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The News Matrix: Wednesday 29 February 2012

'US won't be warned about strike on Iran'

Israeli officials are reported to have said they will not warn the US if they decide to strike Iranian nuclear sites. The disclosure, in a report quoting US intelligence, seems likely to drive a deeper wedge between the countries at a time of frustration in the US over Israel's stance on Tehran. MORE

Strikes are possible, says union leader

Trade unions could stage strikes during the Olympic Games, the leader of Britain's biggest union has said. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey called on the public to engage in "civil disobedience" to defend public services during the August events. MORE

House prices make 'surprising' jump

House prices rose by a "surprising" 1.1 per cent in January, the biggest monthly increase since July last year. Land Registry figures put the cost of the average home in England and Wales at £161,545, and showed a boost in every region apart from the North-west.

Nothing official on Chavez's health

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez came out of cancer surgery on Monday night in Cuba – but there has been still no official word on his condition. Despite the naming of the Health Minister as the government's official on the issue, there has been no official comment. MORE

Wife of extradited man weeps to MPs

Elaine Tappin whose husband Chris has been extradited to the US over allegations of arms deals with Iran, wept as she addressed MPs and said he was devastated by their family's "uncertain future". MORE

Pregnancy rates are lowest since 1969

Britain's pregnancy rate has fallen to 35.5 conceptions per thousand women, its lowest since 1969, but campaigners have claimed it could soon be on the up. It is feared the impact of the current economic climate on the hopes and aspirations of young people could result in more pregnancies. Better contraceptive services for teenagers were said to be behind the continual decrease. MORE

Passengers forced to stay on stricken ship

The passengers and crew of stricken cruise ship the Costa Allegra spent another night aboard the vessel after attempts to land at the island of Desroches in the Seychelles were abandoned. The dock was deemed to small for the 1,000 passengers to safely disembark. MORE

Observers question election results

The Senegalese government faced questions from European Union observers yesterday over its failure to publish real-time results from the presidential election on Sunday. The polls have attracted controversy after President Abdoulaye Wade, 85, refused calls to step down.

Labour opens 6% lead over Tories

A poll released today claims Labour has a six point lead over the Conservatives. The Reuters/Ipsos Mori Political Monitor puts Labour on 41 per cent (up three points since last month) compared to 35 per cent for Conservatives (down three) and 12 per cent for Liberal Democrats (no change).

President bids to end need for visas

Georgia's President, Mikhail Saakashvili, says he wants to drop visa requirements for Russians, aiming for an improvement in relations that disintegrated after the countries fought a brief war in 2008. There was no immediate comment from Moscow.

Human remains found in woodland

West Midlands police have sealed off a woodland area after the discovery of human remains. They have been removed for examination by a pathologist, but the scene at Wainbody Woods, Coventry, is being preserved as further searches are carried out.

World's oldest sheep dies in cliff plunge

A sheep thought to be the oldest in the world has died one month short of her 26th birthday after falling off a cliff. Methuselina, who lived on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, owed her long life to the fact she still had most of her teeth, according to her owner, John Maciver.

Claws out as Milan hotel gets a mauling

Fashion designer Roberto Cavalli has sunk his claws into Milan's resident king of minimalist chic, Giorgio Armani. At the centre of the row is the new Armani hotel in the city's fashion district, which Mr Cavalli said "looks like a psychiatric hospital". MORE

Elementary, my dear Lucy ...

Charlie's Angels actor Lucy Liu will star in the upcoming Sherlock Holmes adaptation on American television. She has been cast as Dr Watson, traditionally a male role. The US series, which is set in present-day New York, will also feature Johnny Lee Miller in the title role. MORE

007's trunks will go on display

The skimpy blue trunks worn by Daniel Craig as he emerged from the sea in Casino Royale are going on display in an exhibition to mark 50 years of Bond films. The Barbican Centre in London has been given access to the archive of Eon Productions, which makes the 007 movies, for the exhibition.

Sancy that – £2.5m diamond up for sale

A diamond described as "one of the most important ever to come to auction" will go on sale at Sotheby's Geneva on 15 May. The Beau Sancy, a 35-carat pear double rose-cut stone belonging to Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia, is expected to fetch up to $4m (£2.5m). Reuters

Apple event drums up talk of iPad 3

Apple has invited journalists to "a special event" in London on 7 March, leading to speculation that it could herald the launch of the highly anticipated iPad 3. The latest incarnation of the iPad is expected to feature a much higher-resolution screen.

Giant pandas have a royal visitor

The UK's only two giant pandas were given the royal seal of approval yesterday. The Princess Royal met Tian Tian and Yang Guang as she toured Edinburgh Zoo in her role as patron of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. The Princess visited both pandas in their separate enclosures.

Wine steward jailed for stealing pictures

A wine steward who went on an art theft spree has been jailed for up to three years. Mark Lugo said he was sorry for lifting art off hotel walls, including a $350,000 drawing by Cubist painter Fernand Léger, then using them to line his own walls in Hoboken, New Jersey. AP

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Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

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Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker