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PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2014 9:48 am 
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University NSW study: How to tame aggressive teenager

TAMING an aggressive teenage boy could come down to getting him to look you in the eye.

Ground breaking new research has found some aggressive young males avoid eye contact when shown images of emotional faces, which means they miss vital cues about how to behave.

A study is underway at the University NSW Child Behaviour Research Clinic to test the theory.

Professor Rhoshel Lenroot says the research could hold answers for all parents of teenage boys.

“If your child is having a hard time picking up cues, even if they are not violent, you could be able to work on it early and get them to look at other people’s eyes,” she said.

Professor of Psychology Mark Dadds says there are two groups of aggressive boys. The first group are emotional-impulsive and lash out because they live in a world where they interpret everything as hostile to them, he says.

The second group are more callous, cold blooded boys who don’t register others as having emotions, they completely ignore the signs of other people.

This group of boys “operate in a world where everything is just an object,” says Professor Dadd.

“Instead of being oversensitive they are completely ignoring the signs of other people, and their violent behaviour can be more cold-blooded,” he said.

Professor Lenroot is recruiting around 90 teenage boys, sixty of whom will have aggression problems, and they will all be shown pictures of people showing different emotions.

While they are viewing the pictures their eyes will be scanned using an eye scanner to determine whether they look at the eyes of the person in the image.

At the same time an MRI will pick up how their brain responds to the images.

The study will also measure how dilated or constricted the boy’s pupils are, their heart rate and how fast they are breathing.

Professor Lenroort says she wants to test whether the aggressive boys’ brains will react in the same way as the brains of healthy boys if their attention is redirected to the eyes in the pictures.

If successful the research could be used to develop an early intervention behavioural therapy that could teach boys to read the emotions in people’s eyes to reduce their aggressive behaviour.

“If you think of those one-punch guys, many of them have been emotional-impulsive all their lives, they walk down the street thinking people are trying to fight them and seriously believe people are giving them looks,” Professor Dadds says. ... 7056769892

PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2014 9:31 am 
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Abhor asparagus and can't stand coffee? You may be a supertaster

There are natural variations between humans in our senses. We need different prescriptions to correct our eyesight. Some people say that vinyl sounds better than CDs or MP3s and will pay big money for audio equipment, while others can’t tell the difference.

So what about taste and smell? Many of us have heard of supertasters, but why – and how – do they exist? And how can you tell if you’re one too?

Strictly speaking, the word “taste” refers to the five primary tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.

There is some evidence for other primary tastes, with fat most likely to be the next to be recognised. Others include calcium and metallic, although the latter is often due to various disorders or conditions.

It’s the bitter taste that started all of this supertaster stuff. In 1931, American chemist Arthur Fox accidentally released a cloud of phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) powder into his laboratory. Some of this cloud went into Fox’s mouth, and that of one of his colleagues. His colleague complained that it tasted intensely bitter, while Fox tasted nothing.

They tasted it again, with the same result. Fox went on to get others to taste PTC. He found that some found it intensely bitter, some mildly bitter, and others could not taste anything.

These differences in perception are partly due to the nature of the receptors in your mouth, which differ depending on your genes. The gene that codes for the PTC receptor exists in two common forms (and a few rare forms), which result in bitterness proteins with slightly different shapes. This, in turn, has an effect on how sensitive you are to bitterness – but that’s not the end of the story.

The term ‘supertaster’ is born

These days, chemosensory scientists use 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP or PTU) instead of PTC. PTC is a little bit toxic, so beware of taste and smell scientists such as Fox approaching you and asking you to “taste this”.

In 1991, American psychologist Linda Bartoshuk conducted experiments using PROP. She coined the term “supertasters” for people who found PROP intensely bitter, and the term stuck.

During these experiments, Bartoshuk noticed that these supertasters had a more dense covering of structures that contain taste buds (known as fungiform papillae) on their tongue. She concluded that the number of receptors is important, too. You can actually use this information to test if you are a supertaster.

By using food dye, count the number of taste buds in an area the size of a hole punch to see if you’re a supertaster. Jeff Potter/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Fewer than 15 tastebuds in an area the size of a hole punch indicates a “non-taster”, between 15 and 35 means you fall in the average range, while if you have more than 35 tastebuds in that area, you’re a supertaster.

About one in four of us is a supertaster, one in four is a non-taster (such as Fox) and the rest of us are “medium” or “average” tasters. The proportions vary a little by culture and there is some variation within each group.

Supertasting is not restricted to bitterness. Supertasters often report that sweet or sour tastes are more intense. Salt appears to be a bit of a different beast – it seems that supertasters actually consume more salt, possibly because it masks bitterness.

You may already have an inkling if you are a supertaster based on the foods that you like. If you find coffee too bitter for your tastes, you may be a supertaster.

You may be thinner because you have a healthier diet. This is because you avoid sugar and fat (although this all depends on what you consider a healthy diet to be – there seems to be a new story every week).

But being a supertaster might also put you off healthy bitter foods, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts or asparagus.

While bitterness is important for some foods (such as chocolate), we generally reject bitter foods because poisonous things are usually bitter. At least one study suggests that supertasters do indeed eat fewer bitter vegetables.

Fortunately for asparagus farmers, scientists have developed “bitter blockers”. So, kids of the world, you may not be able to use the supertaster excuse for avoiding your vegetables. Parents – thank me later. Kids – my sincere apologies.

Are there supersmellers?

We have five (or so) primary tastes, but there doesn’t seem to be such a thing as a primary smell. Instead, our olfactory system can discriminate between thousands of different smells due to loads of different receptors, all coded for by specific genes.

Different people have different genes. Given the number of different types of receptors involved, the chances of having dinner with someone with the same set of receptors as you are quite low.

Just like Fox and co’s different experiences of PTC, our experiences of smell (and therefore our perceptions of flavour) vary.

Rotundone is the main chemical responsible for the smell of pepper (called a character impact odorant). It’s pretty strong and yet about 25% of the population can’t detect it at all, while still being able to detect other smells.

Rotundone is an interesting case because it’s also present in many wines made from the grape Shiraz (or Syrah). These wines are often noted for their spicy or peppery characteristics. So when wine experts describe a Shiraz as peppery, they’re not making it up – it contains the same chemical as pepper.

So are some people more sensitive to smell? Sure, just as some are more sensitive to taste, to light (such as Bono, who claims to have sensitive eyes) and to other stimuli.

Our senses of taste and smell are essentially little chemistry labs that conduct loads of experiments to determine which chemicals are present in food, drinks and air. But not all chemistry labs are created equal – some of us have equipment that others don’t have and can therefore detect different chemicals. And for some of us, our equipment is more sensitive.

So next time you’re having an argument with someone over dinner about whether the meal is any good, keep in mind that their experience is probably very different to yours. ... upertaster

PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2014 9:12 am 
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Simple urine test detects cervical cancer virus

Dread going for a smear test? A simple urine test can pick up the human papilloma virus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer. Though it's not as accurate as sampling viral DNA from the cervix itself, the test might benefit women who are too busy or scared to have a cervical swab taken, or who live in developing countries where the infrastructure for conventional smear tests is less developed.

Traditional cytology-based smear tests involve using a speculum to hold the vagina open, while a small brush is used to collect cells from the cervix, which are then assessed for pre-cancerous changes using a microscope. "The advantage is that if you have an abnormal result, there is a reasonable chance that you have an underlying abnormality," says Henry Kitchener at the Institute of Cancer Sciences in Manchester, UK, who was not involved in the current study.

More recently, DNA tests have been developed that test for HPV directly – again by taking a sample from the cervix. This is more sensitive than a conventional smear test meaning that those who test negative are very unlikely to develop cervical cancer in the near future. But those who test positive don't necessarily have cancer – their cervix may be perfectly healthy – so a positive DNA test needs to be followed up with a physical examination.

Cancer screening

DNA testing for HPV is being piloted in the UK, and was recently incorporated into US guidelines for cervical cancer screening .

Neha Pathak at Barts and The London School of Medicine and her colleagues combined the results of 14 clinical trials of urine testing and compared the results against the new cervical DNA test. Urine tests could correctly identify 87 per cent of HPV positive samples, and 94 per cent of negative samples.

"It suggests urine testing is definitely something worth investigating further," says Pathak.

Unfortunately, data doesn't exist that would allow urine testing to be compared with more traditional smear tests – something Pathak says should be investigated in any future trials.

HPV tests for all

However, cervical HPV DNA testing is already known to be more sensitive than microscope-based methods. "It may be that the urinary HPV test is as good as a cytology sample," says Kitchener.

Even so, urine-based HPV testing is unlikely to replace cervical HPV testing completely. "The actual test in itself isn't a better test," Kitchener adds. "But it is another way of obtaining results from the lower genital tract, and it may well be the way forward for women who don't otherwise engage with screening."

It could also be useful in developing countries where rates of cervical cancer are often far higher, and the infrastructure for screening and preventative treatment is lacking.

"We're not saying that this is a direct replacement for cervical testing, but it is something that could be rolled out a little more easily," Pathak says. ... Bi-_2C4xpA

PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2014 9:06 am 
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Foster care is a family effort for Wyrallah's Kelly clan

FOR Wyrallah couple Sam and Justin Kelly, foster care was always on the cards.

Even with four kids of their own, the Kellys still felt they had more to give.

"We've got lots of love to give, so why wouldn't we?" Ms Kelly said.

"We don't feel it's amazing, it's just another two kids.

"If we boil four eggs, what's the difference of boiling six?

"I just think we're willing."

When the Kellys decided it was time to take on two foster kids, the couple already had four children of their own, aged 9, 13, 15 and 17.

Ms Kelly said it was the unwavering support of their four kids that really turned the idea of fostering into a reality.

"It's really been a blessing for us to see how they work with the kids because not only are they helpful but they love it," she said.

"We've really come into it as a team."

The family is currently caring for two girls, a 10 month old and a 20 month old.

"Going back to the changing nappies was a bit of a shock," Mr Kelly said.

"But I find a greater joy in giving for others, it's much more rewarding."

Ms Kelly said having the support of their Foundations Care caseworker had helped make the process a lot less stressful.

"Having that support, knowing that if anything went wrong I had my caseworker at hand," she said.

This week is Foster Care Week.

Now in its 24th year, Foster Care Week recognises the pivotal work of foster carers in our community and the importance of ensuring they are valued and supported in their critical role.

Could you be a foster carer?

More than 17,800 children and young people are unable to live at home across NSW.

NSW needs to attract 450 new carers in the next year, with a high need for emergency carers, respite carers and short-term carers. Long term carers are still required, with currently legislative reforms enabling more adoption from out of home care.

Agencies provide foster carers with ongoing support, training and mentorship to assist them in providing the best care they possibly can.

Foster carers are a diverse group, ranging from traditional families to single people, empty nesters, caring professionals and same-sex couples. There is a huge need for Aboriginal carers.

Anyone interested in finding out more information about becoming a long-term, emergency foster carer, respite foster carer or short-term foster carer can go to the Fostering NSW website or phone 1800 236 783. ... e/2392159/

PostPosted: Sun Sep 21, 2014 10:22 am 
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Alcohol — mother’s little helper

I KNOW why women drink. I know exactly what it is that makes middle-class, middle-aged wo­men drink because I am one. Or I mean I was one.

Until a few years ago I was one of those women who put the kids to bed and opened up a bottle of wine. Or I popped in to see a friend and opened a bottle of wine. Or I went down the road to the pub. All of it was for the same reason — to have a glass of wine, usually way more than that.

This is why women drink, and it’s for the same reason I did: boredom. Not just boredom but the things that go with it: loneliness, loss of self, hazy sense of self-­belief, crashing self-esteem and living a life where there seems to be nothing much else to do.

Drink blots everything out — temporarily. It makes you feel fun. It makes things that aren’t really fun — banging on about goodness knows what for hours in the pub — seem fun. It makes you feel alive (incorrectly, obviously, because you are damaging yourself, but you don’t care).

It makes you feel sociable, although not all the time. Sometimes it makes you sad and then, when no one is looking, you cry.

I am not talking alcoholism here. I am not focusing on women who keep vodka in their knickers drawer to hide it from friends and family. I know women like this, and it is tragic to see a once highly functioning woman sinking to the silent depths whereby hidden ­alcohol is masquerading as a friendly support. That’s something different.

I am referring to bog-standard women with kids, married, living an apparently totally normal and average life.

We see them every day — the school-run mothers, the ones in the queue at the supermarket, the ones absent-mindedly pushing the pram through the door of the coffee shop, focusing on the newspaper and the frappuccino to come. These are the 40 to 44-year-olds drinking more than anyone guesses.

Behind all those nice front doors and in those pubs and restaurants and bijou little places where mothers’ meetings take place, are women who drink. They go out at lunchtime and have a glass or so with friends. They go home and open a bottle of wine when the kids have gone to bed. They open another when their husband comes home. Then maybe another, and on it goes.

Relationships are built around alcohol. Some of mine in the past certainly have been.

My former partner and I drank enough to sink a European country through the years. There we would be, at home, long hard day at work over and four small children in bed, and once the sun was over the yardarm we couldn’t wait to open the bottle. Drinking was fun and a way of bonding. We talked, got close, laughed, sometimes we danced. There was a lot to like.

But for me (and I can only speak for myself), it all got too much. I realised I was drinking far more than I should have been. I wasn’t really in control of it any more.

What had started out as a post-kids bedtime glass of wine had turned into way more than that. I began to not function well.

I never had any desire to drink during the day — a saving grace, I now think. But my evening habit was well established. So I stopped. I had an alcoholic for a father. I recognised the signs and they scared me.

But many women do not stop. They are stuck in that whirling vortex of unhappiness, loneliness and boredom; maybe their partner is working long hours. The ritual of the night-time drink alleviates the pain that no one wants to think about.

Anyone who is looking after small children knows how mind-numbing it can be. Alcohol alleviates this. It is a demarcation between child time and adult time. Many women I know who were former high-­flyers find the lack of stimulation so frus­trating that a quick nip seems an easy, non-threatening and brief way out.

For some women, it feels like a lifeline. It can be a very bonding experience, that lunchtime wine, a good chuckle, then the drive to school (not over the limit) to pick up the kids. If you saw these women you’d never know. I have had some of the best nights of my life when the wine was flowing, and there is nothing wrong with that. But it can get so out of hand.

I have seen gaggles of middle-aged, middle-class women on a girls’ night out and they get utterly stocious. That is the point of it. It is prearranged, couched in the terms of “let’s get away and have some fun”. The fun means drinking yourself legless in the guise of “having a good time”. Woe betide the woman who doesn’t want to play that game — the non-drinker in the pack.

These women get so drunk they can’t remember where they are. They lose door keys, mobile phones, items of clothing. They chat up anything in trousers. They fall over and hurt themselves and don’t even notice. Some end up in Emergency. I have seen it in my local town on a Saturday night — usually the meek and mild mothers are the worst, throwing off inhibitions with every glass.

Forget the young women photographed slumped against walls that often grace the front of newspapers — middle-aged women can outdo them any weekend if you look in the right places. It’s an endemic thing in our culture. A French friend of mine found it hard to understand. “Why this binge drinking?” she said. “In France we just don’t go out to get drunk.”

And, of course, the more you drink, the more you want. That’s the rub. Drink is a depressant. If I drink more than two glasses now, I feel very low the next day. I have to remind myself why that is. Before I stopped totally — although temporarily — I had to drink increasing amounts to stay happy. Yet I got lower and lower in spirit and soul, and now I know why.

There is no point in castigating women for drinking. However, it is a slippery slope. I know many relationships that are bonded by the common pastime of drinking. I also know how long and dark those evenings can be, stretching ahead with not much to look forward to. This is why many women drink, and statistically it is getting worse. I don’t wish to sound holier-than-thou. It’s not that I don’t drink any more. I just drink a lot less — and I feel a lot better for it. ... 7063157030

PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2014 8:51 am 
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You can stop a nosebleed with a 'nasal tampon' made of bacon, and other Ig Nobel discoveries

The Ig Nobel awards celebrate the eccentric side of science. While they may not be serious discoveries, they often offer practical wisdom (yes, you can stop a nosebleed with a "nasal tampon" made of bacon), clarify cultural assumptions (are cat ladies really crazy?), or satisfy persistent curiosities about unimportant matters (what's up with people who see Jesus on toast?).

The annual awards were handed out by winners of real Nobel prizes in an event organised by the magazine Annals of Improbable Research and co-sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Society of Physics Students and the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association.

It was overseen by two semi-nude attendants covered in silver paint. There were not one, but two paper airplane breaks. Flying paper airplanes at any other time during the ceremony is strictly forbidden. A band of accordion players serenaded the audience. The winners were led onto the stage with a string so they wouldn't get lost.

There were ten prizes in all. Here are the winners:

PHYSICS: A team from Japan confirmed what cartoon characters have known all along: Banana skins are slippery. The paper was titled "Frictional Coefficient under Banana Skin".

NEUROSCIENCE: Chinese and Canadian researchers tried to find out what was going on in the brains of people who see Jesus on toast. Turns out the brain's facial recognition sensors are triggered by even the slightest suggestion of a face — even in unusual objects — suggesting people who see religious visions in their food aren't just plain crazy.

PSYCHOLOGY: Researchers from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia made a disturbing discovery about night owls – they are, on average, more manipulative, self-admiring and psychopathic than early risers. The findings can be found in a paper called "Creatures of the Night: Chronotypes and the Dark Triad Traits". On the bright side, people with these traits often do well in life, researcher Amy Lyons of Liverpool Hope University in England told the Guardian: "Successful psychopaths are going to end up in all the high end jobs, in charge of companies, making millions. The unsuccessful psychopaths are the ones that end up in jail."

PUBLIC HEALTH: Several studies of whether cat ladies are really crazy won the prize for a team of international researchers. Turns out there is a connection between cats and mental health. However, it remains a chicken-egg question. "It may simply be that people with depression get cats because they feel depressed," David Hanauer of University of Michigan's paediatrics department told the Associated Press. "I am in no way telling people to get rid of their cats."

BIOLOGY: A team of international scientists determined that dogs align themselves with the Earth's north-south axis when they doo-doo.

ART: A team of Italians won for figuring out it's less painful to be shot with a laser beam if you're looking at a pretty painting than an ugly one.

ECONOMICS: The Italian government won for including revenue from prostitution, drug and other illegal activities when calculating national economic figures.

MEDICINE: Doctors from Detroit Medical Centre won for finding you can stop a nosebleed with a "nasal tampon" made of bacon. The method worked because "there are some clotting factors in the pork … and the high level of salt will pull in a lot of fluid from the nose," Sonal Saraiya told the AP. The discovery helped a small child who suffered from a rare clotting disease that causes life-threatening nosebleeds. "We had to do some out-of-the-box thinking," she said. "So that's where we put our heads together and thought to the olden days and what they used to do."

NUTRITION: Spanish scientists finally figured out what to do with dirty diapers – use them to make sausage. Turns out bacteria from baby poop makes a great starter culture for fermented sausage.

ARCTIC SCIENCE: Cosplay enthusiasts who enjoy hiking but don't want to scare animals, take note: Norweigian and German researchers determined that Arctic reindeer are more scared of humans in polar-bear costumes than of humans dressed as hikers. Fashion dilemma solved. ... 0klso.html

PostPosted: Thu Sep 25, 2014 9:30 am 
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Regional communities are being torn about by ice addiction and can’t cope with the problem

REGIONAL communities across the country are being torn apart by the drug ice and are ill-equipped to deal with the social, health and crime problems it brings.

That’s the conclusion of a special report that will air on SBS 2 news program The Feed tonight, which is the result of three months of on-the-ground research

Journalist Joel Tozer spent weeks interviewing ice addicts, their families, police and health workers in two regional towns as part of the gripping story, which includes footage of a man smoking the drug.

“The thing that shocked me was the number of people that are using ice,” the 24-year-old producer said.

Digging beneath the surface of the issue in Shepparton and Horsham in Victoria, he found an epidemic that local authorities are woefully ill-equipped to deal with.

But this isn’t a local story — authorities say the crisis is playing out in regional communities all over Australia. And no one is safe.

“The types of families it affects surprised me. I think there tends to be an assumption that a drug like ice might only impact people from low socio-economic backgrounds. I found that’s not the case.”

Over the course of his investigation, which will air in a special on The Feed tonight, Tozer spent time with people addicted to ice as well as their heartbroken families.

He discovered how the drug made otherwise normal people withdraw from their social settings, shut out their family members and become dependent on substance.

“We spoke to a guy in Horsham who is addicted to the drug and he actually takes it on camera and describes how he’s feeling, what it does to him, why it has such a grip on his life.”

For the young journalist, it was a confronting experience. Coming face-to-face with people his own age whose lives had been destroyed highlighted the indiscriminate nature of addiction.

On one occasion, Tozer and his crew went to a pub to speak to punters about their experiences with ice and they couldn’t find a single person who hadn’t had an encounter with it.

Everyone in town knew someone who’d battled with ice, or they had used it at some point themselves.

“Of all the drugs I’ve heard about, this definitely seems to be the nastiest. It’s very addictive. I spoke to people who said it only took one hit to get hooked.”

Efforts to combat ice in major cities often drown out the cries for help from small towns, Tozer said. As a result, the resources that are needed are simply unavailable.

“In these two towns, there are no detox beds for ice addicts so if you’ve got a problem and want to get off the drug, you’ve got to travel to a bigger city for treatment.

“Most people aren’t willing to do that. In fact, the only person we found who’d successfully detoxed off ice had to go through quite an horrific near-death experience to do so.

“He was 21 at the time and had been smoking ice, was high and dove in to the local river. The water was shallow and he broke his neck. His detox came as a result of being in a hospital bed for months.”

Community leaders, authorities and even a local magistrate in Shepparton agreed that what was needed was detox facilities.

And it was that magistrate’s assessment of the severity of the problem that struck Tozer.

“She said rural Australia has never seen a drug problem like this before, but she believes it hasn’t reached its peak and it’ll only get worse before it gets better.”

But across the board, there is a lack of resources to tackle both the problem and its flow-on consequences.

“Police anecdotally spoke of a rise in robberies — people stealing things to sell to fund more drugs. There’s a noticeable change in the level of crime in these areas.

“Some users are also forced in to selling the drug to be able to afford to take it themselves.” ... 7069856202

PostPosted: Sat Sep 27, 2014 9:16 am 
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Ban alcohol planes to avoid ugly travel incidents, Drug Arm Australasia urges

AUSTRALIAN airlines will continue to serve alcohol to passengers despite a series of drunken incidents resulting in planes being diverted.

Anti-alcohol organisation Drug Arm Australasia has declared its support for banning booze on planes, and even in airports.

But Qantas and Virgin Australia are both satisfied their service of alcohol is responsible and their response to out of control passengers sufficient.

In the latest incident a Qantas plane travelling from Bangkok to Sydney was diverted to Cairns on Sunday morning after a man tried to steal alcohol from a trolley and then became loud and abusive.

Crew tried to restrain him with plastic handcuffs, redoing them four times.

It followed another incident last month on a Virgin Australia flight from Brisbane to Darwin which was forced to divert to Townsville when a passenger became abusive.

The diversions cost airlines tens of thousands of dollars which they can try to recover from the passengers’ responsible.

A spokeswoman for Drug Arm Australasia said the organisation would support an initiative to cease serving alcohol on planes.

“The non-supply of alcohol on flights would reduce the risk and harms associated with alcohol use and increase the safety of both passengers and crew,” she said.

Under Australian aviation laws, airline flight crews must be trained in the responsible service of alcohol, but no other restrictions apply.

A Virgin Australia spokeswoman said the airline had strict protocols in place and had the right to refuse service on board.

“Our policy also states that guests are unable to consume their own alcohol on board including Duty Free purchases and our crew are trained to monitor any consumption of this kind,” she said.

“We continually review our practices to ensure the highest standard of safety and customer experience is maintained.”

A Qantas spokesman said the vast majority of customers were responsible in their alcohol consumption.

“Offering alcohol on board our planes and in our lounges is part of Qantas’ premium service and it is valued by our customers,” he said.

“However we take a zero tolerance approach towards anti-social and aggressive behaviour and for any actions that could compromise the safety of anyone on board a Qantas group aircraft.” ... 7067000298

PostPosted: Mon Sep 29, 2014 11:54 am 
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Comedian Fiona O'Loughlin speaks out about alcohol abuse and attempted suicide

Last year, comedian and mother of five Fiona O'Loughlin checked herself into a motel under a false name and attempted to kill herself.

If it were not for the actions of her youngest daughter, she may not be alive today.

"I had gone missing and she just went to the hotel and asked for me and they said, 'No, she's not here'," O'Loughlin said.

"Mary just knew in her heart that I was there and she would not leave. She described what I looked like and sure enough I was there."

O'Loughlin went from being an Alice Springs housewife to become an internationally successful comedian by the time she was in her late 30s.

But along the way, her binge-drinking habits spiralled into benders that led to many hospital admissions and the end of her marriage.

From hidden behind the scenes to a public meltdown

O'Loughlin's personal problems became public in 2009, when she collapsed on stage during a performance at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane.

Despite this, it took her until August last year to break her pre-performance ritual of drinking two small bottles of vodka to help calm her nerves.

"The problem was with those two little vodkas – if you're an alcoholic you put that in ... and your body aches and screams for more," O'Loughlin said.

"You know I fought it off nine times out of 10 but about every 10th time it would beat me. I was the weaker and I'd go on a bender, you know ... back we go to square one."

Team effort in a long journey to recovery

Since O'Loughlin's suicide attempt, she has been under the care of a psychiatrist as well as a support team from Melbourne's Albert Road Clinic.

"I think the most pointless suicides are the suicides of alcoholics, because basically what we're doing is we can't face our own music – that’s the bottom line and it is pretty selfish," she said.

"But you're not aware of that at the time - you're kind of crazy."

When O'Loughlin's psychiatrist, Dr Mark Johnson, met her last April he said she felt quite "hopeless" about her life and about her alcoholism, and her depression was quite severe as well.

Dr Johnson said the clinic was able to offer her a comprehensive management plan, including two cycles of an eight-week outpatients' group program so she could put these skills into practice while living her normal life.

O'Loughlin's story inspires wider community discussion

O'Loughlin has used her comedy profile to talk about the often taboo subject of suicide, and recently discussed the topic with friend and fellow comedian Lawrence Mooney on the Little Dum Dum Club comedy podcast.

Little Dum Dum Club producer Karl Chandler said they had never had as much feedback about a single episode before, receiving hundreds of Facebook messages, tweets, and emails.

"To be completely honest, as we were recording it, and when we finished it, I thought, 'What have we got here? Can we even put this out? Will this offend people?'

"But what happened was an overflowing of amazingly supportive feedback. It really struck a chord with everyone that listened," he said.

Mr Chandler said it showed that audiences found such "brutal honesty" very engaging.

"[Honesty] is really attractive to people and that sort of subject matter is more relatable to people than I thought," he said.

"It felt like a lot of people had been in a similar position before, and they absolutely loved that someone they respected was talking about something that's not usually spoken of."

Hunter Institute of Mental Health director Jaelea Skehan said it is important that discussions about suicide take place.

"We certainly don't want suicide to be a taboo that is never spoken of, and in fact people like Fiona O'Loughlin talking about her experiences could help demystify the issue," she said.

"But at the same time we want to make sure that we don’t make light of an issue that is deeply distressing to many people.

"While we do not want to censor the media or commentator, we need to make sure that any material going out through mass communication does not inadvertently increase the risk of someone listening or watching."

Addictions specialist Dr Matthew Frei, from the Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, said having high-profile people speak about their addictions is a positive step.

"I think somebody coming out about their alcohol use, especially somebody in a position of influence, or someone prominent, can't be a bad thing," he said.

"I think it's a really powerful message about caution, about [how] this can happen to anyone, about, you know, just because you're prominent, seemingly bright and motivated and successful - that it doesn't mean you can't be affected by alcohol." ... ol/5770752

PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2014 8:50 am 
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5 coffee myths debunked

The National Coffee Association estimates roughly 83 percent of adults in the U.S. drink coffee. Some people consider coffee drinking a bad habit, but here we debunk 5 myths about coffee that say otherwise:

Coffee is addictive

True and False. This depends on your interpretation of “addictive.” Coffee contains caffeine, which stimulates your nervous system. Although regular consumption is associated with a mild physical dependence experts agree it bears no similarity to dependency on drugs or alcohol.

Coffee can aid weight loss

True. The caffeine in coffee stimulates the metabolic rate by as much as 11 percent, and also serves as an appetite suppressant. Aside from burning calories coffee consumption is linked to fat oxidation, the process by which your body breaks down fat as a source of energy. For those of you who are watching what you eat, drinking coffee may give your weight loss efforts a nice extra boost.

Too much coffee may increase the risk of death

False. The Harvard School of Public Health has found no correlation between coffee consumption and an increased risk of death. Still, how much coffee is too much? Generally speaking, it’s safe to consume about 400 mg of caffeine daily, which is a lot considering the average American gets about 200 mg in the about 3 cups of coffee they drink every day.

Coffee during the day interferes with sleep at night

False. It takes about four to five hours for your body to flush out the caffeine from coffee. Unless you are highly sensitive to caffeine, a few cups during the day should not affect your sleep. However, it’s probably best to avoid coffee about six hours before bedtime.

Coffee helps fight certain diseases

True. Studies indicate that by drinking a certain amount of coffee daily you can cut your risk of colon and breast cancer, Type-2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, coffee is proven to ease headaches, combat depression, and according to a recent Harvard Study it may lower the suicide risk in men and women by as much as 50 percent.

For delicious high fiber meal plans, recipes and tips on healthy eating, drinking and losing weight, check out my latest book, The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber! ... lth+-+Text)

PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:09 am 
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Tobacco giant British American in push to make e-cigarettes 'medicine' in Australia: health advocates concerned

Tobacco giant British American has been lobbying the Therapeutic Goods Administration to introduce an electronic cigarette into Australia, describing it as a "medicine".

The information emerged in documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws by the ABC.

Health advocates are worriedthatallowing big tobacco companies into the e-cigarette market could unleash a wave of seductive advertising that would lure young people into taking up the habit.

Electronic cigarettes are a multi-billion-dollar business overseas, but in Australia they remain largely unregulated and legally contentious.

Long-time tobacco opponent Professor Simon Chapman, from Sydney University, said describing e-cigarettes as medicine was "Orwellian" and destructive to society.

"That's the only word I can think [of] that's apposite here," he said.

"Down the corridor in BAT [British American Tobacco] you have a division who are spending all their days trying to work out how to gut, thwart, and ruin any policy like plain packaging."

BAT offshoot Nicoventures first sought a meeting with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in November 2013 "to fully explain our medicines-based approach to these agencies".

The name of the Nicoventures representative was suppressed by the TGA, which also editedlarge parts of the company’s pitch.

When a meeting was confirmed for December 20, 2013, Nicoventures (wholly owned by BAT) wrote again, claiming it was motivated by wanting to help make smokers healthier.

"Thanks again for making time to see us, this is an area of much focus globally and we are committed to bringing these products to market and so reducing the harm caused by smoking in the population," the letter said.

But Professor Chapman said the letter was deceptive.

"This is duplicity," he said.

"It's hypocrisy, forked tongue talk, it's everything that we've come to expect from the tobacco industry over the last 40 or 50 years."

For decades big tobacco companies denied smoking killed people or was even addictive. But in a brief it prepared for the TGA, Nicoventures spelt out the dangers of its parent company’s products.

"Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and early death in England and most of the Western world," it said.

"If smoking cessation products can achieve a greater acceptance among smokers by offering craving relief, coupled with rapid absorption and mimicking many aspects of a cigarette ... they will enable a greater proportion of the smoking population to begin their journey towards quitting or substitution of cigarettes with medicinal nicotine products."

Royal Australasian College of Physicians president Professor Nicholas Talley has reviewed the evidence on electronic cigarettes.

"There is no evidence, no convincing evidence that using e-cigarettes leads to people quitting, there's not even convincing evidence it leads to people smoking less, although that might be possible," he said.

But other health academics have disagreed and have written to the World Health Organisation describing e-cigarettes as potentially life-saving.

Professor Talley said if e-cigarettes were not properly regulated they would lead to young people taking up the habit.

"It'll seem to be cool," he said.

"I'm sure this will happen and that is not a good thing, it's quite likely, in my view, many of these young people will then transition to cigarettes themselves."

The e-cigarettes pitch

The documents released by the Therapeutic Goods Administration showed Nicoventures would like to be able to advertise e-cigarettes, and be able to sell them anywhere.

An internal TGA email summarised Nicoventures' pitch.

"Light touch regulation is a key; Require commercial freedoms (able to advertise and have general sale)," the email said.

Nicoventures declined to be interviewed but released a statement.

"Nicoventures has met with the Therapeutic Goods Administration about the possible introduction of a new smoking cessation device in Australia," the statement said.

"It is anticipated that Nicoventures will be making a formal application to the TGA in the near future.

"We expect to be able to provide more details to the public once the application is lodged.

"E-cigarettes and similar devices should be manufactured to the highest quality standards and marketed responsibly to ensure only the safest possible products are sold in Australia.

"This is currently not the situation." ... concerned/

PostPosted: Sun Oct 12, 2014 1:28 pm 
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Brave youngsters launch films about brain tumours for children their age

The animated films, which feature a boy called Jake who has a brain tumour, offer healthcare professionals a new way to communicate with children and families affected by the condition.

In each of the six films, Jake explains to young patients and those around them what to expect after their diagnosis. He talks about subjects including radiotherapy, chemotherapy and MRI scans.

The films were unveiled at an event at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where young brain tumour patients and survivors pushed the button to bring Jake to life on screen in public for the first time.

Among those attending the launch were Michelle Bould and her son Stephen, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of nine.

Stephen, who attends the Cherry Tree Learning Centre in Dudley, had surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment at the hospital. His most recent scan showed no trace of the tumour, but he is monitored regularly for any signs of recurrence. He has since raised more than £3,000 for the Birmingham Children's Hospital Cancer Centre Appeal.

Mrs Bould said: "We would really have appreciated more child-friendly information when Stephen was diagnosed.

"A lot of the information we were given was geared towards four and five-year-olds, or it was for older children and was very wordy – there was nothing in between.

"There was a gap in terms of pre-teen children with brain tumours. Jake will plug that gap, which will be invaluable.”

Stephen has been invited to speak at a forthcoming conference of head teachers about how best to help integrate children back into mainstream school after they have had cancer.

Dr Martin English, consultant paediatric oncologist at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, who also attended the launch, said: "The films will help people feel better about what’s happening to them."

The films were created by The Brain Tumour Charity, endorsed by The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and supported by Children in Need. ... their-age/

PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2014 1:28 pm 
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Drowning stats spark reminder that alcohol and waterways don't mix

The consumption of alcohol on and around the region's inland waterways has been linked to a rise in the number of drownings over summer.

Royal Life Saving NSW says inland rivers, including the Murray, claimed 105 lives in the past 12 months and alcohol was a factor in a number of the deaths.

A spokesman for the society, Ian Kennerley, said there had also been a spike in the number of people aged over 55 who died in dams and waterways.

He said 87 people lost their lives in the past 12 months.

"Alcohol is a definite one in that almost half of people who have drowned were consuming alcohol and even then 20 per cent of people drowned had alcohol but half of them had alcohol levels four times higher than the legal limit," he said.

He said it was hard to know why people did not understand the part such behaviour played in the high rate of fatalities.

"If we knew we wouldn't be in this situation where we have to talk about it to try and remind people that public holidays, alcohol and river barbecues or dam or lake barbecues are not a very good mixture when it comes to that time of the year when we're looking at why people drown," he said. ... ction=news

PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 8:22 am 
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Junk food, alcohol and gambling sponsors 'saturate' sport

Australian sport is rife with the promotion of alcohol, junk food and gambling, with nearly three quarters of sports sponsored by a company that sells those products, a study shows.

An audit of the 53 sporting organisations that have received funding from the Australian Sports Commission indicated a pervasive level of influence by companies that sell "unhealthy" products.

Cricket topped the list with the unhealthy trinity of booze, betting and burgers comprising 27 per cent of its sponsors, including 19 fast food manufacturers, 10 alcohol companies and one gambling operator.

It was followed by rugby league, rugby union, Australian rules and football.

The report comes as the Western Sydney Wanderers announced a partnership with McDonald's to sell a special Wanderers meal in 88 stores across Western Sydney. It includes a quarter pounder, large soft drink, large fries and a six pack of chicken nuggets with sweet and sour sauce, amounting to 6480 kilojoules.

An 80-kilogram person would need to play 90 minutes of competitive football, then jog for 37 minutes, to burn off the kilojoules.

University of Sydney researcher Rona Macniven, who presented the research at a Sports Medicine Australia's conference on Wednesday, said the promotion of such products was incongruous with the health benefits that came from engaging the community in sport.

"At this time of year, watching the grand finals, they were really saturated with unhealthy product advertising," Ms Macniven said.

"It's a bit of a paradox, with sport being synonymous with health."

Across 413 websites, a total of 1975 sponsors were identified and 10 per cent of them were rated as "not health promoting".

Overall, 39 of the 53 organisations had at least one unhealthy sponsor.

Ms Macniven said her research, which was conducted during 2012 and the first half of 2013, demonstrated a need for regulatory guidelines to limit sponsorship and ensure it did not reach children.

Cricket Australia's website lists Coca-Cola, KFC, VB, Carlton Mid, Bet365 and Milo among its sponsors.

Its spokesman said sponsors provided critical financial support for the game and Cricket Australia encouraged the responsible consumption of alcohol through its "know when to declare" campaign.

"We believe that to simply ban alcohol sponsorship in sport is a simplistic approach to a complex societal issue," the spokesman said.

"Our research shows that it is better to engage with the reality that most fans enjoy a responsible drink than it is to turn them off with a prohibition message that they don't believe."

Cricket Australia had a range of programs to keep kids active and sponsors such as KFC helped make them happen, he said.

Carlton & United Brewery corporate affairs director Jeremy Griffith said classifying alcohol, junk food and gambling as "unhealthy" was a moralistic position and that none of them were harmful in moderation.

"The argument that sports sponsorship is driving consumption and under-age drinking is not backed by facts," Mr Griffith said.

"Overall, consumption is down and there are fewer under-aged drinkers.

"The primary influence of a kid's attitude to alcohol are their parents, it is not a logo on a jumper."

University of Wollongong researcher Bridget Kelly said studies had drawn a link between the marketing of unhealthy products and consumer behaviour, and children perceived the sponsors of their favourite sports as "cool".

The federal government needed to threaten regulation if the industry did not act responsibly, she said.

"Industry codes look good but dig below that and they're pretty useless," Dr Kelly said. ... 16c9i.html

PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2014 8:49 am 
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Australian companies' products used to help tackle Ebola crisis

Australian companies are among those whose products are being used to combat the Ebola crisis in West Africa as skittish markets try to assess the impact of the deadly virus.

The chief executive of protective equipment maker Ansell, Magnus Nicolin, said the increasing news coverage of the terrifying outbreak, especially in the United States where a second nurse has contracted the virus, would play on the minds of decision makers in business.

"It creates a lot of uncertainty in the marketplace," he said. "I think you're going to see people deferring decisions on certain investments if this continues."

Global markets dropped on fears of a spread of the virus this week after US officials announced more than 100 people had potentially been exposed to the virus in the US. Investors in London, New York and Japan all sold heavily and world oil prices dropped to a four-year low.

America's biggest airlines watched their shares fall between 4 and 6 per cent on Friday as news filtered out that an American health worker diagnosed with Ebola caught a cross-country flight.

Investors fear the scare may cause travellers to reconsider their travel plans, hitting airline revenues as the crucial holiday season approaches. The spectre of travel bans should the outbreak spread has also been raised. The 2003 SARS epidemic cost airlines about $6 billion.

But Mr Nicolin said there is also some upside for Ansell as global health organisations band together to fight the outbreak. Sales to West Africa of Ansell's medical exam and surgical gloves, as well as protective clothing used in clean up operations have shown an "incremental" increase, he said.

"It's not material, but it is a moving variable that depending on what happens with Ebola could become more significant," he said.

Mr Nicolin said demand for Ansell's relatively new range of antimicrobial gloves, which are coated with gels that kill viral and bacterial organisms, could increase. "We are the only company with antimicrobial surgical glove," he said.

The special gloves cost 60 to 80 per cent more than the standard product. Ansell's largest market for the gloves at the moment is Russia, where surgeons and physicians try to protect themselves from high instances of hepatitis B among the population.

Ansell has donated 2.8 million pairs of its standard gloves to Ebola-hit regions. "It's obviously quite traumatic," Mr Nicolin said. "We obviously have a role to not just sell product."

Another Australian company, blood plasma product and vaccine maker CSL said this week it was in talks with the World Health Organisation about a short-term solution to the epidemic that has so far killed more than 4500 people.

Chief executive Paul Perreault said it would take more than a year to create a vaccine. But CSL could play a role in the purification of antibodies found in the blood of survivors. These could be used as a treatment for sufferers.

The World Bank has put the cost of the Ebola outbreak – if it spreads beyond the west of Africa, as is currently expected – at $32.6 billion by the end of 2015.

The 2003 SARS outbreak caused relatively few deaths – 1000, while Ebola's death toll rose to more than 4500 this week – but had a significant impact on GDP growth in several Asian nations.

China's GDP took a -1.05 per cent hit, and Hong Kong suffered a -2.63 per cent hit, and the overall cost of the outbreak was in the region of $33 billion.

However, the reality is while Ebola remains largely contained to the African continent there are few opportunities for Australian involvement, said Australian National University infectious diseases expert Professor Peter Collignon. Indeed, Australia only has a single copy of the virus, kept at a government lab in Geelong, for researchers to study.

"This is one of those cases where Australia is relatively so small that we really do not have the resources or the equipment to do much," Professor Collignon said. ... 17r9i.html

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