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The News Matrix: Friday 16 March 2012

Nato mission suffers dual setbacks

The West's faltering operation to bring peace to Afghanistan suffered twin blows yesterday from the recent killing of civilians. The Taliban said they were pulling out of preliminary talks with the US and President Hamid Karzai called on Nato to withdraw troops from villages. MORE

Nine million in fuel poverty

Ministers have pledged to end fuel poverty by 2016, but a Government-commissioned report has suggested almost nine million people in Britain will struggle to heat their homes over the next four years. Professor John Hills warned that fuel poverty is a "serious national problem".

TV Masterchef's champion crowned

Shelina Permalloo has been crowned the winner of MasterChef after impressing the judges with her Mauritian cuisine. The judges said the 29-year-old, from south London, brought "sunshine to a plate".

Romney spends big on Illinois TV ads

Mitt Romney has begun pouring money into a television advertising blitz in Illinois – a state he cannot afford to lose in next Tuesday's primary after Rick Santorum, his main rival for the Republican presidential nomination, triumphed in Alabama and Mississippi. MORE

Arafat 'sacrificed marriage for cause'

Yasser Arafat sacrificed his marriage for the sake of the Palestinian cause, his widow, Suha Arafat, has said in a rare television interview. Offering a glimpse into the life of the man she described as the "Nelson Mandela of the Arab World", Ms Arafat said he paid for his work with his life. MORE

Anger that police blamed drunk fans

Reports showing that Margaret Thatcher was briefed that a senior Merseyside police officer blamed the 1989 Hillsborough disaster on drunken Liverpool fans have angered the relatives of those who died. An official inquiry later found the police responsible for the 1989 tragedy which killed 96 football fans on overcrowded terraces at an FA Cup semi-final in April 1989. MORE

Osborne set to cut top tax rate to 40p

George Osborne is set to slash top-rate income tax from 50p to 40p in next week's Budget, a move likely to be criticised as too soft on the super-rich. He sees it as the simplest step to show commitment to an enterprise economy, The Guardian reported, citing Government sources.

Chongqing party chief is sacked

Cracks began to show at the top of China's leadership as Bo Xilai was unceremoniously sacked as party chief in the city of Chongqing. It came a day after Prime Minister Wen Jiabao gave Mr Bo a public dressing down over a scandal involving his former Chongqing police chief. MORE

Teenage triplets join JCB as welders

Teenage triplets from Staffordshire have all joined digger manufacturer JCB as apprentice welders. Jack, Katie and Liam Rowe, from Cheadle, are all training at the same Uttoxeter factory and even arrive for work on the same 50cc scooters. The 16-year-olds have been taken on as part of a £3.5m recruitment drive for the firm.

Red Bull drops Jesus ad after outcry

Red Bull, the energy-drink maker, has dropped an advertisement after an outcry from Christians and Muslims for its portrayal of Jesus Christ. The cartoon implies Jesus walked on water because he had been invigorated by a miraculous energy drink and knew where there were hidden rocks to tread on.

Lottery winner told to share his $24m

A man who won $24 million (£15.3m) in the lottery and attempted to keep the fortune secret from co-workers who should have shared in the windfall has been ordered to hand back $20m to the men he defrauded. Americo Lopes was part of a gambling syndicate with five colleagues, but tried to hide the spoils. MORE

Crocodile leads papal trip to Cuba

The Vatican is hoping a two-foot crocodile can produce a thaw in relations with Communist Cuba, as the Pope prepares to visit the island later this month. The rare reptile was captured by an Italian in Cuba and smuggled home, but with much pomp and ceremony the animal is being sent back with the blessing of the Holy See.

Freddie Flintoff in Sport Relief first

John Bishop and David Walliams have already raised millions of pounds for Sport Relief, but cricketer Freddie Flintoff could have the toughest challenge yet. He's attempting to break a dozen bizarre world records in 12 minutes, including catching lemons while blindfolded, reverse bungee jumping and eating chocolate eclairs.

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Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference