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Major banks hand over millions in refunds over unfair fees

<p>Four major Australian banks are set to cough up close to $30 million in refunds to low-income customers after the Federal corporate watchdog revealed a pattern in high fees. </p> <p>A new report from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission revealed ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, as well as mid-tier Bendigo and Adelaide Bank kept at least two million low-income customers in high-fee accounts.</p> <p>Many of these low-income earners rely on Centrelink payments, and were unfairly slapped with unreasonably high fees. </p> <p>The report followed an ASIC review which focused on improving financial outcomes for First Nations customers by addressing avoidable bank fees.</p> <p>“We focused in this project on the banks who were most likely to have First Nations consumers on low incomes trapped in high-fee accounts,” ASIC commissioner Alan Kirkland said.</p> <p>ASIC said the four banks have committed to moving more than 200,000 customers into low-fee accounts, saving them about $10.7 million a year, with the financial institutions also committed to refunding over $28m in fees to these customers over the next 12 to 18 months.</p> <p>This includes $24.6 million to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and apprentices receiving ABSTUDY payments, and customers in areas with significant First Nations populations.</p> <p>“At any time ASIC, and the community, expects that the banks will treat their customers fairly,” Mr Kirkland said.</p> <p>“But that’s particularly important for people on low incomes and for people who are struggling to make ends meet, the last thing they need is to have the very little income that they have being eaten away in unnecessary bank fees.”</p> <p>Mr Kirkland added that the implications of ASIC’s latest review applied to all banks across the country.</p> <p>“We’re expecting all of them to read the report and make improvements to their practices to stop other people being trapped in high-fee accounts that they can’t afford,” Mr Kirkland said.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p>

Money & Banking

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Stamp duty is holding us back from moving homes – we’ve worked out how much

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-garvin-1453835">Nick Garvin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174">Macquarie University</a></em></p> <p>If just one state of Australia, New South Wales, scrapped its stamp duty on real-estate transactions, about 100,000 more Australians would move homes each year, according to our <a href="https://e61.in/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Stamp-duty-effects-on-purchases-and-moves.pdf">best estimates</a>.</p> <p>Stamp duty is an unquestioned part of buying a home in Australia – you put your details in an online mortgage calculator, and stamp duty is automatically deducted from the amount you have to contribute.</p> <p>It’s easy to overlook how much more affordable a home would be without it.</p> <p>That means it’s also easy to overlook how much more Australians would buy and move if stamp duty wasn’t there.</p> <p>The 2010 Henry Tax Review found stamp duty was <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2019-10/afts_final_report_part_2_vol_1_consolidated.pdf">inequitable</a>. It taxes most the people who most need to or want to move.</p> <p>The review reported: "Ideally, there would be no role for any stamp duties, including conveyancing stamp duties, in a modern Australian tax system. Recognising the revenue needs of the States, the removal of stamp duty should be achieved through a switch to more efficient taxes, such as those levied on broad consumption or land bases."</p> <p>But does stamp duty actually stop anyone moving? It’s a claim more often made than assessed, which is what our team at the <a href="https://e61.in/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Stamp-duty-effects-on-purchases-and-moves.pdf">e61 Institute</a> set out to do.</p> <p>We used real-estate transaction data and a natural experiment.</p> <h2>What happened when Queensland hiked stamp duty</h2> <p>In 2011, Queensland hiked stamp duty for most buyers by removing some concessions for owner-occupiers at short notice.</p> <p>For owner-occupiers it increased stamp duty by about one percentage point, lifting the average rate from 1.26% of the purchase price to 2.27%.</p> <p>What we found gives us the best estimate to date of what stamp duty does to home purchases.</p> <p>A one percentage point increase in stamp duty causes the number of home purchases to decline by 7.2%.</p> <p>The number of moves (changes of address) falls by about as much.</p> <p>The effect appears to be indiscriminate. Purchases of houses fell about as much as purchases of apartments, and purchases in cities fell about as much as purchases in regions.</p> <p>Moves between suburbs and moves interstate dropped by similar rates.</p> <p>With NSW stamp duty currently averaging about <a href="https://conveyancing.com.au/need-to-know/stamp-duty-nsw">3.5%</a> of the purchase price, our estimates suggest there would be about 25% more purchases and moves by home owners if it were scrapped completely. That’s 100,000 moves.</p> <p>Victoria’s higher rate of stamp duty, about <a href="https://www.sro.vic.gov.au/rates-taxes-duties-and-levies/general-land-transfer-duty-property-current-rates">4.2%</a>, means if it was scrapped there would be about 30% more purchases. That’s another 90,000 moves.</p> <h2>Even low headline rates have big effects</h2> <p>The big effect from small-looking headline rates ought not to be surprising.</p> <p>When someone buys a home, they typically front up much less cash than the purchase price. While stamp duty seems low as a percentage of the purchase price, it is high as a percentage of the cash the buyer needs to find.</p> <p>Here’s an example. If stamp duty is 4% of the purchase price, and a purchaser pays $800,000 for a property with a mortgage deposit of $160,000, the $32,000 stamp duty adds 20%, not 4%, to what’s needed.</p> <p>If the deposit takes five years to save, stamp duty makes it six.</p> <p>A similar thing happens when an owner-occupier changes address. If the buyer sells a fully owned home for $700,000 and buys a new home for $800,000, the upgrade ought to cost them $100,000. A 4% stamp duty lifts that to $132,000.</p> <p>Averaged across all Australian cities, stamp duty costs about <a href="https://e61.in/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Stepped-on-by-Stamp-Duty.pdf">five months</a> of after-tax earnings. In Sydney and Melbourne, it’s six.</p> <h2>Stamp duty has bracket creep</h2> <p>This cost has steadily climbed from around <a href="https://e61.in/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Stepped-on-by-Stamp-Duty.pdf">six weeks</a> of total earnings in the 1990s. It has happened because home prices have climbed faster than incomes and because stamp duty has brackets, meaning more buyers have been pushed into higher ones.</p> <p>Replacing the stamp duty revenue that states have come to rely on would not be easy, but a switch would almost certainly help the economy function better.</p> <p>The more that people are able to move, the more they will move to jobs to which they are better suited, boosting productivity.</p> <p>The more that people downsize when they want to, the more housing will be made available for others.</p> <p>Our findings suggest the costs are far from trivial, making a switch away from stamp duty worthwhile, even if it is disruptive and takes time.<!-- 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/225773/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/nick-garvin-1453835">Nick Garvin</a>, Adjunct Fellow, Department of Economics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/macquarie-university-1174">Macquarie 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/stamp-duty-is-holding-us-back-from-moving-homes-weve-worked-out-how-much-225773">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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Why don’t Australians talk about their salaries? Pay transparency and fairness go hand-in-hand

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/carol-t-kulik-150471">Carol T Kulik</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p>In Australia, it’s not the done thing to know – let alone ask – what our colleagues are paid. Yet, it’s easy to see how pay transparency can make pay systems fairer and more effective.</p> <p>With more information on how much certain tasks and roles are valued, employees can better understand and interpret pay differences, and advocate for themselves. When pay is weakly aligned with employee contributions, pay transparency can be embarrassing for firms.</p> <p>As the government continues to <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace/think-your-male-colleagues-earn-more-than-you-soon-you-ll-know-for-sure-20240104-p5ev7i.html">legislate for pay transparency</a>, wise employers should move to identify – and correct – both real and perceived inequities.</p> <h2>The salary taboo</h2> <p>At one extreme, imagine that you work for California-based tech company Buffer, which develops social media tools.</p> <p>Buffer lists the salary of every company employee, in descending order, on its <a href="https://buffer.com/salaries">website</a>. Salaries are non-negotiable and all Buffer employees receive a standard pay raise each year. Prospective job applicants can use Buffer’s online <a href="https://buffer.com/salary-calculator/senior-data-engineer/intermediate">salary calculator</a> to estimate their pay.</p> <p>Does Buffer’s pay system make you cheer – “yay, no uncomfortable salary negotiations!”, or squirm – “what, my salary is on the website?”</p> <p>Most probably, both. There is a persistent social norm researchers call the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047272723000725">salary taboo</a>. We want to know, but we don’t like to ask, and we definitely don’t want anyone to know that we’re asking.</p> <p>In Norway, an app that enabled users to <a href="https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/aer.20160256">access neighbors’ tax-reported income</a> was enormously popular – but only while the user could remain anonymous.</p> <h2>The problem with not knowing</h2> <p>Historically, companies have given employees only minimal information about their pay systems, and some have even prohibited them from sharing their own pay information.</p> <p>Such non-transparency creates two big problems.</p> <p>First, managers place <a href="https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/achieving-meritocracy-in-the-workplace/">too much trust</a> in organisational systems. The more managers become convinced that pay decisions accurately reflect employee contributions, the less diligent they become about monitoring their own personal biases. Without accountability, it’s easy for an organisation’s pay system to drift into inequity.</p> <p>Second, in the absence of comparative information, employees often suspect they are being underpaid – even if they aren’t.</p> <p>In a <a href="https://www.payscale.com/research-and-insights/fair-pay-impact/">survey</a> of over 380,000 employees by data firm Payscale, 57% of employees paid <em>at</em> the market rate and 42% of people paid <em>above</em> the market rate all believed they were being underpaid.</p> <p>However, unfounded it might be, a nagging sense of inequity can drive people out the door. Payscale estimates that people who <em>think</em> they are underpaid are 50% more likely than other employees to seek a new job in the next six months.</p> <h2>Pay transparency is trending</h2> <p>Broadly speaking, pay transparency policies see companies report their pay levels or ranges, explain their pay-setting processes, or encourage their employees to share pay information.</p> <p>Some companies voluntarily share pay information in response to workforce demand, but there’s also a trend toward mandating pay transparency.</p> <p>In Australia, pay secrecy terms are <a href="https://theconversation.com/pay-secrecy-clauses-are-now-banned-in-australia-heres-how-that-could-benefit-you-195814">banned</a> from employment contracts and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency is <a href="https://www.wgea.gov.au/about/our-legislation/publishing-employer-gender-pay-gaps">publishing employers’ gender pay gaps</a>.</p> <p>The European Union’s <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/es/ip_22_7739">Pay Transparency Directive</a> already publishes gender pay gaps and requires employers to provide comparative pay data to employees upon request. Several US states and cities now require employers to <a href="https://www.govdocs.com/pay-transparency-laws/">include salary ranges</a> in their recruitment materials.</p> <h2>Pay transparency usually has positive effects</h2> <p>In equitable pay systems, pay differences align with the differential values employees bring to the business. When pay systems are transparent, it’s easy for employees to recognise when they – and their coworkers – are being appropriately rewarded for their contributions.</p> <p>Evidence is building that such transparency is often a good thing.</p> <p>For one, it can increase employee <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/002224377801500204">performance and job satisfaction</a>. People also generally <a href="https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/717891">underestimate their bosses’ salaries</a>, so pay transparency can inspire employees to aspire to higher-paid senior positions. And pay transparency identifies staff with unique expertise, so <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2016-01521-001">employees seek help</a> from the right coworkers.</p> <p>Pay transparency has also been shown to help narrow gender pay gaps. As pay transparency rules spread across public academic institutions in the US, the pay gap between male and female academics <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-022-01288-9">dramatically narrowed</a> (in some states, it was even eliminated).</p> <p>In Denmark, where firms are now required to provide pay statistics that compare men and women, the national gender pay gap has <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jofi.13136">declined by 13%</a> relative to the pre-legislation average.</p> <h2>But it can still be risky</h2> <p>Every pay system has pockets of unfairness, where managers have made <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2001-01537-002">special arrangements</a> to attract or retain talent. Pay transparency exposes these exceptions, so they can be immediately explained or corrected.</p> <p>But if there are too many such pockets, managers need to brace for a productivity downturn. When pay transparency reveals systematic inequities – for example, disparities based on gender – overall organisational <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4341804">productivity declines</a>.</p> <p>Over the long run, pay transparency leads to <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jofi.13136">flatter and narrower</a> pay distributions, but distributions can also be too flat and too narrow. Managers making pay decisions are aware that their decisions will be directly scrutinised and may <a href="https://journals.aom.org/doi/10.5465/amj.2020.1831">become reluctant</a> to assign high wages even for high performance.</p> <p>If pay <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-022-01288-9">loses its motivating potential</a>, employees can become disheartened, especially <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/peps.12054">star performers</a>.</p> <h2>Proceed with caution</h2> <p>As stakeholders on this issue demand more transparency, employers would be wise to stay ahead of legislative moves.</p> <p>Independently making the first move is a show of good faith and can unfold in stages. A good first step is to reveal the pay ranges associated with groups of related roles, giving employers time to conduct internal audits, communicate with employees and systematically correct inequities as they surface.</p> <p>In contrast, having to reveal pay data because of a government mandate can publicly expose patterns of inequity and cause permanent damage to a company’s reputation.<!-- 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/224067/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/carol-t-kulik-150471">Carol T Kulik</a>, Research Professor, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</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/why-dont-australians-talk-about-their-salaries-pay-transparency-and-fairness-go-hand-in-hand-224067">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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Tennis star "heartbroken" as injury puts life on hold

<p>Aussie tennis star Storm Hunter has suffered a devastating injury just one day before the nation's qualifying tie against Mexico. </p> <p>The 29-year-old has had to put her Olympic dream and plans to crack the world’s top 100 on hold, after she fell and ruptured her right Achilles tendon. </p> <p>The incident occurred on Thursday’s final practice session for Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup qualification tie against Mexico on Friday. </p> <p>Hunter took to Instagram to announce the bad news, with a picture of herself during one of the games.</p> <p>“I am devastated and heartbroken but incredibly grateful to be around the team and I know I have a great group of people around me that will help me get back on court as soon as possible,” she wrote. </p> <p>“Thank you so much everyone for the messages of support and love, I’m excited to stay for the tie and support our Aussie girls.”</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/C5pE4RDPdpG/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/C5pE4RDPdpG/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by STORM HUNTER (@stormcsanders)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>In a following update, she shared a photo of herself in crutches holding a bouquet of flowers that she received from the rival team. </p> <p>"Thank you team Mexico for the flowers" she captioned the photo, with a heart emoji and the Mexican flag. </p> <p>Recovery time for a ruptured Achilles is at least four months, but can take up to a year depending on the injury. </p> <p>This means that the tennis star is set to miss the Olympic Games in Paris later this year, where she could've featured in all three disciplines.</p> <p>She was set to team up with Ellen Perez for the clash with Mexico, but has since been replaced with Daria Saville. </p> <p>“Storm went to take off for a ball and unfortunately has sustained a very serious injury, so she’s going to be getting an MRI tonight,” Team captain Sam Stosur said on Thursday. </p> <p>“Obviously the tie still continues and we’ve made a decision. Dasha’s going to go in place of her to play tomorrow, but obviously we’re all rallying behind Storm and wishing her the very, very best and the quickest recovery possible.”</p> <p>Hunter has had a career-high singles mark of 114 at the start of April, and finished 2023 as the world No.1 in doubles alongside Elise Mertens. </p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p> <p> </p> <p> </p>

Caring

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People in the world’s ‘blue zones’ live longer – their diet could hold the key to why

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/justin-roberts-1176632">Justin Roberts</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/anglia-ruskin-university-1887">Anglia Ruskin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/joseph-lillis-1505087">Joseph Lillis</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/anglia-ruskin-university-1887">Anglia Ruskin University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mark-cortnage-438941">Mark Cortnage</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/anglia-ruskin-university-1887">Anglia Ruskin University</a></em></p> <p>Ageing is an inevitable part of life, which may explain our <a href="https://time.com/4672969/why-do-people-want-to-live-so-long/">strong fascination</a> with the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2726954">quest for longevity</a>. The allure of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26566891/">eternal youth</a> drives a <a href="https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/longevity-and-anti-senescence-therapy-market-A14010">multi-billion pound industry</a> ranging from anti-ageing products, supplements and <a href="https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/longevity-diet">diets</a> for those hoping to extend their lifespan.</p> <p>f you look back to the turn of the 20th century, average life expectancy in the UK was around 46 years. Today, it’s closer to <a href="https://population.un.org/wpp/">82 years</a>. We are in fact <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27706136/">living longer than ever before</a>, possibly due to medical advancements and improved <a href="https://www.health.org.uk/publications/reports/mortality-and-life-expectancy-trends-in-the-uk">living and working conditions</a>.</p> <p>But living longer has also come at a price. We’re now seeing higher rates of <a href="https://www.who.int/data/gho/data/themes/mortality-and-global-health-estimates/ghe-leading-causes-of-death">chronic and degenerative diseases</a> – with heart disease consistently topping the list. So while we’re fascinated by what may help us live longer, maybe we should be more interested in being healthier for longer. Improving our “<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4632858/">healthy life expectancy</a>” remains a global challenge.</p> <p>Interestingly, certain locations around the world have been discovered where there are a high proportion of centenarians who display remarkable physical and mental health. The <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15489066/">AKEA study of Sardinia, Italy</a>, as example, identified a “blue zone” (named because it was marked with blue pen), where there was a higher number of locals living in the central-eastern mountainous areas who had reached their 100th birthday compared with the wider Sardinian community.</p> <p>This longevity hotspot has since been expanded, and now includes several other areas around the world which also have greater numbers of longer-living, healthy people. Alongside Sardinia, these blue zones are now <a href="https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/81214929">popularly recognised</a> as: Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California.</p> <p>Other than their long lifespans, people living in these zones also appear to share certain other commonalities, which centre around being <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3874460">part of a community</a>, having a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4224996/">life purpose</a>, eating <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33514872/">nutritious, healthy foods</a>, keeping <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-021-01735-7">stress levels</a> low and undertaking purposeful daily <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30202288/">exercise or physical tasks</a>.</p> <p>Their longevity could also relate to their <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9010380/">environment</a>, being mostly rural (or less polluted), or because of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22253498/">specific longevity genes</a>.</p> <p>However, studies indicate genetics may only account for <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8786073">around 20-25% of longevity</a> – meaning a person’s lifespan is a complex interaction between lifestyle and genetic factors, which contribute to a long and healthy life.</p> <h2>Is the secret in our diet?</h2> <p>When it comes to diet, each blue zone has its own approach – so one specific food or nutrient does not explain the remarkable longevity observed. But interestingly, a diet rich in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288">plant foods</a> (such as locally-grown vegetables, fruits and legumes) does appear to be reasonably consistent across these zones.</p> <p>For instance, the Seventh-day Adventists of Loma Linda are <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10641813/">predominately vegetarian</a>. For centenarians in Okinawa, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20234038/">high intakes of flavonoids</a> (a chemical compound typically found in plants) from purple sweet potatoes, soy and vegetables, have been linked with <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11710359/">better cardiovascular health</a> – including lower cholesterol levels and lower incidences of stroke and heart disease.</p> <p>In Nicoya, consumption of locally produced rice and beans has been associated with <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34444746/">longer telomere length</a>. Telomeres are the structural part at the end of our chromosomes which protect our genetic material. Our telomeres get shorter each time a cell divides – so get progressively shorter as we age.</p> <p>Certain <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21102320/">lifestyle factors</a> (such as smoking and poor diet) can also shorten telomere length. It’s thought that telomere length acts as a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31728493/">biomarker of ageing</a> – so having longer telomeres could, in part, be linked with longevity.</p> <p>But a plant-based diet isn’t the only secret. In Sardinia, for example, meat and fish is consumed in moderation in addition to locally grown vegetables and <a href="https://journalofethnicfoods.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42779-022-00152-5">traditional foods</a> such as acorn breads, pane carasau (a sourdough flatbread), honey and soft cheeses.</p> <p>Also observed in several blue zone areas is the inclusion of <a href="https://www.jacc.org/doi/10.1016/j.jacc.2021.10.041">olive oil</a>, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33669360/">wine</a> (in moderation – around 1-2 glasses a day), as well as <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3830687/">tea</a>. All of these contain powerful antioxidants which may help <a href="https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10049696/">protect our cells</a> from damage <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6273542/">as we age</a>.</p> <p>Perhaps then, it’s a combination of the protective effects of various nutrients in the diets of these centenarians, which explains their exceptional longevity.</p> <p>Another striking observation from these longevity hot spots is that meals are typically <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7232892">freshly prepared at home</a>. Traditional blue zone diets also don’t appear to contain <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6538973/">ultra-processed foods</a>, fast foods or sugary drinks which may <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32330232/">accelerate ageing</a>. So maybe it’s just as important to consider what these longer-living populations are not doing, as much as what they are doing.</p> <p>There also appears to be a pattern of eating until 80% full (in other words partial <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9036399/">caloric reduction</a>. This could be important in also supporting how our cells deal with damage as we age, which could mean a longer life.</p> <p>Many of the factors making up these blue zone diets – primarily plant-based and natural whole foods – are associated with <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35706591/">lower risk of chronic diseases</a> such as <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28728684/">heart disease</a> and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37589638/">cancer</a>. Not only could such diets contribute to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37836577/">longer, healthier life</a>, but could support a more <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33397404/">diverse gut microbiome</a>, which is also associated with healthy ageing.</p> <p>Perhaps then we can learn something from these remarkable centenarians. While diet is only one part of the bigger picture when it comes to longevity, it’s an area we can do something about. In fact, it might just be at the heart of improving not only the quality of our health, but the quality of how we age.<!-- 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/221463/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/justin-roberts-1176632">Justin Roberts</a>, Professor of Nutritional Physiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/anglia-ruskin-university-1887">Anglia Ruskin University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/joseph-lillis-1505087">Joseph Lillis</a>, PhD Candidate in Nutritional Physiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/anglia-ruskin-university-1887">Anglia Ruskin University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mark-cortnage-438941">Mark Cortnage</a>, Senior Lecturer in Public Health and Nutrition, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/anglia-ruskin-university-1887">Anglia Ruskin 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/people-in-the-worlds-blue-zones-live-longer-their-diet-could-hold-the-key-to-why-221463">original article</a>.</em></p>

Food & Wine

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Announcing Kate Middleton’s cancer diagnosis should have been simple. But the palace let it get out of hand

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/victoria-fielding-236389">Victoria Fielding</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/saira-ali-1522239">Saira Ali</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a></em></p> <p>The British royal family is famous for its carefully curated media image. That’s why it was a surprise to see them lose control of the narrative in the wake of what we now know is a serious health crisis befalling Catherine, Princess of Wales (or Kate Middleton as she’s popularly known).</p> <p>It is clear the nearly 1,000-year-old institution of the monarchy and its tradition of “<a href="https://news.northeastern.edu/2024/03/14/kate-middleton-photo-pr-crisis/">never complain, never explain</a>” is being tested by social media and its power to spread rumours and misinformation. The palace’s public relations team has underestimated how difficult it is to manage relationships with social media audiences. Their reactive attempts to rein in speculation has turned Catherine’s health challenge into a PR disaster.</p> <p>Social media, with its lax regulations and freer environment, offers a more open forum for users to say whatever they like about the royals. It’s served as a hotbed for Catherine conspiracies, particularly on TikTok. These theories are as wild as they are ridiculous, from Catherine being a prisoner in the palace to her hiding in <a href="https://www.prdaily.com/kate-middleton-stanley-alabama-retail/">Taylor Swift’s London home</a>.</p> <p>What should have been a simple announcement to a sympathetic public about a popular royal having cancer turned into a spider’s web of competing conspiracy theories across social media. How did it all go so terribly wrong?</p> <h2>I’ve lost track, what happened?</h2> <p>All was well with the Prince and Princess of Wales when they were filmed attending church on Christmas Day. As usual when royals are out in public, the scene was picture perfect with everyone dutifully smiling for the cameras in “<a href="https://www.harpersbazaar.com/celebrity/latest/a46227698/kate-middleton-royal-blue-christmas-day-church-service-prince-william-kids/">co-ordinated</a>” outfits.</p> <p>Two weeks later, Kensington Palace announced Catherine had undergone planned abdominal surgery, with <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Culture/princess-kate-hospitalized-after-planned-abdominal-surgery-palace/story?id=106441561">palace sources</a> telling media the surgery had been “successful” and she would need two weeks to recover.</p> <p>On January 29, the palace announced Catherine had returned home to recuperate. <a href="https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/a46569739/king-charles-discharged-from-hospital/">Unlike King Charles</a> when he released news of his cancer diagnosis on February 5, Catherine was not photographed leaving hospital. This was the first PR misstep. She had appeared outside hospital soon after giving birth to her three children, but this time she remained uncharacteristically out of the public eye.</p> <p>Almost a month later, when Prince William <a href="https://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/prince-william-pulls-memorial-godfather-211406977.html?amp;guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&amp;guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAG6tOzuXsqZXP6G2nLLd-lnWzZhYKHVJ5TJ-w5XCCfgMjerRrR8v1R8unjtcoQTbvPDsVt3mtTcZ_g0os6zwOuEFfMKCh0kfEExvz-dB2FG0uqcy6-GoryjvG99TEhMli66hNZLjLENmMhq1mwoV7GmM0AYezMDsZtZVtONH9C1b&amp;guccounter=2">unexpectedly withdrew</a> from his godfather’s memorial citing “personal reasons”, social media users started asking “Where is Princess Kate?”.</p> <p>Used to a steady stream of content about the royal family, the public were unsurprisingly questioning if there was more to Catherine’s abdominal surgery than they were being told.</p> <p>In a rare reactive move, the palace tried to quell questions about Catherine’s whereabouts by releasing a <a href="https://people.com/palace-responds-kate-middleton-conspiracy-theories-online-surgery-recovery-rare-statement-8602191">statement</a> reiterating that she would not be returning to public duties until Easter.</p> <p>On March 4, US outlet <a href="https://www.tmz.com/2024/03/04/kate-middleton-seen-spotted-public-first-time-mystery-hospitalization/">TMZ published</a> a paparazzi photo of Catherine driving with her mother. Social media audiences asked if it really was Catherine.</p> <p>Over the next week, conspiracy theories about Catherine’s absence reached frenzied levels. To show everything was fine, Kensington Palace released a <a href="https://twitter.com/KensingtonRoyal/status/1766750995445387393?s=20">Mother’s Day photo</a> of Catherine and her children on their social media accounts. Social media users spotted apparently edited flaws and global news agencies announced “<a href="https://apnews.com/article/kate-princess-photo-surgery-ca91acf667c87c6c70a7838347d6d4fb">kill orders</a>”, saying the image had been manipulated. The next day, Catherine <a href="https://twitter.com/KensingtonRoyal/status/1767135566645092616">apologised</a> on social media for editing the photo.</p> <p>Although royals have been <a href="https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/a60191061/royal-photoshop-history/">editing their pictures</a> for centuries, it seems particularly digitally naive of the palace’s PR team to release such an obviously edited image into an already cynical social media environment, creating fodder for more conspiracy theories.</p> <p>Mainstream news outlets then joined social media users in asking questions about Catherine’s absence. Although this media attention did not legitimise wild conspiracies, in some ways it fuelled them.</p> <p>Days later, TMZ <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erWJNmbrECs">published footage</a> of Catherine and William shopping. At this point in the media chaos, many social media users claimed it was fake.</p> <p>This intense public speculation finally ended on March 23, when Catherine <a href="https://twitter.com/KensingtonRoyal/status/1771235267837321694?s=20">released a video</a> explaining her extended absence after abdominal surgery was caused by the surgeons discovering cancer.</p> <p>During a crisis, the public crave transparency, authenticity, honesty and reassurance. These elements were missing in the royal PR team’s carefully worded statements made directly to mainstream media along with reactive, overly curated social media posts.</p> <p>By providing scant details, the palace seemed to believe they could control public perception. But public image is increasingly difficult to control.</p> <h2>The double-edged sword of social media</h2> <p>After Princess Diana’s death in a paparazzi-chase car accident, privacy laws and <a href="https://time.com/4914324/princess-diana-anniversary-paparazzi-tabloid-media/">media regulations</a> forbade the most invasive breaches of the royal family’s privacy, particularly for her children, princes William and Harry. However, tabloid appetite for uncontrolled access soon returned once the princes became adults.</p> <p>Recently, Harry and his wife Meghan have been involved in <a href="https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/prince-harry-his-many-lawsuits-against-press-2023-12-15/">several lawsuits</a> against media companies over breaches of privacy, including phone hacking.</p> <p>The rise of social media has typically been viewed as a tool that gives royals more control over their image through the curation of their own personal content. Previously, the fact Catherine was the one <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/kate-middleton-cutest-family-photos-2018-5">taking photos</a> of her children was seen as a sign of authenticity and being down to earth (as much as a princess could be).</p> <p>Yet, social media is both a blessing and a curse for the management of public reputations.</p> <p>The perpetuation of contested facts and theories on social media in the wake of Princess Catherine’s unexplained absence shows how difficult it is to curate a controlled image using social media. Lack of verified information in mainstream media helps fuel speculative flames.</p> <p>While <a href="https://www.thedrum.com/news/2024/03/22/where-the-palace-lost-the-plot-and-what-we-can-learn-about-pr-and-empathy-kategate">PR experts</a> believe it is understandable and appropriate for Catherine and her family to have privacy during this time, more timely, direct and honest communication would have gone a long way to prevent relentless gossip.</p> <p>Once rumours and conspiracies gained momentum, the palace perhaps thought the less information provided, the better. However, silence during a crisis just fuels more speculation because the lack of information makes it look like there is something to hide.</p> <p>Catherine’s personal video announcing her cancer diagnosis helped end the social media frenzy. This shows a simple, clear statement posted by Kensington Palace to social media weeks ago would likely have avoided the PR disaster and provided Catherine the privacy she so clearly needs.</p> <p>The palace is now <a href="https://www.sheknows.com/entertainment/articles/2986509/kate-middleton-cancer-pr-disaster/">being criticised</a> for complicating a situation that was relatively simple in retrospect. Many social media users are also upset Catherine took public blame for the photoshopping incident.</p> <p>Any organisation that deals with the media to maintain positive reputations, including the British monarchy, has no choice but to adapt to all kinds of media, including social media. The long-time practice of keeping calm and carrying on amid controversy and the 24-hour gossip cycle doesn’t work in the era of TikTok, X and YouTube.</p> <p>In the absence of trusted information, social media will do what it does best: take mostly innocuous online chatter and amplify it until it goes viral.<!-- 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/226490/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/victoria-fielding-236389">Victoria Fielding</a>, Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/saira-ali-1522239">Saira Ali</a>, Senior Lecturer in Media, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</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/announcing-kate-middletons-cancer-diagnosis-should-have-been-simple-but-the-palace-let-it-get-out-of-hand-226490">original article</a>.</em></p>

Caring

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Why we need to stop being so judgemental – and the 4 steps to do it

<p>As a society, we've become increasingly judgmental. We tend to judge not only others but ourselves as well. From a person's physical appearance to their actions, we criticise and judge everything. Everyone is too fat, too thin, too old, or too young, creating an environment where nothing seems to be good enough. This constant pattern of judgment is now harming our mental, emotional, and physical well-being.</p> <p>When we judge, we compare ourselves to others, leaving us emotionally vulnerable. Through this judgement, we seek to establish a sense of security and control over our lives and surroundings, often without even realising it. However, by increasing our emotional resilience and sense of control, we become consciously aware of this behaviour and can take steps to change it. So, is it possible to become less judgemental? </p> <p>As an educator and researcher, I developed an Emotional Resilience language (ER). It introduces simple changes that can reduce judgment, foster empathy, compassion, and personal responsibility, and bolster emotional intelligence and resilience when integrated into everyday life. Using a driving metaphor, ER simplifies the intricate world of emotions, providing an innovative way to integrate emotional vocabulary into daily life. It enhances understanding and establishes new neural pathways and healthier thought patterns.</p> <p>The following outlines the initial steps of ER, which can effectively manage judgement towards yourself and others. Though the changes may appear simplistic, they are instrumental in establishing lasting transformation.</p> <p><strong>1. Removing judgement towards how you or others may feel:</strong> Instead of labelling emotions as good or bad, view them as rough or smooth emotional roads. Just as roads serve different purposes, so do emotions. Rough emotions build resilience, while smooth emotions promote well-being, removing the need to lift everyone off a rough road. This makes it easier to recognise and accept emotions without feeling like a failure when things aren't going smoothly. You don’t know why someone is on a rough road, so resist the temptation to judge them.</p> <p><strong>2: The metaphorical steering wheel</strong> in ER represents emotional control and the power of choice in navigating life's challenges. As in a car, you should be the only one controlling your emotional steering wheel. Rather than judging yourself and others, this logical approach empowers you to regain control over your focus, emotions, and destination. Just because someone else is on a rough road doesn’t mean you must join them, fostering resilience and responsibility. </p> <p><strong>3. Shifting judgement and blame to responsibility</strong> involves removing phrases such as "You are making me angry, " which inadvertently hands your emotional steering wheel to others. Replace it with, "I am choosing to feel angry in response to this situation." This subtle alteration, substituting "making" with "choosing," helps reclaim ownership of your steering wheel rather than relinquishing control to external factors. Assigning blame—"It's your fault, it's the government's fault, it's my partner’s fault"— leaves you feeling like a victim, and you then resort to judgement and retaliation to regain control. </p> <p><strong>4. The importance of taking control:</strong> Understanding that judgement cannot be contained nor emotional resilience built when you are out of control on either road is crucial. Out-of-control scenarios activate the amygdala, the brain's fight, flight or freeze mode, disabling the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for thinking and creativity. It is only possible to discuss a situation once the involved parties have regained control and can access the thinking part of their brain. Therefore, regaining control is essential for reducing judgement, as then you can have productive discussions that help maintain emotional well-being. This includes your conversations with yourself, which can often be the harshest!</p> <p>ER helps reduce judgement by developing your emotional resilience. Awareness of the emotional state of yourself and others fosters emotional intelligence, while learning to regain control builds resilience. Recognising that navigating rough emotions is crucial for growth alleviates the pressure from always needing to be on a smooth road and judging yourself and others if they aren’t. It shifts focus from dwelling on challenges and comparing yourself to others to being able to understand and manage your responses. Incorporating language changes into daily life builds new neural pathways, creating new thought patterns that reduce judgment and blame. </p> <p>By avoiding the tendency to judge yourself or others, you take back control of your reactions to people and circumstances. This leads to better mental and emotional well-being and fosters positive relationships with yourself and others. Does this mean you will never judge again? Of course not. You’re human. It’s what you do with the judgment that can make all the difference. </p> <p><strong>Dr Jane Foster is a leading educator, researcher, presenter and author of <em>It’s In Your Hands; Your Steering Wheel, Your Choice</em>. Combining her educational skills with neuroscience and positive psychology, Jane equips people with strategies to help build emotional resilience and manage their daily stresses, successfully changing perspective and creating new neural pathways. For more information, visit <a href="https://www.emotionalresiliencetraining.com.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">www.emotionalresiliencetraining.com.au</a></strong></p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

Mind

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The funny reason Robert Irwin wants to hand over his citizenship

<p dir="ltr">Robert irwin has joined in the global outrage of Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig being <a href="https://oversixty.com.au/entertainment/movies/margot-robbie-snubbed-as-oscar-nominations-announced">snubbed</a> from the Oscar nominations. </p> <p dir="ltr">The wildlife warrior joined the panel of <em>The Project</em> on Wednesday night as a co-host of the show, where the conversation turned to the Aussie actress being snubbed by the Academy Awards. </p> <p dir="ltr">On Wednesday morning, it was revealed that Margot Robbie didn’t receive a Best Actress nomination for her role in <em>Barbie</em>, and nor did Greta Gerwig for Best Director, despite the movie breaking records when it was released in July. </p> <p dir="ltr">Around the world, <em>Barbie</em> fans shared their disgust in the snub, with Robert Irwin echoing their statements. </p> <p dir="ltr">“That's ridiculous. Come on,” he began.</p> <p dir="ltr">“[Director] Greta [Gerwig] and Margot made that movie. That's the reason why we have the Barbie movie, it's ridiculous.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Co-host Waleed Aly then asked if Robert would be renouncing his American citizenship over the injustice and was shocked by his response.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think it only makes sense,” Robert said. </p> <p dir="ltr">News of the snub went viral on Wednesday, with fans flocking to social media to share their thoughts. </p> <p dir="ltr">One particular tweet went viral, with over 109 thousand likes. </p> <p dir="ltr">"Ken getting nominated and not Barbie is honestly so fitting for a film about a man discovering the power of patriarchy in the Real World," the tweet read.</p> <p dir="ltr">Ryan Gosling, who received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Ken in the film, also shared a statement about the lack of recognition for the women he shared the screen with. </p> <p dir="ltr">In a lengthy statement, he said, “I never thought I’d be saying this, but I’m also incredibly honoured and proud that [the award] is for portraying a plastic doll named Ken.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“But there is no Ken without Barbie, and there is no <em>Barbie</em> movie without Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie, the two people most responsible for this history-making, globally celebrated film. No recognition would be possible for anyone on the film without their talent, grit and genius.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“To say that I’m disappointed that they are not nominated in their respective categories would be an understatement.”</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-12395ffc-7fff-c7ac-e4b2-d185f404a16d"></span><em>Image credits: The Project</em></p>

Movies

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Common car act could cost touchy drivers a hefty fine

<p>A worried driver has shared his concerns over being slapped with a potential fine after being caught holding his girlfriend's hand while driving. </p> <p>The man questioned whether the hand holding warranted a fine, after the couple passed a road safety camera in the "compromising" position. </p> <p>“Me and my girlfriend were holding hands and there was a camera on the left side, will they fine me?” the poster anonymously posted in a Facebook group for discussions about mobile phone detection camera locations in Australia.</p> <p>Online responses were varied from commenters, as many thought he driver could attract a fine as the act could be misconstrued as a more serious offence. </p> <p>One person wrote, “Was there a (mobile phone) between your hand and your girlfriends?" while another cheekily added “As long as she was just holding your hand.”</p> <p>But while some people mocked the question, others were closer to the mark, writing, “Holding her hand is no problem other than you may not have had effective control of the vehicle.”</p> <p>“Both hands on the steering wheel is my take on it,” another said.</p> <p>While police and transport authorities confirmed to <a href="https://7news.com.au/travel/driving/common-driving-act-that-could-cost-romantic-drivers-up-to-514-c-12217058" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>7News</em></a> that no specific rule exists for holding hands, if the hand-holding is deemed to constitute a failure to maintain proper control of a motor vehicle, that would be an offence under Australian Road Rule 297 of the Road Traffic Act 1961.</p> <p>The rule is observed nationally, but not all states fine offending motorists equally.</p> <p>Those who are caught red-handed could be fined between $215 and $514 depending on where they are.</p> <p>A Department of Transport and Main Roads spokesperson said that drivers should use their best judgement, saying, “Drivers must also drive with care and attention, as there are significant penalties for more serious offending.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Legal

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Dying husband and wife spend their final days holding hands

<p>A married couple have spent their final days holding hands in hospital, after their beds were pushed next to each other so they could be side-by-side as they both passed away. </p> <p>The couple from Tennessee, Tommy and Virginia Stevens, both 91, were both admitted to the Vanderbilt hospital for unrelated medical issues. </p> <p>Tommy, who was suffering with Alzheimer’s disease, had been struck down with aspiration pneumonia and sepsis, and was transferred to the hospital's palliative care unit. </p> <p>The same morning, Virginia suffered a fall as she sustained six broken ribs, a spinal fracture, and a hip injury, and was admitted to the hospital's trauma unit. </p> <p>As Tommy and Virginia's family were struggling to split time between the two wards, hospital staff were able to pull strings for the longtime lovebirds to be roomed side-by-side.</p> <p>Virginia was moved into a room near Tommy’s in the Palliative Care Unit, and her hospital bed was scooted against his so she could comfort him as his health continued to get worse, the hospital said.</p> <p>“He was awake when she came in,” their daughter Karen Kreager said.</p> <p>“His eyes were open. He wasn’t communicating a lot — just in small whispers. But he knew that she was there and that she was going to be right beside him. They haven’t stopped holding hands the whole time. She won’t let go of him.” </p> <p>“It reminds me of why we do this work,” Mohana Karlekar, MD, medical director of VUMC’s adult Palliative Care Program told local news station <em><a href="https://www.wsmv.com/2023/09/19/she-wont-let-go-him-vanderbilt-helps-hospitalized-wife-comfort-dying-husband/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">WSMV</a></em>.</p> <p>“We take care of people — husbands, wives, mothers, fathers — not patients. We brought this family together during one of their most difficult times with little effort on our part. It involved a call, seeing an extra patient that day and some conversations.”</p> <p>“From the time we brought Mrs. Stevens over, she held her husband’s hand and fussed in a very loving way with him,” Karlekar said.</p> <p>“She was able to tell me Monday that she was at peace with what was going on, and she wanted to be there until the end.”</p> <p>Tommy died on September 8th, just a day before the couple’s 69th anniversary, and Virginia died a few days later on September 17th.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Vanderbilt University Medical Center and The Stevens Family</em></p>

Caring

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Jubilant scenes as High Court hands down judgment against Qantas

<p>In a landmark decision that saw former employees pumping their fists in celebration inside the courtroom, Qantas has issued a formal apology to its workforce after the High Court declared its actions unlawful when it terminated the employment of over 1,700 ground crew members during the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>The court upheld two prior rulings from the Federal Court that deemed the airline's outsourcing of baggage handlers, cleaners and ground staff to be in violation of the law.</p> <p>The judgment delivered by Justices Susan Kiefel, Stephen Gageler, Jacqueline Gleeson, and Jayne Jagot underscores that taking "adverse action against another person for a substantial and operative reason of preventing the exercise of a workplace right by the other person contravenes (part of section 340 of the Fair Work Act) ... regardless of whether that other person has the relevant workplace right at the time the adverse action is taken."</p> <p>In essence, Qantas could not evade the law by taking such actions before the employees possessed the specific workplace rights the airline sought to obstruct.</p> <p>Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus, who was there for the judgment's announcement, posted a celebratory photo on social media, declaring, "The workers win against Qantas in the High Court. We will always have the backs of workers, well done ⁦@TWUAus"</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The workers win against Qantas in the High Court. We will always have the backs of workers, well done ⁦<a href="https://twitter.com/TWUAus?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TWUAus</a>⁩ <a href="https://t.co/wvZr7ouULX">pic.twitter.com/wvZr7ouULX</a></p> <p>— Sally McManus (@sallymcmanus) <a href="https://twitter.com/sallymcmanus/status/1701749294947291564?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 13, 2023</a></p></blockquote> <p> </p> <p>This legal battle began when the Transport Workers' Union brought a case against Qantas in the Federal Court, asserting that the airline had violated the Fair Work Act by outsourcing its ground operations to circumvent enterprise bargaining rights. Qantas, which had laid off workers in 2020, suffered significant financial losses due to the pandemic's severe impact on the aviation sector.</p> <p>In its response to the High Court's decision, Qantas clarified that it made the decision to outsource its remaining ground handling function in August 2020, at a time when borders were closed, lockdowns were widespread, and COVID-19 vaccines were not yet available.</p> <p>The airline stated, "The likelihood of a years-long crisis led Qantas to restructure its business to improve its ability to survive and ultimately recover."</p> <p>Qantas then expressed deep regret for the adverse personal impact this decision had on the affected employees and offered an apology:</p> <p>"As we have said from the beginning, we deeply regret the personal impact the outsourcing decision had on all those affected and we sincerely apologise for that.</p> <p>"A prior decision by the Federal Court has ruled out reinstatement of workers but it will now consider penalties for the breach and compensation for relevant employees, which will factor in redundancy payments already made by Qantas."</p> <p>The airline outsourced the positions of baggage handlers and cleaners at ten airports in response to a drastic decline in business, citing sound commercial reasons as the motivation, as its operations had plummeted by over 90 percent.</p> <p>However, the Transport Workers' Union argued that Qantas had also sought to preempt industrial action once business returned to normal, contending that the dismissals were in violation of the Fair Work Act, which prohibited actions impeding workers' rights.</p> <p>After losing twice in the Federal Court, Qantas escalated the case to the High Court, which was tasked with determining whether the workers possessed the rights claimed by the union at the time of the outsourcing decision. The unanimous decision of the High Court now paves the way for the workers to pursue compensation.</p> <p>Images: Twitter (X)</p>

Legal

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Shocking moment Glenn McGrath grabs three snakes with bare hands

<p>Aussie Cricket legend Glenn McGrath has turned into a part time snake wrangler after having to remove three snakes from his rural Queensland property with his bare hands.</p> <p>McGrath found the carpet pythons slithering inside his home on Wednesday, and decided to share the footage of him removing the unwelcome guests in different locations in his house. </p> <p>One python was inside his pantry, another was in the living room and third was making its way across the hall.</p> <p>"After plenty of encouragement and support from my wife, all three Coastal Carpet Pythons that were in the house were safely released back into the bush," he captioned the video. </p> <p>In the video, his wife Sara screamed in absolute horror as he removed one of the snakes by grabbing its tail, carefully wrapping it around a mop, and taking it outside.</p> <p>"You're going to get bitten," she screamed. </p> <p>McGrath calmly reassured her that he had it all under control. </p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cw3aLO5yCV1/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cw3aLO5yCV1/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Glenn McGrath (@glennmcgrath11)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Fortunately, the carpet pythons are a non-venomous breed, so there was no real threat to McGrath. </p> <p>However, many fans of the cricketer still applauded his bravery in the comments. </p> <p>"Haha good technique mate. Steve Irwin couldn't have done it any better," wrote one fan. </p> <p>"This is better than his 50 he scored against New Zealand," quipped another. </p> <p>"Keeping a good line and length between self and snake! Good work!" wrote a third. </p> <p>"This 🐍 knows he’s being handled by a CHAMP.. " commented a fourth. </p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p>

Family & Pets

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What your hands say about your health

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/adam-taylor-283950">Adam Taylor</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/lancaster-university-1176">Lancaster University</a></em></p> <p>Your hands reveal a lot about the state of your health. This is something that has been recognised since at least the time of Hippocrates – the father of modern medicine.</p> <p>The ancient Greek physician <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1150736">first described “clubbing”</a> in a patient with empyema (where pus fills the space between the lungs and the membrane around it) in the fifth century BC. Clubbing is where the nail looks like an upside-down spoon, and it is still recognised as a sign of disease. Although nowadays, clubbing is linked to more than just empyema. It is also <a href="https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/24474-nail-clubbing">linked to</a> cystic fibrosis, cirrhosis of the liver and thyroid conditions.</p> <p>Another nail change that can signal disease is Lindsay’s nails. This is where one or more nails are half white and half reddish brown. Around <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ccr3.4426#ccr34426-bib-0007">50%</a> of people with <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejmicm1406572">chronic kidney disease</a> have nails like this. But it can also be a sign of <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8183706/">cirrhosis of the liver</a> and <a href="https://journal.chestnet.org/article/S0012-3692(15)41065-7/fulltext">Behcet’s disease</a>, a rare condition that causes inflammation of the blood vessels.</p> <p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/13153107/">Terry’s nails</a>, where <a href="https://www.ccjm.org/content/ccjom/81/10/603.full.pdf">one or more fingernails</a> have a ground-glass appearance, can also be a sign of <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6025669/">cirrhosis of the liver</a>, but they are also associated with type 2 diabetes, kidney failure and HIV.</p> <p>And sounding a bit more medical and a bit less like a high street nail bar is <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559136/">Muehrcke’s nails</a>, which is where one or more horizontal lines run across the fingernails. This nail pattern indicates a decrease in the most abundant protein in the blood: <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459198/">albumin</a>. These nail markings can be an indicator of <a href="https://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(10)00297-4/fulltext">kidney disease</a>.</p> <p>But sometimes changes in nail colour and pattern are not sinister and are merely signs of ageing. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3038811/">Neapolitan nails</a>, so called because of their three distinct colour zones, are often seen in people over the age of 70 and are nothing to worry about.</p> <h2>Palms</h2> <p>Nails aren’t the only part of the hand that can reveal ill health, though. The palms can tell a story too.</p> <p>If you find your palms are becoming sweaty in the absence of nervousness, hot temperatures or exercise, it could be down to faulty nerve signals causing the sweat glands to become active. This can be benign, in which case it is called primary hyperhidrosis. But unexplained sweaty palms – and face, neck and armpits – can be a sign of thyroid problems.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279480/">Hyperthyroidism</a> is where the thyroid gland in the neck produces too much <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK500006/">thyroxine</a>. Excess of this hormone causes bodily processes to speed up and can be the cause of sweaty palms. Thankfully, this condition is easily treated with the right drugs.</p> <p>A more concerning palm change is the appearance of small areas of red or purple discolouration on the palms of the hands and fingers. This can be a sign of bacterial <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/endocarditis/">endocarditis</a> (inflammation of the inside lining of the heart), which has a high <a href="https://bmccardiovascdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12872-021-01853-6">mortality rate</a>.</p> <p>These discolourations come in two forms: <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3603816/">Osler’s nodes</a> and <a href="https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.127787">Janeway lesions</a>. Osler’s nodes are typically painful <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11739-014-1063-x">red 1mm-10mm</a> coloured nodules on the fingers appearing for hours to days, whereas Janeway lesions are <a href="https://heart.bmj.com/content/91/4/516">irregular shaped with varying sizes</a> and typically seen on the palms and are not painful, lasting few days up to a few weeks.</p> <p>Both these palm patterns are very serious and urgent medical attention should be sought.</p> <h2>Pins and needles</h2> <p>If you experience pins and needles in your hand that you can’t shake off, it might be a sign that you have <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/">carpal tunnel syndrome</a>. This is where a major nerve (the median nerve) in the wrist is being compressed, causing numbness, tingling or pain.</p> <p>It usually gets better without treatment, but a wrist splint can help to relieve pressure on the nerve. People who are overweight or pregnant are at greater risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.</p> <p>Pins and needles in the hand can also be a sign of diabetes. Raised blood sugar in diabetes causes <a href="https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/peripheral-neuropathy-risk-factors-symptoms">nerve damage</a> that manifests as <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41572-019-0092-1">tingling or numbness</a> in the extremities, such as the hands. This condition is called “diabetic neuropathy”.</p> <p>Everyone experiences pins and needles at some point, but if you get it a lot or it lasts a long time, you should see your doctor.</p> <h2>Finger length</h2> <p>The length of your fingers can give you some indication of your risk of developing certain diseases in later life.</p> <p>The length of the index versus ring finger varies in men and women. In women, they are fairly equal in length, but in men, the ring finger is typically longer than the index finger. This is believed to be due to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5296424/">exposure to hormones in the womb</a>.</p> <figure class="align-center "><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/539916/original/file-20230728-21-ku5ia8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/539916/original/file-20230728-21-ku5ia8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=343&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/539916/original/file-20230728-21-ku5ia8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=343&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/539916/original/file-20230728-21-ku5ia8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=343&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/539916/original/file-20230728-21-ku5ia8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=431&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/539916/original/file-20230728-21-ku5ia8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=431&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/539916/original/file-20230728-21-ku5ia8.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=431&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="Finger length comparison" /><figcaption><span class="caption">Your finger length can reveal how much testosterone you were exposed to in the womb.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/different-length-finger-index-ring-2132603433">logika600/Shutterstock</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>This longer ring than index finger relationship is associated with better performance in a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16403410/">number of sports</a> in men and women, but also a risk of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18163515/">developing knee and hip osteoarthritis</a> in women.</p> <p>There is nothing you can do to change your finger length, but you can help stave off osteoarthritis by keeping a healthy weight, staying active and controlling your blood sugar levels. In fact, if you stick to that advice, you can stave off most illness.<!-- 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/209704/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/adam-taylor-283950">Adam Taylor</a>, Professor and Director of the Clinical Anatomy Learning Centre, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/lancaster-university-1176">Lancaster 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/what-your-hands-say-about-your-health-209704">original article</a>.</em></p>

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From handing out their own flyers, to sell-out games: how the Matildas won over a nation

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/fiona-crawford-128832">Fiona Crawford</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a></em></p> <p>As the Matildas prepare for their 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup sudden-death quarter final against France, they have become the hottest sporting property in the country. For example, formerly uninterested major media just days ago <a href="https://sport.optus.com.au/news/womens-world-cup-2023/os61076/matildas-record-shirt-sales-helicopter-fifa-womens-world-cup-2023">hired a helicopter</a> to spy on one of the team’s training sessions.</p> <p>The expensive, paparazzi-style move was designed to gather exclusive footage of the team, particularly of injured Matildas captain Sam Kerr.</p> <p>That conservative media was going to such lengths to gain footage of the team speaks volumes of the starkly different landscape the current Matildas are operating in, and the evolution of a team that’s gone from few resources and relatively anonymity to equal pay and national treasure status.</p> <h2>No longer an afterthought</h2> <p>More people watched the <a href="https://7news.com.au/sport/fifa-womens-world-cup/matildas-set-new-tv-ratings-record-while-sinking-denmark-in-fifa-womens-world-cup-c-11520596">Matildas’ Round of 16 match against Denmark</a> on Channel Seven, the highest rating show of the year to date, than watched the men’s NRL and AFL grand finals last year.</p> <p>Channel Seven is also <a href="https://www.news.com.au/sport/football/channel-7s-extraordinary-matildas-decision-for-world-cup-quarterfinal/news-story/ddd00fa51e40971c940f720be2ad9f0d">delaying Saturday’s news bulletin</a> to broadcast the Matildas’ quarter final, while the AFL will be broadcasting the match in the stadium before the men’s West Coast Eagles versus Fremantle derby.</p> <p>This is all particularly interesting given <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-05-03/fifa-boss-threatens-women-world-cup-blackout/102295974">FIFA had to castigate broadcasters for undervaluing the broadcast rights</a> in the tournament lead-up.</p> <p>What’s more, Matildas jerseys are <a href="https://www.footballaustralia.com.au/news/football-australia-celebrates-landmark-fifa-womens-world-cup-and-record-breaking-success">outselling the Socceroos’ jerseys by two to one</a>. It’s worth remembering they were unavailable to buy until recent years because manufacturers didn’t deem there to be a market for them.</p> <p>More than 1.7 million tickets have been sold, exceeding FIFA’s stretch target of 1.5 million. And the total crowd figure record of 1,353,506 set in 2015 <a href="https://www.reuters.com/sports/soccer/womens-world-cup-attendance-record-exceeded-last-16-2023-08-06">had been surpassed</a> with 12 games to spare.</p> <p>That’s a far cry from the Matildas’ early years, when players had to produce and hand out flyers to try to attract people to watch their games, or phone television stations and beg them to broadcast matches. When the team travelled to the 2003 world cup, not a single journalist turned up to the airport press conference.</p> <p>It’s also quite the contrast from the traditional media coverage approach that relegates women’s sport to an afterthought. A <a href="https://news.usc.edu/183765/womens-sports-tv-news-coverage-sportscenter-online-usc-study">30-year study</a> of women’s sports coverage, published in 2021, determined major media generally adopt a “one and done” approach: a box-ticking exercise, providing a token women’s sports story before a succession of in-depth men’s sports stories.</p> <h2>So, how did we get here?</h2> <p>It was 1988 when the intrepid Matildas ventured out to their inaugural “world cup” – a pilot tournament FIFA only staged after <a href="https://www.france24.com/en/20190626-ellen-wille-mother-women-football-norway-fifa-world-cup-france">concerted pressure</a> from other organising bodies and women footballers themselves.</p> <p>There were some significant changes considered or implemented – ones that would not have been tabled for the men’s game. Matches were truncated from 90 to 80 minutes; there was some patronising discussion of whether women would play with a <a href="https://www.booktopia.com.au/fifa-women-s-world-cup-official-history-fifa/book/9781787393530.html">smaller ball</a>; and with the tournament absent any true FIFA badging, the players had to pay $850 each for the privilege of participating. They pulled that fee together by fundraising through lamington drives, car washes, and casino nights.</p> <p>Still, the Australian team quickly made history by <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=466728760806708">defeating Brazil</a> in an upset victory in the tournament’s first match, setting the tone for an upwards trajectory.</p> <p>However, the 1995, 1999, and 2003 tournaments were not, by the Matildas’ own standards, considered breakout successes. A harsh red card for Sonia Gegenhuber in the team’s first group-stage match against Denmark in 1995 cruelled the team’s chances from the outset. And 1999 saw <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-07-26/meet-alicia-ferguson-cook-matilda-wwc-record-fastest-red-card/102272428">Alicia Ferguson awarded the fastest red card in history</a> for an ill-timed tackle two minutes into the game against China.</p> <p>The Matildas’ sustained upward course arguably began in 2007. The World Cup that year was the first womens’ tournament for which SBS broadcast all the games. It also became the first time the Matildas <a href="https://www.matildas.com.au/news/day-westfield-matildas-made-history-2007-fifa-womens-world-cup">progressed to the knockout rounds</a>.</p> <p>Although laundry and internet costs weren’t yet covered, that era also marked the beginning of the players receiving (albeit nominal) daily allowances and playing contracts of up to approximately A$10,000. Administrators were able to leverage that 2007 success into the establishment of the W-League (now renamed the A-League Women’s), the domestic semi-professional football league that helped the Matildas become the first Australian team (women’s or men’s) <a href="https://www.matildas.com.au/news/westfield-matildas-win-afc-asian-cup">to win the Asian Cup</a>. It’s also a development pathway for the current Matildas.</p> <p>2011 marked the emergence of the Matildas’ “golden generation”, with then-youthful players Caitlin Foord and Sam Kerr attending their first Women’s World Cup.</p> <p>All the focus has been on Kerr in recent years, but at the time, Foord was tipped to be the player to watch, and was named the tournament’s best young player.</p> <h2>Striking for pay parity</h2> <p>To understand the groundbreaking success the Matildas are now experiencing, we must look at the lonely stand they took across the road from governing body Football Federation Australia’s office in 2015.</p> <p>They were off contract, unpaid, and without medical insurance. Now lapsed, they had been on contracts of around A$22,000 a year: in the ballpark of Australia’s poverty line.</p> <p>So the Matildas went on strike for two months to draw attention to the imperiled nature of their footballing careers, which demanded full-time, elite-athlete commitment and results, but with part-time, amateur pay.</p> <p>The headlines that followed encapsulated the exasperation many felt (and still feel) at the inequity women athletes experience. This included the <a href="https://junkee.com/the-matildas-have-gone-on-strike-because-oh-my-god-can-we-just-pay-them-properly/65061">Junkee headline "</a>The Matildas Have Gone on Strike Because, Oh My God Can We Just Pay Them Properly?"</p> <p>The Matildas achieved <a href="https://www.matildas.com.au/news/historic-cba-close-footballs-gender-pay-gap">pay parity</a> with the Socceroos in 2019, but the groundwork for that achievement was laid with that 2015 strike.</p> <p>The year 2017 also marked an important moment in the team’s evolution. It was when the team <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/sep/12/matildas-break-new-ground-as-fans-scramble-for-tickets-on-resale-market">sold out Penrith Stadium</a> with a then-record crowd of about 17,000.</p> <p>The crowd figure signalled there was an engaged audience and market there – it had just been under-catered for.</p> <p>Fast forward to 2019. Off-pitch distractions imperilled the Matildas’ group-stage world cup results. The team was steered through the tournament by temporarily installed coach Ante Milicic, after incumbent coach Alen Stajcic had been sacked for reasons still not entirely clear.</p> <p>With the rise of European nations that had invested heavily in women’s football, Australian football had stood still. The Matildas’ opening loss against debutantes Italy put the team under pressure. However, the players then produced the “Miracle of Montpellier”, winning 3-2 against superstars Brazil to salvage their tournament – before being bundled out by Norway on penalties in the round of 16.</p> <p>This year, the media’s initial focus was on Kerr’s troublesome calf and then late substitution decisions by coach Tony Gustavsson. Under pressure following a shock loss to minnows Nigeria, the Matildas recorded a resounding 4–0 victory over reigning Olympic champions Canada.</p> <p>Now, in a few pressure-filled hours, Australia’s most successful football team have the potential to make history: to progress to the semi finals for the first time ever.</p> <p>A win would see Matildas’ media coverage and fandom enter uncharted, euphoric territory. But with record crowds, viewership, and merchandise sales, and with several of their players now household names, in many ways the Matildas will already have won before they even set foot on the pitch.<!-- 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/211338/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/fiona-crawford-128832">Fiona Crawford</a>, Adjunct Lecturer at the Centre for Justice, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</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/from-handing-out-their-own-flyers-to-sell-out-games-how-the-matildas-won-over-a-nation-211338">original article</a>.</em></p>

TV

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Australia has a strong hand to tackle gambling harm. Will it go all in or fold?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/charles-livingstone-2724">Charles Livingstone</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p>A ban on all gambling advertising within three years has attracted the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/jun/28/ads-for-online-gambling-should-be-banned-in-australia-within-three-years-inquiry-recommends">most attention</a> of the <a href="https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Social_Policy_and_Legal_Affairs/Onlinegamblingimpacts/Report/List_of_recommendations">31 recommendations</a> made by the Australian parliamentary inquiry into online gambling, which reported this week.</p> <p>But equally significant are the recommendations to adopt public health principles to prevent gambling harm, to appoint a national online regulator, and for Australian to lead the development of international agreements that “aim to reduce gambling harm and protect public policy and research from gambling industry interference”.</p> <p>If implemented, the recommendations will advance gambling regulation by several orders of magnitude.</p> <p><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10389-020-01437-2">Preventing harm</a> is a better goal than the current practice of ignoring harms until they become overwhelming. Building a fence at the top of the cliff, rather than providing a fleet of ambulances at the bottom, seems sensible.</p> <p>Many countries are grappling with regulating unlicensed <a href="https://researchportal.helsinki.fi/en/publications/blocking-measures-against-offshore-online-gambling-a-scoping-revi">online gambling operators</a> registered in places like Curaçao and the Isle of Man. The only way to effectively address this is via <a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/pompidou/-/the-recording-of-the-webinar-on-behavioural-addictions-facilitated-by-information-and-communication-technologies-risks-and-perspectives-is-now-availab">international agreements</a>.</p> <p>And as with many other harmful commodity industries, gambling operators <a href="https://www.lisbonaddictions.eu/lisbon-addictions-2022/presentations/5-ways-gambling-industry-pursues-influence-policymakers">advance their interests</a> through political influence. They have enthusiastically utilised the tactics honed by the tobacco industry – <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.03137.x">lobbying</a>, <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-14/how-the-gambling-industry-cashed-in-on-political-donations/100509026">political donations</a> and influencing <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7434195/">research outcomes</a> through funding.</p> <p>All these aspects need addressing. For example, the inquiry recommends imposing a levy on the gambling industry to fund research.</p> <h2>Phasing out advertising</h2> <p>The proposals to prohibit all inducements to gamble come in four phases.</p> <p>The first would ban all social media and online advertising. Radio advertising during school drop-off times would also be prohibited.</p> <p>In the second phase, broadcast advertising for an hour either side of sporting broadcasts would be banned (as Opposition Leader <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/may/13/peter-dutton-cranks-up-pressure-on-labor-to-further-restrict-gambling-ads">Peter Dutton has argued for</a>).</p> <p>The third stage would prohibit all broadcast advertising for gambling between 6am and 10pm.</p> <p>Finally, three years on, all gambling advertising would be gone from our screens.</p> <p>Not many people will miss it. A 2022 survey by the <a href="https://australiainstitute.org.au/post/polling-research-give-junk-food-gambling-ads-the-punt/">Australia Institute</a> found 70% support for such restrictions. The evidence suggests this would be beneficial to young people, since exposure to advertising increases the likelihood of gambling as adults, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/mar/27/children-more-likely-to-become-gamblers-due-to-high-volume-of-betting-ads">with significant harm</a> for some.</p> <h2>Important precedents</h2> <p>The recommendations would set important precedents that can be readily applied to other forms of gambling. These include the principle of establishing a public health-oriented harm prevention policy, a national regulatory system, and enhancing consumer protections to potentially include a universal pre-commitment system.</p> <p>If online gambling can be better regulated – and it can – why not casinos and pokies? Casino inquiries in <a href="https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/la/papers/Pages/tabled-paper-details.aspx?pk=79129">New South Wales</a>, <a href="https://www.rccol.vic.gov.au/">Victoria</a>, <a href="https://www.justice.qld.gov.au/initiatives/external-review-qld-operations-star-entertainment-group">Queensland</a> and <a href="https://www.wa.gov.au/government/publications/perth-casino-royal-commission-final-report">Western Australia</a> have certainly demonstrated the need. So has the <a href="https://www.crimecommission.nsw.gov.au/inquiry-into-money-laundering-in-pubs-and-clubs">NSW Crime Commission</a>’s 2022 inquiry into money laundering in pubs and clubs. Notably, poker machines are estimated to be responsible for <a href="https://akjournals.com/view/journals/2006/12/1/article-p182.xml">51% to 57% of the total problems</a> arising from gambling. Race and sports wagering account for 20%.</p> <h2>Industry will resist</h2> <p>The <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/pm/gambling-ads-ban-called-an-over-reach-/102538120">online gambling industry</a> will do all it can to thwart these initiatives, along with <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/wagering-tv-bodies-slam-proposed-gambling-ads-ban-afl-wary-of-impact-20230628-p5dk4j.html">broadcasters</a> and some <a href="https://www.theage.com.au/sport/afl/scourge-of-the-gambling-epidemic-teal-mp-attacks-afl-over-gambling-ads-20230302-p5coym.html">sports</a> businesses.</p> <p>Certainly Australia’s unenviable record of being world leaders in <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-11-20/australians-worlds-biggest-gambling-losers/10495566">gambling losses</a> will be threatened if the recommendations are implemented.</p> <p>The report <a href="https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Social_Policy_and_Legal_Affairs/Onlinegamblingimpacts/Report/Chapter_2_-_A_national_strategy_on_online_gambling_harm_reduction">acknowledges</a> wagering service providers have “successfully framed the issue of gambling harm around personal responsibility while diminishing industry and government responsibility”.</p> <p>"There is too much potential for the gambling industry to be involved in the development of gambling regulation and policy in Australia."</p> <p>Submissions from the gambling industry reflected this.</p> <p>For example, <a href="https://responsiblewagering.com.au/">Responsible Wagering Australia</a>, which represents wagering companies such as Bet365, Betfair, Entain, Sportsbet, Pointsbet and Unibet, suggested the <a href="https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Social_Policy_and_Legal_Affairs/Onlinegamblingimpacts/Submissions">industry was focused on limiting harm</a>, and mindful of the risks of “problem gambling”.</p> <p>Indeed, the inquiry’s original terms of reference were about “online gambling and its impacts on problem gamblers”.</p> <p>The committee changed this to the “impacts on those experiencing gambling harm”. Its report reflects this change, and the majority of submissions and evidence given in <a href="https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Social_Policy_and_Legal_Affairs/Onlinegamblingimpacts/Report/B_Public_hearings">13 public hearings</a> overwhelmingly in favour of improved regulation of online gambling product</p> <p>In the report’s forward, chair Peta Murphy writes: "I am proud to say this Committee has delivered a unanimous report that says, ‘enough is enough’."</p> <p>Gambling harm imposes <a href="https://responsiblegambling.vic.gov.au/resources/publications/the-social-cost-of-gambling-to-victoria-121/">enormous costs</a> on the community, and on those affected, including families. Examples of these effects are prominent in the committee’s report. Many are harrowing.</p> <p>There is some way to go before Australia joins Italy, Spain, Belgium and The Netherlands in taking action against gambling interests. But delay means more harm to more people.</p> <p>The Australian government now has an excellent road map to demonstrate its commitment to the health and wellbeing of Australians. Adopting the inquiry’s recommendations should be a high priority.<!-- 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/208749/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/charles-livingstone-2724">Charles Livingstone</a>, Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash 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/australia-has-a-strong-hand-to-tackle-gambling-harm-will-it-go-all-in-or-fold-208749">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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"Serious corrupt conduct": Gladys report handed down

<p>After an almost three-year saga, a corruption probe has found Gladys Berejiklian and her former boyfriend engaged in "serious corrupt conduct". </p> <p>The former NSW premier and her former lover disgraced MP Daryl Maguire were slammed in the damning report, released by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Thursday, for keeping their relationship secret. </p> <p>ICAC found Ms Berejiklian breached public trust between 2016 to 2017 by failing to disclose her five-year relationship with Mr Maguire, which the watchdog found could have had the “potential to influence the performance of her public duty”.</p> <p>The inquiry was tasked with determining whether Ms Berejiklian breached public trust through her decision-making during her secret relationship with disgraced MP Daryl Maguire, and in handing down the report, it was announced the 600-page document makes “serious corrupt findings” against both Ms Berejiklian and her former lover.</p> <p>One of the main points of the probe found that Ms Berejiklian breached public trust by awarding a $5.5 million grant to the Australian Clay Target Association (ACTA), and a $10m grant for the renovation of the Riverina Conservatorium of Music (RCM), while she was in a “close personal relationship” with Daryl Maguire.</p> <p>ICAC found the funding was “influenced” by her relationship with Mr Maguire, and Ms Berejiklian’s “desire ... to maintain or advance that relationship”</p> <p>The corruption watchdog also found Ms Berejiklian failed to notify ICAC of her suspicion that Mr Maguire “had engaged in activities which concerned, or might have concerned, corrupt conduct”.</p> <p>Ms Berejiklian has released a short statement about the findings, saying "Serving the people of NSW was an honour and privilege. At all times I have worked my hardest in the public interest. Nothing in this report demonstrates otherwise."</p> <p>"Thank you to members of the public for their incredible support. This will sustain me always."</p> <p>"The report is currently being examined by my legal team."</p> <p>ICAC did not refer Ms Berejiklian’s actions to the DPP for potential prosecution, however the report said “consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the DPP about the prosecution of Mr Maguire”.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Legal

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What your hands reveal about your health

<p>A weak grip predicts a higher risk of heart attack or stroke and lower chances of survival, according to a new Lancet study of more than 140,000 adults in 17 countries.</p> <p><strong>Finger length: Arthritis risk</strong></p> <p>Women with ring fingers that are longer than their index fingers, typically a male trait, are twice as likely to have osteoarthritis in the knees, according to an Arthritis &amp; Rheumatism study.</p> <p>Low oestrogen levels may be a factor.</p> <p>The same feature has been linked to higher athletic ability and verbal aggression in both genders.</p> <p>In men, a significantly longer ring finger (indicating an in-utero testosterone surge during the second trimester) is associated with having more children and better relationships with women – but a higher risk of prostate cancer.</p> <p><strong>Shaky hands: Parkinson’s disease</strong></p> <p>Trembling hands could be the result of too much caffeine or a side effect of certain medications like antidepressants.</p> <p>But it’s a good idea to see your doctor if the issue recurs.</p> <p>A tremor in just one hand can be a first symptom of Parkinson’s disease, or it can indicate essential tremor, a treatable disorder that causes uncontrollable shaking.</p> <p><strong>Nail colour: Kidney disease</strong></p> <p>When Indian researchers studied 100 patients with chronic kidney disease, they found that 36 per cent had half-and-half nails (the bottom of a nail is white, and the top is brown).</p> <p>The nail condition may be caused by an increased concentration of certain hormones and chronic anaemia, both traits of chronic kidney disease.</p> <p>See your doctor right away if you notice half-and-half nails or a dark, vertical stripe beneath the nail bed – this can be hidden melanoma, a skin cancer.</p> <p><strong>Grip strength: Heart health</strong></p> <p>A weak grip predicts a higher risk of heart attack or stroke and lower chances of survival, according to a new Lancet study of more than 140,000 adults in 17 countries.</p> <p>Grip strength was a better predictor of death than was blood pressure.</p> <p>Researchers say grip strength is a marker of overall muscle strength and fitness, and they recommend whole-body strength training and aerobic exercise to reduce heart disease risk.</p> <p><strong>Sweaty palms: Hyperhidrosis</strong></p> <p>Overly clammy hands may be a symptom of menopause or thyroid conditions, as well as hyperhidrosis, in which overactive sweat glands cause far more perspiration than necessary.</p> <p>Most people with the condition sweat from only one or two parts of the body, such as the armpits, palms, or feet.</p> <p>A doctor may prescribe a strong antiperspirant to decrease sweat production.</p> <p><strong>Fingerprints: High blood pressure</strong></p> <p>When UK researchers studied 139 fingerprints, they found that people with a whorl (spiral) pattern on one or more fingers were more likely to have high blood pressure than people with arches or loops.</p> <p>The more fingers with whorls a participant had, the higher his or her blood pressure was.</p> <p><em>This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. </em></p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Body

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Why understanding how spiders spin silk may hold clues for treating Alzheimer’s disease

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-landreh-1328287">Michael Landreh</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/karolinska-institutet-1250">Karolinska Institutet</a></em> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/anna-rising-1440132">Anna Rising</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/karolinska-institutet-1250">Karolinska Institutet</a></em></p> <p>Really, we should envy spiders. Imagine being able to make silk like they do, flinging it around to get from place to place, always having a <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsmacrolett.8b00678">strong-as-steel safety line</a> or spinning a comfy hammock whenever they need a rest.</p> <p>The fascinating properties of spider silk make it no wonder that scientists have been trying to unravel its secrets for decades.</p> <p>If we could understand and recreate the spinning process, we could produce artificial spider silk for a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0141813021021292">range of medical applications</a>. For example, artificial silk can help <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biomaterials.2021.120692">regenerate the nerves that connect our brain and limbs</a>, and can shuttle <a href="https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.biomac.0c01138">drug molecules directly into the cells where they are needed</a>.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zNtSAQHNONo?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>Spider silk is made of <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/spidroins">proteins called spidroins</a>, which the spider stores in a silk gland in its abdomen. There are several types of spidroin for spinning different sorts of silk. Spiders <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7673682/">store them as a liquid</a> that resembles oil droplets.</p> <p>But one of the questions that has eluded scientists so far is how spiders turn these liquid droplets into silk. We decided to investigate why the spidroins form droplets, to get us closer to replicating a spider’s spinning process.</p> <h2>Weaving a web</h2> <p>The trick that spiders use to speed up their spinning process can be used to spin better artificial silk, or even develop new spinning processes.</p> <p>In 2017, we learned to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15504">make synthetic silk fibres</a> by emulating the silk gland, but we did not know how things work inside the spider. Now we know that forming droplets first <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37084706/">speeds up the conversion to these fibres</a>.</p> <p>An important clue to how the droplets and fibres are related came from an unexpected area of our research – on <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23013511/">Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases</a>. Proteins that are involved in these diseases, called <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/alpha-synuclein#:%7E:text=%CE%B1%2DSynuclein%20is%20a%20highly,linked%20to%20familial%20Parkinson%20disease.">alpha-synuclein</a> and <a href="https://www.alz.org/media/Documents/alzheimers-dementia-tau-ts.pdf">tau</a>, can assemble into tiny, oil-like droplets in human cells.</p> <p>Tau is a protein that helps stabilise the internal skeleton of nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. This internal skeleton has a tube-like shape through which nutrients and other essential substances travel to reach different parts of the neuron.</p> <p>In Alzheimer’s disease, an abnormal form of tau builds up and clings to the normal tau proteins, creating “tau tangles”.</p> <p>Alpha-synuclein is found in large quantities in <a href="https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-dopamine">dopamine-producing nerve cells</a>. Abnormal forms of this protein are linked to Parkinson’s disease.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/528217/original/file-20230525-25-p40y48.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/528217/original/file-20230525-25-p40y48.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/528217/original/file-20230525-25-p40y48.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528217/original/file-20230525-25-p40y48.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528217/original/file-20230525-25-p40y48.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=400&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528217/original/file-20230525-25-p40y48.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528217/original/file-20230525-25-p40y48.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/528217/original/file-20230525-25-p40y48.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=503&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="Beautiful spider web with water drops close-up" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">The trick spiders use to speed up their spinning process can be used to spin better artificial silk.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/beautiful-spider-web-water-drops-close-155560781">Aastels/Shutterstock</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>Oil droplets of either one of these proteins form in humans when they become entangled, like boiled spaghetti on a plate. At first, the proteins are flexible and elastic, much like spidroin oil droplets.</p> <p>But if the proteins remain entangled, they get stuck together which alters their shape, changing them into rigid fibres. These can be toxic to human cells – for example, in neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s.</p> <p>However, <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33148640/">spidroins can form droplets</a> too. This left us wondering if the same mechanism that causes neurodegeneration in humans could help the spider to convert liquid spidroins into rigid silk fibres.</p> <p>To find out, we used a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nchembio.2269">synthetic spidroin called NT2RepCT</a>, which can be produced by bacteria. Under the microscope, we could see that this synthetic spidroin formed liquid droplets when it was dissolved in phosphate buffer, a type of salt found in the spider’s silk gland. This allowed us to replicate spider silk spinning conditions in the lab.</p> <h2>Silky science</h2> <p>Next, we studied how the spidroin proteins act when they form droplets. To answer this question, we turned to an analysis technique <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/mass-spectrometry">called mass spectrometry</a>, to measure how the weight of the proteins changed when they formed droplets. To our surprise, we saw that the spidroin proteins, which normally form pairs, instead split into single molecules.</p> <p>We needed to do more work to find out how these protein droplets help spiders spin silk. Previous research has shown spidroins have different parts, called domains, with separate functions.</p> <p>The end part of the spidroin, called c-terminal domain, makes it form pairs. The c-terminal also starts <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1001921">fibre formation when it comes into contact with acid</a>.</p> <p>So, we made a spidroin which contained only the c-terminal domain and tested its ability to form fibres.</p> <p>When we used phosphate buffer to entangle the proteins into droplets, they turned into rigid fibre instantly. When we added acid without first making droplets, fibre formation took much longer.</p> <p>This makes sense since the spidroin molecules must find each other when forming a fibre. Entangling the spidroins like spaghetti helps them rapidly assemble into silk.</p> <p>This finding tells us how the spider can instantly convert its spidroins into a solid thread. It also uncovered how nature uses the same mechanism that can make brain proteins toxic to create some of its most amazing structures.</p> <p>The surprising parallel between spider silk spinning and fibres toxic to humans could one day lead to new clues about how to fight neurodegenerative disorders.</p> <p>Scientists may use spider silk research, including what we have learned about the spider silk domains, to keep human proteins from sticking together – to stop them from becoming toxic. If spiders can learn how to keep their sticky proteins in check, perhaps so can we.<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/205857/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-landreh-1328287">Michael Landreh</a>, Researcher, Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/karolinska-institutet-1250">Karolinska Institutet</a></em> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/anna-rising-1440132">Anna Rising</a>, Researcher in Veterinary medicine biochemistry, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/karolinska-institutet-1250">Karolinska Institutet</a></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/why-understanding-how-spiders-spin-silk-may-hold-clues-for-treating-alzheimers-disease-205857">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

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