Environment The Nathusius’ pipistrelle weighs just 7.6g and is the size of a human thumb

A tiny bat the size of a human thumb has become the first to be recorded crossing the North Sea from Britain to mainland Europe – before meeting an untimely end in the Netherlands.

A rigged election? The latest chapter in Congo's sad history

There are serious concerns over the prospects for fair elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after a confidential report suggested that the register of voters has been manipulated to favour the incumbent, Joseph Kabila.

Amol Rajan: Community organisers are building the Big Society

A spectre is haunting England – the spectre of community organising. Barack Obama spent his politically formative years working in Chicago as a community organiser. That phrase is clearly understood in America, but less so over here. It refers to a tradition pioneered by Chicagoan Saul Alinsky – and it has migrated across the Atlantic.

Police who fuelled Egypt riots jailed

There were angry scenes in a Cairo courtroom yesterday when two policemen were jailed for their role in a case which helped spark the Egyptian uprising.

On verge of victory, Tunisia's Islamists commit to 'Western-style democracy'

Tunisia's moderate Islamist party, set to win the first democratic election born of the Arab Spring, reached out yesterday to centre-leftists, vowing to uphold liberal values and form a coalition government with secular parties.

Served the GDR's communist leadership loyally: Gerlach in 1998

Manfred Gerlach: Last head of state of East Germany

Manfred Gerlach served from 6 December 1989 until March 1990 as the head of state of East Germany, the German Democratic Republic (GDR). He had replaced the last Communist to hold the post, Egon Krenz, who had only held it from 24 October.

Bidzina Ivanishvili lives in a custom-built castle on the edge of Tbilisi

Georgian billionaire comes out fighting

From rich recluse to political force, Bidzina Ivanishvili has vowed to oust the President

Joy as Tunisians prepare for their first free vote

"Today, I'm going to the hairdresser and the hammam [steam baths]. I have new clothes – just like for a big celebration," says Jannet, in Tunis. "I won't be able to sleep and tomorrow I'll go to the polling station at 7am, first thing." At that thought, the 57-year-old starts crying, tears of joy: "I'm so proud, so excited" she says. "And so relieved the fear is over."

Patrick Cockburn: Greece in a state of shock as Troika reforms take effect

World View: A sense of injustice is growing. Elite politicians and notorious wrongdoers appear immune as ordinary Greeks reel from wage and job cuts

Rupert Cornwell: There's trouble in the pipeline for Obama

Out of America: A plan to import tar-sand oil from Canada will bring jobs and energy security, but environmentalists say the president must block it

Libyan liberation to be declared on Sunday

A military spokesman says Libya's transitional government will declare liberation on Sunday after months of bloodshed that culminated in the death of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Village People: Tam Dalyell is never one to run with the herd

News that Colonel Gaddafi was dead had only just hit the airwaves when that relentless old campaigner Sir Tam Dalyell was on the phone.

Molly Tarhuni: We must not be afraid to build a new future

The future of Libya can now be written in the full awareness that our potential can be realised

From Arab Spring to elections: Tunisia steps into a new era

The previously banned Islamist party, Al Nahda, is leading the opinion polls and is pitching a moderate, pluralist agenda

Adrian Hamilton: A symbolic vote for the Middle East

The Tunisian uprising happened so fast and the overthrow of the regime in January came so quickly that it is easy, as it goes for elections this Sunday, to take it for granted, a footnote of calm in a chapter of violence and suppression which has marked its neighbours to the west and east.

EU calls for reconciliation in Libya

The European Union urged Libya's interim rulers to push for a broad-based reconciliation in the country following the death of deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi and offered them assistance with rebuilding the country after war.

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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