News Duccini, right, at the 75th anniversary celebrations of 'The Wizard of Oz'

Ruth Duccini was the last of the original female Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz. Uncredited, Duccini, who was four feet tall, played one of 124 Munchkin townspeople in the 1939 classic. There is now only one surviving Munchkin, Jerry Maren.

Republican rivals Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann joust in debate

Minnesota rivals Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann sparred bitterly in a Republican presidential debate, trying to stand out ahead of an Iowa test vote with huge consequences.

Budget deadlock shuts Minnesota

Minnesota shut down its state government yesterday amid a budget showdown between the governor and lawmakers, leaving state parks closed at the start of the US Independence Day holiday weekend, halting road projects and forcing thousands of state worker layoffs.

Video book review: State of Wonder, By Ann Patchett

The book reads like a Dan Brown novel, with a plot line that dashes from one continent to another, with secret scientists working deep in the Amazon rainforest and remote tribes guarding ancient secrets.

James Arness: Actor who starred for 20 years as Marshal Matt Dillon in 'Gunsmoke'

For 20 years, and some 635 episodes, James Arness starred as Marshal Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke, still the longest run of any star in American prime-time television drama. In the era when westerns ruled the airwaves, Gunsmoke was the most popular of them all. It débuted in 1955, and from 1957-61 was the top-rated show in the country – and, retitled Gun Law, was popular in the UK as well. As the genre declined Gunsmoke thrived, finally ending in 1975, having outlasted all its competition and setting longevity records that still stand.

Mike Huckabee 'listens to his heart' and quits the presidential race

Mike Huckabee has announced that he will not seek his party's US presidential nomination in 2012, adding uncertainty to the race to pick a Republican challenger to President Barack Obama.

Obama launches his bid for re-election

President barack Obama launched his re-election campaign yesterday in an email to 13 million supporters, calling on them to join forces behind his leadership and the changes he has battled for in a nation riven with hyperpartisan political divisions.

The Hold Steady, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

Someone walking in off the street might wonder at first what this camply flapping, foggy-spectacled, middle-aged nerd is doing at the microphone. But Craig Finn crosses early Woody Allen with early Bruce Springsteen.

Album: Abigail Washburn, City of Refuge (Rounder)

Born in Illinois, educated in Minnesota, now living in Tennessee via time spent in Vermont and China, it should come as no surprise that Washburn sounds like no one else.

US lawyer specialising in lawsuits against Catholic Church sets up UK practice

For much of the past 25 years Jeff Anderson has been the American Catholic Church’s bête noire. Working out of a small office in St Paul, Minnesota, the 63-year-old US attorney has spearheaded more than 1,500 lawsuits against the Church, winning millions of dollars for his clients and forcing open one of the world’s most secretive institutions.

American Football: Legend Favre retires after a traumatic year

Brett Favre was the National Football League's ultimate iron man in a legendary 19-year career, inspiring coaches and team-mates with extraordinary toughness and thrilling fans with a daredevil's verve and a showman's sense of the moment.

American Football: Favre's 18-year run of starts ends

Brett Favre's record of consecutive NFL starts came to a halt at 297 late on Monday night when he failed to run out for the Minnesota Vikings against the New York Giants. His side subsequently fell to a 21-3 defeat.

Executed in haste, exonerated at leisure

Dakota Indian among victims of mass execution may be pardoned

Village People: The Potato Council survives, but it could soon be crunch time

Quango upon quango has been consigned to the bonfire, but the Potato Council lives on.

Prom 56: Minnesota Orchestra / Vanska, Royal Albert Hall, London

In a former life when the Minnesota Orchestra was the Minneapolis Symphony and “Living Presence” was a phrase on the tip of every record buff’s tongue, it would almost have come as a disappointment to hear the sophisticated beast the orchestra has now become in an acoustic as generous as the Royal Albert Hall.

Proms perfection: What to see at the biggest music festival on earth

The greatest classical music festival in the world is back – an unparalleled, gargantuan feast of bravura performance. Nicola Christie highlights this year's most enticing prospects and asks insiders for their pick of the Proms
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Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
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Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
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'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk