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The clocks are about to lurch back, casting all of us in the Northern Hemisphere into the wintry gloom of dark evenings and shortening days. Just the moment, then, to start plotting a course for somewhere with brighter prospects.

Laura Pollan: Leader of Cuba's 'White Ladies'group of activists

When her husband Héctor Maseda was jailed by Fidel Castro's communist regime along with 74 other dissidents in March 2003, Laura Pollán was a softly spoken 55-year-old teacher of Spanish language and literature at a Havana secondary school. She was looking forward to early retirement the following year to tend her beloved cats and plants.

End of the road for Havana's bangers

Big old rusting cars are part of Cuba's appeal. But their days may be numbered. By Simon Calder

For the bangers of Havana, it's the end of the road

Cuba's rusting, outdated cars are part of the city's tourist appeal. But their days may be numbered

American to swim across the shark-infested Straits of Florida

Undeterred by the prospect of hungry sharks, hurricane-season storms, and the dysfunctional state of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, a 61-year-old woman was paddling through calm seas today as she attempted to become the first person to swim unaided across the Straits of Florida.

Chavez not dead or dying, say allies

Rumours of the impending demise of Hugo Chavez have been greatly exaggerated, his allies said yesterday, insisting that he will be back at work imminently and telling opponents that they should "stop dreaming" of his death.

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Independent Travel
Lake Garda, Venice & Verona from £629pp
Dubrovnik
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Prices correct as of 12 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