News Mother Teresa: Skopje also has plans for a huge statue of the nun, who was born in the city

Not content with four-storey statues of Alexander the Great and Mother Teresa, city planners in Skopje are now inviting bids for a version of Rome’s Spanish Steps, part of a beautification campaign that has divided residents.

The Big Picture: Precious rice harvest makes India's winter turn gold

On the death of his wife, Mumtaz, the Mogul emperor Shah Jahan presented her with the Taj Mahal. While she was still alive his gifts were less elaborate but equally precious and pearly white; he gave her basmati, the prince of rice.

Andy Gill on albums

Taj Mahal Taj Mahal and the Hula Blues

Cricket: Nasser feels pull of the main stage

Andrew Longmore says Hussain's winter may be even more glorious than summer

Film: Call him the maharaja, not the super-cripple

Firdaus Kanga is disabled, gay and a devotee of the `wrong' religion in Bombay. But on the set of `Sixth Happiness', the film about his upbringing in which he was persuaded to star as himself, he is getting the full celebrity treatment. James Rampton finds him making a nuisance of himself.

The knack; How to build a sandcastle

You need a bucket and spade and a landscape expert, says architect John Pawson


In a bumper week for the blues, the possible highlight is a chance to compare and contrast Eric Bibb, star of the current vogue for acoustic blues, with Taj Mahal, old master and one of the younger man's inspirations when the two play together at the Shepherd's Bush Empire on 17 July. Though Mahal's latest, "Senor Blues" is winning ecstatic praise after a lean period, life just seems to get better for Bibb. On the strength of two records largely composed of country blues and gospel released by an obscure Swedish label, he is the toast of just about everybody. Bibb, who returns to the UK for the Cambridge Folk Festival on 25 July, is not the only young performer ploughing the acoustic blues furrow these days. But what distinguishes him is his ability to appeal to folks who would normally run a mile from the blues. Which is pretty much the case with Robert Cray (above), who starts a short UK tour in Glasgow tomorrow (Manchester on Monday, Shepherd's Bush Empire on Tuesday). Purists berate him for sounding too soft, but there is little doubt that he almost single-handedly rejuvenated the blues market in the early 1980s. The latest Cray offering, "Sweet Potato Pie" offers no real surprises, but, like most of its predecessors, it is a hugely-accomplished set that should do wonders for anybody still mourning the end of Stax. While Cray's audiences will no doubt find themselves nostalgic for a particular era, those listening to Bibb are liable to find themselves bounced about from time to time and style to style. Be prepared for anything from a man who has managed to make two of the most authentic-sounding downhome records of recent years - in Sweden with European musicians.

THEATRE: She's a drag act

Marlene Lyric Shaftesbury, London


"If Ike Turner had fallen under a bus sometime in 1959," wrote the critic Charles Shaar Murray, "he would have gone down in cultural history as one of the most important figures in the development of 1950s rhythm and blues." Even before he enjoyed his first hit with 1960's "A Fool In Love", he had made his mark as a guitarist, pianist, band leader, arranger/producer and talent scout.

Architecture: The Taj Mahal at sunrise, Brighton Pavilion, Didcot Power Station... ahh, those great monuments to love

Readers will be the first to put me right, but I do not know of a British church dedicated to St Valentine, the third-century Christian martyr associated, by historical accident, with the sending of valentines. If there is, I wonder what it looks like? Can the idea of love be represented or sublimated successfully in stone or bricks and mortar? I don't mean happy suburban homes with roses around the Kentucky Fried Georgian door, but monuments to grand passion.

Games: The 1997 Olympian Games

William Hartston found plenty to play with at the International Toy & Hobby Fair at Olympia

India looks to Taj Mahal

India's Supreme Court, cracking down on chemical and carbon fumes threatening the Taj Mahal, ordered almost 300 coal-based industries in its vicinity to close by the end of 1997.

Rank passes up Trump deal

Rank, the Mecca bingo halls to Butlin's holidays group, yesterday pulled out of talks to invest $50m (pounds 30m) in Donald Trump's Castle casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Sharon Stone in bad hair nightmare

also showing: LAST DANCE Bruce Beresford (18) THE SILENCE OF THE HAMS Ezio Greggio (15)

Letter: Islam's contribution to world civilisation and culture

Sir: Perhaps Robert Fisk ("Burying the Crusader's sword", 1 August) can explain why the 800-year occupation of Spain, the 400-year occupation of Greece and the Balkans, the 200-year occupation of Sicily, and the 100-year occupation of Corsica (longer than the occupation of Iraq by the British) by Arabs or Turks are not seen for the acts of aggression, colonialism and imperialism that they were. Add for good measure, the three-year siege of Malta, the siege of Vienna in 1683, the capture of Taranto, the yearly raiding parties along the French and Italian coasts and it becomes quite difficult to see these events as merely the actions of uninvited and over-boisterous guests whom the police have been unable to control.
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Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

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Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
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