One man found, another missing after canoe trip on South Australia’s Lake Alexandrina



A search is continuing for a man missing in South Australia’s Lake Alexandrina, near Milang.

Authorities say two people were reported missing just after 11:30am, after setting off in an inflatable canoe on the Murray River lower lake earlier this morning.

One man was found just before 3:00pm.

He has been treated for hypothermia.

The canoe has also been found, but the second man is still missing.

Sea rescue crews are still searching the area, along with the police helicopter and the water operations unit.



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China gives assurance on COVID-19 origins field trip, says WHO


GENEVA: The World Health Organization (WHO) has had assurances from China that an international field trip to investigate the origins of the new coronavirus will be arranged as soon as possible, its top emergency expert said on Monday (Nov 23).

Chinese researchers are carrying out epidemiological studies into early cases and conditions at a seafood market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. An international team of experts has been formed to carry out phase 2 studies.

But the United States, and to a lesser extent some European delegations, have raised questions about the delay and sought a timeline of the international experts’ visit, diplomats said.

The virus was first identified in Wuhan in December, prompting US President Donald Trump to label it the “China plague” and accuse the WHO of being soft on Beijing.

“We fully expect that we will have a team on the ground. We need to be able to have the international team join our Chinese colleagues and go to the ground and look at the results and outcomes of those phase 1 studies and verify these data on the ground,” emergency expert Mike Ryan told a news briefing.

This would help to ensure “that the international community can be reassured of the quality of the science”, he said.

Wuhan market is “likely to have been a point of amplification” of virus transmission, but whether that was by human, animal or environmental spread is not yet known, he said, adding that there had been human cases that preceded that event.

“We will pursue those investigations over the next couple of months in phase 1 and hopefully move on to phase 2,” Ryan said.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and other senior officials briefed WHO’s 194 member states last week on progress in the probe, mandated by health ministers last May.

A senior Western diplomat who participated said that several states had raised concerns on how the international members had contributed to drafting their final terms and asked what steps the WHO had taken to ensure that the information collected in phase 1 would be “complete and transparent”.

The United States had voiced concern at what the senior Western diplomat called a lack of transparency in the naming of the international members, saying it “potentially undermines any report issued by this panel and its findings”.

Ryan, without being specific, said: “One member state did express some concerns regarding the phase 1 studies in ensuring that they were completed as quickly as possible. We reassured that member state that that would happen.”

Another Western diplomat said that the United States had been “the most vocal”, but that the European Union and Britain had also asked about the timeline.

BOOKMARK THIS: Our comprehensive coverage of the coronavirus outbreak and its developments

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Trip to Lismore puts NSW Blues’ pain in perspective for Brad Fittler


Fittler said being with the families of those who had gone through tragedy was a very sobering experience.

The Blues mentor has spent a month away from his family in a biosecurity bubble, but was determined to keep a promise to the league community doing it tough in the far north.

Brad Fittler consoles James Tedesco after a head knock forced him from the field in the Origin decider on Wednesday.Credit:Getty

“We spoke to the team [Marist Brothers] via Zoom before their semi-final and we said we’d come up,” Fittler said.

“We’ll fly and hang with the families for the weekend. It’s just a shame we’re not going up there as a winning [team].”

NSW Rugby League chief executive Dave Trodden said of Fittler’s full-time role: “He’s not only a coach but he’s a full-time ambassador for our organisation and the best example of that is 48 hours after a disappointing loss in Queensland, he’s spreading the word of rugby league in the community and messages about road safety.

“Coaching the Origin team is only part of what he does. It’s about off the field and the massive positive public profile he brings to our organisation and the game, which he does with his work away from the Origin team.”

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Queensland are set to conduct a review into their coaching structure. There are no guarantees Wayne Bennett will be back in the hot seat in 2021, especially given his commitments at South Sydney.

Fittler said he loved his role with NSW and Channel Nine, and while he would leave the door ajar for a return to club coaching, he was content with his two busy roles.

Fittler and Alexander know all about the pain of losing a loved one in a car crash. Greg’s brother and Fittler’s best mate Ben Alexander lost his life aged 20 a year after the Panthers won the 1991 premiership.

Meanwhile, Trodden said he was a fan of the Origin series reverting to the middle of the season in 2021, not over three consecutive weeks at the end of the year.

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Leading Joe Biden ally says next President’s first trip will be to England


Head of Joe Biden’s transition team Ted Kaufman says he is willing to ‘bet a beer’ England will be the first place the next US President visits and insists the new White House will not hold a ‘grudge’ against Boris Johnson

  • Ex-US senator Ted Kaufman is leading Joe Biden’s White House transition team
  • He said he is willing to ‘bet a beer’ England will be Mr Biden’s first foreign visit 
  • Mr Kaufman also insisted Mr Biden will not hold a ‘grudge’ against Boris Johnson 

Ted Kaufman, a former US senator, is the head of Joe Biden’s White House transition team

The head of Joe Biden‘s White House transition team today said he is willing to ‘bet a beer’ the first foreign country the next US President will visit will be England. 

Ted Kaufman, a long-standing ally of Mr Biden, also insisted the President-elect will not hold a ‘grudge’ against Boris Johnson because of his alliance with Donald Trump

Mr Kaufman claimed his boss ‘doesn’t understand the whole grudge concept’ as he said it was a ‘very smart move’ for Mr Johnson to speak to Mr Biden so swiftly after the election result was called. 

The former US senator said Mr Biden ‘really cares about’ the UK and will ‘want to establish close ties’.

Sources on Mr Biden’s campaign team had questioned whether Mr Johnson was an ‘ally’ because of his warm relationship with Mr Trump. 

There was also speculation the pair would not get along because of Mr Johnson’s past criticism of Barack Obama, who Mr Biden served as vice president. 

There has been speculation that Boris Johnson and Mr Biden may not get along given the former's close relationship with Donald Trump

There has been speculation that Boris Johnson and Mr Biden may not get along given the former’s close relationship with Donald Trump 

But Mr Kaufman, who has been tipped as the next potential US ambassador to the UK, insisted this morning that Mr Biden ‘will be a president who does not hold grudges’.  

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘He just doesn’t understand the whole grudge concept. I am telling you, it bothers me sometimes because I think sometimes you should have a grudge against certain people. 

‘But he just doesn’t understand that at all. Boris Johnson called him up early to congratulate him when other world leaders were concerned that Trump wasn’t out for sure and all the rest of that. 

‘I think that was a very smart move on Boris Johnson’s part. But he will be a president who does not hold grudges so that won’t be a problem. 

‘I think England is a country, the UK is a country, that he really cares about and feels that it is really important and he is going to want to establish close ties with England.

‘You can absolutely go to the bank. That is what he is going to do.’ 

Mr Kaufman has family in the UK and when asked if he would be interested in becoming ambassador he said it is ‘way too soon to be talking about that’.

There has been fierce speculation over when Mr Biden could visit the UK with reports suggesting he could head to Ireland first because of his ancestral links to the country. 

But Mr Kaufman insisted Mr Biden 'will be a president who does not hold grudges so that won't be a problem'

But Mr Kaufman insisted Mr Biden ‘will be a president who does not hold grudges so that won’t be a problem’ 

But Mr Kaufman told Radio 4 presenter Nick Robinson that he believes Mr Biden’s first foreign trip will be to the UK. 

He said: ‘Oh no, don’t worry, Joe will come to the UK too. Joe will come to the UK. He loves Ireland, he is from Ireland and the rest of that.

‘But Nick, we can a bet a beer somewhere that the first place he comes will be to England.’   

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison cancels Papua New Guinea trip after James Marape’s party unrest


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has cancelled plans to visit Papua New Guinea next week, as political chaos engulfs Port Moresby.

Mr Morrison has agreed to defer his visit to the Pacific nation, where Prime Minister James Marape is under pressure to resign.

Mr Marape came to power in May last year but there has been growing unrest in his coalition.

Several Government MPs, including Deputy Prime Minister Sam Basil, on Friday crossed the floor to join the Opposition, which voted to suspend Parliament.

Foreign Affairs Minister Patrick Pruaitch and Attorney-General David Steven also abandoned the Government.

Mr Marape insists he can still summon the numbers to hold on to power but big question marks hover over his political future.

Mr Morrison on Friday said he still intended to travel to Papua New Guinea, despite the political uncertainty and Mr Marape said “there was nothing stopping him from coming” but “it was up to him”.

A spokesperson for Mr Morrison said Mr Marape had since contacted him and asked him to defer his visit.

PNG Opposition warns against visiting PM while he’s ‘trying to cling on to power’

If the Australian leader had pressed ahead with the visit, he risked being embroiled in a political storm.

Opposition Leader Belden Namah criticised Mr Morrison’s planned trip before launching his parliamentary challenge to Mr Marape.

Mr Namah said the timing of the visit was “highly suspicious” and suggested Mr Morrison was visiting to prop up Mr Marape.

Scott Morrison and his PNG counterpart James Marape met in July last year.(Facebook)

“It is bad diplomacy and is tantamount to an attempt to influence PNG’s political process,” he said in a statement.

Mr Namah told the ABC he was pleased with Mr Morrison’s decision not to visit Port Moresby.

“I want to thank the Australian PM for making a very responsible decision. It is the right thing to do,” he said.

Mr Namah said the “incoming government looks forward to welcoming” Mr Morrison to PNG “after the swearing-in of the prime minister and cabinet”.

“It would have been an embarrassment for Prime Minister Morrison if he has proceeded with the visit and had to meet with James Marape during his last days of desperately trying to cling on to power,” he said.

Mr Marape said the “recklessness” of Mr Namah was to blame for the cancellation of the “important face-to-face meeting”.

“The visit has been hijacked by Belden Namah through his selfish no-confidence move against me,” he said.

“People of PNG must know that Namah is a ‘leader’ who claims to represent their interests, however, causes instability by stopping Australia — our biggest bilateral partner — from coming in.

“That’s recklessness of the highest order.”

There could be weeks of political uncertainty ahead in PNG.

The Opposition voted to suspended Parliament until the start of December, when a vote to change prime ministers would be possible.

In the lead-up to the return of Parliament, both sides will go into what are called “camps”, where they stay together to ensure their numbers and attempt to strengthen their positions by luring MPs from the opposing side.

The Opposition team, which had gathered in a hotel in Port Moresby, has now flown out of the city.

They are expected to spend the next two weeks in Vanimo, which is in Mr Namah’s electorate.

Mr Marape said he was “confident” of regaining numbers and his Police Minister Bryan Kramer posted on Facebook that the National Executive Council would meet next week to decommission 13 ministers, presumably those who were part of the walkout.

Mr Morrison was due to visit Papua New Guinea on the way home from a trip to Japan.

He will become the first foreign leader to meet the new Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga in Tokyo when he flies to the capital next week.

The Prime Minister will then quarantine for 14 days when he returns to Australia, planning to join Question Time in Parliament via video link from The Lodge.



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Strictly in chaos as Motsi Mabuse announces she has to isolate due to ‘urgent trip’ to Germany


Strictly Come Dancing judge Motsi Mabuse has been pictured flying home to Germany for an ‘essential’ trip that has resulted in her having to quarantine for two weeks. 

The show judge wore a protective mask as she made her way across a London airport terminal clutching a piece of paper, believed to contain her negative COVID test result. 

While the purpose of her trip to Germany is yet to be clarified, the 39-year old has since confirmed it was for an ‘urgent reason.’ 

Flying: Strictly Come Dancing judge Motsi Mabuse has been pictured flying home to Germany for an ‘essential’ trip that has resulted in her having to quarantine for two weeks

Strictly Come Dancing has been thrown into chaos after Motsi Mabuse announced she has to self isolate for the next 14 days

Strictly Come Dancing has been thrown into chaos after Motsi Mabuse announced she has to self isolate for the next 14 days

Following government guidelines she will be self isolating now that she has retuned to England, with insiders saying Anton Du Beke will fill in for her on Strictly while she’s at home. 

The announcement comes just hours after Nicola Adams and Katya Jones had to withdraw from the competition because the professional dancer contracted COVID-19.  

Motsi took to Instagram on Thursday to tell fans she would not join Shirley Ballas and Craig Revel-Horwood at the studios on Saturday, after having to travel back to Germany for an ‘urgent trip’.  

She wrote:: ‘Hi Guys- earlier this week I needed to travel to Germany for an urgent reason. I will of course be following the UK Government guidelines and self-isolating for 14 days. 

Staying safe: The show judge wore a protective mask as she made her way across a London airport terminal clutching a piece of paper, believed to contain her negative COVID test result

Staying safe: The show judge wore a protective mask as she made her way across a London airport terminal clutching a piece of paper, believed to contain her negative COVID test result

Necessary: While the purpose of her trip to Germany is yet to be clarified, the 39-year old has since confirmed it was for an 'urgent reason'

Necessary: While the purpose of her trip to Germany is yet to be clarified, the 39-year old has since confirmed it was for an 'urgent reason'

Necessary: While the purpose of her trip to Germany is yet to be clarified, the 39-year old has since confirmed it was for an ‘urgent reason’

Chaos: The judges isolation is another blow to Strictly following the departure of same sex couple Katya Jones and Nicola Adams

Chaos: The judges isolation is another blow to Strictly following the departure of same sex couple Katya Jones and Nicola Adams 

‘I’ll be watching from home and by the power of technology, should be in your living rooms. Watch out though, I’ll be doing my own hair and make-up!’

According to The Sun, bosses are planning to give Anton his time to shine in the judging seat after 16-years on the show, but the final decision is yet to be made.

The BBC told MailOnline: ‘Motsi will feature virtually in this weekend’s show. Further information on this weekend’s judging panel will be announced in due course. 

His time to shine? It is reported Anton Du Beke will fill in for her while she's gone (pictured last month)

His time to shine? It is reported Anton Du Beke will fill in for her while she’s gone (pictured last month)

How is Strictly 2020 going ahead during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Strictly Come Dancing has introduced an array of strict measures to ensure the new series can go ahead during the COVID-19 crisis.

Celebrity contestants and their professional partners are tested regularly, with cast and crew told to isolate should they contract the virus.

Bosses have already confirmed any celebrity that tests positive once the series begins will be dropped from the show, with reports saying there are celebrities on stand-by.

The professional dancers have already pre-recorded their group performances after isolating together in a hotel.

It’s also been claimed that celebrities and pros will be axed from the show if they are caught kissing during filming.

Strictly 2020 has also seen the series run shortened to just nine weeks, with 12 celebrities taking part instead of the usual 15.

The show’s annual trip to Blackpool has been cancelled, along with this year’s Halloween and Christmas specials.

Only three judges – Craig Revel Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Motsi Mabuse – will be in the studio with separate rostrums, after Bruno Tonioli was unable to appear due to travel concerns. 

Veteran judge Bruno has said he will be ‘involved remotely’ and hopes to return full-time towards the end of the series as he is filming the US version of the show in Los Angeles. 

With limited studio crew, big sets may not be built – so producers will use augmented reality, which adds computer-generated elements.

To ensure the contestants can work closely with their partners, they will ‘bubble up’ to train, along with being tested regularly. 

Strictly will still feature a live audience, however fans will sit in groups on separate tables, and will only attend if from the same household or bubble.

Disaster: Nicola and Katya had to withdraw from the competition because the professional dancer contracted COVID-19

Disaster: Nicola and Katya had to withdraw from the competition because the professional dancer contracted COVID-19 

The South African dancer, who lives with her husband Evgenij Voznyuk and daughter, two, in Germany where she runs a dance school, usually flies between the two countries while appearing on Strictly.

Images emerged showing Motsi, sister of professional dancer Oti, at Heathrow at 1.30pm on Tuesday, carrying a suitcase and holding a negative coronavirus test. 

UK lockdown rules prohibit international travel except in ‘limited circumstances such as for work or for education’.   

Guidelines say ‘people who live outside the UK but work in the UK and travel between their country of residence and the UK at least once a week’ do not have to isolate. 

The judge’s announcement comes hours after Katya, 31, was stunned to learn she’s tested positive as she didn’t display any symptoms, and told bosses that she hasn’t been mixing with others as she lives alone and has been training for up to 14 hours a day. 

A source close to Nicola told MailOnline: ‘She’s hoping her Strictly dream is not over. 

England’s New National Restrictions from 5 November

  •  As of November 5th residents are advise to stay at home except for specific purposes, such as essential work, travel and shopping 
It's over! Katya was stunned to learn she's tested positive as she didn't display any symptoms (pictured last month)

It’s over! Katya was stunned to learn she’s tested positive as she didn’t display any symptoms (pictured last month)

‘There’s lots of hurdles to overcome but if it’s possible she can compete with Katya in the 2021 series, Nicola will want to make it happen.’

While the Strictly cast have been in social bubbles, they are allowed to continue their daily business as normal, so this news has cast doubt on whether bosses will tighten rules on what couples can do between filming.

A Strictly representative confirmed to MailOnline that bosses are not launching an investigation into how Katya contracted the virus as there is no way to indicate where she may have caught it. 

They added that as the dancer lives alone and has only been leaving her house to train, she hasn’t been socialising with others. 

It is understood that a number of crew members have also been forced to self-isolate after coming into contact with Katya. But the rest of the cast are said to be unaffected and the live show will go ahead this Saturday night, the BBC said. 

This also means that the Strictly final next month will feature just four couples instead of the planned five.

'My hero': Shortly after Strictly confirmed news of the couple's exit, Katya posted on Instagram that her 'heart is broken', before paying tribute to her partner

‘My hero’: Shortly after Strictly confirmed news of the couple’s exit, Katya posted on Instagram that her ‘heart is broken’, before paying tribute to her partner

Shortly after Strictly confirmed news of the couple’s exit, Katya posted on Instagram that her ‘heart is broken’, before paying tribute to her partner.

Writing alongside a selfie of the pair, the dancer wrote: ‘My heart is broken I’m utterly gutted this Special journey had to end this way and you don’t get to give more .

You are a woman who didn’t need a hero, you became one. Definitely my hero.

To everyone, thank you for your tremendous support and we will keep dancing for you guys one way or another. 

Meanwhile, please stay safe everybody. And to all my friends who’re still in the show- go for it!’

Making a comeback: The Olympian hopes to return next year alongside Katya and compete for the Glitterball as the show's first same sex couple

Making a comeback: The Olympian hopes to return next year alongside Katya and compete for the Glitterball as the show’s first same sex couple

Devastated: Katya took to her Stories to share a video on a forest walk with Nicola

Devastated: Katya took to her Stories to share a video on a forest walk with Nicola

Upset: She filmed the boxer walking and added a red love heart emoji

Role model: The Olympian had made history by starring in the first same sex couple

Upset: She filmed the boxer walking and added a red love heart emoji

Nicola hopes to return next year alongside Katya after they made history by competing together for the Glitterball as the show’s first same sex pairing. 

If Nicola appears in next year’s series, she will be the second ever star to return, after Jamie Lang, who was allowed to a second chance to star in this year’s Strictly after injury ruled him out of the 2019 series. 

However, the Made In Chelsea favourite did not feature in any shows, unlike Nicola who has survived two vote offs.

Last Sunday, Nicola and Katya were in the bottom two but were saved after judges chose ex-NFL star Jason Bell to leave the competition. 

Strictly’s ‘bubble’ system 

Strictly introduced strict new measures to ensure filming could continue in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, including regular testing and placing the couples in separate ‘bubbles’ so they can train and perform together.

