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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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