Crackdown on excessive mobile roaming charges

28/09/2018 // by admin

Mobile phone companies who gouge their customers while using their devices overseas are in the government’s sights with telcos to be forced to tell consumers the exact costs of international calls and texts.
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Communications Minister Stephen Conroy made the announcement today with his New Zealand counterpart, Amy Adams. The new rules are expected to come into effect within a year.

Telcos will be required to send an alert to their customers travelling abroad telling them how much it will cost to make phone calls, send text messages or to surf the web.

Senator Conroy will direct the Australian Communications and Media Authority to create the new industry standard.

Travellers are often hit with exorbitant bills, sometimes in the thousands of dollars, for making calls, sending texts or monitoring emails, he said.

”When consumers are paying more for the phone bill than the holiday itself, then something is wrong,” Senator Conroy said.

Ms Adams said New Zealanders and Australians who freely travelled between the two countries under the trans-Tasman agreement were being unfairly hit with hefty phone bills.

“While we are travelling so freely and talking to family and friends in both countries … it is important to both of our governments to know the New Zealanders and Australians have access to fair and reasonable pricing and be aware of what charges they will face,” she said.

Ms Adams said when the work began on the report, New Zealanders were facing mobile data charges of around $NZ30 per megabit but the price had now dropped to 50 NZ cents.

A draft report into trans-Tasman global roaming rates has recommended:Improving pricing transparency.Using legislation to allow international customers to become local end-users, so they are charged local rates instead of overseas mobile prices.Unbundling roaming services so people can use one network for domestic communications and a different network for trans-Tasman roaming.Introducing wholesale and retail price caps.

The Australian and New Zealand governments will also work together over the next six months to investigate possible price caps for international roaming services.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

How skiing can save your life

28/09/2018 // by admin

‘Skiing is what got me through the grief,’ says Murray Bartram – aka ‘The Flying Muzz’ – of his father’s death. Loving life … Jason Sauer.
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For many, time out at the snow is an opportunity to forget reality for a day, a week or a month. Those working a ski season can easily put “real life” on hold for up to four months, lost in “resort time”.

For others, skiing isn’t about suspending reality but embracing it. When life deals you less than a royal flush it is how you play those cards that sees you win or lose.

Liberty Skis Australia-sponsored athlete, 23-year-old Murray Bartram – aka “The Flying Muzz” – was born with cerebal palsy to parents determined to see him live a full life.  Sports helped Muzz manage his condition and at the age of 14 he discovered snowboarding, and then skiing.

He was taken under the wing of Disabled Winter Sports Australia and became a promising ski racer before spending his post-HSC summer in the snow city of Kimberley in Canada, training with the local race team and coming home with five medals.

Then tragedy hit. Muzz’s father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and told he had only weeks to live. He passed away mid Australian winter. Murray was 18.

“Skiing is what got me through the grief,” says Murray. “I skied every day for four weeks, just free-skiing to help me with the loss. Dad always wanted me to ski and supported my passion. When I ski I think of dad.”

Five years on Murray has completed a degree, something his father wanted, and has even gone heli skiing in Alaska.

Hotham-based sit skier, Queenslander Jason Sauer, wasn’t born with his disability. He lost his legs at 39 in a double amputation. Like Murray, he too skis for his dad.

Jason also discovered snowboarding as a teenager for five days a year on school holidays when he and his brother got to spend bonding time with their divorced father, an Austrian who lived in Mansfield and spent the winters working at the Victorian ski fields.

From the age of 16 to 23, Jason took up more than just snowboarding. He took up smoking marijuana and was kicked out of ski resorts when working a season because he would show up late, if at all. It was during this time his father died of bowel cancer.

“All the stoners were snowboarding back in those days and I wanted to be cool,” says Jason. “I tried so hard to be cool it nearly killed me. Ski resorts have a binge-drinking culture and the irony of working at them as an addict is not lost on me.”

Jason got clean and sober in 2003, attaining “long-term sobriety”. He didn’t work at or visit a ski resort until late 2008, when he spent four months at Big White in Canada on holiday, eventually relocating to the country for love, and working as a volunteer ski patroller.

By 2009 he was in the midst of an 11-month relapse and an almost daily opiate habit. He tried unsuccessfully to detox three times before finally getting sober for three months.

On Christmas Day 2010 in British Columbia, Jason relapsed with an overdose of heroin that would change his life for good. After 14 hours passed out he woke without the use of his legs. Rhabdomyolysis would claim his leg muscles and trigger renal failure. Between Christmas and New Year he underwent surgery three times, the last to amputate his legs to prevent the condition taking his life.

After two months in hospital Jason returned home to Brisbane for more hospital time. He was stoned again by May when reality hit.

“I was emotionally discomposed and grieving the loss of my legs,” says Jason.

A Facebook friend, an incomplete high-functioning quad based in Park City, Utah, invited him to visit the US in late 2011 to try his hand at adaptive bobsledding. It was an invitation that would save Jason’s life a second time, and put him on the path to full recovery.

“I met people who were a long way post injury than I was and they were living a full and happy life,” says a clean Jason. “It gave me hope.”

It was in Park City last January that Jason discovered sit skiing. He borrowed a sit ski from a mate and by the end of the day wheeled himself a kilometre and a half to his mate’s place to buy the ski. He was hooked, in a good way, and joined the NAC Park City alpine team.

I met Jason this week at Hotham Alpine Resort. He was ripping it under the chairlift (always a brave move) on Heavenly Valley, skiing better than most able-bodied skiers I know.  So much so that Liberty Skis Australia approached him to discuss potential sponsorship.

Jason trains with the able-bodied race crew at Hotham and lives off the mountain in Harrietville, a choice that ensures he doesn’t lose himself in resort life.

“I love my life now and I haven’t relapsed because I ski, it has saved my life and it allows me to relive the bonding moments I had when dad was alive. When I am skiing alone I talk to him.

“It’s freedom for someone with mobility issues because I don’t have mobility issues on my sit ski,” he says. “There is nowhere I feel more at home than at the top of a ski hill before a race with fellow adaptive skiers.”

Jason knows his future is not an easy one, especially if he wants to ski full time.

“I do think people judge my future by my past when they hear my story. But I’d rather be clean with no legs than addicted with legs. I’d piss in a jug every day for the rest of my life if I had the chance to pursue a ski racing future.”

Having achieved the level of skiing that he has in a mere eight months, I suspect he may just get there.

How has skiing or snowboarding saved your life? Do you ski or snowboard to escape or embrace? Post a comment on the blog below and you could win a ski trip to Japan.

Images of Jason courtesy of Skitracks南京夜网.au


Steve Lee taking on the mountains of Hakuba with Liquid Snow Tours photo credit: Chris Hocking

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Saving a motza for the student survivor

28/09/2018 // by admin

Aiming to save … Tia Saunders, Ahmed Haider, Chris Zaharia.When Tia Saunders and Ahmed Haider were casting around for a start-up idea a couple of years ago, the two business students turned to what they knew – education.
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“We wanted to get into education, because we were both interested in that area and we were looking to solve the problem of expensive textbooks,” says Saunders.

They initially explored the idea of digital textbooks on iPads, but after receiving little cooperation from publishers they turned to a much older medium, the physical book.Their site Zookal, a combination of book and retail – with a Z – rents textbooks to university students for less than the cost of buying them. For instance, a textbook that costs $100 new can be rented by a student for a semester for around $50.

“We thought what’s the biggest problem faced by students and it kept coming back to textbooks, so we thought there has to be a better way to do this,” says Haider.

The pair met when they did a marketing assignment together as part of their business degrees at the University of Technology Sydney.  Both now work full-time on the site, after Saunders, 23, finished her degree, but Haider, 26, dropped out to concentrate on the business.

Once they’d come up with the idea the pair took on programmer Chris Zaharia as a co-founder. The site went live in March 2011 after the founders raised a bit over $50,000 from family and friends.

At the end of last year the business raised its first venture capital funding through alternative investment manager Artesian Capital Management.

“The limitation to the model is that you need to have a lot of capital to purchase the books,” says Haider. “That’s why we need to constantly raise money to serve the market and get further growth.”

“We can’t capitalise on every single student that comes to the site and requests a book. We have to do it within the means of the capital that we raise.”

Zookal is now in the midst of another round of capital raising, seeking a seven figure sum from investors in Australia and around the world.

The site pays its founders a wage and invests the rest of its revenue into buying more books to expand. “You want to really dominate the market and it takes a lot to do that and we want to keep our focus on that for now,” says Haider.

Selecting which books to buy is a key factor in the success or failure of the site: choose a book that there’s no demand for and its cost can’t be recouped.

The pair spend a lot of time pouring over university book lists and concentrate on books that they think won’t go out of date for a few years.

“It’s very hard to predict. Even books that we thought were a sure thing sometimes aren’t,” says Saunders.

They have since identified 33 different factors in a book before they decide to purchase it, such as the publishing history of the book and whether it’s used at multiple universities. They are in the midst of developing an algorithm that will use those factors to select textbooks.

The Zookal founders have received advice from Chegg, a similar site in the US, which demonstrates the potential of the market. It was founded more than decade ago and offers physical and digital books for sale or rent. The site claims to have 4.2 million titles available and has rented to students at more than 6300 college campuses. Three years ago it raised $US57 million from investors.

Zookal won’t disclose how many textbooks it rents, but says it gets about 20,000 hits per term from students exploring the sites. Even in the relatively short time is has been live, it’s seen other competitors come and go, and has sometimes bought books from other sites that have gone under.

In March Zookal moved into lecture notes. Students can upload and sell their notes to others in the same course, but that part of the site is still under development.

The pair ultimately plan to leverage off the user base of textbook renters to expand into other student services. “Our vision is always ‘what does education look like 10 years from now?’” says Haider.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Saturn return: the first life crisis

28/09/2018 // by admin

Early life crisis … 28 can be a tough year, not just for astrological reasons.Earlier this year, I did a story for The Sunday Age’s M magazine in which I visited a bunch of healers and spiritual types to find out if my scepticism was the only thing standing between me and inner peace. While I came away from the experience somewhat less sceptical and temporarily more chilled out than beforehand, I was amused when a number of the practitioners I visited pinned my frustrations on the same thing as soon as I revealed my age. “Oh, you’re turning 28,” they’d say, smiling knowingly. “Don’t worry pet, it’s just your Saturn Return!”
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Nodding and suppressing an eye-roll at the time, once home I jumped straight onto Google to see what the hell they were on about. According to Wikipedia, “Saturn Return is an astrological transit when a transiting Saturn planet returns to the same point in the sky that it occupied at the moment of a person’s birth.” The return of Saturn apparently coincides with the amount of time it takes the planet to orbit once around the Sun, roughly 28-30 years. Astrologers say that each time Saturn returns to the point occupied at the time of our birth, we enter a new phase of life.

According to my astrological birth chart, I should currently be in the process of my first Saturn Return, the phase of leaving youth behind and entering adulthood, a description that is more or less apt, and one that gave me some comfort in the fact that I’d not acquired profound clarity and maturity some years ago along with my P-plates and/or university degree.

Reading further, it seemed that pop culture references to Saturn Return had escaped me for years. Pop-rock band No Doubt named an album, Return to Saturn, after the alleged phenomenon, made when lead singer Gwen Stefani was 29 and in the throes of her return. Flower child Drew Barrymore referenced her Saturn Return on Letterman back in 2007 (shortly after her split with The Strokes’ drummer Fabrizio Moretti) and even R.E.M. released a song called Saturn Return in 2001. Hey, if Michael Stipe’s a believer, maybe these astrologers are onto something after all.

It kind of makes sense – while my early twenties were relatively carefree (though they seemed less so at the time), buttressed by a uni degree, my single, globetrotting existence and minimal real-world responsibilities, I had, in a sense, been clinging to my youth without really knowing it. As I reach the point where even I have to admit that living at home is no longer a valid option, and my friends are getting married and popping out babies left, right and centre, now, more than ever before, have I felt the imperative to grow up (though not necessarily marry and have babies).

According to About南京夜网, Saturn Return might have a part to play in the peak in divorces in the US at around the age of 30, as couples reassess their relationships in light of changing personal priorities. Stefanie Iris Weiss and Sherene Schostak, aka ‘Saturn Sisters’ and authors of Surviving Saturn’s Return: Overcoming the Most Tumultuous Time of Your Life suggest that women look at their father issues during their Saturn Return because “Saturn symbolizes the father (personally and universally), and can set us up with very particular responses to the men in our lives, as we attempt to fix whatever was broken in our relationship with our dads or dad-like figures.”

They lost me there – I’m get along fine with my father and can’t see any link between our relationship and what I’m currently going through, but the following rang true, well, the first part anyway:

“If everything feels like chaos, if your relationships are breaking down and you’re questioning your career, your friendships, your sanity, and your very life, it is likely that it’s just the ripples of your Saturn Return descending.”

I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve spoken to countless friends about the increasing pressures as we age, especially for women. My friends are quitting jobs, starting new courses, moving overseas, getting married, breaking up. Nothing new, you might say, but the difference is we’re now effecting these changes with an increased sense of urgency. We’re aware that time is running out, we’re already a third of the way through life, and that’s if we’re lucky.

Yale psychologist Daniel Levinson referred to the ages of 28-30 as the Age 30 transition. “At about 28 the provisional character of the twenties is ending and life is becoming more serious,” he wrote in The Seasons of A Man’s Life. In Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy also notes the significance of the late twenties, describing his hero, Gabriel Oak, thus:  “He had just reached the time of life at which “young” is ceasing to be the prefix of “man” in speaking of one… In short, he was twenty-eight.” About南京夜网 Astrology Guide, Molly Hall, notes that at age 30, Vincent van Gogh chose to become an artist rather than a pastor.

Whether or not it’s tied to the planets is irrelevant, but it’s ultimately comforting to think this is a universal experience, and that at the end of the rather testing late twenties, a greater sense of certainty and contentment awaits if we make the right choices now and change the things that aren’t working in our lives, and consolidate the things that are. We can thank our lucky stars for that.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

No need to choose between America and China: top US official

28/09/2018 // by admin

The US has told Australia that it is “foolhardy” to think it needs to make a choice between America and China.
Nanjing Night Net

Kurt Campbell, the top Asia policy official in the US State Department, said America wanted to correct “false assessments” in the emerging debate about strategy in Australia.

He told Australian reporters today in a conference call from Washington that parts of the debate were “inaccurate and overwrought”.

He said he wanted to “reject out of hand” the idea the US was a declining power.

Many people had lost a lot of money betting the US was in decline, he said. “The US is going to be a dynamic and powerful player in Asia for many decades to come.”

He conceded that China had expressed concern at the decision to put a permanent rotating deployment of US Marines near Darwin. “But the more we have explained and made clear” the purpose of the deployment, “these concerns have subsided substantially, and in none of our recent interactions with China has it come up”, he said.

But at the same time that America wanted to intensify ties with Australia, it also expected Canberra to improve ties with China.

Mr Campbell rejected the idea of a zero-sum game in great-power relations.

Washington hoped and expected there would be “strong and dynamic” relations between Australia and China.

Mr Campbell said he realised some debate in Australia posed it as a choice for Australia between its strong alliance with the US and stronger ties with a rising China. But “such a choice would be foolhardy”, as well as unnecessary, he said.

Mr Campbell said the idea that the US was trying to exclude a rising China from sharing power in the Asia-Pacific region was “patently false”.

Former Australian prime minister Paul Keating argued earlier this month that the US needed to do more to accommodate Chinese power.

He cited what he called the Keating mantra, “that great states need strategic space and that if they are not provided some, they will take it”.

But Mr Campbell said of Mr Keating’s remark: “If he’s referring to some 19th century kind of colonial division, then I would reject that.”

He said that “no country has taken more trouble to engage with China” than the US. If anything, the US had been giving China more responsibility in global affairs than it was comfortable with.

“Look at the role they play in international relations in the global economy, look at the role they play across the spectrum,” he said, citing Iran, Syria, North Korea and issues of nuclear non-proliferation. “You name it, there are ample opportunities for China to play a larger role in politics.”

He said that “not just the US but every country in Asia is seeking to have more space for China”.

Mr Keating had been speaking at the Sydney launch of a book by Hugh White titled The China Choice – Why America Should Share Power.

Liberal Party frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull will speak at the Canberra launch of the book today.

Mr Campbell said that the US was “very mindful” of the lessons of history and the need for existing powers to recognise the needs of rising powers, to avoid what he called the trap of “hegemonic transition”.

“That doesn’t mean that this relationship is not challenging – inevitably there will be co-operation and inevitably there will be challenges, as there are today,” he said.

If two great powers came into armed conflict over clashing spheres of influence, “there would be no winners”.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.