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The News Matrix: Tuesday 18 December 2012

No one can win war, says Vice-President

Neither President Bashar al-Assad nor the rebels can win the war in Syria, Vice-President Farouq al-Sharaa has said. Sharaa is not part of the President's inner circle directing the fight against Sunni rebels, but he has become the most prominent figure to say Assad will not win. He warned that the rebels, in their current form, cannot "decisively" win. MORE

Britain is facing 'time bomb' of ageing

The UK could be facing a demographic time bomb, with 16 per cent of the population approaching or having passed retirement age. According to the 2011 census, the number of residents over 65 has breached the 10 million barrier for the first time, while the number aged 14 and below has halved to less than one in five over 100 years. MORE

Depardieu censured for double standards

Actor Gérard Depardieu has been criticised for accepting large fees for visits to countries with calamitous human-rights records at the same time as taking the moral high ground over French taxes. Meanwhile, President François Hollande said he wanted to "salute the values of those who no doubt have lots but agree to pay their taxes in France".

High cost of the taxman's ringtone

The reluctance of officials at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs to pick up the phone could land the taxpayer with a £136m-a-year bill, according to the Government's spending watchdog. Some 20 million calls to HMRC's premium-rate 0845 hotlines went unanswered, while those that did go through had to wait for an average five minutes. MORE

Former president's son released on bail

The son of Iran's conservative former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been released from jail, prompting speculation about the veteran politician's future. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is barred from running for a third term and the successful candidate who will emerge from the ballot box is certain to be a conservative. MORE

Cameron: leaving EU 'imaginable'

Britain exiting the EU is "imaginable", the Prime Minister has said. David Cameron acknowledged while he does not want to withdraw, he could be forced into action by voters. Asked in the Commons if he could imagine Britain leaving, he said: "All futures for Britain are imaginable."

Macpherson to be quizzed on NOTW

Supermodel Elle Macpherson, 49, is to be asked about phone hacking, as part of former manager Mary Ellen Field's legal action against the News of the World. Ms Field was allegedly fired for leaking stories to the tabloid.

Arms exports top $14bn, says Putin

Russian arms exports reached a record $14bn this year, President Vladimir Putin claims. The figures extend a run of record-breaking sales that have included sales to Syria despite the war raging there. The country has cultivated new clients in South-east Asia and Africa.

Cycling wins and tennis loses

Tennis, rugby and swimming have lost millions of pounds in funding. Sport England sought to reward sports that have seen participation levels increase, and hit those that had not done enough. Cycling, triathlon and all Paralympic sports have more funding.

Death of Winehouse to be re-examined

The inquest into the death of singer Amy Winehouse will be reheard, a spokesman for Camden Council said. Suzanne Greenaway, who oversaw the inquest into Winehouse's death, did not have the correct qualifications for the role.

Couples flock to untie the knot

The number of Brazilians getting divorced is at a record high. More than 350,000 divorces occurred in 2011, up 46 per cent on the previous year. The rise is down to a new law that makes it easier to get divorced.

Don't mention the end of the world

At least 93 people have been arrested for spreading rumours about the end of the world. A Chinese newspaper said 37 "cult" members had been arrested in Qinghai province after "brainwashing" people. 21 December marks the end of the 5,125-year "Long Count" Mayan calendar.

Gormley warns of 'society of robots'

Sculptor Antony Gormley believes Britain will become a "society of robots" if the Government ignores the arts as a core subject. In a letter seen by i, the Angel of the North sculptor called on Michael Gove to add the arts as a core subject of the proposed English Baccalaureates.

App lets children follow Santa Claus

A military organisation based in Colorado has developed a mobile app that will allow children to track Santa Claus as he makes his Christmas journey across the world. The app, for Windows 8, was developed by the North American Aerospace Defence Command.

Waters makes a cool $186m

Pink Floyd's Roger Waters raked in $186.4m from touring in the past year – decades after the band saw its heyday. The success of The Wall Live, a hi-tech staging of the group's 1979 album, made Waters the third-most successful touring artist in the world. MORE

Family tries to keep student at school

The family of a 15-year-old girl fighting the use of tracking chips in her school ID badge is asking a court to keep her on campus. Andrea Hernandez has refused to wear the badge, and her Texas school – trying to boost attendance – says she must go to another campus if she can't comply.

Queen 'daft' to attend Cabinet meeting

The Queen will today become the first monarch to attend the weekly Cabinet meeting in Downing Street since Queen Victoria. But Rodney Barker, Emeritus Professor of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said her attendance was "daft".

Celebrity chefs' meals 'less healthy'

Recipes by TV chefs including Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson are "less healthy" than ready-meal equivalents, researchers at Newcastle Universityclaim. Meals selected from the books of celebrity chefs contained "significantly more" fat, saturated fat, protein and less fibre.

Soviet submarine wreck discovered

The wreck of a Soviet submarine lost during World War Two has been found in the Baltic Sea, 71 years after it sank. The submarine, believed to have been lost on patrol in late 1941, was found south-east of the Swedish island of Oland. It was blown apart by a German mine.

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