Casey Kearney killer jailed for life

The father of a 13-year-old girl who was stabbed to death in a park has said her murder “means we will never have the privilege of her in our lives again”.

$4,000 golden vibrator stolen in Brazil armed robbery

An armed man in Brazil has stolen an 18-carat gold-plated vibrator selling for $4,000 (£2,600) at a luxury sex shop.

Start a new chapter in your love life

Literary speed-dating is big in the US. Miranda Kiek meets bookish London singles and hopes for a happy ending
Happy ending: literary speed-dating is on the rise

Is this how to start a new chapter in your love life?

Literary speed-dating is big in the US. Miranda Kiek tries it out in London

Sweetheart deals boost midweek sales at Domino's Pizza

Domino's Pizza UK enjoyed its best ever Tuesday this week after it enticed love-struck couples to spend Valentine's Day enjoying a cut-price pizza and a chocolate dessert.

Amol Rajan: Love really is all you need so, go on, buy those roses

Everybody knows that Valentine's Day is a giant orgy of commercial exploitation and a cynical distraction from our romantic failures over the rest of the year. It's traumatic for those people not in relationships, and hypocritical for those people in them, who pretend they fancy their partners when what they're really thinking about in bed is the company secretary.

Thai couples face off in Valentine's Day kissing marathon

Lips locked at all times - including for bathroom breaks and meals - is the less than romantic challenge facing Thai couples trying for the kiss to blow away all kisses at a Valentine's Day marathon.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Love... and other things well worth treasuring

At the supermarket on Friday night, my beloved said a red, heart-shaped candle was tat and a total rip-off at £8.99. Guess he won't be buying me the latest big thing for Valentine's day, then, made of a new metal amalgam, rubedo and created by Tiffany. Love costs, in some circles. And therefore is worth nothing. Real love is priceless. I went to see the disturbing, touching George Clooney film, The Descendants, about grief, loss and marital betrayal. All the while I was thinking about how much my man and marriage mean to me; the strength of our mutual love; how lucky we are. Oh there have been terrible moments: times I've driven away, wanting out. But we never gave up on our promise. More than 22 years on we are best friends and lovers. Love between couples should be about resilience, fidelity, trust, a steady entwining of hearts and minds, slow-cooked sexual intimacy. But these days, relationships come and go like the colours of fashion. A big wedding, followed by a short marriage and the next big wedding, is how the story goes. Divorce rates (though stabilising) remain high. I have just finished a series on the devastating effect divorce has on individuals for BBC Radio 4, to be broadcast later this month. Yet recent studies show the public is intensely relaxed about adultery. Tomorrow is a day of brisk trade in romantic frivolities – kitsch, insistent candlelit dinners, overpriced bubbly and lots of hot sex too. In his book on postmodernism, Ziauddin Sardar writes: "The sheer quantity of sex around us is unprecedented in history. We are the first generation ever to be constantly watching, listening to, thinking about, preparing for, engaging in and recovering from sex." There can be no doubt that sex is better today for most Westerners than it was even half a century back. With love, however, the news is only bad. Too many people are rubbish at it; it's causing chronic heartache and is now just another shopping opportunity, an off-the-shelf commodity. Eva Illouz, an Israeli sociologist explores the tragedy in a new book, Why Love Hurts. The causes are found in the capitalist culture which has consumed us all. Also responsible are non-committal men who want it all – several partners, serial families, affairs, both freedom and cheap comfort. To lose faith in love is a seismic sign of total pessimism. Not everybody finds the real thing, but we used to believe in the possibility. That is why so many are now turning to more practical measures like arranged dating. The unexpected can happen. One friend found a man online and they clicked. Something, she says, is growing: "It's not like I hear bells and see rainbows or stars when he touches me. But I look forward to him coming home. I feel cherished. But I haven't said anything to him." That's love, I say.

Absent Friends, Harold Pinter, London
The Way of the World, Crucible, Sheffield
The Devil and Mr Punch, Barbican Pit, London

Alan Ayckbourn's drama is painfully good when the knot of comedy and tragedy is pulled tight

The traditional: Taittinger Prestige Rose NV

We still love the shops

Despite reports of the high street's 'death spiral', young people still want to go out shopping. Gideon Spanier reports

Travel Agenda: Animated Exeter Festival; W Hotels; Melbourne in full festival swing

Today: The Animated Exeter Festival gets started, with more than 100 films, by novice and established comics, showing at venues across the city. During half term there are six free exhibitions and educational workshops for children , which include model making and how to create 3D characters (animatedexeter.co.uk).

Harriet Walker: 'February is the best month to detox'

If you're a normal person, and I like to think that most of our readers are (although I can vouch for a few of you not being, I must say – Man Who Once Sent Me a Lewd Cartoon, I'm looking at you here), then you've probably reached the point in the year when your good post-Christmas intentions have melted away and faded to nothing, just as the brandy butter did when you slathered it over your steaming-hot pudding all those many weeks ago.

Travel Agenda: Long Night of the Museums; Zurich's Art on Ice; Verona in Love; The Park Hyatt Sydney

Today: The Long Night of the Museums gets under way tonight in Berlin. Between 6pm and 2am, more than 100 galleries and cultural institutions will open late throughout the German capital, with a host of concerts, readings and performances. Tickets are €15 (lange-nacht-der-museen.de).

Spirit: Revellers gather in Caffè Florian

Trail of the unexpected: Casanova's Venice

With a month to go until Valentine's Day, Nick Boulos traces the path of Italy's legendary lover

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Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Seven Cities of Italy
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
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War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?