Extras

Whether you’re trekking to Machu Picchu or taking in the sun - and football – in Rio, take your pick from these inspirational and useful reads, chosen by Stanfords, the travel information specialists

Sri Lankan election workers carry ballot boxes before boarding buses as they prepare to go to their polling centres in Jaffna

Sri Lanka's Tamil community finally get provincial council vote

Every day Raja Padmanabhan, a 63-year-old bachelor living in a quiet area of Jaffna, hopes someone will hire his services. He has his own van and often drives doctors from the Jaffna hospital or – on longer trips – visitors from the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora who want to see the former battlegrounds of the north or the calmer sites of Kandy or Sigiriya further south.  

'Independent' journalist Jamie Lewis

iPhone 5S on sale today: Want to make a quick £500? Join the queue

Jamie Lewis uncovers the lucrative business of being at the front of the Apple store line

Life at the front of the iPhone 5s queue

The closer to the front of the queue you are, the higher your rank

'Evil Elmo' arrested for anti-semitic rants in Times Square pleads guilty to attempting to extort $2million from Girl Scouts of America

Dan Sandler was also charged with harassing and stalking a Girl Scouts employee with dozens of threatening and bizarre emails and photos

My next book: a dog in a bag, and me. Can’t fail

Slowly, and almost indiscernibly, the taboos of my youth are being shed. The other day I caught myself thinking about attaching some sort of strap to my reading glasses.

Protesters at Balcombe, Sussex

Should they stay or should they go: High Court to rule on Balcombe fracking protest

Protestors' campaign against Cuadrilla oil mining has lasted seven weeks, but they are now having to contest an eviction order

Trekking guides hacked to death in front of horrified Australian tourists

Four tourists were wounded in bandit attack, none seriously

Boozy feral pig steals beer, gets drunk and starts fight with a cow

Belligerent porker went on bender after drinking three six-packs of beer

George Abboudi, 22, has not been in contact since he spoke to his family in Leeds via Skype on 5 August

Sherpas comb Himalayan foothills for missing Briton George Abboudi

22-year-iold from Brighton began trekking alone in the region on 5 August but has not been heard of since

Costa Brava murder: British man arrested in Spain on suspicion of killing his father

A British man has been arrested on suspicion of killing his father at a Spanish camping site, police said.

The 10 Best last-minute travel websites

Whether you fancy lounging on a beach or something a little more energetic, there are some great late holiday deals to be had

From Everest to Stoke Bruerne: Google's Street View backpack hits the UK

Known as the Trekker, the 40lbs backpack snaps 360 degree images every 2.5 seconds from 15 cameras

RWE npower drops despite its price hikes

Big Six energy provider RWE npower saw its profits drop by 6% in the first half, as price hikes in November failed to offset rising fees to use the power network and one-off regulatory costs.

City sleepers: urban camping is gaining a foothold in cities

Bright lights, big campsite: Why trudge to the countryside when you can stay – under canvas – in the city?

True, you’re less likely to hear  a nightingale’s song than police  sirens, but that’s not stopping urban campers

Tom Daley: Marked out as a future media star after posing with Kate Moss at a photo shoot for Italian Vogue aged 15. TV career beckons after coaching role on hit celebrity diving show Splash! despite concern over outside commitments

Tom Daley to host TV travel adventure series on ITV

Olympic diving star Tom Daley is swapping backflips for backpacks as he heads around the world for a new TV series.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
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File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
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Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
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Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
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Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
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Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
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Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
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X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
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Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
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Vietnam
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South Africa
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
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
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'