Dogs recognise human and dog emotions, research shows

Dogs take a swim in Botany Bay. Photo: Nic Walker New research has shown that dogs use vocal and facial cues to understand human emotions. Photo: iStock
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Dog owners worldwide have long suspected that their canine companions can understand how they’re feeling.

And now science has thrown us a bone.

New research has shown that pet dogs use visual and auditory cues simultaneously to understand humans’ and dogs’ emotions.

This ability to understand emotion through facial and vocal expressions was previously only known in humans.

In the study, conducted by researchers in Britain and Brazil, 17 family pet dogs were shown images of a happy and an angry face at the same time, while a single voice recording was played.

The recordings were either dog barks or a human voice speaking an unfamiliar language, and had either a positive or negative tone.

The researchers found that the dogs looked “significantly longer” at the image with the corresponding emotional tone, and showed a “clear preference” for the matching face in 67 per cent of the trials.

However, the dogs responded more clearly to the dog stimuli than the human stimuli.

This ability may be a “particularly advantageous” tool for a social species such as dogs and indicates a “high-level” cognitive power, according to the study.

Dogs may have developed this ability to form closer friendship with their owners, the study suggested.

“The ability to recognise emotions through visual and auditory cues … might have been developed for the establishment and maintenance of long-term relationships with humans,” the study reported.

“It is possible that during domestication, such features could have been retained and potentially selected for, albeit unconsciously.”

There have been ongoing debates among researchers as to whether dogs can interpret human emotions, with previous research indicating dogs could understand human facial expressions.

However, this was the first study to find that pet dogs also listen to your tone of voice to understand how you are feeling.

The findings were published in the journal Biology Letters.

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Parties note opposition to seat changes

DECISIONS: Hunter Labor MPs Joel Fitzgibbon, Jill Hall and Pat Conroy.BOTH major parties have objected to the proposed redistribution of federal seats in the Hunter.
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In October the Australian Electoral Commission announced its long-awaited proposal for adjustmentsto electorates in NSW.

A final decision on the proposal could come as early as this week, but both parties have expressed their opposition to the plan, with Labor saying the nameCharlton should not be abolished, and the Liberal Party arguing the changes would unnecessarily split up a number of local council areas including Cessnock and Port Stephens.

In its submission Labor said the seat of Paterson should be re-named Hunter, and the seat of Lyne re-named Paterson.

Theproposal included sweeping changes to seats in the Hunter. Itessentially abolishedJoel Fitzgibbon’s seatand re-named Charlton, Pat Conroy’s seat, Hunter.

While the decision is not final, it has setoff a domino effect in the region as politicians scramble to secure their futures.

Mr Fitzgibbon is understood to want to remain in whichever seat covers Cessnock. Under the redistribution proposal thatwould be the new seat of Hunter.For that to happen, sitting Charlton MP Pat Conroy would have to be willing to make way.

While members have remained tight-lipped about their intentions, other media reports have speculatedthat Jill Hall in Shortland may choose to retire, allowing Mr Conroy to move to that seat.

Complicating the issue,a number of other candidates, including Lake Macquarie councillor Chad Griffith, a localbranch member and staffer for Ms Hall, as well asNSW Labor assistant secretary John Graham, arealso understood to have shown interest in Shortland.

The seat of Paterson, held by Liberal Party member Bob Baldwin, isnow a notionally Labor seat with a 1.3 per cent margin.He has previously dismissed suggestionshe mayretire after he wasdemoted as a parliamentary secretary to the environment when Malcolm Turnbull deposed Tony Abbott.


HEAVYWEIGHT prop Sam Mataora hopes Newcastle Knights fans will be seeing a lot less of him this season.
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Nine kilograms less, to be precise.

In preparation for the NRL’sinterchange reductionthisseason from 10 to eight, Mataora was advised to shed weight.

Working closely with Knights nutritionistRachelSvenson,Mataora has downsizedfrom 117kgto 108kg.

“There’s only eight interchanges next year, so I’ve got to be a lot fitter and more agile,’’ Mataora told the Newcastle Herald.“The coaching staff gave me some goals atthe start of pre-season, and I’ve been able to drop someweight.Now I just have to maintain it.’’

Mataora said his new-found dietary disciplinewas initially“a bit of an adjustment”but he had gradually embraced it.

“It’s justknowing what foods to eat at the right time,’’ he said. “Less takeaway, more cooking at home.That’s pretty much it. I’m feeling heaps better for it.

“It’s become a routine. At first I was struggling, but I’m used to it now. It feels like normal now.’’

Even over the Christmas-New Year break, the 25-year-old did not allow his resolve to weaken.

“I followed the program they gave us.I just kept ticking the boxes, every day,’’ he said.

The Cook Islands international hopes his new slim-line physique will allow him to nail down a regular first-grade position, having made nine appearances last season, all off the bench.

“In 2014, I didn’t play a game in the NRL, so I was pretty gutted,’’ he said.

“Just to get my foot back in the door last year was awesome, and this year I’m looking to build on it.I just have to prove myself in the trials, and if I get a spot for round one, that would be good.’’

Mataora appeared a rising star when he made his NRL debut for Canberra in 2010as a 19-year-old.

He played another 32 games for the Raiders in the next threeseasons, but after the arrival of new coach Ricky Stuart he found himself on the outer.

In an interview 12 months ago, he admitted he was “wasting my time inCanberra”, which prompted to accept a lifeline from the Knights midway through 2014.At the end of that season, he re-signed with Newcastle for three more years, knocking back an offerto followmaster coach Wayne Bennett to Brisbane.

SHAPING UP: Knights prop Sam Mata’ora. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Keep that sunscreen handy

HEATWAVE: Weather experts predict the heatwave in parts of the Hunter on Thursday.If you think Tuesdaywas warm wait until Thursday when the mercury in the Hunter heads northwards.
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Maitland is tipped to nudge a toasty 41 degrees but there’s respite in Newcastle where the mercury is expected to hit 32.

The bureau has advised Hunter ­residents to have a heat wave action plan in place.

People should stay hydrated, avoid alcohol and hot or sugary drinks, limit physical activity and try to stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day.

The forecast conditions have also prompted NSW Ambulance to issue warnings relating to swimming pools and general water safety.

NSW Ambulance education director Alan Morrison said with temperatures set to rise this means more drowning or near drowning incidents as people flock to the beach, pools, lakes and creeks.

Mr Morrison said there was never a time to be complacent when children and water were involved.

“It only takes a moment for a child to get themselves into trouble around water, so it is vital they are supervised vigilantly at all times,” he said.

Don White of Weatherwatch said Hunter residents had been spoilt with below average temperatures the week before Christmas and then a few moderately warm days over the festive season before the rain events and cooler conditions of last week.

“It has definitely warmed up this week and the hottest day looks to be Thursday at this stage, with the low 40s forecast,” Mr White said.

“We will be back into the mid-to-low 20s on Friday with a few showers.”

Mr White said the Hunter could also expect possible thundery showers on Thursday.

Corporations pay the price for unethical behaviour

We saw some significant failures in corporate ethics in 2015. Rising expectations of corporate conduct have put how companies do business firmly in the spotlight.
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One notable scandal of 2015 was Volkswagen admitting to installing emission-test evading software in its diesel cars. The far-reaching fallout affected other carmakers and resulted in the resignation of VW chief executive Martin Winterkorn (pictured).

Australia wasn’t without home-grown scandals: 7-Eleven faced revelations of worker exploitation; supply chains were found to be subject to corporate abuse; and a series of ethical boycott campaigns of major brands would have dulled the recent festivities in some offices.

Are corporations increasingly being held to account? Fundamentally, has anything changed? The market continues to be geared primarily to reward profits and increasing revenues, and these remain at the heart of incentive structures, but it is rare today to find executives openly following the Gordon Gekko “greed is good” guide for business.

Importantly, the way a company is valued today is largely based on intangible assets. Boards, management and investors are also increasingly aware of the importance of such assets as drivers of growth, such as the ability to attract and retain good staff, corporate reputation, innovation, brand awareness, consumer trust and loyalty.

So, are companies becoming more sustainable and ethical? The short answer is yes. But, with some notable exceptions from the banking sector, Australian companies have been slow to seize the opportunities of sustainability and ethical leadership.

Research shows Australians are traditionally among the world’s most ethically active with 57 per cent of Australians refusing to buy from a company they do not trust.

Jill Riseley is the founder and managing director of advisory firm Meliora Group

The seven things we hate most about Australian federal elections

Election year is here: at some stage in 2016, Australians will head to the polls to deliver their verdict on Malcolm Turnbull’s government.
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But first we have to endure up to 10 months of electioneering.

From the scare campaigns to the sloganeering, the propaganda ads to the preference deals, here are seven of the worst things about election years. 1. The election date guessing game

Will it be March? August? September? October? Pre-budget or post-budget? A normal half-Senate election or a double dissolution? Before the football grand finals or after them? While Jupiter is ascendant or when Saturn is in Aries?

Julia Gillard never made it to her predetermined election date in 2013. Photo: Andrew Meares

While many states now have fixed four-year terms, under the federal system election timing is still at the prime minister’s discretion. So unless Malcolm Turnbull does a Gillard and names the date early – thereby surrendering an important tactical advantage – prepare for many months of speculation about when he’ll pull the trigger. 2. The scare campaigns and personal attacks

Thoughtful, mature debate hasn’t exactly been a hallmark of Australian politics in recent years. But in election years, things get much worse.

A Liberal TV ad from 2004.

The rhetoric ramps up and facts fall by the wayside. Politicians become even more inclined to lie, obfuscate and make promises they have no intention of keeping in a bid to win votes. The negative scare campaigns intensify and personal attacks become fair game: the GST is going up, penalty rates will be cut; Malcolm Turnbull is a Satanist, Bill Shorten is a death robot.

And so on. 3. The advertising

The election will fill acres of newsprint and put politics at the top of the nightly news bulletins. But even if all you want to do is watch My Kitchen Rules you won’t be safe from the propaganda.

The major parties will bombard the airwaves with their mostly facile, intelligence-insulting advertising; and the government will even get taxpayers to pay for its “public information campaigns”.

A Liberal Party election ad from 2010.

Worst of all, the ads are rarely clever or interesting; more often they’re cheap, rote and amateurish affairs.

Political advertising at the 2007 election. Photo: Peter Rae

And it won’t stop at your television and radio: more than ever before, politicians will be reaching into your social media feeds. 4. The campaign

All of this gets even worse during the official five or six-week campaign.

The last two federal campaigns – Gillard v Abbott in 2010 and Rudd v Abbott in 2013 – were among the worst in living memory: cynical and fearful, full of slogans and short on policy.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd campaigns with Bill Shorten in 2013 Photo: Chris Hyde

Malcolm Turnbull has indicated he wants this to change. He wants a new paradigm, a genuine contest of ideas. Australians want to believe him – but don’t be surprised if this year’s campaign is ultimately every bit as negative as those that preceded it.

Whatever the case, if you’re heading to your local shopping centre take some hand sanitiser and keep your babies out of sight.

Former prime minister John Howard campaigns during the 2007 election. Photo: Andrew Taylor

And if you’re in a marginal seat, maybe just stay home altogether. 5. The debate debate

No campaign is complete without it: the debate about the debates.

There’s no standard debate structure, so every campaign inevitably degenerates into a tiresome back and forth between the major parties: How many debates? When and where? What’s the format? Should we invite the Greens (hahahahah, just kidding)? Who should moderate and who should ask the questions: journalists or ordinary voters? What is the opposition leader afraid of? Why is the prime minister in hiding? Etcetera.

John Howard and Kim Beazley watch moderator Ray Martin flip a coin at the 2001 debate.

And then comes the anti-climax. When the debates finally occur they are invariably overly scripted and painfully dull, full of talking points but devoid of spontaneity, policy substance or, well, actual debate. 6. Voting day

It only takes an hour or so from your Saturday. That’s a small price to pay for democracy right?

Voters are greeted by political advertising on polling day. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

True, but nonetheless many Australians hate going to the polls. With local, state and federal elections – not to mention a plethora of planned plebiscites and referenda – it’s little wonder many people consider it a hassle. What’s more, compulsory voting means people have to drag themselves to the polling booths no matter how uninspiring the candidates, and no matter how disengaged or ill-informed they are about the issues. 7. Preference deals

After all that pain and suffering, at least the election result accurately reflects the will of the people, right?

Well maybe not. The arcane preference system means your vote can end up in some unlikely places, supporting candidates you’ve never heard of or don’t agree with. Micro-party candidates take advantage of this system to win seats – potentially giving them enormous crossbench power – after attracting just a handful of votes.

A metre-long Senate ballot from the 2013 election. Photo: Joe Armao

For example, Ricky Muir won a Senate seat in 2013 with just 0.51 of Victoria’s primary vote; on the other hand, Nick Xenophon’s running mate Stirling Griff missed out on a spot even though the pair won 25.7 per cent of South Australia’s primary vote.

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Did Angelina Jolie adopt another baby but not tell husband Brad Pitt?

The six children, Maddox, Pax, Shiloh, twins Knox and Vivienne, and Zahara, that the couple already have.It is being reported by The Sun that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have “adopted” a baby boy from Cambodia, taking their already sizeable brood to seven.
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The British tabloid claims Jolie, 40, has taken a boy named Allouy Shoun into her care after she came across his family of 13 brothers and sisters when spending time in the town of Siem Reap, where she was directing her latest directorial project, First They Killed My Father.

It also goes on to say that the By the Sea actor failed to tell her 52-year-old husband about her plans to add to their family, and instead made the agreement with the child’s family, who she felt for after witnessing the squalor in which they lived.

A source told Radar Online: “Angie didn’t want Brad to get wind of what she was doing because she knew he’d throw a fit!”

The Academy Award winner is said to have made the decision after daughters Shiloh, nine, and Zahara, 10, bonded with the family.

It is unclear what Pitt thinks about the new addition to the family, but then again he did once say he wanted a “soccer team” of children.

Jolie first adopted Maddox from a Cambodian orphanage in 2002, Zahara from an orphanage in Ethiopia in 2005, and in 2007, Vietnamese Pax was taken into the Jolie-Pitt crew.

In 2006, Jolie gave birth to Shiloh in Namibia, and two years later she had twins, Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline, in France.

Jolie and Pitt have yet to comment on adopting a baby boy.

Meanwhile, First They Killed My Father is due out this year. It is a Netflix film adapted from a memoir by Cambodian author and human rights activist Loung Ung about surviving the deadly Khmer Rouge regime.

“I was deeply affected by Loung’s book,” Jolie said previously. “It deepened forever my understanding of how children experience war and are affected by the emotional memory of it. And it helped me draw closer still to the people of Cambodia, my son’s homeland.”

“Films like this are hard to watch but important to see,” she added.

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Short sellers’ retreat a good sign for the Australian sharemarket, Morgans says

Woolworths remains the most shorted stock on the ASX by value, Morgans says. Photo: Dallas Kilponen Short selling has retreated since the start of the year as the market fell 7 per cent and shed $100 billion Photo: Morgans
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Investors betting against further falls in Australian shares after a horror start to the year have trimmed their bets, meaning they don’t expect things to get worse from here, stockbroking firm Morgans says.

Short positions have dramatically pulled back since the start of the year, as the market shed 7 per cent or $100 billion in value in a little over a week.

“Short selling has changed course from its strong ascent in 2015, signalling a possible reversal in the heavy skew in negative investor sentiment up to the end of the year,” Morgans equity strategy analyst Andrew Tang said.

Short selling is the practice of selling a borrowed security at a higher price before buying it back at a lower price, pocketing the difference.

Stocks with a “significant” reduction in their short positions outnumber those increasing positions by 2:1, meaning investors don’t envisage the ASX to fall much further below the 5000 mark, Mr Tang said.

Woolworths remains the most shorted stock by value, with $2.8 billion in bets against its shares.

The embattled supermarket chain, which issued three profit warnings and lost its chief executive and chairman in 2015  makes up 10 per cent of total short positions on the S&P/ASX 200, while making up just 2.4 per cent of the index by market capitalisation.

“Although an admired name with strong brand equity, we think with structural industry change currently underway, the turnaround strategy without a CEO at the helm will take years and not months to implement,” Mr Tang said.

“We continue to advocate trimming overweight positions in favour of some of our high conviction stocks such as Sydney Airport, which offers earnings certainty without the negative structural risk.”

The top 20 most shortest stocks on the ASX 200, calculated as a percentage of their free floating shares, include Flight Centre, at 25 per cent. JB Hi-Fi has 20 per cent tied up by short sellers, despite the expectations that its Christmas sales were strong based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

“Similarly, Harvey Norman also saw a rise in short positions over the month.”

“Resources stocks also some some increased selling over the month [of December],” Mr Tang said.

Those short positions, including 15 per cent in Fortescue Metals Group and 16 per cent in Whitehaven Coal come amid a savage commodity rout deepened by concerns over China’s economy amid its sharemarket and currency turmoil.

Oil prices are the worst hit, having dropped 20 per cent this year alone, with Brent crude buying just $US30.80 a barrel on Wednesday.

For the ASX, while market short interest is around 50 per cent higher now than at the same time in 2014 and 2013, Mr Tang said 2016 looked poised to be an improvement on 2015, where the market ended 2.1 per cent lower.

“We think 2016 will shape up to be better than 2015 but volatility will be a constant reminder that stock selection and vigilance will be required,” he said.

