Election result sees Labor assume outright majority in Newcastle Council

Numbers hand Labor ‘total’ control of city TRIUMPHANT: Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes will be joined by six Labor councillors in City Hall. It is believed to be the first council with an outright Labor majority since the 1970s. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
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Liberal councillor Brad Luke said his party had to accept the decision of voters to give ‘total’ control of the city to the ALP.

Incoming councillor John MacKenzie, left, said the Greens had “mixed feelings” about the council election result.

Independent Kath Elliott said she was “very pleased” to have been elected to Newcastle Council, along with three other members of her team.

TweetFacebookTHE FINAL makeup of Newcastle Council will include six Labor councillors in addition to Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, delivering the party an iron grip on the balance of power at City Hall.

Labor securedan additional two seats on last term – in Wards 3and 4–in final results declared by the NSW Electoral Commission on Sunday.

The surprise result exceededeven bullish party expectations.According to the ALP, it will be the first council with an outright Labor majority since 1977, when Joy Cummings was Lord Mayor.

“Voters have overwhelmingly endorsed our vision for the city and our track record of delivery,” Cr Nelmes said.

Liberal party sources blamed the poor resulton both the state and federal governments being on the nose with voters, particularly over the issue of same-sex marriage.

“It was a massive factor,” one party member, who did not want to be identified, said.“A lot of people were literally asking how the councillors would vote on same-sex marriage.”

Kath Elliott’s independent team securedfour seats, with Ms Elliott and former NBN newsreader John Church joining are-electedAndrea Rufo and Allan Robinson on council’s ranks.

Ms Elliott said she was “pretty happy” with the result and pledged to approach each issue with an open mind.

“Because we’re independents, we want to work with anyone,” she said.

“We have the city’s interests at heart and that is our first priority.We’re not voting on party lines.

“We would hope that other councillors in the chamber would be voting on issues like us, not based on party politics being directed out of Sydney.”

Liberal representation was slashed from four councillors to one, with a returningBrad Luke the party’s sole voice on the new council.

The Greens lost one seat, with newcomerJohn Mackenzie admitting the verdict brought “mixed feelings”.

“We had a lot of ourhistorically highest votesbut it hasn’t translated to seats in council,” he said.

Cr Luke said his party had to accept the verdict handed down byvoters.

“Nuatali has absolute and total control of Newcastle Council and the entire running of the council in all ways falls on her,” he said.

“What we’ve got to do is represent the ratepayers as best we can.”

Councillors Nuatali Nelmes,Declan Clausen and Jason Dunn were returned for Labor, in addition to a string of new faces includingunion secretaryEmma White, former radio personalityCarol Duncan, nurse Matt Byrne and educator Peta Winney Baartz.

The biggest upsets were in Wards 3 and 4, where Labor took two of thethree available seats.

According to a statement released by the party on Sunday, it was the first time ever that Labor would holda second seat in Ward 3, thanks to a 13 per cent swing in its favour.

Ward 4 saw a record 17.5 per cent swing towards Labor, the party claimed.

Cr Nelmes was pleased theemphatic win came after a period where “hard decisions” had to be made about council’s finances and vision for the city.

“Voters have respected that those were tough decisions and I am encouraged by their support,” she said.

“From Minmi to Merewether, residents tell me they are seeing roadworks in their street for the first time in decades.

“This has only been achieved because Labor councillors have balanced the books, delivered a budget surplus and rejected the idea that slashing staff or services creates better results for residents.”

Mr Mackenzie will step in to fill the void left by thedeparture of Greens councillorsTherese Doyle and Michael Osborne. He paid tribute to his predecessors on Sunday.

“Newcastle has lost a tremendous campaigner in Therese Doyle and that will be felt … at the same time, we are saying goodbye to Michael Osborne who has left a powerful legacy,” he said.

But he felt the makeup of the new council looked promising.

​”[For] the first time for a while, we have the possibility of working towards a consensus council. Newcastledeserves to have a council not at war with itself.”​

Calls for elderly to be given extra influenza vaccination after deadly flu season

More than 160,000 people have contracted the flu in so far this year. Photo: Craig AbrahamAdeadly strain of flu haskilled 94 people in Victorianaged-care facilities so far this year, leading to calls for more frequent vaccinationagainst the virus for those whoare most vulnerable.
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Case numbers have continuedto climbacross the country this month, making2017 one of the worst years for influenzain recent years.

More than 160,000 people have contracted the flu inso far this year, Health Department figures show, compared with75,818 recorded cases for the same time last year.

In Victoriathere have been just over 13,000 cases.

Aspokesman for the Victorian Health Department said that fromJanuary 1 until last Thursday there hadbeen 94 deaths from influenzain the state’saged-care facilities.

Last year there were 46 during the same period.

The spokesman confirmed that this wasattributed to H3N2,afast-mutatingstrain of the flu that is defying medical experts’ efforts to stop it.

In Victoria, 70 per cent of people diagnosed with the flu since the beginning of the year have suffered from influenzaAH3N2,n SentinelPractices Research Network statistics show.

Overall in, 74 per cent of cases have been influenzaAH3N2. Thirty-three per cent have been influenzaB, and 4 per cent influenzaAH1N1.

In the United States, a stronger flu vaccine for the elderly has been used since 2009. Photo: Nicolas Walker

ASPREN,anetwork ofgeneral practitionersand primary care providers, collects information on influenza-like illnessand other conditions seen in general practice.

Their datais used forinfectious disease surveillance by health departmentsat stateand federal levels.

“This looks like it’s going to be the worst year since the2009 pandemic, but wecan’tsay to what extentat this stageasthe rates have not gone down yet, so weare unsure if we have reached the peak or not,”ASPRENprogram manager MoniqueChilver​said.

“The H3N2 causes severe disease in the elderlyand the young,and unfortunately our preliminary vaccine effective estimates look like the vaccine hasbeen quite ineffective in these groups.”

Currentlypeople receive their vaccinations in April, months before flu season starts.

ASPREN program manager Monique Chilver​

Ms Chilver said the research should look at offering the elderly a second vaccination, to prevent the disease from becoming so widespread, particularly in aged-care facilities.

She said offering a booster vaccine for ns aged over 65, midway through flu season, could help combat the flu’s spread.

“We know that the vaccine isn’t 100 per cent effective, so it makes sense that by having two doses you’re giving a better chance of protection,” she said.

In the United States,astrongerand more effectivefluvaccine for the elderly,Fluzone​,hasbeen used since 2009.

FluzonemanufacturerSanofiPasteur said the company waslooking to have the drugapproved byn regulators.

n MedicalAssociation vice-president Dr TonyBartonesaid the flu season had been the worst inat least eight years –but thatthe worst of the season waslikely over.

“It’s beenavery severe flu season, one in which we’ve seenan early spikeandalonger spike than normal inanumber of cases, especially in the northern statesand in Southand, toalesser extent, in central Victoria,” DrBartonesaid.

HesaidtheAMAwouldawaitthe Chief Medical Officer’s influenzareport for 2017 –usually released before the end of spring –before backingany calls for further vaccinations.

“We need lookatall theadviceandassessall the evidence,” he said.

The story,Calls for elderly to be given extra influenza vaccination after deadly flu season, first appeared on The Age.

ATO fake calls: The scam that keeps on giving

As if the ATO cold do with more bad news. ATO deputy commissioner Michael Cranston, pictured outside court last month, allegedly attempted to access information for his son. Photo: AAPAs if the n Tax Office – plagued by the Plutus payroll and Michael and Adam Cranston saga – didn’t have enough bad press at the moment.
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But then Consumer Complaints Commission (ACCC)Deputy Chair Deidre Rickard estimates around $2 million has been shelled out so far this year by unwitting victims to scammers claiming to be from the ATO.

“That’s around 40,000 people,” she said.

“It’s really huge – and that is only the people who are reporting the calls. Most people are too embarrassed to complain or do anything about it when they are conned.

“It’s outrageous …these people are operating from overseas call centres they have a script, they are threatening. They are big organised crime and they make a fortune,” she said.

The ATO scam – where some one calls claiming to be from the ATO and that you owe them money – usually has a huge spike in calls from scammers at the end of the tax year.

TheScamwatchwebsite records there was a fourfold increase in the money lost in theATO scam, known as upfront and advanced fee fraud, at the end of this financial year.

The 2017 figures for June, show consumers lost nearly $1.4 million ($1,399,334) infraud scams, which is almost four times the 2017 monthly average the scammers are bagging in cash.

Last month (August) innocent tax payers were conned into giving $283,213 over to fraudsters – which has been around the usual 2017 monthly average.

Ms Rickard said there are usually two types of calls. The first is where a person calls threatening a warrant is out for your arrest and that you must pay a large sum of money, usually in iTunes​ gift cards. The second is when they keep you on the telephone while they walk to the supermarket to buy the iTunes cards.

“Usually they are older people who are conned or people who have turned off the rational side of thier brain and are just scared,” she said.

She said scammers have got smarter this year, and are avoiding scams involving banks.

If, like me, you receive a call from some one purporting to represent the tax office, be wary. Earlier this week I received a call on my mobile from a man purporting to be Gary Smith from the n Taxation Office. He said they had received a legal complaint about me for tax fraud.

“Before we take the matter into the Local District court and before we issue a warrant in your name kindly call us back.

“Do not disregard this message and do return the call as soon as possible,” he threatened.

Fortunately, as a former court reporter, I knew there was no Local District Court (there is a Local Court and a District Court but no such thing as the Local District Court).

So I called Gary Smith, on the number he gave me for the ATO.

“n Taxation Office, how may I help you,” the man answered the phone, in a heavy accent. I asked for Gary Smith and I told him my name. He asked if I was working as a freelance journalist. At this point I told him he was being recorded and he told me he “didn’t care”.

He repeated there was an outstanding amount in my name owing to the ATO. When I told him I was a journalist withThe Sydney Morning Herald, and that I’d heard someone with a very similar accent be shamed on ABC Radio that morning he said “oh no.”

Realising he’d been sprung he went on to tell me: “I am from the Russian mafia which deals in arms. Do you want grenades? I deal in bombs – fire in the hole.”

And then he hung up. And probably went on to another scam call.

The ACCC has been working with supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths, whose staff are discouraging customers they feel are being conned into buying a large volume of iTunes cards.

How to spot a fake call from the n Taxation Office:The ATO makes thousands of outbound calls to taxpayers each week, but there are key differences between a call from a scammer and a legitimate call from the ATO.

The ATO will not:Be abusive or offensive to you.Threaten you with immediate arrest.Ask you to transfer money into an account with a BSB that is not 092009 or 093003.Request payment via unusual methods such as iTunes gift cards or other prepaid cards.Request personal security information such as your TFN or your bank details via email or SMS or social media sites.Ask you for money up front in order to receive a refund or other paymentDirect you to download files from the internet.The ATO will:Provide you with a range of options for paying debts, which are all set out on our website atato.gov.au/howtopay.Contact you by phone.If you are in doubt about the authenticity of a call claiming to be from the ATO, you can call us on 1800 008 540 to verify.You will generally be aware of any debt before it is due for payment, but you can check through your myGov account, your tax agent or by calling the ATO.Send emails and SMS asking to you to take specific action such as:provide additional information required to process a BAS or tax return lodge.Provide additional information required regarding an application that’s been made.Verify changes to an account.Send general notifications and reminders via SMS or email.Send promotional and informational SMS and emails.Source: ATO

The story,ATO fake calls: The scam that keeps on giving, first appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald.

‘Vote no’ sign written in sky above Sydney ahead of Yes launch for same-sex marriage survey

The social media reaction to the skywriting was colourful. Photo: AAPCampaigners against marriage equality have upped the ante and are now reaching for the stars afterapparently employing a skywriter.
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The words “Vote No” appeared in Sydney’s skies on Sunday,a day after the launch of Coalition for Marriage where high-profile Turnbull government MPs includingConcetta Fierravanti-Wells said they fear it will become illegal to oppose same-sex marriage in word or even thought, if gay marriage is legalised.

The ‘vote no” sign seen from Gough Whitlam Park in Earlwood. Photo: Supplied

“The ‘yes’ side want to make it illegal to just express a different view about marriage, that is their agenda,”Matthew Canavan, a member of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet until he resigned over his dual citizenship, told the 1500-strong Sydney audience.

Speaking to Fairfax Mediahe saidhefeared “a strong push to effectively eradicate the view that marriage should be between a man and a woman, to make it illegal”.

The “VoteNo” call to action appeared was visible from much of Sydney’s inner suburbs.

The reaction on social media was colourful.

Imagine being such a hateful piece of garbage that you pay thousands of dollars for a sky writer to write “Vote No” above Sydney. #VoteYes

— Chris Lowry (@Lowry_16) September 17, 2017Everyone in Sydney this morning #voteyespic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/QcevFRheUH

— Tom Joyner (@tomrjoyner) September 17, 2017’Vote no’ plastered all over the Sydney sky. Shouldn’t you guys be at church anyway?#jesuslovesgayspic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/mZKBQ1ilfd

— ash london (@ash_london) September 17, 2017’Vote No’ sky writer spotted above Sydney. #YoteYes#marriageequalitypic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/QuhezqjDsX

— David Alexander (@davidFalexander) September 17, 2017Thankfully this Vote No sign is being swept away by a righteous wind. #VoteYes Aussies 🌈🌈🌈 pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/qkQbCufbej

— Annie Parker 🌈 (@annie_parker) September 17, 2017Outside WA Parliament. #VoteYespic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/nJd797qpu6

— Mark McGowan (@MarkMcGowanMP) September 15, 2017

Are children ‘better off’ with a mother and father than with same-sex parents?

Picture: ShutterstockOptimally, you’ve got the input from both [a mother and a father] and the children brought up in those circumstances are, as a cohort, better off than those who are not.
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… whether it’s in terms of health outcomes, mental health, physical health, whether it’s in terms of employment prospects, in terms of how this is generated from one generation to another, the social science evidence is overwhelmingly in one direction in this regard.– Liberal MP Kevin Andrews, excerpts from aninterview on Sky News, August 13, 2017.

Liberal MP Kevin Andrews, interviewed on Sky News, August 13, 2017. Picture: YouTube

Public campaigns for and against same-sex marriage have been heightened by the Turnbull government’s plan to conduct a $122 millionvoluntary postal surveyasking the nation whether same-sex couples should be able to marry under n law.

Discussing his opposition to same-sex marriage duringan interviewon Sky News, Liberal MP Kevin Andrews said children who are brought up with a mother and a father “are, as a cohort, better off than those who are not”.

Andrews also said the “social science evidence is overwhelmingly in one direction in this regard”.

Let’s look at the research.

Checking the sourceWhen asked for sources to support his statements, a spokesperson for Kevin Andrews told The Conversation:

Mr Andrews wrote a book called “Maybe I Do”. You might also like to look at the 2011 report,For Kids’ Sake, by Professor Patrick Parkinson of the University of Sydney and studies by Douglas Allen (2015) in Canada and Paul Sullins (2015) in the US.

VerdictKevin Andrews’ assertion that children who are brought up with a mother and father are, “as a cohort, better off than those who are not” is not supported by research evidence.

The majority of research on this topic shows that children or adolescents raised by same-sex parents fare equally as well as those raised by opposite-sex parents on a wide range of social, emotional, health and academic outcomes.

Response to Kevin Andrews’ sourcesFirst of all, let’s look at the sources provided by Andrews’ spokesperson to support his statements. A summary of Kevin Andrews’ book on the National Library of website says it:

… reviews the evidence on the benefits of marriage for society, children, and adults. It argues that healthy, stable, and happy marriages are the optimal institution for promoting individual well being and healthy societies.

It’s true that there is a large body of evidence to show that stability in marriage and family life isbeneficial for children, particularly in early childhood. Some research has shown that these benefits are associated withhigher average income and education levelsamong married couples, rather than marriage itself.

But these studies didn’t involve comparisons between opposite-sex and same-sex married couples, so they do not defend the argument that heterosexual marriage leads to better outcomes for children than same-sex marriage. In fact, some research suggests same-sex marriage wouldprovide benefitsfor children being raised in these families.

Picture: Shutterstock

Patrick Parkinson’s report,For Kid’s Sake, links rising rates of divorce, family conflict and instability in parental relationships with increasing psychological distress among young people in . One of Parkinson’s conclusions was that:

the most stable, safe and nurturing environment for children is when their parents are, and remain, married to one another.

There arestudies that support these assertions. This research supports the importance of family stability, quality relationships between parents and children, and the need for access to socioeconomic resources – but not the need for parents to be heterosexual.

Douglas Allen’s2015 paperis a critical, but not systematic, review of more than 60 studies relating to same-sex parenting and/or child outcomes. This paper does not present findings related to child outcomes.

Rather, Allen says that, due to sampling bias and small sample sizes in the existing body of work, there is currently no conclusive scientific evidence demonstrating that children raised by same-sex couples do better or worse than children raised by heterosexual couples.

Andrews’ spokesperson also pointed to 2015 research from Paul Sullins. Sullins’2015 analysisof data from the US National Health Interview Survey indicated that children raised by same-sex parents were more than twice as likely to experience emotional problems than those raised by heterosexual, married parents who were biologically related to their children. But this analysiswascriticisedfor not taking into account the stability of the family environment.

The author combined all children in same-sex families into one category, while placing children in opposite-sex families into separate categories – including different categories for step-parents and single parents, for example. So the comparison made was betweenallsame-sex parented families, and aselectionofstableheterosexual families.

Research on outcomes for children in same-sex parented familiesNow let’s look at other studies that have been conducted around the world. Many of these studies examine the outcomes for children in same-sex parented families where both parents are women. There has been comparatively little research on families in which both parents are men. It can be difficult to achieve adequate sample sizes of children raised intwo-father families, given the small number of these families. There is no research showing that children raised by gay fathers fare worse than other children.

Astudy published in 2016using data from theUS National Survey of Children’s Healthfor2011-12compared outcomes for children aged six to 17 years in 95 female same-sex parented families and 95 opposite-sex parented families.

The study found no differences in outcomes for children raised by lesbian parents compared to heterosexual parents on a range of outcomes including general health, emotional difficulties, coping behaviour and learning behaviour.

Picture: Shutterstock

A paper published for the American Sociological Association in 2014reviewed 10 years’ of scientific literatureon child well-being in same-sex parented families in the US. The literature review covered 40 original published studies, including numerous credible and methodologically sound social science studies, many of which drew on nationally representative data.

The authors concluded there was clear consensus in scientific literature that children raised by same-sex couples fared as well as children raised by opposite-sex couples. This applied for a range of well-being measures, including:

academic performancecognitive developmentsocial developmentpsychological healthearly sexual activity, andsubstance abuse.The authors noted that differences in child well-being were largely due to socioeconomic circumstances and family stability.

Ameta-analysis published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in 2010combined the results of 33 studies to assess how the gender of parents affected children. The authors found the strengths typically associated with married mother-father families appeared to the same degree in families with two mothers and potentially in those with two fathers.

The meta-analysis found no evidence that children raised by same-sex couples fared worse than children raised by opposite-sex couples on a range of outcomes including:

security of attachment to parentsbehavioural problemsself perceptions of cognitive and physical competence, andinterest, effort and success in school.This review included studies from Europe, the UK and the US. The authors said that scholars had achieved

a rare degree of consensus that unmarried lesbian parents are raising children who develop at least as well as their counterparts with married heterosexual parents.

In ,a large studypublished in the peer-reviewed BMC Public Health Journal in 2014 (and of which I was one of five co-authors) surveyed 315 parents representing 500 children. 80% of children had a female same-sex attracted parent, while 18% had a male same-sex attracted parent.

The results did supportpreviousresearchshowing that stigma related to a parent’s sexual orientation is negatively associated with mental health and well-being.

But, overall, the study found children and adolescents raised by same-sex parents in fared as well as children of opposite-sex parents, and better on measures of general behaviour, general health and family cohesion.

Afollow up paper published in 2016found there was no difference between children raised in female same-sex parent households and children raised in male same-sex parent households.

Further work from the same project reported on surveys and interviews with adolescents raised by same-sex parents.This study(of which I was one of four co-authors) did find that some adolescents with same-sex parents reported experiencing anxiety relating to fear of discrimination, which was linked to poorer well-being.

