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Revelling in the latest growth figures, George Osborne lifted Balls-baiting to a new plane. He was asked an unusually long list of super-friendly questions by euphoric Tory backbenchers. Ones that in the secret dreams of the MPs involved, invite the answer: “Yes. My honourable friend has absolutely hit the nail on the head with that spiffing question correctly mentioning our long-term economic plan, allowing me to lay into the Opposition, and qualifying him for early promotion.”

The Murderess, By Alexandros Papadiamantis trs Peter Levi

Alexandros Papadiamantis, regarded as the father of modern Greek literature, first published this remarkable novella in 1902. Set on the island of Skiathos, where the author spent much of his life, it tells the story of Hadoula, a middle-aged healer.

Uefa ban vuvuzelas from European matches

Vuvuzelas have been kicked out of European competition after UEFA said that the plastic trumpets drowned out supporters and detracted from the emotion of the game.

Living Souls, By Dmitry Bykov, trans. Cathy Porter

Dmitry Bykov's ambitious and sprawling book (abridged in English with the author's consent) caused a furore in Russia when published in 2006. Blending a novel of ideas with a fairy-tale and satire with lyricism, Bykov in Living Souls gives a picture of Russia in the near future and - as so many others before him - tries to understand the eternal contradictions of his country.

Clarets urged to start great escape with Rovers victory

The Burnley manager Brian Laws has called on his players to beat the odds and make Premier League history this season. The Clarets are in a perilous position after claiming a meagre four points from a possible 33 since Laws took the helm, yet they remain only three points adrift of safety.

Philip Hensher: Silence can be golden in our critical world

Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical, Love Never Dies, a sequel to Phantom of the Opera, opened in London last week. The original Phantom opened in 1986, and since then an enormous phenomenon has transformed our lives: the internet. In 1986, strange to say, if you wanted to find out what a theatre production was like, you read a critic's view, or you called a theatre-going friend and asked what he thought about it.

Old Trafford Centenary: 10 games that define 'Theatre of Dreams'

Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United, has been open for 100 years.

Old Trafford: 100 years of the iconic Manchester United stadium

Old Trafford celebrates its 100th birthday tomorrow, its place in the folklore of British sport firmly established in a century when it has become the most famous landmark in Manchester.

Grand finale blurs view of game of Parks' life

"I put my cock on the block and I guess it paid off." So Ryan Jones gave this most jaw-dropping of finishes the jaw-dropping quote it deserved. The Wales captain elected to go for the three points with seconds left on the clock and the score at 24-21 to Scotland. Everyone watching thought that the overwhelming favourites had been forced to accept the draw. They had not.

Sandy Paton: Traditional singer who helped lead the Sixties folk revival in Britain and the United States

In 1962 in the Western States Folklore Society's journal Western Folklore the critic John Greenaway declared Sandy Paton to be "the best interpreter of traditional singing in the English-speaking world, with the possible but not probable exception of Ewan MacColl." The American folklorist, folksinger and Folk-Legacy founder's dedication to traditional music played a vital role in the post-war upswing of folk music in both North America and Britain.

Why does it always rain on us?

In parts of Scotland, it has rained every day for almost two months. Mark Hughes finds out how Kirkcudbright has coped with a summer of biblical weather conditions

Book Of A Lifetime: The Diaries, By Francis Kilvert

The sheer verbal sorcery of WG Sebald's The Rings of Saturn bewitches me. He brilliantly describes a walking tour of East Anglia, etching the effects of class war, nationalistic conflict, genocide, exploitation and loss. Everywhere is an opening to hell. His wonderful, unexpected narrative teaches us about the desolation and terrors of modern life, his vision akin to classical tragedy.

Archie Green: Folklorist and musicologist

In August 2007 Archie Green received the Library of Congress's Living Legend Award. It has been conferred on individuals such as Madeleine Albright, B.B. King, Alan Lomax, Martin Scorsese, Pete Seeger and Tiger Woods who have made a significant contribution to American life. Explaining how he had earned the honour, James H. Billington said, "Archie Green has devoted his life to studying the creativity of ordinary, working Americans, and he was also one of the most significant figures behind the formation of the Library's American Folklife Center." The musicologist, folklorist and staunch unionist is credited with coining the neologism for his particular field of interest: "laborlore" or the folklore and folkways of workers and working-class communities.

Leading article: Crashing boar

Where would our imaginative lives be without boars? Hercules hunted the Erymanthian beast during his 12 labours; Odysseus was mauled by one when out hunting. In Celtic folklore, Finn McCool lured a rival to his death on a boar hunt. And, of course, fans of Asterix the Gaul know the stories would not be the same without Obelix's inexhaustible appetite for the roast variety.

Minor British Institutions: Mince pies

Unlike so many of our Christmas traditions, mince pies are not a Victorian invention but can boast a genuinely medieval origin, and indeed some say they can trace their lineage back to pagan festivities. Mince pies were first baked with minced meat (hence the name) and the fruit and spices that we associate with them today. According to folklore, they were first made in oblong casings to represent Jesus's crib, with three spices, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, to represent the three gifts given to the infant Christ by the three wise men. But in 1644, that old killjoy Oliver Cromwell went so far as to denounce mince pies as "abominable and idolatrous things to be avoided by Christians".

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Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape