Benjamin Lees: Composer who eschewed modernism in favour of a gritty, muscular clarity

The American composer Benjamin Lees had the bad luck to reach his stylistic maturity at a time when contemporary composition was besotted by modernism; more traditional idioms were regarded as passé. But Lees stuck to his guns, writing music he could be proud of, and when the serialist hegemony fell away he had a substantial corpus of solidly crafted works to show for his perseverance, written in a style that married gritty muscularity with formal clarity. The critic Steve Schwartz described it as "a dramatic neoclassicism, free of Stravinskian pastiche, darker than Piston, more direct than Diamond".

Online rivals bring brutal end to Blockbuster story

Enjoy the neon lighting and over-priced junk food while you can.

Maureen Forrester: Contralto celebrated for her interpretations of Mahler

The contralto Maureen Forrester gained worldwide fame as a recitalist and concert singer during the early part of her long career. Noted particularly for her magnificent interpretations of Mahler's songs and other vocal music, she also sang Brahms, Dvorák and Bach with equal facility, while her rich, opulent voice, always under perfect control, was agile enough for Handel's most florid music. She came to opera relatively late, but from the mid-1960s onward, while continuing her concert and recital tours, she also took one or two operatic engagements a year, mostly in North America.

Man dies after US police station shoot-out

A 29-year-old man towed a trailer full of explosives into a suburban Dallas police station's parking lot, then set fire to his pick-up truck and began shooting at the building, authorities said today.

BP agrees to pay $50m Texas fine

BP has agreed to pay a $50.6m fine for safety violations at its Texas City refinery, the troubled plant where 15 workers were killed in an explosion five years ago.

Rupert Cornwell: The US stays cool, but is global warming the price?

Out of America: Air conditioning helped to make America what it is today, and there's a risk it could change the rest of the world, too

DVD: Shrink (15)

E M Forster asked us all to "only connect", but you suspect the author would have shunned these LA bores, whining about their "genius" (Dallas Roberts's agent) and their frequent masturbating (Robin Williams's sozzled movie star).

Apple iPhone class action lawsuit gets legal backing

A US federal judge says a monopoly abuse lawsuit against Apple and AT&T's mobile phone unit can move forward as a class action.

Gay couple to have children christened

A gay couple that made legal history when they were jointly registered as fathers were this weekend christening their fourth and fifth children.

Stephen Foley: From Blockbuster to bust?

US Outlook: There is an air of the surreal surrounding the Blockbuster annual meeting in Dallas on Thursday.

Shrink (15)

Kevin Spacey leads this Hollywood ensemble drama about "the courage it takes to achieve happiness", which clues us into its therapy-driven mood.

Reina admits Liverpool must lower sights

Liverpool were facing the grim prospect of scaling down their aspirations from those of past seasons last night as co-owner Tom Hicks, whose US baseball team has filed for bankruptcy, raised the prospect of the club being under his ownership for a further 18 months.

BA's dream of US alliance to take off at last

Willy Walsh is under seige, but his proposed deal with American Airlines will soon get the go-ahead

Texas to vote on curriculum that changes history

The slave trade was in fact the "Atlantic triangular trade". Capitalism, with all its negative connotations, should in future be referred to as the "free enterprise system". And don't even think about buying into the theory of evolution: children must instead be taught that God created Earth using a euphemistically-titled technique known as "intelligent design".

Stricker to sit out Sawgrass event

Steve Striker has withdrawn from this week's Players Championship to rest his sore right shoulder.

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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
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A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

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

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Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

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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

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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

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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

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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?

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Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

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