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Place your bets ahead of tomorrow when Betfair reports its half-year results.

Kate Ladner is lured into danger in Buxton's double-bill

The Maiden in the Tower/Kaschei the Immortal/Too Hot to Handel, Buxton Festival Opera, Derbyshire
The 1915 Concert, Cheltenham Festival of Music, Gloucestershire

Buxton unearths some operatic rarities, while a programme of wartime music sounds otherworldly

McKillen apologies to court for 'colourful' language in texts

Irish property developer Paddy McKillen faced embarrassment in his battle with the billionaire Barclay brothers over three top London hotels yesterday as a court heard how he labelled as "scum" the Qatari royalty he is hoping to seek financial backing from.

Barclays accused of 'obvious attempt to seize control of hotels'

The billionaire Barclay brothers were accused of an "obvious and transparent" attempt to illegally win control of three of London's most prestigious hotels yesterday, as a £1.1bn battle kicked off in the High Court.

Massive boilers stop traffic

A village came to a standstill today as the first of five massive boilers - each weighing more than 25 buses - trundled slowly through the streets to be shipped off for recycling.

Battle looms over £1.1bn control of top UK hotels

A £1.1bn battle royal over three of London's most exclusive hotels kicks off today as the secretive billionaire Barclay brothers square up to Belfast property developer Paddy McKillen in a clash at the High Court.

£1bn battle over hotels heads for court showdown

Barclay brothers take on property developer in tug-of-war over three five-star landmarks

Mary Ann Sieghart: The Tories will need more blue-skies thinking to win the next election

Years ago, back when Boris still needed a surname, a young Steve Hilton hoped to run for Mayor of London. But the Tories were nowhere near ready to choose a shaven-headed, tieless iconoclast as their candidate. Later, Hilton tried to be selected as an MP, but although he looked like many a metropolitan media professional, he was far too modern for the Conservative local associations. They preferred the throwback of a good-looking, public-school banker in pin-stripes.

Album: Civil Wars, Barton Hollow (Columbia)

The recent Grammys awarded them Best Folk Album and Best Country Duo, which tells you that Joy Williams and John Paul White need no introduction (or genre) in the US.

Wildlife official shoots lion

Singin' in the Rain, Palace Theatre, London

When Jonathan Church's production of Singin' in the Rain opened in Chichester last summer it brought the reviewers out in a fevered rash of five star raves.

Occupy protesters leave Barbican

Occupy London protesters who took over an office building in the City have left the site just hours after they occupied it.

Johnny Otis: Singer, songwriter and bandleader who popularised the hand jive

Johnny Otis was one of the most important figures in American black music, working as a songwriter, pianist, drummer, arranger and bandleader. He discovered many of the best rhythm and blues stars, including Little Willie John, Etta James and Esther Phillips. He was an extraordinary personality, all the more extraordinary for not being black.

A school for Burma: Amadeo Bennetta and Daniel Larossa's winning design

Wanted: one school, must be prepared to travel

How did an article in The Independent lead to the creation of a portable school for Burmese refugee children?

Berkeley defies the downturn as housebuilder's profits surge 64%

Mortgage indemnity plan will help many get on to the property ladder, says Tony Pidgley

Video: Californian highway collapses

Part of California's famous Highway 1 route has crumbled into the Pacific Ocean.

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there