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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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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. 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/230540/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/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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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>

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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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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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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>

Money & Banking

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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>

Legal

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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>

Home & Garden

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Our planet is burning in unexpected ways - here’s how we can protect people and nature

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/luke-kelly-159658">Luke Kelly</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-bowman-4397">David Bowman</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-tasmania-888">University of Tasmania</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ella-plumanns-pouton-1470045">Ella Plumanns Pouton</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/grant-williamson-109967">Grant Williamson</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-tasmania-888">University of Tasmania</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-shawn-fletcher-99786">Michael-Shawn Fletcher</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p>People have been using fire for millennia. It is a vital part of many ecosystems and cultures. Yet human activities in the current era, sometimes called the “<a href="https://theconversation.com/did-the-anthropocene-start-in-1950-or-much-earlier-heres-why-debate-over-our-world-changing-impact-matters-209869">Anthropocene</a>”, are reshaping patterns of fire across the planet.</p> <p><a href="https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-environ-120220-055357">In our new research</a>, published in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources, we used satellite data to create global maps of where and how fires are burning. We calculated about 3.98 million square kilometres of Earth’s land surface burns each year. We also examined research spanning archaeology, climatology, ecology, Indigenous knowledge and paleoecology, to better understand the causes and consequences of fires.</p> <p>Our international team found strong evidence fires are burning in unexpected places, at unusual times and in rarely observed ways. These changes in fire patterns are threatening human lives and modifying ecosystems.</p> <p>But the future does not have to be bleak. There are many opportunities to apply knowledge and practice of fire to benefit people and nature.</p> <h2>Here’s how fire patterns are changing</h2> <p>Exploring multiple approaches and scales enables a deeper understanding of where, when and how fires burn.</p> <p>Satellite data provide evidence of changes in fire patterns at a global scale. <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2020RG000726">Annual fire season length</a> increased by 14 days from 1979 to 2020 and <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04325-1">night fires</a>, which indicate fires that cannot be quickly controlled, increased in intensity by 7.2% from 2003 to 2020.</p> <p>Other changes are apparent only when we look at data from particular regions. An increase in fire size and the frequency of large fires has recently been observed in <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/abs/10.1073/pnas.2103135118">forests and woodlands of the western United States</a>. Meanwhile fire-dependent grasslands and savannahs across <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/gcb.14711">Africa</a> and <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2019GL082327">Brazil</a> have experienced reductions in fire frequency.</p> <p>It’s also important to consider the timescale and type of fire when interpreting changes. In Australia, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-27225-4">satellite records show</a> the frequency of very large forest fires has increased over the past four decades. At longer time scales, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13280-020-01339-3">charcoal and pollen records</a> indicate the frequency of low-intensity fires <a href="https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.2395">decreased in parts of southeastern Australia</a> following British colonisation in 1788.</p> <h2>Changes in fire affect air, land and water</h2> <p>Many animals and plants have evolved strategies that enable them to thrive under particular fire patterns. This means changes to fire characteristics can <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abb0355">harm populations and ecosystems</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/conl.12905">Large and intense fires</a> are reducing the available forest habitat preferred by the greater glider. But a <a href="https://theconversation.com/research-reveals-fire-is-pushing-88-of-australias-threatened-land-mammals-closer-to-extinction-185965">lack of fire can be problematic too</a>. Threatened species of native rodents can benefit from food resources and habitats that flourish shortly after fire.</p> <p>There is evidence that emissions from recent fires are already modifying the atmosphere. The historically exceptional 2019–20 Australian wildfires produced <a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abe1415#:%7E:text=Intense%2C%20widespread%20bushfires%20in%20Australia,from%20a%20moderate%20volcanic%20eruption.">record-breaking levels of aerosols</a> over the Southern Hemisphere, as well as substantial carbon emissions.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-020-00610-5">wildfire smoke-related health costs</a> of the 2019–20 wildfires in Australia included an estimated 429 smoke-related premature deaths as well as 3,230 hospital admissions for cardiovascular and respiratory disorders.</p> <p>Changes in fire patterns are modifying water cycles, too. In the western United States, <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2009717118">fires are reaching higher elevations</a> and having strong impacts on <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2200333119">snow</a> and water availability.</p> <p>New studies are revealing how the air, land and water that support life on Earth are connected by fires. Smoke plumes from the 2019–20 Australian wildfires transported nutrients to the Southern Ocean, resulting in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03805-8">widespread phytoplankton blooms</a>.</p> <h2>Humans are responsible for the changes</h2> <p>Human drivers such as climate change, land use, fire use and suppression, and transportation and extinction of species <a href="https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-environ-120220-055357">are causing shifts in fire patterns</a>.</p> <p>Increasing global temperatures and more frequent heatwaves and droughts increase the likelihood of fire by promoting hot, dry and windy conditions. A pattern of extreme fire weather outside of natural climate variation is already emerging in <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.15388">North America</a>, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-014-1183-3">southern Europe</a> and <a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ac1e3a/meta">the Amazon basin</a>.</p> <p>Humans modify fire regimes by changing land use for agricultural, forestry and urban purposes. Until recent decades, large fires in tropical forests were uncommon. But <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03876-7">deforestation fires</a> used to clear primary forest for agriculture often promotes more frequent and intense uncontrolled fires.</p> <p>Humans have transported plants and animals across the globe, resulting in novel mixes of species that modify fuels and fire regimes. In many parts of the world, <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/abs/10.1073/pnas.1908253116">invasive grasses</a> have increased flammability and fire activity.</p> <p>Social and economic changes propel these drivers. Colonisation by Europeans and the displacement of Indigenous peoples and their skilful use of fire has been linked with fire changes in <a href="https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.2395">Australia</a>, <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2116264119">North America</a> and <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2015.0174">South America</a>.</p> <h2>Using knowledge and practice of fire to achieve sustainability goals</h2> <p><a href="https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-environ-120220-055357">The pace and scale of these changes</a> represent challenges to humanity, but knowledge and practice of fire can help to achieve sustainability goals.</p> <p>This includes:</p> <ul> <li><a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2015.0174">good health and wellbeing</a>, by supporting community-owned solutions and fire practices that increase social cohesion and health</li> <li><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301479718314658">sustainable cities and communities</a>, by designing green firebreaks and mixed-use areas with low fuels, strategically located in the landscape</li> <li><a href="https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aam7672">life on land</a>, by tailoring use of fire to promote and restore species and ecosystems</li> <li><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-021-00867-1">climate action</a>, by applying low-intensity fire to promote the stability of soil organic matter and increase carbon storage</li> <li><a href="https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/18/8/3921">reduced inequalities</a>, by allocating resources before, during, and after wildfires to at-risk communities and residents.</li> </ul> <p>As the world changes, society as a whole needs to keep learning about the interplay between people and fire.</p> <p>A deep understanding of fire is essential for achieving a sustainable future – in other words, <a href="https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-environ-120220-055357">a better Anthropocene</a>.<!-- 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/213215/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/luke-kelly-159658"><em>Luke Kelly</em></a><em>, Associate Professor in Quantitative Ecology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-bowman-4397">David Bowman</a>, Professor of Pyrogeography and Fire Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-tasmania-888">University of Tasmania</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ella-plumanns-pouton-1470045">Ella Plumanns Pouton</a>, PhD candidate, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/grant-williamson-109967">Grant Williamson</a>, Research Fellow in Environmental Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-tasmania-888">University of Tasmania</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-shawn-fletcher-99786">Michael-Shawn Fletcher</a>, Professor in Biogeography, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</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/our-planet-is-burning-in-unexpected-ways-heres-how-we-can-protect-people-and-nature-213215">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Finding a live brain worm is rare. 4 ways to protect yourself from more common parasites

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/vincent-ho-141549">Vincent Ho</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a></em></p> <p><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/aug/28/live-worm-living-womans-brain-australia-depression-forgetfulness">News reports</a> this morning describe how shocked doctors removed a live worm from a woman’s brain in a Canberra hospital last year. The woman had previously been admitted to hospital with stomach symptoms, dry cough and night sweats and months later experienced depression and forgetfulness that led to a brain scan.</p> <p>In the <a href="https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/29/9/23-0351_article">case study</a> published in Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, doctors describe removing the live 8cm-long nematode (roundworm) from the brain of the 64-year-old woman who was immunosuppressed. The worm was identified as <em>O. robertsi</em> which is native to Australia, where it lives on carpet pythons. The woman may have come into contact with worm eggs via snake faeces while foraging for Warrigal greens to eat.</p> <p>It’s important to note this is an extremely rare event and headlines about brain worms can be alarming. But there are more common parasites which can infect your body and brain. And there are ways you can minimise your risks of being infected with one.</p> <h2>Common parasites and how they get in</h2> <p>Parasitic infection is extremely common. Arguably the most widespread type is pinworm (<em>Enterobius vermicularis</em> also called threadworm), which is thought to be present in <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6522669/">over a billion people</a> worldwide, especially children. Pinworms grow to around 1cm in length and are specific to human hosts. They cause intense bottom itching and get passed from person-to-person. It’s a myth that you can get it from pets.</p> <p><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/giardia/pathogen.html#:%7E:text=Giardia%20duodenalis%20is%20a%20protozoan,Giard%20of%20Paris%20and%20Dr.">Giardia</a> (<em>Giardia duodenalis</em>) is also very common and can contaminate food, water and surfaces. This water-borne parasite is associated with poor sanitation and causes stomach symptoms like diarrhoea, cramps, bloating, nausea and fatigue. Giardia cysts (little sacs of immature parasite) spread disease and are passed out in faeces, where they can remain viable in the environment for months before being consumed by someone else. They can also be ingested via foods (such as sheep meat) that is raw or undercooked.</p> <p><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/dpdx/hookworm/index.html">Two types</a> of hookworm – <em>Necator americanis</em> and <em>Ancylostoma duadonale</em> – are found in soil. Only <em>Ancylostoma duodenale</em> is an issue in Australia and is typically found in <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/dpdx/hookworm/index.html">remote communities</a>.</p> <p>When a person is infected (usually via barefeet or contaminated footwear) these worms enter the bloodstream and then hit the lungs. From the bronchi in the upper lungs, they are swallowed with secretions. Once in the gut and small bowel they can <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/soil-transmitted-helminth-infections#:%7E:text=Transmission,these%20eggs%20contaminate%20the%20soil.">cause anaemia</a> (low iron). This is because they are consuming nutrients and affecting iron absorption. They also release an anticoagulant that stops the human host’s blood clotting and causes tiny amounts of blood loss.</p> <p>Fortunately, these very common parasites do not infect the brain.</p> <p>Across the world, it’s estimated <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22491772/">30–50% of people</a> are infected with <em>Toxoplasma</em>. Most people will be asymptomatic but many carry the <a href="https://theconversation.com/one-in-three-people-are-infected-with-toxoplasma-parasite-and-the-clue-could-be-in-our-eyes-182418">signs of infection</a>.</p> <p>The parasites can remain in the body for years as tiny tissue cysts. These cysts can be found in brain, heart and muscle. Infants can be born with serious eye or brain damage if their mothers are infected during pregnancy. People with compromised immunity – such as from AIDS or cancer treatment – are also at risk of illness from infection via pet cats or uncooked meat.</p> <h2>Then there are tapeworms and amoebas</h2> <p>Tapeworms can infect different parts of the body including the brain. This is called <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/resources/pdf/npis_in_us_neurocysticercosis.pdf">neurocysticercosis</a> and is the leading cause of epilepsy worldwide. Neurocysticercosis is uncommon in the Western world and infection is usually via eating pork that is uncooked or prepared by someone who is infected with tapeworm (<em>Taenia solium</em>). It is more likely in locations where pigs have contact with human faeces via sewerage or waterways.</p> <figure class="align-right zoomable"><figcaption></figcaption></figure> <p>Tapeworm larvae can infect muscle and soft tissue. Brain tissue can provide a home for larvae because it is soft and easy to get to via blood vessels. Brain infection can cause headaches, dizziness, seizures, cognitive impairment and even dementia, due to an increase in <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/cysticercosis/gen_info/faqs.html">cerebral spinal fluid pressure</a>.</p> <p><em><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/general.html">Naegleria fowleri</a></em> is an amoeba found in lakes, rivers and springs in warm climates including <a href="https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/public+health/water+quality/naegleria+fowleri#:%7E:text=How%20common%20are%20Naegleria%20fowleri,frequently%20found%20in%20the%20environment.">in Australia</a>. People swimming in infected waters can have the parasite enter their body through the nose. It then travels to the brain and destroys brain tissue. The condition is <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/general.html#:%7E:text=Top%20of%20Page-,What%20is%20the%20death%20rate%20for%20an%20infected%20person%20who,States%20from%201962%20to%202022.">almost always fatal</a>.</p> <h2>Yikes! 4 ways to avoid parasitic infection</h2> <p>That all sounds very scary. And we know being infected by a snake parasite is very rare – finding one alive in someone’s brain is even rarer. But parasites are all around us. To minimise your risk of infection you can:</p> <p><strong>1.</strong> avoid undercooked or raw pork. Freezing meat first may reduce risks (though home freezers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/trichinellosis/prevent.html">may not get cold enough</a>) and it must be cooked to a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924224418301560#:%7E:text=and%20time%20conditions.-,Cooking%20at%20core%20temperature%2060%E2%80%9375%20%C2%B0C%20for%2015,relied%20upon%20in%20home%20situations.">high internal temperature</a>. Avoid pork if you are travelling in places with poor sanitation</p> <p><strong>2.</strong> avoid jumping or diving into warm fresh bodies of water, especially if they are known to carry <em>Naegleria fowleri</em>. Although only a <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/graphs.html">handful of cases</a> are reported each year, you should assume it’s present</p> <p><strong>3.</strong> practise good <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html#:%7E:text=Follow%20Five%20Steps%20to%20Wash%20Your%20Hands%20the%20Right%20Way&amp;text=Wet%20your%20hands%20with%20clean,for%20at%20least%2020%20seconds.">hand hygiene</a> to reduce the risk of rare and common infections. That means washing hands thoroughly and often, using soap, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds, rinsing and drying well. Clip and clean under fingernails regularly</p> <p><strong>4.</strong> to avoid soil-borne parasites wear shoes outside, especially in rural and remote regions, wash shoes and leave them outside.<!-- 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/212437/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/vincent-ho-141549">Vincent Ho</a>, Associate Professor and clinical academic gastroenterologist, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/western-sydney-university-1092">Western Sydney University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Canberra Health </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/finding-a-live-brain-worm-is-rare-4-ways-to-protect-yourself-from-more-common-parasites-212437">original article</a>.</em></p>

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5 ways to protect your voice while barracking for the Matildas – and how to treat a hoarse voice after

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/amy-hume-1393423">Amy Hume</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p>“It was definitely loud,” said Matildas player Caitlin Foord last week after the team played Denmark in Sydney, <a href="https://sport.optus.com.au/news/womens-world-cup-2023/os61164/matildas-beat-denmark-wwc-caitlin-foord-wish-loud-crowd-sydney">adding "</a>I loved it. We definitely hear it, we feel it and the louder the crowd I feel the better we are."</p> <p>Now fans are set to get even louder, whether watching at home or in a stadium, as the Australian team prepare to face England in their first-ever World Cup semi final.</p> <p>While the Matildas are warming up their limbs and muscles pre-match, spectators need to warm up our vocal folds. With a barracking job to do, we need to be match-fit. Here’s why.</p> <h2>Why do we need to warm up at all?</h2> <p>A sudden night of cheering can lead to vocal strain. The short-term risk is that you have a hoarse voice for a couple of days. Repeated vocal abuse can lead to <a href="https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/voice-disorders">permanent damage</a> that may require therapy or surgery.</p> <p>But with some good habits and preparation, you’ll be able to get loud safely. Here are five ways to build vocal stamina for tonight.</p> <h2>1. Get your body ready</h2> <p>The amount of volume you can have in your voice all begins with your body. If you are feeling tight, especially around the neck and shoulders, the muscles around the vocal folds may <a href="https://britishvoiceassociation.org.uk/voicecare_muscle-tension-dysphonia.htm">overcompensate</a>, giving you a tired or strained feeling. Before the match, take a moment to stretch your neck and shoulders for a more open and relaxed throat, ready to roar.</p> <p>And just as the Matilda’s will aim to stay well hydrated, you should too to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2925668/">protect your voice</a>. The vocal structures consist of soft tissues that vibrate better when wet.</p> <h2>2. Yawn – even though you’re excited</h2> <p>Yawning stretches your soft palate (the fleshy back portion of the roof of the mouth) and its flexibility is essential for safe screaming. A vocal technique called <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8353622/">yawn-sigh</a> can also help stretch and warm up the structures like the tongue and pharynx (the passage at the top back of the throat) that are important for voice.</p> <p>Try yawning “horizontally” – smiling widely as you yawn. Then try yawning in the usual “vertical” way. When yawning horizontally, you should feel a different stretch in the back of your mouth and throat that targets your soft palate.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/aFxKt1sexVc?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">‘Yawn a lot,’ says actor Morgan Freeman. ‘It relaxes your throat muscles, it relaxes your vocal chords.’</span></figcaption></figure> <h2>3. Breathe</h2> <p>If the semi final is anything like the <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-08-13/matildas-world-cup-win-over-france-game-stopped-nation/102723254">quarter final against France</a>, it may be hard to remember to breathe. But breath gives your voice <a href="https://voicefoundation.org/health-science/voice-disorders/anatomy-physiology-of-voice-production/breakdowns-result-voice-disorders/#:%7E:text=If%20the%20airflow%20source%20is,for%20long%20periods%20of%20time.">power</a>.</p> <p>If you roar and cheer without a decent in-breath, the muscles of your throat will tense and strain to try to make the sound louder. It’s not efficient and will tire you out quickly. So every time you go to cheer, allow a big breath in first.</p> <h2>4. Work out your vocal folds</h2> <p>Your voice is like a muscle – actually a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535342/">complex arrangement</a> of cartilage, muscle, ligaments and soft layers. If you stretch it before a workout, it will not only make the exercise easier but also aid recovery time.</p> <p>Your vocal folds are small bands of muscle in the larynx, and you can think of them like elastic. If unused, they can lose stretch and have less vibration capacity to produce sound.</p> <p>Simple exercises like humming and lip trilling can help keep the elasticity of your vocal folds. Start with <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/136132802805576436?journalCode=yslh19">humming</a> at a comfortable pitch and glide up and down your range.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ddal_OAzkLQ?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">The vocal folds in action.</span></figcaption></figure> <h2>5. Put your whole self into it</h2> <p>Your <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2016.00506/full">voice, body and emotions</a> are constantly taking cues from one another. If you allow your body to be expressive, your voice will follow. Let your fandom take over your whole body and come into your face too – gestures and facial expressions change the sound of your voice and can bring enormous energy to your roars.</p> <p>Fully commit and trust your body and voice. When we are completely connected to communication, huge breaths can fly in, sound travels up through the vocal folds and rings through the body, giving your voice enormous carrying power.</p> <p>If you try to make your voice low pitched when it wants to come out high, or you hold back from being loud when your voice wants to be heard, tension can come into your throat and lead to strain.</p> <h2>How to treat your voice after the match</h2> <p>You got excited. You overdid the shouting. Understandable! After a full match, you may feel some level of <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20840041/#:%7E:text=Vocal%20fatigue%20is%20defined%20by,component%20of%20other%20voice%20disorders.">vocal fatigue</a>. If your voice sounds rough, hoarse or scratchy with unpredictable pitch, you might have what speech pathologists and ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists call <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK565881/">dysphonia</a>.</p> <p>As the Matildas jump in an ice bath, it’s your time to give your voice some TLC.</p> <p>Stretching, yawning, deep breathing and gentle <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534632/">voice exercises</a> like humming and trills work for recovery as well as warming up. An exercise I use with actors after a show is gentle whimpering sounds (like a puppy) to soothe vocal folds. Although it’s not widely researched, actors love it.</p> <p>Again, <a href="https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/taking-care-your-voice">hydration</a> is important for vocal hygiene, so drink up or <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0892199716304805">try a humidifier</a>. Special techniques like <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30408272/">singing through a straw</a> into a half-glass of water can help. Avoid whispering, which can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16503476/">produce more strain</a> than talking naturally. <a href="https://www.enthealth.org/be_ent_smart/how-to-prevent-hoarseness-dysphonia/">Avoid</a> smoking or smoky spaces, excessive throat clearing and alcohol or caffeine that can dry out the throat and thicken mucus.</p> <p>With all the love behind the Matildas, they’ve got a chance of reaching the World Cup final. Even more reason to look after your voice and maintain match fitness. Go Matildas!<!-- 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/211499/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/amy-hume-1393423">Amy Hume</a>, Lecturer In Theatre (Voice), Victorian College of the Arts, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</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/5-ways-to-protect-your-voice-while-barracking-for-the-matildas-and-how-to-treat-a-hoarse-voice-after-211499">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Facebook Messenger scams are on the rise – here’s how to protect yourself

<p><strong>Facebook Messenger scams prey on our vulnerabilities</strong></p> <p>Scams through Facebook’s Messenger platform are being reported at higher rates than ever before, according to AARP, citing its own data as well as that of the government. Since Facebook’s early days, cybercriminals have been mining Facebook’s direct-messaging capabilities to scam unsuspecting victims out of money. One of the earliest Facebook Messenger scams involved a message, purportedly from a friend, claiming they were stuck in a foreign country and in desperate need of immediate financial assistance to get out. It wasn’t really the friend, however, but rather a scammer who had hacked into the friend’s account. </p> <p>Imposter scams such as “the friend in a foreign country” have evolved and proliferated over the years. The common thread is the scammer either creates an account impersonating an actual Facebook account or hacks into an existing Facebook account. In either case, the scammer then uses the fake/hacked account to send private messages to the account holder’s friends that elicit either money or personal information. The messages vary, but all are designed to prey on our human vulnerabilities, including:</p> <ul> <li>the desire to be a “hero”</li> <li>the desire to appear “generous”</li> <li>the desire to win “free money”</li> <li>the desire to be loved and admired</li> <li>the desire to avoid shame or punishment</li> </ul> <p>If a scammer tries to message you, report them, Facebook advises, but that begs the larger question of how does one recognise a Facebook Messenger scam?</p> <p><strong>Current Messenger Facebook scams</strong></p> <p>According to Facebook and our cybersecurity experts, here are the most common Facebook Messenger scams today:</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Romance scams</em></span>. Preying on our desire to be loved and admired, romance scammers appear as attractive strangers with sad stories and a desire to love and be loved. The most effective romance scammers will friend a number of mutual friends before reaching out to any of them, in an attempt to make themselves seem less like strangers and more like people in the same social network. Many use photos they’ve stolen off the Internet and many pose as members of the military or as doctors, in an attempt to inspire trust, admiration, and even authority. What they all have in common is they can’t meet you just yet because they’re somewhere far away, and although it may take a bit of time, even as much as several weeks, they will eventually ask you to send money so that they can come to see you.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Lottery scams</em></span>. Preying on our desire for “free money,” lottery scammers appear as friends or organisations who are thrilled to tell you you’ve won money in some lottery or contest. The common thread? It’s a contest you have no recollection of having entered and to get the prize, you’ll have to either pay a fee or “refundable” advance or provide personal information.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Inheritance scams</em></span>. Also preying on our desire for free money, inheritance scammers claim to be lawyers or others who represent someone who has died and supposedly left you their estate or some portion of it – but first, you’ll have to fork over some money or personal information.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Loan scams</em></span>. Another variation on the “free money” theme is the loan scam, whereby the scammer promises low-interest loans with no money down – except for a “refundable” application fee. Facebook points out that loan scammers may send messages via Messenger and also leave posts and comments on Pages and in Groups to legitimise themselves. However, legitimate lenders wouldn’t offer loans via Facebook Messenger, nor would they ask you for money to proceed with a loan application.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Donation scams</em></span>. Facebook specifically warns users to watch out for “famous people” or people claiming to represent a charity hitting them up for a donation. Donation scams, which are easy money for a scammer because they are a direct request for payment, prey on our desire to be perceived, or to perceive ourselves, as generous.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>“Hey, is this you?” scams</em></span>. Consumer Affairs warns of this “phishing scam” that uses the threat of shame to goad you into giving up personal information. The scammer hacks into one of your Facebook friend’s Messenger accounts and sends you a video, asking if it’s really you in the video, and implying there’s something in the video that could embarrass you. If you ever get a message like this, Consumer Affairs urges you to ignore and delete it to avoid giving away personal information or introducing a virus onto your computer.</p> <p><strong>Red flags to watch out for</strong></p> <p>Unfortunately, Facebook Messenger scams evolve rapidly (as soon as we suss them out, there are several more to replace them). So, it’s a good idea to be aware of these warning signs that we culled from our experts:</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Someone is asking you for money</em></span>. While Facebook warns specifically against strangers asking for money, Rachel Wilson, investigative coordinator for The Smith Investigation Agency, points out to Reader’s Digest that any time anyone asks you for money over Messenger, it’s immediately suspect. “If friends or family ask you to help them in an emergency, always call to speak with them personally to confirm that the message originated with them.”</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Someone is getting a little too personal</em></span>. When someone sends you a message requesting personal information, especially financial information, it should be considered suspicious, advises Sean Messier, credit industry analyst for Credit Card Insider. Messier suggests not revealing any such information until you’re certain the message-sender is who they claim to be, but it’s probably also a good idea to never reveal any such information over Messenger at all.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Someone is offering something for free</em></span>. You know how they say there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Well, there’s no such thing as free money on Facebook, points out Robert Siciliano, security expert. This is true for any kind of “free money” Messenger message, including those involving lotteries, loans, contest winnings, inheritances, lost bank accounts, and reimbursements of money owed.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Someone who wants to take the conversation off Facebook (to text or email, etc)</em></span>. Facebook warns against taking conversations off Facebook unless you’re absolutely certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the message sender is who they say they are.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Messages that seem out of character for the sender</em></span>. If a message seems “out of the norm” for the sender, trust your instincts and ignore it. This is doubly true if the message includes an attachment. Be very wary of opening attachments in general, and particularly if something seems “off” about the message or the sender.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Messages rife with spelling and grammatical errors</em></span>. Facebook points out that when a message is filled with typos and grammatical errors, you should have your guard up. A single typo is one thing, but things like the misspelling of names and places are a big red flag.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Messages from new accounts with few friends</em></span>. Roger Thompson, CEO of Thompson Cybersecurity Labs, points out that new accounts with few friends should always be considered suspicious until confirmed otherwise. Friend requests from such accounts and from duplicate friend accounts should be considered suspect as well.</p> <p>To avoid getting hacked (and used by a cybercriminal in an imposter scam), Wilson recommends updating your social media passwords regularly and always use two-factor authentication. She also notes that with Facebook use increasing among seniors, it would be a good deed to speak to older family members about Messenger scams and how to avoid them.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/true-stories-lifestyle/science-technology/facebook-messenger-scams-are-on-the-rise-heres-how-to-protect-yourself" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</em></p>

Technology

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Can you lend a paw this tax time to help cats in need?

<p>With a proud reputation of caring for cats for more than 60 years, the Cat Protection Society of NSW runs Sydney’s only no-kill shelter just for cats, as well as providing feline welfare programs to help cats and the people who love them. </p> <p>Cat Protection began in 1958 as a small group of people dedicated to reducing the number of street cats and while our organisation has grown over the years, our vision remains the same; that every cat deserves a loving and responsible home.</p> <p>Over the years, Cat Protection has helped literally hundreds of thousands of cats, kittens, and people. We’ve led the way in setting the standards for best-practice feline sheltering, and our health and welfare services extend far beyond our adoption centre. And while technology means we can offer a great range of free cat care resources online, we’ve never lost our human touch and we still help thousands of people every year with advice and tips on cat care by phone or in-person, at no cost. </p> <p>Our subsidised desexing, vaccination and microchipping programs promote cat health and welfare in the community and our newest program, Adopt-a-Stray, offers a complete and affordable package for those who wish to fully welcome a street cat into their heart and home. </p> <p>What sets us apart from many other animal shelters is our holistic approach to each individual cat or human client. Cats are not given a time limit, although most are adopted within days or weeks. Every cat is individually assessed and provided with a care plan to meet their unique needs. If they need complex surgery, allergy trials or behavioural interventions our highly qualified team will work with veterinarians and specialists to ensure the cat gets everything they need to set them on the path to living their best life.</p> <p>A kind person found Snake, a four-week-old sickly orphaned kitten. In addition to cat flu, our vets identified corneal scarring in his right eye, a blocked tear duct, and an adhesion on his eyelid restricting the normal movement of his third eyelid. Treatment resolved the flu and improved his eye, but Snake will live with limited vision in that eye. This has not dampened his playfulness or zest for life.</p> <p>As well as poor physical health, orphaned kittens miss out on the important lessons of being a cat from their mum and siblings, and this can lead to behavioural issues. Where we can, we will make sure such kittens get to join a stepfamily, but in cases such as Snake’s, illness means that isn’t always possible. It is then up to our human team to work with these little ones to help them learn to navigate the world with good manners!</p> <p>In contrast, Banjo had all the behavioural benefits of his brother but alas at seven weeks of age Banjo weighed only 560 grams while his brother Clancy weighed 900 grams!  </p> <p>Banjo was diagnosed with a rare form of congenital hypothyroidism. Because his condition was diagnosed early, his prognosis is very good. He was started on a medication called Thyroxine and went back into foster care so that we could monitor his progress and adjust the dose of his medication as necessary with follow-up blood tests. After six weeks in foster care, Banjo graduated to the adoption centre. He will need to be on Thyroxine for the rest of his life, but that didn’t daunt his new family who’ve told us Banjo is now thriving in his loving forever home.</p> <p>From individualised TLC and veterinary care for every cat and kitten, to helping human clients resolve cat challenges (from furniture scratching to strata bans) and strategic research and advocacy on behalf of people and cats, Cat Protection’s impact is so much greater than our budget. </p> <p>As an independent registered charity for cats, we’re dependent on donations and bequests to do our work. We are compliant, open and transparent; on our website you can see our audited annual reports for details of what we do and what it costs.</p> <p>We have a strict “no harassment” fundraising policy which means under no circumstances will your information be sold on, and we do not employ pressure-tactics or door-to-door solicitations. </p> <p>We don’t spend money paying fundraising companies to ring you at dinner time asking for money or send you five-page long letters insisting you give more. And we never will. </p> <p>Donations are invested in helping our feline friends and nurturing the unique bond between cats and people. Your generosity will mean that we can continue to help thousands of cats and people each year.</p> <p>If you can lend a paw, please <a href="https://www.givenow.com.au/catprotectionsocietynsw" target="_blank" rel="noopener">make your tax-deductible donation here</a>! </p> <p>For general advice on cat care and everything feline, call the Cat Protection Society of NSW on 02 9557 4818 or visit <a href="https://catprotection.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">catprotection.org.au</a>  </p> <p><em>Images: Supplied.</em></p> <p><em>This is a sponsored article produced in partnership with the <span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">Cat Protection Society of NSW.</span></em></p>

Family & Pets

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Keeping your cat safe while renovating

<p>Planning renovations or starting a DIY home project? It’s worth it in the end, but the process can be stressful for people and pets. With a little planning, you can ease the stress and keep your cat safe as you transform your home.</p> <p><strong>Plan ahead</strong></p> <p>Before starting your home improvement projects, make sure you have made arrangements to keep your cat safe during this time. Renovation chemicals, debris and noises can be harmful to your cats’ health and even lead to behavioural problems. Workers coming in and out of your home create a high risk of your cat escaping.</p> <p>Pets need to be kept away from work areas for their safety and the safety of workers. If the planned work is extensive or your pet is very sensitive, it would be worth boarding them for the duration of construction; you’ll have peace of mind knowing they won’t be exposed to anything dangerous and won’t get frightened and run away.</p> <p><strong>Creating a safe space</strong></p> <p>If your cat is staying home with you, set them up in a separate room with everything they need: litter tray, food and water, toys, and their favourite bedding. Choose a room as far as possible from the construction zone, that workers do not need to access, and put a big “Do Not Open” sign on the door. Make sure windows and flyscreens are secured. Even with all these measures in place there is a high risk of your cat escaping during renovations so guarantee your cat’s microchip and registration details are up to date with the Pet Registry.</p> <p>Cats are especially sensitive to noise and can become stressed with the unfamiliar and often very loud sounds associated with construction. Even the most confident cats want to have a safe, quiet space free from startling noise. When setting up their room it is a good idea to include a high perch and an igloo bed or box that they can retreat to. This will help them to feel secure, and calming interventions such as Feliway, Zylkene and Tranquil Treats can also be beneficial. Cats are creatures of habit, so maintaining their normal feeding, playtime and sleep routines will reassure them.</p> <p><strong>Hazards for your cat</strong></p> <p>Small particles of dust and debris from renovation work can easily attach to your cat’s coat, their bedding and get into their lungs and eyes. This can cause difficulty breathing, asthma, eye irritations, skin allergies and/or toxicity if they ingest chemicals or foreign materials. Keep their room scrupulously clean and monitor their health closely.</p> <p>Many older homes have lead paint and asbestos, which are extremely dangerous for people and for pets, so consult professionals before embarking on any DIY.</p> <p>Cats are more sensitive to fumes than we are, so don’t assume that because you don’t notice an odour your cat is safe. Keep in mind a cat’s lungs are much smaller than ours and their sense of smell is much better than ours. Renovation work such as painting, floor finishing, using adhesives and varnishing are all potentially harmful to your cat. Make sure there is sufficient air flow to allow fresh air into areas where there may be heavy fumes not only for your cat’s safety, but for the safety of yourself and workers. Keep your cat away from these areas in a separate room with ample air flow for at least 1-2 days to allow time for fumes to dissipate. Even if your cat is mostly staying home during renovations, you should consider boarding them during dangerous, noisy, or fume-emitting jobs. </p> <p>Document all the products used (safety data is usually printed on the packaging; take photos to record all the paints and chemicals used for your renovations). If your pet somehow ingests something, the product information will help your vet to determine the best treatment.</p> <p><strong>Adding ‘feline features’</strong></p> <p>While you’re renovating, consider including some special “feline features” to your home, such as indoor catwalks, shelves and perches. It is a great idea to make use of vertical space within your home as cats love high vantage points which enable them to look down on their world. You might even incorporate a “catio” or access to an outdoor enclosure for your feline friend to enjoy. By creating a secure outdoor area for your cat to explore they will be protected from the dangers of cars, cat fights and injury all the while protecting not just your precious pet but also native wildlife and birds.</p> <p>Once the renovations are done, thoroughly clean your home and remove all potential hazards. If you’ve made big changes, gradually introduce your cat back into the home: things will look and smell different to them, so make sure there are some blankets and toys that have your cat’s scent on them. This will reassure them that they are indeed “home”. </p> <p><em>For general advice on cat care and everything feline, call the Cat Protection Society of NSW on 02 9557 4818 or visit their website <a href="http://www.catprotection.org.au">www.catprotection.org.au</a></em></p> <p><strong><em>This is a sponsored article produced in partnership with the Cat Protection Society.</em></strong></p> <p><em>Image credits: Supplied - Cat Protection Society</em></p>

Family & Pets

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Friendships may help protect women from health conditions in older age

<p dir="ltr">Human connection may, in fact, help protect women from chronic health conditions in older age, according to a Queensland-led study. </p> <p dir="ltr">The University of Queensland researchers tracked more than 7,600 Australian women aged between 45 and 50 for two decades as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health.</p> <p dir="ltr">The study went as follows: Every three years, women filled out a questionnaire, rating their levels of satisfaction with a range of relationships, including partners, family, friends, work colleagues and any other social connections.</p> <p dir="ltr">Data also collected if they had been diagnosed with two or more of 11 chronic health conditions.</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr" role="presentation">High blood pressure</li> <li dir="ltr" role="presentation">Heart disease</li> <li dir="ltr" role="presentation">Stroke </li> <li dir="ltr" role="presentation">Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease </li> <li dir="ltr" role="presentation">Asthma </li> <li dir="ltr" role="presentation">Arthritis</li> <li dir="ltr" role="presentation">Cancer</li> <li dir="ltr" role="presentation">Depression</li> <li dir="ltr" role="presentation">Anxiety </li> <li dir="ltr" role="presentation">Osteoporosis</li> <li dir="ltr" role="presentation">Diabetes</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">The researchers found 58.3 per cent of the women had developed more than one chronic disease during the 20 years of monitoring, from 1996 to 2016.</p> <p dir="ltr">Those with the lowest relationship satisfaction scores had the highest odds of having multiple chronic diseases.</p> <p dir="ltr">So, make friends and keep them around because it may just prevent a serious illness.</p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-4f8bbe2a-7fff-fc6b-fccb-0ad9a3a01ee3"></span></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p>

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Top 10 tips to keep cool this summer while protecting your health and your budget

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ross-gordon-404681">Ross Gordon</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/gordon-waitt-191636">Gordon Waitt</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a></em>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/theresa-harada-128927">Theresa Harada</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a></em></p> <p>With energy prices and temperatures both rising, keeping cool in summer is an increasingly costly challenge for many Australians. Energy bills are predicted to increase <a href="https://7news.com.au/politics/aussies-hit-with-another-cost-of-living-blow-as-power-prices-tipped-to-rise-by-50-per-cent-c-8657366">by 50%</a> over the next two years, adding to the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/nov/14/five-australians-managing-cost-of-living-crisis-housing-food-prices-inflation">cost-of-living crisis</a>. For some, this creates <a href="https://energyconsumersaustralia.com.au/news/putting-people-in-control-of-energy-use-is-our-most-urgent-national-energy-priority">stark choices</a> between paying energy bills or putting food on the table.</p> <p>Many households will have to contend with <a href="http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/ahead/outlooks/">high temperatures</a> this summer, and it’s getting hotter by the year. Last summer Onslow, Western Australia, endured the <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-15/wa-onslow-50-degrees-dangerous-temperature-australians-get-used/100757256">highest temperature</a> ever recorded in Australia at <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-15/wa-onslow-50-degrees-dangerous-temperature-australians-get-used/100757256">50.7℃</a>. <a href="https://www.science.org.au/supporting-science/science-policy-and-analysis/reports-and-publications/risks-australia-three-degrees-c-warmer-world">Research</a> suggests climate change will lead to summer temperatures as high as 50℃ becoming <a href="https://theconversation.com/seriously-ugly-heres-how-australia-will-look-if-the-world-heats-by-3-c-this-century-157875">common</a> in Sydney and Melbourne.</p> <p>Australians need to take the risks of heat seriously and do what they can to keep their homes cool. As the World Health Organization <a href="https://www.who.int/health-topics/energy-and-health#tab=tab_1">points out</a>, energy and health are inextricably linked.</p> <p>So, while <a href="https://www.energy.gov.au/government-priorities/australias-energy-strategies-and-frameworks">energy policy</a> often focuses on managing costs and reducing energy use in the name of climate action, we should not forget the <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/hot-weather-risks-and-staying-cool">impacts of heat on health</a> and wellbeing. Fortunately, there are things Australians can do to keep cool this summer while managing their energy bills.</p> <h2>So how do you keep cool on a budget?</h2> <p>Based on our <a href="https://research.qut.edu.au/social-marketing-research-group/publications/">research</a> and the available evidence, our team has developed several resources including <a href="http://www.energyplusillawarra.com.au/?page_id=82">newsletters</a>, <a href="http://www.energyplusillawarra.com.au/?page_id=84">videos</a> and <a href="https://research.qut.edu.au/social-marketing-research-group/news-events/">brochures</a> on managing energy use while staying cool.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_bxSBPKDGAQ?wmode=transparent&amp;start=91" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">A mix of approaches can help strike a balance between staying comfortable and keeping costs down.</span></figcaption></figure> <p>Here are our top ten tips:</p> <p><strong>1. Insulate your home.</strong> <a href="https://www.yourhome.gov.au/passive-design/insulation">Insulation</a> is often the most practical and effective way to make a home more energy-efficient. It’s a barrier to heat gain in summer (and loss in winter). Sealing gaps around <a href="https://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/energy-efficiency-and-reducing-emissions/building-or-renovating/key-principles-of-energy-efficient-design/planning-and-design/insulation/draught-proofing/seal-gaps-around-doors-and-windows">windows</a>, doors, walls and <a href="https://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/energy-efficiency-and-reducing-emissions/building-or-renovating/key-principles-of-energy-efficient-design/planning-and-design/insulation/draught-proofing/seal-gaps-around-walls-and-floors">floors</a> can make a big difference.</p> <p><strong>2. Shade helps keep your home cool.</strong> External shading of windows can block up to 90% of unwanted heat gain. Awnings, adjustable shutters and trees (ideally deciduous so they don’t block winter sun) and vegetation around windows can help block out the summer sun.</p> <p><strong>3. Close windows, curtains and blinds during the day.</strong> Blocking the sunlight stops heat from getting into your home. Thermally insulated double-glazed or secondary-glazed windows also help, as do honeycomb/solar blinds and blackout curtains with white backing.</p> <p><strong>4. Open doors and windows when the air is cooler outside.</strong> Opening up the house at the right times helps cool it down when the building is retaining heat during a warm spell. The coolest part of the day is usually between 4am and 7am, so if you are an early riser this is a good time to open up and let cool air in. Cool breezes often occur in the late afternoon or early evening, providing another good opportunity to cool your home.</p> <p><strong>5. Stay hydrated.</strong> Hydration is important for health and wellbeing, especially during summer. If you don’t drink enough water, you can start to feel unwell including symptoms of tiredness and headaches. Women need about eight cups or 2 litres, and men need about ten cups or 2.5 litres of fluid <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/drinking-water-and-your-health">every day</a>. Beverages with alcohol, caffeine or sugar are not as good for keeping you hydrated – water is best!</p> <p><strong>6. Wear suitable clothing.</strong> Natural fabrics such as cotton and linen absorb sweat and allow air to circulate against your skin. These are much <a href="https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-keep-cool-heatwave">better</a> than synthetics, which can leave you feeling hot and uncomfortable.</p> <p><strong>7. Personal cooling practices can help.</strong> Using a <a href="https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/hot-weather-risks-and-staying-cool">spray bottle</a> or a wet washcloth for your face and neck can help take the edge off the heat, as can a lukewarm bath or shower. <a href="https://www.intheknow.com/post/taking-naps-cools-body-heat-wave-tiktok/">Rest</a>, if possible, during the hottest part of the day – usually 11am-4pm. Vigorous physical activity at these times on hot days can be <a href="https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/how-to-cope-and-stay-safe-in-extreme-heat">damaging</a> for your health.</p> <p><strong>8. Visit <a href="https://youtu.be/qRV_8aH0dhk?t=257">cool public places</a>.</strong> When your home gets too hot, air-conditioned sanctuaries include shopping malls, libraries, galleries and eateries.</p> <p><strong>9. Switch on fans.</strong> Fans are a cheap and <a href="https://research.qut.edu.au/social-marketing-research-group/wp-content/uploads/sites/331/2022/06/Cooling.pdf">effective</a> way to keep cool. The air flow provides a similar improvement to comfort as reducing the air temperature by around 3℃. Direct the air flow to your face because the face has so many receptors on it. If the outside temperature is lower than in your home, place your fan next to an open window to draw in cool air.</p> <p><strong>10. Think twice about switching on air conditioners.</strong> An <a href="https://youtu.be/_bxSBPKDGAQ?t=120">air conditioner</a> typically uses ten times more energy than a fan. Try using a fan in combination with an air conditioner. This means you can set the air conditioner to a higher temperature in summer (add at least 3℃) and still benefit. The combined cost will be far lower than running the air conditioner alone set at a lower temperature. For efficient air conditioning, your home or room should be well sealed and well insulated, and windows should be shaded from the sun.</p> <h2>Keeping cool can protect your health</h2> <p>If, to save on energy costs, households don’t cool their homes, the consequences can be more serious than being a bit uncomfortable.</p> <p>Our <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0263775820961397">research</a> found energy consumption is important for families to care for children, cook and eat well, and live comfortably in the family home. We also <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027795362200020X">found</a> that for older Australians energy is vital for preventing ill health and death, managing illness or disease, supporting good mental health and sustaining social relationships. But our research shows people <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0301421515302093">worry</a> about the costs and need <a href="https://energyconsumersaustralia.com.au/great-grants/exploring-the-nexus-of-energy-use-ageing-and-health-and-wellbeing-among-older-australians">support</a> to use energy to maintain their health and well-being.</p> <p>Heat exposure can <a href="https://www.who.int/health-topics/heatwaves#tab=tab_1">cause</a> dehydration, heat exhaustion and stress. It can also worsen existing <a href="https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/climate/Pages/how-climate-can-affect-health.aspx">health problems</a> such as heart and lung disease. As a result, heatwaves <a href="https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-022-08341-3">significantly increase</a> hospital admissions and deaths, killing <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212420921006324">354 people</a> in Australia between 2000 and 2018.</p> <p>Hot nights can also cause <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/20/global-heating-cutting-sleep-study-health-impacts">poor sleep</a> and have <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0033350618302130?casa_token=myga3j6buToAAAAA:NW4Uv_qdbp7roLwcL4x-aGbzy6im8Gb3DKaD-9VZnAX6_T_GbdIJzKUWrOHue46iO1qiEhVdIQ">harmful impacts</a> on mental health. So, to protect your health, do what you can to keep cool this summer.<!-- 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/193723/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/ross-gordon-404681">Ross Gordon</a>, Professor, School of Advertising, Marketing &amp; PR, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a></em>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/gordon-waitt-191636">Gordon Waitt</a>, Professor of Geography, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a></em>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/theresa-harada-128927">Theresa Harada</a>, Research Fellow at Australian Centre for Culture, Environment, Society and Space, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-wollongong-711">University of Wollongong</a></em></p> <p>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/top-10-tips-to-keep-cool-this-summer-while-protecting-your-health-and-your-budget-193723">original article</a>.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

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