Voices Ice forms on the shore of the East River due to unusually low temperatures caused by a polar vortex in New York

All 50 US states are below freezing as the polar vortex sworls around North America, shattering temperature records and causing a collective shudder across the continent.

Wanted: new chief of staff to run the White House – and get on with Obama

On the cusp of what promises to be a tough re-election year, Barack Obama yesterday confirmed his most senior aide, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, is stepping down early after a relatively brief, but often scratchy, 12 month in the post.

Gil Scott-Heron performs in California in 2010

Godfather of rap's last words: Exclusive extract from Gil Scott-Heron’s posthumous memoir

Next month, the visionary poet, rap/hip-hop pioneer, and author Gil Scott-Heron will be honoured with a Special Merit Award at the Grammys. Here is an exclusive extract from his forthcoming memoir, The Last Holiday

'This stuff is marvellous': Chamberlain in his Shelter Island studio last year

John Chamberlain: Sculptor who gave new life to scrap-heap cars

John Chamberlain was a sculptor who experimented with many techniques and materials over his half-century career as an artist. But his signature pieces remain the numerous sculptures made of metal from old cars. With titles such as Glove-Box Collision, Spark Plug Staccato and Fly Wheel Sonata, these colourful and imposing works give a new and enduring life to material from vehicles which have been consigned to the scrap-heap.

Richard Wolffe: Mitt Romney's underwhelming performance does not fully explain Iowa's extraordinary three-way split

You can't blame Mitt Romney. It may be easy to be beastly to the unloved Republican presidential frontrunner. He may well look like "the guy who laid you off," as one former conservative rival quipped. He may well have spent the last four years and as many millions (with the help of anonymous supporters) going nowhere in Iowa: he gained almost exactly the same number of votes yesterday as he did in 2008.

The Obama campaign has not officially begun, but the re-election headquarters in Chicago is buzzing, with 200 workers on board

Inside Obama's Chicago machine

As the Republican primaries get under way, David Usborne is granted exclusive access to the crack team in the President's home town who hope to neutralise the enemy and return their man to the White House

Supertall: the Shanghai World Financial Centre, the world's fourth tallest building at 492m

Skyscrapers: Inside the power of the tower

A meeting of wealth and innovation – the skyscraper is the defining symbol of our age. A new book dissects the workings of our megatowers. Will Dean meets its author

Rappers' snaps hit bum note

An American attempt to smooth relations with Pakistan using hip-hop diplomacy unravelled yesterday when the Pakistani military briefly detained a music group accused of taking photographs of sensitive installations.

Wilco, Roundhouse, London

The masters of reinvention are still inspiring a whole lot of love

Album: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Soul Time! (Daptone)

Soul Time! is a near-perfect expression of retro-soul style that grips from its opening bars.

'Too thin to conceive' women warned

Being too thin can be just as damaging as being too fat when it comes to getting pregnant, according to new research.

Album: Tom Waits, Bad As Me (Anti-)

On what is inarguably Tom Waits's best album since Rain Dogs a quarter of a century ago, he strolls assuredly across the landscape of American music, turning his hand with equal facility to an extraordinary range of styles, and managing to invent one or two of his own along the way. It must be wonderful to exercise such protean command over one's art, and it's immensely satisfying to witness it wielded by a musician of such remorseless integrity.

Charles Percy: Politician hailed early in his career as the Republicans' answer to John F Kennedy

Today, Charles Percy's moderate politics and his readiness to work across the aisle with Democrats would consign him to the Republican Party's outer darkness. Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, however, those views chimed with the liberal mood of the era, and many thought the young Senator from Illinois was destined for the Oval Office.

Dyson lives up to Ryder billing

Simon Dyson. It was the first name on Paul McGinley's teamsheet and the first out of Ian Poulter's mouth when asked who he expected to graduate from this Seve Trophy to next year's Ryder Cup.

David 'Honeyboy' Edwards: Delta bluesman who played with Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson

David "Honeyboy" Edwards was, almost certainly, the last surviving link with the "Golden Age" of the Delta blues. A friend and associate of many of the genre's seminal figures, including the great Robert Johnson, he was a performer of versatility, integrity and power who continued to hold audiences in his thrall into his tenth decade.

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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

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We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

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The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
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Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

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