Travel

Mons is embracing the future as it prepares for its role as next year’s European Capital of Culture, but it’s also steeped in intriguing history. Philip Sweeney explores its two sides

The Sketch: General Gove discovers the brotherhood of man

What are so-called Topical Questions for if not to address the great controversies of the day?

'No genuine strategic vision' in Government's defence policy, say MPs

Britain’s policy on defence has been overwhelmingly driven by the need to cut cost, lacks vision and leads to concerns about how plans were being made to combat the real threats and challenges being faced by the country, an influential parliamentary committee has claimed.

George Osborne is said to have paid £100 an hour to be trained by a Harley Street vocal specialist during his days as shadow Chancellor

Andy McSmith's Diary: More than a little teed off with the Chancellor’s speech

George Osborne is said to have paid £100 an hour to be trained by a Harley Street vocal specialist during his days as shadow Chancellor, to help him sound weighty and authoritative. But did he get his money’s worth? After listening to the Chancellor’s speech on Monday, the Labour MP Jamie Reed seemed to think not. He tweeted: “Can someone please reintroduce Osborne to ‘t’ as a consonant? Cos I godda dell ya, that speech made me wanna scream.”

Sgt Alexander Blackman

Sergeant Alexander Blackman: Royal Marine jailed for life for murder of Afghan insurgent challenges verdict

39-year-old lodges applications for permission to appeal against both conviction and sentence

Those who've fought, teach: Yes to ex-military teachers but no to cadet units in schools

Former members of the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force have a lot to offer – experience of life, for a start

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond renews drive to enlist private sector in MoD procurement of food, vehicles and weapons

Defence chief undeterred by collapse of plans effectively to privatise agency

The Business Matrix: Monday 6 January 2014

Hammond in fresh reform bid

Margaret Rigby, girl guide

Page 3 Profile: Margaret Rigby, girl guide

Dib dib dib Dob dob dob!

Sunni fighters arm themselves with RPG missiles launcher and machine guns as they take up position in Fallujah city, western Iraq

The harm before the storm: Army battles to expel resurgent al-Qa’ida from Iraq

As the wars in Iraq and Syria increasingly become one, Iraqi Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki must restore order before sectarianism worsens

Book review: 'The Erl-King' by Michel Tournier (Trs Barbara Bray)

First published in 1970, The Erl-King is very much a novel of its time and place; a product of continental Europe still heavy with memories of the Second World War and struggling to reconcile notions of victory and defeat with the ideological contest between East and West.

Professor Margaret MacMillan points to the striking parallels between the Balkans a century ago (the assassination in Sarajevo, left) and the Middle East today (Syria rebellion, right)

Is it 1914 all over again? We are in danger of repeating the mistakes that started WWI, says a leading historian

The Great War was sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the Balkans. The Middle East could be viewed as the modern-day equivalent, argues Professor Margaret MacMillan

Senior al-Qa'ida figure Majid al-Majid dies in custody in Lebanon

An army statement said al-Majid died in a military hospital in Beirut

Resurrection, By Leo Tolstoy: Book review

Sweetness and light among shame and confusion. The greatest of all novels is Leo Tolstoy's final novel, Resurrection. Its effect upon a reader is immense and immediate. Even after eight readings of various translations, I continue to feel its spell and admire its complexity.

Cambridge history professor hits back at Michael Gove's 'ignorant attack'

Professor Sir Richard Evans angered by Gove's criticisms of his work on World War One

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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