Bikies arrested over Qld extortion ring

Three bikies who police say were involved in an extortion ring have been arrested in simultaneous raids on Thursday morning.

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Police say the Bandidos members who lived in Brisbane and Logan were threatening victims with violence unless they paid a $5000 "fine".

The extortion racket allegedly started after a public brawl between two men over a woman.

It's understood one of the men called in friends from the Bandidos and the fight escalated.

The bikies allegedly threatened violence to others involved in the fight unless each paid a $5000 "fine".

A victim's car windscreen was smashed with a baseball bat, police said in a statement.

Detectives say they know of four victims but believe there are others and have urged them to come forward.

A 26-year-old former president of the Bandidos' Gold Coast chapter was among the bikies arrested, as well as two 22-year-old alleged gang members.

All were charged with committing extortion as vicious lawless associates, while both younger men were also charged with drug offences and wilful damage.

A 21-year-old man and a 36-year-old man were also arrested and charged with possessing drugs and utensils.

The five are expected to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Detective Inspector Brendan Smith said the operation demonstrated the use of standover tactics by criminal gangs.

"These offences were committed in public places and targeted everyday Queenslanders, threatening victims with violence for money," he said.

"They have done this as a group, using their criminal gang association to further intimidate victims to both comply with their demands."

Police expect to lay more charges.

China cracks down over blow-up toad joke

The installation of a giant inflatable duck in Hong Kong's harbour last year sparked a national craze for oversized blow-up wildlife, with several Chinese cities launching their own imitations.

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The latest, a 22-metre-high (72-feet) toad, appeared in a Beijing park last weekend, but met with mockery from social media users who compared its appearance to that of former President Jiang Zemin.

The website of China's official Xinhua news agency and popular web portal Sina had deleted their reports on the animal -- seen as a symbol of good fortune in traditional Chinese culture -- by Wednesday.

A message on Xinhua's website read: "Sorry, the report you are attempting to access has been deleted or has expired," although reports on some lower-profile news sites were still accessible.

China's ruling Communist Party tightly controls the Internet, blocking foreign sites such as Facebook while ordering local outlets to remove articles on political topics it deems sensitive, such as criticism of senior leaders.

Last year China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo blocked searches for "big yellow duck" after users posted an image of the iconic "Tank Man" photograph showing a Tiananmen Square protester but with military vehicles replaced by giant ducks.

Jiang -- who stepped down as president in 2002 but still wields influence within the party -- has been mockingly nicknamed "toad" by some Internet users for his jowly features.

Rumours have been swirling around Jiang amid reports that current party chief and president Xi Jinping is targeting some of the former president's allies in an anti-corruption drive.

A spokesman for Yuyuantan park in Beijing said there were no immediate plans to remove the toad.

Gym workouts and sunbathing do more for your brain than crosswords

By Rachel Feltman | @rachelfeltman

Doing puzzles and listening to classical music might improve your concentration momentarily, but they don’t actually make you any smarter.

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That is, they don’t improve your long-term brain function, according to The Economist’s interview of Nicholas Spitzer, a professor of neuroscience at the University of California and editor-in-chief of BrainFacts南宁夜生活,.

“Let me dispel a brain development myth,” Spitzer told The Economist. “Many people think classical music is going to enhance brain function (the Mozart effect) or playing particular games sharpens one’s cognitive function. These theories have been looked at in detail and they don’t stand up. It is disappointing in a way, but what we have learned is that exercise is the key thing for brain function.”

By exercise, he means general activity and—more importantly—exposure to sunlight. In a recent study (paywall), he found that rats produced different brain-altering chemicals based on environmental factors. He thinks that our brains change their behavior (like “a railway switching yard”) based on environmental factors to help us conserve energy during winter. But when we give in to the evolutionary impulse to stay inside under the covers, we give our brain a further signal that it’s time to use as little energy as possible. This feedback loop, he says, is what causes Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that affects otherwise healthy people during the dark winter months.

So to keep your brain at tip-top shape, you should stay active. That gives your body cues to devote lots of resources to cognitive function. Then again, puzzles do help with some specific things, like increasing verbal aptitude (paywall) and helping you learn a new subject more quickly. So as long as you get plenty of time outside, there’s no reason to drop the sudoku.

And getting into bed, for certain purposes at least, can help brain function, too. A recent study found that female orgasms trigger an increase in blood flow to all regions of the brain, improving overall cognitive performance. Keep that in mind when you’re figuring out how to get that exercise in.

This article was originally published on Quartz. Click here to view the original. © All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

 

Placebo rivals paracetamol in study

Paracetamol, the first-choice lower-back pain killer, worked no better than dummy drugs administered in a trial of more than 1600 people suffering from the condition, researchers say.

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In fact, the median recovery time for those on placebo was a day shorter than that for trial subjects given real medicine, they wrote in The Lancet medical journal.

“Our findings suggest that … paracetamol does not affect recovery time compared with placebo in low-back pain, and question the universal endorsement of paracetamol in this patient group,” the Australian team concluded.

“Paracetamol also had no effect on pain, disability, function, global symptom change, sleep or quality of life.”

Lower-back pain is the leading cause of disability in the world, and paracetamol is “universally” recommended as the treatment of first choice, said a statement carried by The Lancet on Wednesday.

The Paracetamol for Low-Back Pain Study (PACE) divided 1652 individuals with acute pain from 235 clinics in Sydney into three trial groups.

One received regular paracetamol doses, the other used the drug as needed, and the third was given placebo pills.

Recovery was defined as seven consecutive days of 0 or 1 pain intensity on a 0-10 scale.

“Median time to recovery was 17 days in the regular paracetamol group, 17 days in the as-needed paracetamol group, and 16 days in the placebo group,” said the statement.

All patients were given high-quality advice and reassurance, and the findings suggest these may be more important in lower-back pain management than drug therapy, said the authors.

“Our results convey the need to reconsider the universal endorsement of paracetamol in clinical practice guidelines as first-line care for low-back pain.”

A potential limitation of the study was that some participants used other treatments.

In a comment also carried by The Lancet, Bart Koes and Wendy Enthoven from the Universal Medical Center in Rotterdam applauded the team “for tackling this research question on a topic that has been without debate and evidence for such a long time”.

But they cautioned that guidelines should not be changed on the basis of a single trial.

Scientists have discovered how to make people care about climate change

A woman peers through goggles embedded in a large black helmet.

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 Forest sounds emanate from various corners of the room: a bird chirping here, a breeze whispering there. She moves slowly around the room. On the wall, a flat digital forest is projected so observers can get a rough idea of her surroundings, but in her mind’s eye, this undergrad is no longer pacing a small, cramped room in a university lab. Thanks to that black helmet, she’s walking through the woods.

In a minute, she’s handed a joystick that looks and vibrates like a chainsaw, and she’s asked to cut down a tree. As she completes the task, she feels the same sort of resistance she might feel if she were cutting down a real tree. When she leaves this forest, and re-enters the “real” world, her paper consumption will drop by 20% and she will show a measurable preference for recycled paper products. Those effects will continue into the next few weeks and researchers hypothesize it will be a fairly permanent shift. By comparison, students who watch a video about deforestation or read an article on the subject will show heightened awareness of paper waste through that day—but they will return to their baseline behavior by the end of the week.

The tree-cutting study is one of many that Stanford University has conducted in its Virtual Human Interaction Lab over the last several years in an attempt to figure out the extent to which a simulated experience can affect behavior. And it’s part of a growing body of research that suggests virtual experiences may offer a powerful catalyst for otherwise apathetic groups to begin caring about issues and taking action, including on climate change. That’s important because while time spent in nature has been proven to be quite beneficial to human health, whether or not humans repay the favor tends to rely on the type of nature experiences they have in their youth. In a 2009 study published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers from the University of Pretoria in South Africa found that while people who spent time hiking and backpacking were more willing to support conservation efforts a decade or more later, those who had visited national parks or spent time fishing as kids were actually less inclined to do anything to support the environment. An earlier (2006) study (pdf) on the relationship between nature experiences and environmentalism found that while those who had spent their youth in “wild” nature, defined as hiking or playing in the woods, were more likely to be environmentalists as adults, those who had been exposed to “domesticated” nature—defined as visits to parks, picking flowers, planting seeds, or tending to gardens—were not. Given the unlikelihood of every child having a “wild” nature experience, researchers are on the hunt for other ways to cultivate environmentally responsible behavior.

The latest work with virtual reality builds upon roughly half a century of behavioral studies that indicate humans’ willingness to shift behavior is directly correlated to our sense of control.

