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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Independent Travel
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona from £629pp
Dubrovnik
Vietnam
Bruges
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 12 December 2014
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

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People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

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Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
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Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

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Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers