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Papa Swift vs Paparazzi: Taylor Swift's dad accused of assault

<p>In the midst of celebrations marking the conclusion of Taylor Swift's Eras tour in Sydney, an unexpected and troubling incident has emerged involving her father – Scott Swift.</p> <p>The 71-year-old has been accused of assaulting an Australian photographer, Ben McDonald, in the early hours of Tuesday morning at a Sydney wharf in Neutral Bay.</p> <p>According to reports confirmed by NSW Police, the alleged altercation occurred around 2:30am, following Taylor Swift's final performance in the city.</p> <p>It's said that Taylor and her father had been enjoying post-show festivities when the incident took place, tarnishing what should have been a joyous occasion.</p> <p>McDonald, who serves as the chief executive of Matrix Media Group, recounted the events to <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-13128721/Taylor-Swift-father-Scott-assault-photographer-Sydney-wharf.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Daily Mail Australia</em></a>, shedding light on the confrontation. He stated that Taylor and Scott arrived at the wharf after travelling from Homebush on a luxury superyacht named <em>Quantum</em>.</p> <p>McDonald claims that after they disembarked, Scott allegedly 'charged' at him. McDonald originally thought that it was a security guard, and was surprised when he realised it was Taylor's dad.</p> <p>"In 23 years of taking pictures, I have never seen anything like it," he told the <em>Daily Mail</em>. "He probably decided he needed to defend his daughter, for some reason... She got off the boat, she walked towards security guards who were shoving umbrellas in our faces, and then he charged."</p> <p>Footage capturing the moments leading up to and following the alleged assault has surfaced, providing some insight into the incident. <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-13128721/Taylor-Swift-father-Scott-assault-photographer-Sydney-wharf.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The video</a> shows Taylor and her father walking up from the wharf, shielded by large umbrellas held by security guards. Amid the commotion, McDonald attempted to capture the scene, and was obstructed by the guards protecting Taylor and her companions, including Mr Swift.</p> <p>In the aftermath, McDonald reported the incident to authorities. He did not sustain serious injuries, though he described experiencing discomfort and soreness on the left side of his face.</p> <p><em>Images: YouTube</em></p>

Legal

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Woman allegedly murders great-aunt with spaghetti

<p>Italian police are investigating the bizarre alleged murder of Maria Basso, 80.</p> <p>Paola Pepe, her young great-niece, was arrested for the alleged murder after she was believed to have force-fed Basso with spaghetti, Italian newspaper <em>Corriere della Sera </em>reported. </p> <p>Basso was vulnerable to choking if she did not eat finely chopped or pureed food, despite this Pepe still took out her great-aunt for a meal in a Sicily restaurant in December 2022. </p> <p>She allegedly bought Basso spaghetti, and two days later her great-aunt was dead, after some of the pasta allegedly got lodged in her airways. </p> <p>Her death initially looked like an accident, until Italian police launched further investigations and found that Pepe had amended her great-aunt's will just two days before the meal.</p> <p>The<em> Corriere della Sera</em> reported Pepe had taken an unusual interest in her great-aunt's finances in the months leading up to her death after she had unexpectedly turned up during Basso's 80th birthday, and spent hours alone with her. </p> <p>Pepe eventually moved Basso to a care home 1300 kilometres away, without telling her close family members, and reportedly did not take any of Basso's medication or personal belongings to the new home. </p> <p>Police alleged that after isolating her great-aunt, she managed to convince Basso to change her will so that Pepe was named sole beneficiary of Basso's estate, which was worth $775,000. </p> <p>Basso initially intended to give her estate to a charity, as she had no children according to local media.</p> <p>Pepe has denied all accusations and was bailed, but is wearing a police ankle bracelet while waiting for her trial. </p> <p><em>Image: Strettoweb</em></p> <p> </p>

Legal

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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 &amp; 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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Beloved Star Trek and Marvel star passes away at age 49

<p>The entertainment world is mourning the loss of a talented actor and beloved individual, Kenneth Mitchell, who passed away at the age of 49 after bravely battling ALS for five years.</p> <p>Mitchell, recognised for his roles in notable productions such as <em>Star Trek: Discovery</em> and <em>Captain Marvel</em>, leaves behind a legacy that extends far beyond the screen.</p> <p>In a heartfelt statement shared through X and Instagram, Mitchell's family announced his passing, remembering him as a cherished father, husband, brother, uncle, son and dear friend.</p> <p>“With heavy hearts we announce the passing of Kenneth Alexander Mitchell, beloved father, husband, brother, uncle, son and dear friend,” his family wrote. “Ken was widely known as an actor in many films and television shows. He’s portrayed an Olympic hopeful, an apocalypse survivor, an astronaut, a superhero’s dad, and four unique Star Trekkers.</p> <p>“For five and a half years Ken faced a series of awful challenges from ALS. And in truest Ken fashion, he managed to rise above each one with grace and commitment to living a full and joyous life in each moment.</p> <p>“He lived by the principles that each day is a gift and that we never walk alone. His life is a shining example of how full one can be when you live with love, compassion, humour, inclusion, and community.” </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/C3wkUg9tOmj/?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/C3wkUg9tOmj/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Kenneth Mitchell (@mr_kenneth_mitchell)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Mitchell's journey with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease, began in 2018 when he received the diagnosis. Despite the challenges it presented, he faced his condition with courage and resilience. By 2019, Mitchell had transitioned to using a wheelchair, and in 2020, he chose to share his health struggles publicly, shedding light on the realities of living with ALS.</p> <p>In an interview he gave during that time, Mitchell expressed the profound impact of his diagnosis on both himself and his wife, emphasising the strength they found in facing adversity together. He spoke of the initial shock and uncertainty surrounding his condition, highlighting the process of grieving and adjusting to a new reality marked by unknown challenges.</p> <p>For fans of <em>Star Trek</em>, Mitchell's portrayal of Klingon characters Kol, Kol-Sha, Tenavik, and Aurellio in <em>Star Trek: Discovery</em> resonated deeply, showcasing his talent and versatility as an actor. Additionally, his voice acting contributions to <em>Star Trek: Lower Decks</em> further solidified his place within the cherished franchise.</p> <p>The outpouring of tributes from the Star Trek community, as well as from his colleagues and fans worldwide, speaks volumes about Mitchell's impact both on and off the screen. A statement from StarTrek.com conveys condolences to Mitchell's family, friends, and loved ones, underscoring the profound loss felt by all who were touched by his work.</p> <p>Mitchell is survived by his wife Susan May Pratt and their two children, and has requested any gifts be directed towards ALS research or in support of his children.</p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p>

Caring

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Mothers’ dieting habits and self-talk have profound impact on daughters − 2 psychologists explain how to cultivate healthy behaviors and body image

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/janet-j-boseovski-451496">Janet J. Boseovski</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ashleigh-gallagher-1505989">Ashleigh Gallagher</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a></em></p> <p>Weight loss is one of the most common health and appearance-related goals.</p> <p>Women and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db340.htm">teen girls</a> are <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db313.htm">especially likely to pursue dieting</a> to achieve weight loss goals even though a great deal of research shows that <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-thin-people-dont-understand-about-dieting-86604">dieting doesn’t work over the long term</a>.</p> <p>We are a <a href="https://www.duck-lab.com/people">developmental psychologist</a> and a <a href="https://psy.uncg.edu/directory/ashleigh-gallagher/">social psychologist</a> who together wrote a forthcoming book, “Beyond Body Positive: A Mother’s Evidence-Based Guide for Helping Girls Build a Healthy Body Image.”</p> <p>In the book, we address topics such as the effects of maternal dieting behaviors on daughters’ health and well-being. We provide information on how to build a foundation for healthy body image beginning in girlhood.</p> <h2>Culturally defined body ideals</h2> <p>Given the strong influence of social media and other cultural influences on body ideals, it’s understandable that so many people pursue diets aimed at weight loss. <a href="https://communityhealth.mayoclinic.org/featured-stories/tiktok-diets">TikTok</a>, YouTube, Instagram and celebrity websites feature slim influencers and “how-tos” for achieving those same results in no time.</p> <p>For example, women and teens are engaging in rigid and extreme forms of exercise such as 54D, a program to <a href="https://54d.com/">achieve body transformation in 54 days</a>, or the <a href="https://health.clevelandclinic.org/75-hard-challenge-and-rules">75 Hard Challenge</a>, which is to follow five strict rules for 75 days.</p> <p>For teens, these pursuits are likely fueled by trendy body preoccupations such as the desire for “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/06/well/move/tiktok-legging-legs-eating-disorders.html">legging legs</a>.”</p> <p>Women and teens have also been been inundated with recent messaging around <a href="https://theconversation.com/drugs-that-melt-away-pounds-still-present-more-questions-than-answers-but-ozempic-wegovy-and-mounjaro-could-be-key-tools-in-reducing-the-obesity-epidemic-205549">quick-fix weight loss drugs</a>, which come with a lot of caveats.</p> <p>Dieting and weight loss goals are highly individual, and when people are intensely self-focused, it is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2000.19.1.70">possible to lose sight of the bigger picture</a>. Although women might wonder what the harm is in trying the latest diet, science shows that dieting behavior doesn’t just affect the dieter. In particular, for women who are mothers or who have other girls in their lives, these behaviors affect girls’ emerging body image and their health and well-being.</p> <h2>The profound effect of maternal role models</h2> <p>Research shows that mothers and maternal figures <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2017.11.001">have a profound influence on their daughters’ body image</a>.</p> <p>The opportunity to influence girls’ body image comes far earlier than adolescence. In fact, research shows that these influences on body image <a href="https://www.teenvogue.com/story/how-toxic-diet-culture-is-passed-from-moms-to-daughters">begin very early in life</a> – <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.acdb.2016.10.006">during the preschool years</a>.</p> <p>Mothers may feel that they are being discreet about their dieting behavior, but little girls are watching and listening, and they are far more observant of us than many might think.</p> <p>For example, one study revealed that compared with daughters of nondieting women, 5-year-old girls whose mothers dieted <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-8223(00)00339-4">were aware of the connection between dieting and thinness</a>.</p> <p>Mothers’ eating behavior does not just affect girls’ ideas about dieting, but also their daughters’ eating behavior. The amount of food that mothers eat <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.04.018">predicts how much their daughters will eat</a>. In addition, daughters whose mothers are dieters are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2018.04.018">more likely to become dieters themselves</a> and are also <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2007.03.001">more likely to have a negative body image</a>.</p> <p>Negative body image is <a href="https://theconversation.com/mounting-research-documents-the-harmful-effects-of-social-media-use-on-mental-health-including-body-image-and-development-of-eating-disorders-206170">not a trivial matter</a>. It affects girls’ and women’s mental and physical well-being in a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105317710815">host of ways</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2011.06.009">can predict the emergence of eating disorders</a>.</p> <h2>Avoiding ‘fat talk’</h2> <p>What can moms do, then, to serve their daughters’ and their own health?</p> <p>They can focus on small steps. And although it is best to begin these efforts early in life – in girlhood – it is never too late to do so.</p> <p>For example, mothers can consider how they think about and talk about themselves around their daughters. Engaging in “fat talk” may inadvertently send their daughters the message that larger bodies are bad, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.07.004">contributing to weight bias</a> and negative self-image. Mothers’ fat talk also <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/15267431.2021.1908294">predicts later body dissatisfaction in daughters</a>.</p> <p>And negative self-talk isn’t good for mothers, either; it is associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105318781943">lower motivation and unhealthful eating</a>. Mothers can instead practice and model self-compassion, which involves treating oneself the way <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.03.003">a loving friend might treat you</a>.</p> <p>In discussions about food and eating behavior, it is important to avoid moralizing certain kinds of food by labeling them as “good” or “bad,” as girls may extend these labels to their personal worth. For example, a young girl may feel that she is being “bad” if she eats dessert, if that is what she has learned from observing the women around her. In contrast, she may feel that she has to eat a salad to be “good.”</p> <p>Moms and other female role models can make sure that the dinner plate sends a healthy message to their daughters by showing instead that all foods can fit into a balanced diet when the time is right. Intuitive eating, which emphasizes paying attention to hunger and satiety and allows flexibility in eating behavior, is associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-020-00852-4">better physical and mental health in adolescence</a>.</p> <p>Another way that women and especially moms can buffer girls’ body image is by helping their daughters <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2021.12.009">to develop media literacy</a> and to think critically about the nature and purpose of media. For example, moms can discuss the misrepresentation and distortion of bodies, such as the use of filters to enhance physical appearance, on social media.</p> <h2>Focusing on healthful behaviors</h2> <p>One way to begin to focus on health behaviors rather than dieting behaviors is to develop respect for the body and to <a href="https://theconversation.com/body-neutrality-what-it-is-and-how-it-can-help-lead-to-more-positive-body-image-191799">consider body neutrality</a>. In other words, prize body function rather than appearance and spend less time thinking about your body’s appearance. Accept that there are times when you may not feel great about your body, and that this is OK.</p> <p>To feel and look their best, mothers can aim to stick to a <a href="https://theconversation.com/whats-the-best-diet-for-healthy-sleep-a-nutritional-epidemiologist-explains-what-food-choices-will-help-you-get-more-restful-zs-219955">healthy sleep schedule</a>, manage their stress levels, <a href="https://theconversation.com/fiber-is-your-bodys-natural-guide-to-weight-management-rather-than-cutting-carbs-out-of-your-diet-eat-them-in-their-original-fiber-packaging-instead-205159">eat a varied diet</a> that includes all of the foods that they enjoy, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-runners-high-may-result-from-molecules-called-cannabinoids-the-bodys-own-version-of-thc-and-cbd-170796">move and exercise their bodies regularly</a> as lifelong practices, rather than engaging in quick-fix trends.</p> <p>Although many of these tips sound familiar, and perhaps even simple, they become effective when we recognize their importance and begin acting on them. Mothers can work toward modeling these behaviors and tailor each of them to their daughter’s developmental level. It’s never too early to start.</p> <h2>Promoting healthy body image</h2> <p>Science shows that several personal characteristics are associated with body image concerns among women.</p> <p>For example, research shows that women who are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.02.001">higher in neuroticism</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/2050-2974-1-2">and perfectionism</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.983534">lower in self-compassion</a> or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.08.001">lower in self-efficacy</a> are all more likely to struggle with negative body image.</p> <p>Personality is frequently defined as a person’s characteristic pattern of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. But if they wish, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/per.1945">mothers can change personality characteristics</a> that they feel aren’t serving them well.</p> <p>For example, perfectionist tendencies – such as setting unrealistic, inflexible goals – can be examined, challenged and replaced with more rational thoughts and behaviors. A woman who believes she must work out every day can practice being more flexible in her thinking. One who thinks of dessert as “cheating” can practice resisting moral judgments about food.</p> <p>Changing habitual ways of thinking, feeling and behaving certainly takes effort and time, but it is far more likely than diet trends to bring about sustainable, long-term change. And taking the first steps to modify even a few of these habits can positively affect daughters.</p> <p>In spite of all the noise from media and other cultural influences, mothers can feel empowered knowing that they have a significant influence on their daughters’ feelings about, and treatment of, their bodies.</p> <p>In this way, mothers’ modeling of healthier attitudes and behaviors is a sound investment – for both their own body image and that of the girls they love.<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/221968/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/janet-j-boseovski-451496"><em>Janet J. Boseovski</em></a><em>, Professor of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ashleigh-gallagher-1505989">Ashleigh Gallagher</a>, Senior Lecturer, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-north-carolina-greensboro-2069">University of North Carolina – Greensboro</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/mothers-dieting-habits-and-self-talk-have-profound-impact-on-daughters-2-psychologists-explain-how-to-cultivate-healthy-behaviors-and-body-image-221968">original article</a>.</em></p>

Mind

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Why do I keep getting urinary tract infections? And why are chronic UTIs so hard to treat?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/iris-lim-1204657">Iris Lim</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond University</a></em></p> <p>Dealing with chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs) means facing more than the occasional discomfort. It’s like being on a never ending battlefield against an unseen adversary, making simple daily activities a trial.</p> <p>UTIs happen when bacteria sneak into the urinary system, causing pain and frequent trips to the bathroom.</p> <p>Chronic UTIs take this to the next level, coming back repeatedly or never fully going away despite treatment. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557479/">Chronic UTIs</a> are typically diagnosed when a person experiences two or more infections within six months or three or more within a year.</p> <p>They can happen to anyone, but some are more prone due to their <a href="https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/u/urinary-tract-infections-in-adults">body’s makeup or habits</a>. Women are more likely to get UTIs than men, due to their shorter urethra and hormonal changes during menopause that can decrease the protective lining of the urinary tract. Sexually active people are also at greater risk, as bacteria can be transferred around the area.</p> <p>Up to <a href="https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/u/urinary-tract-infections-in-adults#Related%20Resources">60% of women</a> will have at least one UTI in their lifetime. While effective treatments exist, <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/bladder-and-bowel/when-urinary-tract-infections-keep-coming-back#:%7E:text=Your%20urine%20might%20be%20cloudy,they%20take%20on%20your%20life.">about 25%</a> of women face recurrent infections within six months. Around <a href="https://sciendo.com/article/10.33073/pjm-2019-048?tab=article">20–30%</a> of UTIs don’t respond to standard antibiotic. The challenge of chronic UTIs lies in bacteria’s ability to shield themselves against treatments.</p> <h2>Why are chronic UTIs so hard to treat?</h2> <p>Once thought of as straightforward infections cured by antibiotics, we now know chronic UTIs are complex. The cunning nature of the bacteria responsible for the condition allows them to hide in bladder walls, out of antibiotics’ reach.</p> <p>The bacteria form biofilms, a kind of protective barrier that makes them nearly impervious to standard antibiotic treatments.</p> <p>This ability to evade treatment has led to a troubling <a href="https://theconversation.com/rising-antibiotic-resistance-in-utis-could-cost-australia-1-6-billion-a-year-by-2030-heres-how-to-curb-it-149543">increase in antibiotic resistance</a>, a global health concern that renders some of the conventional treatments ineffective.</p> <p>Antibiotics need to be advanced to keep up with evolving bacteria, in a similar way to the flu vaccine, which is updated annually to combat the latest strains of the flu virus. If we used the same flu vaccine year after year, its effectiveness would wane, just as overused antibiotics lose their power against bacteria that have adapted.</p> <p>But fighting bacteria that resist antibiotics is much tougher than updating the flu vaccine. Bacteria change in ways that are harder to predict, making it more challenging to create new, effective antibiotics. It’s like a never-ending game where the bacteria are always one step ahead.</p> <p>Treating chronic UTIs still relies heavily on antibiotics, but doctors are getting crafty, changing up medications or prescribing low doses over a longer time to outwit the bacteria.</p> <p>Doctors are also placing a greater emphasis on thorough diagnostics to accurately identify chronic UTIs from the outset. By asking detailed questions about the duration and frequency of symptoms, health-care providers can better distinguish between isolated UTI episodes and chronic conditions.</p> <p>The approach to initial treatment can significantly influence the likelihood of a UTI becoming chronic. Early, targeted therapy, based on the specific bacteria causing the infection and its antibiotic sensitivity, may reduce the risk of recurrence.</p> <p>For post-menopausal women, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00192-020-04397-z">estrogen therapy</a> has shown promise in reducing the risk of recurrent UTIs. After menopause, the decrease in estrogen levels can lead to changes in the urinary tract that makes it more susceptible to infections. This treatment restores the balance of the vaginal and urinary tract environments, making it less likely for UTIs to occur.</p> <p>Lifestyle changes, such as <a href="https://journals.lww.com/co-nephrolhypertens/FullText/2013/05001/Impact_of_fluid_intake_in_the_prevention_of.1.aspx">drinking more water</a> and practising good hygiene like washing hands with soap after going to the toilet and the recommended front-to-back wiping for women, also play a big role.</p> <p>Some swear by cranberry juice or supplements, though researchers are still figuring out <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001322.pub2/full">how effective these remedies truly are</a>.</p> <h2>What treatments might we see in the future?</h2> <p>Scientists are currently working on new treatments for chronic UTIs. One promising avenue is the development of <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10052183/pdf/pathogens-12-00359.pdf">vaccines</a> aimed at preventing UTIs altogether, much like flu shots prepare our immune system to fend off the flu.</p> <p>Another new method being looked at is called <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12223-019-00750-y">phage therapy</a>. It uses special viruses called bacteriophages that go after and kill only the bad bacteria causing UTIs, while leaving the good bacteria in our body alone. This way, it doesn’t make the bacteria resistant to treatment, which is a big plus.</p> <p>Researchers are also exploring the potential of <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2079-6382/12/1/167">probiotics</a>. Probiotics introduce beneficial bacteria into the urinary tract to out-compete harmful pathogens. These good bacteria work by occupying space and resources in the urinary tract, making it harder for harmful pathogens to establish themselves.</p> <p>Probiotics can also produce substances that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and enhance the body’s immune response.</p> <p>Chronic UTIs represent a stubborn challenge, but with a mix of current treatments and promising research, we’re getting closer to a day when chronic UTIs are a thing of the past.<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/223008/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/iris-lim-1204657">I<em>ris Lim</em></a><em>, Assistant Professor, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/bond-university-863">Bond 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/why-do-i-keep-getting-urinary-tract-infections-and-why-are-chronic-utis-so-hard-to-treat-223008">original article</a>.</em></p>

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The types of insurance that aren’t worth your while

<p>While it’s important to make sure you’ve been covered, some forms of insurance aren’t really worth your while in the long run. We’ve taken a look at several types of insurance you shouldn’t really bother with, why they’re not worth your money and how you can find an alternative. </p> <p>Yes, it’s essential to make sure you’re covered, but at the same time you don’t need to waste any money.</p> <p><strong>Extended warranties</strong></p> <p>Many a salesperson has made a customer fork out that little bit extra for an “extended warranty” to go with a major electronic purchase. The thing is though, in many cases the period of time covered by the warranty is actually exactly the level you’re automatically entitled to under consumer law.</p> <p><strong>Credit protection insurance</strong></p> <p>While this type of insurance can be useful and a way to insure yourself against the possibility of something happening to your income as the result of an injury or a condition, credit protection insurance has tendency to be pretty expensive. </p> <p>A more cost effective way to ensure your payments to your credit card, personal loans or mortgages are fulfilled would be to take out a life insurance or total and permanent disability insurance policy through your individual superannuation fund.</p> <p><strong>Funeral insurance</strong></p> <p>Many people see this as a good way to ease the financial burden on their family that comes with their passing, but in reality funeral insurance is quite expensive and the premiums add up every year. </p> <p>A far better option is a prepaid funeral, funeral bonds life insurance or even a special savings account with money set aside. Just make sure you let your family know!</p> <p><strong>ID theft insurance</strong></p> <p>This is one of those types of insurance that isn’t really protecting your from becoming a victim, rather helping you deal with the costs once it’s already happened. And what’s more, you bank is usually willing to cover the costs of credit card fraud, which is one of the major problems to be associated with ID theft. </p> <p>Instead of spending money on a policy you can protect yourself from ID theft by simply keeping your personal documents safe, shredding documents such as bank account statements before throwing them away, and using antivirus software that is up to date. You can also check your credit file each year to make sure nobody’s using your identity for fake accounts.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Money & Banking

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3 cholesterol myths debunked

<p>For years, cholesterol has been seen as the villain in your diet – responsible for many of the health woes people experience daily. But many of the “facts” about cholesterol are actually just misconceptions. So let’s clear up some of these myths now.</p> <p>As with everything to do with your diet, any major changes should be made in consultation with your healthcare professional or a nutritionist to make sure it’s right for you.</p> <p><strong>Cholesterol is bad for you</strong></p> <p>Just like cake, cholesterol should be enjoyed in moderation. Interestingly, it actually performs many important functions. It helps produce cell membranes, vitamin D, hormones, and helps with digestion. It also plays a role in helping to form memories. </p> <p>And, believe it or not, cholesterol is naturally created by your body. So most of the cholesterol in your bloodstream is not there because of your diet.</p> <p><strong>Eggs are the enemy</strong></p> <p>People with high cholesterol levels used to be advised to avoid eating too many eggs, but they’ve recently been put back on the “safe list.” Research at Yale University actually showed that even people with coronary heart disease could eat two eggs each day for six weeks without any effect on their cholesterol levels.</p> <p><strong>Low-fat diets are the best</strong></p> <p>While saturated fats do increase the “bad” cholesterol (LDL), it also increases the levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL). A study published in Annals of Internal Medicine showed no link between the consumption of saturated fats and an increased risk of heart attacks. </p> <p>Foods that are high or low in saturated fat can have a positive, negative, or neutral effect on your body – it all depends on the type of food. A diet that is low in carbohydrates is more effective at raising the levels of “good” cholesterol in your system.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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Iconic Star Trek actor dies suddenly at age 73

<p dir="ltr">Iconic <em>Star Trek: Enterprise</em> actor Gary Graham has passed away suddenly at the age of 73. </p> <p dir="ltr">The actor’s ex-wife Susan Lavelle confirmed the news in an emotional facebook post, sharing their family’s devastation over his death. </p> <p dir="ltr">The family chose not to disclose his cause of death, only writing that his passing was “sudden” and came as a “shock”. </p> <p dir="ltr">“It is with deep profound sadness to say that Gary Graham, my ex-husband, amazing actor and father of our beautiful only child together, Haylee Graham, has passed away today,” Lavelle wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We are completely devastated, especially our daughter Haley. His wife, Becky, was by his side.”</p> <p dir="ltr">She went on to share some of her favourite things about her ex-husband, writing that he was “Funny, sarcastic sense of humour but kind, fought for what he believed in, a devout Christian and was so proud of his daughter, Haylee.”</p> <p><iframe style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fsusanashleylavelle%2Fposts%2Fpfbid0XTf8xMGFeD96Ehnk6a8X7RcKQYDxdHvvm3S82J24FX3eaNwtVo3Uax6H4SvQW3YKl&amp;show_text=true&amp;width=500" width="500" height="777" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p dir="ltr">“This was sudden, so please pray for our daughter as she navigates through this thing called grief,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Fly high into the heavens Gar!”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Thank you for our journey and thank you for the gifts you left me in acting, my love of horses and most importantly, our daughter.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Gary shot to fame in Hollywood for his role in the ‘80s series <em>Alien Nation</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">He stayed in the world of sci-fi as he played Vulcan Ambassador Soval on <em>Star Trek: Enterprise</em> between 2001 and 2005.</p> <p dir="ltr">Gary also starred in TV series such as <em>Starsky and Hutch</em> and <em>The Dukes of Hazzard</em>, before acting alongside Tom Cruise in the film <em>All the Right Moves</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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UK PM causes outrage over transgender comments

<p dir="ltr">Rishi Sunak has sparked outrage after making very controversial comments about transgender people at his first party conference as leader.</p> <p dir="ltr">The UK Prime Minister, who is campaigning to get people to support his Conservative party ahead of next year’s general election, declared that “we shouldn’t get bullied into believing that people can be any sex they want to be”.</p> <p dir="ltr">At the party’s annual conference, Mr Sunak spoke for more than an hour as he promised that the Tories would break the mould of the last 30 years of government.</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite being in power for 13 years, the Conservative party is on the road to defeat the next election, after increasing dissatisfaction among voters. </p> <p dir="ltr">“We will be bold, we will be radical. We will face resistance and we will meet it,” he told delegates at the conference.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many have seen his comments about transgender people as the most bold and radical parts of his speech.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It shouldn’t be controversial for parents to know what their children are being taught in school about relationships,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Patients should know when hospitals are talking about men or women. We shouldn’t get bullied.”</p> <p dir="ltr">His delegates applauded his controversial statements, to which Sunak continued, “We shouldn’t get bullied into believing that people can be any sex they want to be. They can’t.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“A man is a man and a woman is a woman, that’s just common sense.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Sunak’s comments quickly went viral online, with many people expressing their concern over such a prominent figure making such divisive comments. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Outrageous hate, which is going to encourage bullying and physical attacks by thugs, utterly vile,” transgender British newsreader India Willoughby wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If a single trans person gets attacked or murdered after today then Rishi Sunak should be arrested and charged,” added another.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Never had so many DMs from worried UK trans people and their families,” wrote a third.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The important thing following Rishi Sunak’s hate speech: IT IS NOT LAW. Nothing has changed. Trans are still legally recognised and protected. Yes it’s scary – but they do not have time to change rules/law.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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World mourns the passing of one of the true greats of cinema

<p>Renowned British-Irish actor, Sir Michael Gambon, celebrated worldwide for his iconic portrayal of Albus Dumbledore in the beloved Harry Potter film series, has passed away at the age of 82.</p> <p>In an official statement relayed by his publicist, it was confirmed that he succumbed to pneumonia, leaving his family and fans heartbroken. The statement issued by his family reads, "We are devastated to announce the loss of Sir Michael Gambon. Beloved husband and father, Michael died peacefully in the hospital with his wife Anne and son Fergus by his side."</p> <p>Michael Gambon's acting journey spanned more than half a century, with one of his most significant milestones being his assumption of the role of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series, succeeding the late Richard Harris in 2004. In characteristic humility, Gambon downplayed his performance, often remarking that he merely portrayed himself "with a stuck-on beard and a long robe".</p> <p>The Harry Potter franchise expressed its grief, stating, "He brought immeasurable joy to Harry Potter fans from all over the world with his humour, kindness, and grace. We will forever hold his memory in our hearts."</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">We are incredibly saddened to hear of the passing of Sir Michael Gambon. He brought immeasurable joy to Harry Potter fans from all over the world with his humour, kindness and grace. We will forever hold his memory in our hearts. <a href="https://t.co/1CoTF3zeTo">pic.twitter.com/1CoTF3zeTo</a></p> <p>— Harry Potter (@harrypotter) <a href="https://twitter.com/harrypotter/status/1707371391866028071?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 28, 2023</a></p></blockquote> <p>James Phelps, known for his portrayal of Fred Weasley in the series, shared a touching anecdote on Instagram, recounting how Gambon generously helped him rehearse a script during the filming of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince". Phelps hailed Gambon as both a legend on and off the camera, describing him as funny and always willing to share his knowledge.</p> <p>Gambon embarked on his acting career in the early 1960s, initially treading the boards of the stage before transitioning to television and film. His filmography boasted remarkable performances, such as his portrayal of a psychotic mob leader in Peter Greenaway's <em>The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover</em> in 1989 and his portrayal of the elderly King George V in Tom Hooper's <em>The King's Speech</em> in 2010.</p> <p>Despite an early start in engineering apprenticeship, Gambon's passion for acting remained unwavering. He recounted to <em>The Herald</em> newspaper in 2004 that he always knew he would become an actor. His breakthrough came in 1962 when he auditioned for the legendary Laurence Olivier, who subsequently appointed him as one of the founding members of the National Theatre at the Old Vic, alongside emerging talents like Derek Jacobi and Maggie Smith.</p> <p>Gambon's reputation soared on the stage, with his portrayal of Galileo in John Dexter's <em>Life of Galileo</em> in 1980 being a standout moment. In the 1980s, his lead role in the TV series <em>The Singing Detective</em> garnered widespread acclaim, earning him one of his four BAFTA Awards. Additionally, he clinched three Olivier Awards and two Screen Actors Guild Awards for ensemble cast performances in <em>Gosford Park</em> (2001) and <em>The King's Speech</em>.</p> <p>Acknowledged for his contributions to drama, Gambon was honoured as a Commander of the British Empire in 1992 and subsequently knighted in 1998. Despite these prestigious titles, he often displayed a mischievous side, weaving tales such as showing fellow actors a forged signed photograph of Robert De Niro, among other playful antics.</p> <p>In 2015, Gambon retired from the stage due to long-term memory issues, yet he continued to grace the screen with his talent until 2019. In a 2002 interview, he expressed that his work made him feel "the luckiest man in the world".</p> <p><em>Images: Getty / Instagram</em></p>

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Nelson Mandela's granddaughter dies at just 43

<p>Zoleka Mandela, the granddaughter of Nelson Mandela, has died of cancer at the age of 43. She passed away on the evening of Monday, September 25th, surrounded by friends and family.</p> <p>Mandela had been battling cancer for several years. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32, but went into remission. However, the cancer returned last year and had metastasised to her liver and lungs.</p> <p>Despite her illness, Mandela remained active in her community and continued to advocate for cancer prevention and awareness. She was also a vocal advocate for road safety after her 13-year-old daughter, Zenani, was killed in a car crash in 2010.</p> <p>In an interview with Kaya FM in April, Mandela said: "I'm learning to be okay with my eventuality."</p> <p>“The Nelson Mandela Foundation extends its heartfelt condolences to the Mandela family on the passing of Zoleka Mandela, tragically last night,” the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement. “We mourn the loss of a beloved grandchild of Mum Winnie and Madiba and a friend of the Foundation.”</p> <p>Zoleka's frank disclosures about her illness and her strength in the face of adversity earned her a devoted following on social media.</p> <p>"Utterly tragic loss of a human being in her grandfather's footsteps. A decent, honest human being in a dishonest, hypocritical world," one person on X, formerly Twitter, said.</p> <p>"You were one of the bravest people I know and you inspired many people on your life's journey of hope," another person wrote on Instagram below the Mandela family's announcement.</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/Cxo-ZxXNgXL/?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/Cxo-ZxXNgXL/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Zoleka Zobuhle Mandela (@zolekamandela)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Mandela was only 10 years old when her grandfather was released from prison in 1990 after 27 years in detention. She had only ever known him as an incarcerated man, so when he was released she was just excited he was coming home.</p> <p>Mr Mandela died in 2013 at the age of 95.</p> <p>Zoleka Mandela will be remembered as a courageous advocate for cancer prevention and awareness, as well as a loving mother and grandmother. She is survived by her husband, Thierry Murekatete, and their two children.</p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p>

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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 &amp; 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>

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The art of ‘getting lost’: how re-discovering your city can be an antidote to capitalism

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/stephen-dobson-1093706">Stephen Dobson</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/cquniversity-australia-2140">CQUniversity Australia</a></em></p> <p>Do you remember what it was like to discover the magic of a city for the first time? Do you remember the noises, smells, flashing lights and pulsating crowds? Or do you mostly remember cities through the screen of your phone?</p> <p>In 1967, French philosopher and filmmaker Guy Debord <a href="https://files.libcom.org/files/The%20Society%20of%20the%20Spectacle%20Annotated%20Edition.pdf">publicised the need</a> to move away from living our lives as bystanders continually tempted by the power of images. Today, we might see this in a young person flicking from one TikTok to the next – echoing the hold images have on us. But adults aren’t adverse to this window-shopping experience, either.</p> <p>Debord notes we have a tendency to observe rather than engage. And this is to our detriment. Continually topping-up our image consumption leaves no space for the unplanned – the reveries to break the pattern of an ordered life.</p> <p>Debord was a member of a group called the <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/Situationist-International">Situationist International</a>, dedicated to new ways we could reflect upon and experience our cities. Active for about 15 years, they believed we should experience our cities as an act of resistance, in direct opposition to the (profit-motivated) capitalistic structures that demand our attention and productivity every waking hour.</p> <p>More than 50 years since the group dissolved, the Situationists’ philosophy points us to a continued need to attune ourselves – through our thoughts and senses – to the world we live in. We might consider them as early eco-warriors. And through better understanding their philosophy, we can develop a new relationship with our cities today.</p> <h2>Understanding the ‘situation’</h2> <p>The Situationist International movement was <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt183p61x">formed</a> in 1957 in Cosio di Arroscia, Italy, and became active in several European countries. It brought together radical artists inspired by spontaneity, experimentalism, intellectualism, protest and hedonism. Central figures included Danish artist <a href="https://museumjorn.dk/en/">Asger Jorn</a>, French novelist <a href="https://mitpress.mit.edu/author/michele-bernstein-10219/">Michèle Bernstein</a> and Italian musician and composer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Olmo">Walter Olmo</a>.</p> <p>The Situationists were driven by a <a href="https://encyclopedia.pub/entry/34141">libertarian form of Marxism</a> that resisted mass consumerism. One of the group’s early terms was “unitary urbanism”, which sought to join avant-garde art with the critique of mass production and technology. They rejected “urbanism’s” conventional emphasis on function, and instead thought about art and the environment as inexorably interrelated.</p> <p>By rebelling against the invasiveness of consumption, the Situationists proposed a turn towards artistically-inspired individuality and creativity.</p> <h2>Think on your own two feet</h2> <p>According to the 1960 <a href="https://hts3.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/situationist-international-manifesto.pdf">Situationist Manifesto</a> we are all to be artists of our own “situations”, crafting independent identities as we stand on our own two feet. They believed this could be achieved, in part, through “<a href="https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/p/psychogeography#:%7E:text=Psychogeography%20describes%20the%20effect%20of,emotions%20and%20behaviour%20of%20individuals">psychogeography</a>”: the idea that geographical locations exert a unique psychological effect on us.</p> <p>For instance, when you walk down a street, the architecture around you may be deliberately designed to encourage a certain kind of experience. Crossing a vibrant city square on a sunny morning evokes joy and a feeling of connection with others. There’s also usually a public event taking place.</p> <p>The Situationists valued drift, or <em>dérive</em> in French. This alludes to unplanned movement through a landscape during journeys on foot. By drifting aimlessly, we unintentionally redefine the traditional rules imposed by private or public land owners and property developers. We make ourselves open to the new unexpected and, in doing so, are liberated from the shackles of everyday routine.</p> <p>In <a href="https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-981-10-8100-2">our research</a>, my colleagues and I consider cities as places in which “getting lost” means exposing yourself to discovering the new and taken-for-granted.</p> <h2>Forge your own path</h2> <p>By understanding the Situationists – by looking away from our phones and allowing ourselves to get lost – we can rediscover our cities. We can see them for what they are beneath the blankets of posters, billboards and advertisements. How might we take back the image and make it work for us?</p> <p>The practise of geo-tagging images on social media, and sharing our location with others, could be considered close to the spirit of the Situationists. Although it’s often met with claims of <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/when-why-not-to-use-geotagging-overtourism-security">over-fuelling tourism</a> (especially regarding idyllic or otherwise protected sites), geo-tagging could <a href="https://www.melaninbasecamp.com/trip-reports/2019/5/1/five-reasons-why-you-should-keep-geotagging">inspire us</a> to actively seek out new places through visiting the source of an image.</p> <p>This could lead to culturally respectful engagement, and new-found respect for the rights of traditional custodians as we experience their lands in real life, rather than just through images on our phones.</p> <p>Then there are uniquely personal and anarchistic forms of resistance, wherein we can learn about the world around us by interweaving ourselves with our histories. In doing so we offer a new meaning to a historical message, and a new purpose. The Situationists called this process <em><a href="https://www.theartstory.org/movement/situationist-international/">détournement</a></em>, or hijacking.</p> <p>For instance, from my grandfather I inherited a biscuit tin of black and white photographs I believe were taken in the 1960s. They showed images of parks and wildlife, perhaps even of the same park, and cityscapes of London with people, streets and buildings.</p> <p>I have spent many hours wandering the London streets tracking down the exact places these images were snapped. I was juxtaposing past with present, and experiencing both continuity and change in the dialogues I had with my grandfather. In this way, I used images to augment (rather than replace) my lived experience of the material world.</p> <p>Urban art installations can also be examples of detournment as they make us re-think everyday conceptions. <a href="https://www.cityartsydney.com.au/artwork/forgotten-songs/">Forgotten Songs</a> by Michael Hill is one such example. A canopy of empty birdcages commemorates the songs of 50 different birds once heard in central Sydney, but which are now lost due to habitat removal as a result of urban development.</p> <p>There are also a number of groups, often with a strong environmental or civic rights focus, that partake in detournment. <a href="https://popularresistance.org/dancing-revolution-how-90s-protests-used-rave-culture-to-reclaim-the-streets/">Reclaim the Streets</a> is a movement with a long history in Australia. The group advocates for communities having ownership of and agency within public spaces. They may, for instance, “invade” a highway to throw a “<a href="https://pasttenseblog.files.wordpress.com/2022/02/road-rave.pdf">road rave</a>” as an act of reclamation.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bUL0C_T-Sqk?wmode=transparent&amp;start=999" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>As French avant-garde philosopher <a href="https://www.themarginalian.org/2014/07/24/the-poetics-of-reverie-gaston-bachelard/">Gaston Bachelard</a> might have put it, when we’re bombarded by images there is no space left to daydream. We lose the opportunity to explore and question the world capitalism serves us through images.</p> <p>Perhaps now is a good time to set down the phone and follow in the Situationists’ footsteps. <!-- 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/221606/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/stephen-dobson-1093706"><em>Stephen Dobson</em></a><em>, Professor and Dean of Education and the Arts, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/cquniversity-australia-2140">CQUniversity 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/the-art-of-getting-lost-how-re-discovering-your-city-can-be-an-antidote-to-capitalism-221606">original article</a>.</em></p>

Travel Tips

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The cheapest places to travel in 2024

<p dir="ltr">With the cost of living continuing to rise, many people are looking for cost-friendly ways to travel the world in 2024. </p> <p dir="ltr">Some destinations are more economic than others, with these somewhat overlooked holiday hotspots showcasing the best of travelling without breaking the bank.</p> <p dir="ltr">If you’re looking for a new adventure this year, these corners of the globe are the cheapest places to travel in 2024.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>The Philippines</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The underrated gem located only a few hours northeast of Australia is one of the cheapest destinations in Asia, it's a wonder why more tourists don’t visit. </p> <p dir="ltr">Not only is it home to over 7,500 picturesque islands, six UNESCO World Heritage Sites and an endless chain of pristine beaches, it's also very affordable with resort accommodation under $100 a night is not hard to find.</p> <p dir="ltr">On top of accommodation, day tours and activities (snorkelling, for example) will set you back around $30 to $40.</p> <p dir="ltr">Flights are also reasonable in cost, with return flights from Sydney to Manila coming in around $600 per person. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Turkey</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Travellers can get to Istanbul from Melbourne and back for approximately $1,300 per person, to visit some of the world’s most historical sites. </p> <p dir="ltr">Turkey is a paradise for those travelling on a budget, with mouthwatering meals can be found regularly for as little as $5, and even less for street food.</p> <p dir="ltr">To make it even better, striking accommodation in the historic Galata region can be as low as $50 a night. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Hungary</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Hungary is regularly dubbed one of Europe’s cheapest tourist destinations, with  accommodation, dining and entertainment costs significantly lower than the neighbouring countries.</p> <p dir="ltr">Expect to part with $60 to $100 a night for a pretty-as-a-picture hotel in the city centre, around $10 to $15 for meals in restaurants, and anywhere between $7 to $30 for activities. </p> <p dir="ltr">There are also tourist passes available that make these costs even cheaper. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Albania</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Located on the western part of the Balkan peninsula, this destination is often overlooked by tourists, making it an ideal budget-friendly destination. </p> <p dir="ltr">The stunning country is home to UNESCO World Heritage sites and turquoise beaches, all while keeping your budget in mind. </p> <p dir="ltr">Beachside accommodation can be found for as little as $70 a night, with prices comparable to Turkey for restaurant meals. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

International Travel

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Backlash after airline starts weighing passengers

<p>Finnair has announced that they will start weighing passengers and their luggage, as part of their latest data collection. </p> <p>The flagship airline for Finland has copped some backlash following this move, which they claim is designed to improve balance calculations which will enhance flight safety, according to the<em> NY Post</em>. </p> <p>“Finnair will collect data by weighing volunteering customers and their carry-on baggage at the departure gate,” according to a statement from the company. </p> <p>“The weighing is voluntary and anonymous, and the data will only be used to optimise Finnair’s current aircraft balance calculations.”</p> <p>The airline said that weighing passengers would help ensure that they wouldn't exceed the set maximum weight that a plane can bear before take off. </p> <p>“We use the weighing data for the average calculations required for the safe operation of flights, and the collected data is not linked in any way to the customer’s personal data,” head of Finnair’s ground processes, Satu Munnukka said. </p> <p>Munnukka also said that the airline won't ask for the passengers name or booking number. </p> <p>Many were left shocked by the move taking to X, formerly known as Twitter, to voice their fury. </p> <p>“#Finair are to start weighing their passengers? Have I read that correctly? I am utterly shocked! And disgusted,” wrote one person. </p> <p>“I will not be travelling via @Finair as I won’t be #fatshamed by a bloody airline. Am I alone? (ie I never weight myself: my choice)" another person tweeted. </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">What do you make of this one then?</p> <p>An airline has announced it will begin weighing passengers with their carry-on luggage in order to better estimate the plane's weight before take-off.</p> <p>The controversial move comes from Finnish carrier Finnair, who told media they began… <a href="https://t.co/EqEyTQXROG">pic.twitter.com/EqEyTQXROG</a></p> <p>— Darren Grimes (@darrengrimes_) <a href="https://twitter.com/darrengrimes_/status/1755276929853231333?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 7, 2024</a></p></blockquote> <p>This comes after Air New Zealand announced that they too will weigh passengers travelling internationally in May last year. </p> <p>“We weigh everything that goes on the aircraft – from the cargo to the meals on-board, to the luggage in the hold,” Alastair James, Air New Zealand load control improvement specialist, said at the time. </p> <p>“For customers, crew and cabin bags, we use average weights, which we get from doing this survey.”</p> <p>Finnair joins Korean Air, Hawaiian Air, Uzbekistan Airways and Air New Zealand in the group of airlines that are weighing their customers. </p> <p><em>Image: Getty/ X</em></p> <p> </p>

Travel Trouble

Health

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How people get sucked into misinformation rabbit holes – and how to get them out

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-booth-715018">Emily Booth</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/marian-andrei-rizoiu-850922">Marian-Andrei Rizoiu</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p>As misinformation and radicalisation rise, it’s tempting to look for something to blame: the internet, social media personalities, sensationalised political campaigns, religion, or conspiracy theories. And once we’ve settled on a cause, solutions usually follow: do more fact-checking, regulate advertising, ban YouTubers deemed to have “gone too far”.</p> <p>However, if these strategies were the whole answer, we should already be seeing a decrease in people being drawn into fringe communities and beliefs, and less misinformation in the online environment. We’re not.</p> <p>In new research <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/14407833241231756">published in the Journal of Sociology</a>, we and our colleagues found radicalisation is a process of increasingly intense stages, and only a small number of people progress to the point where they commit violent acts.</p> <p>Our work shows the misinformation radicalisation process is a pathway driven by human emotions rather than the information itself – and this understanding may be a first step in finding solutions.</p> <h2>A feeling of control</h2> <p>We analysed dozens of public statements from newspapers and online in which former radicalised people described their experiences. We identified different levels of intensity in misinformation and its online communities, associated with common recurring behaviours.</p> <p>In the early stages, we found people either encountered misinformation about an anxiety-inducing topic through algorithms or friends, or they went looking for an explanation for something that gave them a “bad feeling”.</p> <p>Regardless, they often reported finding the same things: a new sense of certainty, a new community they could talk to, and feeling they had regained some control of their lives.</p> <p>Once people reached the middle stages of our proposed radicalisation pathway, we considered them to be invested in the new community, its goals, and its values.</p> <h2>Growing intensity</h2> <p>It was during these more intense stages that people began to report more negative impacts on their own lives. This could include the loss of friends and family, health issues caused by too much time spent on screens and too little sleep, and feelings of stress and paranoia. To soothe these pains, they turned again to their fringe communities for support.</p> <p>Most people in our dataset didn’t progress past these middle stages. However, their continued activity in these spaces kept the misinformation ecosystem alive.</p> <p>When people did move further and reach the extreme final stages in our model, they were doing active harm.</p> <p>In their recounting of their experiences at these high levels of intensity, individuals spoke of choosing to break ties with loved ones, participating in public acts of disruption and, in some cases, engaging in violence against other people in the name of their cause.</p> <p>Once people reached this stage, it took pretty strong interventions to get them out of it. The challenge, then, is how to intervene safely and effectively when people are in the earlier stages of being drawn into a fringe community.</p> <h2>Respond with empathy, not shame</h2> <p>We have a few suggestions. For people who are still in the earlier stages, friends and trusted advisers, like a doctor or a nurse, can have a big impact by simply responding with empathy.</p> <p>If a loved one starts voicing possible fringe views, like a fear of vaccines, or animosity against women or other marginalised groups, a calm response that seeks to understand the person’s underlying concern can go a long way.</p> <p>The worst response is one that might leave them feeling ashamed or upset. It may drive them back to their fringe community and accelerate their radicalisation.</p> <p>Even if the person’s views intensify, maintaining your connection with them can turn you into a lifeline that will see them get out sooner rather than later.</p> <p>Once people reached the middle stages, we found third-party online content – not produced by government, but regular users – could reach people without backfiring. Considering that many people in our research sample had their radicalisation instigated by social media, we also suggest the private companies behind such platforms should be held responsible for the effects of their automated tools on society.</p> <p>By the middle stages, arguments on the basis of logic or fact are ineffective. It doesn’t matter whether they are delivered by a friend, a news anchor, or a platform-affiliated fact-checking tool.</p> <p>At the most extreme final stages, we found that only heavy-handed interventions worked, such as family members forcibly hospitalising their radicalised relative, or individuals undergoing government-supported deradicalisation programs.</p> <h2>How not to be radicalised</h2> <p>After all this, you might be wondering: how do you protect <em>yourself</em> from being radicalised?</p> <p>As much of society becomes more dependent on digital technologies, we’re going to get exposed to even more misinformation, and our world is likely going to get smaller through online echo chambers.</p> <p>One strategy is to foster your critical thinking skills by <a href="https://www.cell.com/trends/cognitive-sciences/abstract/S1364-6613(23)00198-5">reading long-form texts from paper books</a>.</p> <p>Another is to protect yourself from the emotional manipulation of platform algorithms by <a href="https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751">limiting your social media use</a> to small, infrequent, purposefully-directed pockets of time.</p> <p>And a third is to sustain connections with other humans, and lead a more analogue life – which has other benefits as well.</p> <p>So in short: log off, read a book, and spend time with people you care about. <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/223717/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-booth-715018">Emily Booth</a>, Research assistant, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/marian-andrei-rizoiu-850922">Marian-Andrei Rizoiu</a>, Associate Professor in Behavioral Data Science, <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/how-people-get-sucked-into-misinformation-rabbit-holes-and-how-to-get-them-out-223717">original article</a>.</em></p>

Mind

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Popular TV host diagnosed with same condition as Bruce Willis

<p>Popular American TV host Wendy Williams has shared her diagnosis after being plagued by "hurtful rumours". </p> <p>The 59-year-old's medical team announced in a lengthy statement that she has been diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia: the same conditions actor Bruce Willis is battling.</p> <p>The news comes after Williams' family confirmed she had checked in to a facility to treat cognitive issues.</p> <p>“Questions have been raised at times about Wendy’s ability to process information and many have speculated about Wendy’s condition, particularly when she began to lose words, act erratically at times, and have difficulty understanding financial transactions,” her medical team said.</p> <p>They said Williams' symptoms first began in 2023, and was diagnosed with the neurological conditions just weeks later after undergoing a series of tests. </p> <p>Her team said both conditions have “already presented significant hurdles in Wendy’s life”.</p> <p>“Wendy would not have received confirmation of these diagnoses were it not for the diligence of her current care team, who she chose, and the extraordinary work of the specialists at Weill Cornell Medicine,” they said.</p> <p>“Receiving a diagnosis has enabled Wendy to receive the medical care she requires.”</p> <p>Williams chose to share the news to “advocate for understanding” and to “raise awareness” for the difficult conditions. </p> <p>“Unfortunately, many individuals diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia face stigma and misunderstanding, particularly when they begin to exhibit behavioural changes but have not yet received a diagnosis,” her team said.</p> <p>“There is hope that with early detection and far more empathy, the stigma associated with dementia will be eliminated, and those affected will receive the understanding, support, and care they deserve and need."</p> <p>“Wendy is still able to do many things for herself. Most importantly she maintains her trademark sense of humour and is receiving the care she requires to make sure she is protected and that her needs are addressed."</p> <p>“She is appreciative of the many kind thoughts and good wishes being sent her way.”</p> <p>The TV presenter has previously been open with her medical battle with Graves’ disease and lymphedema, as well as other significant challenges related to her health.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Caring

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"What a life I’ve had": Author announces own death after years of battling dementia

<p>Wendy Mitchell has died aged 68 after documenting her brave battle with dementia. </p> <p>The author from Walkington, East Yorkshire, became the best-selling writer after she was diagnosed with early onset vascular dementia and Alzheimer's in July 2014. </p> <p>She shared her philosophical outlook on living with the condition in her acclaimed 2018 memoir <em>Somebody I Used To Know </em>and in her 2022 book <em>What I Wish I Knew About Dementia</em>.</p> <p>In an <a href="https://whichmeamitoday.wordpress.com/2024/02/22/my-final-hug-in-a-mug/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">open letter</a> shared online, the author announced her death and revealed that she had refused to eat or drink towards the end of her battle. </p> <p>"If you’re reading this, it means this has probably been posted by my daughters as I’ve sadly died," she began. </p> <p>"Sorry to break the news to you this way, but if I hadn’t, my inbox would eventually have been full of emails asking if I’m OK, which would have been hard for my daughters to answer… </p> <p>"In the end I died simply by deciding not to eat or drink any more," she wrote. </p> <p>She added that the last cup of tea she had, her "final hug in a mug" was "the hardest thing to let go of". </p> <p>"Dementia is a cruel disease that plays tricks on your very existence. I’ve always been a glass half full person, trying to turn the negatives of life around and creating positives, because that’s how I cope." </p> <p>Mitchell said that the language used by doctors can "make or break" how someone copes with dementia, and instead of saying there's "nothing they can do" it is better to tell them they will have to "adapt to a new way of living". </p> <p>"Well I suppose dementia was the ultimate challenge. Yes, dementia is a bummer, but oh what a life I’ve had playing games with this adversary of mine to try and stay one step ahead," she wrote in her final blog post. </p> <p>She also said that she had always been resilient, which has helped her cope with whatever life throws in her way. </p> <p>Mitchell has been an advocate for assisted dying in the UK, and said that "the only legal choice we shouldn’t have in life is when to be born; for everything else, we, as humans, should have a choice; a choice of how we live and a choice of how we die." </p> <p>She added that the way she died was an active choice as she doesn't want "to be an inpatient in a hospital, or a resident in a Care Home," as "it’s just not the place I want to end my years."</p> <p>"My girls have always been the two most important people in my life. I didn’t take this decision lightly, without countless conversations. They were the hardest conversations I’ve ever had to put them through. </p> <p>"This was all MY CHOICE, my decision. So please respect my daughters' privacy, as they didn’t choose the life I chose, of standing up to and speaking out against dementia." </p> <p>She then thanked everyone for their support and left with a touching final message. </p> <p>"So, enjoy this knowing that dementia didn’t play the winning card – I did."</p> <p><em>Images: Daily Mail</em></p> <p> </p>

Caring

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How long does back pain last? And how can learning about pain increase the chance of recovery?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sarah-wallwork-1361569">Sarah Wallwork</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lorimer-moseley-1552">Lorimer Moseley</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p>Back pain is common. One in thirteen people have it right now and worldwide a staggering 619 million people will <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7186678/">have it this year</a>.</p> <p>Chronic pain, of which back pain is the most common, is the world’s <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7186678/">most disabling</a> health problem. Its economic impact <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92510/">dwarfs other health conditions</a>.</p> <p>If you get back pain, how long will it take to go away? We scoured the scientific literature to <a href="https://www.cmaj.ca/content/cmaj/196/2/E29.full.pdf">find out</a>. We found data on almost 20,000 people, from 95 different studies and split them into three groups:</p> <ul> <li>acute – those with back pain that started less than six weeks ago</li> <li>subacute – where it started between six and 12 weeks ago</li> <li>chronic – where it started between three months and one year ago.</li> </ul> <p>We found 70%–95% of people with acute back pain were likely to recover within six months. This dropped to 40%–70% for subacute back pain and to 12%–16% for chronic back pain.</p> <p>Clinical guidelines point to graded return to activity and pain education under the guidance of a health professional as the best ways to promote recovery. Yet these effective interventions are underfunded and hard to access.</p> <h2>More pain doesn’t mean a more serious injury</h2> <p>Most acute back pain episodes are <a href="https://www.racgp.org.au/getattachment/75af0cfd-6182-4328-ad23-04ad8618920f/attachment.aspx">not caused</a> by serious injury or disease.</p> <p>There are rare exceptions, which is why it’s wise to see your doctor or physio, who can check for signs and symptoms that warrant further investigation. But unless you have been in a significant accident or sustained a large blow, you are unlikely to have caused much damage to your spine.</p> <p>Even very minor back injuries can be brutally painful. This is, in part, because of how we are made. If you think of your spinal cord as a very precious asset (which it is), worthy of great protection (which it is), a bit like the crown jewels, then what would be the best way to keep it safe? Lots of protection and a highly sensitive alarm system.</p> <p>The spinal cord is protected by strong bones, thick ligaments, powerful muscles and a highly effective alarm system (your nervous system). This alarm system can trigger pain that is so unpleasant that you cannot possibly think of, let alone do, anything other than seek care or avoid movement.</p> <p>The messy truth is that when pain persists, the pain system becomes more sensitive, so a widening array of things contribute to pain. This pain system hypersensitivity is a result of neuroplasticity – your nervous system is becoming better at making pain.</p> <h2>Reduce your chance of lasting pain</h2> <p>Whether or not your pain resolves is not determined by the extent of injury to your back. We don’t know all the factors involved, but we do know there are things that you can do to reduce chronic back pain:</p> <ul> <li> <p>understand how pain really works. This will involve intentionally learning about modern pain science and care. It will be difficult but rewarding. It will help you work out what you can do to change your pain</p> </li> <li> <p>reduce your pain system sensitivity. With guidance, patience and persistence, you can learn how to gradually retrain your pain system back towards normal.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>How to reduce your pain sensitivity and learn about pain</h2> <p>Learning about “how pain works” provides the most sustainable <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/376/bmj-2021-067718">improvements in chronic back pain</a>. Programs that combine pain education with graded brain and body exercises (gradual increases in movement) can reduce pain system sensitivity and help you return to the life you want.</p> <p>These programs have been in development for years, but high-quality clinical trials <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2794765">are now emerging</a> and it’s good news: they show most people with chronic back pain improve and many completely recover.</p> <p>But most clinicians aren’t equipped to deliver these effective programs – <a href="https://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(23)00618-1/fulltext">good pain education</a> is not taught in most medical and health training degrees. Many patients still receive ineffective and often risky and expensive treatments, or keep seeking temporary pain relief, hoping for a cure.</p> <p>When health professionals don’t have adequate pain education training, they can deliver bad pain education, which leaves patients feeling like they’ve just <a href="https://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(23)00618-1/fulltext">been told it’s all in their head</a>.</p> <p>Community-driven not-for-profit organisations such as <a href="https://www.painrevolution.org/">Pain Revolution</a> are training health professionals to be good pain educators and raising awareness among the general public about the modern science of pain and the best treatments. Pain Revolution has partnered with dozens of health services and community agencies to train more than <a href="https://www.painrevolution.org/find-a-lpe">80 local pain educators</a> and supported them to bring greater understanding and improved care to their colleagues and community.</p> <p>But a broader system-wide approach, with government, industry and philanthropic support, is needed to expand these programs and fund good pain education. To solve the massive problem of chronic back pain, effective interventions need to be part of standard care, not as a last resort after years of increasing pain, suffering and disability.<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/222513/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sarah-wallwork-1361569">Sarah Wallwork</a>, Post-doctoral Researcher, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lorimer-moseley-1552">Lorimer Moseley</a>, Professor of Clinical Neurosciences and Foundation Chair in Physiotherapy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-long-does-back-pain-last-and-how-can-learning-about-pain-increase-the-chance-of-recovery-222513">original article</a>.</em></p>

Body

Lifestyle

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Read this before choosing a retirement village

<p>Making the move from your own home into a retirement village is a huge decision. And with more than 2,000 villages around the country there’s a world of choice. These are some of the things you need to know before you make the move.</p> <p><strong>Get your priorities straight</strong></p> <p>Think about the kind of village you can see yourself living in. Make a list of features that you absolutely must have and a list of those that are desirable but not essential. Don’t be tempted to compromise on the first list because you could end up very unhappy in the long run.</p> <p>Do your research and find a village that meets your requirements. Don’t rush into somewhere that you aren’t completely sure about.</p> <p><strong>Money, money, money</strong></p> <p>Retirement villages aren’t cheap so you’ll need to be realistic about what it’s going to cost and how much you have to spend. It’s a good idea to see a professional financial adviser to get a complete picture of your financial situation, including things like selling your current home, super and any shares you own.</p> <p>You will have to sign a contract with the village before you move in, so get your financial adviser or a lawyer to go over it with you and make sure you understand all your obligations.</p> <p><strong>Location is key</strong></p> <p>As with any move, you need to think carefully about location. If the village is a long way from your current residence it can drastically alter your social life and connections with friends and family.</p> <p>You also need to think about proximity to public transport, shops, health services and community activities.</p> <p><strong>Choose your style</strong></p> <p>Retirement villages range from self-contained independent living to serviced accommodation and residential aged care. They also vary greatly in size from just a handful of units to villages with hundreds of residents. Larger villages tend to have more facilities, so if you’re an active person who loves to swim or play tennis then this could be the choice for you.</p> <p>However, extra facilities come with extra costs so if these aren’t important to you then you could find a cheaper option. You’ll also want to find out about communal dining options and social activities or groups within the village.</p> <p><strong>Get the help you need</strong></p> <p>As with accommodation styles, there is a wide range in the levels of assistance available. This can be as basic as having a cleaner come once a week right up to full nursing care. Some villages have the option to raise your level of care as you age or become unwell, which can be a better option than moving into a new village.</p> <p><strong>Stick to the rules</strong></p> <p>Can visitors stay the night? Can I have a pet? Is there a system for resolving disputes? You’ll want to be familiar with the rules and regulations of the village so read the fine print in your contract or ask questions before you commit.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Retirement Life

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The one thing you must do before retirement

<p>When you think about planning for retirement, the standard advice is to take a thorough look at your superannuation and finances. Although money is undoubtedly an important aspect of retirement planning, making a plan for your emotion and physical wellbeing is just as crucial.</p> <p>New research from the UK has found that retirement can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health. The study, published by the Institute of Economic Affairs, looked at the impact of retirement on 7,000 people aged 50 to 70, and found that while retirement gives most people a small health booth, over the medium to long-term it causes a “drastic decline in health”. </p> <p>For both men and women, retirement decreases the likelihood of "very good” or "excellent" self-reported health by 40 per cent, increases risk for depression by 40 per cent, and diagnosis of a physical illness by 60 per cent. The study’s lead author, Gabriel Sahlgren, noted: "Work, especially paid work, gives many people a sense of purpose. Losing that may lead to declines in health."</p> <p>The lesson: Make a plan for your emotional and physical health.</p> <p>“Don't wait until you retire to decide how you're going to keep busy,” Dave Bernard, retirement blogger and author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, told Prevention, adding, “And you need to look well beyond the first six months.”</p> <p>Just as it’s necessary to make sure your finances are in order before retirement, it’s crucial to ask yourself: What will my new sense of purpose in retirement be?</p> <p>“Many times, adults might not think about what it actually means to be retired, or they think about retirement in abstract terms,” says Angela Curl, an assistant professor in the University of Missouri School of Social Work.</p> <p>She says you need to make concrete plans for retirement. “If you want to volunteer when you are retired, ask yourself where and how often. Having specific plans and steps to follow will help you enter retirement more easily,” says Curl.</p> <p>Creating a plan of how you’ll spend your time when you retire will keep you mentally and physically strong, ensuring that you’ll be healthy enough to enjoy your well-deserved retirement.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Retirement Life

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Pink's sweet surprise for young fan's birthday

<p>Pink has continued to spread the love during her Australian tour. </p> <p>The <em>So What </em>singer surprised a young fan backstage at her Melbourne show Thursday night, with the sweet moment captured on camera. </p> <p>11-year-old Molly received an unforgettable gift as Pink personally sang <em>Happy Birthday</em> to her and gave her a birthday cake. </p> <p>Chris Hemsworth’s wife, Elsa Pataky filmed and shared the sweet moment on Instagram with the caption: “Girls night to go see Pink in concert. You are amazing. Thanks for making Molly feel so special on her birthday." </p> <p>Pataky attended the Melbourne show with her 11-year-old daughter, India Rose, and a group of their friends, including Molly.</p> <p>Fans flooded the comments with praise for the megastar, who has repeatedly made an effort to spend quality time with her fans despite her busy schedule. </p> <p>“OMG. Can Pink be more wonderful? How can you not love her?,” one wrote </p> <p>“How special,” another wrote, while a third added, “Pink is the best.”</p> <p>"Pink!!!!! I can’t explain how much I love that woman," a fourth wrote. </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/C3pmf8pPhG8/?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/C3pmf8pPhG8/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Elsa Pataky (@elsapataky)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Pink has prioritised her fans time and time again. During her show in Brisbane on the 17th of February, she carved time out from her Aussie tour to meet six-year-old Brisbane girl Lillian Harris, who was born with a terminal heart condition. </p> <p>She spent one-on-one time with one of her biggest fans and presented her with a bunch of gifts. </p> <p>“Hi babe! You look so good in that shirt,” she said to Lillian in a video uploaded to <a href="https://www.facebook.com/reel/1833085993806124" target="_blank" rel="noopener">social media</a>.</p> <p>“I’m really happy that you’re here, and I’m happy to meet you.”</p> <p>She even dedicated Lilian's favourite song <em>What About Us</em>, to the six-year-old during her performance at at Suncorp Stadium. </p> <p>Fans also praised Pink then for being "such a fabulous woman.”</p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p> <p> </p>

Family & Pets

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Woman’s outrageous act to catch cheating partner

<p dir="ltr">A woman has issued a desperate plea online for someone to help her catch her cheating boyfriend in the act. </p> <p dir="ltr">The Sydney woman, named Ariana, listed a job on the site Airtasker for someone to drive her to the suburb of Five Dock to catch her boyfriend, who she suspected was having an affair. </p> <p dir="ltr">She asked the potential driver to sit with her in the car for a few hours, in exchange for $350. </p> <p dir="ltr">“I need someone to drive me and a friend to Five Dock and sit in the car with us for a few hours so I can try and catch my cheating boyfriend,” she wrote. </p> <p dir="ltr">The ad, which was posted just before Valentine’s Day, quickly went viral and received mixed reactions. </p> <p dir="ltr">“The way I would do this for free,” one person said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Wow, who would've thought of putting it on Airtasker! This is genius,” another wrote. </p> <p dir="ltr">However, some people didn't see the point of going through so much trouble and wasting $350. </p> <p dir="ltr">“This never makes sense to me - if you don't trust him, just leave. The relationship is dead regardless of if he is cheating,” a woman said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Despite garnering massive attention online, it is not known if Ariana’s stealthy operation was a success, or if she is still in a relationship with her boyfriend. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images / Facebook</em></p>

Relationships

Finance

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12 super simple ways to save some cash

<p>Saving money is a lot easier said than done. Whether you’ve got a holiday you’re thinking about taking, or you just want to make day to day life a little less stressful, there is a range of strategies you can employ to put a couple of dimes together. Here are 12 tips to cut costs:</p> <p>1. Don't buy luxury, sometimes the budget brands are just as good and save you heaps.</p> <p>2. Read the junk mail and compare offers because you can get a better deal where you didn't think you could.</p> <p>3. Cut unnecessary expenses and reduce, if possible, the necessary expenses as well.</p> <p>4. Buy used goods, it's cheaper and you can haggle.</p> <p>5. See if you can switch power companies. I'm aware of several people who are saving $250 a year.</p> <p>6. Borrow books and movies from the library or movie store - it's free or low cost compared to buying new and it's fast.</p> <p>7. Barter with family and friends, it's free and everyone wins.</p> <p>8. Take advantage of specials, sales and deals including buying in bulk, it can save you more than you realise.</p> <p>9. Walk, bike or car pool or use other public transport, it's good for the environment and saves you money.</p> <p>10. Shop around for the best deal, it might be better elsewhere.</p> <p>11. Follow insurance company advice: Don't smoke, do have alarms and do get multi policies - it protects you and saves cash.</p> <p>12. Have a savings account with all the savings from this and don't touch it, you will be amazed at what you have saved in a short time.</p> <p><em>Written by John Murphy. Republished with permission of <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Stuff.co.nz</span></strong></a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Money & Banking

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What ‘psychological warfare’ tactics do scammers use, and how can you protect yourself?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mike-johnstone-106590">Mike Johnstone</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/georgia-psaroulis-1513050">Georgia Psaroulis</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p>Not a day goes by without a headline <a href="https://www.vice.com/en/article/qjvaym/people-share-worst-scam-stories">about a victim being scammed</a> and losing money. We are constantly warned about new scams and staying safe from cybercriminals. Scamwatch has <a href="https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/research-and-resources/tools-resources/online-resources/spot-the-scam-signs">no shortage of resources</a>, too.</p> <p>So why are people still getting scammed, and sometimes spectacularly so?</p> <p>Scammers use sophisticated psychological techniques. They exploit our deepest human vulnerabilities and bypass rational thought to tap into our emotional responses.</p> <p>This “<a href="https://www.thecut.com/article/amazon-scam-call-ftc-arrest-warrants.html">psychological warfare</a>” coerces victims into making impulsive decisions. Sometimes scammers spread their methods around many potential victims to see who is vulnerable. Other times, criminals focus on a specific person.</p> <p>Let’s unpack some of these psychological techniques, and how you can defend against them.</p> <h2>1. Random phone calls</h2> <p>Scammers start with small requests to establish a sense of commitment. After agreeing to these minor requests, we are more likely to comply with larger demands, driven by a desire to act consistently.</p> <p>The call won’t come from a number in your contacts or one you recognise, but the scammer may pretend to be someone you’ve engaged to work on your house, or perhaps one of your children using a friend’s phone to call you.</p> <p>If it is a scammer, maybe keeping you on the phone for a long time gives them an opportunity to find out things about you or people you know. They can use this info either immediately or at a later date.</p> <h2>2. Creating a sense of urgency</h2> <p>Scammers fabricate scenarios that require immediate action, like claiming a bank account is at risk of closure or an offer is about to expire. This tactic aims to prevent victims from assessing the situation logically or seeking advice, pressuring them into rushed decisions.</p> <p>The scammer creates an artificial situation in which you are frightened into doing something you wouldn’t ordinarily do. Scam calls <a href="https://theconversation.com/we-have-filed-a-case-under-your-name-beware-of-tax-scams-theyll-be-everywhere-this-eofy-162171">alleging to be from the Australian Tax Office</a> (ATO) are a great example. You have a debt to pay (apparently) and things will go badly if you don’t pay <em>right now</em>.</p> <p>Scammers play on your emotions to provoke reactions that cloud judgement. They may threaten legal trouble to instil fear, promise high investment returns to exploit greed, or share fabricated distressing stories to elicit sympathy and financial assistance.</p> <h2>3. Building rapport with casual talk</h2> <p>Through extended conversation, scammers build a psychological commitment to their scheme. No one gets very far by just demanding your password, but it’s natural to be friendly with people who are friendly towards us.</p> <p>After staying on the line for long periods of time, the victim also becomes cognitively fatigued. This not only makes the victim more open to suggestions, but also isolates them from friends or family who might recognise and counteract the scam.</p> <h2>4. Help me to help you</h2> <p>In this case, the scammer creates a situation where they help you to solve a real or imaginary problem (that they actually created). They work their “IT magic” and the problem goes away.</p> <p>Later, they ask you for something you wouldn’t normally do, and you do it because of the “social debt”: they helped you first.</p> <p>For example, a hacker might attack a corporate network, causing it to slow down. Then they call you, pretending to be from your organisation, perhaps as a recent hire not yet on the company’s contact list. They “help” you by turning off the attack, leaving you suitably grateful.</p> <p>Perhaps a week later, they call again and ask for sensitive information, such as the CEO’s password. You <em>know</em> company policy is to not divulge it, but the scammer will ask if you remember them (of course you do) and come up with an excuse for why they really need this password.</p> <p>The balance of the social debt says you will help them.</p> <h2>5. Appealing to authority</h2> <p>By posing as line managers, officials from government agencies, banks, or other authoritative bodies, scammers exploit our natural tendency to obey authority.</p> <p>Such scams operate at varying levels of sophistication. The simple version: your manager messages you with an <em>urgent</em> request to purchase some gift cards and send through their numbers.</p> <p>The complex version: your manager calls and asks to urgently transfer a large sum of money to an account you don’t recognise. You do this because <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/fraudsters-use-ai-to-mimic-ceos-voice-in-unusual-cybercrime-case-11567157402">it sounds exactly</a> like your manager on the phone – but the scammer <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2021/10/14/huge-bank-fraud-uses-deep-fake-voice-tech-to-steal-millions/?sh=1329b80e7559">is using a voice deepfake</a>. In a recent major case in Hong Kong, such a scam even involved a <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2024/02/04/asia/deepfake-cfo-scam-hong-kong-intl-hnk/index.html">deepfake video call</a>.</p> <p>This is deeply challenging because artificial intelligence tools, such as Microsoft’s VALL-E, can create <a href="https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2023/01/microsofts-new-ai-can-simulate-anyones-voice-with-3-seconds-of-audio/">a voice deepfake</a> using just three seconds of sampled audio from a real person.</p> <h2>How can you defend against a scam?</h2> <p>First and foremost, <strong>verify identity</strong>. Find another way to contact the person to verify who they are. For example, you can call a generic number for the business and ask to be connected.</p> <p>In the face of rampant voice deepfakes, it can be helpful to <strong>agree on a “safe word” with your family members</strong>. If they call from an unrecognised number and you don’t hear the safe word just hang up.</p> <p>Watch out for <strong>pressure tactics</strong>. If the conversation is moving too fast, remember that someone else’s problem is not yours to solve. Stop and run the problem past a colleague or family member for a sanity check. A legitimate business will have no problem with you doing this.</p> <p>Lastly, if you are not sure about even the slightest detail, the simplest thing is to hang up or not respond. If you really owe a tax debt, the ATO will write to you.<!-- 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/223959/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/mike-johnstone-106590"><em>Mike Johnstone</em></a><em>, Security Researcher, Associate Professor in Resilient Systems, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/georgia-psaroulis-1513050">Georgia Psaroulis</a>, Postdoctoral research fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/edith-cowan-university-720">Edith Cowan University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-psychological-warfare-tactics-do-scammers-use-and-how-can-you-protect-yourself-223959">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Five tips for developing and managing your budget – even in tough economic times

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/oluwabunmi-adejumo-1370664">Oluwabunmi Adejumo</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/obafemi-awolowo-university-2843">Obafemi Awolowo University</a></em></p> <p>There’s nothing quite like a new year to prompt us to take stock of our lives, our health, our goals – and our finances. Many people will start a new year by contemplating how best to budget, plan and save. This is always a good set of aims, but it’s especially important in the inflation-prone and unpredictable economies we’re seeing <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/268225/countries-with-the-highest-inflation-rate/">all over Africa and the world</a>.</p> <p>Budgeting is especially key. It is the most effective method to <a href="https://www.thebalancemoney.com/how-to-make-a-budget-1289587">monitor income and expenditure</a>. <a href="https://www.uslendingcompany.com/blog/key-differences-in-writing-a-household-budget-vs-a-personal-budget/">Personal budgets</a> can help you to monitor your resources in pursuit of larger financial goals. Budgeting also offers <a href="https://www.acrwebsite.org/volumes/v46/acr_vol46_2411998.pdf">more opportunities</a> to save money, reduce your debts and live a comfortable life. It can even <a href="https://prucomm.ac.uk/assets/uploads/blog/2013/04/Personal-Budgets-review-of-evidence_FINAL-REPORT.pdf">improve your mental health</a>.</p> <p>But where should you start? What questions do you need to answer in creating a budget? Here are some tips that I’ve learned – not just as an economist, but as a research cost analyst and someone who keeps a budget too.</p> <h2>1. Understand the broader economic conditions</h2> <p>It is imperative that individuals keep themselves aware and up-to-date on the realities of their country’s economic landscape. You don’t have to be a professional economist, but keep an eye on new developments like free business registration, small business development funds and printing of new money notes. What is the current exchange rate? What’s the political landscape and what international factors, like the price of crude oil, are at play? You should also watch the inflation rate and have a sense of unemployment trends.</p> <p>This economic awareness will prepare you to draft your own budget and you’ll have a sense of when external factors mean it’s time to revisit your plans.</p> <h2>2. Review your income sources</h2> <p>The ability to earn income is critical to sustaining livelihoods. Having a definite source of income is the bedrock of budgeting.</p> <p>Some important questions you should ask about your income – and how you might budget with it – include:</p> <ul> <li>What is my current income?</li> <li>What do I use my income for?</li> <li>Am I able to save, given my current income?</li> <li>What proportion of my income do I save and what proportion do I spend?</li> <li>Do I have the capacity to earn more than this?</li> <li>How can I improve my income?</li> </ul> <p>Your answers can help you to identify gaps or untapped potential. Those with irregular or unpredictable income should factor in the element of time-gap in their income, for effective budgeting. Time gap is when they are not earning income. And everyone should make allowance in their budgets for uncertainties like health issues, social engagements, inflation, unemployment, recession and price shocks.</p> <h2>3. Appraise your expenses</h2> <p>Expenses can be broadly categorised into “variable” and “fixed”.</p> <p>Fixed expenses recur within a short period: housing, food, transport, medical costs, electricity, utilities, toiletries and clothing. Variable expenses are more long-term and irregular, such as investment in property or interest-yielding assets, and the purchase of machinery.</p> <p>The main essence of revising our expenses is to analyse and possibly improve our spending habits. In reviewing our expenses, we can consider issues such as:</p> <ul> <li>What is the proportion of consumption-savings ratio from my income? This is how much do I spend compared to how much I save.</li> <li>What are my regular expenses?</li> <li>What are my fixed, capital or investment expenses?</li> <li>What are my extraordinary expenses that need modification?</li> <li>Have there been emergency or extraordinary expenses?</li> </ul> <p>A careful response to the issues raised above offers an occasion to re-evaluate the pattern and direction of our expenses. For instance, overspending, unplanned or extraordinary expenses can be identified. This can lead to an optimal, efficient reallocation of available resources.</p> <h2>4. Stabilise your finances through savings</h2> <p>Savings have been <a href="https://klinglercpa.com/bedrock-principles-for-saving-money/">described</a> as a financial stabiliser, given their potential to cater for urgent needs and create opportunities for investments.</p> <p>Of course, savings have more value when they grow faster than the rate of inflation. Inflation erodes the value of savings. For instance, an amount of 300,000 naira (US$676) saved to purchase an autorickshaw today may be impossible in two months’ time with an inflation rate of 10% when the tricycle price rises to 330,000 naira (US$744). The reverse is the case when there is deflation.</p> <p>Therefore, it is advisable to improve the value of savings through investments in interest-yielding assets such as stocks, shares, bonds, microfinance and production.</p> <p>That’s not to say it’s always easy to save. Many income earners spend as they go, not seeing savings as part of their budgets. Harsh economic realities can also make it difficult – sometimes seemingly impossible – to save. But it’s not impossible: savings can be made in small amounts, through a daily, weekly or monthly contribution to collections, cooperative schemes or microfinance affiliations. For instance, a point of sale business in Nigeria can permit a daily contribution of 500 naira (US$1.13) over 25 work days, giving an average saving of 12,500 naira (US$28.18) per month.</p> <p>The Point-of-Sale business started in Nigeria in 2013 when the Central Bank of Nigeria introduced the agent banking system. A POS agent operates and processes transactions through a POS service provider. Providers of such services include banks, microfinance banks and fintech companies.</p> <h2>5. Run a flexible budget</h2> <p>Once your budget is created, remember that it’s not set in stone. It should be flexible if anything changes in your life. For instance, an amount saved to buy a car can be invested in a promising venture buying shares through public offerings or private placements in multinational organisations like Nestle or Unilever.</p> <p>Also, health emergencies or career advancement programmes can require taking some money out of our savings.</p> <p>In all, budgeting should be flexible enough to incorporate exigencies, especially when catering for the current situation will culminate into a greater good.<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/195590/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/oluwabunmi-adejumo-1370664">Oluwabunmi Adejumo</a>, Lecturer/Researcher, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/obafemi-awolowo-university-2843">Obafemi Awolowo 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/five-tips-for-developing-and-managing-your-budget-even-in-tough-economic-times-195590">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Why prices are so high – 8 ways retail pricing algorithms gouge consumers

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-tuffley-13731">David Tuffley</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p>The just-released report of the inquiry into <a href="https://pricegouginginquiry.actu.org.au/">price gouging and unfair pricing</a> conducted by Allan Fels for the Australian Council of Trades Unions does more than identify the likely offenders.</p> <p>It finds the biggest are supermarkets, banks, airlines and electricity companies.</p> <p>It’s not enough to know their tricks. Fels wants to give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission more power to investigate and more power to prohibit mergers.</p> <p>But it helps to know how they try to trick us, and how technology has enabled them to get better at it. After reading the report, I’ve identified eight key maneuvers.</p> <h2>1. Asymmetric price movements</h2> <p>Otherwise known as <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/25593733">Rocket and Feather</a>, this is where businesses push up prices quickly when costs rise, but cut them slowly or late after costs fall.</p> <p>It seems to happen for <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0140988323002074">petrol</a> and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S105905601730240X">mortgage rates</a>, and the Fels inquiry was presented with evidence suggesting it happens in supermarkets.</p> <p>Brendan O’Keeffe from NSW Farmers told the inquiry wholesale lamb prices had been falling for six months before six Woolworths announced a cut in the prices of lamb it was selling as a “<a href="https://pricegouginginquiry.actu.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/InquiryIntoPriceGouging_Report_web.pdf">Christmas gift</a>”.</p> <h2>2. Punishment for loyal customers</h2> <p>A <a href="https://theconversation.com/simple-fixes-could-help-save-australian-consumers-from-up-to-3-6-billion-in-loyalty-taxes-119978">loyalty tax</a> is what happens when a business imposes higher charges on customers who have been with it for a long time, on the assumption that they won’t move.</p> <p>The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has alleged a big <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-qantas-might-have-done-all-australians-a-favour-by-making-refunds-so-hard-to-get-213346">insurer</a> does it, setting premiums not only on the basis of risk, but also on the basis of what a computer model tells them about the likelihood of each customer tolerating a price hike. The insurer disputes the claim.</p> <p>It’s often done by offering discounts or new products to new customers and leaving existing customers on old or discontinued products.</p> <p>It happens a lot in the <a href="https://www.finder.com.au/utilities-loyalty-costing-australians-billions-2024">electricity industry</a>. The plans look good at first, and then less good as providers bank on customers not making the effort to shop around.</p> <p>Loyalty taxes appear to be less common among mobile phone providers. Australian laws make it easy to switch <a href="https://www.reviews.org/au/mobile/how-to-switch-mobile-carriers-and-keep-your-number/">and keep your number</a>.</p> <h2>3. Loyalty schemes that provide little value</h2> <p>Fels says loyalty schemes can be a “low-cost means of retaining and exploiting consumers by providing them with low-value rewards of dubious benefit”.</p> <p>Their purpose is to lock in (or at least bias) customers to choices already made.</p> <p>Examples include airline frequent flyer points, cafe cards that give you your tenth coffee free, and supermarket points programs. The purpose is to lock in (or at least bias) consumers to products already chosen.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/advertising-and-promotions/customer-loyalty-schemes">Australian Competition and Consumer Commission</a> has found many require users to spend a lot of money or time to earn enough points for a reward.</p> <p>Others allow points to expire or rules to change without notice or offer rewards that are not worth the effort to redeem.</p> <p>They also enable businesses to collect data on spending habits, preferences, locations, and personal information that can be used to construct customer profiles that allow them to target advertising and offers and high prices to some customers and not others.</p> <h2>4. Drip pricing that hides true costs</h2> <p>The Competition and Consumer Commission describes <a href="https://pricegouginginquiry.actu.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/InquiryIntoPriceGouging_Report_web.pdf">drip pricing</a> as “when a price is advertised at the beginning of an online purchase, but then extra fees and charges (such as booking and service fees) are gradually added during the purchase process”.</p> <p>The extras can add up quickly and make final bills much higher than expected.</p> <p>Airlines are among the best-known users of the strategy. They often offer initially attractive base fares, but then add charges for baggage, seat selection, in-flight meals and other extras.</p> <h2>5. Confusion pricing</h2> <p>Related to drip pricing is <a href="https://www.x-mol.net/paper/article/1402386414932836352">confusion pricing</a> where a provider offers a range of plans, discounts and fees so complex they are overwhelming.</p> <p>Financial products like insurance have convoluted fee structures, as do electricity providers. Supermarkets do it by bombarding shoppers with “specials” and “sales”.</p> <p>When prices change frequently and without notice, it adds to the confusion.</p> <h2>6. Algorithmic pricing</h2> <p><a href="https://pricegouginginquiry.actu.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/InquiryIntoPriceGouging_Report_web.pdf">Algorithmic pricing</a> is the practice of using algorithms to set prices automatically taking into account competitor responses, which is something akin to computers talking to each other.</p> <p>When computers get together in this way they can <a href="https://www.x-mol.net/paper/article/1402386414932836352">act as it they are colluding</a> even if the humans involved in running the businesses never talk to each other.</p> <p>It can act even more this way when multiple competitors use the same third-party pricing algorithm, effectively allowing a single company to influence prices.</p> <h2>7. Price discrimination</h2> <p>Price discrimination involves charging different customers different prices for the same product, setting each price in accordance with how much each customer is prepared to pay.</p> <p>Banks do it when they offer better rates to customers likely to leave them, electricity companies do it when they offer better prices for business customers than households, and medical specialists do it when they offer vastly different prices for the same service to consumers with different incomes.</p> <p>It is made easier by digital technology and data collection. While it can make prices lower for some customers, it can make prices much more expensive to customers in a hurry or in urgent need of something.</p> <h2>8. Excuse-flation</h2> <p><a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-03-09/how-excuseflation-is-keeping-prices-and-corporate-profits-high">Excuse-flation</a> is where general inflation provides “cover” for businesses to raise prices without justification, blaming nothing other than general inflation.</p> <p>It means that in times of general high inflation businesses can increase their prices even if their costs haven’t increased by as much.</p> <p>On Thursday Reserve Bank Governor <a href="https://www.afr.com/policy/economy/inflation-is-cover-for-pricing-gouging-rba-boss-says-20240215-p5f58d">Michele Bullock</a> seemed to confirm that she though some firms were doing this saying that when inflation had been brought back to the Bank’s target, it would be "much more difficult, I think, for firms to use high inflation as cover for this sort of putting up their prices."</p> <h2>A political solution is needed</h2> <p>Ultimately, our own vigilance won’t be enough. We will need political help. The government’s recently announced <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/review/competition-review-2023">competition review</a> might be a step in this direction.</p> <p>The legislative changes should police business practices and prioritise fairness. Only then can we create a marketplace where ethics and competition align, ensuring both business prosperity and consumer wellbeing.</p> <p>This isn’t just about economics, it’s about building a fairer, more sustainable Australia.<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/223310/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-tuffley-13731"><em>David Tuffley</em></a><em>, Senior Lecturer in Applied Ethics &amp; CyberSecurity, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith 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/why-prices-are-so-high-8-ways-retail-pricing-algorithms-gouge-consumers-223310">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

Entertainment

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Russell Crowe unveils new look not seen in over 20 years

<p>Russell Crowe, the man of many faces – literally, his beard has its own postcode – is making headlines again. Not for his stellar performances or his knack for embodying iconic characters, but for something far more groundbreaking: he shaved.</p> <p>Yes, you read that right. Russell Crowe has gone from grizzly lumberjack chic to smooth operator in what can only be described as a follicular metamorphosis of epic proportions.</p> <p>In a tweet that shook the internet harder than a magnitude 9 earthquake, Crowe proudly announced, "The actor prepares #20. First shave since 2019".</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The actor prepares #20.<br />First shave since 2019. <a href="https://t.co/e48ctxh9GY">pic.twitter.com/e48ctxh9GY</a></p> <p>— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) <a href="https://twitter.com/russellcrowe/status/1759500781642780929?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 19, 2024</a></p></blockquote> <p>Now, to put this into perspective, in 2019 we were all living in a blissful ignorance of the chaos that awaited us in the years to come. So, the fact that Russell Crowe has finally decided to bid farewell to his facial foliage is nothing short of a miracle.</p> <p>In the accompanying photo, Crowe stares into the camera with the seriousness of a man who has just discovered a rare species of moth living in his beard. His face, now liberated from the tangled web of hair, appears decades younger, causing fans to collectively question if time travel is, in fact, possible.</p> <p>But let's not forget, this isn't Crowe's first rodeo with a clean-shaven face. Even though he cites "2019" in his caption, the last time he showcased such ephemeral smoothness was back in 2012 while promoting <em>Les Miserables –</em> a time when the world was still recovering from the shock of "Gangnam Style" and debating the colour of a certain pinstriped dress. So, it's safe to say, Crowe's clean-shaven look is rarer than a blue moon on a leap year.</p> <p>Of course, fans couldn't contain their excitement. One Twitter user exclaimed, "20 years younger instantly!" Another fan, probably needing a moment to catch their breath after witnessing the transformation, simply stated, "oh THERE you are". And let's not overlook the fan who eloquently remarked, "Looks good! It’s nice to change it up and shave. You have a nice face it was hiding behind all that hair." Ah, poetry in the age of social media.</p> <p>But what prompted this seismic shift in Crowe's appearance? Well, he didn't spill the beans on which movie role necessitated the razor, but we can only imagine the possibilities. Perhaps he's playing a time-travelling barber who inadvertently alters the course of history with each stroke of his razor. Or maybe he's set to star in a reboot of <em>The Santa Clause</em> as the titular character who decides to trade in his bushy beard for a more aerodynamic look. The possibilities are as endless as the hairs on Crowe's chin once were.</p> <p>Whatever the reason, one thing's for sure: Crowe's fresh shave has left an indelible mark on the internet. And as he gears up for roles in everything from historical dramas (he’s pegged to play Hermann Göring in the film <em>Nuremberg) </em>to MMA action flicks (such as <em>The Beast In Me</em>, which traces the life of a commercial fisherman who avenges his brother's death by fighting in a cage match)<span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">, we can only hope that his newfound smoothness becomes a permanent fixture.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">After all, in a world of chaos and uncertainty, sometimes all it takes is a clean shave to restore our faith in humanity.</span></p> <p><em>Images: Poker Face / Twitter (X) </em></p>

Movies

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Should Taylor Swift be taught alongside Shakespeare? A professor of literature says yes

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/liam-e-semler-1507004">Liam E Semler</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Does Taylor Swift’s music belong in the English classroom? No, obviously. We should teach the classics, like <a href="https://www.folger.edu/explore/shakespeares-works/shakespeares-sonnets/">Shakespeare’s Sonnets</a>. After all, they have stood the test of time. It’s 2024 and he was born in 1564, and she’s only 34. What’s more, she is a pop singer, not a poet. Sliding her into the classroom would be yet another example of a dumbed-down curriculum. It’s ridiculous. It makes everyone look bad.</p> <p>I’ve heard all that. And plenty more like it. But none of it is right. Well, the dates might be, but not the assumptions – about Shakespeare, about English, about teaching, and about Swift.</p> <p>Swift is, by the way, a poet. She sees herself this way and her songs bear her out. In Sweet Nothing, on the <a href="https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/taylor-swift-midnights/">Midnights</a> album, she sings:</p> <blockquote> <p>On the way home<br />I wrote a poem<br />You say “What a mind”<br />This happens all the time.</p> </blockquote> <p>I’m sure it does. Swift is relentlessly productive as a songwriter. With Midnights, she picked up <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2024/02/04/entertainment/taylor-swift-album-of-the-year-grammys/index.html">her fourth Grammy for Album of the Year</a>. And here we are, on the brink of another studio album, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tortured_Poets_Department">The Tortured Poets Department</a>, somehow written and produced amid the gargantuan success of Midnights and the Eras World Tour.</p> <h2>An ally of literature</h2> <p>Regardless of what The Tortured Poets Department ends up being about, Swift is already a firm ally of literature and reading. She is <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/taylor-swift-donates-6000-books-to-library/">a donor of thousands of books</a> to public libraries in the United States, an advocate to schoolchildren of the importance of reading and songwriting, and a lover of the process of crafting lyrics.</p> <p>In a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnbCSboujF4">2016 Vogue interview</a>, Swift declared with glee that, if she were a teacher, she would teach English. The literary references in her songs are endlessly noted. “I love Shakespeare as much as the next girl,” she wrote in a <a href="https://www.elle.com/uk/life-and-culture/a26546099/taylor-swift-pop-music/">2019 article for Elle</a>.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mdgKhdcQrNw?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>Her interview Read Every Day gives a good sense of this. Swift speaks about her writing process in ways that make it accessible. She explains how songs come to her anywhere and everywhere, like an idea randomly appearing “on a cloud” that becomes the first piece in a “puzzle” that will be assembled into a song. She furtively whisper-sings song ideas into her phone when out with friends.</p> <p>In her <a href="https://www.thelineofbestfit.com/news/read-taylor-swifts-full-nsai-songwriter-artist-of-the-decade-award-speech">acceptance speech for the Nashville Songwriter-Artist of the Decade Award</a> in 2022, Swift explained how she writes in three broad styles, imagining she is holding either a “quill”, a “fountain pen”, or a “glitter gel pen”. Songcraft is a joyous challenge for her.</p> <p>If, as teachers of literature, we are too proud to credit Swift’s plainly expressed love of English (regardless of whether we like her songs or not), we are likely missing something. To bluntly rule her out of the English classroom feels more absurd than allowing her in.</p> <p>Clio Doyle, a lecturer in early modern literature, has <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-taylor-swift-belongs-on-english-literature-degree-courses-219660">summarised</a> Swift’s suitability for English in a recent article which concludes:</p> <blockquote> <p>The important thing isn’t whether or not Swift might be the new Shakespeare. It’s that the discipline of English literature is flexible, capacious and open-minded. A class on reading Swift’s work as literature is just another English class, because every English class requires grappling with the idea of reading anything as literature. Even Shakespeare.</p> </blockquote> <p>Doyle reminds us Swift’s work has been taught at universities for a while now and, inevitably, the singer’s name keeps cropping up in relation to Shakespeare. This isn’t just a case of fandom gone wild or Shakespeare professors, like <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/culture/music/why-taylor-swift-is-a-literary-giant-by-a-shakespeare-professor-20230518-p5d9cn.html">Jonathan Bate</a>, gone rogue.</p> <p>The global interest in the world-first academic <a href="https://swiftposium2024.com/">Swiftposium</a> is a good measure of how things are trending. Moreover, it is wrong to think Swift’s songs are included in units of study purely to be adored. Her wide appeal is part of her appeal to educators, but that doesn’t mean her art is uncritically included.</p> <p>The reverse is true. Claire Hansen <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/national/pop-star-philosopher-poet-taylor-swift-is-shaking-up-how-we-think-20240207-p5f342.html">taught Swift in one of her literature units at the Australian National University</a> last year precisely because this influential singer-songwriter prompts students to explore the boundaries of the canon.</p> <p>I will be teaching Midnights and Shakespeare’s Sonnets together in a literature unit at the University of Sydney this semester. Why? Not because I think Swift is as good as Shakespeare, or because I think she is not as good as Shakespeare. These statements are fine as personal opinions, but unhelpful as blanket declarations without context. The nature of English as a discipline is far more complex, interesting and valuable than a labelling and ranking exercise.</p> <h2>Teaching Midnights and Shakespeare’s Sonnets</h2> <p>I teach Shakespeare’s sonnets as exquisite poems, reflective of their time and culture. I also teach three modern artworks that shed contemporary light on the sonnets.</p> <p>The first is Jen Bervin’s 2004 book <a href="https://www.jenbervin.com/projects/nets">Nets</a>. Bervin prints a selection of the sonnets, one per page, in grey text. In each of these grey sonnets, some of Shakespeare’s words and phrases are printed in black and thus stand out boldly.</p> <p>The result is a <a href="https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/palimpsest">palimpsest</a>. The Shakespearean sonnet appears lying, like fertile soil, beneath the briefer poem that emerges from it. Bervin describes this technique as a stripping down of the sonnets to “nets” in order “to make the space of the poems open, porous, possible – a divergent elsewhere”. The creative relationship between the Shakespearean base and Bervin’s proverb-like poems proves that, as Bervin says, “when we write poems, the history of poetry is with us”.</p> <p>The second text is Luke Kennard’s prizewinning 2021 collection <a href="https://www.pennedinthemargins.co.uk/index.php/2021/04/notes-on-the-sonnets/">Notes on the Sonnets</a>. Kennard recasts the sonnets as a series of entertaining prose poems. Each poem responds to a specific Shakespearean sonnet, recasting it as the freewheeling thought bubble of a fictional attendee at an unappealing house party. In an interview with C.D. Rose, Kennard <a href="https://thequietus.com/articles/30078-luke-kennard-interview-the-answer-to-everything-notes-on-the-sonnets">explains</a> how his house party design puts the reader</p> <blockquote> <p>in between a public and private space, you’re at home and you’re out, you’re free, you’re enclosed. And that’s similar in the sonnets.</p> </blockquote> <p>The third text is Swift’s Midnights. Unlike Bervin’s and Kennard’s collections, in which individual pieces relate to specific sonnets, there is no explicit adaptation. Instead, Midnights raises broader themes.</p> <h2>Deep connection</h2> <p>In her Elle article, Swift describes songwriting as akin to photography. She strives to capture moments of lived experience:</p> <blockquote> <p>The fun challenge of writing a pop song is squeezing those evocative details into the catchiest melody you can possibly think of. I thrive on the challenge of sprinkling personal mementos and shreds of reality into a genre of music that is universally known for being, well, universal.</p> </blockquote> <p>Her point is that the pop songs that “cut through the most are actually the most detailed” in their snippets of reality and biography. She says “people are reaching out for connection and comfort” and “music lovers want some biographical glimpse into the world of our narrator, a hole in the emotional walls people put up around themselves to survive”.</p> <p>Midnights exemplifies this. It is a concept album built on the idea that midnight is a time for pursuit of and confrontation with the self – or better, the selves. Swift says the songs form “the full picture of the intensities of that mystifying, mad hour”.</p> <p>The album, she says, is “a journey through terrors and sweet dreams” for those “who have tossed and turned and decided to keep the lanterns lit and go searching – hoping that just maybe, when the clock strikes twelve […] we’ll meet ourselves”.<br />Swift claims that Midnights lets listeners in through her protective walls to enable deep connection:</p> <blockquote> <p>I really don’t think I’ve delved this far into my insecurities in this detail before. I struggle with the idea that my life has become unmanageably sized and […] I just struggle with the idea of not feeling like a person.</p> </blockquote> <p>Midnights is not a sonnet collection, but it has fascinating parallels. There is no firm narrative through-line. Nor is there a through-line in early modern sonnet collections such as Shakespeare’s. Instead, both gather songs and poems that let us see aspects of the singing or speaking persona’s thoughts, emotions and experiences. Shakespeare’s speaker is also troubled through the night in sonnets 27, 43 and 61.</p> <p>The sonnets come in thematic clusters, pairs and mini-sequences. It can be interesting to ask students if they can see something similar in the order of songs on the Midnights album – or the “3am” edition with its seven extra tracks, or the “Til Dawn” edition with another three songs.</p> <p>Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells, in their edition of <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/all-the-sonnets-of-shakespeare/AE1912C43BE4F50391B25B83C0C03B1F">All the Sonnets of Shakespeare</a>, say Shakespeare’s collection is “the most idiosyncratic gathering of sonnets in the period” because he “uses the sonnet form to work out his intimate thoughts and feelings”.</p> <p>This connects very well with the agenda of Midnights. Both collections are piecemeal psychic landscapes. The singing or speaking voice sometimes feels autobiographical – compare, for example, sonnets 23, 129, 135-6 and 145 to Swift’s songs Anti-hero, You’re On Your Own, Kid, Sweet Nothing, and Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve. At other times the voices feel less autobiographical. Often there is no way to distinguish one from the other.</p> <p>Swift’s songs and Shakespeare’s Sonnets are meditations on deeply personal aspects of their narrators’ experiences. They present us with encounters, memories, relationships, values and claims. Swift’s persona is that of a self-reflective singer, just as Shakespeare’s is that of a self-reflective sonneteer. Both focus on love in all its shades. Both present themselves as vulnerable to industry rivals and pressures. Both dwell on issues of power.</p> <h2>Close reading</h2> <p>Shakespeare’s sonnets are rewarding texts for close reading because of their poetic intricacy. Students can look at end rhymes and internal rhymes, the way the argument progresses through <a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/quatrain">quatrains</a>, the positioning of the “turn”, which is often in line 9 or 13, and the way the final couplet wraps things up (or doesn’t).</p> <p>The songs on Midnights are also rewarding because Swift has a great vocabulary, a love of metaphor, terrific turns of phrase, and a strong sense of symmetry and balance in wording. More complex songs like Maroon and Question…? are great for detailed analysis.</p> <p>Karma and Mastermind are simpler, yet contain plenty of metaphoric language to be unpacked for meaning and aesthetic effectiveness. Shakespeare’s controlled use of metaphor in Sonnet 73 makes for a telling contrast.</p> <p>The Great War, Glitch and Snow on the Beach are good for exploring how well a single extended metaphor can function to carry the meaning of a song. Sonnets 8, 18, 143 and 147 can be explored in similar terms.</p> <p>Just as students can analyse the “turn” or concluding couplet in a Shakespearean sonnet to see how it reshapes the poem, they can do the same with songs on Midnights. Swift is known for writing effective bridges that contribute fresh, important content towards the end of a song: Sweet Nothing, Mastermind and Dear Reader are excellent examples.</p> <p>Such unexpected pairings are valuable because they require close attention and careful articulation of what is similar and what is not. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129, for example (the famous one on lust), and Swift’s Bigger than the Whole Sky (a powerful expression of loss) make for a gripping comparison of how intense feeling can be expressed poetically.</p> <p>Or consider Sonnet 29 (“When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes”) and Sweet Nothing: both celebrate intimacy as a defence against the pressures of the public world. How about High Infidelity and Sonnet 138 (where love and self-deception coexist), considered in terms of truth in relationships?</p> <p>There is nothing to lose and plenty to gain in teaching Swift’s Midnights and Shakespeare’s Sonnets together. There’s no dumbing-down involved. And there’s no need for reductive assertions about who is “better”.<!-- 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/223312/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/liam-e-semler-1507004"><em>Liam E Semler</em></a><em>, Professor of Early Modern Literature, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of 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/should-taylor-swift-be-taught-alongside-shakespeare-a-professor-of-literature-says-yes-223312">original article</a>.</em></p>

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"What a legend": Michael J Fox receives emotional standing ovation

<p>Michael J Fox, who has Parkinson's disease, made a surprise appearance at the BAFTA Awards in London. </p> <p><em>The Back to the Future</em> actor came onstage in a wheelchair, but he insisted on standing up at the podium to present the Best Film award. </p> <p>The star-studded audience all rose to their feet and gave the actor a standing ovation.  </p> <p>When presenting the award, Fox described cinema as "magic" which can "change your life".</p> <p>"Five films were nominated in this category tonight and all five have something in common. They are the best of what we do," he said. </p> <p>He added that films can bring people together "no matter who you are or where you're from".</p> <p>"There's a reason why they say movies are magic because movies can change your day.</p> <p>"It can change your outlook. Sometimes it can change your life."</p> <p>Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in the 1990s, rarely makes public appearances. </p> <p>Many fans were pleasantly surprised at his appearance as he presented the night’s biggest award, Best Film, to <em>Oppenheimer</em>.</p> <p>"I was in tears the moment Michael J Fox came on the stage," one fan wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.</p> <p>"THE MAN IS A LEGEND"</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">i was in tears the moment Michael J Fox came on the stage 😥😥😥</p> <p>THE MAN IS A LEGEND <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BAFTAs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BAFTAs</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BAFTA2024?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BAFTA2024</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EEBAFTAs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#EEBAFTAs</a> <a href="https://t.co/Uud368S9gb">pic.twitter.com/Uud368S9gb</a></p> <p>— RanaJi🏹 (@RanaTells) <a href="https://twitter.com/RanaTells/status/1759323180060299726?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 18, 2024</a></p></blockquote> <p>"Michael J Fox. Absolute hero. What a legend," wrote another. </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Michael J Fox. Absolute hero. What a legend. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BAFTAs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BAFTAs</a> <a href="https://t.co/62lxpCy3mn">pic.twitter.com/62lxpCy3mn</a></p> <p>— Jules 🌼 (@JulesItsjules) <a href="https://twitter.com/JulesItsjules/status/1759320058583568638?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 18, 2024</a></p></blockquote> <p>"All those stars in the room, and still the biggest and most affectionate reaction is for Michael J Fox, because the man is a legend," added a third. </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">All those stars in the room, and still the biggest and most affectionate reaction is for Michael J Fox, because the man is a legend. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EEBAFTAs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#EEBAFTAs</a></p> <p>— Declan Cashin (@Tweet_Dec) <a href="https://twitter.com/Tweet_Dec/status/1759319831696855281?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 18, 2024</a></p></blockquote> <p>"He's a total legend and wonderful human," wrote a fourth. </p> <p>The actor has spoken <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/health/caring/i-m-not-gonna-be-80-michael-j-fox-s-tragic-admission" target="_blank" rel="noopener">candidly</a> about his experience with Parkinson's over the years, and has said that he has made peace with the degenerative nature of the disease. </p> <p>In a previous interview with AARP magazine profile, the actor admitted that he did not fear death. </p> <p>“I am genuinely a happy guy. I don’t have a morbid thought in my head — I don’t fear death. At all," he told the publication. </p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

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Kiss’s debut album at 50: how the rock legends went from ‘clowns’ to becoming immortalised

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/charlotte-markowitsch-1507417">Charlotte Markowitsch</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em></p> <p>It has been 50 years since Rock &amp; Roll <a href="https://www.rockhall.com/inductees/kiss">Hall of Famers</a> Kiss launched their thunderock-doused debut album into the pop culture stratosphere. The eponymous album, released on February 18 1974, became a platform-stacked foot in the music industry’s door.</p> <p>What followed established Kiss as one of the most memorable hard-rock bands of the 1970s and ’80s, with a <a href="https://doi.org/10.1386/ejac.37.1.19_1">globally recognised legacy</a>.</p> <p><iframe style="border-radius: 12px;" src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/0NjpmoajQlllfKH9FaNliD?utm_source=generator" width="100%" height="352" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" loading="lazy"></iframe></p> <p> </p> <h2>The early days</h2> <p>In 1972, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons shelved their first ever rock outfit following a short stint in a band called <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_Lester">Wicked Lester</a>. The pair then <a href="https://www.udiscovermusic.com/stories/kiss-self-titled-debut-album/">hatched a plan</a> to form a far more aggressive and successful rock band. Drummer Peter Criss and guitarist Ace Frehley were recruited, and the new-generation Fab Four renamed themselves Kiss.</p> <p>By late <a href="https://www.kissonline.com/history">November of 1973</a>, the band had developed their bombastic live performance style, perfected their makeup and signed a deal with <a href="https://ultimateclassicrock.com/kiss-first-record-contract/">Casablanca Records</a>. Yet they dealt with some rocky beginnings.</p> <p>Armed with reworked songs from Wicked Lester, Kiss entered New York’s Bell Sound Studios to record their debut. A mere three weeks later the album was complete – but the band quickly realised the studio recordings didn’t capture the essence of their high-energy live shows.</p> <p>As vocalist Paul Stanley <a href="https://loudwire.com/kiss-self-titled-album-anniversary/">told Loudwire</a>: "What was put down on tape was such a timid fraction of what we were in concert. I didn’t understand it because bands who were our contemporaries had much better-sounding albums."</p> <p>They took another blow while shooting the album cover with <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/31/obituaries/31brodsky.html">Joel Brodsky</a> when, after a mishap with Criss’s makeup, the band were allegedly handed balloons by the photographer since he thought they were clowns.</p> <p>Then, soon before the album was released, Warner Brothers pulled its financial backing and <a href="https://www.loudersound.com/features/the-casablanca-records-story">distribution deal from Casablanca Records</a> after witnessing Kiss play a New Year’s eve show. Although it’s said the band’s makeup was the last straw for the label, the show in question also featured Simmons <a href="https://www.loudersound.com/features/kiss-early-years-history">setting his hair alight</a> shortly after throwing a fireball at a fan’s face.</p> <p>Despite the blunders, the release of the first album set Kiss on a path to becoming immortalised. As Stanley says in his book <a href="https://www.paulstanley.com/face-the-music/">Face The Music</a>: "For all the minuses I felt about the sound or the cover, we now had a finished album which was the prerequisite for all the other things we wanted to do. We were in the game now."</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/D0lit2sT6lY?wmode=transparent&amp;start=28" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <h2>The Kiss sound</h2> <p>I first heard Kiss as a teenager. I’d just thrift-scored a pair of ’80s-era roller-skates with the band’s logo scrawled on the heels in glitter glue. The salesperson, responsible for the glitter glue, enthusiastically recounted seeing Kiss play VFL Park (now <a href="https://footy.fandom.com/wiki/Waverley_Park">Waverley Park</a> stadium) in 1980 and made me promise I’d listen to them.</p> <p>Overwhelmed by the band’s expansive discography, and the possibility that their name stood for <a href="https://www.loudersound.com/news/kiss-squash-long-standing-rumour-that-their-band-name-is-a-satanic-acronym-were-smart-but-were-not-that-smart">Knights In Satan’s Service</a>, I thought it best to begin from the start.</p> <p>With their reputation of on-stage pyrotechnics and gore, I’d expected something more akin to Black Sabbath’s Paranoid than the jangly riffs of Let Me Know or Love Theme From Kiss. A 1978 review by <a href="https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-album-reviews/kiss-194584/">Gordon Fletcher</a> for the Rolling Stone also noted this rift. Despite calling the album exceptional, Fletcher described its sound as a cross between Deep Purple and the Doobie Brothers.</p> <p>Stanley and Simmons have <a href="https://www.guitarworld.com/features/kiss-paul-stanley-gene-simmons-classic-tracks">spoken freely</a> about borrowing heavily from a number of mid-century legends, so it’s no surprise that sonically the album was nothing new. The Rolling Stones’ influence can be heard in the songs Deuce and Strutter, while Led Zeppelin and Neil Young are present in Black Diamond.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/PEa4MrrG1xw?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>The album initially hadn’t risen higher than #87 on <a href="https://ultimateclassicrock.com/kiss-kiss-debut-album/">Billboard’s album charts</a>. A studio cover of <a href="https://ultimateclassicrock.com/kiss-nothin-to-lose/?trackback=twitter_mobile">Bobby Rydell’s Kissin’ Time</a> was released next as the lead single, but the track only bumped them up to #83. This <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.A2262575">commercial unviability</a> loomed over Kiss until the release of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alive!_(Kiss_album)">Alive!</a> in 1975.</p> <h2>Success and beyond</h2> <p>As the band’s first live album, Alive! bridged the gap between the audacious intensity of Kiss’s performances and the timidness of their studio recordings. Their early tracks were repurposed to let listeners remotely experience the infamous Kiss live spectacle.</p> <p>As <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFMD7Usflbg&amp;ab_channel=KissVEVO">Rock and Roll All Nite</a> claimed #12 on the <a href="https://loudwire.com/kiss-alive-album-anniversary/">Billboard charts</a>, the platform-stacked foot burst through the door to mainstream success.</p> <p>Fifty years after Kiss first stepped into Bell Sound Studios, the band played their final sold-out show at Madison Square Garden on December 2 2023. The performance served as a crowning jewel on their End of the Road world tour, a four-year effort with more than 250 live shows.</p> <p>Promised to be their <a href="https://www.triplem.com.au/story/kiss-add-more-dates-to-their-end-of-the-road-australian-tour-172305">biggest and best shows ever</a>, the farewell became a colossal celebration of the band’s legacy. Theatrical pyrotechnics, fake blood and Stanley’s classic opening line – “you wanted the best, you got the best” – were featured at each performance.</p> <p>While both Kiss’s anthemic numbers and earlier catalogue were performed in these final shows, the music came second to the celebration of the Kiss live spectacle.</p> <p>From their carefully designed makeup, to bombastic theatrics and hoards of merchandise, it was Kiss’s <a href="https://doi.org/10.1386/ejac.37.1.19_1">brand building</a> that <a href="https://www.wiley.com/en-au/Brands+That+Rock%3A+What+Business+Leaders+Can+Learn+from+the+World+of+Rock+and+Roll-p-9780471455172">set them apart</a> and embedded them in the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.poetic.2009.09.006">heritage bracket</a> of popular culture.</p> <p>Despite the end of their live shows, Kiss endeavours to stay embedded in public memory. Referring to some of the band’s 2,500 licensed products, Simmons recently spoke on <a href="http://www.tommagazine.com.au/2022/08/19/kiss/">what’s next for Kiss</a>: "Kiss the entity will continue; what’s happening now is a metamorphosis. The caterpillar is dying, but the butterfly will be born."</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Yl5PGoy5X6g?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>With a <a href="https://www.billboard.com/music/rock/kiss-biopic-early-years-netflix-2024-1235291572/">Netflix biopic</a> and holographic <a href="https://www.stereogum.com/2246254/kiss-hologram-era-begins-in-2027/news/">avatars on the way</a>, Stanley and Simmons – the band’s two remaining members – <a href="https://www.nme.com/news/music/gene-simmons-says-kiss-farewell-tour-is-end-of-the-road-for-the-band-not-the-brand-3541117">have declared Kiss immortal</a>.</p> <p>Stanley even suggests the Kiss look has become so iconic it’s now bigger than any band member. This means the torch could be passed on to new-generation Kiss members.</p> <p>Kiss has (quite literally) breathed fire into live rock performance. Now, they’re breathing fire into our expectations of what rock royalty retirement looks like. I have to ask, who – or what – will wear the makeup next? <!-- 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/222284/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/charlotte-markowitsch-1507417">C<em>harlotte Markowitsch</em></a><em>, PhD candidate in popular music studies, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT 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/kisss-debut-album-at-50-how-the-rock-legends-went-from-clowns-to-becoming-immortalised-222284">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Princess Diana's childhood home up for rent

<p>The house Princess Diana spent her childhood and teenage years in is now available for the public to rent. </p> <p>Althorp House, located in West Northamptonshire in England, is owned by Diana's brother Earl Spencer, who has lived on the sprawling property as custodian of the estate since 1992. </p> <p>The expansive property has been listed for royal fans with deep pockets to rent on <a href="https://www.elysian-estates.co.uk/althorp/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Elysian Estates</a>, an upmarket equivalent of Airbnb.</p> <p>Althorp House, which is a 90 minute drive out of London, was built in 1508 and has been in the Spencer family for 19 generations.</p> <p>Lady Diana lived in the 90-room stately home for most of her childhood and teenage years, before she married the then-Prince Charles in 1981.</p> <p>Not just one grand property, the estate covers 13,000 acres of countryside as it encompasses cottages, farms, woodlands and villages, which are open to visitors but only at certain times of the year.</p> <p>Now, the home is once again available to rent via Elysian Estates.</p> <p>"Althorp offers unparalleled levels of service, privacy and luxury to rival the finest properties anywhere in the world; yet retains the truly welcoming and homely feel that makes Althorp so special," the listing says.</p> <p>"Walk in the footsteps of kings and queens, feast or celebrate in spectacular surroundings, marvel at the sense of history and artwork, and slumber in pure luxury."</p> <p>In the main house, there are six state bedrooms to choose from offering "a level of opulence befitting royalty, with these very rooms playing as much a part of English history as any royal palace".</p> <p>Prices for the rental are not yet publicly available as an enquiry must be sent to reserve the opulent property.</p> <p>The listing stated that the stay includes "butler service, a team of private chefs and housekeeping, with a dedicated concierge service".</p> <p>Althorp is today most famous for being the final resting place of Princess Diana following her death in Paris.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images / Instagram</em></p>

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The rental housing crisis is hurting our most vulnerable and demands a range of solutions (but capping rents isn’t one of them)

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andrew-beer-111469">Andrew Beer</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emma-baker-172081">Emma Baker</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a></em></p> <p>Roughly <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/housing/housing-occupancy-and-costs/2019-20">one in three Australians</a> rent their homes. It’s Australia’s fastest-growing tenure, but renting is increasingly unaffordable. From 2020 to 2022, our <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4253168">research</a> found a large increase in the proportion of renters who said their housing was unaffordable.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?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/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=217&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=217&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=217&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=273&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=273&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/542737/original/file-20230815-25187-p7vxqo.png?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=273&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="horizontal bar chart showing changes in Australian renters' assessments of affordability form 2020 to 2022" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Change in Australian renters’ assessments of affordability from 2020 to 2022.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">Baker, Daniel, Beer, et al, forthcoming, The Australian Housing Conditions Dataset, doi:10.26193/SLCU9J, ADA Dataverse</span></span></figcaption></figure> <p>Australians are concerned about the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/jul/05/rents-rise-again-across-australia-with-sydney-seeing-fastest-rise-in-20-years">pace</a> of <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/how-much-has-rent-increased-around-australia/8ljlnf0zm">rent rises</a>. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese <a href="https://www.pm.gov.au/media/national-cabinet-meeting">says</a> increasing housing supply and affordability is the “key priority” for tomorrow’s national cabinet meeting.</p> <p>The crisis has impacts well beyond affordability. The rental sector is where the worst housing accommodates the poorest Australians with the worst health.</p> <h2>The unhealthy state of rental housing</h2> <p>Forthcoming data from the <a href="https://dataverse.ada.edu.au/dataverse/ahcdi">Australian Housing Conditions Dataset</a> highlight some of these parallel challenges:</p> <ul> <li> <p>it’s often insecure – the average lease is less than 12 months, and less than a third of formal rental agreements extend beyond 12 months</p> </li> <li> <p>rental housing quality is often very poor – 45% of renters rate the condition of their dwelling as “average, poor, or very poor”</p> </li> <li> <p>poor housing conditions put the health of renters at risk – 43% report problems with damp or mould, and 35% have difficulty keeping their homes warm in winter or cool in summer</p> </li> <li> <p>compounding these health risks, people with poorer health are over-represented in the rental sector. Renters are almost twice as likely as mortgage holders to have poorer general health.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Measures that potentially restrict the supply of lower-cost rental housing – such as rent caps – will <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4253168">worsen these impacts</a>. More households will be left searching in a shrinking pool of affordable housing.</p> <h2>It’s all about supply</h2> <p>Fixing the rental crisis needs more than a single focus on private rental housing. The movement between households over time between renting and buying homes means the best solutions are those that boost the supply of affordable housing generally. No one policy can provide all the answers.</p> <p>Governments should be looking at multiple actions, including:</p> <ul> <li> <p>requiring local councils to adopt affordable housing strategies as well as mandating <a href="https://www.ahuri.edu.au/analysis/brief/understanding-inclusionary-zoning">inclusionary zoning</a>, which requires developments to include a proportion of affordable homes</p> </li> <li> <p>improving land supply through better forecasting at the national, state and local levels</p> </li> <li> <p>giving housing and planning ministers the power to deliver affordable housing targets by providing support for demonstration projects, subsidised land to social housing providers and access to surplus land</p> </li> <li> <p>boosting the recruitment and retention of skilled construction workers from both domestic and international sources.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>The biggest landlord subsidy isn’t helping</h2> <p>More than <a href="https://data.gov.au/data/dataset/taxation-statistics-2020-21/resource/ebbd32e3-4556-41e1-a8b9-33387457d518">1 million Australians</a> claim a net rent loss (negative gearing) each year. Even though negative gearing is focused on rental investment losses, it is not strictly a housing policy as it applies to many types of investment.</p> <p>The impact of negative gearing on the housing system is untargeted and largely uncontrolled. As a result, it’s driving outcomes that are sometimes at odds with the need to supply well-located affordable housing.</p> <p>The most impactful action the Australian government could take to deliver more affordable rental housing nationwide would involve refining negative-gearing arrangements to boost the supply of low-income rentals. These measures may involve</p> <ul> <li>limiting negative gearing to dwellings less than ten years old</li> <li>introducing a low-income tax credit scheme similar to the one in the United States.</li> </ul> <p>We can learn much from the US, where the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (<a href="https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/lihtc.html">LIHTC</a>) scheme subsidises the acquisition, construction and renovation of affordable rental housing for tenants on low to moderate incomes. Since the mid-1990s, the program has supported the construction or renovation of about 110,000 affordable rental units each year. That adds up to over <a href="https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/what-low-income-housing-tax-credit-and-how-does-it-work">2 million units</a> at an estimated annual cost of US$9billion (A$13.8billion).</p> <p>This scheme is much less expensive per unit of affordable housing delivered than Australia’s system of negative gearing.</p> <p>Closer to home, the previous National Rental Affordability Scheme showed the value of targeted financial incentives in encouraging affordable housing. This scheme, available to private and disproved investors, generated positive outcomes for tenants. The benefits included better health for low-income tenants who were able to moved into quality new housing.</p> <p>A <a href="https://cityfutures.ada.unsw.edu.au/documents/81/Next_moves_report.pdf">raft</a> of <a href="https://apo.org.au/node/260431">evaluations</a> have <a href="https://www.ahuri.edu.au/research/final-reports/267">demonstrated</a> the achievements of this scheme.</p> <h2>Crisis calls for lasting solutions</h2> <p>Short-term measures such as rent caps or eviction bans will not provide a solution in the near future or even the medium or long term. Instead, these are likely to worsen both the housing costs and health of low-income tenants.</p> <p>Reform focused on ongoing needs is called for. Solutions that can be implemented quickly include the tighter targeting of negative gearing and the introduction of a low-income housing tax credit.</p> <p>Talking about change, as the national cabinet is doing, will begin that process of transformation, but it must be backed up by a range of measures to boost the supply of affordable housing. This, in turn, will improve the housing market overall as affordable options become more widely available.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/211275/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/andrew-beer-111469">Andrew Beer</a>, Executive Dean, UniSA Business, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emma-baker-172081">Emma Baker</a>, Professor of Housing Research, <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/the-rental-housing-crisis-is-hurting-our-most-vulnerable-and-demands-a-range-of-solutions-but-capping-rents-isnt-one-of-them-211275">original article</a>.</em></p>

Real Estate

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Outrage after renters confronted with cleaning “scoring system”

<p dir="ltr">An Australian real estate agent has come under fire for their “demoralising” scoring system for tenants during routine inspections. </p> <p dir="ltr">One fired up renter said they were shocked to receive a scorecard from the agent after they complied with an inspection, and shared their feedback on Reddit. </p> <p dir="ltr">The scorecard rated the tenant’s efforts cleaning the property in 17 different rooms and areas, marking them on cleanliness, and if the areas were damaged or required maintenance. </p> <p dir="ltr">The renter was then also given an overall rating out of five stars, based on the upkeep of their rental home. </p> <p dir="ltr">The Reddit user showed that they received just three and half stars, despite being marked down in only one area due to a light globe not working.</p> <p dir="ltr">In their post, the tenant said they had made every effort to clean the home, adding that the rating was “demoralising”.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’ve been renting a long time, and my deep cleaning routine is based around inspections,” they explained.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I go all out - every room in my little 3x2 villa is given a spring clean, every surface is washed including walls, doors, lights, windows, carpets etc.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Had my latest inspection a few weeks ago and just received the report. Despite the agent commenting once again that she never sees houses as clean as mine, and taking 112 (!) photos of every single thing that shows how great the condition of the house is - having one light globe not working is so terrible that I’m scored three and a half out of five.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The renter went on to say that they had only recently discovered that the broken light globe was the real estate’s responsibility to replace, and does not warrant such a severe marking down in their “score”.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The globe in question is a downlight fitting. We have so many downlights that I don’t even use this particular one,” they continued.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I can’t replace the globe itself, I need to get into the roof to replace the whole unit. Thanks to people here I’ve learned this isn’t even my responsibility to fix!”</p> <p dir="ltr">The renter’s post sparked a huge outrage online, with many up in arms over the current state of the rental market and unrealistic expectations of estate agents. </p> <p dir="ltr">One person said, “I fully believe that the average renter keeps a home to a higher standard than an owner, and it seems deliberately demoralising that someone could be marked down for having a light out.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Another added, “This is ridiculously petty, and more importantly, totally irrelevant to the purpose of a periodic inspection. Which is to identify whether any maintenance is needed.”</p> <p dir="ltr">A third person took their anger out on the entire system, summing it up by writing, “I sort of wonder what little lightbulb clicks in your mind and you wake up one day and ask yourself, ‘How can I be a massive c*** who offers no value to society? I know! I will get into real estate.’”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images / Reddit</em></p>

Real Estate

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The hidden dangers of household products

<p>The materials, fabrics and fragrances contained inside our homes are host to thousands of chemicals that may pose a threat to human health.</p> <p>Healthy home expert Nicole Bijlsma says there simply aren’t enough regulations to ensure the products and materials in our homes are safe for consumers.</p> <p>“We have this incredible, unregulated, chemical onslaught in our household products, personal care products, building materials and cleaning products which is why the burden of chemicals is increasing with each generation,” Bijlsma says.</p> <p>“Just because it’s on the supermarket shelf doesn’t mean it’s been tested.”</p> <p>The largely unregulated cleaning product industry is often placed under scrutiny in the fight against chemicals but Bijsma says this issue extends to all areas of the home.</p> <p>“What happens is we wait for the disease to occur in the general population before we look back and realise [the harm]…It’s a stupid system; it doesn’t protect consumers and it certainly does not protect the most vulnerable in our society– our children and the unborn fetus.”</p> <p>Only through thorough research can consumers determine where their products are being sourced, under what conditions they’ve been made and the impact they may have on health. Even then there are gaps.</p> <p>Imported items are not under the same regulations as those made in New Zealand.</p> <p>“A lot of the products, especially furnishings, you can’t load with formaldehyde but if you import them from Asia as most people do, they’re going to be loaded with chemicals…Bijlsma says. </p> <p>Bijlsma advises going back to basics when selecting materials and products, reducing the chemical load, choosing natural fibres and buying home made.</p> <p>“The big problem is most chemicals in building materials and household products have never been tested for their impact on human health,” Bijlsma says.</p> <p>Creating a healthy home is of the utmost importance to homeowner Irena Bukhshtaber, who has recently extended her  home to be 100 per cent sustainable and hypoallergenic.</p> <p>“Because our industry standards are so high, usually it’s a local product too…Watch out for imports, from floorboards to air-conditioning, as there’s no way to guarantee what they say on the label unless the seller can guarantee provenance or knows the company.”</p> <p>Despite the time-consuming research process (three years) of renovating the home to a healthy standard Bukhshtaber says the outcome has been worth the effort.</p> <p>“How difficult is it to live with sick or tired family members? How hard is it to live your values? If the outcome is positive then it’s not difficult, but it is time consuming and does require you to spend time researching, calling and discussing with suppliers.”</p> <p>To keep her costs down when renovating, Bukhshtaber advises determining the elements of a home that matter most to you, whether this be using recycled materials, limited chemicals, high-quality design, ethical manufacturing or buying New Zealand made.</p> <p>“None of these things are mutually exclusive but you do need a hierarchy in mind as no one has unlimited budget,” Bukhshtaber says.</p> <p><em>Written by Amelia Barnes. First appeared on</em> <a href="http://www.domain.com.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span><em><strong>Domain.com.au.</strong></em></span></a></p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

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