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The News Matrix: Friday 03 February 2012

Doubts raised over nursery scheme

The Government's commitment to free nursery places for three and four-year-olds has been thrown into doubt by a report which concludes the scheme does not necessarily improve their school results. The policy has been heralded as the best way of driving up standards in schools. MORE

Poisoned spy's father calls him a 'traitor'

The father of Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian spy who died from polonium poisoning in 2006, has called his son a "traitor". Valter Litvinenko, 73, who fled to Italy with his family in 2008, denounced his son on Russian state television and begged to be allowed to return. MORE

UN set to agree to weakened resolution

Agreement between UN security council diplomats was on the cards last night over a watered-down resolution on Syria which removed a call for President Bashar al-Assad to step aside and dropped direct threats of an arms embargo or new sanctions. MORE

Facebook artist set to paint the town red

A Los Angeles mural painter who decorated Facebook's offices in 2005 could be the unlikeliest of all the millionaires minted by the website's flotation this spring. David Choe took shares in the company instead of a cash payment, and they are worth an estimated $200m (£127m). MORE

Prince William ready for RAF tour

The Duke of Cambridge has arrived in the Falklands ahead of a tour of duty as an RAF pilot. Prince William will have a six-week posting. It comes amid tensions between the UK and Argentina over the disputed islands.

O'Donnell signed off special deal

Britain's most senior civil servant personally signed off a deal that allowed the head of the Student Loans Company to avoid paying thousands of pounds in tax and national insurance. Gus O'Donnell, then the Cabinet Secretary, agreed that Ed Lester could be paid through company accounts – allowing him to pay less tax on his £182,000 earnings. MORE

Dancer claims she loves ship's skipper

The Moldovan dancer who may have proved a distraction for the captain of the Costa Concordia liner as it crashed on rocks three weeks ago, killing 32 people, has said she is "in love" with the disgraced officer. Italian authorities yesterday grilled Domnica Cemortan for five hours. MORE

Romney set to gain Mormon support

Mitt Romney's religious faith is poised to come into play as the focus of the Republican primary season shifts to Nevada. Saturday's caucuses present a chance for Mr Romney to solidify front-runner status, thanks to the state's Mormon community which is expected to endorse him. MORE

Manneken Pis too cold to spend a cent

The Manneken Pis – a bronze statue of a boy urinating which has been a symbol of Brussels since the 1600s – has been stopped from passing water because below-zero temperatures could turn it to ice, Belgium's tourist office said. Officials turned the water off for fear that the freezing conditions might damage its internal workings.

Spider spooks naval aircraft engineers

A team of Royal Navy aircraft engineers were shocked to find a deadly black widow spider stowed away on a helicopter which had returned to the UK from training sessions in California involving Prince Harry. It had apparently survived the sterilisation that all aircraft and equipment undergo prior to returning to Britain.

104-year-old takes up British citizenship

A 104-year-old has proved that you're never too old to become a new man. Taufeek Khanjar is thought to have become the oldest person to be declared a British citizen, taking part in a citizenship ceremony in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey. The former jewellery maker, originally from Iraq, said he was "very happy".

Man arrested for stealing glacier ice

A Chilean man has been arrested on suspicion of stealing five tonnes of ice, worth £3,900, from the protected Jorge Montt Glacier, Patagonia. It is thought to have been bound for Santiago, where drinks are sold with glacial ice to tourists. Scientists say Jorge Montt is one of the world's fastest shrinking glaciers.

Billy's battle with the boo-boys

Billy Connolly has been heckled off stage twice in a week. At a performance in Blackpool, the Scottish comedian walked off after a heckler interrupted him, while a few days earlier he grew irate with the number of fans leaving to go to the toilet. Fans claimed he had used old material.

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