Vic man who killed burglar ‘had options’

A Melbourne panel beater who shot dead a burglar during a break-in should have grabbed his phone, not his gun, a court has heard.

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Wade Vandenberg’s family have spoken of a life cut short because Ivan Joe D’Angelo took the law into his own hands.

Mr Vandenberg was shot in the head and killed, when he was one of three men trying to break into D’Angelo’s panel beating shop one night in March 2013.

Mr Vandenberg’s mother, Patricia Vandenberg, told D’Angelo he had other options.

“I know he wasn’t perfect, but he was to us,” she said, reading her victim impact statement to the Victorian Supreme Court.

“You had no right to be judge, jury and executioner for what he may have been doing.”

D’Angelo, 39, was acquitted by a jury of Mr Vandenberg’s murder but he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

His trial heard D’Angelo lived at his Thomastown shop and was under the influence of marijuana and alcohol when he was woken by the three burglars.

The court heard he grabbed his legally-owned rifle, loaded a magazine with two bullets but did not realise there was another already in the chamber when he accidentally pulled the sensitive trigger.

D’Angelo’s lawyer Peter Faris QC told Tuesday’s plea hearing his client was remorseful.

“He is terribly sorry for what happened,” Mr Faris said.

“He understands as best he can what a tragedy it’s been for the family.”

Mr Faris said D’Angelo was responding to the “grossly illegal” conduct of the three men.

“He was ill equipped to handle it, and he handled it badly,” Mr Faris said.

Justice Lex Lasry said D’Angelo should have called police.

“The answer would have been to ring triple zero and this would not have happened,” Justice Lasry said.

“There’s no question he should have rung police.”

D’Angelo was remanded in custody for sentencing on October 16.

Practice does not make perfect

A decade ago, Magnus Carlsen, who at the time was only 13 years old, created a sensation in the chess world when he defeated former world champion Anatoly Karpov at a chess tournament in Reykjavik, Iceland, and the next day played then-top-rated Garry Kasparov—who is widely regarded as the best chess player of all time—to a draw.

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Carlsen’s subsequent rise to chess stardom was meteoric: grandmaster status later in 2004; a share of first place in the Norwegian Chess Championship in 2006; youngest player ever to reach World No. 1 in 2010; and highest-rated player in history in 2012.

What explains this sort of spectacular success? What makes someone rise to the top in music, games, sports, business, or science? This question is the subject of one of psychology’s oldest debates. In the late 1800s, Francis Galton—founder of the scientific study of intelligence and a cousin of Charles Darwin—analyzed the genealogical records of hundreds of scholars, artists, musicians, and other professionals and found that greatness tends to run in families. For example, he counted more than 20 eminent musicians in the Bach family. (Johann Sebastian was just the most famous.) Galton concluded that experts are “born.” Nearly half a century later, the behaviorist John Watson countered that experts are “made” when he famously guaranteed that he could take any infant at random and “train him to become any type of specialist [he] might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents.”

One player needed 22 times more deliberate practice than another player to become a master.

The experts-are-made view has dominated the discussion in recent decades. In a pivotal 1993 article published in Psychological Review—psychology’s most prestigious journal—the Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues proposed that performance differences across people in domains such as music and chess largely reflect differences in the amount of time people have spent engaging in “deliberate practice,” or training exercises specifically designed to improve performance. To test this idea, Ericsson and colleagues recruited violinists from an elite Berlin music academy and asked them to estimate the amount of time per week they had devoted to deliberate practice for each year of their musical careers. The major finding of the study was that the most accomplished musicians had accumulated the most hours of deliberate practice. For example, the average for elite violinists was about 10,000 hours, compared with only about 5,000 hours for the least accomplished group. In a second study, the difference for pianists was even greater—an average of more than 10,000 hours for experts compared with only about 2,000 hours for amateurs. Based on these findings, Ericsson and colleagues argued that prolonged effort, not innate talent, explained differences between experts and novices.  

 

These findings filtered their way into pop culture. They were the inspiration for what Malcolm Gladwell termed the “10,000 Hour Rule” in his book Outliers, which in turn was the inspiration for the song “Ten Thousand Hours” by the hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the opening track on their Grammy-award winning album The Heist. However, recent research has demonstrated that deliberate practice, while undeniably important, is only one piece of the expertise puzzle—and not necessarily the biggest piece. In the first study to convincingly make this point, the cognitive psychologists Fernand Gobet and Guillermo Campitelli found that chess players differed greatly in the amount of deliberate practice they needed to reach a given skill level in chess. For example, the number of hours of deliberate practice to first reach “master” status (a very high level of skill) ranged from 728 hours to 16,120 hours. This means that one player needed 22 times more deliberate practice than another player to become a master.                

A recent meta-analysis by Case Western Reserve University psychologist Brooke Macnamara and her colleagues (including the first author of this article for Slate) came to the same conclusion. We searched through more than 9,000 potentially relevant publications and ultimately identified 88 studies that collected measures of activities interpretable as deliberate practice and reported their relationships to corresponding measures of skill. (Analyzing a set of studies can reveal an average correlation between two variables that is statistically more precise than the result of any individual study.) With very few exceptions, deliberate practice correlated positively with skill. In other words, people who reported practicing a lot tended to perform better than those who reported practicing less. But the correlations were far from perfect: Deliberate practice left more of the variation in skill unexplained than it explained. For example, deliberate practice explained 26 percent of the variation for games such as chess, 21 percent for music, and 18 percent for sports. So, deliberate practice did not explain all, nearly all, or even most of the performance variation in these fields. In concrete terms, what this evidence means is that racking up a lot of deliberate practice is no guarantee that you’ll become an expert. Other factors matter.

If one identical twin was good at drawing, it was quite likely that his or her identical sibling was, too.

What are these other factors? There are undoubtedly many. One may be the age at which a person starts an activity. In their study, Gobet and Campitelli found that chess players who started playing early reached higher levels of skill as adults than players who started later, even after taking into account the fact that the early starters had accumulated more deliberate practice than the later starters. There may be a critical window during childhood for acquiring certain complex skills, just as there seems to be for language.

There is now compelling evidence that genes matter for success, too. In a study led by the King’s College London psychologist Robert Plomin, more than 15,000 twins in the United Kingdom were identified through birth records and recruited to perform a battery of tests and questionnaires, including a test of drawing ability in which the children were asked to sketch a person. In a recently published analysis of the data, researchers found that there was a stronger correspondence in drawing ability for the identical twins than for the fraternal twins. In other words, if one identical twin was good at drawing, it was quite likely that his or her identical sibling was, too. Because identical twins share 100 percent of their genes, whereas fraternal twins share only 50 percent on average, this finding indicates that differences across people in basic artistic ability are in part due to genes. In a separate study based on this U.K. sample, well over half of the variation between expert and less skilled readers was found to be due to genes.     

In another study, a team of researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden led by psychologist Miriam Mosing had more than 10,000 twins estimate the amount of time they had devoted to music practice and complete tests of basic music abilities, such as determining whether two melodies carry the same rhythm. The surprising discovery of this study was that although the music abilities were influenced by genes—to the tune of about 38 percent, on average—there was no evidence they were influenced by practice. For a pair of identical twins, the twin who practiced music more did not do better on the tests than the twin who practiced less. This finding does not imply that there is no point in practicing if you want to become a musician. The sort of abilities captured by the tests used in this study aren’t the only things necessary for playing music at a high level; things such as being able to read music, finger a keyboard, and commit music to memory also matter, and they require practice. But it does imply that there are limits on the transformative power of practice. As Mosing and her colleagues concluded, practice does not make perfect.

Along the same lines, biologist Michael Lombardo and psychologist Robert Deane rexamined the biographies of male and female Olympic sprinters such as Jesse Owens, Marion Jones, and Usain Bolt, and found that, in all cases, they were exceptional compared with their competitors from the very start of their sprinting careers—before they had accumulated much more practice than their peers.

What all of this evidence indicates is that we are not created equal where our abilities are concerned. This conclusion might make you uncomfortable, and understandably so. Throughout history, so much wrong has been done in the name of false beliefs about genetic inequality between different groups of people—males vs. females, blacks vs. whites, and so on. War, slavery, and genocide are the most horrifying examples of the dangers of such beliefs, and there are countless others. In the United States, women were denied the right to vote until 1920 because too many people believed that women were constitutionally incapable of good judgment; in some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, they still are believed to be. Ever since John Locke laid the groundwork for the Enlightenment by proposing that we are born as tabula rasa—blank slates—the idea that we are created equal has been the central tenet of the “modern” worldview. Enshrined as it is in the Declaration of Independence as a “self-evident truth,” this idea has special significance for Americans. Indeed, it is the cornerstone of the American dream—the belief that anyone can become anything they want with enough determination.

Pretending we have the same abilities perpetuates the myth that people can help themselves if they just try hard enough.

It is therefore crucial to differentiate between the influence of genes on differences in abilities across individuals and the influence of genes on differences across groups. The former has been established beyond any reasonable doubt by decades of research in a number of fields, including psychology, biology, and behavioral genetics. There is now an overwhelming scientific consensus that genes contribute to individual differences in abilities. The latter has never been established, and any claim to the contrary is simply false.

Another reason the idea of genetic inequality might make you uncomfortable is because it raises the specter of an anti-meritocratic society in which benefits such as good educations and high-paying jobs go to people who happen to be born with “good” genes. As the technology of genotyping progresses, it is not far-fetched to think that we will all one day have information about our genetic makeup, and that others—physicians, law enforcement, even employers or insurance companies—may have access to this information and use it to make decisions that profoundly affect our lives. However, this concern conflates scientific evidence with how that evidence might be used—which is to say that information about genetic diversity can just as easily be used for good as for ill.

Take the example of intelligence, as measured by IQ. We know from many decades of research in behavioral genetics that about half of the variation across people in IQ is due to genes. Among many other outcomes, IQ predicts success in school, and so once we have identified specific genes that account for individual differences in IQ, this information could be used to identify, at birth, children with the greatest genetic potential for academic success and channel them into the best schools. This would probably create a society even more unequal than the one we have. But this information could just as easily be used to identify children with the least genetic potential for academic success and channel them into the best schools. This would probably create a more equal society than the one we have, and it would do so by identifying those who are likely to face learning challenges and provide them with the support they might need. Science and policy are two different things, and when we dismiss the former because we assume it will influence the latter in a particular and pernicious way, we limit the good that can be done.    

Wouldn’t it be better to just act as if we are equal, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding? That way, no people will be discouraged from chasing their dreams—competing in the Olympics or performing at Carnegie Hall or winning a Nobel Prize. The answer is no, for two reasons. The first is that failure is costly, both to society and to individuals. Pretending that all people are equal in their abilities will not change the fact that a person with an average IQ is unlikely to become a theoretical physicist, or the fact that a person with a low level of music ability is unlikely to become a concert pianist. It makes more sense to pay attention to people’s abilities and their likelihood of achieving certain goals, so people can make good decisions about the goals they want to spend their time, money, and energy pursuing. Moreover, genes influence not only our abilities, but the environments we create for ourselves and the activities we prefer—a phenomenon known as gene-environment correlation. For example, yet another recent twin study (and the Karolinska Institute study) found that there was a genetic influence on practicing music. Pushing someone into a career for which he or she is genetically unsuited will likely not work.

The second reason we should not pretend we are endowed with the same abilities is that doing so perpetuates the myth that is at the root of much inaction in society—the myth that people can help themselves to the same degree if they just try hard enough. You’re not a heart surgeon? That’s your fault for not working hard enough in school! You didn’t make it as a concert pianist? You must not have wanted it that badly. Societal inequality is thus justified on the grounds that anyone who is willing to put in the requisite time and effort can succeed and should be rewarded with a good life, whereas those who struggle to make ends meet are to blame for their situations and should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. If we acknowledge that people differ in what they have to contribute, then we have an argument for a society in which all human beings are entitled to a life that includes access to decent housing, health care, and education, simply because they are human. Our abilities might not be identical, and our needs surely differ, but our basic human rights are universal.

David Z. Hambrick is a professor at Michigan State University and an associate editor of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Fernanda Ferreira is College of Arts and Sciences distinguished professor at the University of South Carolina.

John M. Henderson is College of Arts and Sciences distinguished professor and director of the Institute for Mind and Brain at the University of South Carolina.

© Slate 2014

Sierra Leone refugees in Australia join Ebola fight

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

Former refugees from Sierra Leone say the international response to the Ebola outbreak has been too slow.

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Sierra Leone and neighbouring Liberia are being devastated by the Ebola outbreak.

On one day alone — last Saturday –121 people died in Sierra Leone.

With so many people in West Africa losing their lives, their relatives living in Australia say they are determined to try to make a difference.

Greg Dyett reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

While Ebola is now headline news and work is well under way to develop a vaccine, it is all coming far too late, as far as people like Sulaiman Forna are concerned.

Mr Forna says the Ebola threat was evident more than six months ago.

“It has actually come a little too late, because, since March, we’ve been advocating about the West to pay a lot of attention to the situation in Sierra Leone.”

Sulaiman Forna settled in Australia 12 years ago as a humanitarian entrant from his native Sierra Leone.

Now living in Cairns, in northern Queensland, he is one of the founding members of the Sierra Leone Ebola Action Group.

“If the world continues to put more effort (into it), there’s a possibility we can be able to win over Ebola quickly. But, currently, it’s a struggle, trust me. It’s actually got out of hand. You know, these countries became overwhelmed, and it was a strange occurrence. You know, if you factor in cultural aspects of West Africa, (that,) again, made it problematic. I mean, it took a really long time for people to understand. So there’s a whole range of factors that are responsible for this.”

The Action Group has raised money and organised a shipment of medical supplies to Sierra Leone, sending it off last weekend.

Isaiah Lahai is also a member of the group.

The former refugee, who now lives in suburban Hobart, says he had personal reasons to get involved.

“I took the campaign passionately, because I have lost eight of my close relatives to this Ebola virus. And looking at the situation on the ground, if we can work to help save one life, I think I’ll be very happy and I will have peace. Because every day I go to bed, I think about (how) the situation on the ground in Sierra Leone is becoming very (much) worse.”

Mr Lahai welcomes the Australian government’s support for the Ebola outbreak.

So far, Australia has given $18 million to the Ebola response, in addition to the $40 million it gives the World Health Organisation each year.

But Isaiah Lahai says there is so much more Australia could be doing.

“Australia has got enough capacity to help the situation more than we are doing now, and the government can do much more by sending in medical teams — which is the most needed thing at the moment on the ground — by sending in doctors and nurses to train the nurses and doctors on the ground to better handle the Ebola outbreak, sending medical supplies which are needed. If we can do that as a nation, I believe we can help the situation on the ground.”

Sulaiman Forna agrees, saying money cannot replace the medical expertise Sierra Leone has lost.

He points to the fact 50 medical professionals have been killed by Ebola.

“We lost 10 doctors and also 40 — over 40 — nurses to this Ebola virus, because they don’t have the necessary attire and also the equipment to really do their job effectively.”

United States president Barack Obama says some larger countries are not doing enough to combat Ebola, but he did not specify which ones.

“I’m going to be putting a lot of pressure on my fellow heads of state and government around the world to make sure that they are doing everything that they can to join us in this effort. We’ve got some small countries that are punching above their weight on this, but we’ve got some large countries that aren’t doing enough, and we want to make sure that they understand that this is not a disease that’s going to discriminate and this is something that all of us have to be involved with.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott maintains Australia is making a very significant contribution with its financial help.

“And the UN said that this is exactly the kind of swift and timely response that the world is looking for and asked other countries to do exactly the same kind of thing that Australia has done. So we are very significantly contributing to the international effort to combat Ebola in West Africa, and we are carefully screening all people arriving in this country from West Africa, and our public-hospital systems in every state are geared up to deal with any Ebola cases that might eventuate here in Australia.”

 

 

 

 

 

Nick Kyrgios aims high at Aust Open

Nick Kyrgios is getting bigger.

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That’s in the literal sense of the word, given the 19-year-old is spending plenty of time in the gym during his break from the international tennis circuit.

It’s in terms of the burgeoning profile that comes with being Australia’s likely top-ranked men’s hope when the home grand slam starts on January 19.

It’s also a fitting descriptor of Kyrgios’ aspirations at the Australian Open, an event which kickstarted the teenager’s breakout 2014 when he progressed to the second round.

“You’ve got to definitely believe you can win the tournament,” Kyrgios said.

“It’s important to go out there and believe you can win the tournament.

“If you visualise it … it’s supposed to help.”

It’s a school of thought that Margaret Court imparted on Kyrgios during Tuesday’s Australian Open launch.

Kyrgios had a hit with fellow up-and-comer Storm Sanders, Court and Victorian minister for sport and recreation Damian Drum at the revamped Margaret Court Arena.

“She’s still got it,” Kyrgios said of Court, an 11-time winner of her national title.

Court’s advice to Kyrgios was simple: visualise it.

“You better see yourself winning one of these majors,” she said.

“I said if you can beat the No.1 in the world (Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon), you can beat them all. That’s how I used to think.”

Kyrgios is currently in Australia nursing a niggling arm issue.

“I’m getting healthy again … I’ve been in the gym and obviously monitoring my hitting,” he said.

“I’ve just got to get fitter and stronger.

“I’m playing at a higher level now, with fully-grown men.”

Kyrgios will next be in action at the International Premier Tennis League, linking up with the likes of Serena Williams and Andre Agassi in Singapore.

“I’m going to be picking all their brains,” he said.

Kyrgios vowed to “entertain as much” as he can at the Australian Open.

“And obviously get some results as well,” he quickly added, when asked about the expectation awaiting in January.

“I’m playing some really good tennis, hopefully I can carry it through.”

The installation of a retractable roof at Margaret Court Arena will be one of the major changes at next year’s tournament.

“It’s going to be insane. Probably a bit Davis Cup like,” Kyrgios said of the venue, which now boasts a capacity of 7500.

Prize money is up to $3 million for the men’s and women’s champions, with the total purse on offer being $36.3m.

Following the success of Roger Federer’s charity gala at Melbourne Park this year, Rafael Nadal will host a similar event in 2015.

Sam Burgess also has fractured eye socket

Sam Burgess’ NRL grand final heroics continue to grow, with scans revealing the Clive Churchill medallist suffered a fractured eye socket alongside his fractured cheekbone in Sunday’s win over Canterbury.

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Rugby-union bound Burgess, who suffered the injuries in the opening tackle but played out the game, was scheduled to undergo surgery on Tuesday afternoon.

“Just laying in hospital waiting for surgery, I look similar to a hamster at the moment. I wouldn’t change anything for the world though,” Burgess wrote on Twitter.

“Thanks to everyone for your well wishes and congratulations. It’s been an amazing journey this year with a fitting end. Wow.’

In a media release Souths said X-rays revealed the double fracture.

“Scans this morning have confirmed that Rabbitohs lock Sam Burgess requires surgery to repair fractures in his cheekbone and eye socket,” it said.

“Burgess will have surgery this afternoon to have a plate inserted into his face to repair the damage.”

The 25-year-old Englishman told 2KY’s Big Sports Breakfast on Tuesday morning that the injury was troubling him after the hectic celebrations that greeted the end of Souths’ 43-year premiership drought.

“The cheek is pretty sore, the adrenalin has certainly worn off,” Burgess said.

“It is worth it for the feeling we got at the end of the game.

“This year certainly meant a lot to me being my last at the club.

“It is a feeling that will be very hard to replicate. I’m just thankful to be a part of it and given the opportunity at the club.”

Burgess said he didn’t know when he would be able to make his rugby union debut with English club Bath, but his recovery period is expected to take several months.

“It will be a while, but that is the least of my worries right now,” he said.

“Hopefully this face won’t be damaged for too long.

“I have to get it fixed and then crack on.”

Burgess’ effort has been compared to that of Souths’ legend John Sattler who played 77 minutes of the 1970 grand final win over Manly with a broken jaw.

Sydney Roosters centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall also played 65 minutes with a broken jaw in the Tricolours win over Manly in the 2013 decider.