From forest cottages and Antarctic cruises to Chengdu and Greece in London

Road accidents in fog claim 21 lives

At least 21 people, including 14 schoolchildren, have died in two traffic accidents in China.

If you go into the woods today... scientists are in disguise

Scientists have perfected the art of animal deception by donning panda costumes when they take panda cubs born in captivity for medical examination, so that they do not get used to the human form before they are released into the wild.

Twin-swapping raises odds on panda survival

A Chinese breeding centre has developed a remarkable technique that fools the mother, meaning many more animals survive

Henry Nicholls: Pandas can survive in captivity – but habitat destruction is their main enemy

Even if reintroducing pandas to the wild is successful, it is still a distraction. Reintroduction is useful in bringing new genes into the wild population, but in terms of numbers, reintroduction is very expensive and of only marginal benefit. Chris Packham has argued that we should allow pandas to die out – "we should pull the plug, let them go with a degree of dignity"– rather than spend money trying to save them, because the panda is "not a strong species" and one that "has gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac".

Sichuan sea bass

Serves 10

Oh, go on then... there'll be plenty of room for one of Mark Hix's festive canapés

It's that time of year again – the time when we all start planning our festive get togethers. Preparing snacks for drinks parties can be tricky; you need to keep things simple as you don't want to spend all your time in the kitchen.

CSC sticks with Trafford deal despite bid interest

Capital Shopping Centres pushed ahead with its £1.6bn plan to acquire the Trafford Centre near Manchester last night, shrugging off calls from Simon Property to halt the deal to give the US-based company a chance to prepare an offer for Capital itself.

The Wedding Group, By Elizabeth Taylor

As a Home Counties housewife married to a chocolate manufacturer, the novelist Elizabeth Taylor was never taken as seriously in her lifetime as near- contemporaries, Olivia Manning and Rose Macaulay.

Environmental activist to defy party rulers by attending Nobel ceremony

A prominent Chinese environmental activist has announced she will attend the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo despite attempts by Beijing for a boycott of the event and a crackdown on the country's activists.

The End of the Party, By Andrew Rawnsley

The End of the Party is 895 pages of pretty dense text, including notes and index; and it isn't a single page too long. Andrew Rawnsley's meticulously sourced account of the 13 years New Labour spent in power is a gloriously readable epic, written with wit and clarity. It has the arc of a Shakespearean tragedy, in which Blair's and Brown's formidable personal qualities were finally, fatally undermined by their tragic flaws. It is also a forensic analysis of what went wrong with the New Labour project, resulting in an exhausted party with no clear principles, except to stay in power. Rawnsley perceptively compares New Labour's journey to that of Northern Rock: "Both bank and party had grown out of the self-help and co-operative ethic of... 'the respectable' working class... Both... had been transformed by global capitalism into unrecognisably different creatures."

Record breeding year for the bears who hate to mate

The very existence of China's pandas has long been threatened. The bears are famously terrible breeders and constantly endangered in their natural habitat. But their numbers have been boosted by a record number of births in captivity this year.

Beijing launches lunar probe

China launched an unmanned lunar probe yesterday.

Militants destroy Nato fuel tankers

Assailants launched two separate attacks on tankers carrying fuel for foreign troops in Afghanistan yesterday, a day after the Pakistani government itself shut one down.

Leading article: Wounded pride and public relations

Delhi's Commonwealth Games were supposed to bring India dramatically to the world's attention in a similar manner to Beijing's Olympics in 2008. And so they will. But not in the manner that India hoped. The preparations for the Games have been plagued by construction delays, tales of official incompetence and allegations of official corruption. And with just 12 days to go, the Games are degenerating into an outright shambles. Despite seven years of preparation and public expenditure of £1.5bn (almost six times the original budget) the facilities are still not ready.

County Championship round-up: Shah 'upset' at brush-off by Middlesex

Middlesex may have signed the Australia batsman Chris Rogers and retained the services of England's Eoin Morgan yesterday but club stalwart Owais Shah has been left "deeply upset" after being released.

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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
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
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