The women who clear bombs

A groundbreaking initiative in Laos aims to clear the land of munitions from the Vietnam War – and educate women in the process

Cluster bombs kill another child as nations reach accord

International delegates meeting in Laos – the most heavily bombed nation on earth as a result of a huge US bombing campaign during the Vietnam war, and where 80 million landmines still cause death and tragedy on a near-daily basis – have agreed on a new plan to help rid the world of cluster munitions. The agreement came as a 10-year-old Laotian girl was killed by a cluster bomb.

Album: Stephan Micus, Bold as Light (ECM)

This indefatigable Bavarian multi-instrumentalist is currently on a roll, bringing a virtuoso display of himself singing and playing some exotic, rare instruments: notably a bamboo pipe played by the Hmong people in Laos, and the Japanese nohkan, whose presence in Noh theatre creates a unique sense of danger.

Next boss warns of sharp rises in clothes prices

Simon Wolfson, Next's chief executive, has warned that a "speculative bubble" in the cotton market will lead to near-double-digit price rises on clothing next year, as the fashion retailer's underlying sales slipped behind City expectations in its third quarter. Next has previously warned that a surge in cotton prices would cause a 5 to 8 per cent rise in clothing prices in the first quarter, but Lord Wolfson said yesterday that the uplift would be at the top end of the range.

A taste of austerity: Can chef Valentine Warner conjure a feast from

Seventy years ago this month – on 8 January 1940, to be precise – food rationing was introduced to Great Britain, and it wouldn't finally be shown the door for another 14 years. That means that anyone who was a toddler at the start of the Second World War would have been of school-leaving age when meat and bacon were finally taken "off the coupon" in the summer of 1954. Understandably, childhood obesity wasn't seen as a problem.

Thailand sends 4,000 Hmong asylum-seekers back to Laos

Thai troops packed more than 4,000 ethnic Hmong into military trucks yesterday for a one-way journey to Laos, all but ending the Hmong's three-decade search for asylum following their alliance with the US during the Vietnam War.

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Laos probes how jailed Brit became pregnant

Lao authorities are investigating how a 20-year-old British woman accused of heroin smuggling became pregnant in prison, a challenge because the woman has refused to reveal the identity of the father, a government-run newspaper said today.