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Risky relationships: why women are more likely to die of a broken heart


Powered by article titled “Risky relationships: why women are more likely to die of a broken heart” was written by Bri Lee, for on Saturday 24th February 2018 05.11 Asia/Kolkata

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy – commonly known as broken heart syndrome – is rare but real. As a heart and lung surgeon, Dr Nikki Stamp has seen a few cases herself, and the phenomenon provides a compelling opening chapter to her first book, Can You Die of a Broken Heart? The title reminds us of when Debbie Reynolds died “of a broken heart” the day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, passed away in 2016, but this book rises far above the online pseudoscience accompanying those reports. It is possible to be so affected by grief or shock that a predisposed heart simply cannot cope, and Stamp uses this as an opener to explore the myriad ways modern medicine is only recently understanding (and admitting) to the connection between body and emotion.

“We’ve sort of come full circle in terms of emotion and health,” Stamp says. “When early physicians were discovering organs and the body, they actually thought the heart was the centre of emotion, because it was warm and hot and that’s where the idea of being ‘hot-blooded’ came from. And then we got kind of cold and clinical; that your emotions come from the brain, that your emotional state has nothing to do with your physical state, and now we’ve come full circle and we’re starting to encompass a more holistic view of health.”

Relationships are a great example. “There is a trend to suggest that the risk of dying is higher after the loss of someone important and close to you,” Stamp says. Conversely, she says, both romantic and platonic relationships are hugely beneficial. “There’s a lot of positive physiology and positive actions that happen in the body when you’re in a relationship. When you have social connection and emotional connection, it seems that our brains recognise that as something that means you’re healthy.”

Australian heart and lung surgeon Dr Nikki Stamp. Her book Can You Die of a Broken Heart? argues women’s heart health has suffered from entrenched gender bias.
Australian heart and lung surgeon Dr Nikki Stamp. Her book Can You Die of a Broken Heart? argues research into women’s heart health has suffered from entrenched gender bias. Photograph: Chris Chen

Good hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin flood the body, preventing inflammation and assisting with blood flow.

The book doesn’t sugarcoat the risks of relationships though, and the section about divorce is sobering. One study Stamp notes in the book showed that pain centres in the brain lit up when people were shown photos of their ex-partners, and of course pain and stress have negative effects on the heart.

“It’s interesting because we’ve come to a point in culture and in society where we’re socially more accepting of divorce, yet it still has this profound effect on our health,” Stamp says. Divorce puts women under significantly more physiological strain than men, research reveals. When men remarry, their risk of heart attack drops again, but Stamp writes that, for women, divorce means a rewriting of their health prospectus forever: “The risks posed by divorce to a woman’s heart health is on a similar level to that of high blood pressure or smoking.” Men married to women, on the other hand, are significantly less likely to have heart attacks in the first place and those who do recover from them much faster than single men or women married to men.

The gendered issues inherent in heart health don’t end there either. In fact, Stamp says one of the reasons she started writing Can You Die of a Broken Heart? was because of how “scary and frustrating” it was that “women don’t identify with heart disease” despite it being the No 1 cause of death in Australian women. The book explains: “If you’re a woman under 50 years of age and you have a heart attack, then you are twice as likely to die than a man in the same boat.” Why? A contributing factor is the dearth of resources put into women’s heart health because most of the research has been done “by men, on men”.

Stamp – who is often mistaken for a nurse and referred to by her first name where her male colleagues are addressed with titles – explains that gendered issues in the industry affect medicine itself. “Women in academic medicine or even in higher levels of medical research in general are quite underrepresented. And whether we like it or not, we all have a bias towards looking at things that are more pertinent to ourselves,” she says. “So, with all of that, we’re only just now learning about both the biological and social differences between men’s and women’s hearts. And because of that, the knowledge isn’t there among healthcare practitioners, and so we don’t know what to look out for and we dismiss symptoms. Women don’t want to seem silly and then they go to their healthcare expert, a doctor or nurse, and they dismiss it as well because the symptoms are strange or because women are more likely to be perceived as being anxious. It’s just this storm of complications that mean that women’s hearts are so much more at risk.”

Australian heart surgeon Nikki Stamp’s book, Can You Die of a Broken Heart, is out in Australia on 24 February through Murdoch Books

The most affecting thing about the book is Stamp’s infectious admiration for the organ. She describes how “breathtaking” it was the first time she saw a heart beating inside a chest as though it were love at first sight. Her book is peppered with compelling anecdotes from her professional adventures (when one patient threw a table at her, she responded, “No judgment there: grief is a nasty piece of work”). “A lot of health books seem quite prescriptive and almost paternalistic. I didn’t want to write something like that,” Stamp says. In the introduction we learn that “the very human side of what it is to care for another person” is what got her “into” medicine, and it shows. One patient’s heart surgery was put on hold so she could marry the love of her life right there in the ward. “Two days after her wedding she was wheeled down the same corridor to the operating theatre.”

Stamp admits that knowing the effect of heartbreak on her heart hasn’t made her superhuman. “At times when I was researching this book and learning about the effects of heartbreak it just sort of made me cross at the people who had broken my heart all over again,” she says, laughing, “But I think I muddle through. One of the sad inevitabilities of life is that heartbreak is going to happen to all of us at some point in time and I just hope that if and when it happens again that I do remember some of this stuff and that I might muddle my way through it just a little bit better.”

• Can You Die of a Broken Heart? by Dr Nikki Stamp is out now through Murdoch Books © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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US NEWS, World

Ivanka Trump calls for ‘maximum pressure’ on North Korea


Powered by article titled “Ivanka Trump calls for ‘maximum pressure’ on North Korea” was written by Benjamin Haas in Pyeongchang, for on Saturday 24th February 2018 09.29 Asia/Kolkata

Ivanka Trump is leading a US delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in an effort to show a softer side of US diplomacy on the peninsula while calling for maximum pressure to be put on North Korea.

Trump watched snowboarding events in Pyeongchang with South Korea’s first lady, Kim Jung-sook, and foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha. Wearing a Team USA hat and red snowsuit, she captured the attention of local media. Her trip comes less than two weeks after Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, visited the South and largely overshadowed US vice president Mike Pence.

“We cannot have a better, or smarter, person representing our country,” Donald Trump said in an early morning tweet.

At a dinner on Friday, Ivanka Trump’s message of “maximum pressure” seemed to clash with South Korean president Moon Jae-in’s strategy of denuclearisation through dialogue. Experts have said the North’s recent diplomatic overtures are aimed at driving a wedge between Washington and Seoul, and the mixed messages suggested there may be tension between the allies.

“Active dialogue is being held between the South and the North amid the North’s participation in the Olympics,” Moon said, according to the Yonhap news agency. “This is greatly contributing to easing tension on the Korean Peninsula and improving the South-North relationship.”

Friday’s meal featured “Korean food designed to be palatable for foreigners” including bibimbap, a rice dish topped with various vegetables and meat “that mixes different ingredients evenly and symbolises harmony”, according to the presidential Blue House. Moon has rolled out the red carpet for Trump, who is an adviser to her father.

“I thank you for hosting us all here tonight as we reaffirm our bonds of friendship, of cooperation, of partnership and reaffirm our commitment to our maximum pressure campaign to ensure that the Korean Peninsula is denuclearised,” she said.

As Trump landed in Seoul, the US announced a new round of sanctions against Pyongyang in an effort to curb the country’s nuclear and missile programs. The measures targeted 27 shipping and trading companies, 28 vessels and one person, all suspected of helping North Korea circumvent current sanctions.

Washington’s hard line emerged as the dominant theme of Trump’s trip, with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders telling reporters: “We are going to continue a campaign of maximum pressure, the latest sanctions are the strongest that we have had on North Korea. We are going to continue in that form.”

The US is “going to ask all of our allies and partners to step up and do more as well and join us in that effort,” she added.

Trump’s visit will coincide with a high level delegation from North Korea, with both attending the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics. US and South Korean officials have said there is no meeting planned between the two sides, but the possibility of direct talks had led to intense speculation.

Pence was set to meet with officials from the North during his trip, but it was cancelled at the last minute. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Labor’s fence-sitting on Adani has become a double backflip


Powered by article titled “Labor’s fence-sitting on Adani has become a double backflip” was written by Katharine Murphy, for on Saturday 24th February 2018 06.12 Asia/Kolkata

The backflip is standard operating procedure in professional politics, we all know that, but the double backflip is a somewhat rarer event.

Yet under the cover of yet another seismic convulsion inside the Turnbull government, Bill Shorten looks to be lining up for the dubious double on the controversial Adani coal mine. After signalling quite clearly in late January that Labor would toughen its position on the project, the Labor leader has cooled off noticeably on that notion over the past week or so.

Just before David Feeney announced he would resign from parliament because he couldn’t prove he was eligible to sit in the lower house, triggering a byelection in his lower house seat of Batman, Shorten used an appearance at the National Press Club to telegraph a shift on the mine.

Labor had perched uncomfortably on the fence on Adani for a very long time, with a stock formulation along the lines of we don’t like it, but if the project has been through approvals, it should be welcomed on the basis it will create jobs, and by the way, we won’t give it a cent of taxpayer money.

Climate groups had been active with Shorten over the summer break, trying to persuade him to adopt a legal option of stopping the mine. The Labor leader changed the working formulation on the project in late January, and backed in the putative shift in the weeks immediately following, suddenly revving up the negative environmental impacts of the project.

With the pivot in full flight, Shorten jumped on a story by my Guardian Australia colleagues, Amy Remeikis and Michael Slezak, suggesting that Adani had submitted an altered laboratory report while appealing a fine for contaminating wetlands near the Great Barrier Reef. “If Adani is relying on false information, that mine doesn’t deserve to go ahead,” the Labor leader thundered.

It became known that the party was examining legal triggers to stop the project, perhaps overhauling the Environmental Protection Biodiversity and Conversation [EPBC] Act to insert a “climate trigger”, perhaps reopening an assessment because of the negative impact of the project on water, or on the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Adani pivot, which had been tightly held in Labor’s leadership group (where a lot of issues are tightly held), then went to the shadow cabinet for a discussion.

There were, and are, a range of views about how hard to go. One significant internal player, Anthony Albanese, nailed his colours to the mast publicly this week, declaring (before any formal decision) that Labor wasn’t going to overhaul the EPBC Act to stop a mine that had already been through the relevant approvals.

The shadow climate minister, Mark Butler, fellow left winger and Albanese ally in an institutional sense, has a different view. He’s been on the record for months opposing the project, and he’s not alone in having that view.

Shortly after the shadow cabinet discussion, momentum drained from the redux. There was also another complication. The mining union made it known publicly that Labor should not harden its position on the Carmichael project, because if it did, it would trigger a divisive internal debate about the future of coal – a debate the party wasn’t ready to have.

With institutional forces in play internally, the tectonic plates shifting, Shorten scampered up to Queensland over this past week to trial a line that Labor didn’t care for Adani, but did care for coal and coal miners, and a Labor government would look after Queensland with an industry policy that would deliver a pipeline of blue collar jobs.

Presumably there will now be a period of settling to determine whether attempting to be all things to all people actually flies with the voting public.

Where it is unlikely to fly is in Batman, where the Greens have been running an anti-Adani ground campaign against the ALP for months, a campaign local activists will intensify over this weekend, with Labor’s equivocations on the project now built into the scripts for the Greens door knockers and the phone bankers.

Perhaps at a political level that doesn’t matter much to Shorten, as hard heads have been pessimistic about Labor’s chances of holding the seat given that area of Melbourne has been in the process of going Green.

But a few things will matter to Labor at the next federal election. One will be having a climate policy that appeals to progressive as well as traditional voters. Another will be having a leader who isn’t perceived by voters as a flip-flopper, or a climate warrior of convenience.

While Labor can’t and shouldn’t forget blue collar workers and succumb entirely to the post materialist sensibilities of its inner urban constituency, toughening its line on Adani represented an opportunity for Labor to try to unify the progressive left, which has engaged in poisonous recriminations as a consequence of the toxic climate wars which have divided Australian politics for more than a decade.

As well as settling at least one ongoing war with the Greens, opposing the project would also have the added benefit of enlisting a flotilla of progressive activist groups to bolster its campaign efforts at the next federal poll.

The #StopAdani campaign is the biggest civil society action seen in Australia since the Franklin campaign. Best have that wind in your sails rather than sailing into that headwind.

And of course, there’s the substance. While Labor can perhaps defer the future of coal debate that the Construction, Mining and Energy Union conceptualises, doubtless correctly, as a looming rupture in the party and the wider movement, but that debate can’t be avoided forever.

Butler in a speech to the Sydney Institute this week made it plain why it can’t be avoided. The corporate world is not avoiding it. Regulators are not avoiding it. Insurers aren’t avoiding it.

If institutions in this country stick their heads in the sand, and fail to get serious about policies to constrain greenhouse gas emissions, Butler correctly pointed to the potential for future litigation to “recover damages for losses incurred as a result of climate change from people who should have prevented those losses from occurring”.

“One-eyed reliance on scenarios that pretend that the world is not changing is simply unsustainable and, potentially, legally negligent,” Butler said.

“Investors are already voicing their expectations that companies do better in this area. But government and regulators clearly have a role to play in improving standards as well.”

If the world is to meet the climate targets agreed in the Paris deal, the reality no politician or political party can now avoid is simple.

More coal will have to remain in the ground. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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US NEWS, World

White House indicates it could find funds to train and arm 1 million teachers


Powered by article titled “White House indicates it could find funds to train and arm 1 million teachers” was written by Amanda Holpuch, Paul Owen and Joanna Walters in New York, for on Friday 23rd February 2018 05.21 Asia/Kolkata

The White House indicated on Thursday that the federal government could come up with the money to fund as many as a million teachers being trained and armed with guns across America in a controversial attempt to keep schools safe from more mass shootings.

This followed repeated assertions from Donald Trump during earlier meetings at the White House, as well as in presidential tweets, that his response to the school massacre in Florida last week is to arm teachers and sports coaches.

It would be a “great deterrent” to killers, he said.

At the White House press briefing on Thursday afternoon, Raj Shah, deputy press secretary, was asked if it was practical to expect teachers to carry concealed handguns to protect their students from shooters.

“When you have a horrific situation, what you think and do not think is practical can change,” Shah said.

Teachers’ unions have expressed shock and skepticism that any such plan could be feasible or effective.

But at a meeting at the White House with state and local officials early Thursday afternoon, Trump talked of paying bonuses to some teachers, providing “highly adept people, people who understand weaponry, guns … [with] a concealed permit”.

He suggested paying bonuses to armed, trained teachers, suggesting that “10, 20, 40%” of teachers could be qualified to do so, especially retired military personnel.


“I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected,” he said.

The White House was later challenged that 40% of America’s teachers being given a bonus of, for example, $1,000, would mean $1bn being distributed to a million of them.

“Do you really think that’s too much to pay for school safety?” Shah responded. Shah said Trump would soon be talking to members of Congress about legislative and budgetary proposals.

Trump had earlier appeared to speak out against the kind of “active shooter drills” that are becoming the norm in many schools.

“Active shooter drills is a very negative thing … I’ll be honest with you. If I’m a child, I’m 10 years old and they say … ‘We’re going to have an active shooter drill,” I say ‘What’s that?’ ‘Well, ‘People may come in and shoot you’ … I think that’s a very negative thing to be talking about, to be honest with you. I don’t like it. I’d much rather have a hardened school,” he said.

But Shah explained that it was the frightening name the president disliked, not the drills themselves, and was in favor of calling them a safety drill.

He confirmed that Trump is considering supporting a rise in the age limit for purchasing an assault rifle to 21, but does not support banning assault weapons for US civilians outright. Students who survived the shooting at their high school in Parkland last week quickly began a fierce campaign calling for that measure.

In contrast to the combative tone coming from the administration, the Parkland mayor, Christine Hunschofsky, addressed safety and mental health in her meeting with Trump on Thursday, and then alluded to the assault rifle used by shooter Nikolas Cruz in last Wednesday’s massacre, saying: “In the end, how did somebody like this person get access to that kind of firearm?”


At an emotional session at the White House on Wednesday, the US president held a listening session with survivors of last week’s Florida school shooting and others affected by gun violence, telling them that armed teachers and school coaches “could very well end the attack very quickly”.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted: “20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to … immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this.”

Trump said having so-called gun-free zones around schools created a situation for school shooters like “going in for the ice cream”.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Nicole Hockley, whose six-year-old son, Dylan, died at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, spoke out against arming teachers. “I would rather arm them with the knowledge of how to prevent these acts from happening in the first place,” she said.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers union said in a statement: “Anyone who wants guns in schools has no understanding of what goes on inside them – or worse, doesn’t care.”

Barack Obama weighed in on Thursday, tweeting: “Young people have helped lead all our great movements. How inspiring to see it again in so many smart, fearless students standing up for their right to be safe.”

interactive © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Barnaby Joyce quits as deputy prime minister and National party leader – live


Powered by article titled “Barnaby Joyce quits as deputy prime minister and National party leader – live” was written by Christopher Knaus, for on Friday 23rd February 2018 09.21 Asia/Kolkata

The images from Armidale are trickling in.


A rather helpful offer to Joyce from Netflix. I’m sure he’ll be stoked.

The long-expected resignation

So, what did we learn from Barnaby Joyce’s press conference? Let’s recap:

  • Joyce will resign as deputy prime minister and Nationals leader. He will stay on as member for New England.
  • Joyce has referred a complaint of sexual harassment made against him to police. He says it is false and wants it properly investigated. He said the allegation was the final straw in a saga that has stretched over two weeks. Joyce said he could not possibly get up to speak at the dispatch box while that allegation was being investigated.
  • Joyce has slammed the media’s intrusion into the life of his partner, Vikki Campion. He said he thought Australia was better than that. Not one of the “litany” of allegations against him have been proved, he said.
  • Joyce has promised he will not snipe from the backbench. He’s writing a book and is expecting a baby, so has plenty to keep him occupied, he said.
  • He wants his decision to act as a “circuit breaker” to end the public discussion about the saga.
Barnaby Joyce announces his resignation in Armidale, New South Wales. Photograph: Marlon Dalton/AAP


Turnbull issues statement on Joyce

Malcolm Turnbull has just issued a statement on Joyce’s resignation. He thanked Joyce for his service and said the Coalition partnership was “undiminished”.

John McVeigh – the Queensland LNP MP who is currently regional development minister – will fill Joyce’s infrastructure and transport portfolio until the Nationals sort themselves out internally.

Here’s Turnbull’s formal statement in full:

The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP has announced that he will resign as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, effective 8am on Monday.

I thank Barnaby for his service as deputy prime minister and in his various ministerial roles in which he has been a fierce advocate for rural and regional Australia.

The Coalition between the Liberals and the Nationals is Australia’s most successful political partnership, having endured for more than 95 years.

This partnership is undiminished and will continue to deliver opportunity and security for all Australians.

Pending the Nationals’ election of a new leader and consequent ministerial changes, the Hon John McVeigh MP will act as minister for infrastructure and transport.


If you’re wondering who the Weatherboard Nine are, we have the answer.

Viewers at home may have been wondering at a bizarre phrase the outgoing Deputy PM seemed to throw out there at the end of his press conference. When asked what his legacy was, Joyce seemed to say: “I fought for the person in the weatherboard nine.

We can calm the speculation. He was saying “weatherboard and iron”. Here’s the proof. In this SMH interview from October 28 last year, Joyce was directly quoted as saying he wanted to “to give greater economic and personal advancement to the people in the weatherboard and iron in the regional towns.”

He continued: “I didn’t give a toss for where power comes from, but one of the greatest afflictions for people in the weatherboard and iron is they can’t afford power.”

Here’s the official Nationals account repeating it:

And a video where you can watch him say it himself, and spark the same confusion in the comments:

Joyce clearly intends to be using the phrase a metaphor for the rural poor, a figure of speech known as synecdoche, where a part of something (in this case the materials of cheap housing) is made to represent the whole.


Liberal MP Tony Pasin says the press conference was clearly difficult for Joyce. Pasin said he was shocked to watch it.

“It’s obviously a shock,” Pasin told Sky News. “Watching that press conference, make no mistake, that was a difficult exercise for Barnaby.”

He said the saga has been an ordeal and he’s glad it’s come to a head.

Pasin gives us some clue as to who may put their hand up for the Nationals leadership, now that Joyce is gone. He says the field will be similar to the field that stood for the deputy leader position in December. That field included resources minister, Matt Canavan.

Timeline of Joyce’s demise

Right, well. We expected it, eventually. But it’s still a huge development and a significant blow to the Coalition.

So, how on earth did it come to this? Is your head spinning?

Luckily, my colleague Naaman Zhou has compiled a very handy timeline on this whole sorry episode. It feels like it’s dragged on for an age. Apparently, it’s only been two weeks. Yep, two weeks.


The NSW Nationals have just released a statement, thanking Joyce for his service. The statement describes Joyce as a “staunch and uncompromising advocate” for regional Australians.

Here’s the full statement.

There we are. That’s the end of Joyce’s press conference.

Just to reiterate – Joyce is stepping down as Nationals leader and deputy prime minister, but will stay on as member for New England on the backbench.


He says he does not think the media should report on personal relationships in the future. He said the intrusion into in his partner Vikki Campion’s life was “just wrong”.

I apologise to Vikki, the idea, walking across the road as a pregnant lady and just being, you know, put under so much pressure. I mean, I thought that’s not who we are in Australia. That’s not the kind of people we are.

I’m the public figure, go after me. That’s what I get paid for but don’t go after private individuals. It’s just wrong. And always think of it when you see something like that on paper and you think it’s salacious, think: “What if that was me? My mother, my wife? How would I feel?”


Joyce is asked whether he takes any responsibility for the events in recent weeks. He says he takes responsibility “for them talking about you”, but little else.


Joyce says he was never made aware of the allegation of sexual harassment. He says he only heard of it in the “last day or so”.

I have never been made directly aware of that. It was only in the last day or so I was made directly aware. But there were rumours.

Joyce says he will remain in the seat of New England. He has no plans to remain as a minister. He’s writing a book and is expecting a baby, he says, so has a lot of things on his mind.

Will he refrain from sniping, like Tony Abbott promised he would?

No, I won’t snipe. I have a lot of things I need to do. I’m currently in the process of writing a book about precisely the people I was talking about and I want to make sure I get that concluded. I want to assist my colleagues where I can to keep their seats and also, quite naturally, in April, a baby will be born. I’ll have other things on my mind.


Joyce says he has referred the allegation of sexual harassment to police for investigation.

He says the entire episode and public intrusion into his life, and the life of his partner, Vikki Campion, has “got to stop”.

It’s incredibly important that there be a circuit-breaker, not just for the parliament, but more importantly, a circuit-breaker for Vikki, for my unborn child, my daughters and for Nat.

“This has got to stop. It’s not fair on them. It’s just completely and utterly unwarranted, the sort of observation that’s happened.”


Joyce to step down

Joyce confirms he will step down on Monday as Nationals leader and deputy prime minister.

He says it’s quite evident that he can’t go to the dispatch box (for question time) while allegations of sexual harassment are being investigated.

This current cacophony of issues has to be put aside, and I think it’s my responsibility to do my bit to make sure that happens.


Joyce says there needs to be “clear air”. He says there’s been a “litany of allegations”.

“I don’t believe any of them have been sustained,” he said.

He’s slamming the leaking and backgrounding, saying it will destroy the government.


Joyce speaks

Joyce is speaking now.

Can I say right from the start, this is never about me. It’s about the person in the weather board, something that manifestly expressed what the National party is about.


If you’ve just tuned into the Barnaby Joyce coverage today, it’s worth reading this report of the latest developments from my colleagues Paul Karp and Katharine Murphy.


Tim Fischer, former Nationals leader, has just appeared on Sky News. Fischer, who was John Howard’s deputy, was booked in by Sky to talk about gun control in the United States.

But, inevitably, the interview soon moves to Joyce’s future.

Fischer is asked how the party will recover from the weeks of damaging headlines.

“We’ve been written off before … I think as a courtesy let’s wait and see what the deputy prime minister has to say in just a few minutes time.

He says he doesn’t “dwell on day-to-day politics” in Australia anymore, but does feel for those who have been personally hurt in the saga.

Fischer won’t say if he’s been sought out for counsel.

He says the 24-hour media cycle is now relentless and unforgiving for politicians.

“The margins of error – one bad press conference and you’re burnt for weeks,” he said.


Derryn Hinch, the senator and human headline, reckons he’s got this picked.

We’re still 30 minutes away from the press conference, but the cameras are already set up and waiting for Joyce in Armidale.

The Nationals have been in lockdown for much of the morning.

I still don’t know for certain whether Joyce will stay or go. My best punt is 2pm is more likely to be a departure than a digging in.

The new allegation about sexual harassment – denied by the deputy prime minister – has been a blow. I’m told the complainant is a prominent person in West Australian regional affairs.

Senior members of the government appear unaware of what Joyce will say at 2pm. Christopher Pyne is currently on Sky News, in his regular slot with Richard Marles. Pyne said he was not aware of the nature of Joyce’s planned statement, but said “all eyes” would be on the press conference.

Indeed they will be, Christopher.


The ABC’s Lucy Barbour is reporting that Joyce’s chief of staff has called a meeting of his Canberra office staff for 1.30pm.

What’s changed in the past 48 hours?

Several developments have piled on the pressure for Joyce in recent days.

  • Nationals MP Andrew Gee on Friday joined fellow National Andrew Broad in withdrawing support for Joyce. Gee issued a statement that “all bets are off” when it came to the leadership.
  • The Daily Telegraph reported on Friday that Joyce is the subject of a complaint of sexual harassment, made to the National party. Joyce has dismissed the report as “spurious and defamatory”. But the acting prime minister, Mathias Cormann, has said any allegations of sexual harassment are “very serious”.
  • The decision of the deputy prime minister to give an exclusive interview to Fairfax Media, despite being on a week’s leave. Joyce used the interview to complain of being hounded out of his rent-free apartment and told us all to move on from the issue. His critics said the interview did nothing more than give new life to a story that was finally moving off the front pages.
  • Malcolm Turnbull, who is in the United States, repeatedly failed to publicly back Joyce on Friday.


Barnaby Joyce expected to make announcement on his future

Hello and welcome,

We’re expecting big news from the Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce, at 2pm.

Joyce has scheduled a press conference in Armidale. Channel Nine caught up with him earlier today, and asked him whether he would remain Nationals leader. Joyce responded “Let’s do the presser”.

Fairfax Media has reported Joyce is “increasingly likely” to resign.

Needless to say, it’s all sounding rather ominous for Joyce.

Stay with us. We’ll take you through developments as soon as they happen. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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US school shootings: Florida survivors take NRA and politicians to task


Powered by article titled “US school shootings: Florida survivors take NRA and politicians to task” was written by Lois Beckett, for on Thursday 22nd February 2018 14.04 Asia/Kolkata

Faced with a furious crowd of Florida students demanding a renewed ban on assault weapons, Republican senator Marco Rubio offered one concession after another.

He said he supported legislation to raise the legal age to purchase a rifle to 21 from 18. He said he supported a law to create gun violence restraining orders, which would give family members and law enforcement a way to petition a court to take away a dangerous person’s guns. He said he opposed Donald Trump’s proposal to prevent school shootings by arming teachers or putting more armed security in classrooms.

Finally, Rubio said he was “reconsidering” supporting a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, what experts call the most substantive part of the assault weapon ban. Rubio said that yet-to-be-announced details from the investigation on the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school would show that limits on ammunition magazines might have saved several lives in the shooting.

None of this was enough for the passionate crowd of more than 7,000 people at CNN’s town hall discussion in Florida on Wednesday night. They applauded, cheered and gave standing ovations in support of a full ban on the kind of military-style rifle and ammunition used in the Parkland shooting. A loophole-ridden federal assault weapon ban had passed in 1994, in the wake of a school shooting in California, and expired a decade later, in 2004.

Rubio, the only national Republican politician who agreed to answer questions from the Florida shooting survivors, seemed to watch the political ground of the gun debate shift under his feet. At one point, he argued that it did not make sense to ban only a subset of semiautomatic rifles based on certain cosmetic military features.

“You would literally have to ban every semi-automatic rifle that’s sold in America …” he began, before being cut off by huge whoops and cheers from the crowd.

“Fair enough, fair enough,” Rubio said. “That is a valid position to hold.”

When Rubio pressed the Democratic representative Ted Deutch, who was also on stage, on whether or not he would support a full ban on semi-automatic rifles, he dodged. The congressman said that he supported banning weapons that fire “150 rounds” in “seven or eight minutes”, but did not specifically say he supported banning all semi-automatic weapons, which automatically reload and do not continuously fire.

Deutch’s cloudy response highlights what may be a dramatic gap between the type of sweeping gun bans that students and parents want, and what Democrats in Washington are willing to fight for.

Cameron Kasky, one of the Stoneman Douglas organizers of the planned student march on Washington, asked Rubio the most pointed question.

“Can you tell me right now you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?”

Rubio, who was backed by The National Rifle Association in his last race to the tune of more than $1m, refused to make that promise, arguing that his belief in the second amendment was shaped by long principle, and that “people buy into my agenda, I don’t buy into theirs”.

In their questions to Rubio and other lawmakers, the students and parents of Marjory Stoneman Douglas were disciplined and unrelenting, and the crowd around them was deeply involved. It was the rare televised political event where it seemed that the ordinary citizen questioners were the ones in charge.

Teenagers who have become nationally recognized political activists in the past week stood toe-to-toe with politicians and an NRA spokeswoman who had honed their talking points over years.

The NRA’s Dana Loesch tried to praise Emma González, the Stoneman Douglas student whose passionate speech decrying the political influence of the NRA, had gone viral, saying that no one should attack her for her activism.

Gonzalez told Loesch that even if she was not willing to take action to protect her own children, the Stoneman Douglas students were.

The crowd repeatedly booed and hissed Loesch, who focused on states’ failures and tried to blame law enforcement errors for the Parkland shooting, a striking choice for a five-million member conservative organization that includes large numbers of law enforcement officials.

And they returned again and again to the need to ban assault weapons.

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed in the shooting, described Stoneman Douglas kids being “hunted” in their own school.

“Look at me and tell me guns were the factor,” he told Rubio. “Look at me and tell me you accept it, and you will work with us to do something about guns.”

Students at the town hall, where there was much talk of the need to ban assault weapons.
Students at the town hall, where there was much talk of the need to ban assault weapons. Photograph: Reuters

Rubio said that he did not support an assault weapon ban, telling Guttenberg: “If I believe that that law would have prevented this from happening I would support it. But I want to explain to you why it would not.”

Over boos from the crowd, Rubio made the typical Republican argument about a renewed assault weapon ban: that it targets a small set of 220 semi-automatic rifles with certain cosmetic military-style features, but left thousands of other guns that function in the exact same way un-banned.

“Are you saying you will start with the 200 and work your way up?” Guttenberg persisted.

“Senator Rubio, my daughter running down the hallway at Marjory Stoneman Douglas was shot in the back. With an assault weapon, the weapon of choice. It is too easy to get. It is too easy to get. It is a weapon of war. The fact that you can’t stand with everybody in this building and say that – I’m sorry.”

From the beginning, Rubio recognized that what politicians in the room were facing was something new: not just grieving survivors, but a whole generation shaped by the experience of active shooter drills and coverage of previous shootings on the news.

“I did not grow up in a school or an era in which children were shot in classrooms,” he said.

Many of the questions asked highlighted the starkness of the violence American students felt they now faced.

Several students asked how politicians could ensure that it was actually safe for them to return to school.

Ryan Deitsch said last week’s shooting had been the second time he had to hide with classmates from an active shooter. The first time had been in fifth grade.

“We’d like to know, why do we have to be the ones to do this?” Deitsch asked the lawmakers. “Why do we have to speak out to the Capitol? Why do we have to march in Washington just to save innocent lives?”

break the cycle © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Ex-engineer sues Google, saying he was fired for condemning diversity memo


Powered by article titled “Ex-engineer sues Google, saying he was fired for condemning diversity memo” was written by Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco, for on Thursday 22nd February 2018 07.23 Asia/Kolkata

A former Google engineer has filed a lawsuit alleging that he was fired for speaking out against James Damore’s controversial memo about gender, the latest development in a litigious battle over diversity and speech at the technology company.

Tim Chevalier, a site reliability engineer who worked for Google until November 2017, sued his former employer in California state court on Wednesday. Chevalier, who identifies as queer, disabled and transgender, alleges that Google terminated him over posts he made on internal forums advocating for diversity at Google and criticizing Damore.

Damore was fired for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” in August 2017 after the memo, in which he posited that psychological differences between men and women explain the gaping gender imbalance at Google, was leaked and went viral. Damore’s firing became a flashpoint for conservatives, and in January he filed a class action suit alleging that Google discriminates against white male conservatives.

The Damore lawsuit included nearly 100 pages of screen shots of internal communications at Google which the suit alleged demonstrated widespread hostility against conservative viewpoints.

The Chevalier lawsuit offers a different spin on the debates that played out on Google’s internal email lists and message boards, which the attorney David Lowe described in a statement as “a cesspool of bullying and harassment”. Google failed to prevent employees from using the internal platforms to discriminate against marginalized groups, the suit alleges, allowing Google employees to call LGBT co-workers “immoral” and post statements such as:“If we have fewer Black and Latin@ people here, doesn’t that mean they’re not as good?”

Chevalier regularly participated in these internal discussions, the lawsuit states, “calling out discrimination and harassment for what it was and asking his peers to reflect on perspectives different from their own”.

“It is a cruel irony that Google attempted to justify firing me by claiming that my social networking posts showed bias against my harassers,” Chevalier said in a statement. “The anti-discrimination laws are meant to protect marginalized and underrepresented groups – not those who attack them.”

In an emailed statement, Google defended its termination of Chevalier.

“An important part of our culture is lively debate. But like any workplace, that doesn’t mean anything goes,” a spokeswoman, Gina Scigliano, said. “The overwhelming majority of our employees communicate in a way that is consistent with our policies. But when an employee does not, it is something we must take seriously. We always make our decision without any regard to the employee’s political views.”

The suit alleges that Chevalier was chastised by his manager for spending too much time on “social activism” and by human resources for a blogpost he wrote criticizing the Damore memo as “misogynistic”. According to the suit, Google objected to Chevalier’s use of the phrase “white boys” in his blogpost because it “could be perceived as a generalization about race and gender”.

Chevalier “learned that Google defines appropriate workplace speech by the standard of what someone with a cisgender, heterosexual, white, male, upper-middle-class background would say,” the suit states. “In truth, Google’s promise to allow its employees to freely speak their minds only apples to people who represent the majority viewpoint and use the majority’s rhetoric.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Simple Steps to Everyday Life Management



By Venkateshan Chandramouli

Metaphysics is a complex philosophical concept that deals with the abstract and physical aspects of life. It is filled with inquiries into the self-identity and experience of the external world by an individual. These two aspects of life can help shape life in a much better way than the present condition. But this inquiry can become limited because of the limitations of an individual’s mental and psychological conditioning within a specific community, society, city, and the country. Religious and ritualistic practices can also set limitations to one’s thought process. The aim here is not to define or defy those limitations, but to know how to get the best from an individual’s lifetime resources.

Meditation Could be Mindful

Existence is the first element that is features in Metaphysics. Everyone knows about their existence simply because they are conscious about it. As an individual focuses on the breathing and meditates deeply, it results in a sense of wellbeing within the mind. It helps in overcoming the regret for the past and the worries about the future. The present as such has no reasons to create fear in one’s mind. Hence, the individual gets freedom from the burden of negative thoughts to a considerable extent.

But this feeling is not constant. The feelings of doubt and skepticism are bound to return sooner or later. There have been too many books about self-improvement and personality development. There will be thousands of them in the future. But how many of them have helped in bringing about the promised results? Hence, one can safely say, the answers are within the subconscious mind of an individual. S/he needs to explore within the self, rather than trying to find answers in the external world.

By meditating on ones’ breath it could be possible to calm the mind and make it responsive to new ideas and practical implementation. The first task is to let go of the EGO (that says “I” know everything) into a state of I don’t know. Then one can experience lot of opportunities opening up on the path. Keeping the mind blank like an empty canvas can enable a piece of art to be drawn onto it. One can explore innovative channels when open to learning. It is an endless process that needs patience and persistence.

The Conscious Vs the Subconscious

The conscious mind is awake during the day and rests during the sleep. It is the window to the external world through which experience and knowledge enter the mind. It is also the part which gets distracted and disturbed easily. On an average every individual 48 to 50 thoughts enter an individual’s mind every minute. That is one thought for every second! The brain gets exhausted too easily and it can affect ones’ heart also.