Climate change, like many large-scale environmental issues, is a problem over which few people feel they have a direct impact—for better or worse. As researchers Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn and Jeremy Bailenson wrote in a forthcoming paper in the journal Computers and Human Behavior, individual actions taken at a micro-scale, like failing to recycle paper or support certain policies, can contribute over time to negative environmental consequences, like deforestation, which in turn affects climate trends over many years. But the long time frames and vast scale create a dangerous disconnect. While 97% of peer-reviewed scientific research points to human activities as a primary contributor to climate change, only half of Americans see the link.

Proponents of virtual reality think it could help drive home the impacts of climate change and make people feel empowered to do something about it. “When individuals feel that their behaviors directly influence the well-being of the environment, they are more likely to be concerned about and actively care for the environment,” Ahn and Bailenson wrote.

Bailenson, a cognitive psychologist and founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, sees particular value in virtual reality related to climate change because it allows for a combination of real experience with boundless possibilities: The brain treats the virtual experience as real but, at the same time, knows that anything is possible in the simulation.

“Understanding complicated issues like climate change requires a shift in perspective in terms of how you’re willing to see the problem,” said Amy Kamarainen, co-director of Harvard’s EcoMOBILE and EcoMUVE projects. “We’re trying to do that by immersing kids in environments that have elements similar to real-world systems but are somewhat simplified to meet kids where they are. We put them in complex worlds but give them the tools to be able to unpack what’s happening.”

EcoMUVE, a multi-user, desktop computer-based virtual environment that features a simulated pond ecosystem, was developed by Harvard University to teach students basic biological processes like photosynthesis and decomposition as well as systems thinking about complex environmental issues. The Harvard team recently launched EcoMOBILE, a corresponding augmented reality app, which enables students to take the EcoMUVE experience with them, collect data out in the field, and “see” what’s going on below the surface and what happened in an ecosystem in the past. EcoMUVE was initially piloted in schools in Massachusetts and New York, but is now available for download by any school, and is being used across the United States and in other countries as well, including India and Mexico. EcoMOBIL is currently being piloted at schools in Massachusetts and New York.

A handful of Massachusetts high schools have also piloted an MIT-developed augmented reality app called Time Lapse 2100, which requires users to set various policies that would affect the environment and then shows them what would happen if those policies were enacted. This fall, Bay Area schools will be pilot-testing Stanford’s Coral Reef, a virtual reality game in which participants become a piece of coral in a reef affected by ocean acidification. All three universities are also working with museums and science learning centers to deploy their technology in learning experiences.

“I was initially not sold on the idea of augmented reality,” said cognitive scientist Tina Grotzer, a professor in Harvard’s graduate school of education and the co-principal investigator for both the EcoMUVE and EcoMobile projects. Grotzer spent several years as a teacher herself before heading to Harvard to research how kids learn, particularly how they learn science. Grotzer said it was the technology’s potential to drive home environmental science lessons that won her over. “With physics, you can do an experiment, and kids can see instantly what you’re talking about. With environmental science, we tried to do a decomposition experiment, but you set the experiment up and then 12 weeks later something happens. By then the kids have completely lost interest.”

“I’ve tagged along on these field trips and have seen how the technology actually immerses them more in the surroundings, rather than distracting them,” Grotzer said. Students use smartphones to take photographs and notes, documenting what they’re seeing: the clarity of the pond water, the weather, descriptions of their samples, different species of bugs and birds. And they can learn at their own pace too. “On a regular field trip, if a student had a question they’d have to leave that moment that spurred the question and go ask the teacher,” Grotzer said. “The teacher would be facilitating the needs of 30 kids. This way they can find the answer themselves and stay in the moment, stay engaged with what they’re looking at.”

In Stanford’s Coral Reef students embody a tall piece of purple coral off the coast of Italy, near Ischia. Over the course of a 14-minute lesson, they are taken through the experience of being coral in a body of water affected by ocean acidification. At first, the surrounding ocean is filled with an abundance of sea life. Waves around the reef are simulated by floor vibrations and ocean sounds. A lab technician periodically touches the participant with a stick in synchronized motions to coincide with what he sees as a fishing net hitting the reef. Then acidification sets in. Sea life begins to die off all around. The reef begins to lose its color, as does the piece of coral the participant has embodied.

Still, despite an increasing variety of options and declining prices, schools looking to put these technologies to use in the classroom face a number of challenges.

If virtual and augmented reality are to have a measurable impact on how future generations understand and approach climate change, access across all socioeconomic classes will be key. Kamarainen said that in some higher-income school districts students could use their own devices.

In many school districts around the country, however, the majority of students do not have smartphones. Mobile phone company Kajeet has begun to address this issue by offering schools data packages that provide WiFi with school-managed filtering so they can set time limits for usage, enabling kids to take home school-provided tablets for only school-related work.

“There are clashes all the time between the reality of what goes on in a classroom and what researchers would like to see happen in a classroom,” said Paul Olson, an outreach specialist at the Games Learning Society, or GLS, at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who taught seventh grade for more than three decades. He said that a lot of his time these days is spent explaining to researchers what life is like “in the trenches” and encouraging teachers to experiment with GLS games to motivate those students who “really don’t respond to a lecture or a chapter in a book but are all over programming something.”

This is where museums incorporating these technologies might fill some gaps. “A museum has the freedom to step outside the rigid guidelines and requirements that schools are held to,” said Dan Wempa, vice president of external affairs for the New York Hall of Science in Queens, which sees roughly 1,200 students per day on field trips during the school year. The museum’s latest exhibit Connected Worlds, created with input from Kamarainen, will immerse visitors in a digital, interactive world that shows how their actions affect the environment. In one part of the exhibit, visitors add water to the environment and a plant flourishes. In another, they add too much and cause flooding. Taken together, the exhibit puts nature into fast forward to help students see how their individual and communal actions hurt or sustain plant and animal life, clean water, and fresh air.

“Students have a germ of knowing that water is important, but they say ‘I didn’t realize that it’s THAT important, and I didn’t realize that what I do over here affects someone way over there,’” Wempa said.

Karydes’ concerns are common among parents. “There are two ways that parents tend to look at these games,” said Eric Klopfer, who directs MIT’s Scheller Teacher Education Program, developed Time Lapse 2100, and has been researching the use of augmented reality in education since 2009. “One is, ‘Great. My kid is outside, but he still has the phone in his hand,’ and the other is that the mobile device and the game are actually getting their kid outside.”

Kamarainen and Grotzer have also heard parental concerns about technology interrupting kids’ experience of nature, and they have worked hard to design games that they feel complement a relationship with nature rather than detract from it.

The EcoMOBILE pilot has included around 1,000 students so far, and Kamarainen said they consistently talk about how the augmented reality piece helps them to see things going on in their communities that they never paid attention to before. “They say this helps open their eyes about the environment that’s around them,” Kamarainen said. “They’re more aware and conscious of it, and they’re paying closer attention to the natural world.”

Ultimately, proponents say that these games not only complement and improve students’ relationship with nature but also teach them how to think systematically and to see their own roles in harming or improving their world.

“The younger kids say, ‘I get to create a world!’” Wempa said, “and the older kids say, ‘I like this because it felt like I was in control and, as a kid, I’m never in control of anything.’ That carries over. They understand that actions have consequences and that they can affect outcomes.”

Amy Westervelt is an environmental journalist who lives in Truckee, California. She is a co-founder of reporting project Climate Confidential.

This article was originally published on Quartz. Click here to view the original. © All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

 

Whale freed from shark net in Qld

A marine expert has renewed calls to review the use of shark nets off Gold Coast beaches after a young whale became trapped.

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The exhausted humpback calf was freed by a rescue team mid-morning on Thursday after struggling for hours in the net off Kirra beach.

Sea World director of marine sciences Trevor Long said the calf, about five to eight years old, probably became stuck the previous evening.

“By the time we arrived in the morning, it was very tired and very, very sore,” he told AAP.

“It actually worked in our favour.

“The animal was calm during the rescue and we were able to work fairly close to the animal and slowly cut the nets free.”

Using special knives, the rescue team took 90 minutes to release the struggling mammal after being alerted to its plight by beach walkers.

The whale, which has been independent for some years, suffered muscle and tail damage but was able to swim away, Mr Long said.

However, a baby whale that became trapped off a southern Gold Coast beach on Sunday was not so lucky.

Mr Long said the newborn hit the bottom of a shark net, was unable to free itself and drowned.

He said many inexperienced mammals ran into trouble on their first southern migration because they did not know where the “traps” were.

“We’ve got about 20,000 animals on the east coast of Australia now, so certainly we would like to see some review of the shark nets,” Mr Long said.

“Maybe the shark nets are removed during the whale season in winter because the beaches are not as popular because it’s cold.”

Mr Long said drum lines could be used to protect bathers instead.

Brumbies unchanged for Sydney semi against Waratahs

The Canberra-based side have been able to stick with the same 23 who dethroned the double defending champion Waikato Chiefs 32-30 in Canberra.

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The Brumbies are looking to get to the final for the second successive year – they lost to the Chiefs last season – and will face the Canterbury Crusaders or South Africa’s Sharks on Aug. 2 if they can get past the strongly-favoured Waratahs.

“To have got through last weekend injury free, it’s great for us to be playing again this weekend to maintain momentum,” Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher said.

“The result won’t be determined by who’s favourite. The result will be decided by who is the better team on the night.

“There’s an intense rivalry which has been there since the competition started and I’m expecting a fierce clash of bodies this weekend.”

Henry Speight and Robbie Coleman retain their places on the wing after performing well against the Chiefs, the former busting a competition-high 12 tackles and the latter scoring the second try.

Wallabies Joe Tomane and Pat McCabe will offer back three cover from the bench meaning there is no place in the side for winger Clyde Rathbone, the sole survivor of the Brumbies’ last Super Rugby title in 2004.

Team: 15-Jesse Mogg, 14-Henry Speight, 13-Tevita Kuridrani, 12-Christian Lealiifano, 11-Robbie Coleman, 10-Matt Toomua, 9-Nic White, 8-Ben Mowen (captain), 7-Jarrad Butler, 6-Scott Fardy, 5-Sam Carter, 4-Leon Power, 3-Ben Alexander, 2-Josh Mann-Rea, 1-Scott Sio.

Replacements: 16-Ruaidhri Murphy, 17-Ruan Smith, 18-Allan Alaalatoa, 19-Fotu Auelua, 20-Tom McVerry, 21-Michael Dowsett, 22-Joe Tomane, 23-Pat McCabe.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

When hearing voices is a good thing

As a child, Joe Holt constantly thought he heard people hurling savage insults at him.

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When he would confront them, they would deny having said anything, enraging him further. Holt’s angry outbursts eventually cost him dozens of jobs and relationships. Years later, a diagnosis explained the years of pain and paranoia: Holt had schizophrenia.  

Holt’s story, reported in a 2011 New York Times article, is typical of the way many Americans experience schizophrenia. Auditory hallucinations are one of the illness’s telltale signs. The imagined voices torment sufferers throughout the day, jeering them or nudging them toward violence.

But a new study suggests that the way schizophrenia sufferers experience those voices depends on their cultural context. Surprisingly, schizophrenic people from certain other countries don’t hear the same vicious, dark voices that Holt and other Americans do. Some of them, in fact, think their hallucinations are good—and sometimes even magical.

“I have a companion to talk to … I need not go out to speak. I can talk within myself!”

Doctors “sometimes treat the voices heard by people with psychosis as if they are the uninteresting neurological byproducts of disease which should be ignored,” Stanford anthropologistTanya Luhrmann says. “Our work found that people with serious psychotic disorders in different cultures have different voice-hearing experiences. That suggests that the way people pay attention to their voices alters what they hear their voices say.” 

For the study, which was recently published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, Luhrmann and her colleagues interviewed 60 adults diagnosed with schizophrenia—20 each in San Mateo, California; Accra, Ghana; and Chennai, India. The patients were asked how many voices they heard, how often they heard them, and what the voices were like.

There were a number of cross-cultural similarities: Everyone from the Ghanians to the Californians reported hearing both good and bad voices and hearing unexplained hissing and whispering.

But there was one stark difference, as Stanford News points out: “While many of the African and Indian subjects registered predominantly positive experiences with their voices, not one American did. Rather, the U.S. subjects were more likely to report experiences as violent and hateful—and evidence of a sick condition.”

The Americans tended to described their voices as violent—”like torturing people, to take their eye out with a fork, or cut someone’s head and drink their blood, really nasty stuff,” according to the study.

Meanwhile, the Indians and Africans were more likely to say that their hallucinations reminded them of friends and family, and that the voices were playful or even entertaining. “Mostly, the voices are good,” said one Ghanian participant. 

A Chennai participant said, “I have a companion to talk [to] . . . [laughs] I need not go out to speak. I can talk within myself!”

Luhrmann and her colleagues chalked up the differences in how the voices were perceived to distinct societal values. Americans desire individuality and independence, and the voices were seen as an intrusion into a self-made mind. Eastern and African cultures, meanwhile, tend to emphasize relationships and collectivism. There, a hallucination was more likely to be seen as just another point in the schizophrenic person’s already extensive social network. In fact, the participants were sometimes so sympaticowith their hallucinations that they didn’t even see themselves as mentally ill:

“Many in the Chennai and Accra samples seemed to experience their voices as people: the voice was that of a human the participant knew, such as a brother or a neighbor, or a human-like spirit whom the participant also knew. These respondents seemed to have real human relationships with the voices—sometimes even when they did not like them.”

Luhrmann says she thinks her insights might help in the development of new therapies for schizophrenia sufferers the world over. There’s no cure for schizophrenia, but some therapies urge patients to develop relationships with their hallucinated voices and to negotiate with them.

In an article for the American Scholar, Luhrmann describes one such patient, a 20-year-0ld Dutch man named Hans, whose inner voices were urging him to study Buddhism for hours each day. He cut a deal with his demons, telling them he’d say Buddhist prayers for one hour per day, no more, no less. And it worked—the voices subsided and he was able to taper his dose of psychosis medications.

At one support group for schizophrenic patients, Hans said a new, “nice” voice he had been hearing recently threatened to get mean. 

“This new voice seemed like it might get nasty,” Luhrmann writes. “The group had told [Hans] that he needed to talk to it. They said that he should say, ‘We have to live with each other and we have to make the best of it, and we can do it only if we respect each other.’ He did that, and this new voice became nice.” 

This article was originally published on The Atlantic. Click here to view the original. © All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

Folau ‘wrong bear to poke’: Brumbies

Chirpy Brumbies halfback Nic White says whoever sledged Israel Folau during their last Super Rugby clash against the NSW Waratahs “poked the wrong bear”.

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White insists it wasn’t him and hopes whoever it was won’t make the same mistake again in Saturday’s do-or-die semi-final at Allianz Stadium.

“They poked the wrong bear,” White said on Thursday.

“It didn’t work that time, so I don’t think they’ll be doing it this time.”

Folau lit a fuse earlier in the week when he revealed that Wallabies teammates playing for the Brumbies sledged him during the Waratahs’ 39-8 victory last month.

Some immediately pointed their finger at White, especially because Folau singled him out ahead of that clash by stating that the Wallabies’ first-choice scrumhalf had “a fair bit to say”.

But White’s denial comes with a plausible alibi.

“He’s a long, long way away from me. I’ve got my head in there with the forwards,” White said.

White, who is one of the Brumbies’ main kickers, said he wouldn’t be tailoring his game to deny Folau counter-attacking opportunities come Saturday.

“It doesn’t matter what you throw at Izzy. He’s going to make it work,” White said.

“You’ve got to be on your game as there’s not one technique that will work against him. He’s a genuine freak.”

Yet Folau won’t be the only player to take to the field at Allianz Stadium in red-hot form.

White’s been outstanding himself, playing a huge role in the Brumbies’ past two knockout wins against the Western Force and Chiefs.

He opened the scoring against the Chiefs and then set-up their next two tries for a 19-point lead.

His combination with flyhalf Matt Toomua is only getting better every week and they’ll only benefit from the fact that an unchanged Brumbies squad has been named for the semi-final.

But White knows they’ll be up against it when they battle fellow Wallabies duo Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley.

“They’ve proven this year through the comp that they’re the most consistent halves,” he said.

“They’re really leading the Waratahs around the park.”

Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Robbie Coleman, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ben Mowen (capt), Jarrad Butler, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Leon Power, Ben Alexander, Josh Mann-Rea, Scott Sio. Res: Ruaidhri Murphy, Ruan Smith, Allan Alaalatoa, Fotu Auelua, Tom McVerry, Michael Dowsett, Joe Tomane, Pat McCabe.

Morning people more likely to lie to their bosses in the afternoon

There are morning people and there are evening people; there is ethical behavior and there is unethical behavior.

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That much we know, and previous attempts to suss out how those categories overlap with each other pointed researchers toward what’s called the “morning morality effect.” The effect, written up in a study last year, suggests that people behave more ethically earlier in the day, the theoretical underpinning being that as a person grows drained from the day’s mounting obligations, they lose the wherewithal required to behave in a saintly manner.

