Sport A snowboarder flies through the center ring of the Olympic Rings, triggering an explosion of snow and ice off the rings during the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

Almaty, Krakow, Lviv and Oslo are the others hoping to stage the games

Why airlines pinch more than an inch of leg room

The UK's first no-frills long-haul service is not the meanest in terms of space, says Mark Rowe

AirAsia X to fly no frills from London to Kuala Lumpur

The inaugural flight of a new budget service connecting Europe and Asia jets off from Stansted for Kuala Lumpur today, providing a rare note of optimism in the recession-whipped aviation industry.

Simon Calder: Anyone for a midnight plane from Stansted?

Travel polls can be compelling, not least because a holiday hit parade that inspires visions of sea, sun and cities provides a welcome escape from gloom, doom and despondency. Not always, mind; when, last Wednesday, I searched for a bed on LateRooms.com, I happened upon the company's "Top Destinations". The top 10 began enticingly enough with Madrid and Seville in 10th and eighth positions respectively. Yet Florence – that gracious Tuscan city, overflowing with fine food and finer art – was pipped for top place.

Ikea hackers: The do-it-yourself design mavericks transforming boring flat-pack furniture into unique works of art

Andy has made a dish drainer out of two CD holders; Jim has turned a colander into a lampshade; Eugene has created a banquette out of kitchen cabinets and Chris has lined his bathroom floor with outdoor decking. Resourceful, imaginative, thrifty and sometimes a little bit weird, Andy, Jim, Eugene and Chris are all “Ikea hackers”, part of an internet-linked group of interior-design mavericks scattered across the globe whose common interest is the redesign or customisation of Ikea furniture.

City tycoon in surprise exit from broker Numis

Spencer raises £16m from sale of stake he had pledged against loans

<i>Independent</i> website to show Al Jazeera news

The Independent has announced a new online partnership with Al Jazeera English for news bulletins from the broadcaster to appear daily on the Independent website.

Independent site announces partnership with Al Jazeera

The Independent has announced a new online partnership with Al Jazeera English for news bulletins from the broadcaster to appear daily on the Independent website .

24-Hour Room Service: The Majestic Malacca, Melaka, Malaysia

As the centre of the 15th-century sultanate founded by Parameswara, a Sumatran prince, the city of Melaka is considered to be a wellspring of Malay culture and customs. Malacca (to use the old British spelling) was awarded Unesco World Heritage status earlier this year – a point that the Malaysian hotel chain YTL has made the most of in the latest addition to its upmarket group.

Government steps up pressure over stranded Britons

The Government is doing a tremendous amount to help Britons trapped in Thailand by anti-government protests that have closed Bangkok's international airport, Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell said today.

Something to declare: Thailand; Kuala Lumpur; city breaks in vision; maps and guides for less

Where to go, how to save, what to avoid

No-frills airline connects UK to Asia for under &#163;100

Travellers will be able to fly to Asia for under £100 on a new no-frills service from London to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

24-Hour Room Service: Hotel Maya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur is a city that thinks big. Any vestiges of its history are almost imperceptible among the forest of glass, steel and marble that now constitutes the city centre. Until 2005, the Petronas Twin Towers were the world's tallest buildings. Sprinkled around them are cavernous, glittering shopping malls, more skyscrapers (notably the long and lean Menara KL Tower) and big, brash hotels – among them the 22-storey Hotel Maya.

Kenyon calls for tighter contract rules

Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon has called for stricter rules to create greater stability in teams and ensure contracts between players and clubs were honoured.

Afghan Olympic athlete does a runner from Italy

Mahbooba Ahadgar was never going to win any medals in Beijing – her best times in the 800m and 1,500m events were so slow it was likely she would have finished a minute or more behind the winners. As an Olympic Solidarity scholar, her role was to bring the lustre of women's athletic prowess to her war-torn country, and prove that the Olympic ideal can shine brightly even in Kabul.

William Upchurch: Baptist missionary to China

Motor-cycle scrambler, chemist, musician, shopkeeper, missionary, pacifist, soldier, minister and centenarian, in China William Upchurch saw and recorded at first hand the Xi'an coup of 1936 and crossed paths with the American radical journalist Agnes Smedley, whom he met as she was marching to the front. He also spent time with General Peng Dehuai of the Long March who was later imprisoned by Mao, and had dealings with many Chinese preachers including the local Pastor Sun, whose long beard, as he described it in his memoir, A Prevailing Wind (2007), consisted of six two-foot-long hairs, one of which came away in his hand as he was being arrested by Red soldiers.

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Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

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Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

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Gywneth Paltrow proposed that women seek out a special herbal steam-treatment service
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Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
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World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

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The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
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Tax now accounts for ‘nearly 80%’ of the price of a bottle of whisky
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"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

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Independent Travel
Pompeii, Capri & the Bay of Naples
Dubrovnik, the Dalmatian Coast & Montenegro
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence
Lisbon, Oporto and the Douro Valley
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona
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Prices correct as of 30 January 2015
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee