SYDNEY: Australians are smoking and drinking less than they were five years ago but are fatter and more anxious, according to a new survey profiling the nation's health launched Tuesday.
The Wellness Index, compiled by polling firm Roy Morgan Research and an initiative of health company Alere, has surveyed the wellbeing of 50,000 Australians since 2007 to paint a picture of lifestyle and disease.
Roy Morgan chief Michele Levine said overall the index had declined slightly over the past five years, with improvements in measures such as alcohol consumption and smoking offset by a worsening in others.
"Over a five-year period, 1.1 million fewer glasses of alcoholic beverages were consumed every week and 134,000 fewer people now smoke," out of a population of almost 23 million, said Levine.
"But there's just as much bad news as good. For example, 736,000 more adults are now obese. And the number of people with anxiety has grown by 1.3 million."
Australia last year became the first country in the world to mandate plain packaging for tobacco products in a bid to curb smoking.
It is also trying to reduce binge-drinking through a combination of shock advertising campaigns and taxation.
The index, based on polling of about 4,000 people every month, is compiled from 98 indicators across seven groups -- exercise, psychological wellbeing, nutritional health, alcohol, smoking, medical and height and weight.
Its data is intended to be used by local and national governments as well as the healthcare industry and community organisations to track initiatives in areas including nutrition, exercise, smoking, alcohol and stress.
Levine said issues linked to poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, drinking and obesity were costing the health system more than Aus$60 billion every year, and better data could be key to turning that around.
Australia is ranked fifth among advanced nations in terms of obesity after the United States, Mexico, New Zealand and Chile, according to the OECD.
Some 21 per cent of its population smoke, compared with 24 per cent in Britain and 29 per cent in the United States, as estimated by the World Health Organisation. The Pacific island of Kiribati tops the list at 57 per cent.
Australians consume the equivalent of 9.9 litres of pure alcohol per person per year according to the WHO, compared to 11.5 litres for Britons and 8.5 for Americans.
Estonia leads the measure with 16.2 litres per person per year.
MOSCOW: In August, a group of Russian environmentalists were walking along a beach on the Black Sea, just outside the walls surrounding a majestic palace that has been linked to President Vladimir Putin.
One of the activists, Suren Gazaryan, proceeded to take several photos of illegal yacht moorings built on the public shore, before a guard attacked him and tried to take away his phone.
Four months later, Gazaryan is living in Estonia. Instead of spending the holidays with his family and friends, he is waiting for the authorities there to review his application for political asylum.
If he goes back to Russia, he says he will be jailed by the officials whose illegal palaces he worked to expose. Two cases were brought against him, one of which ended in a hooliganism conviction and a suspended sentence.
Gazaryan is only one of several Russian activists who has quit the country after facing prosecution and possible jail time following Vladimir Putin's reelection to an historic third term in May.
Several opposition activists are already in jail, others are facing multiple criminal probes. At least five activists are now outside the country for fear of being prosecuted over an anti-Putin rally on May 6 in Moscow, when police and protesters clashed.
Gazaryan, a 38-year-old zoologist and an internationally recognised expert in bats of Russia's North Caucasus, had been involved for years in environmental protests with Krasnodar-based NGO Environmental Watch on North Caucasus, focusing on violations surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
He became a hero for Russia's opposition movement after the group exposed illegal land seizures and luxurious villas along the Black Sea shore. One is believed to have been built for Putin, while documents suggest another belongs to Krasnodar region governor Alexander Tkachev, one of Putin's staunchest regional allies.
In June, Gazaryan and fellow activist Evgeny Vitishko received a three-year suspended sentence for hooliganism for writing protest slogans on a fence illegally built around the Tkachev property in a public forest.
Human Rights Watch has denounced the charges against the activists. In a statement last week, it called on the Russian authorities to end its blatant retaliation against government critics.
So he knew the risks of a second criminal case after the guard from the "Putin palace" accused him of making death threats during the August beach altercation. A second conviction would turn a suspended sentence into a real one.
"I didn't want to live through the humiliation again. And I didn't want to go to jail," he told AFP.
He has now been charged with making murder threats, and declared a fugitive. Two combined convictions could land him behind bars for five years.
"When a fabricated case is given a green light - that doesn't leave much hope for justice," he said.
'I'm not going back to prison'
His case is overseen by the Investigative Committee, the powerful security agency also in charge of the May 6 rally probe, which turned suddenly violent one day before Putin's inauguration.
When police forced protesters into a bottleneck and chaos ensued, Anastasiya Rybachenko took a loud speaker and tried to reason with officers, asking them to release detainees.
The loud speaker was what singled her out of the panicking, angry crowd as it pushed against the police ranks, she now believes. When police searched her apartment as she was in Europe, she decided not to come back.
Her university expelled her after a police visit and she enrolled in a university in Tallinn.
Although she is not applying for asylum, Rybachenko, 21, said she is not coming back to Russia unless she is sure her case is investigated fairly.
"I am not coming back to go to prison," she told AFP from Estonia. "But I am in school here to be useful for my country, and I see my future there."
Last week, Rybachenko, who is a member of Solidarity opposition movement, was charged with participation in mass rioting, a crime that carries up to eight years in prison.
"Criminal probes are the language the regime is speaking with its people right now," an editorial in Vedomosti daily said.
"It is saying: don't be too confident, even better, leave the country, or we will imprison you."
"Time is on our side: this regime is getting older and more decrepit. I will certainly outlive it," Rybachenko said.
Gazaryan was less optimistic when asked when he could be going back home.
"Practically - maybe if Putin dies, or suddenly shows his mercy and our charges are dropped in the first case," he said. "Both things are equally unlikely."
"I am out of Russia for a long time," he said.
LONDON 13 Ogos – Malaysia berkongsi dengan lima negara lain untuk menduduki tangga ke-63 daripada 85 negara yang meraih pingat pada temasya Olimpik 2012 yang berakhir semalam.
Malaysia bersama Bulgaria, Estonia, Indonesia, Puerto Rico dan Taiwan berkongsi tempat selepas kontinjen negara masing-masing meraih satu pingat perak dan satu gangsa.
Malaysia memperoleh perak melalui Datuk Lee Chong Wei yang tewas dalam perlawanan akhir badminton perseorangan lelaki kepada Lin Dan dari China sementara pingat gangsa diraih oleh Pandelela Rinong Anak Pamg dari acara akhir terjun 10m platform wanita.
Antara negara Asean, Thailand mendahului kutipan pingat dengan memperoleh dua perak dan satu gangsa untuk menduduki tangga ke-57 dalam jumlah kutipan pingat keseluruhan, diikuti Indonesia (63), Malaysia (63) dan Singapura (75).
Thailand memperoleh dua pingat perak, masing-masing menerusi Pongprayoon Kaeo dari acara tinju Lelaki Light Fly 49kg dan Pimsiri Sirikaew (angkat berat wanita 59kg) dan satu gangsa dari Chanatip Sonkham (taekwondo wanita 49kg).
Indonesia meraih kedua-dua pingatnya dari acara angkat berat, satu perak dari Yuli Irawan (lelaki 62kg) dan satu gangsa menerusi Triyatno (lelaki 69kg). Singapura mendapat dua gangsa dari acara ping pong, menerusi Feng Tianwei (wanita individu) dan berpasukan wanita.
Pada edisi di Beijing 2008, Malaysia mendapat tempat ke-70 daripada 86 negara yang mendapat pingat, berkongsi dengan Chile, Ecuador, Iceland, Afrika Selatan, Singapura, Sudan dan Vietnam, selepas masing-masing hanya mendapat satu perak.
Pingat perak Malaysia dari edisi Beijing disumbangkan oleh Chong Wei yang tewas dalam badminton perseorangan lelaki akhir juga kepada Lin Dan dari China.
Amerika Syarikat muncul sebagai juara Olimpik 2012 dengan menggondol keseluruhan 46 emas, 29 perak dan 29 gangsa, sekaligus memperbaiki kedudukan selepas meraih tangga kedua pada edisi Beijing 2008 dengan kutipan 36 emas, 21 perak dan 28 gangsa.
China yang muncul juara keseluruhan pada temasya di negara sendiri, dengan 51 emas, 21 perak dan 28 gangsa, jatuh ke tempat kedua di London dengan mengutip 38 emas, 27 perak dan 22 gangsa.
Sementara tuan rumah Great Britain berpuashati di tempat ketiga di laman sendiri dengan kutipan 29 emas, 17 perak dan 19 gangsa selepas mendapat mendapat tempat keempat di Beijing dengan kutipan 19 emas, 13 perak dan 15 gangsa.
New iPad available in Malaysia April 20
Further to our report previously, Apple has confirmed that the new iPad will be available in Malaysia starting this Friday, April 20. The new iPad(3) will be available via Apple Premium Resellers in Malaysia such as Machines, Epic Center, MacStudio Switch.
In addition to Malaysia, the new iPad also will be available beginning on Friday, April 20 in Brunei, Croatia, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, South Korea, Panama, St Maarten, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Beginning on Friday, April 27, the new iPad will be available in Colombia, Estonia, India, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, South Africa and Thailand.
Read more HERE.
Weather in Europe claims 260 lives, travel disrupted
ROME: The death toll from the vicious cold snap across Europe has risen to more than 260, with the winter misery set to hit thousands of those seeking to escape it Sunday as air traffic was hit.
Ukraine has suffered the heaviest toll with 122 deaths, including many who froze to death in the streets as temperatures plunged to as low as minus 38.1 degrees Celsius.
Airports were shut, flights and trains delayed, and highways gridlocked as emergency services raced to clear falling snow.
London’s Heathrow Airport, Europe’s busiest air passenger hub, cancelled 30 per cent of its flights Sunday to cope with heavy snowfall overnight and possible freezing fog.
Heathrow said up to 10 centimetres of snow were expected to fall which, without reductions to the flight schedule, would cause major disruption at the west London airport.
“We deeply regret any disruption caused to passengers by the cold weather,” said Heathrow’s chief operating officer Normand Boivin.
“Reducing the flight schedule means we can fly as many people as possible and return the airport to normal as quickly as possible.”
The changes could affect around 400 flights at the world’s busiest airport for international passengers.
In the Netherlands, Amsterdam-Schiphol airport reported dozens of delays and cancellations on Saturday.
In Italy, the poor weather also hit boat passengers, when the ferry Sharden hit a breakwater shortly after setting off from the port of Civitavecchia near Rome on Saturday.
It caused panic among the 262 passengers who feared a repeat of a cruise ship tragedy in the area last month that is thought to have killed 32 people.
Coast guard spokesman Carnine Albano said the accident, which tore a 25-metre hole in the ship’s side above the waterline, happened after the vessel was buffeted by a violent snow storm from the north-east.
All passengers were evacuated and no injuries reported.
The heaviest snowfall in 27 years here, better known for its warm sunshine, to grind to a halt with taxis and buses unable to navigate through the icy streets without snow chains.
Parts of the Venice lagoon also froze over.
Among the cold-weather deaths in Italy was 46-year-old woman who died in Avellino, near Naples in southern Italy, after a greenhouse roof laden with snow collapsed on her.
A homeless man in his sixties of German origin was found dead, apparently of cold, in the central town of Castiglione del Lago. These latest deaths brought the total in Italy to seven.
In Poland, the death toll rose to 45 as temperatures reached minus 27C in the north-east. In Romania, four more victims were found, bringing the number of fatalities in the country to 28.
The cold snap has also killed people in Bosnia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Slovakia, France, Austria and Greece.
In France, snow fell from Lille in the north to Marseille in the south, though the west of the country and the capital Paris were spared.
A 12-year-old boy died in the eastern city of Strasbourg when the ice broke as he played with a friend on a frozen pond, paramedics said.
His friend, 11, was in hospital being treated for hypothermia after plunging in to try to save him.
Snow fell in Bosnia for the second straight day, paralysing traffic, with one patient dying as an ambulance was unable to reach his village in the south of the country.
In Serbia, a man was found dead in the southern town Lebane as the authorities in 28 municipalities, mostly in remote mountainous regions in the south and southwest, declared a state of emergency.
In tiny Montenegro, where one person was found frozen to death in a village, many hamlets in the mountainous north were cut off. Rescuers managed to evacuate 120 people, among them 31 school children from neighbouring Albania on a field trip, Interior Minister Ivan Brajovic said.
But as Europe huddled indoors for warmth, Russian gas giant Gazprom said it could not satisfy western Europe’s demand for more energy.
“Gazprom at the moment cannot satisfy the additional volumes that our Western European partners are requesting,” the company’s deputy chairman Alexander Kruglov said at a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, according to Russian news agencies.
Frigid temperatures even edged into north Africa, with the temperature forecast to drop below freezing in Algiers on Saturday night.
In Algeria’s eastern region, a 17-year-old man was assumed killed after he was swept away by a swollen river. Many domestic and international flights were cancelled.
More wintery deaths; Ukraine the worst
WARSAW: A cold snap kept Europe in its icy grip on Thursday, pushing the death toll to at least 218 as countries from Ukraine to Italy struggled with temperatures that plunged to record lows in some places.
Entire villages were cut off trapping thousands, road, air and rail links were severed in several places and gas consumption shot up as people grappled with the severest winter in decades in several places.
Nine more people died in Poland overnight as temperatures hit minus 32 Celsius (minus 25.6 Fahrenheit) in the southwest, bringing the country’s toll to 29 since the deep freeze began last week, police said.
In Ukraine, tens of thousands have headed to shelters trying to escape the freeze. Authorities raised the death toll Friday to 101, from 63 the evening before. Sixty-four of the victims perished in the streets.
Most of them literally froze to death on the street, with only a handful making it to hospital before succumbing to hypothermia, the ministry said.
Thousands of homeless people in the region are at risk, warned the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
“Although we expect harsh winters in this part of the world this current freeze has come towards the end of a mild winter,” said Zlatko Kovac, IFRC representative for Belarus and Ukraine.
“Homeless people have been caught unawares and unprepared. They don’t follow long-range forecasts and are extremely vulnerable.”
Red Cross Societies have helped with hot meals, warm clothing and blankets. The organisation said it had released 108,000 euros ($141,000) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to boost the effort.
Shivering and hungry, tens of thousands of Ukrainians have sought help in the more than 2,000 temporary shelters set up by the authorities to help the poor survive the fearsome spell of cold weather.
Temperatures fell to minus 33 degrees Celsius in the Carpathians and minus 27 in the capital Kiev.
“I am unemployed. I have somewhere to live but nothing to eat. I ate here and it was good — bread with a slice of fat and an onion as well as porridge,” said Olexander Shemnikov after visiting a shelter in Kiev.
In Romania, eight people died overnight bringing the overall toll to 22, the health ministry said. Schools remained closed in some parts of the country as temperatures reached minus 31 degrees Celsius.
In Bulgaria, where the mercury dipped to lows not seen in a century, at least 10 people have died, according to media. Authorities have not released official figures.
With parts of the Danube freezing, authorities moved some vessels to ports further away to protect them from the advancing ice.
And in the capital Sofia, some residents found their money frozen as automated teller machines stopped functioning, according to local media.
In Latvia, 10 people have died around the capital Riga alone, with no figures available for the rest of the country.
In neighbouring Lithuania a 55-year-old homeless man found in the ruins of an abandoned house in Klaipeda became the ninth victim of the chill.
And in Estonia, organisers even had to postpone a trio of cross-country skiing events after temperatures plunged to minus 30.
In Italy, hundreds of people were trapped overnight on trains as freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls in the centre and north caused widespread chaos on roads, railways and at airports.
The cold has so far killed an infant in Sicily and a 76-year-old in Parma during what forecasters say is the coldest weather in Italy in 27 years.
In France, 41 of the 101 regions were on alert for snow or deep cold.
Authorities banned trucks on several major highways where the risk of snowfall and ice remained high. In Paris, the army set aside nearly 600 places in military buildings to shelter the homeless from the cold.
