Chargers lead Pro Bowl selections as Tom Brady ties Manning's NFL record

  • Philip Lindsay is first undrafted offensive rookie to make list
  • Brady selected for record 14th time alongside Patrick Mahomes

The Los Angeles Chargers placed seven players in the Pro Bowl, including safety Derwin James, one of six rookies across the league to make the game. James, a first-round draft choice, will be joined on the AFC squad by veteran quarterback Philip Rivers, wide receiver Keenan Allen, running back Melvin Gordon, defensive end Melvin Ingram, center Mike Pouncey and special-teamer Adrian Phillips for the game.

Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay became the first undrafted offensive player in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie. “I am so blessed ... It is a tremendous honor and I am so thankful to all of Broncos Country for supporting and believing in me this season,” Lindsay wrote in his thank-you post on Instagram.

Related: Will the young stud quarterback become devalued in the modern NFL?

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Five-time Olympic champion Missy Franklin retires from swimming at 23

  • American won four golds at London 2012 as a 17-year-old
  • Injuries took toll on athlete predicted to match Michael Phelps

Missy Franklin, whose four gold medals at the age of 17 made her one of the stars of the 2012 Olympics, has announced her retirement from competitive swimming.

Franklin was expected to dominate the pool in the same way as her compatriot Michael Phelps when she burst on to the world stage at the London Games, where she became the first American woman to win four golds in a single Olympics. That prediction appeared to be coming true at the 2013 World Aquatics Championships, at which she won six golds. However, injuries took their toll and her only medal at the 2016 Olympics came in the 4x200m freestyle relay.

Related: 'Chunks of my tongue came off – you could see the tastebuds': Ross Edgley on swimming around Great Britain

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Evelyn Berezin obituary

Creator of the first word processor and designer of a 1960s online air passenger reservation system

Evelyn Berezin, who has died aged 93, invented the Data Secretary, the first electronic word processor for secretarial use, and in 1969 founded a company in Hauppauge, Long Island, to manufacture and sell it. She had bumped into the glass ceiling and it was the only way she could get a senior position running a company.

The choice of product was tactical. As one of the few women developing computer hardware at the time, she was a two-finger typist and said she had to stay as far away as possible from looking like a secretary. However, she needed something that a small team could create at a price low enough to sell. In the 1960s, most computers were so expensive that companies rented them. While this benefited the supplier in the long run, it required a large initial investment, and Berezin did not have the capital.

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‘Mini Hewitt’ Alex De Minaur continues to thrill mentor and idol | Linda Pearce

As the 19-year-old’s list of admirers has grown this year, so has the scrutiny of rivals he can no longer surprise

Lleyton Hewitt admits he sees “a fair bit” of himself in Alex De Minaur, including a willingness to do everything required, and the sponge-like qualities that are helping the 19-year-old to prepare for the sequel to his exceptional breakout year.

Having once been an idol to De Minaur, Hewitt is now a guide and mentor to his so-called Mini-Me, and hence the symbolism of the boyish Sydneysider arriving on the blue carpet at last month’s Newcombe medal awards night with Hewitt’s young – and tennis-mad – son Cruz. In attitude, effort and – in some respects – dogged counter-punching game style, the dual grand slam champion was the prototype for the current Australian No 1.

Related: Dylan Alcott: 'I don’t get out of bed every day to win a tennis tournament' | Linda Pearce

Related: John McEnroe fearful Nick Kyrgios will 'run himself out' of tennis

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Coneygree on course to click in the King George VI on Boxing Day

• Jockey Bowen effusive after schooling session this week
• Thumbs-up for 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner

A schooling session aboard Coneygree had Sean Bowen wreathed in smiles as he contemplates a first ride in the King George VI Chase next week. Victory in the midwinter championship would, on the face of it, seem wildly improbable for a serial victim of injury who will turn 12 in a fortnight’s time, but the former Gold Cup winner has at least had a trouble-free preparation after being beset by problems in previous years.

“He schooled brilliant,” said Bowen, who had his first public ride on Coneygree when the horse was a promising third under a big weight in a Cheltenham handicap last month. “A lot of people doubted the Bradstocks, they were asking, ‘Should he still be going on?’ But they know him better than anyone and if they didn’t feel he was right, they wouldn’t have run him. They’re still very happy with him. I don’t know why everyone was doubting them.”

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After José, it’s olé Ole, but should it be ooh aah Cantona? | Letters

Readers respond to the sacking of José Mourinho at Manchester United

José Mourinho is “safe from the sack for the immediate future”, writes Jamie Jackson (Manager safe for now…, 18 December). Can he please now do a piece suggesting Theresa May will remain prime minister and lead us out of the EU.
Neil Simms

• Interesting that Manchester United should take on a former player as caretaker manager (Solskjær set to take United reins for remainder of season, 19 December). Surely there is one uniquely qualified candidate: Eric Cantona.
Beverley Mason

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How bookshops can take on Amazon | Letters

Readers respond to a Guardian article on showrooming, where bookshop customers visit stores only to research their online purchases

I retired from bookselling 12 years ago and, far from being the newest threat to bookselling, showrooming had been going on long before that (Showrooming: the No 1 threat to bookshops, G2, 18 December). It particularly affected booksellers who attempted to stay in business by specialising. I had more than 500 titles – new and secondhand – about golf, and three shelves of golf course architecture books.

After the Open Championship in 2000, I sent 19 parcels to the US in a single day. By 2005, customers had learned that Amazon would not steal their credit cards and land them in trouble, and I sent only five. The discrepancy was accounted for by “customers” writing down the ISBNs of books they would like and, short of cutting off their hands, I couldn’t stop them. I had 37 lovely years bookselling, but would not like to do it in the current climate. Good luck to today’s booksellers – long may you survive on customers who only know that a book is “green and about this big”.
Margaret Squires
St Andrews, Fife

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The UK has always prided itself on its tolerance. What have we become? | Letters

Supportive letters from Britain’s friends in Europe brought tears to Charles Warlow’s eyes; 92-year-old Ruth James despairs of the hostility non-British workers in her care home endure; plus letters from Ian Arnott, Christopher Ward and David Beetham and John Churcher

The poignant letters from our friends in Europe (19 December) brought tears to my eyes – tears of sadness that we might leave Europe, and of utter frustration at the lunacy of Brexit, the huge cost and opportunity lost of the last two wasted years of negotiation, the malign over-influence of the ERG, and the stubbornness of May and Corbyn. Please, someone tell me what I can do. Whom do I lobby? I already live in a country that voted remain, and my (Labour) MP is a staunch remainer. Is there a demonstration I can join? To which railing do I padlock myself? Or which runway can I lie down on? Ten years retired, I have the time.
Professor Charles Warlow

• I am almost 92 and live in a care home. We have excellent staff of many nationalities, even here in rural Wiltshire. I was very upset when one of our staff, a delightful Baltic man, told me about the hostility he and his wife suffer daily on the bus and in the shops; indeed some of our own residents here do not even speak to him. I would imagine it is even worse for our African carers. The British have always prided themselves on their tolerance. What has happened? What have we become? Will this be the lasting legacy of Brexit and our current band of politicians, who seem to be either anti-European fundamentalists or too supine to speak up for what they believe in lest they offend somebody?
Ruth James
Chippenham, Wiltshire

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Galt MacDermot obituary

Composer of Hair, which transformed Broadway and in London even had Princess Anne jiggling on stage

The mildest and most thoughtful of men, Galt MacDermot, who has died aged 89, might be considered an unlikely composer of hippy anthems, ballads protesting against the Vietnam war, and the scatological interracial sex hymns of Hair (1967). That show changed musical theatre on Broadway and, in London in September 1968, celebrated the end of the lord chamberlain’s protracted reign of censorship in the theatre.

MacDermot, a Canadian who was primarily a jazz musician, studied music in Cape Town, where his father, a diplomat, was Canada’s high commissioner to South Africa. He blended his obsession with the music of Duke Ellington with that of artists such as Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela.

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Giving six-year-olds the vote isn’t such a bright idea | Brief letters

Child development | The village Ikea | Moscows in Cumbria and Ayrshire

With the great Donald Winnicott welcome flavour of the month in the Guardian, his classic 1949 paper on the psyche-soma clearly shows why David Runciman’s proposal to give six-year-olds the vote is preposterous (Letters, 19 December). Runciman completely misunderstands the nature of child development, and that early unbalanced intellectual development generates chronic long-term negative health effects, as Winnicott clearly showed. I wish philosophers wouldn’t stray into realms they know nothing about.
Dr Richard House
Chartered psychologist, Stroud, Gloucestershire

• My village has just about hung on to its three churches, two pubs, a post office and library, but I hadn’t realised we were entitled to an Ikea (Wordsearch, G2, 19 December).
Ruth Eversley
Paulton, Somerset

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Britain suffers as Brexit ties Tories up in knots | Letters

Margaret Prosser, Caroline Duchet, Mark Oakley and Mo Stewart on how Brexit stasis has led to a neglect of the real needs of the country and its most vulnerable people

Professor Trevor Curnow’s letter (14 December) expressing his doubt that Theresa May is prepared to carry out her pledges is spot-on. It is bad enough to renege on a promise to hold a seriously important Brexit vote and a promise not to hold a general election. But how many times has she pledged to make the UK a fairer country, a place with a chance for everyone, while overseeing and promoting policies that do the opposite?

The inability of local governments to provide many basic services, NHS services almost going under, homelessness, in one if the richest countries in the world, at an all-time high – the list could go on and on. And all the while she marches forward, eyes firmly facing ahead, completely unprepared to accept that there may be other ideas or other people who could help her work through this virtually insoluble Brexit tangle, which has wiped almost all other policy needs off the agenda.

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Jamie Oliver is burnishing Shell's reputation – and tarnishing his own | Ava Lee

You can’t blame the oil company for wanting to recruit the wholesome chef, but there’s nothing in it for him. Except £5m

Jamie Oliver’s name has become synonymous with hearty, homemade dinners, down-to-earth kitchen chat and happy family scenes. And so he’s been an ideal figurehead for campaigns for healthier kids and a healthier planet. In the last decade we’ve seen him improving school meals, working with government to tackle obesity, and speaking out against climate change. We have come to know him as both a great chef and an ambassador of brighter, healthier futures. And he’s built a huge and admiring following as a result.

That’s why the announcement that he’s going into business with the oil giant Shell was so disappointing. The contradiction that he’ll be revamping the oil giant’s food offering is unmistakable to those concerned about climate change – he has been praised as an “environment champion” by the UN’s environment programme after years of campaigning, while Shell’s business plans don’t come close to doing what is required to address the climate crisis. But it’s even more depressing if you know about the allegations made against Shell, in a bribery case involving one of Africa’s most valuable oil blocks. Oliver’s £5m deal pales in comparison to the sums coming up in the courtroom: the prosecutor is alleging billion-dollar bribes.

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Why the Federal Reserve is unbowed by Donald Trump

The US central bank went ahead with the interest rate rise, seemingly relaxed about the economy

For the past couple of months Donald Trump has been waging war against the US central bank. The Federal Reserve thinks strong growth and the lowest unemployment since the days when the US was putting men on the moon warrants a gradual increase in interest rates. Trump has been telling the Fed to stop before it craters the economy.

In the end, the Fed on Wednesday did what it was always going to do: it went ahead with the planned rate rise.

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Unilever buys meat-free food company The Vegetarian Butcher

Acquisition of Dutch brand highlights scramble to tap into meat substitutes market

Unilever is buying the meat-substitute company The Vegetarian Butcher as it looks to cash in on the growing number of consumers turning their backs on meat.

Founded by the former cattle farmer Jaap Korteweg, the Dutch brand’s quirky products – which include “nochicken” nuggets and “chickburgers”, apparently with the same “taste and structure” as patties made out of chicken – have earned it a cult following among vegetarians and vegans.

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GSK's Pfizer deal is the first step towards fixing its share price | Nils Pratley

Real progress relies on producing a fatter pipeline of new drugs, which is GSK’s main worry

If your company’s share price has gone roughly sideways for a decade, it’s time to get radical. Emma Walmsley, the chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline, has given mixed messages about a breakup throughout her 18 months in the job, but now she’s going for it. The consumer healthcare division will be combined into a joint venture with US rival Pfizer’s smaller operation, paving the way for a demerger within three years. It is a pragmatic move. Just don’t expect instant salvation for the share price.

The deal itself looks fine. The new venture with Pfizer will be a monster: the world’s biggest consumer healthcare business with annual sales of almost £10bn and an ambition to achieve profit margins of 25%-plus. When it is eventually given independence from GSK’s core pharmaceuticals and vaccines business, it should steam into a top-20 spot in the FTSE 100 index.

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Australia experiencing more heat, longer fire seasons and rising oceans

State of the climate report points to a long-term increase in the frequency of extreme heat events, fire weather and drought

Australia is experiencing more extreme heat, longer fire seasons, rising oceans and more marine heatwaves consistent with a changing climate, according to the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO’s state of the climate report.

The report, published every two years, measures the long-term variability and trends observed in Australia’s climate.

Related: 'Like opening a fan oven': Australia's rainforest threatened by bushfires

Australia’s fire seasons have lengthened and become more severe. In some parts of the country, the season has been extended by months.

The number of extreme heat days continues to trend upward.

There has been a shift to drier conditions in south-eastern and south-western Australia in the months from April to October.

Rainfall across northern Australia has increased since the 1970s, particularly during the tropical wet season in north-western Australia.

Oceans around Australia have warmed by about 1C since 1910, which is leading to longer and more frequent marine heatwaves that affect marine life such as corals.

Sea levels around Australia have risen by more than 20cm since records began and the rate of sea level rise is accelerating.

There has been a 30% increase in the acidity of Australian oceans since the 1800s and the current rate of change “is ten times faster than at any time in the past 300 million years”.

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Penny Marshall obituary

Director of the hit films Big and Awakenings who first shot to fame as an actor in Laverne & Shirley

Penny Marshall, who has died aged 75, was a rarity: a successful female film-maker in Hollywood. Her delightful comedy Big (1988), starring Tom Hanks, became the first film by a female director to gross more than $100m. Though it was the fifth body-swap movie to emerge in the space of a year, its success was richly deserved.

The plot, about a boy whose wish to be a grown-up comes true, could have been tasteless in other hands. There is, after all, a tentative romance between this child in an adult’s body (Hanks) and his colleague (Elizabeth Perkins) at the toy company where his natural naivety has landed him a job – though when she stays the night and he announces “I get to be on top!”, he is referring only to the bunk-bed arrangements. But Marshall’s light touch, and the appealingly puppyish performance she coaxed from Hanks, ensured the charm rarely waned.

Related: Penny Marshall, film director and star of Laverne & Shirley, dies aged 75

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The World’s Most Extraordinary Christmas Dinners review – hark! The £150,000 cracker

From Christmas in space to diamond-encrusted cracker cuffs, this was the sort of undemanding, off-beat fare just right for this time of year

If you want to get back to the true spirit of Christmas, just sew the back end of a pig to the front of a capon. That’s how they do it at the Weald and Downland Living Museum in West Sussex, recreating a 14th-century festive centrepiece based on a mythical beast called a cockatrice (or “cokyntryce”, as their recipe has it). Lest you think it a wasteful exercise, they made use of the front of the pig and the back of the capon to create an “antitrice”, which is only mildly more disgusting.

The World’s Most Extraordinary Christmas Dinners (Channel 4) was a seasonal mashup of bizarre, off-beat and outside-the-box yuletide meals, many eaten by people who were prepared to celebrate Christmas in July for the benefit of the cameras. We were shown Christmas on a nuclear submarine (not quite – the head chef went home for the holidays and it was apparent that no one was going to spend months underwater in order to film some sailors eating turkey), Christmas in a posh hotel and Christmas in space.

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Post-Brexit green watchdog could sue ministers, says Gove

But Green groups say proposals will mean weaker protection for nature after UK leaves EU

A new post-Brexit green watchdog will be able to sue the government over environmental failings, according to new plans set out by Michael Gove. However, campaign groups have questioned the independence of the body because the chairperson and budget will be decided by the environment secretary.

The establishment of the watchdog is part of the draft environment bill, which also puts principles such as “the polluter pays” into legal guidance, but only requires ministers to consider them. The bill, the first for 20 years, makes it a legal requirement for the government to have a long-term environment plan and report on progress to parliament each year.

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Retail gloom is good news for the environment | Letters

Jackie Jones says slumps in retail sales should be seen as a positive thing for the planet, and Patrick Cosgrove has a suggestion for how non-recyclable plastic can be converted into fuel or new plastic

You warn of the fears of the wilting economy (More retail gloom as Asos warns on profits, 18 December), quite rightly the main concern at the moment being the loss of jobs. The loss of share value and company profits are also mentioned. But nowhere do you discuss this in the wider terms of climate change. If the downturn in the economy means that there is less consumerism, then that is a good thing for the planet. The only way we are going to tackle the rising temperature and the ensuing disastrous results is to live simpler lifestyles; this means consuming much less of everything and not being so dependent on a capitalist society where a drop in sales is seen as a disaster.

It is sad that it has taken the mismanagement of this government to reduce consumerism; but more needs to be done with regard to education, enforcement and information about the effects of shipping produce all around the world. Until a drop in the retail market is seen as a benefit, there is no hope.
Jackie Jones

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Crime victims can find it healing to meet offenders – but too few know it

Awareness of restorative justice can give victims a sense of closure – and makes the criminal justice system more efficient

Related: Restorative justice 101: Meeting the man responsible for my sister's death | Sean Gorman

Restorative justice consists of a meeting between a criminal offender and their victim or a representative. This meeting challenges offenders to confront their crimes and fully realise the consequences of their actions in order for them to make positive changes. The encounter only takes place if both parties agree and if it is carefully mediated by a third party. In 2015, the Victims Code gave victims a right to be informed about restorative justice. However, this is only a reality for less than than 5% of victims, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales 2016.

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Slave Play review – sexual fantasies examined with questionable intent

New York Theatre Workshop, New York

Jeremy O Harris makes his New York stage debut with a provocative triptych, skillfully constructed yet littered with problems

In the first scene of Slave Play, a provocative off-Broadway production from the up-and-coming playwright Jeremy O Harris, we see a woman dressed as a slave cleaning the stage with a broom when Work by Rihanna starts to play. Kaneisha, played by the If Beale Street Could Talk and Chi-raq star Teyonah Parris, is suddenly unable to stop dancing but stops when her white owner Jim (Paul Alexander Nolan) enters. They indulge in crude porn-like banter (he tells her to eat a cantaloupe he throws on the floor) before having sex. Two similar scenarios follow, each slightly altered: a black man is dominated by his white mistress; a black man tyrannizes his white male indentured servant. This explicit interracial triptych fills the stage and is only broken when a word is yelled.

Related: To Kill a Mockingbird review – Aaron Sorkin spellbinds Broadway

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Brazil fails to replace thousands of doctors who left after Cuba spat

Government said it filled vacancies after Jair Bolsonaro’s comments sparked exodus – but 2,439 replacements failed to show up for work

Brazil has failed to replace nearly one third of the thousands of Cuban doctors who exited the country after a diplomatic spat, as many new recruits failed to turn up for work, the health ministry has said.

Brazil’s president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, had criticized Cuba’s involvement in a government healthcare program, saying that Cuban doctors were being used as “slave labor” because Havana took 75% of their salaries.

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Former Blackwater guard convicted for 2007 massacre of civilians in Baghdad

Nicholas Slatten, 35, found guilty of murder for his role in the killing of at least 14 unarmed civilians in a bustling square

A former security guard for the US firm Blackwater has been found guilty of murder for his role in a notorious massacre of unarmed civilians in downtown Baghdad in 2007.

Nicholas Slatten, 35, was convicted of first-degree murder by a federal jury in Washington on Wednesday after five days of deliberations.

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Homeless man dies after collapsing outside UK parliament

Commons learns of death during speech by the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer

A homeless man who collapsed outside the houses of parliament has died, authorities have confirmed.

Opposition MPs have expressed their fury at the government’s homelessness policy following the death of the rough sleeper, understood to be a 45-year-old Hungarian national, who became the second homeless person to die after falling ill outside parliament this year.

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No kidding: Mike Phelan lives the dream in shock Old Trafford return | Ed Aarons

Alex Ferguson’s former assistant rejoins Manchester United shortly after touching down from Australia and holding court at a Burnley college

They say 24 hours is a long time in football but, even with his vast experience, Mike Phelan must still be pinching himself about Tuesday’s turn of events. Back in his home town while he takes a break from sporting director duties at the Australian side Central Coast Mariners, the 56-year-old took up an invitation to take a coaching session at Burnley College before answering questions from students about his experiences as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Manchester United.

“One of the students asked him what his dream job would be and he said it would be to be coaching in front of 70,000 people again, so whether he had already had that conversation I don’t know,” says Ash Aldersen, Burnley College’s academy of sport and elite athlete manager. “But it’s a dream come true for him. He said he’d come back from Australia just for Christmas, so I suppose he’s had an early present returning to United.”

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Premiership eases fears of spending splurge after £230m deal goes through

• Deal with CVC Capital Partners gives 13 clubs £18m each
• Clubs urged to spend windfall on grounds not players’ wages

Premiership Rugby has completed a deal thought to be worth around £230m with the private equity firm CVC Capital Partners and has moved to ease concerns the windfall will be splurged on player wages.

The 12 Premiership clubs, as well as the Championship leaders London Irish, will each receive around £18m from the deal, having agreed to sell CVC a 27% stake.

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The 50 best films of 2018 in the US: No 3 – Loveless

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s stark drama about the dire fallout to a toxic marriage was a loud dissenting cry from within Russia

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless is a film with a brutally informative adjective for a title. It applies to the toxic, failed relationship at the heart of the drama, but also to everything around the unhappy man and woman, to the very air that they breathe. Modern, aspirational Russia seems in this film to be grasping, unforgiving, a spiritual wasteland of materialism and selfie narcissism, like a distant planet that has lost the means to support life. It is a stark, mysterious, painful film in the high European tradition of Bergman, Antonioni and Haneke.

Related: Leviathan director Andrei Zvyagintsev: ‘Living in Russia is like being in a minefield’

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Les Patineurs / Winter Dreams / The Concert review – festive cheer and tears at the Royal Ballet

Royal Opera House, London
A fine take on Chekhov’s melancholy Three Sisters brings bite to this seasonal triple bill, before ice skaters and lovers restore the yuletide glow

Who needs festive cheer when you could have a slow, Slavic slide into midwinter depression? I’d trade any number of Nutcrackers for Kenneth MacMillan’s beautifully bleak Winter Dreams, from 1991. Based on Chekhov’s Three Sisters, it’s a ballet of impressions rather than narrative, evoking the suffocating melancholy of these women trapped in provincial life and unfulfilling relationships.

The foundations of its heavy sadness are laid by Tchaikovsky’s piano music, augmented by traditional Russian music on mandolins and balalaika. Into its world come sisters Masha (Marianela Nuñez), Olga (Itziar Mendizabal) and Irina (Yasmine Naghdi), stepping so silently in three perfectly tuned arabesques it’s as if they’ve been muted.

At the Royal Opera House, London, until 4 January

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Calling for a master plan in urban living – archive, 19 December 1959

19 December 1959: The report of the Royal Fine Art Commission strongly criticises the way in which our towns and cities are developing

Strong criticism of the way in which our towns and cities are developing is made in the report of the Royal Fine Art Commission covering the period January, 1958, to August, 1959.

Not only does the commission find that legislation to create green belts and to build new towns has failed to check the spread of the suburbs but in the centre of these cities development of office and commercial buildings has presented further serious problems. “All too often,” the commission says, “the dominant motive is to attain the largest amount of lettable floor space that planning legislation will allow in the most sought-after areas.”

Related: 'The wrong type of development': the battle for Edinburgh's Leith Walk

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EU fishing quotas pose risk to some stocks, say campaigners

Ministers setting limits for 2019 accused of ignoring scientific advice on overfishing

Fisheries ministers meeting in Brussels to decide EU quotas for next year have set some stocks within levels scientists deem sustainable but left many others vulnerable to overfishing.

The ministers also said there would be a review of the planned ban on the discarding of edible fish at sea, which could, in effect, mean the wasteful practice is allowed to continue despite an eight-year battle to end it.

Related: Why the battle to fix Europe's fisheries policy isn't over yet

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'Society has a duty to help poor students': university leaders on tuition fees

The leader of the University of Chile and Northampton’s vice-chancellor debate whether students should pay to go to university

With student numbers continuing to rise, UK universities thought that tuition fees – currently set at £9,250 a year – had lost their political heat. But last year’s general election proved them wrong: Labour pledged to abolish tuition fees and students came out in force to vote. The government responded by setting up an independent review into fees and funding in post-18 education, and universities are nervously awaiting its verdict, due early in the new year. The Office for National Statistics has changed the way student loans are accounted for, potentially raising government borrowing estimates by about £12bn a year.

In the latest of our 2VCs interview series, Anna Fazackerley spoke to Prof Nick Petford, vice-chancellor of Northampton University, and Prof Ennio Vivaldi, President of the University of Chile, about the hot topic of fees.

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Tell us: how are you preparing for a no-deal Brexit?

As the government announces troops will be on standby we want to hear from readers preparing for a no-deal Brexit

The government has agreed to implement no-deal Brexit plans “in full” as it seeks to allay fears by saying 3,500 troops would be on standby to help in event of any crisis.

Related: No-deal Brexit plans put 3,500 troops on standby

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Tips, links and suggestions: what are you reading this week?

Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them

Welcome to this week’s blogpost. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from last week:

After finishing Dumas’ The Count Of Monte Cristo, orie1227 feels “like I’ve finally reached Everest’s peak”:

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Homesickness at university: is there a cure?

It’s among the most common experiences for students. Coping is a matter of settling in and keeping busy

James Mahoney, 19, who has just started university in Glasgow, says his homesickness was triggered by a bad date. He didn’t get on with the person, who he’d met online, and he was suddenly reminded of the people closest to him back home. He returned to his flat and his mind began to race with thoughts of his native Northern Ireland. “I was trying to sleep but kept thinking about my best friend and my family,” he says. “For some reason I also started to think about past Christmas get togethers.”

Mahoney (not his real name) knew homesickness would strike at some point. “In Northern Ireland my neighbours are literally cows, so it’s intimidating being here. It’s overwhelming.”

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The Wind in the Willows review – whimsical but not twee

New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme
An immersive show for the under-fives strikes gold and acts as a primer for Peter Leslie Wild’s inventive and boisterous main stage production

As is often the case, it’s the toddlers who strike gold. An immersive show for the under-fives, Tale Trail to the Wind in the Willows is a kind of primer for the New Vic’s main stage production, distilling the Kenneth Grahame favourite into a two-hander that focuses on the newly awoken Mole and the nice but reckless Toad. Something in the concision of the script, the bubbly performances and the playful direction gives this 45-minute version an uplifting air of adventure, jeopardy and discovery.

Staged by Katherine Hughes in a repurposed workshop, Jill Rezzano’s script sticks to the outline of Theresa Heskins’s adaptation in the main theatre as we are led through a series of rooms designed by Laura Clarkson. We fold blankets in Mole’s bedroom, rattle flowers near a moored boat, polish the silverware in Toad Hall and hatch a plot for a prison breakout. The generosity of actors Alexandra Daszewski and Michael Hugo – both excellent – makes the children think they’re driving the action (the nursery class I saw it with was wide-eyed) and that everything rides on their moral choices: is the speed-loving Toad as innocent as he claims and should we forgive the usurping woodland creatures in time for Christmas? The show’s transitions through the seasons are magical and, as we return Mole to her hibernation, its sense of completion deeply rewarding.

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Simon Armitage wins Queen's gold medal for poetry 2018

The Huddersfield poet was praised for spinning ‘poems of emotional weight and musical grace from the fabric of our everyday lives’ by laureate Carol Ann Duffy

English poet and novelist Simon Armitage has been awarded the Queen’s gold medal for poetry for his body of work “giving voice to those rarely admitted into poetry, and extending an arm around the unheard and the dispossessed”.

The Huddersfield poet, who began writing poetry while working as a probation officer in Greater Manchester, has written 21 collections over his career, the most famous being Book of Matches, which features many poems included on the GCSE English literature syllabus. He has also translated multiple early English works including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and worked on several history documentaries for the BBC. Awarded a CBE in 2010 for his services to poetry, Armitage is currently professor of poetry at Oxford University and Leeds University, and previously at Sheffield.

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Houseplant with added rabbit DNA could reduce air pollution, study shows

Devil’s ivy with synthetic animal gene inserted helped reduce benzene and chloroform levels

A humble houseplant with a dash of rabbit DNA could help lower our exposure to indoor air pollution, research suggests.

Scientists have revealed that by inserting a rabbit gene into devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum) the plant is able to clean the surrounding air by breaking down chemicals such as benzene and chloroform, which in certain concentrations can harm health.

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Germany passes immigration law to lure non-EU skilled workers

Business leaders have warned of damage to economy caused by labour shortages

The German government has passed an immigration law focused on attracting skilled labour from outside the EU in an attempt to remedy a chronic shortage of skilled workers.

Business leaders have long lobbied the government to ease immigration legislation, arguing that parts of the economy are being stifled by a lack of workers and warning that the long-term effects could be irreversibly damaging.

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Russian whistleblower died of natural causes, rules coroner

Inquest hears of ‘significant lost opportunity’ to investigate Alexander Perepilichnyy’s death

A coroner has ruled that a Russian millionaire died of natural causes when he collapsed outside his home in Surrey.

Nicholas Hilliard QC ruled that Alexander Perepilichnyy died of sudden arrhythmic death syndrome while out jogging. The finding, which was made at the Old Bailey on Wednesday, disappointed associates of the whistleblower who are convinced he was murdered and possibly poisoned.

