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The News Matrix: Wednesday 26 December 2012

Arsonist killer's bid to burn suburb

A New York man who set his house on fire then lured firefighters to their deaths in a blaze of bullets had attracted little attention since he got out of prison in the 1990s for killing his grandmother, authorities said. About 100 people attended an impromptu memorial for the victims in Webster, a suburb of Rochester, on Monday as police continued to ponder the killer's motives. MORE

Fifth of smokers who quit fail in 24 hours

One fifth of smokers who try to give up fail within 24 hours, according to new research. More than half of attempts to give up lasted less than a week, according to a poll by the drug firm Pfizer. Research also shows that women who give up by the age of 30 avoid the risk of dying early. MORE

Official not guilty of Magnitsky murder

Russian prosecutors have dropped their accusations against the only person being tried in connection with the prison death of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, in a surprise move asking a court to find a former prison official not guilty. MORE

Charities criticise officers' use of Tasers

Police forces are under fire from mental health charities after new figures revealed wide use of Taser guns on people threatening to self-harm. There have been dozens of incidents of Tasers being used to stop people committing suicide or harming themselves in the past three years. MORE

Mandela 'looking better', says Zuma

Former South African president and anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, 94, is looking much better President Jacob Zuma said yesterday. Mr Zuma, after visiting Mandela in hospital, also said that doctors were happy with the progress the elder statesman was making. MORE

'Four Weddings' score writer dies aged 76

Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, one of Britain's most talented composers, has died aged 76. Among his memorable scores were music for the Doctor Who TV series and films including Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Temperature rises exceed forecasts

Temperatures in Antarctica are rising almost twice as fast as previously believed, according to new research. The unexpected jump was discovered after David Bromwich, Professor of Geography at Ohio State University, led a team to the Byrd Station research centre 700 miles from the South Pole. MORE

Rebels capture town on Turkish border

Syrian rebels captured a northern town near the Turkish border yesterday after weeks of siege and fighting, activists said. The takeover of Harem, a town of 20,000 in northern Idlib province, was the latest in a string of rebel successes that include the capture of wide areas along the border with Turkey.

Dogs used to relax children in class

Children with behavioural and learning difficulties are improving their reading skills with the help of dogs. A scheme brought dogs into 205 schools this year to help make pupils less nervous and self-conscious, according to the Kennel Club.

113 Christmases for Britain's oldest

The oldest person in Britain braved the weather yesterday to enjoy a Christmas dinner with friends. Grace Jones, 113, left her London home to tuck into a turkey dinner organised by Bermondsey Care for the Elderly. Local MP Simon Hughes, who is friends with Ms Jones, drove her to the lunch.

Spa guest sees red as Santa wears grey

Police in Sweden had to intervene after a foreign visitor to a spa and conference centre grew angry because a visiting Santa Claus was wearing a grey instead of red costume. No one was arrested during the incident in Vallsta, 180 miles north of Stockholm, early yesterday.

Record numbers of huskies abandoned

Huskies are being abandoned in record numbers after being popularised by the Twilight films and Game of Thrones series. Animal welfare groups warned people are buying the breeds then dumping them soon afterwards. The Siberian Husky Welfare Association is struggling to handle calls from people looking to offload the dogs. MORE

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