Arts and Entertainment What a racket: Conor Woodman in 'Scam City'

It's not just that the National Geographic documentary series Scam City is a pointless programme, it's that it's also a uniquely irritating one. Whereas most consumer watchdogs investigate scams at the instigation of aggrieved parties, in Scam City presenter Conor Woodman, travels the world looking for trouble and – what's more pitiful – often fails to find it.

State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, Edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey

In the depths of the last great depression Washington came to the assistance of struggling authors, funding the Federal Writers Project. Its greatest legacy was the 500-page-a-volume, 50 volumes, state by state, WPA guide to America. Almost 80 years later and here we are again. A new democratic President faces a global economic meltdown and intractable security problems. This time around we have a smaller, leaner literary response to this American moment; just one volume, a private sector publisher and 50 writers on the 50 states. But it is a bold and ambitious response by editors Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey.

Luderin Darbone: Fiddle player and bandleader at the forefront of Cajun music

The leader of the Hackberry Ramblers for more than six decades, Luderin Darbone was a fine fiddle player and, more importantly, one of the great innovators in Cajun music.

Texas faces major damage from Ike

Hurricane Ike gathered strength as it churned through the Gulf of Mexico's warm waters today on a track that would skirt the heart of the US offshore oil patch before hitting the Texas coast late tomorrow or early on Saturday.

New Orleans prepares for mass return after Gustav

Workers mopped up New Orleans after Hurricane Gustav and officials told residents they could come home on Thursday to a darkened city still struggling to restore power and basic services.

Braced for disaster: the city that fears the worst – again

Those who ignored warnings to flee are under lockdown as they await 'the mother of all storms'

New Orleans evacuated as "storm of the century" rolls in

Residents were ordered to flee an only partially rebuilt New Orleans today as another monster storm bore down on Louisiana nearly three years to the day after Hurricane Katrina wiped out entire swathes of the city.

New Orleans braces itself for category five Hurricane Gustav

Strengthening storm heads for a city still recovering from the devastation of Katrina exactly three years ago

Album: Various Artists, The Essential Guide to New Orleans (Union Square)

Retailing for well under a tenner, this has to be the bargain of the year: a three-CD set doing exactly what it says on the sleeve, tracking the development of America's most fertile music city, from the hot jazz of Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton, through the classic rock and R&B of the Fifties and Sixties, to the swamp-funk that has defined New Orleans' subsequent output.

Album: Tony Joe White, Deep Cuts (Munich)

Swamp-rock auteur Tony Joe White is best known for "Polk Salad Annie", so it's surprising it's not on this set of revisitations.

Paperbacks: The Tin Roof Blowdown, by James Lee Burke

When Hurricane Katrina struck Burke's New Orleans patch, it was fated that the social disaster in its wake would breed a Dave Robicheaux mystery.

Crayfish bisque Louisiana-style

Serves 6-8

A man who sounds like a winner already

It was the power of his smile. It shone a beam all the way to the back of the arena at Tulane University in New Orleans yesterday that none of us inside – all 4,000 seats filled – could miss. Outside, the overflow crowd of many more hundreds surely felt it too, even if they couldn't see it with their own eyes.

Album: The Blind Boys of Alabama, Down in New Orleans (Proper)

Despite having been in existence since the days when music revolved at 78rpm, The Blind Boys of Alabama have never before recorded in New Orleans – and sadly, listening to this latest album, it's no surprise.

Sri Lanka 231 & 332 England 229 & 190: Muralitharan wizardry makes mockery of Ashes ambitions

The scenes at Trent Bridge yesterday were far removed from those nine months ago, when Ashley Giles clipped Shane Warne through mid-wicket for two to secure a remarkable three-wicket victory over Australia. At the end of that unforgettable series, and after regaining the Ashes, England held ambitions of becoming the best side in the world.

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NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own