Brewing storm halts Gulf spill work

A storm brewing in the Caribbean brought the deep-sea effort to plug the ruptured oil well to a near standstill just as BP was getting tantalisingly close to killing the spill for good.

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Work on the relief well – now just days from completion – was suspended, and the cap that has been keeping the oil bottled up since last week may have to be reopened, allowing crude to gush into the sea again for days, said retired Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the government’s point man on the crisis.

“This is necessarily going to be a judgment call,” said Allen, who was waiting to see how the storm developed before deciding whether to order any of the ships and crews stationed about 80km out in the Gulf of Mexico to head for safety.

The cluster of thunderstorms passed over Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, and forecasters said the system would probably move into the Gulf over the weekend. They gave it a 50 per cent chance of becoming a tropical depression or a tropical storm by Friday.

Crews had planned to spend Wednesday and Thursday reinforcing with cement the last few metres of the relief tunnel that will be used to pump mud into the gusher and kill it once and for all.

But BP put the task on hold and instead placed a temporary plug called a storm packer deep inside the tunnel, in case it has to be abandoned until the storm passes.

“What we didn’t want to do is be in the middle of an operation and potentially put the relief well at some risk,” BP vice president Kent Wells said.

If the work crews are evacuated, it could be two weeks before they can resume the effort to kill the well. That would upset BP’s timetable, which called for finishing the relief tunnel by the end of July and plugging the blown-out well by early August.

Scientists have been scrutinising underwater video and pressure data for days, trying to determine if the capped well is holding tight or in danger of rupturing and causing an even bigger disaster. If the storm prevents BP from monitoring the well, the cap may simply be reopened, allowing oil to spill into the water, Allen said.

BP and government scientists were meeting to discuss whether the cap could be monitored from shore.

As the storm drew closer, boat captains hired by BP for skimming duty were sent home and told they wouldn’t be going back out for five or six days, said Tom Ard, president of the Orange Beach Fishing Association in Alabama.

In Florida, crews removed booms intended to protect waterways in the Panhandle from oil. High winds and storm surge could carry the booms into sensitive wetlands.

Also, Shell Oil began evacuating employees out in the Gulf.

Even if the storm does not hit the area directly, it could affect the effort to contain the oil and clean it up. Hurricane Alex stayed 805km away in June, yet skimming in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida was curtailed for nearly a week.

The relief tunnel extends about 3km under the seabed and is about 15 to 18 metres vertically and 1.22 metres horizontally from the ruptured well. BP plans to insert a final string of casing, or drilling pipe, cement it into place, and give it up to a week to set, before attempting to punch through to the blown-out well and kill it.

Fifth arrested over Keohane bashing

Police arrested a 26-year-old man at a warehouse in Alexandria, in Sydney’s inner-south, about 2pm (AEST) on Friday.

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He was charged with concealing a serious indictable offence and hindering a police investigation.

The man was refused police bail and was expected to appear in Parramatta Local Court on Saturday.

Mr Keohane had bought a pizza and was walking to his home in Coogee, in Sydney’s east, about 3am (AEST) on August 9, 2008, when he was attacked and robbed.

He was hit on the right side of his face with a “sharp object” that was forceful enough to cut through his cheek and lacerate his tongue.

The flooring contractor was bashed in the head about 14 times during the unprovoked attack and was left lying in the street, less than 100m from his doorstep.

Police say Friday’s arrest is the fifth to eventuate from their investigation.

Kane Desmond Tupuolamoui, 21, was arrested at a house in Leanyer, Darwin, on July 15, and extradited a day later to face a Sydney court.

He was charged with inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent to murder and aggravated robbery over the attack.

Tupuolamoui’s matter was adjourned to Central Local Court on September 2.

Another man, Thomas Isaako, 21, was acquitted in March this year of Mr Keohane’s attempted murder, but was sentenced to a 14-year jail term in May for robbery in company and inflicting grievous bodily harm.

Isaako’s partner, Chantel Taia, 19, of Matraville, and was handed a suspended jail sentence in November 2008 for failing to tell police about the Keohane’s bashing.

Another 39-year-old man was also charged in November 2008 with hindering police and concealing a serious offence over the attack.

Landis steps up attack on Armstrong

Disgraced cyclist Floyd Landis says he witnessed first hand former American teammate Lance Armstrong using performance-enhancing drugs, including receiving transfusions for blood doping.

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Speaking on an episode of the American news magazine show, ABC’s ‘Nightline’ on Friday, Landis reiterated his sweeping allegations against Armstrong.

Landis, who at first denied then admitted using performance enhancing drugs, said it would take up too much time to go into specifics about every time he saw Armstrong using drugs.

“Rather than go into the entire detail of every single time I have seen it yes, I saw Lance Armstrong using drugs,” Landis told Nightline.

“If I am taking on Lance Armstrong then that should be evidence that there is a problem with the system, because I am saying it — a bunch of people did it.

“Look. At some point people have to tell their kids that Santa Claus isn’t real. I hate to be the guy to do it, but it’s just not real.”

Asked during the 90 minute interview if he ever saw Armstrong receiving transfusions? Landis answered, “Yes.” When asked if he saw Armstrong transfuse more than once, Landis answered, “Yes, multiple times.”

Armstrong won a record seven Tour de France titles and is racing now in what he says will be his final Tour.

Armstrong has vehemently denied the doping allegations.

A federal grand jury has issued subpoenas to several members of the now-defunct Armstrong-led US Postal Service team.

Landis says he witnessed widespread cheating among the US Postal team members during his stint from 2002-04.

“Lance Armstrong handed me some testosterone patches,” Landis said. “It’s just a little patch that you put on your skin. It is not like it’s a — I mean, a blood transfusion is a bit more dramatic. It is a large needle. And it’s blood. But a patch that delivers testosterone. A trans-dermal patch.”

Armstrong has hired a criminal defence lawyer to represent him against a federal probe looking into allegations of possible doping violations.

Armstrong’s lawyer Tim Herman told ABC that his client has undergone about 300 drug tests in his cycling career and has never failed one.

“I know (Armstrong) to be an athlete that comes along once every couple of generations,” Herman said. “He is extremely focused. He’s gifted physically in ways that are very unique and he is disciplined, dedicated. He’s the hardest working athlete I’ve ever been around. But he is also extremely devoted and committed to his cancer work.”

The federal investigation was sparked by earlier accusations from Landis in a series of e-mails sent to cycling and doping officials earlier this year.

Former Armstrong teammate Tyler Hamilton was issued a subpoena on Friday to appear before the grand jury. Hamilton’s lawyer said they would co-operate with the grand jury.

Landis is competing as an independent at an cycling event this week in Oregon.

IOC still concerned about Rio water pollution

Rio de Janeiro had originally pledged to reduce pollution in the notoriously fetid Guanabara Bay by 80 percent but officials confirmed in March that the target will not be reached.

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Instead, they are now concentrating only on parts of the bay where sailing competitions will take place although they have insisted that these areas will be safe.

“We can see significant progress, at the same time we have asked the organising committee to convey our concerns with regard to the issues of the water quality we are still facing in Rio,” Bach told reporters.

“The IOC executive board is watching this situation very closely and we are expecting more information and more reports by the time of our next meeting, next month in Kuala Lumpur.

“We are approaching major test events in August and we all need to see progress in this regard.

“I’m not an expert in water pollution, we have to leave it to the experts to tell us what is achievable, and in which time frame.

“These experts are telling us it is still achievable to have these competitions in safe water conditions and we have been advised today from the local organising committee that this advice has not changed.”

Bach also urged 2020 Olympic hosts Tokyo to settle on plans for the National Stadium as soon as possible.

Last month, Japan’s sports minister Hakubun Shimomura said the stadium, the centre piece for the 2020 Olympic Games and 2019 rugby World Cup, should ditch its plan for a retractable roof to save money.

He added that he wanted around 35 percent of the seats at the 80,000 seat stadium to be temporary ones in another cost-cutting measure.

“This is an issue for the national government to deal with,” said Bach. “We think this issue should be solved as soon as possible because Tokyo has so much positive news to spread that we do not want a discussion about the stadium to overshadow the excellent progress being made,” said Bach.

“It’s in everyone’s interest not to have this dragging on, we are confident that the national government will find a solution pretty soon.”

The new National Stadium will be built on the grounds of the old, now demolished, one which was constructed to host the 1964 Olympics.

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; editing)

Bombers, AFL talked ASADA deal: Watson

Essendon great Tim Watson says the AFL was negotiating with the Bombers on outcomes in case of a guilty finding from the anti-doping tribunal right up until its verdict in March.

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Watson set the hares running on Monday morning by alleging league chiefs offered a deal to the stricken AFL club as late as two days before the finding of no guilt on March 31.

As the father of club captain Jobe, one of 34 players involved in the matter and now subject to an appeal by WADA, Watson has been close to the supplements saga since it became public in February 2013.

His suggestion brought a swift denial from the AFL, but Watson continued to take up the matter later on Monday.

“On that Sunday before the AFL tribunal handed down its decision they were still talking about a deal,” he told Channel Seven’s Talking Footy.

“(The AFL) wanted this to end. They didn’t want any player to appeal beyond this because they didn’t want it dragging on.

“The discussion was about the penalty … what (would) happen if the players are found guilty.”

The three-time premiership winner suggested the closeness of round one fixtures to the verdict was the AFL’s chief concern, with negotiations aiming to maintain the integrity of the season ahead.

Earlier on Monday, to demonstrate the AFL’s independence from the anti-doping tribunal’s deliberations, he told Melbourne radio station SEN that the AFL was engaged in deal-making to the last minute.

“I tell you how independent they were … the AFL was still trying to do a deal with Essendon on the Sunday night before the tribunal handed down its penalty,” he said.

“The AFL had no idea what was coming. Fact. F-a-c-t.”

In response, the AFL released a statement which read: “It was totally incorrect to state that a deal was put to the Essendon players in the days before March 31.

“A number of meetings occurred in the weeks before the tribunal’s decision, including on the Sunday (March 29), between the club and the AFL, to discuss contingency plans in the event that the Tribunal found the players guilty.”

However, Watson pointed out the two statements are not incompatible.

Negotiations may not have reached the point where a formal deal was offered, or could have been deemed unnecessary due to the not guilty finding.

“We can both be telling the truth here,” Watson said.

“All I’ve been doing it trying to articulate what’s been going on behind the scenes.

“The truth shouldn’t hurt people.”

Big player Samuels a target for Aussies

Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson says it’s no coincidence West Indies veteran Marlon Samuels was caught twice on the boundary hooking in the first Test.

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The 34-year-old has been identified as a key wicket by Australia’s bowlers, particularly with veteran left-hander Shivnarine Chanderpaul overlooked.

Samuels made his highest Test score against Australia in the second innings of last week’s first Test, a patient 74 that gave the hosts a chance of fighting their way back into the match.

But, just as he did in the first innings when he skied a hook shot off Mitchell Starc to Josh Hazlewood on the boundary, Samuels fell into the trap when Johnson dug one in short.

The Jamaican’s departure sparked a collapse as Australia romped to a nine-wicket win inside three days.

“It was definitely something we spoke about,” Johnson said.

“He’s not too good with the short ball … it was definitely a plan to bowl a few short ones at him, try to get him to hook.

“He was going along perfectly there for the team and they probably missed an opportunity there.

“I think that was probably a build up of pressure as well, the reason why he went after the short ball. You have those plans in place, but when they work it is very exciting.”

Samuels can expect more short-ball treatment when the second Test gets underway in Kingston from Thursday.

“He’s a big player for them,” Johnson said.

“He looks ugly the way he plays the game, it is not a conventional sort of style but he gets the job done for them.

“They really need him to fire through the next game.”

Morgan keeps Maroons spot for Origin II

North Queensland five-eighth Michael Morgan will celebrate an epic comeback win over Parramatta with another Maroons jumper.

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The representative star scored a try in a Cowboys’ thrilling 36-30 victory that included the equal third-biggest comeback in NRL history.

The win extends the club’s record winning streak to ten and provides Morgan with even more confidence as he aims to help Queensland reclaim the Origin shield next Wednesday.

Following Cooper Cronk’s surprise withdrawal from State of Origin II with a knee injury, Morgan let the cat out of the bag that his name would be read out when the team is announced on Tuesday afternoon in Melbourne.

“All I know is that I’ve been told that I’d go down (to Melbourne) but I haven’t been told anything about playing,” he said after the thrilling win over the Eels.

“I think it was more just so it wasn’t in the back of my mind.”

The 23-year-old made his Maroons debut in the series-opening win over NSW in Sydney three weeks ago and is expected to hold his utility spot when coach Mal Meninga names his team today.

Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans will fill in at halfback as he did in the first two games last year.

“Cherry-Evans has done it before,” Morgan said.

“He’s a very good player and has been for a while now. He got through this weekend very well so I’m pretty sure that’ll be the halfback.”

Morgan broke the line twice and busted three tackles in a typically dynamic performance against the Eels.

And while he was relieved that the team pulled off a miracle comeback, Morgan admitted they were fortunate to steal the game with their attack.

“It makes it a bit better because it turns into four points next week,” he said, in reference to the Cowboys enjoying the bye in round 14.

“But it’s just pleasing knowing that we were so far off our best, but our attack luckily won us the game.

“Our defence nearly lost it for us. It’s good we were able to put a few points on.”

Quiz reveals your odds of living another 5 years

To understand how this works, it’s important to first consider a few caveats.

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Correlation and causation are not the same. In this case, the researchers have highlighted correlations between risk of death and factors such as smoking and chronic health conditions. They aren’t foretelling anyone’s death.

Then there’s the question of who can use this tool to get an accurate result. If you are between the ages of 40 and 70 and you live in the United Kingdom, you are good to go. Others may find the detailed study from which the quiz was derived more useful than the quiz itself, which can be found at ubble.co.uk

There are several interesting findings that could help doctors, public health officials and regular people ask questions that may be relevant to one’s health and longevity, at least for the next five years.

For example, the researchers found that walking pace was a particularly strong predictor of death risk — stronger, they said, “than smoking habits and other lifestyle measurements.” The researchers found that men age 40 to 52 who reported that their walking pace was “slow” were 3.7 times as likely to die within five years as those who reported a “steady average pace.”

The study was authored by Andrea Ganna, a biostatistician at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and Erik Ingelsson, a professor at Sweden’s Uppsala University.

“The researchers found that men age 40 to 52 who reported that their walking pace was “slow” were 3.7 times as likely to die within five years as those who reported a ‘steady average pace’.”

Their findings suggest that a short questionnaire might be a good supplement to or potentially a replacement for a standard physical examination for doctors and other health professionals to use in identifying people with high mortality risk.

The survey asks 13 questions of men and 11 of women. A 59-year-old man, for instance, is asked how many people live in his household and whether they are related; a 59-year-old woman is asked how many children she has had; the man is asked about how many cars are in his household, the woman isn’t; the man is asked about strokes, high blood pressure and heart attacks; the woman about nerves, anxiety, tension and depression. Questions for both sexes cover such topics as overall health, smoking habits, walking pace and whether a person has experienced illness, injury, financial difficulty, marital issues or the loss of someone close.

Some factors, such as psychological and socioeconomic variables, were strong predictors of death causes unrelated to physical health, including suicide or accidental fall.

Among people who didn’t have major diseases, smoking habits were the strongest predictor of risk of death within five years. For men, the most common cause of death was lung cancer; for women, it was breast cancer.

Overall, the results are “reasonably good” predictors of death within five years, the researchers said.

“Some factors, such as psychological and socioeconomic variables, were strong predictors of death causes unrelated to physical health, including suicide or accidental fall.”

To create the survey, the researchers used the UK Biobank, which collected hundreds of data points from nearly 500,000 Britons between 40 and 70. The researchers said they are the first to look at such a wide range of variables in such a large group.

To assess an individual’s risk of dying within five years, the online quiz results are compared with nationwide data and the person is given an “Ubble age.” For example, if you are a 50-year-old man and the results of the survey give you an age of 56, that means your risk of dying is similar to that of a 56-year-old man in the United Kingdom. It then tells you what that five-year risk of dying is.

The findings have been published in the journal Lancet. But this project is remarkable for how interactive and open it is. Anyone can use the tool to see how lifestyle and health factors affect risk of death. People can also look at the association between certain risk factors and age.

The rise of gated spaces like swimming pools can quietly perpetuate racial tension

The girls in the chaotic scene are all wearing bathing suits.

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The setting, on Saturday evening in suburban Dallas, was a community swimming pool.

As Yoni Appelbaum points out over at The Atlantic, this context is particularly freighted: For decades, swimming pools in America have been sites of racial exclusion. Many of the fights to desegregate communities and public resources in the 1950s were waged over access to swimming pools. And the way they’re used to this day still reflects a sweeping trend — more subtle in its exclusion but no less pervasive — that arose from that era.

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As public resources were desegregated in American cities, communities increasingly found ways to privatise them. In McKinney on Saturday, the black teens were not using a public pool. They were swimming, rather, in the communal pool of a private community in the predominantly white part of town where civic resources like parks and pools are funded directly by homeowners. McKinney has three public pools, Appelbaum points out, but none of them are in this part of town.

We don’t know what precisely happened Saturday before and after the moments captured on video. But for these black teens, the issue may not have been so much — or solely — their behavior, as their presence at a pool where residents who called the police suspected they did not belong.

The incident exposes the unspoken logic of gated resources: They are meant to give residents control over who’s in the community that can use communal goods. Private community swimming pools do a good job at this (in this McKinney community, residents are allotted a few guest passes a piece). Really private pools — in the fenced back yards of individual homes — achieve this even more effectively. Here’s an instructive history lesson from Appelbaum:

In Marshall, Texas, for example, in 1957, a young man backed by the NAACP sued to force the integration of a brand-new swimming pool. When the judge made it clear the city would lose, citizens voted 1,758-89 to have the city sell all of its recreational facilities rather than integrate them. The pool was sold to a local Lions’ Club, which was able to operate it as a whites-only private facility.

“The incident exposes the unspoken logic of gated resources: They are meant to give residents control over who’s in the community that can use communal goods.”

The decisions of other communities were rarely so transparent, but the trend was unmistakable. Before 1950, Americans went swimming as often as they went to the movies, but they did so in public pools. There were relatively few club pools, and private pools were markers of extraordinary wealth. Over the next half-century, though, the number of private in-ground pools increased from roughly 2,500 to more than four million.

This exact same phenomenon has surfaced in many forms well beyond swimming pools. Americans have replaced — or, rather, withdrawn from — many of the public spaces and shared resources that were prominent in communities decades ago. And so private schools take the place of public ones, individually owned cars replace mass transit, secluded yards supplant public parks. Communal plazas of all kinds become “privately owned public spaces” where companies and property owners control who can access them.

In another example from McKinney on Saturday, a private security officer was among those who called police to intervene.

Excessive police use of force is in and of itself a problem, one increasingly recognized by politicians from both political parties. Here, though, as with so many of these stories lately, much more — the way we design communities and divide their resources with race and class quietly in mind — is implicated, too.

I’m a feminist. Here’s why I don’t support the ‘female Viagra.’

Many women’s health advocates are calling this a victory, saying this little pink pill finally will bring gender equity to the field of sexual medicine.

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I disagree. I’m a pro-sex feminist, but I believe that advocating for women’s health means finding solutions for women’s sexual problems that are safe and effective. That hasn’t happened. Not yet.

Until now, the FDA has been standing with me, asking tough questions about drugs marketed to increase women’s sex drives. Several drug makers wanting to break into this potential blockbuster market have tried to prove that their products work and are safe. So far, they’ve failed: BioSante’s testosterone gel was no more effective than placebos. Procter & Gamble’s Intrinsa patch raised fears over a potential link to breast cancer. And Sprout Pharmaceuticals’ flibanserin, the libido drug in front of the FDA now, already has been rejected twice for ineffectiveness and side effects.

For some feminist groups and legislators, this due diligence is evidence of sexism in the FDA. They note that there are numerous approved treatments for male sexual dysfunction and low testosterone, but none for the most common form of sexual dysfunction in women. “The FDA must overcome the problem of institutionalized sexism,” wrote psychiatrist Anita H. Clayton in a Huffington Post piece, “unconscious and perhaps unintended, but damaging nonetheless.”

“I’m a pro-sex feminist, but I believe that advocating for women’s health means finding solutions for women’s sexual problems that are safe and effective.”

This kind of language could be dangerous, pushing drugs onto the market that are risky to women’s physical health. Unfortunately, last week’s vote recommending approval of flibanserin suggests the rhetoric is winning. Even the Score, a campaign that has fueled the charge that sexism is behind the FDA’s decisions on women’s libido drugs, brought dozens of people to the FDA committee hearing to testify in favor of flibanserin. (Even the Score is backed by Sprout Pharmaceuticals.) One woman said she had seen 30 doctors trying to treat her low libido. Another said she was missing her son’s 1st birthday to attend the hearing, in hopes of accessing a drug that offered “even a modest improvement” in her sex drive. But while the women’s descriptions of the drug made it sound great, the data tell a different story.

In clinical trials testing its effectiveness, flibanserin has either failed or barely passed. Only about 10-12 percent of women in trials benefited from taking the drug. And even those showing “a modest improvement” in libido were exposed to the drug’s serious side effects, including sudden drops in blood pressure and loss of consciousness. One woman even suffered a concussion when she fainted during a trial.

Trials studying flibanserin’s effect while taken with other drugs were especially troubling. Paired with fluconazole, a medication used to treat vaginal yeast infections, flibanserin caused such severe problems that the study had to be stopped early. And the trial studying flibanserin’s interaction with alcohol was so small (25 people, including just two women),we can’t draw any conclusions from the results. Unlike Viagra, flibanserin is a daily pill, so understanding its interaction with alcohol is vital.

“In clinical trials testing its effectiveness, flibanserin has either failed or barely passed. Only about 10-12 percent of women in trials benefited from taking the drug.”

History should convince us all to be cautious about new drug treatments marketed for women’s health. There are numerous cases of over-medication, over-diagnosis and over-treatment. Women get hurt when companies create and exaggerate conditions to promote use of their drugs. In the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies began marketing drugs for a condition called osteopenia, which they defined as “lower than normal” bone density. In reality, it was a ploy to justify prescribing bisphosphonate drugs — used to treat the very real condition of osteoporosis — to millions of healthy women. A small number who took these drugs for osteopenia reported sudden breaks in their upper leg bone, suggesting a treatment that was supposed to prevent fractures could cause them.

In another case, pharmaceutical companies persuaded doctors to prescribe hormones to millions of healthy women to treat what they called “postmenopausal estrogen deficiency.” But when researchers tested these hormone “replacement” therapies in 2002, the evidence didn’t support the companies’ claims that the treatments would protect women from heart disease and cognitive decline. Instead, the treatment increased their risk of stroke and breast cancer, hurting the women it was supposed to help.

Similarly, the condition called female sexual dysfunction has been promoted by pharmaceutical companies to justify prescribing drugs to healthy women. It’s not a real condition with a scientifically valid diagnosis. But female sexual dysfunction has been defined as a condition affecting 43 percent of women. That’s 68 million potential customers in the U.S. alone for the first drugmaker to get its “female Viagra” past regulators.

“Women get hurt when companies create and exaggerate conditions to promote use of their drugs.”

Certainly, low libido is a real and truly distressing condition for some women. But we don’t know what causes it and how often it occurs. We don’t know if it manifests differently in lesbians and straight women, or in premenopausal and postmenopausal women. These are things we need to address before rushing a libido drug onto the open market for wide consumption. Flibanersin has only been studied on premenopausal women with no medical cause for low desire. It’s unlikely that once on pharmacy shelves, it would be used only in those situations. And yet, we know this drug, while barely effective, poses real dangers to women’s health.

It’s true that men have many more options to address their sexual problems than women do, and that needs to change. But flibanserin is different from Viagra, and women are different from men. Viagra addresses a physical problem by easing blood flow in men who desire sex but have difficulty functioning. Flibanserin, on the other hand, addresses arousal in women who lack sexual desire by targeting neurotransmitters in the brain, our most complex organ. Further, women do have access to medications to treat their physical problems during sex, such as pain during intercourse. Rhetoric that paints the disparities in sexual health medications for men and women as a result of pure sexism ignores these realities.

Every woman — no matter her age, health status or relationship status — is entitled to positive sexual experiences. Beyond that, every woman deserves to have positive sexual experiences without risking her physical health. Advocating for a libido drug that accomplishes that is not sexist. In fact, it’s feminist.

Should we teach our children to share? Or let nature take its course?

Rachael Sharman, University of the Sunshine Coast

It’s a surprisingly popular idea – and a real shift away from the behaviourism models that suggest children need modelling or direct teaching of correct behaviour and rewards or punishments to shape their development.

