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Among Christians, Anglicans are the most consistently authoritarian and conservative, while Catholics are more likely to be left-wing

Burma continues to practise rights abuses, report claims

Burma’s government – hailed around the world for its flurry of recent democratic reforms – stood by as its security forces raped and murdered members of a long-persecuted ethnic minority, a new report has alleged.

Looted treasures returned to Afghanistan by British Museum

The British Museum, aided by British police and the UK Border Force, has helped return to Afghanistan hundreds of looted antiquities seized from smugglers, The Independent can reveal.

Tibetan mother dies in fire protest

A Tibetan mother of three has died in the latest in a recent wave of self-immolations to protest against Chinese rule, according to reports.

Gambling, drinking Buddhist monks shown raising hell in luxury South Korea hotel video footage

Six leaders from South Korea's biggest Buddhist order have quit after secret video footage showed some supposedly serene monks raising hell, playing high-stakes poker, drinking and smoking.

Writer Simon Usborne takes time out at his desk to savour a single raisin

Mindful eating: How to think more and eat less

'Mindful eating' is gaining followers among those who want to give deeper thought to their food. Will guzzler Simon Usborne become a convert?

Children light candles during a service near Heijo Palace in Nara, central Japan

A year on from Japan's day of disaster: 'I still can't believe we lived through it'

Japan fell silent yesterday to remember last year's 11 March earthquake and tsunami, which killed 19,000 people, triggered a still unresolved nuclear crisis and drove hundreds of thousands of refugees from their homes.

Sally May May (with a Korean hornbeam) had always been interested in trees, when a friend took her to a bonsai show in Bournemouth in 2003. 'Between me and my husband, we have more than 100 now. I love their shape and beauty, and the fact that they personify a large tree in a small area. I've got a hornbeam that's my favourite - it has a lovely, crinkly trunk. It's had more and more branches on it in the three years I've had it.' The Mays live in Salisbury, and are members of the Swindon Bonsai society. Has bonsai taken over Sally's life? She laughs. 'It can be a lot of work. I suppose it has in a way. But not so much, as I also have rabbits.'

It's the little things in life: What's driving a bonsai boom in Britain?

It's about intrinsic beauty, inner spirit, a synecdochical relationship with nature. It's also about battling it out on a cold spring morning to see whose tree is tops. Matthew Bell joins Britain's hardcore bonsai enthusiasts – in Swindon, of all places.

Around 24 Tibetans are believed to have set themselves on fire in the past year

China calls Tibetan immolators criminals

Chinese officials sought today to discredit Tibetans who have set themselves on fire to protest China's rule over their region, calling them outcasts, criminals and mentally ill people manipulated by the exiled Dalai Lama.

Conversion to non-violence: Ashoka Pillar at the Maya Devi Temple, Lumbini, Nepal

Ashoka: The Search for India's Lost Emperor, By Charles Allen

"In the history of the world there have been thousands of kings and emperors who called themselves 'their highnesses', 'their majesties', 'their exalted majesties' and so on," HG Wells wrote in The Outline of History. "They shone for a brief moment, and as quickly disappeared. But Ashoka shines and shines brightly like a bright star, even unto this day."

A tea estate on the Knuckles

Tea break: Discover vertical rock climbs and giant Buddhas in a Sri Lankan idyll

Going to Sri Lanka for the first time gave us an excuse to buy some new maps. That's how our journeys always start. The journey we worked out took us straight from Colombo on the west coast up to the ancient sites of Dambulla and Polonnaruwa, in the centre of the island.

Young monks run back to class at the Dechen Phodrang monastery in Thimphu

Is Bhutan the happiest place in the world?

Andrew Buncombe visits Bhutan to find out if its people really are as content as they claim to be.

Sixty heritage workers are resurrecting the temple of Banteay Chhmar

Cambodia's lost temple, reclaimed from the jungle after 800 years

Experts use 3D imaging to undo ravages of time and thieves at the haunting Banteay Chhmar site

Tibetan monks jailed over self-immolation

Two Tibetan Buddhist monks have been jailed for assisting in the death of a 16-year-old colleague who set himself alight.

Kristin Hersh, Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh

"So many memories," reflects Kristin Hersh, leafing through a copy of Paradoxical Undressing, her 2010 memoir, which has formed the basis of this show of the same name both before and after its publication. It's proven a rich vein so far, with her return to Edinburgh yielding two Book Festival appearances – one spoken, one performing – and two more typical gigs such as this at the Edge music festival. These latter events are more Hersh's regular style, rock venue gigs which merge solo song and electric guitar with unconnected spoken word excerpts from the book.

Dalai Lama swears in new Tibetan prime minister

The Dalai Lama has led a ceremony to swear in a new prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile who takes over the Buddhist leader's political role.

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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
Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

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
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