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No more Santa costumes or shark fins: Weird US laws come into force

The budget laws that threatened the US with billions in tax hikes weren’t the only ones that were due to come into force in the new year, with some 400 state and local measures ranging from the sensible to (at first glance) the sublimely ridiculous also taking effect on 1 January.

Dick McBride: One of the last of the Beat poets

Dick McBride was a poet of the Beat Generation who acted as a literary bridge between the United States and Britain, bringing the writings and spirit of the Beats to this country. In books and in performances of his own works and those of fellow writers, he sought to broaden awareness of the poets who had made such an impact on American writing.

Colsaerts on course for Ryder Cup place

Nicolas Colsaerts cleared the first hurdle towards gaining the last automatic spot in Europe's Ryder Cup team by firing a three-under 69 in the Johnnie Walker Championship first round at Gleneagles yesterday.

Dorothea Tanning: Painter, sculptor and poet whose work crossed

Dorothea Tanning was the last of a group of women – including Leonora Carrington, Leonor Fini and Frida Kahlo – who were active in surrealism during the mid-20th century. Tanning herself eschewed the labels of "woman artist" and "surrealist" labels and her work has defied the boundaries of gender and artistic movements.

Just another Chicago tale of graft and extortion

Maybe that devout Catholic, Richard M Daley, had a point, apropos of the corruption for which his home town and state are legendary. "Look at our Lord's disciples," Chicago's former mayor, who attended Mass daily, once declared. "One denied Him, one doubted Him and one betrayed Him. If our Lord couldn't have perfection, how are you going to have it in city government?"

The strain shows through, but a stint in the White House may be the

Judging by their before and after photographs, US presidents appear to age before our eyes, adding wrinkles and grey hair with each year in office. But their time in the White House does not appear to shorten their lives, and most live longer than their peers, a new study has found.

Elliott appreciates the rewards of hard work

One businessman, at least, is bucking the recessionary trend in his beleaguered country. In the four years since he won the 2007 Grand National with the patched-up point-to-pointer Silver Birch, Gordon Elliott's training empire has expanded from 10 horses to 60, and patronage from some of the sport's shrewdest owners. Here yesterday he put the seal on his emerging talent with a double, courtesy of Chicago Grey in the opening National Hunt Challenge Cup and Carlito Brigante, who turned the normally competitive Coral Cup into a solo tour de force.

Emanuel back on the ballot in Chicago election

It looked tricky there for a while, but finally it seems that Rahm Emanuel, the former White House Chief of Staff, will be on the ballot papers when the citizens of Chicago go to the polls next month to choose a new mayor.

Court rules Emanuel out of Chicago mayoral race

He has already raised more than $10 million. Last week he stood on a stage in the city's cultural centre as the big dog – Bill Clinton – spoke to a capacity crowd to offer his all-important endorsement. He has even endured the first of several planned televised debates with his opponents for the job that he wants and thinks he deserves.

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