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While politicians agonise over the size of the Government’s debt, one of the most expensive publicly funded projects in recent years is quietly getting under way.

EU subsidies deny Africa's farmers of their livelihood

British households pay an extra £832 a year in grocery bills due to the huge EU subsidy system that is also depriving tens of thousands of African farmers of their livelihoods, a charity warns.

Blackadder left bereft as Scarlets' late surge denies Edinburgh

Llanelli Scarlets 15 Edinburgh 13

COMEDY: PICK OF THE WEEK: Tony Robinson on tour Various venues

Tony Robinson, who has been described as "the love child of Simon Schama, Alastair Campbell and Eddie Izzard", has a cunning plan. He aims to tour the UK in a show looking back on his 40 years in showbiz. The actor best known as Baldrick says the show will answer the question: "How did a man who made his name as a stinking, turnip-loving simpleton crawling through the trenches with Rowan Atkinson in Blackadder hit the big time by grubbing around in the mud, alongside men with dubious fashion sense in Time Team, before achieving superstar status by rolling up his trousers to wade through urine in The Worst Jobs in History?"

Rowan Atkinson: Mr Bean shows his serious side

Even the most inadequately briefed guest who turns up to plug a film or TV show on British daytime television will be familiar with the format. Several minutes of fawning followed by a handful of superficially personal questions and then it's back to the green room to make way for an item on the theme of the perfect Christmas spread, or a phone-in about vasectomies gone wrong. But when the 49-year-old comedian Rowan Atkinson appeared recently on the ITV show This Morning, he treated a chit-chat with the programme's genial hosts like a harrowing encounter with the taxman; if he had needed to rush off halfway through to have a molar pulled, you suspect it would have been a blessed relief.

Tales of the City: Mr Bean on religion - no thank you

Rowan Atkinson's heart is in the right place in campaigning against the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill - which will penalise people who "incite religious hatred" - but his reasoning is flawed.

Burke leads Newcastle recovery as Edinburgh crumble

Newcastle 34 - Edinburgh 24

Burke leads Newcastle recovery as Edinburgh crumble

Newcastle 34 - Edinburgh 24

Delaigue orchestrates Toulouse power play

Toulouse 36 Edinburgh 10
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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
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