Voices

On a per capita basis, the nation has all the ingredients to be one of the world's most prosperous nations

Rome, sweet Rome

Make yourself at home in the villas where popes and painters flourished, says James Hill

Album: Baby Dee, Safe Inside the Day, (Drag City)

Baby Dee is a New Yorker of indeterminate gender with flowing Titian tresses and a voice like a drunken sailor on shore leave. I'm not selling this to you very well, am I? Perhaps if I tell you that the multi-instrumentalist has a folk/Weimar sound which, if you close your eyes, could be coming from a Hebridean inn circa 1750 as easily as the early rehearsals for 'The Threepenny Opera'? Or that Baby Dee's sixth album has several moments, notably the nagging chorus "Teeth are the only bones that show", which will haunt you for days? Or simply that Baby Dee is a genuine one-off, and that is always to be encouraged.

Art of Light: German renaissance stained glass, National Gallery, London

The panes and the pleasure

Galerie, Giorgione: Old Woman (c1508)

Nobody likes being labelled, or so they say, but it depends on the label. There are badges of pride, as well as badges of shame. The "A" (for Adulteress) that Hester Prynne has to wear, stitched on to her dress, in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is one kind of tag. The D&G logo embroidered on your shirt is another. There are many ways that people carry visible written signs upon their persons - tattoos, campaign stickers, T-shirt mottos, the corporate ID, the ticket on the corpse's toe, the beggar's placard.

Was Sandi Thom's effortless rise just too good to be true?

It was the stuff of modern fairy tales. A talented but obscure singer becomes an overnight success after she starts performing to thousands of people via an internet webcam in the basement of her London home. But after it was announced on Sunday that Sandi Thom had reached No 2 in the charts with her debut single "I wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair)", she found herself the victim of the flip-side of the World Wide Web.

24 Hours In: Gozo

An abandoned citadel, a Baroque cathedral - oh, and the oldest structure on the planet... There's more than enough to fill a day here

della Francesca, Piero: The Resurrection (c1465)

And when at last one has arrived at Sansepolcro, what is there to be seen? A little town surrounded by walls, set in a broad valley between hills' some fine Renaissance palaces with pretty balconies of wrought iron' a not very interesting church' and, finally, the best picture in the world."

Major Stefan Stec

UN peacekeeper on 'Mission Impossible' in Rwanda

Shakespeare: the biography, by Peter Ackroyd

The king of infinite space

Miles Kington: Is there any intelligent design in America?

People had been told so often that time was running out for Earth that they were coming to believe it

Sue Arnold: One mother is an asset - two would be a liability

The idea of having another ageing mother in a granny annexe moaning about the children is daunting
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Kellie Bright as Linda Carter and Danny Dyer as Mick Carter

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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
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