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Retirees offer opportunities for a smarter community

Most discussion of retirement in Australia focuses on income. This is understandable, because people now live much longer lives and they need to ensure that they can support themselves.
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But retirees also have to decide what they will do with the 20 to 30 or more years they will live post-work. Unfortunately, this vital aspect of retirement gets little attention. As a result many older people are not using their time as productively and satisfyingly as they might, and younger Australians often see retirees as an economic burden.

My own experience and that of many people I know is that retirement presents an opportunity for a full, rich life. My working life was busy and satisfying. But it was also all-encompassing and at times exhausting.

Since retirement in 2000 I have had led a more balanced life. I spend more time with family andfriends and have a rich and varied cultural and recreational life.

I also have time to think, and to contribute to community activities. In a social sense, this might be the most important aspect of retirement.

In our working lives we are absorbed in our jobs and in child-rearing. This is more the casetoday than ever. People work longer hours, and many parents spend a lot of time running their children to and from school and other activities.

One result of this is that membership of community organisations like Rotary, Lions andApex has declined.

Busy work lives also combine with the ubiquity of electronic and social media, political spin, advertising and consumerism to erode serious public discussion of matters crucial to our present and future wellbeing. Serious public deliberation and policymaking on issues like climate change, industry policy, health and education has virtually disappeared, crowded out by the the 24-hour news cycle and a general trivialisation of news and current affairs.

In Australia and elsewhere in the 19th and20th centuries, social action created universal public school education, adult education, public libraries and hence, an informed citizenry.

Since World War IIthere has been an alarming dumbing down of our public culture. It is not an exaggeration to say that today many Australians are both ill-informed and supremely manipulable.

Seen from this angle, the retirement years present an educational opportunity. Freed from work and other obligations, older Australians can learn through travel, cultural activities, conversation and courses.

Starting in France in 1973, a self-help style of seniors’ adult education, the University of the Third Age or U3A, spread to other countries including Australia. This model recognises that retired people have a lifetime of experience and, collectively, a vast amount of knowledge. This provides the basis for courses led by group members with specialist knowledge.

Newcastle U3A was established in 1990 and now offers 60 courses a year in a wide range of subjects.Students pay an annual fee of $50 which entitles them to attend as many courses as they like.All U3A work isvoluntary, including the development, teaching and administration of courses.

An information session will be held at Fellowship House, 152 Beaumont St Hamilton between 10am and noon on January 18.Visit hunter.u3anet.org419论坛, or phone 0479 193 182 for more information. TIME TO SHARE: We need to recognise that retired people have a lifetime of experience and, collectively, a vast amount of knowledge.

Dr Griff Foley teaches at Newcastle U3A. He was formerly associate professor of adult education at the University ofTechnology, Sydney

Deadline looms for fox owners

SERIOUS PREDATOR: Foxes cause heartache for farmers and their livestock, but some European red foxes are kept in captivity locally as pets.LOCAL fox owners have until the end of this monthto apply for a permit to keep the declared pest species as a pet.
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Hunter Local Land Services said in order to protect the environment and agricultural production in the region, anyone keeping a fox as a petin captivity is required to apply for a captive European red fox permit from Local Land Services byJanuary 31

HLLS invasive species team leader, Jamie Maddocks, said under a PestControl Order introduced by the NSW government, all European Red Foxes kept as pets prior to March 31, 2015, require an approved permit issued by Local Land Services to continue to be legally keptin captivity.

“The NSW government recognises there are a small number of people who have adopted foxes sowe are accommodating them by allowing existing pet foxes to be maintained under a permit,” MrMaddocks said.

‘The reality is that foxes are a serious predator of livestock. They have caused significant financiallosses to the farming community and pose a serious veterinary and public health risk.

“It is estimated that foxes cost Australia’s environment and economy as much as $227.5 million everyyear and that is a key factor for no longer permitting pet foxes.

“These animals have also played a central role in the demise and extinction of several nativespecies.”

A declared pest species under the Local Land Services Act 2013, the European red fox isinternationally recognised as one of the most serious threats to biodiversity in Australia.

To enhance the effectiveness of existing fox control programs throughout the state, the NSWgovernment introduced the Pest Control Order for the European red fox in December, 2014.

Mr Maddocks urged local captive fox owners to “do the right thing” and contact the Hunter Local Land Services office to apply for a permit before it’stoo late.

Failure to register an existing pet fox could result in a $3400 fine.

Applications for a new Captive European Fox Permit will not be issued after January 31, 2016.

Written permit requests can be emailed to [email protected]论坛.

Visit hunter.lls.nsw.gov419论坛

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