News A pedestrian makes their way along a snow packed street in Indianapolis

Much of the United States is currently in the grip of a polar vortex, a system of dense air producing plummeting temperatures and swathes of freezing weather, bringing some parts of the country to a halt and causing chaos in others.

Canada vows to defend Santa Claus from Russian troops as row over territory escalates

Vladimir Putin told a defence ministry meeting that he wished to see the military bolster its presence in the territory

Olympic Sochi 2014 Winter Games torch makes history in first spacewalk

Flight engineers Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy left their base at the International Space Station today carrying the torch

2014 Sochi Olympic torch relay blasts off to space for historic walk

Unlit torch will tour International Space Station before being taken on its first ever trip outside the base

Greenpeace activists hold a banner in front of the Gazprom office in Paris

‘Only drug on Greenpeace ship was medical morphine’: Wives of two men held in Russia claim innocent husbands are being kept in inhumane conditions

The men’s relatives describe the conditions in the prison as worse than the North Pole

Hill and Dale: The lofty view from Errington

Tales from the Trees: Errington Wood, North Yorks - Take to the high ground for a look back over the millennia

Even before you've consulted the car park signs, you just know this hump-backed wood heaves with history. There's something about its location that speaks of ancient concerns: positioning, clear lines of vision, the importance of higher ground. Then, as my wife dons a pack and I lift my son on to my shoulders, we pass information boards that confirm it. Stone Age man quarried here; by the Bronze Age, it had been re-imagined as a resting spot for chieftains. One look around and you understand why.

Ben Saunders, explorer
Parker Liautaud outside the Antarctic chamber, where the temperature is -25C

-25C on the Thames? Young explorer Parker Liautaud lives in pop-up South Pole to prepare for trip

The explorer and climate change campaigner Parker Liautaud puts most other 19-year-olds to shame.

InRealLife gives a perverse account of how digital technologies are changing the lives of teenagers

Establishment figures still fail to portray the Internet in a balanced light

Increasingly unusual weather patterns in recent years have led climate scientists and meteorologists to hold a meeting about concerns over climate change

Stand by for another DECADE of wet summers, say Met Office meteorologists

Climate change may be intensifying the natural cycle and may prolong it, says expert, but it is too early to say

Sterling's silver lining

The chances of incoming Bank of England Governor Mark Carney finding a triple-dip recession in his in-tray this summer could fall on Tuesday as manufacturers attempt to bounce back from a January slump.

Arctic ice-melt will bring frosty relations as nations navigate across North Pole

The loss if sea ice in the Arctic will allow ships to navigate freely across the North Pole by the middle of the century and could lead to unprecedented geo-political tensions between countries that have territorial claims in the region, scientists said.

Builders lighten UK economic gloom

The UK's post-Olympic hangover is likely to be less painful than first feared this week, as the latest figures on the economy's performance at the end of 2012 gives some respite for the Chancellor.

Editorial: We must not talk ourselves into a 'triple dip'

Yesterday's keenly awaited GDP figures allowed the doom-mongers to forecast that the UK was headed for a "triple-dip" recession, if we were not in one already. The Chancellor, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, professed himself disappointed with the news, even as he vowed to press on with Plan A.

MPs attack Government 'hypocrisy' over refusal to ban Arctic drilling

An influential cross-party committee of MPs accused the Government of environmental hypocrisy for refusing to push for a moratorium on drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic.

A cosmic collision: Two satellites due to smash into surface of the moon… but don't worry, it was all planned by Nasa

NASA has deliberately guided the twin satellites into a cliff close to the moon’s northern pole

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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
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

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
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
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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
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Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all