News Israel's president Shimon Peres prepares to lay a wreath on the coffin of former prime minister Ariel Sharon

There will be a state memorial service for the former prime minister tomorrow before he is buried in a private ceremony at his ranch

US war veteran detained by North Korea Merrill Newman free to fly home after "apologising"

Merrill Newman, 85, was taken off a plane last month, accused of ordering the deaths of North Koreans during the 1950-3 war.

Blow to Obama as US Senate defeats gun control bill

The US Senate has voted against new legislation to expand background checks for gun purchasers, dealing a blow to President Barack Obama's hopes of gun control reform after the school shootings at Sandy Hook in December.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today that he was ready to hold talks with the US if the West stopped pressuring his country

Ahmadinejad: I’ll join nuclear talks if West eases pressure

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today that he was ready to hold talks with the US if the West stopped pressuring his country.

American taxpayers face paying the bill for Senate's 'fiscal cliff' deal

President Barack Obama yesterday pressed the House of Representatives to vote in favour of a Senate-backed deal that would avert the swingeing spending cuts and soaring tax rates of America's "fiscal cliff".

Lady Gaga against gun crime: Celebrities petition for new arms laws in wake of Sandy Hook massacre

Lady Gaga, MC Hammer and Goldie Hawn are among 100 big names to have publicly condemned America's gun policies

Move to ban assault weapons gains momentum as Obama voices support

The White House appears to be moving towards backing the reinstatement of a ban on assault weapons after President Barack Obama told members of his cabinet to come forward with concrete steps to reduce public access to guns.

Obama's new term priorities: tax the rich and avoid 'fiscal cliff'

First speech after election triumph calls on Congress to take action

Vice President Joe Biden, left, took on Republican hopeful Paul Ryan in a live televised debate last night

Joe Biden vs Paul Ryan: The voter panel verdicts

Last night Vice President Joe Biden faced Republican hopefuly Paul Ryan in a live televised debate in Danville, Kentucky.

So what did our panel of voters make of the candidates?

Joe Biden beat Paul Ryan to disrupt Republican momentum in an episode of the Generation Game

By showing greater emotional intensity than Obama did last week, and shifting the focus on to foreign policy and George W Bush, the Democrats won last night

Mitt Romney so far has only released tax returns for 2010

Romney booed for attack on Obama at black rally

Mitt Romney received a rough reception from members of the NAACP, the country's oldest black civil rights organisation, yesterday, which erupted into boos and shouts of disapproval when he said he meant to overturn Barack Obama's healthcare reforms.

Mitt Romney so far has only released tax returns for 2010

Where's Mitt Romney's money? The offshore search is on

Obama's team has seized on Romney's apparent failure to fully disclose his holdings

Chris Meloni's (left) political vampire has drawn inspiration from the Republican Rick Santorum

Trending: 'Senator Rick Sanitorium' is back on HBO. Sort of...

Until now, the closest former US presidential challenger Rick Santorum had got to HBO was when Tony Soprano saluted "Senator Sanitorium" for his comparison of homosexuality to bestiality. No more!

Leading article: Full marks to Barack Obama

Same-sex marriage, promised in Britain before the next general election, was conspicuous by its absence from the Queen's Speech on Wednesday. But on the same day on the other side of the Atlantic, Barack Obama became the first US president to express his support for the idea. In doing so, he placed himself on the right side of America's most contentious social issue, and on the right side of history. It can only be hoped that David Cameron will prove equally courageous in the face of the increasingly vocal opposition to the proposal from the Tory right.

Archie Bland: The bumper sticker approach to politics can work

FreeView from the editors at i

The Saturday Quiz answers

1. Oprah Winfrey.

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Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
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Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
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Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
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Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
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The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
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Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
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