News

From drunken nights out with a llama to testicle-eating fishes, it’s a mixed bag of stories you’ve been sharing on social media in 2013.

Among the top twenty Independent articles you’ve been tweeting and posting on Facebook this year, there are serious reports, ferocious comment pieces, astounding research and a fair few articles that pay tribute to the adage ‘the truth is stranger than fiction.’

Two Saudi rapists beheaded

TWO SAUDI men were beheaded yesterday for kidnapping and raping a young boy.

Clashes tested Indonesian army's patience

HOURS before last night's confrontation between the Indonesian army and students started, there was a worrying portent of trouble to come, as thousands of Islamic supporters of Indonesia's President Habibie threw stones and scuffled with demonstrating students in Jakarta.

Cinema: If you go down to the Tube today...

THERE ARE parallel universes out there where Rome never fell, where Hitler won the war and where Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow lived happily ever after. In Sliding Doors (15), writer-director Peter Howitt brushes up his quantum physics to demonstrate that the tiniest events can generate a variety of different futures. Navigating the sort of inter- dimensional anomaly that regularly plagues the cast of Star Trek, he pursues two possible versions of the life of his heroine Helen (played by Gwyneth Paltrow). In the first version of events, she misses her Tube, and so returns home too late to catch her boyfriend, Gerry (a beetle-browned John Lynch), in bed with old flame Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn, a terrifying woman with neck sinews as tight and prominent as Deirdre Barlow's). Or maybe it doesn't happen at all ...

Grim task in Mecca

FAMILY, friends and diplomats combed hospitals and mortuaries in Mecca, Saudi Arabia yesterday to identify 118 Muslim pilgrims killed in a stampede on the last day of the annual haj.

India's new rulers enter with a whiff of fascism

The BJP nationalists' victory has made little stir, writes Peter Popham. But the world may soon have reason to take notice

Nephew of King Fahd dies

Prince Abdullah bin Saud bin Abdul-Aziz, a nephew of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, died on Saturday, a Royal Court statement said. He was 65. The statement said Prince Abdullah had suffered for a long time from an incurable illness, but it did not say what the illness was. The Prince was governor of the holy city of Mecca during the reign of his late father, King Saud, King Fahd's brother, who ruled from 1953 to 1964.

The best vacations are not an escape, but a liberation

holidays of the mind

Middle East: Septuplets born in Saudi Arabia

A Saudi woman has given birth to seven babies - four boys and three girls. It is only the third set of septuplets known to be born alive.

Muslim was unfairly treated over headscarf

A Muslim woman who returned to her job wearing a headscarf after a pilgrimage to Mecca was sacked after her foreman claimed it was a safety hazard.

Mecca bingo hall outrages Muslims

A change of name at a Luton bingo hall has met with violent protest from the town's Muslim population - who object to it being called "Mecca".

Letter: Faith and blame

Sir: Robert Fisk's "Religion in the Middle East: the fundamental problem" (3 Dec 1997) was very thought-provoking, and I must congratulate him for his courage in highlighting the threat from fundamentalists belonging to Judaism and Christianity. The media in the West goes out of its way to tarnish the image of Islam by associating "terrorism" and "fundamentalism" to it, while ignoring the militant and terrorist activities associated with other religions. Robert Fisk has a more enlightened outlook.

Travel was once about pilgrimage. It is again

It Almost seems facetious to talk about holidays and travel after this strange week through which we have lived - except perhaps to cogitate on the rum old fact that travel was never supposed to be a joyful experience.

A match made in Mecca - we hope

Dodi Fayed is one of `us' and he has got hold of the most famous and feted of all of `them', writes Fuad Nahdi

The fine art of drinking coffee

Connoisseurs can buy art with their espresso.

Letter: Saudis reform trial procedure

Saudis reform trial procedure
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Day In a Page

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
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
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