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ADHD drugs increasingly prescribed to treat hyperactivity in pre-schoolers
A fifth of educational psychologists say they know of children being given medication despite guidelines advising against itAn “alarming” number of pre-school children are being prescribed drugs to treat hyperactivity – contrary to medical guidelines that say they should not be used on children under six – because overstretched health workers go straight to medication rather than offering psychological interventions.More than a fifth of educational psychologists say they know of preschool children who are being given medication such as Ritalin even though the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) recommends psychological interventions should be tried first. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 21:20:37 GMT)

North Korea threatens US, claiming White House was involved in film plot
Pyongyang warns US ‘cesspool’ is a target as it alleges Obama administration was behind fictional Kim Jong-un assassinationNorth Korea is threatening to retaliate against the US over a Hollywood film portraying the assassination of Kim Jong-un, saying it has “clear evidence” that Washington was heavily involved in devising the plot.The stern but vague warnings come after Sony Pictures decided last week to cancel the release of The Interview following cyber-attacks and threats against the company. North Korea also said the US government was wrong to “recklessly” claim Pyongyang was behind the hacking. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 05:47:47 GMT)

Child abuse victims’ group wants panel to be replaced with more powerful body
National Association for People Abused in Childhood welcomes report that panel as currently constituted could be scrappedA leading organisation representing child abuse victims has welcomed reports that Theresa May, the home secretary, may scrap the abuse inquiry panel so that it can be replaced with a more powerful body.Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday that he did not know any abuse survivors who had confidence in the panel as it currently exists. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 09:54:48 GMT)

Man dies after being shot with a Taser in suspected burglary
IPCC is investigating stun gun incident in Staffordshire after police rush to calls about a break-inA man has died after being shot with a Taser when police were called to a suspected burglary.Officers went to a house in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, shortly after 1am on Monday following calls about a break-in. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 09:14:50 GMT)

Theresa May warned Tory leadership chances at risk from advisers’ infighting
Home secretary’s cabinet colleagues say Rochester byelection canvassing row could affect Cameron successionTheresa May, the home secretary, has been warned by cabinet colleagues to act as a “team player” or risk damaging her chances of succeeding David Cameron as leader of the Conservative party.May has been told to rein in her special advisers who acted in an “arrogant” way after declining to campaign in the recent Rochester and Strood byelection. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 23:04:11 GMT)

South Korea launches nuclear power cyber-attack drills after hack
Operator begins two-day exercise after suspected hacker tweets information on KHNP plants and its staffSouth Korea’s nuclear power plant operator has launched a two-day drill to test its ability to thwart a cyber-attack after a series of leaks on Twitter by a suspected hacker.The drill on Monday was conducted at the country’s four nuclear plants, said Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP), which operates 23 reactors and supplies about 30% of the country’s electricity. “The two-day drill is under way through simulators to ensure the safety of our nuclear power plants under cyber-attacks,” said a KHNP spokesman, Kim Tae-Seok. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 09:22:01 GMT)

Eleven hospital trusts named in DNA sequencing project
An estimated 75,000 patients will be invited to donate their DNA for research into causes of rare diseases and cancersThe NHS has named the first 11 hospital trusts that will map DNA on a scale never before attempted by sequencing the genomes of tens of thousands of patients, in a project that promises to transform the understanding of cancer and rare diseases.As part of the three-year initiative, an estimated 75,000 people will be invited to donate their DNA for research and in return could benefit from faster diagnosis of rare and inherited diseases and better-targeted treatment for cancer. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 11:08:00 GMT)

Rising oil price gives shares and Russian rouble a lift – business live
All the latest economic and financial news as oil prices stage a pre-Christmas rally, bringing some relief to the Russian roubleBrent crude up 2% at $62.85Rouble rises 3%European markets rally 11.08am GMT While we were offline, the Bank of England’s financial policy committee revealed that it’s worried that the fall in crude prices could fuel geopolitical risks (Russia, anyone?).It could also drive the eurozone closer to deflation, they point out.The Committee noted the positive impact on global growth and concluded that the decline in oil prices seen to date was unlikely to pose an immediate, significant risk to UK financial stability.If the fall in oil prices were to be sustained, it could impact the ability of some businesses, such as US shale oil and gas exploration firms, to service their debt. US oil and gas firms accounted for 13% of the outstanding debt in US high-yield bond markets; an increase in their perceived or realised credit risk could lead to sales by investors and potentially illiquidity in the broader high-yield bond market. A sustained lower oil price also had the potential to reinforce certain geopolitical risks. There was also a risk that, in economies where core inflation was already weak, particularly some parts of the euro area, low headline readings would further depress expectations of future inflation. This, in turn, could result in slower rates of growth of nominal incomes, increasing the burden of existing debts. 11.06am GMT Apologies for the silence, a few IT Gremlins have invaded the office...We're having some internet problems at Guardian HQ. Apologies for any inconvenience. 9.52am GMT The rouble crisis has had a nasty knock-on effect on one of the USSR’s former satellite states, the Republic of Belarus.Last night, Belarusians found they were blocked from using various internet shopping sites. The move came after the Belarus ruble hit a 16year low against the US dollar. 9.23am GMT After 15 years, DIY chain Kingfisher has realised that it can’t crack the Chinese market on its own.It has sold 70% of its B&Q China, after struggling to transfer its ‘do it yourself’ model into the fast-growing Chinese market.B&Q opened its first store in China in 1999 and now has 39 outlets employing 3,000 people, but the London-listed group struggled to transplant its business model to a country where doing odd jobs around the house is not seen as a leisure activity.Chinese consumers have not embraced DIY, partly because low wages mean there is a plentiful supply of people to do household jobs. The US chain Home Depot shut its big box stores in 2012, after finding not enough Chinese consumers had caught the DIY bug. China retail - it's harder than you think: B&Q owner Kingfisher to sell controlling stake in its China business to Wumei Holdings for £140mKingfisher to sell 70% stake in B&Q China to Wumei Holdings for £140m. It wants to concentrate investment in its core European market. 9.03am GMT Despite today’s rally, the recent slump in the oil price would make a big dent in the finances of an independent Scotland.The Financial Times reports that: Scotland’s North Sea revenues would have slumped to one fifth of Holyrood’s preferred forecasts in its first year of independence if Scots had voted Yes in September, according to an Office for Budget Responsibility simulation using current oil prices.Oil revenue for Scotland's first year as an independent country would have been £1.25bn instead of £6.9bn http://t.co/Xr3hN6ESpl 8.56am GMT A Bank of England policymaker has warned against assuming that the recent oil price falls means inflation will be low in the medium term.“What we have seen over the last few months is a very sharp fall in oil prices that has a direct first-round effect on the rate of inflation.“But it’s a separate issue to where inflation is going to be in, say, two years’ time.” 8.46am GMT Stan Shamu of IG says investors are speculating that crude oil prices may be about to recover: After seeing a rebound on Friday, many have been calling a bottom in oil prices and feel this is a beginning of a recovery. With Saudi Arabia pledging its commitment to seeing stability in oil prices (see yesterday’s story), many took this as a catalyst for a recovery. 8.42am GMT 8.36am GMT The jump in the oil price is also giving European stock markets a lift, as the Santa Rally continues.All the main European stock markets are up this morning, led by energy companies. 8.28am GMT Rouble up 3.5% to 56.5 against the dollar in early trading, recovering from last week's 80 per dollar low with Brent crude up 2.15% to $62.6 8.20am GMT Russia’s stock markets is on a charge this morning, helped by the rouble and the oil price.Moscow’s RTS index has jumped by 5.4% to 809 points. That’s almost a third higher than last Tuesday’s crash, when the currency crisis exploded: 8.02am GMT The overnight jump in the oil price has helped to push the Russian rouble higher.“The easing of the situation on the oil market ... can help improve the situation on the Russian (currency) market in early trade as well as provide the basis for further firming of the rouble.” The #ruble has appreciated more than 25% from its intraday low last week. pic.twitter.com/V2eINLGaVs 8.01am GMT Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the financial markets, the world economy, the eurozone and business.Christmas time is nearly here, by golly, and that means it may be a quiet day. Shares in Europe are expected to rise, as traders get into the festive spirit.This stabilisation in the oil price has, raised the expectation that we may well have found a short term base, and mitigating concerns that further declines could well prompt large scale losses on highly leveraged oil producers and governments.The Saudi oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, said in Abu Dhabi on Sunday: “The kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other countries sought to bring back balance to the market, but the lack of cooperation from other producers outside Opec and the spread of misleading information and speculation led to the continuation of the drop in prices.”Referring to producers outside Opec, he said: “If they want to cut production, they are welcome: We are not going to cut; certainly Saudi Arabia is not going to cut.” Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 11:08:37 GMT)

Peru's drive to stamp out people trafficking undermined by high growth
Inequality in south American country blamed for trade that involves a disproportionate number of indigenous girls and womenEfforts to help thousands of trafficked children and adults in Peru are being undermined by a strong economy, enduring social and ethnic inequalities, and a lack of awareness, the head of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in the country has warned.José Iván Dávalos, the IOM’s head of mission in Peru, said that despite increasing political will to tackle human trafficking, progress was being thwarted by the assumption that the upper-middle-income country – which had a GDP growth rate of 5.8% last year – no longer needs help from NGOs and international agencies. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 07:00:04 GMT)

Hackers threaten to issue alleged Iggy Azalea 'sex tape' images
Rapper denies reports that she has a sex tape after a branch of Anonymous suggest otherwise following online altercation with Azealia Banks surrounding black culture A branch of the hacker group Anonymous has threatened Iggy Azalea following her recent criticism of rapper Azealia Banks. Accusing Azalea of “misappropriating black culture” and “making light of Eric Garner’s death”, an Anonymous spokesperson claimed that if the rapper does not issue an apology, they will release photo stills from her alleged “sex tape”.“Fuck you, @IGGYAZZALEA. #ICantBreathe,” tweeted the popular Anonymous account @TheAnonMessage on Saturday. “We have so much shit on you, your scandal would be bigger than Bill Cosby’s ... You are guilty of misappropriating black culture, insulting peaceful protesters, and making light of Eric Garner’s death ... You have exactly 48 hours ... to release a statement apologizing to @AzealiaBanks and the protesters in NYC.” Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 07:48:26 GMT)

Man shot dead in car in Sheffield
Passenger pronounced dead in hospital while driver is in stable condition after city centre attackA man has been shot dead and another injured as they sat in a car in a city centre.The men, both 22, were shot in Sheffield at about 10.15pm on Sunday, South Yorkshire police said. The pair were taken to hospital where the passenger was pronounced dead. The driver remains in a stable condition. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 08:31:00 GMT)

Spanish king’s sister to stand trial on tax fraud charges
Charges against Cristina de Borbón were brought as part of an inquiry into the business dealings of her husbandCristina de Borbón, sister of King Felipe VI of Spain, has been ordered to stand trial on charges of tax fraud, according to the Balearic Islands high court.The request on Monday prolongs the embarrassment of the royal family, which has sought to distance itself from a corruption inquiry. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 09:43:35 GMT)

UK jobs market set for upbeat 2015 but skills shortage remains
CBI expects increase in permanent jobs and modest pay rises, but the lobby group said employers are worried about skills and regulationAs the economic recovery continues, 50% of British businesses are planning to take on extra workers in 2015, the CBI said, but skills shortage could stop jobs being filled.All regions of the UK stand to benefit according to the business lobby group, while Scotland has the biggest plans for the job creation. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 05:59:02 GMT)

Lost family survived 11 days in outback by collecting rain water
Steven Van Lonkhuyzen and his two young sons rationed food and captured rainwater after getting stuck during camping tripHeavy rain helped a father and his two young sons survive 11 days lost in a national park in outback Queensland.The ordeal of Steven Van Lonkhuyzen, 37, and his sons Ethan, seven, and Timothy, five, began when they took a wrong turn and got bogged in the Expedition National Park in the state’s southwest. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 05:10:13 GMT)

Councils leaving large areas of England in dark to save money, Labour says
Opposition survey finds that 106 out of 150 English councils are turning off or dimming streetlights in response to spending cuts Large areas of England are being “plunged into darkness” as a direct result of government spending cuts, according to the Labour party, after a survey found that 75% of councils were turning off or dimming streetlights to save money. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 00:05:06 GMT)

More than one in 10 of England's wildlife sites 'lost since 2009'
Wildlife Trusts says monitoring of ancient woodlands, hedgerows and churchyards shows 717 have been lost or damaged between 2009 and 2013More than one in 10 of England’s Local Wildlife Sites have been lost or damaged in the last five years, conservationists say.Monitoring of 6,590 of the country’s “quiet, unnoticed wild places in which nature thrives” such as ancient woodlands, hedgerows and churchyards revealed that 717 of them had been lost or damaged between 2009 and 2013. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 08:58:14 GMT)

British consumer confidence at four-year high, research finds
Lloyds Bank spending report shows people’s positivity towards their financial situation is highest since 2011Consumers’ confidence in their financial situation is at its highest in at least four years, boding well for a brightening economy in 2015. According to the Lloyds Bank Spending Power Report, people’s sentiment towards their personal situation in November was at its highest since the survey began in 2011, with London the most positive region and Scotland the least.Consumer confidence has reached its highest score since the start of the index, climbing by three points since October to reach an overall score of 154. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 05:59:02 GMT)

Tunisia election: anti-Islamist Beji Caid Essebsi claims victory in disputed poll
Veteran has claimed victory in country’s first free presidential poll but incumbent Moncef Marzouki refuses to concede defeatRunoff presidential election completes Tunisia’s transition to full democracyThe anti-Islamist veteran Beji Caid Essebsi has claimed victory in Tunisia’s first free presidential election.Tunisians took to the polls on Sunday for the leadership runoff vote, with many calling the ballot a landmark for democracy in the country where the Arab Spring was born. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 04:39:25 GMT)

Peshmerga forces heave Isis away from Mount Sinjar
As many as 300 militants are believed killed as US-led airstrikes assist the Kurdistan regional government in northern IraqKurdish peshmerga forces backed by US-led air strikes pushed Islamic State militants out of a large area around Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, according to Kurdish officials.“We have managed to free 3,000 sq km during the last 24 hours,” Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, told reporters on top of Mount Sinjar. “Most of Sinjar is under our control now and with the help of God, we will free all of it.” Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 21:55:36 GMT)

De Blasio at centre of police storm after two NYPD officers shot dead
Mayor attends mass as cardinal calls for ‘the peace only our lord can give’Ex-NYPD commissioner says mayor’s comments ‘set off this firestorm’Two NYPD officers ‘assassinated’ before anger turns on mayor – in picturesOpinion: ‘Wartime’ NYPD blames protesters. Have we learned nothing?The flashing red lights of a police car could be seen blocks away, stationed on the corner where two New York officers had been gunned down in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood.A makeshift memorial of candles and flowers had been created next to the place where Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot dead while parked in their patrol car on Saturday. Some cried as they placed bunches of flowers at the scene. Others shook hands with police officers stationed nearby. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 20:42:15 GMT)

Ukip councillor Rozanne Duncan expelled for ‘jaw-dropping’ comments
Kent councillor is alleged to have brought the party into disrepute in yet-to-be-broadcast TV interviewA Ukip councillor in Kent has been expelled for allegedly bringing the party into disrepute with “jaw dropping” remarks in a yet-to-be-aired television interview, it has been reported.Rozanne Duncan is a councillor in South Thanet, the Kent constituency where Nigel Farage intends to stand in next year’s general election and in August let slip the party leader’s plans, which had hitherto been kept secret. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 20:00:00 GMT)

China pledges medical care for HIV-positive boy shunned by village
Beijing vows that eight-year-old threatened with expulsion from Sichuan village will receive a living allowance and an educationChina’s health ministry has promised to provide medical care and a living allowance for an eight-year-old HIV-positive boy targeted by villagers for expulsion, state media have reported.In a case that drew widespread condemnation, about 200 residents – including the child’s grandfather – signed a petition last week to expel him from their village in the south-western province of Sichuan to “protect villagers’ health”, triggering anger online at perceived prejudice and ignorance in the countryside. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 08:46:00 GMT)

Cairns house where eight children were killed likely to be demolished, says MP
Gavin King says a memorial should be erected at the site of the Murray Street home but community advocates says it’s ‘too fresh and too early’ to discussThe house where eight children were killed in Cairns is likely to be demolished, local MP Gavin King says.King told media on Monday morning that after discussions with local residents he believed the house on Murray Street, Manoora, should be demolished and a memorial erected. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 02:36:28 GMT)

Northern Ireland devolution ‘at risk if parties do not solve contentious issues’
Centrist Alliance party says province must reach agreement as Theresa Villiers warns it is ‘make your mind up time’ Northern Ireland cannot afford another failure to reach agreement on contentious marches, flags and the legacy of its violent past, the centrist Alliance party said on Sunday.As the five parties in the power-sharing coalition prepare for a final pre-Christmas round of discussions on Monday, Stephen Farry, a junior Alliance minister in the devolved government, said there was still a chance to secure a comprehensive deal. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 15:34:35 GMT)

Pakistan hangs four more prisoners as execution campaign widens
Men’s deaths follow abandonment of six year moratorium on executions amid anger over attack on school in PeshawarPakistan continued its retribution against terrorists on Sunday with the execution of four more prisoners.The deaths followed the executions of two other convicted terrorists on Friday amid seething public anger at the massacre of 148 people in the city of Peshawar last week. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 23:39:35 GMT)

Poorest UK households pay almost half their income in tax, campaigners say
Analysis of ONS figures puts average gross income of poorest 10% at £9,743, but only £5,132 after all taxes deductedThe poorest 10% of households pay almost half of their gross income in tax, analysis by a campaign group claims.The TaxPayers’ Alliance research found that direct and indirect taxes accounted for an average of 47% of the gross income of the poorest decile, with VAT accounting for the biggest share of the bill. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 00:05:06 GMT)

Kingfisher sells B&Q China stake as DIY fails to take off
London-listed group struggled to transplant its business model to a country where doing odd jobs around the house is not seen as a leisure activityEurope’s biggest DIY group, Kingfisher, is selling a controlling stake in B&Q China after struggling to interest the country’s growing middle class in home improvement.In a statement to investors, Kingfisher said it would sell a 70% stake in B&Q China to Beijing-based Wumei Holdings for £140m. The sale is the first big decision by Kingfisher’s new chief executive Véronique Laury, who took over from Sir Ian Cheshire at the start of December. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 09:02:19 GMT)

Revered Observer photographer Jane Bown dies aged 89
Veteran hailed as ‘part of the Observer’s DNA’ was best known for her dazzling portraits of the Queen, Samuel Beckett and the BeatlesJane Bown: A life in photography - in picturesThe magnificent Jane Bown, the Observer’s veteran and legendary photographer who recently said: “I spent my whole life worrying about time and light,” has died just four months short of her 90th birthday. The Observer editor, John Mulholland, called her “part of the Observer’s DNA”.She joined the Observer in 1949 and, resisting all offers from other prospective employers, continued to appear in the office every week for more than half a century, working on 35mm film to the end, meekly waiting for assignments, and turning in dazzlingly beautiful images for news stories and features. She was particularly well known for portraits of the rich, famous, infamous and unknown. Many became trademark images of her subjects, including her definitive portrait of the playwright Samuel Becket, glaring like a caged eagle, whom she cornered in an alley beside the Royal Court theatre as he tried to make his escape. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 16:05:00 GMT)

Billie Whitelaw: friends, family and fellow actors pay tribute
Son Matthew, director Edgar Wright and Krays co-star Gary Kemp share memories of actor, who died on Sunday aged 82A screen and stage career in pictures Frank Lazarus on an existential night in Beckett’s Not I with WhitelawBillie Whitelaw obituaryBillie Whitelaw: Beckett’s ‘perfect actress’Tributes have been paid to the celebrated actor Billie Whitelaw, who died on Sunday, aged 82.They were led by her son Matthew Muller, who said she was “an incredibly loving mother”. He said many would remember her for her artistic prowess, who had enjoyed an incredible career, but he would remember her primarily as a warm person. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 00:07:51 GMT)

Madonna: I did not say, ‘Hey, here’s my music, and it’s finished.’ It was theft
In an exclusive interview, the singer defends her description of the leak of demos from her new album as ‘artistic rape’Madonna has defended her description of the leak of 13 unfinished demos from her forthcoming album as “a form of terrorism” and “artistic rape”.Speaking to the Guardian on Sunday, the singer said she was “living in a state of terror” following the leak, adding that there was “a big possibility” they were the result of her personal computer being hacked. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 20:21:04 GMT)

Losing your phone: the 5 stages of grief
Given how indispensable a modern smartphone can be for someone who spends a great deal of time online, could losing or breaking one produce a psychological reaction that is essentially a form of grief? In the past, I’ve often scoffed at people who seem to live entirely through their smartphone. I have openly mocked the people who queue through the night to get the latest versions. I have smugly rolled my eyes at people who constantly check their phones for updates and alerts in social situations. I have expressed frustration about people who can’t seem to do anything in any context without taking and posting a picture of themselves doing it. I have enthusiastically agreed with people berating those who obsessively film any live event they’re at, rather than watching the damn thing. I am one of those people who sees his phone as a useful device, nothing more.Or so I thought. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 07:15:00 GMT)

The best Android apps of 2014
The Guardian’s pick of Android apps that launched for the first time this year, taking in music, productivity, messaging, maps and more• The best Android games of 2014What we say: Mailbox is one of the better ways to attain the fabled Inbox Zero – or at least try to – by swiping unwanted emails aside like they’re unwanted matches in Tinder. Slick design, its integration with Gmail and the ability to “snooze” non-urgent emails made it a useful productivity tool. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 08:00:03 GMT)

It’s a Wonderful Life: my most overrated Christmas film
Frank Capra’s classic movie is a celebration of picket-fence smugness. Boring Bedford Falls would have been better had George Bailey never lived – from the magical, sleazy bar to the bowling alleyWell hot dog dickety damn, what is it about this film that makes people love it so much? Is it the bit where the black maid gets spanked back into her kitchen? The bit where the little people of Bedford Falls joyously tip out their entire life savings to rescue the bungling banker? Is it the snappy dialogue? “You’re 18!” our hero George Bailey exclaims at one point. “Why, it was only last year you were 17!”I don’t, by the way, think It’s a Wonderful Life is terrible. I just think it’s frequently wrongheaded and desperately overlong, with more suburban prejudice than Margaret Thatcher at a Grantham fete. Nowhere is this better illustrated than the key section when George, played by James Stewart, facing ruin over misplaced money, contemplates leaping to his death off a bridge. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 09:27:51 GMT)

Best TV of 2014: No 2 – Line of Duty
The second series of Jed Mercurio’s brutal cop corruption thriller saw Keeley Hawes giving the performance of a lifetime as DI Lindsay DentonSee the rest of the countdown hereWhat is it that you remember when you think back to the shows you’ve enjoyed most over the past year? The intricacies of the plot? The sharpness of the dialogue? Or moments such as Keeley Hawes whacking her neighbour over the head with a wine bottle?The first series of Line of Duty had one big advantage over the second: it didn’t have to live up to the first series of Line of Duty. With an explosive start (a botched anti-terror raid), a great cast (the excellent Lennie James alongside Gina McKee, Adrian Dunbar, Vicki McClure and a surprisingly nuanced Neil Morrissey), and a plot that was both gripping and twisty but also packed with enough ambiguity to keep you guessing to the end, it was both a critical and popular success. It was BBC2’s highest-rating drama in a decade, and therefore a lot to live up to for this year’s second series – especially with a Tony Gates-sized hole to fill. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 08:44:47 GMT)

Mark Wright wins The Apprentice 2014
Australian lands £250,000 investment in his digital marketing agency, beating 19 candidates in BBC1 finalMark Wright, 25, became the latest winner of The Apprentice on Sunday night , landing a £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar in his digital marketing agency after beating 19 other would-be entrepreneurs in the BBC1 competition.He faced Bianca Miller, who was proposing to launch a range of tights to match to various different skin tones, in the series climax after weeks of challenges and boardroom showdowns. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 22:00:04 GMT)

How many people in the UK work on Christmas day?
While you’re tucking into your festive lunch or tearing the paper off presents, take a moment to think of the around a million people across the UK working on Christmas dayAh, Christmas! ‘Tis the season to be ...hard at work? Most of us are relaxing with our few days off, whether its overindulging on eggnog, excitedly opening presents or quarrelling with relatives. But across the UK, around one million people will be hard at work on Christmas Day. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 09:33:47 GMT)

The playlist: five Christmas songs from Latin America
Want to get into the Christmas spirit with something other than Slade? Have a listen to five different festive favourites insteadWritten in 1976 and a traditional Christmas song ever since, this is primarily a kids’ number about riding your little donkey by the light of the North star. Juanes did a popular version (because everything Juanes does is popular), but the version sung by actual children is more traditional, and therefore more festive. (Some people also find it more annoying, but come on, it’s only once a year.) This version, from the 1980s, is cut by a children’s choir from Huaraz, and one of the most definitive. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 10:00:04 GMT)

Refunds and returns: what to do when your online orders fail to deliver
Christmas shopping online is supposed to be easy, convenient and risk free. But when things go wrong, what are your rights?Thousands of shoppers have suffered a particularly frustrating lead-up to Christmas after a massive surge in online orders resulted in lengthy delivery delays.Online spending is expected to be 26% higher than last year, according to estimates from Experian and IMRG, the online retailers’ association.If your parcel hasn't turned up within a reasonable time, you have every right to demand a full refund Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 07:00:03 GMT)

Turkey soup: what goes in yours?
A soup made from Christmas leftovers can be simple, or spicy, or creamy; light or bulked out with grains, noodles or potatoes; made meatier with ham or more virtuous with sprouts … Share your favourite recipeI sometimes wonder what the best part of roasting a chicken is: the Sunday lunch, or the fragrant, warming soup later in the week. I have no such issues when it comes to turkey. Family tradition dictates that we have turkey rather than goose at Christmas, but even as it arrives at the festive table, burnished and steaming, I’m thinking more fondly of the broth that will follow than the bird currently being carved. So fondly that on short Christmas visits, I have been known to swipe the carcass and take it home with me.I had my favourite turkey soup, the one I’m always trying to replicate, in a small cafe in Montpelier, Bristol. The broth was tasty and well seasoned, dotted with shreds of pale turkey, pink cubes of ham, vibrant orange discs of carrot and translucent leeks in pale green rounds. Nearly 15 years later, I can still taste its clean, simple flavours. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 08:00:01 GMT)

How hip-hop millionaires rise from the margins
As artists including Dr Dre and Jay Z build fortunes, the same entrepreneurial potential can be seen at street levelWhy do some rap artists take so readily to the boardroom, asked an article last week about the rise of hip-hop millionaires? And there was certainly evidence of that transition. Dr Dre is the top-dog rap mogul with a fortune – estimated by Forbes – of $620m in 2014. Jay Z and P Diddy had $60m on this count, fortunes built on music and spin-off merchandising. You never know who the gods will smile upon. I have the first Dr Dre album I am aware of – with NWA – on vinyl in a box in the loft. It wasn’t that great.What do we know of these street culture billionaires? Dre got his first leg up from Eric Wright, a drug dealer who bailed him out of jail with a proviso that he worked thereafter for his music label. Jay Z was a drug dealer in New York. P Diddy’s father was an associate of Frank Lucas, the heroin dealer immortalised in the Denzel Washington movie American Gangster. None rose through the old boys network. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 19:00:00 GMT)

A death in Yangon: the day my fiancé died
Catherine Anderson and her partner, photographer Angus McDonald, were returning from Myanmar when he died at the airport. Here, in an extract from her memoir, she tells the story of losing a loved one far from homeAngus once described the Victorian explorer George Ernest Morrison as having spent most of his life “in the grip of an overpowering wanderlust”. He might as well have been talking about himself. After studying in Sydney and then Pune, Angus followed Australian adventurer Morrison’s footsteps from Shanghai to Rangoon in 1994 – a century after Morrison’s own journey. It was a trip that established his name as a photojournalist and the book of his travels, The Five Foot Road, became an important document of the change wrought by conflict and revolution.It was in order to see yet more change that Angus, aged 50, persuaded me to return to Burma with him in 2013. Now it is called Myanmar, and the first Irrawaddy Literary Festival was being held in the capital, under the patronage of Aung San Suu Kyi. It was an event that would have been unimaginable just one year previously. Symbolic of the shiny new Myanmar, tourists thronged the city’s Inya Lake gorging on copies of Daw Suu’s books. Jung Chang and Vikram Seth ambled alongside guests in a giggly atmosphere of chaos and goodwill. As the sun set on the lake we were filled with hope not only for Myanmar’s future, but for our own: Angus was in an unexpected remission from pancreatic cancer. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 08:00:14 GMT)

Patsy Ferran: ‘I don’t recognise my life at the moment’
The new West End star on playing Jim in Treasure Island, acting funny with her family – and Angela Lansbury, the ‘best person on the planet’It’s been a whirlwind year for Patsy Ferran. Her West End debut, before graduating from Rada in the summer, was as the hilarious, scatty maid in Blithe Spirit: a performance many described as “scene-stealing” (no mean feat, considering she was acting alongside Angela Lansbury). Since then, she’s starred in James Graham’s The Angry Brigade and had a bit part in a big film (a Tom Stoppard adaptation of Deborah Moggach’s Tulip Fever) due out next year. “All I had to do [in Tulip Fever] was stare out of a window holding a dandelion,” she tells me, re-enacting the pose. She says her performance was “shocking”, and half-hopes it doesn’t make the cut.With enormous eyes that accentuate frequent facial contortions, and her quick, precise hand gestures, Ferran, 25, is an effortlessly entertaining storyteller. She’s currently leading the cast of Treasure Island at the National Theatre as a female Jim, and has received excellent reviews – the Observer’s Susannah Clapp wrote last week: “Wit comes not only out of [Ferran’s] mouth but of her elbow. She is one of the best young actors I have seen in the past decade.” Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 09:15:11 GMT)

Premier League: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action
Manchester United still look muddled, Pellegrini shows his flexible side and, while there is hope in defeat for West Brom and Leicester, Hull are in a holeThe Dozen: our pick of the weekend’s Premier League images Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 08:48:25 GMT)

The top 100 footballers 2014 – interactive
Welcome to the Guardian’s choice of the world’s top 100 footballers for 2014. Led by Hernán Crespo, Gilberto Silva, Slaven Bilic and Dietmar Hamann, our panel of 73 experts from 28 nations compiled a countdown of the greatest players on the planet this year. Today we count down to No41 and tomorrow we reveal Nos 11-40, before we unveil the top 10 on Christmas Eve to complete this year’s list. Click on individual players in the interactive to read more about their year. • You can see who the judges are and read how we compiled the final list here • In video: members of our expert panel discuss Nos 70-41• In video: see the panel discuss their selections for Nos 100-71• Look back at the top 100 from 2013 Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 10:00:00 GMT)

Liverpool and Arsenal draw as Martin Skrtel scores in his own injury-time
• In pictures: all the best images from Anfield• Paul Wilson: Markovic’s wasted chances cost Liverpool victory they deserved• Michael Cox: Positional indiscipline leaves Arsenal strugglingLiverpool left “a scar in the heart” of Arsène Wenger on his last visit to Anfield and fresh torment for Arsenal came courtesy of a scar on the head.Martin Skrtel, bandaged and bloodied from a nasty cut to the cranium, scored a towering header in time added-on for his earlier treatment to earn Brendan Rodgers’ 10 men a merited reprieve. Some scars heal quicker than others. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 18:11:47 GMT)

Rugby union: talking points from the weekend’s Premiership action
Wasps’ record-breakers make themselves at home in Coventry, Bath assert their West Country dominance and the salary cap proves a good fit for Dean Richards• Match report: Wasps 48-16 London Irish • House-warming in Coventry gives Wasps feelgood factor• Gloucester 16-39 Bath • Poll: should the Premiership scrap its salary cap• Premiership clubs defend salary cap • Harlequins 15-7 Newcastle• Sale 18-11 Exeter• Saracens 78-7 London Welsh• Saracens attempts to end salary cap look set to fail Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 00:30:19 GMT)

Simon Gerrans breaks collarbone
Orica-GreenEdge cyclist suffered injury in crash while riding his mountain bike and will miss Australian road championships and Tour Down UnderAustralian cycling star Simon Gerrans has broken his left collarbone in training, ruining his home season.The Orica-GreenEdge rider was to undergo surgery on Monday afternoon, a day after crashing while riding his mountain bike. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 01:40:48 GMT)

The price of football at Christmas 1982: £2.55 a ticket - but kits cost a bomb
A look through 1982 copies of Shoot! to compare the prices of football back in the day reveals tickets were dirt cheap, replica kits and VHS videos were anything but Christmas 1982. Liverpool lead the First Division by five points from Manchester United. Renée & Renato’s Save Your Love, a 3min 6sec-sized cruise missile of an earworm – which still burrows into many worst-song-of-all-time lists – tops the charts. And, like many seven-year-old boys, almost everything I covet is in Shoot! magazine.The Subbuteo Fifa World Cup Edition. A replica kit. Even, in weaker moments, the 100% cotton towelling robes in team colours – which, the advert promised, “makes a superb gift for all the family”. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 19:40:00 GMT)

David Silva backs Manchester City to put pressure on Chelsea in league
• Silva: Stoke game will be tough for Chelsea• City now level on points having bridged eight-point gap in a month• José Mourinho hopes for strong referee at Stoke matchDavid Silva has warned Chelsea they could slip up at Stoke City on Monday evening, and is confident Manchester City will continue to apply pressure in the title race after eradicating the London club’s lead over the past month.Silva scored twice in City’s 3-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday, with Yaya Touré adding the third, a sixth consecutive Premier League victory that drew them level with Chelsea on 39 points. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 22:30:05 GMT)

Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers criticises Arsenal’s Alexis Sánchez for ‘dive’
• Manager rails at forward over free-kick which led to equaliser• Arsène Wenger: Arsenal affected by memories of 5-1 rout• Match report: Liverpool 2-2 ArsenalBrendan Rodgers branded Alexis Sánchez a diver and claimed a Champions League place is not out of Liverpool’s reach despite his team drawing 2-2 with Arsenal.Martin Skrtel’s 97th-minute header rescued a deserved point for Liverpool at Anfield, where Olivier Giroud’s second-half finish had put Arsène Wenger’s team in sight of victory and Fabio Borini was sent off for two bookable offences. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 21:04:13 GMT)

Adam Johnson strikes late as Sunderland beat Newcastle in derby
• Gus Poyet still scourge of Newcastle after late change of mindNewcastle United are supposed to be counterattacking specialists but they ended up hoist with their own petard as a brilliant late Sunderland break resulted in Adam Johnson ruining Alan Pardew’s Christmas. Johnson’s 90th-minute goal ensured his side won their fourth successive game against Newcastle and Gus Poyet his fifth in five managerial duels with them.Poyet’s infliction of this latest embarrassment was partly due to a man-of-the-match performance from Sebastian Larsson, whose intelligence in central midfield played a big part in wrecking the home team’s game plan. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 15:52:33 GMT)

José Mourinho: Chelsea fringe players are frustrated but also professional
• Stamford Bridge club visit Stoke on Monday • Mourinho: everybody has to sacrifice for the team• Portuguese hopes for strong referee performanceJosé Mourinho’s insistence that the good of the collective be placed ahead of an individual’s desire to feature dictates that the Chelsea manager will volunteer no explanation, even to senior players displaced in his selection.The Portuguese takes his side to Stoke City on Mondayseeking to re-establish a three-point advantage at the top of the Premier League, with Thibaut Courtois expected to start in goal, César Azpilicueta at left-back and Cesc Fàbregas in central midfield despite the recent impressive form of Petr Cech, Filipe Luís and Mikel John Obi. Mourinho merely intends to list his lineup for the Britannia Stadium in a team meeting on Monday and while he understands fringe players will be “unhappy and frustrated” at bit-part roles, he will demand a professional reaction to life on the periphery. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 22:30:05 GMT)

Lazar Markovic’s wasted chances cost Liverpool a victory they deserved
Brendan Rodgers’ 3-4-3 experiment would have succeeded if his players had converted even a fraction of the opportunities they createdIt would be hard to argue that Martin Skrtel did not deserve the injury time or the dramatic late equaliser that rescued a point for Liverpool. It was his nasty gash to the head that had occasioned a whopping nine minutes of added time in the first place and the defender was not only on the Arsenal six-yard line to head an unstoppable goal from Adam Lallana’s corner but turned up on his own goalline after that to help out Brad Jones when the visitors were threatening an even more improbable late twist.Anfield was a happy place again by the final whistle, Brendan Rodgers’ Christmas not completely spoiled, though the frantic finale concealed a number of home shortcomings, namely that Liverpool should have taken a more commanding lead in a first half they shaded and that their defence was too easily unlocked when Arsenal began to show signs of attacking adventure of their own. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 19:55:21 GMT)

Positional indiscipline leaves Arsenal struggling against Liverpool
Mathieu Flamini forced to cover huge area as Arsenal centre-backs play deep and other midfielders stay too high up pitchLiverpool required an extremely late equaliser courtesy of Martin Skrtel but Brendan Rodgers’ side had been superior from the opening moments, causing Arsenal considerable tactical problems throughout.Rodgers’ 3-4-3 formation was no surprise considering he had used that system in Liverpool’s previous two matches, against Manchester United and Bournemouth, but Arsenal appeared unprepared for the challenge. Alexis Sánchez and Danny Welbeck remained high up the pitch, which put a huge defensive burden on players in deeper positions. It is extremely rare for Arsenal to see so little of the ball and while injuries are clearly causing problems in the centre of midfield – Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil are all out – a bigger problem was the lack of positional discipline from the players who did start. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 19:46:36 GMT)

Mike Ashley set to tighten grip on Rangers at stormy AGM
• Ashley may underwrite share issue to raise funds• McCoist keen for discussions with Llambias• McCoist intends to see out 12 months’ notice on Rangers contractThe extent of Mike Ashley’s grip on Rangers will be clarified, and most likely tightened, when the club holds what is likely to be a stormy annual general meeting on Monday.The Scottish FA has charged Ashley and Rangers over alleged breaches relating to dual interest in clubs. The Newcastle United owner is officially a 9% shareholder in Rangers but is generally recognised to be exercising a strong influence, as shown by the appointment of Derek Llambias, the former managing director at Newcastle, last week as chief executive at Ibrox. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 18:14:49 GMT)

Top 10 winter activity breaks in Europe
Winter breaks can come with a twist, whether it’s sleeping inside a snowball, staying on a reindeer farm or even building an igloo. Here are 10 spins on the usual snow-based funSouthern French AlpsOnce you’ve reached your remote spot by snowshoe, and had some expert tips on good and bad construction, you’ll realise that building your own igloo is nowhere near as easy as it looks in cartoons. But the graft will be well worth it when you’re standing at the snowy door arch of a dwelling of your own creation, having had dinner under the stars. Undiscovered Alps runs Winter Multi Activity Holidays in and around the Écrins national park, where you can pick your activities for the week based on a points system. Alongside the igloo expedition, it offers ice-climbing, ski-joering, snow-scooting, paragliding, snake sledging, a giant zip wire and more traditional snow activities, such as ski touring and snowshoeing.• Seven nights’ from £342pp, including accommodation in the Orcieres 1850 resort, or nearby ski villages, snowshoes and poles, unlimited use of swimming pool and ice skating and nine activity points (a two-day igloo expedition is five points including dinner and breakfast, snowscoot is one, as is a moonlit snowshoe walk), 0845 009 8501, undiscoveredalps.com Monarch flies from Manchester to Grenoble from £58 return Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 06:00:02 GMT)

Consumer Champions: the best and worst of 2014
As even tech-savvy people fall for the scams, readers are complaining about everything from airlines to broadbandThe last 12 months have seen a record number of letters sent to our Consumer Champions, and it doesn’t look as though a sudden improvement in customer services at UK firms is going to put us out of business any time soon.The good news is … there have been fewer complaints about the banks and other core financial services providers. The bad news is … that has been more than offset by increased numbers of readers having problems with energy firms, telecoms providers and disputes with retailers. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 07:00:03 GMT)

How we grin to bear it – the science of smiling
The winning article of the 2014 Wellcome Trust science-writing prize looks at smile research – how they make us feel better, how to fake them and why you should say ‘cheeks’ not ‘cheese’• About the Wellcome Trust prize‘The curve that sets everything straight” was how comedian Phyllis Diller once described the smile. And it’s true that there’s something charming, trustworthy and disarming about a smile – but this can be misleading. Dig a little deeper and you will understand a much less wholesome side. Because, ladies and gentleman, the smile is one of the biggest fakes going.I know what you’re thinking: we all pull a false smile now and again to appease our fellows and avoid unnecessary conflict. On the other hand, a genuine smile of true enjoyment is something different. Psychologists have named such a smile after the French neurologist Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne de Boulogne. The Duchenne smile, utilising the muscles around the eyes that lift the cheeks to produce crow’s feet, has long been held as an inimitable sign of true human emotion. Or at least it was until 2013, when a team of researchers from Northeastern University, Boston, broke that hoodoo. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 09:09:37 GMT)

Flying the coop: Claudia Roden’s final meal
The celebrated food writer would opt for a cosy family get-together over roast chicken for her final mealMy life has been all over the place – travelling, moving, changing – but at home things always stay the same. Family, food and a big oval table in my north London home. My last meal would honour this. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 11:04:23 GMT)

Bad boys: the secret world of the pantomime villain
With panto season in full swing, three theatre baddies – including Nigel Havers, currently playing King Rat in Dick Whittington – open up about ‘the biggest ego-trip there is’“Every actor secretly wants to play the baddie,” says Nigel Havers. “And do you know why? Because it’s easy. It’s so much harder finding reasons to make people like you.”Havers has constructed a career around playing cads and bounders, so it was perhaps inevitable that he would thrive in pantomime. He cites his portrayal of Lewis Archer, the charming conman who seduced both mother and daughter in Coronation Street, as one of his proudest achievements. So how did he make the transition from love rat in Corrie to King Rat in Swindon? Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 08:00:03 GMT)

Brian Logan's top 10 comedy of 2014
Daniel Kitson at the height of his comedy storytelling powers, the return of comedy’s funniest feminist voice and eight other highlights … Brian Logan shares his picks in this latest instalment of our Stage critics’ top 10 lists• Michael Billington’s top 10 theatre of 2014• Alfred Hickling’s top 10 theatre of 2014• Lyn Gardner’s top 10 theatre of 2014• Chris Wiegand’s top 10 stage shows of 2014Liam William’s Capitalism was not just the most exciting comedy show I saw in 2014, it’s the one that best nails what 2014 is about: inchoate anger at the way we live now, but also impotence in the face of the powers, and ways of thinking, that govern us. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 07:03:00 GMT)

I can’t maintain an erection with my new boyfriend
I’ve been engaging in random sex with people I don’t know. Now I’ve met this guy and we’ve decided we quite like each other. But sex has become impossibleI’ve been engaging in random sex with people I don’t really know for about six months. Recently I met someone on one of these casual encounters and we both decided that we quite liked each other. But now that he’s my boyfriend, I find myself unable to maintain an erection. Foreplay is great but as soon as we get to sex I lose my erection. He’s the first person to ever mean something to me.It is possible that you have a sexual problem with either desire or arousal, or even depression, and that you have been unconsciously trying to correct this via the eroticism of random sex. But it is more likely that intimacy – getting psychologically and physically close to someone at the same time – is a struggle for you. This may be why you have previously chosen not to have a boyfriend. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 08:00:02 GMT)

The 100 best novels: No 66 – Joy in the Morning by PG Wodehouse (1946)
PG Wodehouse’s elegiac Jeeves novel, written during his disastrous years in wartime Germany, remains his masterpieceFor PG Wodehouse, this novel, completed amid the horrors of wartime Germany, was something of a miracle, “the supreme Jeeves novel of all time”, he wrote. Defying gravity, English literature’s “performing flea” effortlessly reminded his postwar readers of a world whose day was done and also of a literary sensibility that had entranced a generation now facing retirement. A late-season masterpiece, Joy in the Morning is both an elegy and an encore.“The super-sticky affair of Nobby Hopwood, Stilton Cheesewright, Florence Craye, my uncle Percy…” is one of those imbroglios that Bertie Wooster believes his biographers will refer to as “The Steeple Bumpleigh Horror”. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 05:45:02 GMT)

Cumbria’s iron man
Wasdale Head, Lake District: Born in Middle Row Farm in 1936, he was cradled by the country’s tallest mountainsThe fell runner Joss Naylor was in the process of packing to leave for Spain, where he now spends winter on account of his health. Readers familiar with his name may be surprised to learn that such a great athlete suffers from the blood in his toes coagulating as the days become colder. “The greatest of them all” was how Olympic gold medallist and London marathon man Chris Brasher described this hard-as-iron Cumbrian. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 05:29:01 GMT)

The foodie traveller on ... new markets in Johannesburg
Locals are flocking to a trio of buzzing artisan markets in the South African cityIt’s Sunday lunchtime in Market on Main in Johannesburg’s Maboneng Precinct. The place is buzzing with foodies sipping craft ale from SMACK! Republic’s onsite brewery, and munching on fragrant paella served from enormous pans, and speciality biltong, South Africa’s famous dried meat. Meanwhile, a DJ spins ambient tunes. This is one of a trio of food markets bringing inventive fare to the city’s evolving centre.On Saturdays, stylish students from the nearby University of the Witwatersrand stream into Neighbourgoods in the trendy Braamfontein area. Its high-rise setting affords a special feature: a rooftop deck where diners can soak up sunshine (perfect for the Christmas season, the height of summer here), while tucking into terrine made from native game and braaied (grilled) burgers, given a Balkan touch with salty kashkaval cheese. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 00:00:08 GMT)

Angela Merkel has faced down the Russian bear in the battle for Europe
In dealing with Putin, the German chancellor has united Europe. She is the stateswoman of the yearIn 2014, the battle for Europe’s future has been fought between two leaders: Russian president Vladimir Putin and German chancellor Angela Merkel. The contrast between them could not be sharper. There the Russian man: macho, militarist, practitioner of the Soviet-style big lie (Russian soldiers in Crimea? What soldiers?), a resentful post-imperial nationalist who in a recent press conference compared Russia to an embattled bear. Here the German woman: gradualist, quietly plain-speaking, consensus-building, strongest on economic power, patiently steering a slow-moving, sovereignty-sharing, multinational European tortoise. 19th-century methods confront 21st-century ones; Mars, the god of war, against Mercury, the god of trade; guns versus butter. For the first half of 2014, the bear was making the running, but now, with the Russian economy close to meltdown, it seems the tortoise may be winning after all.Merkel has long been recognised as Europe’s leading politician, but this year, during the crisis over Ukraine, she became its leading stateswoman. I remain critical of her handling of the eurozone crisis, but I have only admiration for how she has addressed the return of war to European soil on the hundredth anniversary of 1914. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 06:59:03 GMT)

Martin Rowson on Jeremy Hunt's ambulance plan – cartoon
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(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 23:49:38 GMT)

The Christmas I realised a world was out there for me to discover
The wonders of Italy and France brought my family closer – and began in my seven-year-old self a thirst for explorationTo understand the impact of Christmas 1978 on a seven-year-old boy from a small island in Greece, you have to clear your mind of a lot of developments.Back then, Greece was four years out of a dictatorship and not yet a member of the European Community, travel abroad was expensive and uncommon, information was sought in the pages of bulky home encyclopaedias and important moments were captured with a Kodak Pocket Instamatic. Back then, a holiday road trip through Italy and France in a red Simca that broke down every time Dad drove too fast over a puddle was an impossible folly. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 09:40:09 GMT)

Twitter and Instagram users can learn a lot about capturing the zeitgeist from a 1920s Chicago journalist
Social media give us the power to create a real-time portrait of our age, just as pioneering journalist Ben Hecht documented his own eraChicago, late afternoon in 1921. Outside, the pavements are slick with rain and in the newsroom, amid cigar smoke, they can feel the rumble as the Chicago Daily News rolls off the press. Enter reporter Ben Hecht, with a new idea. He will write a daily sketch of the city’s life, modelled on the stories of Scheherazade and entitled 1001 Afternoons in Chicago. Hecht is hired, and from then on, throughout the 1920s, not a day goes by without a miniature masterpiece of reportage.By the time he was finished, and had gone to Broadway to write The Front Page, Hecht had documented in detail the everyday world in which all fictional heroes of film noir begin their adventures. It is a world of cardsharps, condemned men, sex workers, Yiddish tailors and Chinese laundrymen. Hecht’s description of one gives a flavour of the way he wrote: “There is something immaculate about Sing Lee. Sing Lee has been ironing out collars and shirts for 35 years. And 35 years have been ironing Sing Lee out.” But beyond the individuals, the main character for Hecht is always Chicago: its windows always rain-spattered, its streets always dark, its coffee always laced with bootlegged brandy. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 20:00:02 GMT)

Cracking down on honesty could be Ukip’s last bad idea
Warning its members off Twitter is a mistake – speaking freely is the party’s signature difference‘We have always been very relaxed in our approach to our brand,” a spokesman for Ukip has said. “But as we grow, we find that we have to be much more brand-conscious.” Ukip supporters are no longer allowed to use the brand without express permission from high command; they have been “advised” by the party’s chairman, Steve Crowther, to stay off Twitter. “Remember life before you could delight the whole world with your every passing thought? It wasn’t so bad, was it? I have no Facebook page, Twitter account or Instagram thingy. It’s lovely.”Crowther’s tone is one of desperate, jocular lightness, but he knows this is no small thing; this is the moment that the firebrands of politics have their lights snuffed out. All those cheeky things that people loved about them – the racism, homophobia, back-to-the-kitchen bigotry, xenophobia – are to be silenced, recast as an embarrassment. And what have they got without their signature devilment? Nothing but a bit of sketchy Euroscepticism that you could get from the Conservative party. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 18:36:17 GMT)

Greece’s radical left could kill off austerity in the EU
If Syriza wins a possible snap poll in the new year, positive repercussions could be felt across EuropeAnother war looms in Europe: waged not with guns and tanks, but with financial markets and EU diktats. Austerity-ravaged Greece may well be on the verge of a general election that could bring to power a government unequivocally opposed to austerity. Momentous stuff: that has not happened in the six years of cuts and falling living standards that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers.But if the radical leftist party Syriza does indeed triumph in a possible snap poll in the new year, there will undoubtedly be a concerted attempt to choke the experiment at birth. That matters not just for Greece, but for all of us who want a different sort of society and a break from years of austerity. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 06:00:03 GMT)

The readers’ editor on… why I can urge and recommend – but can’t really play the enforcer
The Guardian’s usage of anonymous sources and the term ‘illegal immigrant’ are just two of the issues I have tried to address this yearJust before we see the old year out, it may be helpful to readers to have news of how some of the issues discussed in Open door during the last 12 months or so have developed.On 8 September 2014, the column looked at the problem of the use of anonymous quotes within stories. Dr David Lowry had written to object about the use of anonymous quotes in a political story from 21 June and reminded us that the Guardian has a policy outlined by Alan Rusbridger, the editor in chief, in 2000, that these should be used only on rare occasions. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 18:51:30 GMT)

What Bryan Cranston, Abba, Naomi Klein, Bill Murray, Gordon Brown and Adnan Syed's mum taught us in 2014
Abba didn’t get any drugs in the 70s, Bill Murray suggested chatting in the bath, Cara Delevingne dreams about punching paparazzi, Gordon Brown talked Amy Winehouse with Mandela and Diana Rigg doesn’t fancy men her own age – what we learned from G2 interviews in 2014Interview by Oliver Burkeman (6 January) Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 18:00:10 GMT)

BBC World Service fears losing information war as Russia Today ramps up pressure
Former director calls for more cash to fight propaganda saying BBC is being outgunned by Kremlin-backed news channelThe BBC World Service is being financially outgunned by Russian and Chinese state-owned news channels, its former director Peter Horrocks has warned, amid high-level concerns that Britain and the US are losing a global “information war” with the Kremlin.Horrocks said ministers should review Britain’s spending overseas and consider freeing up extra World Service funding to combat the wave of Moscow-backed propaganda sweeping Europe. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 17:04:25 GMT)

‘I felt like a piece of trash’ – Life inside America’s food processing plants
A new book offers a damning insight into conditions for low-paid, non-union, immigrant workers helping to feed our huge appetite for cheap meatMaria Lopez will never forget that day. It was 2004, the middle of an ordinary shift on the line at Hormel Foods – a sprawling brick-and-concrete complex on the southern edge of Fremont, Nebraska. The worker beside her fed pork shoulders one after another into a spinning saw, just as he did every other day of the week, while Lopez gathered and bagged the trimmed fat to go into Spam. The pace of work had always been steady, but the speed of the line had jumped recently – from 1,000 pigs per hour to more than 1,100 – and Lopez was having trouble keeping up.As her co-worker reached for another shoulder, Lopez rushed to clear the cutting area, and her fingers slipped toward the saw blade. She snatched her hand back but too late. Her index finger dangled by a flap of skin, the bone cut clean through. She screamed as blood spurted and covered her workstation. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 00:04:00 GMT)

Strolling Havana’s quiet streets, I saw the first signs of a new age for Cuba
As Raúl Castro and Barack Obama made their historic announcements, the streets were quiet, but the parties were being held at homeOn Wednesday evening, after the US announced its plans to normalise relations with Cuba, I went for a stroll along Havana’s famed coastal esplanade, the Malecón. Although it was dusk, it was still a bit early for the usual revellers who line the seafront to be out, but there was a lone trumpet player sitting along the mostly empty wall. A few motorcycles flew past, with the riders beeping their horns and waving Cuban flags.The trumpeter, like everyone else in the island by this point, had heard the news and was happy about the plans for better relations with the US. He has family in Miami and was optimistic about Cuba’s future. There had been a spontaneous march by students nearby earlier in the day, but the streets were now dark and quiet. At first I was puzzled by the calm: shouldn’t people be out celebrating? But then I realised that Cubans had been talking and texting on their mobiles more than usual – both are expensive to do here – and others were indoors using landlines to speak to friends and relatives as the news coverage blared in the background. The party was at home. Continue reading...
(Sat, 20 Dec 2014 22:14:06 GMT)

Michael Brown is shot dead sparking protests
9 August: Riots follow the fatal shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old, by a policeman in Ferguson, MissouriI first heard about the shooting through social media. Throughout the protests, social media played a big role in telling the real story and not just the Hollywood version. We romanticise the civil rights movement of the 60s and put certain leaders on pedestals. But there are key influential people who we don’t remember who were just as important. Social media makes it easier for them to become visible.On 9 August, another Democratic committee-person tweeted me to say someone had been shot in my city. I was only three minutes away so I got in my car and went round and saw all these people standing around. What I now know is that I was watching Darren Wilson’s [the police officer who shot Michael Brown] truck being towed away. I got to the scene just as it happened and there were all these people in the streets, upset and angry, who had been forced to witness Michael Brown’s body lying in the street for four and a half hours. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 00:05:06 GMT)

Why the Russian oil crash could threaten Putin with a palace coup
With a growing economic crisis and less money to share among the oligarchs, there is talk of splits in the Kremlin elite that could undermine the president’s power ■ How other oil exporting countries are being affectedWhen Vladimir Putin was asked at his annual marathon press conference whether he feared the possibility of a “palace revolution” at some point in the future, the Russian president cracked a smile. “I can assure you that we don’t have palaces, so a palace coup isn’t really possible,” he said. Immediately photographs of the vast mansions of some of Putin’s inner circle, photographed from the air by anti-corruption campaigners, began doing the rounds online.But the question last week had a more serious substance to it. While a popular revolution against corrupt officials has never looked very likely in Russia, what about a split in the elites? Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 00:05:00 GMT)


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(Fri, 12 Dec 2014 10:33:48 GMT)

George RR Martin offers to screen The Interview at his own cinema
Game of Thrones author volunteers his Jean Cocteau cinema in Santa Fe for a screening, after ‘stunning display of corporate cowardice’ from Sony and cinema chainsThe bestselling Game of Thrones author George RR Martin has offered to screen The Interview in his own independent cinema, in the wake of what he described as “a stunning display of corporate cowardice” from Sony and America’s cinema chains.After anonymous terrorist threats last week to target screenings of the film, in which James Franco and Seth Rogen play journalists attempting to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, chains and distributors across America refused to show it. Sony then cancelled its 25 December theatrical release. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 10:00:25 GMT)

Jane Bown obituary
World-renowned photographer whose career on the Observer spanned six decadesThroughout her long career as an Observer photographer, Jane Bown, who has died aged 89, produced a consistent and singular body of work that straddled many areas of photojournalism. However, she will be remembered above all for her deeply insightful portraits.By the time Jane began working at the Observer in 1949, her trademark style – a unique capacity to blend the iconic with the informal – was already fully formed. Her account of the first Observer commission, which was a portrait of the philosopher Bertrand Russell, is classic Jane: concise, self-deprecating and modestly assured. “I was terrified, I don’t think I even knew who he was,” she said. “But the light was good ...” Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 17:23:47 GMT)

AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd: I want my job back and I want my reputation back
Musician, who is currently before New Zealand courts, says: ‘I’m going back to work with AC/DC and I don’t care who likes it or who doesn’t’AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd wants his job back. Rudd, 60, is before the New Zealand courts on charges of threatening to kill and possession of methamphetamine and cannabis. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 07:26:45 GMT)

Russell Crowe: even at my most successful, I just wanted to be home
The road to Oscar-winning stardom has been a long, slow slog for the antipodean actor. If his directorial debut, The Water Diviner, proves a commercial success, Crowe hopes it will deliver him his ultimate career goal – to be back in Australia • The Water Diviner review: a handsome crowd-pleaserRussell Crowe, like a lot of us, is sick of commuting. “I commute to work and it is a long commute and sometimes it can be really tedious,” says the 50-year-old. “As the years go by, it is more and more of a problem for me – it doesn’t feel natural for me to get on a plane anymore.” Which explains, in part, why we are here, at the end of 2014, talking about his directorial debut.The Water Diviner stars Crowe as Joshua Connor, an Australian farmer whose three sons have been killed at Gallipoli. Connor’s wife, unhinged by the loss, blames him for not protecting them – for letting them go. When she dies, he promises her that he will bring them home. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 06:27:16 GMT)

Elton John marries his long-term partner David Furnish
Couple officially wed exactly nine years after their civil partnership and post pictures of their big day on social mediaSir Elton John and David Furnish have officially married – nine years to the day after they tied the knot in a civil partnership ceremony.The happy couple and their sons, Elijah and Zachary, all wore dark blue suits and – as proved by an overnight Instagram photograph of their footwear lined up in front of the fire – very well-polished black shoes. The sons carried the wedding rings, and in Elijah’s case a toy white rabbit, as their fathers converted their civil partnership into a wedding at their Windsor estate. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 12:27:55 GMT)

X Factor winner Ben Haenow wins race to Christmas No 1
Something I Need gains combined chart sales of 214,000 in week ahead of singles by Mark Ronson and Ed SheeranThe X Factor winner Ben Haenow has won the battle for this year’s Christmas No 1 single.The 29-year-old’s Something I Need had combined chart sales of more than 214,000 and is now the second-fastest selling single of the year, behind Band Aid 30’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, which shifted nearly 313,000 copies in its first week in November but is now No 17 in the official singles chart. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 19:00:00 GMT)

Grimes admits lifting moniker from grime genre option on Myspace
Artist was ‘originally too embarrassed of this story’ so told journalists she was named after Simpsons character Frank Grimes and other stories Grimes has revealed that she named herself after British grime music. The Canadian electronic musician said that she started calling herself “Grimes” before she even knew what grime music sounded like.The artist, whose real name is Claire Boucher, decided on the moniker for her solo musical project when she created her first MySpace page. “On myspace ur genre could be grime and u could have 3 genres so i was plural grime, b4 knowing what grime was,” she tweeted on Friday. “i was originally too embarassed [sic] of this story so i told journalists i was named after frank grimes ... [or] someone else named grimes.” Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 08:07:25 GMT)

Football transfer rumours: Bale and Busquets to Manchester United?
All today’s fluff wants for Christmas is youHo! Ho! Ho! Merry everyone! Are you excited? The Mill is extremely excited. It’s nearly here! It’s nearly here! All those smiling faces, the food, the friends, the laughter, the songs. Children running round fuelled by nothing but the pure joy in their little hearts. Grown-ups beaming from ear to ear with merriment. Yep, there’s only 10 more sleeps – 10 more sleeps – until the opening of the January transfer window!And what a January transfer window it’s going to be. Manchester United will be very busy, um, planning for a summer spending spree that according to the weekend tabloids will include a club record offer for Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, who is ready to skip back to Britain after a couple of years in Spain. Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 09:23:23 GMT)

Richard Dawson: Geordie songwriter who found a voice in his local library
Singer says his eye condition means he sees things differently – and, when you hear his music, what he’s saying makes senseAt a time of year when the music industry is fixated more than ever on commerce – generating buzz for its priority acts for the forthcoming year, shifting vast piles of box sets and mass market albums to Christmas gift buyers – there is something heartening about the slowly rising profile of Richard Dawson.The 33-year-old Geordie singer-songwriter released his album Nothing Important last month, to a level of acclaim that would surely have seen it featuring on end-of-year lists all over the place had it come out a little earlier. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 15:11:07 GMT)

David Tennant: king of the cliffhanger
From Doctor Who to Richard II, David Tennant is never happier than when he’s ‘pretending’. As a new series of Broadchurch kicks off, he talks to Euan Ferguson about plot secrets, Calvinist guilt and why he’d love to be in The West WingThere is an undercurrent of tension abroad in the otherwise sublimely becalmed Dorset hamlet of Bridport. It emanates not from me, nor from David Tennant, and it emanates only subliminally, at some sub-woofer level perceptible to moles alone, from the smiley woman in the corner.She is the ITV press officer. She is here to make sure that David and I behave ourselves with regard to plot giveaways, to anything giveaways. As it happens, it is only she who, with blithe, refreshing honesty, slightly gives the game away. I ask Mr Tennant how surprised he was by the roaring success of Broadchurch, the TV talking point of 2013, and she interrupts to gush – “Oh yes, it was our biggest hit for a long time!” David Tennant turns to her, his face gaping with laughter. “Surely you can’t say that! What about Downton?” Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 08:45:10 GMT)

Stephen Sutton remembered by his mother
16 December 1994–14 May 2014Jane Sutton remembers the ‘bravery, honesty and joie de vivre’ of her son, who died aged 19 after raising almost £5m for Teenage Cancer TrustSee the Observer’s obituaries of 2014 in fullAnn Maguire remembered by Mike WoodsI couldn’t think of a better way to begin this tribute than by using a personal statement penned by Stephen back in 2011.“To put it simply, I’m awesome, incredible and amazing. Quite a statement I know, but it’s an attitude I’ve been forced to take up lately, simply due to being diagnosed with cancer about a year ago. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 09:00:25 GMT)

Tony Benn remembered by Saffron Burrows
3 April 1925-14 March 2014The actor and longtime friend of the Labour politician recalls a tireless activist who loved people, talking – and teaSee the Observer’s obituaries of 2014 in fullStuart Hall remembered by David LammyIt feels like there was my life before Tony died, and my life now. We shared a particular, singular friendship, one that began in my 20s and in Tony’s post-parliamentary era. Over 14 years, he became my friend, my confidante and, eventually, my protector.We met, for “the first time”, more than once. As a child, during a miners’ rally on a town hall steps, I approached him, asking for his signature in a book of his that I clutched in my hand. Of that day I recall his kindness, his stooping down to speak to me, and not much more. Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 09:00:20 GMT)

German house displays over 400,000 Christmas lights - video
A homeowner explains the process of decorating his house in Calle, Germany, with more than 400,000 Christmas lights he has acquired since 1999. Rolf Vogt says his home has become somewhat of a local attraction, with visitors coming to see it expecting mulled wine and bratwurst. The first lights he bought were carried home in two suitcases from the US Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 14:26:50 GMT)

The Dozen: the weekend's best Premier League photos
We round up our favourite pictures from Saturday’s and Sunday’s matches in the English top flight Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 20:34:10 GMT)

Paintbrush portraits by Rebecca Szeto – in pictures
Since 1999, San Francisco artist Rebecca Szeto has been working on Paintbrush Portraits, an ongoing series of figures created from old brushes. When she started she was working as a faux finisher, making new buildings and furniture look more ‘old world’. She started to collect paintbrushes to stop them being thrown away. ‘I’d amassed a lot of eco-guilt from the sheer number of materials I witnessed being thrown out,’ she says. And then inspiration struck: ‘I happened to see a ratty brush of mine that had a small speck of red paint on it, and it reminded me of Velázquez’s Infanta Margarita de Austria (1654).’ Szeto whittles down the brushes using a small knife and decorates them with oil paints. Continue reading...
(Sat, 20 Dec 2014 23:00:10 GMT)

From Alvar Aalto to Zaha Hadid: an alphabet of famous architects – in pictures
Tatlin’s tower, Eames chairs, and Zaha on typically organic form… Federico Babina’s new graphic A-Z makes mini-monuments of world-famous architects Postcards from the edge: Rowan Moore on the work of Federico BabinaBuy Archibet here Continue reading...
(Mon, 22 Dec 2014 07:00:04 GMT)

The 20 photographs of the week
A deadly siege in Sydney, outrage in Peshawar over the school massacre, Russia’s economic woes and the ongoing Ebola outbreak – the best photography in news and culture from around the world this weekWarning: some of these photographs contain graphic content Continue reading...
(Sat, 20 Dec 2014 10:59:26 GMT)

Your pictures: share your photographs on the theme of 'new'
Wherever you are in the world, we’d like to see your pictures of ‘new.’ Share your best photos via GuardianWitnessReaders’ pictures on the theme of ‘escape’We’re now running a regular weekly photography assignment in the Observer New Review and the next theme is ‘new.’ Share your photos of what new means to you – and tell us about your image in the description box.The closing date is 31 December at 10 am. We’ll publish our favourites in The New Review on 4 January and in a gallery on the Guardian site. Continue reading...
(Sat, 20 Dec 2014 22:35:09 GMT)

Breaking away: readers' photos on the theme of 'escape'
For last week’s photography assignment in the Observer New Review we asked you to share your photos on the theme of ‘escape’ via GuardianWitness. Here’s a selection of our favouritesShare your photos on this week’s theme ‘box’ Continue reading...
(Sat, 20 Dec 2014 22:30:11 GMT)

Santa's real workshop: the town in China that makes the world's Christmas decorations
Inside the ‘Christmas village’ of Yiwu, there’s no snow and no elves, just 600 factories that produce 60% of all the decorations in the world Continue reading...
(Fri, 19 Dec 2014 11:02:07 GMT)

Billie Whitelaw dies aged 82
Actor best known for her collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett has died, her son confirms• Michael Billington on Beckett’s ‘perfect actress’• A screen and stage career in pictures• Billie Whitelaw obituary Continue reading...
(Sun, 21 Dec 2014 21:47:00 GMT)

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