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The News Matrix: Friday 27 December 2013

Yasser Arafat 'not killed by radiation'

A Russian investigation into the death of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2004 has found it wasn't caused by radiation – after a French inquiry is also said to have found he was not a victim of poisoning.

Army distributes aid to flood victims

Troops have been deployed in Espirito Santo state to help distribute food, water and medicine to victims of the floods and mudslides that have punished south eastern Brazil for more than 10 days, killing at least 39 people. Army engineers were due to help repair roads and bridges.

Labour would axe Serco contracts

Controversial public sector outsourcing firms such as Serco and G4S could face having their contracts terminated if Labour wins the next general election. Senior party sources revealed they would have a "long, hard look" at the contracts. MORE

Hollande hit by high jobless figures

President François Hollande suffered a blow to what remains of his credibility with news he had failed to deliver his promise to reduce unemployment by the end of this year. Figures for November showed the number of people without employment in France had increased by 17,500.

Santas go on a robbing spree

Four robbers armed with Kalashnikov rifles and dressed in Father Christmas's familiar red-and-white garb made off with jewellery worth a reported £250,000 after holding up a store in Albania's capital Tirana on Christmas Eve. An onlooker filmed the heist.

Admin staff scoop most jackpot wins

Administrative staff have been crowned the luckiest profession, producing the most lottery winners, The National Lottery Review of the Year has reported. Admin staff, manufacturing employees, managers, charity sector workers and builders comprised the top five professions for winning big.

Ni hao? Schools turn to Mandarin

Children as young as five are now learning Mandarin at school. With David Cameron pushing for the language to replace French and German in the classroom, the number of pupils taking up Mandarin in the new year is set to swell as schools make it the main foreign language taught. MORE

Living standards 'won't win election'

Ed Miliband has been warned that his campaign on the living standards crisis will not win Labour the next election because the party lacks credibility on the economy. Patrick Diamond, a former policy adviser to Tony Blair, said Britain's return to growth and an expected rise in wages next year would hand George Osborne the "trump card" unless Labour acts quickly. MORE

Mr Currie grows the hottest peppers

The Guinness Book of World Records has decided that peppers grown in South Carolina in the US by a man called Ed Currie are the hottest in the world, ending a more than four-year drive to prove no one grows a more scorching chilli. The heat of Mr Currie's peppers was certified by students at Winthrop University.

The Pope highlights modern persecution

In his Angelus address in St Peter's Square yesterday, Pope Francis denounced discrimination against Christians. Francis said he was sure that Christians suffering from either discrimination or violence were "more numerous today than in the early times of the Church".

Coalition blamed for fall in prosecutions

Labour has accused the Coalition of failing victims of rape, domestic violence and child sex abuse by "hollowing out" the police service. The number of offences referred to the Crown Prosecution Service has been falling since the last election despite a rise in recorded crime.

Tattoos could last more than a lifetime

Two years ago Floris Hirschfeld had a portrait of his late mother tattooed on his back. Now the Dutch man hopes the image will one day adorn the wall of an art collector's home, with the help of an entrepreneur who has set up a business to preserve the tattoos of the dead.

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