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It is approaching that time of the year when you take a backward look and think to yourself: what do I know now that I didn’t know a year ago?

Irving Brecher: Prolific comedy writer who scripted two films for the Marx Brothers

Known in comedy circles as the "undisputed king of all gag men, living or dead", Irving Brecher was admired by such figures as S.J. Perelman and Groucho Marx for his lightning wit. A prolific writer for radio and television, he also worked on classic screen musicals including Meet Me in St Louis, and wrote, unaided, two films for the Marx Brothers.

Yuvraj puts improving England in their place

India 292-9 England 238

Editor-At-Large: Where can we find Britain's Barack Obama?

It's hard not to feel energised by the euphoria surrounding Barack Obama's win. But what is the likelihood of anyone on this side of the Atlantic rekindling our interest in British politics? Zero, I would say. Commentators talked about the "Brown bounce" after Labour unexpectedly won a by-election in Scotland last week, but most of us remain profoundly turned off by politicians and the platitudes they spout. To be blunt, there are very few MPs and even fewer cabinet ministers who are able to connect with ordinary men and women in the way Obama does.

Security chief leaves job after workers hired without clearance

The chief executive of the body in charge of handing licences to security guards and club bouncers has lost his job after some of his employees were found to be working without proper security clearance.

Deborah Orr: The radical left's wet dream, or chaotic market logic?

It's the intellectual chaos that is the really frightening thing. Those who believe most fervently in the free market are the very people who hate most the spectacle of watching free-market favouring governments attempting to save it.

Pandora: Conspiracy theories abound over BBC's London bombings film

The BBC has found itself under siege from all sides over its decision to make a documentary about the bombings that took place in London on 7 July, 2005.

Murder inquiry opens after body of wife found at burnt-out mansion found shot

The investigation into an inferno at the home of a missing millionaire and his family officially became a murder hunt yesterday after one of the bodies found in the charred wreckage of the mansion was identified as the businessman's wife.

Convention Diary

* Assorted celebrities penetrated the Pepsi Centre for the dramas of Wednesday night including two African-American stars anxious to show their solidarity for Barack Obama, the rapper Kanye West and the actor Jamie Foxx. An invitation-only concert with West culminated with Foxx climbing on stage for a rap duet. Elsewhere in town, a luncheon for the Democratic Party featured two film stars with a long history of supporting liberal causes – Annette Bening and Susan Sarandon. And for those wondering how Ben Affleck's celebrity poker tournament turned out, it went on until 4am and he came out as the overall winner among no fewer than 100 players. Bravo Ben.

Pandora: Rushdie's former guard is being forced to apologise

Curious news from the Strand. We hear that Salman Rushdie and his former wife Elizabeth West are to be reunited at the High Court today. The pair will receive an official apology from a former bodyguard over allegations he made regarding their marriage.

Man who auctioned his life falls short of target

What's a man's life worth? More than £1m, it seemed, when bidding began for all of Ian Usher's worldly goods, plus his friends and job. But when the gavel went down in cyberspace yesterday, ending one of the world's most unusual auctions, the English expatriate's life was snapped up for a more modest £192,000.

At last: the Fall of the House of Clinton

Just as in the Edgar Allan Poe story, the great project hatched by Bill and Hillary is crumbling to dust

Howard Jacobson: The heart has its allegiances, to places as well as people. And a country is both

I think the recent suggestions about introducing oaths of fealty are fatuous, but then again I don't

For Sale: My life in Oz... including a house, job, motorbike, clothes, and, of course, a barbie!

Going, going, gone ... Six years after emigrating to Australia, a Briton is so upset by his divorce that he is putting his entire life up for auction on eBay, reveals Kathy Marks
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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
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
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
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Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all