Moscow tells US it won’t invade Ukraine

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

Russia has assured the United States that it will not invade Ukraine, the US Defence Department says.

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“Secretary of Defence (Chuck) Hagel spoke today by phone with Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu (and) Shoigu reiterated his assurance that Russian forces would not invade Ukraine,” spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

Kirby said the two discussed a range of issues related to the situation in Ukraine, with Hagel requesting clarification of Russia’s intentions in eastern Ukraine.

Hagel urged an end to Russia’s “destabilising influence inside Ukraine and warned that continued aggression would further isolate Russia and result in more diplomatic and economic pressure,” Kirby said.

Hagel also “emphasised how dangerous the situation remains and expressed his desire to find a responsible way forward”, and that Ukraine must be included in diplomatic talks, the US spokesman said.

Hagel also asked Moscow’s help in “securing the release of the seven inspectors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe currently being held in Eastern Ukraine”.

The seven observers were detained on Friday in Slavyansk by pro-Russian separatists, who have called them “prisoners of war”, and want to exchange their freedom for the release of people detained by Ukrainian authorities.

Moscow said that, during the phone call with Hagel, Shoigu called on the US to tone down its rhetoric on the Ukraine crisis.

Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday he will visit Ukraine as well as Georgia and Moldova next week in a show of support for Kiev and other pro-EU governments.

The announcement came as the United States and the European Union stepped up pressure on Moscow, with the White House imposing sanctions on seven Russian officials and 17 firms close to President Vladimir Putin and Brussels adding 15 names to its own list.

In November, Ukraine pulled out of an agreement aimed at closer ties with Europe in favour of closer ties with Russia, sparking protests that ended the regime of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych and precipitating Russia’s move to annex Crimea.

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Signs all encouraging for Phelps in comeback

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Only time will tell whether Phelps will stick with his comeback and swim at the 2016 Rio Olympics and possibly add to his mind-boggling collection of 18 gold medals.

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But for now, the signs are all good. The 28-year-old deliberately chose a relatively low key meet in suburban Phoenix for his return and competed in just two events but there were enough signs to show he can do it if he wants to.

“On the whole,” he told reporters on Friday. “I think it felt pretty good.

“I was very excited… I felt like a kid again and that was the coolest thing about it.”

Despite his staggering achievements, Phelps and longtime coach Bob Bowman have always been coy about revealing their plans and nothing has changed.

EXCITED

Both insist they have not hatched any long term plans and are sticking to the sportsman’s mantra that they are taking things one day at a time although a clearly relaxed Phelps said he was enjoying himself and his times indicated he was already in good shape.

“I was just kind of literally getting my feet wet again,” he said.

“This is one meet, it’s one race. It’s a long way from whether I decide to continue or not, but this was awesome.

“I’m really excited about how things went and I do know what I need to do if I want to continue and want to swim faster and obviously I like swimming faster and faster every race.”

While Rio may still be more than two years away, Phelps and Bowman did give away some clues about their short-term plans. Phelps will swim again at another USA Grand Prix meet in Charlotte, North Carolina next month before heading to Colorado for intense high-altitude training.

In their previous incarnation, Bowman put Phelps through a torturous training routine to get him into shape to cope with a heavy race schedule but Phelps has dramatically cut back on his workouts this time even though he piled on almost 40 pounds (18 kilograms) in retirement.

And although neither man will talk about which races they may compete in at Rio, Bowman has already indicated that it will be less races and shorter events.

“His training is much different, it’s actually half and in some cases a third of what he used to do,” Bowman said.

“What we’re doing wouldn’t work for 17 swims in eight days but it might work for six or seven swims in shorter races.

“It’s actually fun, I’m sort of experimenting with stuff I didn’t have the guts to do before. Basically, he’s not swimming as far, he’s only been training once a day.”

NO 400 IM

The only thing Phelps would publicly confirm about his future plans was that he was ditching the 400 metres individual medley – the most gruelling, long-bursting event on the Olympic swimming schedule, which he won at Athens and Beijing but lost in London.

“I’m not ever going to swim the 400 IM again. I will guarantee you,” Phelps said. “I’m putting that out there. I’m never swimming the 400 IM again. That will not be a race we will compete in.”

Bowman could not resist poking fun at Phelps, who also vowed that he would never make a comeback after he quit the sport in 2012.

“Is that kind of like I will never ever swim again?” Bowman asked. “I’m just trying to make sure we’re clear on that.”

Gregg Troy, who was the head coach of the men’s team at London, was impressed by what he saw from Phelps.

“He’s the best, it’s simple as that,” Troy told Reuters.

“He’s capable of doing anything he decides he wants to do. He’s actually at the prime age for males, he’s not over the hill by any means. But it’s up to him to decide for himself.”

Bowman was also pleased with Phelps’ return. He comfortably won his 100m butterfly heat on Thursday then finished a close second to old rival Ryan Lochte in the final that same night, showing some unsurprising signs of rustiness.

LOTS OF INTEREST

Phelps was welcomed back to the swimming fold like a long lost brother. Tickets for the event sold out within hours and there were five times more media in attendance than for the corresponding meet last year.

A television station sent a helicopter to hover over the pool just to catch a shot of Phelps in practice while his former team mates and rivals were gushing about his return.

“I’m so glad he’s back.” said Lochte said. “Me and him, we’ve got history.

”When he left swimming, it kind of broke my heart a little because I love getting on the blocks and racing him.

“Racing him against him is so much fun, it’s a challenge and now that he’s back, I’ve got a big old smile.”

On Friday, Phelps went back to work on his technique, opting to swim butterfly in the 50m freestyle heats, which effectively killed any chance he had of making the final against competitors swimming the faster front crawl.

He also qualified for the national championships in California in August, which loom as the first big watershed moment for his long term plans.

The championships double as the U.S. selection trials for next year’s world titles and will be the next big clue to where Phelps’ comeback is heading.

“Let’s just see what’s down the road,” Bowman said. “He has an opportunity if he wants to take advantage of it.”

(This story was refiled to change the word ‘ago’ to ‘away’ in the 11th paragraph.)

(Editing by Gene Cherry)

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More ex-Barclays staff charged over Libor

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Britain’s Serious Fraud Office says three more ex-employees of Barclays bank have been charged over the Libor rate-rigging affair.

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The scandal over Libor, an interest rate at the heart of the global economy, has damaged the reputation of London as a global financial centre and plagued big names in world banking.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said on Monday it had launched criminal proceedings against the three men “for conspiracy to defraud in connection with its investigation into the manipulation of Libor”.

The charged were named as Jay Vijay Merchant, Alex Julian Pabon and Ryan Michael Reich in a brief statement issued by the SFO, which added that its investigation would continue.

The trio will appear at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court in a few weeks’ time.

Barclays declined to comment.

The SFO has now brought a total of 12 charges in relation to Libor, including three other former Barclays employees.

Libor, or the London Interbank Offered Rate, is a global benchmark calculated daily, using estimates from banks of their own interbank rates.

It underpins the terms of $US500 trillion ($A540.69 trillion) of contracts from mortgages to the cost of corporate lending.

The scandal erupted two years ago when Barclays was fined STG290 million ($A528.23 million) by British and US regulators for attempted manipulation of Libor and Euribor interbank rates between 2005 and 2009. Euribor is the eurozone equivalent of Libor.

Royal Bank of Scotland, Swiss lender UBS, Rabobank and broker Icap have also received heavy fines over the scandal.

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Cruise passengers demanding balconies

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The Titanic didn’t have them.

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Neither did the snooty Queen Elizabeth 2 or the swinging TV Love Boat Pacific Princess.

But now many travellers refuse to cruise if they don’t have a balcony cabin.

“The first couple times I cruised I had a porthole window, but the third time I went to the balcony room, and I never went back after that,” says Peggy Earo of North Carolina, who on this cruise has a balcony cabin on Deck 2 not far above the ocean swells. “It’s a sense of airiness. It’s very calming and soothing. I like to see the storms and the waves, the sunrise and the sunset.

“I would not come without the balcony. It’s that important to me.”

Earo isn’t alone.

And the cruise industry has taken notice.

Eighty per cent of cabins on the new Regal Princess ship debuting in May will have balconies. Sleek new river-cruise lines are inventing ways to give guests true balconies instead of just a railing. And big cruise lines keep making their balcony (also called veranda) cabins ever more elaborate.

“I would never book an inside stateroom,” says John Safranski of Michigan, who has taken 10 cruises and has an 11th already booked. “It doesn’t get much better than sipping champagne out on the balcony as we cruise into the sunset.”

Balcony cabins cost about 25 per cent more than inside cabins. But that is less of a price difference than a few years ago.

“Back in the day it could have been 75 per cent to 100 per cent more expensive to get a balcony, there were so few of them,” says cruise analyst Stewart Chiron of Miami-based the Cruise Guy.

These days, “it would be crazy to build a ship that doesn’t have them … Without a doubt they are the most popular cabins on a cruise.”

He says what is going away are “ocean-view” cabins – cabins that have window views of the water, but no way to sit outside.

And even inside cabins these days are being tricked out with “virtual balconies”. The new Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas class of ships debuting in November will have soothing video of the ocean broadcast on an interior wall, giving the feel of a balcony cabin if not the bracing reality.

Not that long ago, cruise-ship balcony cabins were for the few and the affluent, if ships offered them at all.

Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas was considered one of the first truly modern cruise ships in 1991. It offered balconies for five per cent of its cabins, and that was a big deal. Ships built in the 2000s offered about 25 per cent to 45 per cent balcony cabins.

Now, all new ships offer balconies on more than 65 per cent of rooms.

And the price differential is shrinking.

The Detroit Free Press looked at prices on seven cruise lines and ships for a typical seven-day Caribbean cruise in November. We found a price premium of 18 per cent-34 per cent over an inside cabin – but deals to be had, such as an $US849 ($A920) balcony cabin price on the new Regal Princess, just $US150 more than an interior cabin.

Frequent cruisers may even be able to get a better deal.

Myron Thompson of Nebraska, for example, is diamond loyalty level on Carnival because he has taken 50 Carnival cruises.

He does not need to book a balcony cabin to get one.

“If you are a past guest and book it early enough, you will get a two-category upgrade,” says Thompson, who once got an aft (back) corner cabin with a wrap-around veranda.

With a balcony like that, a person can see both where they’ve been and where they are going. And it’s a long way from Omaha.

WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEND THE MONEY TO GET A BALCONY CABIN?

-If the price difference is 25 per cent or less compared to an inside cabin.

-If you are taking an Alaska or Mediterranean cruise with amazing scenery the whole way. Get a cabin on the side that will face land.

-If you want more space. Even a small balcony is like having an extra room; an early riser can sit outside without disturbing a sleeping cabin-mate inside.

-If you get seasick or are claustrophobic. A balcony lets you see the horizon.

-If you smoke. Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines still allow smoking on cabin balconies, although most lines ban it (Cunard’s ban took effect this month).

-If you plan to spend a lot of time in your cabin and prefer privacy instead of crowds.

-If you can afford it. A deluxe balcony may just be gilding the lily. But even a small balcony makes you feel grand.

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Google, Jay Z among 2014 Webby winners

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Google, Jay Z and crowdfunding site Kickstarter are among the winners of this year’s Webby Awards, a celebration of internet achievement that got its start nearly two decades ago.

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The awards are presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a group of about 1,000 web experts and internet professionals. Judges included Tumblr founder David Karp and “House of Cards” actor Kevin Spacey.

Each Webby category is split in two: There’s an award from the academy and a “people’s voice” award for which anyone can cast an online vote. Winners in the latter category include Beyonce, Tumblr, the NASA website and satirical news site The Onion (which was also the academy’s pick in the humour category).

The website “Reasons My Son Is Crying” received both the Webby and the people’s voice award in the personal blog or website category. The site features photos of bawling children captioned with the reasons they are upset, which range from “I wouldn’t let him eat dog food” to “we told him that his dinosaur is blue”.

Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig won a lifetime achievement award. Lessig co-founded Creative Commons, which provides a way for people to licence their online work for public use.

The Jamaican Bobsleigh Team won Athlete of the Year honours for using crowdfunding to finance its trip to the Sochi Olympics. The team raised $US129,687 ($A140,240) from the crowdfunding site Crowdtilt and also received unsolicited donations from the supporters of Dogecoin, the cryptocurrency inspired by a silly internet meme.

The awards will be handed out on May 19 in New York in a ceremony famous for restricting winners to five-word acceptance speeches. Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt will host.

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Facing the hard questions on university funding

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By Glyn Davis, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne 

A public university owes a wide debt to society.

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Among our obligations is to ensure the wisest use of public funding for education. So the subject of Commonwealth university policy demands attention. Inevitably the issue is more than fees.

Yet the question of fees is very important. A petition from the University of Melbourne Student Union, signed by hundreds of students in recent weeks, puts the issue frankly.

Vice-Chancellors should be standing with the student body to demand greater public funding. The report you submitted to the federal government on university fees pushed policies that were detrimental to the student body, in particular students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Everyone on campus, staff and student alike, has a history with the question of who pays for tertiary education. For me, this began in 1978 as one first-year arts student among many, marching in protest against cuts to higher education imposed by the Fraser government. We could not know that funding per student had already peaked, and would fall steadily for the next three decades despite all the marches, demonstrations, campaigns and political lobbying ahead.

Now Malcolm Fraser is protesting against cuts to higher education expenditure. As the former prime minister told graduates at Macquarie University recently, “education is the best and most important investment that this country can make”.

Fraser noted the long, slow decline in public funding per student. Those who lead universities make the same point often. During my term as Chair of Universities Australia, vice-vhancellors pressed the case for more public investment through print, electronic and social media. You may recall the television advertisements, which were filmed next to the Old Quad at the University of Melbourne.

The campaign drew welcome support from the sector, but ominous silence from politicians. Before the year was out, Labor education minister Craig Emerson announced funding reductions amounting to $3.2 billion for university and student support over the next four years. Present Liberal minister Christopher Pyne later introduced legislation to enact the cuts, confirming an unhappy bipartisanship on public funding for universities.

How do politicians defend this record? They cite a different measure of investment: access to the higher education system. Funding per student may have fallen, they agree, but expansion of entry has been more important.

Once, a handful of students found places on campus; in 1970 around 3% of the adult population held a bachelor degree. Now, nearly 40% of young adult Australians possess a bachelor qualification. This growth in enrolments, they suggest, has required huge additional public investment, and a necessary trade between quality and quantity.

There is also a tougher message politicians pass on only in private, using the language of electoral calculus – and that message is simple: however passionately those in higher education feel about the sector, the issue does not rate in polling about public concerns. Australians worry about the health system and school education, about jobs, transport and the cost of living. They are not inclined to pay more taxes.

Put bluntly, the electorate believes university students do well after graduation, earning more than most. The case for investing more in higher education makes compelling sense to students and staff but rarely moves the wider community.

This perception follows a simple calculation. The average Australian graduate has less than $20,000 in higher education loan debt, which is paid back through the taxation system in around eight years. On one recent estimate, graduates earn an additional $1.2 million during their working lifetime. There are few other investments with such sustained returns.

The UMSU petition argues that higher fees are detrimental to students, in particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Price increases are always unpopular and debt is never welcome.

I am less sure higher fees affect equity. With HECS, students face no entry costs to study and make no repayments if their income does not reach the tax threshold. As the government demonstrated in 2005, lifting the cost of higher education does not alter participation, even among the disadvantaged.

Nonetheless, there are vital social returns from public investment in higher education. Most taxpayers may not attend university but they profit from the skills of graduates – those nurses, teachers, engineers and art historians who make this a better community. Our society benefits too from research done at universities, and from the large flow of international students who choose Australian universities as their destination, and so enrich our culture and our economy.

The UMSU petition calls for students and vice-chancellors to stand side by side in demanding greater public funding. Agreed, but what happens when governments decline that call? When we’ve marched in the streets, run advertising campaigns, made public statements to no avail, what then?

Do public universities walk away from all other options because students will not like the alternatives? The quality of an institution depends on money to hire brilliant academics, build teaching laboratories, support a well-stocked library, ensure the amenities to support study and student life, and support scholarships to help those with financial challenges. As a non-profit public enterprise, this is how the University of Melbourne spends income earned from student fees. As we face the possibility of yet further cuts in public funding, the issue of student contribution is hard to avoid.

The UMSU petition opposes not just higher fees but other policy changes:

Reverse your position on fee increases and deregulation and, in future, consider students’ welfare before taking a position on fees.

Yet the scale of student contribution is part of a bigger policy picture. The University of Melbourne has indeed argued for deregulation, citing examples where duplicated reporting regimes, inflexible rules and unnecessary government impositions burn up money better spent on teaching and research.

The current national funding system contains significant internal unfairness. Tertiary students do not make an equal contribution to their education. For studies in dentistry, medicine or veterinary science, the taxpayer covers around two-thirds of the course cost. But for law, accounting, commerce, economics or administration, the taxpayer provides around a fifth of the cost. The situation is more challenging for international students who pay significantly more on average for the same course than their domestic counterparts.

How does this square with concern for student welfare? If we are serious about equitable contributions by students, the status quo should be unacceptable.

Moreover, the current funding system privileges some areas of study, but makes others financially difficult for universities. For example, the cost of offering a place in the Masters of Teaching is around $5,000 a year more than the total public subsidy and the maximum charge allowed by the Commonwealth. This gap reflects the expense of delivering within working schools, using master teachers and a clinical model – the essential features of the program, and the basis of the internationally acclaimed success of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education.

It is only possible to offer such financially unviable programs by taking money from other courses – an inequity built into the system. Equally unfair is the cross-subsidy from international students to locals; one student’s benefit comes at the cost of another.

So, when the University of Melbourne argues for deregulation, it addresses more than student fees. It seeks a system in which fees are linked to the courses a student chooses to study, and where the burden of charges is shared more equitably.

As the 2011 Base Funding Review report noted, a consistent rate of student contribution would see some course costs rise and others fall. As at present, there would be no up-front fees thanks to the Higher Education Contribution Scheme.

The Coalition government has signalled an intention to cut public spending. Assuming a further reduction to outlays for universities, the government may contemplate allowing institutions to raise fees to cover yet another fall in public spending per student. The UMSU position, as expressed in the petition, suggests the University of Melbourne should not take up this flexibility should it be presented. This will win the sympathy of many in the short term, but will have serious implications for future generations.

The dilemma for the university is distressing but straightforward: do we accept a fall in quality as the public subsidy diminishes yet again, or seek flexibility to match the student contribution to the real cost of delivering tertiary education and address inadequacies in the current system? This question is bigger than fee levels, since it goes to a status quo already riddled with inequitable distribution of available public funding.

Students and staff alike hold dear the importance of universities to the nation, and the overriding importance of adequate public funding. Those running our universities feel likewise the responsibility of ensuring the highest-quality university possible.

It is not in students’ interests to reduce the quality of their education to avoid unpopular fee rises. This is a choice no one welcomes, but a question we cannot avoid.

The University of Melbourne is a public-spirited university committed to excellence in research, teaching and learning and engagement. In the best of all possible worlds, that mission would be proudly and unstintingly supported by the nation. Our reality, alas, makes for harder choices.

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

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Wladimir Klitschko’s Olympic hopes hit

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Ukraine’s undisputed world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko’s hopes of competing in the 2016 Olympics have been dealt a blow after he failed to get permission to take part in his country’s qualifying competition.

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The executive board of the Ukrainian national boxing federation have never given permission to either Klitschko or his older brother Vitali to take part in qualifying for the Games in Rio de Janeiro, meaning he has missed the deadline, according to the R-Sport news agency.

“The possibility of the participation of the Klitschko brothers in Olympic qualifying as professionals is something that has never been examined,” Ukraine’s boxing federation press service stated.

That comes as a blow to the 38-year-old, who had earlier been quoted by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency as saying: “I hope that international amateur boxing’s ruling body will be kind to me, and that I will have enough health and motivation to perform at the Olympics in two years time.”

The 38-year-old, who won gold at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, said he spoke to his former coach, Emanuel Steward, during the 2012 London Olympic Games and that he had encouraged him to box again in Rio.

Steward subsequently died in October 2012.

“It was our joint dream with Emanuel (Steward) and I hope I will be able to fulfil it,” Klitschko said.

“I already have an Olympic title and it would be terrific to repeat this experience 20 years later.”

Klitschko, who has lived in Germany since the 1990s, had the chance to take German citizenship and represent the country at the Olympics but he also failed to inform Germany’s boxing association about his intentions in time.

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Can we erase unhappy memories?

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We all have things we’d like to forget – being the victim of a crime, a bad relationship, an embarrassing faux pas.

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What if we could erase those bad memories? Or at least take the edge off them?

Over the last 10 or 15 years, researchers have got a better understanding of how memories are formed and recalled.

Dr Susannah Tye, an assistant professor in the departments of psychiatry and psychology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, says that bad memories affect people on two levels.

There’s the recollection of the traumatic event, as well as a physical aspect – a person’s heart may race or they may get depressed or withdrawn – that can be debilitating.

“These memories, when they’re traumatic, they’ve been stored effectively because they’re very important,” she says.

Science hasn’t found a delete button you can hit to eliminate certain memories, though researchers are looking. In the meantime, Tye suggests, “a psychologist or psychiatrist with expertise in trauma can help facilitate what the individual can do”.

The very process behind the recollection of an event is still not fully understood, though we’re discovering some surprising things.

“We don’t remember everything, only bits and pieces,” says Jason Chan, an assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State University.

“We take these pieces (when we recall a memory) and reconstruct a story that makes sense to us. But it might not be correct.”

Those memories can also be altered. Writing on the Scientific American Blog Network earlier this year, neuroscientist R Douglas Fields explained that when a specific memory is recalled, it is vulnerable to being altered or even extinguished for a certain period of time.

Chan is doing research along those lines. His team’s studies, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that if a memory is reactivated by being recalled – a process called reconsolidation – it becomes susceptible to being changed.

“We found you can make it harder for people to remember a previous event if they recall it, and right after that you give them information that’s different from the original memory,” he says. “(It) makes it more difficult.”

As an example, he suggested a conversation in which he talks about a panda.

“A couple days later, I ask, ‘What was the animal we talked about?’ You say, ‘A panda bear.’ I say, ‘Actually it was a grizzly bear.’

“A couple of days later I ask again, and it will be more difficult for you to remember the panda bear. The grizzly bear has updated the memory.”

There are other methods of altering memories. Certain drugs, protein inhibitors, have been shown to make memories more malleable. Electric shocks to the brain can also erase certain memories, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have found a gene that can help with memory extinction. Even alcohol can do the job. Chan says that alcohol affects the memory formation mechanism. Research continues in all these areas.

Another possible way to edit memories doesn’t involve professional assistance, drugs or medical intervention.

Mike Byster is the author of “The Power of Forgetting: Six Essential Skills to Clear Out Brain Clutter and Become the Sharpest, Smartest You” (Harmony Books). Part of his theory involves forgetting the unnecessary and retaining what’s needed. He explains that in the book. But he also suggests ways to have some control over major memories.

