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The News Matrix: Saturday 14 January 2012

Network Rail facing charges over crash

Network Rail is to face criminal prosecution over the 2007 crash in Grayrigg, Cumbria, that killed one passenger and injured almost 100. The firm, which is responsible for the track where a Virgin Pendolino train was derailed, is accused of breaking health and safety laws. MORE

Reward for info on Birmingham murder

A large cash reward has been offered to encourage people to come forward with information about the murder of a couple found dead in their Birmingham home. Crimestoppers called the killing of Avtar Kolar, 62, and his wife Carole, 58, a "vile crime" and put up a £10,000 reward for details leading to the arrest of the perpetrators.

PM 'sought British help to stave off coup'

There was another twist in political drama unfolding in Pakistan yesterday after it emerged Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had telephoned the top British diplomat in country this week to express fears that Pakistan's powerful military might be about to stage a coup. MORE

Snails blaze trail for pests everywhere

Slugs and snails have regained their crown as the most pesky pests to munch a destructive path through Britain's gardens. The slimy gastropods were so numerous that they prompted more calls to the Royal Horticultural Society than any other pests. MORE

Lebanese man held over 'terrorism plot'

Police are questioning a Lebanese man with alleged links to the Hezbollah militant group after the US embassy warned of a "real and credible" threat of a terror attack in Bangkok. Officials received a tip-off before the new year of a planned attack against Israelis. The embassy urged Americans to "keep a low profile" in public. MORE

Ministers ready for verdict on lobbyists

Plans to reform the lobbying industry will be published next week. Mark Harper, the minister in charge of political reform, is expected to release a consultation paper including options for a mandatory lobbying register. Critics fear the plans have been watered down after industry pressure.

Release of prisoners thaws US relations

There were celebrations outside jails across the country yesterday after the government released hundreds of political prisoners. The decision was welcomed by the US, which said it was now ready to exchange ambassadors with Burma. Among those freed were some of the country's highest-profile political inmates. MORE

Salmond ready for referendum talks

Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, said yesterday he was ready to meet Prime Minister David Cameron "in Edinburgh, in London or wherever" to discuss the way forward for a referendum on independence. His offer came at a summit of the British-Irish Council in Dublin. MORE

High Court rules on timing of elections

Kenya's High Court has ruled that the next presidential and parliamentary polls should be held in March 2013 and not this August. The election will come under intense scrutiny because it will be the first since the 2007 elections that ended in violence and more than 1,220 deaths. Reuters

Daily Mail's  fear of Leveson testimony

Associated Newspapers, the publishers of the Daily Mail, told the High Court that its reputation could be damaged if journalists were allowed to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry anonymously. They argued that embittered reporters may "tar Associated Newspapers". MORE

Cameron urges more production of oil

David Cameron has called on the King of Saudi Arabia to step up his country's oil production in the face of Iranian threats to block off the sea corridor through which a sixth of the world's oil supplies pass. In talks with King Abdullah, the PM expressed fears that a blockade could destabilise the world economy. MORE

Nation is sliding into civil war, says league

The violent uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad could turn into a civil war, the Arab League has warned. "We are very concerned because there were certain commitments that were not complied with," said Nabil Elaraby, the head of the organisation. MORE

Jurassic Park 4 backseat for Spielberg

Steven Spielberg will not direct the fourth instalment of the Jurassic Park franchise. The director, whose movie War Horse arrived in cinemas yesterday, said he would instead take a producing role. The original Jurassic Park was the highest-grossing movie of all time on its 1993 release.

Beeb make room for Donaldson's witch

The Gruffalo creator, Julia Donaldson, is to have another of her tales brought to life by the BBC next Christmas. The writer, who is also Children's Laureate, is to have her book Room On The Broom, about a friendly witch who invites too many passengers on to her broomstick, animated as a family tale by BBC1.

EasyJet replaces one fee with another

The budget airline easyJet has amended its pricing amid government plans to ban excessive surcharges when buying tickets online. The company has introduced a flat £9 administration fee to replace the previous £8 booking fee levied on debit card purchases.

Modest Hockney in denial of greatness

David Hockney has rejected claims he is Britain's greatest living artist, calling the description "newspaper stuff". "It doesn't bother me. It doesn't mean too much to me, actually," said the 74-year-old. Hockney, inset, opens a major exhibition at London's Royal Academy on 21 January.

Six-year-old boy is let off driving fine dropped against 6

Police in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez have repented after ticketing a six-year-old boy for reckless driving after he ran his miniature motorcycle into an SUV. They impounded the bike but returned it and dropped the fines this week after the boy's mother went to the media. AP

Ancient Koran goes on public display

One of the oldest known copies of the Koran has gone on show at the British Museum ahead of a new exhibition. The Koran, lent by the British Library, will form part of Hajj: Journey To The Heart Of Islam, the first major collection dedicated to the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Flurry of tributes get

Moves to rename places in honour of the former Czech leader who helped bring down communism – from Vaclav Havel airport to Vaclav Havel street – have prompted a sarcastic Facebook initiative demanding that all the country's future presidents must be called Havel, below. AP

Botham daughter-in-law freed over dog

Sir Ian Botham's former daughter-in-law has been released without charge after being arrested over the theft of a dog belonging to his family. Sarah-Jayne Botham was questioned by police after Woody, a springer-cocker spaniel cross, went missing from the cricketer's home in North Yorkshire.

Police find prisoner who fled in his undies

A manhunt ended when police caught up and captured a Chinese convict who had fled prison dressed in nothing but his underwear. Li Guolin, who was serving a 23-sentence at a Hiroshima prison, is suspected of breaking into an apartment to steal clothes after escaping.

Cow brains seized by airport officials

Officials at Cairo airport confiscated 190 kg of frozen cow brains from three Sudanese travellers who planned to sell them to restaurants, authorities said. An official said it was the fourth time this week that customs officers had foiled an attempt to smuggle cow brains. AP

Tory suspended after 'retards' tweet

A councillor has been suspended after he branded people protesting against cuts at a council meeting as "retards". John Fareham, Conservative group leader at Hull City Council, made the comment on Twitter following a heated debate over budget cuts last February.

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