In a win for old-fashioned paper books, new research has found children with access to a range of e-reading devices are less likely to read.
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The findings will serve as a wake-up call for parents, and schools, which have rushed to buy expensive devices to boost children’s literacy.

Giving children devices such as Kindles, iPads, computers and mobile phones inhibits reading, according to the study.

“Reading frequency was less when children had access to a greater range of these devices,” the research said.

Mobile phones were particularly problematic, and linked to reading infrequency.

Murdoch University lecturer Margaret Merga said her research, which was published in the Computers and Education journal, challenges the myth that children are digital natives who prefer screens.

It found that daily readers who had access to e-reading devices preferred paper books.

“There has been a knee jerk reaction that all children prefer to read on screens and that has led to school libraries removing all paper books,” she said. “That is not necessarily the case.”

Why do young people prefer paper books?

Previous research by Dr Merga suggests that it comes down to children liking the sensation of picking up a book and “feeling the weight of commitment”.

She suspects young people are also judging books by their covers, making the paper variety more attractive.

There’s also the benefit of fewer distractions.

“Reading on internet search enabled devices, such as tablets, also opens up easy opportunity for distraction, allowing engagement in the practice of media multi-tasking, which has been found to detrimentally impact on student comprehension and concentration,” the study said.

Nine-year-old Benji Mazzone said he prefers paper books because he likes turning pages and “being taken somewhere else”.

He reads one to two books a week and can be found browsing the shelves of the Little Bookroom in Carlton North most nights after school. He writes reviews for the children’s bookshop, and helps staff wrap up presents.

With the help of his mum, he set up his own book club last year, where he discussed the popular Tinklers Three series with his friends.

“I’m a bit of a bookworm,” he said. “I read for two hours a day – I do some in the morning and after school.”

Ten-year-old Madeleine Hayen, from Annandale, has mixed views on the merits of paper and electronic reading.

“I don’t mind what I read as long as it’s interesting,” Madeleine said. “I reckon I’ve got over 200 books on my bookcase.”

The Year 5 student goes to Glebe Library once a week with her grandparents to pick up a new batch of books.

“I used to read a lot of books and stuff, but ever since I found Kindles, I kind of enjoy that more because it’s a lot lighter and easier to take around with me. When I go to school in the morning I can just read and it’s a lot easier to use,” Madeleine said.

“When you read paperbacks and hardcover books, you can actually see the pictures which informs you a lot about what the story is trying to say.”

The study involved 997 Western Australian students in years 4 and 6 who were asked how often they read books in their spare time, whether they owned iPads, Kindles or mobile phones and whether they used them to read.

It coincides with the increased take up of e-books in Australian schools, with an estimated 34 per cent of schools purchasing e-books in 2015 compared to 28 per cent in 2013, according to The Australian and New Zealand School Library Survey.

Bring Your Own Device policies have also made it easier for students to access e-books.

Dr Merga said parents had been put in a difficult position and were targeted by aggressive marketing which suggested that technology improved children’s intelligence.

She said there was no scientific evidence to support this.

The research follows a 2015 OECD report which found that investing in computers and iPads in schools fails to boost numeracy and literacy skills. The OECD report went even further, saying that frequent use of computers in schools was often associated with lower results.

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EMBARGOED UNTIL 15TH MARCH 2017. Sally McManus will be the first female secretary of the ACTU. Photographed here in the banner room at Sussex street HQ. Thursday 2nd March 2017 SMH photo Louie Douvis . Photo: Louie Douvis
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ACTU secretary Sally McManus has admitted she made an error when she accused building company Grocon of “killing workers”, but continued to defend her stand against unfair industrial laws.

During an interview on the ABC’s 7.30 Report last week, Ms McManus said Grocon was fined $300,000 for “killing” five workers.

“While it was not accurate to say ‘Grocon was fined $300,000 for killing five workers’, it is accurate to point out that the huge discrepancy in fines paid by the company and the CFMEU is a glaring example of the inherent unfairness in our industrial relations laws,” Ms McManus said.

In a statement issued on Monday night, Ms McManus said Grocon did not have the best record for workplace safety.

The March 2013 collapse of a wall on a Swanston Street construction site in Melbourne led to the death of three passers-by. The incident followed the death of a construction worker on a nearby Grocon site the previous month.

It was convicted and ordered to pay a fine of $250,000 – less than a quarter of the maximum available penalty.

“This compares with the almost $4 million in fines levied on the CFMEU over a similar timeframe for protesting Grocon’s record and taking action to stand up for worker safety on construction sites,” Ms McManus said.

Grocon issued a statement on Friday saying it did not deny tragic deaths had occurred on its sites, but insisting it had not caused them.

“Findings on the public record are that Grocon has not caused the death of any individual,” a company statement said.

“It is beholden on Ms McManus to publicly correct her statement and Grocon will be writing to her seeking this correction.”

The company said the Victorian Coroner’s Court confirmed in 2014 there were no workplace safety issues involved in the death of a crane driver, William Ramsay, on Grocon’s Emporium building site in February, 2013.

It said WorkSafe had also confirmed Grocon’s conduct did not cause a wall to collapse on a Swanston Street footpath, killing three people. However, the Swanston Street case did see a Grocon subsidiary fined $250,000 after it pleaded guilty to failing to ensure a safe workplace.

Ms McManus sparked controversy when she told the ABC on Wednesday that she believed in the rule of law “where the law’s fair, where the law’s right, but when it’s unjust, I don’t think there’s a problem with breaking it”.

Unions have thrown their support behind Ms McManus by challenging the fairness of industrial laws that outlaw strike action to achieve better pay and conditions.

The Coalition has strongly criticised the ACTU secretary as a law unto herself in promoting unlawful conduct.

The Labor Party has also opposed breaking the law, saying it is better for parliamentarians to work towards changing unfair legislation.

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Up to half a dozen players could make their debuts for Carlton on Thursday night, as the Blues’ rebuild begins to take shape against old rivals Richmond at the MCG.

And young gun Patrick Cripps has won his battle with injury and will play in the AFL season opener.

After an off-season during which the dramatic reshape of the club’s list been scrutinised, the Blues hope the next generation of Carlton players can cause a major upset by knocking off the Tigers in front of a massive crowd.

Former GWS players Caleb Marchbank, Jarrod Pickett and Rhys Palmer will all play barring any training mishaps, while former Cat Billie Smedts has cemented his spot in Carlton’s best 22.

The 21-year-old Cripps looked a long shot to take the field for round one after being diagnosed in late November with a stress reaction in his lower back.

The injury required a 12-week rehabilitation, which severely hampered the bullocking midfielder’s preparation.

But Cripps was able to feature in the past two games of the pre-season series to convince medical staff of his fitness.

“I can confirm that Patrick Cripps has got through and is ready to play for us (against Richmond),” coach Brendon Bolton told Fox Sports News on Monday.

“We’re rapt with the work that he’s done and the conditioning staff to have him up and ready to play.

“He’s terrific for us in and around stoppages, we know he wins the contested footy and he’ll be important for us on Thursday night.”

Harrison Macreadie – who also has ties to the Giants after being part of their academy – is also in the frame.

His selection will largely depend on whether Bolton wants the flexibility to throw Jacob Weitering forward.

New draftees Cameron Polson and Zac Fisher remain in contention, but they are considered less likely to debut.

While the Blues would like to settle Weitering in defence, where they see him playing the majority of his career, they are also aware of their inability to score freely.

The Blues are likely to start with Levi Casboult, whose struggles in front of goal have been well-documented, up forward along with second-year players Charlie Curnow and Jack Silvagni.

If that combination isn’t potent enough, Bolton would like to be able to throw Weitering into attack as he did at times in 2016.

A bumper crowd of more than 70,000 is expected at the MCG for Thursday’s season opener, which is a Carlton home game.

That would be a strong start to the opening round, with the AFL hoping to break the record attendance for a single round by surpassing the 400,000 mark.

While there have been doubts as to whether two sides that didn’t make the eight last year can draw such a big crowd, both Carlton and the AFL are confident the figure will be reached.

More than 75,000 were at the corresponding match last season, which saw a wasteful Carlton lose by nine points.

In 2015, 83,493 turned out to see the Tigers down the Blues by 27 points.

Carlton haven’t beaten Richmond in round one since 2012, when captain Marc Murphy amassed 32 disposals and Matthew Kreuzer earned three brownlow votes.

Murphy will lead his side out on Thursday night for the first time since injuring his ankle against Geelong nearly 10 months ago, and the Blues will be desperate for Kreuzer to return to dominant form.

While a fully fit Marchbank has been earmarked for Carlton’s best 22 since making the move from GWS, Pickett has been a pleasant surprise to many at Ikon Park.

The number four pick in the 2014 draft missed last year with a foot injury, after an impressive first season yielded 26 goals in 17 NEAFL games.

The West Australian speedster was in solid form during the JLT series, before kicking three goals in the final hit-out against Fremantle.

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After 9000km, this dog is putting his paws up BUDDIES: Musician Matt McLaren and his Guide Dog Stamford. Picture: Marina Neil
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Matt McLaren and Stamford in Martin Place, Sydney, last year. Picture: Jessica Hromas

Matt McLaren and Stamford in Martin Place, Sydney, last year. Picture: Jessica Hromas

Matt McLaren and Stamford in Martin Place, Sydney, last year. Picture: Jessica Hromas

BUDDIES: Musician Matt McLaren and his Guide Dog Stamford. Picture: Marina Neil

BUDDIES: Musician Matt McLaren and his Guide Dog Stamford. Picture: Marina Neil

TweetFacebookAustralia’s Got Talentin 2016.

He said having a Guide Dog helped his career, mainly due to the level of mobility Stamford allowed.

“Stamford enabled me to do so much more than I could with a long cane, such as carry music gear and travel confidently to new places,” McLaren said.

But while the two have formed a remarkable bond, 11-year-old Stamford was slowing down and deserved his retirement, McLaren said.

“It’s going to be sad, it’s going to suck to be honest because it is relearning everything again because we have spent the most part of every day together for nine years,” he said.

“It’s going to be challenging but I have to do the best thing by him.”

Despite being retired from active duty when McLaren receives a new Guide Dog from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT in the coming weeks, Stamford will not be going anywhere.

“He’s done a top job, I’ll keep him as a pet so he’ll get to lie around at home watching Netflix,” McLaren said.

Guide Dogs usually retire between eight to 10 years, depending on their health.

McLaren is hosting a retirement party for Stamford on Sunday, with all proceeds going to Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

“I want to celebrate Stamford’s life and his work but I also want to give something back to Guide Dogs,” McLaren said.

“As an organisation they’ve done an incredible amount for me over the years.

“Even before I received Stamford, they gave me orientation and mobility support and a long cane to get around. It’s hard to describe the scope of what they’ve done for me.”

A Guide Dogcosts more than $35,000 to breed, raise and train. Guide Dogs NSW/ACT receives less than 2 per cent of its funding from the government, and is dependent on donations.

Every day 28 Australians are diagnosed with un-correctable vision loss, including nine who become blind.

Stamford’s retirement party is on Sunday, March 26, atCriterion Pub and Kitchen in Carrington from 2pm-6pm. There will be raffles, an auction and a chance to pat Stamford and get a photo with him, something many of his fans want to do on most days, but can not because he normally wears his harness.

“When the harness is on you’re not meant to pat or talk to them or interact with them in any way because they’re doing a job,” McLaren said.

“But his harness will be off on Sunday.”

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House in the middle of a highway in China finally gets demolishedChinese government says no more weird architectureTake a look at mainland China’s most expensive house
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A single house balancing precariously in the middle of a construction site may seem like a doomed and fragile structure. But in China, these residences have become a potent symbol of resistance. Known as “dingzihu” in Chinese – which can be translated as “nail house” or “nail household” – buildings like this represent those who, like stubborn nails, defy state-ordered evictions and demolitions by refusing to vacate their properties.

Nail houses came to global attention in spectacular images published in the lead up to the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. But the practice began earlier, when homeowners in China were granted inviolable rights to their privately-owned property following two important legal changes in 2004 and 2007.

Nail houses have come to possess a special meaning in a country that perceives urbanisation as a vital political, economic and ideological project. Local economies depend heavily on investment in infrastructure and buildings, and growing middle class consumption is seen as the next engine for China’s economic development. What’s more, urban citizens are considered to be more civilised, or have a higher level of “suzhi” (cultural attainment), and have better access to public services such as education, health care and housing.

But building and expanding cities requires big tracts of vacant land for large-scale developments. This results in the demolition of existing homes, neighbourhoods and villages, which don’t fit the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) vision of an urban future. Courts and compensation

Compensation for families whose homes are on the brink of demolition is always a major source of dispute. Offers are based on current valuations of properties, which is likely to be far lower than any of the residences which replace them. This means that displacement is often inevitable, leading to broken communities and psychological damage from stress and violence and compelling families to demand financial redress.

Petitions by residents face limited success in court. The heavy presence of the CPC in every sphere of social and economic life makes it extremely challenging for residents to make successful claims against the state. Court decisions are rarely made against governments, especially in areas where aspiring local governments have removed regulatory and physical barriers to development.

So instead, nail households endure power cuts, limited services and threats of forced eviction and demolition, in order to gain as much compensation from the government or developers as possible, to ensure their own survival in an increasingly unequal society. Resisting families are often stigmatised as “selfish” for trying to protect their own interests, at the expense of a greater good for their neighbours and the wider public.

Government authorities also feed this perception with posters, like this one from Guangzhou, which reads: “To protect the interest of homeowners, never surrender to nail houses.”

Yet this kind of impasse is not inevitable. Nail households might not go to such extreme measures if they were consulted and provided with informed choices to upgrade their homes and neighbourhoods, without demolition. Families do not become nail households overnight. Nor is a nail house the outcome of some intrinsic “selfishness” on the part of the protesters.

Rather, families often endure long-term harassment and violence, and succumb to despair when they are unable to resolve disputes. Many residents start out by conducting persistent negotiations with local governments or developers, becoming “nail house embryos”. Over time, feelings harden and residents become more determined, until they are willing to take extreme actions to keep their homes. Under pressure

Much of this can be put down to the process. When a neighbourhood is slated for redevelopment, residents face extreme pressure to move: the local government in charge would organise various bureaus – including public security, planning and propaganda offices – to work closely with neighbourhood leaders, to enforce the timely eviction of local residents. Various financial incentives, as well as direct threats and peer pressure, are designed to speed up the process of eviction.

In this context, nail houses symbolise the inequality and unfairness prevalent in contemporary China. Yet a greater awareness of property rights among urban citizens may empower them so that they are no longer subject to whims of the authoritarian state and single-minded for-profit businesses. Enhanced rights consciousness would also enable them to demand for greater participation in urban planning processes that often exclude the voices of citizens.

If governments, developers and other Chinese citizens can acknowledge the plight of nail households, rather than rejecting and alienating them, it could lead to a fairer system for all. Then, no longer will nail houses stand as towering tombstones for vanished communities.

Hyun Bang Shin, Associate Professor in Geography and Urban Studies, London School of Economics and Political Science

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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New letters show Princess Diana made like most brides and used her honeymoon with Prince Charles to sleep.

Like all (un)professional ladies-in-waiting, who would have been one of the late royal’s most trusted confidantes, Jane Parsons will auction off some of the private letters Diana wrote to her and the royal households.

About 25 letters will go under the hammer and span the early years of her marriage, the birth of Prince William and her 21st birthday.

However one note, dated August 15, 1981, has raised the eyebrows of many royal watchers.

Diana wrote to Parsons while on board the Royal Yacht Britannia where she was celebrating her honeymoon.

“The honeymoon was a perfect opportunity to catch up on sleep,” she wrote on the palace’s crested paper.

While some pundits are claiming this is the icing on the cake proving the relationship was doomed from the start, it’s important to remember she was just 20-years-old and the star attraction of the “wedding of the century” to the heir to the British throne. Not to mention they’d only been officially dating for about six months.

The royal wedding saw an unprecedented amount of attention thrust upon the stuffy House of Windsor and the “common” kindergarten teacher’s aide Lady Diana Spencer was at the centre of the media storm.

The “fairytale wedding” was televised and watched by an estimated 750 million on television alone. That’s a lot of pressure, more pressure than just finding the right bunting and creating a snappy hashtag.

She also wore an ivory silk taffeta, antique lace wedding dress and train that was almost 8-metres long. Lugging that around for hours would have been fashion equivalent of a Kayla Itsines workout.

Once the couple returned from their short break they held a press conference where Diana described the honeymoon as “fabulous” and said she could “highly recommend marriage. It’s a marvellous life.” Well said Di. Sleeping is fabulous and a lot of us don’t get enough of it.

Alas, after the lazy honeymoon and wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral in July 1981, the couple separated 11 years later in 1992 and divorced in 1996.

According to her letters she continued to be tired after sleep-stealer Prince William was born.

Following his birth she wrote to the household staff hoping they were not left “exhausted, overworked and underpaid”.

“I know you are being buried under a avalanche of mail…don’t despair, there won’t be another baby Wales until I’ve had a decent rest,” she wrote.

In his letter Prince Charles was “apologetic at all the extra work we are probably going to land on you!”

The palace received 4500 baby presents in the days following William’s arrival.

Official records show Parsons and other ladies-in-waiting then sent our 24,000 thank you letters.

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The latest retro trend making a comebackDecor items you should never splurge onWhy you should give up on DIY
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In an age when three-legged tables and evicted TV units litter our streets come council pick-up day, many people are opting out of “disposable decor” by choosing locally handmade furniture instead.

Trend forecasters such as The Future Laboratory predicted this growing demand for “eternal products”, with an emotional connection and more tactility, was an attempt to counter a fast, digital world.

Even IKEA is taking a handcrafted direction. A recent collection, based on traditional Indonesian and Vietnamese crafts, had IKEA’s design team learning basket-weaving and bamboo-bending before reinterpreting them for mass production.

Buying genuine handmade furniture in Australia, without the cost-cuts of offshore manufacturing, appears financially inaccessible to most, but former property developer Clare Gilligan is on a mission to convince consumers otherwise. She is the brains behind Makers Lane, a digital marketplace where a customer’s design idea is presented online to a large community of small and medium makers who can tender for the business.

“You have to look at lifetime value,” Gilligan says. “It’s actually cheaper to buy well and buy local than this constant commoditisation and replacing.

“You could buy the eight-seater dining table from the big homewares store for $1800, and be prepared to replace it six or seven years later, or you can have it handmade in Australian hardwoods for $2900. And you know that a skilled craftsperson has spent a week or more of their life making your table.”

Makers Lane is a digital marketplace where a customer’s design idea is presented online to a large community of small and medium makers who can tender for the business. Photo: Makers Lane

It would be eye-opening for many households, particularly those with an interest in interiors, to record their average annual spend on decor and furniture that has subsequently felt the blow of an eviction. It might still not compare with, say, $8000 for a Myles Gostelow dining table, destined to become a heirloom for future generations, but it’s food for thought.

Gostelow is a fine furniture maker based in Tharwa, ACT. Being commission-only, his prices are higher than some on Makers Lane but he is never short of work. “It can take up to four months from commission,” he says, “and during that time you can build up a rapport with the client, educate them so they know the story behind the piece and its true value, and they can pass that down to their children.”

Gostelow believes customers need this education in the wake of offshore supply chains that have warped all concepts of what time, skill and materials actually cost. Once you get down to the nitty-gritty of cost reduction overseas, the unsustainable social and environmental impact can’t be ignored.

Fine furniture maker, Myles Gostelow, believes customers need to be educated in the true value of handcrafted furniture.

Gilligan’s model of supporting makers and customers through procurement and beyond, helps to bridge the gap between shop-floor convenience and real-time bespoke. “People are used to walking around shops, touching products and comparing prices,” says Gilligan. “We’ve set up a process that provides transparency and comfort for those new to custom.”

On top of genuinely assured quality is the promise of ongoing maintenance; forget your limited warranties and the worry of planned obsolescence, just ask your maker to re-sand your timber table once the children have stopped scribbling on it.

A long lead time and design collaboration can also inspire an emotional connection with the piece, and that grows deeper if there’s a personal provenance to the design or material. Gostelow is frequently presented with a specific tree, for instance, which he air-dries over a year and mills himself before collaborating with the client on its reincarnation.

Myles Gostelow can even help reincarnate a specific tree or piece of timber at the client’s request.

Gilligan at Maker’s Lane describes a silky oak tree that was cut down in a client’s garden. It had held the children’s swings, their cubby house, and hosted many a climb; now it’s the family’s dining table.

Skilled makers are easier to directly source in the era of Instagram, especially those just starting out who might come with a discount. There are many established woodwork and crafts schools across Australia, including Richard Crosland’s in Alexandria, NSW, and Sturt Gallery in Mittagong, and student exhibitions are a good place to start. Find out about the best craft markets, potter societies or regional craft precincts and stalk your favourite makers before their demand and prices go up.

On top of genuinely assured quality, Makers Lane promises ongoing maintenance in lieu of limited warranties. Photo: Makers Lane

If furniture prices still daunt, kitchenware is a great way to break the ice. You too can own a little piece of Gostelow if you spend $100-200 on a chopping board; it can be made from a favourite felled tree if you’re willing to wait, or a slab of timber your grandpa stored away. He has his own burned brand or you can have a special message engraved by hand.

“I have a view that in this modern consumerist age everybody now actually has enough stuff,” says Gilligan, “and in actual fact what people are seeking is less stuff??? and one or two things that just bring them joy.”

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Photo: iStockTHE federal health departmenthas released the following information about an EpiPen recall.
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Consumers and health professionals are advised that Alphapharm, in consultation with the TGA, isrecalling four batches of EpiPen 300 microgram adrenaline injection syringe auto-injectors. EpiPens from affected batches can be returned to pharmacies for a refund or exchanged for one from a different, unaffected batch free of charge.

EpiPen is used in emergency situations to treat people who are having a severe allergic reaction (also known as anaphylaxis).

It has been identified that EpiPens from the four affected batches may contain a defective part that could result in the auto-injector failing to activate or a need to apply more force than normal to activate.

The affected batch numbers are:Batch number 5FA665; expiry April 2017Batch number 5FA6651; expiryApril 2017Batch number 5FA6652; expiryApril 2017Batch number5FA6653; expiryApril 2017There have been two confirmed reports of auto-injectors from these batches failing to activate correctly world-wide from approximately 80,000 devices distributed. The proportion of these auto-injectors that have been used is not known.

EpiPens are only used in emergency situations. In the unlikely event the auto-injector fails to activate correctly, there is a risk that the patient may not receive the required dose of adrenaline in a timely manner or they may not get the dose at all. If this happens, it could result in a worsening of the potentially life-threatening symptoms of anaphylaxis or anaphylactic reactions.

Please note that no other batches of EpiPen, including EpiPen Jr 150 microgram adrenaline injection syringe auto-injectors, are known to be affected by this issue and are not subject to this recall.

Information for consumersIf you or someone you provide care for has an EpiPen 300 microgram adrenaline injection syringe auto-injector, check the batch number and expiry on either the label of the EpiPen or on the end of the carton.

[Demonstration of batch number location on EpiPen label and carton]

If your EpiPen is from batch 5FA665, 5FA6651, 5FA6652 or 5FA6653 (all of which expire in April 2017), return it to your pharmacy. Your pharmacist will replace the EpiPen from an affected batch with an EpiPen from a different, unaffected batch free of charge. Alternatively, if you have another unaffected EpiPen available, you can request a refund if you prefer.

While you are advised to return an affected EpiPen as soon as possible, you should keep your current auto-injector until you get the replacement, and use it if required (being mindful that you may need to apply more force than normal to activate it).

If you have any questions or concerns about this issue, talk to your health professional.

Information for health professionalsIf you are treating a patient who has an EpiPen 300 microgram adrenaline injection syringe auto-injector, advise them to check their product’s batch number and to return it to their pharmacy if it is from one of the affected batches.

Please advise patients that, while they should return an affected EpiPen as soon as possible, they should keep their current auto-injector until they get the replacement, and use it if required (being mindful that they may need to apply more force than normal to activate it).

As with all medical emergencies, patients and caregivers should be reminded to remain calm and to not hesitate to call 000 if necessary.

If you have any questions or concerns about this issue, contact Alphapharm on 1800 274 276.

Reporting problemsConsumers and health professionals are encouraged toreport problems with medicines or vaccines. Your report will contribute to the TGA’s monitoring of these products.

The TGA cannot give advice about an individual’s medical condition. You are strongly encouraged to talk with a health professional if you are concerned about a possible adverse event associated with a medicine or vaccine.

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An 18-year old female novice singer and a 23-year old barber-turned-rapper are the unlikely finalists of a televised talent contest providing Afghans a welcome distraction from the daily bloodshed in their country.
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The two are vying to become the next Afghan Star. This year’s season is the most tradition-breaking yet in a deeply conservative country where the Taliban once outlawed music and Western-style popular culture is widely frowned upon.

Originally due to be broadcast live, the final will instead be pre-recorded following a wave of Islamist attacks in Kabul, with the winner announced on Tuesday night.

Finalist Zulala Hashemi, from a militant-plagued province in the east, quit school and overcame resistance from relatives unhappy with her singing publicly. When Hashemi auditioned, she was one of only two women out of three hundred contestants.

“I showed people that a woman can do it. I ask every woman to make an effort to reach this point,” she told Reuters, her mother by her side between rehearsals at a television studio protected behind blast walls and Kalashnikov-wielding guards.

Wowing audiences with bright traditional outfits and jewel-encrusted tiaras, and off-stage sporting brown-rimmed Ray Bans, Hashemi’s songs in Pashto and Dari have won her thousands of fans, who vote by text message and on Facebook.

Up against Hashemi is Sayed Jamal Mubarez, a barber from the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif who spent several years in Iran, one of thousands from Afghanistan’s Hazara minority that sought refuge across the country’s western border.

Having ditched his shalwar kameez in early auditions for jeans, a zipped black jacket and a Street Swagg baseball cap, Mubarez said he discovered rap in Iran and has been writing his own lyrics ever since.

“My parents are illiterate, but when I was singing they were encouraging me, so I believed that I could win people’s support,” he said backstage. “But I never thought of being a finalist.”


Afghan Star, now in its twelfth season, is produced by the private television channel Tolo. Tolo’s reporting has earned it the wrath of the Taliban, who last year killed seven Tolo employees in a suicide attack on a staff minibus.

The contest was moved to inside a compound in Kabul’s city centre.

Obaid Juenda, a judge on the show who now lives in London, said the percentage of women auditioning had fallen sharply to five per cent amid the deteriorating security.

Juenda hoped the show gave contestants a springboard for a career, but in a country where opportunities for public performances are limited, past winners have faded into obscurity.

“There isn’t an industry here. We have too many people here who love female singers but we can’t sell our music legally. They can’t perform in public,” he told Reuters.

Hashemi said she had received nothing but support so far.

“Right now I don’t have any problem,” she said, her eyes darting nervously to her mother. “If in the future there are some challenges I’ll try to cope with them to fulfil my dreams.”


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Strata fees could fall in buildings that allow owners to list their properties on Airbnb, under a building program launched by the home sharing platform this week.
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The Friendly Buildings Program, which has been piloted in the US, will redirect a recommended 5 to 15 per cent of an Airbnb booking fee back to the strata body, giving it a cut of the lucrative home sharing market.

The program required Airbnb hosts and their owners corporation to sign an agreement, that includes a “rule book” for home sharing in the building, as well as insurance of $1 million for every booking.

It will also make way for a “multi-stack” arrangement, whereby tenants in a rental property can rent out a room or home on Airbnb, while ensuring a profit share for both the landlord and the owner’s corporation.

At the two-bedroom apartment he owns in Redfern, Spencer Kirk has hosted nearly 300 guests in the past five years, renting out his second bedroom.

“The one thing you have to do is keep everyone in the loop,” Mr Kirk, 42, said.

“I don’t tell the owner’s corporation about every guest…though I would have no issue whatsoever if they asked me to do it all the time.

“In this building there are more people in apartments inviting total strangers in from Tinder or Grindr.”

It may not be a requirement right now, but Mr Kirk could soon find himself opening his booking calendar to the owner’s corporation, if his building joins the new program.

“[The program] will provide transparency so that strata can understand what type of home sharing is taking place, when and by whom.” said Jaja Jackson, Airbnb’s global director of multifamily housing partnerships.

“The profit share component also has the potential to reduce strata fees for apartment owners, depending on how strata bodies wish to allocate the additional income.”

Current strata laws in Sydney give an owners corporation the right to ban short-stay lets if their building is zoned residential only, however zoning changes are currently being considered by the NSW government that would make holiday lets exempt.

An 18-month long parliamentary inquiry last year determined that home owners should be given the green light to let out spare rooms without risking fines.

The inquiry’s recommendations received a mixed reception from critics who have long called for powers to allow owners corporations to ban hosts from strata buildings.

The government is due to respond by April.

However Airbnb argues the new building program eliminates the common concerns voiced by opponents to the platform.

“The executive committee will establish a set of rules…including things like caps [on the number of guests] or blockout dates,” Mr Jackson said.

“If there is a disagreement, the purpose of the partnership is for us to provide support to strata…and it is entirely free.”

If an apartment owner is found to be violating the rules, the owner’s corporation is required to notify Airbnb. If mediation is unsuccessful, Airbnb can shut down the account.

During a visit to Sydney this week Mr Jackson is meeting with strata groups to discuss the program.

Chris Duggan, president of strata sector peak body Strata Community Australia (NSW), said short-term booking platforms required “a solution…that is sympathetic to the issues that can arise with inappropriate use.”

“[Our] position continues to be that the matter should be one for both local and state government authorities concerning approved uses….and we call on the major online platforms to work with lot owners, strata managers and government,” he said.

Mr Duggan said he could not comment on whether the program would reduce strata fees until more details were revealed.

Spokesman for the Owners Corporation Network Stephen Goddard said buildings should be able to have a say on whether Airbnb is allowed or not, an issue the program failed to address.

“Call me cynical, but the timing of this plan…does not seem like a co-incidence…We welcome Airbnb’s new position that there needs to be regulation, rules and compensation, but they also need to add ‘building permission’ to that list.” Interact with us on Facebook – Savvy ConsumerLatest consumer news

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News. Nauru. september 19. photo by Angela Wylie. pic shows asylum seekers on their first day in the compound at Nauru after their long voyages on the Tampa, Aceng and Manoora. fairfax. digital. ajw010920.002.002. Photo: Fairfax MediaTwo Australians in Nauru believed to be working with detention centre contractor Wilson Security have been detained by local police and will be deported back to Australia.
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The Nauruan government confirmed on Tuesday two Australian citizens were awaiting deportation after being detained under the country’s immigration laws, but did not explain the reasons for their arrest.

“They are being provided with consular access. The government reserves the right to revoke any visa by a foreign national if deemed to be in our national interest,” Nauru’s media and public information unit said in a statement.

Fairfax Media has learnt through multiple sources the two people, understood to be a man in his 20s and a woman in her 30s, work for Wilson Security at the Australian-run detention centre on the island.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the Australian government was providing consular assistance to the two Australians who were in detention.

“The Australian government has no jurisdiction to interfere in the legal or immigration processes of other countries,” a DFAT spokeswoman said. “Due to privacy obligations, we are unable to provide further information.”

A source at the Australian consulate in Nauru said consular staff had visited two people at the Nauruan police station on Monday afternoon.

“They were working at the detention centre,” the source said. “They don’t know why they were detained.”

A man who claimed to be in contact with the two detainees told Fairfax Media they had been held without charge for three days. Fairfax Media was not able to confirm this with Nauruan authorities.

It is understood the two Australians will be deported on a commercial flight to Brisbane on Wednesday.

There are several foreign companies providing services to the detention apparatus on the tiny island nation on top of Wilson Security, including Broadspectrum, International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) and Canstruct.

Two non-government sources with contacts on Nauru told Fairfax Media that Australian Border Force officers and Wilson Security employees were frequent visitors to Nauru’s prison facility on Monday.

Workers at numerous international organisations are responsible for 380 men, women and children currently residing at the Australian-run facility in Nauru, as well as refugees living in the community.

The facility is designated as “open”, meaning refugees and asylum seekers can leave during the day and return at night.

In 2015, Nauruan police arrested nearly 200 refugees and asylum seekers after a wave of protests about their detention.

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Hancock Prospecting executive chairman Gina Rinehart.Gina Rinehart has consolidated her position as Australia’s wealthiest person with the prominent magazine Forbes saying the mining magnate’s net wealth jumped to $US15 billion ($19.4 billion) over the past 12 months.
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In what was a record year for the number of uber-wealthy around the world, Forbes said Ms Rinehart’s position on their annual index skyrocketed from 127 in 2016 (with a fortune of $US8.8 billion) to the 69th spot in 2017, making her the only Australian in the top 100. According to the index, her wealth has climbed by $US6.2 billion($8 billion)over the last year.

It was a different story for the newly-minted US President Donald Trump, whose wealth shrunk to $US3.5 billion on the back of a softening New York property market. It sees Mr Trump tumble more than 200 spots to No.544 on the list.

The magazine said Ms Rinehart was the female billionaire who had the “best year” but noted that with Ms Rinehart’s wealth built on ironone,”her fortune can either jump or plummet depending on the price of the commodity.”

“Unlike all the other women ahead of her, Rinehart also has bragging rights for actively building her fortune. Rinehart took her late father’s bankrupted estate and rebuilt it into something much larger,”says Forbes.

Ms Rinehart is the daughter of late iron-ore developer Lang Hancock. She owns shares in the Ten television network and cattle stations in Australia’s north.

But the West Australianis a controversial figure in Australia because of her links to prominent right-wing politicians and support for lower wages for Australian workers citing international competitiveness. Last year Ms Rinehartpraised Mr Trump’s election and called for a replica of his policies in Australia, in a speech delivered on her behalfby the former Liberal MP SophieMirabella.

Ms Rinehart is a personal friend of the deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and attended his maiden speech when he switched from the Senate to the lower house in 2013.

In2011, Ms Rinehartflew Mr Joyce and the deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop and another coalition MP to Indiato attend a wedding in the wealthy Reddy family.

Property developerHarryTriguboffwas Australia’s second highest ranked billionaire at number 153with a net worth of $11 billion.

The founder of the Australiansoftware firmAtlassiandebutedas the youngest onthe Billionaires List.Mike Cannon-Brooks is said to have a net worth of $2.7 billion.

Forbes says it calculatesthe wealth of the listedbillionaires by using stock prices and exchange rates to calculate their net worth as of February 17, 2017.

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates topped the list for the fourth time in a row with a net worth of $112 billion. Facebook founder MarkZuckerbergmoved up into fifth position.

The magazine said it was a “record year” for the world’s richest, with the number of billionaires increasing by 13 per cent to 2,043 and their combined value jumping by 18 per cent to $9.9 trillion.


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BROKEN: The unethical use of 457 visas is not being addressed, the author argues. When I speak to workers about the challenges they face in the modern economy it’s sad to hear that some workers don’t feel supported by the companies that employ them.
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Recently I co-hosted a roundtable with the Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Shayne Neumann in my electorate of Shortland. We met with worker representatives and heard how businesses are using 457 visa workers for jobs that could be filled by locals.

Companies that operate in Australia should employ Australians.

457 visas and other temporary skilled migrants should only be used after rigorous labour market testing. The inappropriate use of 457 visas undermines Australian workers at a time of intense changes globally. We also have seen some very serious cases of exploitation.

One example I was given was of nearly 40 Filipino welders on 457 visas who were forced to work 60-70 hours per week. They were sacked without notice in the middle of the night and were grossly underpaid. In fact, the construction union has recovered over one million dollars in underpaid wages to these workers.

It’s not the first time I’ve been told of unethical use of the 457 program. InDecember last yearI received confidential figures revealing the number of local nursing graduates able to secure work in the public health system had fallen from 80 per cent to 50 per cent. 10,000 Australian nurses are looking for work at same time as over 3300 nurses came to Australia as 457 visas in the last three years.

To be clear, Labor does not oppose foreign workers coming here when there is a legitimate need. Our opponents paint our position as xenophobic and anti-competitive, yet they never consider that 457 visa holders are often underpaid and overworked by Australian standards; they’d just prefer a Gordon Gekko ‘let the market rip’ approach without thinking of the consequences to thousands of Australian workers and youth looking for work. This is at a time when wages are stagnant and company profits are soaring (set to continue if the Coalition gets their way and introduces a $50 billion tax cut for corporations).

The only consistency I’ve seen from the Turnbull Government is their myopic and out of touch approach; it’s obvious the 457 system is being rorted and the Coalition is content to let it continue. Labor has introduced tough legislation which will require employers to advertise locally and to genuinely try to fill jobs with Australian workers before recruitment from overseas is an option. The migrants will also be required to be paid the market rate of pay. Under this proposal, if businesses have significant numbers of temporary workers, they must have a plan for training locals too.

The alternative is continued exploitation of temporary skilled migrants and undermining of the wages and conditions of Australian workers.

If we are to combat the rise of right wing populists; a movement that offers plenty of blame but no solutions, we must give people confidence in our economic system.

We must have a system that shares the spoils of the economy in a fair and considered manner. Not a system that sets worker against worker, centred on a race to the bottom.

Pat Conroy is the Member for Shortland, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy and the Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure.

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