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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says ‘fighting has set Syria back decades’

The dogs of Littlefield, By Suzanne Berne - Review

The Orange Prize winner Suzanne Berne is on familiar ground with her fifth novel examining life in an affluent American village. Littlefield, Massachusetts, is named one of the 10 best places to live in America. Curiously, it also houses an unusually high number of psychotherapists. Clarice Watkins, a sociologist from the University of Chicago, decides to study Littlefield to find out exactly what makes it such a good place to live. She arrives to find a town at war, split between those who want their dogs to be off the leash in the local park and those who object. Opinions become more polarised when someone starts poisoning dogs and an undercurrent of fear pulses through the community.

Owen Paterson has not met any representatives of a food charity since becoming Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Owen Paterson has met Rupert Murdoch, Alan Titchmarsh and E.On – but no food charities since becoming Environment Secretary

 Labour says failure to meet charities was alarming at a time when half a million people have received emergency food aid since April this year

Are you snarky or smarmy? Too much sunny side up will fry the brain

A Gawker essay has ignited a culture war on the value of niceness

A group of Christian vigilantes in the capital Bangui act out what they would do if they caught members of the Seleka Muslim militia

France to ask allies for help in Central Africa

It wants troops or logistical aid to head off a possible genocidal civil war

French President Francois Hollande speaks with French soldiers after he paid tribute to two French soldiers who were killed overnight, in Bangui

Mission will continue, says François Hollande as he flies in to war-torn Central African Republic

Five hundred have died in clashes between Muslims and Christians over the last week

Rescue centre overrun by adorable seal pups in wake of record flood surge

A rescue centre in Norfolk is full to capacity with 100 adorable seal pups following the recent record flood surge that hit Britain.

A French soldier patrols the streets of Bangui in the Central African Republic

After days of sectarian violence, French troops bring calm to the Central African Republic

Fighting between rival militias and random attacks on civilians has killed at least 400 people in three days

A boy carries relief goods, walking past the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan, in Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan: As aid agencies mount mission to help victims of monster storm, how can you help in the relief effort?

Agencies across the world are taking donations to support the estimated two million people impacted

Too late: Four-year-old Hamzah Khan died at the hands of his mother

Special report: Elite social-worker course attracts 1,000 graduates, but Frontline will take only the best 100

Rigorous government-backed tests modelled on MI5 recruitment to create robust child-protection teams

Amanda Hutton starved four-year-old son to death then ordered pizza, court hears

Mother with history of alcohol and drug abuse let her son starve to death, court told

Andy McSmith's Diary: PM’s slip of the tongue was more like Putin his foot in it

David Cameron made an unfortunate slip of the tongue at Prime Minister’s Questions when he referred to “the Russian regime” – at a time when he is striving to improve relations with Vladimir Putin, whom he will meet in Belfast at the weekend, in the honourable hope that he can be persuaded to stop arming the Syrian regime. When he met Putin in Sochi last month, he did not so much as mention Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered on British soil.

A malnourished Somali baby at the Banadir hospital in Mogadishu. Almost 260,000 Somali people, half of them children, died of dire hunger from 2010 to 2012, greatly more than was feared at the time

Somalia: UN’s late declaration of famine in 2011 cost lives

The United Nations has admitted that a delay in declaring a famine in Somalia in 2011 cost additional lives, after a new report revealed that more than a quarter of a million people died, half of them young children.

The Rohingyas are fall guys in Burma's race to harness chauvinism

Sittwe, the capital of Arakan state, is little more than a sleepy, dusty, overgrown village. Time appears to have stopped not long after the British left in 1948. Opposite the town’s golden zeydi, its Buddhist stupa, are the green-painted ruins of a mosque, but today there are few other obvious signs of last year’s violence. The great bulk of the town’s Muslim population has been banished to the outskirts: fishermen’s shacks and a sprawling camp where 7,000 men, women and children live under canvas.

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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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James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
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Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
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Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
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Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
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J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
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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