Placeholder Content Image

Advocates slam "ageist" call for older drivers to undergo mandatory testing

<p>A fresh push to make older drivers undergo mandatory health checks every year has been labelled ageist by advocates. </p> <p>General Practitioners have reignited the debate to introduce annual assessments for drivers in Victoria aged 75 and over, to bring the state in line with standards in other states including NSW, Queensland, WA and the Australian Capital Territory. </p> <p>“This is not about discriminating against older people, but a recognition that the skills that are required to drive safely can be lost as we get older,” the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Victoria chair Dr Anita Muñoz told <em>The Age</em>. </p> <p>"We do feel that having an annual assessment done for elderly drivers is a good thing," the college's Victoria co-deputy chair Dr Bindiya Sethi added. </p> <p>Victoria Police data obtained by <em>The Age</em> also showed that 145 people have died and 7080 have been injured in road incidents caused by people aged over 65. </p> <p>20 per cent of licence holders in Victoria are over 65, which has gone up from 16 per cent a decade ago. </p> <p>In the last financial year, there were 247 deaths and 16,265 injuries caused by crashes on Victorian roads, with drivers aged 65 and over responsible for around 10 per cent of these incidences. </p> <p>However, Chris Potaris, chief executive of the Council on the Ageing Victoria and Seniors Rights Victoria, has called the move "ageist". </p> <p>“We continue to support Victoria’s approach, which emphasises a driver’s behaviour and medical fitness to operate a motor vehicle,” he told the publication. </p> <p>“Driving should be based on ability, not on age.”</p> <p>Seniors Rights Victoria policy and advocacy manager Ben Rogers has also slammed the move. </p> <p>"We find it ageist and arbitrary ... It's targeting people that don't need to be targeted," Rogers said. </p> <p>MP Steve Dimopolous added that there was no evidence that an aged-based assessment model was any better than the existing rules. </p> <p>VicRoads also claimed that there is a lot of misinformation about older drivers, who are "usually more cautious, more experienced and more responsible" than younger drivers.</p> <p> </p> <p>"They are more likely to obey the law and are less likely to drink drive or speed," VicRoads said.</p> <p>However, a few others believe that mandatory assessments are a good move. </p> <p>"I think it's fair enough. Over a certain age, maybe 70 or so," local man Pat said.</p> <p>"I think the younger drivers are worse than the older drivers," another added. </p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

Legal

Placeholder Content Image

Centenarian blood tests give hints of the secrets to longevity

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/karin-modig-1473484">Karin Modig</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/karolinska-institutet-1250">Karolinska Institutet</a></em></p> <p>Centenarians, once considered rare, have become commonplace. Indeed, they are the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/02/living-to-one-hundred-life-expectancy/">fastest-growing demographic group</a> of the world’s population, with numbers roughly doubling every ten years since the 1970s.</p> <p>How long humans can live, and what determines a long and healthy life, have been of interest for as long as we know. Plato and Aristotle discussed and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12092789/">wrote about the ageing process</a> over 2,300 years ago.</p> <p>The pursuit of understanding the secrets behind exceptional longevity isn’t easy, however. It involves <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7105197/">unravelling the complex interplay</a> of genetic predisposition and lifestyle factors and how they interact throughout a person’s life. Now our recent study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11357-023-00936-w">published in GeroScience</a>, has unveiled some common biomarkers, including levels of cholesterol and glucose, in people who live past 90.</p> <p>Nonagenarians and centenarians have long been of intense interest to scientists as they may help us understand how to live longer, and perhaps also how to age in better health. So far, studies of centenarians have often been small scale and focused on a selected group, for example, excluding centenarians who live in care homes.</p> <h2>Huge dataset</h2> <p>Ours is the largest study comparing biomarker profiles measured throughout life among exceptionally long-lived people and their shorter-lived peers to date.</p> <p>We compared the biomarker profiles of people who went on to live past the age of 100, and their shorter-lived peers, and investigated the link between the profiles and the chance of becoming a centenarian.</p> <p>Our research included data from 44,000 Swedes who underwent health assessments at ages 64-99 - they were a sample of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28158674/">the so-called Amoris cohort</a>. These participants were then followed through Swedish register data for up to 35 years. Of these people, 1,224, or 2.7%, lived to be 100 years old. The vast majority (85%) of the centenarians were female.</p> <p>Twelve blood-based biomarkers related to inflammation, metabolism, liver and kidney function, as well as potential malnutrition and anaemia, were included. All of these <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-019-0719-5">have been associated</a> with ageing or mortality in previous studies.</p> <p>The biomarker related to inflammation was uric acid – a waste product in the body caused by the digestion of certain foods. We also looked at markers linked to metabolic status and function including total cholesterol and glucose, and ones related to liver function, such as alanine aminotransferase (Alat), aspartate aminotransferase (Asat), albumin, gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), alkaline phosphatase (Alp) and lactate dehydrogenase (LD).</p> <p>We also looked at creatinine, which is linked to kidney function, and iron and total iron-binding capacity (TIBC), which is linked to anaemia. Finally, we also investigated albumin, a biomarker associated with nutrition.</p> <h2>Findings</h2> <p>We found that, on the whole, those who made it to their hundredth birthday tended to have lower levels of glucose, creatinine and uric acid from their sixties onwards. Although the median values didn’t differ significantly between centenarians and non-centenarians for most biomarkers, centenarians seldom displayed extremely high or low values.</p> <p>For example, very few of the centenarians had a glucose level above 6.5 earlier in life, or a creatinine level above 125.</p> <p>For many of the biomarkers, both centenarians and non-centenarians had values outside of the range considered normal in clinical guidelines. This is probably because these guidelines are set based on a younger and healthier population.</p> <p>When exploring which biomarkers were linked to the likelihood of reaching 100, we found that all but two (alat and albumin) of the 12 biomarkers showed a connection to the likelihood of turning 100. This was even after accounting for age, sex and disease burden.</p> <p>The people in the lowest out of five groups for levels of total cholesterol and iron had a lower chance of reaching 100 years as compared to those with higher levels. Meanwhile, people with higher levels of glucose, creatinine, uric acid and markers for liver function also decreased the chance of becoming a centenarian.</p> <p>In absolute terms, the differences were rather small for some of the biomarkers, while for others the differences were somewhat more substantial.</p> <p>For uric acid, for instance, the absolute difference was 2.5 percentage points. This means that people in the group with the lowest uric acid had a 4% chance of turning 100 while in the group with the highest uric acid levels only 1.5% made it to age 100.</p> <p>Even if the differences we discovered were overall rather small, they suggest a potential link between metabolic health, nutrition and exceptional longevity.</p> <p>The study, however, does not allow any conclusions about which lifestyle factors or genes are responsible for the biomarker values. However, it is reasonable to think that factors such as nutrition and alcohol intake play a role. Keeping track of your kidney and liver values, as well as glucose and uric acid as you get older, is probably not a bad idea.</p> <p>That said, chance probably plays a role at some point in reaching an exceptional age. But the fact that differences in biomarkers could be observed a long time before death suggests that genes and lifestyle may also play a role.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/215166/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/karin-modig-1473484">Karin Modig</a>, Associate Professor, Epidemiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/karolinska-institutet-1250">Karolinska Institutet</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/centenarian-blood-tests-give-hints-of-the-secrets-to-longevity-215166">original article</a>.</em></p>

Retirement Life

Placeholder Content Image

Should we still be using RATs to test for COVID? 4 key questions answered

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/hassan-vally-202904">Hassan Vally</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p>We’re currently navigating <a href="https://www.thenewdaily.com.au/life/health/2023/11/15/covid-australia-eighth-wave">an eighth wave</a> of <a href="https://theconversation.com/were-in-a-new-covid-wave-what-can-we-expect-this-time-216820">COVID infections</a> in Australia. However the threat COVID poses to us is significantly less than it has ever been, thanks to immunity we’ve acquired through <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(22)00801-5/fulltext">a combination</a> of prior infection and vaccination.</p> <p>That said, COVID is by no means behind us. The threat of severe illness remains higher for many people, and we’re all potentially at risk of developing <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/covid-19/long-covid">long COVID</a>.</p> <p>While many people appear to be doing fewer rapid antigen tests (RATs) than they used to – if any at all – with rising cases, and as we head towards the festive season, testing continues to be important.</p> <p>So what do you need to know about testing in this wave? Here are four key questions answered.</p> <h2>1. When should I do a RAT?</h2> <p>There are a few situations where determining your COVID status is important to inform your actions, particularly during an uptick in infections. With more circulating virus, your index of suspicion that you have COVID if you’re experiencing cold-like symptoms should be higher.</p> <p>RATs work best when they’re used to confirm whether you have COVID when you <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/products/covid-19/covid-19-tests/how-testing-works-covid-19">have respiratory symptoms</a> and are infectious. So the primary use of RATs should be to determine your COVID status when you’re sick. A positive test should prompt you to isolate, and if you’re eligible, to seek antivirals.</p> <p>Testing might also be worthwhile if you’ve come into contact with someone with COVID but you haven’t developed symptoms. If you find you have in fact contracted the virus, you can take steps to avoid spreading it to other people (you can infect others even <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-asymptomatic-covid#prevalence">when you’re asymptomatic</a>). This is especially important if you’re going to be socialising in large groups or in contact with people who are vulnerable.</p> <p>Another situation in which to consider testing, particularly at this time of year, is before attending large social gatherings. While the reliability of a RAT is never perfect, do the test as close to the event as possible, because your disease status <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/omicron-rapid-test-hour-before-party-not-day-before-expert-2021-12">can change quickly</a>.</p> <h2>2. Should I test multiple times?</h2> <p>Yes. RATs are not as sensitive as PCR tests, which is the trade-off we make for being able to do this test at home and <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/public-health-officials-pursue-covid-19-tests-that-trade-precision-for-speed-11599562800">getting a rapid result</a>.</p> <p>This means that while if you test positive with a RAT you can be very confident you have COVID, if you test negative, you cannot be as confident that you don’t have COVID. That is, the test may give you a false negative result.</p> <p>Although RATs from different manufacturers have different accuracies, all RATs approved by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration must have a sensitivity of <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/products/covid-19/covid-19-tests/covid-19-rapid-antigen-self-tests-home-use/covid-19-rapid-antigen-self-tests-are-approved-australia#:%7E:text=For%20rapid%20antigen%20tests%2C%20this,specificity%20of%20at%20least%2098%25.">at least 80%</a>.</p> <p>The way to increase your confidence in a negative result is to do multiple RATs serially – each negative test increases the confidence you can have that you don’t have COVID. If you have symptoms and have tested negative after your first RAT, <a href="https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/safety-communications/home-covid-19-antigen-tests-take-steps-reduce-your-risk-false-negative-results-fda-safety">the advice</a> is to repeat the test after 48 hours, and potentially a third time after another 48 hours if the second test is also negative.</p> <h2>3. Do RATs detect the latest variants?</h2> <p>Since RATs <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/covid-19/testing#:%7E:text=Rapid%20antigen%20tests%2C%20or%20RATs,of%20proteins%20of%20the%20virus.">detect particular surface proteins</a> on SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID), it’s theoretically possible that as the virus evolves, the reliability of these tests may be affected.</p> <p>However, RATs were designed to detect a part of the virus that is not as likely to mutate, so the hope is these tests <a href="https://www.health.com/do-covid-tests-work-new-variants-7967102">will continue to hold up</a> as SARS-CoV-2 evolves.</p> <p>The performance of RATs is continually being assessed by manufacturers. So far, there’s been no change reported in the ability of these tests to <a href="https://www.ama.com.au/articles/tga-updated-advice-rats-nearing-expiry-and-rats-efficacy-current-strains#:%7E:text=The%20TGA%20has%20received%20evidence,19%20RAT%20post%2Dmarket%20review.">detect the latest variants</a>.</p> <h2>4. Can I rely on expired RATs?</h2> <p>At this point in the pandemic, you might have a few expired tests at the back of your cupboard.</p> <p>Technically the most appropriate advice is to say you should never use a diagnostic test <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/products/covid-19/covid-19-tests/covid-19-rapid-antigen-self-tests-home-use/covid-19-rapid-antigen-self-tests-are-approved-australia">past its expiry date</a>. As a general principle the performance of a test cannot be guaranteed beyond this date. The risk is that over time the components of the RAT degrade and if you use a test that’s not working optimally, it’s more likely to indicate <a href="https://www.health.com/can-you-use-expired-covid-test-6827970">you don’t have COVID</a> when you actually do, which may have consequences.</p> <p>However, as for all things COVID, the answer is not so black and white. Since these tests were new when they were introduced earlier in the pandemic, manufacturers didn’t have specific data on their performance over time, and so the expiry dates given were necessarily conservative.</p> <p>It’s likely these tests will work beyond the expiry dates on the packet, but just how long and how well they work is a bit of an unknown, so we need to be cautious.</p> <p>The other thing to consider is ensuring you store RATs correctly. Storage instructions should be found on the packet, but the key issue is making sure they’re not exposed to extreme temperatures. In particular, <a href="https://7news.com.au/lifestyle/health-wellbeing/how-to-properly-store-your-at-home-covid-19-rapid-antigen-tests-c-5465412">high temperatures</a> may damage the chemicals in the test which may reduce its sensitivity.</p> <h2>The path from here</h2> <p>Regular upticks in COVID cases are something we’re going to have to get used to. At these times, we should all be a bit more cautious about looking after ourselves and others as we go about our lives. What this looks like will vary for different people depending on their personal circumstances.</p> <p>However, being up to date with <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-are-the-new-covid-booster-vaccines-can-i-get-one-do-they-work-are-they-safe-217804">booster vaccinations</a>, having a plan for <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/covid-19/oral-treatments">accessing antivirals</a> if you’re eligible, <a href="https://theconversation.com/with-covid-surging-should-i-wear-a-mask-217902">wearing masks</a> in high-risk settings and testing all continue to play an important role in responding to COVID.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/218016/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/hassan-vally-202904"><em>Hassan Vally</em></a><em>, Associate Professor, Epidemiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/should-we-still-be-using-rats-to-test-for-covid-4-key-questions-answered-218016">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

Worried about getting a blood test? 5 tips to make them easier (and still accurate)

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sapha-shibeeb-1481231">Sapha Shibeeb</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em></p> <p>Blood tests are a common medical procedure, offering valuable insights into a person’s health. Whether you’re getting a routine check-up, diagnosing a medical condition or monitoring treatment progress, understanding the process can make the experience more comfortable and effective.</p> <p>For the majority of patients, blood collections are a minor inconvenience. Others may feel <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0887618506000041">uneasy and anxious</a>.</p> <p>Preparation strategies can help get you through the procedure.</p> <h2>How blood is collected</h2> <p>During venipuncture (blood draw), the phlebotomist (blood collector) inserts a needle through the skin into a vein and a small amount of blood is collected and transferred into a test tube.</p> <p>Tubes are sent to a laboratory, where the blood is analysed. A laboratory technician may count or examine cells and measure the levels of minerals/salts, enzymes, proteins or other substances in the sample. For some tests, blood plasma is separated out by spinning (centrifuging) the sample. Others pass a light beam through the sample to determine the amount of a chemical present.</p> <p>For collection, the phlebotomist usually selects a vein in the crook of your elbow, where veins are readily accessible. Blood can also be drawn from veins in the wrists, fingers or heels. A tourniquet may be applied to restrict blood flow and make the chosen vein puff out.</p> <h2>Different tests require different preparation</h2> <p>Before a blood test, the GP or health-care provider will give you specific instructions.</p> <p>These may include fasting for up to 12 hours or temporarily discontinuing certain medications.</p> <p>It is crucial to follow these guidelines meticulously as they can significantly impact the accuracy of your test results. For example, fasting is required before glucose (blood sugar) and lipids (blood fats) testing because blood sugar and cholesterol levels typically increase after a meal.</p> <p>If the blood test requires fasting, you will be asked not to eat or drink (no tea, coffee, juice or alcohol) for about eight to 12 hours. Water is allowed but smoking should be avoided because it can increase <a href="https://diabetesjournals.org/care/article/19/2/112/19825/Acute-Effect-of-Cigarette-Smoking-on-Glucose">blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels</a>.</p> <p>Generally, you will be asked to fast overnight and have the blood collection done in the morning. Fasting for longer than 15 hours could impact your results, too, by causing dehydration or the release of certain chemicals in the blood.</p> <p>If you have diabetes, you must consult your doctor prior to fasting because it can increase the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in people with type 1 diabetes. Most type 2 diabetics can safely fast before a blood test but there are some exceptions, such as people who are taking certain medications including insulin.</p> <h2>5 tips for a better blood test</h2> <p>To improve your blood collection experience, consider these tips:</p> <p><strong>1. Hydrate</strong></p> <p>Drink plenty of water right up to 30 minutes before your appointment. Adequate hydration improves blood flow, making your veins more accessible. Avoid <a href="https://academic.oup.com/labmed/article/34/10/736/2657269">strenuous exercise</a> before your blood test, which can increase some blood parameters (such as liver function) while decreasing others (such as sodium).</p> <p><strong>2. Loose clothing</strong></p> <p>Wear clothing that allows easy access to your arms to ensure a less stressful procedure.</p> <p><strong>3. Manage anxiety</strong></p> <p>If the sight of blood or the procedure makes you anxious, look away while the needle is inserted and try to keep breathing normally. Distraction can help – virtual reality has been <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31889358/">trialled</a> to reduce needle anxiety in children. You could try bringing something to read or music to listen to.</p> <p><strong>4. Know your risk of fainting</strong></p> <p>If you’re prone to fainting, make sure to inform the phlebotomist when you arrive. You can have your blood drawn while lying down to minimise the risk of passing out and injury. Hydration helps maintain blood pressure and can also <a href="https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/01.CIR.0000101966.24899.CB">reduce the risk</a> of fainting.</p> <p><strong>5. Discuss difficult veins</strong></p> <p>Some people have smaller or scarred veins, often due to repeated punctures, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4989034/">chemotherapy</a> or blood thinner use. In such cases, venipuncture may require multiple attempts. It is important to talk to the phlebotomist if you feel discomfort or significant pain. A finger prick can be performed as an alternative for some tests, such as blood glucose levels. But other comprehensive tests require larger blood volume.</p> <h2>Blood draws after lymph node removal</h2> <p>Historically, there were concerns about drawing blood from an arm that had undergone lymph node removal. This was due to the risk of <a href="https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/lymphedema/lymphedema-pdq#:%7E:text=Lymphedema%20is%20the%20build%2Dup,the%20way%20that%20it%20should.">lymphedema</a>, a condition marked by fluid build-up in the affected arm. Lymph nodes may have been removed (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK564397/#:%7E:text=Lymph%20node%20dissection%2C%20also%20known,surgical%20management%20of%20malignant%20tumors.">lymphadenectomy</a>) for cancer diagnosis or treatment.</p> <p>However, a <a href="https://ascopubs.org/doi/10.1200/JCO.2015.61.5948">2016 study</a> showed people who’ve had lymph nodes removed are not at a higher risk of developing lymphedema following blood draws, even when drawing blood from the affected arm.</p> <h2>After your blood test</h2> <p>The whole blood test procedure usually lasts no more than a few minutes. Afterwards, you may be asked to apply gentle pressure over a clean dressing to aid clotting and reduce swelling.</p> <p>If you do experience swelling, bruising or pain after a test, follow general first aid procedures to alleviate discomfort. These include applying ice to the site, resting the affected arm and, if needed, taking a pain killer.</p> <p>It is usually recommended you do not do heavy lifting for a few hours after a blood draw. This is to prevent surges in blood flow that could prevent clotting where the blood was taken.<!-- 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;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/216073/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: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sapha-shibeeb-1481231">Sapha Shibeeb</a>, Senior lecturer in Laboratory Medicine , <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/worried-about-getting-a-blood-test-5-tips-to-make-them-easier-and-still-accurate-216073">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

"Ice in his veins": Stunning result in First Ashes Test

<p>Australia has emerged victorious in the first Ashes Test, with captain Pat Cummins chasing down 281 with just two wickets left inside the final five overs on the last day at Edgbaston.</p> <p>Cummins scored an unbeaten 44 as he and Nathan Lyon (16) put on 55 for the ninth wicket to bag the win — a thrilling reversal of Australia’s famous two-run loss at the same ground in 2005.</p> <p>The captain and Lyon hit occasional boundaries, wearing several short balls on the body before Cummins got a thick edge to third man off Robinson and Harry Brook’s fumble on the boundary saw Aussie fans and players erupt in raptures — reigning in a 1-0 lead in the series.</p> <p>"Ice in his veins," England great Michael Atherton said in commentary when Cummins' boundary sealed the result.</p> <p>"Pat Cummins has led his side to a famous victory here at Edgbaston.</p> <p>"Seventy-two they needed when he came to the crease and he has got his team over the line.”</p> <p>Aussie cricket legend Ricky Ponting was astounded.</p> <p>"What an end to a Test match, what a game of cricket," the former captain said.</p> <p>Needing 174 runs to win at the start of the day, in-form opener Usman Khawaja laid a platform for the late charge with 65 off 197 balls, before being bowled late in the day.</p> <p>He admitted he was “Sh****ng [himself]” as he watched the rest of the brutal run chase from the sheds.</p> <p>Despite being confined to a knee brace, Ben Strokes brought himself on to bowl and claimed the wicket of the eventual man of the match, Usman Khawaja.</p> <p>As the Aussie dressing room spiralled into a frenzy, an elated Cummins raced over to Lyon at the opposite end of the wicket and lifted his batting partner off the ground.</p> <p>The pair were then seen in a triumphant embrace as ecstatic Aussies in the Birmingham crowd celebrated the incredible result.</p> <p>The victory — initially appearing highly unlikely when Lyon joined Cummins with the visitors needing 54 runs to win — made for Australia’s highest successful run chase against England since 1948.</p> <p><em>Image credit: Getty</em></p>

News

Placeholder Content Image

The 12 smartest cat breeds that are equally cute and clever

<h2>How smart is your cat?</h2> <p>Cats are delightfully complex creatures. If we dare to sleep in a few minutes late, they paw at our faces and meow, demanding breakfast. They can be warm and affectionate yet aloof when we’ve been away from the house too long. Even some of the smartest cat breeds display unusual cat behaviour.  But there’s no need for standardised tests to verify what we already know – cats are smart! Whether they’re mixed breed or purebred, small cat breeds or large cat breeds, the reality is that there’s no one accurate way to measure the intelligence of individual cats. However, recent research gives us some compelling evidence to back up what we know in our hearts: feline intelligence is unique.</p> <p>Are you clawing to find out which cat breeds are the smartest? Do they happen to be sleek black cat breeds, gorgeous orange cat breeds or all of the above? Experts say the ones on our list stand out when it comes to their trainability, insatiable curiosity, investigative skills and puzzle-solving brain power.</p> <h2>Do cats have a high IQ?</h2> <p>Before we reveal the smartest cat breeds, let’s take a closer look at just how clever these little lions are. We know that a cat’s brain is almost as structurally complex as a human brain. Cats have around 250 million neurons (tiny information processors) in their cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that solves problems, makes decisions, decodes emotions and creates complex behaviour, like why cats purr or why cats sleep so much. (In comparison, dogs have about 429 million neurons, and humans house an average of 86 billion.) And while more neurons in the brain does equal more cognitive ability, it isn’t necessarily a good indicator of intelligence. That’s because cognition can involve other areas outside the cerebral cortex.</p> <p>So why are dogs generally thought to be smarter than cats? Is it because they have more neurons? Nerdy science aside, there are a host of theories. For starters, dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years and have been living and learning social tasks from humans longer than cats. Temperament wise, dogs are more patient and generally eager to please their humans. In contrast, cats are typically less eager to please, though some are exceptionally cooperative. They tend to be more impulsive, have far less patience and get frustrated and lose interest in something that’s boring to them.</p> <p>However, cats are highly attuned to their surroundings, and how they interact and respond is expressing intelligence, says Teresa Keiger, an all-breed judge with the Cat Fanciers’ Association. That awareness is what helped cats survive for thousands of years in the wild. “I notice that cats who were rescued from outdoor living situations tend to be more intelligent, since they’ve had to learn to think on their feet,” says veterinarian, Dr Stephanie Wolf. Whether a mixed breed or pedigree, rare cat breed or fluffy cat breed, one thing is certain: cats are smart and trainable; they just might not all be interested.</p> <h2>1. Russian blue</h2> <p>When it comes to the smartest cat breeds, the Russian blue is so clever that it’s more apt to train you than the other way around. Like an alarm, the Russian blue will wake you up to feed it breakfast and remind you when it’s dinnertime. In fact, if you’re looking for an accountability partner to maintain a strict schedule, this might be the cat for you. “This quiet breed is very attuned to its household,” says Keiger. “They’re incredibly smart, and they wait to make certain that any stranger is not a threat to safety.” Once they’ve issued your security clearance, they form a tight bond and are regarded as an affectionate cat breed with their humans – so much so that they’re known for hitching a ride on their human’s shoulders.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2">Breed overview</td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2">Russian blue</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Height</td> <td>25 centimetres</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Weight</td> <td>3–7 kilograms</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Life expectancy</td> <td>15–20 years</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h2>Abyssinian</h2> <p>This gorgeous cat looks like it stepped out of the jungle and into your living room. From the forward-tilting ears to the large almond-shaped eyes and the stunning colours of its coat, it resembles a cougar. “Abyssinians are incredibly intelligent, good problem solvers and full of an insatiable curiosity,” says Keiger.</p> <p>Perpetually alert and busy, the Aby is happiest when patrolling its environment and playing with challenging interactive puzzle toys. “I always think of Abys as the MacGyver of cats – if they had thumbs, they’d figure out how to fix anything,” Keiger says. Intelligence aside, Abys are highly social cats and love people and other felines. Plus, they are one of the cat breeds that gets along with dogds.   Who knows? Maybe the Aby could teach your old dog a few new tricks.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2">Breed overview</td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2">Abyssinian</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Height</td> <td>30–40 centimetres</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Weight</td> <td>3–5 kilograms</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Life expectancy</td> <td>9–15 years</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h2>3. Egyptian mau</h2> <p>The key to this exotic beauty’s happiness is sharpening its mental and physical skills. “Being able to offer enrichment is key to ensuring your cat is getting the best level of stimulation and exercise,” says veterinarian, Dr Julie Andino. That goes for all breeds, but this cat craves cat toys and activities that showcase its lightning-fast physical and mental responses. They’re so clever that they can even turn on the faucet to play in water – although we may never understand why some cats hate water when the mau wouldn’t miss an opportunity to splash their paws in it. After they’ve expended their energy figuring out the day’s puzzles, this cutie loves to snuggle up with their human.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2">Breed overview</td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2">Egyptian mau</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Height</td> <td>17–28 centimetres</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Weight</td> <td>4–6 kilograms</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Life expectancy</td> <td>9–13 years</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h2>4. Burmese</h2> <p>One of the smartest cat breeds, the Burmese craves attention, something you can learn from its body language.  “This intelligent breed loves to entertain its resident humans so much that it often checks to make certain someone is watching,” says Keiger. They’re also known for being dog-like and enjoy a rousing game of fetch, an unusually quirky cat behaviour. And they’re adorably stubborn. “When they make up their minds that they want something, they simply don’t take no for an answer and usually figure out a way to get it.” And that includes attention from you. Burmese cats are all about give-and-take when it comes to affection, but if you’re busy and ignore them too long, they might take it upon themselves to follow you around the house, rub against your leg  or plop down on your lap and snuggle, all to remind you that you have a cat that needs some loving.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2">Breed overview</td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2">Burmese</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Height</td> <td>25–30 centimetres</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Weight</td> <td>4–6 kilograms</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Life expectancy</td> <td>9–13 years</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h2>5. American bobtail</h2> <p>It’s one thing for the smartest cat breeds to learn new tricks, but when a cat also has emotional intelligence, that’s an impressive combo. These cute stubby-tailed felines are noted for their empathy and for providing a calming and assuring presence that’s equal to emotional support dogs. “They are also very in tune with their household and owners, offering a shoulder to cry on when needed,” says Keiger.</p> <p>They even act like dogs – playing fetch, walking on a leash and rushing to greet guests when there’s a knock on the door. Devoted companion, a lover of people and other animals, the American bobtail is an adorable and lovable companion.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2">Breed overview</td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2">American bobtail</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Height</td> <td>22–25 centimetres</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Weight</td> <td>3–7 kilograms</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Life expectancy</td> <td>13–15 years</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h2>6. Japanese bobtail</h2> <p>The smartest cat breeds are often breeds we have never heard of before. Take the Japanese bobtail, one of the rarest cat breeds in the world. Every Japanese bobtail has its own unique tail. Yes, you read that right. No two tails are ever alike. They consider themselves family members and are always ready to help, even if that means sitting on your sitting on your laptop. “They are active, intelligent, talkative cats who delight in mischief-making,” says Keiger. They love to travel, stay in hotels and quite literally jump through hoops and over hurdles to impress you – and entertain themselves. As brain power goes, it’s that human-like personality that makes them seem so bright. “Life is never dull with a Japanese bobtail,” Keiger says.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2">Breed overview</td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2">Japanese bobtail</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Height</td> <td>20–23 centimetres</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Weight</td> <td>3–5 kilograms</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Life expectancy</td> <td>15–18 years</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h2>7. Siamese</h2> <p>The Siamese is wicked smart and loves to learn new tricks, Dr Andino says. If you don’t provide interesting and challenging outlets to exercise its noggin, it will find its own stimulating activities, whether you approve or not. If there’s one thing that competes with utilising its brain power, it’s the love and affection it craves from humans. If this cat had a daily schedule, “get affection from human” would be a top priority. And Siamese cats will let you know by that infamous yowling. “The Siamese are very vocal and communicative with their human,” says Dr Andino. They’re likely to talk your ear off, especially if they want something. One of the smartest cat breeds, the Siamese gets along well with people of all ages, as well as other animals. Bonus: if you take any stock in choosing cats most compatible with your zodiac sign, the Siamese happens to be very compatible with Libras.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2">Breed overview</td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2">Siamese</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Height</td> <td>20–25 centimetres</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Weight</td> <td>3–7 kilograms</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Life expectancy</td> <td>15–20 years</p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h2>8. Bengal</h2> <p>The Bengal sports a jaw-dropping, highly contrasted coat of distinctive marbling – very similar to what you see on leopards and jaguars. Its striking beauty is why you should keep close tabs on your Bengal, as it’s the cat breed most often stolen. Beauty aside, this very confident and curious cat isn’t shy about asking you to play. Bengals tend to get a little set in their ways, so introducing new people and furry friends should be done at an early age, if possible. Need to lay down a few new house rules or teach it some tricks? No problem. Bengals pick those up lickety-split. Their athletic prowess is unmatched, but they need plenty of space to run, pounce, roam and jump – some even love to walk on a leash and explore the outdoors. Bengals are super sweet and often very chatty (here’s what their meows may mean) and happy to engage you in a conversation.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2">Breed overview</td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2">Bengal</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Height</td> <td>20–25 centimetres</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Weight</td> <td>4–7 kilograms</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Life expectancy</td> <td>12–16 years</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h2>9. Korat</h2> <p>Did you know that the smartest cat breeds could also bring you good fortune? The Korat is one of Thailand’s good luck cats, and no, they don’t mind if you pet them several times a day to increase your luck! Korats are freakishly observant and will watch everything you do. Don’t be surprised if they learn how to open their own box of treats. They’re a devoted companion, an outgoing feline and enjoy having guests in the house. One reason is they love to snoop. Like the nosy houseguest who peeks in your medicine cabinet, the Korat returns the favour, sniffing and investigating your guest’s shoes, purses, coats and anything else that piques their interest. Because Korats thrive when they are around people, being alone may cause cat anxiety.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2">Breed overview</td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2">Korat</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Height</td> <td>23–30 centimetres</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Weight</td> <td>3–5 kilograms</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Life expectancy</td> <td>10–15 years</p> </td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h2>10. Bombay</h2> <p>Bred to look like the Indian black leopard, this midnight-black kitty walks with a sway much like its wild counterpart and is equally gorgeous and clever. Bombay cats are exceptionally friendly, outgoing and lovey-dovey. Family life is their jam, including younger humans and furry siblings. “The Bombay kitty is great at being trained, and they’re very motivated to show their people what they are capable of learning,” says Dr Andino. These cats thrive with continuous education, learning new tricks and solving challenging interactive puzzles. And when the love bug hits them, watch out. They will hunt for your lap and crash there until they get enough pets and belly rubs.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2">Breed overview</td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2">Bombay</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Height</td> <td>23–30 centimetres</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Weight</td> <td>3–5 kilograms</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Life expectancy</td> <td>12–16 years</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h2>11. Havana brown</h2> <p>The brownie, as its fans dub it, is deeply connected to humans and savours affectionate companionship. (Havana browns insist on being involved in whatever you’re doing, yet they are remarkably sensitive and use both their paws to gently touch their humans. They share DNA with the Siamese, but their meows are quieter, charming and almost flirty. They might prefer the company of one favourite human over others in the family but tend to get along with humans of all ages, as well as furry roommates. Perhaps the most interesting characteristic is how they investigate. While most felines examine things with their nose, Havana browns use both their paws to check out trinkets and treasures.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2">Breed overview</td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2">Havana brown</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Height</td> <td>23–28 centimetres</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Weight</td> <td>4–6 kilograms</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Life expectancy</td> <td>8–13 years</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h2>12. Singapura</h2> <p>The Singapura is the smallest domestic cat breed, with a whole lot of feisty goodness in a tiny package. If those big saucer eyes and adorable face aren’t captivating enough to get your attention, you might need some catnip. And don’t let the small frame fool you. Under that fur lies a muscular and athletic body. The Singapura is a social butterfly, always looking to be the centre of attention, in the cutest, playful ways. They are the life of any party, whether they’re invited or not. Conversations with Singapuras are a pure delight as well and never get stale – you could listen to their sweet meows for hours, and they’ll love your high-pitched baby talk just as much. Keenly observant, intelligent and extroverted, these cats still act like kittens well into adulthood.</p> <table> <tbody> <tr> <td colspan="2">Breed overview</td> </tr> <tr> <td colspan="2">Singapura</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Height</td> <td>15–20 centimetres</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Weight</td> <td>2–4 kilograms</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Life expectancy</td> <td>11–15 years</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/pets/the-12-smartest-cat-breeds-that-are-equally-cute-and-clever" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</em></p>

Family & Pets

Placeholder Content Image

Put your Star Wars knowledge to the test

<p>While May 4 is not a public holiday, for passionate Star Wars fans around the world, it may as well be. </p> <p>Whether you prefer to dress-up with friends and celebrate with a mega movie marathon - after hours spent deciding which trilogy to begin with, of course - or scroll your favourite forums to find that next snippet of news about any upcoming projects, it’s fun to have the odd fun fact to drop into conversation, whether or not your present company particularly wants to hear it. </p> <p>And now’s the time to put your knowledge to the test, with some<em> Star Wars </em>trivia to challenge and to impress - especially if you get that perfect 15/15. </p> <p>So, “may the Force be with you”, and don’t forget to scroll to the bottom for the answers! </p> <p><strong>1. What was the false working title used to mask production for <em>Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi </em>in 1982? </strong></p> <p>A: Blue Moon</p> <p>B: Blue Harvest</p> <p>C: Force Squadron</p> <p>D: Galaxy’s Edge</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>2. The term ‘Ewok’ was never said aloud in the original trilogy. </strong></p> <p>A: True</p> <p>B: False</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>3. Who delivered the line “congratulations, you are being rescued” in <em>Rogue One: A Star Wars Story</em>? </strong></p> <p>A: Cassian Andor</p> <p>B: C-3PO</p> <p>C: K-2SO</p> <p>D: Orson Krennic</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>4. How many actresses have portrayed (in the live action films) the leader of the Rebel Alliance, Mon Mothma? </strong></p> <p>A: 4</p> <p>B: 3</p> <p>C: 2</p> <p>D: 1</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>5. Which movie features the most stop-motion animation? </strong></p> <p>A: <em>The Phantom Menace</em></p> <p>B: <em>Empire Strikes Back</em></p> <p>C: <em>Return of the Jedi</em></p> <p>D: <em>A New Hope</em></p> <p> </p> <p><strong>6. Why are porgs so prominent in <em>The Last Jedi</em>? </strong></p> <p>A: Director Rian Johnson was asked by a crew member’s child to include the feathered friends</p> <p>B: The marketing team had requested something small and fuzzy for the younger audience</p> <p>C: Porgs were inspired by early concept art for BB-8 that they didn’t want to toss aside completely</p> <p>D: The island on which they filmed was home to puffins and it was easier just to tie them in </p> <p> </p> <p><strong>7. Yoda shares a voice actor with which iconic Muppet? </strong></p> <p>A: Miss Piggy</p> <p>B: Kermit</p> <p>C: Gonzo </p> <p>D: Swedish Chef</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>8. How many films does the Rebel Alliance’s Blue Squadron appear in? </strong></p> <p>A: 1</p> <p>B: 2</p> <p>C: 3</p> <p>D: 4</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>9. Which phrase can be heard in every Star Wars movie?</strong></p> <p>A: “There’s no such thing as luck.” </p> <p>B: “Rebellions are built on hope.” </p> <p>C: “I have a bad feeling about this.” </p> <p>D: “Never underestimate a droid.” </p> <p> </p> <p><strong>10. In <em>The Phantom Menace</em>, Qui-Gon Jinn used which common household item as his communicator? </strong></p> <p>A: A lint brush</p> <p>B: A torch</p> <p>C: A tin of shoe polish </p> <p>D: A razor</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>11. How many Sith can there be at any one time? </strong></p> <p>A: 8</p> <p>B: 6</p> <p>C: 4</p> <p>D: 2</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>12. What was Luke Skywalker originally going to be called? </strong></p> <p>A: Luke Stardestroyer</p> <p>B: Luke Starkiller</p> <p>C: Luke Skykiller</p> <p>D: Luke Lars</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>13. The noise from passing which object served as the inspiration for lightsaber sounds? </strong></p> <p>A: A radio</p> <p>B: A microwave</p> <p>C: A television </p> <p>D: A racecar</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>14. Which quote is correct?</strong></p> <p>A: “No, I am your father.”</p> <p>B: “Luke, I am your father.” </p> <p> </p> <p><strong>15. Who built C-3PO? </strong></p> <p>A: Luke Skywalker</p> <p>B: Jar Jar Binks</p> <p>C: Shmi Skywalker</p> <p>D: Anakin Skywalker</p> <p> </p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p> <p><strong>ANSWERS: </strong></p> <blockquote> <p>1: A, 2: A, 3: C, 4: C, 5: B, 6: D, 7: A, 8: A, 9: C, 10: D, 11: D, 12: B, 13: C, 14: A, 15: D</p> </blockquote>

Movies

Placeholder Content Image

00-No: US traveller puts border security to the test with a golden gun

<p>A 28-year-old traveller from the United States has been arrested after Australian Border Force officers allegedly discovered a firearm in her luggage. </p> <p>According to a report on the ABF website, the weapon - a 24-carat gold-plated handgun - was unregistered, and the passenger was not in possession of “a permit to import or possess the firearm in Australia.”</p> <p>If convicted, she will face up to 10 years of imprisonment. And while she was arrested and charged, she was released on bail at Downing Centre Local Court, and is expected to face court again in a month’s time. She remains subject to visa cancellation, and faces the likelihood of being removed from Australia. </p> <p>As ABF Enforcement and Detained Goods East Commander Justin Bathurst explained, the discovery was made with a combination of ABC officer skills and detection technology, one that served to prevent a dangerous weapon from entering the Australian community. </p> <p>“Time and time again, we have seen just how good ABF officers are at targeting and stopping illegal, and highly dangerous, goods from crossing Australia's border," he said.</p> <p>“The ABF is Australia's first and most important line of defence. ABF officers are committed to protecting our community by working with law enforcement partners to prevent items like unregistered firearms getting through at the border."</p> <p>Photos distributed by the ABF present the image of the gun in its case, as well as a scan of the passenger’s luggage, with the gun clearly visible among the rest of her possessions. </p> <p>While travellers on domestic flights within the United States are able to carry firearms in their checked luggage - granted they are unloaded and securely locked away, and the proper authorities have been informed - Australia has much stricter laws surrounding firearms. </p> <p>In the wake of a 1996 Tasmanian tragedy, in which 35 people lost their lives to a gunman, all automatic and semi-automatic weapons were outlawed in the country. Meanwhile, in the United States, a frightening sum of 6,301 were confiscated at checkpoints as of December 2022, according to the Transportation Security Administration.</p> <p>For many, the news was broken on social media, with comments sections reflecting the shock - and disapproval - of the masses, with the occasional 007 reference thrown in. </p> <p>“Smuggling firearms into Australia is a serious offence,” wrote one on Twitter, “and should be met with the full force of the law as it endangers citizen safety.”</p> <p>“That’s a fantastic bit of security work by our airport staff,” someone commended. </p> <p>Another had one very important question, asking “how did she get it out of the US to begin with...??? TSA should have caught that at the airport before she even left. Even if it was in a checked bag, it still had to be declared.”</p> <p><em>Images: Australian Border Force</em></p>

