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Shinzo Abe: claims of Haruna Yukawa's murder by Isis appear genuine
Man claiming to be captive journalist announces killing of ‘cellmate’Japanese PM left ‘speechless’ by apparent killing of hostage Abe refuses to comment on demand for prisoner swapA violent end to a troubled lifeJapan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe said that the chilling recording claiming that Haruna Yukawa, one of two Japanese men taken hostage by Islamic State, had been beheaded appeared to be genuine.Barack Obama issued a statement condemning what he called “the brutal murder” and that the United States would stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Japan. The US president called for the immediate release of the second Japanese hostage, 47-year-old journalist Kenji Goto. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 23:24:00 GMT)

Lady Warsi launches bitter assault on coalition strategy towards Muslims
Former Tory chair targets Michael Gove for criticism and says failure to engage with the community ‘has fuelled resentment’Lady Warsi: Muslims will speak up for British values only when they know they will be heardLady Warsi has delivered a blistering critique of the government’s approach towards Britain’s Muslims, warning that failure to engage properly with communities across the UK has created a climate of suspicion and undermined the fight against extremism.In her first major intervention on the relationship between Muslims and the rest of society since she resigned from the cabinet five months ago, Warsi says the coalition’s policy of non-engagement has caused deep unease and resentment towards the government. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:37:00 GMT)

Nurse who contracted Ebola released from hospital
Pauline Cafferkey ‘happy to be alive’ after making full recovery from disease, which she caught working in Sierra LeoneThe British nurse who almost died after contracting Ebola while volunteering in Sierra Leone has been discharged from hospital after making a full recovery.Pauline Cafferkey said she was “happy to be alive” as she thanked staff at the Royal Free Hospital in London who she said saved her life. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 19:19:16 GMT)

Ukraine crisis: dozens die as rebels shell Mariupol
Alexander Zakharchenko admits responsibility for attack speaking at memorial for those killed in bus attack in DonetskGrad rockets rained down on residential areas of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Saturday, killing at least 30 and wounding more than 90, according to local authorities.The rockets, apparently fired by pro-Russia rebels, came on the day their leader announced an assault on the city, despite earlier denials from rebel authorities that they were responsible. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 21:08:48 GMT)

Ukip MEP Amjad Bashir defects to the Conservatives
Bashir dismisses ‘extremely serious’ allegations made against him by Ukip as being absurd and made up A Ukip MEP has defected to the Conservatives as his former party claims he had been suspended after an investigation into “extremely serious” financial issues, evidence of which it says has been passed to the police.Amjad Bashir, communities spokesman and MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, dismissed Ukip’s claims as “absurd and made-up allegations”. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 20:01:05 GMT)

Internet filters block websites of sex abuse charities
‘Blunt tool’ approach is leading parents into false sense of security, insist campaignersThe adult content filters being rolled out by some internet providers under a scheme championed by David Cameron are blocking the websites of businesses and charities and are a “distraction” for parents seeking to protect children from online pornography, claim campaigners.TalkTalk announced this weekend that it would follow Sky and become the second of the UK’s four major internet providers to roll out automatic filters for all its customers unless they specifically ask for them to be turned off. It plans to begin applying the blocks to all users’ accounts next month. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 23:04:19 GMT)

US-led task force launches 26 air strikes against Isis in Syria and Iraq
According to coalition statement, 13 targets hit in Syria as well as 13 hit in Iraq‘Isis mobile oil drilling rig’ among targets in Syria, says US Central CommandThe US and its coalition partners have launched another round of air strikes against Islamic State (Isis) militants in Iraq and Syria, conducting 26 strikes since early on Friday. In a statement released on Saturday from the Combined Joint Task Force leading the military operation, officials said 13 strikes hit in Syria and also 13 hit in Iraq. Related: John Kerry: tide beginning to turn against Islamic State Related: Mother of Japanese Isis hostage Kenji Goto makes tearful appeal Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 18:00:14 GMT)

Heavyweight Republicans line up to claim the conservative mantle for 2016
Iowa Freedom Summit draws GOP’s leading lightsTed Cruz, Chris Christie and Scott Walker push White House credentials Scott Walker makes forceful bid for Republican nominationHeavyweight Republicans lined up in Iowa on Saturday claiming to be the leader who could retake the White House for conservatives, as the long race to become the party’s nominee for US president in 2016 began in earnest.Appearing at an all-day political beauty contest in front of voters whose caucuses will be the election’s first nominating process next January, big-name Republicans from statehouses and congress explained why they had the vision and public appeal required for nationwide victory. Related: Could Scott Walker be the elusive 2016 contender Republicans are looking for? Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 02:34:51 GMT)

IRA gunmen face arrest over Boston College Belfast Project tapes
Participants were promised interviews would only be released to researchers once they were deadDozens of IRA and loyalist paramilitary veterans are facing arrest after the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) confirmed its decision to seek all the taped testimonies that form the core of the controversial Boston College Belfast Project.The project, set up in 2001, is an archive of candidinterviews with those directlyinvolved in paramilitary violence between 1969 and 1994 in Northern Ireland. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 23:07:38 GMT)

Overcrowded hospitals ‘killed 500’ last year, claims top A&E doctor
Ministers warned that the NHS is facing ‘a disaster’ of ever-busier accident and emergency departments and bed-blockingUp to 500 patients died last year as a direct result of harm they suffered when hospitals became dangerously overcrowded, Britain’s A&E doctors have warned.About 350 of the deaths were among patients who had not been diagnosed or given medical treatment quickly enough. Another 150 were not admitted because of bed shortages, even though their condition meant they would usually have been found a place on a ward. The College of Emergency Medicine’s figures have raised concern that growing turmoil in A&E units, and hospitals generally, is doing real harm. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 21:59:00 GMT)

First female bishop: I want to be a role model for girls
As she prepares for her consecration, Libby Lane hopes her historic role will encourage othersShe is about to make history as the Church of England’s first woman bishop, a role that will rewrite more than 500 years of doctrine and see the eyes of the world turned upon her. And the appointment of Libby Lane as the new bishop of Stockport will also, she hopes, send a signal to young girls regardless of their faith.“Knowing Jesus made sense to me as a teenager,” said Lane this weekend, “and if my appointment encourages a single young girl to lift her eyes up a bit and to realise that she has capacity and potential, and that those around her don’t need to dictate what is possible, then I would be really honoured.” Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:04:21 GMT)

China’s slowdown means vigilance is key for UK firms trading in far east
Concern grows for British companies trading in the Chinese market as domestic demand wanesWelsh milk may seem an unlikely export to a burgeoning Chinese consumer class better known for its appetite for Burberry macs and Range Rovers. But Laurence Harris has dispatched six shipping containers full of his organic dairy products to China in the past eight weeks.“It’s quite exciting for a small company in west Wales,” he says. “Milk in general is treated as a health drink in China.” His company, Daioni, has been supplying Pret a Manger outlets in Hong Kong – and has seen little evidence of the slowdown in Chinese growth that has started to show up in official statistics. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:05:36 GMT)

Diversity takes a dive for US actors as Brits hog the best American roles
Ejiofor and Elba fly high in Hollywood, and a raft of Brits are playing meaty American roles. Angelenos don’t get a look-inWhere, Lenny Henry famously inquired, are the true media industry diversity chances for black Brits? Think about the top end of Hollywood. Chiwetel Ejiofor (born Forest Gate, London) was the great Oscars nearly man last year after Twelve Years a Slave. Idris Elba (born Hackney) must have come pretty close via Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, approached by way of The Wire. And David Oyelowo (born Oxford) is Martin Luther King in Selma this season, alongside Carmen Ejogo (born Kensington) as Coretta. Diversity? Well, you could say that Tom Wilkinson (born Leeds) makes a fine LBJ and that Tim Roth (born Dulwich) a ranting George Wallace. Add memories of Anthony Hopkins (Nixon) or Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) for luck. But still shed bitter tears over the fate of LA’s real diversity victims: Americans hunting the great American roles. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:05:34 GMT)

How Green party surge threatens Labour’s election hopes
In 22 key seats potential Labour supporters – led by students and first-time voters – could be lost to the more radical policies of the Green partySupport for the Greens has surged in recent weeks, with a number of polls placing them on 10% or more of the vote, ahead of the Liberal Democrats. This has generated a lot of concern among Labour commentators, who worry that rising Green support will split the left-leaning vote and further complicate a path to victory already made more tortuous by the SNP surge in Scotland and the Ukip surge in traditional working-class seats.There are good reasons to worry: the Greens draw their strength primarily from younger, socially liberal and economically leftwing university graduates, a group who do indeed tilt heavily towards Labour at present. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 20:50:40 GMT)

Call for Chilcot to release Iraq documents ‘immediately’
Senior politicians will insist that war inquiry papers already cleared for publication must be posted on websiteSenior politicians have called for the immediate publication of all documents cleared for release by the Iraq war inquiry.The inquiry chairman, Sir John Chilcot, confirmed to David Cameron last week that his report would not be available until after the May election. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 21:06:04 GMT)

Prince Charles and PM fly to Saudi amid growing row over UK flag tributes
The decision to lower flags at government buildings and Buckingham Palace has angered politicians across the spectrumHalf-mast tributes anger politicians King Abdullah: obituaryPrince Charles and David Cameron are flying to Saudi Arabia on Saturday to pay tribute to the late King Abdullah amid a growing row over the decision to mark his death by flying flags at half-mast on public buildings in London.The sign of respect for the monarch has drawn sharp criticism from some prominent politicians and human rights campaigners because of Saudi Arabia’s abuses of free speech and women’s rights, and the country’s role as a cradle of Islamist extremism. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 09:23:55 GMT)

Ukip official says party should ‘stand up for bigots’
Labour also produces footage of party secretary Matthew Richardson calling Britain’s NHS ‘a waste of money’Ukip is facing embarrassment after a senior official claimed the party should stand up for “bigots” and claimed that the NHS was the “biggest waste of money in the UK”. The remarks were made by Matthew Richardson, the party’s secretary and a member of its national executive council.According to the Sunday Times, Richardson told a meeting last month: “I’ve said before, people talk about Ukip being bigots. There are hundreds of thousands of bigots in the United Kingdom and they deserve representation.” Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 23:24:30 GMT)

AirAsia flight QZ8501: four more bodies recovered from wreckage
Divers enter main section of the plane for the first time since it crashed in the Java SeaFour more bodies were recovered from the wreckage of AirAsia flight 8501 on Saturday but Indonesian salvage teams failed to raise the fuselage of the crashed passenger jet from the sea bed.Rescuers workers managed to lift the fuselage of the jet nearly to the water’s surface before it sank to the ocean floor again when the lifting balloons deflated, in a setback in the effort to recover more of the victims’ remains. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 11:42:03 GMT)

Three dead and five wounded in 'gang-related' shooting in Omaha, Nebraska
Two women and one man killed at party in empty home early on SaturdayPolice suspect gang-related motive, say witnesses are not co-operatingGunfire erupted during a crowded party in a vacant house in Omaha early on Saturday, leaving three people dead and five wounded, and most witnesses refusing to help investigators, according to police.As many as 50 people were in and around the small home when shots were fired “by multiple shooters” around 2am, Omaha police chief Todd Schmaderer said. No arrests have been made, and police said they were confident the shootings were gang-related. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:03:22 GMT)

Coalition fails to deliver on right-to-buy pledge to build affordable homes
Official figures show only one affordable home built for every five sold in social housingOnly one new affordable home has been built for more than every five sold in the social housing sector under the government’s revitalised right-to-buy scheme.Official figures make a mockery of the government’s pledge, launched to great fanfare in 2011, that it would replace every property sold under the scheme with a new one. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 12:56:52 GMT)

Thousands march against Houthi faction in Yemen
Protesters march from Sana’a university towards home of former president Hadi to express rejection of his resignation.The political turmoil in Yemen escalated on Saturday as thousands took to the streets to protest against the Houthi faction that dominates the country, two days after the president’s resignation created a power vacuum.About 10,000 people marched from Sana’a university towards the home of Abd-Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who quit along with his entire cabinet on Thursday, to express their rejection of his resignation. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 13:23:45 GMT)

Osborne hopes for signs he is winning economic battle of Britain
The Churchill-quoting chancellor is likely to be buoyed by decent GDP figures for the UK this weekAre we approaching the end of the end of the beginning?Back in his 2011 Mansion House speech, George Osborne lifted the words made famous by Sir Winston Churchill in the same room, following what was then a rare away victory at El Alamein. The chancellor’s version, of course, was slightly less heroic, more a party political designed to drum into voters what an almighty Horlicks he’d inherited, which would take time to fix. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:06:00 GMT)

Revealed: how Blair colluded with Gaddafi regime in secret
Libyan government papers pieced together by team of London lawyers show how UK cosied up to Tripoli over dissidentsTony Blair wrote to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to thank him for the “excellent cooperation” between the two countries’ counter-terrorism agencies following a period during which the UK and Libya worked together to arrange for Libyan dissidents to be kidnapped and flown to Tripoli, along with their families.The letter, written in 2007, followed a period in which the dictator’s intelligence officers were permitted to operate in the UK, approaching and intimidating Libyan refugees in an attempt to persuade them to work as informants for both countries’ agencies. Related: Cooperation between British spies and Gaddafi’s Libya revealed in official papers Continue reading...
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 18:12:00 GMT)

Howard Marks reveals he has inoperable cancer
The notorious former drug smuggler, known as Mr Nice, tells the Observer he has no regrets as messages of support pour in from celebrity friendsHoward Marks, the notorious former dope smuggler known as Mr Nice, has told the Observer he has been diagnosed with inoperable bowel cancer.“I’ve come to terms with it in my own way – which for me was about learning how to cry,” Marks, 69, said this weekend. “It’s impossible to regret any part of my life when I feel happy and I am happy now, so I don’t have any regrets and have not had any for a very long time.” Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 20:42:17 GMT)

Ranks of senior army officers to be slashed in latest reforms, say reports
One third of the force’s 500 colonels and 200 brigadiers could be axed, according to the TimesThe number of senior figures in the army is to be cut as part of the latest reforms, according to reports.The Ministry of Defence confirmed an army command review will take place as part of the Army 2020 reform plans. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 07:22:34 GMT)

Gravitas for hire: Paddy Ashdown now available for voiceovers
Liberal Democrats express disquiet as former leader and election campaign manager joins roster at Soho-based company • Listen to Paddy Ashdown’s voiceover showreelIt is a voice that has long exuded gravitas on issues as diverse as wars in Bosnia and Iraq and the tortuous challenges of coalition government.But now the authoritative, reassuring tones of former Royal Marine and ex-Liberal Democrat leader Paddy (Lord) Ashdown are up for sale, at a price to be negotiated. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 20:27:57 GMT)

Bill Gates predicts HIV vaccine by 2030
Microsoft founder tells Davos that vaccine and new intense drug treatments could end most new cases of deadly virusBill Gates believes that a vaccine and new intensive drugs to combat HIV should be available by 2030 and end most new cases of the virus that has killed millions in the past three decades.The Microsoft founder, whose philanthropic foundation spends tens of millions of dollars on medical research, told the World Economic Forum in Davos that the two “miracles” were within reach. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 13:36:10 GMT)

Scotland advised not to take North Sea oil for granted
Sir Ian Wood says SNP should focus on improving Scotland and shelve independence plans for the foreseeable futureThe North Sea oil industry is winding down and politicians and workers must start planning for the future “pretty quickly”, a senior industry figure and government adviser has warned.Sir Ian Wood, the founder of the Wood Group who conducted a recent review of offshore oil and gas recovery for the UK government, said workers in Aberdeen have taken oil for granted but now need to change their thinking. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 10:29:12 GMT)

From spreading happiness to saving the planet, the rise and rise of Pharrell
What is driving Pharrell Williams’s new global conscience as he joins Al Gore’s fight against climate change?For the American music producer Pharrell Williams it was an I’d like to Teach the World to Sing moment. Last week he and Al Gore, Nobel peace prize winner and former US vice president, announced a concert over seven continents that is designed to build support for a UN climate pact in Paris at the end of the year.Some uncharitably wondered whether Pharrell had entered into a new, messianic phase of his career – one typically signalled by joining a society of billionaires and retired political figures in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Others said the global hitmaker was too cute to go along with anything that smacked only of an ego trip. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:03:21 GMT)

‘It’s like a ghost town’: lights go out as foreign owners desert London homes
Absentee owners and the ‘buy to leave’ market are hurting businesses as housing rises up the political agenda in the capitalRacine had everything a west London restaurant could ask for: beaming reviews, great cooking and an enviable location opposite the V&A on the Brompton Road. For 12 years it served immaculate French standards to discerning diners and from the outside it looked like an institution to last a century.But two weeks ago owner Henry Harris announced that Racine had moutarded its last lapin and would close. Qu’est-ce qui s’est passé? Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:05:31 GMT)

From Venus to Katie Price: A brief history of the breast
After a week in which the talk has been all about Page 3, we offer a guide to representations of a particular aspect of the female form throughout historyNow you see them, now you don’t. The Sun, with a wink at its readers and a jeer at its critics, indulged last week in a bit of traditional British seaside postcard humour when it appeared to stop featuring topless women on Page 3, before bringing them back on Thursday. “Further to reports in all other media outlets, we would like to clarify that this is Page 3 and this is a picture of Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth,” the caption read.The purpose of these editorial antics seems to have been to underline the newspaper’s daily right to make its own decisions. Yet, whether or not the Sun’s editors wanted to raise the issue, a question had been asked: what do those naked breasts say about the way we see women now? Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:05:22 GMT)

Dementia: how our campaign for patient dignity in hospitals took off
When I wrote about my father’s death, it touched many readers, all passionate to help dementia sufferers‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Over the past few weeks, I have become freshly aware of the wisdom of this saying, aware both of this great battle we fight and of the kindness of people that runs like an underground river beneath the noise and hurtle of public events.Two months ago, I wrote a piece in the Observer about the death of my father, who had had dementia for many years, but had been leading a contented life at home until he went into hospital with leg ulcers. I described how he entered able to walk, talk, wash himself, feed himself, work in his beloved garden, listen to poetry, be happy – and how, five weeks later, he came out a skeleton, incontinent, immobile, inarticulate, bed-bound. He lived like a ghost in his own life for eight more months; his dying was both a great sorrow but also his release. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 03:05:25 GMT)

Is Greece about to call time on five punishing years of austerity?
Historic elections could see disillusioned voters put leftwing party Syriza in power, sending a defiant message across EuropeA few days ago, two words in a splash of red appeared beneath the first-floor window of the art deco building at 18 Patriarchou Ioakim Street. Their message was unambiguous. “Everybody Syriza”, read the scrawl.Anywhere else the graffiti might have gone unnoticed. But Patriarchou Ioakim is the central artery that bisects Kolonaki, perhaps the most gentrified and upscale district in central Athens. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 22:07:52 GMT)

Open season for Tudor tourism as Wolf Hall effect takes hold
The BBC serialisation of Hilary Mantel’s novel began last Wednesday to critical acclaim. Already visitors are heading to the historic properties where it was filmedWhen Colin Firth emerged from the lake in front of Lyme Park in Cheshire in his clinging, soaking shirt, it changed more than just the way the actor was regarded. The stately home is still reaping the benefits of standing in for Jane Austen’s Pemberley 20 years on, and now it’s hoping for a 2015 bumper spring as far as Tudor tourism goes.The National Trust has had a windfall from renting out six of its properties as locations for filming of Wolf Hall, BBC2’s biggest success in a decade, with nearly 4m viewers tuning into episode one. Now it has high hopes for the Wolf Hall effect. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:05:22 GMT)

How Robert Burns trod a path to the door of Scotland’s rich and influential
Farmer’s son at his poetic peak was feted during his walking tours, academics revealScotland’s national poet Robert Burns, frequently celebrated as a simple “heaven-taught ploughman”, was an 18th-century socialite on a political mission, according to academic research about his walking tours of Scotland and the notes he made as he travelled and met fans in the Borders region, the Highlands and Lowland Scotland in 1787.On the eve of annual Burns Night celebrations, scholars from the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University of Glasgow and National Library of Scotland have published details of the Ayrshire farmer’s son’s routes, the places he stayed and the people he met. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:05:22 GMT)

Erica Garner-Snipes: ‘I believe in justice. It will take a long time but it’s gonna come’
Eric Garner’s daughter talks of the day her father died, her role in the civil rights movement and how the loss has affected Eric’s granddaughterWhen Erica Garner-Snipes got the phone call last July telling her that her father had died, she was on a train from Queens to Staten Island. It was her aunt who rang and the only information she could give Garner-Snipes was that her father had “stopped breathing”.“I didn’t know what that meant,” Garner-Snipes says now. “I know he has asthma,” she adds, slipping unthinkingly into the present tense, “so is he in hospital?” Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:04:21 GMT)

The big swing: voters who are changing lanes
‘I used to be a Lib Dem. This year, I’m voting Tory’: meet the voters changing their political stripes and what it means for the 2015 general electionAlex Beaton is a 22-year-old philosophy and economics undergraduate with a bushy beard, a blue stud in the lobe of his left ear and a gentle sense of the absurd. You might think of his politics as post-ideological – or, if you were being slightly less intellectual, absolutely all over the place. At the 2010 general election, he voted for the Liberal Democrats. He has very little time for either Labour or Ukip. And though he’d vote Green in an ideal world, he’s actually about to give his support to the Conservatives.On a freezing cold Thursday afternoon, I meet Beaton in his home town of Warrington. We spend an hour chatting in a cafe, and I get a sharp sense of how politics works for someone for whom Margaret Thatcher is a figure from period dramas, and who remembers the Iraq war as something that happened just as he started secondary school. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 08:00:05 GMT)

Julie Walters: ‘People like me wouldn't get a chance today'
She was a working-class kid who got her break in the revolutionary 1970s theatre scene. The grande dame of British acting sounds off about privilege, politics and her drinking daysJulie Walters bemoans lack of opportunity for working class actorsJulie Walters lies back on the sofa, kicks a shapely leg in the air and says she couldn’t be happier to be a pensioner. She’s coming up to 65 and that suits her just fine.She looks younger, more glam, than when we last met. Then, Walters was in her early 50s, quick to tell you she was mid-menopause and flushing all over the show. Some of the joy had gone out of life. She wasn’t sure if she was long for the acting world, even though she was in the middle of an astonishing run. In the noughties, she virtually made the Bafta her own. Every year, there she was, propping up the podium, thanking all and sundry – for her no-nonsense dance teacher in Billy Elliot (2000), the mother of a young man with leukaemia in My Beautiful Son (2001), another grieving mother in Murder (2002) and her brilliant metamorphosis into the dying Mo Mowlam (2010) – passionate, funny, filthy, terrified and utterly moving. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 07:00:01 GMT)

Warwick Davis: ‘Being angry would be a waste of my life’
Having transformed from a successful but anonymous rent-a-goblin actor into the host of two primetime ITV shows, Britain’s most famous dwarf says he has plenty to be thankful for. So can he pass it on?“Well, as you get older, it gets worse,” Warwick Davis says, swinging his legs off the edge of his seat. “Your joints, for a start. My hips are dislocated, so they’re sitting out here. Very painful knees. I had surgery on my feet when I was very young. There’s a risk of retinal detachment, but I know the signs now. And then, yeah, you wake up, the alarm goes, it takes a good half hour to get moving, we’re both like, ‘Uggggh.’ Imagine the worst flu you’ve had, every day – it’s like that.”Davis is speaking in a hotel room in Canary Wharf in London, a few minutes from the O2 Arena, where he’ll shortly head as an honoured guest of ITV at the National Television Awards. He’s half-ready, in braces and smart trousers, and, as he runs through his fairly gruesome list, he fumbles with the zip on the back of his wife Sam’s dress. Sam also has dwarfism. In her case, it’s caused by a condition called achondroplasia; in his, it’s the much rarer, and mercifully abbreviated, spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SED). She nods as he goes on. “With my elbow at the minute,” he says, “it will lock” – he holds his left arm in a stiff salute to demonstrate – “and then I’ll have to rotate it to be able to straighten it again, like” – he brings the arm down, turns it, and I’m sure there’s a queasy click – “that. You look at somebody with dwarfism, the first thing that strikes you is probably that they’re short, and that’s it. But that’s the tip of the iceberg. It gets worse. Could be a cleft palate, hearing loss – or you end up in a wheelchair.” Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 08:30:03 GMT)

They’re back! Top designers rescue flares from dustbin of fashion history
The latest menswear shows in Paris and Milan confirm the return of the 1970s style to the catwalk. But will the look take off? The history of flares – in picturesIn the latest round of menswear shows for autumn/winter 2015, which took place in Milan and Paris last week, a new trouser shape was in evidence – or at least one we haven’t seen for a long while. Flares – the 1970s classic which had apparently been consigned to the dustbin of fashion history – are back.Can it be true? For many who lived through the 1970s, that decade was far from glamorous. This was a time when Benny Hill was a staple of primetime television, Margaret Thatcher rose to power and Top of the Pops showcased the stage outfits of Sweet and Abba. With a wardrobe of flares, platforms and oversized collars, it’s often called the decade that taste forgot. But the signs on the catwalk are unmistakable. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 12:12:28 GMT)

American Sniper: anti-Muslim threats skyrocket in wake of film's release
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee writes to Bradley Cooper and Clint Eastwood requesting action as threat complaints tripleAmerican Sniper continues to draw record-breaking audiences as it barrels into its second weekend in wide release, but a group representing Arab-Americans says the rate of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim threats resulting from the Oscar-nominated war film has already tripled.Citing what an executive for the group told the Guardian was a “drastic increase” in hate speech on social media, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee wrote letters this week to actor Bradley Cooper and director Clint Eastwood to ask them to speak out “in an effort to help reduce the hateful rhetoric”. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 13:30:08 GMT)

Home truths: the secret lives of other people’s houses
A nanny, a plumber, a cleaner and others reveal what goes on behind closed doorsIf I could ask all clients to do just one thing, it would be: “Make me a cup of tea.” You’d be amazed how many people don’t do it. I did one job where the husband was at home in the mornings and he’d make himself a pot of fresh coffee that smelt amazing. Then he would sit there playing on his computer all morning and drink it all to himself. I’d have to wait until his wife came home in the afternoon before I got offered a drink. It wasn’t a major problem for me, though – they lived near a Costa, so I’d just down tools and go over there at 10am every morning and take 20 minutes to drink it. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 09:00:08 GMT)

Suet surrender: sweet and savoury pudding recipes
The irresistible, rib-sticking qualities of these suet pudding recipes will throw many a January diet into disarray. Relent and embrace this beef and ale pud and moist mini cakes wholeheartedlyIt’s at this point in January when the few of my friends who were optimistic (or masochistic) enough to attempt a New Year’s diet usually begin to falter and fade. As the winter chill sharpens and their hunger kicks in, one by one, they slip off the wagon and return sheepishly to the land of the gourmands where, keen to kickstart their rehabilitation, I welcome them with open arms – and a suet pudding.Suet is the hard fat gleaned from beef or mutton. It boasts more fat, less water and a higher melting point than butter, so you should find that these suet pastries and puddings have a light, open texture when freshly cooked. They very quickly become waxy and dense as they cool, though, so it’s best to get them while they’re hot. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 06:01:15 GMT)

I had to accept I was gay at the age of 46 when I fell in love with a woman
Gayle Anderson had a happy marriage with two children, but knew she couldn’t go on pretending. She told her family and friends – and then her girlfriend dumped herOne of my first jobs was as an agony aunt on the teenage magazine, Jackie. Apologies to the more “mature” readers among you – I don’t want to burst your bubble but the truth is, I was Cathy and Claire. They came as a pair on this gig. I’m also someone who stayed in a heterosexual marriage for 25 years before coming out at the age of 46. It got me thinking. After years of handing out advice on love bites, lost love and loneliness, what words of encouragement could I have offered myself and the many others like me? Here’s what I’ve come up with.Life is not black or white. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 05:59:03 GMT)

Who was Chaucer?
From the foul-mouthed Miller to the prim Prioress, only Chaucer could have dreamed up a group as diverse as the Canterbury pilgrims. But how much do we know about the founding father of English letters?In 1386 Geoffrey Chaucer endured the worst year of his life, but he also made his best decision, or at least the decision for which we’re most grateful today. This was when, after experiencing every kind of worldly and professional reversal, he set out to write his Canterbury Tales.Whether thou be read, or else sung,That thou be understood, God I beseech! Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 10:00:04 GMT)

Sophie Heawood: a little bit of hatred can take you a long way
‘No self-help book will admit this, but the desire to piss off some vicious moron from their past is one of the most powerful motivational techniques known to man’It’s been a difficult week. Just when I thought I’d found the man who could make my heart sing, he ran off, moaning that things had got far more serious than he had ever anticipated and that he only saw this as a bit of holiday fun. I’ve never actually met him, or even spoken to him, but 22-year-old Mathew Carpenter recently launched a website called Ship Your Enemies Glitter, promising to send an envelope full of “fucking annoying glitter” to the person of your choice, along with a short, insulting note. Oh my God, this idea spoke to me.The plan was that the recipient would open the envelope and the “craft herpes”, as the website described it, would go all over them and their property, and get stuck in everything, ruining their day. It was to be the perfect sort of friendly violence, like being attacked by fairydust or assaulted by a small teddy bear. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 06:00:03 GMT)

Q&A: Esther Rantzen, television presenter and campaigner
‘Who would play me in the film of my life? Benedict Cumberbatch’Born in Berkhamsted in 1940, Rantzen presented the BBC television series That’s Life for 21 years from 1973. She founded Childline in 1986 and The Silver Line in 2013, and was made a dame for services to children and older people in the 2015 New Year honours list. She lives in London and has three children by her late husband, documentary maker Desmond Wilcox.When were you happiest?Watching the sun set with Desmond in St Paul de Vence, September 2000. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 06:00:29 GMT)


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(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 20:57:18 GMT)


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(Tue, 20 Jan 2015 15:22:35 GMT)

Chelsea in disgrace after Bradford City pull off massive FA Cup shock
This was the real deal – David brutally slaying Goliath. And comfortably, too. Chelsea, the Premier League leaders, swarmed into an early 2-0 lead, which was pegged back to 2-1 by half-time but then, inexplicably, they collapsed in the second half.Bradford, seventh in League One and separated from Chelsea by 49 places, scored two late goals to take a numbing 3-2 lead. Did they retreat to hold on for a famous victory? Did they heck. Related: José Mourinho slams Chelsea show as ‘disgraceful’ after FA Cup shock Related: Bradford’s defeat of Chelsea: a cup giant-killing to rival the very best Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 17:08:52 GMT)

Manchester City exit as Middlesbrough salute glory boy Patrick Bamford
Manchester City’s January just keeps getting worse. They are now out of the FA Cup as well as five points behind Chelsea in the league, they have not won any of their past three games and their next appointment is at Stamford Bridge for what looks like a title decider.Chelsea may have been equally unimpressive at home in the Cup, though José Mourinho made nine changes against Bradford, but the worry for City is that this was more or less their strongest side and when the tie finally got going they were outplayed by Middlesbrough, who showed exactly why they are riding so high in the Championship. Related: Manuel Pellegrini denies Manchester City’s late return caused Boro shock Related: FA Cup and Africa Cup of Nations clockwatch – as it happened Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 17:13:28 GMT)

Stuart Lancaster’s England burning for Six Nations revenge in Cardiff
The England coach says his team have learned their lessons from the devastating defeat by Wales in 2013 and go into the new campaign determined to start with a win at the Millennium Stadium• Wales rout England to take title in 2013• Six Nations 2014: England 29-18 Wales• Ireland beat England to 2014 titleSaturday 16 March 2013, the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff – a time and a place that England’s management team will never forget. A first grand slam in 10 years beckoned, along with the Six Nations title, but Wales so gorged themselves on heaven’s bread that their opponents were denied even crumbs. A day that promised much ended in a record 30-3 defeat by the men in red, who were crowned champions.“It was a significant learning experience for me and the team,” said the England forwards’ coach, Graham Rowntree, before England’s return to the Welsh capital a week on Friday for the start of the 2015 Six Nations. “There was an incredible atmosphere that night, the like of which I had never experienced before, and I had been down there a few times as a player and a coach. It was a chastening time. We did not see it coming and we learned a lot from that game and we have come a long way in terms of composure. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:04:00 GMT)

Sack race: time for players to feel the flak rather than just the managers
The Peterborough United chairman might be on to something if he thinks managers are getting a raw deal and that it is not such a bad thing to question the players occasionally• Gary Neville ponders leaving media jobs for managementA couple of weeks ago, the Peterborough chairman, Darragh MacAnthony, embarked on a very modern kind of outburst that would probably still be generating headlines now if he were at a more prominent club. His team had just lost 2-0 at home to Colchester, their fourth defeat in five home games, and the directors’ box can be a grumpy place sometimes when the ground is two-thirds empty and the football leaden. MacAnthony’s mood was coal-mine black and he chose Twitter as his form of artillery.He started as he meant to go on. “Like many Posh fans and our manager, there are many things I’m well and truly p...d off and have the hump with after today. Care to know them all?” There were 13 follow-up messages and it probably gives you an accurate barometer of his mood that the first 11 started with the same censored two words. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 22:01:19 GMT)

Arsenal set to seal £11m deal for Villarreal’s Gabriel Paulista
• Villarreal confirm centre-back Gabriel on way to Arsenal• Gunners’ forward Joel Campbell heading to Villarreal on loanVillarreal have announced they have reached agreement in principle with Arsenal for the sale of the centre-back Gabriel Paulista, with the forward Joel Campbell heading to the Spanish club on loan for the rest of the season.The La Liga side confirmed on Twitter that a deal had been agreed shortly before their Primera División match against Levante kicked off at the Estadio El Madrigal. “Transfer agreed in principle with Arsenal for Gabriel, who will bid farewell before the game. Much luck!” the club posted. “Welcome joel-campbell12! Agreement reached with Arsenal until the end of the season.” Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 21:52:06 GMT)

Sierra Leone’s Isha Johansen blazes trail amid tragedy and infighting
One of only two female FA presidents in the world on dealing with Ebola, fractious internal politics and sexism while building on a passion for the gameIsha Johansen remembers the first time she heard about Ebola. One Sunday morning in Freetown, the president of the Sierra Leone Football Association – one of only two female FA presidents in the world – was looking through the newspapers when her husband read aloud a story about an outbreak of a virus in neighbouring Guinea. It had ravaged the population of a rural area. “These things you hear about, you think: ‘That’s so sad, I hope it sorts itself out,’” says the 50-year-old. But what felt like a remote problem soon came closer to home.A few weeks later, in early April 2014, Sierra Leone were due to cross the border and play Guinea in an African Under-20 Championship qualifier. Johansen was worried. “A week before leaving I had talks with our competitions manager and the general secretary of the FA. I said: ‘Maybe this is because I’m a mother, I know how I would feel if my child had to go to Guinea and there’s an outbreak there. I’m not sure I want our boys to go. Why don’t we contact the World Health Organisation and find out more?’ I was told not to make a fuss.” Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 22:00:19 GMT)

Andy Murray aims to reign over Grigor Dimitrov and drama queen critics
Sensitivity is one of Murray’s endearing qualities but it has left him vulnerable again as he goes into his fourth-round match against the talented Bulgarian at the Australian Open• Andy Murray banks on revenge against DimitrovJim Courier, whose charm can sweeten strong opinions, gave Andy Murray a subtle dig on Saturday to go with the Twitter storm that rained on him during the week, claiming he is quicker than some players, specifically Rafael Nadal, to “show his injuries and illnesses”.The American, a TV favourite here on several visits as a commentator on the Australian Open for Channel 7 and a two-times winner of the championship, compared the way the two players handle on-court difficulties, which became a hot topic after Nadal struggled with dizziness and nearly quit during his second-round five-setter against the American Tim Smyczek on Wednesday night. Nadal, who survived and looked restored to full working order in beating Dudi Sela on Friday, received widespread sympathy. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 23:51:00 GMT)

Leicester leave it late as Tottenham are left to rue missed chances
By the end of this month Tottenham will have played on average twice a week since the turn of the year, but at least they no longer have the FA Cup to deal with after conceding two goals in the closing stages at the hands of an ecstatic Leicester City.It had looked like it would not be Leicester’s day after they spurned some good chances to draw level, but Leonardo Ulloa equalised seven minutes from the end with a tidy finish before, two minutes into injury time, Jeffrey Schlupp sent a Danny Simpson cross over Michel Vorm to spark wild celebrations among a visiting support who have had few moments to celebrate this season with their side languishing at the foot of the Premier League. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 17:23:40 GMT)

Iñigo Calderón has mindset to help Brighton overcome Arsenal in FA Cup
The positive Spaniard with a masters in sports psychology is not your typical football player – and he is more than happy about that• Özil puts new physique to work on Arsenal flanks at BrightonIñigo Calderón could scarcely bear to watch his television last Sunday as his fellow Spaniard Santi Cazorla dazzled while Arsenal defeated Manchester City. Calderón, who hails from the Basque country, not so far from the Asturias region that Cazorla calls home, is an enthusiastic admirer of his compatriot’s talent but there was a point where watching became almost too much. “I tried to switch off the TV,” Calderón says with a chuckle. “They were on fire and I tried not to destroy my confidence.”Jokes apart, this awareness about his own confidence levels – and how they can be manipulated by external influences and personal techniques – is particularly highly tuned in a player who has become a stalwart for Brighton & Hove Albion since his arrival five years ago. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 22:30:19 GMT)

Oliver Sherwood’s Many Clouds on Gold Cup trail after Cheltenham win
• Many Clouds 10-1 for Festival after Betbright Cup success • ‘It’s my first Cheltenham winner for 14 years,’ says trainerOliver Sherwood’s low-profile Lambourn stable now houses the third-favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, his Many Clouds having proved that he is still improving by landing the Betbright Cup here on Saturday, but the trainer’s main reaction was relief at having found his way back to this particular winner’s enclosure. Just one reflection of the way Sherwood’s fortunes have fallen from their early-90s peak is that his last success at this track was with Hulysse Royal in a handicap hurdle in November 2000.“Personally, it’s a right monkey off my back, it’s my first Cheltenham winner for 14 years,” Sherwood said, and he kept repeating the phrase “monkey off my back” at intervals of three or four sentences, so there was no danger of missing the significance of this occasion for the 59-year-old. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 18:08:59 GMT)

Liverpool fail to find a breakthrough as Bolton hold on for a replay
It was difficult to gauge which Ulsterman felt more relieved as Neil Lennon and Brendan Rodgers embraced on the final whistle. The Bolton Wanderers manager at holding out for a replay or his Liverpool counterpart for avoiding a night of the long knives in the FA Cup? The ordeal for the Premier League’s heavyweights is not over yet.Liverpool “did everything but put the ball in the net” according to Rodgers and he could hold Adam Bogdan largely responsible. Bolton’s goalkeeper was in commanding form and produced inspired saves from Philippe Coutinho and Fabio Borini, although Liverpool rarely threatened to take control of the tie until laying siege to Bogdan’s goal in the closing minutes. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 19:40:29 GMT)

Blackburn Rovers’ Rudy Gestede punishes Swansea after Bartley’s red
• Relive the action with Barry Glendenning’s MBM report of the matchBy the end, Swansea City cut a sorry sight. So often examples of quiet, well-planned progress, they had lost their lead, their place in the FA Cup and their discipline. Depleted by two dismissals, their nine remaining men left the Ewood Park pitch eliminated by a Blackburn side 21 places below them in the league ladder. After last week’s 5-0 thrashing by Chelsea, this represented another damaging defeat.In the greater context of their campaign, perhaps the biggest blow came in stoppage time when Gylfi Sigurdsson chopped down Chris Taylor. A wild hack brought a straight red card and Swansea’s scorer now misses matches against Southampton, Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion. They are already deprived of his sidekick, the sold Wilfried Bony, and their momentum is entirely downward. “We wanted to get back on track,” said Garry Monk. Instead, Swansea’s problems worsened, leaving their grim-faced manager vowing that a promising start to the season will not be squandered. “It won’t fizzle out,” he insisted. “I will make sure. It is my job. I won’t accept that.” Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 14:52:39 GMT)

Harlequins demolish Castres but too late for their Cup hopes
• Castres 19-47 Harlequins• Quins suffer searching for tries in defeat to WaspsThey did all they could, but in the end it is last Saturday’s match that will haunt the every waking hour of Conor O’Shea and his charges for the foreseeable. Their mission in the Midi-Pyrenees was to win and rack up as many tries, or, more specifically, points as possible. On that front they were immaculate – seven tries and an improvement of their points difference. It would have been precisely enough to put some pressure on Saracens in Clermont on Sunday, but events in Coventry conspired against them. The draw that their nemesis last week, Wasps, managed to secure against Leinster was just about the worst result possible for Quins and condemns them to third place in Pool 2. No one gets out in third, no matter how many tries they score.“Last week cost us,” admitted O’Shea, “but Europe’s about learning, and we have some young players who have learnt a huge amount in this tournament. We’ve gone out by inches, but we’ll use the hurt to drive us on till the end of the season.” Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 16:59:03 GMT)

Madison Keys powers past Petra Kvitova in Australian Open upset
• Keys, the 19-year-old American underdog, beat Kvitova 6-4, 7-5• The Williams sisters’ remarkable story continues to inspireThe reigning Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova, is out of the Australian Open, after she was beaten 6-4, 7-5 by the 19-year-old American Madison Keys.At 5-5 in the final set, Keys got the pivotal break of serve. She held in the next game, screaming with delight when Kvitova netted a backhand on match point. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 13:09:02 GMT)

West Brom end Birmingham Cup dream after Victor Anichebe’s strikes
The FA Cup triumph of 1968 was the last time West Bromwich Albion won a major trophy, but judging by the strength of the side he put out, Tony Pulis is going to have a serious crack at ending that 47-year drought in his first few months in charge at The Hawthorns.The more so now, surely, given results elsewhere appear to have left the famous old competition wide open, though the Baggies’ manager was characteristically guarded after his team was made to work far harder than had looked likely to be the case after two well-taken goals from Victor Anichebe had given them what looked to be a comfortable cushion. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 17:18:25 GMT)

England warned Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson is raring to go
• Darren Lehmann confirms Johnson ready for Tri-Series final• ‘I’m excited to see how Johnson’s bowling,’ says Australia coachDarren Lehmann has warned England’s batsmen to expect a rough ride from Mitchell Johnson if they reach next weekend’s Tri-Series final in Perth.England can qualify with a win against India at the Waca on Friday and Lehmann, Australia’s coach, has indicated that his leading fast bowler is ready to return for Monday’s Australia Day match against India here at the SCG, having missed his team’s first three matches of the Tri-Series. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 16:01:00 GMT)

Ivory Coast’s Max Gradel denies Mali as sides continue drawing pattern
• Ivory Coast 1-1 Mali• Gradel 87; Sako 7Max Gradel struck with three minutes left as Ivory Coast snatched a dramatic 1-1 draw against neighbours Mali who led for 80 minutes in a bad-tempered Africa Cup of Nations match on Saturday.Gradel slotted home from 12 metres after Serge Aurier’s pass was deflected into his path by a defender as the Elephants finally broke Mali’s stubborn resistance after dominating the game. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 19:52:18 GMT)

Wasps on brink in Europe after Andy Goode’s missed kick lifts Leinster
Wasps 20-20 LeinsterThere was not much good cheer around Wasps’ new home at the end of the game. Not even to honour a rousing second-half comeback; not even when it became clear that the two points salvaged from this draw kept Wasps ahead of Harlequins in second place in Pool Two of the Champions Cup.Perhaps it was exhaustion that formed the hush. Perhaps it was the loss of the 100% record at the new home. They have not been here long enough to establish any sort of winning tradition, but so emphatic have the performances been that the blip of a draw may have seemed a little worse than it was. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 15:25:14 GMT)

Cambridge’s Richard Money defends pitch after Louis van Gaal’s criticism
• ‘Groundsman did a fantastic job to keep it in the condition it was’• ‘We don’t have the money to make it as it is at Old Trafford’• Van Gaal blames the pitch and referee after being held• Match report: Cambridge United 0-0 Manchester United• James Riach: United given runaround by Donaldson• In pictures: all the best images from Abbey StadiumRichard Money, the Cambridge United head coach, has defended the Abbey Stadium pitch after it was criticised by Louis van Gaal, the Manchester United manager, following the 0-0 FA Cup draw that earned the League Two side a lucrative replay at Old Trafford.It was a tough evening for the Premier League visitors, watched by a peak television audience of 7.1m on Friday night, who must face the lowest ranked team left in the competition again for a place in the fifth round. They will do so on their home turf, though, rather than on a surface of which Van Gaal was critical.What a day!! Unbelievable atmosphere! Dream come true to play at Old Trafford #cufc #facup pic.twitter.com/8UvSEgLvLt Related: Louis van Gaal: everything was against Manchester United at Cambridge Related: Cambridge United v Manchester United: FA Cup – in pictures Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 11:08:37 GMT)

Cubs icon Ernie Banks: an eternal optimist with skills ahead of his time
Ernie Banks, who died Friday at 83, was first true power-hitting shortstopThe Cubs’ first black player won consecutive MVP awards in 1958 and 1959‘Mr. Cub’ still holds Chicago’s franchise records in several major categoriesIn the first century of baseball’s history as an organized sport, a shortstop hit 25 or more home runs in a season 11 times. Ernie Banks, who died Friday evening at the age of 83, did it seven times — and all seven times, he hit 40 or more home runs. The sport of baseball knew him best for his all-encompassing joy — a love for the sport that Banks frequently punctuated with the expression, “Let’s play two!”, as in two games in one day. That smile, that happiness often obscured the simple fact that, by any measure used, Ernest Banks was a fantastically good player. He was so much more than a smile, a nickname, and a tagline. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 15:57:12 GMT)

Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks dies at the age of 83
First player in Cubs history to have his number retiredAwarded highest honour for a civilian in the US by Barack ObamaChicago Cubs legend and Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks died on Friday at the age of 83, the Cubs said in a statement. Banks was the first player in Cubs history to have his number retired, in 1982, and holds many of the franchise’s records. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 06:00:33 GMT)

Manchester United weighing up £13m bid for Dynamo Kiev’s Aleksandar Dragovic
• Austria captain also wanted by Arsenal, Liverpool and West Ham• Central defender keen to make move to the Premier LeagueManchester United are among a host of English clubs considering making an offer for Austria international Aleksandar Dragovic, with his club Dynamo Kiev prepared to accept a bid of around £13m to sell the central defender.Arsenal, Liverpool and West Ham have also sounded out the availibility of the 23-year-old, who signed a five-year contract in Ukraine when he joined from Swiss side Basel in 2013. Continue reading...
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 20:20:49 GMT)

Mesut Özil puts new physique to work on Arsenal flanks at Brighton
• Arsène Wenger to play Mesut Özil out wide in FA Cup tie • Midfielder has bulked up after working hard in gym• Why 2015 will be a defining year for Mesut ÖzilMesut Özil will continue his reintegration into the Arsenal team at Brighton & Hove Albion in Sunday’s FA Cup tie but the German may have to get used to a position he does not like.Özil has not started since suffering knee ligament damage in the defeat at Chelsea in early October and is eager to regain a central playmaker role in an Arsenal side who have found success without him, as shown by last week’s victory at Manchester City. Özil struggled before his injury and Alexis Sánchez and Santi Cazorla have performed so impressively Arsène Wenger suggests his £42m recruit from Real Madrid may have to settle for starting out wide, albeit with licence to roam infield. Continue reading...
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 22:30:04 GMT)

Spiral season five: episodes five and six recap – a shocking end to a packed double bill
Pierre Clément had been outrageously sidelined this series – but suddenly, he became the focus of this week’s most dramatic storylineSpoiler alert: This blog contains spoilers for season five, episodes five and six of Spiral.Catch up with the episode three and four blog. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 22:55:20 GMT)

Eastern European dance revolution conquers west
A wave of electronic music artists from former communist states are poised to become hits in the UKAfter the plumbers, builders and baristas, here come the musicians. A new wave of eastern European performers are colonising the British dance scene, as artists combine post-communist edginess with influences gained from time spent in cities such as Berlin.Many of the names will be unfamiliar to mainstream music followers, but among the cognoscenti there is growing respect for the likes of Romanian techno producer Cosmin TRG, Bulgarian DJ KiNK, Ukrainian artists Stanislav Tolkachev and Vakula, Polish duo Catz ’N Dogz and Russian producer Nina Kraviz. Even more high-profile is Lithuania’s Ten Walls, whose 2014 single, Walking With Elephants, reached number six in the UK singles chart. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 16:09:00 GMT)

Dairy farmers warned: milk prices have further to fall
End of EU quota system could lead to desperate farmers adding to the milk glut and hundreds opting to leave the industryBritish dairy farmers are being told to expect further falls in milk prices, prompting concerns that hundreds more may soon decide to leave the industry.The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has warned that the ending of an EU quota system in April will bring greater volatility to the crisis-hit sector. The system limits what farmers can produce, but with prices falling drastically there are concerns that some farmers will seek to produce more milk to boost their revenues when the quota system ends. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 20:58:50 GMT)

The hunt for black market haggis
It’s Burns Night on Sunday and Scots will be tucking in to traditional haggis to celebrate. Unless they live in the US, where it’s banned. But surely it would be possible to track one down somewhere…Failing that, try Felicity Cloake’s perfect vegetarian haggisOn Burns Night this Sunday, people with Scottish ancestry – and some without – will be toasting the poet in the most appropriate way, with a whisky, and the rich and spicily splendid combination of offal and oats that is proper haggis. Everywhere, that is, except the US, where haggis has been banned since 1971, denying around 27.5 million Scottish-Americans access to Scotland’s most famous dish.Despite the best efforts of the lone Lord McColl in the British parliament, who, like many before him, took it upon himself to challenge the US ban this month in the House of Lords, it does not look as if haggis will feature on menus in Miami and Los Angeles this 25 January, a shame, since Burns’ Address to a Haggis makes it sound so appealing: “Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race! … The groaning trencher there ye fill, Your hurdies like a distant hill”. [Fair and full is your honest, jolly face, Great chieftain of the sausage race! ... The groaning trencher there you fill, Your buttocks like a distant hill]. Continue reading...
(Thu, 22 Jan 2015 18:28:01 GMT)

Daily Mirror runs a page 3 with 18 tits (all feathered)
The Sun’s rival indulges in a flight of fancy with a special page 3 of its ownPage 3 of today’s Daily Mirror is dominated by a large photograph of garden birds. It’s a neat response to the week’s publicity enjoyed by its rival, the Sun, over the fate of its Page 3 topless pictures. The caption says: “Some people make a big fuss about putting tits on page 3. But we think you’ll agree that these are rather lovely… and in the best possible taste.The amazing photomontage was taken at Stover Country Park in Devon for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 10:55:50 GMT)

What I’m really thinking: the secret admirer
‘At university, I had fancied you. When we went our separate ways, I remember thinking, regretfully, that we were unlikely to meet again’We met again recently after not having seen each other for 50 years. In the intervening years, we had each married, had our children, forged (or not) our careers. From time to time, as your uncle was married to my aunt, we heard news of each other.I was curious about your wife. At university, where we sometimes used to bump into each other, I had fancied you. You always seemed keen to prolong our conversation and, once or twice, I thought you were on the verge of asking me out. In the event, you never did and, when you graduated before I had finished my course, we went our separate ways. I remember thinking, a little regretfully, that we were unlikely to meet again. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 06:00:46 GMT)

Breakfast of champions: Bill Clinton’s almond milk smoothie
‘The former president begins each day with a berry smoothie after serious heart problems prompted him to change his eating habits’Renowned burger lover Bill Clinton changed his eating habits radically in 2010. It was partly due to a ‘blistering email’ he received from cardiac expert Dr Dean Ornish, who told the ex-president that his diet was to blame for his serious heart problems, and partly because he wanted to lose 13.5kg before daughter Chelsea’s wedding (which he did). He now eats very little dairy, meat or processed foods, and begins each day with a berry smoothie.Per servingPour 200ml of unsweetened almond milk (preferably homemade) into a blender, add 150g berries – fresh when in season, frozen in winter. Blitz until no chunks remain. Taste and, if you like, add honey, a teaspoonful at a time. If you want to mimic Clinton precisely, add a tablespoon of vegan protein powder to the blender. Serve over ice and drink at once. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 06:00:03 GMT)

Our 10 best sweet pastry recipes
Shut out the cold and open the oven door to a batch of crisp apple spring rolls or dainty rhubarb and custard tartlets  – what better way to spend a wintery weekend …Baking’s BFFs apple and cinnamon never disappoint – and especially not in this unusual sweet take on the spring roll. You can use filo pastry, cut to size, in place of the spring roll wrappers. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 06:00:03 GMT)

How well do you know your lyrical innuendo? Test your knowledge
The Weeknd's video for a song from the forthcoming 50 Shades of Grey film soundtrack leaves little to the imagination, but sexual songs can be done with subtlety. How many of these lyrical double entendres do you know? Continue reading...
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 16:22:31 GMT)

Blind date
Ben Wren, 30, radio scheduler, meets Katie Jackman, 31, business analystWhat were you hoping for?A deeply meaningful experience. Or a nice time and a couple of giggles. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 06:00:58 GMT)

Catch-up TV guide: Can Democracy Work, Monkey Love and more
From Nick Robinson’s quest to energise the electorate to the surreal animation of Monkey Love, the best streams and downloads to catch up on this weekSet against the backdrop of the huge turnout for the Scottish referendum and Russell Brand’s anti-voting tract Revolution, the BBC’s Nick Robinson asks whether we have anything to gain from participating in the forthcoming general election in this radio series. Episode one sees Tony Blair and Nick Clegg face searching questions about their relationship with the electorate. Tellingly, after his damp squib of a showdown with Nigel Farage on Question Time, Brand refuses an interview. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 06:00:54 GMT)

Top 10 oldest monarchs in the world
After the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, Queen Elizabeth II is now the world’s oldest monarch, but not the longest servingIt’s official, Queen Elizabeth II is now the oldest monarch in the world. The Queen, who turns 89 this year, gains the title after the former oldest monarch in the world, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, died on Friday aged 90.Elizabeth will become the longest reigning British monarch on 9 September, passing the record set by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years, or 23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes, to be precise. Continue reading...
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 16:31:27 GMT)

Alys Fowler: the garden that looks and tastes good
‘This garden is thrilling. It’s a sheer hillside with a spectacular view. And nearly everything is edible’I like to search for things. I’ll take any excuse to go on a hunt for something in fields, waysides, woodlands, junk stores, attics or the internet. This is how I came across Stephen Barstow a few years ago while writing a book about foraging. I was, metaphorically speaking, foraging on the internet for a new source of food and I found an article about a man who made a ridiculously large salad. It had something like 537 ingredients, took several days to assemble and was a world record. I had to meet him.I persuaded Stephen that I wasn’t a serial killer and that he should invite me to his garden in Norway, then asked photographer Simon Wheeler to join the adventure. The night before we left, I realised I’d not asked Stephen if he was a serial killer, because that’s what you’re supposed to ask men you meet on the internet, right? Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 06:00:35 GMT)

The best places to eat out and drink this week
Mike & Ollie | My food vice… Caramac | Boak & Bailey on boozeBrockley market – a weekly parade of south-east London’s well-dressed art students and better-dressed babies – has long been a reliable hub for tip-top street food and seasonal produce. Appropriate, then, that the stalwart Mike & Ollie combines the two to heavenly effect. The ethos is simple: a stripped-down menu – single meat, veg and fish options – featuring whatever seasonal and hyper-local produce has been foraged, smoked or cured that week, crammed into a hot flatbread. Thus, on top of, let’s say, slow-cooked lamb shoulder, mackerel or grilled cauliflower, expect curveballs like Crystal Palace quince membrillo, pickled rhubarb or Greenwich chestnuts (though, alas, none of the bruised roadkill seen on M&O’s blog). The breads themselves are worth the visit alone – the kind of charred, chewy pillows normally only found in smoke-filled Ocakbasi houses. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 06:01:12 GMT)

Gergely Bogányi’s ‘Batpiano’ has a tone to match its spaceship looks
The first big redesign of the piano in more a hundred years has a unique tone, according to those who’ve played it in Budapest – ‘like you are hovering above gravity’Tom Service on the unveiling of a ‘human’ pianoSo celebrated is Franz Liszt in Hungary that if all its statues of the composer came to life they could form a small orchestra.So it is fitting that the country that produced the 19th-century composer should also produce perhaps the most startling upgrade to the instrument that made his name: the piano. Continue reading...
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 12:16:55 GMT)

MPs' inquiry: Five things we've learned about benefit sanctions
From the effects on claimant health, to why you are more likely to be sanctioned if you sign on in Derby, there was much to learn from this week’s sanctions inquiry hearingI learned more than five things about benefit sanctions at this week’s work and pensions select committee hearing (watch proceedings here). But these five stood out for me.1. It’s official: sanctions are bad for your health. It would be usual for a normal healthy adult to suffer some deterioration in their health if they were without1. essential items, such as food, clothing, heating and accommodation orIt is assumed that your health will be damaged by a sanctionI ate the food from the food bank and I was ill over the weekend. I knew I would be, I knew from eating the white wheat-based food I would be poorly. But I was hungry, so I just suffered the consequences.It is also possible that people choose to abandon a welfare system that they find de-humanisingI am back in the equivalent of sanction mode. I’m used to it. In the last week I spent £1.30 on food. This bought me 2 loaves of bread and 10 kilo’s of potatoes. Thankfully my local Sainsbury’s offers food at 75% off when going out of date. I only eat going out of date food. I’ve given up on the Social Security route.As a [jobcentre] we are very closely monitored around around sanctions rates. Each week [there is]... a print out of the percentage of sanction decisions we are making. This is clearly a bullying tool in order to bring LMDMs [labour market decision-makers, or people who decide on whether to apply a sanction] into line with senior management’s requirement for 80% of referrals to be a sanction. In one-to-one meetings these... stats are strongly focused on by line managers... We are being forced into making adverse decisions and conducting perverse behaviours in order to hit our unachievable targets, all in order to achieve an 80% rate of sanctions.The question we think everybody should ask is: “What is our social security system for?” Continue reading...
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 17:36:50 GMT)

Drink: Burns Night whisky for beginners
Don’t like whisky? The new wave of scotch may make you think againThere’s no way of writing a drinks column for the day before Burns Night without mentioning whisky, but what if you can’t stand the stuff? It’s not at all uncommon. Most people don’t like whisky to start with, much as they rarely take to coffee or beer at first taste. Continue reading...
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 20:00:01 GMT)

Indignant letter from aristocratic Titanic survivor sells for $11,875
In the letter Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon, who fled the shipwreck on a quarter-full lifeboat, says she can’t believe that people condemned her behaviour An indignant letter from a British aristocrat who survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 has sold for $11,875, an auction house in New England said on Friday.Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon, a target of public outrage after she fled the doomed ocean liner on a near-empty lifeboat, penned the two-page letter in London a month after the disaster. Continue reading...
(Fri, 23 Jan 2015 20:25:13 GMT)

Corporate sponsorship is everywhere so why see red over Coca-Cola?
The London Eye’s deal with the US dissolved-sugar giant adds another touch of ugliness to modern Britain – but isn’t it a little late to start complaining?The London Eye is looking rather bloodshot these days. Particularly at night. It’s developed a livid-red shade and seems badly in need of having a few thousand gallons of Optrex spat into it by a passing superhero. I like it. It’s fitting that, amid such national doubt and self-loathing, one of the capital’s most famous landmarks should show signs of inflammation. “Ouch – nasty!” feels like an appropriate response to the London skyline in 2015.But many people disapprove of the rosy new look. That’s because it hasn’t been adopted to symbolise blood, war, pain or emergency, but something altogether more sinister: sugar – the seductive commodity that millions were enslaved to produce, in the shadow of whose destructive force opium and cocaine stand meekly by. The Eye is now illuminated every dusk in Coca-Cola scarlet. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:05:22 GMT)

A too powerful financial elite threatens wider prosperity
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls and Harvard professor Larry Summers have produced a report that explodes some central myths about capitalismQuindell is an insurance claims processor; an unexceptional business. But it is the latest addition to the long list of examples of the ills of British capitalism. Last November, the company’s founder, Rob Terry, was forced to leave it after telling the world that, via a complex share deal, instead of buying his company’s shares, he was actually selling them, thus completing the personal harvesting of £5.5m. Investors took fright, feeling that the ploy betrayed underlying weakness in the company, and the share price plunged.Ten days ago, Quindell announced that as part of its effort to restore confidence, it was hiring as deputy chair and strategy director Jim Sutcliffe, a well-regarded former chief executive of another insurance company, Old Mutual. As part of his financial package, he would receive share options worth millions, which he could exercise within 12 months of receiving them. Another day, another executive being rewarded before anybody can know whether he will turn the company around. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 03:30:25 GMT)

From fags to fashion to jam – we are addicted to brands
The debate about plain packaging for cigarettes points up a truth about us being hooked on labels more generallyNigel Farage, a man who prides himself on being “rather good” at smoking, once told a journalist about a little game he likes to play in supermarkets. Annoyed that the nanny state should have had the temerity to put his precious Benson & Hedges (I’m not sure what fags he favours; this is just a hunch) behind screens, he revealed that for a “bit of fun” he sometimes asks for defunct brands such as Capstan Full Strength and Craven A.Needless to say, hilarity does not ensue – or not for the staff in question, who tend to ferret around helpfully in a futile bid to provide him with what he wants. “When they can’t find them, I ask for the manager,” Farage told Asian Trader. Punchline merrily dispensed, he then outlined his “total” opposition to plain packaging for cigarettes, an idea he regards as “nuts’, “bonkers” and “utterly, bloody barmy”. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 01:29:23 GMT)

All economic activity needs a moral compass
When we allocate capital to an enterprise, we must also accept a responsibility for its actionsIn analysing the lessons learned from the fallout of 2008 – and its main one is that every reader has taken on the burden of a historically unprecedented amount of debt that will not be cleared for a generation – it seems to me that while commentators have eruditely tackled both the symptoms and mechanics of the financial failure, they did not necessarily tackle the heart of the problem.It may be helpful to rethink the basis of how we wish to employ our resources to shape the environment we wish to live in and bestow to future generations. It may further be useful occasionally to suspend belief in unprovable economic theory and employ those most intrinsic British qualities: common sense and moral compass. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 03:30:27 GMT)

The Tudors live on – thanks to Henry VIII’s lavish spending
The monarch’s penchant for palaces has left us with some glorious monuments to the dynasty – but fewer modest homes remainHenry VIII has lost some of his palaces and our chances of dining with him on venison and his beloved marzipan sweets are gone – but we can still find the spirit of the Tudors in what they’ve left behind.It all began at Bosworth in Leicestershire where, in 1485, Richard III was killed in battle and Henry Tudor became Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch, despite a shaky claim to the throne. He was a parsimonious man and his son, also Henry, was brought up at Eltham Palace in south-east London to be the same. But when Henry VIII came to the throne, still not 18, he spent wildly – on entertainments, women and incredible palaces. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:04:21 GMT)

Even plutocrats can see profound inequality isn’t in their interests
As the smartest of the super-rich now understand, income inequality must be addressed before it tears societies apartNot so long ago, inequality was a dirty word. The experience of my friend Branko Milanovic, the world’s foremost expert on global income inequality, was typical. “I was once told by the head of a prestigious thinktank in Washington DC that the thinktank’s board was unlikely to fund any work that had income or wealth inequality in its title,” Milanovic recalled in his 2011 book on the subject.These were the days when Mitt Romney said discussions of income inequality should be conducted only in quiet rooms and when an American private equity tycoon compared an effort to raise taxes on his industry to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. To mention the increasing concentration of wealth at the very top was to court accusations of class envy – indeed, in his 2011 book, even Bill Clinton admonished Barack Obama for his tone in talking to and about America’s super-rich. After my book, Plutocrats, was published in 2012, I was even – and I know this will shock you – disinvited to a Davos dinner party! Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 03:30:27 GMT)

Britain’s welcome for Mexican president is worrying
With revelations continuing to emerge about Enrique Peña Nieto’s links to big business, the decision to allow him a state visit to the UK is misjudgedBritain will roll out the red carpet for the Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, when he arrives for his state visit in March. The government sees Mexico as a “springboard into the Latin American market”.However, today’s Observer interview with 19-year-old Uriel Alonso Solís should serve as an antidote to the hype that will surround the visit. Alonso survived the attack by police in Guerrero state on students who were then kidnapped and handed over to a drug cartel for execution. One of Mexico’s leading reporters on narcotics, Anabel Hernández, published evidence in Proceso magazine that federal authorities had been involved. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:05:21 GMT)

Who needs a ‘long-term economic plan’ when the oil price is falling like this?
The Tories must know their strategy has failed. But, unlike the governments of the 1970s, the energy market has saved themI have taken part in many a pub discussion about the perennial question of whether governments lose elections or oppositions win them, or a mixture of both. If ever a postwar British government deserved to lose an election it is this one. That is why the Labour party has got to get its act together, and soon.The gravamen of the charge against this government is that, for all the triumphalism about a long-delayed period of economic growth, it woefully mishandled the economy when it came in – and plans an assault on our already deteriorating public services, if it is re-elected, that would quite seriously threaten the social fabric of the nation. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:05:49 GMT)

Economist nears the limit of an old growth theory
Editor John Micklethwait departs on a high. But print circulation may never be so high - nor fortunes quite so serene – againYou used to judge successful editors by a simple test. How many copies did they sell on day one, and how many on their last day in the chair? Plus, of course, parallel profit-and-loss figures. Today, the swirl of digital change makes everything more difficult. But put John Micklethwait’s nine years on top of the Economist to the ancestral test.In 2006, when he took over, the Economist had a circulation of 1.1m and operating profit of £28m. This month, as his successor – Zanny Minton Beddoes, the magazine’s brilliant business affairs editor – picks up the baton, the figure is 1.6m, with an operating profit of £59m. Micklethwait – heading now to New York as editorial boss of Bloomberg News – isn’t the only Economist editor to leave on a high. To the contrary, the build has been steady, and remarkable, for decades: a true British triumph of judgment and style. Continue reading...
(Sun, 25 Jan 2015 00:05:37 GMT)

The ballad of Broon and sonsie Jim:… by Robert Burns?
The Immortal Memory may have had a sixth sense and could see the futureI am told by my dear friends Alan Taylor and Rosemary Goring – a couple so literary that their Glasgow pied-a-terre is actually built entirely out of old books – that a new scholarly edition of Burns’s poems is currently being researched by Glasgow University. The project was started in 2009 and isn’t due for completion until 2024. Soon, I expect to be contacting the scholars working on this sacred tome bearing glad tidings. For, into my possession has come a work of improbable provenance but which is causing ripples of excitement in those communities where I seek society.My pal, Big Tam Lenighan, sage and savant of the Commercial Inn in Campsie, is almost certain that the work is from the pen of The Bard himself: “I know the prose is entirely in the modern idiom, but I believe Burns had a sixth sense and often talked of events yet to happen. The verse structure is a bit scrofulous, yet that in itself probably predicted the falling standards in the teaching of English these last few years.” And so, in the fraternal spirit of Burns season, I now share it with Observer readers. Continue reading...
(Sat, 24 Jan 2015 18:05:14 GMT)

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