The Little Australian Court Case With Big Implications For Pirate Movie Downloaders. Beware They Are Coming To Get You

A not so quiet revolution is being played out in the Federal Court of Australia. It’s a legal case with Tsunami like implications that could pretty much engulf most of the world. No, I am not being melodramatic.

In fact this court decision, will result in some unwelcome questions being asked wherever there’s a computer, and a person sitting in front of it, downloading pirated movies. When you put the two together it amounts to a shedload of people. Now do you see where this is a going?

If you still don’t, let me explain.

The case was a commercial action involving the copyright owners of a movie called The Dallas Buyers Club. I can’t profess to know much about the film other than it features some big Hollywood names like Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto. Clearly it was enough of a box office success for a lot of people to want to download the movie illegally. The copyright owners of The Dallas Buyers Club were understandably pissed that this was happening because it was costing them money. A lot of money. So they decided to do something about it. You could call it a testing of the waters.

In a nutshell, a Federal Court judge ordered several Australian internet service providers, including a very large one called iiNet, to hand over to a film studio, the identities of thousands of account holders whose internet connections were allegedly used to share an unauthorized copy of the Dallas Buyers Club movie. In a landmark judgment, Justice Nye Perram ruled in favour of Dallas Buyers Club LLC’s “preliminary discovery” application requesting that the ISPs disclose the identities of people it alleges shared the movie online.

Preliminary discovery. Such a quaint legal term but in this particular case it means dire consequences for pirate movie downloaders. In addition to iiNet, ISPs Dodo, Internode, Amnet Broadband, Adam Internet and Wideband Networks will also be required to hand over customer details. Even if these ISPs weren’t big companies, even if their list of subscribers was small, the devil is in the detail. It’s the implications of what this decision means that’s important. It is unclear whether iiNet will  appeal the decision before the Full Court of the Federal Court. They have 28 days to do so.

As for the implications, picture this. Thousands of anonymous people sitting in the privacy of their own home, in front of a computer screen all over Australia quietly using applications like Bit Torrent to download pirated versions of first release movies. Their safety net has always been their anonymity. I mean how could anyone trace them? Well guess what? Thanks to this court ruling now they can. Not only can, they will be traced. The ruling means about 4700 Australian internet account holders whose service was used to share Dallas Buyers Club on the internet from as early as May 2013 are soon likely to receive legal letters, from Australian lawyers representing Dallas Buyers Club LLC. These letters will threaten legal action, unless relatively large sums of money are paid for breach of copyright. Now I can hear you thinking. What is he on about? This case only affects 4700 people the man must be dreaming. How can this have worldwide implications? Well my answer to that is don’t think numbers. If you think numbers, you are missing the point. Think precedent. A ruling has now been made about one movie but what is to stop similar rulings being made for each and every pirated movie or video that has ever been downloaded? What is to stop similar courts in similar countries all over the world being asked to make a similar decision? And now that decision has been made in favour of the copyright holder, is it more probable than not that a similar court will make an almost identical ruling? These are very, very big questions.

And as for that letter of demand, the practice commonly referred to as ‘speculative invoicing.’ there are already examples in the United States where letters were sent to ISP account holders threatening legal action claiming they would be liable for damages of up to $US150,000 unless settlement fees of up to $US7000 were paid. No surprise most people paid the $7K. It’s a lot less than 150 grand.

Now the Australian Federal Court decision did come with some provisos. The judge also ordered that the privacy of individuals should be protected, meaning Dallas Buyers Club cannot disclose the identities of letter recipients to a third party.

Some overseas judges have placed caps on the amount of money that can be sought through this out of court process. But Justice Perram did not indicate whether he would do this as part of the letter approving process.

The case, which was heard over three days in February, centred on whether Dallas Buyers Club LLC should be given access to details of internet account holders whose connections it alleges were used to share its movie using peer-to-peer file sharing software. The details to be handed over include names, email and residential addresses of those whose connections were allegedly used to share the movie. So not only do they know who you are, they know where you live. During the case, Michael Wickstrom, vice president of royalties and music administration at Voltage Pictures, the parent company of Dallas Buyers Club LLC, objected to iiNet providing examples of the speculative invoicing letters sent in similar US cases. One of the reasons for his objection might be because those letters, in the minds of some, amount to extortion.

Wickstrom said the format of the letters to be sent to Australian ISP subscribers would be different and worded in such a way that they complied with local laws.

In a remarkable display of generosity, Wickstrom also said the company would not sue or attempt settlement with people suffering from autism people who were disabled, on welfare, or have mental illness.

It should be noted that anti piracy forces are employing sophisticated means to track down illegal downloaders. They employed a German-based pirate hunting company called Maverick Eye UG to identify ISP users who were sharing the movie online. Maverick Eye joined torrent “swarms” sharing Dallas Buyers Club and then tasked its software to log the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of those who distributed the movie without authorisation and in breach of copyright laws. The software identified a total of 4726 Australian IP addresses.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC then contacted iiNet and other ISPs, asking them to divulge customer details associated with those IP addresses without a court order — but as you might expect the ISPs refused. They know giving over that kind of information is also going to cost them customers. No-one will want to subscribe to an ISP that is going to hand over a customer’s private information.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC then decided to take Federal Court action, to compel the ISPs to disclose customer details through the preliminary discovery application process, which is often used by parties in a case where the identity of the person or company they want to take legal action against, is unknown but can be discoverable through a third-party.

iiNet sought to challenge the request on the grounds that it would lead to alleged infringers being sent letters of demand seeking significant sums of money for an infringement. “We are concerned that our customers will be unfairly targeted to settle any claims out of court using [this] practice,” iiNet said in a blog post. The ISP also argued that customers could be incorrectly and unfairly identified as alleged infringers if details of the account holder were revealed. In other words, the relevant IP address could have originated from a person in a shared household where someone other than the account holder had infringed copyright. iiNet also argued it wanted to fight the matter because Australian courts had never tested a case like this one. But none of these arguments impressed the court.

So, to all those Pirate downloaders out there in cyberspace. Here are some words of warning. They’re coming to get ya.

The Wellness Warrior Loses Her Fight For Life And To Prove Gerson Therapy Actually Works

I hesitated before writing this. You can claim the high moral ground. The truth may well be on your side. Yet no matter what you say or do it sounds like a cheap shot. Kicking someone when they are down. It seems like an empty, pathetic gesture, even though, metaphorically speaking, they probably deserve to be kicked. It makes me worry about all kinds of things. I worry about the blowback because it’s always friends and family left to pick up the pieces and do the defending. It’s a moral dilemma but I’ve made the call so here we are.

Ok.

This concerns the life and death of a 30-year-old Australian woman, called Jessica Ainscough, who was known as the Wellness Warrior. Images and video of Ainscough always showed her full of life, and the picture of health. But reality told a very different story. She may be called the Wellness Warrior but Jessica Ainscough was extremely unwell. She suffered from Epithelioid sarcoma, an incredibly rare, slow-growing cancer, in her case, first diagnosed in 2008. When I talk about rare form of cancer, the incidence, is in the order of 0.1 to 0.4 per million. It’s primarily a tumor that affects young adults, and it nearly always appears on the upper extremities, and wide surgical excision (which is doctor speak for amputation) is the only known effective treatment. It also tends to be a lethargic or lazy form of cancer, the antithesis of aggressive and fast growing. Patients diagnosed with Epithelioid sarcoma, have a ten year survival rate of 61%, but for patients aged between 17 and 30 years, in other words, just like Jessica Ainscough, the survival rate is much higher, about 72%. So that’s good news? Right? Well actually no it isn’t. Survival depends on treatment. And in this case the treatment is on par with the illness. Maybe, it’s even worse. The first line of treatment recommended consists of a very disfiguring amputation that in reality is more like a forequarter amputation. It’s an amputation that involves removing not just the arm, but the entire shoulder joint and the shoulder blade. It would have left Ainscough, without an arm, and a shoulder as well. It’s a seldom-performed operation and a wretched choice to be forced to make, unpalatable and disfiguring surgery. But, if it’s the difference between living and dying what choice do you have? Well, as it turns out, there are choices and there are choices. Ainscough made a number of choices. One of them, was choosing not to have the surgery. And, no surprises, making that choice meant living with the consequences. Without surgery, five-year survival rates drop alarmingly to 35 percent and ten-year survival, to 33 percent. As surgical oncologist and blogger, David Gorski, wrote so succinctly: “Jess Ainscough had a shot, one shot. She didn’t take it. What saddens me even more is that I can understand why she didn’t take it, as, through a horrible quirk of fate, her one shot involved incredibly disfiguring surgery and the loss of her arm.”

Ainscough would later write that she had prepared herself mentally to undergo the surgery, but doctors came to her at the last minute with an alternative, which was to do, what is known as isolated limb perfusion. According to the medical experts this is a technique sometimes used for soft tissue sarcomas of a limb or multifocal melanoma that can’t be removed without amputation to destroy the tumor. As the name implies, the limb is isolated from the body’s circulatory system and infused with very extremely high toxic doses of chemotherapy. The dose of chemotherapy is so high if it leaked back into the rest of the body’s circulation, the consequences could be catastrophic. Isolated limb perfusion can result in seemingly near miraculous results, and apparently that was the case for Ainscough. Unfortunately, the tumours tend to recur, and again that’s exactly what happened to Ainscough about a year later, which led to doctors recommending an amputation of her arm at the shoulder again.It was at that point that Ainscough rejected that option and became the Wellness Warrior. But, in assuming that title, Ainscough made a number of decisions that would be life changing in the truest sense of the words.

She put a stop to conventional medical treatment of her cancer in favour of Gerson therapy. A lot could be said about Gerson therapy but probably less is more. First of all, it claims to be able to cure cancer without a single shred of scientific evidence to prove or verify that claim. Gerson therapy involves eating extreme amounts of fruit and vegetables and undergoing up to six coffee enemas a day. Advocates of the therapy claim it allows the body to heal itself by boosting the immune system and removing “toxins”, despite there being no evidence that most cancer is caused by specific toxins or poisons in the body, or that these toxins can be flushed out by diet and coffee enemas, or even that a healing immune response exists, that if stimulated in this manner, could seek out and kill cancer cells. Emertius Professor John Dwyer from the University of New South Wales Medical School says coffee enemas are one of the worst forms of treatment because they can cause deadly bowel perforations. Gerson therapy also advocates the consumption of clay. Yes clay, to “detoxify the body.” This is what Ainscough wrote: “ When we eat clay, the positively charged toxins are attracted by the negatively charged edges of the clay mineral. An exchange reaction occurs where the clay swaps its ions for those of the other substance. Electrically satisfied, it holds the toxin in suspension until the body can eliminate both.”

If you think it sounds like arrant nonsense that’s because it is. Gerson therapy is many things. It is also mega expensive. Its clinic itemizes the charges for undergoing the therapy, which include a two week stay at a cost of US$11,000, travel expenses not included. Then you add the cost of the special juicer you must buy for US$2400, organic produce for one month US$750-$1200. In fact they recommend buying a second refrigerator just so you can store the large amounts of fruit vegetables and other supplements needed for the treatment.

The young, likeable, media savvy Jess Ainscough became the poster child for Gerson therapy. She wrote books, she appeared on television, made videos on Youtube explaining how to administer coffee enemas. She sold cookbooks and cooking supplies all the while extolling the virtues and curative properties of Gerson therapy and listing in detail all of various supplements she took as part of the treatment.

When she began Gerson therapy this is what she wrote:

“Some of you might think the list (of supplements) is a bit extreme, but I assure you that it is totally manageable. It’s nowhere near as much of a pain in the ass to get through as the medicine cabinet full of pills and potions I was taking prior to Gerson. I swear, as soon as we heard that a supplement had anti-cancer properties, I was all over it. I’ve taken everything from seacucumbers to bovine cartilage. This list is like a trip to the beach in comparison. The supplements a Gerson patient must take generally varies to suit the individual. But all the medications are designed to support the diet therapy by increasing the energy capacity of the cell and by increasing the rate of detoxification. “

But by the end of 2014, Jessica Ainscough’s health was deteriorating. She wrote this in a blog post:

“When I left you …….to begin a period of self-care hibernation, my plan was to get my health back in tip top shape and then spend some time creating some awesome new stuff for you. The reality, however, is that I’ve spent the whole time focused on my health. For the last few months, I’ve been pretty much bedridden. Let me fill you in on what’s been going on with me … This year absolutely brought me to my knees. I’ve been challenged, frightened, and cracked open in ways I never had before. For the first time in my almost seven year journey with cancer, this year I’ve been really unwell. I’ve lived with cancer since 2008 and for most of those years my condition was totally stable. I’ve had scans to detect what’s going on in my body, and I can report that the disease is still contained to my left arm and shoulder, however I do have a big fungating tumour mass in that shoulder that’s causing me dramas. Over 10 months of non-stop bleeding from the armpit has rendered me really weak (and uncomfortable) and as a result I’ve had no choice but to stop absolutely everything and rest. “

There was also the strong indication that she had finally returned to conventional cancer treatment. She wrote: “ I believe that as a result of my willingness to stop controlling my healing path and surrender to whatever the universe has up its sleeves to help me , I’ve attracted the most amazing healing team. I’m working with an oncologist who is kind, caring and non-judgemental – completely unlike any of the specialists I worked with in the early days of my journey. When we are open and in a state of surrender, the right people/situations/tools will appear. Final decisions and plans are now in process and I’ll keep you in the loop in the New Year.”

As I said at the start, I never wanted this to sound like I am attacking Jessica Ainscough. On the contrary I admire her. I think she was incredibly brave and courageous. I understand her desperation. And I am very sad that she is dead. There is also absolutely nothing wrong with cancer patients seeking alternative treatments so long as the treatment is in addition to what conventional medicine has to offer. In other words having both.

Ian Olver, the head of the Sansom Institute at the University of South Australia, says most people with cancer try alternative treatments, but the danger is when they become the replacement for conventional treatment. “Even if something has been reported in the press as working for someone, the critical figures are, will it work for 1 in 10 people, 1 in 100 or 1 in 1000, and that’s what evidence-based medicine is about,” Olver says. “In our health system you can basically be treated in the public system without a great outlay [of money], but sometimes they ask you to pay hundreds of dollars a week for alternative therapies”.

Jessica Ainscough was the poster child for Gerson therapy. I take no pleasure or satisfaction from saying she was also the poster child for why it doesn’t work.

Ainscough’s father released a statement on behalf of the family, which is how Jessica Ainscough should be remembered: “I’m so proud of my beautiful daughter for her achievements, style, grace, sincerity and affection. We are deeply appreciative of all the love and support coming in from around the world.”

Beware What You Download, The Internet Police Are Coming To Get You On A Computer Near You

There is some serious stuff going on in the world of internet piracy. So much so that a consumer group has warned that everyday internet customers who download TV shows, movies and music for free could soon be hit with massive fines, legal threats and skyrocketing internet bills. Ok. We’re talking Australia but it would be naïve to think the same thing or worse is not being contemplated elsewhere.

Consumer advocate Choice has attacked what it described as a “truly scary” plan from Australia’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that could result in average customers being sued by Hollywood studios. Australia’s biggest ISPs — including Telstra, Optus and iiNet — have joined forces to establish the Copyright Notice Scheme Industry Code, which is aimed at reducing the incidence of online piracy. At the request of the Australian Government, the companies have formulated a three strikes notice, to try and change the behaviours of customers and steer them towards lawful (read that as paid for) sources of content. But Choice says it is a “heavy handed scheme” that will “drive average Australians into the legal system”. “The scheme reads like the script of a Hollywood horror film,” Choice campaigns manager, Erin Turner said. “It would see average teenagers, mums and dads facing uncapped fines and legal threats. It’s truly scary.”

Under the draft code released last week, customers suspected of illegally downloading content will be hit with a series of escalating infringement notices from the ISPs. After the first breach, a customer is promptly emailed a standardized “Education” notice but if they continue to breach copyright laws, they are then sent a “Warning” notice followed by a “Final” notice.

The ISPs plan to detect illegal downloading through their customers’ internet protocol (IP) addresses, which every computer has. Official warning notifications are then sent to the account holder. The warning must be emailed within seven days of the infringement and include the title of the work, as well as the date and time when the downloading occurred. The final notice, which does not have to carry the ISP’s branding, warns the account holder they could be taken to court and recommends they “seek independent legal advice”. The “three strikes and you’re out” scheme could then kick off a “facilitated preliminary discovery process”, which obliges the ISP to reveal the customer’s identity to the rights holder. If a customer receives three notices within 12 months, the owners of the content — such as a Hollywood studio or a record company — can then apply to a court to access the customer’s name, address and contact details and launch legal action against them. “Any rights holder whose copyright work has been the subject of an Education, Warning or Final Notice will be provided with assistance to take direct copyright infringement action against an account holder,” the code says.

The code is still in draft form, but ISPs hope to implement it by September 1, 2015. Like I said this is serious stuff if you happen to be someone who regularly downloads copyright protected content.

A spokesman for the industry body behind the scheme, says it is primarily focused on public education, rather than punishment. “Ultimately we’re trying to strike a balance. We’re trying to ensure privacy and personal details are protected, that any allegation (of copyright infringement) will be independently reviewed, that customers don’t face sanctions,” the spokesman says. But Choice calls the scheme “heavy handed. ” The group says it fails to protect Australians consumers. “What we’re worried about is the final notice step that would funnel people into legal action,” Choice’s Erin Turner said. “There’s no limit on how much people can be fined and it opens up a whole bunch of risks. The scheme also forces internet service provides to act as an antipiracy police force on behalf of Hollywood rights holders, handing over personal contact details on the basis of unproven allegations.”

Turner said similar schemes overseas led to rights holders sending “speculative invoices” to account holders. “We’ve heard reports of customers being sent letters that say, ‘Pay this amount of money or we will take legal action’. Customers usually just paid the amount to “make the very scary process go away”, she said.

Choice points out that the “discovery process” clause in the code is concerning because it requires ISPs to participate and comply with any court actions, rather than protect their customers.

And there has been an ongoing court case that has, so far, said the discovery process was a legal right available to copyright holders. That case is one of the most important for the future of Australian piracy laws. It revolves around Dallas Buyers Club LLC, the copyright holders for the film Dallas Buyers Club, wanting ISP, iiNet, to provide information on its customers who Dallas Buyers Club believe pirated the film.

Late last year it was revealed that Dallas Buyers Club used a German software tool known as MaverickEye to detect torrent users who were illegally downloading the movie. The software allegedly revealed a number of Australians who had ‘seeded the film online’ or made it available to be downloaded from their computer using peer-to-peer programs. That software disclosed the IP addresses of 4800 Australian computers, with Dallas claiming in court that it could find a further 6000 if it ran the MaverickEye software again. Currently those IP addresses don’t disclose specific details about any particular person, which is why Dallas is in court trying to force iiNet to hand over this information. Both the courts and iiNet are worried that Dallas Buyers Club will use a technique known as speculative invoicing. This involves sending a legal threat to someone saying that unless they pay a sum of money they will take them to court. Often that sum of money is a few thousand dollars, when the actual loss to the rights holders would have been no more than a few hundred, or even as low as $5 according to iiNet’s lawyers. People are more likely to choose to settle, whether the sum is fair or not, because it will cost even more than that to argue the case court. There is no doubt piracy is becoming a big issue everywhere. But how this case resolves itself will, in all likelihood set a precedent for future cases and how piracy is dealt with in Australia.

Choice says the code ignores the real crux of the problem, the causes of illegal downloading in Australia. “We’ve looked into the reasons people pirate, and it’s due to cost and availability,” Erin Turner said. “There’s still massive delays when content is available in Australia. It’s a market failure. Consumers know this.” Turner acknowledges that infringing copyright is wrong, but Choice research shows that customers mostly turn to illegal means when they can’t find the content they want. “It doesn’t excuse it, but it does explain it,” she said.

The industry body leading the copyright crackdown admits that “more needs to be done” to address the problems of access and affordability of content in Australia. But they dispute Choice’s claim that average customers should be worried about the code. “I can understand that this may not be a popular move with some customers but we’ve genuinely tried to strike a reasonable balance,” the industry group spokesman said. “I don’t expect there to be universal acclaim, but it’s a scheme that’s fair, that’s not punitive and that balances competing interests.”

Choice is concerned that customers will be made to bear the cost of the scheme, which could drive up internet bills. “If ISPs end up paying the lion’s share of administration costs, these are likely to be passed on to their consumers,” Choice’s Erin Turner said. “We don’t think consumers should be footing the bill for an ineffective industry initiative.”

As if you didn’t have enough to worry about already, technology could turn the 21st century into a new dark age, lost to history, according to a leading internet pioneer. As computer operating systems and software get upgraded, documents and images stored using older technology are becoming increasingly inaccessible, says Dr Vinton Cerf, the Vice-President of Google. He say in the coming centuries, historians looking back on the present era could well be confronted with what he describes as a digital desert comparable with the dark ages. The Dark Ages was the post Roman period in Western Europe about which relatively little is known because of the scarcity of written records. Dr Cerf, who also has the title of chief internet evangelist at Google, says : “If we’re thinking 1000 years, 3000 years ahead in the future, we have to ask ourselves, how do we preserve all the bits that we will need in order to correctly interpret the digital objects we created? ” We are nonchalantly throwing all of our data into what could become an information black hole without realising it. ” The 22nd century, and future centuries after that, will wonder about us but they’ll have great difficulty knowing anything much because so much of what we’ve left behind will be bits and pieces that are uninterpretable.”

Cerf urged people to print out everything, especially treasured photos and not rely on storing them as memory files. “In our zeal to get excited about digitising, we digitise photographs thinking it’s going to make them last longer, and we might turn out to be wrong,” he said. “I would say if there are photos you are really concerned about, (then) create a physical instance of them. Print them out.”

Cerf was speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in the Silicon Valley capital, San Jose, California.

To illustrate his point, he referred to an “amazing book” by American Pulitzer Prize winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, called ‘Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius Of Abraham Lincoln.’ Goodwin’s material was obtained by scouring libraries for copies of written correspondence between Lincoln and the people he associated with. “Let us imagine that there’s a 22nd century Doris Kearns Goodwin, and she decides to write about the beginning of the 21st century, and seeks to reproduce the conversations of the time,” Cerf says. “She discovers there’s an awful lot of digital content that has either evaporated because nobody saved it, or it’s around but it’s not interpretable because it was created using software that’s 100 years old.”

The Google boss believes the problem has serious implications for the storage of legal documents, needed to be kept for long periods. One possible solution is what he calls “digital vellum”, a concept now being explored by computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. This involves taking a digital “snapshot” of an item, when it is stored, as well as all of the processes needed to reproduce it at a later date, including the software and operating system. The snapshot could then be used to reproduce the information, on a computer, in perhaps centuries from now.

They should be calling this, back to the future.

Schools That Have Turned Into The Lunchbox Police Are Hindering Not Helping To Improve Children’s Health

Some time ago I wrote about what I considered to be Nanny State nonsense.  A father was strongly criticised by his daughter’s substitute teacher, because she considered the school lunch, he packed for the little girl, was too unhealthy.

The teacher sent a note home with the child demanding that the father promise to do a better job in the future. In the note, the daughter’s substitute teacher, at Kirksville Primary School in Missouri, listed the unhealthy foods in the little girl’s school lunch, which included four chocolate bars, a bag of marshmallows, crackers and a pickle. It ended: “Please see that she packs a proper lunch tomorrow.” The letter was followed by a request for a parental signature, which the father refused to give, because he was so offended by the letter’s contents.

It turns out that the Dad in question, a man called Justin Puckett, also happened to be a family Doctor from Missouri. He posted the contents of the school letter on Facebook. Many might think and some might even say, as a Doctor, Justin Puckett, should know better than to send his daughter to school with a lunch containing so much junk food.  But in his defence, the Doctor and father said “I have the ultimate responsibility to raise my children and I take that role very, very seriously and so maybe I took it bit more personally that there was some offence that maybe I wasn’t doing a good job in that duty, something that is my number one job.”

To be fair, Justin Puckett, also made the point that the teacher did not give an accurate description of what was in his daughter’s lunch: “Unfortunately, the letter didn’t have what she had, correctly. She had four pieces of ham, a whole protein meat, she also had some pickles, which we admittedly cheat on pickles every once and a while as a vegetable, because some fights just aren’t worth having. She also had four marshmallows in a Ziplock bag and then she had three very small pieces of chocolate, of which she ate one for lunch and then she also gave her brother and another friend one at an after school program,” Puckett said.

The reason I want to raise this issue again was prompted by a piece written by columnist Kasey Edwards, claiming that schools have assumed the role of lunchbox police. Suddenly, the morning snack and lunchtime has become a test to see if parents are faithfully following the laws of healthy eating.

Edwards makes the point that what seems like a really good idea, is questionable on whether it has anything, at all, to do with health. In fact, in the quest to promote nutrition, schools may be unintentionally damaging a child’s relationship with food. One school in Brisbane is so strict that children must show their lunch boxes to the class each morning. Quite frankly that is ridiculous and may well be in breach of the child’s rights. Edwards says it is harmful to the well being of children. She claims to  know of one child, so anxious about having ‘bad’ food in his lunchbox, that he doesn’t want to go to school. Another school in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs conducts food inspections at the school gate, prohibiting ‘junk food’ from entering the school grounds. Of course banning anything only succeeds in sending it underground. Some enterprising pre-teens totally got the concept of supply and demand and realised that prohibition, as it was with alcohol in the United States in the 1930s, is a rolled gold marketing opportunity. These young entrepreneurs started a black market in the trafficking of doughnuts behind the school shed. “What more evidence do you need that food policing by schools is dangerous?” says Clinical Psychologist Louise Adams. “It’s teaching kids to hide their eating and to binge eat.” Adams says the risks far outweigh the benefits when it comes to schools having a food policy. “From the US research, we can see that this sort of food policing has not resulted in a reduction of body weight in children,” she says. “As a psychologist specialising in this area, all I can see happening is that children are developing a fear of food. Fear is not going to make children healthy; it’s just going to make their relationship with food disturbed.”

Edwards points out that at two primary schools in Melbourne, children are only allowed to eat fruit, vegetables and yoghurt for morning tea. She says this means by lunchtime, the kids are frequently starving which, is hardly conducive to learning. But even worse, it’s teaching children not to trust their bodies, and to develop an almost hysterical fear of certain foods.

Edwards retells the story of a friend who packed a single biscuit made by grandma for her daughter’s morning tea. The daughter came home feeling embarrassed that she had ‘bad’ food in her lunch box. “I put one biscuit in, not six,” said the friend. “What’s missing from this situation is the love and care that grandma put into making special biscuits for her granddaughter.” Can’t argue with that.

Edwards says as a mother she puts a lot of effort into teaching  her daughter to listen to her body and to decide when she is hungry and when she is full. If she’s hungry and wants two sandwiches for morning tea, then she is encouraged to eat the two sandwiches. Her daughter is never told to ignore her appetite and only eat carrot sticks. Food is never discussed in terms of good, bad or unhealthy. So there is never shame or guilt about what gets eaten. And that is the way it should be.

Edwards goes on to say that the food policies of some schools undermine the efforts of parents to help children develop healthy relationships with food.

It also goes way beyond a school’s authority. Edwards says as a parent, what goes into her child’s lunch box is her decision, based on family values, her intimate knowledge of her child’s current appetite, preferences, wellbeing, the family budget, and what’s in the cupboard.

And as long as it doesn’t threaten the wellbeing and health of other children, then it is none of the school’s business. Clinical Psychologist, Louise Adams’ says her daughter came home from her school on Sydney’s northern beaches last week, upset because she had a muffin for lunch and was told it was unhealthy.”My daughter was told that she should only eat fruit and vegetables and there was such shame on her face, like she’d really done something terrible,” Adams says. “Kids go from just eating food and being in tune with their bodies, to being scared and feeling worried that they are doing something wrong. This is the breeding ground for an eating disorder.”

Adams says that schools should not be delivering health messages about food to children. It is not their place.

“Kids are very black and white,” Adams says.  “Their capacity for nuance is not developed. If we tell them that something is good and something is bad, they believe that absolutely. Then they relate it to themselves, that they are then a good or bad person. Maybe we as parents need some support and help with how to provide a variety of foods to our kids, but it’s psychologically damaging and unnecessary to discuss it with children.”

But in saying this it doesn’t in any way undermine the need to take action to combat the consumption of junk food. The World Health Organisation, warns that diseases linked to lifestyle choices, including diabetes and some cancers, kill 16 million people prematurely each year and urgent action is needed to stop what it describes as a “slow moving, public health disaster”. Unhealthy habits like consuming too much fat, salt and sugar along with smoking and alcohol abuse, are causing an epidemic of diseases, which together constitute the leading cause of death globally. The WHO says this “lifestyle disease” epidemic “ is a much greater public health threat than any other epidemic in human history.

” Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), like cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, and a range of cancers, killed 38 million people around the globe in 2012 — 16 million of them under the age of 70,”  the WHO says. ” Not thousands are dying, but millions are dying … every year in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, not in their 80s and 90s.”

Forty two million children under the age of five are considered to be obese, and an estimated 84 per cent of adolescents do not get enough exercise.

In Australia, for example, some leading health groups have called on the Government to consider introducing a tax on junk food and sugary drinks.

“Despite at least six reports from task forces, obesity summits and research papers in the past 20 years advocating firm measures to stop marketing junk food to children, the advertising of fat, sugar and salt drenched products continues largely unrestricted,” the groups say in a joint statement. “Unless immediate action is taken to address dietary related illness there will be a significant increase in cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”

And while we clearly need to tackle this epidemic, over-reacting may end up making the problem worse.There is no doubt that the schools are well meaning and want to implement food policies with the best of intentions. But, as Edwards points out, there is scant evidence to show that these policies have resulted in a reduction of childhood obesity and conversely, eating disorders are skyrocketing, so maybe the time has come for schools to consider whether their cure is worse than the disease.

Following A Celebrity Diet Takes Courage And A Certain Kind Of Madness

Personally, I’d rather be dead than live the life of a celebrity. Even if you paid me, I wouldn’t. There’s not enough money in the world for starters. And for a start, neither your life nor your privacy is your own. Not to mention the dieting. Wait a minute. Let’s mention the dieting. Ever wondered how they look so stick thin? Or, as one observer put it, look as if a strong gust of wind, would blow them off their feet? Well yes, cosmetic surgery might have a lot to do with it. The other reason is because they don’t eat. And, even when they do, they don’t eat what anyone would call real food. So, if they don’t eat real food, what, pray tell, do they eat? That is a very good question and one that New York writer Rebecca Harrington pondered and pondered. She eventually discovered what they ate or more importantly didn’t eat. But the discovery was nowhere near enough food, for thought, for Harrington. She needed to walk in their shoes and literally eat what they ate. So she did. The result was more than a year spent sampling 14 of the wackiest celebrity diets on the planet, all of it taking place in her West Village kitchen. Then she wrote a book about her experiences called ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having.’ It details what she describes as her brave journey into the madness of the slimming regimens of the fabulous and the famous. It was a coming of age for Harrington in more ways than just writing about crazy diets. No paying just lip service, this was full on walk the walk. Harrington whipped raw eggs into warm milk for breakfast because that’s what Marilyn Munroe did. “I understand now why her life was so hard,” the 29-year-old Harrington says. She believes Marilyn Monroe’s food habits were those of an unhappy person. “She ate in an illogical way, having things like raw eggs in milk, then nothing all day, steak and carrots for dinner and then a hot fudge sundae late at night.” On the Munroe diet and with her blood sugar levels going completely crazy, Harrington didn’t lose any weight. But, she did almost faint into a subway grate, which, of course, was nothing like Marilyn’s iconic, white dress moment.

Harrington says she can only admire the iron willpower of celebrities and their diets, coming to the conclusion that only someone who is constantly photographed in their bikini, or their underwear, would want to put up with such misery. As part of her research, Harrington scoured magazines for the weirdest recommendations of anyone qualified by a famous name and zero expertise, from Cameron Diaz to Pippa Middleton to Karl Lagerfeld. Harrington says that in instances where a celebrity hadn’t written a cookbook, all she had to do was Google a star’s name followed by “diet” and she got “a million results.” Then she modelled her life on each one for 10 days at a time, if she could ‘stomach it.’

On “The Karl Lagerfeld Diet,” Harrington drank diet Coke all day, then at night she would desperately probe for any speck of meat from the diet’s prescribed protein in the form of a tiny quail. “A quail is entirely claw, ” Harrington says. “ I don’t know how it became a French delicacy.” Harrington found Sophia Loren’s diet to be particularly harsh. “She has these delicious pasta recipes but the amount you can eat is so small that for the rest of the day all you can think about is how you want to eat more pasta.”

Elizabeth Taylor’s 1988 diet book was called “Elizabeth Takes Off.” Harrington followed the plan for two weeks claiming it was a huge challenge. “She ate the grossest food I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Harrington says. “And I was hungry all the time.” And there were days when she found she just couldn’t stomach a Taylor meal. For example, the night she put a piece of steak on bread slathered with peanut butter, Harrington says she gagged and couldn’t finish it. Another Taylor recipe called for mixing tuna fish with tomato paste, scallions, grapefruit and mayonnaise. The food was so appalling, that Harrington basically starved herself thin. She lost 6 pounds. “I think Liz was drunk all the time,” is how Harrington explains Taylor’s wacky diet. “It turned my stomach.”

But Harrington says Elizabeth Taylor sounded like a fun person. Greta Garbo not so much. In fact the Garbo diet could best be described in a way not dissimilar to her name. “Every recipe contained something disgusting,” says Harrington. “There was raw eggs and orange juice, or this awful celery loaf with loads of pureed celery, spices and breadcrumbs.” Garbo followed the advice of nutritionist Gayelord Hauser, who trumpeted the benefits of “wonder foods” like yeast, molasses and wheat germ.

The prize for having the most effective of all the celebrity diets went to Beyonce. Harrington says she decided to first try the Master Cleanse that Beyoncé used to slim her curves followed by the Herculean diet she devised to lose the pregnancy weight following the birth of her daughter. The Master Cleanse entails drinking lemonade dosed with cayenne pepper and maple syrup up to 12 times a day. “Master Cleanse is the scariest diet ever because after a while you lose all desire for solid food,” says Harrington. “But the minute you eat solids foods you love solid foods again.” Next up was Beyoncé’s post pregnancy diet on which the new mother lost 60 pounds over three months. Harrington found the protein rich menu really hard particularly since she combined it with a two hour, daily workout just like Beyonce. Typically she’d begin the day with egg whites, then turkey and capers for lunch, snack on cucumbers in vinegar and finish with yellowtail sashimi for dinner. In 10 days, Harrington shed 10 pounds — making Beyoncé’s combined diets the biggest loser in body weight.

And what did she make of the somewhat eccentric Gwyneth Paltrow? Harrington says she is an admirer. “I can’t help it, I like her.”. And she loved eating like Paltrow, following the recipes in the star’s cookbook, “It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great.” But there was one drawback with the Paltrow way that was pretty much a deal breaker. “Oh my God, it’s so expensive,” Harrington says. “I’m still suffering from how much I spent.” Just buying a week’s worth of basics was US$155 and after that, Harrington says, it seemed like she was constantly paying for expensive fresh fish. Harrington says the food was good and when she served Paltrow’s fish tacos at a dinner party one night, her friends couldn’t stop raving about them. Over 10 days, Harrington lost four pounds. “If you were a millionaire, it’s not only the best way to diet but the best way to live,” says Harrington. “The food is delicious.”

In the discipline stakes there was no going past Madonna’s macrobiotic diet. Her regimen eliminates wheat, eggs, dairy and meat while concentrating on “something called sea vegetables.” And, it includes a total ban on sugar. “It’s incredible, she cuts almost everything out of her diet,” Harrington says. “She’s super disciplined and awesome, but the diet is unsustainable.” Harrington followed a cookbook written by Madonna’s former chef, Mayumi Nishimura, titled “Mayumi’s Kitchen.” She also purchased the “Addicted to Sweat” DVDs from Madonna’s trainer, Nicole Winhoffer. Already suffering from recipes where a complete meal consisted of barley combined with seaweed, Harrington found she could barely follow the “insanely difficult” workouts. “I’m basically dying on this diet,” she wrote in her book. “I don’t know how Madonna lives.”

Victoria Beckham’s diet was just too hard. “It’s one of those diets where you eat an impossibly small amount of food and then declare yourself full,” Harrington says. Beckham’s Five Hands Diet isn’t original but Harrington says Beckham always makes a lot of noise about whatever super strict diet she’s following in the moment. Beckham claims that Five Hands was how she lost the baby weight following the birth of her daughter. According to Harrington, you only eat five handfuls of food a day. And she was surprised to learn that the allowable portions are not really the size of a full hand, but only the amount that fits into a palm. Harrington found she could fit two small eggs into her palm, but had difficulty measuring the kale smoothie. She lasted only one day, before switching over to Beckham’s other diet, the Honestly Healthy alkaline diet. She purchased the book Beckham tweeted about, “Eating the Alkaline Way,” by Natasha Corrett and Vicki Edgson. One recipe had her making falafel from seeds and carrots. It wasn’t a success, just a mess. The next meal was soybean broth with vegetables. It was so terrible, Harrington says that she threw it away. Harrington lasted 2 1/2 days and lost no weight at all.

Harrington’s commitment to her research is revealing and truly disturbing. She suffered through bad skin, mystery rashes and salmonella in her quest to live the celebrity life. “I was incredibly hungry on every diet,” she says. “A lot of them made me feel ill. I left feeling bad for them. People are obsessed with celebrity diets. It’s one of the most commonly asked questions.”

But is it really what the celebrities are eating? “I have no idea,” Harrington says. “They could all just be eating nothing and smoking cigarettes.”  Sounds about right to me.

The Fastest Electric Car In The World And When It Goes Into Insane Mode So Do Its Passengers

The other day I was reflecting on how technology is changing the way we live. The way we think and act. How we relate to one another and how we get from point A to B. Petrol driven cars are a thing of the past. One man who fundamentally knows this to be true is Elon Musk. For those who have never heard of him, he is the guy that brought us PayPal. An absolute necessity for any E bay user. Musk dabbles in a lot of what he considers great ideas. One of those great ideas is to spend a lot of money developing an electric car. As a concept it ticks plenty of boxes. Environmentally friendly, electric cars emit no greenhouse gases. Lets face it within the next 15 to  20 years the world is going to be driving a lot of electric cars. Putting aside environmental concerns, the planet is running out of fossil fuel.

Musk’s company is called Tesla. And Tesla Motors makes beautiful cars. The man behind some of those designs is the electric carmaker’s chief designer, Franz von Holzhausen, He and his team create the signature Tesla look. And the Germanic in him means he pays great attention to pedantic detail that includes taking a fresh look at something as innocuous as door handles and coming up with something fancy, like gullwing doors that will appear on the company’s next car, the Model X. Not a new concept, but the gullwinged Mercedes sports, first introduced in 1954, still has the ability to cause severe cases of car envy.

“What I really wanted to achieve was this moth-to-the-flame (result). You don’t really realize what you are looking at or why you are attracted to it, but you are,” Von Holzhausen said. “That engagement is what sparks curiosity.”

Von Holzhausen has the enviable job of creating the design benchmark for Tesla, which is trying to carve out a market for electric cars and convince the public that gasoline rides are destined to become obsolete in the same way that motorised cars put the horse and buggy out of business.  Von Holzhausen joined Tesla in mid-2008 after designing at Mazda, General Motors and Volkswagen. There are, of course, other automakers that come up with sexy curves and slick looks for their cars. But Tesla, so far, has stolen a march on its competitors in the good looks department.

I don’t want this to sound like I am doing some kind of sales pitch for Tesla. It’s just that I have a soft spot for David and Goliath like stories. Part of Tesla’s appeal, for me, is how this upstart, which has upstaged long-time carmakers already, may go on to become a major player in the auto world one day. And how this niche fledgling electric car company takes an unconventional approach to elements of a car that some might regard as unimportant and use them to win over a car buyer’s heart,  An example of that is the door handle for the Tesla Model S. It slides out and retreats with the control of a key fob. It’s something that carmakers usually don’t spend a lot of time or money on. But Tesla’s designers thought differently. “As you approach the car for the first time, your first contact is through the door handle,” von Holzhausen said. “It’s a memorable experience. It needs to elicit an emotion.”

Tesla’s all-wheel drive Model S P85D is the most supercharged model of any electric sports car to hit the market.

It retails for US$133,500, but this not your average automobile. For a start, its 691 horsepower, dual-motor is capable of running on autopilot by using cameras and ultrasonic sensors to read speed limits, monitor other cars on the road and park automatically.

However, the most impressive addition to the car is a feature called “insane mode”. The aptly titled feature lives up to its name with one push of a button accelerating  from 0 to 95km/h, that’s a click under 60mph, in just over three seconds.

In order to test Tesla’s latest mode, a drag racing website took unsuspecting victims (members of the public) for a spin in the S P85D to experience the car’s rapid acceleration for the first time. They recorded the spectacle on camera and if the screams, shocked facial features and profanities are anything to go by, it would appear Telsa are on to a real winner with this sports car if you can afford the asking price. But the reactions to ‘insane mode’ are priceless.

I’ve posted the video here, profanities included. Hopefully it will give you a laugh and a half.

 

What Mobile Phones Will Look Like In 20 Years From Now

When I started in journalism, thirty plus years ago, there were no computers, or the Internet. We used to write our stories initially with a pen and notebook and then on typewriters back in the office using carbon copy paper. It wasn’t quite the Stone Age, although there was a person called the stone sub whose job it was to make the last minute changes to hot metal used to print a newspaper. When I think about the past, I get a little misty eyed. It makes me nostalgic. There was a certain romance in the way newspapers used to be written, created and printed which I kind of miss. But you can’t stop progress. Then came computers, email and mobile phones. In the case of mobile phones, we’ve discovered we can’t live without them. They’ve undergone their own revolution. In the 30 years since the first mobile phone was offered for sale, we’ve seen it morph from a wallet busting brick, into a super slim computer that can do virtually anything we want from entertaining us to saying what we should be doing next. But what interests me is where to from here? What if we could see into the future? What is the next generation, and several generations after that, mobile phone going to look like? What are the innovations already being played with by engineers and scientists in Hi Tech laboratories around the world? Is the future of the device set to change at warp speed? So, somewhat ambitiously, I thought I would try and answer those questions. I did some digging and this is what I came up with by way of research and the best guesses on where mobile phone technology is heading. To make it easier, I’ve divided the technological predictions from the next two years, all the way through to the next 20.

Let’s begin with the next 1 to 2 years.

Mobiles were truly ugly when they were first introduced but at least they could withstand rough treatment. In recent years there’s been a tradeoff in mobile phone design, with resilience winning out in favour of artistic beauty. But the future will witness yet another transformation with the introduction of unbreakable mobile phones. Weatherproof handsets are already proving to be a surprise hit with consumers who want their mobile device to be made of tougher stuff. Manufacturers will be looking to use the latest materials, including scratch and shatterproof infused glass, as well as liquid metal for cases, to make them virtually indestructible and, able to bounce back to their original shape after being dented.

Modular mobile phones will hit the market where customers can buy a handset made from features they pick and choose to be included. There’s already a project under way that will allow consumers to decide what their custom handset can do and what it will look like so they can create a phone that perfectly fits their needs. For example, if there’s a phone that has a great camera, but you don’t need the other stuff, this modular approach would allow you to have the best of everything or cherry pick the bits that are important to you. Expect to see the pick ‘n’ mix smartphones shift the goalposts in the immediate future.

In 3 to 5 years, with smartphone screens getting bigger, and people spending more time on mobiles than any other device, expect to see super high resolution, cinema quality displays on handsets. This will be a quantum leap from the monochrome, one line displays of the 90s. We will be looking at full 4K screens, that’s four times the resolution of High Definition, right in the palm of your hand. This feast for the eyes is only just reaching our television living rooms today but mobile makers are already eyeing it up for pocket size gadgets. It’s unlikely that mobile sizes will continue to grow at this stage with around five inches or 12 centimetres fast becoming the optimum size. But within three years, stunning 4K screen will be the de rigueur. And If you think 4G browsing on your phone is pretty fast today, just wait a few years and you’ll be falbbergasted. The next generation wireless mobile network will be at warp speed by comparison, quick enough to download a high def movie in just 30 seconds. It will also make storage size obsolete as everything from your apps including entertainment could be accessed from the storage cloud within the blink of an eye. The infrastructure for this technology is being prepared for release in 2020.

The camera will also evolve in our smartphones to do far more than just your standard selfie. It will have 3D technology using wide angle lenses and sensors so you will be able to map your surroundings, that will mean you can actually walk around inside your photos. Mobile cameras will understand and process the space around you and then remodel it into a 3D image. For example, you could revisit old birthday party pictures, explore old holiday photos, or take a look around hotels, houses for sale or eBay items in great detail. The technology is currently being tested in mobile handsets.

In 6 to 10 years, the fabled foldable mobile phone, which has been talked about almost as long as the flying car will become a reality. This remarkable innovation will be brought about by breakthroughs in material technology — in particular a super thin, super strong and conductive wonder material called Graphene. There are already mobile phones on the market that have a slight bend in them and manufacturers are showing off these flexible devices at tech shows, but within ten years we could see mobiles that can change shape to suit our needs and roll up right into our pocket. There wouldn’t be a need for both a tablet and a mobile, or for you to decide what screen size to choose— imagine being able to unravel a screen that adapts to different sizes? You can make it bigger for browsing the internet or smaller if you just want to make a phone call. Mobile manufacturers are keen on this flexible, wrappable, mouldable, unbreakable mobile device and research labs like the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University in Canada have already begun producing a prototype. Batteries last about as long as a sneeze these days but in the Hi Tech future, our devices could run for 20 years on a single charge. A team at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, have developed a titanium dioxide gel that stores lithium ions in its nanostructure which makes it the Holy Grail as far an everlasting battery is concerned. But that is not the only development in battery technology. There’s a team in South Korea looking to transform the heat that’s generated from our bodies into electricity to power mobile phones. There’s also the idea of piezoelectricity, which converts movement into energy so we could walk and charge our mobile phone at the same time. Believe it or not researchers in California have created a tattoo that generates electricity from human sweat. So if you will pardon the pun we won’t have to sweat the future of a mobile phone’s power supply.

In 10 to 15 years those holographic floating displays that used to be the stuff of science fiction movies, will burst out of our mobile devices. Researchers are working on a 3D screen that materialises into thin air which we can move and manipulate. It’s already being developed by a startup company called Ostendo Technologies. Their ‘Quantum Photonic Imager’ is a mini projector that can beam a high resolution image into the open. That technology could be fine tuned so that we’re fully interactive with the floating screen — we could watch sport being played in front of us, get inside maps and play games in a 3D space created for us. Wearable technology is even trying to remove the necessity of carrying a phone and in future years the physical handset could disappear altogether. Just as the smartphone managed to overwhelm the hardware of developments like Sat Nav, MP3 players, wallets, and to some degree watches and compact cameras,the new smart watches and smart glasses will be operated by spoken command and they will become the primary communication device. The screen would be projected in front of the glasses in a Heads Up Display or through a pill sized holographic projector that would unfurl in midair. It would spell the end of the selfie. What a shame.

Finally, in 20 to 30 years we’ll look back and be highly amused at how we once had to actually hold a mobile phone to operate it. Going way beyond wearables, is a smart contact lens that could offer a device free experience to display messages, web pages, directions and video literally right in front of your eye. A lens with basic computer circuitry is currently being tested, which includes sensors that will provide important medical alerts such as when a diabetic reaches dangerous glucose levels. With nanotechnology having the potential to build robots the size of blood cells, the prospect of developing computing components small enough to fit on a contact lens is a distinct possibility. As the memory of clunky, manual mobile handsets morph into a world of invisible communication devices, plugged straight into our bodies, we will also see highly sophisticated operating systems that we can talk to as if they were another human being. Artificial Intelligence with built in personal assistants which become intuitive, knowing what we like, where we’ve been and what we’re doing.

If our mobiles can already work out and tell us when to leave work in order to catch our usual train home while reminding us to say happy birthday to an office colleague  and warning us about the number of calories there are in a biscuit even before we’ve eaten it, how hard can it be to imagine what else it will be able to do? Forget about asking Siri if it’s going to rain, you can have a full blown conversation, if you want to, about the state of the weather all over the world.

A computer has already been designed to dominate the television game show Jeopardy,  providing complex human like answers to questions. Some, like me, might find all of this terrifying but techno geeks, I’m sure, can’t wait. As one wag suggested, Artificial Intelligence is coming so you better get your small talk ready or you will run out of things to say.