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The News Matrix: Wednesday 24 July 2013

Obama focuses on middle classes

President Barack Obama will look to focus his agenda clearly on the economic challenges of the middle classes in a key speech today, and follow up with detailed proposals in the coming months. Obama has dealt in the first six months of his second term with an array of domestic and foreign issues. The White House said this speech will make economic issues a priority. MORE

Police reveal firms that used corrupt PIs

The Serious Organised Crime Agency has been forced privately to share details of more than 100 people and organisations that security officials knew had hired corrupt private investigators. Sir Ian Andrews, the chair of Soca, passed a list of major companies to MPs.

River searched for missing teenagers

A search of the river Wear was launched to find two missing teenage girls yesterday. Emergency services were searching waters in Fatfield after Northumbria Police said it had received reports about “children in difficulty”. Last night, officers confirmed they had found one body.

Police hunt for ‘haiku’ killer

A poetry-writing suspected killer was being hunted by Japanese police yesterday after the bodies of five people were found in a tiny mountain village. The chief suspect is a 63-year-old villager at whose home police found a haiku poem stuck to the window. MORE

Gatwick proposes  a second runway

Gatwick Airport launched its second runway bid yesterday. The airport claimed a wide-spaced runway would allow full “mixed-mode” operations, with extra take-offs and  landings. It could mean passenger capacity at the airport could rise to 87 million a year. MORE

Ride closed after bolt comes loose

Alton Towers has been forced to shut down its new rollercoaster after a 1ft bolt was seen falling from the ride. Visitors queuing for the £18m Smiler claim they saw a piece of metal break away from the ride on Sunday.

Release of political prisoners begins

Burma started releasing nearly 70 political prisoners yesterday, days after the President promised during a European tour to free all who remain behind bars for opposing the government by the year’s end. The incarceration of prisoners of conscience in Burma has been a key concern of  Western nations. MORE

Richer pupils get to top universities

Richer pupils are twice as likely to go to one of the UK’s top universities than those from the poorest homes, according to new figures released yesterday. Teenagers eligible for free school meals – a key measure of poverty – are slightly less likely to go to university or to go on to work or training. MORE

25 years in jail for stolen lottery ticket

A man convicted of possessing  another man’s winning $5m (£3.2m) lottery ticket has been sentenced to up to 25 years in jail. Andy Ashkar was told he must serve a minimum of eight years for stealing the ticket from real winner Robert Miles at his parents’ shop in Syracuse, New York, in October 2006.

Keep ’em peeled for Norfolk spud thieves

Police are investigating the theft of 1.5 tons of potatoes from a field with a gang of “spud thieves” thought to be behind the latest stolen crops.  Detectives said the incident happened near Outwell, Norfolk, between 10pm on Sunday and 9am on Monday. The thieves dug up about an eighth of an acre.

Flock of Seagulls’ gear flies away

Flock of Seagulls have had £45,500 of equipment stolen during a gig in California. Mike Score, the frontman of the Eighties synth-pop band, told the Los Angeles Daily News that someone stole the band’s rented  van, which contained hard drives containing the songs for his first solo album, at 2am on Sunday.

Sheepdog trial show faces final whistle

The sheepdog trial contest One Man And His Dog is coming to an end as a television show in its own right after 37 years. The competition is to be absorbed into BBC’s popular Sunday rural affairs show Countryfile, which has more than six million viewers. At its peak, One Man And His Dog had eight million viewers.

Smurfs banish village blues

A hilltop village has chased away recession blues by keeping all its buildings blue, the way they were painted in 2011 for a promotion for a cartoon Smurf movie. “We calculate that around 210,000 tourists have visited us since we painted ourselves blue two years ago,” said David Fernande, the mayor of Juzcar.

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Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

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We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

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Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

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Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

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Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

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A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

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Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

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