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christmas day

Pop superstar George Michael has passed away on Christmas Day at his home at the age of 53, his publicist has announced.

George Michael, who launched his career with Wham! in the ‘80s and had huge success as a solo performer, “passed away peacefully” in Goring, Oxfordshire.

Thames Valley Police say they are treating the death as unexplained but there were no suspicious circumstances.

Former Wham! bandmate Andrew Ridgeley said he was “heartbroken at the loss of my beloved friend”.

Writing on Twitter and referring to George Michael as “Yog”, a nickname for “Yours Only George”, Andrew Ridgeley added: “Me, his loved ones, his friends, the world of music, the world at large. 4ever loved. A xx”

Elton John posted on Instagram a picture of himself with George Michael, writing: “I am in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend – the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family and all of his fans.”

Image source Wikimedia

George Michael’s family announced news of his death in a statement issued through the singer’s publicist.

The statement said: “It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period.

“The family would ask that their privacy be respected at this difficult and emotional time. There will be no further comment at this stage.”

South Central Ambulance Service had been called to George Michael’s property at 13:42 GMT.

Thames Valley Police said its officers also attended and George Michael was confirmed dead at the scene.

Police added: “At this stage the death is being treated as unexplained but not suspicious. A post-mortem will be undertaken in due course. There will be no further updates from Thames Valley Police until the post-mortem has taken place.”

George Michael’s manager, Michael Lippman, gave the cause of death as heart failure.

A small heart wreath and a rose are among the tributes that have begun to be left outside the front door of the superstar’s home, a detached property by the River Thames.

George Michael, who was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in north London, sold more than 100 million albums throughout a career spanning almost four decades.

The musician first found fame with schoolfriend Andrew Ridgeley in duo Wham! – reaching No 1 in the UK singles charts on four occasions – before going on to release solo albums, including the multi-million selling Faith in 1987.

The follow-up Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 outsold Faith in the UK but led to George Michael losing a court case with record label Sony over his frustration at how the album has been marketed.

As a solo artist, George Michael scored a further seven No 1 singles in the UK with songs including Careless Whisper and Fastlove, collaborated with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Elton John, and won three Brit Awards and two Grammys.

George Michael later began facing headlines for the wrong reasons.

In October 2006, the singer pleaded guilty to driving while unfit through drugs, and in 2008 was cautioned for possession of class A drugs, including crack cocaine.

In September 2010, George Michael received an eight-week prison sentence following an incident in which he crashed his Range Rover into a shop in north London. He admitted driving under the influence of drugs and possessing cannabis.

Earlier this month it was announced that producer and songwriter Naughty Boy was working with George Michael on a new album.

A documentary film entitled Freedom was due for release in March 2017.

In 2011, George Michael postponed a series of concerts after being taken to hospital for treatment for pneumonia.

After treatment in a Vienna hospital, the musician made a tearful appearance outside his London home and said it had been “touch and go” whether he lived.

Doctors were reported to have performed a tracheotomy to keep his airways open and George Michael was unconscious for some of his spell in hospital.

After years of refusing to be drawn on speculation about his sexuality, George Michael disclosed he was gay in 1998 after being was arrested in a public toilet in Beverly Hills, California.


A bushfire on Christmas Day has destroyed more than 100 homes in Australia’s Victoria state, officials say.

Ninety eight homes had been razed in Wye River and 18 at Separation Creek, officials say. No injuries are reported.

Hundreds of firefighters have been battling the blaze along the famous Great Ocean Road in Victoria’s south-west, popular with holidaymakers.

A change to cooler weather and rain has greatly reduced the threat, but some emergency warnings remain in place.

Some 1,600 residents and tourists from the popular tourist spot of Lorne were evacuated on December 25 amid fears that a wind change would push the fire towards the town, but were allowed to return on December 26.Australia bushfire Christmas Day

Many of those forced to leave their homes had to spend Christmas night in hastily-arranged shelters.

More than 500 firefighters, 60 tankers and 18 aircraft have been involved in fighting the flames.

Victoria Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said they were “working around the clock to bring this fire under control”.

Craig Lapsley warned that although the immediate threat had eased, the fire had the “potential to burn” for weeks to come.

Thousands of tourists typically descend on the area in the days after Christmas to visit coastal towns.

Many residents and holidaymakers were forced to flee, as festivities were abandoned when the scale of the threat became apparent.

Anyone still planning to travel to the area is being asked to check emergency warnings and to avoid the Great Ocean Road if possible.

The Falls Music and Arts Festival, which is held annually near Lorne, may not go ahead because of the fires, its organizers said.

The fire began with a lightning strike on December 19 and has been fanned by strong winds and intense heat in recent days, burning across 5,437 acres so far.

Victoria is one of the most fire-prone regions in the world.

Many bushfires are started by lightning strikes, while others are sparked accidentally by campers or discarded cigarettes.


Christians across the world have begun celebrating Christmas with services.

Pope Francis is holding midnight mass at the Vatican.

In the holy city of Bethlehem, the West Bank town where it is believed that Jesus was born, events have been overshadowed by recent violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

Indonesia was one of the first countries to mark Christmas Day.

Photo AFP/Getty Images

Photo AFP/Getty Images

Celebrations are taking place in the West Bank town where it is believed that Jesus was born.

However, this year they are overshadowed by the latest Israeli-Palestinian violence that shows no signs of abating.

Shepherds watching their flocks by night are believed by Christians to have been the first to hear about Jesus’ birth. Tradition has it that they were told the news by an angel in the Shepherds’ Field in Beit Sahur, next to Bethlehem.

According to the Bible, there was no room at the inn in Bethlehem for Mary and Joseph. With no bed available, baby Jesus was laid in a manger.

The Nativity story tells how wise men, or magi, came to pay their homage to Jesus bringing him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.


The US and British governments have issued a warning about possible threats against Westerners in the Chinese capital Beijing on or around Christmas Day.

Officials say they have received information of possible threats in Sanlitun, which is a busy bar and shopping district.

Meanwhile, the French and Australian governments have also urged their citizens to remain vigilant.

Beijing police have issued a yellow security alert in the city.

A yellow alert is the second lowest level in China’s four-level security alert system.Sanlitun Beijing threat

The alert means there will be increased security checks in shopping areas, and rubbish bins in public areas will be checked every 30 minutes, Xinhua news agency reports.

There was an increased police presence in Sanlitun on December 24, with armed police deployed outside shopping malls.

There were no further details from US, UK, French and Australian officials.

Beijing police said in a microblog post that they had implemented the yellow alert in Beijing’s large and medium sized shopping areas to “maintain social order”.

The Sanlitun area, in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, contains many bars and restaurants popular with foreigners.

A mosque has been set on fire in the Swedish town of Eskilstuna on Christmas Day, injuring five people, police said.

About 15 to 20 people were attending midday prayers in the mosque, located in the ground floor of a residential building, when the fire broke out on December 25.

Local media footage showed smoke and flames billowing from the windows before firefighters put the blaze out.

The incident comes amid a fierce debate in Sweden over immigration policies.

The far right wants to cut the number of asylum seekers allowed into Sweden by 90%, while mainstream parties are intent on preserving the country’s liberal policy.Eskilstuna mosque set on fire

“A witness saw somebody throw an object through the window of the building, which serves as a mosque, after which a violent fire began,” police spokesman Lars Franzell told reporters.

He said five people were taken to hospital for treatment of injuries ranging from smoke inhalation to lacerations.

Police are treating the incident as arson but no arrests have been made so far, Lars Franzell added.

Eskilstuna, which has a large immigrant population, was the scene of clashes involving neo-Nazi groups opposed to Sweden’s immigration policy earlier this year.

Earlier this month, the Sweden Democrats – a populist party with a strongly anti-immigration agenda – brought down the minority governing coalition after it had been in power for just two-and-a-half months, by refusing to support its budget plans.

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Twisters hopscotched across the US Deep South, and, along with brutal, straight-line winds, knocked down countless trees, blew the roofs off homes and left many Christmas celebrations in the dark.

Holiday travelers in the nation’s much colder midsection battled treacherous driving conditions from freezing rain and blizzard conditions from the same fast-moving storms.

As predicted, conditions were volatile throughout the day and into the night with tornado warnings still out for some parts of Alabama. The storms were blamed for two deaths, several injuries, and left homes from Louisiana to Alabama damaged.

In Mobile, Alabama, a tornado or high winds damaged homes, a high school and church, and knocked down power lines and large tree limbs in an area just west of downtown around nightfall. WALA-TV’s tower camera captured the image of a large funnel cloud headed toward downtown.

WALA-TV's tower camera captured the image of a large funnel cloud headed toward downtown in Mobile, Alabama

WALA-TV’s tower camera captured the image of a large funnel cloud headed toward downtown in Mobile, Alabama

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Queen Elizabeth II gave her Christmas Message to the nation as her Diamond Jubilee year draws to a close.

Since her first message in 1952, The Queen has ruled through enormous historic events and periods of change.


Queen Elizabeth II gave her first Christmas message in 1952 which was broadcast in sound only on television in the UK.

However, her message five years later was perhaps more significant as it was the first to be televised.

The Queen read from the Long Library at Sandringham House and in her message she noted how it was the 25th anniversary of the first Christmas message broadcast on radio.

She also highlighted the advance of technology which allowed her message to be seen by people up and down the country in their homes.

However, despite marking how things were changing, she also spoke about the importance of holding on to ideals and values such as religion, self-restraint and honesty.


During this decade the Queen gave birth to Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. It was a period of huge social upheaval which the Queen reflected in her 1966 message.

She used the broadcast to speak about the increasingly prominent and important role played by women in society.

It was also during this year that the Aberfan disaster occurred in which 144 people were killed following the collapse of a colliery spoil tip into the Welsh village of Aberfan.

No Christmas address was given by the Queen in 1969 because Elizabeth felt that with the investiture of Prince Charles and the release of a documentary about the Royal Family she had had enough coverage on television.


A number of the Queen’s Christmas Day messages during this decade reflected on the continuing troubles in Northern Ireland.

The monarch also celebrated the wedding of her daughter, The Princess Anne, to Captain Mark Phillips.

In 1977, the Queen’s speech celebrated the Silver Jubilee. She used her message to express hope for a reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

In August of that year, she visited Northern Ireland for the first time in 11 years and she attempted to help push for peace.


The first Christmas Day Message of this decade attracted a record 28 million viewers in the United Kingdom.

The Queen reflected on celebrations for The Queen Mother’s 80th birthday and used her message to address the themes of service in all its forms.

The Queen’s 1982 message marked the 30th anniversary of the first Christmas message. She delivered this message in the library of Windsor Castle for the very first time.

The year was marked by British troops fighting in the Falklands War and so the theme of the message by the Queen was “the sea”.

Prince William was also born during this year with Prince Harry born in 1984.


In 1990, Her Majesty paid tribute to the role of the armed services as troops prepared for Operation Desert Storm in the First Gulf War.

A year later, her message highlighted the huge changes occurring across Eastern Europe and particularly the Soviet Union, which was dissolved into 15 states on Christmas Day.

In her speech in 1995, the Queen reminded the country of the 50th anniversaries of VE Day and VJ Day and paid tribute to soldiers who had died in the Second World War.

Two years later, the Queen’s message opened with a reminder of a personal loss when Princess Diana died just a few months earlier. But she also spoke of her joy of married life.

In 1999, she told how she was looking forward to the new Millennium.


The Queen used her first Christmas message of the new Millennium to reflect on the role of faith in communities.

The following year, Her Majesty made reference to foot-and-mouth disease, which had crippled Britain’s farming community, and the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Her 50th Christmas broadcast in 2002 was tinged with personal sadness for the Queen as she reflected on the deaths of The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.

But she also remembered the joyous scenes when the nation celebrated her Golden Jubilee.

In 2005, she drew attention to tragedies such as the south-east Asia tsunami which killed more than 230,000 people in 14 countries, the earthquake in Kashmir and the 7/7 bombings in London.

Critics pointed to her omission of Prince Charles’s wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles, with some in the media describing it as a “snub”.

A year later was the first time the speech was made available as a podcast.

In 2008, she addressed people’s concerns about the global economic crash and called on the nation to work for a better future and not accept defeat.

Queen Elizabeth II gave her Christmas Message to the nation as her Diamond Jubilee year draws to a close

Queen Elizabeth II gave her Christmas Message to the nation as her Diamond Jubilee year draws to a close


In 2010, the Christmas message for filmed for the first time at Hampton Court Palace.

She spoke of the unifying force of sport at building communities and featured footage of Prince William and Prince Harry playing football with orphans in Lesotho.

This year, the Queen paid tribute to the success of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes at London 2012 and reflected on the celebrations for her Diamond Jubilee.

It was filmed for the first time in 3D… in stark contrast to that audio-only Christmas message of 1952.

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wished the troops a merry Christmas with a visit to a U.S. Marine base in Hawaii on Tuesday.

Barack Obama’s appearance with servicemen at a Christmas ceremony was his last public stop in Hawaii before he cuts short his vacation and flies back to Washington to return to negotiations over the fiscal cliff.

The president is expected to arrive in Washington early Thursday, the White House said Tuesday night. Michelle Obama and the couple’s two daughters will remain in Hawaii.

In the past, Barack Obama’s end-of-the-year holiday in his native state had stretched into the new year. The first family had left Washington last Friday night.

Congress has been expected to return to Washington late Thursday. Before he departed for Hawaii, Barack Obama told reporters he expected to be back in the capital the following week.

Automatic budget cuts and tax increases are set to begin on January 1, which many economists say could send the country back into recession. So far, the president and congressional Republicans have been unable to reach agreement on any alternatives.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wished the troops a merry Christmas with a visit to a Marine base in Hawaii on Tuesday

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wished the troops a merry Christmas with a visit to a Marine base in Hawaii on Tuesday

Lawmakers have expressed little but pessimism for the prospect of an agreement coming before the New Year. On Sunday, Sen Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, said she expects any action in the waning days of the year to be “a patch because in four days we can’t solve everything”.

The Obamas were spending the holiday at a rented home near Honolulu. On Christmas Day, the president and first lady visited with Marines to express thanks for their service.

“One of my favorite things is always coming to base on Christmas Day just to meet you and say thank you,” the president said at Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s Anderson Hall. He said that being commander in chief was his greatest honor as president.

Barack Obama took photos with individual service members and their families.

On Christmas Eve, Barack Obama called members of the military to thank them for serving the nation, then joined his family for dinner, the White House said. The Obamas opened gifts Christmas morning, ate breakfast and sang carols.

Friends were joining the Obamas for Christmas dinner Tuesday night, the White House said.

President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle celebrated Christmas from their tropical Hawaii getaway as they released a more festive looking picture of themselves onto their Twitter feed.

Despite leaving for Barack Obama’s home state of on Friday, the pair released the seasonal picture to the White House twitter feed today and spoke together during the weekly presidential address of how much they enjoy a White House Christmas.

Both the president and his wife spoke of the joy at spending the Holidays with loved ones and paid a special tribute to the men and women of the armed forces – serving abroad with their families in Afghanistan and in other deployments across the globe.

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Macaulay Culkin proved that he was doing just fine as he hit the shops to get the last of his Christmas gifts on Saturday, despite starting the day by eating alone at Taco Bell.

The former child star cut a solitary figure as he wandered around New York, before stopping off at the Mexican restaurant to tuck into a tasty lunch.

While many people will be watching the festive Home Alone films over the holidays, in which Macaulay Culkin stars as a young boy accidentally left at home by himself, the star seemed quite happy to be spending his day alone, pounding the streets of SoHo.

Macaulay Culkin, 32, who dated Mila Kunis for nearly nine years, dispelled any rumors that he was undernourished by stopping off at the fast food restaurant as soon as he got into town, buying a hefty meal and sitting on his own to eat it.

After re-fueling, Macaulay Culkin set about hitting the shops, as did many other New Yorkers in the run up to Christmas Day.

Macaulay Culkin proved that he was doing just fine as he hit the shops to get the last of his Christmas gifts on Saturday, despite starting the day by eating alone at Taco Bell

Macaulay Culkin proved that he was doing just fine as he hit the shops to get the last of his Christmas gifts on Saturday, despite starting the day by eating alone at Taco Bell

Trying to go as incognito as possible, Macaulay Culkin wore a floppy grey hat over his blonde mop of hair, leaving just tuft of the trademark mane sticking out.

He also wore a pair of dark Ray Ban sunglasses and wrapped a stripy scarf tightly around his neck, pulling it up tight under his chin.

The sometimes eccentric-looking star could have passed for any other shopper in a pair of loose-fitting blue jeans and a buttoned-up black jacket.

With headphones in his ears, and puffing on a cigarette, the artist stopped by a number of high street shops, picking up some clothes in Banana Republic and a portable record player in Urban Outfitters.

Former South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela will spend Christmas in hospital, a government statement has said.

Nelson Mandela, 94, was admitted to hospital two weeks ago and has been treated for a lung infection and gallstones.

There is growing concern in South Africa about his health.

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, was jailed for 27 years for leading the struggle against white-minority rule.

He is regarded by most South Africans as the father of the nation, having inspired them to fight for democracy.

“Former President Nelson Mandela will spend Christmas Day in hospital, his doctors have confirmed,” a government statement said.

With every passing day there is growing public anxiety about Nelson Mandela’s health.

There was hope that he would be allowed to spend Christmas at home, but his doctors are still not comfortable about discharging him.

Former South Africa's President Nelson Mandela will spend Christmas in hospital

Former South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela will spend Christmas in hospital

Although President Jacob Zuma has described Nelson Mandela’s condition as “serious”, he has tempered this by saying that he has been “responding” to treatment, our correspondent adds.

The government says he is being treated for a recurring lung infection at a hospital in the capital, Pretoria.

He has also had an operation to remove gallstones.

Nelson Mandela first contracted tuberculosis in the 1980s while detained on windswept Robben Island prison.

He has been admitted to hospital on three occasions in the past two years.

In January 2011, he was treated for a serious chest infection in Johannesburg.

In February this year, he was again admitted to a Johannesburg hospital because of abdominal pains. He was released the following day after tests revealed nothing serious.

Nelson Mandela lives in Qunu, a small rural village in Eastern Cape province, where he says he spent the happiest days of his childhood.

He retired from public life in 2004 and has been rarely seen in public since, though he still receives high-profile visitors.

Former US President Bill Clinton visited Nelson Mandela in July.

Jacob Zuma has urged South Africans to pray for him.

Nelson Mandela served as South Africa’s first black president from 1994 to 1999.


Onesie is the item predicted by supermarkets and high street stores alike to be the number one Christmas gift for 2012.

Celebrities were early adopters of the trend, with the likes of Rihanna, Robbie Williams, Tulisa, One Direction and Tom Daley all stepping out in their own versions of the adult romper suits.

Holly Willoughby appeared on This Morning wearing one, Keith Lemon stepped out in Asda’s Incredible Hulk onesie and Amy Childs vajazzled a £60 ($90) velour all-in-one, 2,000 of which sold out on her website in two days.

And now, as Christmas approaches, it is clear that the people of Britain have embraced the all-in-one too.

Evidently millions have already bought one for themselves. George at Asda, who are predicting that onesies will be the number one Christmas gift this year – say that sales of onesies have soared by a staggering 606% on year, and the word “onesie” now the most searched-for term on their website.

Marks & Spencer and Debenhams have reported staggering sales results too, with M&S saying last month they would be producing an additional 10 styles of the onesie in time for Christmas, and Debenhams reporting a 155% rise in sales in October than the previous month.

A spokesman said at the time they’d sold 2,075 units in just one week – and that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Onesie is the item predicted by supermarkets and high street stores alike to be the number one Christmas gift for 2012

Onesie is the item predicted by supermarkets and high street stores alike to be the number one Christmas gift for 2012

With Christmas now fast approaching, many more are expected to jump on the onesie bandwagon.

A poll on the George at Asda Facebook page revealed that 42% of customers are planning to buy a onesie as a gift this year, and a third admitting the ultra-forgiving onesie will be their outfit for Christmas day.

As a result, Asda say they have stockpiled one million onesies to meet demand, and have launched an online Onesie Shop for customers. There, shoppers can buy Sponge Bob Square pants onesies, onesies in tiger print and dalmation, a Fair Isle onesie inspired by the Burberry catwalk show – and thatIncredible Hulk onesie as worn by Keith Lemon, which sales analysts at the store predict will sell out in 24 hours (no fighting in the aisles over the last one now please).

Fiona Lambert, George Brand Director said she predicted sales of onesies will go on soaring right up until the big day.

“Onesies are the must-have item for Christmas 2012,” she said.

“Each week at George we see sales soar higher than the week before which we are attributing to celebrity influence.

“Due to such high customer demand we have ordered in thousands of extra onesies and launched our dedicated online <<Onesie Stop Shop>> to ensure our shoppers don’t miss out on the perfect outfit for a cozy Christmas morning, day and night for the whole family.”