News

The stellar explosion is the closest to be spotted since 1987 and will provide a 'galactic yardstick' for astronomers judging distances across the universe

Album: Seasick Steve, Man from Another Time (Atlantic)

Recorded live on old-style analogue equipment, Man from Another Time is typically enjoyable, though not quite as potent as the quarter-million-selling I Started Out with Nothing and I've Still Got Most of It Left – despite Steve's lo-fi ringing of the changes, with his trusty "three-string trance wonder" guitar set aside occasionally in favour of slide licks played on a homemade cigar-box guitar ("Happy"), and more primitive still, the single-string device whose construction is explained and demonstrated in "Diddley Bo".

David Prosser: Recessionary woes flatten the Footsie

Outlook: Close, but no cigar. For much of yesterday morning, the FTSE 100 flirted with its 2009 high, only for disappointing economic data from the US to prompt a modest sell-off.

Letters: Anger at proposed vetting procedures

Authors angered by vetting for child abuse

Alice Jones: High rollers and the fate of fat cigars

Havana Notebook

Were the Seventies the Golden Age of television?

My children are probably fed up with me telling them that there were no means of recording TV programmes when I was their age: no video recorders or DVD players or Sky+. When I add that until I was 13 I also watched everything in black-and-white, they look at me sympathetically, as if I was telling them that I was brought up in a workhouse on one bowl of gruel a day. But that's how it was. If circumstances prevented you from missing your favourite programme, circumstances sometimes as prosaic as your dad wanting to watch whatever was on the other "side" (we never said "channel" in those days), then you were stuffed. There were programmes I missed in the 1970s that I'm only catching up on now, thanks to UK Gold and ITV4.

My Mentor: Clive Aslet on Max Hastings

'Max could write leaders while smoking a cigar and speaking to cabinet ministers'

Paperbacks: The Essential Groucho, edited by Stephen Kanfer

This addition to Penguin Modern Classics may be a startling choice but Woody Allen is in favour: "[He] will be equally funny a thousand years from now."

Paperbacks: Churchill's Cigar, by Stephen McGinty

An ingenious idea brilliantly realised, this is a book-length footnote, but it is far more readable and enjoyable than the massive tomes it annotates.

Off Duty: Tampa

Why the capital of Florida cool is coming into its own

Paperback: A Florentine Death, By Michele Giuttari, trans Howard Curtis

Sicilian-born Michele Giuttari turned to crime writing when his day job, running Flo- rence's Anti-Mafia Squad, led to more death threats than was sensible. His best-selling debut is grounded in authentic police procedure and the seedier realities of Florentine life. Like his creator, Chief Superintendent Ferrara is a fiftysomething Sicilian with black hair and a weakness for cigars and Montalcino red. As head of the Squadra Mobile he is faced with solving a series of random murders linked to the antiques trade. Howard Curtis's sleek translation complements Giuttari's capable prose.

Cigar case pilfered from Iraq returns to haunt Johnson

Boris Johnson is fuming about a police investigation into how he became the owner of a red leather cigar case that once belonged to Saddam Hussein's former deputy Tariq Aziz.

Weird and wonderful: the facts about Fidel Castro

Fidel Castro is retiring after almost half a century as leader of Cuba, leaving in his wake some fascinating facts:

Nick Foulkes: The ultimate status symbol – a cigar you can't smoke

Today's trophy-hunting a laborious affair

Man in the Chair (12A)

Christopher Plummer's performance as an alcoholic stumblebum and one-time Hollywood gaffer has been hailed, though it could hardly be in acknowledgement of its realism.

Ukraine accuses Russia of inciting new 'Crimean war'

Ukraine has accused Russia of stirring up anti-US and anti-Nato protests on the Crimean peninsula where Russia's Black Sea Fleet is based.

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The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
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James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
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filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
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The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
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Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
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Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
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Day In a Page

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 timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?