Sisters who will share kidney released from prison

Sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott left prison yesterday for the first time in 16 years, yelling, "We're free!" and "God bless y'all!" as they pulled away in a silver sport utility vehicle. That freedom, though, comes with an unusual condition: Gladys has one year to donate a kidney to her ailing sister.

The Man Who Recorded the World: A Biography of Alan Lomax, By John Szwed

In 1950, the Weavers, a quartet which included Pete Seeger, took "Goodnight, Irene" to the top of the American "hit parade". With strings and background vocals arranged by Gordon Jenkins, it was a long way from the song as originally recorded – captured on field equipment by the father-and-son team of John and Alan Lomax at the Central Convict Sugar Plantation, Louisiana. The singer was Huddie Ledbetter, nicknamed Lead Belly on account of his toughness – and the bullet lodged in his stomach.

Kidney donation sisters to be freed

Two sisters whose life sentences for armed robbery were suspended last week on the condition that one donate a kidney to the other will be released today.

American Football: Favre slips off stage as his legacy takes a hit

Retirement looks permanent this time but scandals mean eulogies are in short supply

Civil War message found in a bottle

A glass vial stopped with a cork during the Civil War has been opened, revealing a coded message to the desperate Confederate commander in Vicksburg on the day the Mississippi city fell to Union forces 147 years ago.

Albert Smothers

Albert "Little Smokey" Smothers, who died on 20 November aged 71, was a veteran Chicago blues guitarist and singer, a versatile sideman and influential teacher of younger bluesmen.

Rupert Cornwell: A last, desperate throw of the dice for Illinois

Out of America: All along the Mississippi, riverboat casinos are helping deficit-hit states to balance the books

'Dead' man charged with kidnapping girl

A man declared legally dead 16 years ago has been arrested for the kidnapping of a girl whose body was found in some woods.

48 Hours In: New Orleans

The most charismatic city in the US is back in business, delivering great food, architecture and music. Samantha Cook is your guide

Hank Cochran: Country songwriter best known for Patsy Cline's hit 'I Fall to Pieces'

With over 500 recorded songs, Hank Cochran was a prolific and successful country-music writer. He rarely strayed from country music but "I Fall to Pieces" and "Make the World Go Away" became standards known the world over. He had considerable integrity and he would say, "I would rather have a friend than a hit."

Lissie - A little bit country and a whole lot rock'n'roll

The 27-year-old Illinois singer Lissie has drawn much acclaim for her debut album and Lady Gaga cover – and she can drink you under the table. Gillian Orr meets her

Robert Plant: 'I feel so far away from heavy rock'

Ahead of the release of his new album, Band of Joy, Robert Plant talks to Andy Gill about the move from fronting the biggest band in the world to his success in exploring a diverse range of styles, from vocal harmony and country to North African and Arabic

The renaissance of New Orleans

Five years after the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, the Big Easy is enjoying a cultural boom thanks to an influx of creative young talent from across the US

American Football: Favre joins Vikings for final voyage

Minnesota Vikings veteran quarterback Brett Favre has confirmed he will return to the NFL for one more season to try to lead his team to the Super Bowl.

Payout for lesbian barred from prom

A lesbian teenager who was banned from taking her girlfriend to her high school prom will receive $35,000 (£23,000) to settle a discrimination lawsuit.

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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
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 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

How podcasts became mainstream

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

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

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
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
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

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

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