New global network formed to fight slavery

Written by admin on 30/07/2019 Categories: 佛山桑拿网

(Transcript from World News Radio)

Representatives from the Catholic, Anglican and Muslim faiths have united to fight slavery through a new global network to tackle human trafficking, forced prostitution and child labour.

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Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest came up with the idea of a Global Freedom Network last year.

The new network says it will aim to pressure governments and businesses to free millions of men, women and children from slavery by 2020.

Michael Kenny reports.

(Click on audio tab above to listen to this item)

At a ceremony in the Vatican, representatives from the three religious faiths released a statement, declaring that physical, economic and sexual exploitation of men, women and children trapped 30 million people worldwide in slavery.

They promised to work alongside governments, businesses, educational and faith institutions to rid their supply chains of slave labour by 2020.

And they emphasised that slavery occurs in a variety of settings including those forced to work as maids, prostitutes, child soldiers and manual labourers.

Mining magnate Andrew Forrest believes the new network has taken the boldest step forward yet towards tackling slavery in the modern world.

“I ask really ladies and gentlemen for your prayers now as the work of the Global Freedom Network, in its unprecedented historical nature, goes forward and does reach out successfully to the 162 governments which are measured in the Global Slavery Index, reaches out to the millions of churches and mosques around the world and effectively brings them with us, in one great army.”

Alongside Mr Forrest at the launch was Mahmoud Azab who was representing the Grand Imam of al-Azhar University in Cairo, Ahmed el-Tayeb.

The university is widely recognised as a key centre of Sunni Muslim teaching around the world.

Mr Azab read out a statement, declaring the university’s strong support for the new network.

(Through translation) “It doesn’t matter in what form, classic or modern Islam, the Quran, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, all the believers reject 100 per cent all forms of slavery and aggression to the human being whose dignity is sacred to the Lord, as the Quran says.”

Mr Azab says he hopes the shared commitment to combating slavery will in turn help to foster closer ties between the different religious faiths.

That is a goal shared by the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson.

The Ghanaian cardinal says he believes too many people take a narrow view of slavery and he hopes the new network can help to broaden their perceptions.

(Through translation) “Many people think that human trafficking and slavery are very far away problems. It’s not far away. Where you have an ageing population, for instance, where people need home assistance, there you can easily find instances of slavery.”

The document to combat slavery was also signed by Anglican Bishop David Moxton who represents the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the Vatican.

He hopes the new network can help inspire closer collaboration between faiths on tackling a common concern.

“What is new is joined up thinking, global co-ordination and networking. Threshold of slavery was getting so high as the Global Slavery Index indicates- probably about 29 million people in this category- so it was just getting to a threshold where the faiths needed to talk to each other and to look to each other on this major crisis of injustice.”

Andrew Forrest says he hopes the network can help inspire greater political leadership to tackle slavery at the G20 summit in November.

As the chair of the G20, Australia will be hosting this year’s summit in Brisbane.

The Director of Anti Slavery Australia at the University of Technology in Sydney, Jennifer Burn, says it will be a good opportunity to promote the need for global action against slavery.

“It would be an excellent initiative to bring it to the focus of G20 membership. Slavery is a global problem and we don’t know exactly how many people are affected. It’s a terrible indictment in the global world. Really it is so important for us all to bring whatever strength we have to addressing this issue at a systemic level.”

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SCG prepares fast, green wicket for MLB

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When Major League Baseball officials compared the history and character of the SCG to Boston’s Fenway Park, they hadn’t considered Sydney might also have its own version of the Green Monster.

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At the home of the Red Sox, the 37-foot-high left-field wall, famous for preventing home runs, looms large as the stuff of legend in Boston.

Sydney’s Green Monster, on the other hand, is a 22-yard strip lurking beneath.

The same lightning-fast wicket which helped end this summer’s fifth Ashes Test in less than three days, now promises to be an unlikely factor in the MLB’s historic season-opener this weekend.

Even under the ground’s temporary configuration, the outline of the cricket pitch stands out, with its different coloured grass and central positioning, just beyond the in-field diamond.

The strip hasn’t been used in over a month, but its rock hard presence underfoot creates a unique challenge for Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks players used to pristine, regulation surfaces, with never a blade of grass out of place.

For the $2 million dollars, 250 tonnes of clay and months of planning that went into transforming one of the world’s most historic cricket grounds into a stunning MLB-approved baseball field, the most quintessential part of the hallowed turf has remained.

The Trust is committed to making the ground a world-class, multi-purpose venue. But leaving the wicket in-tact is a non-negotiable.

Fenway’s Green Monster has changed the course of some of the biggest baseball games in history.

The SCG’s version is just as iconic and as England would attest to, just as obstructive.

According to Arizona outfielder AJ Pollock, the centre-wicket will become a target for batters looking to rocket balls into the outfield.

“Oh yeah, that’s going to be interesting. It’s going to be a challenge,” says Pollock.

“If the ball hits it, it’s going to take off. And the Dodgers have some guys that can really smoke the ball.”

The Diamondbacks’ Australian pitcher, Ryan Rowland-Smith, says learning to deal with the bounce and carry of the wicket will become central to the team’s fielding preparations.

“The ball is going to skid off there, we can’t do anything about it. It’s going to play differently for the outfielders so you will see them tomorrow working on it,” he said.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and star Adrian Gonzalez agreed with the SCG’s need for speed.

“If you get one with topspin, it’s already past you. You’ve got to get used to the speed,” Gonzalez said.

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Cholesterol drug may help MS sufferers

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A cheap drug used to control blood cholesterol may also slow progression of later-stage multiple sclerosis (MS), research shows.

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Scientists found some evidence to suggest that simvastatin may help fight MS a decade ago, but further small-scale trials did not back up the findings.

Now, according to an article published in The Lancet on Wednesday, a larger study shows encouraging signs that the cholesterol-reducing drug can slow the development of MS when the disease reaches a chronic, crippling phase.

MS is a progressive disease of the brain and central nervous system in which the immune system attacks a fatty insulative sheath around nerve fibres.

The symptoms range from numbness and tingling to muscle weakness and spasms, cramps, nausea, depression and memory loss.

About 10 to 15 years after diagnosis, the disease usually becomes chronic and patients start to suffer more severe symptoms. The brain loses tissue, shrinking at a rate of about 0.6 per cent of its volume per year.

The new trial gave 140 chronic MS sufferers aged 18 to 65 either a daily dose of 80 milligrams of simvastatin, or a dummy lookalike pill called a placebo, over the course of two years.

The brains of patients who took simvastatin shrank at a rate of 0.3 per cent a year, 43 per cent less than their “placebo” counterparts, 3-D scans showed.

There were also small but significant improvements in disabilities caused by the disease, according to reports by patients and their doctors.

Patients who took simvastatin also reported a similar number of side effects as those who were given the harmless placebo pill.

The trial was a Phase 2 test in the three-stage process to assess whether new drugs are, firstly, safe and, secondly, effective.

“Caution should be taken regarding over-interpretation of our brain imaging findings, because these might not necessarily translate into clinical benefit,” said lead researcher Jeremy Chataway of Britain’s National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.

“However, our promising results warrant further investigation in larger Phase 3 disability-driven trials.”

Simvastatin, a type of statin anti-cholesterol treatment, is a standard, low-cost drug designed to impede the build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels – a major risk for cardiovascular health.

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Hammett shuffles Hurricanes squad

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Injuries to James Marshall and Blade Thomson have forced Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett to shuffle his squad for Friday’s Super Rugby match against the Highlanders in Dunedin.

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The Hurricanes broke an eight-match losing streak with their 60-27 win over the Cheetahs in Wellington on Saturday, and have targeted back-to-back wins as they prepare for their first match against New Zealand opposition.

Banks returns to the starting line-up for Marshall, who has picked up a toe injury. A question mark remains over Thomson after he pinged his neck against the Cheetahs, and he has been bracketed with Adam Hill.

Hammett says Thomson will be monitored throughout the week to see whether he can take up his intended position on the bench.

Faifili Levave moves into No.8, while Jack Lam returns to the back row along with Ardie Savea, and Andre Taylor makes his first appearance in the reserves as specialist fullback cover.

Hawke’s Bay’s Ash Dixon is set to suit up for the first time this season, replacing Motu Matu’u on the bench.

“We’re fortunate in that we’ve got three very, very good hookers – it’s probably one of the most competitive spots in the team,” Hammett said.

“This week, we’ve decided to give Ash an opportunity, while we can also give Motu some decent game time for the development team.”

Cory Jane suffered an ankle injury at training on Tuesday, ruling him out for Friday, while Jeremy Thrush was unavailable due to a personal commitment.

Hurricanes: Marty Banks, Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith (captain), Hadleigh Parkes, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Chris Smylie, Faifili Levave, Ardie Savea, Jack Lam, James Broadhurst, Mark Reddish, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles, Ben Franks. Reserves: Ash Dixon, Chris Eves, John Schwalger, Mark Abbott, Blade Thomson/Adam Hill, TJ Perenara, Matt Proctor, Andre Taylor.

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NASA celebates 50 years of deep space exploration with Australia

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Space agency bosses will land in Canberra today to celebrate five decades of the Deep Space Network and Australia’s integral role in it.

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The DSN is the world’s largest and most powerful communications system for “talking to” spacecraft.

The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex is one of three stations that keep track of space missions at all times.

“CSIRO and its Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex have been essential to NASA’s historic achievements in space in the past and remains a vital asset for our future,” said Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator.

In its five decades the Deep Space Network has brought back to Earth the historic sight of the first Moonwalk, the surface of Mars, and ‘close-ups’ of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

“The Canberra station carried the prime signals confirming the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars in August 2012.  In 2015 it will have another starring role, receiving the first images of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft,” said Dr Charles Elachi, Director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The Tidbinbilla facility has three giant antennas- one 70 metre-wide dish and two that are 32 metres wide – that help to coordinate the dozens of NASA missions running at any one time.

“To bring back those images from Pluto, NASA is investing in this station’s future, building two more antennas at a cost of A$110 million,” CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Megan Clark, said.

The three complexes that make up the Deep Space Network are situated at disparate corners of the globe to facilitate contact with craft and satellites anywhere above Earth.

The other two sites are in Madrid, Spain and Goldstone, California.

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Cosy up your home for autumn

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Baby, it’s getting cold outside.

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Here are some ways to make your home more autumn- and winter-friendly.

Throw rugs

There’s no need to switch on the heater when you have a cosy throw rug within easy reach.

When choosing a blanket, some fabrics and knits are warmer than others. Loose weaves are warmer than tightly knitted fabrics because the holes and spaces between the yarn fibres trap the warmth of your body. Luxurious fabrics, such as angora (shorn from rabbits), alpaca and cashmere (shorn from the Kashmir goat), are warmer than regular wool, but wool is more affordable and will still keep you toasty.

Cosy cushions

You might want to change your bright and breezy summer cushions for something more cosy. Dark tones, thick wool knitted cushions, velvet and subtle gold prints add depth, warmth and texture to a room.

Earthy copper pieces

One of the big trends this season is copper and copper-coloured pieces, such as chunky knit cushions and throws. Larger items, such as copper lamps, bed frames and side tables, give rooms an earthy, warm quality.

Sleepy time

Now is the time to flip your mattress (or rotate it, if you have a mattress that can’t be flipped). Give your winter-weight doona a good airing and get out your cosy bed linen. Who doesn’t love flannelette sheets in winter?

Window dressing

If you’re a curtain person, replace your summer drapes with something that’s thicker or lined for extra warmth.

Victorians would have a set of summer curtains and a set of winter curtains. In this era of eco-consciousness and high electricity bills, you can save on heating by using thick curtains or lined velvet or wool drapes to prevent draughts and stop warm air leaking out of older windows.

Candles

Australians have gone a bit candle crazy, with scented candles in just about every homeware store. To create a winter feel, go for a pine needle, cinnamon or winter wood aromas.

Bright flowers

Plant winter-flowering annuals in autumn to add colour to your deck, patio or garden in the cooler months.

What you plant will depend on your location and climate, but think pansies, cinerarias, violas and polyanthus.

Winter food

It’s time to plant winter vegetables, such as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts, so you have something to munch on from the garden through the cooler months.

Prepare for spring

Autumn is the time to plant bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, so their flowers burst from the soil in spring.

Floorboard worry

When homes are heated in winter and the air is dry, floorboards tend to contract and thin gaps can appear between planks. This is normal and you don’t need to do anything about it, but if you don’t want it to happen consider using a humidifier in the room. Optimal humidity level falls in the 40-60 per cent range, and as long as humidity doesn’t fall lower than 40 per cent, no gaps should appear in the floor boards.

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Spritz and other speed reading apps: prose and cons

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By Sally Andrews, University of Sydney

Normally when we read, our eyes move along the lines of a text, landing (fixating) on words for a tenth to a quarter of a second, then making short jumps (saccades) to the next word.

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The developers of Spritz claim that, in the traditional method of reading, only 20% of reading time is spent processing the content of a text and 80% is devoted to moving the eyes between words.

Their solution is to eliminate the need to make eye movements. Words are presented one at a time, beginning at the typical reading rate of 200 wpm, and the reader is encouraged to gradually increase it to rates of up to 1,000 wpm.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? At that rate, you could read a novel in 90 minutes. But there are some aspects of reading that apps such as Spritz don’t quite nail.

The science of speed reading

The science underlying the Spritz technique relies on two well-established characteristics of eye movements during reading:

    skilled readers’ perceptual span – the window of text we use during reading – is about 13 characters. This is the maximum length of word exposed in the Spritz “redicle”we characteristically land our eyes at a predictable position in the word – between the beginning and middle of the word – that Spritz refers to as the optimal recognition point (ORP).

 

Example of a Spritz ‘redicle’, and red highlight, seen here on Samsung Gear 2. Spritz

 

Spritz’s major innovation is to centre the word in the redicle on the ORP and highlight it in red. This is claimed to speed up reading by ensuring that the reader fixates at the optimal location to identify the word, while eliminating the time required for the reader to compute this location and move their eyes to it.

Spritz takes almost the opposite approach to increasing reading speed as the “standard” approaches to speed reading spruiked in hundreds of YouTube clips.

These methods assume that sequential word-by-word reading is the major barrier to rapid reading and advocate a variety of methods designed to break this habit and adopt non-sequential scanning strategies, such as moving the eyes down the centre of the page, that are claimed to facilitate unconscious processing of relevant information in the text.

Despite the very different ways in which they aim to achieve it, the methods do, though, have a common goal of reducing subvocalisation – saying the words in your head – during reading. In standard methods, eliminating subvocalisation is a major focus of training.

In Spritz, it is an automatic outcome of “spritzing” because the average rate of speech is less than 200 wpm, so subvocalisation cannot be maintained at rates higher than that.

Comprehension (or lack thereof)

On the surface, Spritz is better aligned with scientific evidence about the skilled reading process than standard speed reading methods. Even skilled readers fixate on most of the content words (nouns, verbs, adjectives) in a text, although they often skip over short function words (such as “to”, “in”, “on”, “the”) and highly predictable words.

Skilled readers’ general strategy is, therefore, more similar to the sequential strategy forced by Spritz than the non-sequential scanning strategies advocated by many standard approaches to increasing reading speed. A sequential reading strategy is also important for comprehension, particularly in English where the order of words is important for meaning.

But at a deeper level, Spritz ignores critical aspects of the scientific evidence about eye movements in reading. Most importantly, it ignores the time and cognitive effort required to integrate the words in a text for comprehension.

 

 

Although there is some truth to the claim that the relatively slow pace of eye movements reflects physical constraints on eye movements, it is primarily due to the cognitive demands of word identification and comprehension.

The time we fixate on words depends on their familiarity, predictability and length – the factors that determine the time required to identify and integrate their meanings.

We also pause at clause and sentence boundaries to conduct “wrap up” processes that are important for effective comprehension. Removing readers’ control over which words they fixate and how long they look at them reduces comprehension.

Reading vs speech

Systematic research conducted in the 1970s investigating “rapid serial visual presentation” (RSVP) methods that present text one word at a time found that comprehension fell rapidly beyond rates of about 500 wpm, particularly for texts longer than single sentences.

The Spritz developers’ assertion that retention levels are at least as high as for traditional reading requires more detail to convincingly demonstrate that using the ORP overcomes these limits on comprehension.

Essentially, Spritz forces people to process written language like speech – one word at a time with no opportunity to go back to check any errors in word identification or interpretation, as we do quite frequently during normal reading.

Obviously, we are very effective at understanding speech, and can apply those same skills to spritzing. But speech contains a range of additional cues, such as intonation, pauses and gestures, which all contribute to comprehension.

 

 

Speech is also usually simpler than written language and focused on well-defined topics, reducing the demands on working memory associated with its sequential presentation.

Most critically, the typical rate of speech is around 200 wpm. The convergence with the typical rate of reading may be accidental, but most cognitive scientists would attribute the similarity to the bottleneck caused by the attention and memory processes required for comprehension in both modalities.

These concerns about comprehension may be of little relevance for the social media applications that Spritz is designed for. Such content may be closer to spoken than written language in its complexity.

Spritzing may be an effective delivery mode for tweets of less than 140 characters and for small-screen devices where there is little opportunity for readers to scan text. However, the need for users to stare even more fixedly at the middle of a screen may exacerbate the anti-social impact of such devices.

Where to for the written word?

Will spritzing yield transferable skills that benefit reading of standard text? The claims about extraordinary increases in reading speed with training in standard approaches to speed reading have not survived scientific scrutiny, but the skimming strategies they teach are useful in many reading contexts.

Perhaps similar benefits will follow from Spritz users discovering that they can understand text without “saying the words in their head”. This may encourage the use of more flexible strategies in “normal” reading contexts – but Spritz reinforces a sequential approach to reading that is incompatible with the flexible, meaning-guided scanning strategy needed for effective skimming.

Perhaps most frighteningly for a reading researcher – and reader – like me, the speech-like processing encouraged by Spritz might contribute to our evolution towards the world envisaged in Spike Jonze’s recent film Her, in which written text has become an anachronism.

Deprived of exposure to text, readers may gradually lose the sensitivity to the structure of written language that underlies our capacity to locate the ORP for words and capitalise on the multiple cues in written text that contribute to effective comprehension.

But maybe I am just revealing my age – or smartphone envy.

Sally Andrews receives funding from the Australian Research Council.

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double standard over baby organ donation should make us rethink the rules

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By Greg Moorlock, University of Birmingham

Organ size is an important criterion for matching donated organs to a recipient, and organs donated from adults are often simply too large for a child.

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They need organs donated from another child. This is rare enough already, but as the authors of a new study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood point out, the strict rules that govern how death is diagnosed in infants between 37 weeks and two months means that these babies can’t be donors. The situation has also created a “double standard” with doctors and parents turning to imported organs from places where the rules are less strict.

The ‘dead donor rule’

For adults who want to donate organs when they die, their death can be diagnosed in two ways: via neurological criteria (sometimes known as donation after brain-stem death) or by circulatory criteria (donation after circulatory death). In adults and older children, the way that death is diagnosed can have a bearing on which organs can be donated, as well as the condition of the organs when they are retrieved. Organs donated after brain-stem death are generally preferable to those donated after circulatory death.

These kinds of donor operations are led by the “dead donor rule”, which dictates that a patient must be dead before their organs are removed. But determining when someone is dead is surprisingly difficult as death is often more of a process than a clearly defined moment or event. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges guidelines from 1991 suggest that it is “rarely possible to confirm death using neurological criteria in infants under two months of age”, and UK guidance states that since diagnosis of brain-stem death is unreliable under this age it should not be used.

The authors of the new study looked at babies between 37 weeks and two months who had died in neonatal or paediatric intensive care at a large specialist children’s hospital over a six-year period. Between 2006 and 2012, they worked out that more than half (54%) could have been potential organ donors; 34 after circulatory death and 11 after brain-stem death.

The infants in the second group had extensive brain damage, had been in a coma, were not breathing on their own and, the authors said, had evidence of brain-stem impairment. And all of them had died within minutes of their life support being withdrawn. The authors argue that the current guidance fails to recognise that these would have fulfilled the criteria for brain-stem death.

It is, however, considered acceptable in other countries such as Australia and the US to diagnose infants as brain-stem dead. This reluctance to diagnose brain-stem death in young babies prevents many potential organ donations, and the fact that the diagnosis is considered acceptable elsewhere suggests that the UK guidance is in need of revision.

As Richard Kirk, a consultant paediatric cardiologist in Newcastle caring for three babies in urgent need of a transplant, said to the BBC:

There is a crazy double standard operating – it’s forbidden to declare a baby ‘brain-stem dead’ in the UK and yet no-one minds us flying to Europe, where the doctors are allowed to diagnose brain stem death, and bringing the donated organs back to the UK to use. Where is the sense or ethics in that?

While organ donation from newborns is possible after circulatory death has been established, in practice it tends not to happen. Donating organs after circulatory death can require small deviations from the usual end-of-life treatment that a non-donor would receive. This can involve changes to where and when treatment is withdrawn, and minor interventions to ensure that the patient remains sufficiently stable for their organs to be donated.

These variations in treatment are considered acceptable for adults, because they are deemed to be in the patient’s best interests so long as they want to be an organ donor. But if these small interventions are not clearly contrary to their best interests, they may be still be ethically acceptable.

Difficult to contemplate

These concerns, on what can be broadly construed as medical grounds, are clearly not the only ones. The issue of organ donation and talking to families when a loved one dies is hugely sensitive. Many families can refuse consent or override decisions made by individuals once they have died. This is even more acute when it comes to babies. Retrieving organs is necessarily an invasive surgical procedure, and it may be very difficult for a parent to think about their baby undergoing this. Some may consider it unfair to ask a grieving parent to make a difficult decision about donating their baby’s organs.

For adults and older children, guidance emphasises that the possibility of organ donation ought to be part of standard end-of-life care. Staff are encouraged to present organ donation to the next-of-kin positively; as an opportunity to bring about something good from the death of their loved one, rather than as a sacrifice or an additional trauma. A shift to this kind of approach with young babies would provide consistency, but would also provide grieving parents with additional options to find something positive in the death of their baby.

Nobody likes to think about young babies dying, but it does happen. And the outcome is still the same regardless of whether they donate their organs. Provided that the process meets the established ethical framework of organ donation, allowing these babies to have their organs donated would give other young babies and children a better chance at life. And it is this that continues to drive clinicians and advocates into asking loved ones to consider donation at the worst possible time.

Greg Moorlock has previously received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charities to explore ethical issues in organ donation and transplantation.

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Divergent shapes up as teen film smash

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The studio that produced Twilight and The Hunger Games is at it again: Divergent is the latest teen adventure saga with a fearless female heroine battling the odds in a post-apocalyptic future.

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All eyes in Hollywood are on the box office fortunes of the movie, which hits theatres in the United States on Friday.

Adolescent adventures have made a mint for the Santa Monica-based studio Summit-Lionsgate: the five Twilight films earned $US3.3 billion ($A3.63 billion) globally, while the two Hunger Games movies so far have taken in over $US1.5 billion, and two more films are to follow.

Studios are keen to find successors to these mega-franchises based on best-selling Young Adult novels.

But some do better than others: Universal failed with Beautiful Creatures, while The Weinstein Company had a flop with Vampire Academy.

Divergent features many of the main plot points that made The Hunger Games a blockbuster success: a future post-apocalyptic world, and a courageous teenage girl aiming to save the world from tyrants.

Relative unknown Shailene Woodley – whose credits have so far come in independent films like The Descendants and The Spectacular Now – said she asked Oscar-winning Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence for tips before her leap into the commercial big league.

“I sent her an email. I was just curious – she had gone from doing indie films to doing Hunger Games, which is a giant film obviously, and I wondered if it had changed her life in positive ways,” the 22-year-old actress told reporters.

Lawrence’s reply? “She said: ‘Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t do drugs. Don’t make a sex tape. And don’t go to (grocery chain) Whole Foods the day the movie opens’.”

In Divergent, set in Chicago, society is divided into five factions: Abnegation for the selfless, Amity for the peaceful, Candor for the honest, Dauntless for the brave and Erudite for the knowledgeable.

At the age of 16, every adolescent must choose their faction for life, helped by a personality test. But Woodley’s character Tris turns out to be Divergent – a rare finding meaning she has the skills of several factions, not just one.

This makes her a danger for the established order, and a target for Jeanine (played by Kate Winslet), an Erudite leader seeking supreme power.

“For me, the hardest thing was to get that inner voice of Tris, to get that sense of what she was feeling,” director Neil Burger told AFP in Beverly Hills ahead of the movie’s release.

In the best-selling book by Veronica Roth, Tris is 16 years old. But Burger wanted to make his heroine older.

“We did that for two reasons: Shailene is a little bit older, and also I felt like the story was a very grown-up story, actually,” the director said.

“Even though it’s based on a Young Adult novel, I don’t think there is anything young about it. I thought all the concerns and themes and issues in it were things that adults of all ages deal with.”

Woodley said she drew on her own internal struggles from adolescence to play Tris.

At that age, she said, “my struggle was ‘How do I balance the empathetic and being compassionate towards my peers, and also living my life for myself and not basing my decisions on those around me?'”

Apart from Winslet, the young actress found herself largely surrounded by a group of young up-and-coming Hollywood actors including Miles Teller, Theo James and Ansel Elgort.

Elgort, who plays her character’s brother, made indie film The Fault In Our Stars with her immediately after Divergent.

“Shailene is one of the great actors of our generation, in our young age group,” he told AFP. “For them to put me with her twice in a row is a huge compliment.

“It’s saying that I might be of the same calibre, and that’s just awesome.”

* Divergent will be released in Australian cinemas on April 10.

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China, grounded

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As the mystery of Malaysian airliner MH370, which disappeared while bound for Beijing carrying 153 Chinese passengers and 74 others, continues into its 10th day, Chinese authorities are keen to be seeing as doing something — anything — to find the missing plane.

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But the Chinese government, and the thousands of journalists watching the story unfold, are running up against geographic, technological and political realities. The Boeing 777, discovered missing March 8, may have crashed somewhere in the Indian or Pacific Ocean, making it unlikely that the plane’s whereabouts will be discovered soon.

Beijing knows the cost of appearing impotent when its citizens face danger abroad. When expatriates in violence-wracked Libya faced attacks in February 2011, China’s government moved quickly and successfully to evacuate what state media said were over 35,000 Chinese nationals. By contrast, in 2012 and 2013, several Chinese miners were killed and more than a hundred were arrested in Ghana, angering Internet users, many of whom grumbled that Beijing had done little to help .

Beijing seems determined to avoid that outcome this time, even if it has to labor to maintain the appearance of activity. On March 11, Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily ran an article headlined “Xi Jinping Makes Late-Night Phone Call to Consulate to Inquire About Developments.” The article noted that Xi had personally made a March 9 call to the Chinese foreign ministry to “understand the latest developments” and to “urge an all-out search effort.” For his part, Li averred in a March 14 article in the same publication that authorities would “never give up” so long as there was “a thread of hope” that the passengers were alive. And a March 16 article in Xinhua, China’s largest state-run news agency, insisted that “China is pushing Malaysia to try harder in its search.”

Although China’s state-controlled media has kicked into high gear — there’s been no dearth of headlines and official tweets about the missing plane — the grinding sounds are audible. By the admission of some of its practitioners, Chinese press has seemed unable to do more than pass on official accounts of events, some of which Malaysian authorities have later been forced to retract. On March 8, the evening the plane was discovered missing, members of the Chinese media could not even agree whether it was ethically responsible to interview families of the missing passengers, who were gathered in the Lidu hotel in Beijing. State-run China Central Television helplessly wrote on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, that “the Chinese side hopes the Malaysian side raises the degree of transparency of information disclosure.” Meanwhile, almost all of the breaking news — including the fact that data shows the plane was in air for hours after its last reported position and its flight path veered far off course — has come via Western sources.

Chinese outlets are asking themselves, and each other, why they haven’t been able to do more. In a March 17 opinion piece on the Sina news portal titled “Why Chinese Media Lost the Malaysian Airliner News War,” Chinese reporter Xu Jingbo mocked China’s state-controlled media for being a “pampered princess” instead of a “hustling street vendor” with the necessary tenacity, technical expertise, and connections to break serious news. Xu wrote that Chinese media neglected the possibility the plane’s disappearance was a terrorist act, either because “they couldn’t do it” or because “they didn’t dare to,” as writing about it would have required approval from government authorities.

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