George Osborne is said to want homes to be built on protected land to boost the economy

Ministers get ready to go for green-belt grab

Conservationists urge the Treasury to rethink, as villages will suffer for no economic benefit

Warren Gatland: Coach is in the final stages of discussing a 10-month deal for tour of Australia

Gatland 'very close' to signing Lions deal

Warren Gatland, the shortest-priced favourite to coach the British and Irish Lions in recent history, is in the final stage of discussions over a 10-month deal that will allow him to devote all his energies to plotting victory over the Wallabies in Australia next summer. The New Zealander already has a long-term contract with Wales running through to the 2015 World Cup and, given the choice, the reigning European champions would not lose their strategist-in-chief for an entire international season. There are, however, clear signs that an agreement has been reached.

New Jersey child agency in spotlight after mother decapitates two-year-old son and fatally stabs herself in the neck

New Jersey's child-welfare agency, long under federal oversight for high-profile lapses, said it will review its role in the case of a mother who decapitated her 2-year-old son and killed herself just five months after regaining custody of the child.

First-time house buyers lose out under proposals to solve rental shortage

Montague report contains controversial trade-off between rentals and affordable homes
Candice Cohen-Ahnine with Prince Sattam, whom she met in London (left), and with her daughter Haya

French woman in custody fight with Saudi Prince dies in fall

Lawyer says 'this was no suicide' as mother was preparing to travel to see her daughter

Last Night's Viewing: Jennifer Saunders: Back in the Saddle, ITV1

Such a pea-souper is the post-Olympic fog that we find ourselves in that we end up mourning the passing of that Great Sporting Event with programming such as this, a two-part investigation into the early-life equestrian talents of a comedian more usually known for mocking the establishment than jumping on its back and riding it around a gymkhana.

A Free Syrian Army sniper in Aleppo

Assad regime 'controls less than a third of Syria', claims former premier

Riad Hijab urges army to defect as rebel forces continue to make gains

EuroMillions lottery winners Adrian and Gillian Bayford say £148m fortune has 'come at just the right time'

“It’s come at just the right time,” says Gillian Bayford of her EuroMillions lottery win, which does beg the question: when is the wrong time to have £148 million land in your bank account?

Invisible Ink: No 136 - Barbara Comyns Carr

The pocket magazine Lilliput is usually considered (if anybody considers it at all anymore) a quirky Bloomsbury amusement for clubbable gentlemen. Each cover featured a man, a woman and a terrier, and inside were tasteful photographs of naked ladies interspersed with fiction from some genuinely superb authors. It was responsible for bringing these writers to wider audiences, one of whom was Barbara Comyns Carr (nee Bayley).

Five-minute Memoir: Natasha Soobramanien on the baked beans that cured her writer’s block

I see now that a writing retreat is productive only if removing yourself from a life so full of distraction that you need the isolation in order to focus on your work. But if you are the kind of writer who doesn't do much of a day to merit this or any other job title, two weeks on a remote Scottish island will not help you chip away at your writer's block.

Home, away: The view from Escondrijo in Vejer de la Frontera, Spain, where you will be cosseted by the owners

Juliet Kinsman: We all want chic on the cheap – but there's usually a trade-off

Don't tell me: you want somewhere super-glamorous. But you don't want to fork out a fortune. Thanks to celebrity overload, we appear to have cultivated A-list sensibilities, then been corrupted by deal-of-the-day offers. Ergo we demand VIP lifestyles on shelf-stackers' pay packets.

Licence to chill: The seawater pool at Dougie's Bar, Jake's Hotel

Jamaica: A birthday party like no other

It's been 50 years since the former British colony gained independence and, says Boyd Tonkin, it's in the mood to celebrate

A Simple Life (PG)

Starring: Andy Lau, Deannie Yip

Eduardo Paes: Olympic challenge

London 2012: Mayor of Rio says he's scared Boris Johnson will 'do something crazy' when he hands over Olympic flag to Brazil

The Olympics may have just begun but Eduardo Paes has already got his eye on the end.

Tom Hodgkinson: 'As a family, we go to festivals. And work'

The Sex Pistols, brilliantly, attacked the holy trinity of the modern economy: work, shopping and holidays, that is, paid employment, consumption and paid-for leisure. In "17", Johnny Rotten sang: "I don't work, I just speed, that's all I need," adding, with pride, "I'm a lazy sod." "Anarchy in the UK" complains that our Queen's "future dream is a shopping scheme", and in "Holidays in the Sun" he sneered at those who take a cheap holiday in other people's misery.

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Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
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Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
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The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
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After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
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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
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas