News Yes we can (fit it all in): Obama has come under fire for his fat-filled photo shoots

The POTUS has revealed his past as a pot-user. These days, says David Usborne, Barack Obama has other vices

Clean and serene: Platform beds were inspired by Japanese ryokans, while iPads add a hi-tech touch

Stay The Night: Hôtel Americano, New York

This addition to Manhattan's Chelsea district encapsulates the gentrification of a formerly commercial area

Tanker re-routed amid cracks fears

A tanker carrying more than 55,000 tonnes of gas oil off the north west of Ireland has been re-routed to Belfast amid fears over cracks to its body.

Meet Me in St. Louis (U)

Starring: Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien

Meet Me in St. Louis (U)

Starring: Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien
Bidding was intense at the auction

Age of austerity? £74m spent on Taylor's bauble collection

Asian buyers fuel record bids for glittering array of Hollywood star's diamonds and pearls

Kreisler’s musical and verbal pyrotechnics have helped generate enduring interest in his songs

Georg Kreisler: Satirist and doyen of Viennese cabaret

Georg Kreisler was widely acknowledged in Germany and Austria as a master of the satirical songs for which Viennese cabaret is held in such esteem. Celebrated above all for his dazzling and provocative texts, his skill in setting them to music and his virtuoso stage performances at the piano, Kreisler was also a novelist, poet, dramatist, theatre director and composer. Almost as striking as his landmark creative career were his remarkable experiences during the Second World War.

Poisoning link threatens future of fracking

US study casts doubt on controversial shale gas extraction process – as Government considers allowing its widespread use here
Byrne says: 'People who say that travel is half the fun must be having really bad holidays'

My Life In Travel: Ed Byrne, comedian

'I would like to trek up to Everest Base Camp'

Light fantastic: Manhattan's Park Avenue

Last Weekend: New York's swagger can't be beaten

It sounds an extravagant solution to the pre-Christmas blues, but if you want to escape the relentless gloom on this side of the Atlantic try a weekend in New York.

Mull Historical Society, Bush Hall, London (4/5)

When Colin MacIntyre was a young man on Mull, he’d look out at the Atlantic dark and feel he was on the edge of the world.

Empty spaces, drifting lives: Night scene in Kreuzberg, Berlin

My Mother's Lover, By Urs Widmer, trans. Donal McLaughlin<br />The Shadow-Boxing Woman, By Inka Parei, trans. Katy Derbyshire<br />Summer Resort, By Esther Kinsky, trans. Martin Chalmers

When looking for an excellent translation of a work of fiction from Switzerland or Germany, a volume of philosophy from France, or narratives from the languages of the African continent, do your thoughts turn to Kolkata? Perhaps they should. Long regarded as a city of literature and learning, the metropolis by the Hooghly has another string to its erudite bow, still too well-kept a secret in Britain: Seagull Books.

One Day I Will Write About This Place, By Binyavanga Wainaina

December 1995, and three generations of Binyavanga Wainaina's family gather in Kisoro to celebrate Christmas. From this town at the tip of western Uganda you can see across the Mufumbiro mountains into Rwanda and Congo. The nationalities in the house reflect the geography. The Wainainas have arrived from Kenya, aunt Rosaria from Rwanda, cousins from Kampala and aunt Christine from the US. Warm in the enveloping arms of this multilingual, multinational song-singing family, Binyavanga decides, "one day, I will write about this place".

College Choir of St John's celebrates 500th anniversary

As a punt chauffeur and recent graduate, I spent a summer ferrying tourists up and down the River Cam, spinning ludicrous yarns about the University. Two things about this most beautiful of journeys will have stayed in the river-goers' minds: colliding with other punts and the chapel of King's College.

Dr James Hansen first raised the issue of global warming at a 1988 US Senate hearing

Father of climate change: 2C limit is not enough

Talks to limit global temperature rises to 2C will not prevent the possibility of dangerous climate change, warns the scientist who first raised the alarm over global warming.

Kim Kardashian's long-distance warnings

Kim Kardashian warned Kris Humphries their marriage would not work if they lived in separate states. 

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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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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