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The News Matrix: Thursday 19 May 2011

Government accused over circus ban claim

The Government was accused of using a non-existent court challenge as an excuse for blocking a ban on circus animals. Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman told MPs they could not introduce the policy because of a challenge that was thrown out a year ago.

Activists call for day of protest strikes

Activists have called for a day-long general strike in protest at President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Mr al-Assad admitted his government used the “wrong security practices” after as many as 850 died in protests. The US is to impose sanctions. MORE

Pacquiao fights back in birth control row

Philippines boxing legend Manny Pacquiao has sided with the church against President Benigno Aquino in a row about contraception that has engulfed the country. MORE

Former Blair envoy helped BP oil deals

Tony Blair’s special envoy to Iraq lobbied the country’s prime minister on oil contracts for BP three months after leaving government service, documents have revealed. Sir Jeremy Greenstock met Iyad Allawi despite warnings about his links. MORE

Piers bans Hugh in spat over tabloids

Piers Morgan has banned Hugh Grant from his talk shows, taking exception to the actor’s recent crusade against the tabloid press. The former editor of the Daily Mirror and News of the World described Grant as a “tedious little man”. MORE

MPs criticise BBC’s ‘migration manager’

The BBC opened itself up to “predictable ridicule” and lowered its reputation by hiring a US executive to oversee its Salford Quays move, an influential group of MPs reports today. They claim that the use of Guy Bradshaw, whose home is in Kentucky, as the “migration manager” for the move to the north of England lowered “the esteem of the BBC”.

IMF chief in prison under suicide watch

IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been put under suicide watch at New York’s notorious Rikers Island prison. Meanwhile, it has emerged that his alleged victim had been living in an apartment blocked rented exclusively for HIV/Aids patients. MORE

Gingrich hits trouble in presidency bid

Newt Gingrich’s chaotic tilt at the White House continues despite his apology to Republican Congressman Paul Ryan for describing his Medicare proposals as “right-wing social engineering”. Gingrich also owes Tiffany jewellers $500,000. MORE

Medvedev cagey on second-term run

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has held his first general news conference since taking office in 2008, a hint the gulf between him and Vladimir Putin is widening. It also raises the spectre of the two facing each other in next year’s presidential poll. MORE

Judge quits over win for Philip Roth

One of the judges for the Man Booker International prize has withdrawn in protest after Philip Roth won. Carmen Callil, below, was angered by the decision to hand the award to the 78-year-old author, saying: “He goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book.” MORE

Court battle over sausage dog

A man who gave away his sausage dog after it bit his granddaughter has started a court battle to get it back. Gary Rowlinson, from Manchester, gave it away in February but regretted his decision and asked for the pet back. Its new owner refused, so Mr Rowlinson is taking him to court.

Citizens warned of fake storms and orcs

Hungary’s disaster management agency has warned of severe storms in Middle-Earth. The agency used names from JRR Tolkien’s fictional world in the fantasy The Lord of the Rings to test its emergency broadcast system on radio and television because it didn’t want to alarm people.

Teenagers lacking in ethics, report finds

One in four teenagers thinks it is acceptable to cheat in exams, while many see no harm in shoplifting or dodging fares on public transport, new research suggests. A new report raises concerns that many students will start adulthood believing that unethical behaviour is acceptable.

Beijing ticket gang ‘made millions’

A gang of fraudsters made millions of pounds by conning thousands of people into thinking they had bought tickets for the Beijing Olympics, a court heard. The unsuspecting sports fans bought thousands of tickets for the 2008 Games, and music enthusiasts also paid for summer festivals.

T. rex was a pack hunter, scientists say

Tyrannosaurus rex and his relatives hung out and hunted in bloodthirsty, well organised gangs, scientists have claimed. A new theory suggests that the top predator dinosaurs were highly intelligent pack animals, despite the popular depiction of T. rex as a dangerous but dim-witted loner.

Towns not so sweet on ‘relaxation’ cakes

Two towns in the state of Massachusetts are moving to ban sales of a “relaxation” brownie named Lazy Cakes, laced with melatonin and sold in food markets, after children who ate them required hospital treatment.

Jail for three who dug up ex-president

A court in Cyprus jailed three men for up to 20 months on Monday for snatching the remains of the late Cypriot president Tassos Papadopoulos from his grave. The defendants were found guilty of illegal entry into a burial ground and exhuming a body.

Man who ate friend’s liver is arrested

Russian police said on Tuesday they had detained a man who was caught eating an acquaintance's liver. Police tracked down the suspect after a trail of severed body parts including limbs and a head were found across Moscow.

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Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape