Arts and Entertainment Madonna inset with the painting Cubist Fernand Léger auctioned by Sotheby's New York for over $7m

The Queen of Pop will donate the proceeds to her Ray of Light Foundation to promote girls' education in the Middle East and South Asia

Madonna may adopt again from Malawi

Madonna may adopt another child from Malawi despite controversy in 2006 when she began proceedings to adopt her son David Banda.

Around the world in 20 festivals

Whether you want to keep it cool in Iceland or catch the hottest acts in the desert, Elisa Bray hits all the high notes on a whistle-stop world tour

A unique platform

The Government-funded volunteer programme Platform2 sends UK youths to developing countries in South America and Africa - fancy applying for the trip of a lifetime?

Independent Appeal: Malawi strikes organic gold

Peasant farmers are breaking the cycle of poverty by using ancient methods that could court Western supermarkets, says Basildon Peta

Mother's last-ditch plea to Home Office against deportation

Zimbabwean family due to be expelled tomorrow

Independent Appeal: Africa's lost generation

A 74-year-old woman struggles to feed her eight orphaned grandchildren: it is a story sadly typical in a continent ravaged by Aids. Basildon Peta reports from Mzimba in Malawi

Lives Remembered: Beulah Town

Beulah Town, who died on 17 October aged 76, was a trailblazer for 21st-century women. Born at a time when the feminine life pattern was usually job or profession, marriage, then return to work after children, she bucked the trend. For her, the career enabled her to go her own independent way.

Katy Guest: No sex please, we've got better things to do

Clara Meadmore is 105 and she's still a virgin. Good for her

The African wild: No distractions, just splendid isolation

To experience the wilds of Africa, you need to forget the outside world for a while. Adrian Mourby travels to two new retreats in Zambia and Malawi

The Rev Andrew Ross: Missionary and Church historian

Andrew Ross was a distinguished missionary, academic scholar and university leader during an illustrious career that spanned several continents. Born into a coal-mining family in the Lothians of Scotland, he retained the commitment to family life, community, football and social justice that was instilled in him from his earliest days. All these he celebrated with a characteristic passion and infectious enthusiasm.

Madonna at 50

As the world's most successful female artist hits her half-century – and her first £250m – Katy Guest unearths 50 fascinating facts about the material girl who, at 20, left Michigan for New York with $35 in her pocket

The tree of life (and its super fruit)

The medicinal properties of the baobab fruit are the stuff of African legend. Claire Soares says it also tastes great and, thanks to an EU ruling, we will all be able to try some soon

The Jive Talker, by Samson Kambalu

Portrait of the artist as a young African

Parenting: Madonna, Malawi and a tale of two children

One African child dines in a Knightsbridge restaurant and the other often falls asleep hungry. Steve Bloomfield reports

100 years of struggling to win justice for women

Despite a century of change, finds Susie Mesure, we are still striving for true sexual equality across the globe
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
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File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
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Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
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Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
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Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
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Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
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Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
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X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
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Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'