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Second marriage asset protection: What you need to know

<p>Of paramount importance for many people in a second marriage is how to protect their assets if their relationship breaks down, or in the event of their death. Although second marriages bring a level of complexity, there are a number of strategies that you can implement to ensure that your assets are protected.</p> <p>Let’s explore some of the options available to you and what you need to know to protect your assets.</p> <p><strong>Binding Financial Agreement</strong></p> <p>A Binding Financial Agreement, often referred to as a pre-nup, allows you and your spouse to put in place a legal agreement which outlines how your assets will be dealt with in the event that your relationship breaks down. Should you wish, it can also extend to the provision of financial support for either party. The intention is for each party to protect their own assets, and such agreements can be put in place prior to a marriage or during a marriage if both parties consent.</p> <p>Like any legal document, a Binding Financial Agreement needs to be well drafted to ensure that it encompasses all relevant information, and it is important that you seek the advice of a family lawyer to assist you with putting this important document in place.</p> <p><strong>Joint Assets v Individual Assets</strong></p> <p>The manner in which you hold your assets is of paramount importance. All joint assets pass to the surviving party. If you and your spouse own a property as joint proprietors upon your death this property will automatically pass to your spouse. By changing the manner in which you hold the property from joint proprietors to tenants in common allows you and your spouse to deal with your individual interest in the property in your respective Wills.</p> <p>Additionally, you need to be mindful of any bank accounts or other investments that you hold jointly with your spouse as these are not individual assets that you can make provision for and will pass to your spouse upon your death.</p> <p><strong>Your Will</strong></p> <p>It is imperative that you put a Will in place that is reflective of your current circumstances and adequately provides for both your spouse and your children from a previous relationship in the manner that you desire. For many parents in second marriages with children from a previous relationship, protecting their children’s inheritance is of paramount importance.</p> <p>Discretionary Testamentary Trusts which are created in accordance with the provisions of your Will, can make provision for your spouse during their lifetime, whilst also ensuring that most of your assets go to your children. </p> <p>If you are the sole registered proprietor of your residence in which you and your spouse reside you may make provision in your Will providing a life interest in your residence to your spouse subject to some conditions being adhered to. This will allow your spouse to reside in your residence for the duration of their life then subsequent to their death the property may then pass to your children.</p> <p>Dying without a valid Will in place deems that you died intestate, and your assets will be distributed in accordance with a government formula and may not end up with the people who you would like to receive them. Your spouse would be entitled to a share of your assets, however this may not have been your intention, or the share that they would receive may be significantly more than you would like them to receive.</p> <p>It is therefore crucial that you take the time to put a well drafted Will in place so that your assets pass to those who you would like to receive them upon your death.</p> <p><strong>Mutual Wills Agreement</strong></p> <p>A Mutual Wills Agreement is a separate document to your Will and essentially is an agreement between you and your spouse that both of you will not change your Will without the consent of the your spouse or their legal personal representative upon their death. </p> <p>This document is intended to prevent the remaining spouse from altering their Will and disinheriting step-children or making other adverse changes to their Will.</p> <p><strong>The Right People in Key Roles</strong></p> <p>The roles of executor of your Will and your attorney in respect to your Power of Attorney documents are important roles and it is paramount that you appoint trusted people to undertake these roles as essentially you are handing control of your assets to those who assume these roles.</p> <p>Your attorney is entrusted to look after your finances and provide the best care for you in the event that you become incapacitated so you need to choose wisely.</p> <p><strong>Communication is Crucial</strong></p> <p>It is important that there is transparency for you and your family. By having important conversations with your spouse and children you can openly discuss your intentions and expectations so that all parties are relevantly informed and fully understand what your wishes are and what you have put in place. </p> <p>In order to evaluate the best options for you it is important that you obtain the appropriate professional advice to determine which is the best strategy for your own individual circumstances so that the relevant documents are put in place which offer you the best asset protection possible.</p> <p><em><strong>Melisa Sloan is principal of Madison Sloan Lawyers and author of Big Moments: Expert Advice for Conquering those moments that define us. www.melisasloan.com.au</strong></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p>

Money & Banking

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What you need to know about protecting your children’s inheritance

<p>For many people, ensuring that their children’s inheritance is protected is of paramount importance to them. There are a number of strategies that you can put in place to achieve this objective, you just need to determine which one bests suits you and your family’s circumstances.</p> <p><strong>Put a Will in place</strong></p> <p>By putting a Will in place, you get to decide who your assets go to, allowing you to make provision in your Will for them to pass to your children upon your death. If you do not have a Will in place then it is up to the government where your assets get paid and this may mean that your assets do not pass to your children, or do not pass to them in the manner that you desire. Play it safe and ensure things go the way you want them by taking the time to put a Will in place.</p> <p><strong>Testamentary trust </strong></p> <p>Let me introduce you to Testamentary Trusts.  These amazing vehicles allow you to transfer your wealth to your children in the most asset protective and tax effective way possible. With an increasing number of marriages crumbling and divorce rates soaring, the last thing you want is your hard earned wealth passing to your child’s estranged partner in the event of one of your child’s marriage breakdown. By making provision in your Will leaving your children’s inheritance in a Testamentary Trust it protects their inheritance from any divorce or family law risks if your child’s relationship breaks down.</p> <p>Additionally, you may have a child who works in a high-risk occupation – a doctor, financial advisor or perhaps carrying on the role of a director. Alternatively, your child may be an entrepreneur, taking risks in their own business operations.  </p> <p>If something adverse happened to your child whilst they were undertaking these roles and they were sued, they could be personally liable for them for any actions brought upon them by the aggrieved party.</p> <p>Creditors and other associated parties could only seek recourse to moneys owed by your child from them in their own personal capacity. If your child had received their inheritance in their own name, and hence the assets were now individual assets, the creditors and other associated parties would have recourse in recovering funds owed to them by your child.</p> <p>However, if your child’s inheritance was paid to a Testamentary Trust for their benefit at the time of your death then these assets would be held on trust for them and are not personal assets, hence the creditors and other associated parties would not have recourse in respect to these assets.</p> <p><strong>Blended marriages</strong></p> <p>If you have children from a previous marriage, it’s imperative that you obtain the appropriate legal advice  in respect to how to protect your assets for your children. There are a number of options that you can put in place including a Binding Financial Agreement and a Mutual Wills Agreement. </p> <p>There are also strategies that you can put in place which ensure that your assets pass to your children upon your death. Options are also available where you may wish for your partner to receive some benefit of some of your assets during your lifetime with all assets passing to your children upon your partner’s death.</p> <p><strong>Choose the right executor </strong></p> <p>If you have young children, it will be your executor who looks after your children’s inheritance until your children reach the age that you have stipulated in your Will that you would like them to receive your assets.</p> <p>It is therefore imperative that you have the best person possible to undertake this role as you are effectively giving them the keys to everything that you own and control. That’s big. You need to appoint someone that you trust implicitly to undertake this role. You need to appoint your most trusted ally. </p> <p>Your executor also needs to be financial savvy or receptive to obtaining the appropriate financial advice to enable them to look after and grow your children’s inheritance.</p> <p>It is important that you seek the appropriate advice so that you can put the best strategies in place that protect your children’s inheritance in the best manner possible. There are a number of ways that you can protect your children’s inheritance, you just need to find the best one that works for you and your children.</p> <p><strong><em>Melisa Sloan, author of Big Moments, expert advice for conquering those moments that define us, is a lawyer, industry leader, author and board director who loves helping people put in place beautiful legacies. For more information visit www.melisasloan.com.au</em></strong></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p>

Money & Banking

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Jason Donovan's wild personal update

<p>Jason Donovan has revealed that his beloved pet cat has finally returned after it went missing for almost half a year. </p> <p>The ex <em>Neighbours</em> star was devastated when his pet cat of 14 years went missing and had lost hope of getting her back, but life had other plans. </p> <p>Donovan took to Instagram to share the incredible update revealing: “After nearly 5 months missing, Pixie our 14-year-old family cat was found alive yesterday on the other side of London.”</p> <p>After months in the wild, a family had found Pixie and looked after her for the last few months before she was reunited with her owner. </p> <p>“Apparently she’d been looked after by an unknown for two months. what transpired before who knows! What an incredible feeling to know that she was well and healthy and that she’d survived what could’ve only been an extremely traumatic experience.”</p> <p>“It’s funny … before she disappeared early Jan we [Pixie and myself] really started to bond and when I left for Australia earlier this year I feared something might happen. It was just a funny feeling I had," he continued. </p> <p>"Yesterday … a miracle a phone call proving that hope, a good heart and a bit of modern technology [microchip] have brought this traumatic chapter to a happy end. Good to have you back in the hood Pixie … You have been missed.”</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/C8FlRNON6PK/?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/C8FlRNON6PK/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Jason Donovan (@jdonofficial)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Donovan speculated that because Pixie was a very sociable cat, she might've "jumped into an Amazon van or something and got transported across town" when she was out in front of the house. </p> <p>Many fans were amazed and shared their joy with the actor. </p> <p>"That's a neighbours storyline. Taking notes from old hazza," quipped one fan. </p> <p>"How lovely ❤️ my cat Delilah went missing nearly five years ago, I still hope and pray that one day we’ll get that call," added another. </p> <p>"Wow what amazing news that after 5 months Pixie has been found and reunited with u all. Cats are such resilient amazing animals," wrote a third. </p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p> <p> </p>

Family & Pets

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Common mistakes pet owners make

<p>While most pet owners have the best of intentions, sometimes not everyone is aware of the mistakes they are making or the things they could be doing better. Here’s a list of common mistakes pet owners make. How many are you guilty of?</p> <p><strong>Lack of exercise</strong><br />While each breed and species is different in reference to their specific exercise needs, one thing stays the same: every animal requires daily exercise. When working out what is the correct amount for your animal, you need to look at their age, species and breed.</p> <p>And before you go thinking of daily exercise at a chore, remember this: exercise should be fun! It can include play time, walks, jogs, runs, agility training and more. Always consult with your local vet if you want to know the specific exercise guidelines for your pet.</p> <p><strong>No behavioural training</strong><br />When bringing a new animal into your home and family, adequate training is so important. Does your animal know how to take commands? It’s important to be able to teach your pet things and that they respect you.</p> <p>Remember the saying: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Well, that’s right. Investing the time to go through behavioural training from the start will help save you time and frustration in the long run.</p> <p><strong>Your pet is bored often</strong><br />Just like humans, pets too get bored. Playing games with your furry friend – such as teaching them tricks or providing them with the toys and space to do interesting things – will do wonders in ensuring their mind is constantly developed.</p> <p>If your pet is stimulated, it should stop them from destroying the house, and your things, when you’re out.</p> <p><strong>Poorly looked after teeth</strong><br />A common mistake a lot of pet owners make, is not brushing often enough – or at all – their pet’s teeth. After all, dental hygiene is one of the most important health issues animals face. The good news is this is avoidable by regularly brushing your pet’s teeth and checking on their oral hygiene.</p> <p>Anything out of the ordinary may be an indication of infection, but when caught early, can be more easily treated. So ensure you book in regular visits at the vet to check your furry friend’s mouth too.</p> <p><strong>Not enough trips to the vet</strong><br />Just as it is important for humans to go to the dentist and doctor for check-ups and shots regularly, visiting the vet and keeping up with a vaccination schedule is equally as important.</p> <p>If not more so, as pets cannot tell you when something is wrong. Booking into to see the vet every so often will ensure your pet is healthy and blossoming for years to come. </p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p>

Family & Pets

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Worried your address, birth date or health data is being sold? You should be – and the law isn’t protecting you

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/katharine-kemp-402096">Katharine Kemp</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Australians don’t know and can’t control how data brokers are spreading their personal information. This is the core finding of a newly <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Digital-platform-services-inquiry-March-2024-interim-report.pdf">released report</a> from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).</p> <p>Consumers wanting to rent a property, get an insurance quote or shop online are not given real choices about whether their personal data is shared for other purposes. This exposes Australians to scams, fraud, manipulation and discrimination.</p> <p>In fact, <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/consumers-lack-visibility-and-choice-over-data-collection-practices">many don’t even know</a> what kind of data has been collected about them and shared or sold by data firms and other third parties.</p> <p>Our privacy laws are due for reform. But Australia’s privacy commissioner <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4224653">should also enforce</a> an existing rule: with very limited exceptions, businesses must not collect information about you from third parties.</p> <h2>What are data brokers?</h2> <p><a href="https://cprc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/CPRC-Singled-Out-Final-Feb-2024.pdf">Data brokers</a> generally make their profits by collecting information about individuals from various sources and sharing this personal data with their many business clients. This can include detailed profiles of a person’s family, health, finances and movements.</p> <p>Data brokers often have no connection with the individual – you may not even recognise the name of a firm that holds vast amounts of information on you. Some of these data brokers are large multinational companies with billions of dollars in revenue.</p> <p>Consumer and privacy advocates provided the ACCC with evidence of highly concerning data broker practices. <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/Salinger%20Privacy.pdf">One woman</a> tried to find out how data brokers had got hold of her information after receiving targeted medical advertising.</p> <p>Although she never discovered how they obtained her data, she found out it included her name, date of birth and contact details. It also included inferences about her, such as her retiree status, having no children, not having “high affluence” and being likely to donate to a charity.</p> <p>ACCC found another data broker was reportedly creating lists of individuals who may be experiencing vulnerability. The categories included:</p> <ul> <li>children, teenage girls and teenage boys</li> <li>“financially unsavvy” people</li> <li>elderly people living alone</li> <li>new migrants</li> <li>religious minorities</li> <li>unemployed people</li> <li>people in financial distress</li> <li>new migrants</li> <li>people experiencing pain or who have visited certain medical facilities.</li> </ul> <p>These are all potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited, for example, by scammers or unscrupulous advertisers.</p> <h2>How do they get this information?</h2> <p>The ACCC notes <a href="https://cprc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/CPRC-working-paper-Not-a-fair-trade-March-2025.pdf">74% of Australians are uncomfortable</a> with their personal information being shared or sold.</p> <p>Nonetheless, data brokers sell and share Australian consumers’ personal information every day. Businesses we deal with – for example, when we buy a car or search for natural remedies on an online marketplace – both buy data about us from data brokers and provide them with more.</p> <p>The ACCC acknowledges consumers haven’t been given a choice about this.</p> <p>Attempting to read every privacy term is near impossible. The ACCC referred to a recent study which found it would take consumers <a href="https://www.mi-3.com.au/06-11-2023/aussies-face-10-hour-privacy-policy-marathon-finds-study">over 46 hours a month</a> to read every privacy policy they encounter.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/595623/original/file-20240522-23-2zkuc.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/595623/original/file-20240522-23-2zkuc.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&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/595623/original/file-20240522-23-2zkuc.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=131&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/595623/original/file-20240522-23-2zkuc.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=131&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/595623/original/file-20240522-23-2zkuc.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=131&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/595623/original/file-20240522-23-2zkuc.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=165&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/595623/original/file-20240522-23-2zkuc.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=165&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/595623/original/file-20240522-23-2zkuc.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=165&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">The approximate length and time it would take to read an average privacy policy in Australia per month.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://www.accc.gov.au/about-us/publications/serial-publications/digital-platform-services-inquiry-2020-25-reports/digital-platform-services-inquiry-interim-report-march-2024">ACCC Digital Platform Services Inquiry interim report</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>Even if you could read every term, you still wouldn’t get a clear picture. Businesses use <a href="https://cprc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/CPRC-Singled-Out-Final-Feb-2024.pdf">vague wording</a> and data descriptions which <a href="https://theconversation.com/70-of-australians-dont-feel-in-control-of-their-data-as-companies-hide-behind-meaningless-privacy-terms-224072">confuse consumers</a> and have no fixed meaning. These include “pseudonymised information”, “hashed email addresses”, “aggregated information” and “advertising ID”.</p> <p>Privacy terms are also presented on a “take it or leave it” basis, even for transactions like applying for a rental property or buying insurance.</p> <p>The ACCC pointed out 41% of Australians feel they have been <a href="https://www.choice.com.au/consumers-and-data/data-collection-and-use/how-your-data-is-used/articles/choice-renttech-report-release">pressured to use “rent tech” platforms</a>. These platforms collect an increasing range of information with questionable connection to renting.</p> <h2>A first for Australian consumers</h2> <p>This is the first time an Australian regulator has made an in-depth report on the consumer data practices of data brokers, which are generally hidden from consumers. It comes <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/data-brokers-call-transparency-accountability-report-federal-trade-commission-may-2014/140527databrokerreport.pdf">ten years after</a> the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) conducted a similar inquiry into data brokers in the US.</p> <p>The ACCC report examined the data practices of nine data brokers and other “data firms” operating in Australia. (It added the term “data firms” because some companies sharing data about people argue that they are not data brokers.)</p> <p>A big difference between the Australian and the US reports is that the FTC is both the consumer watchdog and the <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2312913">privacy regulator</a>. As our competition and consumer watchdog, the ACCC is meant to focus on competition and consumer issues.</p> <p>We also need our privacy regulator, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), to pay attention to these findings.</p> <h2>There’s a law against that</h2> <p>The ACCC report shows many examples of businesses collecting personal information about us from third parties. For example, you may be a customer of a business that only has your name and email address. But that business can purchase “<a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4224653">data enrichment</a>” services from a data broker to find out your age range, income range and family situation.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.au/C2004A03712/latest/text">current Privacy Act</a> includes <a href="https://www.oaic.gov.au/privacy/australian-privacy-principles/read-the-australian-privacy-principles">a principle</a> that organisations must collect personal information only from the individual (you) unless it is unreasonable or impracticable to do so. “Impracticable” means practically impossible. This is the direct collection rule.</p> <p>Yet there is no reported case of the privacy commissioner enforcing the direct collection rule against a data broker or its business customers. Nor has the OAIC issued any specific guidance in this respect. It should do both.</p> <h2>Time to update our privacy laws</h2> <p>Our privacy law was drafted in 1988, long before this complex web of digital data practices emerged. Privacy laws in places such as California and the European Union provide much stronger protections.</p> <p>The government has <a href="https://ministers.ag.gov.au/media-centre/speeches/privacy-design-awards-2024-02-05-2024">announced</a> it plans to introduce a privacy law reform bill this August.</p> <p>The ACCC report reinforces the need for vital amendments, including a direct right of action for individuals and a rule requiring dealings in personal information to be “fair and reasonable”.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. 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More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/katharine-kemp-402096">Katharine Kemp</a>, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law &amp; Justice, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/worried-your-address-birth-date-or-health-data-is-being-sold-you-should-be-and-the-law-isnt-protecting-you-230540">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Legal

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University gives resident cat an honorary doctorate

<p>A university in the US has handed out an honorary doctorate to a surprising recipient: the resident campus cat. </p> <p>For four years, Max the cat has been a respected member of the Vermont State University, putting a smile on students' faces through his friendly demeanour. </p> <p>When Max's owner Ashley was contacted by the school and told their plans to give Max the special honour, she "thought they were crazy", but it brought a big smile to her face.</p> <p>"We live on the main entrance to campus and when my daughter started attending as a junior, she started seeing everyone and how they kind of doted on Max," Ashley told <a href="https://9now.nine.com.au/today/vermont-state-university-resident-cat-max-dow-given-honorary-doctorate-in-literature/57d96d7c-ecc5-460f-85ac-ceee24e119b5" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Today Extra</em></a>.</p> <p>"So we started an Instagram page that we keep updated with some of the photos and then I started getting tracked down by people on campus saying, 'Oh Max has been on the Dean's desk and he's been on the desk of the head of graduate studies, and he just kind of makes himself at home.'"</p> <p>Ashely said that Max's calming presence has helped many students who are stressed about their studies, or those who are feeling homesick. </p> <p>"They were just talking about how he was so helpful during finals week because everybody was picking him up and doing selfies with him and he was making everyone calmer," she said.</p> <p>"There's a real sense of community because I heard he was getting attacked by feral cats if he was on campus after 5pm, so I put up some posters and asked the students to give me a call or shoot me a text if they see him out after dark and they started arriving on our doorstep with him saying 'Hey, we brought Max home.'"</p> <p>Max was bestowed the honorary degree of "doctor of litter-ature", although will not be attending the next graduation ceremony. </p> <p style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 24px 0px 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: 1.333; font-size-adjust: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-variant-alternates: inherit; font-variant-ligatures: inherit; font-variant-numeric: inherit; font-variant-east-asian: inherit; font-variant-position: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; vertical-align: baseline;"><em>Image credits: Today Extra / Vermont State University </em></p>

Family & Pets

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"SHEER INSANITY": Dog owner slammed over bizarre request

<p>A cat owner was left purr-plexed after receiving a bizarre note from her neighbour about her cats. </p> <p>She took to Facebook to share the "unhinged" letter, racking up over 15,000 comments from other people who were furious on her behalf. </p> <p>"Hey neighbour! Can you please keep your cats out of the window?" the letter read. </p> <p>"They are causing my dog to sit in the window and bark all day long."</p> <p>The anonymous letter ended abruptly with: "I work from home so this is very difficult, thanks, K."</p> <p>The cat owner said  that she has three cats and two new kittens in her house, and although they occasionally sit on the window when it's a nice outside, they "do nothing but sleep." </p> <p>"We keep the windows open because we don’t have aircon yet," she added.</p> <p>The dog owner had barked up the wrong tree, as many commenters slammed them for their "entitled" behaviour. </p> <p>"Tell them to train the dog," one said, echoing the thoughts of many. </p> <p>"LMAO, you cannot stop a cat from sitting in a window. Cats will find a way, but you can absolutely do a number of things to stop a dog from barking at a window," another added. </p> <p>"This can’t be real. What a crazy neighbour," a third wrote. </p> <p> "I’m totally a dog person, but trying to make your neighbour discipline their cat for sitting in a window because you won’t discipline your dog for nuisance barking is SHEER INSANITY. I mean, what the hell?" a fellow dog owner added. </p> <p>"Train your cat not to chill in a window because training a dog not to disturb the s*** out of everyone is too hard? I can’t believe this neighbour had the nerve."</p> <p>"Imagine being so entitled that you think it’s someone else’s responsibility to control your pet’s behaviour," another wrote. </p> <p>Another person pointed out: "If ‘your dog’ is barking when they look out the window, then cover 'your window'." </p> <p><em>Image: Facebook</em></p> <p> </p>

Family & Pets

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Better sleep is a protective factor against dementia

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/andree-ann-baril-1494268">Andrée-Ann Baril</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/universite-de-montreal-1743">Université de Montréal</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/matthew-pase-1494296">Matthew Pase</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065"><em>Monash University</em></a></em></p> <p>Dementia is a progressive loss of cognitive abilities, such as memory, that is significant enough to have an impact on a person’s daily activities.</p> <p>It can be caused by a number of different diseases, including <a href="https://alzheimer.ca/en/about-dementia/what-alzheimers-disease">Alzheimer’s</a>, which is the most common form. Dementia is caused by a loss of neurons over a long period of time. Since, by the time symptoms appear, many changes in the brain have already occurred, many scientists are focusing on studying the risk and protective factors for dementia.</p> <p>A risk factor, or conversely, a protective factor, is a condition or behaviour that increases or reduces the risk of developing a disease, but does not guarantee either outcome. Some risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, such as age or genetics, are not modifiable, but there are several other factors we can influence, <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/article/S0140-6736(20)30367-6/fulltext">specifically lifestyle habits and their impact on our overall health</a>.</p> <p>These risk factors include depression, lack of physical activity, social isolation, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking, as well as poor sleep.</p> <p>We have been focusing our research on the question of sleep for over 10 years, particularly in the context of the <a href="https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/science/framingham-heart-study-fhs">Framingham Heart Study</a>. In this large community-based cohort study, ongoing since the 1940s, the health of surviving participants has been monitored to the present day. As researchers in sleep medicine and epidemiology, we have expertise in researching the role of sleep and sleep disorders in cognitive and psychiatric brain aging.</p> <p>As part of our research, we monitored and analyzed the sleep of people aged 60 and over to see who did — or did not — develop dementia.</p> <h2>Sleep as a risk or protective factor against dementia</h2> <p>Sleep appears to play an essential role in a number of brain functions, such as memory. Good quality sleep <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/2793873">could therefore play a vital role in preventing dementia</a>.</p> <p>Sleep is important for maintaining <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.1241224">good connections in the brain</a>. Recently, research has revealed that sleep seems to have a function similar to that of a garbage truck for the brain: <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mad.2023.111899">deep sleep could be crucial for eliminating metabolic waste from the brain</a>, including clearing certain proteins, such as those known to accumulate in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.</p> <p>However, the links between deep sleep and dementia still have to be clarified.</p> <h2>What is deep sleep?</h2> <p>During a night’s sleep, we go through several <a href="http://ceams-carsm.ca/en/a-propos-du-sommeil/">sleep stages</a> that succeed one another and are repeated.</p> <p>NREM sleep (non-rapid eye movement sleep) is divided into light NREM sleep (NREM1 stage), NREM sleep (NREM2 stage) and deep NREM sleep, also called slow-wave sleep (NREM3 stage). The latter is associated with several restorative functions. Next, REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep) is the stage generally associated with the most vivid dreams. An adult generally spends around 15 to 20 per cent of each night in deep sleep, if we add up all the periods of NREM3 sleep.</p> <p>Several sleep changes are common in adults, such as going to bed and waking up earlier, sleeping for shorter periods of time and less deeply, and waking up more frequently during the night.</p> <figure class="align-center zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=1000&amp;fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&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/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=279&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=279&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=279&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=350&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=350&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/579041/original/file-20240229-16-efo9mx.jpg?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=350&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Sleep stages, and the role of deep sleep for brain health.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">(Andrée-Ann Baril)</span></span></figcaption></figure> <h2>Loss of deep sleep linked to dementia</h2> <p>Participants in the <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/2810957">Framingham Heart Study</a> were assessed using a sleep recording — known as polysomnography — on two occasions, approximately five years apart, in 1995-1998 and again in 2001-2003.</p> <p>Many people showed a reduction in their deep slow-wave sleep over the years, as is to be expected with aging. Conversely, the amount of deep sleep in some people remained stable or even increased.</p> <p>Our team of researchers from the Framingham Heart Study followed 346 participants aged 60 and over for a further 17 years to observe who developed dementia and who did not.</p> <p>Progressive loss of deep sleep over time was associated with an increased risk of dementia, whatever the cause, and particularly Alzheimer’s type dementia. These results were independent of many other risk factors for dementia.</p> <p>Although our results do not prove that loss of deep sleep causes dementia, they do suggest that it could be a risk factor in the elderly. Other aspects of sleep may also be important, such as its duration and quality.</p> <h2>Strategies to improve deep sleep</h2> <p>Knowing the impact of a lack of deep sleep on cognitive health, what strategies can be used to improve it?</p> <p>First and foremost, if you’re experiencing sleep problems, it’s worth talking to your doctor. Many sleep disorders are underdiagnosed and treatable, particularly through behavioural (i.e. non-medicinal) approaches.</p> <p>Adopting good sleep habits can help, such as going to bed and getting up at consistent times or avoiding bright or blue light in bed, like that of screens.</p> <p>You can also avoid caffeine, limit your alcohol intake, maintain a healthy weight, be physically active during the day, and sleep in a comfortable, dark and quiet environment.</p> <p>The role of deep sleep in preventing dementia remains to be explored and studied. Encouraging sleep with good lifestyle habits could have the potential to help us age in a healthier way.<!-- 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/222854/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/andree-ann-baril-1494268">Andrée-Ann Baril</a>, Professeure-chercheure adjointe au Département de médecine, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/universite-de-montreal-1743">Université de Montréal</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/matthew-pase-1494296">Matthew Pase</a>, Associate Professor of Neurology and Epidemiology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/better-sleep-is-a-protective-factor-against-dementia-222854">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Mind

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Whooping cough is surging in Australia. Why, and how can we protect ourselves?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/laurence-don-wai-luu-1415508">Laurence Don Wai Luu</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Australia is facing a whooping cough outbreak. Some <a href="https://nindss.health.gov.au/pbi-dashboard/">2,799 cases</a> were recorded in the first three months of 2024. Cases are highest in Queensland and New South Wales, with more than 1,000 recorded in each state.</p> <p>The last time Queensland recorded more than 1,000 cases in three months was <a href="https://nindss.health.gov.au/pbi-dashboard/">the first quarter of 2013</a>. This was at the tail end of a significant outbreak that spanned 2008 until 2012 – Australia’s largest reported outbreak since the <a href="https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/cda-cdi2205-pdf-cnt.htm/$FILE/cdi2205c.pdf">widespread introduction</a> of whooping cough vaccines <a href="https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/cda-pubs-annlrpt-oz_dis19_91.htm/$FILE/ozdis1917_91.pdf">in the 1950s</a>. More than 140,000 cases were recorded during this period, with the number peaking at 38,748 in 2011.</p> <p>There was a smaller outbreak between <a href="https://nindss.health.gov.au/pbi-dashboard/">2014 and 2017</a>, with more than 60,000 cases in these years.</p> <p>So what is whooping cough, why are cases rising now, and how can you protect yourself?</p> <h2>It’s most dangerous for babies</h2> <p>Whooping cough is a serious and <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/whooping-cough">highly contagious</a> respiratory disease. Also called pertussis, it’s caused by the bacteria <em>Bordetella pertussis</em>.</p> <p>The initial symptoms of whooping cough resemble other cold and flu-like symptoms. These include runny nose, sneezing, mild cough and fever. However, as the disease progresses into the second week, the coughing fits become worse and more frequent. After or between bouts of coughing, patients may gasp for air and produce the characteristic “whoop” noise.</p> <p>The disease is also sometimes called the “100-day cough” as it can last for <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7150027/">6–12 weeks</a>. It’s especially serious and can be life-threatening in newborns who are yet to receive their vaccinations. In older children who are fully vaccinated, as well as adolescents and adults, the disease is normally less severe. However, even in adults, the coughing can lead to <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMicm1701940">fractured ribs</a>.</p> <p>Antibiotics are used to <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ebch.1845">treat whooping cough</a> but are most effective when given during the initial stages of the illness. The best protection in the first instance is <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/whooping-cough">vaccination</a>, which prevents most cases of serious illness, and reduces the spread of whooping cough in the community.</p> <p>It’s recommended children are given six doses of a whooping cough vaccine (which is combined with vaccines for other diseases) between the ages of roughly two months and 13 years. Vaccination is free under the <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/vaccines/whooping-cough-pertussis-immunisation-service">National Immunisation Program</a> for children and pregnant women. Vaccinating women against whooping cough during pregnancy protects newborns in their first months of life.</p> <p>Immunity from these vaccines wanes over time, so it’s also recommended adults receive a booster, particularly those who may come into frequent contact with babies.</p> <h2>Why are cases rising now?</h2> <p>Whooping cough outbreaks generally occur <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/whooping-cough">every 3–4 years</a>. Due to COVID measures such as border closures, social isolation and masks, the number of cases declined dramatically during 2020–23. If trends had followed the usual outbreak cycle, this might have been around the time we’d have seen another outbreak.</p> <p>Missed <a href="https://ncirs.org.au/ncirs-study-confirms-decline-childhood-vaccination-coverage-throughout-covid-19-pandemic">routine whooping cough vaccinations</a> at the height of the pandemic may mean Australia is more vulnerable now. Reduced immunity in the population could be one of the reasons we’re seeing a rise in whooping cough cases in Australia and other countries including the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pertussis-epidemiology-in-england-2024/confirmed-cases-of-pertussis-in-england-by-month">United Kingdom</a> and the <a href="https://www.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/han/advisory/2024/han-advisory-5.pdf">United States</a>.</p> <p>In Australia, cases have been particularly high during this outbreak in children aged 10–14.</p> <h2>A potential superbug</h2> <p>Over the past two decades, whooping cough has been getting better at evading vaccines and antibiotics. Most vaccines used in Australia and other developed countries stimulate your immune system to recognise and target <a href="https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/contents/vaccine-preventable-diseases/pertussis-whooping-cough">three to five components</a> of the bacteria.</p> <p>Over time, the bacteria that causes whooping cough has been slowly acquiring mutations in these genes. These mutations make the bacteria look slightly different to the one used in the vaccine, helping it better hide from the immune system.</p> <p>Most of these changes were small. But in 2008, a new strain appeared in Australia that no longer produced <a href="https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/20/4/13-1478_article">pertactin</a>, one of the components targeted by the vaccine. This means your immune system, like a detective, has one less clue to recognise the bacteria.</p> <p>This new strain rapidly increased from <a href="https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/25/6/18-0240_article">5% of strains found in 2008</a>, to become the dominant strain in less than ten years, making up <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6537726/">90% of strains</a> by 2017. This pertactin-negative strain was shown to survive better in <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26432908/">vaccinated mice</a> and may have contributed to the high number of cases in the 2008–12 outbreak.</p> <p>Worryingly, since 2013, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/biggest-threats.html">antibiotic-resistant strains</a> of whooping cough have become <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/22221751.2019.1587315">widespread in China</a>. While there are other antibiotics available, these are not recommended for infants <a href="https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/whoopingcough/Pages/workers-managing-cases.aspx">younger than two months</a> (the age group at most risk of serious disease). These resistant strains are increasingly <a href="https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/10/20-1035_article">spreading through Asia</a> but are not yet in Australia.</p> <h2>What next?</h2> <p>It’s too early to know how big this outbreak will be or what strains are responsible for it. Greater tracking of whooping cough strains, like we do with COVID, is needed to inform future vaccine design and treatments.</p> <p>Importantly, although the bacteria is evolving, current vaccines are still very effective at preventing serious disease and reducing transmission. They remain our best tool to limit this outbreak.</p> <p>To protect oneself, vulnerable newborns, and the wider community, everyone should ensure they are up-to-date with their <a href="https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/contents/vaccine-preventable-diseases/pertussis-whooping-cough">whooping cough vaccinations</a>. You can check this with your GP if you’re not sure. And anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms should <a href="https://ncirs.org.au/ncirs-fact-sheets-faqs/pertussis">stay away</a> from infants.<!-- 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/226918/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/laurence-don-wai-luu-1415508"><em>Laurence Don Wai Luu</em></a><em>, Lecturer and Chancellor's Research Fellow, School of Life Sciences, <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/whooping-cough-is-surging-in-australia-why-and-how-can-we-protect-ourselves-226918">original article</a>.</em></p>

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"There's no place like home": Marcia Hines and her amazing cat share sweet message

<p>Australian music icon and <em>Australian Idol</em> judge Marcia Hines recently took to social media to express her heartfelt gratitude to those who supported her during a <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/health/caring/marcia-hines-rushed-to-hospital" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recent medical incident</a>. The beloved singer and performer shared a touching message on Instagram, reflecting on the challenges she faced and the overwhelming support she received from healthcare professionals, family, friends and fans – but mostly from her amazing-looking cat, Sistah!</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/C5AeYisL9Pu/?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/C5AeYisL9Pu/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Marcia Hines (@themarciahines)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>The incident unfolded backstage at Sydney’s Coliseum Theatre just before last Sunday night’s <em>Australian Idol</em> finale. Hines, known for her vibrant presence and insightful critiques on the talent show, collapsed, prompting concerns among the show's crew and audience. As a result, she had to miss the episode, with fellow musician Guy Sebastian stepping in as a guest judge.</p> <p>Following her collapse, Hines was swiftly taken to the hospital, where she received treatment for head injuries, including stitches. Despite the setback, she was able to make a remarkable recovery <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/entertainment/tv/marcia-hines-returns-as-australian-idol-fans-cry-foul-over-upset-win" target="_blank" rel="noopener">in time to return</a> for the Grand Finale show on Monday night.</p> <p>In her Instagram post, Hines expressed profound gratitude for the exceptional care she received during her hospital stay, particularly praising Brad Ceely and the entire team at Blacktown Hospital.</p> <p>"There’s no place like home….." Hines wrote. "Especially when Sistah is here to greet me 🐾 What an action-packed week ❤️ I’ve experienced so much care and love, and none moreso than the exceptional treatment that Brad Ceely and his entire team at Blacktown Hospital gave me during my stay with them.</p> <p>"We are so fortunate to live in a country with such incredible healthcare, and the amazing facilities we have in our Western Sydney suburbs - wow! I’m so grateful to all of the hospital staff - from the tireless nurses to the wonderful administration staff. A special thanks to all of the staff at Mount Druitt Emergency Department, all of the Ambulance teams who got me safely to-and-from hospitals this weekend, and of course Dr Kit Rowe for stitching me up so nicely after my fall. Ouch lol 🤕Thank you for being you and keeping us all safe 🫶🏾</p> <p>"Thank you also to Kyle, Amy and all the team at @australianidol for your love, and also to my @greaseoztour family who I’ll be seeing soon. Thank you also to my family and friends - you’re always there when I need you most 💝"</p> <p>The response to Hines' message was overwhelmingly positive, with fans and well-wishers flooding the comments section with messages of support, encouragement and excitement for her upcoming projects. Many expressed relief at her recovery and eagerly anticipated her return to the stage, particularly in her role in <em>Grease the Musical</em>. </p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p>

Caring

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Accused mushroom killer moved to protected unit over safety fears

<p>Erin Patterson, accused of poisoning three elderly individuals and attempting to murder several others, finds herself secluded within the confines of a protected unit in a Victorian prison. The move, reportedly necessitated by safety concerns, places Patterson away from the general prison population, reflecting the gravity of the allegations against her.</p> <p>According to sources cited by <a href="https://www.heraldsun.com.au/truecrimeaustralia/the-mushroom-ccok/accused-mushroom-murderer-in-jail-unit-with-pedophile-rapist/news-story/824c4f35c9d9b8f7553af2704836ea82" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the Herald Sun</a>, Patterson now resides in the protected wing of the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, a correctional facility in Victoria. The decision to relocate her stems from fears that she may face harm from fellow inmates due to the nature of her alleged crimes.</p> <p>The <em>Herald's</em> insider disclosed, "If Erin got out of protection, the girls would hurt her."</p> <p>Allegations of her involvement in the deaths of three elderly individuals have evidently rendered her a target among fellow inmates, necessitating stringent security measures.</p> <p>“She allegedly killed three elderly people," the source continued. “There’s a rule, you don’t touch the elderly and you don’t touch babies so because of that, you go into protection."</p> <p>Patterson stands accused of several crimes, including the murder of her former in-laws, Don and Gail Patterson, alongside Gail's sister Heather Wilkinson. Their deaths, following the consumption of a meal containing deadly mushrooms at Patterson's residence in Leongatha, shook the community.</p> <p>Furthermore, Patterson faces charges of attempted murder, notably targeting her ex-husband Simon and Heather Wilkinson's husband Ian, with the alleged attempts spanning over various dates.</p> <p>As Patterson awaits her court appearance scheduled for May, the case continues to captivate public attention. In the coming months, the court will delve deeper into the intricacies of the case, striving to uncover the truth behind the allegations.</p> <p><em>Image: News.com.au</em></p>

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Young musician dies weeks after writing final song

<p>Cat Janice has died aged 31 with her family by her side.</p> <p>The young musician, who had a large following on TikTok, had been battling cancer since January 2022 when doctors diagnosed her with sarcoma, a rare malignant tumour. </p> <p>She was declared cancer-free on July 22 that same year, following extensive surgery, chemo and radiation therapy. </p> <p>The mum-of-one was sadly re-diagnosed with cancer in June last year and despite fighting hard in the second round of her treatments, Janice told fans in January that her cancer "won" and that she "fought hard but sarcomas are too tough".</p> <p>Janice's family have announced her passing in a statement shared to her Instagram. </p> <p>"From her childhood home and surrounded by her loving family, Catherine peacefully entered the light and love of her heavenly creator," they said. </p> <p>"We are eternally thankful for the outpouring of love that Catherine and our family have received over the past few months."</p> <p>Before she died, Janice publicly announced that all her music would be signed over to her 7-year-old son, Loren, to support him in the future. </p> <p>Just weeks before her death, she released her final song <em>Dance You Outta My Head </em> in the hope it would spread "joy and fun". </p> <p>"My last joy would be if you pre saved my song 'Dance You Outta My Head' and streamed it because all proceeds go straight to my 7-year-old boy I'm leaving behind," she said, before the song was released. </p> <p>The song went viral, and took he number one spot in several countries and the number five spot on the Apple Itunes globally.</p> <p>Her family have said that the love she received for her final song, was unbelievable parting gift she could have ever received.</p> <p>"Cat saw her music go places she never expected and rests in the peace of knowing that she will continue to provide for her son through her music. This would not have been possible without all of you."</p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p>

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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.<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" /></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>

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What is doxing, and how can you protect yourself?

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rob-cover-13135">Rob Cover</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em></p> <p>The Australian government has brought forward <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2024/feb/12/albanese-government-to-propose-legislation-to-crack-down-on-doxing">plans to criminalise doxing</a>, bringing nationwide attention to the harms of releasing people’s private information to the wider public.</p> <p>The government response comes after the <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/national/hundreds-of-jewish-creatives-have-names-details-taken-in-leak-published-online-20240208-p5f3if.html">public release of almost 600 names</a> and private chat logs of a WhatsApp group of Australian Jewish creative artists discussing the Israel-Hamas war.</p> <p>As a result, some of the people whose details were leaked claim they were harassed, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2024/feb/09/josh-burns-jewish-whatsapp-group-channel-publication-israel-palestine-clementine-ford">received death threats</a> and even had to go into hiding.</p> <p>While we wait for <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/national/australia-news-live-federal-laws-on-doxxing-to-be-brought-forward-anniversary-of-stolen-generations-apology-20240213-p5f4eh.html?post=p55nen#p55nen">new penalties</a> for doxers under the federal Privacy Act review, understanding doxing and its harms can help. And there are also steps we can all take to minimise the risk.</p> <h2>What is doxing?</h2> <p><a href="https://www.kaspersky.com/resource-center/definitions/what-is-doxing">Doxing</a> (or doxxing) is releasing private information — or “docs”, short for documents — online to the wider public without the user’s consent. This includes information that may put users at risk of harm, especially names, addresses, employment details, medical or financial records, and names of family members.</p> <p>The Australian government <a href="https://ministers.ag.gov.au/media-centre/transcripts/media-conference-parliament-house-13-02-2024">currently defines doxing</a> as the “malicious release” of people’s private information without their consent.</p> <p>Doxing began as a form of unmasking anonymous users, trolls and those using hate speech while <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2022/04/doxxing-meaning-libs-of-tiktok/629643/">hiding behind a pseudonym</a>. Recently, it has become a weapon for online abuse, harassment, hate speech and adversarial politics. It is often the outcome of online arguments or polarised public views.</p> <p>It is also becoming more common. Although there is no data for Australia yet, according to media company <a href="https://www.safehome.org/family-safety/doxxing-online-harassment-research/">SafeHome.org</a>, about 4% of Americans report having been doxed, with about half saying their private emails or home addresses have been made public.</p> <p>Doxing is a crime in some countries such as the Netherlands and South Korea. In other places, including Australia, privacy laws haven’t yet caught up.</p> <h2>Why is doxing harmful?</h2> <p>In the context of the <a href="https://theconversation.com/au/topics/israel-hamas-war-146714">Israel-Hamas war</a>, doxing has affected <a href="https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/asia-and-australia/2024-02-06/ty-article/death-threats-boycotts-target-jewish-creatives-in-australia/0000018d-7e43-d636-adef-7eefae580000">both Jewish</a> and <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2023/10/15/business/palestinian-americans-activists-doxxing/index.html">pro-Palestinian communities and activists</a> in Australia and abroad.</p> <p>Doxing is harmful because it treats a user as an object and takes away their agency to decide what, and how much, personal information they want shared with the wider public.</p> <p>This puts people at very real risk of physical threats and violence, particularly when public disagreement becomes heated. From a broader perspective, doxing also damages the digital ecology, reducing people’s ability to freely participate in public or even private debate through social media.</p> <p>Although doxing is sometimes just inconvenient, it is often used to publicly shame or humiliate someone for their private views. This can take a toll on a person’s mental health and wellbeing.</p> <p>It can also affect a person’s employment, especially for people whose employers require them to keep their attitudes, politics, affiliations and views to themselves.</p> <p>Studies have shown doxing particularly impacts <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0306422015605714">women</a>, including those using dating apps or experiencing family violence. In some cases, children and family members have been threatened because a high-profile relative has been doxed.</p> <p>Doxing is also harmful because it oversimplifies a person’s affiliations or attitudes. For example, releasing the names of people who have joined a private online community to navigate complex views can represent them as only like-minded stereotypes or as participants in a group conspiracy.</p> <h2>What can you do to protect yourself from doxing?</h2> <p>Stronger laws and better platform intervention are necessary to reduce doxing. Some experts believe that the fear of <a href="https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/3476075">punishment</a> can help shape better online behaviours.</p> <p>These punishments may include criminal <a href="https://www.esafety.gov.au/report/what-you-can-report-to-esafety">penalties</a> for perpetrators and <a href="https://www.theaustralian.com.au/breaking-news/doxxing-attack-on-jewish-australians-prompts-call-for-legislative-change/news-story/9a2f3615dbf5594fb521a8959739e1f8#:%7E:text=Alongside%20legislative%20reform%2C%20the%20ECAJ,information%2C%E2%80%9D%20Mr%20Aghion%20said.">deactivating social media accounts</a> for repeat offenders. But better education about the risks and harms is often the best treatment.</p> <p>And you can also protect yourself without needing to entirely withdraw from social media:</p> <ol> <li> <p>never share a home or workplace address, phone number or location, including among a private online group or forum with trusted people</p> </li> <li> <p>restrict your geo-location settings</p> </li> <li> <p>avoid giving details of workplaces, roles or employment on public sites not related to your work</p> </li> <li> <p>avoid adding friends or connections on social media services of people you do not know</p> </li> <li> <p>if you suspect you risk being doxed due to a heated online argument, temporarily shut down or lock any public profiles</p> </li> <li> <p>avoid becoming a target by pursuing haters when it reaches a certain point. Professional and courteous engagement can help avoid the anger of those who might disagree and try to harm you.</p> </li> </ol> <p>Additionally, hosts of private online groups must be very vigilant about who joins a group. They should avoid the trap of accepting members just to increase the group’s size, and appropriately check new members (for example, with a short survey or key questions that keep out people who may be there to gather information for malicious purposes).</p> <p>Employers who require their staff to have online profiles or engage with the public should provide information and strategies for doing so safely. They should also provide immediate support for staff who have been doxed.<!-- 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/223428/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/rob-cover-13135"><em>Rob Cover</em></a><em>, Professor of Digital Communication and Co-Director of the RMIT Digital Ethnography Research Centre, <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/what-is-doxing-and-how-can-you-protect-yourself-223428">original article</a>.</em></p>

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"Worth it": Insane amount woman spends to clone dead cat

<p>Kelly Anderson from Texas, US was devastated when she lost her "soulmate" cat Chai more than four years ago. </p> <p>Not long after, in what she calls "fate", Anderson decided to clone her beloved pet, a process which cost her a whopping $USD25,000 ($AUD38,000).</p> <p>"It was just one of those moments where I had been talking about cloning a few weeks before and fate kicked in," she told <em>Weekend Today</em>.</p> <p>"I remembered the conversation and decided to clone."</p> <p>The process took about four years, which is roughly twice the average time it takes to clone a pet. </p> <p>"It was not money that I had come easily to me but it was a very important process for me to do," she said.</p> <p>"It was 100 per cent worth it. The process saved my life."</p> <p>Anderson added that Belle, the successfully cloned cat, has grown to be as "bold, bossy, sassy" as Chai, and their personalities have become more alike. </p> <p>Despite the similarities, Anderson said that she doesn't set any expectations on Belle to be Chai's replacement. </p> <p>"I would still say she's very much her own cat and I treat her that way. I always try to treat them as individuals.</p> <p>"I never wanted to put expectations on Belle to be Chai. But I would say that they're very similar in a lot of ways."</p> <p><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">According to</span><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;"> </span><em><a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/business-60924936" target="_blank" rel="noopener">BBC</a>, </em>the process itself involves extracting DNA from the pet to be cloned, then injecting that into a donor egg that has had its genetic material removed. The egg then grows into an embryo before being implanted into a surrogate mother, who then gives birth to the kitten. </p> <p>Pet cloning has become an increasingly popular practice, , despite how controversial and expensive it is, with celebrities like Barbra Streisand and Simon Cowell using the process to clone their own beloved pets. </p> <p>Anderson, who decided to document her story on social media added that people have mixed reactions to the process. </p> <p>"I think there's people who are fascinated and don't even realise that we're cloning animals ... so a lot of people are learning about cloning," she said. </p> <p>"But a lot of people also have opinions. So it's a mixed bag."</p> <p><em>Images: Weekend Today</em></p> <p> </p>

Money & Banking

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Are catnip and treats like it safe for cats? Here’s how they affect their minds and moods

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mia-cobb-15211">Mia Cobb</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/anne-quain-12802">Anne Quain</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Cats kept indoors can <a href="https://safeandhappycats.com.au/">live a good life</a> when they get access to a variety of positive experiences. Examples include performing natural behaviours, feeling safe at home and using their full sensory capabilities, including their sense of smell.</p> <p>Plants such as catnip, cat thyme and silver vine are potent smelly stimulants that can affect cat minds and moods.</p> <p>Ever wondered if these mind-altering substances are safe gifts for our feline friends? And importantly, is it OK to provide these, or is offering catnip to a cat like offering alcohol to a child?</p> <h2>Catnip, cat thyme and silver vine, oh my!</h2> <p>Owners who are concerned about their cats feeling bored and frustrated might offer them fresh or dried catnip (<em>Nepeta cataria</em>), silver vine (<em>Actinidia polygama</em>), cat thyme (<em>Teucrium marum</em>) or other plant materials such as valerian (<em>Valeriana officinalis</em>) and Tatarian honeysuckle (<em>Lonicera tatarica</em>). These last couple <a href="https://bmcvetres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12917-017-0987-6">could offer an alternative</a> if your cat doesn’t respond to catnip.</p> <p>Toys filled with the leaves or extracts of these plants can cause apparently euphoric behaviour in domestic cats (as well as big cats like leopards and jaguars). Not all cats respond this way to these smells, which is <a href="https://bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12915-022-01369-1">believed to have a genetic basis</a>.</p> <h2>Are these treats safe for cats?</h2> <p>Cats have a highly developed sense of smell. Some plants release chemical compounds to deter insects or to attract predators of insects that might otherwise destroy them. This includes <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.aba0721">nepetalactone</a>, an ingredient isolated from catnip and silver vine.</p> <p>Indeed, <a href="https://www.science.org/content/article/why-cats-are-crazy-catnip">it has been argued </a> that exposure to nepetalactone leads to an increase in feel-good hormones in cats. It may also act as a <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.abd9135">natural mosquito repellent</a> (note that it does not repel all mosquitoes and is not effective for flea or tick control).</p> <p>This may be why sniffing catnip, silver vine and some other plants causes cats to roll on their backs and rub their chins, cheeks and bodies on the plants. Other <a href="https://bmcvetres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12917-017-0987-6">observed behaviours</a> include: licking, shaking their head while carrying plant material in their mouth, drooling, kicking the plant material with their hind feet, and a “wavelike” motion of the skin over their backs as muscles contract and relax.</p> <p>These responses <a href="https://bmcvetres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12917-017-0987-6">generally don’t last long</a>, usually seconds to minutes, before cats relax or resume their normal behaviour.</p> <p>Rather than becoming addicted to these substances, cats are more likely to become habituated and desensitised, with the plants having less effect over time. When sniffed, these plants <a href="https://www.cell.com/iscience/fulltext/S2589-0042(23)01925-9">appear</a> to have <a href="https://bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12915-022-01369-1">no adverse effects</a> on cats.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yNUz4zQTA1E?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">Cats (and a dog!) react to the active compound in catnip and silver vine, nepetalactone.</span></figcaption></figure> <h2>Is it ethical to alter the minds of our cats?</h2> <p>When considering how to improve the lives of animals we care for, we tend to focus on whether the benefits outweigh the potential harms.</p> <p>Despite some marketing claims that these plants activates the brain’s opioid system, delivering a “natural high” for cats, there is no evidence these substances actually alter the minds of cats in the same way as alcohol or other drugs alter the minds of humans.</p> <p>The marketing of these cat treats as “kitty crack” or “<a href="https://www.meowijuana.com/">meowijuana</a>” and silver vine sticks as “<a href="https://www.nekopiapets.com.au/product-page/joycat-cat-cigarettes-silvervine-stick">kitty cigarettes</a>” is likely to deter some people from offering their cats <a href="https://bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12915-022-01369-1">this kind of olfactory stimulation</a>.</p> <p>Unlike offering alcohol to a child, though, the evidence suggests our cats are OK when given access to these treats. These items won’t induce psychosis and won’t lead to addiction or withdrawal symptoms. And we don’t need to worry about our cats operating heavy machinery or making important decisions under the influence of mind-altering substances!</p> <p>Provided they can walk away at any time, it seems reasonable to let them opt in to a fun time.</p> <p>In fact, we harness the power of cats’ sense of smell in other ways by using <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6435919/">synthetic feline facial pheromones</a>. This can help reduce fear, anxiety and distress in cats. These substances can come in useful in settings such as multi-cat households or when moving house.</p> <h2>How to make sure your cat has the purr-fect time</h2> <p>Offering a range of smells (olfactory stimulation) is just one way to ensure your cat has a varied and interesting life. Here are some tips:</p> <ul> <li> <p>offer cats choices to interact with treats and toys – don’t force them</p> </li> <li> <p>rotate the toys and experiences on offer, so every day offers something fresh</p> </li> <li> <p>offer items that cats can scratch – scratching posts and corrugated cardboard are popular items</p> </li> <li> <p>if you are concerned your cat has swallowed part of a toy or seems unwell, check in with your vet.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Given the short-lived effects of these plant-based olfactory stimulants on cats, it is important that we <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168159119301054">optimise their environment, lifestyle and interactions</a> with humans to improve their welfare. We can’t just rely on catnip or silver vine to give our cats a good life indoors – it’s really up to us!<!-- 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/214947/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/mia-cobb-15211"><em>Mia Cobb</em></a><em>, Research Fellow, Animal Welfare Science Centre, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/anne-quain-12802">Anne Quain</a>, Senior Lecturer, Sydney School of Veterinary Science, <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/are-catnip-and-treats-like-it-safe-for-cats-heres-how-they-affect-their-minds-and-moods-214947">original article</a>.</em></p>

Family & Pets

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How to protect yourself from cyber-scammers over the festive period

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rachael-medhurst-1408437">Rachael Medhurst</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-wales-1586">University of South Wales</a></em></p> <p>The festive season is a time for joy, family and festive cheer. However, it’s also a prime target for cybercriminals. As online shopping ramps up, so does the risk of falling prey to cyber-attacks. That’s why it’s crucial to be extra vigilant about your <a href="https://blog.tctg.co.uk/12-cyber-security-tips-of-christmas">cybersecurity</a> during this time.</p> <p>Here are some essential tips to safeguard yourself and your data during the festive period:</p> <h2>Phishing</h2> <p>Phishing is when criminals use scam emails, text messages or phone calls to trick their victims. Their <a href="https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/collection/phishing-scams">goal</a> is often to make you visit a certain website, which may download a virus on to your computer, or steal bank details or other personal data.</p> <p>This type of scam tends to <a href="https://www.egress.com/blog/phishing/holiday-phishing-scam-guide">increase</a> at this time due to the amount of people having bought or received new gadgets and technology.</p> <p>Look out for there being no direct reference to your name in any communications, with wording such as “Dear Sir/Madam” or other terms such as “valued customer” being used instead. Grammar and spelling mistakes are also often present.</p> <p>Be wary of any suspicious links or attachments within emails too, and don’t click them. It’s better to contact the company directly to check if the message is genuine. You can also <a href="https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/collection/phishing-scams">report</a> suspicious messages and phishing scams to the government’s National Cyber Security Centre.</p> <h2>Shopping safely online</h2> <p>The convenience of online shopping is undeniable, especially during the festive season. However, it’s crucial to prioritise your security when buying online.</p> <p>Before entering your personal and financial information on any website, ensure it’s legitimate and secure. Look for the “https” in the address bar and a <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-vast-majority-of-us-have-no-idea-what-the-padlock-icon-on-our-internet-browser-is-and-its-putting-us-at-risk-216581">padlock</a> icon, which indicates a secure and encrypted connection.</p> <p>When creating passwords for online shopping accounts, use strong, unique combinations of letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts, as a breach on one site could compromise all your others.</p> <p>As with shopping in the real world, be cautious when encountering offers that are significantly below usual prices or which make extravagant promises. Always conduct thorough research on the seller and product before making a purchase. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.</p> <p>And if you are out shopping in towns or city centres, there will often be a large number of public wifi options available to you. However, criminals can intercept the data that is transferred across such open and unsecured wifi. So, avoid using public wifi where possible, especially when conducting any financial transactions.</p> <h2>Social media</h2> <p>While social media platforms provide people with a means to keep in touch with family and friends over the festive period, they are often a goldmine for <a href="https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/how-to-spot-a-social-media-scam-aMtwF3u1XKGt">scams</a> and malware (software designed to disrupt, damage or gain unauthorised access to a computer). In the spirit of the festive season, people often share an abundance of personal information on social media, often without considering the potential consequences.</p> <p>This trove of data can make people vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Scammers can exploit this information to gain unauthorised access to social media accounts, steal personal information, or even commit identity theft. To protect yourself, be mindful of what you share.</p> <p>Be wary when interacting with posts and direct messages, especially if they contain suspicious links or attachments. Before clicking on anything, hover over the link to verify its destination. If it shows a website you don’t recognise or seems unrelated to the message, do not click on it. If you receive a message from someone you know but the content seems strange or out of character, contact them directly through a trusted channel to verify its authenticity.</p> <p>Likewise, be wary of messages containing urgent requests for money or personal information from businesses. Genuine organisations will never solicit sensitive details through social media.</p> <p>There are many buy and sell platforms available on social media. But while such platforms can be a great place to find a unique gift, it is also important to remember that not all sellers may be legitimate. So, it’s vital that you don’t share your bank details. If the seller sends a link to purchase the item, do not use it. When meeting to collect an item, it’s generally safer to use cash rather than transferring funds electronically.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/aO858HyFbKI?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">Advice for staying safe online.</span></figcaption></figure> <h2>Package delivery scams</h2> <p>As well as being a time for giving and receiving gifts, the festive season is also ripe for cybercriminals to exploit the excitement surrounding <a href="https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/about-us1/media/press-releases/scams-linked-to-parcel-deliveries-come-top-in-2023/">package deliveries</a>.</p> <p>Scammers often pose as legitimate delivery companies, sending emails or text messages claiming that a delivery attempt was unsuccessful or requiring additional fees for processing, or even customs clearance. Typically, these messages contain links or phone numbers that, when clicked or called, lead to fake websites or automated phone systems designed to collect personal information or payments.</p> <p>To protect yourself, always verify the legitimacy of any delivery notifications you receive. Check the sender’s email address or phone number against the official contact information for the delivery company. If the information doesn’t match or seems suspicious, don’t click any links or provide personal details.</p> <p>Legitimate delivery companies will never ask for upfront payment or sensitive information through unsolicited messages or calls.</p> <p>Remember, cybercriminals are skilled at manipulating the festive spirit to their advantage. Stay vigilant, exercise caution, and don’t let your excitement for gifts and deliveries compromise your cybersecurity.<!-- 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/218294/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/rachael-medhurst-1408437"><em>Rachael Medhurst</em></a><em>, Course Leader and Senior Lecturer in Cyber Security NCSA, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-wales-1586">University of South Wales</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-to-protect-yourself-from-cyber-scammers-over-the-festive-period-218294">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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“He gave his life to protect his siblings”: Tragic end for third child in shed fire

<p>In a heart-wrenching turn of events, the devastating shed fire that took place in Geelong, Victoria, on the weekend has claimed the life of a brave young hero.</p> <p>Isaac, the four-year-old boy who had been fighting for his life after the fire that tragically claimed the lives of two of his siblings, Ashlynn, aged 18 months, and Saige, just three years old, has succumbed to his injuries. The incident took place on a quiet Sunday morning in Corio, leaving the local community in shock and mourning.</p> <p>The children had been inside a shed on their family's property when the fire erupted, turning a normal day into an unimaginable nightmare. Despite the heroic efforts of Isaac, who valiantly shielded his younger siblings from the flames, the consequences were too grave for him to overcome. The fire rapidly consumed the shed, taking the lives of Ashlynn and Saige before they could be rescued.</p> <p>Isaac's father, Kane McGregor, described the extent of his son's injuries, with third-degree burns covering a staggering 82 percent of his young body. As if this wasn't enough, Isaac began showing signs of kidney and liver failure, all stemming from his courageous act to protect his siblings during the harrowing incident.</p> <p>“[Jasmine, their mother] said once she finally got the couch moved and grabbed Mavis first, Isaac had the other two huddled under him so they didn’t burn,” McGregor said. “What four-year-old huddles over their two little siblings? I couldn’t be any prouder of him.”</p> <p>Tragically, despite the valiant efforts of medical professionals, young Isaac couldn't overcome the devastating injuries he sustained.</p> <p>The loss of this young hero has left a deep void in the hearts of those who followed his courageous story. A <a href="https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-memory-of-Issac-saige-and-ashlynn" target="_blank" rel="noopener">GoFundMe page</a>, originally organised to raise funds for the children's medical expenses and support, posted an update following Isaac's death. It read, "Issac sadly grew his wings and reunited with his baby brother and sister. He will always be remembered as the heroic young boy who gave his life trying to protect his siblings."</p> <p>Mavis, Isaac's six-year-old sister, was the sole survivor among the siblings, though she, too, suffered severe injuries, with third-degree burns covering 30 percent of her body. She is currently in critical condition and is set to undergo surgery to address her injuries. Despite the physical and emotional trauma that Mavis has endured, there is hope that she will recover and heal in due course.</p> <p>The circumstances surrounding the fire remain unclear, and an investigation is underway to determine the exact cause of the tragedy. A couch inside the shed, initially used as a dog bed, became the source of the fire that swiftly engulfed the structure. The local authorities are diligently preparing a report for the Coroner to gain a deeper understanding of the events leading up to this devastating incident.</p> <p><em>Image: GoFundMe</em></p>

Caring

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Top tips to protect your outdoor furniture

<p>If you have outdoor furniture, it’s important to look after it properly so it will stay in good condition over the years. Remember to invest in UV and water-resistant<strong> </strong>chair covers<span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong> </strong></span>and pillows in order to ensure you can enjoy your outdoor furniture without the hassle of replacing all your items. Here’s how to care for your furniture.</p> <p><strong>1. Wooden</strong></p> <p>To get your wooden outdoor furniture ready for use, clean with hot soapy water or a hardwood cleaning fluid at the beginning of the season. If the furniture is very dirty then you can lightly sand the furniture after cleaning. It is a good idea to oil or paint your outdoor furniture after cleaning.</p> <p>If you want your furniture to age naturally, then oil the furniture with two coats and leave to dry for 48 hours. Use hardwood oil for eucalyptus and teak oil for teak furniture. If you want your outdoor furniture to look new, then use a stained oil. If you want to completely transform your furniture then paint with 2-3 coats and it should last for roughly three years.</p> <p><strong>2. Metal</strong></p> <p>When you wash your metal outdoor furniture be sure to clean it with a non-abrasive cloth. If the furniture is made from steel, you need to treat any scratches that expose the bare metal underneath to prevent rust. If rust has already set it on your furniture, remove it using steel wool and then touch it up using an exterior metal paint of the same colour.</p> <p>If your furniture is made from aluminium, it won’t rust but it may suffer from aluminium oxidation. This won’t decrease the strength of the furniture but it will change the colour of the metal over time. To prevent this from happening, make sure you clean it regularly and store it away or keep it covered during the winter months.</p> <p>One tip to keep your metal furniture in pristine condition is to polish it with car wax after you have finished cleaning it. The wax will help the furniture be more water resistant.</p> <p><strong>3. Rattan</strong></p> <p>Synthetic rattan is UV and weather-resistant so it won’t be as worn out by the weather conditions. Whenever it needs a refresh, wash with soapy water. It is important to keep an eye on the frame underneath as if that is made from steel rather than aluminium, you will need to abide by the metal care rules.</p> <p><strong>4. Resin</strong></p> <p>Resin outdoor furniture is fairly easy to look after. Wash it regularly with soap to keep it in great condition. If there is dirt or stains that are particularly hard to get out, then wash your furniture with a pressure washer.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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