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Elon Musk's SpaceX cancels rocket launch again because of technical glitch

SpaceX first halted the launch of Falcon 9 rocket on Tuesday because of the same technical warning with its sensor

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has cancelled the long-delayed launch of a navigation satellite for the US military, failing to complete its first designated national security mission for the United States because of technical issue with its rocket.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, carrying a roughly $500m global positioning system (GPS) satellite built by Lockheed Martin Corp, was slated to take off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral shortly after 9am local time (14.00GMT) on Wednesday.

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Mexico investigates after teens from migrant caravan killed near US border

  • Hondurans killed in Tijuana reportedly stabbed and strangled
  • President Amlo says he will seek ‘fair treatment’ for migrants

Mexican authorities are investigating the deaths of two Honduran teenagers killed in the border city of Tijuana last weekend after joining a migrant caravan in October headed for the US-Mexico border, officials said on Wednesday.

The two youths, believed to be about 16 or 17, showed signs of having been stabbed and strangled.

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Northern Rail asks Acas to intervene in row with RMT over guards

Rail operator asks arbitration service to establish inquiry into issues at heart of two-year dispute

Northern Rail has asked the employment arbitration service to intervene in its two-year dispute with the rail union RMT over the role of guards on trains.

On Saturday union members will hold their 41st day of strike action since March 2017, leaving customers with few or no rail services for the 18th consecutive Saturday.

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Man held after three stabbed at doctor's surgery in east London

Police detain man, believed to be suspect, after incident in Tower Hamlets

A man has been detained after three people were stabbed and injured at a doctor’s surgery in east London on Wednesday morning.

The Metropolitan police said officers held the man, believed to be the suspect, near to the scene of the stabbings.

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Santander fined for keeping dead customers' money

Bank failed to treat customers and their next of kin fairly – Financial Conduct Authority

Santander UK has apologised after being hit with a £32.8m fine for holding millions of pounds back in deceased customer accounts up to 21 years after their deaths.

City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority said the the high street bank failed to treat customers and their next of kin “fairly”, having stalled or failed to complete the probate process despite being informed of their death.

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Greater Anglia train company ditches first class from 2020

Only new intercity services to London will retain first-class seats

A train company is to scrap first-class compartments from most of its trains to create more room for standard-class passengers.

Greater Anglia announced that the policy would come into effect on 2 January 2020. The firm is replacing all its trains with new, longer versions from the middle of next year.

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Uber loses appeal over driver employment rights

Drivers should be classed as workers and entitled to rights such as holiday pay

The ride-hailing firm Uber has lost its appeal against a ruling that its drivers should be classed as workers, entitled to rights such as holiday pay.

The court of appeal upheld a decision by the employment appeal tribunal, which last year dismissed Uber’s appeal against an earlier tribunal hearing.

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Amber Rudd warns of further delays to universal credit

Work and pensions secretary will consider policy changes to restore public confidence

The work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, has signalled she would consider further policy changes and rollout delays to restore public confidence in universal credit, telling MPs her priority was to make it safe for vulnerable claimants.

Rudd, who has been in the post for four weeks, struck a conciliatory tone in her first appearance before the work and pensions select committee, saying she was enthusiastic about universal credit but would not rush the rollout of the new system simply to meet arbitrary timetables.

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The Englishman who went skiing and became a football manager | Cam Melling

Sean Caldwell went on holiday in Kitzbühel and ended up working for the town’s football club in the Austrian leagues

By Cam Melling for The Set Pieces

Kitzbühel hosts World Cup ski races and has been welcoming visitors to its slopes for centuries. Sean Caldwell was like any other tourist when he first visited. Now, his work in transforming the town’s football club means he can be considered a local.

FC Eurotours Kitzbühel currently play in Regionalliga West, the third tier of Austrian football. That’s one level higher than they found themselves when Caldwell arrived at the club three and a half years ago. “I had been visiting Kitzbühel for many years on skiing holidays,” says the English coach. “After speaking with a few people I got in touch with the football club, which I didn’t know much about at the time, and I was offered a role to coach the under-17 team. I felt this was a good opportunity to take myself out of my comfort zone as a coach, while also learning a new language. I started as under-17 coach and within two months I was also asked to take on the under-sevens and under-eights. After doing that for a season, I continued to advise our youth departments while working as first-team assistant manager.”

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