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Last Night's TV: Afghanistan: the Battle for Helmand, BBC2<br/>Top Gear, BBC3

Today it takes images of smoke pouring from a Kabul hotel popular with Westerners to pull Afghanistan from the inside pages. Almost a decade after British and American troops set about bringing "enduring freedom" to a land to which the origins of 9/11 were apparently traced in a matter of weeks, all that has endured is a sorry stream of news-in-briefs. The names of the dead pool in the back of the mind, along with "explosion" graphics on brown BBC maps, so as to become increasingly meaningless. Do you know how many British pounds or lives have been spent in Afghanistan – or why?

Get set to doff your cap to these Aussie raiders

Hat-trick is on the Royal Ascot cards as Star Witness, Hinchinbrook and So You Think have the speed to stun the Poms

Diary: Campbell's legal logic makes Shaggy's lyrics look like Shakespeare

In seeking to understand the great figures of the age, few areas offer more potential for insight as the primary paternal influence. With Mrs Thatcher it was that austere Grantham grocer Alderman Roberts, while Messrs Blair and Bush would cite the Creator to whom each was linked by earthly-celestial red phone line. With Alastair Campbell, meanwhile, all finally becomes clear.

Mark Steel: It's the wrong people doing the gagging

You can understand why some tabloid newspapers are upset about these super-injunctions. Because when they write something about a footballer with a prostitute it's almost the only time they print a story that's true. Then it turns out that's the article they're not allowed to publish. How is that fair?

The big quiz on television movers and shakers

Who said TV isn't fun any more? The two biggest cult figures on the box are a mop-headed science boffin and a neurotic Scandinavian police detective.

Paul Vallely: Clarkson is a victim of his own values

The vandalising of the 'Top Gear' presenter's fence comes from the same mindset that underpins his fame and fortune

How has Clarkson caused offence this time? With a fence...

The Top Gear presenter is at war with neighbours over ancient rights of way bordering his Isle of Man home. Tom Peck on a six-year feud

Charles Nevin: Introducing a very modern Englishman

Start the week...

Paxman broke BBC impartiality rules

Presenter in trouble for article on Iraq war 'lies'

Terence Blacker: Whose idea of a joke involves sneering at dead people?

Once those in a position to reveal the flaws of those in power become establishment insiders, the world is much less problematical for politicians

Letters: multiculturalism

I am alarmed that David Cameron denigrated multiculturalism, to the applause of European Union ministers, some of whom are from right-wing parties. It was in Munich that Hitler held fascist rallies.

Top Gear comments &lsquo;vulgar, but not a matter for the law&rsquo;

Human rights chief bows out of &lsquo;Top Gear&rsquo; row. By Luke Blackall
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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
Spain
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Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness