The News Matrix: Wednesday 21 December 2011


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The Independent Online


662,000 homes in England are empty

The number of empty homes in England rose by 1.8 per cent to 662,105 in the year to April 2011, prompting criticism from a charity for the homeless. Shelter said it is "simply not right that houses are standing empty" when 70,000 children will be homeless this Christmas. MORE

Coffins shipped to disaster-hit cities

More than 400 coffins were shipped to two flood-stricken cities in the southern Philippines yesterday as the death toll from the devastating storm neared 1,000. President Benigno Aquino III has declared a state of national calamity in the wake of the disaster. MORE

Women protest over targeted attacks

Women took to the streets of Cairo yesterday to demonstrate against attacks targeting women by security forces attempting to quell unrest in the Egyptian capital. The march came days after the brutal attack on a veiled female protester in Tahrir Square. MORE

100 die in bloodiest day of crackdown

Human rights agencies say more than 100 people, mostly defecting soldiers, were killed on Monday in the bloodiest day so far in nine months of protest. President Bashar al-Assad has accused rights protesters of being foreign-backed "armed terrorists". MORE

Beauty queen loses breast cancer battle

Former Miss Venezuela, Eva Ekvall, whose public struggle with breast cancer was followed closely in her home country, has died in Houston. She was crowned Miss Venezuela in 2000, when she was just 17. MORE

Balls urges Lib-Dems to change sides

Liberal Democrat MPs should pull out of their Coalition with the Conservatives to form one with Labour, Ed Balls told i. The shadow Chancellor said that Nick Clegg was unlikely to join a walkout, but that some senior MPs are unhappy with joint policies on the economy, the NHS and Europe. MORE

Student held over 'terrorist' document

A Pakistani student, 22, has been arrested after allegedly trying to smuggle a terrorist document into Britain. The man, who arrived at Birmingham airport from Dubai, was was arrested under section 58 of the Terrorism Act, and could face 10 years in prison if found guilty.

Bio-weapon fear puts block on flu findings

The US has asked scientists to censor key parts of their work on bird flu over fears it could fall into the hands of terrorists intent on creating a biological weapon. The research describes how they mutated the H5N1 virus into a strain that could be deadly to humans. MORE

Mounties face sex assault charges

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has been hit by sexual harassment and assault allegations from within its own ranks. Corporal Catherine Galliford has gone public with the claim that she has endured sexual harassment from colleagues for 16 years. MORE

Train bosses 'tried to bury' fare increases

Train companies have been accused of trying to "bury bad news" about fare increases by rail union TSSA. It said that "only the barest details" were announced before Parliament's Christmas recess. Prices will rise by up to 8 per cent in January. MORE

Millionaires may fund bus segregation

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish millionaires are considering funding a bus route that would enforce strict segregation between male and female passengers after a woman refused to take a seat at the back of a public bus at the request of a male passenger. MORE

UFO 'gave dog talent out of this world'

Twenty-seven alleged alien sightings have been reported to police in Somerset over the past five years. One caller claimed a UFO in their front room had inspired their pet dog to draw pictures on the window, while others reported "alien possession", police revealed.

Police hunt the baguette burglar

Authorities are looking for a man who has robbed five bakeries in the western suburbs of the Paris this month. The man uses the same tactic each time – placing his order, then threatening staff with a fake gun and leaving without paying. No one has been hurt in the robberies.

Woman offered sex for baseball tickets

A court has convicted a Philadelphia woman of attempted prostitution after she offered police officers sexual favours in exchange for tickets to the World Series baseball championship. Susan Finkelstein admitted placing a "goofy" advert online but denied offering sexual favours.

Fake horn ruse to thwart thieves

Bern Natural History Museum has sawn the horns off its stuffed rhinos to replace them with wooden replicas. Thefts from Europe's musuems have come as the black-market price of rhino horn has soared.

Radio hosts told to mind their language

Radio stations have been given new guidelines on foul language. Ofcom, the broadcast watchdog, took action after a lewd outburst from a member of The Black Eyed Peas on Radio 1 during the Big Weekend concert and Scottish station Brick FM played a song "More Punany". MORE

Countdown to Mayan apocalypse begins apocalypse

Followers of the Mayan religion who believe that only one year is left before the apocalypse on 21 December 2012 have started their countdown to the end of the world. Mexico's tourism agency expects to capitalise on the belief and attract around 52 million visitors. MORE

Sperm donor risks jail over free service

A San Francisco man who has fathered 14 childrenby semen offered free on the internet has been told to stop or face up to a year in prison and a £65,000 fine. Trent Arsenaultm, whose donations are not screened for diseases, says he won't abandon his generosity without a fight.

Reward offered for stolen Hepworth

Southwark Council in London has offered a £1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the thieves who stole an artwork. The Barbara Hepworth sculpture, Two Forms, is believed to have been taken from Dulwich Park by people who want to sell the copper for scrap. MORE