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The News Matrix: Saturday 4 January 2014

Low rates encourage first home buyers

The number of first-time house buyers grew by more than 20 per cent last year to 265,000, marking the largest annual increase in more than a decade. Low interest rates and the Help to Buy scheme contributed to the increase, according to a report from Halifax.

Fewer applicants to university from UK

The number of university applicants from within the UK has dropped, according to the latest figures from Ucas. Some 303,750 people have submitted applications to start study-ing for a degree next autumn, but UK-only applications dropped by 1 per cent from 264,860 to 263,460.

Arms procurement to be overhauled

Arms procurement procedures are to be overhauled following the arrest of former weapons contract negotiators accused of paying bribes for contracts. The Defence Minister said the ministry was working on plans to place contracts under increased parliamentary oversight .

Griffin’s bankruptcy won’t stop MEP bid

BNP leader Nick Griffin announced he has been forced into bankruptcy by over a £77,000 bill from a law firm that advised him on challenges to human rights laws. It did not prevent him “being or standing as an MEP”, he said, adding that his “financial worries” were over.

Suu Kyi could be elected president

Burma’s President has thrown his weight behind revision of his country’s constitution, bringing Aung San Suu Kyi closer to becoming his successor in 2016. The constitution bans anyone becoming president whose spouse and/or children owe allegiance to a foreign power.

Fans flock to Alps for Schumacher vigil

Michael Schumacher’s fans converged on his hospital in the French Alps yesterday to honour the Formula One great on his 45th birthday, days after his skiing accident. The seven-time world champion has been in a medically induced coma since Sunday.

Boxer hoodie may help solve robbery

Police are hoping an unusual “hoodie” stamped with an image of two boxers will trigger a breakthrough in the hunt for an armed robbery suspect. A shopkeeper thwarted a raider in Pontypridd, south Wales, before Christmas by lunging at his handgun.

Catalan leader asks EU to back poll

Catalonia’s president has called on EU leaders for support as the region seeks a vote on independence in November. Artur Mas urged European powers to encourage a referendum that the government of Mariano Rajoy says is unconstitutional and will not be allowed.

Rescue icebreaker gets stuck in ice

The Chinese Dragon, the icebreaker sent to rescue passengers on the Akademik Shokalskiy, a Russian vessel stuck in Antarctic ice, became stuck itself yesterday. The Dragon, used as a helicopter rescue launchpad on Thursday, will attempt to break free today.

How Gorbachev’s surprise visit fell flat

Mikhail Gorbachev once turned up unannounced at Downing Street – only to find Margaret Thatcher was out. His surprise tactic fell flat on his first visit to western Europe in December 1984, according to newly-released papers. However, his interpreter said he was undaunted.

Peace talks with rebels ‘fruitful’

African leaders said meetings between two sides of South Sudan’s conflict had been “fruitful” . The country’s government and rebels began talks, via mediators, to end weeks of blood letting after days of delays and false starts but a halt to fighting looks unlikely.

Tomb of ‘brewer for the gods’ discovered

Japanese archaeologists have unearthed the tomb of an ancient beer brewer in the Egyptian city of Luxor that is more than 3,000 years old. Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, Mohammed Ibrahim, said the tomb belongs to the chief “maker of beer for gods of the dead”.

Olympic team hit with tweeting ban

Australia’s athletes at the Sochi Winter Olympics, already confined to barracks for security reasons, have been banned from tweeting on the team bus to avoid a repeat of the London Olympics, when swimmers were said to have been “distracted” by social media, performing poorly.

‘World’s worst waxworks’ sold

A tourist attraction dubbed the “world’s worst waxworks” has beensold. The Louis Tussauds House of Wax in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, had been open for 58 years before closing in 2013 after years of ridicule for the depictions of celebrities such as Dame Shirley Bassey.

Liz Jones enters the ‘Big Brother’ house

The controversial Daily Mail columnist Liz Jones was one of a dozen contestants to walk into the Big Brother house last night for the latest celebrity version of the series. The former editor of Marie Claire was joined by Evander Holyfield, Lionel Blair and N-Dubz frontman Dappy.

Message in a bottle arrives 23 years late

A woman who threw a message in a bottle into the North Sea more than 20 years ago has received a reply after it was discovered in the Netherlands. Zoe Averianov, from Hebden Bridge, was 10 when she threw the bottle on a ferry from Hull to Belgium on 12 September 1990.

Zombie film in ‘axe attack’ call mix-up

Police called to reports of a bloody axe attack in the town of Harrogate were confronted with movie-makers shooting a zombie film. North Yorkshire Police revealed the mix-up yesterday via a tweet: “999 report of axe attack... turns out 4 youths making a film with fake blood.”

TV host’s ‘blatant’ BlackBerry copy

BlackBerry has reportedly filed a lawsuit against Typo Products, the company co-founded by American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. The phone manufacturer alleged that Typo’s smartphone keyboard attachment was a “blatant infringement” of BlackBerry’s patented keyboard.

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