News Workers at mail-order company La Redoute protest in Lille against plans to sack 1,200 workers

3.2 million people are working so hard that they risked mental or physical breakdown, study finds

`Sickness' retirement crackdown

THE BIGGEST crackdown yet on ill-health retirement among police, fire officers and teachers has been launched by the Government after figures showed that the problem was costing taxpayers pounds 1bn a year.

Purge on scandal of early retirers

THE BIGGEST crackdown yet on ill-health retirement among police, fire officers and teachers has been launched by the Government after figures showed that the problem was costing taxpayers pounds 1bn a year.

Veteran reporter quits `Guardian'

MARTIN WALKER, a veteran foreign correspondent for The Guardian, left the paper suddenly last night after days of rumours about the running costs of the paper's office in Brussels, which the reporter had been running.

Letter: Children need real holidays too

MICHAEL MCMAHON'S excellent article could have mentioned the effects of the Gulagisation of education on teachers: burn-out, early retirements, - far too many good colleagues gone before their time - and the re-rating of teachers by insurance companies into the high-risk band, along with pilots and surgeons.

Focus: Equality - `It was like the Fifties'

When I worked for Usdaw, the shop and distributive workers' union, its membership was three-quarters female. It covered a workforce that is difficult to organise but desperately easy to exploit: mothers and older women looking for part-time work on the shop floor or conveyor belt. I joined as a graduate with little work experience and a strong belief in trade unionism, but my initial short contract stretched to six disillusioning years working in the union's national headquarters in suburban Manchester.

Obituary: Buster Merryfield

ONE OF the most loved character actors on television, Buster Merryfield played Uncle Albert, the white-haired bewhiskered Navy veteran of Only Fools and Horses who always began his stories with the phrase, "Durin' the war . . ." as he regaled Del Boy (David Jason) and Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst) with tales of his seagoing days. Among the most successful and acclaimed of all television sitcoms, Only Fools and Horses started in 1981, but Merryfield joined the show in the third series, when the actor playing Grandad (Lennard Pearce) died and a new character was needed to maintain a triangle of central characters.

Wanted: some good old friends for a matey reunion

This is not the whinge of a Norman No-mates - friends have even been to QPR matches with me

'The mothers of Tiananmen' challenge China for the truth

ON FRIDAY 62-year-old Zhang Xianling and her husband will head for the Wanan cemetery on the western outskirts of Peking. In front of the casket holding the ashes of their son, Wang Nan, they will place a single red rose, just as they have on this day every year for the past decade.

Letter: Short of midwives

Sir: My first thought on reading your headline "Crisis in obstetrics looming, says NHS" (7 May) was that at last the shortage of midwives was about to be addressed by Mr Taylor, NHS director of personnel. I was wrong, as Mr Taylor believes that the threat to the safety of women in childbirth comes from a shortage of obstetricians.

Football: Zola considers early retirement

GIANFRANCO ZOLA may retire at the end of next season, he announced yesterday.

Letter: Ofsted must do better

MICHAEL MCMAHON has justifiably had enough of inner-city schooling. My 14-year-old son has two years to go at our local high school, which is still reeling from a recent harsh and unfair Ofsted report. Described as a vindictive piece of writing by parents and teachers alike, the report resulted in the loss of an enthusiastic, experienced and dedicated headteacher, and months of uncertainty for staff, pupils and parents, which is not over yet.

`Incompetent' state lawyers to be sacked

DOZENS OF state lawyers are incompetent and are letting the public down by their failure to prosecute criminals, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said yesterday.

Power firms flout pension ruling

TWO OF the country's biggest electricity companies have decided to keep pounds 600m owing to their occupational pension schemes, even though the Court of Appeal ruled last month that they had acted unlawfully in using the money to fund post-privatisation redundancy schemes.

Education Letter: Old'ums are golden

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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