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Latest news, sport, business, comment, analysis and reviews from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice



Published: Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:45:22 GMT2017-12-15T06:45:22Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017
 



Theresa May tells EU: I’m still in control despite Commons loss

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 21:30:03 GMT2017-12-14T21:30:03Z

Prime minister seeks to allay leaders’ concerns as she lobbies for swift agreement on post-Brexit transition period

Theresa May lobbied for swift agreement on the terms of a post-Brexit transition period as she sought to reassure concerned leaders over dinner at an EU summit that she was still in control despite her Commons defeat.

The prime minister’s setback on Wednesday evening provoked questions in Brussels over Downing Street’s ability to negotiate the second phase of talks, along with hope in some quarters that the UK may eventually reverse its decision to leave the bloc.

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Friday briefing: Working families shunted from homes to hovels

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:30:40 GMT2017-12-15T06:30:40Z

Homelessness spreading as rents soar, says watchdog … Brexit rebel Grieve tells of death threats … and ‘slow-moving crisis’ in the South China Sea

Good morning – Warren Murray here with a briefing to round out the week.

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Ashes 2017-18: Australia v England third Test, day two – live!

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:42:45 GMT2017-12-15T06:42:45Z

Bancroft gets too far over, and although Overton is tall, he pitched it nice and full, and Marais Erasmus has to change his decision. Great review, and game on.

Given not out...

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Boris Johnson swigs can of peach juice from Fukushima

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:19:25 GMT2017-12-15T06:19:25Z

Foreign secretary drinks down gift from Japan’s foreign minister in attempt to show food and drink from region is safe after triple nuclear meltdown

“Yum.” That was foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s verdict on a can of peach juice from Fukushima – a gift from his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono – during their meeting in London this week.

The moment, captured by Kono on his smartphone, was intended to prove that food and drink from Fukushima is safe, almost seven years after the triple nuclear meltdown.

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Families with stable jobs at risk of homelessness in Britain, report finds

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:01:02 GMT2017-12-15T00:01:02Z

Nurses are among those ending up with nowhere to live after being evicted by private-sector landlords, says watchdog

Homelessness is now a serious risk for working families with stable jobs who cannot find somewhere affordable to live after being evicted by private-sector landlords seeking higher rents, the local government ombudsman has warned.

Michael King said nurses, taxi drivers, hospitality staff and council workers were among those assisted by his office after being made homeless and placed in often squalid and unsafe temporary accommodation by local authorities.

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'Slow-moving crisis' as Beijing bolsters South China Sea war platform

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 03:46:07 GMT2017-12-15T03:46:07Z

US thinktank reveals satellite images showing new munitions depots, radar systems and fighter jet deployments to disputed region in 2017

China has created military facilities about four times the size of Buckingham palace on contested islands in the South China Sea, a new report has said, calling the build-up a “slow-moving crisis” in one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints.

China built about 29 hectares (290,000 square metres) of new facilities on contested islands in 2017, including munitions depots, sensor arrays, radar systems and missile shelters, according to an analysis by US thinktank the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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Scotland Yard carrying out 'urgent assessment' after rape trial collapses

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 03:58:26 GMT2017-12-15T03:58:26Z

Met officers failed to disclose messages between complainant and her friends – which cast doubt on the case – until the trial was about to close

Scotland Yard is carrying out an “urgent assessment” after a rape prosecution collapsed due to the late disclosure of evidence that undermined the case.

The trial of Liam Allan, 22, was halted at Croydon crown court on Thursday and the judge called for a review of disclosure of evidence by the Metropolitan police, as well as an inquiry at the Crown Prosecution Service, the Times reported.

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Dustin Hoffman denies fresh allegations of sexual misconduct

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 02:04:49 GMT2017-12-15T02:04:49Z

Two women accuse actor of sexual assault and a third alleges he exposed himself to her when she was a teenager

New allegations of sexual misconduct have surfaced against the actor Dustin Hoffman, with two women accusing him of sexual assault and a third alleging that he exposed himself to her in a hotel room when she was a teenager.

The playwright Cori Thomas, a high school friend of Hoffman’s daughter Karina, claimed that Hoffman exposed himself to her in a hotel room after a Sunday afternoon outing in Manhattan with the Hoffman family when she was 16 years old, according to an article published in Variety on Thursday.

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Half of young people do not use condoms for sex with new partner – poll

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:01:02 GMT2017-12-15T00:01:02Z

Finding that 10% of sexually active 16 to 24-year-olds have never used a condom comes as campaign aimed at avoiding STIs launches

Almost half of sexually active young people do not use a condom when sleeping with someone for the first time, and more than one-third of young people think carrying protection is a sign someone is promiscuous, a survey has found.

One in 10 sexually active 16 to 24-year-olds, the age group that accounted for 59% of chlamydia and gonorrhoea diagnoses in England last year, said they had never used a condom, prompting calls from the Royal College of GPs for investment in sexual and reproductive health services.

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Could drinking tea really be linked to a lower risk of glaucoma?

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 23:30:01 GMT2017-12-14T23:30:01Z

A study has found a link between hot tea and a lower risk of glaucoma, but experts say there’s no evidence that a cuppa will protect you from the condition

Drinking hot tea could be linked to a lower risk of having an eye condition that can lead to blindness, research has suggested – although experts say the study does not show that the brew offers any protective effect.

Glaucoma is an eye condition in which the pressure of fluids inside the eye damages the optic nerve – and can lead to blindness if left undetected. Many are unaware they have the condition, and while the risk of glaucoma increases with age, it can also affect babies and children. About 57.5 million people are thought to have the condition worldwide.

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Manchester City’s plan for global domination

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:00:09 GMT2017-12-15T06:00:09Z

Football has already been transformed by big money – but the businessmen behind Man City are trying to build a global corporation that will change the game for ever. By Giles Tremlett

On 19 December 2009, Pep Guardiola stood and wept in the middle of Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The 38-year-old Barcelona manager clasped a hand across his face as his body gave way to huge, shoulder-heaving sobs. Zlatan Ibrahimović, the club’s towering Swedish striker, wrapped a tattooed arm around Guardiola’s neck and then gave him a vigorous push in order to jolt him out of it. But Guardiola could not stop. It was a strange place for the world’s most celebrated football coach to break down: Barcelona had just won a game that few people watched on television to secure one of football’s most obscure titles, the Fifa Club World Cup. But the victory secured an unbreakable record: Barcelona had won all six titles available to any club in a single year. That is why Pep was sobbing.

Back at home in Barcelona, it was a bittersweet moment for Ferran Soriano. A hairdresser’s son from the city’s working-class district of Poblenou, Soriano had become one of FC Barcelona’s top executives – and had helped build what could now claim to be the greatest football team the world had ever seen. “I was happy, but it was also painful not to be there when the team reached its pinnacle,” he told me. Instead, he picked up the phone and called Guardiola.

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'You can't see the Empire State Building from the top': readers on overrated tourist sights

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:30:09 GMT2017-12-15T06:30:09Z

With a new zoo in China leaving visitors underwhelmed, we asked you about the tourist attractions you found a letdown

After joining a queue that stretched around the block from the front door, we thought we might be waiting to get in for 20 minutes or so. As we got closer and closer to the front, we got more and more excited ... until we got inside and saw that the queue snaked back and forth and we were miles away from the front. We decided to stay and eventually got to the lift and went up the building – but not to the top. We had to get out of the lift and join another queue that took you to the observation deck. Then, when you get to the top, the realisation dawns on you that the iconic view of New York has the Empire State Building in it, the one building you can’t see because you’re on top of it. You get a lovely view of the Chrysler Building though.

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What Salma Hayek’s Weinstein story reveals about Hollywood power and pay

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:00:09 GMT2017-12-15T06:00:09Z

The actor’s account of her dealings with the producer is shocking. Not just for providing further allegations of sexual harassment – but for what it tells about how and why women are paid less than men

In Salma Hayek’s blistering and upsetting account in the New York Times of the harassment and threats she received from Harvey Weinstein after she rejected his advances, there was a small but telling description of how deals in Hollywood were made – the sort of secretive, manipulative, imbalanced deals that enabled Weinstein to get away with his abusive behaviour for so long. As an actor in Frida, the biopic of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo that she had taken to Weinstein as her own project, Hayek wrote that she would be paid “the minimum Screen Actors Guild scale plus 10%. As a producer, I would receive a credit that would not yet be defined, but no payment.” This kind of remuneration – or rather lack thereof – for a producing role was not, she wrote, “that rare for a female producer in the 90s” (she doesn’t say whether she earned “back-end” money after the film’s success). She was excited, Hayek wrote, adding: “I did not care about the money … In my naivety, I thought my dream had come true.”

I wouldn’t like to second-guess the truth of this, but many women will be familiar with the stories they tell themselves about why they’re not paid as much as they should be, or as much as male peers. Hayek does it in her piece – she was a “nobody” (she wasn’t), she had been “lucky” (rather than talented) to land roles in Hollywood films – it was “unimaginable” for a Mexican actor to make it in Hollywood (true, but she had done it).

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Feeling the force: why directing a Hollywood blockbuster is tougher than ever

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:00:09 GMT2017-12-15T06:00:09Z

As the big-money Hollywood franchises tighten their stranglehold, directors seem more and more disposable. The Last Jedi’s Rian Johnson explains how he deals with the pressure

It was hardly short of work, but “creative differences” must have become the most overused phrase in Hollywood. It was trotted out earlier this year when directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller departed the Han Solo spin-off, and when Colin Trevorrow was jettisoned from Star Wars: Episode IX. Ditto when Edgar Wright left Marvel’s Ant-Man in 2014, while there was a tart whiff of you-know-what about the reshoots on Gareth Edwards’s Rogue One.

Then there have been high-profile conflicts during production, as with Josh Trank on Fantastic Four, and last-minute balks such as Warner’s decision not to let Ben Affleck direct as well as be The Batman. It’s hard not to conclude that, in the blockbuster world, directors – far from the idea of the creative mastermind – are becoming more disposable than ever.

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'It sounds like Michael Bubbly!' Big Shaq rates his rivals for Christmas No 1

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:00:09 GMT2017-12-15T06:00:09Z

The coat-obsessed Man’s Not Hot rapper has made the viral pop hit of the year – and could now be the Christmas No 1. So does he think he can beat Ed Sheeran, Mariah Carey and Gregory Porter?

Amid the usual sleigh bells, string sections and festive lyrics in this year’s Christmas No 1 race comes a man in a big coat, adamant that he is not overheating. Big Shaq’s Man’s Not Hot has become a snowballing breakthrough hit during the last few months: a parody of hardnut London rappers who use ridiculous slang, impersonate gunshots, and never, ever take off their coats. The knowingly witless aggression of its lyrics – “take man’s Twix by force” – makes them endlessly quotable, earning the track more than 100m views on YouTube and 74m streams on Spotify. It’s even been repeated in parliament by Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya.

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Macedonia says it needs prospect of joining EU to thwart authoritarianism

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 05:00:08 GMT2017-12-15T05:00:08Z

Country wants to find solution to naming dispute with Greece but must see progress in other areas, warns Radmila Šekerinska

Efforts to promote liberal politics in the Balkans will be set back if Macedonia is not offered a firm prospect of Nato and EU membership next year, the leaders of the country’s fledgling government have warned.

Radmila Šekerinska, Macedonia’s deputy prime minister and defence minister, told the Guardian: “The next year is crucial. We need to show that there are developments – people do not expect everything to be solved tomorrow – but they expect progress because we have been stuck for 10 years. What happens will create either inspiration or frustration right across the Balkans.”

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Is ‘Oumuamua an alien spacecraft? First scans show no signs of technology

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 18:14:40 GMT2017-12-14T18:14:40Z

Mysterious object detected hurtling through our solar system swept for radio signals, but scientists have found no evidence it is anything other than rock

The first scans for alien technology aboard a mysterious object that is barreling through the solar system have found no evidence it is the work of an intelligent civilisation.

The cigar-shaped object was spotted hurtling through the solar system in October and while astronomers suspected it was an interstellar asteroid, its curious shape led them to propose sweeping it for radio signals in case it happened to be an alien craft.

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RU alt-right, hun? Spare a thought this Christmas for Britain’s political unholy trinity

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 18:00:12 GMT2017-12-14T18:00:12Z

Unloved, unwanted and with no lucrative media jobs to go to, Nigel Farage, Milo Yiannopoulos and Katie Hopkins are sure to be finding this time of year particularly difficult

Nothing, but nothing, is higher camp than a “resting” star of the alt-right. They have an order of luvvieness all their own, several leagues beyond even the self-absorption of Withnail. At present, no fewer than three of the UK’s biggest names on the wingnut fringe are “between jobs”. Abu Hopkins has been flushed by both LBC and MailOnline, while Milo Yiannopoulos was forced out at Breitbart for suggesting child sex abuse is “really not that big of a deal” and can even be a positive experience.

Nigel Farage, meanwhile, has returned from Alabama empty-handed from endorsing an alleged paedophile for Steve Bannon, in whose absolute thrall he forlornly remains. Dear Nigel. What a long way to go and still not be rewarded with so much as a graveyard Fox News contract. What was it Uncle Monty said about his agent? “Four floors up on the Charing Cross Road and never a job at the top of it.” You may sense the possibility of Nigel ever playing the Dane is receding. In the European parliament, meanwhile, Sunset Boulevard is showing again, as our hero this week quavered: “I fear Brexit may need to be fought all over again.” Yup, he’s still big. It’s the Brexit that got small.

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Trabzonspor challenge puts Gianni Infantino’s stint at Uefa under scrutiny

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:00:10 GMT2017-12-15T06:00:10Z

• Fifa president accused of permitting lax approach towards match-fixing
• Turkish Football Federation’s ruling on Fenerbahce for 2010-11 disputed

The Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, has been accused of permitting a lax approach towards match-fixing when he was Uefa general secretary during the 2010‑11 scandals within Turkish football, which still reverberate years later.

Fenerbahce won the 2011 Turkish Super League on goal difference from Trabzonspor but 36 officials and players were later convicted of match-fixing in criminal proceedings in Turkey, including the president, Aziz Yildirim, who was sentenced to six years and three months in prison. In 2015, after Turkey under its president Recep Erdogan abolished the special courts that heard the Fenerbahce cases, Yildirim and the other defendants were acquitted of the charges in retrials.

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Why I’m surprised by Chris Froome’s situation … but not shocked

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 21:50:48 GMT2017-12-14T21:50:48Z

The latest chapter has placed Team Sky right back in the spotlight, following on from the Jiffy-bag and Richard Freeman affairs

Reflecting on Chris Froome’s adverse analytical finding for salbutamol, I’m surprised but not shocked. I’m surprised because I did not think the team would make that kind of mistake, but not shocked because of the year that Sky have just had. It comes on the back of the whole thing with the Jiffy bag, the Fancy Bears hack, Dr Freeman’s problems, Shane Sutton saying that they were looking for percentages by going into grey areas. There have been so many issues. It all just adds to the misery that Froome’s squad have been going through.

Eight years ago when that team was being formed, I wouldn’t have expected the story to end up here. Dave Brailsford launched the team with the aim of being ethical, cleaner, brighter and more transparent than everyone else but as it’s gone on it has all got greyer and darker.

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Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:01:02 GMT2017-12-15T00:01:02Z

Will there be goals galore again at the Etihad, could West Ham finish off Hughes and is Jack Wilshere the man to bring some beauty back into Arsenal’s play?

Since 2010-11, when the two games between these sides featured one goal between them, this has not been a fixture for goalkeepers. In 12 meetings there have been precisely 50 goals, scored at the rate of 4.2 per match. There is a recent history of mayhem, which coupled with the recent improvement in Tottenham’s form makes this probably the most likely moment for a while for the leaders’ successive-win juggernaut to come to a halt. Between this game and the visit to Arsenal at the end of February, City play Leicester twice, Newcastle twice, and five times against sides they have already beaten this season by an aggregate score of 24-3 (though that includes a visit to Liverpool). Should Pep Guardiola’s side emerge victorious on Saturday it becomes troublingly difficult to see where in the near future they might falter. Last season’s 2-2 draw in this fixture was memorable for some particularly poor goalkeeping: both City goals were down to Hugo Lloris clangers, and Claudio Bravo only faced two shots on target and let them both in. Ederson will present a more formidable obstacle for Spurs on Saturday. SB

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Sam Allardyce admits being powerless on Ross Barkley’s Everton future

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 22:47:00 GMT2017-12-14T22:47:00Z

• New manager yet to discuss contract situation with Barkley
• Calvert-Lewin, Holgate and Kenny sign new long-term deals

Sam Allardyce has said he will be powerless to prevent Ross Barkley leaving Everton next month should the club’s board decide to cash in on the midfielder.

Barkley, yet to feature this season because of a serious hamstring injury, is out of contract at the end of the campaign having rejected a new deal with his boyhood club. He turned down a move to Chelsea on deadline day in August as he wanted more time to consider a transfer that could have earned Everton up to £35m. Chelsea are expected to renew their interest in January while Tottenham Hotspur are also keen on the England international.

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The Anti-Sports Personality of the Year awards 2017

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:00:29 GMT2017-12-14T11:00:29Z

Before the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year awards on Sunday celebrate the best of 2017, here are our anti-heroes from the sporting world this year

The retiring Taylor’s last year on the PDC circuit has not been without incident. There has of course been sporting success, including a 16th World Matchplay title, but also controversy, much of it centred on the Grand Slam of Darts, where he lost in the semi-finals to Michael van Gerwen. During that match the players were seen in heated discussion as they left the stage for a break. Later the victor was asked what had happened, and recounted a frankly not enormously interesting conversation. “He came to me: ‘You shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that.’ I just said: ‘You’re a knob.’ That’s exactly what I said,” Van Gerwen explained.

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The Fiver | Capable of destroying lesser defences like Star Wars films trash box office rivals

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 16:36:01 GMT2017-12-14T16:36:01Z

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Sure, they beat Liverpool 4-1 back in October, but Tottenham’s record against the very best teams this season is not exactly encouraging, what with the defeats at Manchester United and Arsenal, and the other at home to Chelsea. Meanwhile they have frolicked to victory against weaker sides such as Stoke, Huddersfield and Real Madrid. In short, they are capable of destroying lesser defences with the giddy inevitability with which Star Wars films trash box office rivals, but go into more testy encounters like they’re looking down the sharp end of a lightsaber and have forgotten all their fancy-dan Jedi mind control skills.

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The 50 best TV shows of 2017: No 3 Twin Peaks: The Return

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:00:09 GMT2017-12-15T06:00:09Z

Weird and weirdly wonderful, David Lynch’s maximalist reboot was smarter, funnier, stranger and more perplexing that anything else on TV

Twin Peaks: The Return might not have been the best TV series of 2017 (according to this poll, at least). Then again, it might not be a TV series at all. Earlier this month, Sight and Sound’s critics’ poll of the finest films of 2017 put David Lynch’s drama at No 2, ahead of Call Me By Your Name, The Florida Project and Dunkirk. The decision prompted howls of rage from snooty cineastes – but it was also quite fitting. Twin Peaks wasn’t interested in being constrained by categories and boxes; it could be anything you wanted it to be.

Still, The Return made most other TV series look small by comparison. It was smarter than most shows, funnier, stranger (obviously), sadder, more terrifying and – during a five-minute scene of a man sweeping a bar-room floor – more boring than most shows. It contained multitudes … and Michael Cera doing a Marlon Brando impression. It was pure televisual maximalism.

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The best albums of 2017, No 6: LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:00:09 GMT2017-12-15T06:00:09Z

Plot twist! James Murphy and co returned with an exquisite ode to love, musical heroes and middle-age

It was the comeback that was never supposed to be, for a band that were never allowed to disappoint, after they flamboyantly broke up with farewell shows at Madison Square Garden in 2011. The stakes were high: fans had been given an unimpeachable legacy and a perfect ending. Why, went the logic, would James Murphy dare sully the music we loved and adored in the noughties by – plot twist! – making more of it?

Well, because there was more to say. American Dream, for all its declarative intent, didn’t so much chronicle the state of the nation as it does Murphy’s place in it now; the middle-aged cool guy in a middle-aged cool band, lamenting relationships and heroes, love and ageing. It is exquisite. A moody, pulsating epic that wears its references – Berlin-era Bowie, 80s Talking Heads, the entire first decade of DFA Records’ output – without being wearying.

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The 50 top films of 2017 in the UK: No 6 The Handmaiden

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:00:09 GMT2017-12-15T06:00:09Z

Continuing our countdown of the year’s finest films, Peter Bradshaw praises Park Chan-wook’s dazzling film about a lesbian love affair in 1930s Korea

Sarah Waters’s novel Fingersmith has had a lavish, almost operatically spectacular adaptation by the Korean auteur Park Chan-wook, which isolates and intensifies the keynote of eroticism. The sexuality drenches the superbly designed fixtures, fittings and fabrics of this film and perfumes the intoxicating air that all the characters breathe.

Related: The Handmaiden review – suspense thriller drenched with sex | Peter Bradshaw's film of the week

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The top 10 architecture and design events of 2017

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 18:17:33 GMT2017-12-13T18:17:33Z

It was a year that celebrated new dawns. From plywood to postmodernism, from the return of council housing to a Cornish art gallery, our critic picks his highlights

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The Tories are savaging libraries – and closing the book on social mobility | John Harris

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:00:09 GMT2017-12-15T06:00:09Z

Since 2010, more than 478 libraries have closed in England, Wales and Scotland. It’s the old Tory con: talk up advancement, then attack the institutions that make it possible

If they weren’t already here, we’d have to invent them: public spaces, crammed with books, computers and information points, where events and meetings regularly take place, and children in particular get an early taste of the world beyond their own immediate experience.

Related: The UK no longer has a national public library system | Laura Swaffield

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Anti-trans zealots, know this: history will judge you | Owen Jones

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:00:10 GMT2017-12-15T06:00:10Z

Those who resisted gay rights have been damned. The same fate awaits bigots who dismiss trans rights

It all seems so chillingly familiar. As gay and bisexual men and women were making limited strides in the struggle for equality not so long ago, a furious backlash followed. Today’s media-driven moral panic over trans people and their rights seems like history repeating itself. Over the past few weeks, there have been almost daily articles in the press targeting trans rights and trans people. The tropes are the same. Back then, gay people were sexual predators; a “gay lobby” was brainwashing children; being gay was a mental illness, or just a phase; and gay rights was political correctness gone mad. Replace “gay” with “trans”, and that’s the state of the British press in 2017.

Related: Trans people already face a hostile world. Now the media is making it worse | Paris Lees

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After this week, I refuse to believe that Brexit is unstoppable | Martin Kettle

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:00:09 GMT2017-12-15T06:00:09Z

The government’s Commons defeat opens up new and far-reaching possibilities – of a second referendum and of the leaving process coming off the rails

Appearances matter a lot in politics. But in the end, the numbers matter more. On Brexit as on everything else, Theresa May has always behaved as if she is a prime minister with a clear parliamentary majority, a united party and a reconciled country behind her. But the reality is that she is none of these things, and Wednesday’s four-vote Commons defeat has found her out.

Related: Proud of themselves? The Tory Brexit rebels certainly should be | Polly Toynbee

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David Davis ‘bright-eyed and bushy-tailed’ after Brexit defeat. Yeah, right | John Crace

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 15:19:06 GMT2017-12-14T15:19:06Z

The strain showed on the Brexit secretary’s face as Labour rubbed it in over the Tory rebellion on the EU withdrawal bill

With exquisite timing, just hours after the government had been defeated on a vote on the EU withdrawal bill, the Brexit secretary found himself back in the Commons to face departmental questions. Still, David Davis had had enough time to consider how best to respond to the setback – and he had decided to pretend that it hadn’t really happened. Or, if it had, that it was of little significance. A minor setback in the grand scheme of things.

It wasn’t long before Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, tried to put him right. The government had suffered a “humiliating and avoidable” defeat, Starmer observed, and parliament had decided it should have a meaningful vote on a final deal. Could the minister now confirm there were no plans to overrule this at the report stage of the bill?

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The Guardian view on deporting rough sleepers: rights and wrongs | Editorial

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 19:40:02 GMT2017-12-14T19:40:02Z

For more than three years the Home Office ran a shaming and unlawful policy just to undermine the right to free movement

The high court has robustly rejected the Home Office case that citizens of the EU and the European Economic Area were abusing their right to be in the UK if they were sleeping rough. The government has finally been forced to acknowledge that it is not illegal to be too poor to pay for a roof over your head, and it is illegal to return such people to their country of origin.

This policy of picking up, detaining and then “sending home” EU citizens belongs entirely to Theresa May. Five years ago, when she was home secretary and Downing Street only a glint in her eye, she announced that she intended to create a “hostile environment” for people living in the UK illegally. Critics warned that it would turn landlords, GPs and teachers into immigration enforcement officers; the Home Office duly began hoovering up information from interactions between migrant workers and the state. Three years ago, jobseekers from EU and EEA countries were banned from claiming housing benefit, precipitating hundreds of low-paid workers into insecure housing and some on to the street. Soon, the idea that rough sleeping was an abuse of the right of free movement was being tested on the ground. In Operation Adoze, launched in November 2015, 127 rough sleepers from EEA countries were detained and removed in eight weeks. It became part of the official administrative removals policy; charities that work with street sleepers, like St Mungo’s and ThamesReach, were recruited to pass information about their clients to the Home Office, leading to their removal.

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After Alabama, Republicans need to choose reason over rage

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:38:05 GMT2017-12-14T17:38:05Z

For the Republicans to hold on to what they have, the party will need to cool some of its more inflammatory rhetoric in the coming months

First Virginia, and now Alabama. From the looks of things, the Republican party is going through a rough patch. Sure, the GOP controls the White House, both chambers of Congress, and even the supreme court – thank you, Mitch McConnell – but it doesn’t look or feel like fun.

Instead, traditional Republican constituencies like high-end suburbanites and college grads appear to be abandoning the party of their parents, or at least taking a powder. With the 2018 midterm elections looming just over the horizon, a little soul searching and reflection may do all of us a bit of good.

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The Guardian view on Rupert Murdoch: a man out of time | Editorial

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 19:42:23 GMT2017-12-14T19:42:23Z

The billionaire is leaving entertainment for news. That’s a worry since he indulges in trust-only-your-prejudice journalism. The UK regulator should call him out on it

It scarcely seems possible to think that Rupert Murdoch is walking away from the film and TV factories he spent a lifetime building. Yet on Wednesday the media mogul confirmed the rumours: he was out of the entertainment business – selling his Fox assets to Walt Disney, a bigger firm, in a $66bn deal. If the deal passes the regulatory hurdles, the Murdochs will be left with a 5% stake in the newly enlarged Disney company. This is a case of Mickey Mouse roaring and the Fox running. Battles are not won by retreating. Mr Murdoch has tasted defeat. He has turned away from popular culture, realising perhaps that he could not dominate the landscape as he would have liked.

Mr Murdoch did try: his studios produced the popular Simpsons cartoon and the X-Men movie franchise; he created Europe’s largest satellite TV provider; and his company ran one of India’s most-watched channels. But in a changing world he appeared like a man out of time. In entertainment the internet is undermining the dominance of mass media and handing power to new content providers such as Amazon and Netflix as well as tech giants like Apple, which plans an entertainment division. Viewers increasingly prefer to pay subscriptions to these providers for streamed content rather than for cable or satellite services. These web-based video-on-demand channels provided the must-see shows of recent years, such as House of Cards.

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MPs call for legal action over 'shocking' HS2 payouts

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:01:02 GMT2017-12-15T00:01:02Z

Public body overseeing £55bn rail project ‘lacks basic financial controls’ with outgoing staff overpaid by £1.76m, committee warns

MPs have called on the government to consider legal action against the former chief executive of the public body building the new high-speed rail network, over £1.76m in redundancy payments made in direct contravention of civil service rules.

HS2 Ltd, which is overseeing the £55bn project, paid a total of £2.76m to 94 individuals, while the statutory redundancy terms should have kept the bill at £1m.

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Minimum alcohol price will raise cost by up to 90% in Scotland – study

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:01:02 GMT2017-12-15T00:01:02Z

Institute for Fiscal Studies says 50p minimum unit price will have dramatic impact with cider and lager prices soaring

The Scottish government’s 50p minimum unit price for alcohol, which comes into force on 1 May 2018, will have a dramatic impact on prices, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Some cider products will rise in price by as much as 90%, according to the IFS briefing note, which also found prices would increase across all alcohol types. The price of a 20 x 440ml pack of Strongbow would double, while a bottle of Tesco cream sherry would increase by 20%.

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Church of England to apologise over George Bell abuse allegations

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:21:49 GMT2017-12-15T00:21:49Z

Church to release conclusions of inquiry into handling of sexual abuse case. Critics say they ruined former bishop’s reputation

The Church of England is to apologise for its handling of allegations of sexual abuse against one of its most revered figures of the 20th century, which critics said had destroyed the reputation of a respected man.

The church is due to make public on Friday the conclusions of an independent inquiry into the way it dealt with claims of abuse made against George Bell, the former bishop of Chichester and one of the most admired church leaders of recent times.

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Greater Manchester needs £1.5bn to boost cycling – Chris Boardman

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:01:02 GMT2017-12-15T00:01:02Z

The region’s first cycling and walking commissioner, makes demand in report to Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham

Greater Manchester should spend £1.5bn to make the region one of the best places in the world to cycle or walk, Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman has said.

Boardman, the first cycling and walking commissioner for Greater Manchester, has made the ambitious demand in his first report to Andy Burnham, the region’s mayor.

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Woman in key No 10 role paid £15,000 less than men for same job

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 19:10:26 GMT2017-12-14T19:10:26Z

Katie Perrior, who quit as Downing Street communications director in April, earned less than successor and predecessor

Ministers are not serious about the gender pay gap, equality campaigners have said, after it emerged that the only female Downing Street communications director since 2010 was paid £15,000 less than men for the same role.

A Cabinet Office list of salaries for special advisers and other senior appointees in government released on Friday showed Robbie Gibb, the former BBC journalist hired to the role in July, makes £140,000 a year.

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One in six parents allow children alcohol by age of 14, says study

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:01:02 GMT2017-12-15T00:01:02Z

Researchers say parents should heed warnings about children drinking, and there is little evidence it will educate them

One in six parents allow their children to drink alcohol by the age of 14, with potentially dire future consequences, according to a new study.

The researchers, from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the UCL Institute of Education, and Pennsylvania State University, suggest that many parents are offering their children alcohol at an early age to teach them to drink responsibly.

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Government sets targets for gender and ethnic diversity in quangos

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:01:02 GMT2017-12-15T00:01:02Z

Cabinet Office says that within five years, half of all 5,500 public appointees should be women, and 14% from ethnic minorities

The government has for the first time committed to ensuring that a specific percentage of public appointees should be women and people from ethnic minority groups.

The Cabinet Office has said that within five years, half of all 5,500 existing public appointees should be females and 14% people from ethnic minorities. Its previous “aspiration”, made in 2013, was that 50% of new appointees should be women.

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Major NHS trust turns away A&E patients 13 times in a week

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 19:49:21 GMT2017-12-14T19:49:21Z

As cold snap adds to pressure, Worcestershire trust is forced to divert patients from A&E at two hospitals

A major NHS hospital trust had to turn patients away from its A&E units 13 times last week – including four times in one day – as the snow left it facing “extremely challenging” conditions.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust was forced to divert emergency patients away from the A&Es at two of the hospitals it runs, the Worcestershire Royal in Worcester and Alexandra in Redditch.

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Six men sentenced to death in India for Dalit 'honour' killing

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 06:00:09 GMT2017-12-15T06:00:09Z

Shankar, 22, was hacked to death in Tamil Nadu by a gang of men including his wife’s father, because they did not approve of him marrying above his caste

Six men have been sentenced to death in India for the “honour” killing of a Dalit man who had married a woman from a higher caste.

Among those sentenced was the woman’s father. A seventh man was sentenced to life in prison and another man was given five years at the hearing in Tamil Nadu on Tuesday. The convictions were the toughest recorded for such a killing in the state.

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Nasa find first alien solar system with as many worlds as our own

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 19:14:56 GMT2017-12-14T19:14:56Z

Kepler scientists team up with Google AI specialists to detect eighth planet orbiting distant star

Scientists on Nasa’s Kepler mission have spotted an eighth planet around a distant star, making it the first alien solar system known to host as many planets as our own.

The newfound world orbits a star named Kepler 90 which is larger and hotter than the sun and lies 2,500 light years from Earth in the constellation of Draco.

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Children killed as train and school bus collide in southern France

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 19:10:36 GMT2017-12-14T19:10:36Z

  • Most victims in crash near Perpignan reportedly aged between 13 and 17
  • Bus was carrying pupils home from school when it was hit on crossing

A train has ploughed into a school bus at a crossing in southern France, killing at least four children and injuring more than 20 others, nine critically.

Most of the victims were reported to be aged between 13 and 17.

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US regulator scraps net neutrality rules that protect open internet

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 01:36:02 GMT2017-12-15T01:36:02Z

  • Decision a major victory for FCC chair and Trump appointee Ajit Pai
  • Critics warn plan will hand control of the web to big cable companies

The US’s top media regulator voted to end rules protecting an open internet on Thursday, a move critics warn will hand control of the future of the web to cable and telecoms companies.

At a packed meeting of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, the watchdog’s commissioners voted three to two to dismantle the “net neutrality” rules that prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from charging websites more for delivering certain services or blocking others should they, for example, compete with services the cable company also offers.

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Japanese company to start paying employees in bitcoin

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 04:52:26 GMT2017-12-15T04:52:26Z

GMO Internet will pay portion of salaries in the cryptocurrency – whose prices have recently surged – from February

A Japanese company will start paying part of its employees’ salaries in Bitcoin, as it aims to gain better understanding of the virtual currency, a spokeswoman has said.

GMO Internet, which operates a range of web-related businesses including finance, online advertising and internet infrastructure, will start paying up to 100,000 yen (£660/$890) monthly by Bitcoin to its employees in Japan from February next year.

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Rupert Murdoch reshapes media empire with $66bn Disney deal

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:40:20 GMT2017-12-14T12:40:20Z

Sale of 21st Century Fox assets includes stakes in Sky in the UK and Hollywood film studio as tycoon focuses on Fox News and newspapers

Rupert Murdoch has begun the breakup of his global media empire, announcing a $66bn (£50bn) deal with Disney to sell assets including his Hollywood film studio and a controlling stake in Sky.

Disney is buying the bulk of Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox media and entertainment business, in a significant strategic withdrawal for the Australian-born mogul after 60 years of deal-making and expansion from newspapers into film and TV.

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Delhi high court takes up lawsuit into Adani Group fraud allegations

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:51:43 GMT2017-12-15T00:51:43Z

Indian government ordered to respond to claims energy firms conspired to siphon money from state and defraud consumers

Delhi’s high court has taken up a lawsuit calling for an investigation into allegations that Adani Group and other energy companies engaged in fraud that raised power prices for Indian consumers.

The court has ordered the Indian government and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) to respond before 7 February to the lawsuit, which claims that several mining groups inflated coal and equipment prices to siphon money from India.

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'Golden opportunity' lost as Syrian peace talks collapse

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 20:28:10 GMT2017-12-14T20:28:10Z

UN special envoy blasts Bashar al-Assad, who is ‘unwilling to meet anyone with a different opinion’

UN-sponsored talks in Geneva designed to end the Syrian civil war have collapsed, with a deflated special envoy Staffan de Mistura admitting “a golden big opportunity” had been missed.

He largely blamed the Syria government delegation for setting preconditions on holding direct talks with the opposition, saying it would be difficult for any future talks sponsor to make progress “if the government is not willing to meet anyone who has a different opinion”.

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'Some don’t have bodies to bury’: My journey back to Dominica after the hurricane - video

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 10:00:28 GMT2017-12-14T10:00:28Z

This year the Caribbean experienced its most destructive hurricane season in decades. While large countries dominated the headlines, the small island nation of Dominica suffered the worst devastation it has ever seen. Josh Toussaint-Strauss visits his family in the country and asks, with next year forecast to be worse, how Dominicans see their future

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'I became a black man when I arrived in England': Inua Ellams on his play Barber Shop Chronicles

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 12:09:02 GMT2017-12-12T12:09:02Z

Inua Ellams was recently nominated for the Writers' Guild award for best play for Barber Shop Chronicles, which is currently on at the National Theatre. He speaks to the Guardian journalist Iman Amrani about black masculinity, his story as an immigrant and how he channels anger into his art

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Exclusive Johnny Marr and Maxine Peake music video: The Priest

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 09:25:17 GMT2017-12-11T09:25:17Z

Watch Johnny Marr and Maxine Peake's music video The Priest, about a young homeless girl's experiences of life on the street

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Fela Kuti: Box Set 4, curated by Erykah Badu review – witty, informative selection of music from a master

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 23:30:01 GMT2017-12-14T23:30:01Z

(Knitting Factory Records)

It wasn’t easy getting hold of Fela Kuti’s extraordinary music during much of his lifetime, but that changed dramatically after his death in 1997. The legendary Nigerian creator of Afrobeat had recorded over 50 albums, which have since been re-mastered and re-released, with classic tracks reappearing on a series of vinyl and CD compilations. The most recent box sets have been curated by musicians: Questlove, Ginger Baker, Brian Eno, and now the American singer-songwriter and actor Erykah Badu. I can’t imagine that there’s a Fela fan on the planet who doesn’t already own some of the material here, but this seven-LP set comes with the original artwork, and entertaining and informative essays by Badu and Afrobeat historian Chris May. It includes Coffin for Head of State, remarkable for Fela’s wide-ranging and furious lyrics, Yellow Fever, in which he wittily attacked the fashion for skin-bleaching, and the cool, gently driving instrumental Dog Eat Dog. Magnificent.

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The Unseen review – a deeper hell of bereavement

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:00:01 GMT2017-12-14T17:00:01Z

The chills aren’t quite refrigerated enough in this low-budget psychological thriller about a couple grieving over a lost child

There are interesting ideas and moments of potential in this low-budget British psychological chiller, a variation on the classic theme of Don’t Look Now. But due to issues with pacing and control of the narrative, it doesn’t quite come together, and the necessary chill isn’t properly refrigerated. 

Jasmine Hyde and Richard Flood play Gemma and Will, a wealthy couple living in London who are devastated after the death of their son: Gemma starts to suffer from psychosomatic blindness and Will starts hearing things. In despair they accept an offer of help from their mysterious neighbour Paul (Simon Cotton) – they can stay in his cottage in the Lake District. This holiday merely leads them into a deeper hell. 

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Bach: The Art of Fugue review – a striking, perfectly shaped performance

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 16:30:00 GMT2017-12-14T16:30:00Z

Accademia Bizantina/Dantone
(Decca)

In The Art of Fugue, “Bach plays to God and himself in an empty church”, the critic and composer Wilfrid Mellers memorably wrote. The sequence of 20 fugues and canons, grouped according to the contrapuntal devices they employ, remains one of the most enigmatic works in the history of western music, not only left unfinished at Bach’s death in 1750, with its final fugue incomplete, but also lacking any indications as to how it might be played.

It’s widely accepted now Bach really intended The Art of Fugue as a keyboard work, but Ottavio Dantone thinks otherwise. Some of the fugues, he writes, are impossible to play as written on a harpsichord. Instead, he opts for an ensemble of string quartet, harpsichord and organ, dividing the numbers between the instruments in a very skilful and effective way – the use of the two keyboards together, for instance, is unexpectedly striking. There is no attempt to complete the final fugue, which is left hanging in midair, and that is just about the only musical phrase in the entire performance that isn’t perfectly shaped.

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Shot Caller review – taut, tense prison thriller that's unexpectedly impressive

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 15:00:34 GMT2017-12-14T15:00:34Z

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is terrific as a blameless family man transformed into a tattooed hard case by his time in jail following a fatal road accident

The last film by Ric Roman Waugh I caught was the fantastically improbable and overblown Snitch, about the war on drugs. My expectations here were tepid. But Shot Caller turns out to be a really taut, tense, prison-set thriller, a little like Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet and longform television such as Breaking Bad or The Wire.

Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau plays Jacob, a blameless financial trader and family man who is sent to prison for accidentally killing someone while driving through a red light. Advised by his nervy lawyer to play it tough on his first day in the yard, Jacob catastrophically gets involved in a fight with an African-American prisoner and gets befriended by an extreme white-power gang – persuaded that hanging with them is the only way to survive. So he gets sucked into prison culture, discovers in himself a capacity for ruthlessness and morphs into a seriously tattooed gangbanger with the nickname “Money”.

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The Rape of Recy Taylor: behind one of the year's most vital documentaries

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:03:39 GMT2017-12-14T17:03:39Z

Sexual violence against women of color in the 40s went largely unpunished and a new film aims to shed light on one of the most courageous figures from the era

The titular crime in The Rape of Recy Taylor and the miscarriage of justice that follows occurred in 1944 and the spring of 1945. But amid a wave of sexual assault claims that is sweeping powerful men off their perches, the modern analogues are hard to miss. Specifically, the question of where this moment leaves women with no power, no leverage, no fame.

Director Nancy Buirski’s timing was an accident, but one she is grateful for.

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Still saving us from tears: the inside story of Wham!'s Last Christmas

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 16:00:00 GMT2017-12-14T16:00:00Z

From George Michael hogging the sleigh bells in the studio to pratfalling on the snowy video set, the beloved Christmas song is testament to the late pop star’s talent – and insecurities

In December 1984, two future seasonal staples were vying for Christmas No 1: Do They Know It’s Christmas? by charity supergroup Band Aid, and Last Christmas by Wham!. Admittedly, the competition wasn’t exactly cut-throat. George Michael not only sang on the Band Aid single, but also donated the royalties from Last Christmas to the same cause. Yet the Christmas single saturation that year did lead to a chart curiosity: Band Aid’s victory meant that one of the most beloved and brilliant festive songs never reached No 1.

The years, however, have only seen Last Christmas’s ubiquity grow: 3.7m copies sold and countless cover versions later (by everyone from Taylor Swift and Whigfield to Ariana Grande and Good Charlotte), it’s now the best-selling single to never reach the top of the UK charts. But this year, on the first anniversary of Michael’s death, with a fan campaign returning the song to the charts, that may be about to change.

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'Explore lightly': Palau makes all visitors sign pledge to respect environment

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 02:29:02 GMT2017-12-15T02:29:02Z

International arrivals must sign promise to children of Pacific nation that they will ‘tread lightly, act kindly’ during their stay

The tiny Pacific island nation of Palau has introduced a new law requiring visitors to sign a pledge not to harm the environment before entering the country.

The pledge will be stamped into the passports of international arrivals from this month.

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Literary fiction in crisis as sale drop dramatically, Arts Council England reports

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:01:02 GMT2017-12-15T00:01:02Z

New figures show that fewer UK writers earn enough to live on, as ACE blames falling sales of literary fiction on the recession and the rise of smartphones

The image of the impoverished writer scratching out their masterwork in a freezing garret remains as true today as it was a century ago, according to a new report commissioned by Arts Council England (ACE), which revealed that collapsing sales, book prices and advances mean few can support themselves through writing alone.

The report found that print sales of literary fiction are significantly below where they stood in the mid-noughties and that the price of the average literary fiction book has fallen in real terms in the last 15 years.

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Grenfell memorial: emotions raw as families and survivors mourn dead

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 14:00:02 GMT2017-12-14T14:00:02Z

Multi-faith service at St Paul’s Cathedral attended by royals and politicians – but not council leaders – hears call for a new vision of London out of tragedy

Clutching white roses and photographs of lost loved ones, the survivors and the bereaved of the Grenfell Tower fire were joined by members of the royal family, faith leaders and the prime minister at St Paul’s Cathedral to mark six months since the catastrophe.

Related: 'We'll be living with this for a long time to come’: Grenfell, six months on

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'Youthquake' named 2017 word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:01:02 GMT2017-12-15T00:01:02Z

A year of political change effected by young people tipped the balance of power in a shortlist including such buzzwords as Antifa, kompromat and Milkshake Duck

“Youthquake”, defined as “a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people”, has been selected by Oxford Dictionaries as the 2017 word of the year.

The term saw a 401% increase in usage year-on-year as 2017 saw the often-maligned millennial generation drive political change. The publishers cited the UK and New Zealand general elections as examples of young voters mobilising to support opposition parties.

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Sushi restaurant ranked UK’s best as London dominates Harden’s guide

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 00:01:02 GMT2017-12-15T00:01:02Z

The Araki in Mayfair beats Bristol’s Casamia to top spot, but Manchester emerges as fastest improving city for fine dining

Manchester has emerged as the UK’s fastest improving city for fine dining, but a £385-a-head London sushi restaurant is the country’s best, a respected food guide has found.

The Araki, a sushi restaurant in Mayfair with three Michelin stars, beat Casamia in Bristol and the Ledbury in London to top spot in the Harden’s Best UK Restaurants guide, which polls thousands of diners.

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Sweet wine isn’t just for Christmas

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:00:01 GMT2017-12-14T17:00:01Z

Christmas is a time when sweet and fortified wines find their way on to the domestic menu – but stock up for the rest of the year, too, while you’re about it

Judging by the selections of the supermarkets, Christmas seems to be the only time of year when we give ourself permission to drink sweet and fortified wine. Which is odd, because it’s fantastic with summer fruits, say, plus we eat pudding, and cheese, all year round. So now might be a time not only to stock up for the festivities, but also to buy for the rest of the year, so you have something gorgeous to drink with that apricot tart come August.

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My 10 Christmas food commandments

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:00:30 GMT2017-12-14T12:00:30Z

Thou shalt eat trifle on Boxing Day – and thou shalt not serve Christmas pudding. It’s the law, as laid down by Jay Rayner

For boring technical reasons to do with him predating the birth of Jesus by about 13 centuries, and being really quite Jewish, Moses was never in a position to lay down the law where Christmas is concerned. This strikes me as a terrible omission because God knows we could all do with the help. But do not fear. Having last year formulated 10 general food commandments, I feel uniquely placed to have a crack at 10 for Christmas. You can ignore them if you like, but on your own head be it.

One Thou shalt not mistake Nigella, Mary and Jamie for the Lord, thy God. Those Christmas specials are only TV programmes. They’re entertainment, not a blueprint for how your Christmas is meant to be. Yours won’t be anything like that because you don’t have battalions of home economists to knock up the food and set designers to decorate the house. Even Nigella’s won’t be like that.

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Readers recommend playlist: songs about Asian cities

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:00:30 GMT2017-12-14T12:00:30Z

This week a reader takes us for a bustling tour of Asian towns through music from Eartha Kitt, Robyn, Cornershop and Ryuichi Sakamoto

Here is this week’s playlist – songs picked by a reader from hundreds of suggestions on last week’s callout. Thanks for taking part. Read more about how our weekly series works at the end of the piece.

The continent of Asia is where cities began, ancient settlements such as Jericho, Ur and Çatal Hüyük were the first places people got together to moan about the traffic, their neighbours and housing prices. Let’s take a journey to visit a few of the modern cities of Asia – as seen through the music you’ve recommended.

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Protests in Haringey and a revitalised civic society | Letters

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 19:37:22 GMT2017-12-14T19:37:22Z

We must resist the rightwing press’s attempts to persuade the nation that the Labour party is led by rabid Leninists, says David Curtis. Alison Watson writes that next May’s local elections in Haringey will now focus on housing. Gabriel Osborne says that Momentum must follow democratic principles over CLP selections. Plus letters from Martin Ball and Mary Langan

Aditya Chakrabortty’s article on the political goings-on in Haringey was a welcome antidote to tales of Momentum manoeuvrings and the “hard” left (Haringey taken over by Momentum? It’s just locals taking back control, 12 December). The rightwing media has been very successful in persuading us that the modern Labour party is led by rabid Leninists. If Jeremy Corbyn is to win the next election, he must rebut this perception as explicitly as he can.

The present shadow cabinet is doing a good job, but Corbyn should act quickly to make it much more representative of the party. If we want to hear a Labour voice effectively opposing Brexit, we turn to Chuka Umunna or Heidi Alexander; for home affairs we listen to Yvette Cooper; on far-right undercover shenanigans, Ben Bradshaw. To see May wrong-footed we watch and admire Ed Miliband. A good start to the new year would be for Corbyn to bring colleagues of this stature into his shadow cabinet. Were he to do so, he would greatly strengthen his grip on parliament, lead a genuinely authoritative opposition and, at the same time, show that he leads a broad, unified and collegiate Labour party.
David Curtis
Solihull, West Midlands

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'Jay you're wrong - the Christmas pudding stays': your best comments on the Guardian today

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 10:03:26 GMT2017-12-14T10:03:26Z

Discussion turns to the aftermath of the Brexit amendment vote, and we also look at your conversation around the the dos and donts of Christmas food

Readers have been discussing the latest on the government’s Brexit defeat, as well as Christmas food and the short story Cat Person.

To join in you can click on the links in the comments below to expand and add your thoughts. We’ll continue to highlight more comments worth reading as the day goes on.

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Tell us what you think of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:43:59 GMT2017-12-14T11:43:59Z

Peter Bradshaw said ‘it’s impossible not to be swept away’. Now we want to hear what you made of the eighth episode of the saga

Back in October we asked readers to give their predictions for The Last Jedi, but now it’s finally here and we want to know what you think.

Did the film meet your expectations? Were questions you were waiting to be answered addressed? What scene stood out for you and how do you think the tone has been set for episode IX?

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Mark Hamill – ‘I said to Carrie Fisher: I’m a good kisser – the next thing, we’re making out like teenagers!’

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:36:32 GMT2017-12-14T13:36:32Z

Luke Skywalker is back in The Last Jedi – and it’s a triumphant return. The Star Wars actor recalls the shock of finding out about Fisher and Harrison Ford’s secret affair and the pain of losing his longtime friend

Han Solo is dead and Princess Leia, heartbreakingly, died almost a year ago, when Carrie Fisher died after becoming ill on a flight from London, as she was going home for Christmas. Which means, out of the original Star Wars trio, the most holy of cinematic trinities, Luke Skywalker is the last one standing. This is not how anyone expected it to end, least of all Luke himself, Mark Hamill. So, while the latest entry in the Star Wars canon, The Last Jedi, written and directed by Rian Johnson, is great fun – as exciting and inspired as its predecessor, JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens, but a lot funnier and without all the heavy-lifting of exposition and character setup that Abrams’s film had to cram in – it is also very poignant.

No one could have foreseen Fisher’s death and, in fact, she was going to be the centre of the next movie, just as Ford was the heart of The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi is very much Hamill’s film. But there are moments in this movie that feel, in retrospect, breathtakingly prescient. The scenes between Luke and Leia after their long separation made my throat catch. I cannot imagine what it must be like for Hamill to watch them, his last on-screen moments with the woman who, for 40 years, was his on-screen sister and his off-screen friend.

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The Murdoch brothers: how their roles will change

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 14:11:41 GMT2017-12-14T14:11:41Z

Rupert Murdoch’s Disney deal puts the focus back on his sons, James and Lachlan, and the question of family succession

For the past 20 years Rupert Murdoch’s youngest son has worked for the family business. If the Disney deal receives official approval, 45-year-old James is expected to depart the family firm – either to join the company behind Walt Disney Studios or to strike out on his own – marking a split in the dynasty. In the 1990s his father’s News Corporation conglomerate, which has since split in two, bought James’s start-up hip hop label Rawkus Records. But he first earned his spurs at the media group by successfully running the Asian TV business Star between 2000 and 2003. By the age of 30 he was head of Sky (then known as BSkyB) in the UK, where his star continued to rise.

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Toni Mascolo obituary

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 18:05:06 GMT2017-12-14T18:05:06Z

Hairdresser who was the business brains behind the Toni & Guy empire he built up with his brother Gaetano

Toni Mascolo was not in hairdressing for fashion, fame or art. He expressed his creativity not in extreme cut or colouring but in a novel business structure through his family firm, Toni & Guy. From his teens, Mascolo, who has died aged 75, was his own accountant, business adviser and advertising director, with an immigrant’s willingness to work full-speed from 8am to 10pm six days a week and concoct hair lacquer in bulk from raw ingredients in the back room should there be an hour’s slack in trade.

Mascolo understood from early on that the trade was descended from the guild system, where apprentices learned on the job, served time with a local master, then often split to found a new business. Its services were not reliable in standards or geographic spread. He introduced franchising, where every salon provided a brand-guaranteed level of service, but allowed the franchisee independence within a family. There are now almost 500 Toni & Guy salons in nearly 50 countries.

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Sofie Hagen's new show is raw, urgent and confessional … but is it comedy?

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:14:51 GMT2017-12-14T12:14:51Z

Having explored her depression and anxiety, the Danish comic is tackling childhood trauma. How do standups amuse an audience if even they don’t find their subject funny?

Her first show, Bubblewrap, was about depression and self-harm; her second, Shimmer Shatter, detailed her social anxiety. Now comes a show that digs deeper still, beneath the mental health challenges Sofie Hagen has faced and down to the emotional abuse she feels she endured in childhood, at the hands of her “narcissistic, psychopathic step-grandfather”, Ib. As with its predecessors, Dead Baby Frog feels as much like a therapy session as a standup set.

The road that runs from trauma to comedy has been well travelled in recent years – and with considerable success. Bubblewrap won Hagen the Edinburgh fringe’s best newcomer award in 2015. The following year, the festival’s top comedy prize went to Richard Gadd’s show about his experience of sexual assault. This year, Hannah Gadsby won it with Nanette, a fierce reaction against homophobia and gender violence. In comedy, the brutalised are kicking back to a chorus of critical acclaim – and the murmur of: “But is it comedy?”

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The 2017 comedy wildlife photography awards

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 18:11:30 GMT2017-12-14T18:11:30Z

Out of 3,500 entries from across the world, this year’s funny winners include a laughing dormouse, a shocked seal, and bears caught in the act

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Photographer of the year: we shortlist the best of 2017

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:30:25 GMT2017-12-14T07:30:25Z

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, bombed-out buildings in Syria and an anti-Trump march in New York are among the images captured by the agency photographers shortlisted by the Guardian picture desk this year. The winner will be announced on 21 December

From photojournalism in conflict zones and refugee camps to reactive news, politics, and feature work, the shortlist for agency photographer of the year 2017 scratches only the surface of the breathtaking work seen by the Guardian’s picture desk over the past 12 months.

More than 10,000 images come into the picture system from agencies on a daily basis. In addition to the daily run of galleries, the weekly From the Agencies series is where we display photo stories by individual news photographers. The winner of the agency photographer of the year 2017 competition will be revealed on 21 December.

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Monkeys and a Nutcracker: Thursday's top photos

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:45:52 GMT2017-12-14T11:45:52Z

The Guardian’s picture editors bring you a selection of photo highlights from around the world

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Kind of blue: Porto's azulejo facades – in pictures

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 13:38:28 GMT2017-12-14T13:38:28Z

In our weekly look at travel through three Instagram shots, Sam Jemai gets fired up by Porto’s famous blue tiles

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Minor White's vanished America – in pictures

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 07:00:25 GMT2017-12-14T07:00:25Z

In 1937, this son of a book-keeper and dressmaker moved from Minnesota to Portland, where he chronicled soon-to-be demolished 19th-century buildings – developing a vision that would influence countless photographers to come

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Ethiopia's living churches – in pictures

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 06:30:24 GMT2017-12-14T06:30:24Z

As one of the first countries to adopt Christianity, Ethiopia has a legacy of churches and monasteries, built on hilltops or hewn out of cliff faces, as well as vibrant traditions of worship. These are celebrated in a lavish book, Ethiopia: The Living Churches of an Ancient Kingdom

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