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The News Matrix: Wednesday 13 February 2013

Obama to withdraw 34,000 US troops

More than half the 66,000 US troops currently in Afghanistan will return home by early 2014, President Obama was set to announce in his State of the Union address last night. The move came after the President and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai agreed to transfer responsibility for the conflict to Afghan forces. MORE

Pryce lambasted in court by prosecution

Vicky Pryce's defence of "marital coercion" for taking speeding points on behalf of ex-husband Chris Huhne was lambasted in court. Prosecutor Andrew Edis said: "She wishes you to think… she'd no real choice." MORE

Newspapers say £1m fines would be unjust

The newspaper industry has warned David Cameron that his blueprint to regulate Britain's press in the wake of the Leveson Report could breach European law. Newspapers said plans for fines of up to £1m were "unnecessary" and "unjust". Campaign group Hacked Off said the Royal Charter "waters down" Leveson. MORE

Pope recently given new pacemaker

Pope Benedict XVI visited a hospital three months ago to have a new pacemaker fitted, but the Vatican insisted it had no bearing on his decision to retire and that "no specific illnesses" were behind the 85-year-old pontiff's surprise announcement.  MORE

Nurse cries over patient's treatment

A Bulgarian nurse at Stafford Hospital is alleged to have physically and verbally abused an elderly dementia patient. A senior nurse on duty at the same time as Bonko Kostova broke down in tears as she told a hearing of the Nursing and Midwifery Council what happened.  MORE

O'Farrell challenges for Huhne's seat

John O'Farrell completed his transition from comedy writer to MP-in-waiting last night when the Labour Party selected him for the Eastleigh by-election on 28 February. O'Farrell wrote on Twitter, and added: "There is a great deal of hard work ahead. But first I am going to the pub."

Assad 'tried to kill opposition leader'

The head of the opposition Syrian National Council has accused Bashar al-Assad's regime of attempting to assassinate him in a car bomb. George Sabra said an explosion at the border between Syria and Turkey was intended for his delegation. MORE

Six injured after chairlift derails

Five children and an adult were taken to hospital yesterday after a chairlift "derailed" in the Scottish highlands. Some 36 people were trapped or stranded when the chair reportedly fell at the Lecht Ski Centre in Aberdeenshire at 3.25pm. "The focus is currently on evacuating those injured and rescuing those who remain on the chairlift," a police spokeswoman said. MORE

Falling ratings sees end of 'The Hour'

BBC Two has axed its newsroom drama The Hour. The show, which featured Skyfall star Ben Whishaw, had seen a drop in the ratings for its second season. The first season launched with almost three million viewers in 2011, but the second season opened with just 1.68 million. A spokesman said it was cancelled "to bring new shows through".

Smoking ban in public places agreed

Smoking will be banned in restaurants, universities and long-distance trains in Russia, a country with one of the highest smoking rates in the world. Russia's lower house of parliament agreed to the ban, but it must be approved by the upper house and signed by President Vladimir Putin before coming into effect on 1 June.

French archaeologist found dead in flat

Officials in Egypt are investigating the death of a French archaeologist who was found dead in his Cairo flat on Monday. There was no sign of forced entry at the home of Michel Wuttmann, 60, but police said he appeared to have been smothered. Two men who visited him earlier that day are suspected of being behind his death.

Former EastEnder declared bankrupt

Actress Martine McCutcheon, best known for playing Tiffany Mitchell in EastEnders, has been declared bankrupt. The star's "largest creditor" was the taxman, Kingston-Upon-Thames County Court was told.

Crayfish get their claws into ecosystem

A fresh-water crayfish brought from Australia to Zimbabwe could put the nation's entire aquatic ecosystem at risk, scientists have warned. The red claw crayfish is breeding rapidly in Lake Kariba and devouring the food sources of other fish. They have no natural predators in the wild because crocodiles do not like eating them.

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