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A group representing 11 local authorities has written to Chancellor George Osborne expressing its serious concerns about the possible closure of a major museum in the north of England.

From left: Nicola, Kimberley, Cheryl, Nadine and Sarah

A plea to Girls Aloud: Don't split up!

Boo to all you music snobs. Girls Aloud deliver great pop music, and that's what they're there for

Bill Gates reviews a solar-powered lavatory at the Reinventing the Toilet fair

First he reinvented computers, now Bill Gates wants to reinvent the toilet

The world's richest man has set himself a new challenge – to improve sanitation for the poor

Milly Dowler 'tried to cut her wrists'

Murdered Milly Dowler made a half-hearted attempt to cut her wrists after being called names when she started her secondary school, the Old Bailey heard today.

Les Misérables, Barbican Theatre, London

There are ghosts and survivor's guilt in the second act of Les Misérables that sound like a trailer for the upcoming stage adaptation of Birdsong; Victor Hugo's Marius (played by pop idol Gareth Gates) comes through the carnage on the Paris barricades and sings of empty chairs and tables in the ABC café while his friends materialise in a celestial, supportive chorus.

Dave Pollock: Sadly, X Factor is all part of Cowell's plan to own pop music

An air of depressing inevitability hangs over The X Factor winner Joe McElderry's version of Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" as it grinds its way to the Christmas No 1 slot next week. There will be those who remember when guessing the holder of the festive top spot was a bit of seasonal fun, before Simon Cowell annexed it as part of his masterplan to own pop music.

Letters: Palestine and the West

West shares the blame for exile of the Palestinians

Balls launches help for fellow stammerers

It was, Ed Balls said, a “particularly difficult” speech for him to make.

'Slumdog' star writes memoir – at the age of nine

Rubina Ali, one of the young stars of the Oscar-winning film, is making publishing history with an account of her unexpected rise to fame

A new protest song: Joan Baez - she shall overcome

A veteran of 40 years of demonstrations, the American folk singer's latest campaign involves camping in a tree to save a 14-acre farm from the developers. Andrew Buncombe reports

Hey Nostradamus! By Douglas Coupland

It's like watching Mike Tyson pummel Gareth Gates

John Otway: Fans with a plan for their man

You're 50 and you want a chart hit. How do you do it? John Otway tells Mary Novakovich the answer
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Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?