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In my previous dispatch from the traumatic home-hunting frontline, where regiments of estate agents fire broadsides of scorn at our hilarious budget-to-square-footage aspirations, I detailed how one such know-it-all had been forced to tell us – just as we were about to enter – why the house was unsellable, due to the all-pervasive stench of chemicals from the dry cleaner down below. Needless to say, we weren't inordinately tempted.

Police break alleged $300m smuggling ring

Police in the US claim to have broken one of the country's largest counterfeit goods rings, believed to have smuggled items worth more than $300m (£190m) into the country, mainly from China.

Alice Jones: Engelbert Humperdinck - Cheesy, populist and with a hint of the ridiculous – the ideal Eurosceptic

Engelbert Humperdinck. Of course. With a name like that, he was born to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest. Or he would be if he hadn't been born the rather less mellifluous Arnold Dorsey. In any case, the generously sideburned crooner, who last had a hit 42 years ago, has been chosen to represent Le Royaume-Uni at the annual extravaganza of poor taste and point-scoring. And the 75-year-old, best known for executing an unlikely chart coup when his soupy "Release Me" denied The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" the No 1 spot, will do so with a song written by the man behind James Blunt's wet-blanket anthem "You're Beautiful". This is ignominy indeed.

Steven Stapleton performs his Sleep Concert this month in Newcastle

Steven Stapleton's Sleep Concert is the stuff of dreams

Would you want to go to a bed-and-breakfast concert? A ticket to the UK premiere of Steven Stapleton's 12-hour Sleep Concert at Newcastle's AV Festival, includes a single bed, a blanket, a nightlight and a bacon or egg roll and coffee in the morning – all for £25. Stapleton performs his dark ambient music live from his laptop throughout the night, manipulating his own Nurse with Wounds records, to induce sleep and dreams.

Last night's viewing - Horizon: The Truth About Exercise, BBC2; Timothy Spall: All at Sea, BBC4

"I have two doctors," the historian G M Trevelyan once said, "My left leg and my right." They seem to have served him well because he lived to 86, not bad for someone who was born when Disraeli was prime minister. And if Horizon: The Truth About Exercise was to be believed, more of us should be signing up with the Trevelyan practice. Amid the blizzard of acronyms that featured in this account of recent research into exercise was NEAT, which is short for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, pretty much everything you do that isn't sleeping or sitting in a chair. Eulogised by an excitable scientist who looked to be making a pitch for a show of his own, NEAT can make a change to your overall fitness without you really noticing.

Profits jump as Crew shrugs off slump

Crew Clothing, the private equity-backed fashion retailer, has bucked the downturn to grow its profits by more than a quarter.

Michelle Williams: Real fashion alert! It’s a peplum, after all, and the Louis Vuitton gown also has frayed edges. Love the mismatched bag

Oscars Trending: On the dread carpet

It used to be the night when looks could thrill. Not any more, says Susannah Frankel

Beneath the Aryan ideal: Childhood in the Third Reich

Trieste, By Dasa Drndic, trans. Ellen Elias-Bursac

This extraordinary work of fiction concludes with the narrator, Haya Tedeschi, reflecting on all she has compiled in eight long years of research and remembering. "I have arranged a multitude of lives, a pile of the past, into an inscrutable, incoherent series of occurrences... I have dug up all the graves of imagination and longing... I have rummaged through a stored series of certainties without finding a trace of logic." It is the inscrutable incoherence of this phenomenal trajectory of events, hurtling through the recapitulation of three generations of one family from the Second World War to the present, that endows the story with a unique drive and veracity.

Both Mugler and Versace (pictured) gave us pastels galore, sometimes from head to toe

Your new-season shopping list: Menswear essentials

Print, pastel and Fifties references – menswear takes on a new and dynamic aspect for spring, says Lee Holmes

Students at a school for street working children in north-east Afghanistan, where they are helped to catch up with learning

Independent Appeal: On patrol to save the street children of Kabul

Lianne Gutcher meets the aid workers who help get youngsters working in the classroom – and not on the city's pavements

<p>1. Nike running handheld water bottle</p>
<p>£10, store.nike.com</p>
<p>Make sure you take a drink on winter runs. Any bottle will do but I prefer one with a lid and hand strap.</p>

The 10 best: running gear

1. Nike running handheld water bottle

£10, store.nike.com

Make sure you take a drink on winter runs. Any bottle will do but I prefer one with a lid and hand strap.

The 50 best womenswear

From high-street bargains to designer investments, Eliisa Makin selects the hottest trends for a cooling climate

The politics of the school uniform

A traditional school uniform has become an essential in classrooms across the country &ndash; and a drain on parents' wallets. As the new term looms, Lena Corner examines the politics of academic attire.

Arsenal reveal 125th anniversary away kit

The Gunners have revealed their new away kit, available to pre-order today, which captures the history of Arsenal Football Club. The new away shirt features a specially designed crest to highlight the proud origins of the Club 125 years ago.

Letter from the editor: Summer is anarchy

Simon returns today, bringing Californian sunshine with him – which is great, as long as the golf shorts stay on the course. To be fair, he doesn’t do office casual.

The Chinese bicycle problem

Not every idea is as good as it seems, explains James King
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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
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