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"His family was horrified": Young man jumps off cruise ship

<p>What was meant to be a voyage of leisure and joy turned into a nightmare in the early hours of Thursday morning when a young man made a fateful decision to leap overboard, leaving passengers and crew stunned and grieving.</p> <p>The incident occurred as Royal Caribbean's colossal 18-storey <em>Liberty of the Seas</em> cruise ship navigated the waters between Cuba and the Bahamas' Grand Inagua Island. <a href="https://nypost.com/2024/04/04/us-news/royal-caribbean-cruise-horror-as-20-year-old-man-jumps-overboard/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">According to the New York Post</a>, witnesses recounted the harrowing scene: a young man took a spontaneous plunge from one of the ship's decks, despite the desperate pleas and helplessness of his father and brother who stood witness to the impulsive act.</p> <p>Passengers onboard shared their accounts, describing the chilling moments leading up to the tragedy. Bryan Sims, one of the witnesses, told the <em>New York Post</em> he had spent time with the young man and his brother in the ship's hot tub until the early hours of the morning. "He was pretty drunk," Sims said, noting the jovial atmosphere that abruptly transformed into shock and chaos.</p> <p>The young man's declaration to his father, followed by his abrupt jump, left bystanders reeling in disbelief: “As we were walking from the hot tub back to the elevators, his dad and brother were walking towards us," Sims continued. "His dad was fussing at him for being drunk, I guess. When we got to them, he said to his dad, ‘I’ll fix this right now.’ And he jumped out the window in front of us all.” </p> <p>Deborah Morrison, another passenger, echoed the sentiments of shock and horror that rippled through the ship. "His family was horrified. Just beside themselves," she recounted. “There was a lot of yelling, and the crew was alerted immediately.”</p> <p>In a statement addressing the tragic incident, Royal Caribbean affirmed its commitment to providing support to the family, while respecting their privacy during this difficult time. </p> <p>Amy Phelps Fouse, another passenger onboard, attested to the sombre atmosphere that enveloped the ship in the wake of the tragedy. Despite the uncertainty that lingered, she commended Royal Caribbean for their transparency and compassionate response to the situation.</p> <p><em>More to come.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Royal Caribbean</em></p>

Cruising

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Undernourished, stressed and overworked: cost-of-living pressures are taking a toll on Australians’ health

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nicole-black-103425">Nicole Black</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/anthony-harris-7148">Anthony Harris</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/danusha-jayawardana-1406565">Danusha Jayawardana</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-johnston-1126643">David Johnston</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p>For the past few years, it has been impossible to escape the impact of inflation. Meeting our most basic needs – such as food, housing and health care – now costs significantly more, and wage increases <a href="https://futurework.org.au/post/for-most-workers-wages-are-still-failing-to-keep-up-with-inflation/">haven’t kept up</a>.</p> <p>There are signs relief could be on the horizon. Inflation has fallen to its <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/price-indexes-and-inflation/consumer-price-index-australia/latest-release">lowest levels</a> since January 2022.</p> <p>But Australia now also finds itself in the midst of an <a href="https://theconversation.com/prepare-to-hear-about-an-official-recession-unofficially-weve-been-in-one-for-some-time-224963">economic downturn</a>, putting further pressure on households.</p> <p>Rising prices have an obvious negative impact on our financial health. But they can also have a profound effect on our physical and mental wellbeing, which is often overlooked.</p> <p>Australians may continue to feel the health effects of high inflation for quite some time.</p> <h2>It’s costing more to live well</h2> <p>Between March 2021 and March 2023, the price of goods and services <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/price-indexes-and-inflation/consumer-price-index-australia/jun-quarter-2023">rose substantially</a>, marking a period of high <a href="https://www.rba.gov.au/education/resources/explainers/inflation-and-its-measurement.html">inflation</a>.</p> <p><iframe id="5vFeh" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/5vFeh/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>Worryingly, the prices of basic needs that are important for staying healthy – nutritious food, health care, housing and utilities – rose between 11% and 36%.</p> <h2>Who is affected the most?</h2> <p>Higher prices on essentials are virtually impossible to dodge, but they impact certain groups of people more than others.</p> <p>Wealthier households have managed their higher expenses by <a href="https://www.rba.gov.au/publications/fsr/2023/oct/pdf/financial-stability-review-2023-10.pdf">cutting back on discretionary spending and dipping into savings</a>.</p> <p>However, lower income households spend <a href="https://www.rba.gov.au/publications/fsr/2023/oct/household-business-finances-in-australia.html#:%7E:text=Lower%20income%20households%2C%20including%20many,than%20households%20on%20higher%20incomes.">a much larger portion of their income</a> on housing and other essentials.</p> <p>Without a savings buffer, these households experience severe financial strain and poor health outcomes.</p> <h2>Financial stress affects our health</h2> <p>Our research shows that high inflation has <a href="https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/resources/resource-download/high-inflation-and-implications-for-health">a range of effects</a> on people’s health.</p> <p>These effects fall into three main groups: material hardship, psychosocial, and behavioural.</p> <p><strong>1. Material hardship</strong></p> <p>People facing material hardship can’t meet their basic needs because they can’t afford to pay for them.</p> <p>Material hardship can present itself in a variety of ways:</p> <ul> <li><a href="https://theconversation.com/how-many-australians-are-going-hungry-we-dont-know-for-sure-and-thats-a-big-part-of-the-problem-195360">food insecurity</a> – not getting adequate nutrition</li> <li><a href="https://theconversation.com/1-in-4-households-struggle-to-pay-power-bills-here-are-5-ways-to-tackle-hidden-energy-poverty-204672">energy poverty</a> – struggling to pay for electricity and gas</li> <li>deferred health care – putting off medical treatment</li> <li>housing insecurity – struggling to find a stable place to live.</li> </ul> <p>Between August 2022 and February 2023, when inflation hit its highest levels in 33 years, over half (53%) of surveyed Australians reported <a href="https://melbourneinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/data/taking-the-pulse-of-the-nation-2022/2023/australians-face-challenging-budgetary-constraints">struggling to afford</a> their basic needs.</p> <p>Finding ourselves in this situation can have far-reaching implications for our health.</p> <p>For example, food insecurity is linked to <a href="https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/VH_High-Inflation-Paper_FINAL_1.pdf">an increased risk of poor nutrition, obesity and chronic illness</a>, as households facing cost-of-living pressures shift towards cheaper, lower-quality food options.</p> <p>Energy poverty is linked to <a href="https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/VH_High-Inflation-Paper_FINAL_1.pdf">physical and mental health problems</a> as people struggle to keep warm in wintertime, and cool in the summer.</p> <p>Delaying health care <a href="https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/VH_High-Inflation-Paper_FINAL_1.pdf">increases</a> the risk of facing severe health problems, staying in hospital for longer, and being admitted to the emergency department. This isn’t just worse for individuals, it’s also far more costly for our health care system.</p> <p><strong>2. Psychosocial effects</strong></p> <p>Psychosocial effects are the ways in which cost-of-living pressures impact our mind and social relationships.</p> <p>Difficulties in meeting our basic needs are strongly associated with <a href="https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/VH_High-Inflation-Paper_FINAL_1.pdf">increased levels of psychological distress</a>, including symptoms of anxiety and depression.</p> <p>This impact can worsen over time if individuals experience sustained financial stress.</p> <p>By undermining our ability to work well, the psychosocial effects of prolonged financial stress can initiate a “vicious cycle”, leading to reduced productivity and lower earnings.</p> <p>Financial stress can also have a detrimental impact on spousal relationships, which can affect the mental health of other household members such as children.</p> <p><strong>3. Behavioural effects</strong></p> <p>Cost-of-living pressures can also cause a number of changes in the way we behave.</p> <p>For many, these pressures have become a reason to work longer hours and gain additional income.</p> <p>Last year, Australians collectively worked 4.6% longer, an <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia/aug-2023">extra 86 million hours</a>.</p> <p>But working longer hours <a href="https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/VH_High-Inflation-Paper_FINAL_1.pdf">reduces people’s overall health</a>, especially among parents of young children facing greater time constraints.</p> <p>It also leaves less time for activities that help to keep people healthy, such as getting regular exercise and cooking healthy meals.</p> <h2>How can policymakers respond?</h2> <p>In theory, the Reserve Bank of Australia’s primary tool for combating inflation – raising interest rates – should help. By reducing aggregate spending in the economy, it is designed to put downward pressure on prices.</p> <p>But by bluntly increasing the cost of borrowing, it also puts significant short-term financial pressure on both lower-income mortgage holders and renters.</p> <p>Better acknowledgement of this fact, and of inflation’s broader impact on people’s physical and mental health, would be a great start.</p> <p>When formulating policy responses to high inflation, governments could factor health and wellbeing impacts into their assessment of the trade-offs between alternative policy responses.</p> <p>This could help minimise any policy’s long-term negative health consequences and its impact on the health care system.</p> <p>Policymakers could also focus on making sure affordable and timely access to health care, especially mental health support, is made available to those most vulnerable to cost-of-living pressures.<!-- 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/223625/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/nicole-black-103425">Nicole Black</a>, Associate Professor of Health Economics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/anthony-harris-7148">Anthony Harris</a>, Professor of Health Economics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/danusha-jayawardana-1406565">Danusha Jayawardana</a>, Research Fellow in Health Economics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-johnston-1126643">David Johnston</a>, Professor of Health Economics, <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/undernourished-stressed-and-overworked-cost-of-living-pressures-are-taking-a-toll-on-australians-health-223625">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Full cast for I'm A Celeb revealed

<p>The much-anticipated premiere of <em>I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!</em> hit screens with a bang, revealing a star-studded lineup of personalities ready to face the challenges of the South African jungle. Channel 10 unveiled the roster on Sunday's premiere episode, promising viewers an exciting season ahead.</p> <p>Leading the charge was none other than Hollywood child star Frankie Muniz, known for his iconic role in <em>Malcolm in the Middle</em>. Muniz, who surprised both fans and fellow contestants with his presence, was joined by an array of intriguing personalities, each bringing their own flair to the jungle.</p> <p>Retired Australian iron-woman Candice Warner, wife of cricketer David Warner, made a notable entrance, expressing her surprise at Muniz's participation. Alongside Warner, the lineup boasted a diverse mix of talents, including retired Paralympian Ellie Cole, British comedian Stephen K. Amos, influencer Skye Wheatley, and former Studio 10 host Tristan MacManus.</p> <p>The premiere episode kicked off with Muniz leading the pack, setting the stage for a series of nerve-wracking challenges. Hosted by the dynamic duo of Julia Morris and Robert Irwin, the celebrities faced their first trial: Warner locked in a glass room teeming with cockroaches, while her campmates braved a mystery box challenge to secure her release.</p> <p>However, the drama didn't stop there. Wheatley's fear of snakes led to a tearful breakdown during her challenge, highlighting the intense nature of the jungle environment. Yet, despite the obstacles, the contestants displayed resilience and determination, setting the tone for an adrenaline-fuelled season.</p> <p>As the episode unfolded, additional celebrities were unveiled, including AFL legend Peter Daicos, radio host Brittany Hockley, fitness guru Michelle Bridges, <em>Love Island </em>star Callum Hole, and <em>MasterChef</em> contestant Khanh Ong.</p> <p>Among the standout contestants is Michelle Bridges, renowned for her role on <em>The Biggest Loser</em> and her thriving fitness empire. Similarly, Khanh Ong, known for his culinary prowess on <em>MasterChef Australia</em>, brings a unique skill set to the jungle environment. With such a diverse cast, the dynamics within the camp are sure to be electric.</p> <p>The premiere also offered glimpses into the personal lives of the contestants, from Cole's inspiring journey as a Paralympic swimmer to Warner's resilience showcased on <em>SAS Australia</em>. </p> <p>As the season progresses, viewers can expect more surprises, twists, and edge-of-your-seat moments. With an intruder poised to shake things up and a cast described as a "national treasure", the stage is set for an unforgettable season. </p> <p><em>Images: Network Ten</em></p>

TV

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Millions of Aussies set for power bill relief

<p>Millions of Aussies are set for some financial relief, with electricity costs set to drop by up to 7 per cent in the coming months. </p> <p>The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and Victoria's Essential Services Commission (ESC) both released their draft default market offers - the maximum energy retailers are allowed to charge customers - for the 2024-25 financial year. </p> <p>Under the AER draft, residents in Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter on the default offer will pay between 3 and 3.4 per cent less for electricity starting from July 1. </p> <p>The biggest drop is set for Victoria, with the ESC proposing a 6.4 per cent decrease. </p> <p>Those in Western Sydney, the Illawarra, and South Coast, will see their electricity bills decrease by 1.9 to 7.1 per cent. </p> <p>South Australians will receive a drop between 0.5 and 2.5 per cent. </p> <p>A number of small business customers will also benefit from lower power bill costs with 9.7 per cent for Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter; 4.4 per cent for Western Sydney and the South Coast; 0.3 per cent for South-East Queensland; 8.2 per cent for South Australia; and 7 per cent for Victoria.</p> <p>Energy Minister Chris Bowen welcomed the news of lower power bill costs, but acknowledged that it will continue to play a part in the cost of living challenges faced by many Australians. </p> <p>"This is encouraging news," he said.</p> <p>"Encouraging for those small businesses and families who will receive lower energy bills as a result.</p> <p>"But nobody should suggest that there aren't real cost of living pressures around the world and in Australia, and energy prices are of course part of that and will continue to be."</p> <p>Not everyone will see a drop, with customers in the rest of regional NSW to get a small increase of 0.9 per cent, while the default offer for South East Queensland will increase by up to 2.7 per cent.</p> <p>While not all households are on the default offer, Bowen said that the AER's decision will also affect those not on the offer. </p> <p>"This either impacts directly or indirectly your energy bill," he said.</p> <p>"Directly for those on the default market offer. For those who aren't on the direct market offer, indirectly - the energy companies have to benchmark themselves against this, tell their consumers how they compare to this, and it provides very real pressure on them to match it.</p> <p>"If they don't, consumers will know about it and will make choices accordingly.</p> <p>"It's partly about those on the default market offer, but it actually impacts on all our bills indirectly."</p> <p>AER chair Clare Savage said that the cost of living crisis was the main contributor for their draft decision. </p> <p>"We know that economic conditions have put pressure on many Australians and the increases in electricity prices over the last two years has made energy less affordable for many households," she said. </p> <p>"In light of this, the AER has, in this decision, placed increased weight on protecting consumers." </p> <p>The draft decision is not final, with both the AER and ESC to receive consultation and feedback from stakeholders before confirming their default market offers in May.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Millions of eligible Aussies about to receive financial boost

<p>Starting this Wednesday, millions of Australians relying on Centrelink benefits will see a welcome increase in their payments. With indexation kicking in, fortnightly boosts ranging from $14 to $30 will be allocated to eligible recipients, depending on their specific circumstances and the type of payment they receive.</p> <p>This adjustment will not only benefit current beneficiaries but also extend support to more individuals, with an additional 77,000 parents now qualifying for higher payment rates. The eligibility criteria for certain payments have been expanded, particularly for parents whose youngest child is under 14, a significant extension from the previous threshold of under eight.</p> <p>Income and assets limits tied to these payments will also experience an uptick in line with the indexation process, offering further relief to recipients. But how exactly will these increments manifest across different categories of payments?</p> <p>For single parents, the fortnightly payment will see a boost of $17.50, while partnered parents will witness an increase of $12.30 individually. Moreover, the income free area will rise to $1,345 for each person, an enhancement of $20 per fortnight.</p> <p>Jobseekers with children or those aged over 55 will receive an additional $14.40 fortnightly. Single JobSeeker recipients without children and individuals aged over 22 on ABSTUDY will enjoy a $13.50 increase per fortnight, with couples receiving an extra $12.30 each.</p> <p>Rent assistance, however, will see relatively modest increments, ranging from $2.27 to $3.40, depending on the recipient's family situation.</p> <p>For those on the age pension, disability support pension, and carer payment, the increase is more substantial, with singles receiving an extra $19.60 and couples combined receiving $29.40 each fortnight. This brings the maximum rate of the pension to $1116.30 for singles and $1682.80 for couples, including pension and energy supplements.</p> <p>Amanda Rishworth, the Social Services Minister, explains that indexation plays a crucial role in ensuring that welfare recipients can cope with inflation and the rising cost of living – and that addressing these pressures remains a top priority for the government.</p> <p>This increase in Centrelink payments comes at a critical time when many Australians are grappling with economic uncertainty due to various factors, including the ongoing pandemic. While these adjustments may seem modest to some, they can make a significant difference for those relying on welfare support to make ends meet.</p> <p>It's essential for eligible individuals to stay informed about these changes and ensure they receive the full benefits they're entitled to. For those who may be unsure about their eligibility or how to navigate the system, seeking assistance from Centrelink or relevant support services can provide valuable guidance.</p> <p>As the cost of living continues to evolve, initiatives like indexation serve as vital mechanisms for maintaining the welfare safety net and supporting vulnerable members of society. By keeping pace with economic realities, these adjustments strive to provide meaningful relief to those who need it most, contributing to a more equitable and inclusive society for all Australians.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty </em></p>

Money & Banking

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Heartless theft from "Garden of Little Angels"

<p>In a despicable act of heartlessness, dozens of bronze plaques dedicated to children have been stolen from a memorial park in Melbourne's southwest. The theft not only deprives grieving families of precious mementos but also desecrates a sacred space meant to honour the memory of lost loved ones.</p> <p>Victoria police were alerted to the crime when it was discovered that 75 plaques had been taken from Altona Memorial Park on Doherty’s Road. These plaques, erected in the "Garden of Little Angels", were loving tributes from families who had lost children, serving as symbols of remembrance and healing for those who visit the park.</p> <p>The theft, which occurred sometime between March 12 and 13, has left the community shocked and appalled. It is a violation not only of property but of the sanctity of a space meant for solace and reflection. The perpetrators have callously disregarded the pain of grieving families and the significance of the memorial to the community.</p> <p>In response to this reprehensible act, detectives have issued a warning to scrap metal dealers in the area to remain vigilant against any attempts to sell the stolen plaques. These plaques, though they may hold some monetary value as scrap metal, are priceless to the families who placed them in the memorial park, with their sentimental worth far outweighing any material gain.</p> <p>The police are actively investigating the theft and are urging anyone with information to come forward. The return of the stolen plaques to their rightful place is paramount in restoring a sense of peace and closure to the families affected by this crime.</p> <p><em>Images: Altona Memorial Park</em></p>

Legal

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Princess Kate sensationally speaks out over photo fiasco

<p>Kensington Palace's attempt to quell speculation about Kate Middleton's health has ignited a storm of controversy, raising concerns about the future Queen's well-being to feverish levels.</p> <p>The Princess of Wales, at 42, issued an unprecedented statement on Monday morning, UK time, taking responsibility for what was described as <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/health/caring/princess-kate-s-post-surgery-pic-ignites-even-wilder-conspiracy-theories" target="_blank" rel="noopener">"editing" an official portrait </a> released on Sunday for Mother’s Day.</p> <p>This portrait, featuring Kate alongside her three children – Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis – was eagerly anticipated as it marked the first sighting of the Princess since her mysterious abdominal surgery in January and subsequent disappearance from the public eye.</p> <p>However, far from dispelling concerns, the photograph seemed to amplify existing suspicions about her health, with many pointing out apparent discrepancies and suggesting it had been manipulated. The situation escalated when four major photo agencies issued "kill notice" orders for the image, alleging it had been "manipulated at the source [palace]."</p> <p>In a rare move, Kate Middleton took to X (Twitter) to address the controversy directly, admitting to the editing mishap and expressing regret for any confusion caused by the altered image. </p> <p>"Like many amateur photographers, I do occasionally experiment with editing," she wrote. "I wanted to express my apologies for any confusion the family photograph we shared yesterday caused. I hope everyone celebrating had a very happy Mother's Day. C"</p> <p><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">Despite her efforts to diffuse the situation, the fallout continued to unravel. </span>Royal watchers and fans reacted strongly to the events, with some accusing the palace of using Kate as a scapegoat and questioning the integrity of the institution itself. Omid Scobie, a UK author known for his association with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, highlighted the palace's history of misinformation and suggested that regaining public trust would be an uphill battle.</p> <p>“It’s fair to say that most photos released by the offices of public figures have been retouched in some way, so *if* this was an isolated incident then it would just be an unfortunate error," Scobie wrote.</p> <p>"But with the Palace’s long history of lying, covering up, and even issuing statements on behalf of family members without their permission (cc: Prince Harry), it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the public to believe a word (and now photo) they share. Gaining that back at this point is an almost impossible task.” </p> <p>Piers Morgan strongly urged the palace to release the unedited version of the photo to quell speculation. Failure to do so, he warned, would only fuel further conspiracy theories.</p> <p>As the debate raged on social media, with Kate Middleton's name trending worldwide, users dissected the image, pointing out inconsistencies and suggesting alternative theories. The withdrawal of the photo by major news agencies, citing editorial issues, have only added fuel to the fire, further intensifying speculation.</p> <p>Amidst the controversy, Princess Kate's prolonged absence from the public eye following her hospitalisation in January has only heightened concerns. <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/finance/legal/kate-middleton-spotted-for-the-first-time-since-surgery" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Her recent appearance</a>, photographed near Windsor Castle, marked her first public sighting in over two months, adding to the intrigue surrounding her health.</p> <p>As the debate continues, the fallout from this incident may have lasting implications for both Kate Middleton and the institution she represents.</p> <p><em>Image: Instagram</em></p>

Family & Pets

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"Unfair" parking fines could soon be a thing of the past

<p>In recent years, road users in one Australian state have found themselves at the receiving end of unwelcome surprises in their mailboxes.</p> <p>An experimental parking fine process, initiated with the aim of streamlining administrative procedures, has instead garnered significant backlash from unsuspecting motorists.</p> <p>However, relief seems to be on the horizon as the New South Wales Government steps in to rectify the situation.</p> <p>The issue revolves around the introduction of ticketless parking fines, a system that was implemented with the intention of simplifying the issuance of penalties for parking violations. Under this scheme, parking officers could send details of fines directly to Revenue NSW, which would then dispatch infringement notices either by post or through the Service NSW app.</p> <p>However, what was meant to be a simple and streamlined modernisation effort has led to a surge in revenue from fines and a subsequent erosion of trust in the system.</p> <p>Concerns about the fairness and transparency of ticketless fines have been mounting, prompting action from the NSW government. Reports indicate that Finance Minister Courtney Houssos has written to all 128 local councils in the state, urging them to halt further adoption of the ticketless parking fine system. Instead, councils have been instructed to revert to traditional ticketing methods and ensure that drivers are promptly made aware of fines at the time of the offence.</p> <p>The move comes in response to a range of issues highlighted by critics of the ticketless system. One major concern is the lack of immediate notification, which diminishes the deterrent effect of fines and makes it difficult for motorists to contest them effectively.</p> <p>Without receiving timely notification, drivers may struggle to gather evidence or address issues such as inadequate signage, hidden signs, or other circumstances that could warrant a review of the fine.</p> <p>Organisations like the National Roads and Motorists' Association (NRMA) have been vocal opponents of the ticketless scheme, labelling it as "unfair" and criticising its impact on transparency.</p> <p>According to NRMA spokesperson Peter Khoury, the system reduces the ability of drivers to contest fines, thereby undermining their rights and contributing to a loss of community trust in the administration of fines.</p> <p>The NSW government's intervention signals a recognition of these concerns and a commitment to restoring confidence in the fines system. By prioritising immediate notification for drivers, authorities aim to address the shortcomings of the ticketless parking fine process.</p> <p>The decision to reverse the experimental system comes amid staggering revenue figures, with nearly $140 million generated from ticketless fines in 2023 alone. While the financial gains may be substantial, they come at the expense of public trust and fairness, prompting a much-needed course correction.</p> <p>As Minister Houssos asserts, providing immediate notification to drivers is not only the right thing to do but also a crucial step towards rebuilding community trust. By ensuring that drivers are promptly informed of fines and have the opportunity to contest them, authorities can strike a balance between effective enforcement and procedural fairness in managing parking violations.</p> <p>As road users await the reinstatement of traditional ticketing methods, they can take solace in the prospect of a fairer and more transparent fines system in the future.</p> <p><em>Images: City of Sydney</em></p>

Legal

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Princess Kate's post-surgery pic ignites even wilder conspiracy theories

<p>In a recent revelation that has the internet buzzing, Kensington Palace released a brand new photo of the Princess of Wales alongside her adorable brood, but it seems like the royal family might be playing with more than just thrones and crowns.</p> <p>The picture, meant to express gratitude to the public for their support during Catherine's recovery from abdominal surgery, quickly became a subject of speculation, leaving royal enthusiasts scratching their heads and raising eyebrows faster than you can say "corgi".</p> <p>The image, which features Catherine sitting and embracing her children – Prince Louis, Prince George and Princess Charlotte – in the scenic backdrop of Windsor, seems like a wholesome Mother's Day tribute at first glance. However, upon closer inspection, the cracks in this picture-perfect façade begin to show.</p> <p>Social media erupted with theories faster than a racehorse at Ascot. Some eagle-eyed observers speculated that the photo might have been the handiwork of artificial intelligence, citing suspiciously green grass and leaves in the dead of winter, a rarity even in England where the weather is as unpredictable as a teenage royal's romantic interests.</p> <p>"AI is that you?" asked one astute commentator on Instagram, voicing the suspicions of many.</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/C4U_IqTNaqU/?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/p/C4U_IqTNaqU/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by The Prince and Princess of Wales (@princeandprincessofwales)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>"Ummmmm, this photo looks doctored…" wrote another astute reader. "Catherine’s right hand around Louis is entirely blurry but the left hand around Charlotte, at the same distance to the camera, is not, and either is Louis’ jumper around the hand blurry. Also Charlotte’s dress, which is clothing her torso behind her arm, impedes on the sleeve at the wrist… the cardigan sleeve shows the dress in front of it, when it should only be behind. And Louis’ middle finger must be awfully long to be entirely wrapped around the next finger without being able to see the finger nail… it’s also blurry. I’m a keen photographer, and those are not true elements of a photo as taken."</p> <p>But wait, there's more! The absence of Catherine's wedding ring did not escape the notice of keen observers, prompting questions about the state of her marriage. "WHERE'S YOUR RING??!" demanded one fan, while another pondered, "no ring, tree in full bloom in winter, jeans after major abdominal surgery, face shape completely different from car photo."</p> <p>And if that wasn't enough to fuel the royal gossip mill, Prince Louis's peculiar finger-crossing gesture sent conspiracy theorists into overdrive. Is he sending secret messages? Or is it just further evidence that we're all living in a simulation run by an eccentric royal fan with a knack for Photoshop?</p> <p><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">Additionally, a subtle misalignment in Princess Charlotte's hand compared to her jumper sleeve raised clear suspicions of digital manipulation. As the speculation grew louder, four of the world's largest photo agencies – The Associated Press, AFP, Getty Images and Reuters – issued a "mandatory kill notice", on the image, effectively retracting it from circulation.</span></p> <p>The reasons cited varied slightly among the agencies, with mentions of "editorial issues" and inconsistencies in the photograph's details. The decision to retract the photo wasn't taken lightly; it's a standard protocol for picture agencies to withdraw images that have been significantly altered.</p> <p>The reaction on social media was swift, with royal watchers and media personalities dissecting the image for clues. Chris Ship, ITV News's royal editor, shared close-up sections of the photo, highlighting apparent discrepancies in Charlotte's sleeve, Prince Louis's jumper, and the background behind him. His commentary underscored the seriousness of the situation, questioning Kensington Palace – the source of the photo – about the authenticity of the image.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">I’ve never been much of a conspiracy theorist but if <a href="https://twitter.com/AP?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AP</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/AFP?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AFP</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Reuters?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Reuters</a> &amp; other picture agencies are concerned enough to remove it and ask clients to delete it, there are serious questions for Kensington Palace - which was the source of the photo.<br />These appears to be the issues 👇 <a href="https://t.co/ifcSB9mUzu">https://t.co/ifcSB9mUzu</a> <a href="https://t.co/bH5gN9fJtJ">pic.twitter.com/bH5gN9fJtJ</a></p> <p>— Chris Ship (@chrisshipitv) <a href="https://twitter.com/chrisshipitv/status/1766947758529822803?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 10, 2024</a></p></blockquote> <p>Amidst the fervent speculation, Kensington Palace remained silent, neither confirming nor denying the allegations of photo manipulation. The lack of clarity has only fuelled the fire, leading to further conjecture about the intentions behind the controversial image.</p> <p>In a world where every pixel is scrutinised and every detail dissected, the royal family's attempt at a heartwarming family photo has turned into a comedic saga worthy of a Shakespearean farce.</p> <p>As the internet continues to buzz with speculation, one thing is for certain: when it comes to the royals, truth is often stranger than fiction. Or in this case, more digitally manipulated than reality TV.</p> <p><em>Image: Instagram</em></p>

Caring

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Restaurant sparks outrage for "ridiculous" fee

<p>As inflation rates continue to rise it is not surprising that restaurants are charging extra fees, but one disgruntled customer was particularly shocked to see this "ridiculous" fee on their bill. </p> <p>The customer, who dined at restaurant and cocktail bar in Georgia, USA shamed the restaurant for charging their customers a $20 fee for “live band entertainment”.</p> <p>They shared their complaints on Reddit with a copy of their receipt and an unexpected fee at the bottom which read: “Two Live Band Entertainment Fee — $20”.</p> <p>Most people in the comments were equally annoyed and called the fee "ridiculous". </p> <p>“This is one of those leave money on the table, hand the waiter a tip and leave, sorry but if I didn’t order it, I’m not paying for it,” one wrote. </p> <p>“Great way to not have repeat customers,” said another.</p> <p>“This will backfire for them, just be honest and upfront," a third added. </p> <p>Other commenters were less sympathetic and did not understand why the customer was complaining when it looked like they could afford it. </p> <p>“When you’re paying seven dollars for a bottle of water, you really don’t get to complain about ‘unexpected costs.’ You knew what you signed up for," one commenter wrote. </p> <p>“Imagine a live band getting paid, huh,” another added. </p> <p>“They’re buying $7 bottles of water, they can probably afford it,” added a third.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty/ Reddit</em></p> <p> </p>

Money & Banking

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Why Mary Poppins has received a new rating 60 years on

<p dir="ltr">Almost 60 years after <em>Mary Poppins</em> was first released, the classic film has been given a new rating by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). </p> <p dir="ltr">The BBFC, which regulates films and video content in the country, changed the rating of the 1964 Disney musical last week from U (Universal) to PG (Parental Guidance) because it features a racial slur once used by white Europeans to refer to the native peoples of southern Africa.</p> <p dir="ltr">"<em>Mary Poppins</em> (1964) includes two uses of the discriminatory term 'hottentots'," a BBFC spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.</p> <p dir="ltr">"While <em>Mary Poppins</em> has a historical context, the use of discriminatory language is not condemned, and ultimately exceeds our guidelines for acceptable language at U."</p> <p dir="ltr">The approaching 60th anniversary of the film is what prompted the BBFC to reexamine the film, as it is set to return to UK cinemas in celebration of the milestone. </p> <p dir="ltr">Even as <em>Mary Poppins</em> remains a treasured part of UK culture, the film has long been criticised for the use of blackface. It's partly in this context that the discriminatory language referenced by BBFC appears in the film.</p> <p dir="ltr">In one scene, the eccentric Admiral Boom asks one of the Banks children if he is going on an adventure to "defeat hottentots." </p> <p dir="ltr">Later in the film, as Admiral Boom sees chimney sweeps with soot-blackened faces dancing in the distance, he shouts, "We're being attacked by hottentots!" and orders a cannon to be fired in their direction.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Hottentot" is a derogatory term used by European settlers to refer to Khoikhoi peoples of South Africa and Namibia, according to the Oxford Dictionary reference.</p> <p dir="ltr">Per the new film rating, children of any age can still watch without an adult present, but parents should consider whether the content might upset younger or more sensitive children, a BBFC spokesperson said.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Disney</em></p>

Movies

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"I almost cried": Mum shocked by stranger's random act of kindness

<p>A mother-of-two has almost been reduced to tears by a stranger's random act of kindness in a busy cafe. </p> <p>The mum, a woman named Tyne, was at a cafe in the Sunshine Coast suburb of Mooloolaba with her husband and two young sons, when she struck up a conversation with a woman reading a book nearby. </p> <p>She said she felt a wave of guilt that her rowdy children were disrupting the woman's peaceful morning, and leaned over to apologise. </p> <p>The woman assured the mother there was nothing to apologise for, with the woman's next act leaving the mum speechless. </p> <p>“A beautiful (and full on) weekend away with Mr 3.5y & Mr 1.5y my husband and I sat with coffees at a beautiful cafe waiting for breakfast for us,” Tyne wrote in a Facebook group called The Kindness Pandemic, where people share stories of their heartwarming interactions with strangers. </p> <p>“I immediately apologised to the lovely lady sitting near us as she had a book and I was afraid the boys wouldn’t be too peaceful." </p> <p>“We were chatting for a little and then she left after her breakfast.”</p> <p>When the mum went to pay for her family’s bill, the cashier informed her that the stranger had “taken care of it” and handed her a heartwarming note.</p> <p>“It was such a pleasure sharing my brekkie space with you,” the note read.</p> <p>“Please keep doing what you’re doing. You’ve got a beautiful family.”</p> <p>Tyne said she “almost cried” when she realised that the stranger had paid for her family’s entire breakfast.</p> <p>The cafe was situated close to one of the Sunshine Coast’s most popular attractions, Sea Life Aquarium, where the family had planned to spend their day.</p> <p>“Hopefully you can splurge a little more at Sea Life today,” the stranger added in the note, before signing off, “Love Em.”</p> <p>The mum said she was overwhelmed by the stranger’s incredible act of kindness, saying she "almost cried".</p> <p>“She paid for us … And her kind words were what I needed to hear.”</p> <p>Tyne said the stranger was an “amazing soul” and vowed to pay it forward”.</p> <p>“If you are Em staying in Mooloolaba for work and went to a quirky local that’s your favourite … YOU ARE AN AMAZING SOUL!” she said.</p> <p>People in the comments also shared their reactions to the heartfelt gesture.</p> <p>“Lovely lady. Your children would be being just that, children. Don’t apologise about them,” one wrote.</p> <p>“What a beautiful person Em clearly is. This was so gorgeous to read.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Facebook</em></p>

Family & Pets

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Experience the magic of Ireland down under: A Taste of Ireland 2024 Australian Tour

<p>Get ready to immerse yourself in the rich culture, captivating music and mesmerising dance of Ireland as <a href="https://www.atasteofirelandshow.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>A Taste of Ireland</em></a> returns to enchant audiences across Australia in 2024. </p> <p>Featuring World Champion dancers from <em>Lord of the Dance</em> and <em>Riverdance</em>, prepare to be transported to the rolling green hills and vibrant streets of the Emerald Isle, right in your hometown!  </p> <p><strong>What is <em>A Taste of Ireland</em>?</strong></p> <p><em>A Taste of Ireland</em> is not just a performance; it's an unforgettable journey through the heart and soul of Ireland. Combining traditional and contemporary Irish music and dance, this spectacular show showcases the incredible talent and passion of some of Ireland's finest performers.</p> <p><strong>What to expect</strong></p> <p>From the moment the first note is struck, and the first step is danced, you'll be captivated by the energy and artistry on stage. Feel the rhythm of the bodhrán drum reverberate through your bones, and let the fiddles whisk you away to a land of ancient myths and legends.</p> <p>Prepare to be dazzled by the lightning-fast footwork and intricate choreography of the dancers as they weave tales of love, loss and triumph through their movements. Each step tells a story, each leap a celebration of life itself.</p> <p><strong>Why attend?</strong></p> <p>Whether you're a die-hard fan of Irish culture or simply looking for a night of entertainment unlike any other, <em>A Taste of Ireland</em> offers something for everyone. It's an opportunity to witness the magic of Ireland's rich heritage brought to life before your very eyes.</p> <p>Forget your troubles for an evening and let the music and dance sweep you away on a journey you won't soon forget. Whether you're tapping your feet to the lively jigs and reels or wiping away tears during a poignant ballad, <em>A Taste of Ireland</em> is an experience that will touch your heart and soul.</p> <p><strong>Tour dates and locations</strong></p> <p>The 2024 Australian Tour of <em>A Taste of Ireland</em> will be making stops across Australia for 80 shows from March to July, bringing the magic of Ireland to a venue near you. <a href="https://www.atasteofirelandshow.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Check the tour schedule</a> to find out when this unforgettable experience will be coming to your area.</p> <p><strong>Get your tickets now!</strong></p> <p>Don't miss your chance to experience the beauty and excitement of <em>A Taste of Ireland</em>. Tickets are selling fast, so book yours today and get ready for a night of music, dance, and memories that will last a lifetime. </p> <p>Witness the show that has received rave reviews across the globe. Don't rely on the luck of the Irish – <a href="https://www.atasteofirelandshow.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">book now</a>, because tickets are selling out fast!</p> <p><em>Images: Supplied.</em></p> <p><em>This is a sponsored article produced in partnership with Pace Live.</em></p>

Music

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One last chance for grandma on the brink of deportation

<p>Mary Ellis, 74, who has lived in Australia for the last 40 years and is facing deportation, has made a last-ditch bid to stay Down Under. </p> <p>The grandmother recently appeared on <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/finance/legal/grandma-faces-deportation-after-40-years-in-australia" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>A Current Affair</em></a> and begged the Department of Home Affairs to let her stay in the country. </p> <p>At the time, she refuted the Home Affairs' claim that she had misrepresented her continuous residence in the country, after they alleged that she left Australia three times under an alias between 1983 and 1986, and that her late husband Martin Ellis was actually called Trevor Warren. </p> <p>The crucial qualification for an absorbed citizenship is that she would only be eligible if she was in Australia from April 2, 1984, and had not left the country since. </p> <p>The grandmother claimed that she arrived in Australia in December 1981, and hasn't left since, saying that she had also paid taxes in Australia, held a Medicare card, pension card and an Australian driver's licence.</p> <p>She was also nominated for the NSW Volunteer of the Year award last year, for her charitable acts.</p> <p>The<em> DailyMail</em> reports that there are no "compassionate grounds" on which the Immigration Minister could intervene in her bid to attain an absorbed citizenship. </p> <p>However, under the Migration Act, the minister could decide to intervene in Ellis' case if he thinks "it is in the public interest."</p> <p>Now, Ellis and her migration agent Schneider have requested in writing for the minister to intervene. </p> <p>Requests for Federal Immigration Minister Andrew Giles to intervene must address specific grounds in doing so, and state why her staying would be in the public interest. </p> <p><em>Images: Instagram/ Nine</em></p>

Legal

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Dive below the surface with the Underwater Photographer of the Year awards

<p>There's a world beneath us that we don't know much about, and photographers around the world have all tried to capture its beauty. </p> <p>With over 6,500 photos submitted for this year's Underwater Photographer of the Year contest, one photo captured the panel of judges' heart - Alex Dawson's 'Whale Bones'. </p> <p>The image shows a diver swimming among the enormous skeletons of slaughtered whales off the coast of Greenland. </p> <p>"Whale Bones was photographed in the toughest conditions, as a breath-hold diver descends below the Greenland ice sheet to bear witness to the carcasses," Alex Mustard, Chair of the UPY Jury said. </p> <p>"The masterful composition invites me to consider our impact on the great creatures of this planet," he added. </p> <p>"Since the rise of humans, wild animals have declined by 85%. Today, just 4% of mammals are wildlife, the remaining 96% are humans and our livestock.</p> <p>"Our way needs to change to find a balance with nature." </p> <p>Lisa Stengel from the US won the title of Up & Coming Underwater Photographer of the Year 2024, for her shot titled 'Window of Opportunity'. </p> <p>The photo captured the beauty of nature as a mahi attacks a swarm of fish, an action shot that captured "high speed hunting at the decisive moment."</p> <p>Nuno Sá from Portugal won the award for 'Save Our Seas Foundation' Marine Conservation Photographer of the Year 2024 for his work titled Saving Goliath. </p> <p>The photo showed dozens of sun seekers working together to try and save a stranded sperm whale off the beaches of Costa da Caparica. </p> <p>UK residents Jenny Stock won the title of British Underwater Photographer of the Year for her work  'Star Attraction' and Sandra Stalker won the title of Most Promising British Underwater Photographer 2024 for 'Midnight raver'. </p> <p><em>Images: UPY </em></p> <p> </p>

International Travel

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Rocky actor's cause of death revealed

<p>Carl Weathers' cause of death has been revealed, almost two weeks after his passing as his death certificate was made public. </p> <p>The <em>Rocky</em> actor passed away on February 1st at his home in California surrounded by his loved ones at the age of 76. </p> <p>As revealed in his death certificate, Weathers cause of death has been listed as  "atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease", which the <a title="Australian Institute of Health and Welfare" href="https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-disease/hsvd-facts/contents/introduction#:~:text=Many%20forms%20of%20CVD%20are,the%20brain%20(causing%20stroke)." target="" rel="">Australian Institute of Health and Welfare</a> defines as "deposits of fat, cholesterol and other substances build up in the inner lining of the arteries to form plaque".</p> <p>The certificate also stated that his son Matthew Weathers was the one who alerted authorities to the death which was deemed "natural",  and also revealed that the family will be bringing home the actor's ashes after he is cremated.</p> <p>News of the actor's death was delivered by his family via a statement to <em><a href="https://deadline.com/2024/02/carl-weathers-dead-1235812684/#recipient_hashed=fd02bd8d6a1f88066ce877149ed7f5ed7c004c09a8d6405a72df635b0b72a9c3&recipient_salt=8a8541796b6f9250815f1cf923857155082cf85977a93234b6e9f290c850721c" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Deadline</a></em>, which read, "We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Carl Weathers."</p> <p>"Carl was an exceptional human being who lived an extraordinary life. Through his contributions to film, television, the arts and sports, he has left an indelible mark and is recognised worldwide and across generations. He was a beloved brother, father, grandfather, partner and friend."</p> <p>The actor is most well known for his role as Apollo Creed in four instalments of <em>Rocky</em>, as well as in <em>Predator</em>, <em>Happy Gilmore</em>, and <em>Arrested Development</em>, <em>The Mandalorian</em> and many others. </p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Caring

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Supermarkets, airlines and power companies are charging ‘exploitative’ prices despite reaping record profits

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sanjoy-paul-1141384">Sanjoy Paul</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Australians have been hit by large rises in grocery, energy, transport, child and aged care prices, only adding to other cost of living pressures.</p> <p>While extreme weather and supply delays have contributed to the increases, an inquiry into what’s causing the hikes has confirmed what commentators and consumers suspected - many sectors are resorting to dodgy price practices and confusing pricing.</p> <p>Headed by the former Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) boss, Allan Fels, on behalf of the ACTU, the inquiry found inflation, questionable pricing practices, a lack of price transparency and regulations, a lack of market competition, supply chain problems and unrestricted price setting by retailers are to blame for fuelling the increases.</p> <p>The inquiry, which released its <a href="https://www.actu.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/InquiryIntoPriceGouging_Report_web9-1.pdf">final report</a> on Wednesday, is one of four examining price rises. The other three are being undertaken by a Senate committee, the Queensland government and the ACCC, which has been given extra powers by the government.</p> <h2>Prices vs inflation</h2> <p>The inflation rate in Australia peaked at <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/price-indexes-and-inflation/consumer-price-index-australia/latest-release">7.8%</a> in December 2022 and has been gradually dropping since then.</p> <p>While the inquiry found higher prices contributed to inflation, it reported that businesses claimed it was inflation that caused price rises - making it a chicken-or-egg kind of problem.</p> <p>However, many businesses made enormous <a href="https://theconversation.com/amid-allegations-of-price-gouging-its-time-for-big-supermarkets-to-come-clean-on-how-they-price-their-products-219316">profits</a> in 2022-23, which the inquiry said contributed to rising prices and inflation. In most cases, post-pandemic profit margins were much higher than before the pandemic.</p> <h2>How prices are set</h2> <p>Business pricing strategies had a big impact on product prices.</p> <p>In Australia, businesses often provided partial and misleading pricing information which differed from the actual price. For example, supermarkets were “<a href="https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/accc-warns-supermarkets-about-discount-claims-20240114-p5ex1s">discounting</a>” products by raising prices beforehand.</p> <p>These practices helped raise prices and were “exploitative”, the inquiry found.</p> <p>A lack of transparent pricing information caused a poor understanding by consumers of how prices were set. This was significantly worsened by a lack of competition. While market concentration was a major issue, the inquiry found prices in Australia are way higher than in many other less competitive markets.</p> <p>Large price increases occurred across many sectors:</p> <p><strong>AVIATION</strong></p> <p>While it is free to set any price for airfares, Australia’s largest and highest profile aviation company, Qantas, has been <a href="https://www.thenewdaily.com.au/life/2023/12/28/qantas-deceptive-conduct-accc">accused</a> of price gouging since the pandemic.</p> <p>According to the inquiry report, Qantas made a profit of $1.7 billion in 2023 - 208% higher than in 2019. At the same time, its reputation has been badly damaged by unreliable timetables, lost baggage and so-called <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/qantas-files-legal-defence-refutes-accc-case-and-ghost-flight-claims/9a6296c9-9238-4053-9f36-cc3cbf1f8a55">“ghost” flights</a> (selling tickets for a flight that’s been cancelled or doesn’t exist).</p> <p>Despite its huge profits and poorer service, Qantas passed on extra expenses to consumers in the form of higher airfares, the inquiry found.</p> <p><strong>BANKING</strong></p> <p>The banking industry has a long history of being tardy in passing on the Reserve Bank’s cash rate cuts to consumers. However, when the reserve raised the cash rates, banks immediately increased their standard variable rates and passed them on to customers. This practice keeps the bank’s profit margin higher.</p> <p>According to the inquiry report, the major banks’ average profit margins have been higher since May 2022 than in the 15 years before the pandemic. For 2022-23, the four big Australian banks’ profit margins were 35.5%, compared to an average of 32.4% from 2005 to 2020.</p> <p><strong>CHILDCARE</strong></p> <p>Australian households spent a good portion of their income on childcare, and for many of them, it was <a href="https://www.vu.edu.au/sites/default/files/mitchell-institute-assessing-childcare-affordability-in-Australia.pdf">unaffordable</a>.</p> <p>In Australia, the lack of availability and difficulty in switching services makes it even harder for working parents to find alternative options. This indicates parents are forced to pay more if the service providers raise prices.</p> <p>The inquiry found the childcare sector increased fees by 20% to 32% from 2018 to 2022. Accordingly, Australian households’ out-of-pocket expenses for childcare increased more than the rate of wage growth. For-profit childcare businesses have higher margins than not-for-profit centres.</p> <p><strong>ELECTRICITY</strong></p> <p>In recent years, electricity price increases have impacted all Australian households. The inquiry found both wholesale and retail electricity pricing strategies were responsible for these increased prices.</p> <p>It reported that wholesale price increases were mainly responsible for an estimated 9% to 20% increase in electricity bills in 2022-23.</p> <p>The report noted the “price bidding system” was largely responsible for increasing wholesale electricity prices.</p> <p>The inquiry was critical of the profit margin of AGL, a leading electricity retailer:</p> <blockquote> <p>It would seem that AGL needs to explain why consumers are paying $60.10/MWh more than seems to be justified by cost differentials. That is, for every consumer bill of $1,000 there is an apparent excess to be explained of $205.61 relative to prices charged to large business customers and not accounted for by genuine cost differences.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>SUPERMARKETS</strong></p> <p>Supermarket prices have received the most attention recently with the main providers being accused of price gouging.</p> <p>As has occurred in other sectors, profit margins were well above pre-COVID levels. In 2023, the margin was more than 3.5% compared to less than 3% in 2017 and 2018.</p> <p>In Australia, <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/not-happy-little-vegemites-food-prices-rising-faster-than-inflation-20230522-p5da9w.html">food prices</a> also increased well above the inflation rate.</p> <p>According to the inquiry, the price increases for groceries between March 2021 and September 2023 varied between 19.2% and 27.3% for different categories, including cheese, bread, milk, eggs, dairy products and breakfast cereals.</p> <p>Farmers recently <a href="https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/aussie-farmer-shipping-beautiful-melons-to-japan-rather-than-deal-with-coles-and-woolworths/news-story/bd685cd91f934f31c02c764097f496ae">accused</a> supermarkets of making too much profit from their crops.</p> <p>This was backed by the inquiry, which found the disproportionate market power held by supermarkets and food processors was of significant concern.</p> <p>The report noted that supermarkets increased prices when there was a shortage or cost increase, but the opposite did not happen easily when supplies were plentiful and prices were cheaper.</p> <h2>Issues common to all sectors</h2> <p>Among the issues common to all sectors were weak competition, a lack of price transparency, the difficulty consumers face switching between suppliers and providers, a lack of pricing policies and a lack of consumer awareness.</p> <p>While the price rises imposed by service providers and retailers were <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/business/pricing/setting-prices-whats-allowed">not unlawful</a>, the increases in all sectors were significant and were hurting everyday Australians.</p> <h2>Fels’ recommendations</h2> <p>Many of the recommendations were sector-specific, but the one that applied to all areas related to the lack of regulation and pricing policies.</p> <p>The ACCC should be empowered to investigate, monitor and regulate prices for the child and aged care, banking, grocery and food sectors, the inquiry found. This was necessary to ensure businesses used fair and transparent pricing.</p> <p>A review of all existing policies was also recommended. For example, the government should use the current aviation review to remove international and domestic restrictions on competition. It was important aviation stakeholders, such as airlines and airports, were involved in the process.</p> <p>The report suggested the grocery <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/business/industry-codes/food-and-grocery-code-of-conduct">code of conduct</a> should be mandatory for the food and grocery sector, and a price register for farmers should be created. This should be a government priority to protect farmers from unfair pricing by major supermarkets and food processors.</p> <h2>Change is needed</h2> <p>The current pricing practices for all business sectors must improve for greater transparency and to protect Australian consumers from unfair pricing.</p> <p>The inquiry report’s findings and recommendations are helpful in ensuring fair and transparent pricing policies and improving the current regulations for price settings.</p> <p>Implementing the recommendations will improve fair and transparent pricing practices and may help Australians get relief from the cost of living pressure in future.<!-- 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/222755/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sanjoy-paul-1141384"><em>Sanjoy Paul</em></a><em>, Associate Professor, UTS Business School, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</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/supermarkets-airlines-and-power-companies-are-charging-exploitative-prices-despite-reaping-record-profits-222755">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Sarah Ferguson makes first public appearance since skin cancer diagnosis

<p>Sarah Ferguson has made her first public appearance since her <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/health/caring/fergie-reveals-second-cancer-diagnosis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">skin cancer diagnosis</a> was announced almost two weeks ago. </p> <p>The Duchess of York made an unexpected appearance at the <em>Haute Living Celebrates The Haute 100</em> event in Miami, Florida on Monday. </p> <p>Fergie rocked a military-style black and white blazer over a black dress for the cocktail event, and appeared happier than ever as she posed for the cameras. </p> <p>The 64-year-old was pictured cuddling up to and interacting with fellow guests at the event. </p> <p>This comes just two weeks after the Duchess <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/health/caring/fergie-breaks-silence-amid-second-cancer-battle" target="_blank" rel="noopener">opened up</a> on her second cancer diagnosis in a year. </p> <p>"I have been taking some time to myself as I have been diagnosed with malignant melanoma, a form of skin cancer, my second cancer diagnosis within a year," she said in the Instagram post at the time.</p> <p>She also recently opened up on her recovery from breast cancer, following her mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.</p> <p>The Duchess expressed her gratitude to her two daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, for their constant support. </p> <p>"My two wonderful daughters are my wholehearted cheerleaders, my devoted champions and my soulmates, and they have been as supportive as can be, as they always are," she told <em>People magazine </em>at the time.</p> <p><em>Images: Getty </em></p> <p> </p>

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