The News Matrix: Thursday 22 March 2012


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The Independent Online

Warning over outsourced 999 calls

Allowing a private firm to handle 999 calls could prove "very dangerous", said Labour's fire services spokesman. Chris Williamson condemned fire brigade budget cuts that saw the contract to run the London Fire Brigade's emergency calls awarded to the outsourcing giant Capita. MORE

'Torture' allegation a threat to Eurovision

Further questions have been raised about the country's suitability to host May's Eurovision Song Contest, as it emerged that two local musicians who insulted the president may have been tortured by police. Azerbaijan has poured millions into ensuring the event goes smoothly. MORE

Bush's brother endorses Romney

Fresh from celebrating a win in the Illinois primary on Tuesday, Republican hopeful Mitt Romney received another boost with an endorsement from Jeb Bush – brother of former president George W Bush – who has also been seen as a future candidate for the White House. MORE

Pupils 'struggling despite good grades'

Pupils with top-grade GCSE passes in maths and English still struggle to read, write and add up, Schools Minister Nick Gibb said yesterday. He told an education select committee that he is considering ranking school league tables based on the percentage of A and A* grades. MORE

The 'Goody' effect begins to falter

When reality television star Jade Goody died three years ago today, there was a spike in the number of women attending cervical cancer screenings. But since then, smear test bookings have dropped.

Nursing posts lost as cuts hit NHS staff

NHS staff numbers in England have shown their biggest fall in 10 years, with nursing posts among those cut. New figures showed the workforce shrunk by 19,799 by the end of September last year to 1,350,377. Critics said the drop provided proof that, despite reassurances, frontline NHS jobs were not being protected, and there were calls for the cuts to stop. MORE

Russia and China back UN statement

The UN Security Council has passed a statement calling for an end to the violence in the country. Crucially, the statement was backed by Russia and China, the two countries that have so far stood in the way of diplomatic moves against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. MORE

Election campaign marred by scandals

Hong Kong is set to go to the polls to pick its next chief executive this weekend. But ahead of the elections, scandal and controversy has alienated Hong Kongers – so much so that committee members may end up bowing to public distaste by casting blank ballots this Sunday. MORE

UK soldier is killed in bomb blast

A UK soldier was killed in a bomb blast yesterday. The serviceman from the 2nd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters), was working with an Afghan security forces' patrol when he was hit by a blast that came from an improvised explosive device.

Brain's 'pleasure molecules' decoded

Studies of the brain's "pleasure molecules" could result in new drugs for illnesses, including addiction and chronic pain. Scientists have deciphered the structure of the brain's opiod receptors, which control wellbeing feelings and are targeted by morphine. MORE

New blood tests 'can predict heart attack'

A new blood test could help identify patients at a high risk of a heart attack. Research has shown that recent heart attack sufferers have distinctive blood cells. Experts say testing could predict if an attack is likely in the near future.

How to look famous for 15 minutes...

Leaving no revenue stream unplundered, the Andy Warhol Foundation has given its blessing to a new range of cosmetics inspired by the Pop Art icon. Andy Warhol, who died in 1987, already has skateboards, jewellery and a clothing line. MORE

Morris dancer's marathon quest

Student Ben Moss is preparing to morris dance his way through this year's London Marathon to raise funds for a deafblind charity. Ben, from Exeter, who has been morris dancing since he was 11, hopes to set a world record when he takes on the 26.2-mile course on 22 April.

De Niro says sorry for offensive joke

Robert De Niro has been forced to apologise after joking at a presidential fundraiser featuring Michelle Obama that America might not be ready for a white first lady. The joke drew criticism from presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who said it was "inexcusable".

Emmerdale actress to join Doctor Who

Former Emmerdale actress Jenna-Louise Coleman will replace Karen Gillan as Doctor Who's companion in the BBC sci-fi drama. The 25-year-old will join in this year's Christmas episode. "I'm beyond excited, I can't wait to get cracking," she said.

Helter-skelter hound is YouTube sensation

A YouTube video of a golden retriever sliding down a helter-skelter has attracted more than 100,000 views in a week. Henry Kellie posted the video of his six-year-old dog, Tom, in a park in Lubenham, Leicestershire, last Thursday. The clip has prompted numerous comments on YouTube.

Centenarian is oldest paraglider

A great-great-grandmother has been declared the oldest woman to paraglide in tandem. Mary Allen Hardison took flight near Salt Lake City last September to celebrate her 101st birthday, and said: "Just because you are old doesn't mean you have to sit on your duff all day."