<i>IoS</i> letters, emails &amp; online postings (20 February 2011)

My father spent most of the last two weeks of his life in a filthy geriatric ward, lying in a urine-soaked bed, unable to reach his buzzer or a drink, while a crowd of nurses stood chatting about their social lives round a nurses' station.

The Experts' Guide To The World: Bavaria

The Bavarians have ways and means of working up a powerful thirst before they let themselves loose on the exquisite beers that have been brewed within the confines of the Kloster Reutberg monastery since 1677. In winter, they clip on cross-country skis and glide across the snowy expanse of heather-covered heath surrounding the baroque monastery, which has had a pub, restaurant and beer garden attached to it since the mid-19th century. If it's cold without snow, they bind on skates and spend an hour or so flitting up and down the length of the frozen Kirchsee lake that lies little more than a stone's throw away. In summer, the lake, with its peaty, amber-coloured water, transforms into a magnificent place to swim, sunbathe or simply walk around. In the distance is a near-ever-present, panoramic view of the Bavarian Alps, a gigantic snow-capped wall of grey rock that rises above forests of fir, beech and oak, just a few kilometres away to the south.

At last! The biggest state in the Horn of Africa can blow its own trumpet

Trail-blazing guidebook publisher Hilary Bradt first came here 34 years ago when Marxists held sway and tourists were few. All that has changed

Knowledge through the pages: The evolution of encyclopedias

The Romans referred to them, France's kings suppressed them &ndash; and they have long been status symbols.

Christian hotel couple to appeal over ruling

The Christian owners of a Cornwall hotel found to be acting illegally when they refused a gay couple a double room are to appeal against the ruling, supporters have said.

Arabs, Christians, and the lessons of history

For me as a British Muslim, one of the greatest joys of living in this country is to see the way different faiths are not just tolerated, but embraced.

Russell Brand curbs humour for Katy Perry

Russell Brand has stopped making religious jokes because they upset his wife Katy Perry.

'Blood libel': The two words that spelled trouble for Sarah Palin

Politicians often reach for hyperbolic phrases to make a point &ndash; Sarah Palin is the latest. But 'blood libel' has an appalling religious significance that should see it banished for ever, argues Peter Stanford

Son of Hitler's deputy faces accusations of sexual assault

The eldest son of Adolf Hitler's secretary, Martin Bormann, was yesterday accused of subjecting a former pupil at an Austrian Catholic boarding school to violent and protracted sexual abuse during his time there working as a priest and schoolmaster, more than 50 years ago.

Egyptian Christians protest after bomb attack at church kills 21

Christians in Egypt staged protests in three cities yesterday to protest against the government's failure to protect them after a bombing blamed on Islamic militants that killed 21 people as worshippers left a church service 30 minutes into the new year.

Mark Seddon: We may be witnessing a new age of Christian persecution

In villages and monasteries in northern Iraq, and in churches in Baghdad, Irbil and Mosul, it is still possible to hear Assyrian Christians talking and praying in ancient Aramaic, said to be the language of Christ. Fewer in number now, the Assyrians are the direct descendants of the empires of Assyria and Babylonia, the original inhabitants of Mesopotamia. The Church of the East, currently presided over by Archbishop Gewargis Sliwa in Baghdad is the world's oldest Christian church.

Three face charges for Catholic murder

Three people are to be charged in connection with the sectarian murder of Robert Hamill, a Catholic who was beaten to death by a Loyalist mob in 1997.

Pope: Church must reflect on abuse

Pope Benedict XVI has told Vatican officials they must reflect on the church's culpability in its child sex-abuse scandal, but he also blamed a secular society, in which he said the mistreatment of children was frighteningly common.

Hotel owners 'set up' by gay couple who sued

A gay couple suing the Christian owners of a seaside hotel may have booked a double room as a "set-up", a court heard today.

Sarah Sands: Thugs killed my favourite tree. But a new one is growing

Compared with the desecration of the Cenotaph, the chopping down of an old hawthorn tree in Glastonbury is low on the emotional Richter scale. There are no statements from the Prime Minister, no counter-reproaches from youthful revolutionaries. It is just a tree of no great beauty, which was significant to people of no interest to the famous or the fashionable.

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