The News Matrix: Saturday 24 December 2011


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The Independent Online


Tent banquet after eviction postponed

A High Court judge yesterday gave protesters camping outside St Paul's Cathedral the chance to celebrate Christmas under canvas when he postponed a decision on whether to evict. Protest organisers of Occupy London said they would host a "Potluck Christmas Day Banquet".

Costume clue may track down bandit

Detectives trying to track down a prolific bank robber known as the "Geezer Bandit" have searched a costume store in central California. The criminal is now believed to have carried out his 16 armed heists while wearing a brand of silicone mask known as "The Elder". MORE

NHS misses target for casualty times

The NHS in England last week missed its target of dealing with 95 per cent of patients within four hours of arrival at casualty, according to official figures. In the week ending 18 December, some 3,129 patients waited more than four hours in A&E wards – equivalent to 5.3 per cent of the total.

Royal gold medal for Jo Shapcott

Jo Shapcott has been awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry. Her latest book of verse, Of Mutability, had been named Costa Book of the Year. Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, who chaired the Medal's judging panel, said the award "is the true crowning of her career". MORE

White Christmas? Only in your dreams

It won't be a white Christmas anywhere in the UK, forecasters say. Not even the peaks of the Scottish mountains will see snowfall on Sunday. Instead much of England will have a dry, mild Christmas Day, but it will be a soggy one for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

North opens border for Kim's funeral

Pyongyang has opened its doors to South Koreans who want to travel for Kim Jong-il's funeral on Wednesday. But its southern neighbour has refused to send an official party and is banning requests by opposition politicians to go, hinting at a new crisis on the Korean peninsula. MORE

Jailed juror locked in cell for safety

A teenage juror jailed for skipping court to go and see a musical has said it was a "very stupid thing to do", and revealed how he was locked in his cell for his own safety after inmates found out he was gay. Matthew Banks, 19, from Manchester, was jailed on Monday for contempt of court. MORE

It's time to value people over profits

The British public want business to put "people before profits" and to see politicians close the gap between rich and poor, according to a new survey. YouGov, which polled 1,723 people, found that seven in 10 people believe the gap between those at the top and everyone else is too wide. MORE

Road closure hits Christmas getaway hampered by road closure

Thousands of Christmas travellers were held up yesterday, after one of the main routes out of London was shut for emergency structural repairs. The A4 Hammersmith Flyover in west London was closed after engineers working overnight discovered a "serious structural defect".

Army chief denies plotting a coup

Army chief General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani has denied accusations that the military is working to oust the country's civilian government amid tension over a secret memo sent to Washington about an alleged coup. The prime minister had claimed that there was a conspiracy. MORE

George Michael was 'touch and go'

George Michael, back in the UK after being treated in a Vienna hospital for pneumonia, said yesterday that it was "touch and go for a couple of weeks". The singer was treated in Austria after falling ill in November while on tour for the first time in three years. MORE

Public anger over eight-child family

A couple that flouted China's infamous one-child law not once but seven times is facing public ire amid claims they are members of a wealthy élite to whom the rules on reproduction do not apply. The couple, from Guangdong, had eight children, including five born illegally to surrogates. MORE

Police on fraud raid make snap decision

Police raiding the villa of a man suspected of fraud were shocked to find 11 Nile crocodiles and an alligator. The reptiles were found in the house in Lapscheure in northern Belgium, and were moved to a wildlife centre. The suspect, a 51-year-old German, has been charged with animal neglect.

Bribery leads rail manager to suicide

A senior manager at Network Rail committed suicide with his wife after the net began to close in on a scam involving bribes from corrupt executives. Anthony Burgess, 45, was showered with thousands of pounds in cash, along with Porsche car parts and five-star holidays. MORE

Hart, Hants named the best place to live

Hart has been named as the UK's most desirable location to live in a Halifax study measuring quality of life – but nowhere in the North of England, Scotland or Wales made the top 50. More than half (27) of the top 50 most desirable places to live in the are in southern England. page 10

Polar bear cub to be raised by humans

A month-old polar bear cub is to be raised by humans after his mother failed to produce enough milk to feed him. Scandinavian Wildlife Park manager Frank Vigh-Larsen said that Siku was two days old when he was removed from his mother.

Sectarian crisis looms as talks axed

Iraq is edging towards a Shia-Sunni confrontation as crisis talks were scrapped yesterday. The Sunni vice-president Tariq al-Hashemi – taking refuge in Kurdistan after alleged links to a death squad – accused Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of acting like Saddam Hussein. MORE

Rift grows between UK and France

Britain and France declared themselves on opposite sides of the breast implant debate. While French Health Minister Xavier Bertrand urged French women to have PIP implants removed, England's chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies said a simple check-up was sufficient. MORE

Red faces over Chinese flag error

Hanoi laid out all the stops this week for a visit from China's expected future leader – including flags with an extra star. The gaffe came during a welcoming ceremony for Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping when children waved flags decorated with six stars. China's flag has only five stars.

Indie cinemas in multiplex protest

Two of Paris's independent cinemas have "abolished Christmas" to protest against the monopolisation of popular art films by large chains. The director of one said the future of the cinemas is under threat because artistic but popular movies are diverted to multiplex cinemas.

This is Tony Blair's dream role

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has revealed his dream film role – playing dopey guitarist Nigel Tufnel in the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap. The character, played by the actor Christopher Guest, is famous for his outrageous guitar playing and dim-witted ways.

Congress agrees to delay tax increase

The US Congress has approved a two-month payroll tax cut extension, in a $33bn measure that will keep the payroll tax rate at 4.2 per cent until March. It had been due to increase on 1 January to 6.2 per cent. The measure is a temporary truce in weeks of partisan warfare on fiscal policy.

Activist Chen Wei gets nine years in jail

The Chinese human rights activist, Chen Wei, was yesterday sentenced to nine years in jail for allegedly subverting state power, the stiffest punishment handed out for dissent this year. His wife said he was being persecuted for nine essays published on overseas websites. MORE

Out-of-hours emails silenced by VW staff

The out-of-hours email has plagued workers since the introduction of the Blackberry, but now a group has struck a blow for freedom. One thousand employees of the German car giant Volkswagen will only receive e-mails from half an hour before work to half an hour after their shifts. MORE