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The News Matrix: Wednesday 14 March 2012

Russia continues arms sales to regime

Despite 8,000 deaths in the year-long uprising against Bashar al-Assad's regime, Russia yesterday said it would continue to supply arms to Syria. The Deputy Defence Minister said military contracts with Damascus would be honoured, even as new evidence of torture emerged. MORE

New poll puts Sarkozy ahead

Has President Nicolas Sarkozy's sharp turn to the right in the French presidential election rescued his failing campaign? One poll shows him snatching a first round lead over his Socialist challenger, but another poll shows his main rival widening his first round advantage. MORE

Lib Dem MPs defy whip to oppose Bill

A group of Liberal Democrat MPs sided with Labour to oppose the Government's Health Bill. A Lib Dem source dismissed the rebellion as "the usual suspects", but it is still embarrassing coming after its conference vote not to tell the party's peers to support the Bill. MORE

Taliban attacks Karzai delegation

Taliban militants yesterday attacked a delegation sent by Hamid Karzai to carry out an inquiry into the alleged massacre of 16 Afghans by a US soldier in Kandahar. The attacks came as the insurgents vowed to behead American soldiers in response to the killings. MORE

Big Yin's something for a rainy day

Billy Connolly has unveiled a series of pen and ink drawings. The collection, named Born On A Rainy Day, are the result of an interest in sketching that began while Connolly was on tour in Canada in 2007.

Women loses appeal in rape claim case

A mother of four young children who was jailed for "falsely retracting" rape allegations against her husband has failed in her bid to overturn her "unsafe" conviction. The Court of Appeal said it could not "quash a conviction on a broad, somewhat nebulous basis of unfairness" despite the fact the 29-year-old from Wales was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder at the time. MORE

Osborne considering Clegg's "tycoon tax"

George Osborne hasn't yet dismissed Nick Clegg's proposed "tycoon tax", with taxpayers subject to a minimum tax rate of around 20 per cent. But the Chancellor, who is finalising his Budget, will not take on board the Liberal Democrat's calls for a tax on homes worth £2m or more. MORE

Girl dies after being hit by rugby ball

A 12-year-old girl died during a PE lesson yesterday when she was struck in the chest with a rugby ball. Leonie Nice, a pupil at Woodlands Comprehensive School in Takely End, Essex, was taken to hospital but died shortly after. Headteacher Andy White described her as a "delightful girl".

'Helicopera' to be staged for first time

A five-hour epic opera which requires four separate helicopters to lift a string quartet into the sky will be performed in full for the first time in August. Karlheinz Stockhausen's Mittwoch aus Licht will be staged by the Birmingham Opera Company for the London 2012 Festival.

Koreas scuffle at UN backed summit

A scuffle broke out between South Korean and North Korean delegates at a UN summit on the North's alleged human rights abuses. South Korean lawmakers allegedly grabbed a North Korean diplomat at the summit in Switzerland but were pushed away.

Reverse parking: it's a female problem

It's not likely to resolve the age-old debate on whether men or women make better drivers, but Driving Standards Agency figures show that last year, nearly 57,000 women failed their driving test because they committed a "dangerous fault" while reverse parking.

Mosh pit slammed as public safety hazard

Police in Boston have criticised a club for allowing a mosh pit to form on the dancefloor. Officers vowed to instigate a crackdown on what they called "dangerous behaviour" and a "public safety hazard", the Boston Herald reported.

New Jersey capital is caught short

The capital city of New Jersey is on the verge of running out of toilet paper. A dispute between the Mayor and his council means tissue-based products have not been delivered to Trenton's civic buildings for several months. Supplies are so stretched City Hall will be out of loo rolls by Friday. MORE

'Divine Comedy' is not PC enough

Dante's Divine Comedy, perhaps the most famous work in Italian literature, is too politically incorrect for schools, academics claim. The group says the epic poem is full of offensive stereotyping. MORE

Nike apologises over "insensitive" shoes

A pair of Nike trainers has provided an unlikely reminder of colonial tensions between England and Ireland. The shoes were controversially called "Black and Tan", the nickname for officers in the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, whose abuse of the Irish has never been forgotten.

Naked ambition of political porn stars

Three porn stars have been battling it out in mayoral contests in Italy. Luana Borgia, Milly D'Abbraccio and Amandha Fox have all declared they have what it takes to become mayor in the in the cities of Taranto and Torre del Greco in the south of Italy. MORE

Trump sons pictured with dead elephant

Donald Trump's sons have sparked outrage from conservationists after photographs of their holiday in Zimbabwe last year were posted on a big game hunting website. Donald Jr and Eric are seen posing next to a dead elephant, leopard, waterbuck, kudu and crocodile.

Passenger jet veers off Atlanta runway

A Delta Airlines jet was badly damaged when it suffered a brake failure and veered off the runway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – the world's busiest airport. There were no passengers on board.

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