News Temperatures have plunged to -13C in the town of Hell, Michigan

The extreme weather in the US has got so cold that even Hell has frozen over.

A pedestrian makes their way along a snow packed street in Indianapolis

What is a polar vortex? The arctic winds that brought cold air and chaos to the US

Much of the United States is currently in the grip of a polar vortex, a system of dense air producing plummeting temperatures and swathes of freezing weather, bringing some parts of the country to a halt and causing chaos in others.

Greenpeace International activist Mannes Ubels from the Netherlands jumps for joy holding his passport outside of the offices of the Federal Migration Service Department in St. Petersburg after receiving a Russian transit visa

Arctic 30 heading home after being cleared under Putin amnesty

30 Greenpeace activists detained in September will have left the country by the end of the weekend after having their charges dropped and being issued transit visas

Dima Litvinov became the first member of the so-called 'Arctic 30' to leave Russia; boarding a train at a railway station in St. Petersburg

First Greenpeace activist leaves Russia - with rest of 'Arctic 30' to leave by Friday

The first of 30 Greenpeace activists arrested after a protest over Arctic oil drilling has left Russia, the environmental group said on Thursday, with all expected to get clearance to leave Russia by Friday.

26 members of the so-called 'Arctic 30' pictured at the beginning of December

Russia formally drops criminal charges against Arctic 30 Greenpeace activists

The protesters and two freelance journalists, including six Britons - were arrested after Russian authorities boarded their ship, the Arctic Sunrise, during an anti-drilling demonstration in September

Arctic 30 and Pussy Riot members to be freed after Russia passes amnesty law

Hopes are now that activists and journalists will be home for Christmas following move by Russian parliament

A photograph supplied bu the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows Arctic sea ice in 2013
This illustration from ‘The Eventful Voyage of HM Discovery Ship 'Resolute' to the Arctic Regions’ is one of a million-plus British Library images that have just been made available on the internet

Historic images brought into 21st century after being posted on Flickr by British Library

More than a million pictures have been scanned from texts published in the 17th to the 19th centuries

Alex Harris was one of the first 'Arctic 30' detainees to be granted bail

Arctic 30: Russia 'defies international ruling' and tells protesters they cannot leave

The Russian authorities have told a group of Greenpeace activists and freelance journalists arrested during a protest against oil drilling in the Arctic that they cannot leave the country.

Canada vows to defend Santa Claus from Russian troops as row over territory escalates

Vladimir Putin told a defence ministry meeting that he wished to see the military bolster its presence in the territory

Greenpeace activists target Real Madrid press conference, leaving Carlo Ancelotti looking bemused

Champions League sponsor Gazprom were the target

Viewpoint: Pepper Club Hotel, Cape Town

Get me out of here... - winter sun, northern Norway, Cape Town

Now... Winter sun in the wild Atlantic

Cape Verde is an Atlantic island nation that basks in year-round sunshine. Departing on 10 December, you can spend a week exploring the main island of Boa Vista, using the Iberostar as your base, with meals, transfers and Thomson flights from Gatwick for £828pp. capeverde.co.uk

Sheep in the hills above Glenarm in Co Antrim, as the first snowfall of the season covered northern parts of the county last month

UK weather: Met Office issues snow and sleet warning as cold front brings Arctic winds and icy conditions

Sleet and snow showers to hit Scotland later in the week

Green peace at last after campaign against drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic?

Russia was no doubt finding the fuss over the Arctic 30 embarrassing

British Greenpeace International activist Anthony Perrett at the Court hearings, in Murmansk, Russia

Greenpeace Arctic 30: Five Britons released on bail

Mr Perrett and Bryan have now been moved to an undisclosed location after a St Petersburg court granted their release

Greenpeace Arctic 30: Two more Brits granted bail in Russia

Seven more Greenpeace activists arrested by the Russian authorities in a protest against drilling in the Arctic have been granted bail, including two Britons - Frank Hewetson from London and Iain Rogers from Exeter.

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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
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