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.

The traditional: Taittinger Prestige Rose NV

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

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

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
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones