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The News Matrix: Tuesday 03 January 2012

Small businesses' anger at spot checks

Tax officials who allowed large firms such as Goldman Sachs to avoid paying millions have been accused of double standards over plans to perform spot checks on small businesses. HMRC officials with powers to fine will inspect the paperwork of up to 20,000 firms from April. MORE

Final pitch for Iowa caucus votes

Voters gather in caucus meetings in Iowa tonight to pick their favourite Republican candidate, ahead of the state-by-state primaries starting in New Hampshire next week. Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, who has staged an eleventh-hour surge, lead the polls. MORE

Time to add officers to inquiry, says MP

Labour MP Tom Watson has implored the Metropolitan Police to expand its investigation into computer hacking on behalf of newspapers. The MP said the modest size of the Scotland Yard team investigating electronic eavesdropping was "bizarre". MORE

Chemicals found in breast implants

French scientists have discovered potentially harmful chemicals in the breast implants at the centre of a health scare involving more than 40,000 British women. The silicone used to fill the Poly Implant Prothese products contained substances used in rubber tubing. MORE

Body of Mount Rainier gunman found in snow

The body of an Iraq war veteran who shot a ranger in Washington's Mount Rainier national park was found in deep snow yesterday. Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, was also linked to another shooting near Seattle.

Military pulls out but killings continue

Syria's government has withdrawn heavy weapons from inside cities and freed about 3,500 prisoners but security forces continue to kill protesters, even with foreign monitors in the country, the Arab League chief said. Nabil Elaraby demanded a complete ceasefire. Since the Arab League monitors began work last Tuesday, activists say government forces have killed more than 150 people. MORE

Sarkozy drawn into old financial scandal

A two-decades-old financial scandal threatens to engulf the former French Prime Minister Édouard Balladur – to the deep embarrassment of his former lieutenant, Nicolas Sarkozy. New evidence links Mr Sarkozy to a firm created to handle commissions on arms sales. MORE

British jihadist helps recruitment drive

A young British man is being used by a militant Islamist group in Somalia to recruit English-speaking Muslims to the Horn of Africa for jihad. The masked man speaks fluent English in a London accent in video propaganda for the al-Shabaab group, which is allied with al-Qa'ida. MORE

Brushes at dawn for Hockney and Hirst

A row is threatening to break out between two of Britain's most celebrated artists after David Hockney criticised Damien Hirst for the use of assistants to create his works. Hockney, whose new exhibition opens this month, said artists should produce their own work. MORE

Girl, 15, rescued from in-laws' torture

A 15-year-old Afghan girl who was subjected to horrific torture for months by her in-laws in an attempt to force her into prostitution is to be sent to India for medical treatment. Sahar Gul's mother-in-law and sister-in-law have been arrested. MORE

Boy, 3, who 'died' thanks his saviours

A three-year-old boy who "died" for six minutes has thanked the paramedics who brought him back to life. Kai Clark stopped breathing and his heart stopped beating when he went into cardiac arrest at his Essex home on 17 October.

New name is allright for Somme

Residents of the Somme region of France have voted to call themselves "Samariens" as part of a €70,000 rebrand. The name derives from Samara, the Latin name for the Somme, which means "tranquil river". Other suggestions included Sommeilleurs (sleepy ones).

UK Amur leopards may save species

Endangered Amur leopards held captive in the UK could be sent to Russia as part of a programme to save the big cat. There are just 25 to 35 Amur leopards left in the wild due to poaching and damage to its habitat, and the cubs of specimens from UK zoos may be reintroduced to the wild.

I'm engaged, says soul star Aretha engaged again

Aretha Franklin has revealed she got engaged to long-time friend William Wilkerson over Christmas. The "Queen of Soul", 69, who has been married twice before, is considering a summer wedding.

Alesha judges it is time to move on

The singer Alesha Dixon has left Strictly Come Dancing after three years as a judge, and will join ITV's Britain's Got Talent. Dixon, 33, will join David Walliams, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell. She said the BBC show "will always hold a special place in my heart".

Missing cat is back home after 4 years

A cat that went missing four years ago was reunited with her delighted owner the day after Boxing Day. Willow, now 10, went missing from her home in Princetown, Devon, in 2007 and was discovered 20 miles away in Plymouth. "It's the best Christmas present ever," said Cristel Worth.

Man 'tried to sell whale's remains'

Police in Norfolk are investigating claims that a man tried to sell the bones and teeth of a sperm whale found dead on Christmas Eve. Its lower jaw and teeth were removed within hours of it washing up on Old Hunstanton beach. People are urged not to touch the decomposing whale.

Something fishy about herring deaths

Thousands of dead herring have washed up on a beach in Nordreisa, northern Norway. Scientists are trying to find the cause, but doom-mongers have linked the incident to the deaths of hundreds of blackbirds in Arkansas, which authorities said were killed by New Year fireworks.

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