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
Prague, Budapest and Vienna
Lake Garda
Minoan Crete and Santorini
Prices correct as of 17 April 2015
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own