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Sombre Aussie site tops global list of most unusual abandoned places

<p>Each year, thousands of people travel to famous abandoned buildings and hotspots to explore what were once important landmarks. </p> <p>Some deserted sites are more popular than others, as these ten sites received tens of thousands of visitors each year. </p> <p><strong>Buzludzha, Bulgaria</strong></p> <p>The Buzludzha Monument in central Bulgaria has been dubbed the tenth most famous abandoned place in the world, each year welcoming over 18,000 people. </p> <p>The site was constructed in 1981 and used by the Bulgarian communist government, and was in use until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.</p> <p><strong>Ohio State Reformatory, USA</strong></p> <p>After first opening in 1898, the goal of the Ohio State Reformatory was to truly "reform" and rehabilitate its inmates.</p> <p>The facility was closed in 1990, and each year attracts more than 21,000 visitors.</p> <p><strong>Gereja Ayam, Indonesia</strong></p> <p>The uniquely shaped house of prayer in Central Java continues to be a popular tourist attraction in Indonesia, welcoming more than 50,000 travellers each year. </p> <p>Construction on the church was never completed after work was halted in 2000.</p> <p><strong>Lago di Resia Bell Tower, Italy</strong></p> <p>The 14-century sunken bell tower can be found near the border of Switzerland, emerging from the water from a sunken village where travellers claim they can hear bells tolling, even though there are no bells in the tower. </p> <p>The lonely (and probably haunted) tower receives more than 54,000 tourists each year. </p> <p><strong>Canfranc, Spain</strong></p> <p>The abandoned railway station is located in the Spanish municipality of Canfranc, close to the French border and once was a major hub for cross-border railway traffic.</p> <p>It first opened in 1928, but closed its doors by 1970 before it was reimagined as a hotel.  </p> <p><strong>Beelitz Military Hospital, Germany</strong></p> <p>The large hospital complex was first built in 1898 as a sanatorium, but was transformed into a hospital at the beginning of WWI and has been abandoned since 1990. </p> <p>It's understood Hitler was treated here after being wounded in the Battle of Somme, which could be the reason more than 64,000 travellers flock there each year. </p> <p><strong>Eastern State Penitentiary, USA</strong></p> <p>The prison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is described as one of the country's most historic prisons and has housed some famous prisoners such as Al Capone.</p> <p>The prison was closed in 1971 and is tagged on social media by more than 79,000 every year. </p> <p><strong>Croix-Rouge, Paris</strong></p> <p>Also known as the Red Cross, this Paris train station has been abandoned since 1939 after France entered WWII.</p> <p>The station was only functional for 16 years, and welcomes more than 95,000 curious travellers each year. </p> <p><strong>Teufelsberg, Germany</strong></p> <p>Teufelsberg was one of the largest listening towers in the world during the Cold war.</p> <p>The site was closed in 1972, but still receives around 128,000 every year. </p> <p><strong>Port Arthur, Australia</strong></p> <p>More than a quarter of a million visitors travel to Port Arthur in Tasmania each year.</p> <p>The site itself was first opened as a timber station in 1830 and is known as a symbol of the country's convict past.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p>

International Travel

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I watched some 40 films at this year’s Sydney Film Festival. Here are my top five picks – and one hilarious flop

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ari-mattes-97857">Ari Mattes</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-notre-dame-australia-852">University of Notre Dame Australia</a></em></p> <p>This year’s <a href="https://www.sff.org.au/">Sydney Film Festival’s</a> rich offerings of films more than compensated for the minor technical issues that led to some screenings being interrupted.</p> <p>Out of the 40-odd films I saw, here are my top five, along with some notable mentions and three disappointments (including a genuine <em>dud</em>).</p> <h2>1. The Girl with the Needle</h2> <p>Cowritten and directed by Swedish filmmaker Magnus von Horn, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Girl_with_the_Needle">The Girl with the Needle</a> is loosely based on the story of notorious early-20th century serial killer Dagmar Overbye.</p> <p>But this is no procedural true crime film, painstakingly attempting to recreate crimes with historical accuracy. It’s a stylish Danish nightmare dazzling with cinematic acrobatics right from the opening sequence, in which black and white faces hideously morph, looking at the viewer like deranged figures from a hellish circus. It is, indeed, one of the most terrifying films I’ve seen.</p> <p>The narrative follows the struggles of new mother Karoline (Vic Carmen Sonne) as she gives her baby to Dagmar’s informal adoption agency and begins working with her as a wet nurse, unaware of what’s really going on.</p> <p>Sonne is as self-assured as ever – and none of the actors put a foot wrong here. Seasoned Danish film star Trine Dyrholm is exceptional in bringing nuance to what could have become a caricaturishly evil role as Dagmar. And Besir Zeciri endows Peter, a war-wounded veteran who can only find employment in a circus freakshow, with an unexpected warmth and tenderness.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VlyW-z1xbO4?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>The Girl with the Needle features some of the most distressing sequences one could find in a commercial film. Its meticulously rendered shades of German expressionism never distract from its smorgasbord of horrors, offering an almost unbearably bleak vision of the world in the aftermath of the Great War. If only all films were this good!</p> <h2>2. Dying</h2> <p>I’d normally suppress a yawn if you told me I had to sit through a three-hour social realist drama about the everyday difficulties of a bourgeois German conductor and his family. Yet writer-director Matthias Glasner’s <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dying_(2024_film)">Dying</a> is a near perfect film (no surprise it won <a href="https://www.screendaily.com/news/matthias-glasners-dying-wins-german-lola-for-best-film/5193046.article">four prizes</a> at the German Film Awards).</p> <p>The film is complex and engrossing – deeply sad in places and hysterical in others – formally controlled, but underpinned by an anarchic sensibility. It is life-affirming without any skerrick of sentimentality.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/kagVqEfPxFw?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>Lars Eidinger is astonishingly good as maestro Tom, who is trying to keep his career on track as his family life crumbles around him. He is matched by Lilith Stangenberg, mesmerising as his unhinged sister Ellen. Robert Gwisdek is equally exceptional as the highly strung composer and friend Bernard, while Corinna Harfouch anchors the film’s first section as Tom’s far from maternal mother, Lissy.</p> <p>At one point, Ingmar Bergman’s 1982 period film <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanny_and_Alexander">Fanny and Alexander</a> is playing on the TV (Tom watches it every Christmas). Even though Dying feels like a contemporary film committed to interrogating the difficulties of being in the modern world, there’s something of late Bergman here as it unfolds across its epic length.</p> <p>It is a three-hour film about middle-class life, but like a great 19th-century novel, it never feels long. The fact that nothing particularly extraordinary happens is testament to how well-made the film is.</p> <h2>3. Kill</h2> <p>Director Nikhil Nagesh Bhat’s Indian action film <a href="https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/kill_2023_2">Kill</a> is cheesy, sentimental and at first seems remarkably silly.</p> <p>Commando Amrit, played by beefy TV star Lakshya, is travelling to New Delhi by train with his buddy, fellow commando Viresh (Abhishek Chauhan). His true love Tulika (Tanya Maniktala) is also on board and has recently become engaged to another man through an arrangement by her wealthy father, Baldev Singh Thakur (Harsh Chhaya), who happens to own the train company. When a group of 30-plus bandits led by the charming but ice-cold Fani (Raghav Juyal) move to rob the train, Amrit must defend Tulika, her family and the rest of the passengers.</p> <p>When the title card appears 40 minutes into the film, suddenly emblazoned on the screen, it seems like a distracting quirk at first. But it begins to make sense as the train rolls on. All of the violence and bone-crushing action of the first section is mere preamble, leading to a point of transition from an extremely violent but fun action film, to a much darker – and bloodier – revenge film.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/da7lKeeS67c?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>Kill is an exceptionally well-wrought genre film. The kinetic and balletic action recalls the golden era of Hong Kong action cinema, but with hammers, daggers and sickles instead of guns and the frenetic staging of hand-to-hand combat instead of poetic slow-motion footage. It is also a great example of a film being more than the sum of its parts. No element is perfect, yet they come together to transcend these limitations, its flow reaching sublime levels by the end.</p> <p>There’s also an undercurrent of sadness throughout. We see an India of haves and have-nots, of families of bandits struggling to survive and of the supreme violence sustaining the social and political order. As Fani says to Amrit near the end: “Who kills like this? I killed four of your people. You finished off 40 of my family. You’re not a protector. You’re a monster. A fucking monster.” The title says it all.</p> <h2>4. Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story</h2> <p>Biographical films about celebrities inevitably feel gossipy. Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui’s <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super/Man:_The_Christopher_Reeve_Story">Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story</a> is no exception. But it is so well made (and well-resourced, one would imagine, as it’s produced by DC) that it moves beyond its tabloid-like qualities.</p> <p>Interviews with Reeve’s friends and colleagues, including Susan Sarandon, Glenn Close and Jeff Daniels, are interspersed with home footage shot by Reeve and his family throughout his career and during his recovery from the near-fatal riding accident that left him paralysed and breathing through a respirator for the rest of his life.</p> <p>Reeve’s close friendship with “brother” Robin Williams assumes central importance, with the film implying the two men were so emotionally dependent on each other that Williams would probably still be alive if Reeve hadn’t died in 2004.</p> <p>But the most interesting parts of the film involve carefully assembled archival footage looking at how Reeve’s decision to play Superman negatively impacted his career and personal life. He never starred in another profitable film, and his father and colleagues such as William Hurt loathed his decision to play a comic book character.</p> <p>This is counterpointed with his post-accident career as a director and disability advocate. Interviews with Reeve’s children add a genuinely tragic sense of pathos to this slick, well-made and emotionally exhausting “true Hollywood” story. It’s everything one could want from such a documentary.</p> <h2>5. Kneecap</h2> <p>Cowriter-director Rich Peppiatt’s Kneecap is a riotous, irreverent biopic following the career of Belfast drug-dealers Móglaí Bap and Mo Chara as they team up with high school music teacher DJ Próvai to become the first Irish-language rap group, Kneecap.</p> <p>The real <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-66408560">Kneecappers</a> cowrote the film and play themselves and, given none of them are actors, do so remarkably well. They’re joined by Irish heavyweights Josie Walker, playing the detective who has it in for them, and Michael Fassbender, playing Móglaí’s father, an old-school Irish radical who has been on the run for the past few decades.</p> <p>The film depicts their hedonistic drug use and anarchic disregard for the law in the context of their radical political motivation to speak Irish against the colonial English. And while it may be a bit cartoonish in its presentation of Belfast’s history and the struggle to keep Gaelic alive, it is a music biopic after all.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/FFYfp-hKxZQ?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>Kneecap is violent, coarse and laced with infectiously good humour – a genuinely fun film, buoyed by its charismatic stars and lively style. Only the most stringent moralist wouldn’t enjoy this one!</p> <h2>Notable mentions</h2> <p>It’s extremely difficult to pick a top five when 15 or so of the films I saw were standouts. And this is testament to the quality of the festival’s selection.</p> <p>It was a pleasure watching heavyweight Sean Penn go head-to-head with Dakota Johnson in writer-director Christy Hall’s <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daddio_(film)">Daddio</a>, even if the story takes an uninteresting turn in the final third. Despite the banality of the premise – a New York cabbie chats with a passenger – and the inanity of some of the dialogue, this romantic ode to urban life in all its alienated, fluoro-lit techno glory is so well crafted that we happily go along for the ride.</p> <p>Equally affective is the melancholic and beautifully performed <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puan_(film)">Puan</a>, a restrained comedy set in a University faculty in Buenos Aires. Puan could easily make my top five, as could André Téchiné’s <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_New_Friends_(film)">My New Friends</a>), an offbeat French melodrama starring Isabelle Huppert as a disillusioned police officer who becomes friends with an anti-cop activist in the suburbs.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cnz-6h60tkk?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <h2>Poor performers</h2> <p>Of the lot, I only found three films disappointing.</p> <p>The first, Among the Wolves, is a Belgian-French documentary in which a photographer and illustrator lie waiting in a tiny, makeshift building to encounter wild wolves. While some of the footage is striking, the film is let down by its scientific inaccuracy, such as references to the “alpha male” wolf – a term and concept that has <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/science/elements/the-myth-of-the-alpha-wolf">long been discredited</a>. Such innacuracy is a cardinal sin for a documentary, which is supposed to inform the viewer.</p> <p>Though critically acclaimed, Hollywood horror film The Substance – a story of an ageing entertainer who turns to a mysterious substance to stay young (with unsurprisingly horrific ramifications) – feels neither new nor particularly interesting. And while it’s great to see Demi Moore and Dennis Quaid back on the big screen, their caricaturish characters make the whole thing seem like a boring joke: an inflated short film that is both irritatingly silly and painfully didactic.</p> <p>But rarely does a film so resolutely reaffirm a sense of the absurd hubris of humans as Francis Ford Coppola’s self-financed mega-flop, Megalopolis. This cartoonish, incoherent mess set in a dystopian version of the United States, “New Rome”, is howlingly bad in places.</p> <p>Imagine the worst parts of The Hunger Games and <a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064940/">Fellini Satyricon</a> (1969) crossed with Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead and you begin to get a sense of the kind of self-indulgent, heavy-handed nonsense that is Megalopolis.</p> <p>Side-splittingly funny moments come courtesy of bad dialogue (“Utopias become dystopias,” actor Giancarlo Esposito says at one point with a straight face). And stilted acting by Adam Driver and Aubrey Plaza had the (remaining) audience in stitches. Megalopolis is like one of the great fiascos from days gone by – the 21st century’s Heaven’s Gate – and there is definitely something delightful about the existence of this <a href="https://variety.com/2022/film/news/francis-ford-coppola-funding-120-million-dollars-megalopolis-1235184765/">US$120 million</a> (roughly A$180 million) flop.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1FQzWD5xVKQ?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></figure> <p>But as a dud, Megalopolis is the outlier. And in a year following Barbie, Oppenheimer, Napoleon and Poor Things (talk about heavy-handed cinema), much of the menu of this year’s Sydney Film Festival once again proves there are still good filmmakers out there making good films.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/232706/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ari-mattes-97857"><em>Ari Mattes</em></a><em>, Lecturer in Communications and Media, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-notre-dame-australia-852">University of Notre Dame Australia</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/i-watched-some-40-films-at-this-years-sydney-film-festival-here-are-my-top-five-picks-and-one-hilarious-flop-232706">original article</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: IMDB</em></p> </div>

Movies

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The hen-some winners of Australia's next top chicken awards

<p>The winners of Australia's Next Top Chicken competition have been crowned, with the winners ranging from feathered and fluffy, to just utterly fabulous. </p> <p>The annual competition, run by <a href="https://www.thegoodlifebackyard.com.au/australias-next-top-chicken-competition/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Good Life Backyard</a>, gives farm enthusiasts a chance to show off their feathered friends, with the competition receiving hundreds of entrants this year. </p> <p>Tens of thousands of votes were cast by the public, ultimately crowning a Buff Laced Polish Frizzle, named Little Bird, the top chook for 2024. </p> <p>The top award is given to a chicken that embodies all the qualities of a standout star, and will be featured in the coveted spot on the 2025 Top Chicken calendar. </p> <p>The winner of Australia's next top rooster is Big Boy McFuzzle, who rules the roost with presence and charisma.</p> <p>Awards were also handed out to the funniest picture, as well as two random prize winners. </p> <p>Each year competition organisers draw random entries "ensuring everyone has a shot at winning".</p> <p>"Every chicken deserves a chance," organisers said.</p> <p>"This year's event was such a wonderful display of all breeds, abilities, disabilities and dedication to raising healthy, happy chickens."</p> <p><em>Image credits: Good Life Backyard</em></p> <p style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px 0px 16px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 18px; line-height: 24px; font-family: proxima-nova, 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size-adjust: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-variant-alternates: inherit; font-variant-ligatures: inherit; font-variant-numeric: inherit; font-variant-east-asian: inherit; font-variant-position: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; color: #333333; caret-color: #333333;"> </p>

Family & Pets

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Julie Goodwin shares her top tips for perfect potatoes every time

<p dir="ltr">Who doesn't love a good, hearty, delicious serving of fluffy and decadent potatoes?</p> <p dir="ltr">Original <em>MasterChef Australia</em> champion Julie Goodwin has shared her ultimate hacks for cooking the perfect potatoes every time, whether they’re mashed, roasted or baked.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to Julie, there are three key things every home cook needs to keep in mind the next time potatoes are on the menu. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Make sure you have the right potatoes </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Depending on whether you want baked, mashed, roasted, or any other way you want to prepare your potatoes, it all starts in the supermarket. </p> <p dir="ltr">"I find that for things like mashed potatoes and gnocchi and rostis you want a floury potato, so the general rule is dirty potatoes for those things," Julie told <em><a href="https://kitchen.nine.com.au/latest/julie-goodwin-top-three-tips-to-cook-potatoes-robertson-potato-festival/4d16ba12-bf14-4af2-990e-dcf0e89c30ee">9Honey</a></em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">"And then for stuff like potato salads, boiled baby potatoes, and potato bake, it's better to have a waxy potato because they hold their substance better. And those are the ones that are sold clean, so things like the Pontiac and Desiree with the pink skin or the washed potatoes with the white skin."</p> <p dir="ltr">"If you want to use them in an Irish stew to break down and thicken the sauce you've got to use a floury potato," she says. "So tend to your dirty ones."</p> <p dir="ltr">She says that if you're buying a clean, waxy potato, you won't have to peel them since the skin is supposed to be edible.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, if you're buying a dirty, floury potato, then you're going to want to peel the dirt off first and then wash off the residue.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Get those crispy edges </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">As every home cook knows, the key to the perfect roasted potato is for the inside to be soft and fluffy while the outside stays crispy. </p> <p dir="ltr">It can be a tricky balance to master, but Goodwin says there's a simple way to get it right every time.</p> <p dir="ltr">"I like to par boil them before I roast them. Just so that they go a bit fluffy around the edges," she explains. "What happens is those bits go really crispy and lovely."</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Let the flavour flow </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">When it comes to seasoning your potatoes, it's hard to know what flavours will suit your dish best. </p> <p dir="ltr">According to Goodwin, more is less when you season potatoes, so it's best to close the spice cabinet.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Salt is absolutely the number one, pepper's beautiful [but] it depends on what the meal is," she says. "So if you're doing a bit of a Portuguese or Spanish inspired meal you might put some paprika on there.”</p> <p dir="ltr">"But I really love rosemary and that's beautiful if you pound that up with your salt and put it on the potatoes that makes it really nice."</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images / Instagram</em></p>

Food & Wine

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Aussie cruising fanatics share their top cruise tips

<p dir="ltr">An Aussie couple who are dedicated to cruising have shared their top tips to keep in mind before setting sail. </p> <p dir="ltr">Marty and Jessica Ansen are about to set off on their 130th cruise and have made headlines around the world for their devotion to spending most of their lives at sea.</p> <p dir="ltr">Together they have sailed roughly 770,000 nautical miles over more than 2,300 days on board, which equates to more than six years spent at sea.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Brisbane grandparents, both 77, have just headed off on their tenth trip around the globe, which is also their 52nd consecutive cruise adventure. </p> <p dir="ltr">During all their time spent at seas, the Ansens have learned a thing or two about life onboard, and have shared their top ten tips to make time on a cruise ship as smooth sailing as possible.</p> <p dir="ltr">Their number one tip for cruise travellers is to take a backup credit or debit card, as Marty told<em> <a href="https://travel.nine.com.au/cruising/cruise-tips-couple-princess-cruises-marty-and-jessica-ansen-australia/c61281dd-c47a-41bf-b166-608b581eccdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">9Travel</a></em>, "Replacing a lost or stolen card while overseas is not for the fainthearted."</p> <p dir="ltr">The Ansens recommend making a clear and legible copy of your passport, as consulates find it a lot easier if you can provide a copy ready to go when you disembark.</p> <p dir="ltr">After all their years at sea, Marty and Jessica are pro-packers, and recommend wearing all your heaviest clothing when you check in to better adhere to a strict weight limit. </p> <p dir="ltr">"Jessica and I have one piece of luggage, usually under 20kg," Marty said.</p> <p dir="ltr">"We also each have one bag of hand luggage. Going on board, regardless of weather, I wear my heaviest clothing."</p> <p dir="ltr">When it comes to packing, they also advise leaving your toiletries at home. </p> <p dir="ltr">"Leave consumables like shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and any creams and potions at home as Princess (cruise line) provides basic toiletries and anything you do need can be bought at the first port," Marty said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Marty and Jessica also recommend packing all your essentials in your hand luggage, as it can often take a while for your checked bags to arrive in your cruise ship cabin. </p> <p dir="ltr">"Place all jewellery, passports, visas, medication money and credit/debit cards in your hand luggage for easy retrieval," Marty said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Marty said one thing every traveller must check before setting sail is what electrical connection is used onboard. </p> <p dir="ltr">"Check what electrical connection is used onboard and have the right adapter ready to charge your devices,' Marty said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Many ships have American and European plug points, while newer ones may have USB connections too.</p> <p dir="ltr">When it comes to bringing medications, the Ansens said you should always bring extras, as well as the required paperwork.</p> <p dir="ltr">"As an extra precaution carry copies of scripts so that if you do run out or lose your medications it will be easier to prove what you need to overseas pharmacies or doctors," Marty said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lastly, like any overseas adventure, the Ansens said it is important to always have travel insurance, and to make copies of your policy. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: X (Twitter)</em></p>

Cruising

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Surprising move after top cop busted for speeding

<p>Victoria Police found themselves facing embarrassment recently when one of their top-ranking officers, Glenn Weir, was caught speeding.</p> <p>Weir, who serves as Victoria’s Road Policing Assistant Commissioner, was captured by a hidden speed camera in an undercover police car on February 29, traveling at 58km/h in a 50km/h zone.</p> <p>What makes this incident particularly noteworthy is not just the fact that a high-ranking police officer was caught breaking the law, but also the response Weir himself has taken. Despite being eligible to have the charge downgraded to a warning due to his clean driving record, Weir has chosen to accept the consequences – a $337 fine and a single demerit point penalty.</p> <p>In a statement addressing the incident, Weir expressed remorse and took full responsibility for his actions. He acknowledged the severity of the mistake, especially given his position as an advocate for road safety throughout his career.</p> <p>"I take full responsibility for this error and am mortified it has occurred," Weir said. "I’ve spent my entire career advocating for road safety and this incident proves nobody is immune from making a mistake on the road."</p> <p>Weir’s willingness to own up to his mistake sets an important example for accountability, not just within the police force but for all members of society. Moreover, his case underscores the importance of adhering to speed limits, with Victoria Police having long advocated for the correlation between speeding and road accidents. According to their data, speed is one of the leading causes of car crashes in the state, with the rise in the state’s road toll by almost 12% February 2023 to February 2024 further highlighting the urgency of addressing speeding and other reckless driving behaviours.</p> <p>Weir’s decision to accept the consequences of his actions demonstrates integrity and a commitment to upholding the principles of road safety. </p> <p><em>Image: 7 News</em></p>

Legal

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Mortgage and inflation pain to ease, but only slowly: how 31 top economists see 2024

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-martin-682709">Peter Martin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/crawford-school-of-public-policy-australian-national-university-3292">Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University</a></em></p> <p>A panel of 31 leading economists assembled by The Conversation sees no cut in interest rates before the middle of this year, and only a slight cut by December, enough to trim just $55 per month off the cost of servicing a $600,000 variable-rate mortgage.</p> <p>The <a href="https://theconversation.com/au/topics/conversation-economic-survey-81354">panel</a> draws on the expertise of leading forecasters at 28 Australian universities, think tanks and financial institutions – among them economic modellers, former Treasury, International Monetary Fund and Reserve Bank officials, and a former member of the Reserve Bank board.</p> <p>Its forecasts paint a picture of weak economic growth, stagnant consumer spending, and a continuing per-capita recession.</p> <p>The average forecast is for the Reserve Bank to delay cutting its cash rate, keeping it near its present 4.35% until at least the middle of the year, and then cutting it to <a href="https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/3028/The_Conversation_AU_February_2024_Economic_Survey.pdf">4.2%</a> by December 2024, 3.6% by December 2025 and 3.4% by December 2026.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="xV821" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/xV821/4/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>The gentle descent would deliver only three interest rate cuts by the end of next year, cutting $274 from the monthly cost of servicing a $600,000 mortgage and leaving the cost around $1,100 higher than it was before rates began climbing.</p> <p>Six of the experts surveyed expect the Reserve Bank to increase rates further in the first half of the year, while 20 expect no change and three expect a cut.</p> <p>Former head of the NSW treasury Percy Allan said while the Reserve Bank would push up rates in the first half of the year to make sure inflation comes down, it would be forced to relent in the second half of the year as unemployment grows and the economy heads towards recession.</p> <p>Warwick McKibbin, a former member of the Reserve Bank board, said the board would push up rates once more in the first half of the year as insurance against inflation before leaving them on hold.</p> <p>Former Reserve Bank of Australia chief economist Luci Ellis, who is now chief economist at Westpac, expects the first cut no sooner than September, believing the board will wait to see clear evidence of further falls in inflation and economic weakening before it moves.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="ZQgno" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/ZQgno/7/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <h2>Inflation to keep falling, but more gradually</h2> <p>Today’s <a href="https://www.rba.gov.au/">Reserve Bank board meeting</a> will consider an inflation rate that has come down <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-7-new-graphs-that-show-inflation-falling-back-to-earth-220670">faster than it expected</a>, diving from 7.8% to 4.1% in the space of a year.</p> <p>The newer more experimental monthly measure of inflation was just <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-7-new-graphs-that-show-inflation-falling-back-to-earth-220670">3.4%</a> in the year to December, only points away from the Reserve Bank’s target of 2–3%.</p> <p>But the panel expects the descent to slow from here on, with the standard measure taking the rest of the year to fall from 4.1% to 3.5% and not getting below 3% until <a href="https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/3027/The_Conversation_AU_2024_economic_survey.pdf">late 2025</a>.</p> <p>Economists Chris Richardson and Saul Eslake say while inflation will keep heading down, the decline might be slowed by supply chain pressures from the conflict in the Middle East and the boost to incomes from the <a href="https://theconversation.com/albanese-tax-plan-will-give-average-earner-1500-tax-cut-more-than-double-morrisons-stage-3-221875">tax cuts</a> due in July.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="buC9f" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/buC9f/6/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <h2>Slower wage growth, higher unemployment</h2> <p>While the panel expects wages to grow faster than the consumer price index, it expects wages growth to slip from around <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/price-indexes-and-inflation/wage-price-index-australia/latest-release">4%</a> in 2023 to 3.8% in 2004 and 3.4% in 2025 as higher unemployment blunts workers’ bargaining power.</p> <p>But the panel doesn’t expect much of an increase in unemployment. It expects the unemployment rate to climb from its present <a href="https://www.datawrapper.de/_/w9h9f/">3.9%</a> (which is almost a long-term low) to 4.3% throughout 2024, and then to stay at about that level through 2025.</p> <p>All but two of the panel expect the unemployment rate to remain below the range of 5–6% that was typical in the decade before COVID.</p> <p>Economic modeller Janine Dixon said the “new normal” between 4% and 5% was likely to become permanent as workers embraced flexible arrangements that allow them to stay in jobs in a way they couldn’t before.</p> <p>Cassandra Winzar, chief economist at the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, said the government’s commitment to full employment was one of the things likely to keep unemployment low, along with Australia’s demographic transition as older workers leave the workforce.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="pAioo" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/pAioo/2/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <h2>Slower economic growth, per-capita recession</h2> <p>The panel expects very low economic growth of just 1.7% in 2024, climbing to 2.3% in 2025. Both are well below the 2.75% the treasury believes the economy is <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/speech/the-economic-and-fiscal-context-and-the-role-of-longitudinal-data-in-policy-advice">capable of</a>.</p> <p>All but one of the forecasts are for economic growth below the present population growth rate of 2.4%, suggesting that the panel expects population growth to exceed economic growth for the second year running, extending Australia’s so-called <a href="https://theconversation.com/were-in-a-per-capita-recession-as-chalmers-says-gdp-steady-in-the-face-of-pressure-212642">per capita recession</a>.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="TO8bP" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/TO8bP/4/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>The lacklustre forecasts raise the possibility of what is commonly defined as a “technical recession”, which is two consecutive quarters of negative economic somewhere within a year of mediocre growth.</p> <p>Taken together, the forecasters assign a 20% probability to such a recession in the next two years, which is lower than in <a href="https://theconversation.com/two-more-rba-rate-hikes-tumbling-inflation-and-a-high-chance-of-recession-how-our-forecasting-panel-sees-2023-24-208477">previous surveys</a>.</p> <p>But some of the individual estimates are high. Percy Allen and Stephen Anthony assign a 75% and 70% chance to such a recession, and Warren Hogan a 50% chance.</p> <p>Hogan said when the economic growth figures for the present quarter get released, they are likely to show Australia is in such a recession at the moment.</p> <p>The economy barely grew at all in the September quarter, expanding just <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/national-accounts/australian-national-accounts-national-income-expenditure-and-product/latest-release">0.2%</a> and was likely to have shrunk in the December quarter and to shrink further in this quarter.</p> <p>The panel expects the US economy to grow by 2.1% in the year ahead in line with the <a href="https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2024/01/30/world-economic-outlook-update-january-2024">International Monetary Fund</a> forecast, and China’s economy to grow 5.4%, which is lower than the International Monetary Fund’s forecast.</p> <h2>Weaker spending, weak investment</h2> <p>The panel expects weak real household spending growth of just 1.2% in 2014, supported by an ultra-low household saving ratio of close to zero, down from a recent peak of 19% in September 2021.</p> <p>Mala Raghavan of The University of Tasmania said previous gains in income, rising asset prices and accumulated savings were being overwhelmed by high inflation and rising interest rates.</p> <p>Luci Ellis expected the squeeze to continue until tax and interest rate cuts in the second half of the year, accompanied by declining inflation.</p> <p>The panel expects non-mining investment to grow by only 5.1% in the year ahead, down from 15%, and mining investment to grow by 10.2%, down from 22%.</p> <p>Johnathan McMenamin from Barrenjoey said private and public investment had been responsible for the lion’s share of economic growth over the past year and was set to plateau and fade as a driver of growth.</p> <h2>Home prices to climb, but more slowly</h2> <p>The panel expects home price growth of 4.6% in Sydney during 2024 (down from 11.4% in 2024) and 3.1% in Melbourne, down from 3.9% in 2024.</p> <p>ANZ economist Adam Boyton said decade-low building approvals and very strong population growth should keep demand for housing high, outweighing a drag on prices from high interest rates. While high interest rates have been restraining demand, they are likely to ease later in the year.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="syk8x" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/syk8x/6/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>In other forecasts, the panel expects the Australian dollar to stay below US$0.70, closing the year at US$0.69, it expects the ASX 200 share market index to climb just 3% in 2024 after climbing 7.8% in 2023, and it expects a small budget surplus of A$3.8 billion in 2023-24, followed by a deficit of A$13 billion in 2024-25.</p> <p>The budget surplus should be supported by a forecast iron ore price of US$114 per tonne in December 2024, down from the present US$130, but well up on the <a href="https://budget.gov.au/content/myefo/index.htm">US$105</a> assumed in the government’s December budget update.</p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-martin-682709"><em>Peter Martin</em></a><em>, Visiting Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/crawford-school-of-public-policy-australian-national-university-3292">Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/mortgage-and-inflation-pain-to-ease-but-only-slowly-how-31-top-economists-see-2024-218927">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Top tips for happy and healthy eyes this Autumn

<p dir="ltr">As the season changes, so do our healthcare needs as many people struggle with irritating allergies. </p> <p dir="ltr">With cooler temperatures, dry air and an increase in pollen often being synonymous with autumn and spring, for many people, leaving the house means having irritated eyes. </p> <p dir="ltr">Luckily, leading Ophthalmologist, Dr. Jacqueline Beltz has shared her essential tips for eye care during autumn with OverSixty, giving you the opportunity to enjoy the change of seasons without jeopardising your vision. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>1. Keep your sunglasses handy</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While the sun is usually not as intense in autumn as it is during summer, Dr Beltz says that using sunglasses can benefit your eyes in many ways. </p> <p dir="ltr">“ Not only do they shield your eyes from harmful UV rays, but they also guard against wind and debris,” she said. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Increase your lubricant eye drops</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Dr Beltz said, “The drop in temperature and the dryer air can contribute to discomfort and dryness in your eyes, so consider increasing the use of lubricant eye drops to keep your eyes moist and comfortable.”</p> <p dir="ltr">By keeping up your eye drops in autumn, you can prevent further damage to your eyes in the long run. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Clean your eyelashes daily</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">According to Dr Beltz, keeping up with good health and hygiene along the eyelid margins is essential, especially during the autumn months. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Cleanse your lashes daily and use a warm compress to optimise the quality of your tear film. This helps in preventing irritation and supports overall eye health.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. Consider a humidifier</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">To ensure a more comfortable environment for your eyes, Dr Beltz recommends adding moisture to the air can help alleviate dry eyes.</p> <p dir="ltr">She said, “Combat the dry indoor air by using a humidifier in your room, especially while you sleep.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. Be proactive with allergies</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">If you are prone to allergies, Dr Beltz said it's best to always be prepared ahead of time. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Autumn allergies are a reality, with triggers like pollen, mould, and dust prevalent during this season,” she said. </p> <p dir="ltr">“If you experience red, itchy, or swollen eyes, consider antihistamine eye drops. Keep your hands clean and avoid rubbing your eyes.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>6. Revitalise your eye makeup</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">While replacing your eye makeup is important all year around, the addition of allergens makes it even more important to Change mascara and non-cleanable products like liquid eyeliner at least every three months. </p> <p dir="ltr">“Especially if you have sensitive eyes, makeup products can harbour bacteria, leading to increased eye irritation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Refreshing your eye makeup products to options that are designed to be better suited for dry eyes or eye sensitivity.”</p> <p dir="ltr">If you are <a href="https://oversixty.com.au/lifestyle/beauty-style/embracing-the-art-of-beauty-without-compromise">prone to sensitive eyes</a>, consider trying the OKKIYO <a href="https://www.okkiyo.com/products/protect-and-preserve-mascara#xd_co_f=NzdiNzdlNTctNTA1MS00NTBkLWE1MGEtNjRkMGE2OTI1N2Vj~">Prioriteyes Mascara</a>, which was developed by Dr Beltz to prioritise both style and eye health.</p> <p dir="ltr">While these tips for eye health can seem simple and seemingly unimportant, Dr Beltz assures that by following these tips, you will make a world of difference for your eye health overall. </p> <p dir="ltr">She said, “Implementing these simple tips can make a significant difference in keeping your eyes comfortable and vibrant throughout the season.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Body

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Top 80s songs to get you moving

<p class="Default">While the fashion from the 1980s might only come out of the closet for dress up parties these days, the music is still considered some of the best of our time. Especially for music to get you moving.</p> <p class="Default">From dance and pop hits to a little rap and rock, it’s got to be one of the most diverse, eclectic and extravagant decades in recent cultural history.</p> <p class="Default">Here, we have been busy rifling through the tracks to whittle down a decade of music into 40 of the best tracks to move to. From dancing to exercise, if you want to get up off that couch, these are the songs to hit play on.</p> <p>1. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cindy Lauper (1983)<br />2. “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar (1980)<br />3. “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor (1982)<br />4. “Love Shack” by The B-52's (1989)<br />5. “Beat It” by Michael Jackson (1982)<br />6. “Manic Monday” by The Bangles (1986)<br />7. “Let's Dance” by David Bowie (1983)<br />8. “Livin' on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi (1986)<br />9. “I Love Rock N' Roll” by Joan Jett &amp; The Blackhearts (1982)<br />10. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson (1982)<br />11. “Faith” by George Michael (1987)<br />12. “Jump” by Van Halen (1984)<br />13. “Don't Stop Believin’" by Journey (1982)<br />14. “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina &amp; The Waves (1983)<br />15. “Kiss” by Prince (1986)<br />16. “Holiday” by Madonna (1983)<br />17. “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang (1980)<br />18. “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson (1982)<br />19. “Love is a Battlefield” by Pat Benatar (1983)<br />20. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics (1983)<br />21. “White Wedding” by Billy Idol (1982)<br />22. “Take on Me” by a-ha (1985)<br />23. “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles (1981)<br />24. “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club (1983)<br />25. “The Tide is High” by Blondie (1980)<br />26. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham (1984)<br />27. “Let's Hear It for the Boy” by Deniece Williams (1984)<br />28. “A Little Respect” by Erasure (1988)<br />29. “Sweet Child O' Mine” by Guns N' Roses (1987)<br />30. “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins (1984)<br />31. “Wild Thing” by Tone-Loc (1989)<br />32. “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell (1981)<br />33. “Borderline” by Madonna (1983)<br />34. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston (1987)<br />35. “Just Can't Get Enough” by Depeche Mode (1981)<br />36. “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley (1987)<br />37. “Always Something There to Remind Me” by Naked Eyes (1983)<br />38. “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” by New Kids on the Block (1988)<br />39. “It Takes Two” by Rob Base (1988)<br />40. “Down Under” by Men at Work (1981)</p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

Music

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Debate sparked over list of top 100 cities on the planet

<p>The best 100 cities on the planet have been revealed, with three Aussie cities making the final list. </p> <p>The list was compiled by as part of an annual report by <a href="https://www.worldsbestcities.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Resonance Consultancy</a>, who rated major capital cities on three main factors: liveability, lovability and prosperity, with dozens of factors taken into account.</p> <p>These include educational attainment, GDP per capita, poverty rate, the number of quality restaurants, shops and nightclubs, walkability, the number of mapped bike routes, quality parks and museums, as well as ratings from TripAdvisor and Google. </p> <p>The top ten chart features four cities on the Asian continent, four in Europe and two in the U.S.</p> <p>Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane were all featured in the list, coming in at numbers 31, 35 and 57 respectively.</p> <p>Taking out the number one spot this year is London, dubbed the "capital of capitals" that "reigns over all global cities" as the best metropolis in the world. </p> <p>The study proclaims it as the most liveable and the most lovable mecca, solidified by its winning culture and education attainment.</p> <p>The report concludes, "Despite crippling Covid lockdowns and economic devastation. Despite Brexit. Despite a war in Europe. The city is more indomitable and part of the global discourse than ever. From the Queen's death, to last autumn's chaotic drama at 10 Downing Street that finally calmed down with Rishi Sunak becoming prime minister, only to take heavy local election losses this spring, London is rarely quiet these days."</p> <p>Here's the full list of top 100 cities in the world.</p> <p> 1 - London, England </p> <p>2 - Paris, France</p> <p>3 - New York, USA</p> <p>4 - Tokyo, Japan</p> <p>5 - Singapore</p> <p>6 - Dubai, United Arab Emirates</p> <p>7 - San Francisco, USA</p> <p>8 - Barcelona, Spain</p> <p>9 - Amsterdam, Netherlands</p> <p>10 - Seoul, South Korea</p> <p>11 - Rome, Italy </p> <p>12 - Prague, Czechia </p> <p>13 - Madrid, Spain </p> <p>14 - Berlin, Germany</p> <p>15 - Los Angeles, USA</p> <p>16 - Chicago, USA</p> <p>17 - Washington, D.C., USA</p> <p>18 - Beijing, China </p> <p>19 - Istanbul, Turkey </p> <p>20 - Dublin, Ireland</p> <p>21 - Vienna, Austria </p> <p>22 - Milan, Italy </p> <p>23 - Toronto, Canada</p> <p>24 - Boston, USA</p> <p>25 - Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates </p> <p>26 - Budapest, Hungary </p> <p>27 - São Paulo, Brazil</p> <p>28 - Riyadh, Saudi Arabia</p> <p>29 - Stockholm, Sweden </p> <p>30 - Munich, Germany</p> <p>31 - Melbourne, Australia </p> <p>32 - Lisbon, Portugal </p> <p>33 - Zürich, Switzerland</p> <p>34 - Seattle, USA</p> <p>35 - Sydney, Australia </p> <p>36 - Doha, Qatar</p> <p>37 - Brussels, Belgium </p> <p>38 - San Jose, USA</p> <p>39 - Bangkok, Thailand</p> <p>40 - Warsaw, Poland </p> <p>41 - Copenhagen, Denmark </p> <p>42 - Taipei, Taiwan </p> <p>43 - Austin, USA</p> <p>44 - Oslo, Norway </p> <p>45 - Osaka, Japan </p> <p>46 - Hong Kong, China </p> <p>47 - Tel Aviv, Israel </p> <p>48 - Athens, Greece</p> <p>49 - Frankfurt, Germany</p> <p>50 - Vancouver, Canada </p> <p>51 - San Diego, USA</p> <p>52 - Orlando, USA</p> <p>53 - Helsinki, Finland </p> <p>54 - Miami, USA</p> <p>55 - Buenos Aires, Argentina </p> <p>56 - Hamburg, Germany </p> <p>57 - Brisbane, Australia </p> <p>58 - Kuwait, Kuwait</p> <p>59 - Las Vegas, USA</p> <p>60 - Montreal, Canada </p> <p>61 - Glasgow, Scotland</p> <p>62 - Shanghai, China </p> <p>63 - Rio de Janeiro, USA</p> <p>64 - Auckland, New Zealand </p> <p>65 - Atlanta, USA</p> <p>66 - Houston, USA</p> <p>67 - Busan, South Korea</p> <p>68 - Philadelphia, USA</p> <p>69 - Naples, Italy </p> <p>70 - Denver, USA</p> <p>71 - Nashville, USA</p> <p>72 - Manchester, England </p> <p>73 - Dallas, USA</p> <p>74 - Liverpool, England</p> <p>75 - Minneapolis, USA</p> <p>76 - Mexico City, Mexico</p> <p>77 - Minsk, Belarus </p> <p>78 - Lyon, France </p> <p>79 - Portland, USA</p> <p>80 - Rotterdam, Netherlands </p> <p>81 - Bogotá, Colombia</p> <p>82 - Kraków, Poland</p> <p>83 - Valencia, Spain</p> <p>84 - Santiago, Chile </p> <p>85 - Birmingham, England</p> <p>86 - New Orleans, USA</p> <p>87 - Bucharest, Romania</p> <p>88 - Leeds, England</p> <p>89 - Muscat, Oman </p> <p>90 - Ottawa, Canada </p> <p>91 - Cologne, Germany </p> <p>92 - Charlotte, USA</p> <p>93 - Calgary, Canada </p> <p>94 - Nagoya, Japan  </p> <p>95 - Düsseldorf, Germany </p> <p>96 - Hanoi, Vietnam</p> <p>97 - Gothenburg, Sweden </p> <p>98 - Sapporo, Japan</p> <p>99 - Bilbao, Spain </p> <p>100 - Baltimore, USA</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

International Travel

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These are the top mistakes first-time cruise travellers should avoid, according to a cruise ship veteran

<p><strong>Cruise tips for the perfect trip</strong></p> <p>For more than a decade, I have worked on some of the best cruise lines, and for the last six years, I’ve been a cruise director. It’s a dream job: I am the face and voice of a 3,600-person-capacity ship, organising entertainment around the clock for guests, creating the master schedules, coordinating excursions, hosting special events and so much more. I’ve been on hundreds of cruises and live on a ship for most of the year, so it’s safe to say that I know a few cruise tips you’ll find useful.</p> <p>I also know a thing or two about the mistakes people make when it comes to cruises, whether they’re first-time cruisers or regulars. From creating a smart cruise packing list to finding the best deals at sea, these insider cruise tips will ensure that you have the best trip possible.</p> <p><strong>Booking too late </strong></p> <p>It is true that if you’re very flexible with your travel plans and/or you live near a popular port-of-call, you can get some great bargains on cruises by booking at the last minute. But those opportunities are harder to come by these days, thanks to sophisticated computer algorithms that do a great job of adjusting prices to fill bookings earlier.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> If you’re sure you want to book a particular cruise or your travel plans aren’t flexible, book as early as possible – as in, the date bookings open. Prices will be at their lowest then, but if for some reason they do drop, you can ask customer service to match the new lower price. Just be aware that price adjustments need to be made before the “final booking window,” when all rates are locked in, usually one to three months before departure.</p> <p><strong>Not asking for an upgrade</strong></p> <p>Post-pandemic, a lot of ships are sailing at low capacity, so there are often plenty of open rooms. People are often nervous to ask for an upgrade, but those rooms will just be left empty if they’re not filled by departure time. We love making guests happy, and as long as you’re polite and phrase it as a question, not a demand, we’ll do our best!</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> When you arrive, talk to any of the employees greeting guests about rooms available for upgrades. Different cruise lines have different policies, and the employees will know how to help you. And in case you were wondering, you can ask for an upgrade regardless of how you purchased your tickets. If you’re there for a special event, like a milestone anniversary or a honeymoon, definitely mention it – even if you can’t get an upgrade, they will find other ways to make your cruise special.</p> <p>Some cruises also allow you to “bid” for an upgrade, meaning that you can offer an extra amount of money for that nicer cabin. This is still a good deal, since even with the extra fee, it’s still cheaper than if you had paid the original rate for that room.</p> <p><strong>Not packing a carry-on bag</strong></p> <p>This is one of those cruise tips you’ll really be glad you know before your next trip. Many people overpack their main luggage and don’t give enough thought to what they’re toting in their carry-ons. Remember: It takes several hours minimum to get your luggage to you. Luggage times can range from a couple of hours to half a day, depending on staffing levels and your cabin location. This is why it’s essential to have a day pack with anything you’ll need right away – and don’t forget the fun stuff!</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> Pack a roomy carry-on with medication, contact solution, a change of clothing, a swimsuit, sunscreen, sunglasses, sandals or other items you’ll want to have immediate access to.</p> <p><strong>Being rude or cold to the crew</strong></p> <p>We’re here to help you, but we’re not slaves. I’ve seen passengers have full meltdowns over everything from not being able to get prescription medication from the first-aid station, to the buffet not having a dish they ate on a different cruise line, to their towels being folded instead of shaped, like they saw on Instagram. Regardless of your demeanour with us, we’ll always do our best to help you, but we won’t be motivated to go above and beyond for you. Keep in mind that some events, such as dinner with the captain, are by invitation only or are not advertised, and having a crew member to help you get your name on the golden ticket could make your cruise experience something out of this world.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> Be polite and kind to the crew. To be clear: You’re allowed to complain, and we definitely want to know if something isn’t right or if it could be better, but just remember that we’re people too – often operating on very little sleep.</p> <p><strong>Not taking advantage of flash deals </strong></p> <p>During booking or before boarding, many cruises offer limited amounts of “flash deals” for things like entertainment shows or drink packages. Many people wait, thinking they can just decide once they’re on board, but you won’t find those same deals on the ship. And these deals are worth it: Purchasing a flash deal ahead of time could get you half-off discounts for food and alcoholic beverages, a VIP excursion or priority seating at shows. Talk about an easy way to get perks and save some serious money!</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> If they’re offering something you know you’ll use, it’s almost always cheaper to purchase it through a flash deal. Flash deals are publicised through a cruise’s site and via email, but the fastest way to be alerted is by installing the app for your cruise line and registering your trip. And be sure to purchase quickly, since many deals are available only for a short time and/or in limited quantities.</p> <p><strong>Using the internet a lot</strong></p> <p>Internet on cruise ships can be overpriced and unreliable. This is because ocean-going ships have to use satellite systems for internet, and they are slower and tend to lose service more easily. And expect to pay for the privilege of slower service – older ships still sell internet by the minute (50 to 75 cents), while state-of-the-art ships offer day passes. Day passes average about $US25 per device, per day. This can add up faster than you realise. So while it’s technologically possible to stream a Netflix movie to your cabin, it may not be the best use of your time or money.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> See it as a gift! My advice would be to switch off completely while at sea and save your money. Cruise ships are equipped for maximum entertainment, and you should take advantage of all the fun we have on board. (Plus, in a cruise tip that doubles as a life tip, it’s good for you to do a mini digital detox and take a break from social media every once in a while.) If you do need to use the internet – say, to check your work emails or contact family – it will be cheapest and fastest to wait until you’re at port and find a Wi-Fi hot spot. Otherwise, just plan to use the ship’s internet strategically; have a plan before logging on rather than just surfing.</p> <p><strong>Not signing up for the free loyalty program </strong></p> <p>All major cruise lines have loyalty programs that offer real perks, including discounts on tickets, free meals, free internet, priority embarkation and disembarkation, and even free cruises. If you don’t sign up, you’re missing out. While the perks will depend on what “tier” of the loyalty program you sign up for, top-tier loyalty programs are the best deal for serious cruisers. That’s where you’ll be treated like royalty, with upgrades, special events, free or heavily discounted tickets, priority booking and lots of other extras.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> The base programs are free to sign up, and you’ll want to register for them as soon as possible because you can start earning points immediately. Higher-tier programs are fee-based, but they can be a great deal depending on what amenities you want and how often you plan to cruise. You will be offered the chance to sign up or upgrade during the booking process, but if you miss it, you can sign up at check-in or at any point during the cruise – even when disembarking.</p> <p>Depending on the package and loyalty tier, some of your points will be available immediately for use on your current cruise. Some major cruise lines, like Royal Caribbean, have partnerships with major credit cards that allow you to use your card to rack up loyalty points throughout the year.</p> <p><strong>Sticking to the buffets </strong></p> <p>Yes, buffets are fantastic because they offer a wide variety of popular foods, and it’s all-you-can-eat around the clock. But if you’re only eating at the buffets, you’re missing some of the best food on the cruise! The restaurants are designed to give you a full dining experience and offer regional or specialty cuisines that can’t be found on the buffet. Plus, you can order according to your taste and special-order dishes if you have particular dietary concerns. Many restaurants offer extras like dining with the chef, watching the food be prepared or special entertainment events.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> Ask your host about special dining events, like the chef’s table, or to help you get reservations for a specialty meal – for instance, a Brazilian steakhouse meal or a five-course tasting with wine pairings. These dining experiences usually cost extra, but they’re totally worth it. Try to book two or three if you can.</p> <p><strong>Not using room service enough </strong></p> <p>When you’re staying at a hotel, you might forgo room service because it can get pricey – or because you can’t order whatever you want, whenever you want it. That’s not necessarily the case on a cruise. Post-pandemic, you can order anything off the menu through room service, 24/7… But not all the food is free. You may have to pay extra for that cheeseburger at 3am.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> While what’s included in room service varies from cruise line to cruise line, as well as what package you’ve booked, breakfast will likely be free – no matter what. Make the most of this cruise ship secret, and you never have to leave your room for breakfast again if you don’t want to! One etiquette-based cruise tip, though: While tipping isn’t necessary, if you do order room service in the middle of the night, consider tipping the staff a few dollars when they bring it.</p> <p><strong>Not reading the ship's insurance policy </strong></p> <p>If you enjoy doing adventurous activities like ziplining and surfing, make sure you know the risks and what you are covered for in case of an emergency. The ship’s insurance policy covers only the very basic things – those that are directly the cruise line’s responsibility, like cancelled cruises or lost luggage. But anything related to your health or other travel issues won’t be covered, so you’ll need to rely on personal policies.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> Make sure to read through the insurance policy and ask your cruise host or travel agent if you have questions. Check with your personal insurance provider to see exactly what they cover for cruises and/or out-of-country trips. And it’s never a bad idea to purchase separate travel insurance.</p> <p><strong>Going to Medical for seasickness</strong></p> <p>Cruises are required to have a certified doctor on the ship, but it costs money to get medical care onboard. Doctors bill an hourly rate – often around $US100 per hour – plus fees for any services or extra supplies. Cruise-ship medical bills can range from $US50 to thousands of dollars if you end up needing to be helicoptered out. However, many medical items are available for free through the customer concierge, so save those medical trips for illnesses or injuries that really require a doctor’s attention.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> Seasickness pills and other over-the-counter meds, such as ibuprofen and Tylenol, are free through guest services, as well as things like adhesive bandages, heating pads and wraps. Stop by the host station, ask any staff member or call directly from your cabin. Pro tip: If you’re prone to seasickness, ask for a cabin on a low deck and mid-ship, since they pitch the least in relation to the rest of the ship.</p> <p><strong>Taking sketchy DIY excursions </strong></p> <p>This really depends on the location, but in lesser-known areas, it is generally wise to stick to the ship-sponsored excursions as opposed to relying on sales pitches from locals, taking internet advice or just winging it. After all, you want to make sure you don’t get taken advantage of, you’re safe and the ship doesn’t leave without you if the excursion runs late!</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> Stick to reputable excursions. Your cruise director will have a list of ship-sponsored excursions and will also be able to advise you on local companies that the cruise line has worked with. It also never hurts to do research before setting sail, looking up your particular ports-of-call and seeing what excursions you might want to ask about.</p> <p><strong>Going too far from the ship</strong></p> <p>It’s fine to go ashore independently and find your own adventures, but I’ve seen too many guests end up losing track of time or distance, and then end up waving the ship goodbye from shore. If this happens, you’ll have to find your own travel to the cruise ship’s next port of call.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> Instead of driving yourself, find a local taxi driver who knows the area well. Just be sure to negotiate the price and time before hopping in. If you do decide to go it alone, stay fairly close to port, watch the clock and build in extra time for things like traffic jams. Make sure to get back to the boat at least 30 minutes before boarding time.</p> <p><strong>Underestimating how windy it gets at sea</strong></p> <p>Anytime you’re outside on the ship, make sure to secure all your belongings. Hold on tightly if you’re walking around, and if you’re putting your items down, place them in a zippered bag attached to a chair or table, or tether larger items (like blankets) to furniture. It doesn’t take much wind to launch your mobile phone, hat or glasses into the ocean. This happens far more often than you might think!</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> I recommend that guests always bring towel clips for securing towels, clothing, thongs and other flighty items. Your ship may come equipped with some anti-wind protections like special shelters by the pool, lockers or wind breaks.</p> <p><strong>Not honouring cruise traditions </strong></p> <p>Ships, cruise lines and even cruising culture in general have their own traditions. The most popular one on all cruise lines is the “Cruising Duck.” Never heard of it? Guests bring a rubber duck and hide it around the ship to be discovered by others. But there are many more traditions based on individual cruise lines, travel routes or themes (say, a Disney cruise), and part of the fun is getting to discover them. You can read up about them on online forums or just wait to be surprised.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> Participating in these little traditions will make it more fun for you on your trip, and it’s a great way to integrate yourself into the cruising community. It’s especially fun if you’re doing a themed cruise.</p> <p><strong>Not following current health protocols</strong></p> <p>Health protocols change often, especially post-pandemic. For instance, most cruise ships now require proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Some are still doing rapid tests before boarding. Most prefer (but don’t require) you to wear a mask if you develop any symptoms of illness while aboard. If you test positive for an infectious illness, you’ll be quarantined. And remember, it’s not just COVID they’re concerned about: Outbreaks of norovirus and influenza are common in the close quarters of cruise ships.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> Stay up to date on the current rules, and do your best to follow them. This information should be given to you the week before your cruise, via email or your online portal. You can also check the website, call customer service or talk to a host during the boarding process. But please don’t argue with us – we don’t make the rules. If you need clarification or an exception, speak to the ship’s doctor.</p> <p><strong>Not booking your next cruise while you're still on the ship</strong></p> <p>This may sound crazy, but it’s one of the smartest cruise tips. Booking your next cruise while on your current cruise is a terrific way to make the most of free onboard credit and loyalty points. Once you leave the ship, the deals they’re offering will be gone.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>What to do instead:</em></span> Ask your host about what deals they are offering before you disembark. This is the best time to get a great deal on your favourite cruises – and ones that won’t be available at a later date. Cruise lines really want you to book your next cruise while you’re still there and excited, so they may offer you a cheaper upgrade to a higher tier of the loyalty program and/or nicer perks on your next cruise. If you can book at this time, you definitely should.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/cruising/ive-worked-on-cruise-ships-for-10-years-these-are-the-mistakes-every-traveller-should-avoid?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>.</em></p>

Cruising

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Darryl Somers jumps the gun with major Dr Chris Brown announcement

<p>Darryl Somers, the man who made <em>Dancing with the Stars</em> a glittering extravaganza of dance and dazzling outfits, has decided to take centre stage once again.</p> <p>After months of speculation about Dr Chris Brown taking over the hosting reins, Somers took it upon himself to make a rogue announcement on his Facebook page that was about as expected as a cha-cha-cha in a tango.</p> <p>Rumours have been swirling for some time now about Channel Seven's big reveal, scheduled for their upfronts event, a time when media executives and TV buffs gather to find out what fresh television delights are in store. But Somers, always one to seize the spotlight, decided to drop the bombshell himself.</p> <p>"Hi All, Just want to confirm the speculation that I will not be hosting Dancing With The Stars in 2024. Seven let me know recently that they have signed Chris Brown to the network full-time, and amongst his commitments, he will be hosting DWTS," Somers wrote on Facebook.</p> <p>In a heartfelt message, Somers went on to share his gratitude for the 20-year journey he's had with <em>Dancing with the Stars</em>, dating back to 2004. He's completed ten series, with his last one being a "huge ratings success". And what better way to pass the torch than with a mirror ball, the symbol of dancefloor triumph, presented personally by Somers to Chris Brown.</p> <p>Somers also expressed his fondness for his co-host, Sonia Kruger, and the judges, Todd McKenney and Mark Wilson. It seems that while he will miss the sequins and glitter, he's "now unencumbered to pursue the projects [he] put on hold during Covid and shall have some exciting news on that score early next year." We can't wait to find out what Somers has hidden up his well-tailored sleeves. </p> <p>But let's not forget the man of the hour: Dr Chris Brown. Not only will he be grooving to the tunes of <em>Dancing with the Stars</em>, but he's also going to be hosting a brand new show titled <em>Dream Home</em>. It's not about dreaming of a dream home; it's about couples turning a run-down shack into a palace, all while winning some cold hard cash. If we know Brown, he's probably going to charm the participants into renovating their homes with just a smile and a stethoscope.</p> <p>Before all of this unfolded, there was speculation that Brown might take over for Kochie when he retired from <em>Sunrise</em> after 21 years – but of course that Big Chair went to Olympian Matt Shirvington.</p> <p>In the world of Australian television, the tango of hosting changes continues, with Somers' premature announcement adding an unexpected twist. It seems that even after 20 years of dancing with the stars, you can still surprise everyone with a perfectly timed leap and a graceful pirouette into the unknown.</p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p>

TV

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Top tips to protect your outdoor furniture

<p>If you have outdoor furniture, it’s important to look after it properly so it will stay in good condition over the years. Remember to invest in UV and water-resistant<strong> </strong>chair covers<span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong> </strong></span>and pillows in order to ensure you can enjoy your outdoor furniture without the hassle of replacing all your items. Here’s how to care for your furniture.</p> <p><strong>1. Wooden</strong></p> <p>To get your wooden outdoor furniture ready for use, clean with hot soapy water or a hardwood cleaning fluid at the beginning of the season. If the furniture is very dirty then you can lightly sand the furniture after cleaning. It is a good idea to oil or paint your outdoor furniture after cleaning.</p> <p>If you want your furniture to age naturally, then oil the furniture with two coats and leave to dry for 48 hours. Use hardwood oil for eucalyptus and teak oil for teak furniture. If you want your outdoor furniture to look new, then use a stained oil. If you want to completely transform your furniture then paint with 2-3 coats and it should last for roughly three years.</p> <p><strong>2. Metal</strong></p> <p>When you wash your metal outdoor furniture be sure to clean it with a non-abrasive cloth. If the furniture is made from steel, you need to treat any scratches that expose the bare metal underneath to prevent rust. If rust has already set it on your furniture, remove it using steel wool and then touch it up using an exterior metal paint of the same colour.</p> <p>If your furniture is made from aluminium, it won’t rust but it may suffer from aluminium oxidation. This won’t decrease the strength of the furniture but it will change the colour of the metal over time. To prevent this from happening, make sure you clean it regularly and store it away or keep it covered during the winter months.</p> <p>One tip to keep your metal furniture in pristine condition is to polish it with car wax after you have finished cleaning it. The wax will help the furniture be more water resistant.</p> <p><strong>3. Rattan</strong></p> <p>Synthetic rattan is UV and weather-resistant so it won’t be as worn out by the weather conditions. Whenever it needs a refresh, wash with soapy water. It is important to keep an eye on the frame underneath as if that is made from steel rather than aluminium, you will need to abide by the metal care rules.</p> <p><strong>4. Resin</strong></p> <p>Resin outdoor furniture is fairly easy to look after. Wash it regularly with soap to keep it in great condition. If there is dirt or stains that are particularly hard to get out, then wash your furniture with a pressure washer.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Home & Garden

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Top End tourism surge after massive search for fake Aussie town

<p>In an absolute boon to Top End tourism, it appears that Google users have been working overtime trying to locate a little slice of Northern Territory paradise known as Agnes Bluff and its nearby neighbour Mia Tukurta National Park. Why, you ask? Because they're convinced it's the next hidden holiday hotspot. But here's the catch: it's completely made up.</p> <p>This newfound obsession with Agnes Bluff and Mia Tukurta National Park is all thanks to Amazon Prime's latest hit series, <em>The Lost Flowers Of Alice Hart</em>. People have been binge-watching the show and drooling over the stunning landscapes, causing Google searches for these places to shoot up like a rocket on a sugar rush. </p> <p>According to <a href="https://www.news.com.au/travel/australian-holidays/northern-territory/google-searches-surge-for-agnes-bluff-an-aussie-town-that-doesnt-exist/news-story/59f00cc1e89074de0e6464c0072ae4b8" target="_blank" rel="noopener">news.com.au</a>, Google searches for Agnes Bluff skyrocketed by a whopping 1640 per cent between July and August in Australia, and then another 40 per cent in September, all thanks to the series. And it's not just our fellow Aussies on the hunt for these mystical places – folks from Spain, Canada, the UK, the United States and Italy are also joining the imaginary treasure hunt.</p> <p>Can we blame them for trying to uncover these hidden gems? After all, in the show, Agnes Bluff and Mia Tukurta National Park look so darn spectacular that even the Loch Ness Monster might want to visit. But chin up, dear travellers! While you can't exactly book a one-way ticket to Fantasyland, you can still visit the real-life locations that inspired the series.</p> <p>This show was born from the creative genius of Aussie author Holly Ringland, who drew inspiration from her time living on Anangu land in Australia's Western Desert. In her news.com.au interview, she said, "To know people are Googling these places I fictionalised feels like a shot of joy straight to my heart – I don't know that there could be a greater compliment given to my writing." </p> <p>So, where was the series actually filmed? Well, it turns out they filmed all over Central Australia, including places like the Alice Springs Desert Park, Simpsons Gap, Ooraminna Station, Standley Chasm and Ormiston Gorge – just to name a few.</p> <p>And that crater that had everyone drooling? It's called Tnorala, or Gosses Bluff, and it's a mere 175km from Alice Springs.</p> <p>In fact, search interest in Gosses Bluff crater has hit a 15-year high in Australia, increasing by a whopping 500 per cent in August alone – so, it seems like people are genuinely eager to find their own piece of Alice Hart's world.</p> <p>Now, if you're wondering about the burning question that's on everyone's minds, it's this: "What is the crater in <em>The Lost Flowers for Alice Hart</em>?" And let me tell you, Gosses Bluff, or Tnorala, is the crater-du-jour.</p> <p>But here's the best part – this place is absolutely real; it's not a mirage or a figment of some writer's imagination. You can actually go there, touch it (not the crater itself, though), and breathe in the stunning views. Sure, you can't frolic inside the crater, but there are viewing points that will have you oohing and aahing like a kid in a candy store.</p> <p>And so, while Agnes Bluff and Mia Tukurta National Park might be the stuff of dreams, Gosses Bluff is the real deal. So it could be  ime to pack your bags, grab your camera and get ready for an adventure that's so real, it'll make your Google searches feel like a distant dream. </p> <p><em>Images: Prime Video</em></p>

Domestic Travel

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These top 10 tourist attractions could disappear in your lifetime

<p><strong>Places to visit - and protect </strong></p> <p>When places are well-known and popular – historical and modern alike – we might take it for granted that they’ll be around forever. But sadly, many of the world’s best known and culturally significant landmarks are in jeopardy.</p> <p>Human activity has had a devastating effect on many valued places, including massive milestones of human achievement. And many of these are so much more than just tourist attractions – they’re unique, valuable remnants of ancient times and civilisations.</p> <p><strong>The Great Barrier Reef</strong></p> <p>This massive, once-thriving coral reef has suffered enormously over recent years, with coral bleaching – caused by climate change – stripping the coral of its nutrients. This, in turn, harms the rich marine life that calls the reef home.</p> <p>And, of course, this also depletes it of the dazzling colours that once were a hallmark of the Great Barrier Reef’s underwater wonder. The reef remains the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world, but projections have warned that the damage to it could become irreversible in the next 10 years.</p> <p><strong>Old City of Jerusalem</strong></p> <p>One of the world’s most spiritually significant places, the Old City of Jerusalem, is in danger of disappearing, UNESCO has found. The walls of the Old City are one of its trademark features. Most famously, the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, is a valuable pilgrimage site for people of the Jewish faith, one that dates back to around 20 BCE.</p> <p>The Wall is the only remnant of the city’s Second Temple. The city was actually listed on UNESCO’s list of endangered cultural sites in the 1980s. Widespread urbanisation has been found to pose a significant threat to the city.</p> <p><strong>Everglades National Park </strong></p> <p>This stunning Floridian wildlife sanctuary has sadly found itself fighting for its life in recent years. As ‘the largest designated subtropical wilderness reserve’ in North America, according to UNESCO, it’s been a beloved travel destination for American citizens for decades, but the ravages of time and human activity have not been kind to it.</p> <p>Its survival first came into question after it was battered by Hurricane Andrew in 1993. But it’s human influence that has posed the primary threat, as water flow to the site has decreased and the impacts of pollution have increased, resulting in harmful algal blooms. Its vast, diverse wildlife is more threatened than ever before.</p> <p><strong>The Taj Mahal </strong></p> <p>It’s hard to imagine this monolithic structure, located in Agra, India, being in danger. The structure itself is in some jeopardy from the elements, but the primary reason for concern is that the Indian Supreme Court could potentially close the attraction. The court has butted heads with the government, claiming that unless the government does a better job of preserving it, they’ll have to shut it down.</p> <p>Pollution is visibly altering the Taj’s pristine surface. It’s also experienced insect infestations. Flies of the genus Geoldichironomus, which breed in the heavily polluted Yamuna River, neighbouring the Taj, have encroached upon the structure in recent years.</p> <p><strong>Mount Kilimanjaro's peak </strong></p> <p>This revered mountain, one of the Seven Summits, proves that even giants can fall to climate change. While the mountain itself, located in Tanzania, isn’t in imminent danger, its iconic snow cap might vanish – and shockingly soon.</p> <p>Research found that the snow cap had lost 85 per cent of the total area of its ice fields between 1912 and 2007, and the remaining ice could be history as early as 2030.</p> <p><strong>Machu Picchu</strong></p> <p>Located in southern Peru, Machu Picchu is the remains of a huge stone citadel that was built during the 15th century. These incredible Incan ruins are widely considered one of the must-see spots in South America. Unfortunately, this has backfired in a way.</p> <p>The site has been a victim of over-tourism, seeing the detrimental effects of the surge of tourists it gets as they wear down the structures. In addition, the area surrounding Machu Picchu has seen rampant urbanisation, as well as mudslides and fires, in recent years, leading UNESCO to work for its preservation.</p> <p><strong>Portobelo-San Lorenzo forts</strong></p> <p>While not as ancient as some of the other sites mentioned here, these fortifications on the Panama coast are considered historically significant. The Portobelo-San Lorenzo forts were constructed by the Spanish in Panama in efforts to protect trade routes; they were built over two centuries, starting in the 1590s. They demonstrate a wide range of architectural styles, featuring everything from medieval-style castles to neo-classical 18th-century redresses.</p> <p>The forts face a couple of challenges, urbanisation has encroached upon them on land, and a shrinking coastline and erosion present natural threats on the coastal side. Maintenance has also fallen by the wayside. They were listed as endangered in 2012.</p> <p><strong>Hatra</strong></p> <p>These grand ruins stand in the Al-Jazīrah region of Baghdad, Iraq. As the capital of the first Arab Kingdom, Araba, Hatra is a site of massive historical significance. It withstood Roman military force in the second century CE. It was the king of the Sāsānian Empire, an early Iranian regime, who eventually destroyed it in the third century. The ruins went undiscovered until the 1830s; German archaeologists only began excavating it in the early 1900s.</p> <p>In addition to becoming a UNESCO world heritage site, Hatra was also immortalised as the temple featured in The Exorcist. Sadly, it became a target of ISIS in 2015. Militants assailed the structures with bullets and destroyed statues, seeking to dismantle remnants of polytheism. It was after this that UNESCO gave it an endangered status.</p> <p><strong>Nan Madol</strong></p> <p>This remarkable architectural jewel of the ancient world dates back to the 1200s. It spans more than 100 islands and islets surrounding the Federated States of Micronesia, to the northeast of Papua New Guinea. Throughout the 1200s to the 1500s, indigenous people from the island of Pohnpei built an expansive ‘city on water’, constructing more than 100 man-made islets out of coral boulders and basalt.</p> <p>The stunning expanse, untouched for hundreds of years, is a testament to the ingenuity and skill of ancient Pacific Islander peoples. However, it’s the forces of nature this time that pose a danger to it as plants, storms and water damage encroach upon the impressive structures. It has been on UNESCO’s endangered sites list since 2016.</p> <p><strong>How to help</strong></p> <p>There are plenty of resources you can use to help preserve endangered spots like these. For starters, you could donate to <a href="https://whc.unesco.org/en/donation" target="_blank" rel="noopener">UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre</a>. UNESCO also gives citizens an option to report threats to protected sites (<a href="https://whc.unesco.org/en/158/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">scroll to the bottom of this page</a> for contact information.</p> <p>And if you choose to visit these spots, treat them with the utmost care! Be respectful, don’t touch anything you’re not explicitly allowed to touch, and do your part to keep the area clean.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/travel-hints-tips/10-top-tourist-attractions-that-could-disappear-in-your-lifetime?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

International Travel

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An expert’s top 5 reasons why dogs can be considered exceptional animals

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/melissa-starling-461103">Melissa Starling</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Dogs are important to a lot of humans, but what makes them so?</p> <p>Apart from being warm, soft and capable of inspiring our unconditional love, there are a number of unique characteristics that set dogs apart from other animals.</p> <p>As a dog researcher, animal behaviour consultant and canophile (which means I <em>love</em> dogs), let me share five traits that I think make dogs so special.</p> <h2>Dogs are hypersocial</h2> <p>We all know those golden retriever-type dogs that appear absurdly delighted to meet any new social being. It’s hard not to be taken in by their infectious friendliness. These furry, hypersocial creatures have some key genetic differences even to other domestic dogs.</p> <p>Most fascinatingly, these genetic differences are in the area of the genome <a href="https://www.insidescience.org/news/rare-human-syndrome-may-explain-why-dogs-are-so-friendly">associated</a> with hypersociability in people with a genetic condition called Williams-Beuren syndrome. Although people with this syndrome experience negative health effects, they also tend to be very open, engaging and sociable.</p> <p>Not all dogs fall into this hypersocial category – but even those that don’t are unusually accepting of unfamiliar people and dogs.</p> <p>Unlike other social wild canids such as wolves, domestic dogs can quite happily live in harmony with different species, as well as individuals of their own species that aren’t from their family. This is what makes it so easy to slot dogs into our lives.</p> <h2>Dogs are wired to understand us</h2> <p>Humans have selectively bred dogs for many generations. And in many cases, we’ve bred them to take direction to help us in a wide variety of jobs – including being companions to us. This has led to domestic dogs being born with an interest in humans.</p> <p>From an early age, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982221006023">puppies are attracted</a> to human faces. While dogs are as co-operative as wolves, they tend to be submissive towards humans and follow our directions – whereas wolves are bolder and more likely to lead when <a href="https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1709027114">co-operating with humans</a>.</p> <p>Dogs also learn to follow our gaze, and show a left-gaze bias when looking at human faces. This means they spend more time looking at the left side of our faces (which would be the right side from our perspective). This bias emerges in several species when they are processing emotional information, which shows that dogs are <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0152393">reading our faces</a> to figure out how we’re feeling.</p> <p>For a while it was also thought dogs were particularly attentive to human gestures such as pointing – but recent research suggests many domestic species and some wild animal species can also <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7555673/">follow pointing</a>.</p> <h2>Dogs come in countless shapes and sizes</h2> <p>No other species comes in such a huge variety of shapes and sizes as domestic dogs. Not even cats or horses display the same diversity.</p> <p>The largest dogs may be close to 25 times the size of the smallest! Beyond that, we have dogs with drop ears and prick ears and everything in between, tails and no tails, or bob tails, short legs and long legs, long noses and short noses – and a huge variety of coat colours, lengths and textures.</p> <p>For dogs, this huge variation might mean they have more to learn than other animals when it comes to understanding their own kind. For example, owners of herding breed dogs may find their dog a bit confused, or even defensive, when meeting a very different short-faced breed such as a bulldog.</p> <p>For us, it means we should appreciate how the size and shape of dogs can influence <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0149403">their behaviour</a> and experiences. For instance, dogs with longer noses have sharper vision, while dogs with a lighter build tend to be more energetic and fearful.</p> <h2>Dogs form deep emotional bonds</h2> <p>Domestic dogs have been shown to form attachment bonds with human caregivers that are very similar to those formed between <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0065296">children and parents</a>.</p> <p>This may partly explain why they can read our <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10426098/">emotional signals</a>, why they become distressed (and try to help us) when <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0231742">we are distressed</a>, and why MRI studies show dogs are happy when they smell <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376635714000473">their owners</a>.</p> <p>It may also be why they panic when separated from us. Dogs’ attachment to humans goes beyond being hypersocial. To them, we are a lot more than the food we provide and the balls we throw. We are an attachment figure akin to a parent.</p> <h2>Dogs can help us be our best selves</h2> <p>Most dog owners would agree their dog brings out the best in them. They can confide in their dog and love them unconditionally – sometimes more easily than they can another human.</p> <p>Dogs are playing important roles in animal-assisted therapy, where their nonjudgmental presence can be a calming influence and <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40489-019-00188-5">facilitate social interactions</a>. They can even help children <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10643-022-01392-5">learn to read</a> and <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2077-0383/10/21/5171">alleviate anxiety</a>.</p> <p>Although assisting humans with their emotional problems can be a difficult task for such an emotionally sensitive species, research suggests the right dogs can rise to the task if their workload is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1558787818302193">managed carefully</a>.</p> <p>Horses are also used in animal-assisted therapy, as are some smaller furry animals. However, dogs are more portable and can remain at ease in stimulating environments such as courtrooms, schools and airports. They are uniquely placed to accompany us wherever we go.</p> <h2>Paws for thought</h2> <p>We might like to think dogs are special for some of the traits we value in humans, such as intelligence, selflessness or a loving nature. But really dogs are exceptional for simply being dogs.</p> <p>They are social acrobats that can find social harmony wherever they go. They have rich emotional lives in which they co-exist with different species and can even forge bonds <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89dCR3VinMM&amp;ab_channel=WCCO-CBSMinnesota">outside of their own species</a>.</p> <p>They are also generally tolerant of our primate ways – and good at receiving our love. And for me that’s enough.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/211832/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/melissa-starling-461103">Melissa Starling</a>, Postdoctoral Researcher in Veterinary Science, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/an-experts-top-5-reasons-why-dogs-can-be-considered-exceptional-animals-211832">original article</a>.</em></p>

Family & Pets

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The top 11 situations to always haggle for a lower price

<p><strong>Mortgage rates</strong></p> <p>Buying a new home is probably the biggest purchase you will make over the course of your life, so every last penny you can save is worth it. “Borrowers should shop their business around to many banks/lenders to see what rates are available,” says mortgage broker Ade Labinjo. “Then use the rates obtained to pit the banks against each other for the purpose of either matching or driving down the rates they were quoted.”</p> <p>Labinjo says that by getting at least one extra quote rate, the average borrower could save up to $1,500. Never settle for the initial quote rate that the bank offers you – haggle for a better price because chances are, they’re not giving you their absolute best offer upfront.</p> <p><strong>Flea markets, farmers markets, garage sales</strong></p> <p>At flea markets, farmers markets, and garage sales the sellers typically set their own price. If you know how to haggle, this is a great opportunity to get a really good deal. Also, see if buying in bulk or large quantities can get you a price reduction.</p> <p><strong>Hotel rooms</strong></p> <p>Hotels want their rooms filled, so it never hurts to haggle with the people at the front desk for a better price or room upgrades. “Hotels have to pay a commission to booking websites, and pass on some of that as a benefit to the user,” says Saurabh Jindal, founder of Talk Travel.</p> <p>If you find that the price is the same on the booking website and the hotel’s website, ask the hotel for a room with a better view or more amenities. “Hotels have rooms allocated to various booking platforms and may give you a better option which has not yet been sold.”</p> <p><strong>Memberships</strong></p> <p>Memberships always come along with extra fees. It might be a renewal fee, startup fee, or a maintenance fee if it’s your gym membership. Ask if they can waive some of the fees or threaten to cancel and go somewhere else. They want to keep making money off of you and might just give you a discount.</p> <p><strong>Lease renewal </strong></p> <p>If you’re considering re-signing your lease, know that it is most likely more expensive for the landlord to prepare your apartment for a new tenant than to lease to you for another year. If you’ve had a good relationship with your landlord, try to negotiate in a deal before you re-sign. If the landlord is going to increase your rent, ask if you can increase it by less or not at all. If you consistently pay rent on time, are a respectful neighbour, and take good care of your apartment they may keep your rent from increasing.</p> <p>It’s important to remember who your lease is with though, says Julie Ramhold, Consumer Expert at DealNews.com. If your apartment is owned by a management company, they probably won’t offer any wiggle room. But, if you’re renting from a single landlord or owner, try negotiating for a lower price.</p> <p><strong>Online selling platforms </strong></p> <p>People who post items for sale online are typically moving or looking to get rid of unwanted items. Use that to your advantage and ask for a lower price – the worst they can say is no. You could also offer to come and pick it up quickly if they give you a better deal.</p> <p><strong>Internet and phone bill</strong></p> <p>As annoying as your internet and phone provider may be, they don’t want to lose you as a customer. “If you’re signing up or looking to renew, sometimes you can get a lower rate by telling a rep what the competitor is offering and saying it works better with your budget,” says Ramhold.</p> <p>A lot of cable companies give you a promotional price for your first year, make sure to call right before the price goes up for your second year. The competitors will most likely offer better prices for new customers and that can work in your advantage and possibly get you a better deal with your current provider.</p> <p><strong>Insurance rates</strong></p> <p>Just like internet providers, insurance companies don’t want you to switch to a different provider. “Use your customer loyalty to your advantage and try to talk to the right person on the phone,” says Kelan Kline a personal finance expert and co-founder of The Savvy Couple. “Tell them the service you are receiving is not good enough for the price.” They might offer you a discount to keep you.</p> <p><strong>Home services</strong></p> <p>If you’re renovating your kitchen or getting some landscaping done, make sure to shop around and get a few different quotes first. Use those quotes to negotiate with the contractor you want to work with. Also, you may be able to haggle for a better price if you offer to pay upfront in cash or schedule a contractor during the winter months when business is typically slower.</p> <p><strong>Jewellery</strong></p> <p>“You should know that the markup on diamond jewellery is anywhere from 50 to 200 per cent and more,” says Chhavi Agarwal, a personal finance expert. There is always room for haggling. Agarwal suggests politely making a counteroffer. You’d be surprised the changes they are willing to make to the bill. If they refuse to come down in price, try to haggle the labour charges.</p> <p><strong>Returned items </strong></p> <p>Never miss an opportunity to haggle for a better price on items that have been returned to stores. Stores will typically mark returned items that have been slightly used or have a ding with a price reduction, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for more off. They know that items that have already been opened aren’t as appealing to customers and they want to get them sold.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p style="box-sizing: border-box; border: 0px; margin: 0px 0px 20px; outline: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; line-height: 26px;"><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/money/11-times-you-should-always-haggle-for-a-better-price?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Money & Banking

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World’s top 10 food museums that are seriously strange

<p><strong>Le Musée Art du Chocolat de Lisle sur Tarn, Lisle-sur-Tarn, France</strong></p> <p>A weird and wonderful tribute to the sweet stuff, the Le Musée Art du Chocolat de Lisle sur Tarn is dedicated to the world of chocolate art. Chocolate elephants? Check. Chocolate candle holders? Check. There’s even a chocolate fountain – and by that, we mean one made entirely from chocolate.</p> <p>The sculptures, some of which weigh around 100 kilograms, are displayed in three halls. Must-sees include the life-sized chocolate woman and the huge white chocolate of the main character of the comic series The Adventures of Tintin. We’re getting a sugar rush just thinking about it.</p> <p><strong>Dutch Cheese Museum, Alkmaar, Netherlands</strong></p> <p>Thought tulips were the Netherlands’ biggest export? Think again, it’s cheese, more specifically, Edam and Gouda. Learn more at this brilliant Dutch Cheese Museum, which explores the history of the cheeses and how they’re made.</p> <p>It’s tucked inside one of Alkmaar’s oldest buildings, the 16th century Cheese Weigh House in Waagplein Square. Our favourite bit? The bright yellow, cheese-inspired decor and the super-sized model cow, designed to provide visitors with an insight into the milking process.</p> <p><strong>Cup Noodle Museum, Yokohama, Japan</strong></p> <p>Amazingly, the Cup Noodle Museum is one of several museums in Japan dedicated to instant noodles, otherwise known as ramen. The sheer size of this museum is a reminder of the nation’s love of the foodstuff – there are several enormous halls, including one containing a replica of the shed in which the first type of ramen was invented (it was chicken-based if you were wondering).</p> <p>There’s plenty for younger visitors, who can whiz down slides in a noodle-themed playground and swim through a ball pool resembling a cup of ramen soup. Don’t forget to check the noodle-themed marble run, either, it features 4,000 marbles and represents the various stages of ramen production.</p> <p><strong>Friet Museum, Bruges, Belgium</strong></p> <p>The Friet Museum is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the world’s only museum dedicated to what is widely known as French fries, but which are known as Belgian friet in this part of the world.</p> <p>Visit this Bruges attraction and you’ll learn all about the humble potato (first grown in Peru 10,000 years ago) and can admire various friet-related masterpieces, including drawings of the city’s famous Frituur chip stalls. The strangest exhibit? The enormous – but weirdly beautiful – display of friet fryers.</p> <p><strong>Carpigiani Gelato Museum, Carpigiani, Italy</strong></p> <p>The Italians are serious about how they make their ice cream, proof of which is the Carpigiani Gelato Museum in Bologna. You’ll find it inside what was once a factory owned by Carpigiani, the manufacturer of the world’s first ice cream-making machine.</p> <p>Exhibits include the ornate tin-plated boxes used by Italy’s first gelato sellers, along with a huge selection of gelato-related gadgets. There’s also a large workshop where you can sign up for lessons in gelatology, possibly the world’s coolest subject.</p> <p><strong>The Herring Era Museum, Siglufjörður, Iceland</strong></p> <p>Herrings might not sound like a very exciting item of food, but visitors to The Herring Era Museum will certainly leave with a new appreciation of the small, oily fish. The museum, inside a former salting station, looks at how, in the 20th century, the herring industry transformed this tiny village into a thriving town, with 23 herring salting stations and five herring processing plants.</p> <p>Sadly, over-exploitation of stocks meant the industry ground to a halt, but the tiny museum is a reminder of a period of time referred to by locals as the Atlantic Klondike.</p> <p><strong>Pizza Hut Museum, Kansas, USA</strong></p> <p>The Pizza Hut Museum opened in Wichita, Kansas in 2017, on the very same site of the first Pizza Hut restaurant. It’s packed full of pizza-related memorabilia, including the first Pizza Hut pizza pan used in 1958, when the restaurant opened.</p> <p>Other rare items include Pizza Hut Barbie dolls, menus, staff lists from the 1950s, and signage from the first restaurant. You’ll also be able to admire the original recipe for the brand’s famous sauce, scrawled on a napkin by the employee who perfected it.</p> <p><strong>Poli Grappa Museum, Bassano del Grappa, Italy</strong></p> <p>It’s probably a good idea to leave the car at home before a visit to the Poli Grappa Museum because samples of Italy’s famous liquor certainly aren’t in short supply. The museum is small but well laid out, with three rooms filled with exhibits relating to the famous Italian grape-based brandy.</p> <p>One notable highlight is the beautiful collection of antique stills, although many visitors make a beeline for the third room in order to sample some of the varieties produced by the nearby Poli Distillery.</p> <p><strong>The Idaho Potato Museum, Idaho, USA</strong></p> <p>America’s favourite tuber is the star of the show at The Idaho Potato Museum, which is home to both the world’s largest potato and the world’s largest potato chip, along with a wealth of potato-related facts.</p> <p>There are entire sections dedicated to tools used to harvest potatoes in the early 1900s, along with the world’s largest collection of mashers. And don’t forget to visit the café, where you can indulge in a chocolate-dipped potato.</p> <p><strong>The Spam Museum, Minnesota, USA</strong></p> <p>Learn about the world’s most divisive processed meat with a visit to The Spam Museum, a huge attraction examining the food’s rise to global domination. Not convinced? Check out the exhibit relating to its role in WWII, when Spam became a staple for servicemen and women.</p> <p>Then there’s the display of 15 varieties of Spam sold around the world. There are plenty of opportunities for taste tests, just look for one of the museum’s guides known as Spambassadors.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/culture/10-of-the-worlds-strangest-food-museums" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

International Travel

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Settle in with one of these top reads this winter

<p dir="ltr">It can be challenging deciding on a new book to read, but with these titles releasing throughout July 2023, you’re sure to find something to settle in with.</p> <p dir="ltr">Whether an edge-of-your-seat murder mystery, a laugh-out-loud romantic escapade, or even a deep-space adventure is more your cup of tea, the time has come to dive into your next favourite novel, and maybe even convince your book club to read along with you. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>For the budding detectives out there:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><em><a href="https://www.booktopia.com.au/zero-days-ruth-ware/book/9781398508408.html">Zero Days</a></em>, Ruth Ware</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">“Hired by companies to break into buildings and hack security systems, Jack and her husband Gabe are the best penetration specialists in the business. But after a routine assignment goes horribly wrong, Jack arrives home to find her husband dead. To add to her horror, the police are closing in on their only suspect – her.</p> <p dir="ltr">“On the run and out of options, Jack must decide who she can trust as she circles closer to the truth in this unputdownable and heart-pounding mystery from 'one of the best thriller writers around today' Ruth Ware.”</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><em><a href="https://www.booktopia.com.au/four-dogs-missing-rhys-gard/book/9781760687724.html">Four Dogs Missing</a></em>, Rhys Gard</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">“While estranged twins Oliver and Theo Wingfield are identical in appearance, they couldn't be more different. Theo, an extrovert verging on arrogant, was always a drifter, a nomad, operating on the fringes of the law. Oliver, intense, creative and introspective, was destined to become a winemaker. Each vintage, every bottle from Oliver's Mudgee-based label, Four Dogs Missing, sells out.</p> <p dir="ltr">“And now, after fifteen years without contact, Theo unexpectedly turns up at his brother's vineyard, bearing an invitation that his twin knows nothing about. The quiet and fulfilling life that the winemaker has built for himself is about to change overnight: Theo's arrival is the catalyst for a series of murders involving those closest to Oliver. Finding himself the main suspect, Oliver soon discovers that not everyone in Mudgee supports a reclusive and unorthodox vigneron who's shied away from the community that helped him succeed.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Oliver is inexorably drawn into a sinister world where poisoned liquor and stolen art leave a deadly trail. Abandoning his grapevines, he sets out to solve the crimes – and confront his damaged past – before someone else he loves is found dead … beside a bottle of his own wine.”</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><em><a href="https://www.booktopia.com.au/none-of-this-is-true-lisa-jewell/book/9781529195989.html">None of This is True</a></em>, Lisa Jewell </p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">“Celebrating her 45th birthday at her local pub, popular podcaster Alix Summers crosses paths with an unassuming woman called Josie Fair. Josie, it turns out, is also celebrating her 45th birthday. They are, in fact, birthday twins.</p> <p dir="ltr">“A few days later, Alix and Josie bump into each other again, this time outside Alix's children's school. Josie has been listening to Alix's podcasts and thinks she might be an interesting subject for her series. She is, she tells Alix, on the cusp of great changes in her life.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Josie's life appears to be strange and complicated, and although Alix finds her unsettling, she can't quite resist the temptation to keep making the podcast.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Slowly Alix starts to realise that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets, and before she knows it Josie has inveigled her way into Alix's life - and into her home.</p> <p dir="ltr">“But, as quickly as she arrived, Josie disappears. Only then does Alix discover that Josie has left a terrible and terrifying legacy in her wake, and that Alix has become the subject of her own true crime podcast, her life and her family's lives under mortal threat.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Who is Josie Fair? And what has she done?”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>For the sci-fi fanatics:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><em><a href="https://www.booktopia.com.au/circle-of-death-james-patterson/book/9781529136630.html">Circle of Death</a></em>, James Patterson</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">“Since Lamont Cranston - known to a select few as the Shadow - defeated Shiwan Khan and ended his reign of terror over New York one year ago, the city has started to regenerate.</p> <p dir="ltr">“But there is evil brewing elsewhere. And this time the entire world is under threat.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Which is why Lamont has scoured the globe to assemble a team with unmatched talent.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Only their combined powers can foil an enemy with ambitions and abilities beyond anyone's deepest fears.</p> <p dir="ltr">“As their mission takes them across the globe and into the highest corridors of power - pushing them beyond their limits - can justice prevail?”</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><em><a href="https://www.booktopia.com.au/a-psalm-for-the-wild-built-becky-chambers/book/9781250320216.html">A Psalm for the Wild-Built</a></em>, Becky Chambers</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">“It's been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.</p> <p dir="ltr">“One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of "what do people need?" is answered.</p> <p dir="ltr">“But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.</p> <p dir="ltr">“They're going to need to ask it a lot.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Becky Chambers's new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?”</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><em><a href="https://www.booktopia.com.au/the-mother-fault-kate-mildenhall/book/9781760859848.html">The Mother Fault</a></em>, Kate Mildenhall</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">“Mim’s husband is missing. No one knows where Ben is, but everyone wants to find him – especially The Department. And they should know, the all-seeing government body has fitted the entire population with a universal tracking chip to keep them ‘safe’.</p> <p dir="ltr">“But suddenly Ben can’t be tracked. And Mim is questioned, made to surrender her passport and threatened with the unthinkable – her two children being taken into care at the notorious BestLife.</p> <p dir="ltr">“From the stark backroads of the Australian outback to a terrifying sea voyage, Mim is forced to shuck off who she was – mother, daughter, wife, sister – and become the woman she needs to be to save her family and herself.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>For those with a passion for romance: </strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><a href="https://www.booktopia.com.au/palazzo-danielle-steel/book/9781529022421.html"><em>Palazzo</em></a>, Danielle Steel</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">“After her parents perish in a tragic accident, Cosima Saverio assumes leadership of her family's haute couture Italian leather brand. While navigating the challenges of running a company at twenty-three, Cosima must also maintain the elegant four-hundred-year-old family palazzo in Venice and care for her younger siblings: Allegra, who survived the tragedy that killed their parents, and Luca, who has a penchant for wild parties, pretty women, and poker tables.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Cosima navigates her personal and professional challenges with a wisdom beyond her years, but her success has come at a cost: Her needs are always secondary. She's married to the business, and her free time is given to those who rely on her . . . until she meets Olivier Bayard, the founder of France's most successful ready-to-wear handbag company.</p> <p dir="ltr">“But Luca's gambling habit gets out of control and Cosima is forced to make an impossible choice to save him. The palazzo, the family business or cut Luca loose. Or is there another way to rescue everything she has fought for before it goes up in flames?”</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><a href="https://www.booktopia.com.au/the-willow-tree-wharf-leonie-kelsall/book/9781761066092.html"><em>The Willow Tree Wharf</em></a>, Leonie Kelsall</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">“Samantha, owner of Settlers Bridge cafe Ploughs and Pies, is short on confidence and big on regrets. Married young to fill the void left by an unhappy childhood, she still works in the same small town where she grew up, too filled with self-doubt and insecurity to ever risk spreading her wings. Yet will the end of her abusive marriage force her to start anew?</p> <p dir="ltr">“City restaurateur Pierce di Angelis knows what it is to have his career and family ripped away. However, a chance encounter with the intriguing Samantha ignites his passion, and together they concoct a plan for a destination restaurant.</p> <p dir="ltr">“But, with their personalities like oil and water, will old hurts and hidden truths destroy the new business before it's afloat?”</p> <ul> <li dir="ltr" aria-level="1"> <p dir="ltr" role="presentation"><em><a href="https://www.booktopia.com.au/the-forgotten-bookshop-in-paris-daisy-wood/book/9780008525248.html">The Forgotten Bookshop in Paris</a></em>, Daisy Wood</p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr">“Paris, 1940: War is closing in on the city of love. With his wife forced into hiding, Jacques must stand by and watch as the Nazis take away everything he holds dear. Everything except his last beacon of hope: his beloved bookshop, La Page Cachée.</p> <p dir="ltr">“But when a young woman and her child knock on his door one night and beg for refuge, he knows his only option is to risk it all once more to save a life…</p> <p dir="ltr">“Modern day: Juliette and her husband have finally made it to France on the romantic getaway of her dreams – but as the days pass, all she discovers is quite how far they’ve grown apart. She’s craving a new adventure, so when she happens across a tiny, abandoned shop with a for-sale sign in the window, it feels fated.</p> <p dir="ltr">“And she’s about to learn that the forgotten bookshop hides a lot more than meets the eye…”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

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