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Former SeaChange actor Tom Long has died, five months after being cleared of cancer, & more in News in 5.

— With AAP.

1. Former SeaChange actor Tom Long has died, five months after being cleared of cancer.

Former SeaChange actor Tom Long has died aged 51, five months after he was declared cancer-free.

He died from encephalitis, an inflammed brain, after being cleared of cancer last year.

In 2012, the actor was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable form of blood cancer that attacks the immune system. For seven years, he’d gone through chemotherapy, stem cell transplants and various drug trials.

After being given just three months to live, Long flew to Seattle in April 2019 to participate as one of 18 patients in a medical trial to rebuild his immune system using Car T Cell therapy. His T cells were genetically re-engineered before being infused back into this body to kill the cancer cells.

The treatment worked, and his doctor declared him cancer-free.

Long’s wife Rebecca Fleming told the Sydney Morning Herald she wanted it to be clear that he did not die from cancer.

He was “really at peace and in his home,” when he died she said.

“Gratitude is our way of getting through this. Gratitude for all these amazing experiences with people who have cared for Tom and the lessons we’ve learnt along the way. Tom’s mindset was always really positive because he felt really supported… by the Australian people and our community.”

Details of a public memorial are expected in the coming days.

2. Greta Thunberg has weighed in on Australia’s bushfires.

Climate change activist Greta Thunberg has called out Australia’s leaders as the bushfire disaster continues.

Thunberg, who turned 17 on January 3, shared a photo of a kangaroo fleeing flames as a home burns down in the background across her social media platforms.

“Australia is on fire. And the summer there has only just begun. 2019 was a year of record heat and record drought. Today the temperature outside Sydney was 48,9°C,” she wrote.

 

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“500 million (!!) animals are estimated dead because of the bushfires. Over 20 people have died and thousands of homes have burned to ground. The fires have spewed 2/3 of the nations national annual CO2 emissions, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The smoke has covered glaciers in distant New Zealand (!) making them warm and melt faster because of the albedo effect.

“And yet. All of this still has not resulted in any political action. Because we still fail to make the connection between the climate crisis and increased extreme weather events and nature disasters like the #AustraliaFires. That has to change. And it has to change now. My thoughts are with the people of Australia and those affected by these devastating fires.”

Greta joined a number of other international voices who have sent messages of support for Australia, including Bette Midler, Natalie Portman and Pink.

3. Australian smoke turns NZ sky orange.

New Zealanders are phoning emergency services to report a glowing orange sky as smoke drifts across the Tasman Sea from Australia’s bushfires.

NZ Police on Sunday asked people to stop calling the national emergency line, triple-one, to report the haze.

“We are currently receiving high numbers of calls related to this,” the force said in a statement.

The national weather bureau confirmed the phenomenon over NZ’s North Island.

“Smoke from the Australian bushfires is making haste across the Tasman, driven by an upper-level jet of westerly winds,” MetService tweeted.

One twitter user said sunset had “come early on New Zealand today” and that the view looked “like something out of an apocalypse movie”.

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The smoke plume was expected to peak overnight on the upper North Island, Weather Watch NZ said.

“Hopefully (it) clears most places on Monday as the windier change moves through but might linger longer in the very north.”

Monash University experts this weekend have reported that glaciers in NZ have turned brown after being exposed to the smoke, dust and ash which has drifted from Australia.

NZ Defence Minister Ron Mark on Sunday confirmed the nation would send military support across the ditch to aid bushfire management.

The assistance will include personnel and three NZ Air Force helicopters.

The contingent will deploy to Royal Australian Air Force Base Edinburgh, in Adelaide, and will remain in Australia at least until the end of January, the minister said.

4. McGrath legacy shines through Sydney haze.

When Glenn McGrath was first invited to turn the Sydney Cricket Ground pink in 2009, he had no idea what kind of worldwide movement he was about to create.

Sunday’s Jane McGrath Day marked the 12th of its kind, with the SCG’s security staff clad in green just about the only souls in the ground not in pink.

In Australia, the pink Test is still on a year-by-year basis.

But such is the tradition around day three in Sydney, it’s hard to ever see it not being part of the calendar.

Overseas it has caught on too.

The Lord’s Test is now the red Test in honour of Andrew Strauss’s wife Ruth, who died of lung cancer.

South Africa also have a pink one-day match on their calendar, aimed to raise awareness for breast cancer much like the SCG event does.

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“It’s absolutely incredible to think back to when we first started,” McGrath said.

“CA and the SCG Trust came to us and offered us the SCG Test in remembrance of Jane and to support the foundation and my family.

“What it has grown into now is absolutely incredible.

“If what we’ve done here has an impact in other places for other charities then it’s absolutely brilliant.”

The McGrath Foundation aimed to raise $1.6 million from the Sydney Test between Australia and New Zealand, to take their tally of nurses from 135 to 147.

They were still in pursuit of reaching their goal by late on day three, with takings at the ground up on last year.

This year’s Test has been played in the backdrop of the bushfire emergency that engulfs the nation.

It was notable on Sunday that as the smoke began to be seen at the SCG, the pink boundary signs were one of the few things to shine through the lingering Sydney haze.

For the McGrath Foundation that hits close to home too.

Three-quarters of their nurses are in rural and regional areas while McGrath’s own childhood home of Narromine is among the most drought-affected in NSW.

“I heard a story of lady whose family is impacted by the fires,” foundation ambassador Tracy Bevan said.

“She left her family, rode a bike, got on a boat and she went on the boat for chemotherapy.

“She knew she had to go and have that treatment because of the impact of that insidious disease.”

5. Recovery begins on Kangaroo Island

Wildlife official Mike Williams has been appointed to lead the recovery on Kangaroo Island from the devastating bushfires.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service senior executive has been named the local recovery coordinator to support islanders as they come to grips with their needs over the coming weeks and months.

“This is an unprecedented tragedy for the Kangaroo Island community, who are now facing a recovery effort on a scale never seen before on the island,” SA Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said.

“Mr Williams will work with locals to coordinate recovery measures and help residents, primary producers, tourism operators and other local businesses navigate a way forward.

“His appointment recognises the unique challenges facing Kangaroo Island as it embarks on the process of recovery, including geographic isolation, losses relative to population, impacts on local economic activity and community wellbeing.”

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A bushfire advice message remains in place for the major fire which has burnt more than 155,000 hectares of scrub, including large parts of the Flinders Chase National Park.

Many homes, farm buildings and other structures have been lost but damage assessment is still underway.

Residents impacted by the blaze can also access hardship payments of $280 for each adult and up to $700 for a family to help with their immediate needs.

Federal Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud said this support would put cash in the pockets of those most in need.

“These hardship payments are to help meet immediate needs such as food, clothing and medicine,” he said.

“These emergency relief payments will put cash in the pockets of those most in need and help give them dignity.”

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