His mother, he says, suffered a brain injury and for the last two years of her life was a different person. Because he didn’t want to remember her that way, he focused instead on happy times.

“I took two or three happy memories, and made myself remember them vividly, with as much detail as I could recall,” he says.

“I tell people to do this, make the memories as vivid as possible. Now and then my mum pops into my head, and it’s the fun things, the good memories, that are so vivid.”

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Dairy demand widens trade surplus

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New Zealand’s trade surplus has widened as Chinese demand for dairy products continues to soar, driving the monthly and annual export receipts to new records.

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The trade surplus was $NZ920 million in March, from a revised $NZ793m in February, and $NZ732m a year earlier, according to Statistics New Zealand.

The annual trade balance was a surplus of $NZ805m, or 1.6 per cent of exports.

Economists polled by Reuters predicted a monthly surplus of $NZ937m and an annual surplus of $NZ920m.

Exports climbed 15 per cent to $NZ5.08b in March, for an annual increase of 8.5 per cent to $NZ50.07b. That was the first time New Zealand’s international sales topped $NZ5b in a month and $NZ50b in a year.

Milk powder, butter and cheese exports advanced 45 per cent to $NZ1.53b in March for an annual increase of 31 per cent to $NZ14.92b, while casein and caseinates gained 17 per cent to $NZ93m for an annual lift of 7.5 per cent to $NZ988m. Dairy products accounted for about 30 per cent of all exports.

“While March tends to be the peak month for exports, this was also a record high in seasonally adjusted terms,” Westpac Banking Corp senior economist Michael Gordon said in a note.

“Dairy products were down nine per cent by volume, but there were increases in exports of meat, oil and machinery.”

Meat and edible offal sales rose 12 per cent to $NZ731m for a 4.1 per cent annual gain to $NZ5.5b, while exports of logs, wood and wood articles gained 14 per cent to $NZ385m for an annual lift of 24 per cent to $NZ4.05b.

Imports rose 13 per cent to $NZ4.16b for an annual lift of 5.5 per cent to $NZ49.26b. The monthly figure included a one-off $NZ216m import of a drilling platform.

Exports to China jumped 31 per cent to $NZ1.13b in March for an annual gain of 51 per cent to $NZ11.19b, or 22 per cent of all exports.

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MKR semi final tops 2 mill viewers

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The semi final of Seven’s My Kitchen Rules topped two million viewers on Monday.

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The cut-throat episode, in which Adelaide pair Jessica and Bree beat Melbourne twins Helena and Vikki, attracted 2.005 million viewers.

The SA mums will take on trash-talking travellers Chloe and Kelly in Tuesday’s $250,000 winner-takes-all grand final which is expected to attract about 2.5 million viewers.

The Seven Network series has been a standout in the ratings and the other networks have wisely avoided clashing with MKR this week.

The Nine Network’s The Voice, which has launched on Logies night for the past two years, will start on Sunday. Network Ten’s MasterChef will start next Monday.

My Kitchen Rules was the number one show by a long way on Monday. The next highest placed show program on the OzTAM overnight ratings was Nine News (1.232 million).

Seven News (1.230 million) was third and Seven News/Today Tonight (1.152 million) was fourth.

Even though MKR finishes tonight, Seven has ensured there is no respite for reality show junkies.

The network will launch the second season of the renovation series House Rules on Wednesday.

Most watched shows on Monday

1. My Kitchen Rules (Seven) – 2.005 million

2. Nine News (Nine) – 1.232 million

3. Seven News (Seven) – 1.230 million

4. Seven News / Today Tonight (Seven) -1.152 million

5. A Current Affair (Nine) – 1.151 million

6. Nine News 6:30 (Nine) – 1.145 million

7. The Big Bang Theory (Nine) – 1.117 million

8. The Big Bang Theory rpt (Nine) -1.047 million

9, Home And Away (Seven) -1.036 million

10. ABC News (ABC1) – 905,000

* Source OzTAM

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