Two people died in Austria, seven perished in Serbia — where 11,500 others were trapped mostly in remote mountain villages inaccessible by road, five have died in the Czech Republic and two each in Slovakia and Greece.
In Belgrade, homeless people unable to secure one of the 140 spots in the capital’s sole shelter took refuge in trolley buses and trams.
“Most of the drivers let them stay in the vehicle if they stay in the back part and do not disturb the trip,” a company official told the Blic daily.
In neighbouring Bosnia, several remote hamlets in the east were cut off, and authorities were monitoring if further airdrops were required after two helicopters had earlier delivered food and other supplies.
In Japan, officials confirmed Thursday that at least 56 people were reported dead, most of whom were killed while removing snow from roofs or roads.
Just like in Europe the heavy snowfall has affected transportation services, causing outright cancellation or delays.
Scotland clashes with London over independence vote
LONDON: Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond fuelled a tense constitutional clash with London on Wednesday, insisting that his government can organise its own independence referendum in 2014.
London announced on Tuesday it would give Edinburgh legal powers to hold a vote on a break-up of the 300-year-old union, but said it would be unlawful unless done with London’s approval of the timescale and conditions.
But Salmond — a nationalist who is widely regarded as one of the sharpest political operators in the British Isles — has announced plans for Scotland to hold its own referendum in the autumn of 2014, on its own terms.
The issue could eventually end up at the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court.
Salmond, whose Scottish National Party last year won the first majority in the Edinburgh assembly since it opened in 1999, said there was a mandate for the Scottish parliament to organise and hold the referendum on its own.
“It must be a referendum built in Scotland and decided by the Scottish people,” Salmond told BBC radio.
He indicated however that he was ready to strike a deal if Prime Minister David Cameron’s government recognised it was lawful for the Scottish parliament to hold the referendum.
Cameron’s Downing Street office also appeared to soften its stance on Wednesday, with a spokesman saying Cameron would absolutely take part in discussions with all parties including the SNP in coming weeks.
Scotland was an independent nation until 1707 when the Acts of Union of united it with England and Wales, although both countries had shared the same monarch since 1603.
Polls currently show a lack of support for independence among Scots, but Salmond is trying to tap nationalist sentiment as 2014 is the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, a famous Scottish victory over the English.
In the same year, Scotland also hosts the Commonwealth Games in its biggest city Glasgow and golf’s Ryder Cup.
Cameron’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government wants the vote to be held as soon as possible and on its own terms, in a bid to keep the United Kingdom together.
In its statement on Tuesday it did not set out the conditions it wanted but reports say it would seek a simple yes/no question on independence, whereas Salmond’s spokesman said he was open to a third independence-lite option.
Cameron said at the weekend that uncertainty over the issue was harming the Scottish economy.
Former finance minister Alistair Darling, himself a Scot, said he believed the pro-union campaign would win if his Labour party worked with the coalition.
“The only reason we have been put off until 2014 is because Alex Salmond doesn’t think he can win just now and he is playing for time,” he told the BBC.
In Scotland, The Scotsman newspaper ran the front-page headline “1,000 days to decide our future”.
It also ran a piece by an expert on referendums, Matt Qvortrup, saying that Salmond’s arguments were correct, citing the examples of Montenegro’s secession from Serbia in 2006 and Estonia’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.
“The basic principle in international law is that the seceding country (in this case Scotland) decides whether it wants to become independent,” he said.
A survey by British Future, an independent think-tank, said Monday that 54 per cent of Scots wanted Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom, compared to 29 per cent in favour of independence. It polled 497 people last month.
The Scottish parliament currently has power on matters such as education, health, the environment and justice. Key areas including foreign affairs and defence are still controlled by the British government in London.
A break-up would involve thorny economic issues such as North Sea oil and gas. Scotland has long complained that tax revenues from the industry — £8.8 billion (RM45.35 billion) last year — go direct to London.
But there is also the issue of a currency, with Salmond refusing to say whether an independent Scotland would join the struggling euro.