Picture: Shutterstock

AUS study published in 2011found adolescents raised by lesbian mothers were more likely to have reported occasional substance use, but not more likely to have reported heavy use, than other adolescents.

A2010 analysisof data from the 2000 US census found that children raised by same-sex couples had no fundamental deficits in making normal progress through school compared to children raised by opposite-sex couples.

When parents’ socio-economic status and the characteristics of the students were accounted for, the educational outcomes for children of same-sex couples couldn’t be distinguished with statistical certainty from children of heterosexual married couples.

Analysing studies that show different resultsSome studies have indicated that adults raised by same-sex parents fare worse on some educational, social or emotional outcomes. But themajorityof research does not support this. There are also studies that have been published and later discredited, but continue to be used as references.

The 2012 USNew Family Structures Study, also known as the “Regnerus study”, isoftencitedby groups opposed to same-sex marriage.

The study looked at outcomes for adults aged 18-39. It compared outcomes for adults with a parent who had had a same-sex relationship, with outcomes for adults raised by still-married, heterosexual couples who were biologically related to their children. It showed the adults with a gay or lesbian parent or parents fared worse on a range of social, educational and health outcomes. But this study has beenverywidelycriticised.

Ina brieffiled in the US Supreme Court in 2015, theAmerican Sociological Associationsaid:

The Regnerus study … did not specifically examine children raised by same-sex parents, and provides no support for the conclusions that same-sex parents are inferior parents or that the children of same-sex parents experience worse outcomes.

As outlined by the American Sociological Association, the study removed all divorced, single, and step-parent families from the heterosexual group, leaving only stable, married, heterosexual families as the comparison. In addition, Regnerus categorised children as having been raised by a parent in a same-sex relationship

regardless of whether they were in fact raised by the parent … and regardless of the amount of time that they spent under the parent’s care.

A subsequentreanalysisof the data, using different criteria for categorising respondents, found the resultsinconclusive, or suggestive that “adult children raised by same-sex two-parent families show a comparable adult profile to their peers raised by two-biological-parent families”.

Strengths and weaknesses of evidence on outcomes for childrenThe “gold standard” for research on child and family outcomes are studies that involve randomly selected, population-based samples. This has been difficult to achieve in research on same-sex parenting because many population-based studies don’t ask about parents’ sexual orientation. Even where they do ask, not all studies include a sample of children or adults raised by same-sex parents that is large enough to provide for reliable statistical analysis.

This has led to criticism of the quality of evidence on outcomes for children raised by same-sex parents, because most studies have relied onconvenienceorvolunteersamples, which are not randomly selected, and so may include bias.

However, there are methodological limitations in all studies. And, as outlined earlier, recent analyses of population-based data sets have supported the finding that children or adolescents raised by same-sex couples do not experience poorer outcomes than other children. So there is no clear basis to the argument that convenience samples lead to “incorrect” findings due to bias.– Jennifer Power

ReviewThis FactCheck gives a good broad overview of the research and scientific consensus in regard to child health and well-being in same-sex parent families. The studies included, on balance, represent the current understanding of academics and child health experts on child health and well-being outcomes in same-sex parent families.

TheNational Lesbian Longitudinal Family Studyprovides additional evidence to support the verdict of this FactCheck. As a well established and methodologically robust longitudinal study, the National Lesbian Longitudinal Family Study provides important additional insights.

In the n context, the2013 n Institute of Family Studiesreview of same-sex parent families also supports the overall verdict of this FactCheck.

It should be noted thatresearchhas indicated that same-sex parent families experience stigma and discrimination, and when they do it can impact on child health and well-being.

Overall, however, the verdict in this FactCheck is appropriate based on current research.– Simon Crouch

The Conversation’s FactCheck unit is the first fact-checking team in and one of the first worldwide to be accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network, an alliance of fact-checkers hosted at the Poynter Institute in the US.Read more here.Have you seen a “fact” worth checking? The Conversation’s FactCheck asks academic experts to test claims and see how true they are. We then ask a second academic to review an anonymous copy of the article. You can request a check [email protected] Please include the statement you would like us to check, the date it was made, and a link if possible.The Conversation