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The News Matrix: Friday 14 September 2012

Costa 'at fault' in Concordia disaster

A report has squarely blamed the captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship for the disaster in January when 32 people died, and also found fault with the crew and ship owners for blunders, delays and safety breaches after the ship ran aground off Italy. MORE

Crackdown boosts dissident blogs

An official crackdown on three dissident blogs appeared to backfire yesterday as record numbers of people visited the sites. Danlambao, or "Citizens' Journalism," has attracted thousands of users for its reporting on suspected power struggles that may have been behind the arrest of a banking tycoon last month.

Call to release land for 8 million homes

The Government should build on green belt land to meet the needs of Britain's housing shortage, a right-wing think tank said yesterday. Policy Exchange claimed that releasing 2% of English land would allow the construction of 8 million more family homes. MORE

Ofqual faces legal threat over GCSEs

The exams regulator Ofqual is being threatened with legal action by the Welsh government over the fiasco of this year's GCSE English exam results. Welsh Assembly sources said yesterday that if the watchdog tried to refuse its exam board permission to compete with other examiners in England the matter would end up in the courts. MORE

Thousands flee as volcano erupts

More than 33,000 people were told to leave their homes last night after the "Volcano of Fire" erupted. Clouds of ash were blown almost two miles into the atmosphere and lava spewed nearly 2,000 feet down the volcano's sides. Toxic gases also threatened people living in the area.

Madsen 'caught drunk in his car'

Actor Michael Madsen has been arrested on suspicion of drink-driving. The Reservoir Dogs star had to spend a night in hospital after he was pulled over on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu by officers who saw him driving erratically in a Pontiac GTO.

Millican spurns theatres over prices

Comedian Sarah Millican has decided to boycott a group of theatres on her latest tour because they charge too much in booking fees. The star will not perform at venues run by Britain's largest theatre operator, the Ambassador Theatre Group, she announced on her website yesterday. MORE

Child mortality halves in 20 years

Child mortality has nearly halved in the past two decades thanks to a mixture of better aid and economic growth in poorer countries, according to a UN report. Research shows fewer than 7 million children under five died last year, compared with nearly 12 million in 1990. MORE

Police working with MI6 over spy death

The police investigation into the death of a spy whose body was found in a holdall has opened a "very good line of communication" with MI6, a senior officer has said. Gareth Williams was found in the bath at his flat in central London in August 2010, and to date no significant progress with the case has been made.

Pope arrives for mission of peace

The Pope begins a trip to Lebanon today, as the country struggles to avoid being dragged into the violence in neighbouring Syria. Pope Benedict XVI has said he will travel "under the sign of peace". MORE

New York City bans super-size sodas

New York City has passed America's first law banning sales of large-size sodas and other sugary drinks in restaurants and other eateries. The Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, called for the ban as a way to cut obesity and other health problems. His opponents vowed to fight the law in court.

Nissan recalls cars over steering fault

Japanese car company Nissan has been forced to recall thousands of vehicles due to a possible steering wheel malfunction. The recall, which includes around 7,000 models sold in the UK, affects the 2012 model of the five-door hatchback Nissan Qashqai. The company said around 600 vehicles might need attention.

Moyles reaches the end of the tracks

Radio 1 breakfast host Chris Moyles will bid farewell to the airwaves today. Celebrity pals Ant and Dec, James Corden, Gary Barlow and Billie Piper joined an audience of more than 200 fans for his penultimate show yesterday. The broadcaster has hosted the show for more than eight years.

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Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam