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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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Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

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Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

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Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

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Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

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English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

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Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

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