Voices Germany’s ‘Bild am Sonntag’ newspaper claims that President Obama knew that Ms Merkel’s phone had been tapped as early as 2010

About a year ago, I began to recieve a wonderful series of calls from America and London

Travel Agenda: Vinopolis; Zambezi Queen; Lumiere festival; Mandarin Oriental

Today: For the Caribbean closer to home, make for Vinopolis in London, where the Caribbean Tourism Organisation is hosting a showcase with food, music, drinks and an appearance by Levi Roots (caribbean.co.uk).

McCall Smith makes monkey out of Macbeth

Author's first foray into opera recasts Shakespearean characters as baboons

Botswana's President Khama wins new term

Botswana's President Ian Khama secured a new five-year term today, extending his rule over the world's largest diamond producer, after his governing BDP party swept to victory in a parliamentary election.

Leading article: The merits of a strong opposition

It is to be hoped that the opposition gets more seats in today's elections in Botswana than in previous years. This is not because the incumbent, President Seretse Khama, is not a good thing. He runs perhaps the most politically and economically stable country in Africa – and took over mid-term, after being vice-president, in a smooth transition of power in a country where every election since independence has been deemed free and fair. He is one of the few African leaders to have spoken out against Robert Mugabe's state-sponsored violence in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Critics fear all is not well in the darling of Africa on eve of election

Botswana President's disciplinarian tendencies 'are shading into autocracy'

Hilary Mantel: 'I am sympathetic to politicians'

Man Booker winner Hilary Mantel has injected new life into Tudor turmoils but, as Boyd Tonkin discovers, she has first-hand experience of living in the shadow of arbitrary power

Something to declare: Santorini; free museums in France; train trouble

Where to go, how to save, what to avoid

Five best walking safaris

Forego the comforts of hotel and 4x4, and take a walk on Africa's wild side, says Mike Unwin

Five Aquatic Abodes

Splash out and drink in the views at these alluring waterside hotels. By Aoife O'Riordain

Tsvangirai rules out foul play in wife's fatal accident

Party officials remain suspicious as leader says it was not attempt on his life

Zimbabwe: A beautiful land in need of a change of fortune

Visitors once flocked to Zimbabwe, but abhorrence for President Mugabe's regime has all but destroyed tourism in the country. When will the tourists be tempted back?

The Taint of Midas, By Anne Zouroudi

An uncanny Greek sleuth cracks his second case

Raymond Whitaker: We can reach Zimbabwe's people

As Mugabe recruits thugs with the promise of a square meal, spreading the truth is the watching world's most powerful weapon

Zimbabwe activist 'torture' to be investigated

A Zimbabwean human rights activist missing for three weeks was taken to court accused, according to state media, of plotting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

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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