The subconscious is the part of mind which is hidden from the external world. It’s only contact is with the conscious mind from which it takes feeds. As long as the conscious mind keeps feeding energizing thought, it remains healthy and active. Once the negation starts flowing in, the subconscious mind becomes numb and dumb. It is the most powerful device gifted to humans by nature. It can push an individual to the heights of the Himalayas, or it can pull the individual to the nadir of life.

The Mean Path is not Always Golden

The golden mean path is for those, who have attained the perfect balance in life. Imperfect people tend to go either to the peak or hit the nadir frequently. Faith (or belief) is the finest thread that holds the mind bonded to the core of life called existence and progress.

Belief keeps the desire to work more, earn more, live more, give more, and get more. Without this thread life becomes meaningless and hopeless. For those aspiring to be their best (not comparing with others, but with themselves) the path deviates from the mean and move up. As one starts climbing up the ladder of life, the temptation to turn back and look down takes over the mind. This is precisely when most of the people fall due to the fear of heights.

The key to progress is not to look back too often. Of course, reflecting on one’s mistakes and achievements if required to direct the person on the right path. But it should not put the individual into the trap of self glorification or self-condemnation. This attitude can seep into the subconscious mind and spread its roots deep.

If one keeps traveling on the lines of the men path, the probability of slipping down to the negative side is more. Also, the individual is deprived of the satisfaction in attaining higher goals of life. Life has been a straight line to most of the successful people in the world. It is like riding on the sea waves. Ups and downs are common which have to be experienced.

Whose Game is it

Ultimately, it is the subconscious mind that could win the day for an individual. Hence, it is essential for the person to engage in activities that provide a deeper sense of satisfaction to the subconscious mind. It could be one’s hobby, profession, or any other mean. Of course, sobriety and sanity are the two key elements that keep an individual conscious and confident. Once the sobriety is gone, the grip of fear and uncertainty on the individual’s mind becomes more.

The grip becomes severe in cases of addictions that can lead to severe incidents of insanity. Managing everyday tasks like bathing, eating, and hygiene can become complex. Life ultimately becomes unmanageable. Hence, the individual may need to apply caution while getting used to any of the addictive substances.

Choosing to Believe

According to the expert psychologists, choosing to believe (in the science, technology, medicine, or the higher power) in something other than the self can work miracles. The bondage with the self gets cut off and one can experience relaxation. When examined closely, every individual believes in something (for example, one may believe in the existence/non-existence of god, hope/hopelessness, and positive/negative), regardless of personal characters.

Experiencing everyday life is the key to happiness, prosperity, and progress for the individual. Metaphysics can help shape up ones’ life for better, when the mind is filled with chaos and uncertainty.

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Arts Culture Books Features, Features

When should being mad be a requirement? Your answers


Powered by article titled “When should being mad be a requirement? Your answers
” was written by , for on Tuesday 20th February 2018 17.21 Asia/Kolkata

When should being mad be a requirement?

If you want a role in a madman’s governing body.
Charlie Bamforth, Davis, California, US

• On admission to an asylum for the insane.
Edward P Wolfers, Austinmer, NSW, Australia

• When you’re on Twitter.
Pat Phillips, Adelaide, South Australia

• When you are a hatter.
Jennifer Horat, Lengwil, Switzerland

• It already is!
Kevin J Bray, Leeds, UK

• When there is method to your madness.
David Tucker, Halle, Germany

• When you arrive at the airport and find you have been bumped off your long-anticipated holiday flight, which you had booked well ahead. As a result you will miss the connection for your cruise, which is non-refundable.
Jenefer Warwick, Paddington, NSW, Australia

• When you need to call a telecommunications company.
George Gatenby, Adelaide, South Australia

I hear the ringing in my sleep

Have smartphones found their way into your dreams?

Not mine, but when asked what he wanted for his fourth birthday, my grandson said: “An iPhone”. In his dreams.
David Isaacs, Sydney, Australia

• Only once: all the world’s call centres rang simultaneously and the phone exploded. I think I was stressed.
Marilyn Hamilton, Perth, Western Australia

• No. But I’ve had them destroying my dreams by ringing me.
Gillian Shenfield, Sydney, Australia

• No. The internet is much too slow here in Malawi to allow such things to happen.
Stuart Williams, Lilongwe, Malawi

• Oh dear, I fail dismally here. Clearly I’m not addicted enough to the phone in my life!
But I do dream about friends and family, both still alive and Gone Aloft.

Ursula Nixon, Bodalla, NSW, Australia

• No, but talking drums have – or is that passing traffic hammering away?
Philip Stigger, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

• I dream of the day when not all the fellow occupants of my bus are talking or texting on their smartphones.
Joan Dawson, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

• I just dream of being smart enough to use all the features on my phone.
Avril Taylor, Dundas, Ontario, Canada

• Not yet, but it’s only a matter of time before they do and that will be a complete nightmare!
Margaret Wilkes, Perth, Western Australia

• No; they make me feel enough like an idiot when I am awake.
Anthony Walter, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

They always know best

What works better for the benefit of the masses: a benevolent dictatorship or a democracy?

Democracy, hands down, because it recognises the dignity of the individual, while dictators, however benevolent, give the most credit to their own superiority.
Richard Orlando, Westmount, Quebec, Canada

• Neither, if those in power think they always know best.
Paul Broady, Christchurch, New Zealand

Any answers?

How do you right wrongs?
E Slack, L’Isle Jourdain, France

Which of the senses convinces you most strongly that it is spring?
William Emigh, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Send answers and more questions to © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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