This seems plausible enough, but another group of researchers wondered if the morning morality effect might overlook an element of existing sleep research: that people have specific “chronotypes,” meaning they’re predisposed to feeling alert at different times of day. (One’s chronotype can change over the course of a lifetime.) The morning morality effect, they figured, doesn’t account for the portion of the population—roughly 40 percent—whose vitality blooms in the evening. These researchers conducted a study, to be published in the journal Psychological Science, that found that an evening person is roughly three times as likely to behave unethically in the morning than a morning person.

“An important aspect of this research is not that morning people are more moral, it’s actually the match that’s the most important thing. It’s that morning people are more ethical in the morning, but evening people are more ethical in the evening,” says Sunita Sah, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor of business ethics at Georgetown University.

“An evening person is roughly three times as likely to behave unethically in the morning than a morning person.”

Classifying behavior as either ethical or unethical is a fraught process that might trouble some philosophers, but Sah and her co-authors turned to agreed-upon research tactics that would allow them to determine when a subject was lying to get ahead. The study included two different experiments, both of which involved self-reported results. In one, subjects were paid 50 cents for each math puzzle they completed in five minutes’ time, and in another, subjects rolled a die several times and were given lottery tickets in proportion to the dots on each roll. In both scenarios, several subjects lied about their results, and they did so along chronotypical lines.

The idea of scheduling “big ethical decisions” for certain times a day, based on your chronotype, seems impractical, but there are still things that can be done to accommodate these findings. Sah suggested that important meetings shouldn’t by default occur early in the morning, and would be better scheduled mid-day. She had another idea, based on her experience as a professor teaching undergraduates, who, given their typical age, tend to be evening people: “If we’re setting exams at 8:00 in the morning, we might want to think about how many students are likely to cheat in those exams,” she says. Her findings might also add to the existing evidence that high school students might perform better if their school days started later.

Sah said she’s interested in exploring the effects of culturally-imposed sleep habits on ethical behavior. For example, when Daylight Savings Time goes into effect and people lose an hour of sleep, their moral compass might be, at least marginally, thrown out of whack. (This isn’t entirely implausible: Consider a 2009 study that found that, among miners, losing sleep to Daylight Savings increased the risk of having an accident the following Monday.)

Another unexplored phenomenon is napping. “Some cultures already have napping in the afternoon, siestas, which might mitigate some of the effects for morning people as the day goes on. It might renew their energy and make them more ethical,” Sah said. “Napping might refresh their cognitive abilities so that they could make a better decision at the end of the day.”

This article was originally published on The Atlantic. Click here to view the original. © All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

Bolt says his best is yet to come

It has been five years since Bolt set the 100m world record of 9.

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58 seconds and the 200m best of 19.19 at the Berlin world championships, and this season began late for him as he recovered from minor foot surgery and a hamstring injury.

The lanky Jamaican missed nine weeks of training after having surgery on his left foot in March but shrugged off any suggestion that he might be past his best as prepares for the sprint relay at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next month.

“Personally I don’t think so,” Bolt, 27, told Reuters at his training base in Kingston when asked if his fastest times were now behind him.

“It’s all about just being dedicated. Every year I’ve been injured at some part of the season, so the key thing is try to stay injury-free, try to be more focussed on track and field and not be distracted by other things.

“Try to cut down a little on the sponsor-duty things and stuff like that for the upcoming season, try to limit it as much as possible. Then I can put in a lot more work and I’ll have more time to work and stay fit and to be focussed.”

Coach Mills, who has guided Bolt to his six Olympic golds and a record 10 world championships medals since 2007, also believes the sprinter is capable of running faster.

“I wouldn’t say that we have seen the best of him,” Mills told Reuters after putting Bolt through a sprint workout. “I think that he’s capable of more (speed), if he has (injury) uninterrupted preparation.”

Bolt appeared to rule out the chance of a mouth-watering duel this year with in-form American Justin Gatlin.

“I don’t think the clash will happen,” Bolt said. “I’m just coming back, so I’m just trying to get myself into shape and run a few races, just for the fans.”

U.S. world silver medallist Gatlin, who is undefeated this year, owns the season’s best 100m in 9.80 seconds and has also clocked a world-leading 19.68 seconds for the 200m.

“I don’t really worry, I guess he’s doing his thing,” said Bolt. “I’m just trying to get back and focus on what I need to get done for this season, and then just look forward to next season.”

Bolt is scheduled to leave Jamaica on Friday to begin his injury-shortened season at the Commonwealth Games with the 4x100m relay set for Aug. 1 in Glasgow. He has then pencilled in four 100m races over the next six weeks.

(This story has been refiled to correct 100m record time in second paragraph)

(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

Bitcoin miner hails results

Digital currency firm Digital CC has increased the number of bitcoins it has earned from bitcoin “mining” and says the bitcoin system is going from strength to strength.

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Digital CC, which trades as digitalBTC, was the first bitcoin-focused company to trade on the Australian Securities Exchange, in June 2014.

Digital currency is a medium of exchange that is electronically created and stored – there are no physical notes or coins.

Digital currencies can be used as alternatives to currencies such as the dollar, yen and pound.

The use of digital currencies is not as widespread as that of conventional currencies: banks do not use digital currencies, and digital currencies may be considered speculative or risky.

There are several digital currencies, but bitcoin dominates the market.

Bitcoin “mining” describes the process of earning new bitcoins, which can then be converted to a major currency.

Bitcoin mining involves the use of powerful computers to verify bitcoin transactions within the bitcoin network.

New bitcoins are created and assigned by the bitcoin network to the providers of verification services, such as digitalBTC.

Digital CC said in a quarterly cashflow report on Thursday that it had earned about 8,600 bitcoins through mining to date. On June 10, Digital CC reported that it had earned more than 5,100 bitcoins.

The current Bitcoin price was $US620. In early June, bitcoins were trading at $US640 on major international exchanges.

Digital CC said it had sold 4,000 bitcoins earned through mining for about $US2.1 million up to June 30.

“Bitcoin mining has offered us exceptional results to date,” Digital CC executive chairman Zhenya Tsvetnenko said.

“The bitcoin system continues to go from strength to strength, with significant new investments and major merchants coming on board.”

Mr Tsvetnenko said the recent move by global technology firm Dell to accept bitcoin as a payment option for online purchases demonstrated the capacity of the bitcoin system to offer enhanced returns for retailers.

Digital CC said the value of the bitcoins it had sold, plus the remaining balance of bitcoins held, now exceeded the total amount of money that Digital CC had spent on computer equipment for mining bitcoins and the power needed to operate it.

Digital CC said the company had now achieved “complete payback” of its original $US4 million equipment purchase and operating costs to date.

Shares in Digital CC were steady at 34 cents at 1417 AEST.

Rumours about uni hotel deal, ICAC told

The University of New England’s (UNE) vice-chancellor knew of rumours that “all might not have been above board” under a deal involving the chancellor buying a share of a pub being sold off by the university, a corruption inquiry has heard.

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Professor Robin Pollard has told the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) he contacted lawyers for advice after John Cassidy told him in January, 2006, that he had invested in the Tattersalls Hotel – an Armidale establishment recently sold off by the university’s student union in a liquidation sale.

Prof Pollard, who was acting vice-chancellor at the time, began his own log of events in relation to the Tattersalls deal, starting with the note: “Late December 2005-Early January 2006. I heard rumours that all might not have been above board.”

The log, tendered to watchdog on Thursday, also noted a meeting Prof Pollard held with UNE business and administration director Graeme Dennehy in February, 2006.

Mr Dennehy expressed concerns to Prof Pollard about the Tattersalls deal – including that Mr Cassidy had access to a confidential valuation of the hotel and that he had influenced the rejection of a $3 million offer for the property.

The ICAC has heard Mr Cassidy’s business partner, Darrell Hendry, won a closed tender for the pub in December, 2005 with a late bid of $2.65 million after Mr Cassidy alerted him to the buying opportunity.

Mr Cassidy also emerged as a major shareholder of the pub through a company in which he and Mr Hendry were directors.

Mr Cassidy is facing allegations before ICAC that he used confidential information to help Mr Hendry buy the Tattersalls Hotel and that he hid his relationship with Mr Hendry and his own part in the purchase.

Mr Dennehy told Prof Pollard rumours were circulating in Armidale about the deal, and that he was concerned that “there could remain a perception that the Chancellor gained an advantage in his purchase of a share of the hotel”.

Prof Pollard told the ICAC he sought advice from solicitors Minter Ellison, who provided questions that he should put to Mr Cassidy.

In the resulting interview, which was tendered in evidence said he had not inspected the hotel or considered investing in it before January, 2006.

Previous evidence to the commission has been that Mr Cassidy was seen inspecting the hotel’s upstairs quarters in November, 2005, and that he helped interview a prospective manager for the pub in December that year.

Mr Cassidy will appear before the inquiry in Sydney on Friday.