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The News Matrix: Monday 24 December 2012

Homeless families in B&Bs doubles in year

The number of homeless families with dependent children or a pregnant woman staying in bed-and-breakfast accommodation has doubled in a year from 1,230 to 2,460, according to data from the Department for Communities.

Dawn French: I didn't think vicar was funny

Dawn French has revealed she almost turned down her starring role in The Vicar Of Dibley as she didn't think it was funny enough and that she wanted the role of the dopey verger, Alice.

NRA stands by call for armed guards

The largest US gun rights lobbying organisation yesterday forcefully stuck to its call for placing armed police officers and security guards in every school as the best way to avoid mass shootings. Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA), said his organisation would co-ordinate a national effort to put former military and police offers in schools as volunteer guards. MORE

Emperor's sympathy for the elderly

Japan's Emperor Akihito, celebrating his 79th birthday, says he's concerned about the country's ageing population. He sympathised with the elderly in the northern region facing their second winter since the 2011 tsunami.

Violent clashes over gang rape on bus

Police in Delhi have used water cannon for a second day to break up protests against the gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus. The Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde promised to consider demands for death penalties for the suspects. MORE

Briton who fought Franco dies at 94

David Lomon, the last surviving British-based member of the International Brigades, who fought General Franco's Fascists in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, has died at 94. He was 19 and living in east London when he joined up.

Osborne's childcare tax breaks 'aid rich'

George Osborne will announce tax breaks for childcare next month to benefit better-off families more than low income ones, according to a study by the Resolution Foundation for i. Other measures are likely to include allowing child-minders to care for five under-fives rather than three. MORE

Even royalty needs to wear 3D glasses

The Queen will don 3D glasses for the first Royal Christmas message to be broadcast in 3D. Behind-the-scenes footage shows the Queen wearing crystal-encrusted specs as she watches part of the broadcast. MORE

Rihanna donates $1.75m to hospital

Rihanna has given $1.75m to a hospital in Barbados in memory of her late grandmother. The donation was her way of "giving back to Barbados".

Salmon leaps ahead in first GM food race

The US Food and Drug Administration has found no valid scientific, health or environmental reasons to ban the production of GM salmon, which grows twice as fast as ordinary fish and could now become the first genetically modified animal declared officially safe to eat. MORE

Swans fly in — with plenty of juveniles

Threatened Bewick's swans are arriving from their Russian breeding grounds with the largest number of youngsters for more than a decade: almost 18 per cent of the flock, compared with an average of 10 per cent.

'Dozens killed' in air strike on bakery

Dozens of people were killed in a government air strike that hit a bakery in Halfaya where a crowd was queuing for bread yesterday, activists said. If confirmed, the attack on the town, seized by rebels last week, would be one of the deadliest air strikes of Syria's civil war. MORE

First some duty-free, then spiritual duties

Citizens of the Vatican City have been enjoying a last-minute Christmas shopping splurge at the Holy See's own department store. Somehow the tax-free emporium remains one of the Vatican's best-kept secrets.

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Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker