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The News Matrix: Saturday 22 December 2012

South-east tops quality-of-life study

Residents of Hart in Hampshire enjoy the best quality of life in the UK, according to a Halifax study comparing jobs, health, life expectancy, crime, weather and house prices. The top five places are all in the South-east.

Investors rush to snap up gold bars

Investors in Switzerland, Austria and Germany are lining up to buy gold bars the size of a credit card that can easily be broken into one-gramme pieces and used as payment in an emergency. The CombiBar is popular among grandparents who want to give grandchildren a strip of gold.

Ikea monkey will stay at sanctuary

A judge has ruled that a pet monkey found wandering outside an Ikea store in Toronto wearing a tiny sheepskin coat will remain at a primate sanctuary for now. The owner had unsuccessfully asked the court for Darwin, a rhesus macaque, to be returned to her.

Thief drops till cash haul as he flees hotel

A thief who tried to steal hundreds of pounds from a hotel's reception dropped most of his loot as he was chased from the building. The theft occurred at 10.30pm on Friday at Wolverhampton's Britannia Hotel after he grabbed a female staff member as she was cashing up.

Words fail us… especially these ones

Conjugal, specific and process have all made a list of the most commonly mispronounced words, according to a poll carried out by the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters. Phenomenon, remuneration, statistics, ethnicity, hereditary, particularly and development all made the cut.

Franzen gives up writing 'blurbs'

Bestselling author Jonathan Franzen is "out of the blurb business" after spending so much time providing quotes for other people. He is not the first author to ignore requests to help push a new book. Stephen Fry said he was "getting a bit fed up" of it three years ago.

Researchers devise hangover-free wine

Researchers may have found a way to ease your hangover by replacing the chemical preservatives in wine that can lead to headaches. Academics, winemakers and food researchers have discovered two extracts contained in wine to replace sulphur dioxide which can trigger headaches.

Hillsborough single backed to top charts

'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother', the charity song for the Hillsborough victims' families, has extended its lead over X Factor winner James Arthur in the race to be Christmas No.1. The Justice Collective track is now 23,000 ahead of Arthur's 'Impossible' ahead of Sunday's chart.

Puppet goes too far over brutal killing

A TV gossip show in Puerto Rico will in future be pre-recorded after an outcry over comments by a puppet on the show about a man who was brutally killed. La Comay questioned what the man was doing on the street where he was carjacked.

One billion views for 'Gangnam Style'

"Gangnam Style" has become the first video to rack up one billion views on YouTube. The South Korean pop song, which propelled singer Psy to global fame, was first uploaded on to the site in July. The song reached No 1 in the UK singles chart in September.

Statue marks 133rd 'birthday' of Stalin

Residents of a mountainous village in the former Soviet republic of Georgia reinstated a monument to Josef Stalin yesterday to mark what would have been his 133rd birthday. About 30 residents of Zemo Alvani north-east of Tbilisi, gathered to see the three-metre-high stone statue.

Women's insurance rules condemned

New EU rules that will send women's car insurance costs soaring were criticised yesterday as "gender equality for gender equality's sake". Insurance companies are no longer able to vary premiums according to a policyholder's sex, despite the fact women have lower accident rates.

Boehner unfazed by fiscal cliff wranglings

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner was unrepentant yesterday after the stunning failure of his Plan B option to avert America's automatic "fiscal cliff" tax increases and spending cuts, leaving negotiations in disarray. He called on the two sides to negotiate further. MORE

Malala: don't name college after me

The Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban for promoting girls' education has urged her country to reverse a decision to rename a college in her honour to avert attacks. Malala Yousufzai made the request after students broke into the school and boycotted classes. MORE

Libya will release Lockerbie files

Libya's new government has promised to release all files on the Lockerbie bombing. Mahmud Nacua, the Libyan ambassador to the UK, said: "Everyone will know what happened in that crime." But he warned it would be at least a year before the full truth is known.

Kerry nominated for Secretary of State

President Barack Obama last night formally nominated Senator John Kerry as America's next Secretary of State. Senator Kerry's main rival Susan Rice withdrew her candidacy when Republicans blamed her for mischaracterising the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. MORE

Lady Thatcher has bladder surgery

Lady Thatcher has undergone surgery to remove a growth from her bladder and is recovering in hospital, it was revealed last night. The procedure was described as minimally invasive. In a statement Lord Tim Bell, a friend, said: "The operation was completely satisfactory."

Monti resigns on cue as budget is passed

Mario Monti resigned as Italy's Prime Minister last night, keeping his pledge to step down as soon as Parliament gives final passage to the budget law. Monti said his year-old technical government had made the country "more trustworthy" and "attractive to foreign investors".

Sarkozy campaign broke funding rules

Nicolas Sarkozy breached the official limit on the cost of his failed presidential campaign last spring, France's election finance watchdog has ruled. His centre-right UMP party would lose €11m in state subsidies if Mr Sarkozy loses his appeal on the matter. MORE

U-turn for Instagram as it scraps changes

Instagram has been forced into a humiliating U-turn after an international outcry against new terms of service which appeared to allow the website to sell users' pictures to advertisers. The photo-sharing site's boss, Kevin Systrom, said photos would not be sold and vowed to scrap the new terms.

Pope: gay marriage is a threat to family

The very foundations of the family are being threatened by gay marriage, Pope Benedict has claimed. In his Christmas address, the Roman Catholic leader indicated the Vatican would be willing to forge an alliance with other faiths also opposed to equal marriage rights. MORE

Police may have name for dead man

Detectives may finally have discovered the identity of a young African man who fell 2,500 feet from an aircraft near Heathrow Airport. The man, whose body was found lying in a suburban street in September, is believed to be from Mozambique. MORE

Four die after UN chopper shot down

Four crew members on a UN helicopter died yesterday after it was shot down over South Sudan. The UN said that the craft, which was on a reconnaissance mission and is thought to have been Russian, was downed by state forces. But South Sudanese officials claimed that rebel forces were responsible.

Man jailed for forging signatures

An antiques dealer in Hampshire who forged the signatures of Sir Winston Churchill and Robert Louis Stevenson and sold them to collectors has been jailed for 10 months. Allan Formhals made £6,967 by defrauding two collectors, Southampton Crown Court heard. MORE

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