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The News Matrix: Thursday 27 February 2014

Troops on high alert at Ukraine border

President Vladimir Putin has put 150,000 Russian combat troops on high alert for war games near Ukraine, the Kremlin’s boldest gesture yet after days of sabre rattling since its ally Viktor Yanukovych was toppled as president in Kiev. MORE

Resignation threat brings crisis warning

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson’s threat to resign over the collapse of the murder case against republican John Downey has brought warnings from his party that politics in Belfast is in crisis. His declaration followed a strong reaction among unionists and some victims’ groups to a London judge’s dismissal of all charges against Mr Downey. MORE

Huge rise in people seeking debt help

The disastrous impact that payday loans can have on people has been underlined by new figures from a debt charity showing an 82 per cent increase in the number seeking help. StepChange said it dealt with 66,557 people in 2013, compared to just 36,413 the previous year. MORE

Israeli envoy to be expelled after vote

Jordan’s parliament voted to expel the Israeli ambassador and recall its own envoy yesterday, a day after Israeli politician debated a proposal to take over a Jerusalem holy site, the al-Aqsa compound which houses shrines revered by Muslims and is administered by Jordanians. MORE

More people now rent privately 

More people are renting from private landlords than local councils for the first time. The proportion of people in social housing has dropped from 31.4 per cent in 1980 16.8 per cent today. By contrast, the percentage renting from private landlords has risen to 18 per cent. MORE

Corruption inquiry tape ‘was a fake’ – PM

The Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused enemies of hacking into state communications to fake a phone conversation suggesting he warned his son to hide money before police raids in a graft inquiry. MORE

C-section babies are likely to be fat adults

Babies born by Caesarean section are more likely to be overweight or obese in adulthood, according to new data. The odds of being overweight or obese were 26 per cent higher for adults born by Caesarean, researchers from Imperial College London said, after studying more than 38,000 participants. MORE

World sends crops to ‘Doomsday vault’

More than 20,000 crops from more than 100 nations have arrived at a “Doomsday vault” in the Arctic Circle. The latest delivery coincides with the sixth anniversary of the frozen depository in Svalbard, which now houses more than 800,000 samples to protect biodiversity in the event of a disaster. MORE

Viewers afraid for Top Gear presenters

Top Gear viewers have complained that it was unfair to send its presenters to Chernobyl, site of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters. Some wrote in to express concern about the safety of Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond when they headed into the region in the north of Ukraine.

Brew-it-yourself lessons for alcoholics

The same group that installed crack pipe vending machines to curb disease transmission through shared pipes has established brewing lessons for alcoholics. The Portland Hotel society says the program’s purpose is to discourage alcoholics from drinking more dangerous substances such as hair spray.

‘Desert spirals’ are a giant artwork

A series of “desert spirals” first seen in Egypt in 1997 have long been thought of as signs of extraterrestrial life: until now. The spirals are actually part of an art installation created by DAST Arteam. The spiral spans an area of 100,000 square metres in the eastern Sahara desert, bordering the Red Sea.

British woman gives birth in the street

A British woman gave birth in a New York street after rushing out of her flat as she went into labour. Polly McCourt, 39, left home on Monday to hail a cab, but realised her baby would not wait. Passers-by gave scarves and coat to Ms McCourt and her newborn daughter, Ila, to keep them warm until an ambulance arrived.

Prehistoric whales poisoned by algae

Scientists investigating a graveyard of marine mammal fossils near Chile’s northern coast say toxins generated by algae blooms most likely poisoned the animals millions of years ago. The study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B looked at one of the world’s best-preserved graveyards of prehistoric whales. MORE

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A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

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Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

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This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering