Travel Tips

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Airbnb shares its best local hosts and stays

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Airbnb’s very first Host Awards have been announced, recognising the most welcoming, creative and big-hearted hosts around the country. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Categories include Best Unique Stay, Best Designed Stay and Best Regional Stay, with  winners ranging from a luxurious off-the-grid eco hut for two in Mudgee, to an architecturally designed guesthouse in Hobart, and a 100-year-old former grain shed that is wheelchair accessible on the outskirts of Toowoomba, Queensland. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Victoria’s Kate Quinlan took out Australia’s host of the year, with the 70s-style campervan on her family farm near Daylesford attracting 5 star reviews from guests around the world. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Queensland host Adrienne Penny, winner of the Community Contribution Award, won for offering respite to carers by hosting free-of-charge stays at her Sunshine Coast beachside apartment, while Cam O’Beirne, a former helicopter rescue crew member from Western Australia, was recognised for Most Magical Experience. Cam hosted an Airbnb Experience where guests embark on adrenaline-filled simulated rescue missions. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">According to News.com.au, Airbnb’s winning hosts were selected based on extensive data, guest scores and reviews, and with oversight from a panel of judges. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Here’s a look at Australia’s standout properties: </span></p> <p><strong>Host of the year</strong><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong>:</strong> Kate Quinlan, Eganstown VIC. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Living on an historic farm once owned by her great-great-grandfather dating back to 1848, she has two listings on the property. These include a rejuvenated 9m Viscount Royal Caravan with a deck overlooking farm and bushland. Some of the highlights include a delicious continental breakfast and homemade jam for guests, but also thoughtful touches like balloons and fresh flowers for couples celebrating anniversaries and birthdays. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span><strong>Community Contribution Award:</strong><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Adrienne Penny, Sunshine Beach QLD. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This award recognises those who go above and beyond for both guests and the local community. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Adrienne began hosting on Airbnb in 2015 when her children had left home. Equipped with an empty self-contained apartment downstairs, which had been used to host homestay students, she decided to take her passion for meeting new people from different parts of the world one step further and managed to earn an income as well. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">With more than 100 visitors to date and many returning guests, Adrienne has started hosting carers at the apartment for free  - giving them a very well deserved few days respite. </span></p> <p><strong>Best Designed Stay:</strong><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Slow Beam, West Hobart TAS.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This award recognises hosts who design their homes in such a way that really reflects personality and passion. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This Airbnb is an architecturally designed, luxurious guesthouse with stunning views of Hobart. Host Lauren set out to build something that would be both comfortable and make the most of the views while also being “mood, glamorous and relaxed”. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The black walls and ceilings were inspired by brutalist architecture. The host said the style reflects confidence and bold choices with the windows being the highlight in the property. </span></p> <p><strong>Best unique stay:</strong><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Gawthorne’s Hut, Buckaroo NSW.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Recognising those who have a unique and amazingly distinctive home. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This gorgeous property is 5km from Mudgee where hosts Rick and Steph used to picnic before deciding to build guest accommodating in the spot. The hut was designed by an architect, which captures the best views but also offers that feeling of complete isolation once you arrive and settle in. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This property is truly off the grid, boasting no TV or internet connection, as to keep nature as the focal point. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><strong>Best regional stay:</strong> <span style="font-weight: 400;">The Grain Shed, Goomburra QLD.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This award recognises hosts who showcase the best that regional Australia has to offer.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Sitting on 335 hectares in the Southern Downs region, this completely wheelchair accessible property is a converted grain shed. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Located in Goomburra, a two-hour drive from Brisbane, between Toowomba and Warwick, the property is home to several sacred sites. Soaking up the view from the verandah you will often be able to spot some beautiful wildlife. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p>

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10 hotel secrets from a former hotel inspector

<p>Secrets of a hotel inspector </p> <p>I worked as a hotel inspector and photographer for seven years at Forbes Travel Guide and Oyster.com (a TripAdvisor company). Though it sounds like a made-up job for a protagonist in a rom-com, I can assure you that inspecting and photographing hotels was very much my real life. I really did get paid to order room service, sit by infinity pools, and ensure the cocktails were made with high-quality booze. I also had to count closet hangers, photograph bathtub grime, and memorise hotel staff names and uniforms.</p> <p>For Forbes Travel Guide, I anonymously booked two to three nights in luxury hotels. I ran each hotel through a series of identical service and facility tests to give it a star rating (yep, that’s how Forbes assigns five-star hotels). The hotels were almost always ultra-expensive and emphasised personalised service and stunning locations. At Oyster, the hotel staff usually knew I was coming and gave me a tour and access to take photographs. I’d often spend the night, but not always. After visiting, I’d write a hotel summary and guide explaining the hotel’s pros, cons, location, rooms and features, accompanied by the photographs.</p> <p>The two jobs were vastly different, but over the span of my career, I’ve slept in several hundred hotels for review purposes on five continents. The hotels ranged from tiny bed-and-breakfasts in Italy to enormous all-inclusive resorts in Cozumel to trendy boutique hotel openings in Los Angeles. Here are some of the hotel secrets I learned over the years. And no, I never experienced bed bugs!</p> <p><strong>1. Do your hotel research on trip advisor </strong></p> <p><span>If you’re taking a holiday based on a destination, and not to specifically visit one famous hotel, start with a TripAdvisor search of the area. I used to work for TripAdvisor, but it really is the best travel site for reading reviews from past guests, looking at photos, and getting an idea of the different room types and rates without the hotel’s marketing department getting in the way. You can also filter results to look at large hotels or zero in on properties with specific features like all-inclusive rates, swimming pools, adult-only, beachfront, or within a few kilometres of tourist attractions like national parks, beaches and ski lifts.</span><span></span></p> <p><strong>2. Book with the hotel directly </strong><span></span></p> <p>Hotel booking websites, like TripAdvisor and Hotels.com, are an easy online way to figure out which hotels in your price range have open rooms. But once you’ve decided where to stay, book directly with the hotel. For one thing, most hotel inspectors book directly. You might be flagged as a hotel critic or writer and be given special treatment. Note that hotel inspectors are actually trained to look for special treatment, and we might abandon an inspection if we think we’ve been flagged by staff. After all, we’re trying to figure out how hotels actually treat real guests. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cash in on a suite upgrade or complimentary bottle of Champagne.</p> <p>More importantly, third-party booking sites usually get the worst and tiniest rooms – the rooms that haven’t yet been renovated or are located near the noisy ice machine. Hotels usually keep the best rooms for themselves to sell directly to guests. If you find a great deal on a third-party booking site, the hotel will often price match it to keep your business with them directly.</p> <p>Accountability is also important. If something goes wrong, like the need to cancel or change the dates of stay, the hotel is way more likely to work with you to find a solution or reschedule for the same price if you’ve booked with them. There are lots of third-party hotel booking reservation horror stories out there.</p> <p><strong>3. Don't trust the decorative bedding</strong></p> <p><span>One of the things I miss most about my hotel inspecting days is how comfortable and cosy a hotel bed can be. Freshly ironed Italian sheets, perfectly plumped down pillows and multi-thousand dollar California king-size mattresses are a real bedtime treat. But! Stay away from the decorative elements of the bed. Those decorative pillows and runners likely aren’t getting washed between guests. And if the housekeeping staff stores bedding elements on the floor during turndown service? Just tuck them in the closet for the rest of your stay. Ew.</span></p> <p><strong>4. Be direct about your needs</strong></p> <p>I know it’s old-fashioned, but part of my process as a hotel inspector at Forbes Travel Guide was to call the hotel’s reservation hotline and make a booking with their reservation team. Yes, it took longer. But, it’s an ideal time to have a chat with a staff member about your hotel needs. This is the best time to tell the hotel if you’ll be arriving early (there are no guarantees prior to check-in time, but staff can flag your room to be cleaned first). You can also request a room on a higher floor, away from the elevator, or with non-adjoining rooms. Want reservations at their restaurant? Let them know. Need a spa appointment? Now’s the time. The reservationist’s job is to convey all of this data to the front desk and housekeeping teams so they can take care of the details before you arrive.</p> <p>If you don’t want to book on the phone, there should be a comment section where you can type in special requests. At higher-end hotels, a staff member will likely reach out to you prior to arrival to make sure everything’s arranged to your liking. And make sure to mention if you’re celebrating a birthday or anniversary. You just might get a bottle of wine or dessert to mark the occasion, like I did when I celebrated a birthday in Hawaii. The hotel staff sent a bottle of pineapple wine and a birthday cake.</p> <p><strong>5. Check out the fitness centre for freebies</strong></p> <p>Sure, you can work out in the fitness centre if you want. But even if you’re taking a break from working out while on holiday, stop by the hotel gym. It’s often stocked with bottled water, fresh fruit and energy bars that you can grab. Large hotels and resorts also offer fun classes like outdoor yoga, beach walks and meditation that you might want to check out. For more freebies, ask the concierge desk if they have any coupons or discount codes for tourist activities, restaurants, shops or water parks. And if you need little extras like shampoo, a toothbrush, or another robe – call housekeeping and ask politely.</p> <p><strong>6. Join the hotel loyalty program </strong></p> <p><span>Since I often checked in using a pseudonym, or received a comped hotel room at a press rate, I didn’t get the insane hotel loyalty points you might be imagining. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sign up. The only way to earn hotel loyalty points is to book directly with the property. Some third-party booking platforms do run their own independent rewards programs, but those points are only good on their specific sites. Instead, stick to one or two hotel chain’s loyalty program, and you’ll eventually accrue enough points for free breakfast, later checkouts and free visits. Pro tip: check to see if your current credit card partners with any hotel chains for even more bonus points.</span></p> <p><strong>7. Splurge on room service, and make it breakfast</strong></p> <p>It’s not a real holiday if you don’t get room service at least once. My advice is to make it breakfast. There’s something so luxurious about eating a fruit plate in a bathrobe and lingering over coffee while you get ready for the day. Breakfast foods tend to travel best, too. I’ve had way too many less than stellar salmon and steak room service dinners (including one that gave me a severe case of food poisoning). If you’re at the hotel for dinner, I highly suggest having it at the bar instead of in your room.</p> <p>Even mid-range hotels usually allow guests to place their room service breakfast order the night before. Most hotels even have a room service order card you can simply place on the exterior doorknob the evening before. Simply make your breakfast selections, choose the time frame you’d like it delivered, and enjoy breakfast in bed the following morning.</p> <p><strong>8. If there's a problem, communicate it</strong></p> <p>Hotels want you to enjoy your stay. After all, hotels are part of the hospitality industry. It’s in a hotel’s best interest for all of their guests to have positive experiences so they return and recommend the hotel to friends and family. But issues can arise at even the most highly rated hotels. Before you take to social media to complain, let hotel staff know what went wrong and give them a chance to fix the situation. Maintenance staff is on hand to fix most issues, and management will switch your room (often with an upgrade) or comp your meal if necessary. I once checked into a luxury hotel room in Las Vegas that reeked of cigarette smoke. One quick call to the front desk and I was immediately switched to one that smelled better. Problem solved.</p> <p><strong>9. Ask for turn down service</strong></p> <p><span>Not all hotels offer turndown service, but most of the four- and five-star hotels do. It might be automatic, but you can usually request it. It’s definitely worth getting the evening refresh for a stash of fresh towels, straightened bedding and emptied wastebaskets. Staff will often dim the lights and play soft music to set the stage for relaxation. The best turndown service also includes thoughtful extras like bedside water, your slippers laid out and even an evening treat like bath salts or chocolates.</span></p> <p><strong>10. Pack duct tape </strong></p> <p><span>This one is for all the light sleepers out there. Hotel rooms usually have high-quality blackout curtains to block external light, but what about all the lights inside the room? Blinking and bright lights on espresso machines, TVs, smoke detectors and the bedside alarm clock can bother sensitive sleepers. My solution? Place a little piece of duct tape over the lights before bed.</span></p> <p><em>This article first appeared in <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/travel-hints-tips/10-hotel-secrets-from-a-former-hotel-inspector?pages=2">Reader’s Digest.</a> For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, <a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V">here’s our best subscription offer.</a></em></p> <p> </p>

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10 carry-on items that could save your life

<p>1. Hair Ties </p> <p><span>For anyone with hair long enough to be pulled back into a ponytail, a hair tie can be a lifesaver, figuratively speaking. However, American medico Dr Patricia Quinlan used her hair tie to literally save someone’s life in 2015. When a passenger lost consciousness, according to NBC 10, Dr Quinlan determined that his blood pressure was “dangerously low” and he had an irregular heartbeat. The cabin crew supplied 16 ounces of saline solution (commonly found in airplane medical kits), and the good doctor used her hair tie as a tourniquet and whiskey to disinfect the needle so she could administer the solution to stabilise him.</span></p> <p><span>2. Multi-purpose tool </span></p> <p><span>Planning for the unexpected feels impossible because, well, it’s the unexpected. And a compact, all-in-one tool may make you feel as crafty, but will it make it through airport security? Maybe, maybe not. The Geekey Multi-Tool, however, is TSA-compliant, encompasses more than 16 tools, and is only a little bigger in size than the average house key, making it ideal for travel. What can it do? Geekey can act as a can opener, wire stripper, bottle opener, file, imperial and metric ruler, screwdriver tip, and more.</span></p> <p><span>3. Rechargeable flashlight</span></p> <p><span>In many an uncomfortable situation, light is your friend. Not having access to light can make any event more frightening. Saurabh Jindal, who runs the start-up Talk Travel, is always on the go. Because of that, a rechargeable flashlight has become a mainstay in his carry-on. “It’s simple and easy to carry,” says Jindal. “It helps a lot when you are in an unknown place and it is dark, and also when hiking through trails.”</span></p> <p><span>4. Rescue Blanket </span></p> <p><span>You might feel like you’re preparing for doomsday whenever you pack one of these, but a mylar rescue blanket could be key to survival in the event of an emergency. They certainly don’t look cozy and comfy, but they do help reduce bodily heat loss in a pinch. Plus, they’re affordable, compact, and lightweight—meaning there’s virtually no reason why you can’t stash one in your carry-on for those “just in case” moments.</span></p> <p><span>5. Personal alarm</span></p> <p><span>When you’re traveling alone, particularly to an unfamiliar place, it’s important to give yourself peace of mind in terms of safety. “A wearable personal safety alarm is a great idea,” says Namita Kulkarni, who runs the yoga and travel blog Radically Ever After. “It added to my sense of control on many a dark street and crowded public space. I slept with it under my pillow no matter what country I was in.”\</span></p> <p><span>6. Portable charger</span></p> <p><span>With our phones acting as our lifelines, traveling with one at low battery can be stress-inducing and, if an emergency occurs, even dangerous. Keeping a portable charger on hand to give your phone the juice it needs to be useful is important, and it won’t take up much space in your bag at all. The peace of mind is worth it. If you’re in a pinch, here’s how to charge your phone as quickly as possible.</span></p> <p><span>7. Hand Sanitiser </span></p> <p><span>You don’t have to be a germophobe to be put off by the concept of just how many germs reside on airplanes and in airports. Plus, they can get you really sick if you’re not careful, ruining your trip or even landing you in the hospital. For this reason, seasoned traveller David Wills, author of <em>World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller</em>, always carries hand sanitiser. “It’s small enough that you barely notice it in a pocket of your bag, and it’s totally fine to take through any airport,” he says. “When it comes to hygiene-related emergencies, you really can’t beat it.” Believe it or not, alcohol-based hand sanitiser can even help you get a fire started, which could, of course, be essential in a survival situation.</span></p> <p><span>8. Water purification tablets</span></p> <p>If you’re headed somewhere without easy access to drinkable water and a filtered water bottle is too cumbersome for your carry-on, Thrifty Points founder and CEO Ben Packard suggests carrying water purification tablets. “These are small and never questioned,” he says. “Having the ability to purify water in a survival situation can mean the difference between life and death. They can be kept in your pocket, which is handy since you’re not supposed to take anything with you in an emergency situation on a plane.”</p> <p>9. Reusable bottle with filter</p> <p><span>As anyone who’s travelled in the past two decades knows, most airport security points around the world will confiscate liquids above the 100ml limit at the security checkpoint. This is problematic considering the way in which flying dehydrates the body. What’s a traveller to do? Carry a reusable water bottle that includes a filter. “Easy access to water in case you are short of it, especially in emergency or when in secluded areas, is a lifesaver,” says Jindal.</span></p> <p><span>10. First aid kit</span></p> <p><span>A no-brainer item that most of us likely overlook is a travel-size first-aid kit. It’s equipped with useful items for any number of situations. “You can buy kits that are quite small and just leave them in your carry-on bag at all times,” says Michael Anderson, founder of the adventure travel blog Passport Explored. “There’s no need to take them out for security checks or do anything special before bringing one onto the flight. These first aid kits should include items such as band-aids, gauze, disinfectant cream, bug-bite cream, aspirin, and tweezers.”</span></p> <p><span><em>This article first appeared in <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/flightstravel-hints-tips/10-carry-on-items-that-could-save-your-life?pages=2">Reader’s Digest.</a> For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, <a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V">here’s our best subscription offer.</a></em></span></p>

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Did you know these 5 places could disappear in your lifetime?

<p>When places are well-known and popular – historical and modern alike – we might take it for granted that they’ll be around forever. But sadly, many of the world’s best known and culturally significant landmarks are in jeopardy. Human activity has had a devastating effect on many valued places, including massive milestones of human achievement. And many of these are so much more than just tourist attractions – they’re unique, valuable remnants of ancient times and civilizations.</p> <p><strong>The Great Barrier Reef </strong></p> <p>This massive, once-thriving coral reef has suffered enormously over recent years, with coral bleaching – caused by climate change – stripping the coral of its nutrients. This, in turn, harms the rich marine life that calls the reef home. And, of course, this also depletes it of the dazzling colours that once were a hallmark of the Great Barrier Reef’s underwater wonder. The reef remains the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world, but projections have warned that the damage to it could become irreversible in the next 10 years.</p> <p><strong>Old City of Jerusalem </strong></p> <p>One of the world’s most spiritually significant places, the Old City of Jerusalem, is in danger of disappearing, UNESCO has found. The walls of the Old City are one of its trademark features. Most famously, the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is a valuable pilgrimage site for people of the Jewish faith, one that dates back to around 20 BCE. The Wall is the only remnant of the city’s Second Temple. The city was actually listed on UNESCO’s list of endangered cultural sites in the 1980s. Widespread urbanisation has been found to pose a significant threat to the city.</p> <p><strong>Everglades National Park </strong></p> <p>This stunning Floridian wildlife sanctuary has sadly found itself fighting for its life in recent years. As ‘the largest designated subtropical wilderness reserve’ in North America, according to UNESCO, it’s been a beloved travel destination for American citizens for decades, but the ravages of time and human activity have not been kind to it. Its survival first came into question after it was battered by Hurricane Andrew in 1993. But it’s human influence that has posed the primary threat, as water flow to the site has decreased and the impacts of pollution have increased, resulting in harmful algal blooms. Its vast, diverse wildlife is more threatened than ever before.</p> <p><strong>The Taj Mahal </strong></p> <p>It’s hard to imagine this monolithic structure, located in Agra, India, being in danger. The structure itself is in some jeopardy from the elements, but the primary reason for concern is that the Indian Supreme Court could potentially close the attraction. The court has butted heads with the government, claiming that unless the government does a better job of preserving it, they’ll have to shut it down. Pollution is visibly altering the Taj’s pristine surface. It’s also experienced insect infestations. Flies of the genus Geoldichironomus, which breed in the heavily polluted Yamuna River, neighbouring the Taj, have encroached upon the structure in recent years.</p> <p><strong>Mount Kilimanjaro’s peak </strong></p> <p>This revered mountain, one of the Seven Summits, proves that even giants can fall to climate change. While the mountain itself, located in Tanzania, isn’t in imminent danger, its iconic snow cap might vanish – and shockingly soon. Research found that the snow cap had lost 85 per cent of the total area of its ice fields between 1912 and 2007, and the remaining ice could be history as early as 2030.</p> <p><em>Written by Meghan Jones. This article first appeared in </em><a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/travel-hints-tips/10-top-tourist-attractions-that-could-disappear-in-your-lifetime">Reader’s Digest</a><em>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </em><a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V">here’s our best subscription offer.</a></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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6 things you can’t take from your hotel room

<p><strong>Sheets and towels</strong></p> <p>Sheets, towels and other linens are definitely something you shouldn’t take from hotel rooms. As McCreary explains, the hotels’ goal is to prepare the perfect room for the next guest. Taking pricy essentials, like sheets, make it harder for hotel staff to do their job. According to the Telegraph, however, 68 percent of people in a survey admitted they steal linens and towels from hotel rooms. Beware that some hotels can track stolen towels thanks to electronic tags, HuffPost reports.</p> <p><strong>Electronics</strong></p> <p>Conteh notes that in most cases, there are disclaimers on all items that shouldn’t leave the room – especially in the case of pricy electronics. “They note that there will be a cost levied on the room charge if a tablet or other item of value goes missing or removed from the premises.</p> <p><strong>Robes</strong></p> <p>These plush robes are one of the most common items people think they can take from hotel rooms, but can’t, according to Conteh and McCreary. You will be charged! Slippers, on the other hand, won’t be used again and are typically OK to take.</p> <p><strong>Wooden hangers, glass bottles and mugs</strong></p> <p>There is a chance that taking these items from your hotel room could lead to consequences beyond an extra charge to your room – including being “blacklisted,” NBC reports. Hotels keep a record of guests who trash hotel rooms or steal items and might ban these people from booking rooms again. In rare scenarios, some people could get arrested. The Telegraph reports a couple in Japan was arrested for stealing robes and an ashtray. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so only take the complimentary items that you really need. Remember, just because you can take something doesn’t mean you should.</p> <p><em>Written by<span> Emily DiNuzzo</span>. This article first appeared in </em><a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/travel-hints-tips/4-things-you-can-take-from-your-hotel-room-and-6-you-cant"><em>Reader’s Digest</em></a><em>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </em><a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA93V"><em>here’s our best subscription offer.</em></a></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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Hotel inspector reveals biggest secrets

<p>I worked as a hotel inspector and photographer for seven years at Forbes Travel Guide and Oyster.com (a TripAdvisor company). Though it sounds like a made-up job for a protagonist in a rom-com, I can assure you that inspecting and photographing hotels was very much my real life. I really did get paid to order room service, sit by infinity pools, and ensure the cocktails were made with high-quality booze. I also had to count closet hangers, photograph bathtub grime, and memorise hotel staff names and uniforms.</p> <p>For Forbes Travel Guide, I anonymously booked two to three nights in luxury hotels. I ran each hotel through a series of identical service and facility tests to give it a star rating (yep, that’s how Forbes assigns five-star hotels). The hotels were almost always ultra-expensive and emphasised personalised service and stunning locations. At Oyster, the hotel staff usually knew I was coming and gave me a tour and access to take photographs. I’d often spend the night, but not always. After visiting, I’d write a hotel summary and guide explaining the hotel’s pros, cons, location, rooms and features, accompanied by the photographs.</p> <p>The two jobs were vastly different, but over the span of my career, I’ve slept in several hundred hotels for review purposes on five continents. The hotels ranged from tiny bed-and-breakfasts in Italy to enormous all-inclusive resorts in Cozumel to trendy boutique hotel openings in Los Angeles. Here are some of the hotel secrets I learned over the years. And no, I never experienced bed bugs!</p> <p><strong>Do your hotel research on TripAdvisor</strong></p> <p>If you’re taking a holiday based on a destination, and not to specifically visit one famous hotel, start with a TripAdvisor search of the area. I used to work for TripAdvisor, but it really is the best travel site for reading reviews from past guests, looking at photos, and getting an idea of the different room types and rates without the hotel’s marketing department getting in the way. You can also filter results to look at large hotels or zero in on properties with specific features like all-inclusive rates, swimming pools, adult-only, beachfront, or within a few kilometres of tourist attractions like national parks, beaches and ski lifts.</p> <p><strong>Book with the hotel directly</strong></p> <p>Hotel booking websites, like TripAdvisor and Hotels.com, are an easy online way to figure out which hotels in your price range have open rooms. But once you’ve decided where to stay, book directly with the hotel. For one thing, most hotel inspectors book directly. You might be flagged as a hotel critic or writer and be given special treatment. Note that hotel inspectors are actually trained to look for special treatment, and we might abandon an inspection if we think we’ve been flagged by staff. After all, we’re trying to figure out how hotels actually treat real guests. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cash in on a suite upgrade or complimentary bottle of Champagne.</p> <p>More importantly, third-party booking sites usually get the worst and tiniest rooms – the rooms that haven’t yet been renovated or are located near the noisy ice machine. Hotels usually keep the best rooms for themselves to sell directly to guests. If you find a great deal on a third-party booking site, the hotel will often price match it to keep your business with them directly.</p> <p>Accountability is also important. If something goes wrong, like the need to cancel or change the dates of stay, the hotel is way more likely to work with you to find a solution or reschedule for the same price if you’ve booked with them. There are lots of third-party hotel booking reservation horror stories out there.</p> <p><strong>Don’t trust the decorative bedding</strong></p> <p>One of the things I miss most about my hotel inspecting days is how comfortable and cosy a hotel bed can be. Freshly ironed Italian sheets, perfectly plumped down pillows and multi-thousand dollar California king-size mattresses are a real bedtime treat. But! Stay away from the decorative elements of the bed. Those decorative pillows and runners likely aren’t getting washed between guests. And if the housekeeping staff stores bedding elements on the floor during turndown service? Just tuck them in the closet for the rest of your stay. Ew.</p> <p><strong>Be direct about your needs</strong></p> <p>I know it’s old-fashioned, but part of my process as a hotel inspector at Forbes Travel Guide was to call the hotel’s reservation hotline and make a booking with their reservation team. Yes, it took longer. But, it’s an ideal time to have a chat with a staff member about your hotel needs. This is the best time to tell the hotel if you’ll be arriving early (there are no guarantees prior to check-in time, but staff can flag your room to be cleaned first). You can also request a room on a higher floor, away from the elevator, or with non-adjoining rooms. Want reservations at their restaurant? Let them know. Need a spa appointment? Now’s the time. The reservationist’s job is to convey all of this data to the front desk and housekeeping teams so they can take care of the details before you arrive.</p> <p>If you don’t want to book on the phone, there should be a comment section where you can type in special requests. At higher-end hotels, a staff member will likely reach out to you prior to arrival to make sure everything’s arranged to your liking. And make sure to mention if you’re celebrating a birthday or anniversary. You just might get a bottle of wine or dessert to mark the occasion, like I did when I celebrated a birthday in Hawaii. The hotel staff sent a bottle of pineapple wine and a birthday cake.</p> <p><strong>Check out the fitness centre for freebies</strong></p> <p>Sure, you can work out in the fitness centre if you want. But even if you’re taking a break from working out while on holiday, stop by the hotel gym. It’s often stocked with bottled water, fresh fruit and energy bars that you can grab. Large hotels and resorts also offer fun classes like outdoor yoga, beach walks and meditation that you might want to check out. For more freebies, ask the concierge desk if they have any coupons or discount codes for tourist activities, restaurants, shops or water parks. And if you need little extras like shampoo, a toothbrush, or another robe – call housekeeping and ask politely.</p> <p><em>Written by <span>Megan Wood</span>. This article first appeared in </em><a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/travel-hints-tips/10-hotel-secrets-from-a-former-hotel-inspector"><em>Reader’s Digest</em></a><em>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </em><a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V"><em>here’s our best subscription offer.</em></a></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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4 things you can take from your hotel room

<p>Read along to see what you can pinch from a hotel room without getting in trouble! </p> <p><strong>1. Shampoo or conditioner</strong></p> <p>Much like the mini soaps stocked in the bathroom, the travel-size shampoo and conditioner are also fine to take from your hotel room. Hotels sometimes brand these items too, Conteh says. So taking their shampoos and sporting the hotel brand name can help the word out about a hotel.</p> <p><strong>2. Anything “complimentary”</strong></p> <p>Complimentary items could include things like dry-cleaning bags, coffee, creamers, sugar packets and certain marketing collateral pieces, Asmussen says. It’s fair game to take them with you. Joanna McCreary, hotel general manage, adds that some hotels even give exclusive complimentary gifts which you are, of course, free to take. “We love giving people champagne on check-in on peak arrival days,” she says. “We don’t advertise it, but do get a good deal on it, and complimentary surprise champagne you will find is a very easy sell.”</p> <p><strong>3. Paper and pens</strong></p> <p>These paper items also usually have the hotel brand name on them and serve as a marketing tool. Feel free to take them with you!</p> <p><strong>4. Soap </strong></p> <p>If there’s one thing most hotels reliably have in their rooms, it’s soap. And according to Ousman Conteh, hotel general manager, these mini bottles are OK to take from your hotel room. “Often hotels receive negotiated pricing for items from another brand,” he says. However, Curt Asmussen, managing director of ObieHospitality, notes that it’s not encouraged to take these items – but guests aren’t penalised in any way if they do.</p> <p><em>Written by <span>Juliana LaBianca</span>. This article first appeared in </em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/9-things-your-sweat-says-about-your-health" target="_blank"><em>Reader’s Digest</em></a><em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/9-things-your-sweat-says-about-your-health" target="_blank">.</a> For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, </em><a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA93V" target="_blank"><em>here’s our best subscription offer.</em></a></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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Workers reveal nasty secrets of luxury hotels

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A Reddit thread has amassed a large amount of views after it asked people to explain things that go on at five-star hotels that the public are not privy to. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The post began, "People who work at 5 Star Hotels: what type of s**t goes on that management doesn’t want people to know?"</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One of the top voted posts came from one former employee who revealed guests should never drink from water glasses that are left in a hotel room.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Never trust glass in rooms," wrote one Reddit user. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"GRAs [Guest Room Attendant] are so stretched thin on time that they will clean the glasses with the same rags they clean the bathroom, after all their goal is to make the room look clean.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"I worked as a GRA in a five-diamond for years and there was over a year period that went by where we didn’t get a clean glass delivery. We didn’t have dishwashers in the room, so management was complicit. This was in a five-diamond, one of the top resorts in the world. Never trust glass in hotel rooms."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another user shared just how disgusting hotel rooms are, even though they may look “clean”. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Don’t even get me started on how ‘clean’ those rooms are," the former hotel worker wrote. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Your $1000/night does not reflect those standards. They still wash them teacups in the bathroom sink or the bathtub."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Another post came from the husband of a former five-star employee who claimed the ultra wealthy are badly behaved guests. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He said the luxury hotels and residences where "rich people live at the hotels" were homed by the incredibly wealthy, and were the worst behaved.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Besides how absolutely disgusting everything inside the rooms actually is...I was most shocked by the behaviour of the ultra rich," they wrote.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"I’m not talking businessmen and doctors. I’m talking Saudi Princes and Heirs to Dynasty families. The level of comfort and technology these people have come to expect is things we cannot imagine.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"'What do you mean there isn’t there access to intercoms next to the bathroom for when I need services while going potty?' 'The television inside the shower is only a 40 inch and there is no gold in this room I need a better suite'. 'I’m gonna need you to go out, buy me better bedding, remake my bed, and then do it again tomorrow because I won’t sleep on the same bedding twice'.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"And that’s just the tip of the iceberg," they added.</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One former employee also revealed bed bugs are a common occurrence, even in luxury hotels. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Bedbugs. Every single hotel from run down motels to 5-star resorts has dealt with bedbugs,” the user wrote. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"They happen in every hotel," another said. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"You might be paying $5k a night but your luggage was in the hold with everyone else's. If there's only one or two bugs and none in the adjacent rooms (diamond style, so above, below, and both sides) then you brought them in."</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"Tip about bedbugs: when you arrive NEVER put your luggage on the bed," someone else went on to add. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"When you arrive, keep lights off, put luggage in bathroom, and then at the head of the mattress peel back the sheets and mattress pad. Bedbugs tend to congregate there, but scatter when there is light. If you find bedbugs, you can request another room."</span></p>

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Adorable koalas rehomed after over-eating trees

<p><span>Over 90 koalas have settled nicely into their new home after they ate all of their food sources in parts of Victoria. </span></p> <p><span>The marsupials were bundled into washing baskets and crates by wildlife rescuers, to be released into their new home in the Great Otway National Park, off the Great Ocean Road.</span></p> <p><span>54 female koalas also received fertility control in order to slow population growth, during the relocation.</span></p> <p><span><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7842328/koalas.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/086991c842e4458582969b2792c50ce1" /></span></p> <p><em>Images: Yahoo Australia</em></p> <p><span>Victoria's environment department (DELWP) only allowed 32 koalas to remain on site, however a total of 46 male and 46 female koalas were trucked to the nearby land north of Lorne. </span></p> <p><span> </span><span>They have been distributed throughout the land in lower numbers.</span><span> </span></p> <p><span>DELWP has moved koalas in the region to avoid over-browsing of their favourite food, manna gums for six years.</span><span> </span></p> <p><span>“It’s encouraging to see the manna gum trees at Cape Otway starting to recover – they’re in their best condition in ten years, with foliage returning and new saplings starting to grow,” a DELWP spokesperson said.</span><span> </span></p> <p><span>“The health of the koala population is tracking well, much better than in previous years when the koalas had significantly depleted their food source, by stripping many manna gum trees of their leaves.”</span></p>

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Disney’s deadly fight against bizarre attraction

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Five years on since the death of two-year-old boy Lane Thomas Graves, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa are still fighting to keep his killer at bay. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lane died after playing with other children at the resort’s man-made Seven Seas Lagoon on the night of June 15, 2016.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7842031/disney-1.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/b6fe3535458345299bf845d3d6e02234" /></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The boy was tragically grabbed by an alligator who dragged him into the water, while he attempted to fill his bucket to make sandcastles. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lane’s father Matt Graves fought the alligator by attempting to pry its jaws open, but was left with major injuries. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Police divers sadly discovered Lane’s body submerged in the murky lagoon just a day later.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Disney is taking major strides to try and keep its Florida properties safe from alligators, but the exploding population of the deadly critters are making it as difficult as ever. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Reports say 250 alligators have been at Disney World since June 2016c however the massive reptile population is proving a hard challenge to control. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As an attempt to encourage Florida’s famous gator trappers, each one has been offered $US30 ($A40) for each alligator they trap.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7842032/disney-2.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/7d353879170a4e2f96544b9ed540ba8e" /></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Trappers are also allowed to keep any profits from the leather or meat sold.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">However, activists are fighting against Disney who say the alligators are rarely, if not ever, rehomed. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Tammy Sapp, a spokeswoman for the wildlife commission, said the majority of the 250 alligators caught had been euthanised.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some of the reptiles are sent to farms, exhibits or zoos while those under 1.2m are relocated to other parts of the state.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“The FWC takes public safety seriously and uses Targeted Harvest Area (THA) permits as part of a comprehensive effort to achieve alligator management goals,” Ms Sapp told the Orlando Sentinel.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“THA permits allow a managing authority to work directly with a designated FWC contracted nuisance alligator trapper, making the process for removing nuisance alligators more proactive and streamlined.”</span></p> <p> </p>

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Sam Burgess choked out SAS instructor during challenge

<p>Claims have been made that former NRL star Sam Burgess choked out an instructor during the filming of <em>SAS Australia.</em></p> <p>Reports say Burgess, who is one of 18 celebrities who will appear on the second season of <em>SAS Australia,</em> choked an instructor during an “intense” kidnapping exercise.</p> <p>According to Fox Sports, one of the challenges on the show saw Burgess along with seven other celebrities being “kidnapped” by two <em>SAS</em> instructors.</p> <p>“Sam took matters into his own hands, ordering [John] Steffensen to pull the handbrake,” <em>Fox Sports’</em> James Hooper claimed.</p> <p>“Burgess reached over and put the soldier in a head lock, choking him out, before climbing in to the driver’s seat and taking the wheel.”</p> <p>Reports say the point of the exercise was to see which of the other contestants would step up and set the other hostages free after they were thrown in as car that was driven up to speeds of 100km/h.</p> <p>Hooper says <em>SAS</em> instructors and producers were left “dumbfounded”.</p> <p>The ambulance was reportedly called.</p> <p>A Channel 7 spokesperson said: “The new season of <em>SAS Australia</em>, coming soon to Channel 7 and 7plus, is the most gruelling course in the world to date.</p> <p>“All participants will be pushed to their limits like never before.”</p> <p>The Burgess report follow after <em>SAS Australia</em> chief instructor, Ant Middleton, admitted Kyle and Jackie O that the cast from season two pushed his buttons.</p> <p>“There’s been some tears, there’s been aggression,” Middleton said on KIIS FM in May.</p> <p>“But I shut them down straight away.</p> <p>“You get a different setting, a different group of people and personalities and it’s gonna be a different show, but a lot of people still pushed my buttons,” he said.</p>

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8 ways to de-stress while travelling

<p>1. Plan out your time<br />If you’re always missing transport connections, look at how you are allotting your time. Your travel guide may say it takes 40 minutes to get to the airport. Allow at least an extra 20 minutes so you arrive feeling fresh and calm.</p> <p>2. Escape briefly<br />Slip away from the hustle and bustle once in a while. Most cities have botanic gardens, and there are always nature trails where you can enjoy the local scenery.</p> <p>3. Avoid unnecessary tech accessories<br />Smartphones, tablets or computers remind us of home. Leave as much technology behind as you can and allow yourself to feel a sense of freedom from everyday life.</p> <p>4. Do just one thing a day<br />For example, if you’re sightseeing, choose one place to visit (instead of four) and make a day of it with lunch or coffee in a nearby cafe.</p> <p>5. Bring snacks<br />Have a bag of non-perishable snacks on hand (try protein bars, dried fruit and nuts, juice boxes, or pretzels). Unexpected delays on a long journey will be more stressful if you’re hungry.</p> <p>6. Once in a while, do nothing<br />Lie down and just unwind.</p> <p>7. Stretch<br />Long bouts of sitting on planes and trains take a toll on your circulation. Lift your knees and stretch your calves for 30 seconds. This reduces the risk of blood clots that can result from sitting too long in one position.</p> <p>8. Keep perspective<br />Your troubles are often smaller than they seem. To remind yourself of that, keep a picture of the Earth taken from space, a starry night, or the ocean, and look at it whenever you feel overwhelmed. Amid countless stars and the crashing of waves against the shore, how important is getting to that third museum, really?</p> <p class="p1"><em>This article first appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/tips/destress-while-travelling"><span class="s1">Reader’s Digest</span></a>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, <a href="http://readersdigest.com.au/subscribe"><span class="s1">here’s our best subscription offer</span></a>.</em></p>

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Research shows whipping horses doesn’t make them run faster, straighter or safer — let’s cut it out

<p>The Melbourne Cup is upon us. This year will be different due to COVID-19 — but one thing we don’t expect to change is <a href="https://theconversation.com/horse-racing-must-change-or-the-court-of-public-opinion-will-bury-it-125637">concern about horses’ welfare</a>, which seems to resurface each year.</p> <p>Just days before the Cup, Victoria’s parliament has heard allegations that unwanted thoroughbreds continue to be slaughtered in knackeries and abattoirs in New South Wales, The Guardian <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/29/nsw-stud-owned-by-gerry-harvey-among-those-accused-in-parliament-of-sending-racehorses-to-slaughter">reports</a>.</p> <p>Billionaire executive chair of Harvey Norman Gerry Harvey reportedly apologised after one of his ex-racehorses was sent to a pet food factory for slaughter, despite the state’s racing industry announcing rules against this in 2017. It’s not the first time we’ve heard of such <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-18/slaughter-abuse-of-racehorses-undermines-industry-animal-welfare/11603834">gruesome</a> <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-02-10/queensland-new-rules-racehorse-welfare-over-cruelty/11950912">cases</a>.</p> <p>Beyond this, there are persisting <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-01/people-who-wont-be-partying-on-melbourne-cup-day/7979074">concerns</a> about how racehorses have been ridden for more than a century. In particular, the use of the whip to “encourage” horses to run <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0015622">faster</a> and <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/241118388_Holding_the_whip_hand-a_note_on_the_distribution_of_jockeys'_whip_hand_preferences_in_Australian_Thoroughbred_racing">straighter</a> has been shown to potentially be both <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1558787813001007">painful</a> and <a href="https://beva.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.2746/0425164044868387">dangerous</a>.</p> <p>For our research, <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/10/11/1985">published yesterday</a> in the journal Animals, we analysed more than 100 race reports to determine exactly how whip use influences the dynamics of a race.</p> <p>We found whips make no difference to horse steering, jockey safety, or even a horse’s speed. Our study offers scientific findings that support Racing Victoria’s recently announced plan to gradually <a href="https://www.racingvictoria.com.au/news/2020-09-07/racing-victoria-calls-on-industry-to-progress-whip-reform">phase out whip use</a> until whips are only being used when absolutely necessary.</p> <p><strong>Justifications from the racing industry</strong></p> <p>Advocates of whip use, such as <a href="https://www.racingaustralia.horse/uploadimg/changestowhiprules.pdf">Racing Australia</a> and the <a href="https://www.britishhorseracing.com/regulation/the-whip/#:%7E:text=In%20British%20racing%20the%20use,of%20horses%20during%20a%20race.">British Horseracing Authority</a>, claim it’s necessary for horse and rider safety. They argue it facilitates the steering <a href="https://horseracingsense.com/why-jockeys-hit-horses-whipping-run-faster">necessary to reduce interference between horses on the course</a>.</p> <p>Another justification given is that whipping makes horses run faster. This is considered fundamental to racing integrity. In a billion-dollar industry that relies on gambling, all parties — including punters, trainers, breeders and owners — want to know the horse they’ve backed will be given every opportunity to win.</p> <p>For many racing aficionados, breaches of “<a href="https://www.racingvictoria.com.au/integrity/fair-racing-for-all">integrity</a>” and the thought of a horse not being fully “<a href="https://www.racingaustralia.horse/FreeServices/upcoming_rules_of_racing/RA%20Calendar%20Notice%20-%20Amendments%20to%20Australian%20Rules%20of%20Racing%20effective%201%20August%202018%20-%20135.pdf">ridden out</a>” on its merits is just as corrupt as the horse being doped, or a race being <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2004/mar/10/horseracing.kenoliver">fixed by some other means</a>.</p> <p><strong>The growing importance of racehorse welfare</strong></p> <p>But animal welfare is also important to racing integrity, according to the <a href="https://www.ifhaonline.org/default.asp?section=IABRW&amp;area=2">International Federation of Horseracing Authorities</a> and <a href="https://www.nj.gov/oag/racing/rulemaking/Riding_Crop%20Proposal.pdf">other racing bodies</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://qric.qld.gov.au/stewards-reports/">Racing stewards</a> are in the unenviable position of enforcing horse welfare during races, while also having to ensure whips are used to give each horse full opportunity to win.</p> <p>For all official races in Australia, there are detailed regulations for the number and style of whip strikes allowed at the different points of a course.</p> <p>Research over past decades has concentrated on jockeys’ accuracy, <a href="https://theconversation.com/when-the-pressure-is-on-some-riders-breach-the-whip-rules-in-horse-racing-71157">compliance with whip rules</a>, the link between whip use and <a href="https://beva.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.2746/0425164044868387">catastrophic falls that can injure or kill horses or jockeys</a> and simply whether or not whipping hurts.</p> <p>But until now, few have stopped to ask whether whips actually <em>work</em>. That’s simply because there hasn’t been a way to scientifically test the culturally entrenched assumption they do.</p> <p><strong>Racing without using the whip</strong></p> <p>However, since 1999, a form of whipping-free racing has been conducted in Great Britain via the “hands and heels” racing <a href="https://www.britishhorseracing.com/regulation/racing-excellence-series/">series for apprentice jockeys</a>. In this form of racing, jockeys are permitted to carry whips but can’t use them unless under exceptional circumstances, such as trying to avert a collision.</p> <p>After races, stewards produce an official report noting any unusual or unorthodox jockey behaviour (which may or may not have affected race placings), jockey infringements, horse movement on the course, interference between horses, and veterinary issues.</p> <p>We analysed reports for 126 races involving a total of 1,178 starters (horses and jockeys). These included all 67 hands and heels “whipping-free” races in the period starting January 2017 and ending December 2019. For these, we were able to case-match 59 traditional “whipping-permitted” races.</p> <p>Thus, we were able to compare the performance of racehorses under both “whipping-free” and “whipping-permitted” conditions in real racing environments, to figure out whether whipping makes horses easier to steer, safer to ride and/or more likely to win.</p> <p>Our results indicated no significant differences between horse movement on the course, interference on the course, the frequency of incidents related to jockey behaviour, or average race finishing times.</p> <p>Put simply, whip use had no impact on steering, safety or speed. Contrary to longstanding beliefs, whipping racehorses just doesn’t work.</p> <p><strong>The way forward</strong></p> <p>Our findings reinforce the need for more support for whipping-free races. Importantly, they indicate whip use could potentially be banned without any adverse effect on horses, riders or racing integrity.</p> <p>“Whipping-free” races are not the same as “whip-free” races. While some might argue for <a href="https://horseracingkills.com/campaigns/the-whip/">races with no whips at all</a>, an agreeable compromise would be to let jockeys carry whips, but only use them if their safety is jeopardised.</p> <p>This approach has already been adopted in Norway, where whipping-free races have been <a href="https://www.thoroughbreddailynews.com/a-whip-free-day-of-racing-in-norway/">held for more than 30 years</a> with no apparent negative consequences.</p> <p>Given evolving social values, we believe transitioning to a whipping-free approach is essential for the future of an industry that relies on a <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-horse-racing-in-australia-needs-a-social-licence-to-operate-79492">social licence to operate</a>.</p> <p><em>Written by <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/kirrilly-thompson-189510">Kirrilly Thompson</a>, University of South Australia; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bethany-wilson-578873">Bethany Wilson</a>, University of Sydney; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-mcgreevy-139820">Paul McGreevy</a>, University of Sydney, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/phil-mcmanus-142805">Phil McManus</a>, University of Sydney. Republished with permission of<a href="https://theconversation.com/research-shows-whipping-horses-doesnt-make-them-run-faster-straighter-or-safer-lets-cut-it-out-144405"> The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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The reputation of Australia’s special forces is beyond repair — is it time for them to be disbanded?

<p>Four years into a constant stream of misconduct allegations, it’s hard to know how to process the <a href="https://www.theage.com.au/national/blood-lust-killings-cover-ups-report-describes-australia-s-abu-ghraib-moment-20201027-p5692v.html">latest revelations</a> about the actions of Australia’s special forces in Afghanistan.</p> <p>In village after village — in places like Darwan, Sara Aw, Zangitan, Patan, Sola, Shina, Deh Jawz-e Hasanzai and Jalbay — we have seen plenty of evidence to <a href="https://www.theage.com.au/national/special-forces-chief-acknowledges-war-crimes-blames-poor-moral-leadership-20200628-p556z6.html">support allegations</a> that some Australian special operators committed war crimes in Afghanistan. These stories are now a well-entrenched part of the Australian news cycle.</p> <p>Oddly though, and despite <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-10/elite-australian-soldiers-accused-of-covering-up-killing-of-boy/8466612?nw=0">photographic evidence</a>, <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-22/video-shows-sas-soldiers-discussing-apparent-execution/12789520">video evidence</a>, <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-10-22/video-shows-sas-soldiers-discussing-apparent-execution/12789520">document-based evidence</a> and witness statements from <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/i-ve-been-with-him-in-those-dark-moments-20200806-p55j8z.html">Australians</a>, <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-10/death-in-darwan/9813304?nw=0#:%7E:text=Australia's%20elite%20special%20forces%20descended,three%20Afghan%20villagers%20were%20dead.&amp;text=The%20dim%20light%20of%20a,were%20already%20beginning%20their%20work.">Afghans</a> and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKuAhPX7vd8">Americans</a>, there are still doubters out there.</p> <p>Some <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/pm/soldiers-alleged-actions-dont-exist-in-a-vacuum/12799688">defence commentators</a> seem to cling to the strange fiction that if an allegation has not been rubber-stamped by the inspector-general of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) or proven in a court, we cannot decide for ourselves whether or not it is true.</p> <p>As important as <a href="https://theconversation.com/government-bracing-for-damning-report-on-alleged-special-forces-incidents-in-afghanistan-144284">Justice Paul Brereton’s long-awaited report</a> into alleged war crimes is though, we do not need his nod of approval to know there is a problem in Australia’s special forces. Something has to change.</p> <p><strong>Minor changes are not enough</strong></p> <p>Certainly, there are indications minor changes are already being implemented. According to the army, these changes include the introduction of <a href="https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/defence/special-forces-get-training-in-ethics/news-story/9fab8ce10eb0869564b833862459a6d7">a new ethics training package</a> and <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-16/shake-up-elite-special-forces-considered-war-crimes-inquiry/12666398">a new special forces selection course</a>.</p> <p>But this is not enough. Rather than a solution, the special forces selection ritual is actually part of the problem — designed as it is to elevate and separate an anointed few from the rest of the military.</p> <p>This process, which concludes with the receipt of a specially coloured beret, has many of the classic features of a cult initiation — a central part of the “<a href="https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp2021/Quick_Guides/BreretonInquiry">code of silence</a>” that prevented whistleblowers from coming forward for so long.</p> <p>Then there is the fact that key figures behind the new ethics training were early critics of the media’s reporting on alleged misdeeds in Afghanistan — with the coverage described as “<a href="https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/australia%E2%80%99s-special-forces-deserve-respect-not-cheap-shots">cheap shots</a>” against Australian soldiers. This denialist viewpoint has remained strong within the command until only recently and seems to persist among some sectors of the public.</p> <p>Indeed, the most prominent factor that led to these incidents in Afghanistan is the decoupling of special forces from the command relationships and discipline structures of the conventional army.</p> <p>Currently, Special Operations Command (the umbrella organisation that manages Australia’s special forces) recruits and trains completely separately from the rest of the Army — deploying small groups for a variety of sensitive tasks abroad. But this step away from the rest of the Army (and its long-tested disciplinary norms) appears to have led to all sorts of improprieties in Afghanistan.</p> <p>Also problematic is the fact those who are implementing the new changes (the chief of the defence force and chief of army) are both ex-special forces officers. This is not to suggest generals Angus Campbell and Rick Burr are compromised in some way — only to point out that extant unit loyalties are formative in any soldier’s thinking.</p> <p>There are also signs that Burr, in particular, does not understand the cause of the problem.</p> <p>For example, despite <a href="https://www.theage.com.au/national/blood-lust-killings-cover-ups-report-describes-australia-s-abu-ghraib-moment-20201027-p5692v.html">strong evidence</a> that the practice of giving excessive authority to junior leaders created an unaccountable “brotherhood” and a general culture of impunity, Burr <a href="https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/australian-army-rebuilding-special-forces-culture-ahead-of-afghanistan-war-crimes-report/">continues to describe</a> this “command and control philosophy” as an “imperative” for the special forces.</p> <p><strong>Disbanding the special forces</strong></p> <p>Naturally, the fate of Australia’s special forces should ultimately be a captain’s call from Australia’s civilian leadership — perhaps the prime minister himself. And here, there is a compelling argument to be made that the command be disbanded.</p> <p>To some, this might appear a radical suggestion — a sweeping change without precedent. But military units have been moved, shuffled, re-branded, disbanded and reactivated frequently throughout Australia’s history. Surely, a pattern of war crimes allegations is as good a reason as any to make some major institutional changes.</p> <p>The Australian Defence Force will, of course, still require a special operations capability for complex operations abroad. Special forces do provide an advanced infantry skill set that is sometimes useful for policymakers — be it for a counter-terrorism raid or light-footprint reconnaissance tasks.</p> <p>But these needs can be met without continuing to feed <a href="https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/national/2019/08/12/3-billion-kit-boost-to-special-forces/">billions of dollars</a> to an elite force that is isolated from the rest of the military.</p> <p>Instead, the Australian Defence Force could create special operations-capable companies in the conventional infantry battalions. This would mean teams of highly-qualified soldiers who are rapidly deployable, but still governed by traditional “green army” rules and strictures.</p> <p>Rather than being “selected” and cloistered away from the rest of the force, these soldiers would simply be “trained” — that is, up-skilled and returned to line units, ready for special deployments abroad.</p> <p>This is comparable to the French <a href="https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Commando_Parachute_Group">Groupement des Commandos Parachutistes</a> (GCP) model, in which special operations capabilities are fully integrated with the rest of the force.</p> <p>It would also be in keeping with the finest history and traditions of the Australian Army. Elite fighting units like the 2/2 Independent Company have previously been integrated with a regular infantry force (as seen with <a href="https://vwma.org.au/research/home-page-archives/dutch-timor-and-sparrow-force">the Sparrow Force during the Battle of Timor in the second world war</a>).</p> <p>Whatever our leaders decide — and again, it should be stressed the Cabinet must be front and centre in these changes – Australia’s sullied special forces are not salvageable, at least in their current structure.</p> <p>Irrespective of what the IGADF and Commonwealth prosecutors are able to prove, the organisation has lost its credibility. It must be disbanded.</p> <p><em>Written by <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/christopher-elliott-565909">Christopher Elliott</a>, King's College London. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-reputation-of-australias-special-forces-is-beyond-repair-its-time-for-them-to-be-disbanded-148795">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Insights from Morocco into how smartphones support migration

<p>For undocumented migrants and refugees travelling to new countries, accurate information is vital. Because of this, smartphones – mobile phones that perform many of the functions of a computer, like accessing the internet – have become an important tool. They give migrants access to applications such as Google maps, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter. These can provide them with information from social media and close contacts.</p> <p>In a <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.13169/workorgalaboglob.13.1.0062?seq=1">recent study</a>, my colleague Filippo Bignami and I investigated the role of smartphones in irregular migration. We wanted to know how they helped migrants reach their destination and what kind of information migrants accessed using them. Our focus was on sub-Saharan migrants arriving in Morocco, specifically in the city of Fès, on their way to Europe.</p> <p>We found that smartphones supported migration flows by providing migrants with access to online information before and during travel and when they arrived at their destination country. They affected their migration routes and choice of final destination. They also helped migrants to share information with each other.</p> <p>The smartphones were equally used by traffickers. They allowed them to contact prospective irregular migrants and provide them with information.</p> <p>From what we’ve seen, smartphones are being increasingly used to minimise risks and address migration challenges. Policymakers can use this information to better support their journey, and ensure their safety, by engaging them through smartphone applications.</p> <p><strong>Meeting migrants</strong></p> <p>We first investigated how the use of smartphones and social media influenced migration journeys. Then we explored how they influenced decisions regarding their final destinations. Finally we looked at how they affected the financing of migration.</p> <p>To do this, we conducted interviews with 27 migrants from January 2017 until March 2018 and followed them for a period between 4 and 8 months.</p> <p>We met the migrants in the neighbourhoods where they lived, in streets, and cafes. They gave us information about their use of technology, migratory routes, demographic and socio-economic profiles, daily lives, relations with society and their migratory project.</p> <p>It made sense for us to focus our study on Morocco which, since the mid-2000s, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/26/hundreds-storm-border-fence-spanish-enclave-north-africa-ceuta-spain-migration">has been</a> a transit country for many refugees and African migrants wishing to reach Europe. They do this either through the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, or through the Canary Islands.</p> <p>It’s <a href="https://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/125569/Naama_Mbarek_Helsinki.pdf?sequence=1">estimated</a> that migrants come from over 10 countries in Africa, in particular; Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Congo and Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, Guinea, Benin, Ghana, Niger, and Cameroon. According to <a href="https://www.hcp.ma/file/217998/">Morocco’s Statistics Office</a>, between 15,000 and 25,000 African migrants enter Morocco each year. Many aren’t able to complete the trip, and stay in Morocco, but each year it’s believed that <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-40504374">over</a> 8,000 irregular sub-Saharan migrants cross to Spain.</p> <p><strong>Influence of smartphones</strong></p> <p>We found that the intention to migrate was significantly influenced by mobile technologies in addition to the traditional push-factors, such as conflict, civil war, economic hardship, and family impact.</p> <p>Smartphones made the process relatively faster and smoother. They guided migrants in their quest to reach their destinations. For instance, they used Google to access news or maps which provided them with information on the directions to take to reach their destination country. These applications could also show when the best time, or place, was for border crossings.</p> <p>If migrants were in difficulty or lost they could use the phones to ask for help. They used specific applications like WhatsApp or Messenger for communication.</p> <p>These apps were also key for the migrants to stay in touch with family, friends and traffickers. Aside from emotional support, this was an important way in which migrants could continue to finance their travels. As one interviewee stated: <em>“When I need money I make a call to my parents through WhatsApp, and they send it via Western Union really fast.”</em></p> <p>The phones also provided for cooperation and communication between migrants. They helped each other choose the safest routes and share other information.</p> <p>The accessibility of smartphones made some migrants more confident and independent. Because of their access to information, some were making their journeys without smugglers.</p> <p>When they reached their destination, the sharing of news and photos about their journey – and how they managed to cross borders – motivated more young people to migrate.</p> <p>And it’s not just migrants that use them. Smartphones allowed traffickers to recruit prospective immigrants and quickly disseminate information.</p> <p><strong>New opportunities</strong></p> <p>We have seen evidence of how mobile technologies are transforming societies, migration processes, migrants’ lives, their social aspirations, and migration movements.</p> <p>This information could be used to develop policies to protect migrants’ rights and to support migrants’ participation and integration. Such knowledge is a good starting point for policy-making to revise the current regulations, so as to integrate the migrants in education, health care and housing facilities, the job market, and other sectors.</p> <p>Thus, smartphones and social media are reshaping not only migration movements but also migration policies with the daily use of mobile technologies.</p> <p><em>Moha Ennaji‘s most recent books are “Managing Cultural Diversity in the Mediterranean Region” and “Muslim Moroccan Migrants in Europe”.</em></p> <p><em>Written by <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/moha-ennaji-333834">Moha Ennaji</a>, Université Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/insights-from-morocco-into-how-smartphones-support-migration-147513">The Conversation.</a></em></p>

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Calls to ban NSW Police from participating in Mardi Gras

<p>A coalition of LGBTIQ groups, community members and supporters released <a href="https://prideinprotest.medium.com/open-letter-from-the-lgbtq-community-regarding-mardi-gras-relationship-with-the-police-and-b375bfe41a22">an open letter</a> on 21 October calling on the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to reconsider the participation of NSW police and Corrective Services NSW, as a sign of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.</p> <p>The letter notes that the recent upsurge in Black Lives Matter has shone a light on police brutality towards First Nations peoples and ongoing deaths in custody. And it also acknowledges that other communities of colour are subjected to prejudicial overpolicing.</p> <p>In taking this stand, the letter authors further outline that LGBTIQ communities and Mardi Gras itself have been targeted with homophobic and transphobic police violence.</p> <p>Not only did <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/police-stations-we-attend/orange-police-station/">NSW police</a> attack the first Mardi Gras parade in 1978, but in 2013, police actions at the event were so excessive that the show of force received widespread condemnation.</p> <p>And in taking all of this into consideration, those undersigning the open letter assert that as Mardi Gras festival participants, they don’t want the event to be seen as promoting the activities of the NSW Police Force or Corrective Services NSW.</p> <p><strong>Police targets</strong></p> <p>“Black Lives Matter has pushed to the forefront the degree to which police violence disproportionately affects Aboriginal people in this country, and all people of colour,” said Dani Cotton, a member of <a href="https://www.facebook.com/PrideInProtest">Pride in Protest</a>, the group that initiated the letter.</p> <p>“But we’ve also seen it disproportionately impact queer people, and in particular, trans people,” they continued. “At the rally about Latham’s transphobic bill a couple of weeks ago, the police violently attacked, broke someone’s arm, intimidated and arrested people.”</p> <p>Despite a court order banning the event, the <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/trans-rights-activists-triumph-over-protest-ban-police-respond-with-force/">Protect Trans Kids rally</a> took place on 10 October. The initial gathering at Taylor Square was peaceful. However, police then tried to shut it down, provoking protesters to march into Sydney’s CBD, where they were met by a show of excessive police force.</p> <p>“Queerphobic and transphobic violence is something that also comes from the police,” Cotton told Sydney Criminal Lawyers. “So, there’s solidarity between these different groups.”</p> <p>No pride in genocide</p> <p>Both NSW police and Corrective Services NSW regularly have floats in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade, which feature uniformed officers and guards. And progressive groups, like Pride in Protest, have long been calling out the inclusion of these institutions in the event.</p> <p>The letter authors state that while understanding their request may “put Mardi Gras in a difficult position”, they feel an event such as it should not be promoting NSW police branding. And nor should the festival include institutions that propagate prejudicial violence and repression.</p> <p>“Uniformed police should not be marching in Mardi Gras. They should not be given a special police contingent, and there should not be a corrective services contingent either,” Cotton concluded.</p> <p>“It should be a community march, with people marching in solidarity for queer rights. That’s how Mardi Gras started.”</p> <p>The <a href="https://prideinprotest.medium.com/open-letter-from-the-lgbtq-community-regarding-mardi-gras-relationship-with-the-police-and-b375bfe41a22">open letter</a> can be signed up until the 5 November, when it will be presented to the Mardi Gras board.</p> <p><em>Written by Paul Gregoire. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/calls-to-ban-nsw-police-from-participating-in-mardi-gras/">Sydney Criminal Lawyers.</a> </em></p>

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Victoria police ramps up offensive against protests

<p>There’s something very disturbing about scenes from the anti-lockdown protest at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne over the weekend.</p> <p>There’s a series of video footage posted online which shows scores of heavily armed and riot squad police far outnumbering protestors standing around, or sitting, or shopping, and many are chanting: chanting “peace and love” and “freedom”.</p> <p>And yet, 74 people were arrested and $280,000 in fines were handed out to those caught breaching lockdown restrictions. In one video, three police officers tackle a protestor, <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-13/victoria-coronavirus-anti-lockdown-protest-arrests-melbourne/12659410">and an officer can be clearly seen kneeling on the man’s neck</a> while he is face down, being handcuffed.</p> <p>The protest’s leader is now also facing an <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/police-arrest-pregnant-woman-over-social-media-post/">incitement charge</a> as police prepare a search warrant for his home in Burwood East.</p> <p>Who is ‘policing’ the police?</p> <p>In the wake of the protest, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews praised the work of police ‘who did a good job in very difficult circumstances.’ He also added that: ‘protesting is stupid and dangerous and those who do it will be dealt with.’</p> <p>It’s a worrying sign of the erosion of democracy when the state’s Premier fails to see the one thing that is pretty clear to most other Australians: Melbournians are tired of the lockdowns, the heavy police presence around their city and the fact that people’s movements are being monitored 24/7, all of which show no signs of abating.</p> <p>And, before Covid-19, and before the states implemented strict public health laws to mandate public gatherings and individual social distancing, protesting was a perfectly normal way for Australians to express their views.</p> <p>But now, of course, that right is denied. In Melbourne public gatherings are strictly forbidden and people are confined to their homes except for one hour a day when they can travel for limited purposes and only within 5 kilometres from home without an exemption.</p> <p>A number of checkpoints are in operation around the metropolitan areas, and police are using number plate recognition technology to detect vehicles registered to ‘stage four’ areas.</p> <p>Police abusing their powers</p> <p>Many Australians are also starting to be very concerned that the extra powers afforded to police under Covid-19 public health enforcement laws have allowed them too much leeway to be able to ‘bend’ some of the rules of otherwise ‘normal’ policing. For example, that ‘<a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/recent-changes-to-police-powers-in-nsw/">arrest should be a measure of last resort</a>.’</p> <p>A Victoria police spokesman said many of the weekend lockdown protesters were aggressive and threatened violence towards officers, with one <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/criminal/offences/assault/assault-police/">charged with assaulting a police officer in execution of their duty</a>.</p> <p>But much of the <a href="https://twitter.com/7NewsMelbourne/status/1304973920437641217">video footage refutes that statement.</a> While a handful of protestors were agitated, and some threw fruit, by and large the crowd seemed compliant, although some did shout: “This is not a police state” and “you’ve got to be on the right side of history”.</p> <p>The ‘threatened violence towards officers’ is a cry that we often hear from police, and sometimes a difficult one to prove, despite the fact that there is a constant stream of video footage, not just from the weekend protests but of <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/police-officer-chokes-and-trips-woman-who-is-not-wearing-a-mask/">various incidents in recent times</a> in which clearly, police after often the ones using unnecessary force.</p> <p>Woman ‘dragged from her car’</p> <p>In fact, the weekend protests in Melbourne were sparked by video footage posted on social media by a Victorian woman, Natalie Bonnet, who was dragged from her car by police for not stating her name at a vehicle checkpoint. She had been stopped for allegedly not having a legal phone charging device mounted to her car.</p> <p>In the video – <a href="https://www.facebook.com/817678571/posts/10160115606228572/?extid=LykdgdNsQXbvpNH8&amp;d=n">which has been shared thousands of times online </a>–  she tells the police officer she is ‘scared’ to leave her vehicle because he is armed. Following this, the police officer reaches over her, unbuckles her seatbelt and manhandles her, pulling her out of the vehicle.</p> <p>She alleges four officers had their knees in her back and she couldn’t breathe as they handcuffed her.</p> <p>It’s understood she will face charges including: driving with obscured vision, failing to produce a licence, failing to state her name and address, resisting arrest, assaulting police and offensive language.</p> <p>As tensions escalate between police and the general public, there’s also a growing sense of mistrust in the police force, particularly in Victoria, but it’s not isolated to the state, and it’s it only further perpetuated by these incidents in which people are intimidated and manhandled. There is no doubt that being the victim of such behaviour can have lasting detrimental emotional effects.</p> <p><em>Written by Sonia Hickey. Republished with permission <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/victoria-police-ramps-up-offensive-against-protests/">of Sydney Criminal Lawyers. </a></em></p>

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Paid parental leave needs an overhaul if governments want us to have “one for the country”

<p>As Australia and New Zealand face the realities of slow growth, or even a decline in population, it’s time to ask if their governments are doing enough. Especially if they want to encourage people to have more babies.</p> <p>New Zealand’s fertility rate has hit an all-time <a href="https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO2008/S00108/nz-fertility-rate-is-at-all-time-low.htm">low</a> of 1.71 children per woman. The opposition National Party <a href="https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/122653707/election-2020-national-launches-first-1000-days-policy-promises-3000-for-new-parents">wants</a> to entice parents with a NZ$3,000 “baby bonus” to be spent on family services.</p> <p>Australia’s population growth rate is <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-07-24/treasurer-josh-frydenberg-baby-boom-economy-recovery-coronavirus/12489678">forecast</a> to be 0.6% in 2021, its lowest since 1916.</p> <p>Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenburg urged Australians to have more children, reminding many of then treasurer Peter Costello’s <a href="https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/budget-bonus-for-mothers-and-families-20060508-ge29qi.html">encouragement to those who can</a> to have “one for mum, one for dad and one for the country”.</p> <p>But if governments want people to procreate for their nation, they must be prepared to help them, and that includes increases in paid parental leave.</p> <p><strong>The current system</strong></p> <p>New Zealand <a href="https://doi.org/10.26686/pq.v2i1.4189">introduced</a> <a href="https://www.employment.govt.nz/leave-and-holidays/parental-leave/types-of-parental-leave/">paid parental leave</a> in 1999, first as a tax credit then as a cash payment. Over time, the length was increased from 12 to 26 weeks, currently paid to <a href="https://www.employment.govt.nz/leave-and-holidays/parental-leave/parental-leave-payment/payment-amount/">a maximum of NZ$606.46 a week</a>.</p> <p>There is no paid parental leave offered to dads or partners (although they are legally entitled to two weeks’ unpaid leave). But mums may transfer a portion of the 26 weeks to the dad or partner.</p> <p>Ten years ago, Australia was one of the last countries in the developed world to adopt government-funded maternity leave.</p> <p>It offers the primary carer (<a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/cheaper-childcare/">99.5% of the time, the mum</a>) <a href="https://www.fairwork.gov.au/leave/maternity-and-parental-leave/paid-parental-leave">18 weeks of paid leave at the minimum wage</a> (<a href="https://www.fairwork.gov.au/how-we-will-help/templates-and-guides/fact-sheets/minimum-workplace-entitlements/minimum-wages">currently A$753.80</a>). Only two weeks at the minimum wage is provided for the secondary carer.</p> <p>When you compare the payment rates of parental leave to average salaries in each country (table below), Australia’s 18 weeks drops to an equivalent of 7.9 weeks annual average salary and New Zealand from 26 weeks to 15.5 weeks.</p> <p>These low leave payments appear even less generous when compared to the <a href="https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/Parental-leave-and-gender-equality.pdf">OECD average</a> of 54.1 weeks of paid parental leave for mums and <a href="https://www.oecd.org/els/soc/PF2_1_Parental_leave_systems.pdf">eight weeks </a> for dads or partners.</p> <p>While employers often top up state-paid parental leave entitlements, this is not always the case. For example, Australia’s <a href="https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/Parental-leave-and-gender-equality.pdf">Workplace Gender Equality Agency</a> found more than 70% of financial services companies offered paid parental leave, but more than 80% of retail businesses did not.</p> <p><strong>Earning or caring</strong></p> <p>Given that dads or partners on both sides of the ditch face either no income for two weeks or less then half of the average income, it’s no wonder they choose to keep working to support their families financially.</p> <p>We know from an Australian Human Rights Commission <a href="https://humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/SWP_Report_2014.pdf">study in 2014</a> that 85% of dads and partners surveyed took up to four weeks’ leave, and more than half said they would have liked to take more to spend time with mum and newborn. There are <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jftr.12363">substantial benefits</a> including an increase in the mental health and well‐being of fathers and their children as well as greater harmony for the couple.</p> <p>Motherhood <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-parenthood-continues-to-cost-women-more-than-men-97243">penalises</a> women, contributing to significantly <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-07-30/superannation-young-women-fear-retirement-canberra-ywca-report/11365120">lower lifetime earnings</a>. Not to mention the “second shift” of domestic duties they do if they are balancing work and family.</p> <p>If dads and partners spend more time with their families earlier on in their children’s lives, this increases the likelihood that household chores and caring responsibilities will be more <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.5172/jfs.2014.20.1.19">evenly distributed</a>.</p> <p>Womens’ employment has also <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-10/women-have-lost-jobs-faster-than-men-during-coronavirus-but-are/12338598">been</a> hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes receiving <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-09/childcare-changes-to-disproportionately-affect-women/12333398">less government assistance</a>.</p> <p>The move to roll back free child care in Australia was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jun/08/australian-government-to-end-free-childcare-on-12-july-in-move-labor-says-will-snap-families">called</a> a “betrayal of Australian families” and “an anti-women move” by Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi.</p> <p>In addition to the “second shift”, women bear the brunt of a “third shift” – known as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/26/gender-wars-household-chores-comic">the mental load</a>. The business of running the family is characteristically undervalued and unpaid emotional labour, which is <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/15487733.2020.1776561?needAccess=true">mostly</a> taken care of by women.</p> <p>For many dual-income families, lockdown has changed the allocation of household chores and caring responsibilities. <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-20/coronavirus-covid19-domestic-work-housework-gender-gap-women-men/12369708">Research</a> shows the gap between men and women has narrowed.</p> <p><strong>More women in the workplace</strong></p> <p>In the upcoming New Zealand election, it will be interesting to see how the different parties deal with supporting families, the gender pay gap and female workforce participation.</p> <p>If ever an example was needed to show how satisfying a non-traditional care arrangement can be for both parents, consider <a href="https://www.afr.com/politics/stayathome-dad-to-help-jacinda-ardern-be-pm--a-mum-20180119-h0kz9h">stay-at-home dad Clarke Gayford</a>, who supports Jacinda Ardern to be New Zealand’s prime minister.</p> <p>Our previous <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1441358220300070">research</a> found government policy alone does not increase the uptake of dads or partners taking parental leave. Changing workplace norms to support them is a key factor in creating flexible work arrangements and increasing parental leave uptake.</p> <p>Working from home has made <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/there-s-a-silver-lining-for-fathers-in-the-covid-crisis-20200424-p54n1z.html">fatherhood</a> more visible and increased the time some Australian dads <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-20/coronavirus-covid19-domestic-work-housework-gender-gap-women-men/12369708">spend</a> caring for their children.</p> <p>In a post-pandemic world, care responsibilities can no longer be labelled a private matter. New Zealand and Australia both have parental leave policies that fail to offer families real choices about care arrangements.</p> <p>Dads and partners need their own leave entitlements and greater acceptance of their <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jftr.12363">caring responsibilities</a> in the workplace. These changes will challenge caring as women’s work, ease the burden on women and may even boost the fertility rate.</p> <p><em>Written by Sarah Duffy, Western Sydney University; Michelle O'Shea, Western Sydney University, and Patrick van Esch, Auckland University of Technology. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/paid-parental-leave-needs-an-overhaul-if-governments-want-us-to-have-one-for-the-country-145627">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Victoria now has a good roadmap out of COVID-19 restrictions

<p>The COVID-19 <a href="https://www.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-covid-19-restrictions-roadmaps">roadmap for Victoria</a> announced by Premier Daniel Andrews sets the state on the right path. Something like it should be emulated by New South Wales, which has not yet achieved zero new cases.</p> <p>Victoria’s roadmap towards what Andrews calls “COVID-normal” makes a <a href="https://theconversation.com/victorias-path-out-of-covid-19-lockdown-quick-reference-guides-145674">clear distinction between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria</a>. Restrictions are marginally less severe in regional Victoria, where the incidence of infections is lower.</p> <p>For metropolitan Melbourne there are five steps; regional Victoria has four. For each step, the roadmap outlines which restrictions will be lifted on our road towards the cherished status of COVID-normal – or zero active cases of COVID-19. The roadmap also provisionally outlines when restrictions will be lifted, although this depends on case numbers.</p> <p><strong>Get your news from people who know what they’re talking about.</strong></p> <p>Hear from them</p> <p>For metropolitan Melbourne, the curfew will be eased from next week to start at 9pm instead of 8pm. It will remain in place until new cases average fewer than five per day over the course of a fortnight – the criterion to move to the third step of the roadmap.</p> <p>The first two steps will still entail significant restrictions on public gatherings and visitors, plus the creation of a “single social bubble” allowance, under which people living alone can designate a person who can visit their home. Staged school returns will begin once there are fewer than 50 cases a day on a fortnightly average.</p> <p>Step three sees the partial resumption of Melbourne’s café culture, as well as hairdressing.</p> <p>A new <a href="https://theconversation.com/could-traffic-light-alerts-help-victoria-exit-lockdown-safely-144931">traffic light system</a> will also be introduced to allow a <a href="https://www.vic.gov.au/industry-restrictions-roadmap-metro-melbourne">phased reopening for businesses and workplaces</a>.</p> <p><strong>Is the roadmap heading in the right direction?</strong></p> <p>Grattan Institute’s four-point plan, detailed in our report last week titled <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/how-australia-can-get-to-zero-covid-19-cases/">Go for zero</a>, argues that states should reaffirm the <a href="https://www.pm.gov.au/media/national-cabinet-24jul20">National Cabinet’s target of zero transmissions</a> and set clear criteria for easing restrictions.</p> <p>The Victorian roadmap keeps appropriate restrictions until zero active cases – the Grattan criterion for defining zero – before the final step on the roadmap, COVID-normal.</p> <p>Grattan’s second criterion – clear and explicit staging of the easing of restrictions – is also met in the Victorian roadmap, but in a confusing way. The thresholds adopted in the Victorian plan are a mishmash of epidemiological criteria, case numbers and dates.</p> <p>It is entirely appropriate that the roadmap’s dates are purely provisional, and subject to epidemiological criteria such as average case numbers. But this raises the question of why the roadmap has dates at all.</p> <p>Victorians may read the epidemiological criteria as reasons to bring forward the provisional dates for easing restrictions, when in reality they are more likely to put the provisional dates back. The public might end up frustrated if the promised date passes with no reward for good behaviour.</p> <p>The epidemiological criteria are expressed in an extremely complex way: a 14-day threshold average, plus further criteria based on the source of infection. Until now, the public’s attention has been focused simply on the number of new cases each day.</p> <p>Introducing this more complex measure is a step backward. Expressing the criterion as an average also runs the risk of the threshold being met but the final few days of the 14-day averaging period revealing an upward trend. A simple and clear criterion, based on number of new cases, would have been better.</p> <p><strong>Politics as well as science?</strong></p> <p>The Victorian government has trumpeted the use of <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-06/victoria-coronavirus-covid-19-lockdown-restrictions-modelling/12633906">epidemiological modelling to support its decisions</a>. However the first two steps seem to be driven by a mix of politics and science.</p> <p>Step one will occur on September 13, regardless of the number of new cases detected between now and then. The new case threshold for step two is expressed as an average of 30-50 cases a day over the previous 14 days. It is unclear why there is a lower bound; why not just say “fewer than 50 cases”? If it is designed to give political flexibility, it defeats the purpose of clear criteria.</p> <p>Knowledge of the coronavirus and how it works – both in terms of clinical treatment and public health science – is advancing rapidly. We now know more about <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3223">which restrictions work best</a> than we did when Melbourne first entered its Stage 4 lockdown.</p> <p>Some restrictions included in the roadmap – such as night curfews – now have a weak evidence base. The evidence is also stronger now in <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31483-5/fulltext">allowing primary schools to return</a> before secondary schools, but the roadmap takes no account of this distinction. It is a pity the roadmap doesn’t align more closely with the latest science.</p> <p>Lockdowns are necessary, but they have big downsides which need to be weighed against the undoubted benefits. One main downside is that they <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/news/waves-of-inequity-in-the-coronavirus-pandemic/">hit the most disadvantaged people hardest</a>. The cost of social isolation has been somewhat ameliorated in the roadmap, with its provision for “social bubbles”, but this could perhaps have been more generous.</p> <p>Overall, Victoria’s roadmap is good. It identifies the right goal (zero active cases), it provides explicit criteria for when restrictions might be lifted (but unfortunately not as clear and simple as they could be), and each of the steps involves mostly appropriate restrictions.</p> <p>Victorians have every reason to share in Andrews’ hopefulness for a COVID-normal Christmas to cap off a very difficult year.</p> <p><em>Written by Stephen Duckett. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/victoria-now-has-a-good-roadmap-out-of-covid-19-restrictions-new-south-wales-should-emulate-it-145393">The Conversation.</a></em></p>

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Adani sets its legal “attack dog” on civilian activist

<p>Adani <a href="https://www.adaniaustralia.com/-/media/200826%20MS%20Adani%20FINAL">announced on 26 August</a> that it’s planning to sue long-term environmental activist Ben Pennings for the alleged damages he’s caused due to his part in the ongoing campaign to prevent the Indian mining giant’s Carmichael coal mine from going ahead in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.</p> <p>Spokesperson for the <a href="https://galileeblockade.net/">Galilee Blockade</a>, Pennings <a href="https://twitter.com/BenPennings/status/1298832089572204544">tweeted</a> the following day that he’d only just learnt that in the lead up to the launch of the civil proceedings, Adani had secretly applied twice to the Queensland Supreme Court for permission to raid his family home.</p> <p>Adani has sought an Anton Piller order, which is a damaging legal manoeuvre that consists of an unannounced raid to prevent prior destruction of any evidence. In this case, two Adani solicitors, an independent lawyer and a computer expert were to be sent in to check electronic devices.</p> <p>As Pennings pointed out in a statement, Adani has been running an “<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-25/adani-attack-dog-law-firm-facing-legal-services-commission-probe/10831088">attack dog</a>” legal strategy created by a Brisbane law firm. This involves targeting financially vulnerable activists with legal tactics to get the Carmichael mine running as soon as possible.</p> <p>The first victim of this strategy was Wangan and Jagalingou man Adrian Burragubba. The traditional owner launched multiple court actions to stop the Adani mine. And the transnational company took him to court <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/news/adani-bankrupts-traditional-owner-in-queensland">in August last year</a>, forcing him into bankruptcy, as it sought pending court costs.</p> <p>Targeting individuals</p> <p>“Serial coal miner Gautam Adani’s writ against peaceful campaigner Ben Pennings will send a shudder through every Australian who values democracy, free speech and the right to peaceful protest,” said renowned Australian environmentalist Bob Brown.</p> <p>“Adani’s writ follows his use of the court to evict Wangan and Jagalingou people from their land in the Galilee Basin where he is proceeding with an obscene environmentally-disastrous and unnecessary coalmine,” he told Sydney Criminal Lawyers.</p> <p>The former Australian Greens leader <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/the-stop-the-adani-convoy-an-interview-with-bob-brown/">led a car convoy across the country</a> in early 2019, calling for an end to the Adani mine, which is set to open up the Galilee Basin – one of the largest untouched coal reserves on Earth – to at least <a href="https://www.stopadani.com/why_stop_adani">eight more</a> mining projects.</p> <p>The decade-long campaign against Adani has made substantial impact. In late 2018, the company announced that it was scaling down its mine, as it couldn’t secure private sector investment here or overseas, after successful campaigns led financial institutions to <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/stop-adani-an-interview-with-the-galilee-blockades-ben-pennings/">boycott the mine</a>.</p> <p>So, since then, Adani has started to focus on its new tactic of singling out individuals.</p> <p>“Gautam Adani is echoing the American Wise Use Movement’s dictum that if you can’t win the environmental argument, take out the environmental advocates,” Brown maintained.</p> <p>Targeted intimidation</p> <p>After learning of Adani’s attempt to raid his family home, Pennings explained in a statement that he lives there with his wife and three children, one of whom has a disability. And he added that the corporation had done this in order to locate “corporate secrets” it believes he possesses.</p> <p>The attempt to have an Anton Piller order issued in relation to Pennings was made <a href="https://archive.sclqld.org.au/qjudgment/2020/QSC20-249.pdf">in early June</a>, and following its rejection, Adani and its Carmichael Rail Network appealed this decision in July, only <a href="https://archive.sclqld.org.au/qjudgment/2020/QCA20-169.pdf">to be rejected again</a>.</p> <p>The Supreme Court of Queensland found that Adani had failed to establish it was likely that Pennings had any “confidential information” stored on his computer. And it further cited an assessment of such orders as being highly damaging to those subjected to them.</p> <p>The raid on Pennings’ home was meant to benefit the mining giant in its civil action against the activist, which is supposedly all about protecting the right of Adani, its employees and its contractors “to carry out legal and legitimate business activities free from intimidation and harassment”.</p> <p>Adani further asserts that Pennings’ campaign has targeted other companies that were either existing or potential suppliers or had nothing to do with it at all. And the Indian corporation is seeking compensation in relation to trespass, inducing breach of contract and intimidation.</p> <p>The company then sets out that the civil action “is not about inflicting hardship on Mr Pennings”, rather it’s about protecting Adani’s rights to carry out its business and “give regional Queenslanders a fair go in terms of jobs and contracting opportunities”.</p> <p>Although, as Brown <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/the-stop-the-adani-convoy-an-interview-with-bob-brown/">pointed out</a> early last year, Adani is set to bring automation to regional Queensland, not employment.</p> <p>How good is silencing dissent?</p> <p>“This legal action does not seek to limit free speech,” Adani’s statement regarding the civil proceedings goes on to say. “As we have repeatedly stated, we believe a diversity of views is an important part of democracy.”</p> <p>However, it’s safe to say that the Indian mining giant is attempting to silence voices of opposition in the community, as while the sustained campaign against the mine hasn’t led to its abandonment, it has been effective in driving secondary boycotts.</p> <p>And it’s not only Adani that’s pushing for an end to these type of boycotts. This is something the prime minister and attorney general have had on their minds since prior to last summer’s unprecedented bushfire season reaching fever pitch.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/morrison-intensifies-campaign-to-silence-australians/">secondary boycott</a> involves activists putting pressure on a company, so it stops doing business with another. This type of campaign approach resulted in financial institutions globally boycotting investment in the Carmichael coal mine.</p> <p>Scott Morrison told a Queensland Resources Council luncheon <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/morrison-intensifies-campaign-to-silence-australians/">on 1 November</a> that he and Christian Porter were drafting laws that would allow for secondary boycotts to be outlawed in a similar manner to the way that they’re illegal in relation to union activities.</p> <p>“Environmental groups are targeting businesses and firms who provide goods or services to firms they don’t like, especially in the resources sector,” the PM said, as he laid out his plans to outlaw this type of activism, which allows “quiet Australians” to more easily participate in protest.</p> <p>“Nothing more clearly defines a Liberal Nationals Coalition government than our strong, full-throated support for traditional industries like mining,” Morrison added. “How good is mining for Australia?”</p> <p>In cahoots</p> <p>But prior to the enactment of any new laws, it seems that Adani will have to stick to its current legal tactic of trying to destroy the lives of individual activists with the aim of silencing them and deterring others to stand up to the company’s self-indulgent campaign to destroy the earth we walk upon.</p> <p>Of course, the mining giant shouldn’t have to wait too long, when you consider that the <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/turnbulls-new-laws-in-2018/">Turnbull government</a> rushed to amend the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/turnbull-clears-the-way-for-indian-company-to-build-adani-mine/">in mid-2017</a>, after a Federal Court decision threatened the validity of the Adani Indigenous land use agreement (ILUA).</p> <p>As for Mr Brown, he ended by saying that he’s “disgusted by this billionaire Goliath’s effort to silence an Australian citizen from speaking up for his heritage”.</p> <p><em>Written by Paul Gregoire. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/adani-sets-its-legal-attack-dog-on-civilian-activist/">Sydney Criminal Lawyers.</a> </em></p> <p><em> </em></p>

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