News French actor Gerard Depardieu poses with people from Estaimpuis during a ceremony held in his honor at the Chateau Bourgogne

Mayor of Estaimpuis credits French star with boosting the economy, creating jobs and bringing new visitors to the small corner of Wallonia

The Big Six: Luxury Forest Retreats

UN to pull its staff out of Afghanistan

Insurgent attacks see 600 workers evacuated – and they may never come back

UN relocating 600 staff after Taliban attack

The United Nations said today that it is temporarily relocating more than half its staff in Afghanistan following last week's deadly Taliban attack.

Julius Cavendish: 'They jumped from balconies to escape'

There was nothing remarkable about the three men in police uniforms sauntering down the middle of the street – until one began spraying the green gate of the Bekhtar guesthouse with rounds from his Kalashnikov.

Five UN staff killed in suicide attack on Kabul guesthouse

Authorities urged to step up protection after 'dark day' for agency in Afghanistan

12 dead in Kabul attack on UN staff

Gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed a guest house used by UN staff in the heart of the Afghan capital early Wednesday, killing 12 people — including six UN staff — officials said. The US Embassy said one of the UN dead was American.

Varanasi: The last stop before nirvana

The Indian holy city is regarded as the last stop before nirvana. But these days the place seems more interested in attracting tourists than the devout. Andrew Buncombe reports

How to keep it comfy on the flashpacker trail

South-east Asia specialises in cheap yet chic lodgings. Andrew Spooner picks his favourites

Hotel owners to be named and shamed over fire safety

Fire Service leaders plan to make public the names of those who put lives at risk with blocked exits and stairways and faulty smoke alarms

Flouted fire rules risk holidaymakers' lives

Hundreds of British hoteliers have been issued with fire authority warnings, <i>IoS</i> research reveals

The Legend of Liz &amp; Joe, By John Murray

Dystopian fantasy is a comic feast

Editor-At-Large: Older mums are 'selfish', but older dads are studs ...

The death from cancer at 69 last week of the world's oldest mum produced some provocative headlines – and I suspect they were written by men. "Two-year-old twin sons orphaned" is factually correct, but will these small children really ever remember their mother?

North Korea interested in freeing US reporters

North Korea appears "seriously interested" in releasing two convicted American journalists but first wants the United States to acknowledge what Pyongyang sees as their "hostile acts," a US-based scholar who visited Pyongyang said today.

Donald Qubeka and Liziwe Ngcokoto: 'South Africa is a time bomb that is ticking'

Their story is so incredible, you wouldn't bet against a film one day being made based on their experiences. Already, someone in the Netherlands is writing a book about this remarkable South African couple.

Five-star service at this Thai budget bolthole

Thailand's small guest houses offer an affordable, authentic and stylish taste of this southeast Asian country, says Andrew Spooner
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Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
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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
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Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
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
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick