2020, after becoming the world’s fifth longest reigning monarch.</p> <p>The 93-year-old surpassed the 19th century Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph I - with her time on the throne so far lasting 67 years and 356 days as of January 27, 2020.</p> <p>The record follows the Queen’s other long list of accolades, including her title as the longest-living reigning monarch.</p> <p>Adrian Hilton, a lecturer in politics, philosophy and political theology, took to <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://twitter.com/Adrian_Hilton/status/1221353113401155585?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet/" target="_blank">Twitter </a>to announce the news.</p> <p>The expert recognised that the Queen – who officially started her reign on February 6, 1952 – had moved up to fifth place on the list of the world’s longest reigning monarchs.</p> <p>“Just to say, today the Queen moved up a notch in the table of the world’s longest reigns, surpassing that of Franz Joseph I. God Save the Queen.,” he wrote alongside a screenshot of the Wikipedia lead table.</p> <p>K'inich Janaab Pakal, who was one of the most famous seventh-century Mayan rulers, sits in front of the British royal.</p> <p>In third place is Johann II of Liechtenstein, who ruled from 1858 and 1929, followed by Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.</p> <p>King Bhumibol reigned from 1946 until his death in October 2016 and was the world's longest living reigning monarch before the Queen.</p> <p>Holding on to the top spot is Louis XIV of France, with an impressive 72-year and 110-day reign.</p> <p><strong>The longest-reigning monarchs </strong></p> <p>1. Louis XIV of France (reigned from 14 May 1643 to 1 September 1715)</p> <p>2. Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand (reigned from 9 June 1946 to 13 October 2016)</p> <p>3. Johann II of Liechtenstein (reigned from 12 November 1858 to 11 February 1929)</p> <p>4. K'inich Janaab Pakal (reigned from 29 July 615 to 31 August 683)</p> <p>5. Queen Elizabeth II (reigned from 6 February 1952)</p>

International Travel

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10½ commandments of writing

<p>Every author is asked by new writers for advice. There is, however, no all-encompassing, single answer that also happens to be correct. Quite a lot of commonly offered suggestions (“write every day”) don’t work for everyone and must be approached with caution.</p> <p>A few years ago, I set out to create a list that will benefit all new writers. I put ten commandments through the wringer of my peers, who suggested modifications and noted that this list applies not just to new writers but to writers at every stage of their career. Indeed, I’ve needed reminding of more than one myself.</p> <p>Here, then, are the 10½ commandments of writing – with an extra one for free.</p> <p><strong>1. Read widely</strong></p> <p>To succeed as a writer, you must occasionally read. Yet there are wannabe-novelists who haven’t picked up a book in years. There are also, more tragically, writers too busy to engage with the end-product of our craft. If the only thing you’re reading is yourself you are bound to miss out on valuable lessons.</p> <p>The same applies to reading only within a favourite genre. A varied diet will strengthen your literary muscles.</p> <p><strong>2. Write</strong></p> <p>No need to thrash out 1,000 words a day or pen a perfect poem before breakfast, but you do have to write. The fundamental qualification for being a writer is putting words on the page.</p> <p>If you aren’t doing that now, it’s possible you never will.</p> <p><strong>3. Follow your heart</strong></p> <p>When you really want to write literary fiction, but the market wants paranormal romance, write literary fiction. Chasing paranormal romance will be futile. Writing well is hard enough without cynicism getting in the way.</p> <p>Passion doesn’t always pay, but it increases the odds of your work finding a home.</p> <p><strong>4. Be strategic</strong></p> <p>But the choice is never between just literary fiction and paranormal romance. You might have poetry and narrative non-fiction passion projects as well, and it’s possible narrative non-fiction will appeal to the widest audience. If a wider audience is what you want, narrative non-fiction is the one to choose.</p> <p>If, however, you don’t give two hoots about your audience, write what you like.</p> <p>There are lots of different kinds of writers and lots of different paths to becoming the writer you want to be.</p> <p><strong>5. Be brave</strong></p> <p>Writing is hard, intellectually and physically. It also takes emotional work, dealing with exposure, rejection, fear and impostor syndrome. It’s better you know this upfront, in order to fortify yourself.</p> <p>These crises, however, are surmountable. We know this because there are writers out there, leading somewhat normal lives, even healthy and happy ones. You can too, if you don’t give up.</p> <p>The ones who persist are the ones who prevail.</p> <p><strong>6. Be visible</strong></p> <p>Many writers would prefer they remain hidden in a dark cave for all eternity. But stories demand to be communicated, which means leaving that cave. Whether it’s you or your written word, or both, broaching the bubble of self-isolation is important.</p> <p>This doesn’t mean assaulting every social platform and attending every festival and convention. Find the kind of engagement that suits you and embrace it, and don’t overdo it. Remember: you still have to write.</p> <p><strong>7. Be professional</strong></p> <p>Don’t lie. Don’t belittle your peers and don’t steal from them. Keep your promises. Communicate. Try to behave like someone people will want to work with – because we all have to do that, at some point.</p> <p><strong>8. Listen</strong></p> <p>Heed what people you’re working with are saying, because you never know what gems of knowledge you might glean – about craft, about the market, about something you’re working on – among the knowledge you (think you) already possess.</p> <p><strong>9. Don’t settle</strong></p> <p>Every story requires different skills. You’ll never, therefore, stop learning how to write. The day you think you’ve worked it out is the day the ground beneath you begins to erode, dropping you headlong into a metaphorical sinkhole – and nobody wants that. Least of all your readers.</p> <p>Readers can tell when you’re getting lazy, just like they can tell when you’re faking. You’re one of them. Deep down, you’ll be the first to know.</p> <p><strong>10. Work hard</strong></p> <p>Put in the hours and you’re likely to get some return on your investment. How many hours, though?</p> <p>There’s a wonderful saying: “Even a thief takes ten years to learn her trade.” Writing is no different to any other career. Hope for overnight success; plan for being like everyone else.</p> <p><strong>The bonus commandments</strong></p> <p>When I put this list to my friends, several raised the importance of finding your people. Although I agree this is an important principle, I would argue it is implicit in commandments 6-8: these have no meaning without engaging. I decided to encapsulate this as <strong>10.5. Embrace community</strong></p> <p>After I’d been teaching and giving talks on this topic for several years, someone suggested another commandment that lies beneath the rest. It is so fundamental none will work unless you have this in spades. It is <strong>0. Really want it</strong>, which sounds so obvious that it barely needs stating – except it does.</p> <p>One day, I may no longer want to write. If that happens, I will take every mention of writing from this list and substitute the name of a new vocation – because this list applies to everything.</p> <p><em>Written by Sean Williams. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/10-commandments-of-writing-129069">The Conversation.</a></em></p>

Retirement Life

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The Wuhan coronavirus is now in Australia – here’s what you need to know

<p>The Wuhan coronavirus is now in Australia – here’s what you need to know</p> <p>New South Wales Health has <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-25/first-confirmed-coronavirus-case-australian-as-china-toll-rises/11900428">confirmed</a> three men in their 30s, 40s and 50s in Sydney have tested positive to the new Wuhan coronavirus after returning from China.</p> <p>This follows <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-25/first-confirmed-coronavirus-case-australian-as-china-toll-rises/11900428">Australia’s first case of the virus</a> in a patient treated at Melbourne’s <a href="https://7news.com.au/news/health/first-australian-coronavirus-case-confirmed-in-victoria-c-664530">Monash Medical Centre</a> – a man in his 50s who spent two weeks in Wuhan.</p> <p>This brings the total number of Australian cases so far to four.</p> <p>The outbreak is still in its early days, but the early identification and isolation of people suspected of having the virus will go a long way to preventing local transmission in Australia.</p> <p><strong>How many people have been infected worldwide?</strong></p> <p>There are now <a href="https://flutrackers.com/forum/forum/-2019-ncov-new-coronavirus/823378-2019-ncov-confirmed-case-list-by-country-w-links-to-sources-total-cases-1-322-total-deaths-41-as-of-5-am-et-january-25-2020">1,323 confirmed cases</a> of the Wuhan coronavirus worldwide, mostly among people in China.</p> <p>The virus has also claimed 41 lives, including the youngest victim, a <a href="https://time.com/5770924/wuhan-coronavirus-youngest-death/">36-year-old man</a> in Wuhan.</p> <p><a href="https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200124-sitrep-4-2019-ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=9272d086_2">Cases</a> have also been identified in Japan, South Korea, the United States, <a href="https://www.thelocal.fr/20200125/coronavirus-in-france-what-you-need-to-know">France</a>, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.</p> <p>The epicentre of the outbreak seems to be a seafood and live animal market in Wuhan. It was initially thought transmission had been from infected animals to those people at the market, with no or limited person-to-person spread.</p> <p>However, we’ve since learnt there has been person-to-person transmission in people who <a href="https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/health-problems/explainer-how-the-wuhan-coronavirus-jumped-from-animals-to-humans/news-story/172d9f3163140ed05e1f961253e24978">haven’t visited live animal markets</a>, including the <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-25/first-confirmed-coronavirus-case-australian-as-china-toll-rises/11900428">Melbourne case</a>.</p> <p>The person infected in Vietnam <a href="https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200124-sitrep-4-2019-ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=9272d086_2">had not been to China</a> at all, but was a family member of someone infected in Wuhan.</p> <p>This means an animal infection has probably learnt to jump to humans and then spread within our species.</p> <p><strong>Who is most at risk?</strong></p> <p>Of the cases in China, 21% have been reported as severely ill and, on earlier estimates, <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/368/bmj.m308.full.pdf">3% of those infected</a> had died.</p> <p>The ages of the <a href="http://www.nhc.gov.cn/yjb/s3578/202001/5d19a4f6d3154b9fae328918ed2e3c8a.shtml">first 17 people who died from the virus</a> range from 48 to 89, with an average age of 73. Thirteen (76%) were men and four (24%) were women.</p> <p>Most of those who have died from the virus appear to have underlying health conditions, and we know for sure in the case of ten people whose health information has been released.</p> <p>These people <a href="http://www.nhc.gov.cn/yjb/s3578/202001/5d19a4f6d3154b9fae328918ed2e3c8a.shtml">suffered from a range of chronic conditions</a>, including high blood pressure (41%), diabetes (29%), stroke (18%), as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary artery disease, chronic kidney disease and Parkinson’s disease.</p> <p>If this pattern continues with the mounting death toll, older men with underlying health problems are at highest risk of dying.</p> <p><strong>How does it spread?</strong></p> <p>If the Wuhan coronavirus behaves like the other human coronaviruses such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), droplets of saliva, urine, faeces and blood could all be infectious.</p> <p>Contact with these substances – directly from people while they’re infectious, or indirectly from surfaces contaminated with these body substances – could lead to infection.</p> <p>This is why prompt isolation of suspected cases and good infection control practises are so important, especially if a person turns into a “super spreader”. This means they produce large amounts of virus and are unusually infectious.</p> <p><strong>How infectious is the virus?</strong></p> <p>The World Health Organisation <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/368/bmj.m308.full.pdf">estimates</a> the coronavirus has a reproduction number (R0) of 1.4-2.5. This means one infected person has the ability to infect 1.4-2.5 susceptible people. But this figure could be revised as the outbreak evolves.</p> <p>In comparison, SARS had a <a href="https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s12916-015-0450-0">suspected reproduction number of of 2-5</a>. This meant one infected person could infect up to five susceptible people.</p> <p>So the Wuhan coronavirus appears less infectious than SARS.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/cda-phlncd-sars.htm">risk of transmission</a> for SARS was highest five to ten days into the illness. If people were isolated early on in their illness, after showing symptoms, they were unlikely to infect anyone else.</p> <p>But <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/pb-assets/Lancet/pdfs/S0140673620301549.pdf">one study</a> showed it was possible to be infectious with the Wuhan coronavirus without showing symptoms. This raises the possibility of an infected person transmitting the virus to others without knowing they’re sick. This would make it much harder for health authorities to identify and isolate the infectious people and to control the outbreak.</p> <p><strong>What is Australia doing to reduce transmission?</strong></p> <p>State and territory guidelines advise GPs and hospitals to insist people suspected of the virus wear masks and are isolated as soon as possible. They should also call ahead to their GP practice or hospital, so precautions can be in place before their arrival.</p> <p>If the virus started to spread in Australia, which is unlikely, health authorities would likely advise people to avoid large gatherings and ensure they <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov#how-you-can-help-prevent-2019ncov">washed their hands</a> frequently.</p> <p>There is a role for masks when going to public places but their effectiveness depends on the <a href="https://theconversation.com/ive-always-wondered-why-many-people-in-asian-countries-wear-masks-and-whether-they-work-90178">type of mask</a>, the duration it’s worn, and how well it’s fitted.</p> <p>Researchers are <a href="https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2020/01/uq-responds-coronavirus-outbreak">currently working to develop a vaccine</a>, but it’s likely to be many months before an approved vaccine is available.</p> <p><em>Written by Sanjaya Senanayake. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-wuhan-coronavirus-is-now-in-australia-heres-what-you-need-to-know-130580">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

Travel Tips

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5 tips to help ease your grandchild back into school mode after the holidays

<p>Most children in Australia are going back to school in just over a week. Children experience a <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/children-australia/article/selfreported-perceptions-readiness-and-psychological-wellbeing-of-primary-school-students-prior-to-transitioning-to-a-secondary-boarding-school/C86DEA7A6CD20AAF29C26C6947A01F7E">mix of emotions</a> when it comes to going to school.</p> <p>Easing back after the holidays can range from feeling really excited and eager to concern, fear or anxiety. Getting butterflies or general worry about going back to school is <a href="https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/school-stress.html">common</a>.</p> <p>Among the <a href="https://media.bloomsbury.com/rep/files/ch2-outline.pdf">biggest worries of preschool children</a> are feeling left out, being teased or saying goodbye to their caregiver at drop off. Concerns of <a href="https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/research-resources/childline-annual-review/">school-aged children are about </a> exams (27%), not wanting to return to school (13%), and problems with teachers (14%). Some feel lonely and isolated.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.missionaustralia.com.au/publications/youth-survey/1326-mission-australia-youth-survey-report-2019/file">main concerns</a> for teens are coping with stress (44.7%), school or study problems (34.3%) and mental health (33.2%).</p> <p>Not thinking about school until it is time to go back is one way to enjoy the last week of holidays. But for some, this can make going back to school more difficult.</p> <p>Supporting parents, children and young people with back-to-school challenges can help reduce negative school experiences using the below steps.</p> <p><strong>1. Set up a back-to-school routine</strong></p> <p>Create structure about going back with a <a href="https://healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au/age-6-12/mental-health-conditions-in-children/anxiety/tackling-back-to-school-anxiety">school routine</a>. Be guided by your knowledge and history of what best supports your child during times of change and transition.</p> <p><a href="https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/school-learning/school-homework-tips/morning-routine-for-school">Set up a practical chart of getting ready</a>. You could include:</p> <ul> <li>what needs to be done each day for school like getting up, eating breakfast, dressing</li> <li>what help does your child need from you to get ready?</li> <li>what they can do on their own? (Establish these together).</li> </ul> <p>The first week back can cause disruption from being in holiday mode so don’t forget <a href="https://childmind.org/article/encouraging-good-sleep-habits/">healthy habits around sleep</a> (<a href="https://www.health.qld.gov.au/news-events/news/physical-activity-exercise-sleep-screen-time-kids-teens">around 9-11 hours for children aged 5-13</a> and 8-10 hours for those aged 14-17), <a href="https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines#npa517">exercise</a> (around <a href="https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines#npa517">one hour per day</a> of moderate to vigorous physical activity <a href="https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/nutrition-fitness/physical-activity/physical-activity-how-much">three times a week</a>) and <a href="https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/food-and-your-life-stages">diet</a>.</p> <p>Having <a href="https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines#npa517">consistent bed and wake-up </a> times helps too. The National Sleep Foundation <a href="https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/plan-ahead-start-back-school-bedtime-routines-now">suggest starting two weeks</a> before the first day of school to set sleep routine habits. But a week beforehand will help get your kid on their way.</p> <p>In some way, parents go back to school with their children. Consider adjusting your own schedule to make the transition smoother. If you can’t in the mornings, arrange the evenings so you can give as much time as your child needs, especially during the first week.</p> <p><strong>2. Talk about going back to school</strong></p> <p>Most children deal with some level of stress or anxiety about school. They have insight into their school experiences, so find out what worries them by asking directly.</p> <p>You can offer support by normalising experiences of worry and nerves. <a href="https://www.heysigmund.com/how-to-deal-with-school-anxiety-no-more-distressing-goodbyes/">Reassure your child</a> the feelings they have are common and they will likely overcome them once they have settled in. Worries and courage can exist together.</p> <p>Depending on your child’s age, you can also try the following to help:</p> <ul> <li>early years/pre-school – write <a href="https://www.andnextcomesl.com/2018/08/free-social-stories-about-going-to-school.html">a social story </a> about going to daycare or school and the routine ahead</li> <li>primary years – set up a <a href="https://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/childhood/professionals/learning/trkpp6.pdf">peer-buddy system</a> where a peer or older child meets yours at the school gate or, if neighbours, kids can go into school together</li> <li>secondary years – establish healthy routines as a family. Support each other around <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-parents-and-teens-can-reduce-the-impact-of-social-media-on-youth-well-being-87619">technology</a> use, sleep and <a href="https://www.education.vic.gov.au/parents/going-to-school/Pages/tips-starting-school.aspx">schoolwork</a>.</li> </ul> <p><strong>3. Help create a sense of school belonging</strong></p> <p>A sense of belonging at school <a href="https://theconversation.com/many-australian-school-students-feel-they-dont-belong-in-school-new-research-97866">can affect</a> academic success and student well-being. Parents can facilitate positive attitudes about school by setting an encouraging tone when talking about it.</p> <p>Also show an interest in school life and work, and be available to support your child both <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10648-016-9389-8">academically and socially</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.webmd.com/special-reports/kids-and-stress/20150827/stress-survey">More than half of the parents in one survey</a> said homework and schoolwork were the greatest drivers of stress in their children. When parents are more engaged in their child’s schoolwork, they are better able to support them through it.</p> <p><strong>4. Look out for signs of stress</strong></p> <p>Research suggests <a href="https://www.webmd.com/special-reports/kids-and-stress/20150827/stress-survey">parents can miss stress or anxiety</a> in their children. Parents can spot stress if their child (depending on age):</p> <ul> <li>is more clingy than usual or tries escape from the classroom</li> <li>appears restless and flighty or cries</li> <li>shows an increased desire to avoid activities through negotiations and deal-making</li> <li>tries to get out of going to school</li> <li>retreats to thumb sucking, baby language or increased attachment to favourite soft toys (for younger students).</li> </ul> <p>If these behaviours persist for about half a term, talk to your classroom teacher or school well-being coordinator about what is happening. Together work on a strategy of support. There may be something more going on than usual school nerves, like <a href="https://lens.monash.edu/@christine-grove/2018/01/18/1299375/no-one-size-fits-all-approach-in-tackling-cyberbullying">bullying</a>.</p> <p><strong>5. Encourage questions</strong></p> <p>Encourage questions children and teens may have about the next term. What will be the same? What will be different?</p> <p>Often schools provide transition information. If the school hasn’t, it might be worth contacting them to see if they can share any resources.</p> <p>Most importantly, let your child know nothing is off limits to talk about. <a href="https://www.heysigmund.com/school-anxiety-what-parents-can-do/">Set up times to chat</a> throughout the school term – it can help with back-to-school nerves.</p> <p><em>Written by Christine Grové and Kelly-Ann Allen. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/5-tips-to-help-ease-your-child-back-into-school-mode-after-the-holidays-129780">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

Art

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Alleged love child of Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla launches legal bid

<p>A British-born man who was adopted and moved to Australia believes he is the love child of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.</p> <p>While it has been perhaps a great rumour believed by few and questioned by many, Simon Dorante-Day, 53, is taking his beliefs one step further by going to the country’s High Court to try and force Britain’s future King and his wife to take a DNA test.</p> <p>Simon says he is not deterred from his “40 year search” for truth, despite court clerks laughing when he first filed his papers and his legal claim being thrown out three times already.</p> <p>He believes that his parentage will have been discussed by the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry at this month's Sandringham summit where the terms of Harry and Meghan's 'Megxit' deal were thrashed out.</p> <p>In 2019, Simon caused upset when he claimed Princess Diana's death in Paris in August 1997 came after 'she was going to go public with it'. </p> <p>The 53-year-old claims his adoptive grandparents Winifred and Ernest worked for the Queen and Prince Philip as a cook and a gardener respectively and had told him “many times” that he was indeed “Charles and Camilla's child”. </p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/Btt6-uXlNZr/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/Btt6-uXlNZr/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by Royal Life Europe 👑 (@royal_life_europe)</a> on Feb 10, 2019 at 2:10pm PST</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>“I know it sounds unbelievable, but anything I say is checkable... I’m simply a man looking for my biological parents, and every road has led me back to Camilla and Charles,” he said.</p> <p>Mr Dorante was born in Gosport, Hampshire in April 1966 and was adopted when he was 18-months-old by Winifred and Ernest. </p> <p>If Simon’s odd allegations are actually true, it means he would have been conceived in 1965, when Charles and Camilla were just 17 and 18.</p> <p>He claims his “compelling” evidence is his Windsor-like cheekbones and teeth, as well as his “Camilla-style hair”.</p> <p>The Brit also says he has compelling evidence proving his claim but said online: “As things are all part of the court case at the moment I can't discuss much further.”’</p> <p>Simon now resiudes in Queensland and has spoken many times about his belief that he was adopted out by an 18-year-old Camilla Shand – a claim his adoptive grandparents also allegedly support.</p> <p>“My grandmother, who worked for the Queen, told me outright that I was Camilla and Charles' son many times,” he explained to <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://www.newidea.com.au/princes-charles-camilla-secret-son-exposed-paternity-case" target="_blank">New Idea</a>.</p> <p>His wife Elvianna said: “We believe that Camilla fell pregnant to Charles and that Camilla, with the help of her family and the royals, kept Simon until he was 18 months old.”</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/BtgyXvvF6x5/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BtgyXvvF6x5/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by Royal Life Europe 👑 (@royal_life_europe)</a> on Feb 5, 2019 at 11:44am PST</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>The 53-year-old filed papers to the High Court just before Christmas, claiming his story is the “most explosive” thing to happen to the palace.  </p> <p>“It's definitely the most significant step I've taken so far – I've had to force a deadline, hold them to a date, because we need answers,” he said.  </p> <p>In the wake of Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan announcing they were stepping down from their senior royal positions, Mr Dorante-Day is adamant his case would have come up during crisis talks at Sandringham Estate. </p> <p>“While the whole world was thinking they were talking about Harry, we believe this legal battle would've also been on the agenda and discussed,” he said. </p> <p>Simon, who goes by “Prince Simon Charles” on social media, regularly posts updates on Facebook of his bid to be recognised by royal family members.</p>

Family & Pets

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Hidden women of history: Catherine Hay Thomson – the Australian undercover journalist who went inside asylums and hospitals

<p><a rel="noopener" href="https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-147135448/view" target="_blank"><em><strong>See pictures of Catherine Hay Thomson here. </strong></em></a></p> <p>In 1886, a year before American journalist Nellie Bly <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2019/07/28/she-went-undercover-expose-an-insane-asylums-horrors-now-nellie-bly-is-getting-her-due/">feigned insanity</a> to enter an asylum in New York and became a household name, Catherine Hay Thomson arrived at the entrance of Kew Asylum in Melbourne on “a hot grey morning with a lowering sky”.</p> <p>Hay Thomson’s two-part article, <a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/6089302">The Female Side of Kew Asylum</a> for The Argus newspaper revealed the conditions women endured in Melbourne’s public institutions.</p> <p>Her articles were controversial, engaging, empathetic, and most likely the first known by an Australian female undercover journalist.</p> <p><strong>A ‘female vagabond’</strong></p> <p>Hay Thomson was accused of being a spy by Kew Asylum’s supervising doctor. The Bulletin called her “the female vagabond”, a reference to Melbourne’s famed undercover reporter of a decade earlier, Julian Thomas. But she was not after notoriety.</p> <p>Unlike Bly and her ambitious contemporaries who turned to “stunt journalism” to escape the boredom of the women’s pages – one of the few avenues open to women newspaper writers – Hay Thomson was initially a teacher and ran <a href="https://www.austlit.edu.au/austlit/page/A79772">schools</a>with her mother in Melbourne and Ballarat.</p> <p>In <a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/207826580?searchTerm=%22Catherine%20Hay%20Thomson%22&amp;searchLimits=exactPhrase=Catherine+Hay+Thomson%7C%7C%7CanyWords%7C%7C%7CnotWords%7C%7C%7CrequestHandler%7C%7C%7CdateFrom%7C%7C%7CdateTo%7C%7C%7Csortby">1876</a>, she became one of the first female students to sit for the matriculation exam at Melbourne University, though women weren’t allowed to study at the university until 1880.</p> <p><strong>Going undercover</strong></p> <p>Hay Thomson’s series for The Argus began in March 1886 with a piece entitled <a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/6087478?searchTerm=%22The%20Inner%20Life%20of%20the%20Melbourne%20Hospital%22&amp;searchLimits=">The Inner Life of the Melbourne Hospital</a>. She secured work as an assistant nurse at Melbourne Hospital (now <a href="https://www.thermh.org.au/about/our-history">The Royal Melbourne Hospital</a>) which was under scrutiny for high running costs and an abnormally high patient death rate.</p> <p>Her articles increased the pressure. She observed that the assistant nurses were untrained, worked largely as cleaners for poor pay in unsanitary conditions, slept in overcrowded dormitories and survived on the same food as the patients, which she described in stomach-turning detail.</p> <p>The hospital linen was dirty, she reported, dinner tins and jugs were washed in the patients’ bathroom where poultices were also made, doctors did not wash their hands between patients.</p> <p>Writing about a young woman caring for her dying friend, a 21-year-old impoverished single mother, Hay Thomson observed them “clinging together through all fortunes” and added that “no man can say that friendship between women is an impossibility”.</p> <p>The Argus editorial called for the setting up of a “ladies’ committee” to oversee the cooking and cleaning. Formal nursing training was introduced in Victoria three years later.</p> <p><strong>Kew Asylum</strong></p> <p>Hay Thomson’s next <a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/6089302">series</a>, about women’s treatment in the Kew Asylum, was published in March and April 1886.</p> <p>Her articles predate <a href="https://www.sas.upenn.edu/~cavitch/pdf-library/Bly_TenDays.pdf">Ten Days in a Madhouse</a> written by Nellie Bly (born <a href="https://www.biography.com/activist/nellie-bly">Elizabeth Cochran</a>) for Joseph Pulitzer’s <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/New-York-World">New York World</a>.</p> <p>While working in the asylum for a fortnight, Hay Thomson witnessed overcrowding, understaffing, a lack of training, and a need for woman physicians. Most of all, the reporter saw that many in the asylum suffered from institutionalisation rather than illness.</p> <p>She described “the girl with the lovely hair” who endured chronic ear pain and was believed to be delusional. The writer countered “her pain is most probably real”.</p> <p>Observing another patient, Hay Thomson wrote:</p> <p><em>She requires to be guarded – saved from herself; but at the same time, she requires treatment … I have no hesitation in saying that the kind of treatment she needs is unattainable in Kew Asylum.</em></p> <p>The day before the first asylum article was published, Hay Thomson gave evidence to the final sitting of Victoria’s <a href="https://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/papers/govpub/VPARL1886No15Pi-clxxii.pdf">Royal Commission on Asylums for the Insane and Inebriate</a>, pre-empting what was to come in The Argus. Among the Commission’s final recommendations was that a new governing board should supervise appointments and training and appoint “lady physicians” for the female wards.</p> <p><strong>Suffer the little children</strong></p> <p>In May 1886, <a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/6095144/276118">An Infant Asylum written “by a Visitor”</a> was published. The institution was a place where mothers – unwed and impoverished - could reside until their babies were weaned and later adopted out.</p> <p>Hay Thomson reserved her harshest criticism for the absent fathers:</p> <p><em>These women … have to bear the burden unaided, all the weight of shame, remorse, and toil, [while] the other partner in the sin goes scot free.</em></p> <p>For another article, <a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/6099966?searchTerm=%22Among%20the%20Blind%3A%20Victorian%20Asylum%20and%20School%22&amp;searchLimits=">Among the Blind: Victorian Asylum and School</a>, she worked as an assistant needlewoman and called for talented music students at the school to be allowed to sit exams.</p> <p>In <a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/254464232?searchTerm=%22A%20Penitent%E2%80%99s%20Life%20in%20the%20Magdalen%20Asylum%22&amp;searchLimits=">A Penitent’s Life in the Magdalen Asylum</a>, Hay Thomson supported nuns’ efforts to help women at the Abbotsford Convent, most of whom were not residents because they were “fallen”, she explained, but for reasons including alcoholism, old age and destitution.</p> <p><strong>Suffrage and leadership</strong></p> <p>Hay Thomson helped found the <a href="https://www.australsalon.org/130th-anniversary-celebration-1">Austral Salon of Women, Literature and the Arts</a>in January 1890 and <a href="https://ncwvic.org.au/about-us.html#est">the National Council of Women of Victoria</a>. Both organisations are still celebrating and campaigning for women.</p> <p>Throughout, she continued writing, becoming <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_Talk_(magazine)">Table Talk</a> magazine’s music and social critic.</p> <p>In 1899 she became editor of The Sun: An Australian Journal for the Home and Society, which she bought with Evelyn Gough. Hay Thomson also gave a series of lectures titled <a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/145847122?searchTerm=%22catherine%20hay%20thomson%22%20and%20%22women%20in%20politics%22&amp;searchLimits=">Women in Politics</a>.</p> <p>A Melbourne hotel maintains that Hay Thomson’s private residence was secretly on the fourth floor of Collins Street’s <a href="https://www.melbourne.intercontinental.com/catherine-hay-thomson">Rialto building</a> around this time.</p> <p><strong>Home and back</strong></p> <p>After selling The Sun, Hay Thomson returned to her birth city, Glasgow, Scotland, and to a precarious freelance career for English magazines such as <a href="https://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/serial?id=cassellsmag">Cassell’s</a>.</p> <p>Despite her own declining fortunes, she brought attention to writer and friend <a href="http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/carmichael-grace-elizabeth-jennings-5507">Grace Jennings Carmichael</a>’s three young sons, who had been stranded in a Northampton poorhouse for six years following their mother’s death from pneumonia. After Hay Thomson’s article in The Argus, the Victorian government granted them free passage home.</p> <p>Hay Thomson eschewed the conformity of marriage but <a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/65330270?searchTerm=&amp;searchLimits=l-publictag=Mrs+T+F+Legge+%28nee+Hay+Thomson%29">tied the knot</a> back in Melbourne in 1918, aged 72. The wedding at the Women Writer’s Club to Thomas Floyd Legge, culminated “a romance of forty years ago”. <a href="https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/140219851">Mrs Legge</a>, as she became, died in Cheltenham in 1928, only nine years later.</p> <p><em>Written by Kerrie Davies and Willa McDonald. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/hidden-women-of-history-catherine-hay-thomson-the-australian-undercover-journalist-who-went-inside-asylums-and-hospitals-129352">The Conversation.</a></em></p>

Art

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Princess Diana’s butler shows unseen letter to prove she would support Harry and Meghan

<p>Princess Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell has shared a part of a letter written by the late royal, which supports the theory she would have backed her son, Prince Harry and his wife, Duchess Meghan, wholeheartedly.</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/B74YiECHn44/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B74YiECHn44/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by The Royal Family (@british.royals)</a> on Jan 28, 2020 at 3:00pm PST</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>The former butler and confidante to the Princess of Wales' says her words are "as appropriate today as they were when she wrote them".</p> <p>The handwritten note was sent from Diana to Burrell, who worked with the princess until her death in 1997.</p> <p>He posted the snippet of the letter on Instagram along with a black and white photo of Prince William and Prince Harry, with the caption: "As Harry, Meghan and Archie embark on a new life, I am reminded of some poignant words which Princess Diana wrote to me many years ago.</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/B7yDcEVj9C-/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B7yDcEVj9C-/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by Paul Burrell RVM (@officialpaulburrell)</a> on Jan 26, 2020 at 4:00am PST</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>"They are a mother's words of unconditional love which are as appropriate today as they were when she wrote them over 24 years ago."</p> <p>Diana's note read: "I love my boys to death and hope that the seeds I've planted will grow and bring the strength, knowledge and stability that is needed."</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/Bz6b0WCHphA/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="margin: 8px 0 0 0; padding: 0 4px;"><a style="color: #000; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none; word-wrap: break-word;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/Bz6b0WCHphA/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A beautiful throwback of Diana and her wonderful Butler Paul Burrell☺️❤️ • • • #PrincessDiana #PaulBurrell #PrincessOfWales #PeoplesPrincess #EnglandsRose #QueenOfHearts #LadyDiana #British #England #UnitedKingdom ✨🇬🇧</a></p> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;">A post shared by <a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/tiarasandteapots/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank"> British Obsessed💗✨</a> (@tiarasandteapots) on Jul 14, 2019 at 2:56pm PDT</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Burrell has previously shared his personal support for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, claiming Meghan was forced to find her own place within the royal family without support.</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/B74Or0cHOn9/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B74Or0cHOn9/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by Harryandmeghan_ (@harryandmeghan_)</a> on Jan 28, 2020 at 1:34pm PST</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Speaking to Reuters after Harry and Meghan's tell-all interview in Africa, Burrell said: "There's no guidance. There's no support. There's no rulebook".</p> <p>"Harry said that [he and William] are on different paths. I know what he means by that. William and Kate have a map in front of them. They're headed for monarchy."</p>

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No spotlight, just sunlight: Ash Barty's winning style

<p>Ash Barty has made her way into the Australian Open further than ever before as she aims to become the first hometown hero since Lleyton Hewitt to qualify for the finals.</p> <p>Barty was defeated in the quarter-finals last year by Petra Kvitova but got her revenge against the seventh-seeded Czech on Tuesday, winning 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 to keep the dream alive of claiming a second grand slam singles title.</p> <p>The French Open champion will go head-to-head with American Sofia Kenin in her semi-final on Thursday.</p> <p>Kenin’s quarter final victory over Ons Jabeur was the first match on Rod Laver Arena when the game started at 11 am before Barty vs Kvitova followed that clash at lunchtime.</p> <p>When the schedule was announced, there was an outcry from people questioning why the top seed wasn’t given the blockbuster prime time slot at night on centre court.</p> <p>On<span> </span><em>The Tennis Podcast</em>, BBC commentator David Law said: “We all thought she (Barty) should be scheduled in the night match because there’d be so many more eyeballs on it.</p> <p>“A lot of people are at work (during the day), a lot of kids are at school.”</p> <p>When asked by Law in her post-match press conference whether she herself had requested to play during the day rather than at night, Barty gave a cryptic response where she refrained from confirming if that was the case, but did mention how much she loves playing under the sun.</p> <p>“I think everyone has preferences of when they like to play but for me I love playing in the sun, I love playing in the daytime,” she said.</p> <p>“We play more matches in the daytime than we do at night, but I think with the other quarter-final being played in the morning, it was fine as well. I’m happy to play in the sun anytime.”</p> <p>Law then later said: “I asked if she’d requested to play in the daytime because of the conditions being different to what she played Kvitova in last year when they played in the night session.</p> <p>“She didn’t answer explicitly.</p> <p>“It’s quite clear she and the team have made a request to play in the afternoon.</p> <p>“She is the world No.1, she is the big star in Australia and maybe that would have carried some weight.”</p>

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The major $2.1 billion crackdown coming to Centrelink

<p>A major Centrelink overhaul would be able to save the government $2.1 billion by adapting the way welfare recipients report their employment income.</p> <p>Over 1.2 million people receiving welfare payments could soon be made to specifically report the actual fortnightly income to Centrelink, rather than giving a calculation based on their wage and hours worked.</p> <p>Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston says she hoped the proposal will make the process simpler. </p> <p>“We want to make sure that Australians who need financial support are able to get the support that they are eligible for – no less and no more,'” Minister Ruston said.</p> <p>“The current system of calculating earnings can be confusing and lead to misreporting especially when accounting for overtime or penalty rates.</p> <p>“These changes will make accurate reporting much easier for people getting a social security payment.”</p> <p>Under the system currently in place, welfare recipients are required to report their or their partner’s earnings based on the number of shifts they have worked and their hourly rate.</p> <p>The coalition hopes that by simplifying the reporting system, it will become more accurate and prevent those receiving payments being left owing money or having to repay the government for being overpaid.</p> <p>The new change would additionally allow employment and income data to be pre-filled online, as it is also occurs with online tax returns.</p> <p>Draft legislation detailing the changes will be released for consultation this week.</p> <p>The coalition has hopes to bring the proposed laws to parliament when it resumes next week.</p> <p>The new system, which has already been dubbed “<a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://twitter.com/D_Melissa2/status/1221911564933926912?s=20" target="_blank">robodebt 2 on steroids</a>”, comes months after robodebt was deemed unlawful after a legal challenge in the Federal Court.</p> <p>The government has wound back on the original scheme, which is also facing a potential class action lawsuit.    </p>

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He’s human after all: Federer slapped with code violation

<p><span>The star can speak eight different languages, and now one of them has gotten him in trouble.</span></p> <p>Roger Federer faced off with a lineswoman on Tuesday after he was penalised for swearing on court during a thrilling five-set match at the Australian Open.</p> <p>The atmosphere was tense in Melbourne as the 20-time major winner trailed unseeded American Tennys Sandgren at Melbourne Park.</p> <p>During the third game of the third set, Federer began to become visibly frustrated as he swore on the court after hitting the net on a return shot.</p> <p>The commentators revealed that the tennis champion – who speaks eight languages – said an “R-rated German word.”</p> <p>Chair umpire Marijana Veljovic called a code violation for an “audible obscenity”, something the 38-year-old wasn’t expecting.</p> <p>“What did I say?” asked Federer, completely shocked as to how she understood him.</p> <p>Veljovic, who is Serbian, replied: “I can’t repeat that,” before saying that she heard him “very clearly.”</p> <p>A furious Federer then walked over to confront the lineswoman, before walking back to Veljovic who stood firmly on her decision.</p> <p>He then requested a medical timeout before returning to the court to hold serve.</p> <p>Speaking at the post-match press conference after a stunning victory, Federer, who was now much more relaxed admitted to swearing in two different languages.</p> <p>“It was a mix. Clearly she [the lineswoman] speaks mixed. Didn’t know that,” he said.</p> <p>“Next time I got to check the linespeople.”</p> <p>Federer, who was born in Basel, Switzerland, is fluent in German, French and English, and can also speak some Swedish, Spanish and Italian.</p>

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“Basketball is my life”: Nick Kyrgios on why Kobe Bryant’s tragic death moved him to tears

<p>An emotionally drained Nick Kyrgios was motivated by the tragic death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant to give it his absolute all against Rafael Nadal in their Australian Open grudge match.</p> <p>The controversial figure was praised by fans and his opponent after he bowed out of the grand slam in a pulsating four setter at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena.</p> <p>Kyrgios paid tribute to Bryant before and after the match, which was played only a few short hours after he died in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles, shocking the entire world.</p> <p>The 24-year-old, who is a huge basketball fan, was visibly emotional as he walked onto Rod Laver Arena wearing Bryant’s LA Lakers jersey in tribute to the star.</p> <p>With Bryant’s famous number 8 emblazoned on his jersey, Kyrgios struggled to contain his emotions during the warm-up.</p> <p>The Boston Celtics fan showed up to his post-match press conference after the loss in a Lakers jersey and was asked about the late sports star as soon as he sat down.</p> <p>“I never met Kobe. But basketball is practically my life. I’ve been following it for as long as I can remember,” said Kyrgios.</p> <p>“It was pretty emotional when I woke up to the news today. It was pretty heavy, like all day.</p> <p>“Obviously I was having basketball on at my house, watching the games. It was heavy. Yeah, it’s just tough. It’s horrible news.”</p> <p>He revealed Bryant inspired him to keep fighting in the fourth set where he looked down and out against the world number one.</p> <p>Kyrgios clawed his way back and forced the set into a tie-break, where he lost the match.</p> <p>“If you look at the things he stood for, what he wanted to be remembered by, I felt like, if anything, it helped me tonight,” he said.</p> <p>“When I was down a break in the fourth, I was definitely thinking about it. I fought back.”</p> <p>Kyrgios then made the ultimate tribute to Bryant.</p> <p>“I don’t think they make them like him anymore. He was different, the way he trained, the way he did things, the way he played. He was special,” he said.</p> <p>“Just sad. Like, when I think about my life [it] is literally basketball. When I think about it, it’s heavy. It’s tough.”</p>

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Stone tools reveal epic trek of nomadic Neanderthals

<p>Neanderthal (<em>Homo neanderthalensis</em>) fossils were first discovered in western Europe in the mid nineteenth century. That was just the first in a long line of surprises thrown up by our closest evolutionary cousins.</p> <p>We reveal another in <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/01/21/1918047117">our new study</a> of the Neanderthals who lived in Chagyrskaya Cave in southern Siberia around 54,000 years ago. Their distinctive stone tools are dead ringers for those found thousands of kilometres away in eastern and central Europe.</p> <p>The intercontinental journey made by these intrepid Neanderthals is equivalent to walking from Sydney to Perth, or from New York to Los Angeles, and is a rare example of long-distance migration by Palaeolithic people.</p> <p><strong>Knuckleheads no more</strong></p> <p>For a long time Neanderthals were seen as intellectual lightweights. However, <a href="https://theconversation.com/neanderthals-were-no-brutes-research-reveals-they-may-have-been-precision-workers-103858">several recent finds</a> have forced a rethink of their cognitive and creative abilities.</p> <p>Neanderthals are now believed to have created 176,000 year-old enigmatic structures made from broken stalactites in a <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2016/05/neanderthals-caves-rings-building-france-archaeology/">cave in France</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-we-discovered-that-neanderthals-could-make-art-92127">cave art in Spain</a>that dates back more than 65,000 years.</p> <p>They also used <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0045927">bird feathers</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aar5255">pierced shells</a> bearing traces of red and yellow ochre, possibly as personal ornaments. It seems likely Neanderthals had cognitive capabilities and symbolic behaviours similar to those of modern humans (<em>Homo sapiens</em>).</p> <p>Our knowledge of their geographical range and the nature of their encounters with other groups of humans has also expanded greatly in recent years.</p> <p>We now know that Neanderthals ventured beyond Europe and western Asia, reaching at least as far east as the Altai Mountains. Here, they interbred with another group of archaic humans dubbed the <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/scientists-recreate-face-denisovan-using-dna-180973177/">Denisovans</a>.</p> <p>Traces of Neanderthal interactions with our own ancestors also persist in the DNA of all living people of Eurasian descent. However, we can still only speculate why the Neanderthals vanished around 40,000 years ago.</p> <p><strong>Banished to Siberia</strong></p> <p>Other questions also remain unresolved. When did Neanderthals first arrive in the Altai? Were there later migration events? Where did these trailblazers begin their trek? And what routes did they take across Asia?</p> <p><a href="https://www.antiquity.ac.uk/projgall/derevyanko345">Chagyrskaya Cave</a> is nestled in the foothills of the Altai Mountains. The cave deposits were first excavated in 2007 and have yielded almost 90,000 stone tools and numerous bone tools.</p> <p>The excavations have also found 74 Neanderthal fossils – the richest trove of any Altai site – and a range of animal and plant remains, including the abundant bones of bison hunted and butchered by the Neanderthals.</p> <p>We used <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/520438a">optical dating</a> to determine when the cave sediments, artefacts and fossils were deposited, and conducted a detailed study of more than 3,000 stone tools recovered from the deepest archaeological levels. Microscopy analysis revealed that these have remained intact and undisturbed since accumulating during a period of cold and dry climate about 54,000 years ago.</p> <p>Using a variety of statistical techniques, we show that these artefacts bear a striking similarity to so-called <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micoquien">Micoquian</a> artefacts from central and eastern Europe. This type of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_Paleolithic">Middle Palaeolithic</a> assemblage is readily identified by the distinctive appearance of the bifaces – tools made by removing flakes from both sides – which were used to cut meat.</p> <p>Micoquian-like tools have only been found at one other site in the Altai. All other archaeological assemblages in the Altai and central Asia lack these distinctive artefacts.</p> <p>Neanderthals carrying Micoquian tools may never have reached <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00353-0">Denisova Cave</a>, as there is no fossil or sedimentary DNA evidence of Neanderthals there after 100,000 years ago.</p> <p><strong>Going the distance</strong></p> <p>The presence of Micoquian artefacts at Chagyrskaya Cave suggests at least two separate dispersals of Neanderthals into southern Siberia. Sites such as Denisova Cave were occupied by Neanderthals who entered the region before 100,000 years ago, while the Chagyrskaya Neanderthals arrived later.</p> <p>The Chagyrskaya artefacts most closely resemble those found at sites located 3,000–4,000 km to the west, between the Crimea and northern Caucasus in eastern Europe.</p> <p>Comparison of genetic data supports these geographical links, with the <a href="https://www.eva.mpg.de/genetics/genome-projects/chagyrskaya-neandertal/home.html">Chagyrskaya Neanderthal</a> sharing closer affinities with several European Neanderthals than with a Neanderthal from Denisova Cave.</p> <p>When the Chagyrskaya toolmakers (or their ancestors) left their Neanderthal homeland in eastern Europe for central Asia around 60,000 years ago, they could have headed north and east around the land-locked <a href="https://www.britannica.com/place/Caspian-Sea">Caspian Sea</a>, which was much reduced in size under the prevailing cold and arid conditions.</p> <p>Their intercontinental odyssey over thousands of kilometres is a rarely observed case of long-distance dispersal in the Palaeolithic, and highlights the value of stone tools as culturally informative markers of ancient population movements.</p> <p>Environmental reconstructions from the animal and plant remains at Chagyrskaya Cave suggest that the Neanderthal inhabitants survived in the cold, dry and treeless environment by hunting bison and horses on the steppe or tundra-steppe landscape.</p> <p>Our discoveries reinforce the emerging view of Neanderthals as creative and intelligent people who were skilled survivors. If this was the case, it makes their extinction across Eurasia even more mysterious. Did modern humans deal the fatal blow? The enigma endures, for now.</p> <p><em>Written by Kseniya Kolobova, Maciej T. Krajcarz and Richard 'Bert' Roberts. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/stone-tools-reveal-epic-trek-of-nomadic-neanderthals-129886">The Conversation.</a></em></p>

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Indigenous languages matter - but all is not lost when they change or disappear

<p>UNESCO’s <a href="https://en.iyil2019.org/">International Year of Indigenous Languages</a> recently came to an end after a year of celebration of linguistic diversity. And with a “<a href="https://en.unesco.org/news/building-legacy-2019-international-year-indigenous-languages">decade of Indigenous languages</a>” now under consideration, it’s a good time to review what these celebrations mean.</p> <p>When <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/four-things-happen-when-language-dies-and-one-thing-you-can-do-help-180962188/">the media report</a> on the crisis of endangered languages, the view there’s an <a href="https://theconversation.com/when-languages-die-we-lose-a-part-of-who-we-are-51825">associated loss</a> of culture, identity and even memory, is widely expressed.</p> <p>While there are very good reasons to deplore the loss of small languages, assuming this loss condemns cultural identity may be unhelpful and reductive to those who have already shifted away from their heritage language.</p> <p>To test the claim “losing language means losing culture”, I carried out <a href="https://www.crcpress.com/Difference-and-Repetition-in-Language-Shift-to-a-Creole-The-Expression/Ponsonnet/p/book/9781138601352">linguistic research</a> on <a href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-the-largest-language-spoken-exclusively-in-australia-kriol-56286">Kriol</a>, a postcolonial language now spoken by thousands of Indigenous Australians in the north of the country.</p> <p>I found that regardless of the language they speak, people still find ways to express old ways of speaking in a new language, so language doesn’t fundamentally alter their cultural identity. In other words, their culture can shape their language, not just the other way around.</p> <p><strong>Reclaiming suppressed languages</strong></p> <p>UNESCO’s year-long campaign has highlighted the role of language in preserving cultural identities: <a href="https://en.iyil2019.org/about/#action-plan">its action plan</a> says languages</p> <blockquote> <p><em>foster and promote unique local cultures, customs and values.</em></p> </blockquote> <p>Highlighting the role of language with respect to culture is important to help minorities access the support they need to maintain or reclaim heritage languages.<br />Many people experience strong emotional attachment to their mother tongue. In Australia and other colonised countries, many Indigenous languages have been actively suppressed.</p> <p>In such contexts, language maintenance and reclamation constitute responses to historical trauma, as well as acts of resistance.</p> <p>However, when praise of linguistic diversity does not go hand in hand with nuanced discussion about the complex relationship between language and culture, it can feed the already prevalent misconceptions that language “conditions” culture.</p> <p><strong>Post-colonial languages</strong></p> <p>In a country like Australia, where more than 80% of the Indigenous population has <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-state-of-australias-indigenous-languages-and-how-we-can-help-people-speak-them-more-often-109662">adopted new, post-colonial languages</a>, this thinking is oversimplified.</p> <p>Today, most Indigenous Australians speak <a href="http://www.tesol.org.au/esl/docs/whatis.pdf">Aboriginal English</a>, a form of English with dialectal differences. A few thousand others speak <a href="https://theconversation.com/while-old-indigenous-languages-disappear-new-ones-evolve-32559">creoles or mixed languages</a> – languages that combine English-like forms with some features of older Australian languages.</p> <p>This means for the vast majority of Indigenous Australians – and perhaps for descendants of migrants as well – singling out language as one of the main ways to maintain culture may be misplaced, and sometimes plainly hurtful.</p> <p>Under Australian Native Title laws, for instance, Indigenous groups must demonstrate cultural continuity to be granted legal rights over their traditional land. While language isn’t mentioned in the <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2019C00054">Native Title Act 1993</a>, the ways language can be used as evidence, and how it can influence court proceedings, is <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0075424208321142">well-documented</a>.</p> <p>In this context, putting emphasis on traditional languages is a <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299873235_The_Cost_of_Language_Mobilization_Wangkatha_Language_Ideologies_and_Native_Title">disadvantage</a> for English-speaking Indigenous groups.</p> <p>This shows that broader colonial ideology is still in play, where Indigenous populations are expected to conform to a static concept of Indigeneity, defined by the coloniser.</p> <p><strong>Languages can reflect values</strong></p> <p>The linguistic and anthropological literature provides many examples of how <a href="https://www.dynamicsoflanguage.edu.au/news-and-media/latest-headlines/article/?id=video-nick-evans-on-the-language-of-poetry-in-indigenous-australian-song">languages can reflect cultural values and knowledge</a>. This often surfaces in the way languages <a href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-the-seasonal-calendars-of-indigenous-australia-88471">organise their vocabularies</a>.</p> <p>For instance, some Australian languages, including Kriol, have a word that means both “feel sorry” and “give”, which fits in well with the <a href="https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520074118/pintupi-country-pintupi-self">moral values</a> of many Indigenous Australian societies. Other examples of possible correlation between language and culture are metaphors, or the expression of kinship relations.</p> <hr /> <p><em> <strong> Read more: <a href="https://theconversation.com/countering-the-claims-about-australias-aboriginal-number-systems-65042">Countering the claims about Australia's Aboriginal number systems</a> </strong> </em></p> <hr /> <p>While researchers often note such correlations between language and culture, little scientific research has explored <a href="https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-02105741">what happens to such linguistic properties</a> when people adopt a new language.</p> <p>My <a href="https://www.crcpress.com/Difference-and-Repetition-in-Language-Shift-to-a-Creole-The-Expression/Ponsonnet/p/book/9781138601352">recent linguistic study</a> has shown how <a href="https://theconversation.com/explainer-the-largest-language-spoken-exclusively-in-australia-kriol-56286">Kriol</a> can preserve many of the meanings and convey the same emotions in the older Australian languages it replaces, such as the critically endangered <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalabon_language">Dalabon language</a>.</p> <p><strong>Language is shaped by culture</strong></p> <p>The basic grammar of Kriol and the shape of its words resemble English, and differ sharply from Dalabon.</p> <p>But many of the meanings of Kriol words match the meanings of Dalabon words, so culturally specific concepts are preserved, even though the words sound different.</p> <p>For instance, in Dalabon the word <em>marrbun</em> means both “feel sorry” and “give”, as mentioned. In Kriol, we find the word <em>sori</em>, which sounds like “sorry” in English, but its meanings include “feel sorry” and “give”, just like <em>marrbun</em>. Similar adaptation mechanisms occur throughout the grammar.</p> <p>What this shows is that language and meaning are highly plastic: they adapt to what speakers have to say. In this way, language is shaped by culture, and even when language is replaced, culture can continue.</p> <p>This aligns well with the way Kriol speakers perceive their own language. Working with many Kriol speakers in communities near Katherine, Northern Territory, I have learned they regard Kriol as <a href="https://www.academia.edu/1918825/_Brainwash_from_English_Barunga_Kriol_Speakers_Views_on_Their_Own_Language">part of their identity</a>. Some wish to maintain Dalabon or other Australian languages, just like they wish to maintain artistic traditions or story telling.</p> <p>But this doesn’t mean the language they currently speak, although much closer to English, distances them from their own culture and identity.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/127519/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><em><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></em></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ma-a-ponsonnet-233319">Maïa Ponsonnet</a>, Senior lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-western-australia-1067">University of Western Australia</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/indigenous-languages-matter-but-all-is-not-lost-when-they-change-or-even-disappear-127519">original article</a>.</em></p>

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How contagious is the Wuhan coronavirus and can you spread it before symptoms start?

<p>Cases of the Wuhan coronavirus have increased dramatically over the past week, prompting concerns about how contagious the virus is and how it spreads.</p> <p>According to the <a href="https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports">World Health Organisation</a>, 16-21% of people with the virus in China became severely ill and 2-3% of those infected have died.</p> <p>A key factor that influences transmission is whether the virus can spread in the absence of symptoms – either during the incubation period (the days before people become visibly ill) or in people who never get sick.</p> <p>On Sunday, <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51254523">Chinese officials said</a> transmission had occurred during the incubation period.</p> <p>So what does the evidence tell us so far?</p> <p><strong>Can you transmit it before you get symptoms?</strong></p> <p>Influenza is the <a href="https://www.infectiousdiseaseadvisor.com/home/topics/respiratory/influenza/transfluas-study-asymptomatic-influenza-transmission-in-acute-health-care/">classic example</a> of a virus that can spread when people have no symptoms at all.</p> <p>In contrast, people with <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sars/">SARS</a> (severe acute respiratory syndrome) only spread the virus when they had symptoms.</p> <p>No published scientific data are available to support China’s claim transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus occurred during the incubation period.</p> <p>However, <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30154-9/fulltext">one study published in the Lancet medical journal showed</a> children may be shedding (or transmitting) the virus while asymptomatic. The researchers found one child in an infected family had no symptoms but a chest CT scan revealed he had pneumonia and his test for the virus came back positive.</p> <p>This is different to transmission in the incubation period, as the child never got ill, but it suggests it’s possible for children and young people to be infectious without having any symptoms.</p> <p>This is a concern because if someone gets sick, you want to be able to identify them and track their contacts. If someone transmits the virus but never gets sick, they may not be on the radar at all.</p> <p>It also makes airport screening less useful because people who are infectious but don’t have symptoms would not be detected.</p> <p><strong>How infectious is it?</strong></p> <p>The Wuhan coronavirus epidemic began when people exposed to an <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30183-5/fulltext">unknown source at a seafood market</a> in Wuhan began falling ill in early December.</p> <p>Cases remained below 50 to 60 in total until around January 20, when numbers surged. There have now been <a href="https://flutrackers.com/forum/forum/-2019-ncov-new-coronavirus/823378-2019-ncov-confirmed-case-list-by-country-w-links-to-sources-total-cases-4-576-total-deaths-106-as-of-9-40-et-january-27-2020-disclaimer-we-do-not-endorse-any-of-these-numbers">more than 4,500 cases – mostly in China – and 106 deaths</a>.</p> <p>Researchers and public health officials determine how contagious a virus is by calculating a reproduction number, or R0. The R0 is the average number of other people that one infected person will infect, in a completely non-immune population.</p> <p>Different experts have <a href="https://www.imperial.ac.uk/mrc-global-infectious-disease-analysis/news--wuhan-coronavirus/">estimated</a> the R0 of the Wuhan coronavirus is anywhere from 1.4 to over five, however the <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/368/bmj.m308.full.pdf">World Health Organisation believes</a> the RO is between 1.4 and 2.5.</p> <p>If the R0 was higher than 2-3, we should have seen more cases globally by mid January, given Wuhan is a travel and trade hub of 11 million people.</p> <p><strong>How is it transmitted?</strong></p> <p>Of the person-to-person modes of transmission, we fear respiratory transmission the most, because infections spread most rapidly this way.</p> <p>Two kinds of respiratory transmission are through large droplets, which is thought to be short-range, and airborne transmission on much smaller particles over longer distances. Airborne transmission is the most difficult to control.</p> <p>SARS was considered to be transmitted by contact and over short distances by droplets but can also be transmitted through smaller aerosols over long distances. In Hong Kong, <a href="https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/58/5/683/365793">infection was transmitted</a> from one floor of a building to the next.</p> <p>Initially, most cases of the Wuhan coronavirus were assumed to be from an animal source, localised to the seafood market in Wuhan.</p> <p>We <a href="https://jglobalbiosecurity.com/articles/51/">now know</a> it can spread from person to person in some cases. The Chinese government announced it can be spread by touching and contact. We don’t know how much transmission is person to person, but we have some clues.</p> <p>Coronaviruses are respiratory viruses, so they can be found in the nose, throat and lungs.</p> <p>The amount of Wuhan coronavirus appears to be <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30183-5/fulltext">higher in the lungs</a> than in the nose or throat. If the virus in the lungs is expelled, it could possibly be spread via fine, airborne particles, which are inhaled into the lungs of the recipient.</p> <p><strong>How did the virus spread so rapidly?</strong></p> <p>The continuing surge of cases in China since January 18 – despite the lockdowns, extended holidays, travel bans and banning of the wildlife trade – could be explained by several factors, or a combination of:</p> <ol> <li> <p>increased travel for New Year, resulting in the spread of cases around China and globally. Travel is a major factor in the spread of infections</p> </li> <li> <p>asymptomatic transmissions through children and young people. Such transmissions would not be detected by contact tracing because health authorities can only identify contacts of people who are visibly ill</p> </li> <li> <p>increased detection, testing and reporting of cases. There has been increased capacity for this by doctors and nurses coming in from all over China to help with the response in Wuhan</p> </li> <li> <p>substantial person-to-person transmission</p> </li> <li> <p>continued environmental or animal exposure to a source of infection.</p> </li> </ol> <p>However, with an incubation period as short as <a href="https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200127-sitrep-7-2019--ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=98ef79f5_2">one to two days</a>, if the Wuhan coronavirus was highly contagious, we would expect to already have seen widespread transmission or outbreaks in other countries.</p> <p>Rather, the increase in transmission is likely due to a combination of the factors above, to different degrees. The situation is changing daily, and we need to analyse the transmission data as it becomes available.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/130686/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/c-raina-macintyre-101935">C Raina MacIntyre</a>, Professor of Global Biosecurity, NHMRC Principal Research Fellow, Head, Biosecurity Program, Kirby Institute, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-1414">UNSW</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-contagious-is-the-wuhan-coronavirus-and-can-you-spread-it-before-symptoms-start-130686">original article</a>.</em></p>

Travel Trouble

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Here's what each bushfire status actually means

<p>In this record-breaking bushfire season, notifications from emergency managers have become a familiar feature of Australian life. Terms like “out of control” and “contained” are regularly heard as descriptions of the status of fires, <a href="https://www.afac.com.au/docs/default-source/doctrine/bushfire-terminology.pdf">but what do they actually mean?</a></p> <p>These terms <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4907/10/10/884">vary slightly between Australian states and territory</a>, but as similar firefighting strategies are used Australia-wide, the meanings are comparable.</p> <p>The status of a fire is a description of the stage of the firefighting effort, not the nature of the fire or its likelihood of being a threat. This means that to understand what actions to take when an active fire is nearby, it’s important to follow the advice of your <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-monitor-the-bushfires-raging-across-australia-129298">local fire and emergency information sources</a>.</p> <p><strong>‘Going’ or ‘out of control’</strong></p> <p>A fire described as “going” or “out of control” is one where parts of its perimeter are burning and have the potential to spread into unburnt areas.</p> <p>The perimeter is the focus as it is where unburnt fine fuels (consisting of the litter on the forest floor, shrubs and bark) are being ignited and burning rapidly. The flames of these subside quickly, so the majority of a fire’s interior consists of blackened area where only heavy fuels such as logs and branches continue to burn.</p> <p>A fire will be given the status “going” when it is first detected or reported to emergency authorities. The status may also be used for fires that were controlled and subsequently breakaway (escape control).</p> <p>“Going” fires will typically be the subject of concentrated firefighting effort to prevent growth and minimise the impacts to things of value (i.e. lives, property, infrastructure and ecosystem services). However the term is inclusive of all fires that are able to spread, so encompasses everything from shrubs burning under a tree hit by lighting to intense <a href="https://theconversation.com/climate-change-will-make-fire-storms-more-likely-in-southeastern-australia-127225">firestorms</a>.</p> <p><strong>Contained or “being controlled’</strong></p> <p>A "contained” fire is one with a complete containment line around its perimeter. “Being controlled” will have a complete or near-complete containment line. Containment lines (also called control lines or firelines) are the main way to <a href="https://www.publish.csiro.au/wf/wf15018">stop bushfires spreading</a>.</p> <p>While our images of firefighters involve hoses spraying water against the flames, water is, in fact, inefficient because of the vast amounts needed to douse the large amounts of burning vegetation and the difficulty of maintaining supply in rugged terrain.</p> <p>Instead, <a href="https://www.publish.csiro.au/wf/wf15018">to stop fires spreading</a>, firefighters create containment lines where all fuels are removed in bands adjacent to the fire’s perimeter. This prevents the fire reaching unburnt vegetation, starving the flames of new material to burn.</p> <p>So how are containment lines created? Typically, with heavy machinery (often bulldozers), which scrape away all burnable material around the edge of the fire so nothing but mineral soil remains. In rugged terrain, this may be done by hand, by specialist crews using tools such as rakehoes and chainsaws.</p> <p>Where there are existing areas of low fuel in the landscape, such as roads, bodies of water or previously burnt areas, firefighters may also include these as part of their containment strategy.</p> <p>The containment line is built next to the burning fire edge, so the more intense or erratic a fire is, the more <a href="https://www.ffm.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/21067/Report-56-Prediction-of-firefighting-resources-for-suppression-operations-in-Victorias-Parks-and-Forests.pdf">difficult and dangerous it is for crews to work</a>.</p> <p>It’s not safe to construct a line where fires are spreading rapidly, producing many embers, behaving erratically, have deep flames or are exhibiting firestorm-type behaviours (where the fire is so intense it can generate <a href="https://theconversation.com/firestorms-and-flaming-tornadoes-how-bushfires-create-their-own-ferocious-weather-systems-126832">extreme winds and even lightning</a>).</p> <p>At such times firefighters will either move to parts of the fire where behaviour is less intense (typically where the wind is pushing the flames away from unburnt fuel), apply indirect firefighting methods such as backburning (burning areas in front of the advancing fire) or retreat and focus on protecting life and property.</p> <p>The exceptionally <a href="https://theconversation.com/weather-bureau-says-hottest-driest-year-on-record-led-to-extreme-bushfire-season-129447">hot, dry and windy</a> conditions of the 2019/20 fire season have resulted in many rapidly expanding bushfires that have overwhelmed the capacity of firefighters to build containment lines.</p> <p>As a fire is being contained, crews will be assigned to patrol the already constructed parts of the line to prevent escapes. The burning-out of unburnt fuels within the containment lines may be done to reduce the chance this ignites and causes issues at a future date.</p> <p><strong>Under control, or ‘patrol’</strong></p> <p>A fire that’s “under control” has a full containment line around it, and there has been a degree of consolidation so fire escaping outside the lines is unlikely.</p> <p>This consolidation is called “mopping up” or “blacking out”, and consists of crews working along the edge of the fire to extinguish or stabilise any burning material in the fire area within a set distance of the line.</p> <p>Fire elevates the risk of trees falling, so at this stage there may also be work to <a href="https://files-em.em.vic.gov.au/public/Safety/TreeHazardPictorialGuide-2017.pdf">identify and treat dangerous trees</a>.</p> <p>After line consolidation is complete, routine patrols to prevent escapes will continue for days to weeks until the fire is deemed safe.</p> <p><strong>Safe</strong></p> <p>The final status applied to bushfires is “safe”. This is where deemed that no sources of ignition within containment lines have the potential to cause escapes.</p> <p>Once a fire is declared safe, it’s assumed no longer necessary to maintain patrols and the fire can be left alone.</p> <p>After the fire season it’s common for management agencies to <a href="https://www.ffm.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/21283/Repair-of-fences-damaged-by-bushfire-and-fire-control-line-rehabilitation-policy-2015.pdf">rehabilitate the containment lines</a>, to restore the site to its prior condition to protect biodiversity values and water quality.</p> <p>The status of a fire can change - even fires thought to be safe occasionally break away when hot and windy weather returns. Regardless of whether there are known fires in your area, it is important to have a <a href="https://theconversation.com/bushfires-kill-but-knowing-exactly-how-might-make-them-less-deadly-35918">bushfire survival plan</a> and to pay attention to the advice of your <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-monitor-the-bushfires-raging-across-australia-129298">local fire and emergency information sources</a><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/129539/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/thomas-duff-18833">Thomas Duff</a>, Postdoctoral Fellow, Forest and Ecosystem Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-melbourne-722">University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/out-of-control-contained-safe-heres-what-each-bushfire-status-actually-means-129539">original article</a>.</em></p>

Domestic Travel

Health

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Rebuilding from the ashes of disaster: this is what Australia can learn from India

<p>A key question facing us all after Australia’s <a href="https://theconversation.com/some-say-weve-seen-bushfires-worse-than-this-before-but-theyre-ignoring-a-few-key-facts-129391">unprecedented bushfires</a> is how will we do reconstruction differently? We need to ensure our rebuilding and recovery efforts make us safer, protect our environment and improve our ability to cope with future disasters. Australia could learn from the innovative approach India adopted in 2001 after the nation’s <a href="https://www.in.undp.org/content/india/en/home/library/environment_energy/from-relief-to-Recovery.html">second-most-devastating earthquake</a>.</p> <p>The quake in Gujarat state <a href="https://www.in.undp.org/content/india/en/home/library/environment_energy/from-relief-to-Recovery.html">killed 20,000 people</a>, injured 300,000 and destroyed or damaged a million homes. <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0263786317301618">My research</a> has identified two elements that were particularly important for the recovery of the devastated communities.</p> <p>First, India set up a recovery taskforce operating not just at a national level but at state, local and community levels. Second, community-based recovery coordination hubs were an informal but highly effective innovation.</p> <p><strong>Rebuilding for resilience</strong></p> <p>Scholars and international agencies such as the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (<a href="https://www.undrr.org/">UNDRR</a>) have promoted post-disaster reconstruction as a window of opportunity to build resilience. By that, they mean we not only rebuild physical structures – homes, schools, roads – to be safer than before, but we also revive local businesses, heal communities and restore ecosystems to be better prepared for the next bushfires or other disasters.</p> <p>This is easier said than done. Reconstruction is a highly complex and lengthy process. Two key challenges, among others, are a lack of long-term commitment past initial reconstruction and a failure to collaborate effectively between sectors.</p> <p>Reconstruction programs require a balancing of competing demands. The desire for speedy rebuilding must be weighed against considerations of long-term challenges such as climate change adaptation and environmental sustainability.</p> <p>There will always be diverse views on such issues. For example, planners may suggest people should not be allowed to rebuild in areas at high risk of bushfires. Residents may wish to rebuild due to their connection to the land or community.</p> <p>Such differences in opinion are not necessarily a hindrance. As discussed below, managing such differences well can lead to innovative solutions.</p> <p><strong>What can we learn from India’s experience?</strong></p> <p>The 2001 Gujarat earthquake was declared a national calamity. <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0263786317301618">My research</a> examined post-disaster reconstruction processes that influenced community recovery – physical, social and economic. The findings from Gujarat 13 years after the quake were then compared with recovery processes seven years after the devastating <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Bihar_flood">2008 Kosi River floods</a> in the Indian state of Bihar.</p> <p>Of my key findings, two are most relevant to Australia right now.</p> <p>India’s government set up a special recovery taskforce within a week of the earthquake. The taskforce was established at federal, state, local and community level, either by nominating an existing institution (such as the magistrate’s court) or by establishing a new authority.</p> <p>The Australian government has set up a <a href="https://www.bushfirerecovery.gov.au/">National Bushfire Recovery Agency</a>, committing A$2 billion to help people who lost their homes and businesses rebuild their communities. While Australia effectively has a special taskforce at federal and state level (such as the <a href="https://www.vic.gov.au/bushfire-recovery-victoria">Bushfire Recovery Victoria</a> agency), we need it at local and community levels too. Moreover, no such agency exists at state level in New South Wales.</p> <p>Without such a decentralised setup, it will be hard to maintain focus and set the clear priorities that local communities need for seamless recovery.</p> <p>Second, India’s recovery coordination hub at community level was an innovative solution to meet the need of listening to diverse views, channelling information and coordinating various agencies.</p> <p>A district-wide consortium of civil society organisations in Gujarat established <em>Setu Kendra</em> – literally meaning bridging centres or hubs.</p> <p>These hubs were set up informally in 2001. Each hub comprised a local community member, social worker, building professional, financial expert and lawyer. They met regularly after the earthquake to pass on information and discuss solution.</p> <p>Bushfire Recovery Victoria has <a href="https://www.vic.gov.au/community-recovery-package#community-recovery-hubs-15-million">committed A$15 million</a> for setting up community recovery hubs, but it remains to be seen how these are modelled and managed.</p> <p>The community hubs in India have had many benefits. The main one was that the community trusted the information the people in the hub provided, which countered misinformation. A side effect of community engagement in this hub was their emotional recovery.</p> <p>These hubs also managed to influence major changes in recovery policy. Reconstruction shifted from being government-driven to community-driven and owner-driven.</p> <p>This was mainly possible due to the <em>Setu Kendras</em> acting as a two-way conduit for information and opinions. Community members were able to raise their concerns with government in a way that got heard, and visa versa.</p> <p>Due to the success of coordination hubs in Gujarat after 2001, the state government of Bihar adopted the model in 2008. It set up one hub per 4,000 houses. In Gujarat, these hubs continued for more than 13 years.</p> <p>The UN agency for human settlements, UN-Habitat, <a href="https://www.in.undp.org/content/india/en/home/library/environment_energy/from-relief-to-Recovery.html">notes</a> these community hubs as an innovation worth replicating.</p> <p>We in Australia are at a point when we need to create such hubs to bring together researchers, scientists, practitioners, government and community members. They need to have an open conversation about their challenges, values and priorities, to be able to negotiate and plan our way forward.</p> <p>Australia needs a marriage between government leadership and innovation by grassroots community organisations to produce a well-planned recovery program that helps us achieve a resilient future.</p> <p><em>Written by Mittul Vahanvati. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/rebuilding-from-the-ashes-of-disaster-this-is-what-australia-can-learn-from-india-130385">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

Caring

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The real reason women live longer than men

<p>Ask your smartphone how to drive from Copenhagen to Berlin and it will give you an estimate of how long the trip will take, based on current traffic. If there is a traffic jam in Hamburg, say, the extra time this traffic jam takes will be included in the estimate. But, of course, you are not at all the points of your journey now. Rather, you’ll be in Copenhagen first, then at Odense, then Kolding, and so forth. By the time you get to Hamburg, there may no longer be a traffic jam. The estimate your smartphone gave you will be off. Life expectancy is calculated in much the same way.</p> <p>Life expectancy in 2019 is calculated using the chances of survival for all ages in 2019: those who turned 70 in 2019, those who turned 69 in 2019, those who turned 71 … you get the point. But nobody actually has all their birthdays in 2019. People have at most one birthday a year (less than one for some of those who died that year and those born on February 29). Since I turned 35 in 2019, why should the 2019 chances of survival for a 70-year-old matter to me? By the time I turn 70, the world will have changed. The estimate will be off.</p> <p>But your smartphone also tells you something like “31 minutes extra travel time due to a traffic jam”. With this information, you can guess how long the trip will take assuming that the traffic jam will be resolved by the time you get there: just subtract those 31 minutes. Every part of the journey has a travelling time and you can pick those pieces apart.</p> <p>Similarly, life expectancy is built up out of many small pieces, one for each age, and demographers can pick those pieces apart. We did that to answer questions such as: “what is the part of life expectancy lived between ages 50 and 85?” (which will be a number between 0 and 35). And “suppose that in 2015 no 70-year-old died of smoking (for example through lung cancer), what would that life expectancy have been?” And “how has the importance of smoking-related deaths been changing, and was that different for men and women?”</p> <p>Throw all that in the mixer and you get some interesting results, which my colleagues and I – a team from the University of Southern Denmark and University of Groningen – published in <a href="https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-020-8148-4">BMC Public Health</a>.</p> <p>We studied the part of life expectancy lived between ages 50 and 85 for high-income North America, high-income Europe and high-income Oceania for the period 1950-2015. Around 1950, males lived about two and a half years less than females. Around 1980, this difference had increased to about four and a half years. Then the difference in life expectancy declined to new lows of about two years in 2015.</p> <p>All of that increase and subsequent decrease was due to smoking. Remove smoking and you get an almost flat line at only two years, which is what the difference in life expectancy between ages 50 and 85 would have been if nobody had smoked.</p> <p><strong>Long time coming</strong></p> <p>If smoking is so bad, why are we seeing all of these early deaths? Why aren’t people smarter? Well, if cigarettes killed you right away, nobody would touch them. The problem is that cigarettes do kill you – only decades later.</p> <p>Because, historically, men started smoking earlier and heavier than women, any effect of smoking on life expectancy shows in males first. While medical doctors were coming to the conclusion that smoking is bad – basing their conclusions on evidence from men – women decided it was time to take up smoking. Now, decades later, the effect of smoking (death) is declining in males but still increasing for older females who smoked in the past. This gives rise to a four-wave pattern dubbed “the smoking epidemic”: first men smoke, then men start dying from smoking at around the same time women start smoking, then women start dying from smoking.</p> <p>In the final phase of the smoking epidemic, people get smarter and stop smoking. This last part of the smoking epidemic, however, is the more difficult part. Unfortunately, people keep smoking (big tobacco is doing just fine).</p> <p>But our study also showed some good news. Recently, there was a big drop in smoking-related deaths for people of around 50 years old. While smoking is certainly not down and out, at least some people seem to get that tobacco is a killer.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/130142/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/maarten-wensink-941141">Maarten Wensink</a>, Assistant Professor, Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Biodemography, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-southern-denmark-1097">University of Southern Denmark</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-real-reason-women-live-longer-than-men-new-study-130142">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

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29,000 cancers overdiagnosed in Australia in a single year

<p>Almost one in four cancers detected in men were overdiagnosed in 2012, according to our new research, published today in the <a href="https://www.mja.com.au/">Medical Journal of Australia</a>.</p> <p>In the same year, we found that approximately one in five cancers in women were overdiagnosed.</p> <p>Overdiagnosis is when a person is diagnosed with a “harmless” cancer that either never grows or grows very slowly. These cancers are sometimes called low or ultra-low-risk cancers and wouldn’t have spread or caused any problems even if left untreated.</p> <p>This level of overdiagnosis means Australian men are 17% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime than they were 30 years ago, while women are 10% more likely.</p> <p>Cancer overdiagnosis can result in people having unnecessary treatments, such as surgery, radiotherapy and hormone therapy. Being diagnosed with cancer and having cancer treatments can cause physical, psychological and financial harms.</p> <p><strong>How many cancers were overdiagnosed?</strong></p> <p>In 2012, 77,000 cancers were diagnosed among Australian men. We estimated that 24% of these (or 18,000 in total) were overdiagnosed, including:</p> <ul> <li>8,600 prostate cancers</li> <li>8,300 melanomas</li> <li>860 kidney cancers</li> <li>500 thyroid cancers.</li> </ul> <p>Some 55,000 cancers were diagnosed in women; 18% of them (11,000) were overdiagnosed. This includes:</p> <ul> <li>4,000 breast cancers</li> <li>5,600 melanomas</li> <li>850 thyroid cancers</li> <li>660 kidney cancers.</li> </ul> <p>These calculations are based on changes since 1982 in the lifetime risk of cancers, after adjusting for other causes of death and changing risk factors.</p> <p>Because they are more common, prostate and breast cancer and melanoma accounted for the greatest number of overdiagnosed cancers, even though larger percentages of thyroid cancers were overdiagnosed.</p> <p>In women, for example, 73% of thyroid cancers were overdiagnosed, while 22% of breast cancers were overdiagnosed.</p> <p>The harms to patients come from the unnecessary surgery, and other treatments, as well as the anxiety and expenses.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29042396">Three in four patients with thyroid “cancers” that are overdiagnosed</a>, for example, will almost all have their thyroid completely removed, risk complications, and have to take replacement thyroid medication for the rest of their life.</p> <p>In addition, there are substantial costs to the health system, and delays in necessary surgery.</p> <p>Some “good news” is that overdiagnosis appears to be largely confined to the five main cancers mentioned above.</p> <p><strong>What causes cancer overdiagnosis?</strong></p> <p>The cause of overdiagnosis differs for each cancer.</p> <p>For prostate cancer, the cause is the quest for early detection of prostate cancer using the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. A downside of PSA testing is the risk of detecting large numbers of low-risk prostate cancers which may be overtreated.</p> <p>For breast cancer, the cause is also early detection, through mammography screening which can detect low-risk cancers.</p> <p>Likewise, detection of low-risk melanoma accounted for most of the melanoma overdiagnosis we observed. Early detection activities again are the likely cause, with many times more skin biopsies being done today than 30 years ago.</p> <p>Overdiagnosis of kidney and thyroid cancer is due largely to “incidentalomas” – abnormalities found incidentally on imaging done for other reasons – or through over-investigation of mild thyroid problems.</p> <p><strong>What can we do about it?</strong></p> <p>Some level of overdiagnosis is unavoidable in a modern health-care system committed to screening to reduce the disease and death burden from cancer.</p> <p>We want to maximise the timely detection of high-risk cancers that allows the best chance of cure through early surgery and other treatments.</p> <p>But this is still possible while taking measures to prevent overdiagnosis and overtreatment of low-risk cancers that are better left undetected.</p> <p>Take South Korea, for example. Following the introduction of a screening program for thyroid cancer, the country saw a <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1507622?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&amp;rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&amp;rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed">15-fold increase</a> in small, low-risk thyroid cancers. Then it cut back on early detection. This led to a major drop in thyroid cancer rates without any change in death rates.</p> <p>Rates of PSA testing in Australia are <a href="https://cancercouncil.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/World-Journal-of-Urology_2015_Prostate_mortality-AUS.pdf">among the highest in the world</a>. Countries where there is less PSA testing, such as the <a href="https://researchonline.nd.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1777&amp;context=med_article">United Kingdom</a>, detect less low-risk prostate cancer, and therefore have less overtreatment.</p> <p>Rather than simply accepting PSA testing, a wiser strategy is to <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k3581.full">make an informed decision whether to go ahead with it or not</a>. Tools to help you choose are available <a href="http://psatesting.org.au/info/?utm_source=pcfa&amp;utm_medium=redirect&amp;utm_campaign=pcam19">here</a> and <a href="https://www.racgp.org.au/download/Documents/Guidelines/prostate-cancer-screening-infosheetpdf.pdf">here</a>.</p> <p>A <a href="https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/2123/16658/1/2017%20updated%20breast%20screening%20DA%20%28Hersch%20et%20al%29.pdf">decision aid</a> is also available for Australian women to consider whether to go ahead with mammogram screening or not.</p> <p>Trials to wind back treatment of low-risk prostate cancer have resulted in <a href="https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng131/chapter/Recommendations#localised-and-locally-advanced-prostate-cancer">clinical practice guidelines</a> which recommend men with low-risk prostate cancer be offered active surveillance as an alternative to immediate surgery or radiation therapy.</p> <p>Trials to evaluate less treatment for low-risk breast cancer are now under way and should help wind back breast cancer overtreatment one day.</p> <p>New screening tests that identify clinically important cancers, while leaving slow- and never-growing cancers undetected, are the holy grail. But they could be some time coming.</p> <p>In the meantime, health services need to be vigilant in <a href="https://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2724039/recognizing-potential-overdiagnosis-high-sensitivity-cardiac-troponin-assays-example">monitoring new areas of overdiagnosis</a>, particularly when investing in new technologies with potential to further increase overdiagnosis.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/127791/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alexandra-barratt-6143">Alexandra Barratt</a>, Professor of Public Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/katy-bell-134554">Katy Bell</a>, Associate in Clinical Epidemiology in the School of Public Health, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mark-jones-916410">Mark Jones</a>, Associate Professor, Biostatistician, Institute for Evidence-Based Healthcare, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-glasziou-13533">Paul Glasziou</a>, Professor of Medicine, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/thanya-pathirana-916412">Thanya Pathirana</a>, Senior Lecturer, School of Medicine, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/29-000-cancers-overdiagnosed-in-australia-in-a-single-year-127791">original article</a>.</em></p>

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What makes a good psychologist or psychiatrist and how do you find one you like?

<p><strong>Key points</strong></p> <ul> <li> <p>Understanding the different roles of psychologists and psychiatrists, and how they align with your needs, will help you decide what type of therapist to see</p> </li> <li> <p>find a therapist you feel safe and secure with, even if that means trying a few before finding one you like</p> </li> <li> <p>find out how much they charge in advance. If cost or access are issues, or if it would make you more comfortable, consider going online for help.</p> </li> </ul> <p><strong>Who does what in mental health care?</strong></p> <p>Each type of mental health worker will have a different area of speciality, as well as different qualifications, training and experience.</p> <p>In your question, you talked about psychologists and different areas of specialisation like clinical psychologists, neuropsychologists and psychiatrists, all of whom play a role in the assessment and treatment of mental health conditions.</p> <p>Understanding the role of each and how it aligns with your needs may help you in your decision.</p> <p><strong>Psychologists in general</strong></p> <p>Psychologists provide assessment and therapy to clients, either through individual or group format and aim to enhance a person’s well-being.</p> <p>A psychologist typically completes a minimum of six years of training, including university and practical experience, and is required to be registered with the <a href="https://www.psychologyboard.gov.au/">Psychology Board of Australia</a>.</p> <p><strong>Clinical psychologists</strong></p> <p>Clinical psychologists provide a range of psychological services to people across their life. Services typically focus on the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.</p> <p>Clinical psychologists complete additional supervision in the practice of clinical psychology beyond their six years of university.</p> <p><strong>Clinical neuropsychologists</strong></p> <p>Clinical neuropsychologists assess and treat people with brain disorders that affect memory, learning, attention, reading, problem-solving and decision-making.</p> <p>Like clinical psychologists, neuropsychologists complete those six years and receive additional supervision in the practice of clinical neuropsychology.</p> <p><strong>Psychiatrists</strong></p> <p>Psychiatrists are doctors who are experts in mental health. They diagnose and treat people with mental illness and prescribe medications, if appropriate.</p> <p>Psychiatrists typically complete four to six years of an undergraduate medical degree before undergoing general medicine training within a hospital. Then they complete several years of specialist training in psychiatry and must be registered with the <a href="https://www.ahpra.gov.au/">Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency</a>.</p> <p><strong>You might need to try a few therapists to find the right one</strong></p> <p>Therapy requires a person to feel safe and secure and establish trust with another person. So the fit between the two of you matters.</p> <p>In the same way you may try a few hairdressers or GPs before you feel in safe hands, you may need to try out a few therapists before you find the right one.</p> <p>Try not to feel disheartened; your persistence in this area will pay off.</p> <p>Ideally, you should select a therapist who is appropriately qualified but also, one you can connect and engage with. To test this, you should leave the first session with a sense of hope, even in the face of challenges.</p> <p>This is not to say therapy will always be a comfortable process. It will be your therapist’s job to encourage and support you in making uncomfortable changes, so there may be times where you feel challenged or uncomfortable. It’s helpful to communicate this openly with your therapist and allow space to explore this with their support.</p> <p><strong>Ask your community for recommendations</strong></p> <p>Word of mouth can be an excellent tool when sourcing a good therapist. Consider asking your GP, family, friends or local community who they recommend.</p> <p>Once you have some names, do your homework. Look up their qualifications, read about them if you can, and make sure that they practise in the area that you need.</p> <p>Mental health is a broad term and as such, therapists may choose to focus on particular areas within it. If the therapist you’ve chosen doesn’t practise in your area, don’t worry – just ask them if they have a referral suggestion for you.</p> <p><strong>Find out how much they charge</strong></p> <p>In Australia, there are a lot of different ways to access mental health support. Some options include private practitioners working in clinics or schools, community services and public mental health services. Each of these settings will have a different fee or access structure associated.</p> <p>For example under Medicare, a person may be eligible for up to ten sessions (individual and/or group) with a registered psychologist per calendar year with a referral from their GP.</p> <p>These sessions may be bulk billed (with no out-of-pocket expense), or there may be a fee associated and rebates available. Fees can vary greatly, however <a href="https://www.psychology.org.au/for-the-public/about-psychology/what-it-costs">the Australian Psychological Society recommends</a> a fee of A$251 per 50-60 minute session. Medicare rebates range from <a href="http://www9.health.gov.au/mbs/fullDisplay.cfm?type=item&amp;qt=ItemID&amp;q=80110">A$86</a> (for psychologists) to <a href="http://www9.health.gov.au/mbs/fullDisplay.cfm?type=item&amp;q=80011&amp;qt=item">A$126.50</a> (for clinical psychologists and neuropsychologists). This would leave you out of pocket A$124.50 or A$165.</p> <p>Out-of-pocket costs for private psychiatrists also vary. They may be bulk billed, or charge a fee. An initial consultation <a href="https://www.yourhealthinmind.org/getmedia/47ab2215-38e7-4184-9515-2e1f1237e215/Cost-to-see-psychiatrist-YHIM.pdf.aspx?ext=.pdf">may cost around A$400</a>, with a Medicare rebate of <a href="http://www9.health.gov.au/mbs/fullDisplay.cfm?type=item&amp;qt=ItemID&amp;q=296">A$201.35</a>, leaving you out of pocket A$178.65.</p> <p>Mental health services at <a href="https://headspace.org.au/young-people/how-headspace-can-help/">headspace</a> are either free or low cost. And some schools also offer free psychological services.</p> <p>Ask your GP about the specific costs and rebates when you discuss referral options.</p> <p><strong>Consider going online</strong></p> <p>While there is much to be gained from the personal experience of therapy, access can be a problem in some regional and remote area of Australia.</p> <p>Thankfully, there are a number of excellent online resources available:</p> <ul> <li> <p><a href="https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au">Centre for Clinical Interventions</a> provides online resources and self-directed therapy modules for bipolar, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other mental health conditions</p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://beyondblue.org.au">Beyond Blue</a> provides support for anxiety, depression and suicide prevention</p> </li> <li> <p><a href="https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au">Black Dog Institute</a> is dedicated to understanding, preventing and treating mental illness. It has a range of resources, particularly for depression and anxiety</p> </li> <li> <p><a href="http://www.brave-online.com">Brave</a> supports young people to overcome anxiety.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Remember, we all struggle from time to time. For many, therapy plays an important role in improving their mental health and setting them back on their path.<!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jade-sheen-472639">Jade Sheen</a>, Associate Professor, School of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/amanda-dudley-505377">Amanda Dudley</a>, Psychologist and Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-makes-a-good-psychologist-or-psychiatrist-and-how-do-you-find-one-you-like-120981">original article</a>.</em></p>

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The science is in: Gardening is good for you

<p>“That’s all very well put,” says Candide, in the final line of Voltaire’s novel of the same name, “but we must go and work our garden.”</p> <p>I studied this text at high school before I became a gardener and professional horticulturist. We were taught that Candide’s gardening imperative was metaphorical not literal; a command for finding an authentic vocation, not a call to take up trowels and secateurs.</p> <p>In fact, Voltaire himself really believed that active gardening was a great way to stay sane, healthy and free from stress. That was 300 years ago.</p> <p>As it turns out, the science suggests he was right.</p> <p><strong>The science of therapeutic horticulture</strong></p> <p>Gardens and landscapes have long been designed as sanctuaries and retreats from the stresses of life – from great urban green spaces such as Central Park in New York to the humblest suburban backyard. But beyond the passive enjoyment of a garden or of being in nature more generally, researchers have also studied the role of actively caring for plants as a therapeutic and educational tool.</p> <p>“Therapeutic horticulture” and “horticultural therapy” have become recognised treatments for stress and depression, which have served as a healing aid in settings ranging from prisons and mental health treatment facilities to schools and hospitals.</p> <p><strong>Gardening and school</strong></p> <p>Studies of school gardening programs – which usually centre on growing food – show that students who have worked on designing, creating and maintaining gardens develop more positive attitudes about health, nutrition and the <a href="http://www.kohalacenter.org/HISGN/pdf/HPP_2011_MMR_Sample1.pdf">consumption</a> of <a href="http://search.proquest.com/openview/61a8bb123ec000d6a6348aeb950645fa/1?pq-origsite=gscholar">vegetables</a>.</p> <p>They also <a href="http://horttech.ashspublications.org/content/15/3/439.short">score better</a> on science <a href="http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/syllabi/435/Articles/Klemmer.pdf">achievement</a>, have better attitudes about school, and improve their <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15330150701318828">interpersonal skills</a> and <a href="https://food-hub.org/files/resources/Blair_The%20Child%20in%20the%20Garden_J.%20Environ%20Educ_2009.pdf">classroom behaviour</a>.</p> <p>Research on students confirms that gardening leads to higher levels of self-esteem and responsibility. Research suggests that incorporating gardening into a <a href="http://kohalacenter.org/HISGN/pdf/Thechildinthegarden.pdf">school setting</a> can boost group cohesiveness.</p> <p><strong>Gardening and mental health</strong></p> <p>Tailored gardening programs have been shown to increase quality of life for people with <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J004v16n01_02">chronic mental illnesses</a>, including <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J004v16n01_02">anxiety and depression</a>.</p> <p>Another study on the use of therapeutic horticulture for patients with clinical depression sought to understand why gardening programs were effective in lessening patient experience of depression. They found that structured gardening activities gave patients existential purpose. Put simply, it <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/01612840.2010.528168">gave their lives meaning</a>.</p> <p>In jails and corrective programs, horticultural therapy programs have been used to give inmates positive, purposeful activities that lessen aggression and hostility during and after incarceration.</p> <p>In one detailed study from a San Francisco program, involvement in therapeutic horticulture was particularly effective in <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J076v26n03_10">improving psychosocial functioning</a> across prison populations (although the benefits were not necessarily sustained after release.)</p> <p>Gardening has been shown to help improve the lives of <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Jacqueline_Atkinson/publication/265575473_AN_EVALUATION_OF_THE_GARDENING_LEAVE_PROJECT_FOR_EX-MILITARY_PERSONNEL_WITH_PTSD_AND_OTHER_COMBAT_RELATED_MENTAL_HEALTH_PROBLEMS/links/55094b960cf26ff55f852b50.pdf">military veterans</a> and <a href="http://www.joe.org/joe/2007june/iw5p.shtml">homeless people</a>. Various therapeutic horticulture <a href="https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/dspace-jspui/handle/2134/2930">programs</a> have been used to help people with learning difficulties, asylum seekers, refugees and victims of torture.</p> <p><strong>Gardening and older people</strong></p> <p>As populations in the West age, hands-on gardening programs have been used for older people in nursing homes and related facilities.</p> <p>A systematic review of 22 studies of gardening programs for older adults found that gardening was a powerful <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01924788.2013.784942">health-promoting activity</a> across diverse populations.</p> <p>One <a href="http://journals.lww.com/jcrjournal/Abstract/2005/09000/Effects_of_Horticultural_Therapy_on_Mood_and_Heart.8.aspx">study</a> sought to understand if patients recovering from heart attack might benefit from a horticultural therapy program. It concluded:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>[Our] findings indicate that horticultural therapy improves mood state, suggesting that it may be a useful tool in reducing stress. Therefore, to the extent that stress contributes to coronary heart disease, these findings support the role of horticultural therapy as an effective component of cardiac rehabilitation.</em></p> </blockquote> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"><iframe class="embed-responsive-item" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Yvir4sm2G7Q"></iframe></div> <p>While the literature on the positive effects of gardening, reflecting both qualitative and quantitative studies, is large, most of these studies are from overseas.</p> <p>Investment in horticultural therapy programs in Australia is piecemeal. That said, there are some standout success stories such as the <a href="https://www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au/">Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation</a> and the work of nurse <a href="https://www.anmfvic.asn.au/membership/member-profiles/steven-wells">Steven Wells at the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre</a> and beyond.</p> <p>Finally, without professionally trained horticulturists none of these programs – in Australia or internationally – can take place.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/65251/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/chris-williams-300083">Chris Williams</a>, Lecturer in urban horticulture, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-melbourne-722">University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-science-is-in-gardening-is-good-for-you-65251">original article</a>.</em></p>

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The biology of coffee

<p>You’re reading this with a cup of coffee in your hand, aren’t you? Coffee is the most popular drink <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/12/20/chart-of-the-week-coffee-and-tea-around-the-world/">in many parts of the world</a>. Americans drink more coffee than soda, juice and tea — <a href="https://www.marketwatch.com/story/international-coffee-day-americans-drink-more-coffee-than-soda-tea-and-juice-combined-2017-09-29">combined</a>.</p> <p>How popular is coffee? When news first broke that Prince Harry and Meghan were considering Canada as their new home, Canadian coffee giant Tim Hortons offered free coffee for life as an extra enticement.</p> <p>Given coffee’s popularity, it’s surprising how much confusion surrounds how this hot, dark, nectar of the gods affects our biology.</p> <p><strong>Coffee’s ingredients</strong></p> <p>The main biologically active ingredients in coffee are caffeine (a stimulant) and a suite of antioxidants. What do we know about how caffeine and antioxidants affect our bodies? The fundamentals are pretty simple, but the devil is in the details and the speculation around how coffee could either help or harm us runs a bit wild.</p> <p>The stimulant properties of caffeine mean that you can count on a cup of coffee to wake you up. In fact, coffee, or at least the caffeine it contains, is the most <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/0165-0173(92)90012-B">commonly used psychoactive drug in the world</a>. It seems to work as a stimulant, at least in part, by blocking adenosine, which promotes sleep, from binding to its receptor.</p> <p>Caffeine and adenosine have similar ring structures. Caffeine acts as a molecular mimic, filling and blocking the adenosine receptor, preventing the body’s natural ability to be able a rest when it’s tired.</p> <p>This blocking is also the reason why too much coffee can leave you feeling jittery or sleepless. You can only postpone fatigue for so long before the body’s regulatory systems begin to fail, leading to simple things like the jitters, but also more serious effects like <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/0165-0173(92)90012-B">anxiety or insomnia</a>. Complications may be common; a possible link between coffee drinking and insomnia was identified <a href="https://www.doi.org/10.2307/1413116">more than 100 years ago</a>.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe width="440" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/TTDy-L0NKIg?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span class="caption">The National Film Board of Canada produced a documentary on the cultural history of coffee called <em>Black Coffee: Part One, The Irresistible Bean</em></span></p> <p><strong>Unique responses</strong></p> <p>Different people respond to caffeine differently. At least some of this variation is from having <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.clpt.6100102">different forms of that adenosine receptor</a>, the molecule that caffeine binds to and blocks. There are <a href="https://academic.oup.com/hmg/article/20/10/2071/680367">likely other sites of genetic variation as well</a>.</p> <p>There are individuals who don’t process caffeine and to whom drinks like coffee <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0273230015301379">could pose medical danger</a>. Even away from those extremes, however, there is variation in how we respond to that cup of coffee. And, like much of biology, that variation is a function of environment, our past coffee consumption, genetics and, honestly, just random chance.</p> <p>We may be interested in coffee because of the oh-so-joyous caffeine buzz, but that doesn’t mean that caffeine is the most biologically interesting aspect of a good cup of coffee.</p> <p>In one study using rats, caffeine triggered smooth muscle contraction, so it is possible that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0016-5085(19)38364-7">caffeine directly promotes bowel activity</a>. Other studies, though, have shown that decaffeinated coffee can have as strong an effect on bowel activity as regular coffee, suggesting <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/gut.31.4.450">a more complex mechanism involving some of the other molecules in coffee</a>.</p> <p><strong>Antioxidant benefits</strong></p> <p>What about <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.3390%2Fantiox2040230">the antioxidants in coffee</a> and the buzz that surrounds them? Things actually start out pretty straightforward. Metabolic processes produce the energy necessary for life, but they also create waste, often in the form of oxidized molecules that can be harmful in themselves or in damaging other molecules.</p> <p>Antioxidants are a broad group of molecules that can scrub up dangerous waste; all organisms produce antioxidants as part of their metabolic balance. It is unclear if supplementing our diet with additional antioxidants can augment these natural defences, but that hasn’t stopped speculation.</p> <p>Antioxidants have been linked to almost everything, including <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2005.20236.x">premature ejaculation</a>.</p> <p>Are any of the claims of positive effects substantiated? Surprisingly, the answer is again a resounding maybe.</p> <p><strong>Coffee and cancer</strong></p> <p>Coffee won’t cure cancer, but it may help to prevent it and possibly other diseases as well. Part of answering the question of coffee’s connection to cancer lies in asking another: what is cancer? At its simplest, cancer is uncontrolled cell growth, which is fundamentally about regulating when genes are, or are not, actively expressed.</p> <p>My research group studies <a href="https://doi.org/10.1534/g3.114.012484">gene</a> <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1534%2Fgenetics.111.133231">regulation</a> and I can tell you that even a good cup of coffee, or boost of caffeine, won’t cause genes that are turned off or on at the wrong time to suddenly start playing by the rules.</p> <p>The antioxidants in coffee may actually have <a href="https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/antioxidants-fact-sheet">a cancer-fighting effect</a>. Remember that antioxidants fight cellular damage. One type of damage that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1521-1878(199903)21:3%3C238::AID-BIES8%3E3.0.CO;2-3">they may help reduce is mutations to DNA</a>, and cancer is caused by mutations that lead to the misregulation of genes.</p> <p>Studies have shown that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-9561-8_45">consuming coffee fights cancer in rats</a>. Other studies in humans have shown that <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26656410">coffee consumption is associated with lower rates of some cancers</a>.</p> <p>Interestingly, coffee consumption has also been linked to reduced rates of other diseases as well. Higher coffee consumption is linked to <a href="http://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-2010-091525">lower rates of Parkinson’s disease</a> and some other forms of dementia. Strikingly, at least one experimental study in mice and cell culture shows that <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1073%2Fpnas.1813365115">protection is a function of a combination of caffeine and antioxidants in coffee</a>.</p> <p>Higher coffee consumption has also been linked to <a href="https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.112.048603">lower rates of Type 2 diabetes</a>. Complexity, combined effects and variation between individuals seems to be the theme across all the diseases.</p> <p>At the end of the day, where does all this leave us on the biology of coffee? Well, as I tell my students, it’s complicated. But as most reading this already know, coffee will definitely wake you up in the morning.<!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/thomas-merritt-389077"><em>Thomas Merritt</em></a><em>, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Chemistry and Biochemistry, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/laurentian-university-1089">Laurentian University</a></em></span></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-biology-of-coffee-one-of-the-worlds-most-popular-drinks-129179">original article</a>.</em></p>

Food & Wine

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Pulling out weeds is the best thing you can do to help bushfire ravaged land

<p>Many Australians feel compelled to help our damaged wildlife after this season’s terrible bushfires. Suggested actions have included <a href="https://www.wwf.org.au/get-involved/bushfire-emergency">donating money</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/you-can-leave-water-out-for-wildlife-without-attracting-mosquitoes-if-you-take-a-few-precautions-128631">leaving water out</a> for thirsty animals, and learning how to <a href="https://www.marieclaire.com.au/how-to-help-animals-australian-bushfires">help the injured</a>. But there is an equally, if not more, important way to assist: weeding.</p> <p>An army of volunteers is needed to help land owners with judicious weed removal. This will help burnt habitats recover more quickly, providing expanded, healthy habitat for native fauna.</p> <p>Other emergency responses, such as culling feral animals and <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/massive-food-drop-to-help-save-endangered-wallabies-in-fire-affected-areas-20200112-p53qss.html">dropping emergency food from aeroplanes</a>, are obviously jobs for specialists. But volunteer weeding does not require any prior expertise – just a willingness to get your hands dirty and take your lead from those in the know.</p> <p><strong>Why is weeding so critical?</strong></p> <p>The recent bushfires burned many areas in national parks and reserves which were infested with weeds. Some weeds are killed in a blaze, but fire also stimulates their seed banks to germinate.</p> <p>Weed seedlings will spring up en masse and establish dense stands that out-compete native plants by blocking access to sunlight. Native seedlings will die without setting seed, wasting this chance for them to recover and to provide habitat for a diverse range of native species.</p> <p>This mass weed germination is also an opportunity to improve the outlook for biodiversity. With a coordinated volunteer effort, these weeds can be taken out before they seed – leaving only a residual seed bank with no adult weeds to create more seed and creating space for native plants to flourish.</p> <p>With follow-up weeding, we can leave our national parks and reserves – and even bushland on farms - in a better state than they were before the fires.</p> <p><strong>Weeding works</strong></p> <p>In January 1994, fire burned most of Lane Cove National Park in Sydney. Within a few months of the fire, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1442-8903.2005.00225.x">volunteer bush regeneration groups were set up to help tackle regenerating weeds</a>.</p> <p>Their efforts eradicated weeds from areas where the problem previously seemed intractable and prevented further weed expansion. Key to success in this case was the provision of funding for coordination, an engaged community which produced passionate volunteers and enough resources to train them.</p> <p>Following recent fires in the Victorian high country, volunteers will be critical to controlling weeds, <a href="https://bie.ala.org.au/species/http://id.biodiversity.org.au/node/apni/2897651">particularly broom (Scotch broom and related species), which occurs throughout fire-affected areas </a>.</p> <p>Fire typically kills these woody shrubs but also stimulates seed germination. Without intervention, broom will form dense stands which <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s11258-005-9046-7.pdf">out-compete native plant species </a>.</p> <p>However, swift action now can prevent this. Mass germination <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299041169">reduces the broom’s seedbank to as low as 8% of pre-fire levels, and around half of the remaining seeds die each year</a>. Further, broom usually takes three years to flower and replenish its seedbank. So with no new seeds being produced and the seedbank low and shrinking, this three-year window offers an important opportunity to restore previously infested areas.</p> <p>Parks Victoria took up this opportunity after the 2003 fires in the Alpine National Park. They rallied agencies, natural resource management groups and local landholders to <a href="http://www.aabr.org.au/images/stories/resources/ManagementGuides/WeedGuides/wmg_brooms.pdf">sweep up broom </a>. Herbicide trials at that time revealed that to get the best outcome for their money, it was critical to spray broom seedlings early, within the <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259323125_Best-practice_chemical_control_of_English_broom_Cytisus_scoparius_evaluated_in_Alpine_National_Park_Victoria_through_an_adaptive_experimental_management_program">first year and a half</a>.</p> <p>Broom management also needs to use a range of approaches, <a href="https://www.parkconnect.vic.gov.au/Volunteer/public-planned-activity/?id=446c9d83-53b6-e811-a966-000d3ad1c6f2">including using volunteers to spread a biological control agent</a>.</p> <p><strong>Plenty of work to do</strong></p> <p>Parks Victoria continue to <a href="https://www.parkconnect.vic.gov.au/Volunteer/">engage community groups in park management</a> and will coordinate fire response actions when parks are safe to enter. Similar programs can be found in <a href="https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/conservation-and-heritage/volunteer-programs">New South Wales</a>, <a href="https://www.dbca.wa.gov.au/parks-and-wildlife-service/volunteering-with-parks-and-wildlife">Western Australia</a>, <a href="https://www.parks.sa.gov.au/volunteer">South Australia</a>, <a href="https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/parks/park-volunteers/start-volunteering">Queensland</a>, <a href="https://parks.tas.gov.au/be-involved/volunteer">Tasmania</a>, <a href="https://nt.gov.au/leisure/parks-reserves/learn-and-be-involved/volunteers-in-parks">the Northern Territory</a>, and the <a href="https://www.environment.act.gov.au/parks-conservation/parks-and-reserves/get-involved/the-ParkCare-initiative">ACT</a>.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Kevin_Taylor16/publication/331247014_Fire_Weeds_and_the_Native_Vegetation_of_New_South_Wales_A_report_prepared_by_the_Hotspots_Fire_Project/links/5c6e1fa94585156b570d4c51/Fire-Weeds-and-the-Native-Vegetation-of-New-South-Wales-A-report-prepared-by-the-Hotspots-Fire-Project.pdf">wide range of weeds expand after fire</a> and warrant a rapid response. They include <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive/weeds/publications/guidelines/wons/pubs/l-camara.pdf">lantana</a>, <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0128482">bitou bush</a>, and <a href="http://caws.org.nz/old-site/awc/2006/awc200612111.pdf">blackberry</a>.</p> <p>Managing weeds after fire is currently a high priority at many sites. At the edges of the World Heritage Gondwana rainforests of southwest Queensland and northern and central NSW, there is a window to more effectively control <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2011/12/12/3387436.htm">lantana</a>. In many forested areas in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, fire has created an opportunity to address important weed problems.</p> <p>State government agencies have the mapping capacity to locate these places. Hopefully they can make these resources easy for the public to access soon, so community groups can self-organise and connect with park managers.</p> <p><strong>All this needs money</strong></p> <p>Emergency funding is now essential to enable community-based weed control programs at the scale needed to have a substantial impact. Specifically, funding is needed for group coordinators, trainers and equipment.</p> <p>While emergency work is needed to control regenerating weeds in the next 6-18 months, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1442-8903.2005.00225.x">ongoing work is needed after that</a> to consolidate success and prevent reinfestations from the small, but still present, seed bank.</p> <p><a href="https://vnpa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Assessment-of-the-Weed-Management-program-in-land-managed-by-Parks-Victoria.pdf">Ongoing government funding is needed</a> to enable this work, and prepare for a similar response to the next mega-fires.</p> <p><strong>Want to act immediately?</strong></p> <p>You can volunteer to do your bit for fire recovery right now. In addition to state-agency volunteer websites, there are many existing park care, bush care and “friends of” groups coordinated by local governments. They’re waiting for you to join so they can start planning the restoration task in fire-affected areas.</p> <p>Contact them directly or <a href="http://www.aabr.org.au/do/post-fire-wildlife-habitat-recovery-response/">register your interest with the Australian Association of Bush Regenerators</a> who can link you with the appropriate organisations.</p> <p>If we do nothing now, the quality of our national parks will decline as weeds take over and native species are lost. But if you channel your fire-response energy and commitment to help manage weeds, our national parks could come out in front from this climate-change induced calamity.</p> <p>By all means, rescue an injured koala. But by pulling out weeds, you could also help rescue a whole ecosystem.</p> <hr /> <p><em>Dr Tein McDonald, president of the Australian Association of Bush Regenerators, contributed to this article.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/130296/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/don-driscoll-17432">Don Driscoll</a>, Professor in Terrestrial Ecology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/pulling-out-weeds-is-the-best-thing-you-can-do-to-help-nature-recover-from-the-fires-130296">original article</a>.</em></p>

Home & Garden

Finance

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"Dismal": 2020 economic survey predicts bleak year ahead

<p>2020 is shaping up as a dismal year for the economy, with no progress on many of the key measures that matter for Australians.</p> <p>Unemployment will stay above 5% and probably rise rather than fall.</p> <p>Economic growth will continue to have a “1” in front of it, instead of the “2” or “3” that used to be common, and living standards will grow more slowly.</p> <p>Wage growth, forecast in the budget to climb to 3%, will instead remain stuck near 2.2%, where it has been for half a decade.</p> <p>Those are the <a href="https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/857/2020___CONVERSATION_ECONOMIC_SURVEY.pdf?1579661077">central forecasts</a> of a panel of 24 leading economists from 15 universities in six states assembled by The Conversation to review the year ahead, a year they expect to be marked by one only more interest rate cut, more modest growth in house prices, and a return to slower growth in the share market.</p> <p>The panel comprises macroeconomists, economic modellers, former Treasury, IMF, OECD, Reserve Bank and financial market economists, and a former member of the Reserve Bank board. Combined, their forecasts are more likely to be correct than those of any individual member. One-third are women.</p> <p>They expect the long-promised budget surplus to all but disappear as a result of responses to the bushfires and weaker-than-predicted economic growth.</p> <p><strong>Economic growth</strong></p> <p>The Treasury believes the Australian economy is capable of growing at a sustained annual pace of <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/australias-economy-grew-08-per-cent-in-june-quarter-20170906-gybpqu.html">2.7%</a>, but it hasn’t grown that fast since mid-2018. Growth slipped below 2% in March 2019 and hasn’t recovered. It now has been below 2% for <a href="https://theconversation.com/gdp-update-spending-dips-and-saving-soars-as-we-stash-rather-than-spend-our-tax-cuts-128297">three consecutive quarters</a>, the longest period since the global financial crisis.</p> <p>The panel’s central forecast is for economic growth to stay at or below 2% for at least another year, producing the longest period of low economic growth since the early 1990s recession. The average forecast for the year to December is 1.9%.</p> <p>Panellist Saul Eslake says it will be the result of persistently slow growth in household disposable incomes, reflecting “very slow growth in real wages, the increasing proportion of gross income absorbed by tax, and weakness in property income (interest and rent) as well as (at the margin) the impact of the drought on farm incomes”.</p> <p>It will be domestic rather than overseas conditions that hold back Australian growth. US economic growth is expected to remain little changed at 2.1% notwithstanding trade friction with China, and China’s officially reported growth is expected to ease back only slightly from 6% to 5.8%.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="2I7gi" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/2I7gi/3/" height="400px" width="100%" style="border: none;" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p><strong>Living standards</strong></p> <p>One of the best measures of overall living standards (the one the Reserve Bank watches) is real net national disposable income per capita, which takes better account of buying power than gross domestic product does. In the year to September it climbed an unusual 3.3%, pushed up by a resurgence in iron ore export prices.</p> <p>The iron ore price has since slid from US$120 a tonne to around US$90 a tonne, and the panel’s average forecast is for it to fall further.</p> <p>As a result it expects growth in living standards to slow to 2.4% in 2020, a result that will still be better than between 2012 and 2016 when a dive in export prices sent it backwards.</p> <p>Growth in nominal GDP, the raw total unadjusted for inflation, is also expected to slow, slipping from 5.4% to 4.4% as export prices weaken, producing a decline in revenue growth the government has already factored in to the budget.</p> <p>The unemployment rate is expected to end the year near the top of the 5%-to-5.5% band it has been stuck in for the past two years, rather than falling to the 5% forecast in the budget or towards the <a href="https://www.rba.gov.au/publications/smp/2019/nov/overview.html">4.5%</a> the Reserve Bank believes is possible.</p> <p>Only one of the panel, Warren Hogan, expects the unemployment rate to end the year below 5%.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="5RnFy" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/5RnFy/3/" height="400px" width="100%" style="border: none;" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p><strong>Wages and prices</strong></p> <p>The panel’s central forecast is for inflation to remain below the bottom of the Reserve Bank’s 2-3% target band, where it has been for most of the past five years.</p> <p>One panellist, Margaret McKenzie, breaks ranks. She expects the drought and bushfires and floods to sharply push up the cost of food and essential items including energy, quickly pushing inflation into the range the authorities have long wanted, but not for the reasons they wanted.</p> <p>“I don’t think people have thought about it, because there hasn’t been inflation for so long,” she says. “The problem is that the fires are likely to contract an already weak economy, impelling the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates further, even though its inflation targeting regime would tell it not to.”</p> <p>Wage growth is forecast to be well below the highest inflation forecast and only a little above the central forecast, resulting in continued low real wage growth and seeing the budget miss its wage growth target for the eighth year in a row.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="GN8R8" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/GN8R8/3/" height="400px" width="100%" style="border: none;" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p><strong>Business</strong></p> <p>Household spending barely grew in the year to September, inching ahead by a shockingly low 1.2%, the least since the financial crisis, and not enough to account for population growth.</p> <p>The panel’s central forecast is for a recovery in spending growth to a still-low 2.4%, with spending held back by low consumer confidence and what former Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development director Adrian Blundell-Wignall calls a “sense that we are living on borrowed time”.</p> <p>“China is slowing, bank-financed housing has been pushing the envelope and is very expensive, and the governments have never had a plan for the next phase of sustainable growth,” he says. “This perception of no confidence in the government has not been helped by the bushfire events.”</p> <p>There are few signs of a recovery in business investment, notwithstanding record-low interest rates.</p> <p>The panel’s average forecast is for investment by mining and non-mining companies to grow by only 1.7% and 1.9% in 2020, which will represent a turnaround for mining, in which investment fell 11.2% in the year to September.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="rUx3F" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/rUx3F/3/" height="400px" width="100%" style="border: none;" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p><strong>Markets</strong></p> <p>Financial markets should provide less support to households in the year ahead, with the ASX 200 share price index expected to climb only 6.4% after soaring 20% in the year just ended.</p> <p>None of the panellists expect last year’s growth to continue.</p> <p>The Australian dollar is expected to end the year at 68 US cents, close to where it is at present. The iron ore price is expected to fall to US$75, a smaller slide than was assumed in the budget.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="WFAig" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/WFAig/3/" height="400px" width="100%" style="border: none;" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p><strong>Home prices</strong></p> <p>Housing investment (homebuilding) is expected to stabilise in 2020, falling only slightly from here on, after sliding 9.6% in the year to September 2019.</p> <p>Sydney and Melbourne home prices are expected to continue to recover, growing by 5% in 2020.</p> <p>Panellist Nigel Stapledon says the higher home prices will in time boost perceptions of wealth, opening up the possibility that consumer spending will “surprise on the upside”.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="sVb2U" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/sVb2U/6/" height="400px" width="100%" style="border: none;" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p><strong>Interest rates and budget</strong></p> <p>The panel’s central forecast is for only one more cut in the Reserve Bank’s cash rate this year, in the first half, followed by no further cuts in the second half. This would allow the bank to avoid so-called unconventional monetary policy or “quantitative easing” in which it forces down longer-term rates by buying government and private bonds, an option Governor Philip Lowe said it would only resort to after it had cut its cash rate to 0.25%.</p> <p>The single cut would take the cash rate to an all-time low of 0.5%. In anticipation the ANZ cut its online saver account rate from 0.1% to <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/anz-cuts-deposit-rates-to-all-time-low-20200123-p53tzd.html">0.05%</a> on Thursday.</p> <p>The cut could come as soon as next week when the board holds its first meeting for the year on February 4. Governor Lowe has scheduled an address to the National Press Club for <a href="https://www.rba.gov.au/media/">the following day</a>.</p> <p>Most of the panel think quantitative easing will not be needed and many question its effectiveness, saying the government could achieve much more by fully abandoning its commitment to surplus in order to stimulate the economy.</p> <p>The panel expects the government’s 10-year bond rate to remain historically low at 1.3%. That makes it about as cheap as it has ever been for the government to borrow for worthwhile purposes.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="9nmRo" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/9nmRo/3/" height="400px" width="100%" style="border: none;" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has abandoned his absolute commitment to return the budget to surplus this financial year, saying his first priority is “<a href="https://ministers.treasury.gov.au/ministers/josh-frydenberg-2018/transcripts/doorstop-interview-treasury-canberra">meeting the human cost of the bushfires</a>”.</p> <p>The 2019-20 surplus was forecast at A$7.1 billion in the May budget and then downgraded to $5 billion in the December update.</p> <p>The panel’s average forecast is for a bushfire-ravaged $2.2 billion.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="9ON15" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/9ON15/2/" height="400px" width="100%" style="border: none;" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>Most of the panel believe that with good management the government can avoid a recession for another two years, propelling the Australia economy into what will be its 30th straight year of expansion.</p> <p>On average they assign a 27% probability to a recession within the next two years, down from their average forecast of 29% in June.</p> <p>Several point out that, whereas the main risks to continued growth come from overseas, China appears to be managing its slowing economy better than expected, although the emergency triggered by the new and deadly <a href="https://theconversation.com/should-we-be-worried-about-the-new-wuhan-coronavirus-130366">Wuhan coronavirus</a> might change that.</p> <p>Among those who do fear a home-bred recession is Julie Toth who has lifted her estimate of the likelihood of a recession from 25% to 50%, saying growth is already so weak that it won’t take much to send it backwards.</p> <p>“The bushfire disaster presents the real and immediate possibility of two quarters of negative growth for the fourth quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of of 2020,” she says.</p> <p>“Even if disaster relief and fiscal stimulus are delivered swiftly, resource constraints (a lack of skilled tradespeople, water, equipment and appropriate building materials) mean reconstruction will be very slow.”</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="WPaz5" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/WPaz5/2/" height="400px" width="100%" style="border: none;" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>The panel began compiling its responses when the bushfires weren’t as bad as they subsequently became and before the emergence of the Wuhan coronavirus.</p> <p>It delivered its final forecasts on January 20 when the worst of the bushfires appeared to have passed but before the coronavirus had <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-wuhan-coronavirus-is-now-in-australia-heres-what-you-need-to-know-130580">spread</a> to Australia.</p> <p>The effects of both won’t be known for some time.</p> <p>2020 is turning out to be a year of uncertainty, as well as low expectations.</p> <hr /> <h2>The Conversation 2020 Forecasting Panel</h2> <p><em>Click on economist to see full profile.</em></p> <p><iframe id="tc-infographic-457" class="tc-infographic" height="400px" src="https://cdn.theconversation.com/infographics/457/bf44ce885daf5a3f6f0c3f21add509bc262c561f/site/index.html" width="100%" style="border: none;" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p><span><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-martin-682709">Peter Martin</a>, Visiting Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/crawford-school-of-public-policy-australian-national-university-3292">Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University</a></em></span></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/2020-survey-no-lift-in-wage-growth-no-lift-in-economic-growth-and-no-progress-on-unemployment-in-year-of-low-expectations-130289">original article</a>.</em></p>

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How to cope with extreme heat days without racking up the aircon bill

<p>Summer in Australia is <a href="http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/updates/articles/a032.shtml">getting hotter</a>. Extreme heat events, with daytime temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius, are becoming more common and we are getting more of these days in a row.</p> <p>We all need to prepare ourselves, our homes and our neighbourhoods for hot and very hot days. Since 2016, the <a href="https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/1161470/cooling-the-commons-report.pdf">Cooling the Commons</a> research project has been working with people living in some of Sydney’s hottest neighbourhoods to learn how they cope with heat.</p> <p>Discussion groups with residents across hotspots in Western Sydney, including Penrith, Cranebrook and St Marys, highlighted a wealth of things we can do to manage heat. We published some of the following tips in a recent <a href="https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/ics/news/new_resource_by_institute_researchers_provides_advice_on_how_to_prepare_for_heat">flier</a>.</p> <p><strong>Why can’t we all just rely on air conditioning?</strong></p> <p>Official advice for extreme heat is often to stay inside and turn on the air conditioning. While air conditioning can play a role, <a href="https://www.canstarblue.com.au/appliances/air-conditioning-running-costs/">not everyone can afford it</a>. Low-income and older households can be especially vulnerable to bill shock and are more likely to feel the impacts of extreme heat.</p> <p>There is also the risk that running air conditioners uses <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jul/09/australias-emissions-reach-the-highest-on-record-driven-by-electricity-sector">energy resources that contribute further to global warming</a>. More immediately, hot exhaust air from air-conditioning units can <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2013JD021225">make the local environment hotter</a>. This means keeping one home cool can make it harder for neighbours to keep their homes cool and make being outside even more uncomfortable.</p> <p>Air conditioning in private homes creates a cool refuge for only some. Unless those homes have an open-door policy on hot days, many of us will need to find other ways to keep cool. If you do have air conditioning, think about how you could share your air with those near you who might really need it.</p> <p><strong>Prepare before the heat hits</strong></p> <p><strong><em>Shade is important for creating more comfortable living spaces.</em></strong></p> <p>Identify which parts of your home get the most afternoon sun in summer. Can you plant trees or vines, or move a pot plant outside the window to create a green screen? Can you attach awnings to shade the windows?</p> <p>Low-cost temporary solutions can include attaching light-coloured shade cloth outside the window using removable hooks, or installing heavy drapes or blinds inside. Blankets or even aluminium foil are a low-cost creative way of keeping heat out.</p> <p><strong><em>Open up to let in cool air at night</em></strong></p> <p>Can you open the windows and doors overnight to let in cooler air? If you are concerned about security, look for options for locking the windows in an open position, or using flyscreens and security grilles on windows and doors.</p> <p>A low-cost option to keeping flying insects at bay on hot nights is a mosquito net over the window or around the bed.</p> <p><strong><em>Use low-cost resources to prepare in advance.</em></strong></p> <p>Ceiling or portable fans are one of the best ways to cool your body when it’s hot. But remember fans don’t cool rooms, so turn off the fan when you leave the room or you’re just burning electricity.</p> <p>Find ice trays and containers to freeze water – cake tins and storage containers are a good option. Putting these in front of a portable fan will mean the fan blows cool air.</p> <p>Putting a wet face cloth on the insides of your wrists, around your ankles or on the back of your neck will bring down your body temperature. Hanging damp sheets in doorways or in front of a fan will help keep the temperature down – although the trick with the sheets won’t work if it’s a really humid day.</p> <p><strong>How to stay cool and comfortable on hot days</strong></p> <p>Morning is likely to be the coolest time of the day. Open up your windows and doors to let in the cooler morning air.</p> <p>It’s the best time to be active – walk the dog, take the kids to the park, go for a swim. If possible, do your cleaning, cooking or outside work now. Plan meals that don’t require an oven.</p> <p><strong><em>Close up as it heats up.</em></strong></p> <p>As the day starts to get hot, close the house up – shut windows, blinds and curtains. This could be as early as 9am on really hot days. If you are heading out to work, do this before you leave home.</p> <p>Closing internal doors can help to keep the heat in one part of your home. You need to close doors to any parts of the home that get hot before the day gets hot.</p> <p><strong><em>Stay hydrated.</em></strong></p> <p>Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Put a jug of tap water in the fridge and remember to top it up.</p> <p>Don’t forget to move pet water bowls and day beds out of the sun. If you live in a dry area, it can’t hurt to put out extra water bowls for needy wildlife!</p> <p><strong><em>Find a cooling refuge.</em></strong></p> <p>If your home gets uncomfortably hot, find the closest cooling refuges in your neighbourhood. These are places where you can go to cool down. Good examples that won’t break the bank are the local swimming pool or library.</p> <p>Some local councils provide <a href="http://coolparramatta.com.au/">lists</a> of <a href="https://www.penrithcity.nsw.gov.au/waste-environment/cooling-the-city/beat-the-heat">cooling centres</a> on their websites.</p> <p><strong><em>Save air conditioning for when it’s most needed.</em></strong></p> <p>Try to save air conditioning for the hottest parts of the day. It will be most effective and cheapest to run if your home is well insulated and you’ve closed it up for the day.</p> <p><strong><em>Look after neighbours.</em></strong></p> <p>Remember to check on elderly or frail neighbours. Along with the very young, they are usually more affected by the heat and may need to cool down sooner than you do.</p> <p>If your neighbours are in need, consider inviting them into your home to cool down. When it’s hot, let’s <a href="https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Infrastructures-of-Care%3A-Opening-up-%E2%80%9CHome%E2%80%9D-as-in-a-Lopes-Healy/1920004e258483d40017ff468370e4892e11fce5">think of our cities as social commons</a> rather than a collection of private spaces.</p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emma-power-250930"><em>Emma Power</em></a><em>, Senior Research Fellow, Geography and Urban Studies, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/abby-mellick-lopes-388977">Abby Mellick Lopes</a>, Associate Professor, Design, School of Humanities and Communication Arts, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/louise-crabtree-128457">Louise Crabtree</a>, Associate Professor, Institute for Culture and Society, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a></em></span></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-to-cope-with-extreme-heat-days-without-racking-up-the-aircon-bills-128857">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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How homeowners could cash in on homes with higher energy ratings

<p>Everybody wants an energy-efficient home. After all, an energy-efficient home is comfortable to live in, without large energy bills. These can be important factors for prospective home owners or renters. <a href="http://builtbetter.org/node/8139">Our review</a> of international research found energy-efficient homes typically fetch a higher price.</p> <p>An energy performance rating is one way to show how “energy hungry” a home could be. In many countries, it is mandatory for the seller to obtain and disclose a home’s rating. <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/energy-efficiency/energy-performance-of-buildings/energy-performance-buildings-directive">For European Union countries, this has been the case for ten years</a>.</p> <p>But that’s not the case in most of Australia. Only one of the states and territories – <a href="https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/app/answers/detail/a_id/1492/%7E/energy-efficiency-rating-%28eer%29-statements">the ACT</a> – has a regulated scheme to disclose the energy-efficiency rating of housing to prospective buyers.</p> <p>Disclosing energy ratings is <a href="https://www.energy.gov.au/government-priorities/energy-productivity-and-energy-efficiency/commercial-building-disclosure">standard practice in the commercial building sector</a> in Australia. <a href="https://www.buildingrating.org/file/1215/download">Previous research</a> showed this increases the value of buildings with higher energy ratings (a price premium). Our <a href="http://builtbetter.org/node/8139">recent review</a> of international research looked to see if a similar effect exists in the residential sector.</p> <p><strong>What does the research show?</strong></p> <p>The majority (23) of the 27 relevant studies we reviewed found more energy-efficient homes fetch higher prices than less energy-efficient, but otherwise comparable, homes. So what sort of price premium do houses with a higher energy rating attract? It’s typically around 5% to 10%.</p> <p>Price effects were considered in two ways. The first involved comparing rated versus unrated residences. The second compared higher-rated residences with lower-rated ones. In both cases, a price premium was found to exist.</p> <p>The reported price premium varied substantially by study, country and real estate market. <a href="https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/IJHMA-09-2014-0035/full/html">One study</a>, in Belfast, found a 27% price premium for higher-rated buildings. <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516303482">Another in the Netherlands</a> found a price premium of 2.7% for similarly higher-rated dwellings.</p> <p>Only <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S014098831830166X">one study looked at Australia</a> (the ACT scheme, which has operated since 2003). It found a 2.4% price premium for a six-star house and a 9.4% premium for a seven-star house compared to a 3 star home. For Australia, with a median house price of $773,635 in late 2019, the ACT results equate to potential price premiums of $18,500 and $72,721.</p> <p>Obviously, it isn’t just the energy rating of a house that affects its price. Location, size, age and other relevant features of a property influence the final price. Researchers use a statistical method, called <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/h/hedonic-regression.asp">hedonic regression</a>, to estimate the effects of all these factors. A home energy rating was included as one of these factors.</p> <p>The studies we reviewed were published between 2011 and 2019, covering 14 countries and ten energy performance rating schemes. Most of the studies (18) considered the European Union’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). Although there are differences in how each EU country defines and manages these certificates, they are broadly comparable, in that they use a standard A (high) to G (low) grade.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/310183/original/file-20200115-151834-c1hbeb.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <span class="caption">Example of a displayed Energy Performance Certificate from the UK, with an A to G rating. The certificate include details on how to improve the rating and indicates the potential rating if all upgrades were completed.</span></p> <p><strong>How would this system benefit Australia?</strong></p> <p>This system would obviously be good for people trying to sell (or wanting to buy) energy-efficient homes, but it’s also good for our society. It has been estimated <a href="http://coagenergycouncil.gov.au/sites/prod.energycouncil/files/publications/documents/Report%20for%20Achieving%20Low%20Energy%20Homes.pdf">almost half the homes that will be in use in 2050 have already been built</a>. If we are to meaningfully reduce carbon emissions from our cities and built environment, we need to tackle our existing building stock.</p> <p>A scheme that allows owners to capitalise on the energy efficiency of their home would change the economics of <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-other-99-retrofitting-is-the-key-to-putting-more-australians-into-eco-homes-91231">retrofitting existing homes</a>. Owners would have a clear incentive to improve energy performance without the need for large government subsidies.</p> <p>Unfortunately, there is <a href="http://www.asbec.asn.au/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/160119-ASBEC-National-Framework-for-Residential-Ratings-Policy-Platform.pdf">no agreed method to measure energy-efficiency</a> for the majority of existing Australian homes (i.e. those outside the ACT). This means there is no simple way for prospective owners or renters to make an informed decision about the likely comfort and future energy bills for a home.</p> <p>Other countries have already shown the path forward. Key steps include:</p> <ol> <li> <p>define a nationally consistent rating tool for existing homes. The Victorian government has developed the <a href="https://www.energy.vic.gov.au/energy-efficiency/residential-efficiency-scorecard">Victorian Residential Efficiency Scorecard</a>. This voluntary tool provides owners with a star rating for the overall energy performance of their home. It also provides specific information on its performance during hot weather, as well as recommendations on how to improve that performance</p> </li> <li> <p>provide a framework for owners to voluntarily disclose the certified energy performance of their home at the point of sale or lease. Only owners of higher-rating homes will be likely to do this voluntarily</p> </li> <li> <p>legislate for mandatory disclosure of a home’s energy rating when it’s being sold or leased</p> </li> <li> <p>introduce minimum standards of energy performance for rental properties. Once a property’s energy performance is rated and disclosed, the government has a powerful policy lever to drive improvement of the energy efficiency of the existing building stock. For instance, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/guidance/domestic-private-rented-property-minimum-energy-efficiency-standard-landlord-guidance">in the UK</a>, owners are obligated to improve the energy performance of any property they wish to offer for rent to at least grade E (on an A-to-G scale).</p> </li> </ol> <p>Our review of international academic literature suggests home buyers typically value a more energy-efficient home. When presented with easily accessible information in the form of an energy performance rating, they are willing to pay more.</p> <p>Hence, energy rating disclosure policies can help consumers make informed decisions that will result in lower energy bills and more comfortable homes. At the same time, by allowing sellers to capitalise on energy-efficiency improvements through a certified rating, government can support reducing carbon emissions from our existing building stock.</p> <p>To ensure we realise these societal and environmental benefits, all levels of government should co-ordinate to enact appropriate nationally consistent legislation.</p> <p><em>The author would like to acknowledge Michelle Zwagerman for her contribution to this article.</em><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/128548/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/daniel-daly-140665">Daniel Daly</a>, Research Fellow at the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre, <a href="http://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/homes-with-higher-energy-ratings-sell-for-more-heres-how-australian-owners-could-cash-in-128548">original article</a>.</em></p>

Retirement Income

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Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan offer to pay for their security – but it comes with a catch

<p>The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have offered to pay for their own security, except there is a catch to this deal.</p> <p>Provided the couple are successful in their new non-royal business endeavours, Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan maintain they have every intention to reimburse taxpayers for the cost of their security during private business engagements not connected to royal events.</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/B7qgx95giNA/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B7qgx95giNA/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by O, The Oprah Magazine (@oprahmagazine)</a> on Jan 23, 2020 at 5:43am PST</p> </div> </blockquote> <p><span>The </span><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/royal-family/2020/01/22/prince-harry-meghan-markle-offer-pay-security-tony-blair-style/" target="_blank">Telegraph</a></em><span> reported the pair’s intention to pay is entirely genuine, except the amount they will reimburse will depend on how much money their new business endeavours rake in.</span></p> <p>However, it appears they may hit the jackpot on top of their already hefty bank accounts, as Netflix appears to be in the process of working with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for either a TV series or a number of documentaries on the causes nearest and dearest to their hearts.</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/B7rJhgapp1u/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B7rJhgapp1u/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by 𝐌 𝐈 𝐊 𝐎 ✪ (@mikeraif)</a> on Jan 23, 2020 at 11:39am PST</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>This news follows just weeks after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced their intentions to step down from their senior royal positions, and instead seek out financially independent lives.</p> <p>The couple said they would be splitting their time between the UK and Canada, after doing an 8-week test in Vancouver with their 8-month-old Archie.</p> <p>British authorities have deep grievances regarding Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s security requirements.</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/B7rIWyyAa-0/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B7rIWyyAa-0/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by The Royal Family (@royal_family_baby)</a> on Jan 23, 2020 at 11:28am PST</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Over 80,000 Canadians have signed a petition demanding that taxpayers need not be expected to fork out the security costs for the couple while they spend their time in the Great White North.</p> <p>It is believed at least six UK royal protection officers are overseeing the couple’s safety but it is speculated security will be passed on to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.</p> <p>Around-the-clock protection there could cost around $2.9 million, security sources told the<span> </span><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/royal-family/2020/01/22/prince-harry-meghan-markle-offer-pay-security-tony-blair-style/" target="_blank">Telegraph</a></em>.</p>

Money & Banking

Entertainment

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Australia's national digital ID is here, but the government is keeping quiet

<p>The Australian government’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has <a href="https://www.itnews.com.au/news/australias-digital-identity-bill-tops-200m-535700">spent more than A$200 million</a> over the past five years developing a National Digital ID platform. If successful, the project could streamline commerce, resolve bureaucratic quagmires, and improve national security.</p> <p>The emerging results of the project may give the Australian public cause for concern.</p> <p>Two mobile apps built on the DTA’s Trusted Digital Identification Framework (TDIF) have <a href="https://www.itnews.com.au/news/ato-set-to-launch-mygovid-on-android-devices-531544">recently</a> been <a href="https://www.itnews.com.au/news/ausposts-digital-id-accredited-by-government-528637">released</a> to consumers. The apps, <a href="https://www.mygovid.gov.au">myGovID</a> and <a href="https://www.digitalid.com">Digital ID</a>, were developed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and Australia Post, respectively.</p> <p>Both apps were released without fanfare or glossy marketing campaigns to entice users. This is in keeping with more than five years of stealthy administrative decision-making and policy development in the National Digital ID project.</p> <p>Now, it seems, we are set to hear more about it. An existing digital identity scheme for businesses called <a href="https://www.abr.gov.au/auskey">AUSkey</a> will be retired and replaced with the new National Digital ID in March, and the DTA has <a href="https://www.innovationaus.com/digital-id-gets-a-pr-makeover/">recently</a> put out a contract for a “Digital Identity Communication and Engagement Strategy”.</p> <p>The DTA’s renewed investment in public communications is a welcome change of pace, but instead of top-down decision-making, why not try consultation and conversation?</p> <p><strong>We fear what we don’t understand</strong></p> <p>Ever since the Hawke government’s ill-fated Australia Card proposal in the 1980s, Australians have consistently viewed national identification schemes with contempt. <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3224115">Some</a> have suggested that the DTA’s silence comes from fear of a backlash.</p> <p>History provides insight into some, but not all, of the numerous potential reasons for the DTA’s strategic opacity.</p> <p>For example, people do not respond positively to what they do not understand. Surveys suggest that <a href="https://www.innovationaus.com/2019/11/Digital-ID-gets-a-poor-focus-reception">fewer than one in four Australians</a> have a strong understanding of digital identification.</p> <p>The National Digital ID project was launched more than five years ago. Why hasn’t the public become familiar with these technologies?</p> <h2>What is the TDIF?</h2> <p><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/311035/original/file-20200121-145026-iufjxx.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/311035/original/file-20200121-145026-iufjxx.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /></a> <span class="caption">Part of an overview of the TDIF available on the DTA website.</span> <span class="attribution"><a href="https://www.dta.gov.au/our-projects/digital-identity/trusted-digital-identity-framework/public-consultation-4th-release-tdif" class="source">Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF)™: 02 - Overview © Commonwealth of Australia (Digital Transformation Agency) 2019.</a>, <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/" class="license">CC BY</a></span></p> <p>The TDIF is what’s known as a federated digital identification system. This means it relies on multiple organisations called Identity Providers, who act as central repositories for identification.</p> <p>In essence, you identify yourself to the Identity Provider, which then vouches for you to third parties in much the same way you might use a Google or Facebook account to log in to a news website.</p> <p>The difference in this case is that Identity Providers will control, store and manage all user information – which is likely to include birth certificates, marriage certificates, tax returns, medical histories, and perhaps eventually biometrics and behavioural information too.</p> <p>There are currently two government organisations offering Identity Service Providers: the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and Australia Post. By their nature, Identity Providers consolidate information in one place and risk becoming a single point of failure. This exposes users to harms associated with the possibility of stolen or compromised personal information.</p> <p>Another weakness of the TDIF is that it doesn’t allow for releasing only partial information about a person. For example, people might be willing to share practically all their personal information with a large bank.</p> <p>However, few will voluntarily disclose such a large amount of personal information indiscriminately – and the TDIF doesn’t give the option to control what is disclosed.</p> <p><strong>Securing sovereignty over identity</strong></p> <p>It might have been reasonable to keep the National Digital ID project quiet when it launched, but a lot has changed in the past five years.</p> <p>For example, some localities in <a href="https://digitalcanada.io/bc-orgbook-tell-us-once/">Canada</a> and <a href="https://procivis.ch/about-us/">Switzerland</a>, faced with similar challenges, chose an alternative to the federated model for their Digital ID systems. Instead, they used the principles of what is called Self Sovereign Identity (SSI).</p> <p>Self-sovereign systems offer the same functions and capabilities as the DTA’s federated system. And they do so without funnelling users through government-controlled Identity Providers.</p> <p>Instead, self-sovereign systems let users create, manage and use multiple discrete digital identities. Each identity can be tailored to its function, with different attributes attached according to necessity.</p> <p>Authentication systems like this offer control over the disclosure of personal information. This is a feature that may considerably enhance the privacy, security and usability of digital identification.</p> <p><strong>Moving forward</strong></p> <p>Based on the idea of giving control to users, self-sovereign digital identification puts its users ahead of any institution, organisation or state. Incorporating elements from the self-sovereign approach might make the Australian system more appealing by addressing public concerns.</p> <p>And self-sovereign identity is just one example of many technologies already available to the DTA. The possibilities are vast.</p> <p>However, those possibilities can only be explored if the DTA starts engaging directly with the general public, industry and academia. Keeping Australia’s Digital National ID scheme cloaked will only increase negative sentiment towards digital identity schemes.</p> <p>Even if self-sovereign identity proved appealing to the public, there would still be plenty of need for dialogue. For example, people would need to enrol into the identification program by physically visiting a white-listed facility (such as a post office). That alone poses several technological, economic, social and political challenges.</p> <p>Regardless of the direction Australia takes for the Digital National ID, there will be problems that need to be solved – and these will require dialogue and transparency.</p> <p>Government and other organisations may not support a self-sovereign identity initiative, as it would give them less information about and administrative control over their constituents or clients.</p> <p>Nonetheless, the implementation of a national identity scheme by stealth will only give the Australian public good reason for outrage, and it might culminate in intensified and unwanted scrutiny.</p> <p>To prevent this from occurring, the DTA’s project needs to be brought out of hiding. It is only with transparency and a dialogue open to all Australians that the public’s concerns can be addressed in full.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/130200/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><span><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dr-patrick-scolyer-gray-936770"><em>Dr Patrick Scolyer-Gray</em></a><em>, Research Fellow, Cyber Security, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></span></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/australias-national-digital-id-is-here-but-the-governments-not-talking-about-it-130200">original article</a>.</em></p>

Technology

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Why seeing live music as a child matters

<p>The mass media invented the teenager during the 1950s and 60s – and thus emerged a whole new audience for popular culture. What we’re seeing now is the recognition of children as an ever more important audience. Musicians and performers, including many <a href="http://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/2014/Family/">on the program</a> at the Sydney Festival, are tailoring their shows to meet the needs of their young fans.</p> <p>Of course adolescence was nothing new back in the 1950s – but teenagers became an identifiable group who were targeted by people selling music, advertising and live performance in a way that they never had been during this time.</p> <p>The follow-on effect has been quite remarkable, with 50s and 60s teenagers – AKA babyboomers – continuing their teenage patterns of music and media consumption.</p> <p>As Andy Bennett and his colleagues have noted of the emerging era of <a href="http://www.bloomsbury.com/au/ageing-and-youth-cultures-9781847888358/">Aging and Popular Music Studies</a>, “in the early 21st century, the concept of ‘youth culture’ appears increasingly ambiguous and open to interpretation”. Audiences don’t grow out of mass media consumption, live music, and arts performance – rather, they take those habits with them as they grow up and on.</p> <p><strong>Step aside, teens, the kids are in town</strong></p> <p>If the teenager was invented in the 50s and 60s, the pre-teenager, the “tween” (in between child and teenager) and even the toddler, have been created by changes in the late 1990s and into the 2000s.</p> <p>The rise of Australian children’s entertainers <a href="http://www.thewiggles.com/">The Wiggles</a> as all-round performers, composers, merchandisers and popular music innovators has proven that an audience once considered too young for “youth music” is, in fact, a group to be considered.</p> <p>Not only have The Wiggles had <a href="http://www.brw.com.au/p/brw-lounge/the_biggest_earners_in_show_business_pL28d9FkZRUrlqqg0LoCmJ">the type of financial success</a> most musicians can only dream of, theirs is a unique position in terms of influencing the next generation of music makers.</p> <p>This was demonstrated by <a href="https://shop.abc.net.au/products/rewiggled-a-tribute-to-the-wiggles">Re-Wiggled</a>, a covers album released for The Wiggles’ 20th anniversary, in which “grown-up” musicians gave the pre-school fodder serious treatment. Particularly impressive are offerings by bands with members in their twenties. Their first experiences of The Wiggles come full circle with the new recordings.</p> <p><strong>Live music for young audiences</strong></p> <p>Listening to recorded music at home with your family is such an important thing for kids, and it can unquestionably set off a lifelong love of music. But seeing music live with a group of strangers is something else again.</p> <p>Live music remains an important part of a working musician’s life and a music fan’s experience, with a <a href="http://www.apra-amcos.com.au/news/allnews/LiveMusicfuelsAustralianeconomytothetuneof%2412billion.aspx">2011 study</a> finding that live music in Australia is an industry worth over a billion dollars. Once that light has been fired up, it seems, it’s hard to extinguish.</p> <p>It makes sense then that live music and performance generally for young audiences being increasingly incorporated into community festivals and live performance events.</p> <p>Dedicated kids performances and experiences, such as Ali McGregor’s <a href="http://www.sydneyfestival.org.au/2014/Family/Jazzamatazz!/">Jazzamattazz! At The Spiegeltent</a> for the current Sydney Festival, a show she previously <a href="https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/childrens-shows/ali-mcgregor-s-jazzamatazz">toured</a> at other large cultural events such as the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s not unlike other successful shows, such as Holly Throsby’s program, in previous years.</p> <p>These aim to acknowledge the special needs of young fans with early starting times and encouraged interaction. At these events kids learn how to be audiences in person rather than consumers at home.</p> <p>We’re also seeing children’s events at key venues, such as the <a href="http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/about/program_kids_at_the_house.aspx">Kids at the House</a> programs at the Sydney Opera House. It would be great to see more opportunities set regionally, and perhaps even staged for free or at discounted rates.</p> <p>Tailoring live music to young audiences helps provide a more rounded musical experience generally, but can also build up lifelong music and arts-going habits. By tying these shows to a broader experience – of going to the annual festival, say, or to a particular venue – the hope is that audiences may continue to visit those places/ events in years to come.</p> <p><strong>An intimate and a social experience</strong></p> <p>In a recent book, <a href="http://au.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1405192410.html">Why Music Matters</a>, music academic and fan David Hesmondhalgh tackles the puzzle of music’s appeal.</p> <p>Exploring music across a range of different types of artistic expressions and audience experiences, he argues that “the fact that music matters so much to so many people may derive from two contrasting yet complementary dimensions of modern societies” – that is, “the intimate and the social, the private and the public”.</p> <p>Similarly, the British <a href="http://livemusicexchange.org/">Live Music Exchange</a>, headed up by iconic industry and academic commentators Martin Cloonan and Simon Frith, also makes the case for the importance of both private and public music engagement.</p> <p>Locally, initiatives such as <a href="http://slamrally.org/">Save Live Music Australia</a> actively put their weight behind the maintenance of a sustainable live music culture in Australia. The grassroots organisation is backed as much by those onstage and in the audience – a love for the live experience is something shared across the barriers as well as during all stages of life.</p> <p>Being able to access mediated music whenever we want – either via broadcasting, digital delivery or personal recorded music collections – is something that many young listeners get attached to at a very young age. But experiencing music live, as often and as young as we can, provides something special again.</p> <p>It gives a type of context for where sounds are coming from, and the first steps into learning how we socially experience something that matters so much to so many. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/22003/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/liz-giuffre-105499">Liz Giuffre</a>, Lecturer of Media, Music and Cultural Studies, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174">Macquarie University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/shows-for-little-people-why-seeing-live-music-early-matters-22003">original article</a>.</em></p>

Music

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“Isolate your children”: Karl Stefanovic questions education minister’s coronavirus plan for schools

<p>Fired up Karl Stefanovic clashed with Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan live on air over the government’s coronavirus advice to school as students head back to class.</p> <p>The government and health authorities are currently taking extra care not to incite unnecessary panic, but the<span> </span><em>Today</em><span> </span>show host pointed out the potentially high stakes.</p> <p>Stefanovic then called into question the confidence from the education minister.</p> <p>“With the greatest respect, the advice is changing so quickly ... Last night, it changed in the dead of the night,” Stefanovic said, seemingly referring to Foreign Minister Marise Payne announcing just after midnight advice not travel to central China's Hubei Province.</p> <p>“Now it is going to evolve into something else. Isn’t it better that we take precautions now and take it to the extreme?</p> <p>“And we’re talking about the extreme,” he noted.</p> <p>“Just isolate your kids for two weeks, that is not a big burden, ... Otherwise we run the risk of this thing going and spreading faster than we can take control of.”</p> <p>However, Tehan stood firm by his position, saying that the government would update its stance in line with advice from medical experts.</p> <p>“(The) advice is unless you’ve been in direct contact with someone who has the virus or is showing symptoms, you are fine to go to school or go to a childcare centre,” he said.</p> <p>“Individual schools can make their own decisions. But as education minister, with Health Minister Greg Hunt, we’ve got to take the advice of the medical experts. It is medical experts not only here in Australia, but also overseas.”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">“Unless you’ve been in direct contact with someone who has the virus… you’re fine to go to school or go to a childcare centre.” Education Minister Tehan is urging Australians to listen to the advice of medical professionals in regards to Coronavirus. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/9Today?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#9Today</a> <a href="https://t.co/WTwHnM6PHy">pic.twitter.com/WTwHnM6PHy</a></p> — The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) <a href="https://twitter.com/TheTodayShow/status/1222263408327897095?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 28, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>Stefanovic was not pleased with this, saying that the government isn’t doing enough.</p> <p>“The thing is, it seems like a whole lot worse than your position,” Stefanovic told the minister.</p> <p>“Schools are taking it into their own hands, because they don’t clearly believe you are doing enough at this point and the reality is you don’t have a say do you.”</p> <p>Tehan remained silent as Stefanovic continued his tirade.</p> <p>“This sort of information flow is just weird, and it’s not good enough,” Stefanovic said.</p> <p>“The problem is you’ve got parents at home not knowing what to do because the information has not been clear and present.”</p> <p>On Tuesday, Tehan raised eyebrows by rebuking schools who said that international students should stay away from Australia. Tehan said that Australia should send a message, saying that the country is open for international students.</p> <p>Network Ten’s political editor Peter Van Onselen was less than impressed.</p> <p>“I really am shocked by the recklessness of Tehan’s comments,” he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.</p> <p>“If Tehan really feels so relaxed about the risks he should sit down in a closed room with a large number of people arriving back from over there for days on end to discuss the issue... take his children too, given he expects us to put ours in harm’s way.”</p> <p>Prime Minister Scott Morrison has since responded to the Australians impacted by the coronavirus, saying that the Aussies evacuated from the epicentre of the outbreak will be quarantined on Christmas Island.</p> <p>“We have taken the decision this morning to prepare a plan for an operation to provide some assisted departures for isolated and vulnerable Australians in Wuhan and the Hubei province,” Mr Morrison said at a press conference in Canberra this morning.</p> <p>“I stress there is a rather limited window here and we are moving very, very swiftly to ensure we can put this plan together.”</p> <p>However, he has stressed that there is "no guarantee" that the quarantine will be successful in stopping the virus.</p> <p>Morrison also urged Australians to get information from official sources due to the mass amount of misinformation spreading about the virus.</p> <p>“A key part of our armoury is information, and having the right information, and ensuring people are going to the right source of information and making decisions based on that accurate information,” he said.</p> <p>“I would encourage all Australians to focus on getting that information from the trusted sources, which are directly from public health authorities.”</p>

TV

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Apps may soon be able to predict your life expectancy, but do you want to know?

<p><em>When will I die?</em></p> <p>This question has endured across cultures and civilisations. It has given rise to a plethora of religions and spiritual paths over thousands of years, and more recently, <a href="https://apps.apple.com/us/app/when-will-i-die/id1236569653">some highly amusing apps</a>.</p> <p>But this question now prompts a different response, as technology slowly brings us closer to accurately predicting the answer.</p> <p>Predicting the lifespan of people, or their “Personal Life Expectancy” (PLE) would greatly alter our lives.</p> <p>On one hand, it may have benefits for policy making, and help optimise an individual’s health, or the services they receive.</p> <p>But the potential misuse of this information by the government or private sector poses major risks to our rights and privacy.</p> <p>Although generating an accurate life expectancy is currently difficult, due to the complexity of factors underpinning lifespan, emerging technologies could make this a reality in the future.</p> <p><strong>How do you calculate life expectancy?</strong></p> <p>Predicting life expectancy is not a new concept. <a href="http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20170807-living-in-places-where-people-live-the-longest">Experts do this</a> at a population level by classifying people into groups, often based on region or ethnicity.</p> <p>Also, tools such as <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-23534-9">deep learning</a> and <a href="https://mipt.ru/english/news/scientists_use_ai_to_predict_biological_age_based_on_smartphone_and_wearables_data">artificial intelligence</a> can be used to consider complex variables, such as biomedical data, to predict someone’s biological age.</p> <p>Biological age refers to how “old” their body is, rather than when they were born. A 30-year-old who smokes heavily may have a biological age closer to 40.</p> <p><a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2227-7080/6/3/74/htm">Calculating a life expectancy reliably</a> would require a sophisticated system that considers a breadth of environmental, geographic, genetic and lifestyle factors – <a href="https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/oatsih-hpf-2012-toc%7Etier1%7Elife-exp-wellb%7E119">all of which have influence</a>.<span class="attribution"><a href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/healthy-lady-run-away-angel-death-329261456" class="source"></a></span></p> <p>With <a href="https://builtin.com/artificial-intelligence/machine-learning-healthcare">machine learning</a> and artificial intelligence, it’s becoming feasible to analyse larger quantities of data. The use of deep learning and cognitive computing, such as with <a href="https://www.ibm.com/watson-health">IBM Watson</a>, helps doctors make more accurate diagnoses than using human judgement alone.</p> <p>This, coupled with <a href="https://www.cio.com/article/3273114/what-is-predictive-analytics-transforming-data-into-future-insights.html">predictive analytics</a> and increasing computational power, means we may soon have systems, or even apps, that can calculate life expectancy.</p> <p><strong>There’s an app for that</strong></p> <p>Much like <a href="https://www.mdanderson.org/for-physicians/clinical-tools-resources/clinical-calculators.html">existing tools</a> that predict cancer survival rates, in the coming years we may see apps attempting to analyse data to predict life expectancy.</p> <p>However, they will not be able to provide a “death date”, or even a year of death.</p> <p>Human behaviour and activities are so unpredictable, it’s almost impossible to measure, classify and predict lifespan. A personal life expectancy, even a carefully calculated one, would only provide a “natural life expectancy” based on generic data optimised with personal data.</p> <p>The key to accuracy would be the quality and quantity of data available. Much of this would be taken directly from the user, including gender, age, weight, height and ethnicity.</p> <p>Access to real-time sensor data through fitness trackers and smart watches could also monitor activity levels, heart rate and blood pressure. This could then be coupled with lifestyle information such as occupation, socioeconomic status, exercise, diet and family medical history.</p> <hr /> <p><em> <strong> Read more: <a href="https://theconversation.com/your-local-train-station-can-predict-health-and-death-54946">Your local train station can predict health and death</a> </strong> </em></p> <hr /> <p>All of the above could be used to classify an individual into a generic group to calculate life expectancy. This result would then be refined over time through the analysis of personal data, updating a user’s life expectancy and letting them monitor it.</p> <p><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/308303/original/file-20191230-11891-nswi58.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" alt="" /> <span class="caption">This figure shows how an individual’s life expectancy might change between two points in time (F and H) following a lifestyle improvement, such as weight loss.</span></p> <p><strong>Two sides of a coin</strong></p> <p>Life expectancy predictions have the potential to be beneficial to individuals, health service providers and governments.</p> <p>For instance, they would make people more aware of their general health, and its improvement or deterioration over time. This may motivate them to make healthier lifestyle choices.</p> <p>They could also be used by insurance companies to provide individualised services, such as how some car insurance companies use <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/dec/16/motoring-myths-black-boxes-telematics-insurance">black-box technology</a> to reduce premiums for more cautious drivers.</p> <p>Governments may be able to use predictions to more efficiently allocate limited resources, such as social welfare assistance and health care funding, to individuals and areas of greater need.</p> <p>That said, there’s a likely downside.</p> <p>People <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/11/the-existential-slap/544790/">may become distressed</a> if their life expectancy is unexpectedly low, or at the thought of having one at all. This raises concerns about how such predictions could impact those who experience or are at risk of mental health problems.</p> <p>Having people’s detailed health data could also let insurance companies more accurately profile applicants, <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-07-08/fitness-tracker-used-to-set-health-insurance-premiums/11287126">leading to discrimination against groups or individuals</a>.</p> <p>Also, pharmaceutical companies could coordinate targeted medical campaigns based on people’s life expectancy. And governments could choose to tax individuals differently, or restrict services for certain people.</p> <p><strong>When will it happen?</strong></p> <p>Scientists have been working on ways to <a href="https://towardsdatascience.com/what-really-drives-higher-life-expectancy-e1c1ec22f6e1">predict human life expectancy</a> for many years.</p> <p>The solution would require input from specialists including demographers, health scientists, data scientists, IT specialists, programmers, medical professionals and statisticians.</p> <p>While the collection of enough data will be challenging, we can likely expect to see advances in this area in the coming years.</p> <p>If so, issues related to data compliance, as well and collaboration with government and state agencies will need to be carefully managed. Any system predicting life expectancy would handle highly sensitive data, raising ethical and privacy concerns.</p> <p>It would also attract cybercriminals, and various other security threats.</p> <p>Moving forward, the words of Jurassic Park’s Dr Ian Malcolm spring to mind:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important; text-shadow: none !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/129068/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></em><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: http://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> </blockquote> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/james-jin-kang-903030">James Jin Kang</a>, Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-haskell-dowland-382903">Paul Haskell-Dowland</a>, Associate Dean (Computing and Security), <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="http://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/dont-die-wondering-apps-may-soon-be-able-to-predict-your-life-expectancy-but-do-you-want-to-know-129068">original article</a>.</em></p>

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