A protester outside the Kochs' ranch demonstrates against the involvement of big donors such as the billionaire brothers in shaping the political agenda

Rupert Cornwell: Big money takes aim at the heart of Washington

Out of America: Party political bankrollers are mounting a takeover of think tanks. If they succeed, US politics will become more partisan than ever

Children's obesity is a 'national emergency'

Labour's failure to tackle the "chips and PlayStation 3 culture" means one-fifth of primary-school leavers are now obese, the shadow health minister Diane Abbott has admitted, in a warning that the health of Britain's children is a national emergency.

Whitehall 'needs radical reform' to avoid a crisis

A radical reform in Whitehall must be pushed through to head off a looming crisis in public services, David Cameron is warned today.

Leading article: Sir Humphrey won't like it, but reform must come

Long before Yes Minister became a British, and then an international, television success, the terms Civil Service and reform, used together, were wont to raise scornful laughter. To this day, the senior levels of government service retain, not always justly, this image of institutional immutability. A report out today, couched as an open letter to the heads of the Civil Service, Sir Jeremy Heywood and Sir Bob Kerslake, wants to change that. It has much to commend it.

George Osborne leaves 11 Downing Street in London

New Tory right in call for deeper cuts to public spending

Measure would allow greater flexibility over tax thresholds and steal Lib Dems' thunder

Hospital wards for the elderly would close under Labour's social care plans

Hospital wards for the elderly would be closed to release funds for old people to be cared for in their own homes under plans to tackle the looming social care crisis being drawn up by Labour.

Ecotricity backs The Independent's energy price campaign with online film

Green energy company Ecotricity has backed The Independent’s campaign to highlight the high prices of the Big Six energy firms by producing an online film which is rapidly going viral.

Turkemenistani election victory labelled a sham

President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov won a new five-year term by capturing 97 per cent of the vote, officials said yesterday, but a Western expert said the poll was a sham.

Leading article: More heat than light on lobbying

The launch yesterday of a 12-week consultation marks the latest stage in halting the advance of Government moves to rein in parliamentary lobbying. On the face of it, the proposals set out by the minister, Mark Harper, would, if introduced, represent a considerable improvement on the current state of affairs, which amounts to a scandalously opaque free-for-all.

Students blame poor teaching over degrees

Growing numbers of students are lodging official complaints against their universities if they fail to obtain a top-level degree.

US think-tank hails Hong Kong as 'world's most free economy'

Hong Kong has the most free economy in the world, thanks to a combination of light regulation and the embracing of laissez-faire economic policy, according to the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing, US-based think tank.

GDP grew 1 per cent in 2011, think-tank says

Britain's economic growth slowed in the three months ending in December, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research said yesterday, boosting the case for the Bank of England to take further measures to support the economy.

Money goes towards recruiting gunmen and to foreign investors in the pirates' lucrative enterprise

West plans new hi-tech crackdown on Somali pirate gangs

Satellite pictures reveal areas transformed by ransom riches

Youssef Boutros-Ghali has been spotted at lectures hosted by the LSE and Chatham House

From fêted statesman to a fugitive from justice

A senior figure in the regime of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak and a key International Monetary Fund adviser, Youssef Boutros-Ghali had grown used to being welcomed in some of Britain's most respected think-tanks and academic institutions, dispensing his views on economic and political reform to an array of opinion formers.

Pensioners 'will work into 70s'

Many of tomorrow's pensioners will become self-employed consultants, online traders or run odd-job businesses to make ends meet in retirement, according to research.

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JJ Abrams' seventh Star Wars, The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of Episode VII has gone online after weeks of anticipation
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Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
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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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Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

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The Black Friday Vines that will destroy your faith in humanity
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The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
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The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
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Robbie Rogers: US former Leeds United footballer, 25, announced he was gay in February 2013, shortly after he left Elland Road. Rogers 'retired' after writing on his blog: 'I'm a soccer player, I'm Christian, and I'm gay.' Has since signed with Los Angeles Galaxy.
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Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
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All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
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Prices correct as of 28 November 2014
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game