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chances are that you have spent the past two weeks wrapping, unwrapping and wolfing down the stuff brought to you by people like the cheerful rating whom Horatio Clare calls "N".

Get me out of here - Mauritius, Madeira, cruising the Arctic Circle

Now... Grab some winter sun in Mauritius

Depart on 5 December for a week in Mauritius. Western & Oriental's offer on the Indian Ocean island is £1,159pp for seven nights at the Veranda Paul & Virginie resort, with all meals, transfers and Emirates flights from Heathrow via Dubai included. westernoriental.com

Families of former British soldiers held in Indian jail call on government for help

The families of six former British soldiers imprisoned in India after being arrested during “anti-piracy operations” have demanded the UK government intervene to secure their safe return.

Scientists attached GPS trackers to a group of 16 albatrosses in the Indian Ocean. They recorded the birds flying at speeds of up to 67mph using a ‘dynamic soaring’ technique, which enables them to fly thousands of miles depending on the wind

How the unflappable albatross can travel 10,000 miles in a single journey

Scientists believe they have finally worked out how the mighty albatross – a seabird capable of travelling 10,000 miles in a single journey and circumnavigating the globe in 46 days – manages to fly without expending almost  any energy.

Maldivians finally vote to elect new president

After two months of political bickering and repeated failure to hold an election, Maldives voters headed to the polls today to elect a new president for their vulnerable new democracy.

Supporters of former Maldivian president and presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed staged a protest in Male recently

Maldives to finally hold election after two failed attempts as archipelago island nation rocked by series of crises

After two failed attempts, the Maldives likely will hold its presidential election on Saturday as the three candidates have agreed on a voters' register, the president said today.

People affected by Cyclone Phailin wait to be rescued and receive relief supplies in the Balasore district of the eastern Indian state of Odisha

Cyclone Phailin survivors still await rescue as aid workers warn a million will need help

A mass evacuation saved thousands of people from India’s fiercest cyclone in 14 years, but aid workers warned a million would need help after their homes and livelihoods were destroyed.

Fresh turmoil in The Maldives as election results are annulled

Supreme Court says poll in which Mohamed Nasheed won highest number of votes suffered irregularities

Supporters of former president Mohamed Nasheed face police officers during a protest demanding that election be held as scheduled Saturday

Maldives: Protests and violence on streets, yet there’s nothing to worry about

Tour operators are apparently oblivious to reality

Tourism, the Maldives’ lifeblood, threatens to shut down over election

Result of the first round was overturned by the country’s Supreme Court after it was challenged by third-placed candidate

Zanzibar acid attack: Catholic priest in hospital

Incident comes after assailants threw acid over two British teenage girls on the island in August

A survey by Avaaz found that 92 per cent of Maldivians want a reform of national laws to protect women from sexual assault, while 73 per cent are opposed to punishments for women for 'sexual crimes'

Maldives rape victim spared the lash after global anger

Girl’s ‘fornication’ sentence commuted after IoS highlights case

Efforts to aid British victim of Zanzibar acid attack made injuries worse

Parents release pictures of injuries as volunteer teachers arrive in the UK to be seen by surgeons for ‘horrendous’ burns

Family handout photo of one of the two British teenagers attacked with acid on Zanzibar.

Acid attack victims Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup
return home as Zanzibar police hold five men

Parents release pictures of injuries as volunteer teachers arrive in the UK to be seen by surgeons for ‘horrendous’ burns

A Hindu devotee, whose body is pierced with skewers, takes part in the religious festival of Panguni Uthiram in the southern Indian city of Chennai March 26, 2013. The festival is observed in the Tamil month of Panguni and is celebrated in honour of the Hindu god Muruga. The devotees make offerings to lord Muruga with sacrificial feats they believe will keep them away from evil spirits. REUTERS/Babu

New study shows how inflicting pain in religious festivals increases charitable giving

Researchers compared two rituals - one involving only praying and singing, the other requiring participants to pierce their bodies with hooks, skewers and needles

Sport
World Cup 2014
Sport
Rihanna celebrates Germany's win
Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Sport
Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Gary Lineker during Hansen's final broadcast
Sport
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
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Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?