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Not content with being Time's Person of the Year and scoring a Rolling Stone cover, Pope Francis has now achieved superhero status, at least in the eyes of graffiti artist Maupal.

Helen Zille (right), leader of the Democratic Alliance, is hugged by Mamphela Ramphele at the Cape Town conference

South Africa elections: Opposition parties unite to challenge ruling ANC

South Africa’s main opposition party has merged with a smaller group to jointly challenge the ruling ANC in elections in April.

Treasures of the Olympic Winter Games

Book of the week: Treasures of the Olympic Winter Games

Britain may be minnows when it comes to winter sports, but we did invent modern sledding, and we’ve had our moments in figure skating too. Indeed, as this book reminds us, figure skating first appeared on the Olympic schedule in London in 1908.

Tycoon attacked over $150m sale of Congo oil rights that cost $500,000

Dan Gertler, one of the world's most controversial mining tycoons, was back in the spotlight last night over his dealings in the impoverished Democratic Republic of Congo, after it emerged that he is set to sell oil exploration rights that he bought from the government for $500,000 for a staggering $150m.

Xu Zhiyong is charged with ‘gathering a crowd to disturb order’, and could face five years in prison

Xu Zhiyong trial: Chinese activist and lawyer make ‘silent protest’ in court

Mr Xu is charged with 'gathering a crowd to disturb public order', punishable by up to five years in prison

China’s new President Xi Jinping

China's elite linked to 'offshore tax havens'

Relative of President Xi Jinping accused of being a director of an offshore company based in the British Virgin Islands

Thai anti-government protesters march as part of their ongoing rallies in downtown Bangkok

Thailand declares state of emergency in bid to quell Bangkok protests

Bangkok and its surrounding provinces will be subject to the decree for 60 days

Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal addresses his supporters during a protest in New Delhi

I am an anarchist, says Delhi's chief minister Arvind Kejriwal as he causes traffic chaos with protest in city centre

At around 3pm on Monday afternoon the Delhi traffic police issued an unlikely-sounding message by means of social media.

Andrew Mitchell eventually received a begrudging apology following the 'Plebgate' affair

Damning report on Police Federation: Personal attacks on Andrew Mitchell and Theresa May condemned in review set up after 'plebgate' affair

'We heard of a growing disillusion with the lack of professionalism of some representatives' says report

Protesters at an anti-fascist rally in Moscow yesterday. While Mr Putin says protests are allowed, LGBT activists report being detained and beaten at gay pride events

Vladimir Putin’s gay rights charm offensive ahead of Sochi Winter Olympics is all lies, activists say

The Russian leader is at pains to reassure the West that gay athletes and visitors are welcome at the Sochi Winter Olympics. But Oliver Wright and Alec Luhne in Moscow say the message from the LGBT community is far different

A Thai anti-government protester points a baton towards a building from where protesters suspected a bomb was thrown on an anti-government protest march in Bangkok on 17 January.

Thailand anti-government protests: 31 people injured in Bangkok blast

The explosion in the Thai capital city left the protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban unharmed 

Rahul Gandhi to lead campaign for India's ruling Congress party

Members of India's ruling Congress party erupted in rapturous applause today for Rahul Gandhi, heir to the country's Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, who is leading the struggling party's campaign in a general election in May.

Dr Jose Manuel Mireles (third left), one of the leaders of the Michoacan vigilante group pictured with him. He has since been injured in an aircrash that could have been an attempt on his life

Mexico’s last line of defence: The militia taking on the country's drug cartels... and the police officers protecting them

A vigilante militia is marching on the stronghold of The Knights Templar cartel in Michoacan, and attacking the police they accuse of protecting the gang. Can they rescue the failing state?

Mother Paula Andrew stopped by police because her baby wasn’t wearing a coat

Ms Andrew said she refused to give her name and address to officers after they received an anonymous 999 call saying nine-month-old Maddy looked cold

A Thai anti-government protester during the fourth day of the 'Bangkok Shutdown' rally

Thai protesters march on more government offices

Eight have been killed and 450 injured since protests began in November

Bernie Ecclestone, president and CEO of Formula One Management

German prosecutors set to charge Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone over alleged $44m bribe

In 2012, a court sentenced German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky to eight-and-a-half years in prison for taking the alleged payment for organising the sale of a large stake in the sport

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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