News Arms deals fixer Ziad Takieddine has been refused entry to Britain

A controversial fixer for arms deals linked to an alleged corruption scandal that engulfed Nicolas Sarkozy has been refused entry to Britain.

John Walsh: Yes, Tom Stoppard, it was me laughing

How do you make torture entertaining? How do you stage terror, infanticide, brutalisation and extraordinary rendition in a way that leaves your audience uplifted and in the mood for a drinks party? That's the problem that faced the Human Rights Watch organisation at the weekend, as they staged their benefit night at London's Royal Court Theatre. Rather than relying, as they have in previous years, on the reportage of individuals (which can be a recipe for earnestness and gloom), the organisers commissioned several mini-dramas from famous playwrights and actors, under the umbrella title The Laws of War. I checked the programme: there were nine events – an hour and a half of gruelling statistics and savage political satire, before we could hit the free wine. "Enjoy," said the ticket-tearer. I scanned her face for signs of irony.

Rhiannon Harries: Health and fitness, fine. But what's with this modern-day obsession with perfect bodies?

What is the anti-smoking lobby going to do with David Hockney? There he was on last week's edition of The South Bank Show Revisited, in fine fettle at 72, sharp, energetic and talking extraordinary good sense. "I was sitting on a bench in Holland Park – watching the rabbits and the magpies," he recounted. "I lit up a cigarette and three great big girls go jogging by, see me smoking and wag their fingers at me. They think they're very healthy – they're totally obsessed with their own bodies and never saw the rabbits or magpies. They think they're healthy, but I think I'm healthier. That's my odd view of it."

Dame Mary Marsh: 'People thought I was mad'

The new chairman of London Business School's international alumni council tells Peter Brown what her MBA has meant to her.

Mark E Smith - A renegade's revival

Over 34 years, Mark E Smith has led The Fall through numerous upheavals. Tim Cumming talks to the frontman as he prepares to release Your Future Our Clutter, an album that stands, miraculously, among the band's best

Opera podcast: Opera Holland Park's new season

The auditorium has risen once more, the box office is open and busy, and the peacocks are warming up – Opera Holland Park is gearing up for the new season.

Leighton House Museum, Holland Park, London

Glorious Orientalism – but it stops at the bedroom door

Claud Wright: Senior civil servant who was also a leading expert in geology, palaeontology and archaeology

In the War Office there were a lot of old fossils. But the one who was the real fossil was Claud William Wright. He was not only a senior administrative civil servant, and when transferred to the Ministry of Education the first Permanent Secretary, in effect, to Lord Eccles' Ministry of the Arts under Margaret Thatcher, but also from an early age, a leading geologist, palaeontologist and archaeologist.

Hidden treasure: London's Leighton House is about to re-open after a £1.6m facelift

The 19th-century President of the Royal Academy, Frederic, Lord Leighton spent 30 years creating his very own "Private Palace of Art" on the edge of west London's Holland Park. It wasn't straightforward, but neither was his vision. Starting with a single house in 1866, designed by the architect George Aitchison under the watchful eye of the proprietor, the painter and sculptor Leighton slowly added a domed two-storey extension, which he stuffed with the most exquisite materials and furnishings the world's more remote regions had to offer. Three decades later, his labour of love was finally complete.

Philip Hensher: We have a right to know BBC salaries

If you work for the BBC, you are, like a lottery winner, allowed to tick the "no publicity" box

Bruce Anderson: Education is no place for idealism or egalitarianism

Have you heard the one about the journalist and the taxi- driver? It may sound like the stalest and most risible of clichés, but this time, it leads to an instructive story.

The long goodbye: What do Antonia Fraser's diaries of life with Harold Pinter add to the marital memoir?

Behind the celebrity froth of Fraser's diaries lies a tougher book about living and loving through adversity.

'My parents think I earn too much': (Well, he <u>is</u> the &#163;10m boss of RBS)

Bad enough having Britain's media bring up your £10m pay package every time your employer is mentioned – but the real problems for Stephen Hester start when he gets home.

La Boh&egrave;me, Royal Opera House, London<br/>Melvyn Tan, Wigmore Hall, London

This dusty, busty dowager is only propped up by tradition

David Randall: Is 'variety' not quite Ma'am's cup of tea?

Why light entertainment so rarely gets a gong

How to write a memorable song lyric

How do you come up with the perfect words to fit a killer tune? Rob Sharp learns from Don Black, the songwriting master who penned some of the best-loved lyrics of the past 50 years
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There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
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Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
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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
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick