Sainsbury’s has followed supermarket rivals and revealed plans to pay back £440 million in business rates relief it received during the coronavirus crisis. A number of retailers have faced criticism about benefiting from the business rates holiday, aimed at helping firms ride out pandemic, because they are also paying out dividends to shareholders. Sainsbury’s is paying out £231 million to investors via two separate dividends relating to this year and last.
Thailand on Thursday reported at least five deaths after flash floods caused by monsoon rains hit seven provinces in the country's southern region. Authorities reported the deaths all took place in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, where television footage showed staff of a hospital piling up sandbags outside an emergency room to fend off water gushing in from the street. The floods started a week ago but had receded by Thursday, according to the interior ministry, having affected more than 255,000 households in seven of the southern provinces.
Hundreds of thousands of masked students in South Korea, including 35 COVID-19 patients, are taking the country’s highly competitive university entrance exam despite a viral resurgence that has forced authorities to toughen social distancing rules. The Education Ministry says about 493,430 students began taking the one-day test at about 1,380 test sites across South Korea on Thursday.
Charlton manager Lee Bowyer criticised the club's returning fans after Wednesday night's defeat to MK Dons, accusing them of being quiet and negative. The Addicks were the first club in London to welcome back 2,000 supporters under the country's new coronavirus restrictions, but the visitors ruined the party at The Valley, with Scott Fraser's late goal earning the Dons a deserved 1-0 win. On the eve of their return, Bowyer urged supporters to make "as much noise as humanly possible", but afterwards said he was surprised by the returning fans, many of whom have not been to a game since March.
The singer explained how their home burning down in California wildfires contributed to the end of their marriage.
Hockeyroos consider strike action after key players dropped * Georgina Morgan and Rachael Lynch excluded from squad * Emergency meeting of 15 players held at training camp in Perth
Organiser admits ‘failures’ and says he regrets decision to go ahead with the event
Apple Music has revealed its most popular songs streamed in the UK this year, with Australian singer Tones And I topping the list with viral smash Dance Monkey. Canadian superstar The Weeknd took second place with Blinding Lights while Stormzy's collaboration with Ed Sheeran and Burna Boy, Own It, was third, according to the technology giant. SAINt JHN's Roses was the fourth most streamed song in the UK this year, Apple said, ahead of Dua Lipa in fifth with Don't Start Now.
Hungary reported 182 new COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, by far the highest daily toll since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, government data showed. As of Wednesday, Hungary ran the European Union's fifth-highest death rate per 100,000 people over a two-week period based on data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government imposed a partial lockdown three weeks ago to slow the spread of the virus, including a 1900 GMT curfew and closing secondary schools.
Wind and rain lashed the Eco Beach Resort in Broome, Western Australia, on December 3, footage shared by Facebook user Jordan Webb shows.The Bureau of Meteorology in Western Australia said severe storms were sweeping through the Broome area on Thursday. Credit: Jordan Webb via Storyful
As the Standard launches its inaugural Shop London event, fashion writer Naomi May chooses her hottest pics from London’s hottest brands
Dan Kilpatrick was at The Valley as 2,000 supporters returned to watch Charlton vs MK Dons
At Christmas time it is traditional to gather the family together and finish decorating the tree by placing a star or angel. The McCormick family came back to their home in Adelaide, South Australia, to find a confused koala tangled up in the lights trying to eat pieces of the plastic tree. Used to swinging from branches of the eucalyptus tree in the outback, the marsupial, named Daphne by the family, had made herself at home until she was discovered by the dog.
A former rebel commander accused of being involved in the killing of 18 civilians and other crimes that included rape and eating pieces of a school teacher's heart during Liberia's civil war appeared in a Swiss court room on Thursday. The defendant, 45-year-old Alieu Kosiah, denies the charges. Kosiah's crimes are listed by the Swiss court as "recruitment and use of a child soldier, forced transportation, looting, cruel treatment of civilians, attempted murder, murder (directly or by order), desecration of a corpse and rape".
Indian movie superstar Rajinikanth said Thursday he plans to launch his own political party in southern India in January, ending years of speculation by millions of his fans on his political future. Rajinikanth, 69, is one of India’s most popular stars with more than 175 films since 1975, mostly in the Tamil and Telugu languages. An announcement on matters connected to the party's launch will be made Dec. 31, he said.
Hundreds rally in Australian capital cities against the $3.6bn Narrabri gas projectActivists have joined Aboriginal traditional owners in voicing opposition to the controversial development that received federal approval last month
President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday promised a group of workers hit by the raging Covid-19 pandemic that more aid would be on the way, while President Donald Trump hinted he may be ready to begin planning another run for the White House in 2024. Biden, who has pledged to act quickly to provide more resources to fight the health crisis after he is inaugurated on Jan. 20, told a group of workers and business owners that any emergency aid approved by Congress before he takes office would be only a “down payment.”Republicans and Democrats are trying to resolve a months-long standoff in Congress over a stimulus package for businesses affected by coronavirus shutdowns as well as the millions who have lost jobs.“My transition team is already working on what I will put forward to the next Congress to address the multiple crises we’re facing, especially the economic crisis and Covid,” Biden told the workers at a roundtable in his home state of Delaware.More than 270,000 people in the United States have died of Covid-19, which is resurgent across the country. The United States leads the world in the number of infections as well as the number of deaths reported every day.“I don’t want you to give up hope,” Biden told the workers.“Hang on, we’ll get through this.”‘See you in four years’Trump has refused to concede the Nov. 3 election and his lawyers continue to file legal challenges to the outcome, alleging electoral fraud without providing evidence. State and federal election officials have repeatedly said there is no such evidence. Most of the lawsuits have been rejected by judges.At a White House holiday reception on Tuesday night, Trump appeared to acknowledge that those efforts could fail and in that case he would run again.“We are trying to do another four years,” he told the assembled group, according to a Republican source who was at the event. “Otherwise, I’ll see you in four years.”A source familiar with the internal debate says Trump has been discussing with advisers not attending the inauguration ceremony on Jan. 20 but instead announcing his 2024 bid that day. The source said there had been no decision. Only a handful of outgoing U.S. presidents have chosen to miss the swearing-in of their successors.Trump tweeted a video on Wednesday in which he repeated unfounded accusations about the election being rigged and said he would keep up the fight against the outcome. Trump, who spoke from behind a lectern with the presidential seal, posted a two-minute version of the message on Twitter with a link to a 46-minute version on Facebook.A day earlier, Attorney General William Barr, who has long been seen as a Trump ally, said the Justice Department has found no evidence of widespread fraud.Trump’s claims have gained traction among his followers, however, helping to raise as much as $170 million for an “Election Defense Fund” that can be used for a wide variety of future political activities, including another run for the presidency, according to media reports.‘Violent rhetoric’On Wednesday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Biden was headed for victory after the state’s second recount and criticized Trump for fomenting false claims.“Even after this office requested that President Trump try and quell the violent rhetoric being born out of his continuing claims of winning the states where he obviously lost, he tweeted out ‘expose the massive voter fraud in Georgia,’” said Raffensperger, a Republican.“This is exactly the kind of language that is at the base of a growing threat environment for election workers who are simply doing their jobs.”Biden has already selected many of his top national security and economic advisers, although it is unclear how many will win confirmation in a closely divided Senate, control of which will be determined by a pair of January runoff elections in Georgia.Biden told the New York Times in an interview on Tuesday evening that he would try to help resolve the standoff in Congress over the coronavirus aid.“You have over 10 million people out there who are worried (how) they can pay their next mortgage payment,” Biden said in the interview, and “you have a significantly higher number of people who have no ability to pay their rent.”Failure on the issue could have political consequences for Republicans, Biden told the newspaper.“When you have cops and firefighters and first responders across the board being laid off, when you’re not getting the kind of distribution of vaccines out to rural America, it has to have some consequences,” he was quoted as saying.Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has begun circulating new draft legislation after a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a $908 billion package.Britain approved Pfizer Inc ‘s Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday, the first country to do so. Once similar approval is granted by U.S. regulators, health officials plan to begin vaccinating Americans as soon as mid-December.(REUTERS)
French former president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing led France between 1974 and 1981. He is credited with modernising this country, but a scandal involving African diamonds damaged his bid to stay in power. The centre right politician, known in France as “VDE”, died of Covid-19 complications on Wednesday night at his home in the Loire valley.He was just 47 when he defeated Socialist François Mitterrand to become France’s youngest president since Louis Napoléon in 1848.Giscard billed himself as a conservative with a taste for change.“From now on, a new era in French politics begins,” he announced at his inauguration, proving the point by strolling down the Champs-Elysées on foot, skipping the usual motorcade.He held monthly dinners with ordinary people, played the accordion, and had his official portrait printed in a less-than-regal landscape format.Besides the change in image he quickly ushered in radical reforms: legalising abortion, lowering the voting age to 18, and introducing divorce through mutual consent.On the economic front, he launched major infrastructure projects such as the high-speed TGV train and promoted nuclear power as France’s main source of energy and a way of ensuring its independence.In 1975 he invited the leaders of West Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US to form the Group of Six major economic powers which went on (with the admission of Canada) to become the G7.A devoted EuropeanVDE was a proponent of greater European Union unity throughout his career, defending the idea of a “United States of Europe”.He had strong European credentials: born in Koblenz in Germany, he fought with the French Résistance in World War II.Along with former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, he helped create the European Monetary System and the European Council. He pushed for the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979.Years later, in 2001, he was made head of the Convention on the Future of Europe which drafted the Treaty for a European Constitution, rejected by France in 2005.One-term presidentDespite his achievements at home and on the continent, VGE lost the 1981 presidential election to Socialist François Mitterrand.Economic recession, tension with his prime minister Jacques Chirac, and the second global oil crisis in 1979 all weakened VDE's support base.He left office in a cloud of controversy after it was revealed in 1979 he had received a bag of diamonds from Central African Republic dictator Jean-Bédel Bokassa, a man he once referred to as “my dear cousin”. The opposition used the scandal as an effective weapon against him during the election campaign. Return to politicsVDE remained active on the political scene.He regained his seat in Parliament in 1984 and led the centre-right Union pour la Démocratie Française (UDF).In 2000 his proposal to reduce the length of the presidential term from seven to five years was accepted through referendum.From 1981 to his death, he sat on the Constitutional Council, examining whether new laws were in accordance with the constitution.Popular but tarnishedLike some other French presidents, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing liked to write.One of his romantic novels, The Princess and the President, centered on an affair between the French head of state and a fictional Princess of Cardiff, believed to have been based on Princess Diana.In May this year, French prosecutors opened an investigation after a German female reporter accused VGE of sexual harassment during an interview in 2018.The 94-year-old denied the charge and said he was very upset by the accusations.In 2014, 40 years after his election, a poll suggested that 61 percent of the French thought he had been “a good president”.His last public appearance was in September 2019 at the funeral of Jacques Chirac.