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The News Matrix: Friday 9 March 2012

Worst fears coming to pass, says Shelter

The chief of homeless charity Crisis said "our worst fears are coming to pass" as new figures showed yesterday that applications for homelessness assistance rose by 14 per cent last year with 48,510 families asking for help. Among the families were 69,460 children or unborn babies.

Man pleads guilty to tethering fake bomb

An Australian investment banker pleaded guilty yesterday to chaining a fake bomb to a young woman's neck in a bizarre extortion attempt last year. Paul Douglas Peters is accused of entering the victim's home and tethering the device that took a bomb squad 10 hours to remove.

Crime kingpin gets 10 years behind bars

A court yesterday sentenced Domenico Oppedisano, 81, boss of Italian crime syndicate 'ndrangheta, to 10 years in prison. Secret video of the Calabrian mafia revealed Oppedisano's kingpin role in the group, previously seen as a loose network of crime families. MORE

Gingrich 'near end of his White House bid'

The race for the Republican nomination could be on the cusp of a shake-up with aides to Newt Gingrich whispering that he needs to win in two southern states next week or leave the field. A new poll shows conservative Rick Santorum with a slight lead over the front-runner, Mitt Romney.

Ponzi fraudster jailed for 14 years

A "professional fraudster" who duped celebrities and sports stars out of £115m has been jailed for 14 years and six months. Kautilya Nandan Pruthi ran Britain's biggest Ponzi investment scam. MORE

Top Tories fight it out over 50p tax rate

David Cameron and George Osborne are in disagreement over when the Government should scrap its 50p tax on earnings above £150,000 per year. The Prime Minister is worried that its abolition could revive the Conservatives' image as a "party of the rich", according to insiders. However, the Chancellor feels it would help the economy in the long-term. MORE

News Corp may lose stake in BSkyB

A special unit at Ofcom, the broadcast watchdog, is examining whether Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation should lose its stake in BSkyB. Project Apple will assess News Corp's suitability to hold a 39 per cent controlling stake given its role in the phone hacking scandal. MORE

Advances may let us grow our own organs

Patients could one day grow their own organs, one of the world's leading transplant surgeons has said. Professor Paolo Macchiarini said a potential solution to the global donor shortage could be for patients to generate their own organs to replace diseased and damaged body parts. MORE

Rebel activists lash out at UN aid chief

Activists have lashed out at the UN emergency aid chief who toured Homs this week, deriding her organisation for doing too little, too late. Baroness Valerie Amos visited Baba Amr district this week, but activists questioned why it had taken more than 7,500 deaths for her to visit. MORE

EDF tops league table for complaints

EDF has kept its title as the worst major energy firm for dealing with customer complaints. The French-owned company was given a zero-star rating in the latest league table of energy complaints. EDF said: "We are extremely disappointed."

Hopes rise as Greek debt deadline looms

Beleaguered Greece finally looked set to stave off a catastrophic default last night after sealing an 11th-hour deal with banks and hedge funds to slash its huge debt burden. Athens' latest €130bn (£109bn) rescue package hinges on a swap deal. MORE

School's motivation methods backfire

A school was forced to take down a rogues' gallery of students who failed mock GCSEs exams. Parents complained when Larkmead School in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, put pictures of 30 pupils on the canteen wall in the hope of "motivating them". One girl was so humiliated she wants to leave.

Sheriff sued over pink underwear

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Phoenix, whose sometimes bizarre tactics have earned him the nickname "America's toughest sheriff", is facing a lawsuit after an appeals court ruled that pink underwear he forced prisoners to wear could have contributed to the death of a mentally ill inmate. MORE

Charity shop thief trapped by diary

A charity shop volunteer who stole £2,000 from the till was caught after she recorded the thefts in her diary. Police found the entries, one of which read, "good day @ shop for me. £60", when they searched the Warrington home of Susan Barcock, 52. She got a four-month suspended sentence.

7,000 more can see Freud show

The National Portrait Gallery has released 7,000 extra tickets for its Lucian Freud exhibition as demand for "blockbuster" art shows grows ahead of the Olympics. "Lucian Freud Portraits" runs until 27 May. MORE

Conversations for conservation

BBC Radio 4 has launched The Listening Project, inviting people to record intimate conversations to build a picture of our lives for future generations. Some of the conversations will be broadcast, and the contributions will be curated and archived by the British Library. MORE

Man bugged bed of estranged wife

A man in Pennsylvania has been charged with hiding a listening device under his wife's bed. Wayne Comet Cripe, 66, and his wife are separated, but share a home with separate bedrooms. He used the bug to overhear her with her new boyfriend, to ensure the "coast was clear".

Authorities make a meal of edible salt

Tests have shown that road salt sold to food producers in some regions of Poland is not harmful if eaten. Five people were arrested recently after selling the salt, as authorities feared it could be harmful. The Czech Republic has put a temporary ban on edible salt imports from Poland.

Bin Laden 'betrayed by jealous wife'

Osama Bin Laden, physically frail and holed-up in a secret compound in a Pakistan garrison town, may have been sold out to the Americans by his eldest wife who was furiously jealous of the al-Qa'ida leader's preference for a younger bride, a retired senior Pakistani army officer claims.

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