Christmas in Bethlehem: Thousands descend on Manger Square to celebrate Nativity as holy city receives record tourism boost

Christmas in Bethlehem: Thousands descend on Manger Square to celebrate Nativity as holy city receives record tourism boostChristmas joy as hundreds follow colourful procession through ancient cityTop catholic cleric Fouad Twal says celebrations heightened by UN endorsement of PalestineCity packed with pilgrims from across the globe to mark the birth of their faithLocal Christians concerned that future celebrations will be disturbed by continuing violence | UPDATED: 09:13 GMT, 25 December 2012 Christians from the world over packed Manger Square in Bethlehem Monday to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the ancient West Bank town where he was born. For their Palestinian hosts, this holiday season was an especially joyous one, with the hardships of the Israeli occupation that so often clouded previous celebrations eased by the United Nations' recent recognition of an independent state of Palestine. In his annual pre-Christmas homily, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, said the road to actual freedom was still long, but this year's festivities were doubly joyful, celebrating 'the birth of Christ our Lord and the birth of the state of Palestine.' Scroll down for video Thousands of pilgrims flock to Manger Square, outside the Church of the Nativity, the site revered as the birthplace of Jesus A 55-foot Christmas tree towers above the revelers outside the Church of the Nativity Musicians perform on stage in Manger Square as the evening celebrations kick in A pilgrim holds a candle and song text book in the 'Grotto', in the Church of Nativity A Palestinian vendor sells balloons and Christmas hats at the gathering in Manger Square 'The path (to statehood) remains long, and will require a united effort,' added Twal, a Palestinian citizen of Jordan, at the patriarchate's headquarters in Jerusalem's Old City.

Lord Blair"s friend claims story was wrong to claim he had won contracts through cronyism

Lord Blair's friend claims paper was wrong to allege he had won contracts through cronyism | UPDATED: 01:07 GMT, 22 December 2012 Denial: Lord Blair denies he handed out contracts to close friends paid for by public money A friend of former Scotland Yard chief Lord Blair won a High Court libel action yesterday when a judge ruled that he had been defamed in a newspaper article about his work for the Metropolitan Police. Management consultant Andrew Miller had told the court in May that his reputation had been ‘trashed’ by claims he had won police contracts worth millions of pounds through cronyism. Mr Miller, 58, brought High Court proceedings over a front-page article in the Daily Mail in October 2008.

Arthur Scargill loses court battle to have costs of his London flat paid for rest of his life by union

Arthur Scargill loses court battle to have costs of his London flat paid for rest of his LIFE by mining unionClaimed it was agreed with National Union of Mineworkers 30 years agoMr Justice Underhill ruled against the iconic leaderNUM General Secretary says it was 'regrettable' they had to bring the case | UPDATED: 20:29 GMT, 21 December 2012 Defeat: Arthur Scargill lost his High Court battle to have the miner's union pay for the rent on his London flat for the rest of his life today The former miners’ leader Arthur Scargill has lost his fight to have the National Union of Mineworkers pay the rent on his London flat for the rest of his life. Mr Scargill, 74, had argued that he signed a contract which entitled him to a property throughout his retirement

Royal succession: Ladies of the aristocracy want equality alongside royals

Daughters of the gentry call for equal rights to inherit titles following change to royal succession lawNew law of royal succession would see the royal baby become third in line to the throne regardless of sexCurrent rules see younger brothers inherit titles ahead of older sisters Traditions mean a title will die out rather than be passed to a woman | UPDATED: 09:10 GMT, 17 December 2012 The proposed law changes to ensure that a daughter born to Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge can succeed to the throne, should apply to titles as well, daughters of the aristocracy have said. The current tradition follows the previous royal succession law which sees a male heir inherit over a female. Now daughters of the gentry are calling for a equal rights to inherit titles as the new law would leave the aristocracy ‘two steps behind’ the royal family

Egypt narrowly votes for new constitution favoured by President Mohammed Morsi amid widespread claims of ballot box fraud

Egypt narrowly votes for new constitution amid widespread claims of ballot box fraud Muslim Brotherhood claims to be in lead with 56 per cent of 'yes' votesRights groups call for repeat of votes as counting 'took place in darkness'120,000 army troops deployed to help the police protect polling stations | UPDATED: 18:56 GMT, 16 December 2012 Egyptians voted narrowly in favour of a controversial new constitution yesterday amid accusations of widespread ballot box violations. Rights groups today called for a repeat of the first round of the two-part referendum as Islamists, who back the disputed charter, claimed they were in the lead with a 56 per cent majority of ‘yes’ votes. Representatives of the seven groups charged that there was insufficient supervision by judges in Saturday's vote in 10 of Egypt's 27 provinces and independent monitors were prevented from witnessing vote counts.

