Singed and raw, koalas are fighting for survival in hospital as bushfires sweep across Australia

In one of Port Macquarie Koala Hospital’s intensive care units "Flame" is climbing again for the fire time in weeks.

His fur is shorter than usual and brown in parts, telltale signs of his brush with death.

The koala, nicknamed by his rescuer, was brought in with burnt paws and a burnt nose, and patches of singed fur.

For about six weeks he huddled in his basket, but now he has enough strength to painstakingly ascend the branch frames in his room. He is sleeping today.

Located almost 390km north of Sydney, the koala hospital has seen a flood of patients as Australia’s wildfire crisis takes a heavy toll on the animals and their habitat. 

As ferocious blazes have destroyed  8.4 million hectares…

Male golfers wear shorts for first time in competitive history

Golf history was made in South Africa on Thursday as male competitors at the Alfred Dunhill Championship on the European Tour were for the first time allowed to wear shorts.

Organisers said they were thinking primarily about the competitors’ health when they made their radical concession – one which broke more than a century and a half of custom rules, and etiquette.

Temperatures reached 38C in yesterday’s first round and are expected to peak at 40C in the third and fourth rounds on the weekend.

“A lot of players were concerned about the possibility of extreme temperatures,” said David Williams, the tournament director. “In this heat it can be pretty unbearable out there in trousers.”

Yet the reaction indicated that this was, indeed, a giant, barelegged, stride for the ancient game.

The traditionalists were not happy with the revolution taking place at the Leopard Creek Country Club, on the border of the Kruger National Park.

As the competitors took to the spectacular greens, with rhinos in the background, one observer vented his anger on Twitter, saying that the participants resembled a “stag do in Portugal”.

The Leopard Creek golf course is experiencing at heat wave with temperatures in the high 30 degrees during the first day Credit: AFP

Others, however, welcomed the move.

“Golf has been moving in this direction and because of the extreme heat we need to make it as comfortable for the players as we can,” said Thomas Bjorn, the former Ryder Cup captain.

“There are traditions in golf that will always be upheld, but we also need to try and make it easier for kids to get involved in the game and move with the times.”

The Tour insists that the fashion change is a “one-off”, but it is understood that the issue is on the agenda for the Players Committee meeting at the start of next year.

Ultimately, it will be the golfers who decide and with the demographic changing in the locker rooms most expect the change to go through permanently soon.

Ernie Els, the four-time major champion, said he supports the move.

“It’s been talked about for so long on all of the tours around the world,” the South African said.

“I think this could be a game-changer for golf, which could end up enhancing the product.”

Rory McIlroy said: “It makes the guys a lot more comfortable. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with professional golfers showing the lower half of their leg.”

As the sport desperately struggles to maintain participation levels, the need to attract young people to the game has never been stronger.

The female Tours have long allowed their members to play in shorts, although the US Tour caused a storm in 2017 when it told its players to avoid plunging necklines, and skirts or shorts that expose part of the “bottom area”.

However, until now, the men’s circuits have steadfastly refused to update their dress-codes, only relaxing their regulations for practice rounds three years ago. 

The Tours have even been playing catch-up with some of the UK’s most notoriously stuffy clubs.

Muirfield allowed shorts to be worn – albeit, so long as the socks are “full-length and white and dark-coloured”- before it accepted women as members.

Some members of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers were angered when shorts were permitted, pointing to the erosion of standards.

Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal appeared to agree with them, saying he would not be taking advantage of the relaxing of rules.

“I don’t feel I’m ready to go in shorts,” he said. “It’s ok when I chill out with with my friends, but for a competitive round it just doesn’t feel right.”

Apple cancels premiere of ‘The Banker’ over ‘concerns’

Apple has canceled the world premiere of one of its first original films as it investigates sexual abuse allegations involving the family of the person the movie is based on.

"The Banker" was supposed to debut on Thursday in Hollywood at the American Film Institute’s AFI Fest.

The movie stars Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, and Nicholas Hoult.

Mackie plays Bernard Garrett Sr, who in the 1950s and 1960s recruited a white man, Matt Steiner, played by Hoult, as the face of his property and banking business.

According to The Hollywood Reporter two daughters of Mr Garrett contacted Apple, claiming that as children they were abused by Bernard Garrett Jr, their half-brother.

Bernard Garrett Jr had been a producer on the film but stepped down after the allegations, it was reported.

An Apple spokesman said: "We purchased ‘The Banker’ earlier this year as we were moved by the film’s entertaining and educational story about social change and financial literacy.

"Last week some concerns surrounding the film were brought to our attention. We, along with the filmmakers, need some time to look into these matters and determine the best next steps. In light of this, we are no longer premiering ‘The Banker’ at AFI Fest."

Mr Garrett Jr did not respond to requests for comment from The Hollywood Reporter.

Apple has been buying films to feed Apple TV+, the subscription video streaming service that the iPhone maker launched this month.

"The Banker" is due to hit cinemas on Dec 6 before streaming on Apple TV+, but it was not clear whether those plans were still in place.

The movie was Apple’s boldest step yet into film-making. AFI said it would replace "The Banker" with a screening of Noah Baumbach’s Netflix release "Marriage Story" as its closing-night film. 

‘Free’ tickets for train workers and families is costing France’s national rail operator €220m per year

France’s cash-strapped national rail operator SNCF spends €220 million (£188m) per year on free or cut-price tickets for staff and their extended families, according to the country’s state auditor.

In a scathing critique, the Cour des Comptes said the costly perk, which extends beyond workers to parents and grandparents, placed an unacceptable burden on the company and taxpayers and was depriving fare-paying passengers seats on full trains.

Current and retired French rail workers are entitled to a so-called “ease of movement” advantage, meaning they and their partners and children have access to free or 90 per cent-reduced train tickets.

The parents and grandparents of rail workers and their partners also have a limited number of free or reduced seats.

Despite regular calls for the advantage to be scaled back, its cost had risen by 20 per cent since 2011, found the auditor. Current SNCF employees only accounted for 35 per cent of the total cost, it said.

The number of passengers “evicted” due to lack of seats was costing the company €30 million a year, it added. One hundred SNCF employees are dedicated to dealing with distributing the free seats.

French rail workers have vowed to being the country to a halt with rolling strikes starting December 5 against pension reform Credit:  GERARD JULIEN/AFP

The criticism is likely to further infuriate unions just two weeks before they stage a nationwide, rolling strike on December 5 against President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed overhaul of the country’s retirement system. 

The state auditor, which is advisory, also called for an end to automatic pay rises and bonuses for staff regardless of performance, and said workers must work longer hours and be more polyvalent as the rail sector opens up to foreign competition under EU rules.

It comes a year after Mr Macron’s ruling party enacted the deepest reform of the 150,000-strong SNCF since rail nationalisation in the 1930s.

The new law turned the SNCF into a joint-stock company, giving its management greater corporate responsibility, and paved the way to phase out its domestic passenger monopoly from 2020 and put an end to generous benefits and pensions for future employees.

The Macron government also pledged to write off €35 billion of the SNCF’s €47 billion of debt.

The Cour des Comptes said that SNCF must continue efforts to downsize its workforce by 2,000 employees per year and overhaul its organisation which is currently “very favourable to staff but not very favourable to productivity”. 

Train drivers who in theory should work almost eight hours per shift in reality work for just six hours and forty minutes, it said, adding that there was a problem of “under employment of certain staff members”.

The company must do more to stamp out “a high absenteeism rate in certain areas and a rising number of unavailable staff,” it said. 

Unions slammed the overview,  with CGT-Cheminots calling it “a digest of shortcuts and nonsense”.

UNSA said: “Once again, (the Cour) is fuelling a highly angst-ridden social climate and the stigmatisation of workers”.

Ministers deny war crimes ‘cover-up’ as leaks detail SAS night raid probe

Ministers have denied a “cover-up” of alleged war crimes involving the torture and murder of innocent civilians by British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Military detectives have reportedly probed a 2012 SAS raid on a compound in Helmand Province where three “unarmed” children and a young man were shot dead, as well as the alleged “daily” abuse of prisoners by the Black Watch regiment in Basra in 2003, and the fatal shooting of an Iraqi policeman in the same year.

According to BBC Panorama and The Sunday Times, leaked documents indicate the incidents were then covered up by senior officers and only cursorily interrogated by the Royal Military Police (RMP).

Investigators on the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) and Operation Northmoor – for Afghanistan – were then put under pressure by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to wind up the inquiries, the media outlets claim.

Yesterday the government denied allegations of a cover-up, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab telling Andrew Marr that the prosecuting authorities for the British armed forces are “some of the most rigorous in the world”.

"All of the allegations that had evidence have been looked at by the armed forces prosecuting authorities because we want to have accountability where there’s wrongdoing,” he said.

"What we’re quite rightly doing is making sure spurious claims or claims without evidence don’t lead to the shadow of suspicion, the cloud of suspicion hanging over people who have served their country for years on end – and we’ve got the right balance."

IHAT was shut down in 2017 after it emerged that the disgraced solicitor Phil Shiner, who was behind more than 1,000 cases, paid fixers in Iraq to find clients.

But some former IHAT and Operation Northmoor investigators have now said Mr Shiner’s actions were used as an excuse to close down the inquiries.

IHAT spent around three years investigating the actions of the Black Watch in 2003, when the unit was responsible for policing and security in the Southern Iraqi city of Basra following the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s forces.

The team reportedly gathered evidence that at least two detainees were unlawfully killed amid a regime of physical and sexual violence by British troops at Camp Stephen.

Despite allegedly photographing one of the men, Radhi Nama, in hospital with injuries on his face, RMP investigators allegedly accepted the soldiers’ account that he had died of a heart attack and declined to interview their senior officers.

During the 2012 SAS raid on the village of Loy Bagh near Camp Bastion, one special forces soldier reportedly entered a side building and killed four young inhabitants.

According to the leaked documents, he told superiors he fired because they were standing up with what looked like weapons, despite bullet marks on the walls suggesting they were all sitting when shot.

The documents allege a senior SAS commander later emailed International Security Assistance Force headquarters describing the raid as Afghan-led, thereby avoiding an immediate RMP probe.

Lord Macdonald, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, described the decision to wind up the inquiries as “absolutely reprehensible”, suggesting the allegations could be investigated by the International Criminal Court.

However, Hilary Meredith, visiting professor of law and veterans’ affairs at the University of Chester, who has represented several soldiers investigated by IHAT, said: “This so-called new evidence has no credibility whatsoever.

“It is flawed, baseless and biased.”

An MoD spokesman said: "Allegations that the MoD interfered with investigations or prosecution decisions relating to the conduct of UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are untrue.

"Throughout the process the decisions of prosecutors and the investigators have been independent of the MoD and involved external oversight and legal advice."