The employed drink at ‘riskier’ levels

Employed people are more inclined to regularly drink riskier levels of alcohol than the unemployed, data suggests.

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New analysis of the National Drug Household Survey 2016, released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, has highlighted a trend between alcohol consumption and employment.

While the unemployed are more likely to use methamphetamine, twice as likely to use cannabis or smoke daily, employed people are more likely to use cocaine and regularly consume ‘risky’ levels of alcohol.

The data found more employed people fall in the category of ‘lifetime risky’ drinkers – that is they drink two or more drinks per day on average, says AIHW spokesperson Mathew James.

“The percentage of employed people drinking at that level is 21 per cent, unemployed people 16.5 per cent,” said Mr James.

Also, one in three (32.9 per cent) employed people drank five or more drinks on a single occasion at least every month over a 12 months period, higher than the unemployed at 26.9 per cent.

“The only one on alcohol consumption where the unemployed is slightly higher, but the difference wouldn’t be significant, is the proportion of unemployed people who would drink 11 or more drinks at least monthly,” Mr James told AAP.

“This was a bit higher for the unemployed, but generally speaking you don’t really see that pattern for alcohol consumption its really the illicit drugs and not all the illicit drugs either,” he said.

Overall, the survey of 24,000 Australians conducted in late 2016, shows fewer Australians are drinking to excess than in 2013, with 83 per cent of people drinking moderately or abstaining.

Earlier this week, health experts called on Australians to reduce their alcohol consumption to reduce the burden of cancer.

The Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risk from Drinking Alcohol suggest that an adult should drink no more than two standard drinks on any day to reduce the lifetime risk of harm attributed to alcohol.

Senator Cory Bernardi defends gay marriage robo-calls

Conservative senator Cory Bernardi has defended targeting millions of homes with robo-calls urging people to vote ‘no’ in the same-sex marriage postal survey.

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But he has simultaneously attacked as an invasion of privacy bulk text messages sent out by marriage equality advocates urging Australians to vote ‘yes’.

“Taking the poll of an electorate or doing some market research is a time-honoured political technique and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Senator Bernardi told Sky News on Thursday.

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“This is just polling an electorate – it’s stock in trade of any political business – and it’s not invasive like sending text messages to unlisted numbers or to 12-year-olds telling them how to vote.”

In a copy of the phone call recording published by Nine News, the senator tells households in Victoria and South Australia that same-sex marriage is a recipe for division.

He goes on to add that it would remove gender from all areas of society including schools.

“As a parent, I am deeply concerned about how changing the marriage act will affect families and children,” he says.

0:00 ‘Yes’ and ‘no’ vote ramp up postal survey campaigns Share ‘Yes’ and ‘no’ vote ramp up postal survey campaigns

“Ultimately this is a question about parents’ rights.”

Senator Bernardi then outlines concerns about “radical gay sex education” and gender ideology programs before asking people to indicate how they’ll vote in the survey by using their keypads.

“For some reason people feel that their mobiles are more personal space,” he said of the apparent distinction between the unsolicited calls and text messages.

“To have randomly generated numbers and have people targeting or telling you what to do through that seems to have upset a great many people.”

Twitter finds the furore over Macklemore’s same-sex marriage anthem absolutely hilarious

It was announced at the beginning of September that Grammy Award-winning US musician Macklemore would be headlining the half-time show at the NRL Grand Final this weekend.

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Obviously, the singer would be expected to play his biggest hits – which includes his 2013 #1 hit, ‘Same Love’, a hugely popular track that advocates for the equality of LGBTQIA+ people. It was recorded in 2012, in the lead up to the United States legalising same-sex marriage.

Since the announcement, Australia has become embroiled in a national debate over the legalisation of same-sex marriage, and so, many ‘No’ voters are unhappy that Macklemore is singing a song that is pro-LGBTQIA+ and pro-same-sex marriage at the Grand Final. 

This includes former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who tweeted, “Footy fans shouldn’t be subjected to a politicised grand final. Sport is sport!”.

A petition asking for the “removal of LGBTIQ politics out of the awesome sport of Rugby League” has also been created by former NRL player Tony Wall.

The petition, which has been backed by the Coalition for Marriage, reads, “It will be very difficult to watch the NRL Grand Final with my wife and five young children as the event will be heavily politicised with a LGBTIQ anthem taking centre stage.”

While Macklemore has already publicly responded to the complaints (“I’m gonna go harder, I’m going to love”), ‘Yes’ voters have spent their time making jokes about the furore on Twitter.

Can straight people settle down and stop calling a Macklemore song from 2013 a “LGBTQ anthem”??? We’re not talking Carly Rae Jepsen here.

— mat whitehead (@matwhi) September 27, 2017The stock photo on the petition to ban Macklemore from performing the NRL grand final is truly stunning pic南京夜生活,/09JokE7Di4

— Sally Rugg 🏳️‍🌈 (@sallyrugg) September 28, 2017Tony Abbott gonna kneel during the Macklemore song

— DANNY DORITO (@brah_dawg) September 27, 2017should i threaten to shirtfront macklemore

— Aus Gov Just Googled (@GovGoogles) September 27, 2017Yeah mates, that Macklemore song is too political, get him out of the NRL Grand Final! Get Cold Chisel on to play Khe Sanh instead!

— Andrew (@andrew_54) September 27, 2017I also oppose Macklemore performing at the NRL grand final —Tegan & Sara would have been much better

— Lane Sainty (@lanesainty) September 27, 2017I heard Macklemore’s Same Love today and incredibly it didn’t turn me gay so i’m looking forward to hearing it in person on Sunday #NRLGF

— James (@JamesK_1312) September 27, 2017

Others brought up the strangeness of the situation, particularly seeing Attorney-General George Brandis call Tony Abbott’s opposition to the performance “bizarre”, and explaining the popularity of the song ‘Same Love’ to him on ABC TV:

George Brandis explaining Macklemore’s discology to Tony Abbott on morning television. What a time to be alive.

— Michael Koziol (@michaelkoziol) September 27, 2017

Others wanted the backlash to stop – for a variety of reasons:

We’ve seen the culture wars do some awful things but ‘force the left to endorse Macklemore’ might be the worst among them.

— Colley (@JamColley) September 27, 2017Omg @TonyAbbottMHR STOP EMBARRASSING US IN FRONT OF @macklemore. #samelove#marriageequality#VoteYes

— Carrie 🌈 (@flamingo_a_gogo) September 27, 2017Macklemore is the George Clooney Batman for the Aus queer community: the hero we neither deserve nor want

— Patrick Lenton (@PatrickLenton) September 27, 2017I agree in principle with the banning of Macklemore at public events but not because he has a pro-SSM song

— Vince Rugari (@VinceRugari) September 27, 2017

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Crows will again adopt anthem stare

Adelaide players will again adopt the so-called Crows stare during the national anthem before the AFL grand final.

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And they couldn’t give two hoots what anyone else thinks about it.

The Crows travelled to Melbourne on Thursday, ahead of Saturday’s grand final against Richmond, adamant they were not disrespecting the anthem.

Adelaide’s players have stood in a trance-like state, staring at their opponents, during the anthem before their two previous finals this season.

The unusual stance has prompted much debate from outside the club.

But Adelaide’s chief executive Andrew Fagan puts the talking point down to one thing: an insatiable “thirst for content when it comes to the AFL”.

Fagan said the Crows stare was simply a tool for his players to deal with the national anthem.

“We want to prepare for the game, to be ready and focused,” Fagan said.

“And we have worked out something that has done that for us for the last couple of weeks.

“It’s something unusual to stand there for the national anthem, it’s not a normal preparation.

“And so you have got to come up with something that you think will have you best prepared and the guys have got that at the moment.

“What others say about it is up to them.”

Richmond assistant coach Justin Leppitsch said the Tigers are unconcerned about the Crows stare down.

“I don’t think that’s high on our agenda to look at, to be perfectly honest … we’ve probably spent more time on their ball movement and defence,” he said.

“You do what makes you feel good before the game.

“If that makes them feel good, well, good.”

The Crows travelled to Melbourne on a mid-afternoon flight on Thursday confident in their lead-in to the premiership decider.

“Although we don’t have grand final experience in the playing group, we have got it amongst our coaches,” Fagan said.

“And that has been one of the messages to the guys … embrace the week.

“It’s not a normal week … but equally you have got to try and stick to your normal structures and personal preparation.

“And I am really confident we have got the balance right and we will be ready to go on the weekend.”

Amazon moves to embed Alexa into homes

Amazon has unveiled a range of new Echo smart home devices as the technology giant attempts to embed virtual assistant Alexa into homes.

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The online retailer is slashing prices to undercut Google, introducing better acoustics in response to a forthcoming Apple speaker and rolling out new formats.

“We want to make sure we are building a product that everyone can use,” said David Limp, Amazon’s senior vice-president of devices and services, during a Wednesday event showcasing the company’s holiday product line-up at its Seattle headquarters.

A second generation of the Echo smart speaker, with a redesigned sound system and better voice recognition was among the announcements, alongside a new Echo Plus that automatically discovers and connects with smart light bulbs and other products.

An alarm clock-inspired Echo Spot, Bluetooth-connected Echo Buttons and the video screen-based Echo Show were also revealed alongside a new HDR and 4K-enabled Fire TV.

The device, which comes in a new smaller form, also has improved far-field voice recognition.

Limp said in the three years since the company launched the Echo and Alexa in the US, the firm had learned “voice and the ambient voice experience in the home is going to be ubiquitous”.

The new Echo Plus is being pitched as a more powerful version of the Echo and automatically looks for and connects with other smart home devices.

Amazon says unlike the original Echo, consumers will not need to use Alexa apps or Skills to connect with smart light bulbs and other appliances, with the device automatically discovering devices when turned on.

A new version of the Fire TV streaming box will come with high dynamic range (HDR) and 4K support built in.

A further new Echo device, the Echo Spot, was also revealed. The small device is designed to replace traditional alarm clocks and also has video calling capabilities.

Mystery Tasmanian tiger extinction likely caused by climate change

The enigmatic animal – also known as the thylacine – was once widespread across the vast country, but was wiped out on the mainland around 3,000 years ago.

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They survived in the southern island state of Tasmania until 1936 when the last known one died in captivity at Hobart Zoo after the species was hunted to extinction in the wild.

One previous theory on why the marsupials vanished from the mainland blamed the introduction by seafarers of wild dogs known as dingoes around 3,500 years ago. Dingoes have never lived in Tasmania.

Mythical creature

Another suggested hunting by Aborigines pressured the population of the dog-like animal with stripes on its back, which remains one of Australia’s most mythical creatures – with some believing they still survive today.

But a study published in the Journal of Biogeography this week, based on ancient DNA extracted from fossil bones and museum specimens, has now concluded their mainland extinction was likely triggered by drought.

Researchers from the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) created the largest dataset of thylacine DNA to date with 51 new genome sequences and used it to track population sizes through time.

“The ancient DNA tells us that the mainland extinction was rapid, and not the result of intrinsic factors such as inbreeding or loss of genetic diversity,” said lead author Lauren White.

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Drought-prone seasons

A large and genetically diverse thylacine population lived in parts of southern Australia until three millennia ago, when more drought-prone seasons caused by the onset of the El Nino weather system likely wiped them out, the scientists found.

“We also found evidence of a population crash, reducing numbers and genetic diversity of thylacines, in Tasmania around the same time,” said ACAD deputy director Jeremy Austin.

“Tasmania would have been somewhat shielded from the warmer, drier climate because of its higher rainfall, but it appears that this population was also affected by the El Nino event before starting to recover.”

El Nino is a climate phenomenon that occurs every few years. Its most direct impacts are droughts in normally damp places in the western Pacific, such as parts of Australia, while drier places tend to suffer floods.

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Shares drive jump in Aussie millionaires

Soaring house prices in Sydney and Melbourne and strong share markets drove a significant increase in the number of wealthy Australians in 2016.

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The number of individuals with US$1 million in assets, excluding their home, rose from 234,000 to 255,000 in 2016, taking Australia to ninth on the list of the world’s largest high net worth populations, according to the latest Capgemini World Wealth Report.

Capgemini Australia banking and capital markets industry practice director Phil Gomm said property values surged, and there was a stronger sense of optimism in equity markets.

“A very significant proportion of their wealth can be attributed back to their equities investment portfolios,” he said.

“Money is now flowing back in to equity.”

Inhibitors to wealth creation included the fiscal deficit, high household debt and government debt levels hitting 45 per cent in 2016, Capgemini said.

“And of course the uncertainty around China’s economy impacting volatility around our commodity prices,” Mr Gomm said.

The number of wealthy individuals has grown globally, with Asia-Pacific the largest market.

Capgemini said the total number of high net worth individuals stands at 16.5 million, with a combined wealth of US$63.5 trillion.

“Its a pretty strong report card for Australia and there’s a sense of optimism that losses incurred during the GFC, where there was a swing back to cash and fixed income products, has been replaced by a move towards equities,” Mr Gomm said.

According to the report, 40 per cent of wealthy individuals in the Asia-Pacific region said their biggest driver of wealth was equities.

Globally, wealthy investors reported an impressive 24.3 per cent return from equity portfolios overseen by wealth managers.

“More than 90 per cent of high net worth individuals cited equities as the most important contributor to their investment performance, and I think that resonates very strongly in our own market,” Mr Gomm said.

No obvious signs of torture on American Otto Warmbier held by North Korea: coroner

The coroner said the 22-year-old, who had been sentenced to 15 years hard labor while visiting the reclusive country, had suffered brain damage caused by the lack of oxygen to the brain.

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Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco could not say what caused the injury. 

The revelations came a day after Warmbier’s parents and Trump accused the reclusive regime of torturing the young man, who had been convicted of trying to steal a propaganda poster from a Pyongyang hotel.

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The parents, in a series of TV interviews Tuesday, said their son showed signs of torture, including teeth that appeared to have been “rearranged,” and hands and feet that were disfigured. 

“They kidnapped Otto, they tortured him, they intentionally injured him. They are not victims, they are terrorists,” Fred Warmbier said on the program “Fox and Friends.”

After the airing of the interview, Trump for the first time accused North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s regime of torturing Warmbier. 

Trump called the parents’ interview with Fox “great” and said: “Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”

But Sammarco, who examined Warmbier’s body after his death in June, said there was no clear evidence of physical torture – including no recently broken bones or damaged teeth. 

“We don’t know what happened to him. That’s the bottom line,” she said. “We’re never going to know, unless the people who were there come forward and say, ‘This is what happened to Otto.'”

Warmbier’s body displayed only a few small scars, all but one of which could be traced to medical instruments, she said, adding that the Warmbiers’ TV interviews had prompted her to publicly reveal her findings. 

“They’re grieving parents. I can’t really make comments on their perceptions,” she added. 

Three Americans accused of various crimes against the state are behind bars in the North, which is engaged in a tense standoff with the Trump administration over its banned missile and nuclear weapons programs.

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