Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Tuesday 4 Jan 2011

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Waking up to real life after the Christmas and New Year break? Have no idea what's been going on? The First Post's catch-up service is here to help. And by the way, it's now 2011... Oh, and if you live in north Yorkshire, yes, that was the earth moving just after 9.0 last night... QUEENSLAND UNDER WATERThe New Year has brought unprecedented flooding to the Australian province of Queensland. An area the size of France and Germany combined is under water. More than 20 towns and cities have been cut off or flooded, and more than 200,000 people affected. Many have refused to leave their homes for fear of looting. The flood waters were expected to peak today and it could be weeks before they recede. In pictures: Queensland from the air  JOANNA YEATES: DID KILLER HAVE ACCOMPLICE?The body of the missing landscape architect Joanna Yeates was found on a snowy verge in north Somerset on Christmas Day morning - but no one has yet been charged. Her landlord, Chris Jefferies, was arrested on the Thursday after Christmas on suspicion of murder but on Saturday he was released without charge. Police indicated yesterday that her murderer might have had an accomplice.  Robert Chesshyre: Jo Yeates’s landlord: harsh justice from the tabloids Jo Yeates: public mystified by conflicting messages PARTIAL SOLAR ECLIPSE VISIBLEA partial eclipse of the sun was visible across Europe and north Africa this morning, with Moscow and Stockholm getting the most spectacular experience - the moon covering more than 70 per cent of the sun. In London, the eclipse was expected to be visible between 8.30 am and 9.30 am, with 67 per cent of the sun covered. If you missed it, you'll have to wait until March 2015 for the next chance. In Pictures: Watching the eclipse ASHES IN THE BAG, ENGLAND SURGE ON England retained the Ashes by winning the fourth Test in Melbourne by a stunning margin of an innings and 157 runs. It all began when Australia were bowled out on Boxing Day for a record low of 98. England responded with 513 and the Aussies were unable to fight back. In the fifth and final Test in Sydney, England are on course for victory at 167-3 after bowling Australia out for 280. In Pictures: Sport over the Christmas break  SON FEARS FOR MIKHAIL KHODORKOVSKYMikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian oil tycoon who crossed Vladimir Putin, was given a further six years in jail last Thursday after being convicted on - observers say - trumped up embezzlement charges. He was already serving an eight-year-sentence. His son Pavel told the Sunday Telegraph he fears his father will meet the same end as Alexander Litvinenko - death by poisoning. ELTON JOHN BECOMES A FATHERSir Elton John and his boyfriend David Furnish are the proud parents of a baby son called Zachary born to a surrogate mother in the States on Christmas Day. Tabloids report that the 63-year-old singer has bought an adjoining apartment in the block where he lives in LA so that he need not be disturbed at night. A team of nannies has also been hired. VAT RISES TO 20 PER CENTHigh street retailers already hit by the freezing cold weather over Christmas have a new problem to contend with - shoppers scared off by the rise in VAT from 17.5 to 20 per cent as of midnight last night. Labour leader Ed Miliband called the VAT rise the "wrong tax, at the wrong time". The coalition says it's an essential component of its plans to tackle the national deficit. MANCHESTER UNITED KEEP TOP SPOTManchester United remain top of the Premier League, chased by neighbours Man City in second place and Arsenal in third. The Gunners brought off the shock victory of the busy Christmas period - 3-1 at home against Chelsea - but then failed to exploit their advantage by drawing against Wigan. Chelsea were held to a 3-3 draw by Aston Villa on Sunday and his supporters worry that manager Carlo Ancelotti is destined for Siberia. Man Utd remain top, but all eyes on City’s Balotelli  In Pictures: Sport over the Christmas break    AFGHAN CIVILIAN DEATHS AT RECORD LEVELThe Allied campaign in Afghanistan ended the year on a low when official figures revealed that more than 2,000 civilians died in 2010, making it the bloodiest year since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001. The Interior Ministry says 2,043 civilians were killed and 3,570 wounded. The UN puts the casualties even higher - 2,412 civilians dead and and 3,803 wounded between January and October, up 20 per cent from 2009. SNOW RETURNS TO ENGLANDJust as Britain gets back to work, the snow and freezing temperatures have returned. The North Yorkshire Moors, the West Country Devon and Wales received snow falls yesterday and the Met Office predicts more this week. Meanwhile, a small earthquake hit north Yorkshire shortly after 9.0 pm last night. The 3.6-magnitude quake struck 9km north-west of Ripon. No serious damage was reported.

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