Travel Trouble

Placeholder Content Image

Madeleine McCann's parents speak out after DNA test results

<p>Madeleine McCann's parents have spoken out after the results of Julia Faustyna's DNA test have returned. </p> <p>Julia Faustyna, a 21-year-old Polish woman, has been claiming to be the missing British child in a high-profile campaign that has seen her undergo a DNA test to prove her identity.</p> <p>The DNA results determined that Julia is not Maddie, despite Julia's claims of having similar facial features, suffering an abusive childhood and had starting to question her parentage as a result. </p> <p>Private detective Dr Fia Johansson arranged for Julia to give samples in the US for extensive DNA tests - including a DNA test similar to a 23andMe test, which established she is not Madeleine.</p> <p>The test looked into her heritage, and showed that she is from Poland, with some Lithuanian and Romanian heritage, <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/21808585/who-julia-wendell-madeleine-mccann/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>The Sun</em></a> reported, but nothing to suggest any link to the McCann's. </p> <p>In response, a spokesman for Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann said, “There isn’t anything to report at this time. If and when there is, it will come from The Metropolitan Police.”</p> <p>Julia is also facing a nervous wait for the results of further health tests as doctors fear she <a href="https://oversixty.com.au/news/news/sad-health-news-for-woman-claiming-to-be-madeleine-mccann" target="_blank" rel="noopener">may have leukaemia</a>, Dr Johansson - with Julia’s permission - revealed to <em>The Sun</em>.</p> <p>She said, “Her health is very poor she has bad asthma and she suffers lots of pain in her bones."</p> <p>“She is booked in for a CT and MRI scan because of the pain in her bones."</p> <p>“Her blood work is also abnormal so my doctor here in the US is investigating whether she could have leukaemia so we are awaiting the results of that."</p> <p>“And if she needs any treatment we will make sure she gets that.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

News

Placeholder Content Image

Hilarious footage emerges of Sam Neill's James Bond screen test

<p dir="ltr"><em>Jurassic Park</em> star Sam Neill appeared on the <em>Today</em> show to discuss his career and new memoir 'Did I Ever Tell You This?' but the hosts had other plans.</p> <p dir="ltr">Karl Stefanovic, Sarah Abo and Brooke Boney managed to dig up an old screen test that left the 75-year-old red-faced.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Oh, my God, no - That is so cruel to play that, so cruel," a flustered Neil said, as footage from his <em>James Bond</em> audition started rolling.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the video, a young Neill armed with a gun and donning an unbuttoned shirt bursts into a bedroom-to the surprise of a naked woman- and says the famous line "My friends called me Bond, James Bond".</p> <p dir="ltr">Neill said he was thankful that he didn’t get the part and that someone else was chosen to do the role.</p> <p dir="ltr">"I felt so awkward all day that we made that thing and it just went on and on and on," he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">"I am so relieved they offered it to someone else, they are welcome to it - you don't want to be the Bond that no-one likes, you know - that is a fate worse than death."</p> <p dir="ltr">Although he didn’t get the role of agent 007, the actor has starred in three of the J<em>urassic Park films, Event Horizon, The Dish and Peter Rabbit</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">He also told the <em>Today </em>show hosts that he never intended on becoming a professional actor and his success was completely unexpected.</p> <p dir="ltr">"I never really imagined I would have a career in film, let alone a career as an actor," he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">"At the rather advanced age of 30 I suddenly realised I could make a living at what I loved best and I never looked back until I wrote (the memoir) and it has been good to look back - it has been really good for me."</p> <p><em>Image: Today Show, Channel 9</em></p>

Movies

Placeholder Content Image

Lie detection tests have worked the same way for 3,000 years – and they’re still hopelessly inaccurate

<p>Popular culture is fascinated with the ability to detect liars. Lie detector tests are a staple of police dramas, and TV shows such as Poker Face feature “human polygraphs” who detect deception by picking up tell-tale signs in people’s behaviour.</p> <p>Records of attempts to detect lies, whether by technical means or by skilled observers, go back at least 3,000 years. Forensic science lie detection techniques have become <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1541-1338.2005.00166.x">increasingly popular</a> since the invention of the polygraph early in the 20th century, with the latest methods involving advanced brain imaging.</p> <p>Proponents of lie detection technology sometimes <a href="https://www.press.umich.edu/3091709/lying_brain">make grandiose claims</a>, such as a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11896-022-09566-y">recent paper</a> that said “with the help of forensic science and its new techniques, crimes can be easily solved”.</p> <p>Despite these claims, an infallible lie detection method has yet to be found. In fact, most lie detection methods don’t detect lies at all – instead, they register the physiological or behaviour signs of stress or fear.</p> <h2>From dry rice to red-hot irons</h2> <p>The <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1529100610390861">earliest recorded lie detection method</a> was used in China, around 1000 BC. It involved suspects placing rice in their mouths then spitting it out: wet rice indicated innocence, while dry rice meant guilty.</p> <p>In India, around 900 BC, <a href="http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2844&amp;context=jclc">one method</a> used to detect poisoners was observations of shaking. In ancient Greece a rapid pulse rate was taken to indicate deceit.</p> <p>The Middle Ages saw barbaric forms of lie detection used in Europe, such as the red-hot iron method which involved suspected criminals placing their tongue, often multiple times, on a red-hot iron. Here, a burnt tongue indicated guilt.</p> <h2>What the polygraph measures</h2> <p>Historical lie detection methods were based in superstition or religion. However, in the early 20th century a purportedly scientific, objective, lie detection machine was invented: the polygraph.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/228091.pdf">polygraph measures</a> a person’s respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, and skin conductance (sweating) during questioning.</p> <p>Usually a “control question” about a crime is asked, such as “Did you do it?” The person’s response to the control question is then compared to responses to neutral or less provocative questions. Heightened reactions to direct crime questions are taken to indicate guilt on the test.</p> <h2>The overconfidence of law enforcers</h2> <p>Some law enforcement experts claim they don’t even need a polygraph. They can detect lies simply by observing the behaviour of a suspect during questioning.</p> <p>Worldwide research shows that law enforcers are often <a href="https://doi.org/10.5093/apj2022a4">confident they can detect lying</a>. Many assume a suspect’s nonverbal behaviour reveals deceit.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/14636641111134314/full/html">2011 study with Queensland police</a> revealed many officers were confident they could detect lying. Most favoured a focus on nonverbal behaviour even over available evidence.</p> <p>However, <a href="https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-96334-1_3">research shows</a> that law enforcers, despite their confidence, are often not very good at detecting lying.</p> <p>Law enforcement officers are not alone in thinking they can spot a liar. <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0022022105282295">Global studies</a> have found that people around the world believe lying is accompanied by specific nonverbal behaviours such as gaze aversion and nervousness.</p> <h2>What’s really being tested</h2> <p>Many historical and current lie detection methods seem underpinned by the plausible idea that liars will be nervous and display observable physical reactions.</p> <p>These might be shaking (such as in the ancient Indian test for poisoners, and the nonverbal behaviour method used by some investigators), a dry mouth (the rice-chewing test and the hot-iron method), increased pulse rate (the ancient Greek method and the modern polygraph), or overall heightened physiological reactions (the polygraph).</p> <p>However, there are two major problems with using behaviour based on fear or stress to detect lying.</p> <p>The first problem: how does one distinguish fearful innocents from fearful guilty people? It is likely that an innocent person accused of a crime will be fearful or anxious, while a guilty suspect may not be.</p> <p>This is borne out with the polygraph’s <a href="https://nap.nationalacademies.org/read/10420/chapter/10#218">high false-positive rate</a>, meaning innocent people are deemed guilty. Similarly, some police have assumed that <a href="https://cqu-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/f/1rb43gr/TN_cdi_informaworld_taylorfrancisbooks_9781843926337">innocent, nervous suspects were guilty</a> based on inaccurate interpretations of behavioural observations.</p> <p>The second major problem with lie detection methods based on nervous behaviour is there is <a href="https://journals.copmadrid.org/apj/art/apj2019a9">no evidence</a> that specific nonverbal behaviours reliably accompany deception.</p> <h2>Miscarriages of justice</h2> <p>Despite what we know about the inaccuracy of polygraph tests, they haven’t gone away.</p> <p>In the US, they are still used in some police interrogations and <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/inside-polygraph-job-screening-black-mirror/">high-security job interviews</a>. In the UK, lie detector tests are used for <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/domestic-abuse-bill-2020-factsheets/mandatory-polygraph-tests-factsheet">some sex offenders on probation</a>. And in China, the use of polygraphs in law enforcement may <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938414005964?via%3Dihub">even be increasing</a>.</p> <p>Australia has been less enthusiastic in adopting lie-detection machines. In New South Wales, the use of lie-detector findings was barred from court in 1983, and an attempt to present polygraph evidence to a court in Western Australia in 2003 <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1375/pplt.2004.11.2.359">also failed</a>.</p> <p>Many historical and current lie detection methods emulate each other and are based on the same assumptions. Often the <a href="https://muse.jhu.edu/book/13865">only difference</a> is the which part of the body or physical reaction they focus on.</p> <p>Using fallible lie detection methods <a href="https://journals.copmadrid.org/apj/art/apj2022a4">contributes to wrongful convictions</a> and miscarriages of justice.</p> <p>Therefore, it is important that criminal-justice practitioners are educated about fallacious lie detection methods, and any new technique grounded in fear or stress-based reactions should be rejected.</p> <p>Despite outward appearances of technological advancement, over many millennia little has changed. Fearful innocents remain vulnerable to wrongful assumptions of guilt, which is good news for the fearless guilty.</p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/lie-detection-tests-have-worked-the-same-way-for-3-000-years-and-theyre-still-hopelessly-inaccurate-200741" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Technology

Placeholder Content Image

Julia Faustyna takes DNA test to prove wild identity claims

<p>Julia Faustyna, the Polish woman who is convinced she is the missing Madeleine McCann, has reportedly taken a DNA test to prove her claim.</p> <p>However, in a stunning twist to the tale, Faustyna’s private investigation with spokesperson Dr Fia Johansson has led the young woman to consider the possibility that she may actually be another missing child - Livia Schepp, who went missing with her twin sister in Switzerland in 2011. </p> <p>“I’ve spoken to her about this and she is open to the fact she could be any missing child out there,” Dr Johansson said while speaking to <em>The Sun</em>. “Not just Madeleine. Julia wants to know the truth about who she is.” </p> <p>While Faustyna’s main argument has involved the physical similarities between herself and Madeleine McCann, one of the pivotal points in her story is how she recognised a suspect from McCann’s case - a man she has named as her own abuser. </p> <p>“One of the reasons she made the connection to Madeleine is because one of the suspects in Madeleine’s case looks very much like a man who she says abused her as a child,” Dr Johansson explained. “But the same man could be connected to Madeleine and other missing children, this is how predators and traffickers work.”</p> <p>“Julia has taken a DNA test,” she confirmed, “and we are investigating if it’s possible to check her DNA with that of [the] missing Livia. We are investigating all possibilities at this stage.” </p> <p>Livia Schepp - and her twin sister Alessia - went missing when they were six, after their father abducted them from Switzerland in 2011. Days later, he took his own life in Italy, and when police discovered the body, the twins were nowhere to be seen. </p> <p>Faustyna, who claims to have post-traumatic amnesia due to sexual abuse in her childhood, lacks clear recollection of her formative years, and has stated while she can recall holidays, she doesn’t “recall my mother being there, for example, or my stepfather, much less my dad.”</p> <p>Whether or not any of Faustyna’s theories are true, the public will have to keep speculating, as no results have yet been shared. </p> <p>However, Faustyna’s viral “@iammadeleinemccan”, where she was sharing updates and side-by-side comparisons with her followers, has since been deleted from the platform. </p> <p>The removal coincides with reports of the DNA test, and after Faustyna closed both her Facebook and Tiktok accounts, disputing her parent’s claim that she was only in this for attention when she said “if you don’t like me, please unfollow. I don’t want fans or followers.”</p> <p><em>Images: Instagram, Twitter</em></p>

News

Placeholder Content Image

Is my RAT actually working? How to tell if your COVID test can detect Omicron

<p>You’ve tested negative for COVID using a rapid antigen test (RAT), but are a close contact of a positive family member and have symptoms. So you might be wondering if you’re really COVID-negative or if the test is working as well as it should.</p> <p>There are many reasons why your RAT may not give you <a href="https://theconversation.com/15-things-not-to-do-when-using-a-rapid-antigen-test-from-storing-in-the-freezer-to-sampling-snot-176364">the results</a> <a href="https://theconversation.com/my-rats-are-negative-but-i-still-think-i-might-have-covid-should-i-get-a-pcr-test-194527">you expect</a>. But one factor is whether RATs can detect the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID).</p> <p>We know the virus has mutated during the pandemic. So health authorities and researchers are investigating whether RATs can still detect the <a href="https://www.who.int/activities/tracking-SARS-CoV-2-variants">more recent versions</a> of the virus.</p> <p>The good news is, based on the <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/sites/default/files/2022-10/post-market-review-of-antigen-and-rapid-antigen-tests-table.pdf">limited data released</a>, all RATs meant for use at home in Australia that have been independently tested so far seem to be able to detect Omicron. The bad news is that not all RATs have been independently tested yet. Yours might be one of those.</p> <h2>What do mutations have to do with RATs?</h2> <p>RATs diagnose COVID infection by detecting specific viral proteins. So there are concerns that as the virus evolves and produces altered viral proteins, this may affect the tests’ ability to diagnose COVID as well as they detected previous variants.</p> <p>Whether RATs can adequately detect Omicron has been raised by authorities and researchers in various countries including <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/378/bmj-2022-071215">The Netherlands</a>, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35458384/">Belgium</a> and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36339133/">Chile</a>, as well as Australia.</p> <p>One <a href="https://journals.asm.org/doi/10.1128/jcm.01097-22">Australian study</a> tested six RATs on Delta, and Omicron lineages BA.4, BA.5 and BA.2.75. The researchers found the kits performed equally well across the different samples at higher viral loads (higher concentrations of the virus), although one kit’s overall sensitivity fell below minimum sensitivity requirements. </p> <p>However, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36339133/">some international studies</a> have found RATs are less able to detect Omicron, particularly when <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36339133/">viral loads are lower</a>.</p> <h2>So what’s the case in Australia?</h2> <p>Australia’s regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), initially relied on <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/products/covid-19/covid-19-tests/post-market-review-antigen-and-rapid-antigen-tests">test data</a> provided by RAT manufacturers to determine the test kit met World Health Organization <a href="https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/technical-specifications-for-selection-of-essential-in-vitro-diagnostics-for-sars-cov-2">standards</a> for acceptable sensitivity (ability to detect a positive case).</p> <p>The TGA also requires manufacturers to send updated test data as new variants arise to demonstrate their test still meets those WHO standards.</p> <p>But the TGA has also commissioned <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/products/covid-19/covid-19-tests/post-market-review-antigen-and-rapid-antigen-tests">independent testing of RATs</a> to verify how well they detect the more recent COVID variants.</p> <p>They are tested for their ability to detect the wild-type virus (the original strain), the Delta variant, and the Omicron variant. The TGA does not state which specific lineages (descendents) of Omicron are included in the testing. </p> <p>As it completes its analysis on individual tests (or groups of tests), the TGA reports them in a <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/sites/default/files/2022-10/post-market-review-of-antigen-and-rapid-antigen-tests-table.pdf">table that’s publicly available</a>, which will be updated as more data come in.</p> <h2>What does the table tell us?</h2> <p>You can look up the brand name, manufacturer and batch number of the RAT you have at home. Look for those labelled “self-tests” (more on the different types of tests and their results later).</p> <p>The most important columns in the table are those that indicate whether the kit passed its independent validation. Look for four ticks to indicate the kit meets minimum standards for detecting the original virus, Delta and Omicron variants, and has passed the quality test. A cross indicates is has not passed that component of the validation.</p> <p>Haven’t found a result for your RAT? </p> <p>If a product comes in two versions – a self-test and a type of test used in health-care facilities known as a point-of-care test (POCT in the table) – only one may be tested.</p> <p>If that’s the case, the symbol † means testing was only done on one version and you can use those results for your test. Look for a matching registration number to make sure you’re comparing like with like.</p> <p>The final column indicates what type of data the manufacturer has provided. Some manufacturers have tested the sensitivity of their kits for Omicron lineages BA.4 and BA.5.</p> <h2>What does the table not tell us?</h2> <p>Just because your test has no ticks or crosses against it, this doesn’t mean it can’t detect Omicron. It could be that the independent validation has yet to be completed or uploaded to the table. So the jury is out.</p> <p>The table also does not tell us what lineages of Omicron were tested for, although in some cases the manufacturer has supplied clinical test data. </p> <p>The table data were only current as of October. Seeing as the number of cases of sub-variant infections <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-can-we-expect-from-this-latest-covid-wave-and-how-long-is-it-likely-to-last-194444">has risen since then</a>, so we don’t really know if that is impacting on the sensitivity of even those tests that have recently been validated.</p> <h2>I’ve grappled with the table, now what?</h2> <p>If your brand of RAT has the ticks, particularly for Omicron, it has been assessed has having an acceptable sensitivity. If you are buying a RAT, check the table to see if that brand has been tested for sensitivity to the Omicron variant. </p> <p>If your test has been sitting in a cupboard for months, check the expiry date before you use it. Also consider whether it has been stored at the correct temperature during that time (the instruction leaflet will tell you what that is).</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/is-my-rat-actually-working-how-to-tell-if-your-covid-test-can-detect-omicron-196210" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

Body

Placeholder Content Image

There’s a serious ethical problem with some sunscreen testing methods – and you’re probably not aware of it

<p>As summer approaches, we need to start remembering to slip on sun-protective clothing, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade where possible, and slide on sunglasses.</p> <p>When it comes to sunscreen, we all know we need to wear it to protect against the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause skin cancer.</p> <p>But what about the sun protection factor, known as the SPF rating, we see on our sunscreen bottles? It indicates the level of protection – but is it always what it says it is, and how is it actually tested?</p> <h2>Risking human health for SPF testing</h2> <p>While there have been some cases of <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/news/news/sunscreen-testing-ama-laboratories-condition-listing">sunscreens not matching up to their SPF claims</a>, this is the exception and not the norm.</p> <p>In Australia, we can be comfortable knowing these products are tightly regulated to ensure they are safe and meet their claimed SPF rating, according to current SPF testing methods.</p> <p>However, problems arise when it comes to how sunscreens are tested for their SPF rating. Most people would not be aware that the SPF value on their sunscreen bottles is determined by testing on humans.</p> <p>Ultimately, this means we are risking people’s health to test how effective our sunscreens are – and we urgently need to change this.</p> <h2>How is sunscreen SPF tested?</h2> <p>Once a sunscreen formulation has been developed by a manufacturer it needs to go through testing to ensure it only contains approved ingredients, and ultimately, that it does what it says it does.</p> <p>All sunscreen products available in Australia are <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/news/news/about-sunscreens">tested according to the Australian Standard to determine the SPF</a>. This is great and provides assurance of safety and quality for the consumer – but the problem is with how this testing is done.</p> <p>Currently, testing sunscreens on humans is the approved international standard to rate the UV protection level of a sunscreen. This testing involves volunteers wearing strictly defined amounts of sunscreen and being exposed to artificial solar <a href="https://www.arpansa.gov.au/understanding-radiation/what-is-radiation/non-ionising-radiation/ultraviolet-radiation">UV radiation</a>. </p> <p>Performance is measured by determining the time it takes for erythema or redness to occur. <a href="https://www.cancer.org.au/about-us/policy-and-advocacy/prevention-policy/national-cancer-prevention-policy/skin-cancer-statistics-and-issues/sunburn">This is, basically, sunburn</a>; based on this, an SPF rating is assigned.</p> <h2>Why is human testing of SPF a problem?</h2> <p>If sunscreens only contain approved ingredients we know are safe, is it really a problem they are tested on humans?</p> <p>Sadly, yes. Human testing involves exposing people to harmful UV radiation, which we know can cause skin and eye damage, <a href="https://www.arpansa.gov.au/understanding-radiation/radiation-sources/more-radiation-sources/sun-exposure">as well as being the leading cause of skin cancer</a>. This alone is <a href="https://www.phrp.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/PHRP3212205.pdf">unethical and unjustifiable</a>.</p> <p>There are also other issues associated with testing sunscreen on humans. For example, the <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/phpp.12095">use of erythema to determine sunscreen effectiveness is highly subjective</a>, and may differ from one person to another, even for those with the same <a href="https://www.arpansa.gov.au/sites/default/files/legacy/pubs/RadiationProtection/FitzpatrickSkinType.pdf">skin type</a>. This makes the reliability of such testing methods questionable.</p> <p>Further, testing is only done on a small number of people (a minimum of <a href="https://www.tga.gov.au/sites/default/files/australian-regulatory-guidelines-for-sunscreens.pdf">ten people is required in Australia</a>). This is great for exposing as few people as possible to harmful UV radiation to determine a product’s SPF rating – but not so great when it comes to inclusiveness.</p> <p>Testing such a small number of people is not representative. It does not include all skin types and leads to real <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ics.12333">challenges in achieving reproducible results</a> across different laboratories testing the same product.</p> <p>The testing itself is also very expensive. This adds to the already high cost of buying sunscreens, and potentially limits manufacturers from developing new and better products.</p> <p>These, along with many other issues, highlight the urgency for non-human (in vitro) testing methods of a sunscreen’s effectiveness to be developed.</p> <h2>Human-free SPF testing technology is in development</h2> <p>While efforts have been made to develop non-human testing methods, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165993622002072">there remain several challenges</a>. <a href="https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/292777">These include</a> the materials used to simulate human skin (also known as substrates), difficulties in applying the sunscreen to these substrates, reproducibility of results, and ensuring that results are the same as what we see with human testing.</p> <p>However, scientists at <a href="https://www.rmit.edu.au/">RMIT University</a>, with support from the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (<a href="https://www.arpansa.gov.au/">ARPANSA</a>) and the <a href="https://www.cancervic.org.au/">Cancer Council Victoria</a>, are <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165993622002072">working on a solution to this problem</a>.</p> <p>So far, they have developed a prototype sensor that <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-06273-3">changes colour when exposed to UV radiation</a>. This <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-06273-3/figures/5">sensor</a> could be customised for human-free sunscreen testing, for example.</p> <p>Reliable in vitro testing methods will mean in the future, sunscreen manufacturers would be able to quickly make and test new and better sunscreens, without being limited by the time and cost constraints involved with human testing.</p> <p>So the next time you buy a bottle of sunscreen, look to purchase the highest-rated sunscreen of SPF 50+ – and know that work is underway on getting that rating classified in a more ethical way.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/theres-a-serious-ethical-problem-with-some-sunscreen-testing-methods-and-youre-probably-not-aware-of-it-195359" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

Beauty & Style

Placeholder Content Image

Mother dies in her sleep just hours after testing positive to Covid

<p>A family in Sydney have bene left devastated after a mother-of-two died in her sleep just hours after testing positive to Covid. </p> <p>Melaine Leffler was only experiencing minor symptoms of the virus, such as a stuffy nose and are throat, when she tested positive after taking a rapid antigen test.</p> <p>The healthcare worker had received four vaccinations, and was "feeling fine" when she said goodnight to her family on November 19th. </p> <p>Her husband Mick Hogan and their daughters Clemmie, 4, and Lottie, 9 months, had no idea it would be last time they would speak to her, as the 39-year-old mum died in her sleep that night. </p> <p>Her sudden death left her family reeling, as her husband shared the news of her passing on Facebook. </p> <p>“It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I have to announce to you this way though social media,” Mick wrote.</p> <p>“My loving wife and the mother of 2 beautiful children, Mel Leffler, sadly passed away in her sleep this morning."</p> <p>“She tested positive for Covid last night with a rat test, but only had a runny nose and slightly sore throat. Other than that she was feeling fine.”</p> <p>Melanie’s father Wayne described his daughter as “beautiful, intelligent and loving” person, adding that he and her mother Roz were “deeply shocked and saddened” by her death.</p> <p>“Roz and I lost our beautiful, intelligent and loving 39 y.o. daughter, Mel, overnight,” he wrote in a poignant Facebook post.</p> <p>“To say we’re shocked and deeply saddened would be an understatement. Suddenly, nothing else matters in life other than ensuring the support and wellbeing of Mick and our 2 beautiful granddaughters."</p> <p>“No child should ever pre-decease their parents. It’s just not right."</p> <p>“I awoke hoping Mel’s passing was just a bad dream. I’ve never felt so low. We’re devastated – things will never be the same.”</p> <p>Melanie’s cause of death is yet to be confirmed by a coroner’s report, but her brother Kris Leffler firmly believes it was heart-related.</p> <p>He also revealed that Melanie was inspired to study medical science after a bout of Wilms’ tumour – a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children – left her with just one kidney.</p> <p>A <a title="www.gofundme.com" href="https://www.gofundme.com/f/Support-Mick-and-his-beautiful-girls?qid=9ed7dd72fb7bcc06a9e07907ace02451" target="_blank" rel="noopener">GoFundMe</a> has been set up to financially support widower Mick and his two daughters, with the page stating “Mel’s beautiful soul will forever live on in her two darling girls”.</p> <p><em>Image credits: GoFundMe / Facebook</em></p>

Caring

Placeholder Content Image

Urine sample test: new way to detect and screen for early stages of Alzheimer’s disease

<p>When it comes to <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/science/alzheimers-peer-review/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Alzheimer’s disease</a>, an early diagnosis – one made well before signs of irreversible dementia are apparent – is key to providing effective intervention and treatment. Now early detection might be as simple as a urine test, allowing for wide-scale and early screening across large populations of the elderly.</p> <p>A collaboration of researchers in China investigated urine samples for biomarkers from a large group of patients with varying severity of Alzheimer’s disease, comparing them with healthy controls.</p> <p>A compound known as <a href="https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/molecule-of-the-week/archive/f/formic-acid.html?cid=home_motw" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">formic acid</a> (which is also produced by some ant and bee species) was a particularly sensitive marker for cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Significant increases in urinary formic acid levels were found in all samples from Alzheimer’s sufferers (including those with only early-stage subjective cognitive decline) as compared with those from the healthy controls.</p> <p>“Alzheimer’s disease is a continuous and concealed chronic disease, meaning that it can develop and last for many years before obvious cognitive impairment emerges,” say the authors. “The early stages of the disease occur before the irreversible dementia stage, and this is the golden window for intervention and treatment.”</p> <p>When blood samples of the participants were analysed for Alzheimer’s biomarkers in combination with the urinary formic acid level, the researchers were able to predict to what stage of the disease the patient had progressed. Their report is in <em><a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2022.1046066/full" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">Frontiers in Ageing</a></em>.</p> <p>Other methods currently used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, such as positron emission tomography brain scans, <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/medicine/alzheimers-blood-test-developed/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">invasive blood draws</a> and lumbar punctures, tend to be costly and invasive. Although other urinary biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease have been found, none have been able to detect the disease at its earliest stages.</p> <p>The links between urinary formic acid and Alzheimer’s disease are still not fully understood, but this research is an important step towards developing tools to diagnose and treat this debilitating condition amongst a vulnerable group in society.</p> <p>“Urinary formic acid showed an excellent sensitivity for early Alzheimer’s screening,” said the authors. “The detection of urine biomarkers of Alzheimer’s is convenient and cost-effective, and it should be performed during routine physical examinations of the elderly.”</p> <p><!-- Start of tracking content syndication. Please do not remove this section as it allows us to keep track of republished articles --></p> <p><img id="cosmos-post-tracker" style="opacity: 0; height: 1px!important; width: 1px!important; border: 0!important; position: absolute!important; z-index: -1!important;" src="https://syndication.cosmosmagazine.com/?id=227116&amp;title=Urine+sample+test%3A+new+way+to+detect+and+screen+for+early+stages+of+Alzheimer%E2%80%99s+disease" width="1" height="1" data-spai-target="src" data-spai-orig="" data-spai-exclude="nocdn" /></p> <p><!-- End of tracking content syndication --></p> <div id="contributors"> <p><em><a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/health/urine-new-way-detect-alzheimers-disease/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">This article</a> was originally published on Cosmos Magazine and was written by Clare Kenyon. </em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty Images</em></p> </div>

Mind

Placeholder Content Image

Volcano breath test helps scientists predict deadly eruptions

<p>Humanity has a long history of living in the shadows of active volcanoes.</p> <p>Prized for their rich, fertile soils – ideal for cultivating crops – and their local topography, it isn’t hard to see why living in active volcanic regions remains a worthwhile gamble.</p> <p>Volcanic eruptions, however, are notoriously difficult to predict but improving our diagnostic abilities is crucial for developing early warning procedures and evading disaster.</p> <p>External indicators such as earthquakes and deformation of the Earth’s crust are traditional methods of identifying an imminent eruption, however, not all eruptions give these early warning signs.</p> <p>But now a research team from the University of Tokyo has gained better insight into the relationship between changes in the magma composition and eruption, by studying the ratio of specific chemical isotopes in gas and steam emitted from fumaroles — holes and cracks in the earth’s surface.</p> <p>“When you compare a volcano with a human body, the conventional geophysical methods represented by observations of earthquakes and crustal deformation are similar to listening to the chest and taking body size measurements”, said Professor Hirochika Sumino from the Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology, who led the study.</p> <p>“In these cases, it is difficult to know what health problem causes some noise in your chest or a sudden increase in your weight, without a detailed medical check. On the other hand, analysing the chemical and isotope composition of elements in fumarolic gases is like a breath or blood test. This means we are looking at actual material directly derived from magma to know precisely what is going on with the magma.”</p> <p>Previous research on gas associated with an eruption from a volcano in the Canary Islands in 2011 showed an increase in the ratio of heavier helium isotopes which are typical of mantle material.</p> <p>“We knew that the helium isotope ratio occasionally changes from a low value, similar to the helium found in the Earth’s crust, to a high value, like that in the Earth’s mantle, when the activity of magma increases,” said Sumino. “But we didn’t know why we had more mantle-derived helium during magmatic unrest.”</p> <p>Sumino and team sought the answers in fumerole gas around Kusatsu-Shirane, an active volcano 150 km northwest of Tokyo. Taking samples of the gas back to the lab every few months between 2014 and 2021, the researchers were able to ascertain precise measurements of the isotopic components, discovering a relationship between the ratio of argon-40 to helium-3 ( a ‘high value’ isotope of helium) and magmatic unrest.</p> <p>“Using computer models, we revealed that the ratio reflects how much the magma underground is foaming, making bubbles of volcanic gases which separate from the liquid magma,” explained Sumino.</p> <p>The extent to which the magma is foaming “controls how much magmatic gas is provided to the hydrothermal system beneath a volcano and how buoyant the magma is. The former is related to a risk of phreatic eruption, in which an increase in water pressure in the hydrothermal system causes the eruption. The latter would increase the rate of magma ascent, resulting in a magmatic eruption.”</p> <p>The research collaboration is now developing a portable type of mass spectrometer which could be used in the field for real time analysis, reducing the need to constantly collect and transport samples back to the lab – a challenging a time-consuming process.</p> <p>“Our next step is to establish a noble gas analysis protocol with this new instrument, to make it a reality that all active volcanoes — at least those which have the potential to cause disaster to local residents — are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Sumino.</p> <p><strong>This article originally appeared on cosmosmagazine.com and was written by <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/earth/volcano-breath-test-predict-eruptions/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Clare Kenyon</a>.</strong></p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

Travel Trouble

Placeholder Content Image

Why hearing tests are so important

<p>Currently, one in six Australians has some form of hearing loss. With an ageing population, this statistic is predicted to increase to one in four people by 2050 – therefore, maintaining good hearing is important for leading a healthy and happy life. That’s why it’s important to take early action to look after your hearing health and make sure you get your hearing checked regularly. </p> <p>A simple professional hearing test will evaluate your hearing and see where things are at. A regular check up test shows the hearing capacity of both of your ears as well as looking at which volumes and sounds you can hear without difficulty.</p> <p>Like seeing your doctor or dentist annually, it is recommended to get a hearing check every 12 months if you are over 55, or work in a loud environment. The first hearing test is important for setting a baseline – then changes can be plotted over time and you can adjust your behaviours and habits accordingly if any areas of concern arise.</p> <p>There are now a few ways in which you can have a hearing test done – including doing one online, in writing or by visiting a medical professional. Head over Connect Hearing’s website <strong><a href="http://www.connecthearing.com.au/en/learn-more-about-hearing-loss/online-hearing-test/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">here</span></a> </strong>where you will be able to assess your hearing health in about five minutes. You can also book an appointment to see a professional.</p> <p>If you suspect that you – or some you care about – has a hearing problem, you should book in to see a medical professional at your earliest convenience. </p>

Caring

Placeholder Content Image

Sam Newman lashes out at “woke” athletes “with low IQs”

<p dir="ltr">Former AFL player Sam Newman has weighed in on a string of recent conflicts in the sporting world over million-dollar sponsorship deals, calling out “woke” athletes “with low IQs”.</p> <p dir="ltr">He claimed the world was “being run by patronising and pompous, arrogant people”, creating a “ridiculous, woke society of nonsense”.</p> <p dir="ltr">His comments come after the news emerged of controversies involving Netball Australia and the Fremantle Dockers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Netball Australia, which is in desperate need of funding, is in dispute with some of its star players around a $15 million sponsorship deal with Hancock Prospecting, which is owned by mining magnate Gina Rinehart.</p> <p dir="ltr">The deal would also see the company’s logo featured on the uniforms of Diamonds players, but opposition came from Indigenous player Donell Wallam and her teammates in relation to the company’s historical stance against Indigenous communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">Rinehart’s father, Lang Hancock, made a series of racist comments about Indigenous people in a 1984 documentary, Couldn’t Be Fairer, including his solution to the “Aboriginal problem”.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I would dope the water up so that they were sterile and would breed themselves out in future and that would solve the problem,” Hancock said in the film.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the AFL world, major Fremantle Dockers supporter Woodside Energy, a natural gas exporter, has left some high-profile fans concerned.</p> <p dir="ltr">Author Tim Winton and former WA premier Carmen Lawrence are among a group of fans urging the football club to end the agreement with the gas company.</p> <p dir="ltr">These controversies have become fodder for Newman, who shared his opinions on both with <em>Sky News</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">The 76-year-old said he wouldn’t wear a certain sports jersey if he didn’t agree with what was on the front of it, but that “the price of being virtuous is hypocrisy” and that it’s unrealistic to expect sports could continue without money from the mining or energy sector.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If you think fossil fuels are going to disappear in the very near future then you’re mistaken because that’s the end of the civilised world as we know it no matter what you think of climate and no matter what you think of global warming,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I notice one of the netballers said they weren’t happy with Hancock because of their climate record, I mean seriously the world we live in is being run by patronising and pompous, arrogant people who have no idea really what they’re on about.”</p> <p dir="ltr">He then dubbed the netballers as hypocrites.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We have people with low IQs telling a sporting body which is on its knees financially that they won’t accept money from sponsorship deals from a company which I’m sure that those people who are complaining use one of those products indirectly or directly that Hancock Mining or Hancock industries have fabricated on a daily basis,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">When <em>Sky News</em> host Chris Kenny suggested that sports stars should just not play if they don’t agree with who sponsors their game, Newman disagreed, saying that those running teams or codes have a “duty of care” to inform players before they sign up.</p> <p dir="ltr">“[They have] a duty of care [to] say to the rank and file before they sign them up, "We're going to have Alinta Energy or Hancock mining sponsor us, have you got any problems with it?’” Newman said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“And if they have you could actually sort it out before they did the deal.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As for the Fremantle Dockers, Newman took the opportunity to slam the sport in general.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If I could just go a step further (about) the feigned indignation of the AFL who insist on telling us to be the moral arbiters of what we believe in,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I've said this before. At the AFL grand final we had three references to Indigenous Australians. </p> <p dir="ltr">“One of them is absolutely appropriate and no one could agree with it more.</p> <p dir="ltr">“But they had three separate references... lest we have to be told that we (have to) respect everything that's going on in the country.</p> <p dir="ltr">“They made a Muslim woman (Haneen Zreika of the Giants) the face of the AFLW, and then... she declined (to) wear the gay pride jumper.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If you get into the political realm in a sporting organisation, you end up creating a hornet's nest for the people who want nothing more than to go to the football or the sporting event just to watch it for what it is.</p> <p dir="ltr">“But they keep forcing this moral code onto us, to perhaps appease their own social prejudices and it turns into a ridiculous, woke society of nonsense.”</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-034e29be-7fff-5589-bfc8-96e96f37cce9"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Sky News (Facebook)</em></p>

News

Placeholder Content Image

Road rule test: Is it against the law to cross an unbroken double line?

<p>You would hope that licenced drivers would be aware of the road rules that are currently in place, but it turns out there is one rule that a surprising number of motorists aren’t aware of, and it has to do with road markings.</p> <p>A surprising number of motorists are under the impression that they are unable to cross an unbroken double line when driving, are you one of them? </p> <p>If living in the state of NSW, there are plenty of instances where drivers are permitted to cross unbroken double lines, and one of them is if you're entering or leaving a road.</p> <p>The idea that it is illegal to cross a continuous double or single line when driving off or on to a road is a myth.</p> <p>According to the NSW road rules. crossing a dividing line is allowed if entering or leaving a propery or road "by the shortest route."</p> <p><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="../media/7820974/capture.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/4c925f97f74c4f1f9a84a3926f4a15e5" />A good example is when coming out of a petrol station, it is perfectly legal to turn right over the dividing lines unless there is a sign specifically saying you can't.</p> <p>The rule applies to both double and single unbroken road markings.</p> <p>Drivers are also allowed to cross any type of dividing line when turning right at an intersection.</p> <p>Motorists in NSW are also permitted to cross unbroken lines if needing to maintain a safe distance when overtaking a bicycle rider or to avoid obstruction on the road.</p> <p>If passing a cyclist, drivers must leave a one metre gap in a 60km/h or less speed zone or 1.5 metres when the limit is above 60km/h.</p> <p>When deciding whether a road obstruction permits someone to cross double lines, drivers must use their own intuition and make sure they have a clear view of oncoming traffic, and if it is “necessary and reasonable in all circumstances” to cross the dividing line and if it is safe to do so.</p> <p>Speaking to <em><a href="https://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/motoring/on-the-road/the-double-dividing-line-rule-many-aussie-drivers-are-getting-wrong/news-story/9baa90c6155e10810b64a83ea99348a0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">news.com.au</a></em>, Transport for NSW said that it is critical that all drivers are aware of the road rules, and update themselves regularly if any changes are made.</p> <p>“It is important that all road users know the rules and abide by them,” a Transport for NSW spokesperson said.</p> <p>“We will include this rule in the next Road Rules Awareness Week in early 2019.”</p> <p>Drivers in the Northern Territory and Western Australia are also allowed to turn right across double dividing lines when entering or leaving a property.</p> <p>It is illegal in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania to cross a double dividing line when entering or leaving a road.</p> <p>Motorists in Victoria are only permitted to cross double lines to avoid a potential hazard, while those in Queensland are only allowed if overtaking a cyclist.</p> <p>Tasmanians and South Australians are able to cross the line in both of these situations.</p> <p>According to <a href="http://mylicence.sa.gov.au/road-rules/the-drivers-handbook/driving-road" target="_blank" rel="noopener">MyLicenceSA</a>, a “slower moving vehicle or a vehicle stopped in a line of traffic” is not considered an obstruction.</p> <p>But if a situation occurs where a driver is faced with a fallen tree, crashed vehicle or broken down car, then it is permitted to cross an unbroken line.</p> <p>In NSW, illegally crossing an unbroken like could cost you two demerit points and a $263 fine.</p> <p>Victoria and South Australia have the highest penalties for illegally crossing an unbroken line, with fines of $322 and $446 and both costing three demerit points.</p> <p>Queensland also has a three-demerit point penalty, along with a $234 fine.</p> <p>Drivers in Tasmania are subjected to a $203.75 fine and two demerit points while Western Australia has the lowest penalties at $150 but will cost drivers three demerit points.</p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>

Legal

Our Partners