300,000 will be in fuel poverty by Christmas as ministers fails to act on energy prices

300,000 will be in fuel poverty by Christmas as ministers fails to act on energy pricesFuel Poverty Advisory Group slams 'inadequate' Government initiatives Households struggling to pay bills are expected to top nine million by 2016Forcing firms to insulate homes for poorer customers will add 116 to billsMinisters are doing too little to 'soften the blow' of costly green measures | UPDATED: 00:05 GMT, 17 December 2012 The latest round of energy price rises will leave another 300,000 families struggling to pay their heating bills this Christmas, the Government's adviser on fuel poverty warns today. In a devastating report, the independent Fuel Poverty Advisory Group said Government initiatives were 'completely inadequate to tackle the scale of the problem' and warned that ministers were doing too little to 'soften the blow' of costly green measures which are forecast to send energy bills even higher. It warns that the number of households struggling to pay their bills is expected to hit more than nine million by 2016 – the date by which the last government pledged to end fuel poverty.

Stephen Hawking wins science"s most lucrative prize for lifetime contribution to physics

Stephen Hawking wins 1.8m from science's most lucrative prizeCambridge scientist is the latest winner of the Fundamental Physics PrizeHe says he will help autistic grandson and maybe buy holiday home Top scientists from CERN also share special prize of the same value | UPDATED: 12:45 GMT, 11 December 2012 In the money: Physicist Stephen Hawking has been handed a 1.8million prize in recognition of his lifetime's contribution to theoretical physics Stephen Hawking says he might splash out on a holiday home after he was handed 1.8million in recognition of his lifetime contribution to theoretical physics.

UK wasted millions of aid on building African roads that were never finished or doomed to fall into disrepair

UK wasted millions of aid on building African roads that were never finished or doomed to fall into disrepairIn Mozambique, the EU set aside 60million to build a 60-mile stretch of road that was never finishedIn Uganda the EU has now built so many roads that the network is ‘well beyond the size and standard the country can afford to maintain’International Development officials set to investigate the allegations of corruption raised by new report | UPDATED: 00:07 GMT, 11 December 2012 Millions of pounds of British aid money has been spent on building roads in Africa that were never finished or which are doomed to fall into disrepair, a report warns today.

Leveson Report: Editors agree on new regulation system for Press

Editors agree on new regulation system for Press The editors have been in talks following David Cameron's warning to rapidly agree on framework for a tough new regulatorThe regulator will have power to issue fines, require prominent apologies and investigate alleged wrongdoing Lord Hunt and Lord Black are working on behalf of editors to implement the Leveson proposals | UPDATED: 22:59 GMT, 6 December 2012 Newspaper editors last night announced they have agreed to put in place the broad principles outlined in the Leveson Report. The editors have been in talks this week following David Cameron’s warning that they must make rapid progress on agreeing the framework for a tough new regulator, which will have the power to issue fines, require prominent apologies and investigate alleged wrongdoing. Two peers – Lord Hunt and Lord Black – will work on behalf of the editors on the implementation of the Leveson proposals and will give full details to the Government ‘very shortly’.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas given hero"s welcome after gaining UN acceptance for his people

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas given hero's welcome as he returns to West Bank after gaining acceptance for his people from the UN | UPDATED: 17:11 GMT, 3 December 2012 Thousands of cheering supporters turned out to welcome Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas back to the West Bank after his people were handed acceptance to the United Nations. An Israeli decision to cut off a cash transfer to the financially troubled Palestinian Authority, following an earlier decision to build thousands of new homes in Jewish settlements, failed to put a damper on the celebrations. But Palestinian officials acknowledged they were undecided on what to do with their newfound status, and were waiting for upcoming Israeli elections and new ideas from President Barack Obama before deciding how to proceed.