These ‘bubbles’ mean that any celebrity can openly mix, train and perform with their professional partner and vice versa, but they are prohibited from mixing with anyone from outside of their bubble during filming or training.

Despite these new restrictions, and some celebrities having to live alone while taking part in the series, they are not limited from going to public spaces such as shops and parks.

In some cases stars have been living alone while the other half of their pair can stay with their family or household. 

This series also became the first in the show’s history to air without a live audience after England was plunged into a month-long lockdown. 

This year has already seen the pros pre-record all of their group performances while isolating together in a hotel as one bubble, before being separated to join up with their celebrity partners, and thus forming their own separate bubbles. 

Tragic: Strictly bosses confirmed Nicola and Katya's departure in a statement they posted on social media

Tragic: Strictly bosses confirmed Nicola and Katya’s departure in a statement they posted on social media

A Strictly spokesperson confirmed to MailOnline that Katya is asymptomatic and the pair are now self-isolating separately following the latest government guidelines.  

Nicola said in a statement: ‘Hey guys! I’m absolutely devastated my Strictly journey has come to an end so soon. I had so much more to give and so many people to win this for! 

‘But I just want to say a huge thank you to Katya for being the best dance partner anyone could ask for. She pushed me way out of my comfort zone and it’s been an incredible experience. 

Gutted: Nicola shared a montage of her favourite moments during her time on Strictly

Gutted: Nicola shared a montage of her favourite moments during her time on Strictly

Sad: 'I'm gutted to be out of the competition but in these unprecedented times and as frustrating as it is, the COVID measures in place are to keep everyone safe'

Sad: ‘I’m gutted to be out of the competition but in these unprecedented times and as frustrating as it is, the COVID measures in place are to keep everyone safe’

'You made history': Claudia Winkleman and It Takes Two's Zoe Ball shared their condolences

‘You made history’: Claudia Winkleman and It Takes Two’s Zoe Ball shared their condolences 

‘I’m gutted to be out of the competition but in these unprecedented times and as frustrating as it is, the COVID measures in place are to keep everyone safe, and I’m doing what I can to help. 

‘I’ll be spending the next 14 days isolating so I’d like to apologise in advance for the ridiculous amount of TikToks I’ll be posting, in my new found free time when I’m not gaming!’

Katya said: ‘Dancing with Nicola has been an absolute inspiration. She’s given her all each and every week and we were so excited to create more dances in the competition. 

‘Of course, I’m devastated to leave this way but I’ve made a friend for life and loved every moment of this special journey. I’d like to wish good luck to all the remaining couples!’

Sarah James, Strictly Come Dancing Executive Producer added: ‘We are incredibly sad that these unfortunate circumstances mean that Nicola and Katya are unable to continue on Strictly. 

‘They are a brilliant partnership and had already achieved so much during their time on the show. 

‘We’d like to thank them for their commitment and although their time in the competition has sadly come to an end we are hopeful that there will be opportunities for them to dance again in the future.’ 

Nicola and Katya’s pairing made history as it was the first time in the show’s 16-year history a celebrity and professional partner of the same gender would be competing together.

It was announced in September that Nicola would be in the first same-sex pairing on the BBC show, as she said in a statement: ‘It’s amazing to be a part of the movement for change, diversity and breaking boundaries in the entertainment industry.’

Speaking live from her home on BBC Breakfast, Nicola said of her groundbreaking all-female pairing: ‘It’s really important, it’s a big step for the show as well.

‘It’s nice to see we’ve been able to move on and I just can’t wait to get some dancing done really.’

Revealing she approached Strictly with the idea for a same-sex pairing, Nicola explained: ‘I asked the show about it.

‘They wanted to know if I wanted to be on the show and I said “yeah I’ll do it but I want to dance with another female dance partner.'”

‘It’s definitely a time for change and time to move on and be more diverse. This is a brilliant step in the right direction.

‘It will be nice for the LGBT community to be able to see that there are same sex couples on the show as well.’ 

Following the news about Nicola appearing on the show in a female partnership, the BBC defended having a same-sex pairing after more than 100 people complained.

Controversial: The decision to include a same-sex pairing led to 100 complaints from viewers, which led BBC to defend the decision

Controversial: The decision to include a same-sex pairing led to 100 complaints from viewers, which led BBC to defend the decision 

Nicola and Katya’s Best Moments 

Nicola Adams and Katya Jones made history when they became the show’s first ever same-sex pairing.

Their partnership was announced during the launch show last month, with Katya gushing: ‘I think the beauty of this partnership is… it’s never been done before on Strictly. So, basically, we’re free to do what we want, there’s not really any set rules!’

For their first dance Nicola and Katya danced the quickstep to Get Happy by Ella Fitzgerald, earning a solid score of 21 points out of 30.

The duo were praised as ‘absolute dynamite’ and a ‘fantastic partnership,’ with many viewers moved to tears at the sight of a same-sex pairing on the show.

Week Two saw Nicola and Katya dance a Couples’ Choice to Shine by Years & Years, which documented the sports star’s journey to boxing success.

They scored 24 points out of 30, with the performance praised for ‘letting go’ and telling the story of Nicola’s life.

Nicola and Katya’s final dance came during Movie Week, with the pair dancing a Jive to Greased Lightnin from Grease, scoring just 19 points out of 30.

The score left them second-bottom on the leaderboard, and they were forced to compete with Jason Bell and Luba Mushtuk in the dance-off, but they were saved by the judges after performing their jive for the second time.

In a statement the corporation said the competition is an ‘inclusive show’ and they are ‘proud’ to have had same-sex numbers in previous series.

The BBC said: ‘Strictly Come Dancing is an inclusive show and is proud to have featured same sex dancing amongst the professional dancers in group numbers in previous series.

‘We have stated, in the past, that we are open to the prospect of including same sex pairings between our celebrities and professional dancers, should the opportunity arise.’

‘Nicola Adams requested an all-female pairing, which we are happy to facilitate. The show is first and foremost about dance, the sex of each partner within a coupling should have no bearing on their routine.’

Last year male professional dancers Johannes Radebe and Graziano Di Prima performed a same sex routine during the show’s seventeenth series.

While the dance – conducted during a performance by pop star Emeli Sande – was met with an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response on social media, it prompted 200 complaints with TV regulator Ofcom.

Strictly introduced strict new measures to ensure filming could continue in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, including regular testing and placing the couples in separate ‘bubbles’ so they can train and perform together.