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If we take a bigger-picture view of parenting, the end goal (hopefully) is to produce a child who can function effectively in society as an adult. And herein has arisen one of the latest questions from these new-age “aparents”: should you teach your child to share? Or, should you go one step further and deliberately teach them not to share?

To share or not to share – that is the question

Before you think this is just another fleeting parenting fad, according to the author of this blog, the “you don’t have to share” approach is being implemented as policy at her child’s preschool.

The main argument put forth is that, in our culture, adults aren’t required to share (their iPhones or sunglasses for example), so why teach such an attitude in our children? On the surface it seems like a fair point – it makes little sense to teach a child to follow a value system that will not be required in their adult years.

A secondary argument is that the law of the jungle (playground) will just as effectively teach children the rules of society without requiring direct parental interference. In other words, let them work it out themselves.

“The main argument put forth is that, in our culture, adults aren’t required to share (their iPhones or sunglasses for example), so why teach such an attitude in our children?”

I have some sympathy for this point. I’ve previously documented my concerns about “helicopter” or “bulldozer” parenting and how over-interference from parents may do more harm than good.

However, counter-arguments to both these points are fairly easy to arrive at. While there are certain items we are not expected to share as adults, they tend to be specific and/or situational.

I have, in fact, shared both my phone and my sunglasses when someone had a greater need for them than me (when an urgent call needed to be made and when the driver of the vehicle I was travelling in forgot their sunglasses).

Also many of our social traditions, for example “bringing a plate”, are predicated on the idea of sharing. It’s really not okay for me to arrive at a barbecue empty-handed and proceed to gobble up the food everybody else had provided. So rather than a total no-share policy, which certainly relieves both parents and teachers of getting involved in a lot of fights, perhaps we need to teach children what kind of sharing is socially expected, and when.

Be prepared to accept the ‘jungle’ consequences

As to leaving it to the playground, there has been some very good research looking at what happens when children fail to share. Some interesting sex differences have been noted.

For example, the television program Catalyst documented an experiment with preschool boys and girls who were given one valued toy to share between them. The boys tend to be very direct, either asking for or snatching the toy. And I think we all know that, left to run, this could very quickly turn into a slap, hit or punch.

“Many of our social traditions, for example “bringing a plate”, are predicated on the idea of sharing. It’s really not okay for me to arrive at a barbecue empty-handed and proceed to gobble up the food everybody else had provided.”

Girls tend to be more passive-aggressive and instead “bully by exclusion”, ignoring the girl with the toy and playing their own game. Eventually the girl with the toy gives it up in order to be included in the group.

Sharing appears to be a human trait rooted in evolution, probably to ensure the best possible chance of survival of a whole group. And research has shown that children who display “prosocial” traits such as sharing demonstrate better outcomes in terms of academic achievement and popularity.

So leaving children to discover the natural consequences of their behaviour is probably a reasonable argument. So long as those same parents who advocate this approach don’t complain if little Johnny comes home with a split lip, or if no-one invites little Sally to their birthday party.

Allowing the law of the jungle to dish up life-lessons is fine, so long as you’re happy to accept the justice that it delivers.

Whether we end up with a society of sharers or non-sharers may well depend on how we have shaped our children’s expectations. I’ll leave to readers to ponder which kind of society they would prefer to live in…

Rachael Sharman does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Bulldogs’ Mbye undecided on NRL future

In-demand playmaker Moses Mbye insists he’s in no rush to sort out his future after firming his reputation as one of the NRL’s best young halves in Canterbury’s impressive win over St George Illawarra.

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Mbye led the way in Monday’s 29-16 win over the Dragons, kicking a sideline conversion to even up the scores late in the game before booting the field goal which sealed the victory.

The 21-year-old, who was thrust into a starting role by coach Des Hasler ahead of representative five-eighth Josh Reynolds, led the side with the confidence and poise of an NRL star.

And, in a mighty show of faith from Hasler, when Reynolds finally did come onto the field in the final quarter it was incumbent Blues No.7 Trent Hodkinson who he replaced, not Mbye.

Mbye is off contract at the end of next year, and is certain to be one of the game’s hottest properties if he’s not sewn up by the Bulldogs before then.

He’s already been linked to the Gold Coast, who are cashed up and desperate for a half following Daly Cherry-Evans’ last-minute backflip to stay at Manly.

But Mbye says he’s not spoken to other clubs and is in no rush to sort out his future.

“I’ve still got another year,” he said.

“I haven’t really thought about it to be honest, there’s a lot of talk about it but I honestly haven’t thought about it or spoken to anyone about it. That’s why my manager takes a percentage of my money.”

The affable Queenslander’s future could be decided by Hodkinson’s movements.

The Blues half is off-contract at season’s end and the Bulldogs face a near-impossible task to keep all three of Hodkinson, Reynolds and Mbye.

They will also be wary of letting him Mbye go after allowing Johnathan Thurston to leave for North Queensland after the champion playmaker started his career as a bench player for the Bulldogs in similar fashion.

Hasler said Mbye would not start for the Bulldogs every week this season and he would take a horses-for-courses approach with his halves rotation.

The coach said he had elected to play Reynolds off the bench because of his versatility after centre Tim Lafai went into the game under an injury cloud.

Mbye said he was willing to bide his team and expected to be benched throughout the rest of the year.

NSW Blues and Bulldogs back Brett Morris said the bright talent was undoubtedly a rep star of the future.

Government piles pressure on Human Rights chief

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

A simmering row between the federal government and Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs has boiled over, with the government once more demanding her resignation.

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Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has urged Ms Triggs to consider resigning, saying she has debased her position by pursuing a political agenda.

It follows comments by Professor Triggs last week criticising the the government’s policy of turning back asylum-seeker boats and its plan to strip the citizenship of Australians the government thinks might be terrorists.

The outspoken Human Rights chief is showing no signs of backing down, and federal Labor is accusing the government of bullying her.

Amanda Cavill has the details.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

Gillian Triggs and the government have been at loggerheads since last year after her review into children in immigration found the Government’s policies were causing significant mental and physical illness and breached Australia’s international obligations.

Professor Triggs was under pressure to explain the timing of the release of the commission’s inquiry which was conducted during the former Labor government’s last term in office, and the Coalition’s first term.

The government said the Commission report’s release was timed to damage the Abbott government, despite the number of children in detention dropping from 2,000 to 200 under its rule.

Now Professor Triggs has linked Indonesia’s refusal to negotiate on the death penalty to the government’s “turn the boats back” policy.

“Have we thought about what the consequences are of pushing people back to our neighbours, Indonesia? Is it any wonder that Indonesia will not engage with us on other issues that we care about, like the death penalty?”

Professor Triggs last week also accused the government of passsing laws which pose a growing threat to democracy.

She cites the planned expansion of discretionary ministerial powers that may be exercised with limited or no judicial scrutiny, such as stripping citizenship from foreign fighters or their supporters.

“The overreach of executive power is clear in the yet to be defined proposal that those accused of being jihadists fighting against Australian interests will be stripped of their citizenship if they’re potentially dual citizens. This proposal strikes at the heart of Australia as a largely migrant country – not only may this idea violate Australia’s international obligation not to render a person stateless, but also the detention may be at the discretion of a minister without recourse to judicial processes.”

Immigration Minister Dutton told reporters last week Professor Triggs is a complete disgrace for what he claims is her linking of boat turn backs to the executions of the Bali Nine pair in Indonesia.

He continued the attack on Sunday with Andrew Bolt’s on the Ten Network.

BOLT: “You’d like to see her gone wouldn’t you?”

DUTTON: “Well when you reduce the position to basically that of a political advocate I think it is very difficult to continue on. And these are issues for Professor Triggs to contemplate. But I think very strongly that we are doing the right thing when it comes to stopping these boats.”

Labor MP Chris Bowen says the Human Rights Commission chief is being responsible in criticising politicians for possibly over-reaching their powers, but that doesn’t mean politicians have to agree with her.

Mr Bowen says Professor Triggs’ views should be respected.

“The Human Rights Commissioner plays an important role in Australian politics, in the Australian body politic. We respect the office of the Human Rights Commissioner as well as the individual and the Government should too. When we were in office, the successive Human Rights Commissioners did and said things we didn’t agree with but that their right, it’s more than their right, it’s their responsibility. Professor Triggs, the Human Rights Commissioner is exercising her responsibilities and her views should be respected.”

The Human Right Commission is a statutory body.

The Commission President is appointed for a period of five years and cannot be dismissed by the government of the day, unless he or she is declared bankrupt or commits a serious crime.