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The two sisters sat in the airport lounge, waiting for their flight to Kerala. It was delayed. They were keen to get going. Their mother had died the day before and they were going to settle her affairs. “She had a good life. She lived to 97,” explained one of the sisters. “You know what her secret was? Coconuts.”

Letters: Big Brother Britain

State security machine reaches over the bank counter

Dominic Lawson: So now we will have degrees in quackery

What, really, is the difference between acupuncture and psychic surgery?

How to beat backache

Four out of five of us will suffer at some time – but not for the reasons we think. Alison Taylor consults the experts and sets the record straight on beds, bad posture and bending

Paperback: Suckers, by Rose Shapiro

This ferocious assault on the evidence-free mountebanks who peddle alternative medicine, and the dupes who fund them, is a bracing tonic. From aromatherapy to "zero balancing", Shapiro runs through the alphabet of false claims and dud research, exposing quackery. She mounts a terrific defence of science against superstition. But something's gone wrong with the tone – a sneery arrogance that (as with the Ayurvedic tradition) can only bother to caricature its few substantial foes.

Acupuncture may increase chances of success in IVF

Acupuncture may offer a cheap, safe and efficient way of boosting success rates in fertility treatment, researchers have found.

Our bees are disappearing - but you can help save them

As Britain's natural environment is being gradually degraded, with the demise of traditional hedgerows, hay meadows, chalk grassland and wildflowers, the intensification of farming and the widening use of pesticides, our bumblebee population is steadily vanishing.

The Ten Best: Health websites

Gwyneth lives by it, and thousands of others as well, but are they being taken for a ride?

From crystals to cranio-sacral treatment, it's a booming business. But does any of it work?

Charles attacked over `hair-raising' and `dangerous' alternative therapies

A new book issued by the Prince of Wales's foundation to promote alternative health therapies has been condemned as unscientific and potentially dangerous by the country's leading authority on complementary medicine.
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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
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there