These ‘bubbles’ mean that any celebrity can openly mix, train and perform with their professional partner and vice versa, but they are prohibited from mixing with anyone from outside of their bubble during filming or training.

Despite these new restrictions, and some celebrities having to live alone while taking part in the series, they are not limited from going to public spaces such as shops and parks.

In some cases stars have been living alone while the other half of their pair can stay with their family or household. 

This series also became the first in the show’s history to air without a live audience after England was plunged into a month-long lockdown. 

This year has already seen the pros pre-record all of their group performances while isolating together in a hotel as one bubble, before being separated to join up with their celebrity partners, and thus forming their own separate bubbles.

Keeping a low profile? The pair were last seen after Tuesday's episode of It Takes Two, attempting to hide away

Keeping a low profile? The pair were last seen after Tuesday’s episode of It Takes Two, attempting to hide away 

Celebrity contestants and their professional partners are tested regularly, with cast and crew told to isolate should they contract the virus.

It was confirmed before the series began that if any celebrity tested positive once the series began they would be dropped from the show, with reports saying there are celebrities on stand-by. 

How is Strictly 2020 going ahead during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Strictly Come Dancing has introduced an array of strict measures to ensure the new series can go ahead during the COVID-19 crisis.

Celebrity contestants and their professional partners are tested regularly, with cast and crew told to isolate should they contract the virus.

Bosses have already confirmed any celebrity that tests positive once the series begins will be dropped from the show, with reports saying there are celebrities on stand-by.

The professional dancers have already pre-recorded their group performances after isolating together in a hotel.

It’s also been claimed that celebrities and pros will be axed from the show if they are caught kissing during filming.

Strictly 2020 has also seen the series run shortened to just nine weeks, with 12 celebrities taking part instead of the usual 15.

The show’s annual trip to Blackpool has been cancelled, along with this year’s Halloween and Christmas specials.

Only three judges – Craig Revel Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Motsi Mabuse – will be in the studio with separate rostrums, after Bruno Tonioli was unable to appear due to travel concerns. 

Veteran judge Bruno has said he will be ‘involved remotely’ and hopes to return full-time towards the end of the series as he is filming the US version of the show in Los Angeles. 

With limited studio crew, big sets may not be built – so producers will use augmented reality, which adds computer-generated elements.

To ensure the contestants can work closely with their partners, they will ‘bubble up’ to train, along with being tested regularly. 

Strictly will still feature a live audience, however fans will sit in groups on separate tables, and will only attend if from the same household or bubble.

It’s also been claimed that celebrities and pros will be axed from the show if they are caught kissing during filming.

Strictly 2020 has also seen the series run shortened to just nine weeks, with 12 celebrities taking part instead of the usual 15.

The show’s annual trip to Blackpool has been cancelled, along with this year’s Halloween and Christmas specials.

Only three judges – Craig Revel Horwood, Shirley Ballas and Motsi Mabuse – will be in the studio with separate rostrums, after Bruno Tonioli was unable to appear due to travel concerns.

Veteran judge Bruno has said he will be ‘involved remotely’ and hopes to return full-time towards the end of the series as he is filming the US version of the show in Los Angeles.

With limited studio crew, big sets may not be built – so producers will use augmented reality, which adds computer-generated elements. 

This isn’t the first time, the show has been blighted with coronavirus concerns. 

Days before the series began, there had been doubts over whether singer HRVY would be able to compete, as he tested positive for coronavirus.  

A source previously said his positive test was ‘the worst-case scenario for Strictly, as they’ve gone to extreme lengths to make the show safe up to this point’.

A spokesman for the show insisted all celebrities on the show are ‘tested regularly’ and claimed that the positive test has had ‘minimal impact on production’.

After it was announced HRVY had coronavirus, he tweeted: ‘Morning guys, just a little thought. I’m only 21 and in good health so it just shows that being young doesn’t make you invincible, so make sure you wear a mask please, have a good day.’

Weeks before, a crew member also contracted coronavirus.

A spokesman for Strictly told MailOnline : ‘We can confirm that a member of the Strictly team has tested positive for coronavirus and they are now self-isolating at home following the latest government guidelines.

‘We have rigorous protocols in place to manage Covid-19 as the safety of all those involved in the production is paramount.

‘We briefed that we are still in pre-production and all celebs are tested regularly. We said we would not reveal the name of individual for private health reasons but they are feeling well.

‘We also briefed that the celeb will be taking part in the launch show (pending a negative test result) and that they only came into contact with a handful of production crew, who were then isolated and tested, therefore minimal impact on production.’ 

Recovered: Days before the series began, there had been doubts over whether singer HRVY would be able to compete, as he tested positive for coronavirus

Recovered: Days before the series began, there had been doubts over whether singer HRVY would be able to compete, as he tested positive for coronavirus

In a recent Q and A, executive producer Sarah James shed light on the show’s contingency plans in light of the pandemic and insisted she’s ‘confident’ the competition series will go ahead even if the current coronavirus restrictions change. 

Sarah said: ‘Obviously according to government guidelines if you receive a positive test you have to isolate for two weeks and that would unfortunately rule them out of the show.’

Explaining their use of the bubble system to ensure couples can train and perform, she added: ‘Close contact cohorts (CCC) apply to people who need to work closely and break social distancing rules to do their jobs. It has to only be with one person and you are regularly tested.

‘We are asking the celebrity contestants to be part of an exclusive support bubble with their dancers, which means that one half of the party has to live alone.’

The professionals spent two weeks in September isolating in a Buckinghamshire hotel so they could rehearse the group numbers.  

Comeback king: The only other star to ever return to the show is Jamie Lang, who was allowed to a second chance to star in this year’s Strictly after injury ruled him out of the 2019 series

Comeback king: The only other star to ever return to the show is Jamie Lang, who was allowed to a second chance to star in this year’s Strictly after injury ruled him out of the 2019 series

The news of Katya’s positive test comes hours after Rylan Clark-Neal revealed he’ll miss filming for Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two for two weeks after being forced to self-isolate.

The presenter, 32, tweeted a statement telling fans he’d come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, and after seeking a test has tested negative himself. 

Rylan has co-hosted It Takes Two with Zoe Ball on alternate days this series, with the pair unable to host the show together due to strict social distancing measures.

He posted: ‘I found out this week that someone I have been in recent contact with outside of work has tested positive for coronavirus. I am therefore now following the government guidelines and having to self isolate. 

‘I have sought a COVID test and thankfully that has returned a negative result. 

‘That does mean I will miss the next two weeks of Strictly It Takes Two and my BBC Radio 2 Saturday show. 

‘I look forward to being back soon and wish all the couples good luck for this weekend.’

Rylan later clarified that he paid to have a test done privately to ensure there was ‘no immediate risk’ to anyone in his work bubble during Strictly filming.

The star’s isolation also means he’ll be unable to present his Saturday show on BBC Radio 2.

Government guidelines state anyone who has come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for 14 days. 

Rylan has been presenting It Takes Two with Zoe on various days, with the pair unable to host together this series due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zoe would host the show Mondays through Wednesdays, with Rylan taking over the duties on Thursdays and Fridays.  

Break: Rylan Clark-Neal has revealed he'll miss filming for Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two for two weeks after being forced to self-isolate

Break: Rylan Clark-Neal has revealed he’ll miss filming for Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two for two weeks after being forced to self-isolate

Rylan had previously praised Strictly bosses for breaking boundaries by introduced the show’s first ever same-sex pairing with Nicola Adams and Katya Jones.

He described how the show’s inclusive approach is a great step towards embracing the LGBTQ community.

He told MailOnline: ‘It’s really exciting, but I think it will be like Dancing On Ice with Ian ‘H’ Watkins and Matt Evers, in the sense that they were a great addition, but after the first week, their same-sex pairing became the norm. 

All is well: The presenter tweeted a statement telling fans he'd come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19

All is well: The presenter tweeted a statement telling fans he’d come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19

‘It’s never been done before on Strictly so it’s going to be a big deal and I think it’s a really good step towards normalising it.

‘There are female couples all over Britain, there are male couples all over Britain. I think it’s just reflecting society and I think it’s a great thing to be doing, so good luck to the pair of them!

‘She [Nicola] will be treated like every other contestant and that’s how it should be. I think it’s a really massive step forward.’ 

The rest of the Strictly cast are unaffected and the show will continue this Saturday night on BBC One. 

Dynamic duo: Rylan has been presenting It Takes Two with Zoe Ball on various days, with the pair unable to host together this series due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Dynamic duo: Rylan has been presenting It Takes Two with Zoe Ball on various days, with the pair unable to host together this series due to the COVID-19 pandemic



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Tips to know before heading on a camping road trip


With COVID-19 putting most overseas travel on the back burner, road trips are in.

Lots of us are increasingly thinking about hitting the road for a camping or caravanning holiday — some for the first time.

But these low-cost, convenient trips in the great outdoors are governed by a set of unwritten rules that can put ignorant road trippers on the wrong foot with other travellers, campers and residents.

To avoid being labelled a campground ‘Karen’ or ‘Darren’, there’s a few handy tips to know.

Keeping a courteous distance at campsites and caravan parks helps everyone enjoy the outdoors.(Unsplash: Harli Marten)

Respect space and 10pm ‘quiet time’

Perth couple Paul and Kath McGuckin have built up their camping experience after decades of travelling around their vast state.

They’re an easygoing couple but one of their pet peeves is having rowdy neighbours carrying on into the night.

Keeping a respectful amount of space between campsites is also key to being a considerate camper.

“You’ve got your own patch and you don’t want to be encroaching on other people’s space,” she says.

Do your research and be prepared

Being stuck in the rain, stranded with a flat tyre or getting bogged on a backroad are all common pitfalls that can be avoided with preparation.

Paul recommends casting a keen eye over your vehicle and equipment before hitting the road.

“Check your equipment before you go, check your tyres and understand where your petrol stations are,” Kath adds.

Understanding your vehicle’s towing capacity and how to safely navigate the road with a trailer is essential.

Having an awareness on the road, like knowing when to overtake or pull over, makes for a much smoother journey, according to Paul.

He recommends taking a towing course if you are not confident or experienced.

A tent sits on a slope at a New South Wales National Park.
Preparation and research helps to prevent a poor experience.(Angus Hobson: ABC News)

Maresa van den Brink and her husband Han Zhang, from Sydney, are normally overseas travellers who were encouraged by COVID-19 to give camping a shot.

They were surprised to find they could buy all of their essential equipment for about $500.

One of her top tips for new campers is to do a ‘dry run’ in the backyard before heading off.

“We did practise putting up the tent at home before we used it because we didn’t want to be rocking up after dark not knowing what the hell we were doing,” she says.

Don’t let kids put you off

Mandy Farabegoli gives advice to families who want to set themselves up for life on the road through her website Travelling Australia With Kids.

Mandy Farabegoli stands with her family in front of their car.
Mandy Farabegoli says quality time spent with children will reap rewards in the future.(Supplied: Mandy Farabegoli)

Ten years ago, she was more of a hotel person before her husband convinced her to give a night in the great outdoors a shot.

“We had three children under seven years old so finances were a bit hectic,” she says.

They fell in love with the lifestyle and about 18 months later her family had packed up their home and hit the road for a two-year trip around Australia.

She says the quality time spent together is something the family will treasure later on.

Take your time, have a chat

With all the preparation it can be easy to forget to stop and enjoy the journey.

“Don’t try and do 1,000 miles a day. Break it up,” says Paul.

Whether it’s around the campground or at a small town cafe, being patient and up for a chat will make for a more memorable trip.

Whether it’s sourdough or spare car parts, supplies can be limited in small towns but Kath says locals will usually bend over backwards to help.

“Some of these places are a long way from capital cities … so being patient, kind and courteous goes a long way,” she says.

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Sydney FC star Ryan McGowan in doubt for trip to Qatar after catching coronavirus


Sydney FC defender Ryan McGowan has tested positive to COVID-19, leaving him in extreme doubt for the Sky Blues’ AFC Champions League campaign.

In Scotland with his family, McGowan had been due to link up in Doha with the rest of the Sydney squad, who leave Australia on Saturday.

However, the Socceroos defender’s arrival in Qatar will now be delayed at best, and there is every chance he won’t take any part in the remainder of the competition.

Sydney coach Sydney FC revealed the news about McGowan after his side’s 3-0 friendly win over the Olyroos at Jubilee Stadium.

“It’s not great,” Corica said.

“He won’t be joining us when we first get there … I’m hoping he’ll be there before the 20th (of November).

“He’s actually got no symptoms. He feels good but he obviously needs to quarantine now … and have another test (on Wednesday) before he comes.

“If he gets the all clear he’ll come and meet us, otherwise we’ll have to work out something else for him.”

That “something else” instead of going to Qatar is flying from Scotland to Australia to prepare for the start of the A-League season on December 27.

“If he can’t get there by the 20th he might have to come straight back to Australia,” Corica said.

Sydney were too good for the Olyroos, with first-half goals to Paulo Retre, Trent Buhagiar and Alex Baumjohann sealing the win.

“I’m happy, I think we can be better of course, it was a good test for us and the last hit out before we leave for Qatar,” Corica said.



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Testing Tesla’s New All-Wheel Model Y on a Surf Road Trip


Three bolts light up the Central California foothills on either side of Highway 101. After each white flash of lightning, the next cluster strikes even closer. The torrential downpour makes it nearly impossible to see through my windshield. I should probably pull over to let the storm pass, but with only 50 miles of power left, I need to recharge my 2020 Tesla Model Y. The lightning knocked out nearby Buellton’s electricity, shutting down its Tesla Supercharger station. San Luis Obispo, where navigation tells me is the nearest charging station, is right at the end of that 50-mile range.

Considering I’m 250 miles from home, this test—to see how an electric car performs on a classic California surf trip—is not going as planned. I borrowed this Tesla loaner to see whether surfers can adopt emissions-free vehicles into their lifestyles as a means to combat climate change, and being thwarted by an extreme weather event is a bittersweet slice of irony that reminds me just how stark of an existential chokehold climate change has on California’s future.

In late August, a week of storms caused 12,000 lightning strikes and 585 fire ignitions, and resulted in the state’s second- and third-largest forest fires ever recorded. A changing climate has yielded crisis levels of more frequent and severe heat events, which in turn lead to drier vegetation, increasing the likelihood and speed of more wildfires.

One of many needed solutions is personal transportation that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels. Since the rise of the combustion engine, surfers, like many outdoor adventurers, have had a self-defeating reliance on fossil fuels—where chasing swell can contribute to the destruction of the natural playground on which we depend. If you’re not reaching waves by foot or bike, you’re probably doing so by car or plane, emitting greenhouse gases that are steadily ruining everything we love about the ocean.

“Greenhouse gases emitted from cars and planes are being absorbed by the marine environment, making the ocean more acidic,” says Pete Stauffer, environmental director at the Surfrider Foundation. “This change to ocean chemistry threatens the survival of a variety of marine species including corals, crabs and plankton. Climate change is also making the ocean warmer, causing sea level rise and the loss of beaches and surf breaks around the world.”

Unfortunately, the obstacles deterring American consumers from adopting EVs are real, many of them nonstarters for ocean people. For one, EVs are typically small, which means no room for boards and other gear. Range is another factor; a car that can’t be driven even 200 miles between charges isn’t going on a road trip. Charging infrastructure has been unreliable and in some places nonexistent, limiting destinations. And for renters and apartment dwellers, at-home charging is often impossible.

The good news: We are in the dawn of a new EV era. Larger, all-wheel-drive, long-range EVs are coming out, and the Model Y is one of the first. It has a range of 326 miles, more than enough for a round trip from San Diego to L.A. The Dual Motor system utilizes two independent electric motors to drive torque to the front and rear wheels, creating All Wheel Drive-equivalent functionality that can traverse snow, mud, and dirt. The back seats fold flat, opening up 68 cubic feet of cargo space, and with the rounded roof and hatchback door, I could fit coolers, clothes, camping equipment, and surf gear—no problem. Tesla makes a roof rack (although I suggest an aftermarket rack with wider crossbars), and offers a tow package capable up to 3,500 pounds.

Gabriela Aoun

I drove from San Diego to Santa Cruz in the Model Y, with stops in Malibu, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Big Sur, traveling more than 1,000 miles. Thanks to Tesla’s ubiquitous charging stations, I never had a problem charging (minus the lightning storm outage). The car’s built-in 15-inch display with voice-activated navigation eliminates “range anxiety,” as it calculates whether you have enough battery to make it to your destination, and if you don’t, it navigates you to the closest charging station.

Tesla’s “Supercharger” stations will charge your car halfway in about 15 minutes, and up to 80 percent in about half an hour. I thought the adjustment from filling a gas tank in a couple minutes to charging a battery for as much as an hour would be difficult, but I quickly fell into a routine of strategically timing charging sessions to coincide with coffee breaks or grocery runs.

Tesla Supercharging Station
Gabriela Aoun

Admittedly, Tesla makes it especially easy to drive an EV long distances, since you can depend on the company’s own charging infrastructure, which is well maintained and strategically mapped out. When driving other EVs, I’ve had to rely on third-party charging stations, which all too often are broken or full. If a Tesla charging station is particularly busy, Tesla will regulate how long cars are allowed to charge, to cutdown wait times.

When I first drove the Y, I was skeptical of its surf-trip compatibility. It looked and felt like a luxury vehicle. If you’re used to turning locking hubs on your wheels to engage your 4WD, and your music selection is relegated to whatever cassette is in your tape player, getting into a Tesla feels like stepping onto a space station. You don’t turn a key or push a button to turn on the car—an app on your cell phone detects when you come and go, and even locks the car for you when you walk away from it.

But some of those over-the-top features actually come in handy on a road trip. For instance, “Dog” mode allows you to turn off, lock and leave your car with your pet inside, and to set climate controls from your cellphone to keep them comfortable while you’re buying more firewood or checking the waves.

Testing the Tesla Model Y on an all-electric California surf trip
Gabriela Aoun

I grew to love the convenience of not carrying a key, and I may or may not have indulged in the “Caraoke” app while sitting in traffic, but what I loved most about driving this car across California was the deep satisfaction of knowing that traveling hundreds of miles was having a significantly lesser impact on the natural environment I set out to enjoy.

Now, let’s acknowledge the $50,000 elephant in the room. A long-range Tesla Model Y costs $49,990, before taxes. The Chevy Bolt, another all-electric hatchback (albeit without AWD), starts at $36,620. For most people, that’s a lot of money.

There are opportunities for savings, including federal tax incentives (as much as $7,500) and some state incentives for buying all electric vehicles. EVs also require a lot less maintenance (no oil changes, for starters), and depending what you drove previously, you could be spending less than half the money to charge an EV as you did to fill your gas-powered car.

Many surfers are already driving “adventure” cars that, despite their dusty and muddied appearance, are just as expensive if not more so than an EV. A Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport starts at $33,000, a 4Runner at $36,000, and let’s not forget how many brand new 4WD Sprinters (which start at $59,600) are parked in beach lots these days.

Testing the Tesla Model Y on an all-electric California surf trip hatchback
Gabriela Aoun

Sure, EVs can’t do everything that those cars can do. You can’t tow a jet-ski with most EVs, at least not without annihilating the battery’s range, nor could you comfortably sleep in most of them (I actually could have slept in the Model Y, though a second person would’ve been a squeeze).

But more often than not, the average surfer isn’t on some off-grid strike mission—they’re rushing to the beach to squeeze in a session before taking their kids to school, or grabbing a couple waves as the sun sets after work.

And soon, we will all have a lot more choice when it comes to EVs. Ford is releasing an electric SUV by the end of the year, and GM is promising 20 more EV models by 2023. Rivian will release their adventure-focused albeit pricey R1T pick-up truck and R1S SUV in 2021.

Testing the Tesla Model Y on an all-electric California surf trip yeti
Gabriela Aoun

EVs will also soon become affordable. The cost of battery packs, which are what make EVs more expensive, has dropped 80 percent since 2008, and continues to improve. (Elon Musk recently announced that Tesla will sell a $25,000 car within three years, although without details on how.)

Currently, however, EV adoption in the United States is woefully lacking. Battery-powered cars only account for two percent of new-car sales in the United States. Last year, twice as many SUVs as sedans sold in the U.S., and that statistic doesn’t even include pickup trucks. By buying these types of vehicles, consumers aren’t indicating much interest in the EV category, and so car manufacturers don’t want to make more EV options, seeing them as a bad investment. Then, consumers complain there aren’t the types of EVs that fit their needs or budgets, continue not to buy them, and the cycle continues.

If industry and consumers are pointing figures at one another for slow EV adoption, government regulation might push both sides forward: California Governor Gavin Newsom just issued an executive order declaring a new state goal that by 2035, 100 percent of new car sales in the state will be zero-emission vehicles.

Americans overall drove 3.22 trillion miles in 2018, and 28 percent of U.S. emissions come from transportation, the majority of that from passenger vehicles. Without electric vehicles, America’s obsession with driving will continue to have catastrophic consequences for the climate.

Testing the Tesla Model Y on an all-electric California surf trip charging
Gabriela Aoun

Surfers aren’t immune either. With an estimated 2.3 million surfers over the age of 18 in the country today, and based on 2011 data on how often and how far surfers drive to the ocean, American surfers might be driving as many as 4.5 billion collective miles a year to ride waves. That equates to about 2 million metric tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere.

If surfers want to preserve the viability and purity of the waves they ride, they’ll have to mitigate this impact, and quickly. Electric vehicles can play a crucial part, by eliminating tailpipe emissions. Skeptics point out that most EVs are still charged with electricity derived from fossil fuels, but a recent study found that even with the current mix of global energy sources, EVs entire lifecycle still causes fewer emissions than gas-powered cars in 95 percent of the world. And since renewable energy is estimated to be cheaper than even natural gas by 2025, the day when EVs can truly be emissions-free is rapidly approaching.

As surfers, our way of life is at particular risk, since global warming and pollution will destroy the ocean as we currently know it. It may feel as though changing our transportation habits threatens our lifestyle, by forcing us to drive smaller cars, travel shorter distances, or invest our money in ways we’re not used to, but none of these sacrifices outweigh the one we will be forced to make if sea levels rise, sea life becomes extinct, and reefs die.

On my way home from Santa Cruz, I took the Model Y to one last stop: San Onofre State Beach. It’s where surfers have vociferously fought against the now-defunct San Onofre Nuclear Plant, the stored nuclear waste of which threatens some of the most treasured surf breaks in Southern California.

Testing the Tesla Model Y on an all-electric California surf trip
Gabriela Aoun

It was one of those summer mornings when the line is so long that it wraps into a U-shape behind the park ranger’s kiosk, and cars idle for as long as an hour waiting to get into the parking lot. I cringed at the unwanted attention the Model Y was attracting—a glistening pearl of opulence in a sea of vintage trucks and rusty vans.

In this brand new car, I felt like I had betrayed the covenant of anti-material bohemianism I had agreed upon as a surfer. I envied those driving a rusty oversized vehicle they could sleep in or take deep into Baja for weeks on end. What we drive is often another form of expression, and those cars expressed adventure and freedom.

But as we all waited in line in the perfect Southern California weather above the glistening Pacific Ocean, each gas- or diesel-powered car, van, and truck slowly exhaled the greenhouse gases that could one day make blissful days like these extinct. Meanwhile, EVs like the Model Y are making strides in silence, not yet the obvious choice for adventure, but promising its future.


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REVIEW: Planet Fungi, a delightful trip into unknown worlds


NORTHERN Rivers residents Stephen Axford and Catherine Marciniak travelled to the wettest place on Earth to make a one-hour documentary about fungi, and the result is an extraordinary, engaging and educational film.

Filmed in 2018 and 2019, Planet Fungi – North East India chronicles Axford and Marciniak’s travel through the Indian state of Meghalaya, near Bangladesh.

They travelled invited by an Indian NGO, interested in recording the edible and poisonous mushrooms available in that area.

The benefits, we are explained, are many: commerce, medicine, avoiding unnecessary deaths and advancement of scientific knowledge.

 

 

The soul of the film is there, it’s a trip to unknown words: this exotic place in India and the world of fungi.

And although Axford is not a scientist or a mycologist (mushroom expert) he always gets local and international scientific support, which means his trips normally end up with a few new species identified.

(We only know about 200,00 species of fungi, and experts thing there are millions to be discovered).

But the true blessings of this film are the people in it.

First, it’s the Indian people that surround the Australians.

The religious, social, cultural and human aspects that surround mushrooms in India are, to say the least, delightful.

India is always complex, colourful and tasty, and just like its mushrooms, its people are unforgettable.

 

Northern Rivers filmmaker Steven Axford.

 

But then there is Axford and Marciniak.

Stephen Axford has been, for years, a fantastic photographer. Retired from IT, his passion was a technical one: great images of an unknown part of our ecology: fungi.

But in Planet Fungi, Axford becomes a presenter, and a fantastic one. He is amenable, emphatic, his interactions with people are genuine and his commentary, clear and succinct.

Marciniak, on the other hand, proves again to be a consummate documentarist.

This format fits her camera and editing skills like a glove.

 

Mycena viscidocrudenta decomposing a leaf.

Mycena viscidocrudenta decomposing a leaf.

 

Her structure is simple but effective. Simple animations make complex ideas available to young and old, and the editing, camera work and production are fantastic.

Planet Fungi could sit next to professional documentaries with ten times its budget and it would not be put to shame. If anything, it would be the most interesting one.

The local couple of filmmakers have achieved a remarkable film that is engaging, educational and terribly entertaining.

We are looking forward to the next one.

The film is available to watch now from planetfungi.movie/ or search for it in Amazon, YouTube, Google Play or iTunes.

Xylaria sp, with yellow tips sporing.

Xylaria sp, with yellow tips sporing.





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